Category Archive 'Philadelphia'
16 Jun 2015

1938 Packard 12

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1938Packard1

Old Cars Weekly profiles a car built to fit a specific customer’s taste back in the days when an individual automobile buyer could make decisions of his own and all of an automobile’s features, equipment, and design were not dictated by a Washington bureaucracy working in cahoots with giant corporations to limit competition and choice.

[A] particular style of car came to be: the “Philadelphia car.” These cars were usually painted black or very dark colors, were fitted with blackwall tires, had some or all of the chrome removed or painted and had logos and emblems removed or painted over. In general, they were understated and rather reserved, and even blacked out to the point of being eccentric and almost sinister. Status was downplayed and there was to be no free advertising of the brand of the car. This even affected the mainstream designs of the luxury automakers; on the very exclusive 1934-1937 Cadillac V-16 models, the Cadillac name can be found nowhere on the outside of the car.

Daniel Bertsch Wentz Jr. of Rydal, Pa., was an executive of the Stonega Coke and Coal Co. and a member of the elite North Philadelphia Family (Wentz, Bertsch, and Leisenring) that controlled extensive coal mining operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia from the 1860s to the 1960s. In short, he was old money high society and he could afford any car, even in hard times. In 1937 and 1938, the United States was in a recession following the depression, yet Packard had restyled its entire senior line to attract more buyers. Daniel Wentz saw one of the new Packards just after they came out and liked them, but he had his own vision. He went to his local coachbuilder, with whom he had worked before, and discussed his ideas with Enos Derham, owner of Derham Custom Body Corp. of Rosemont, Pa. He asked Enos to design a special convertible victoria on the new Packard Twelve chassis. …

The design retained the Packard front fenders and hood, running boards and rear fenders with modifications. From the cowl back, the body was completely different. The windshield was built with multiple bronze castings with a delicate chrome frame for the glass only, and was raked and veed more than the standard factory Packard windshield, making it lower and sportier.

Indeed, from the cowl back, his convertible bore no resemblance to the cataloged Packard convertible victoria. The entire body was aluminum skin over ash structural wood, and the body lines were formed into the aluminum, not separate pieces. In fact, the rear tub of the car was formed in one piece of aluminum, including the continuous beltline. The doors alone were amazingly designed and built with multiple compound curves from front to back and top to bottom. The beltline tapered through the length of the 4-foot doors, and the upper line, which dropped dramatically from the windshield to the rear quarter made the windshield look even lower. These curves and drops gave the car a sleek and sporty look unlike that of any production cars from 1938.

Derham straightened the front edge of the doors where Packard had curved them, then curved the lower edge and angled the rear edge forward to break up the side of the car with an attractive curve that accentuated the slope of the rear deck. Overall, the design of the doors was very complex and extremely well thought out and executed both in function and in style; the more you look at the doors, the more you appreciate them. This is one of the features that sets this car as a one-off Full Custom body apart from production cars. This intense level of craftsmanship simply couldn’t be achieved within the corporate cost restrictions.

The design utilized the Packard long-wheelbase chassis which allowed a full and comfortable rear seat with plenty of leg room with enough room for a long, sloping rear deck treatment that was quite striking. The other very unusual feature of the design was that of the top and windows. The door windows had no vent windows and the sides were angled to match the rake of the windshield in front and the quarter windows in the rear. Having quarter windows at all was a departure from Packard four-passenger convertibles and made sitting in the rear seat much more pleasant. With the windows down, the car looked longer, lower and much sportier.

Read the whole thing.

1938Packard2

03 Apr 2013

Philadelphia Reported Losing Its Philly Accent

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William Penn’s statue stands atop Philadelphia’s City Hall

I grew up about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia and occasionally visited the big city. I always thought that Philadelphia had an unusually unattractive local accent, one that could rival Brooklyn’s or Long Island’s in stigmatizing-as-lower-class potential. I certainly never thought it sounded Southern.

But the Atlantic has an article in which a U of P linguistics professor says that Philadelphians are losing the local accent and the cause is the triumph of the influence of Northern speech over Southern.

Sometime around the 1960s and ’70s, people in Philadelphia began slowly, subtly to change how they speak. The sound of their vowels started a gradual shift consciously imperceptible to the very people who were driving it. A’s evolved to bump into E’s. The sound of an O lost some of its singsong twang. After decades of speaking with what was in effect a southern dialect, Philadelphians were becoming – linguistically, that is – more northern.

“There’s one big question: How is it possible that Philadelphians all over the city are doing the same thing?” asks Bill Labov, a professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. “What is it that makes Philadelphia operate as a whole, making it different from the neighboring cities?”

Read the whole thing.

10 Sep 2012

New Yorkers Renovating Philly

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W.C. Fields (1880-1946) desired his tombstone epitaph to read: “On the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia.”

Susan Gregory Thomas describes the latest neighborhood experiencing gentrification at the hands of desperate New York urbanistas seeking affordable living space: Philadeliphia.

We had a one-bedroom apartment, and our son lived in the dining room.” “Our window looked out onto a concrete courtyard of trash cans and roaches, and a rat came out of our toilet.” “We could only afford to live in Queens—why the hell would we move to Queens? For Indian food?” “Who cares about the Met, off-Broadway and the new ‘It’ restaurant if you can’t afford it, especially with young kids?”

Now, the responses to moving to Philadelphia: “We got a five-bedroom house with a yard and a pool for less than our cruddy apartment!” “Brooklyn says it’s diverse, but neighborhood by neighborhood, it’s not. In our neighborhood in Mount Airy, there are black kids, white kids, mixed kids, lesbian couples, mixed couples—it’s nirvana!” “We can do our work anywhere, so long as we’re within spitting distance of New York and D.C.—why the hell didn’t we come here earlier?”

It’s a haunting question. I, for one, felt that New York had become the protagonist in my life, entering as Holly Golightly-meets-Horatio Alger and, by the third act, morphing into Richard III. My kingdom, horse—all sacked by the Big Apple. This might explain why so many of us have the dazed look of returning veterans, though our battle was of the bourg-y socioeconomic variety. We lost it in New York, but we see hope in Philly.

You’ve seen us on playgrounds in Chestnut Hill and West Mount Airy, all in black, clutching espressos, waxing ecstatically about how “cheap!” and “pretty!” everything is here, while our Ramones-clad little ones run around giddily. We may look and sound insufferable, but the truth is, we’re stunned. Everything is so much nicer—the houses, the people, the landscape—that it can take months for post-traumatic effects to wane. To wit, on the first night in my new house, I stayed up all night unpacking kitchen boxes. At around 4 a.m., I heard a rattling sound. Oh, God, I thought. Rats. It was the automatic ice-cube-maker. I burst into tears.

18 Jun 2011

Mummies!

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Egyptian mummy

What exactly do mummies from Ancient Egypt, Chile, Peru, deceased Hungarians, and the body of a dog discovered in a peat bog in Germany have in common? Not much, beyond being dead and provoking in the living a morbid fascination on the basis of inevitable “as I am now, so you shall be” reflections.

Strict considerations of substantive factual relationship have not deterred Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, however, from offering “the largest exhibition of real mummies and related artifacts ever assembled.”

The New York Times reports:

There are 150 objects on display, most on loan from German museums. They include not just the expected relics of ancient Egypt, but also unexpected relics of that time and place: mummies of a falcon, an ibis, a crocodile; a mummified foot separated from its companion limbs during an era when mummies were plundered for their parts; a startling Egyptian head from the Roman era, half wrapped in embalmer’s linen.The sensations accumulate, for displayed here too are far less well-known mummies of South America, where, over thousands of years, multiple cultures honed embalming techniques, from the ancient Chinchorros in Peru to the 13th-century Chiu-chiu in Chile, leading up to the Incas, with their human sacrifices and death celebrations. And here, too, are the members of a single family from 18th-century Hungary, the ill-fated Orlovitses, who perished when tuberculosis ravaged the small town of Vac. Their bodies were rediscovered in 1994, naturally mummified, their paper-thin skin pocked with small holes left by stray bugs in a forgotten church crypt.

Now through October 23rd.

Exhibition web-site

Hat tip to Fred Lapides.

17 Oct 2010

Murder Hollow Basset Charges Withdrawn

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The Murder Hollow Bassets in happier days.

Baily’s recently reported that the PSPCA withdrew all of its charges against Wendy Willard, Master of the Murder Hollow Bassets of Philadelphia.

After more than 14 months, all 22 counts of animal cruelty charged against Murder Hollow Bassets master Wendy Willard in August of 2009 by the Pennsylvania Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA) in Philadelphia County were withdrawn on October 5, 2010 in Philadelphia Municipal Court. Wendy was also found to be in complete compliance with all applicable statutes.

You may recall that on July 27, 2009, the life of Wendy Willard, a retired social studies teacher and nationally recognized Master of a pack of hounds known as Murder Hollow Bassets, changed forever. That day, using a warrant obtained following a trespass on her property, the PSPCA searched Wendy’s barn, seized 11 of 23 hounds and pressured her to sign so-called “surrender agreements” by threatening to take the other 12 dogs and subjecting her to a heavy fine if she refused.

The search and seizure was performed under the guise of enforcing the Philadelphia “limit law,” applicable only to residential dwelling units, and not a barn inhabited by dogs. However, before Wendy was charged with anything, and without notification to her, all of the hounds were spayed and neutered after their seizure. Worse still one of the hounds was killed as a result of a botched attempt at surgery during the mass spay/neuter operations performed by the PSPCA. The 10 remaining live hounds became infected with a lung virus in the PSPCA’s facility. The PSPCA then sent those 10, with medications, to an unlicensed “rescue” operation that sold them all for “adoption” before any hearing on the charges took place.

Jarndyce v. Jarndyce triumphs again.

The law’s delay, high legal costs, and the passage of time have all rendered the status of the hounds taken and given for adoption to new homes moot, and have brought the case of the PSPCA versus Wendy Willard to a stalemated end.

PSPCA withdrew all of its charges, but will not be returning any of the Murder Hollow hounds. One aged hound, irrationally subjected to a pointless neutering operation succumbed on the table to the tender mercies of the protectors of animal welfare in Philadelphia. The rest of the basset hounds taken from their owner were lawlessly transferred to an unlicensed adoption facility in another state as soon as they had recovered from being neutered and were then sold to new owners for an “adoption fee” long before the right of PSPCA to do any such things had been established in a court of law.

The legal contest has dragged on for well over a year and enormous expenses have accumulated while time has passed to the point where any remedy is both impossible and impractical. The “adopted” (read: “sold”) bassets have undoubtedly over so many months become accustomed to new homes and have developed strong ties of affection to new owners. One poor basset is many months unnecessarily deceased, the victim of mindless PSPCA policy. No useful purpose would be served by uprooting the surviving stolen bassets from their new homes and lives as pets and sending them back after so long an interval to the working life of the pack hound. Their training and condition has been neglected. A quarter century of breeding efforts have been brought to nought. Former hunting hounds have been transformed into pets. There would not be a lot of point in altering their condition now.

Help is still needed however to meet Murder Hollow’s enormous legal expenses. To donate by mail, please make checks or money orders payable to Wendy Willard/Escrow Defense Account and mail your contributions to: Hound Defense Fund, 1229 Chestnut Street, #107, Philadelphia, PA 19107. To donate on line, please go to the web site, www.houndefensefund.org and follow the donation instructions provided.

18 Jul 2010

Decrying Panthergate

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Abigail Thernstrom, nearly two weeks ago in National Review Online, pooh-pooh-ed the scandal of Eric Holder’s Justice Department overruling prosecutors in order to quash the voter intimidation case against Philadelphia Black Panthers, describing it as insignificant by comparison to the (more abstract, and less sexy) issue of the Department of Justice requiring racially gerrymandered election districts.

Forget about the New Black Panther Party case; it is very small potatoes. Perhaps the Panthers should have been prosecuted under section 11 (b) of the Voting Rights Act for their actions of November 2008, but the legal standards that must be met to prove voter intimidation — the charge — are very high.

In the 45 years since the act was passed, there have been a total of three successful prosecutions. The incident involved only two Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far — after months of hearings, testimony and investigation — no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots. Too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case.

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Nothing gratifies the left’s commentariat like a conservative come to Lenin, so Thernstrom’s characterization of the Philadelphia Panther affair as small potatoes was shouted from the rooftops.

Ben Smith, at Politico, treated it as headline news.

Adam Serwer, at American Prospect, gloatingly announced that Thernstrom’s comments exploded a conservative conspiracy to bring down Eric Holder and damage Barack Obama.

And Joan Walsh, editor in chief of Salon, was today hastening to admire Adam Serwer’s intelligence in the course of performing damage control. It turns out that the Washington Post, unlike the New York Times, really does have an Ombudsman representing the public’s interest in journalistic evenhandedness and objectivity.

The Philadelphia Panther Polling Place Intimidation story has been receiving coverage from Fox News and developing legs as a story and provoking public interest, causing Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander to criticize the Post’s delay in covering it.

Walsh lays down the law in response to Alexander:

[I]t really is hard, with limited news room resources, to decide whether and how to cover the insane narrative of rumors, half-truths and lies being peddled by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, not to mention Fox News “reporters” like Megyn Kelly. By covering them (as Salon readers frequently remind us) we risk spreading lies and delusion beyond the right-wing smogosphere. But by ignoring the ones that gain political currency, we risk letting them acquire more influence than they deserve.

Let me state, for the record, that the New Black Panther Party is a despicable, deluded, crackpot fringe group, whose members’ insane anti-white rhetoric sometimes makes me wonder if they’re still on the payroll of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, that 60s-era project in which righty provocateurs infiltrated left-wing groups, including the Black Panthers, and egged on some of the worst violence (not that the old Panthers weren’t capable of violence and thuggishness all on their own, along with the breakfast programs their lefty admirers like to remember).

But the right wing needs the thuggish but miniscule and derided NBBP to matter, and to tie the crazy group to our black president, in order to advance their narrative of lies about Obama’s “racism,” tyranny and illegitimacy to be president. If they can convince enough people that Obama was elected thanks to intimidation by the NBPP, and “voter fraud” by the now-defunct ACORN, they won’t even need the crazy Birthers to prove he’s not legitimately president, even though he won with a bigger mandate than any first-term president since Lyndon Johnson (who of course had become president after the Kennedy assassination.) …

It’s the job of editors at big papers like the Post to expose those lies, and the movement behind them – not to flagellate themselves for not saying “How high?” when right-wing media watchdogs say “Jump!”

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The left’s arguments as to why the Department of Justice blocking prosecution of the Philadelphia Black Panther standing in front of the Fairmont Avenue polling station brandishing a nightstick is a non-story run like this:

J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department voting rights attorney who resigned and later testified before the the U.S. Commission on Civil Right in connection with Eric Holder’s Justice Department’s handling of the Philadelphia case, is a Republican who was hired by another Republican attorney they dislike.

No one has proven that Eric Holder or Barack Obama personally interfered.

The New Black Panther Party is a small, unrepresentative fringe group that simply does not matter.

No one has produced voters testifying that they were prevented from voting by the Panthers.

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Most Americans do not agree that testimony coming from Republicans, even from conservative Republicans, of bias and improper conduct can be impeached successfully simply by identifying the witness’s politics. An obviously greater number of Americans trust the reliability of Fox News more that they trust other networks, the New York Times or the Washington Post, and more Americans believe that conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh are reasonably fair-minded than would say the same thing of Salon.

The unavailability of evidence of participation of senior officials in a far-from-thoroughly-investigated scandal is not per se exculpatory evidence.

The Fairmont Avenue nightstick-carrying Panther incident is known from a few very short videos which were posted on YouTube. A University of Pennsylvania student tried filming and interviewing the Panthers. He found them hostile and evasive. In the immediate aftermath of that confrontation, he or a Republican poll observer summoned the police. The Panther carrying the nightstick was persuaded by Philadelphia police to leave. His associate produced identification as a poll watcher, and was (despite his paramilitary get up) permitted to remain.

A Fox News reporter, Rick Leventhal, interviewed the Republican poll observer, who told him that the Panthers had tried to intimidate him when he tried to enter. The observer was also subjected to racial remarks. He says that he then phoned the police.

The police intervened after two Panthers, one armed with a nightstick, had been standing in front of the Fairmont Avenue polling place door for about an hour. It’s true that this specific incident involved two people and a fairly limited amount of time. But it was clearly a case of intimidation.

Is the fringiness of the intimidators some kind of legal defence?

What would Ms. Thermstrom, Mr. Serwer, or Ms. Walsh say about two people in paramilitary uniforms, brandishing a club and making hostile racially-charged remarks having probable discouraging impact in detering black or Jewish voters or observers from entering a polling place? Under the proposed insignificance rule, Nazis or Ku Klux Klansmen could police certain polling stations at will, as long as they remained basically few in number and intimidated only a few people. And, of course, if they succeeded in scaring people away from testifying about what had happened, that would be all the better, since it would prove that no one had been intimidated at all.

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Let my readers decide for themselves. Here are the videos.

1:21 University of Pennsylvania student films Panthers at 1221 Fairmount Avenue polling place video

1:00 video Philadelphia police intervene. The Panther with the bill club is ordered to leave. The other Panther is allowed to stay because he is a registered poll watcher!

Departing billy club wielder: “that’s why you’re going to be ruled by a black man.” 0:05 video

4:05 Fox News video from 2008 with Rick Leventhal.

Who was holding that billy club? Samir Shabaz 0:51 video

Addtional evidence of denial of entry and election fraud in Philadelphia appeared in a couple of other videos:

Poll watcher denied entry to polling place on 6125 Market Street. 2:53 video

This black voter in Overbrook Park tells CNN he voted “a coupla times.” 0:41 video

Earlier postings

10 Feb 2010

Murder Hollow Settlement Goes Nowhere

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Murder Hollow Bassets at 2009 Pack Trials

On January 12th, Philadelphia Community Court Judge Joseph J. O’Neill negotiated an agreement between attorneys for Wendy Willard, Master of the Murder Hollow Bassets, and the PSPCA intended to end the litigation resulting from the latter organization’s July 27, 2009 raid on the Murder Hollow kennels in which eleven hounds were confiscated.

Last month’s settlement terms included the return of a retired house dog named Osh Kosh to Willard and an arrangement that Willard would participate in determining the permanent placement of the ten other hounds. In return for which, Willard agreed to make some repairs to the kennels and submit to unannounced inspections over the course of the next five months.

Strangely, it turns out that PSPCA was not in a position at the time to honor this agreement and also seems to have entered into the agreement in bad faith.

The National Animal Interest Alliance (an animal owners’ advocacy organization) reports that ten of the Murder Hollow bassets were subsequently revealed to have been long since transferred to a regional basset rescue organization which placed the valuable pedigreed hunting hounds in exchange for a $225 fee as pets.

Five days before the trial resulting in the settlement it turns out the PSPCA could not fulfill, obviously at PSPCA’s instigation, Ms. Willard was accused by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections of operating a commercial kennel, issued a cease and desist order, and threatened with $300 per diem fines.

The Murder Hollow Bassets are, of course, a private organized hunting pack, and not a commercial kennel at all, as the L&I department soon discovered. This particular instance of harrassment seems ironic in the light of the fact that Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue, the organization which “rescued” Murder Hollow’s hounds to the tune of $225 apiece, and processes something on the order of 200 basset hounds per annum is itself not licensed as a kennel.

PSPCA was not only unable to comply with the portion of court settlement applying to the placement of ten hounds. PSPCA also proceeded to renege on its agreement to return the 8 year old house dog Osh Kosh, demanding as a condition for the hound’s return a payment of putative costs of $3000, mostly made up of boarding fees!

In the immediate aftermath of the settlement, PSPCA also continued its propaganda campaign against Murder Hollow, releasing through its own media outlet a single photograph showing an unhappy basset with an eye problem allegedly infested with ticks.

I saw that photograph at the time, but having no personal access to Murder Hollow’s side of the story decided to avoid commenting.

My own opinion is that it is extremely easy for a photograph of this kind to be misleading. Any basset hound being dragged off on a lead by strangers is going to look mightily unhappy. Bassets have a talent for looking lugubrious when displeased. Dirty doggie photos also don’t mean much. You can get a photo of my Tazy with a face covered in dirt very easily if you happen to take it anytime after he’s been digging.

Basset hounds do acquire scratches running through the woods, and pack dogs living together pick up minor injuries sometimes in kennels. A photograph of a single dog with something wrong with its eye obviously does not prove that dog was neglected.

The lyme disease claim is clearly suggestive of deliberate fraud. Lyme disease bearing ticks are extremely common in the woods and fields hunted by organized hound packs in the Eastern United States. It would be surprising to find a beagle, or basset, or pack-following human who wouldn’t test positive for lyme disease exposure. Karen caught it last year, and I deny being guilty of cruelty to wives. Pack hounds, of course, are treated for lyme disease when they are symptomatic. Unsymptomatic lyme exposure means absolutely nothing and is exactly the kind of opportunistic phony baloney charge that a corrupt animal welfare organization would fling around to justify its own abuses.

Ticks. The particular basset in the photo seems to have several ticks on its face, and I suspect there is a story there which I don’t know. Perhaps that basset is the aged house dog which just came back dirty and tick-infested from a nice long run on the 340-acre Nature Center in which the Willard home and the Murder Hollow kennels are located.

I don’t live near Philadelphia or hunt with Murder Hollow, but I know that several of the packs I do follow rely on Ivermectin, an anti-parasite medication, which one knowlegable hound breeder assured me causes ticks simply to drop dead shortly after they ingest a little of their victim’s blood. If Murder Hollow routinely uses Ivermectin, a hound coming home with some ticks on him would be meaningless. They’d all be dead the next day.

The PSPCA’s photo is less than probative, and it looks like Murder Hollow and the PSPCA are going back to court. I expect the judge will not be pleased to learn that PSPCA entered into agreements it could not and would not fulfill.

Earlier Murder Hollow posts.

13 Jan 2010

Is Pat Burns Even Worth Responding To?

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Personally, I think wasting a post on him is a bad idea. L’aigle ne chasse pas les mouches and all that. But I think some readers might be disappointed if I did not respond, so…

Basically, Burns today simply takes the same not-very-informative Inquirer article I quoted and linked, and applies a massive sedimentary layer of subjectivity to it, creating a fantasy of his own in which a real judgment of the accuracy of PSPCA complaints was made by the judge on the basis of firm evidence, guilt established, and PSPCA vindicated.

Hardly.

What obviously happened is the lawyers negotiated a deal involving the return of at least one dog to Ms. Willard, and what is being referred to as PSPCA “consulting” with Ms. Willard on the placement of other dogs, which sounds a lot to me like an unarticulated deal to return dogs originating from a different organized pack to their pack of origin. In return, PSPCA gets to save face by coming back and “inspecting,” thus relieving them of culpability and confirming their legitimacy and authority.

To believe those inspections are really necessary, you have to believe that organized hunting packs with ten person staffs and dozens of active members need external supervision to make them clean their kennels, give hounds water daily, or assure veterinary care.

You have to be inclined to accept the validity of violations charged by persons in authority trained to intimidate people into surrendering some of their animals by threatening to take and euthanize all of them, who achieve submission by threatening to apply enough complaints to cause someone to lose her home.

You have to be the kind of person who sneers at other sportsmen for being overweight and aged (when you look like Pat Burns) and who ridicules organized hunting by hound packs in uniform from the superior perspective of the glorious pursuit of vermin with pick and shovel.

Mr. Burns’s mention of a “Mad Woman of Shiloh” [since corrected… ha!] was clearly an inept attempt to allude, in a defamatory comparison of a person he does not know, to Jean Giraudoux’s La Folle de Chaillot [Madwoman of Chaillot]. In that two-act play, the senile and eccentric heroine, “the Countess,” rallies her bohemian neighbors to defend their Parisian suburb against corrupt authorities and opportunists proposing to turn it into a polluted oilfield. Since the madwoman is the heroine and in the right and the authorities are malevolent and corrupt and in the wrong, perhaps Burns’s illiterate attempt at metaphor comes accidentally closer to the mark than he could possibly have realized.

13 Jan 2010

Compromise Ending to Murder Hollow Case

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Baily’s Hunting Directory available via on-line subscription is rather new. I only heard of it myself this month, so few of those following the Murder Hollow Basset affair are likely to have found the news release of December 16th announcing a trial date of January 12th.

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I certainly would have preferred a more definitive conclusion, but I expect Wendy Willard and the members of the basseting community supporting her in this case were strongly motivated by the prospect of liberating some of the long-incarcerated hounds, as well as by the ten thousand dollars per month legal efforts have been costing since last August, to agree under advice of counsel to allow PSPCA a face-saving compromise outcome.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today:

Animal-cruelty charges filed against a woman known for running a successful pack of sporting dogs have been continued until June and will be dropped if she complies with an agreement to clean and maintain her kennel in Roxborough. …

Philadelphia Community Court Judge Joseph J. O’Neill negotiated the agreement between Willard and SPCA officers.

O’Neill said from the bench that Willard must install a drainage system, keep her property “reasonably free from feces,” repair the kennel ceiling, change standing water the dogs drink from at least once a day, and have the dogs checked for parasites.

O’Neill said the SPCA would have to consult with Willard over where to permanently place the dogs removed from the property.

“This is something that will benefit everyone,” O’Neill said. …

“You’re entitled to have your dogs,” O’Neill said to Willard, “and she is entitled to inspect,” the judge said with a nod toward SPCA Officer Tara Loller.

On the day of the raid, Willard was accused of throwing stones at vehicles driven by SPCA and state dog officers.

O’Neill said the SPCA would make monthly, unannounced inspections to ensure that Willard was following the negotiated agreement.

Willard declined to comment, but her attorney, Charles Geffen, said the SPCA also had agreed to return to her a dog named Osh Kosh, who lived in her house.

Earlier postings can be found via this category link.

I expect there may be some additional news on all this before too long.

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My apologies. WordPress devoured an earlier version of this posting, and I had to re-assemble the whole thing.

16 Dec 2009

Panthergate: Justice Department Stonewalls Investigation

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The Washington Times reports that Eric Holder’s Justice Department is again roadblocking federal efforts to investigate incidents of voter intimidation in Philadelphia during the 2008 presidential election by Black Panthers costumed as security guards and brandishing billy clubs.

The systematic efforts by the Obama Administration to protect their own partisans from prosecution are outrageous and have every possibility of developing into a serious scandal capable of inflicting major harm on a presidency already in serious trouble.

The Justice Department has told the federal attorneys who filed a civil complaint against the New Black Panther Party for disrupting a Philadelphia polling place last year not to cooperate with an investigation of the incident by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The commission last week subpoenaed at least two Justice Department lawyers and sought documents from the department to explain why the complaint was dismissed just as a federal judge was about to punish the New Black Panther Party and three of its members for intimidating voters.

07 Dec 2009

DOJ Resignations Related to Panther Coverup?

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The Washington Times wonders aloud: Is Eric Holder’s Department of Justice experiencing major in-house fighting and a rash of resignations connected with a top-level decision to avoid prosecuting the 2008 voter intimidation by Black Panthers in Philadelphia seen everywhere on YouTube video?

Could it be that President Obama’s legal team is imploding due to a voter intimidation case involving the New Black Panther Party? …

First, a Web site called “Main Justice” reported on Wednesday (and we have since confirmed) that the Justice Department has, for now, ordered two key career attorneys not to comply with a subpoena about the case issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The commission, by law, has explicit power to issue subpoenas, and the law mandates that “all federal agencies shall cooperate fully with the commission.” The Justice Department, however, is citing internal regulations stemming from a 1951 case to support its order to ignore the subpoena. …

Second, that same day, the two Republican House members with top-ranking jurisdiction over the Justice Department, Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, issued a joint statement calling Justice Department delays “a cover-up,” and “a pretense to ignore inquiries from Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.” At a hearing on Thursday, Mr. Smith said that “continued silence by the Justice Department is an implied admission of guilt that the case was dropped for purely political reasons.”

Third, at the same hearing, Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican, accused Justice Department Civil Rights Division chief Thomas Perez of not being “truthful” while under oath, to such an extent that “there are people who have gone to jail” for such a level of purported “dishonest[y].”

The disputed statement, from what appeared to be prepared remarks by Mr. Perez that he later repeated insistently, was that “the maximum penalty was sought and obtained” against the one Black Panther for whom the charges were not entirely dropped. The bizarrely weak penalty consisted of a mere injunction for the Black Panther not to brandish a weapon near a polling place, within Philadelphia, through Nov. 15, 2012. In short, he is prohibited, only within Philadelphia and only for four years, from doing something that is illegal anyway. …

As all of this was going on, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, the No. 2 man in the whole department, was announcing that very morning that he will resign after less than 10 months in office. Mr. Ogden – whose possible involvement in the Black Panther case had been specifically mentioned in the Civil Rights Commission’s subpoena – became the third high-ranking Obama legal official to announce a resignation in the last month. He was preceded by White House counsel Gregory Craig and deputy White House counsel Cassandra Butts.

12 Aug 2009

SPCA Outrage in Philadelphia 10: Answering Pat Burns

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Burns is the dumb-looking one in the middle

When NYM published the first blog coverage last week on the Murder Hollow Basset raid by the PSPCA, fellow field sports blogger Pat Burns of Terrierman’s Daily Dose, went into investigative mode, took Amy Worden’s essentially PSPCA-dictated damage control press release in the Inquirer as gospel, and proceeded to dismiss me as a paranoid rightwing blogger and Murder Hollow’s Master Wendy Willard as a “nutter” and a dog abuser. Burns’s publicly-performed Snoopy dance of triumph on this one was sufficient to make readers think he had the Pulitzer Prize in the bag.

He certainly made points with the PETA crowd, who happily began quoting Burns as the party line on the story.

I was personally disappointed because I actually read Burns’s blog regularly, but I merely noted in my response that Burns was relying on a single, obviously partisan source, repeating the PSPCA version of circumstances and events. I also identified some reasons why I think PSPCA’s word is not to be trusted.

Naturally, since I had received so much attention in Burn’s blog, I tried forwarding a link to my own posting in response. I had to go through a major log-in procedure to try posting a comment, and in the end my comment was merely forwarded to Burns for approval.

Several days later, it had not gotten into TDD’s comments, and I was rather displeased at what seemed to be a policy of censoring rejoinders at TDD, so I sent Burns a short email commenting negatively.

He responded, claiming to be “away from keyboard,” answering via cellphone, and he and I wound up arguing about all this by email much of the day on Sunday.

I didn’t publish our email correspondence myself, but Burns took a really stupid point of argument which no rational response could persuade him to relinquish as the occasion for another blog article.

I have challenged Mr Zincavage and the 11 “staff members” of the Murder Hollow Bassets to pay for three or four years worth of private (and legal) kenneling for those seized Philadelphia dogs.

There are many commercial kennels in Pennsylvania, and I am sure the the SPCA will have no objection to the dogs being placed in a good private kennel provided that three or four years worth of kennel fees are paid up in full and in advance, plus any veterinary bills accrued.

No, not a month. No, not four months. Three or four years.

After all, these dogs deserve continuity of care, and with 12 people to shoulder the cost of kenneling, it shouldn’t be too big a deal for everyone to pony up the price.

Talk is cheap.

But, of course, so too are most people — a point missed by many conservatives.

They will tell you they are against taxation, preferring instead that everything be done by some mysterious thing called “a Thousand Points of Light.”

Fine. Here’s a chance for Mr. Zincavage and the Murder Hollow “staff” to be a Point of Light. Pay for the veterinary costs plus three or four years of private kenneling for Wendy Willard’s basset hounds. She will still own them — the donors will simply be making a charitable gift to make sure things are done right by the dogs.

As I explained in our emails, nobody wants to lock up 11 hunting bassets away from their home, their owner, their pack, and the out-of-doors in a commercial kennel operated by strangers for three or four years. (How long does Burns think hounds live, do you suppose?) No rational reason or necessity proposes such a course.

Ms. Willard, her ten staff members, and the dozens of residents of the greater Philadelphia area who hunt with Murder Hollow Bassets are perfectly able to provide for those hounds, and if some imaginary tragic circumstance arrived to eliminate from the world every person affiliated with Murder Hollow, that hound pack is part of a national organization of affiliated packs. There are plenty of packs and individual basset hunters out there who could and would give all of Murder Hollow’s hounds new homes.

There is no need to do what Mr. Burns insists on proposing as his own subjective test of bona fides. No one wants such an arrangement. The PSPCA wouldn’t agree to it. And it would not, in the least, be in the interest of the hounds.

One really wonders, reading this kind of idiocy, what kind of understanding of hunting dogs, or dogs in general, the Terrierman possesses. Burns seems to look upon dogs purely as a cost center, a kind of tool requiring fixed costs that anyone can cheerfully stuff away in a warehouse setting for 3-4 years in order to prove a point.

But there is no point. The Murder Hollow Bassets have been an organized hunting pack chasing quarry in the field since 1986, and participating and competing in hound shows and pack trials since at least 1994. If they didn’t meet all the costs Mr. Burns’s fantasy is intended to project, they would hardly still be in operating existence, nor would they be accepted as a recognized basset pack by a knowledgeable community of hound lovers and keen sportsmen or be permitted to be part of the national organization.

11 Aug 2009

SPCA Outrage in Philadelphia 8: Another Press Echo From Amy Worden

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Predictably, the PSPCA supplemented their web-site’s announcement of new violations lavished on Wendy Willard to punish her for public questioning of their actions and for inquiries about the fate and whereabouts of the Murder Hollow bassets with an Inquirer “news report” from their faithful mouthpiece reporter Amy Worden.

PSPCA cites Basset breeder for lack of vet care, sanitation

A Philadelphia woman, whose illegal kennel was the subject of a raid last month, has been charged with failing to provide vet care and for poor sanitation.

Wendy Willard, owner of Murder Hollow Bassets in Roxborough, was issued 22 citations during a follow up inspection on Friday, according to the Pennsylvania SPCA.

Willard, who competed her hounds at prestigious sporting dog events around Philadelphia and in Virginia’s fox hunting region, surrendered 11 dogs to humane officers on July 27. The officers found filthy kennel conditions and dogs covered in feces and infested with parasites, the PSPCA said. The agency removed the animals because there were 23 dogs on the property, 11 more than are allowed under the city’s animal ordinance.

Willard was given two weeks to make improvements and get vet care for the remaining animals, but the PSPCA said in press release that when the officers returned last week “overall living conditions remained poor.”

Willard was issued 11 citations for unsanitary conditions, 11 citations for lack of veterinary care and two tickets for barking. Graphic photos of the dogs detailing their condition and their housing have been turned over to the district attorney’s office. Efforts to reach Willard were unsuccessful.

Agents first went to the property on July 21 in response to neighbor complaints about noise and order. When they found no one at home they left a card telling the owner to contact them. When Willard failed to contact them, they returned on July 27 to inspect the property. Willard refused and threw stones at the officers’ vehicles as they left, said George Bengal, the PSPCA director of law enforcement. They returned later that day with a warrant to search the property.

The dogs were turned over to Basset hound rescue groups, the PSPCA said.

It is perfectly obvious that they lied previously in promising that hounds surrendered to them could be reclaimed.

They have lied repeatedly about the bassets being moved from their holding center and delivered to a basset rescue organization.

They have misused their authority to threaten, harass, and opportunistically level charges against Ms. Willard. Either those kennels were unsanitary and the hounds lacking veterinary care, or they were not. When the PSPCA is applying the law in Philadelphia, every animal owner is in the position of the cafe owner being shaken down by the crooked cop. The cop looks around and spies a speck of dust, bam! he writes a health code violation. The cop throws a plate on the floor and smashes it, bam! he writes a safety violation.

It is also obvious that if Mrs. Parks had never phoned PSPCA, if people on the Internet had never reported what happened on July 27th, and Ms. Willard surrendered 11 dogs to be sold for $200 apiece and neutered most of the rest (in compliance with international Animal Rights philosophy, which desires to eliminate pet reproduction as a step toward eliminating pet ownership) and kept silent, none of those 22 violations would ever have existed. Nor would Ms. Willard’s remaining bassets have been ticketed for barking at PSPCA intruders.

11 Aug 2009

SPCA Outrage in Philadelphia 7: PSPCA: “We’ll Show You!”

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Here’s due process PSPCA style.

The PSPCA arrives in a massive raid expecting to find what?… an illegal puppy mill? A ring of illegal immigrant bassets importing cocaine in their collars? a group of fanatical Islamist basset hounds plotting terrorist acts?

Whatever it was, they don’t find it. But the PSPCA is never wrong. They do find a grievous breach of public order actively underway.

A middle-aged, retired school teacher residing at a home located on a 340-acre nature center, the largest privately-owned tract of land within the city limits of Philadelphia, is found to be housing 11 basset hounds possibly in excess of the residential dwelling limit prescribed in the Philadelphia Code Animal section § 10-103(8).

Whether, in fact, a kennel attached to a barn on the property is “a residential dwelling unit” is open to question and interpretation.

There is also some question about whether the City of Philadelphia by accepting fees and licensing Ms. Willard’s basset hounds for all those years, since 1986 when the 12 animal limit was imposed, and in which same year Ms. Willard founded the Murder Hill Bassets, without demurral over the number of licenses it was issuing, had not implicitly authorized her possession of those hounds.

But, let’s leave all that aside. Suppose Ms. Willard was guilty, caught red-handed in possession of eleven more basset hounds than the Phildelphia Code permits? What does the Law say?

It says § 10-105(8a):

The penalty for the first violation of any provision of this Section shall be a minimum fine of $100.

As I read over the law, I see nothing about confiscation. I see nothing in this provision specifying forfeiture of animals as a penalty for this kind of violation.

As the new PSPCA release demonstrates quite vividly, Wendy Willard is not in trouble for the basically trivial offense of (perhaps) violating a number of hounds limit. She is in trouble for failing to adequately and unconditionally surrender and grovel before the authority of the thugs and bozos of the PSPCA.

The scope of the tyranny we’re looking at here can be seen in reference to the reality of the situation. Wendy Willard actually did surrender completely. She signed the papers they intimidated her into signing (giving away 11 hounds). She agreed to neuter all but 4 of her carefully-bred, twenty-year-old pack. She kept silence.

What got Wendy into more trouble, and what is causing her bassets to be kept locked in tiny cages, is PSPCA retaliation for that anonymous person posting the original story of the raid on the Internet, and other people, Betsy Parks, me, all the people discussing this on bulletin boards, email lists, and blogs. We questioned PSPCA behavior and authority. We asked about those basset hounds, and here is the result.

PSPCA news release, August 10, 2009, Murder Hollow Basset Hound Update:

On Friday, August 7, 2009, Humane Law Enforcement officers from the Pennsylvania SPCA conducted a pre-arranged follow-up inspection of Murder Hollow, the location of an illegal basset hound kennel in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, PA. The owner had previously surrendered 11 dogs during the officers’ visit on Monday, July 27, 2009, due to unsanitary conditions, lack of veterinary care and more dogs than allowed by law.

Despite the time allotted to the owner to make improvements, overall living conditions remained poor at the second inspection, resulting in 11 citations for unsanitary conditions, 11 citations for lack of veterinary care and two tickets for barking. Graphic photos of the dogs detailing their condition and their housing have been turned over to the district attorney’s office.

We appreciate the continued outpouring of support for these dogs from the Bassett community.

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