Saturday, August 4, 2012

PA Senate Shuffle for Jane Orie's Seat

The PA 40th Senate District
This Tuesday there will be a special election to fill the PA State Senate seat of Jane Orie (the 40th) who has been convicted of using her staff for campaign purposes.  The main candidates are the Republican Randy Vulakovich and Democrat Sharon Brown.  The district covers the blue area in the map at the right and has about 250,000 people.  This the district where Gov. Tom Corbett lives. 

Vulakovich is likely to be a yes man for Corbett while Brown says on her website that she wants to restore many of the cuts that the Governor has imposed.  Brown has a background in epidemiology and public health so she is well versed in the need for single payer.  I do not live in that district but I would be happy to vote for her.  

In the 2014 cycle, the more progressive Senator Jim Ferlo's district (in yellow on the map above) may be redrawn to include part of the more conservative 40th.  This is pending a court challenge by Ferlo.


Randy Vulakovich won the election with 16,300 votes or 73% and Sharon Brown had 6,026 or 27% according to the PA Department of State's website.  Brown ran a little better in Allegheny County with 28% or 4,704.  I don't have an estimate of the voting age population for PA 40th district but less than 10% of it's total population voted in this election.  One must be careful about generalizing the results of this election to the district as a whole.  The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that some voters were unaware of the special election.  The Gazette did report that 13.57% of registered voters in Allegheny County voted.

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Medal Counts Still Reflect National Power (or the Need for it)

1912 Native American Gold Medalist Jim Thorpe
Since the old days of the realities of the Olympic Games haven't always lived up to the ideals which founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin articulated "The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."  Native American Jim Thorpe (pictured at the right) was stripped of his gold medals after he was accused of playing professional sports.  At the time it may have been within the rules to take them away but they were reinstated 30 years after he died.

Owens in Berlin
In 1936 Hitler hoped to turn the Berlin games into a showcase for German supremacy.  Much has been made of Jesse Owens winning four gold medals thus embarrassing Hitler but Germany did win the most gold and overall medals after the United States had that distinction in the previous four games after WWI. Hitler really wanted revenge after the great war not just on the battlefield.

Similarly the mostly drugged communist East Germans did win the most overall medals with the Soviet Union taking the most gold in the 1980 winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.  Americans prefer to remember the Miracle on Ice USA hockey team and Eric Heiden's five speed skating gold medals from that year.

The other postwar games were struggles between the USA and the Soviet Union with boycotts in the 1980 and 1984 summer games.   After the cold war the US seemed dominant in the summer medal count but the other countries were catching up (the US for the first time even managed to place first in the medal count in the 2010 winter games in Vancouver with Canada taking the most gold).  The 1968 Mexico City games have been immortalized by John Carlos and Tommie Smith's protest against racism though the US won the most overall and gold medals that year.

This years games and the 2008 games in Beijing indicate the growing power of China.  They were ahead of the US in the number of gold medals four years ago and are ahead of the US and now are about equal in the number of gold and overall medals this year so far.  The US prefers to remember Michael Phelps and maybe Usain Bolt from 2008.  What will we remember from this years games?  It's too early to tell so far. Missy Franklin may (or may not) fill that role with women playing a more prominent role.  Brazil hopes to join the ranks of more powerful nations by hosting the games in 2016.

We always look to the past for a golden age which never really existed.  This post cannot possibly cover all possible great Olympic moments.  The struggle we see on TV may be what we prefer to remember but there are many other struggles which are far less graceful which we rarely see.  In 1994, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan let us see behind the curtain like Toto did in the Wizard of OZ.


Gabby Douglas has emerged as the up and coming star of the London games.  Here is a discussion of women's emerging role at the games.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

PodCamp 7 is Coming

Two Weeks ago I posted on a workshop being held by PodCamp called:

What's a Tweet? And what's all this Twitter about? : Computer Class

This was a good class for beginners on twitter that was held at the Carnegie Library last month.  On October 27 & 28 Podcamp Pittsburgh will be holding what they call an unconference for those who want to learn about how to use social media to for online activism, to promote one's business, or for any other activity of interest at Point Park University.  I've embedded the basic class on Facebook and Twitter from last year above.  Attendance is free.  Last year there were sessions for nonprofits, political blogging led by Rep. Mike Doyle, and many others on the potential and pitfalls (remember Sarah Palin's death panels?) of social media.  

There is a generational divide between young and older activists in the use of social media to bypass the lamestream media filter.  There is a national conference for progressive activists called Netroots Nation which will be in San Jose, CA next year.  PodCamp is not political per se but it does teach skills that can be used by anyone and is more accessible.  Individuals of all political stripes attend.  There are similar PodCamps in Wilmington, DE on Sept 28-30 and other cities around the world.  I encourage you all to attend and bridge the digital divide.

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PodCamp Pittsburgh 6