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Why Michael Smerconish should remain Republican

Philly’s Michael Smerconish is making a splash this morning with his column announcing that he’s leaving the Republican Party after 30 years. And some of what he says makes sense:

The national GOP is a party of exclusion and litmus tests, dominated on social issues by the religious right, with zero discernible outreach by the national party to anyone who doesn’t fit neatly within its parameters. Instead, the GOP has extended itself to its fringe while throwing under the bus long-standing members like New York Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a McCain-Palin supporter in 2008 who told me she voted with her Republican leadership 90 percent of the time before running for Congress last fall.

Which is not to say I feel comfortable in the Democratic Party, either. Weeks before Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s announcement that he will not seek reelection, I noted the centrist former governor’s words to the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib. Too many Democrats, Bayh said in that interview, are “tone-deaf” to Americans’ belief that the party had “overreached rather than looking for consensus with moderates and independents.”

Where political parties once existed to create coalitions and win elections, now they seek to advance strict ideological agendas.

I’d say it a little differently. Something like: Where political parties once existed to create coalitions and win elections, they now exist just to win elections. The Democrats can’t actually execute their ideological vision, and the Republicans are only effective at pursuing the guns-and-bombs portion of their platform — the whole “party of fiscal restraint” mantra having long since been discredited.

But Smerconish is right that both the parties have become more ideologically homogeneous. And he clearly sees this as a problem. Which is why his solution — to register as an independent — doesn’t make any sense. It’s actually going to make the problem worse. Smerconish:

I will miss casting a ballot in the spring, as current state election law prohibits unaffiliated voters from voting in GOP or Democratic primary elections. Instead, I’ll join the others who bide their time until fall, when we can temper the extremes of both parties.

Here’s the thing: Fall is way, way too late to temper the extremes of both parties. Because independent voters can’t vote in the primary elections, that leaves only the most ideologically committed voters left to select their party’s nominee. Independent voters only have the extreme options to pick from at that point. In 2004, Arlen Specter narrowly won the GOP nomination over Pat Toomey — but in the following years, a huge chunk of the party’s moderates fled for independent and Democratic pastures. Specter left the GOP, leaving this year’s nomination by default to Toomey, a much more ideologically rigid conservative.

Michael Smerconish’s problem is that the parties are too ideologically narrow. But by leaving the Republican Party, he accelerates that process. He might not feel entirely comfortable in the GOP these days, but he’d have more of a shot at solving the problems he describes by staying.

Philly hard to find on Gallup’s “well-being” list. That’s better news than expected.

Here’s the bad news, Philly: We’re not on Gallup’s Top 10 list of large cities that lead the nation in “well-being.” But … you knew that already, didn’t you.

Here’s the good news, Philly: We’re also not on Gallup’s Bottom 10 list, either. We are, in fact, pretty thoroughly in the middle. OK, maybe on the low side but still. Of the 52 metro areas that Gallup measured, in fact, Philly-Camden-Wilmington area came in 33rd — six spots after Baltimore, shockingly, but ahead of such urban cesspools as Pittsburgh, Memphis and (way down at the bottom of the list) Las Vegas. So there’s that.

Here’s a quick explanation of what the index measures:

The Well-Being Index score for the nation and for each state is an average of six sub-indexes, which individually examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities.

And here’s the better news, Philly. Our city “well-being” composite score was 65.8. The state of Pennsylvania, however, received a lower 65.4. We’re always treated in Harrisburg like we’re dragging the state down, but the truth is that we’re lifting it up! We’re happier and live better than the rubes in the hills! Eat it, rednecks.

Poll: Mayor Nutter is popular. Who knew?

Catherine Lucey at PhillyClout alerts us to surprising news:

A new poll shows that 53 percent of Philadelphians approve of Mayor Nutter’s job performance as mayor, compared with 32 percent who disapprove.

Wait for it…

Residents are evenly split when you ask about Nutter’s ability to manage the budget, with 47 percent showing confidence in his skills and 46 percent lacking confidence. And Nutter continues to receive lower ratings from black residents, than white residents — just 43 percent of black Philadelphians say he’s doing a good job, compared with 65 percent of white residents. While just 21 percent of white residents disapprove of Nutter’s performance, 43 percent of black residents disapprove.

So we like the mayor. We just don’t like how he’s handling one of the most important parts of his job — the part, in fact, that has received the most public attention over the last two years. Why the disconnect?

This is the most beautiful video of snow in Philadelphia you will ever see

The First Snow, Canon 7D from Reid Carrescia on Vimeo.

(Hat Tip: DoobyBrain.com)

The recession comes home for one Philly prostitute

Continuing today’s poverty tour, we get this article in The Atlantic Online about a Philly woman who lost her job and turned to prostitution:

Most of her career, Princess has worked in one office or another–the past five years as office manager for a now-defunct design firm. The slowdown in business over 2008 made her aware that things weren’t going well for the company, so she’d already been cutting back on expenses and saving every extra penny in preparation for that day last winter when her boss called everyone together to announce the company would be closing. “It was sad, but it wasn’t a surprise,” she recalls.

What did surprise her was how difficult it was to find a new job. “There’s nothin out there. Nothing. I put in applications and resumes for every kind of job. Hundreds. But, nothin,” she says. “I tell you, though, now I’ve been doing this a couple months, I’m not sure I’d ever go back to working in an office.”

The way Princess does business seems somewhat unconventional for the sex industry. She charges standard rates for Philly: $100 for a half or $150 for a full hour. (”I hadda research that on Craigslist.”) But she doesn’t work for an escort service, advertise on Craigslist, hang out in high end hotel bars, or walk the streets. She’s totally independent. Her clients come through referrals from friends. Most of them live in her neighborhood; some she has known for years. “I have a couple of regulars, they been wanting me for years. When I told them I’s opening my pussy for business, it was like Christmas had come early.”

Depressing.

(Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan)

UPDATE: The photo above is the one that ran with The Atlantic’s article. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that’s not “Princess” in the photo above, but rather a cropped photo of a hot woman in a short dress meant to signal a “hotness” that’s probably somewhat at odds with the reality of the sex trade.

Comcast buys NBC. How will this affect ‘30 Rock?’

Picture 6Is it wrong that that’s the first question I asked after learning our hometown supermegagiantcorporopolis will be purchasing NBC and its sister cable networks from GE? No. Because 30 Rock is very, very important to me, and GE’s now-defunct ownership of NBC has played a big role in the show’s plotlines.

Top five ways today’s deal might/probably will affect television’s best comedy:

• Hometown gal Tina Fey can work more Philly jokes into the script.

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• Jack Donaghy, who runs NBC’s East Coast television programming and GE’s microwave division for parent company Sheinhardt Wigs, will probably have to make a career decision — stay with NBC or go with GE … and have Alec Baldwin leave the show. I think we already know the answer to this.

• No more Rip Torn. Goddamnit.

• No more funny episodes about GE corporate gatherings.

• And most worrisome: Possibly no more Will Arnett as Alec Baldwin’s corporate rival. But that may already be solved:

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This could be a disaster.

ACT UP protests the shortage of AIDS housing in Philly

How I spent my lunch hour:

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Al Schmidt never had a chance

Not even the combined weight of Philly’s media establishment could save him: The Republican candidate for controller only collected 28 percent of the vote.

Schmidt carried the hopes and dreams of a lot of folks who would like to see a genuine opposition party rise up in Philadelphia in order to give the fat, lazy and complacent Democrats a little bit of a spark to try to run City Hall honestly and effectively.

After last night, there’s two options:

• Treat Schmidt like Barry Goldwater: Not as a devastating loss for his party and movement, but as a necessary first (painful) step to rebuilding the Philly GOP to provide the competition.

• Look elsewhere.

I’m not always sympathetic to Republican candidates, but Schmidt deserved better support than he got. His head might be hanging low this morning, but hopefully he and his pals see the first option as a real opportunity, instead of deciding to let the city’s hidebound GOP establishment go back to collecting patronage crumbs.

SEPTA Fail

Probably light political blogging here today, folks. Trying to stay abreast of developments in the SEPTA strike for PW’s main website.

The Philadelphia media establishment really wishes the GOP would get its act together

If three makes a trend, then we’ve quickly arrived there:

PhillyMag:

But the perennial weakness of the Philly GOP isn’t just a Republican problem. It’s a problem for Democrats and Independents, too — for anyone who cares about the city and wants it to be better. Politics is supposed to be adversarial. In America’s two-party system, the assumption is that both parties try to win. If that assumption breaks down — if one party unilaterally disarms, as it has in Philadelphia — strange things start to happen. You end up with a Jurassic power structure, populated by large, lazy creatures incapable of adapting to new climates, like diseased stegosauruses whaling at each other in the hot sun. You end up with a broken city. A broke city. And if things get bad enough, like they’ve gotten in Philadelphia in 2009, you end up rooting for some very strange heroes. Heroes who, in any other time, you’d probably walk away from, backward, slowly.

Stu Bykofsky in the Daily News:

Under Democratic monopoly, Philly residents have: the highest city tax rate in the nation, craven Council members cashing in on DROP, an incompetent Board of Revision of Taxes, a 25 percent city poverty rate, a pinball pay-to-play system, a Department of Human Services that kills kids, a school district with a near-50-percent dropout rate and city workers who don’t pay their taxes.

As a wholly owned subsidiary of the over-promising and underperforming Democratic Party, Philadelphia is failing.

Kevin Ferris in the Inquirer:

Rob Gleason, the state party chairman, says, “I expect a person who’s the leader of a party to conduct a vigorous operation, raise money, have staff and committee people, and win elections. . . . I just haven’t seen that in Philadelphia since I’ve been state chairman.”

That doesn’t hurt just Republicans, Gleason says.

“Not having a viable operation allows the Democrats to run wild . . . and not be accountable,” Gleason says. “So you wind up with a dysfunctional school system and city government, and the city becomes a giant stone dragging Pennsylvania down into the Delaware River.”

It’s kind of hard to argue these points: One-party dominance will always lead to calcification and corruption. That’s not good for the city.

Here’s the problem: The modern GOP — increasingly rural, always anti-safety net, occasionally race-baiting, more willing to tax non-profit theaters than smokeless tobacco — isn’t really a good fit for Philly. There was a Philadelphia Republican who was pretty decent at collecting votes: His name is Arlen Specter, and he was chased out of the party. And do I have to remind anybody how the GOP-controlled General Assembly let Philly twist in the budget wind for the entire summer?

There might be individual Republican candidates — like Al Schmidt, who is running for city controller — who might do a fine job. But Republican winners in Democratic big cities — think Michael Bloomberg in New York — tend to be considerably more liberal than the parties they represent. In Pennsylvania and elsewhere, there’s simply less room than ever for that kind of ideological diversity within the GOP.

So, yeah, theoretically it would be good if Democrats had a little competition to run the city. But today’s real-world Republican Party doesn’t really like Philly; how could it possibly compete for votes here?