Zack Pelta-Heller

Zack Pelta-Heller is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. He holds an MFA from The New School.

Recent Articles

A Real Popularity Contest

As we gear up for a major national election, there's a renewed momentum in the states to circumvent the Electoral College by switching to a popular vote.

If next year's presidential race is anything like the 2004 contest, candidates will spend more than 66 percent of their ad money and campaign visits in just five "battleground" states, and 99 percent in 16 states. According to organizations like FairVote and Common Cause, the reason for this gross incongruity is our much-maligned electoral process, by which a candidate needs only 270 electoral votes to become president. It is this process that led Al Gore to lose in 2000, even though he won the popular vote by some 450,000 votes. And if the last two elections were any indication, next year's race could maddeningly boil down to the electoral votes of one key state, just as it did for Gore in Florida and John Kerry in Ohio. Watching the last two elections from the sidelines has sparked a campaign in some states to circumvent the Electoral College with a National Popular Vote (NPV). Under our Electoral College, each state confers all of its electoral votes on the winner of the popular...

A Graphic Portrayal of Katrina

In a powerful, multi-part Web comic, illustrator Josh Neufeld tells the story of the storm and its aftermath.

Images from A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. Courtesy of Josh Neufeld/SMITH Magazine
"I'm gonna die in this bitch!" screams Denise, a sixth-generation New Orleanian who clings to the bed she has wedged into her hallway to ride out Hurricane Katrina. This sure isn't a CNN special report to honor the two-year anniversary of the storm. It's the fifth chapter of a 12-part non-fictional Web comic called A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge , written and drawn by American Splendor illustrator Josh Neufeld. With monthly installments being published online at SMITH Magazine , A.D. tells the personal stories of six Katrina survivors exactly as they saw it. Hurricane Katrina was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. It destroyed one of America's most beloved cities, wrought $80 billion in damages, killed over 1,400 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. In the process it also exposed the economic and racial inequalities that have long plagued our nation. Perhaps it's fitting then that one of the most unique takes on the disaster and recovery process comes in the...

Life After the GOP Congress

Santorum, Allen, Weldon, Burns, Pombo -- Where are they now? Checking up on the '06 Republican losers.

Dozens of Republican congressional incumbents got tossed in 2006. Where are they now? Many, of course, have already rebounded with powerful positions in the private sector. And some, like Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Representative Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, have accepted teaching fellowships at various universities; others have found more influential niches. The five ousted incumbents listed below held positions of prominence while they served in Congress. (In the run-up to the 2006 election, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and George Allen of Virginia were presumed to be viable presidential candidates for 2008.) Surprisingly, only one of the former senators and congressmen on our list, Conrad Burns of Montana, is currently working for a K Street lobbying firm. While this might be due in part to the fact that there exists a one-year waiting period before former lawmakers can lobby Congress, it also suggests that K Street is not the only...

The GOP's Lonely Anti-War Candidate

Meet Congressman Ron Paul -- staunch libertarian, outspoken critic of American imperial hubris, and Republican presidential contender.

Surely one of the highlights of the presidential primary debates held so far occurred back in mid-May, during the Republican debate in South Carolina: Ten-term Texas Congressman Ron Paul stood in front of a patriotic field of white stars on a blue backdrop and told Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler that the attacks of 9/11 occurred primarily as a response to U.S. foreign policy over the past few decades. "Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us?" he asked incredulously. "They attacked us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for ten years!" When Goler asked for clarification that the United States invited the 9/11 attacks, Paul, with his arms folded, replied coolly, "I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reasons they did it. They are already delighted that we're over there, because Osama bin Laden has said, 'I am glad that you're on our sand, because I can target you so much easier.' They have already … killed 3,...

On the March

As tens of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C.'s National Mall on Saturday, calling on Congress to take action against President Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, the comparisons to the civil rights movement and Vietnam era seemed inevitable. So did some pointed questions. Could the current movement to end the war sustain any momentum without the catalyst of a draft -- the crucial element that had brought a sense of urgency to ending the Vietnam war? Was this march on Washington really necessary, considering that the American public had just used the political process to voice its opinion during the last election? And how successful could this rally be, given that the president remains resolute on his Iraq policy even as his approval rating has plummeted to 30 percent? This was my first antiwar march. My wife Anna and I drove down from Philly in a stale-smelling rental van full of aging activists, including Anna's parents. While Anna and I -- the children of...