It has been a difficult, challenging, and news-filled week here in Philadelphia, and for that matter, across the nation. That’s not a complaint — as a columnist, I prefer having a wide choice of subjects to grouse about, as opposed to staring at a blank screen for a half hour, waiting for inspiration.
President Barack Obama finally produced his promised common sense proposals on gun control — to the anger and consternation of the National Rifle Association and their trigger-happy supporters, who insist that owning powerful assault rifles and high-capacity magazines that you can’t possibly use for legitimate home defense purposes are still somehow an inalienable right of citizenship. Next they’ll tell us that the Second Amendment also covers tanks, bazookas, battleships and armed drones.
Locally, we had a horrific kidnapping — some sick piece of work decided to snatch a child from her elementary school classroom. Thank God the baby was found relatively unharmed — if you call being left half-naked and freezing on a playground in the middle of the night unharmed. As the father of a daughter who is the light of my life, I cannot imagine what hell those parents went through, but I can tell you this — if it were my child, I would make every effort to find the perpetrators myself. Our criminal justice system is far too merciful to give them the punishment they truly deserve.
The School District of Philadelphia’s immovable object of a plan to close three dozen schools by the end of the year has finally been met by the irresistible force of angry parents and advocates who are tired of watching schools be picked apart piece by piece. First the non-teaching assistants, school nurses, and librarians get the boot; then the art and music programs are deemed unnecessary, then finally the whole building gets padlocked. People are angry, and sooner rather than later, expect the villagers to gather with the pitchforks and torches.
And while it certainly doesn’t rise to the level of the previous stories, there was the matter of Chip Kelly, the head coach of the Oregon Ducks, who is now the head coach of the hapless Philadelphia Eagles. This probably means several more painful seasons of sub-par football, with lots of talk about “rebuilding the franchise.” Goodbye playoffs, see you in 2018.
But a heavy news week also brings with it an unforeseen hazard - the old under-the-radar political move. You know the drill - while we’re all distracted by guns, kidnappings, and Shawty Low’s baby mamas, savvy politicians know that the time is right to enact the crazy, the untested, and the unpalatable ideas they’ve had floating around a while, waiting for the perfect opportunity.
This week’s misdirection and sleight of hand comes to us courtesy of an expert in the craft - our old friend Gov. Tom Corbett.
While you were worried about closing schools and assault rifles in the hands of maniacs, Corbett was selling the state’s lottery system right out from under you - to some British firm who was the only bidder on the contract.
I’m not saying the deal wasn’t on the up and up, only that it smells fishy. Why the rush to get it done right now, in spite of the objections of many in his own party? Now folks are asking the right questions, and newly sworn-in Attorney General Kathleen Kane has 30 days to review the deal. I hope she has her staff working nights and weekends for the next month, and goes over this thing with a fine-toothed comb.
And finally, as the topper, Corbett has gotten together with Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus on a plan to rig the next presidential election. That’s right, I said rig.
You may recall from November that President Obama won Pennsylvania and the 20 Electoral College votes that come with it, a winner take-all-system that has worked just fine until now. Well, the Priebus-Corbett plan would allocate electoral votes by congressional district, rather than by states as a whole, meaning that in states that consistently vote for Democratic presidential candidates, the gerrymandered Republican congressional districts would get shares of the electoral vote, even when their candidate loses the state.
What it means, in a nutshell, is that Mitt Romney would have won the bulk of Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes, even while losing the popular vote to Obama. Multiply that by the number of states Priebus plans to rig, and Plastic Man would be sitting in the White House right now.
See what happens when you’re distracted during a busy week?
Daryl Gale is the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune.