Going up the country

By Christopher Harper

After living in Philadelphia for the past 15 years, it’s difficult for me not to look at the news there.

Unfortunately, almost all of the news is bad!

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ annual State of the City report, Philadelphia’s average unemployment rate last year trailed only Detroit and Cleveland among 10 major U.S. cities. 

Philadelphia’s average unemployment rate of 12.2% was more than four points above the U.S. average, compared with a difference of less than two points in 2019.

The jobless statistics suggest that Philadelphia faces a more challenging economic situation than similar cities. Washington, for example, had slightly higher unemployment than Philadelphia before the pandemic. But the nation’s capital saw its average jobless rate increase just 2.4 percentage points last year, while Philadelphia’s increased by seven points.

Pew did not explain why Philadelphia fared worse than other cities. But it noted the sectors that helped fuel the city’s resurgence during the last decade — hospitality, restaurants, and arts and culture — shut down early in the pandemic. Philadelphia also faces high poverty rates, lower educational attainment, and other issues.

But there’s more bad news.

The murder rate is headed for an all-time high after reaching the second-highest level in the city’s history only last year when 499 people died.

Another Pew study found that the pandemic hit Philadelphians hard in ways that affect their jobs, economic security, and mental and physical health. See https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2020/10/how-covid-19-has-undercut-philadelphians-physical-and-financial-well-being

After the deaths of civilians at the hands of police and the resulting civil unrest, Philadelphia residents said they feel less safe in their neighborhoods than at any other time in recent memory. 

Only 49% of Philadelphians say they feel safe outside in their neighborhoods at night, the lowest figure Pew has recorded in more than a decade of polling. Typically, the percentage has been in the 55% to 60% range. Blacks and Hispanics said they are less likely to say they feel safe than in past surveys.

More than 40% of Philadelphians say that events related to the pandemic and the demonstrations have made the city a less desirable place to live. Amazingly, about two-thirds of the population said they expect to be living in the city five to 10 years from now. 

Maybe they feel trapped by family or a job. Whatever the case, I feel fortunate that my wife and I could get out of Dodge! 

The violence of lockdowns

By Christopher Harper

Violence from firearms nearly doubled in Philadelphia—a trend that occurred throughout the United States—during the city’s lockdown for much of last year.

That’s the conclusion of a group of doctors and scientists from Temple University and published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. See 10.1001/jama.2021.1534

“These analyses provide evidence of a significant and sustained increase in firearm violence in Philadelphia following the enactment of COVID-19 containment policies. Counts of individuals shot per week continued to increase during protests following the killing of George Floyd and remained high during the partial lifting of containment policies until the end of the study period,” the authors found.

This study accessed data from the Philadelphia Police Department’s registry of shooting victims from January 1, 2016, through November 26, 2020. This registry is updated daily and includes all individuals shot and/or killed with a firearm. There were no changes in data collection policies or practices in 2020. Compared with trauma center records, the police registry contains approximately twice the number of individuals shot with a firearm. 

The authors examined the data after three events:

  • The enactment of Philadelphia’s first COVID-19 containment policy (closure of nonessential businesses; March 16, 2020).
  • The killing of George Floyd (May 25, 2020).
  • The partial lifting of containment policies (June 26, 2020). 

During the 256 weeks included in the study, 7,159 people were shot in Philadelphia. The shootings stood at 25 per week before the lockdown in March. However, after the lockdown, the incidents jumped to 46 people shot per week in the 37 weeks of the policy. 

During 2020, Philadelphia saw 499 murders, an increase of 40 percent over the previous year and the second-highest rate in homicides since 1960. The city had 500 murders in 1990. Other cities saw similar increases. See https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/94292-us-homicide-rates-skyrocket-in-2020-exacerbated-by-the-covid-19-pandemic 

“The sustained nature of the increase in firearm violence observed in this study may be related to longer-term effects of COVID-19 containment policies, including intensifying unemployment and poverty, particularly in lower-income Philadelphia communities where shootings are most concentrated,” the analysis found.

Jessica Beard, a physician at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, headed the inquiry.

Woke, Woker, and Wokest

By Christopher Harper

Philadelphia has managed this past week to create a “woke trifecta” at a country club, a university, and a park.

Just up the street from where I live, two city institutions are battling over the use of a Native American emblem.

For more than 150 years, the Philadelphia Cricket Club and St. Martin’s in the Fields Episcopal Church have been neighbors. Only recently, the church’s rector, the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, asked the club to retire a logo it uses that is similar to the one used by the Chicago Black Hawks hockey team. 

The use of the figure on the club sign that borders church property “represents the white supremacist legacy of our neighborhood.

“For a club founded for white Protestant elites during the height of the genocide against Native peoples to continue with this logo is to deny our horrific past,” Kerbel wrote Cricket Club president F. John White. “We ask you to retire the offensive logo and replace it with something more benign.”

So far, the club has not responded to the condemnation. 

It’s unclear to me if the church wants the neighborhood to change the names of many of the streets I can’t leave my house without driving or walking upon, including Huron, Pocono, Seminole, and others. I guess that’s a battle for another day!

As I prepare for this semester’s classes, I received an email from my employer, Temple University, where it announced a plan to make us “anti-racist.” Since Temple is known as Diversity U in many circles because of its diversity in students and faculty, I was a bit nonplussed when I received the email from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy, and Leadership, or IDEAL.

I was informed that the university is creating a required assessment to “actively evaluate” my role in creating a more diverse and inclusive Temple as well as look for opportunities to develop my skills and literacy related to diversity.

Moreover, it was strongly suggested that I read Ibram Kendi’s “How to be An Anti-Racist” with IDEAL-trained facilitators.

The author, a graduate of Temple’s doctoral program in African-American studies, said: “Racist ideas have defined our society since its beginning and can feel so natural and obvious as to be banal… To be an antiracist is a radical choice in the face of this history, requiring radical reorientation of our consciousness.”

I have no idea what that means and no desire or the time to unpack it.

Meanwhile, the City of Philadelphia wants to remove a 150-year-old marble statue of Christopher Columbus, a gift from Italy.

Fortunately, a sane judge has stopped the city’s actions until a court hearing on the matter.

The critics failed to realize that the statue sits in a park named for Guglielmo Marconi, a pioneer of radio. That would be the same Marconi who was a good friend of Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy during World War II.

I guess fascism against Jews, Poles, and other “inferior” white races doesn’t get much traction in the woke culture.

Covid, the campaign, and a conspiracy

By Christopher Harper

Philadelphia is a tough, in-your-face city that doesn’t have much time for nannies.

But Mayor Jim Kenney has become the city’s chief nanny who has determined that he’ll lock the place down until the end of February.

No fans at Phillies or Eagles games. No Thanksgiving Day parade. No Mummers’ Parade, a Philadelphia institution, on New Years Day. No conventions. No music concerts.

The edict comes as the number of Covid-19 cases has fallen dramatically.

He’s banned visitors from other states like California, Texas, and even Idaho, resulting in a huge financial blow to bars, hotels, and restaurants. So far, the city is expected to lose more than $700 million in tax dollars.

Of course, political demonstrations for “social justice” are exempt from the ban!

I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but the mayor’s unnecessary clampdown raises the specter that Philadelphia may be a test case to suppress voter turnout for Donald Trump.

If Philly succeeds in its lockdown, other locales may use the edict as a model for the 2020 presidential election.

That would mean no Trump rallies. A push for an expansion of mail-in ballots. A likelihood that Trump, who carried the key electoral votes in Pennsylvania in 2016, will be hard pressed to do it again.

Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes out of more than 6,000,000 cast, the narrowest margin in a presidential election for the state in 176 years and the first Republican since George H. W. Bush won the state in 1988.

In Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton won more than 80 percent of the heavily Democrat city. But Trump got more than 100,000 votes here.

Just think about how the mayor and the other Democrat nanny, Gov. Tom Wolf, can suppress Trump voters. Wolf has limited outdoor gatherings to less than 250 people, making political rallies almost impossible. 

It’s disgusting how the Democrats are using the pandemic as a means to tip the balance in the 2020 presidential election.