Monday, November 28, 2011

Unelected officials and accountability.

Slate.com had an interesting article regarding the new Michigan law Public Act 4 that allows the state to take over 'failing' municipalities.

I found a few things pretty scary, namely the new powers granted to an unelected manager.   The Act gives him or her the power to slash municipal obligations to pensioners; ignore all unions and the concessions they have won through contractual negotiations; fire all city employees and privatize/slash all services to save money; eliminate the fire and police departments; and most importantly, not answer to anyone, whether it is a voter or an elected official, all in the name of 'progress.'

The good news?  Pontiac's Emergency Manager doesn't have to pay the City Council and ripped out all the parking meters because it wasn't cost effective to run them.

This article illustrates Worcester's need for a City Council and electorate that needs to be involved in the daily operations of our City and keep our government from being run by a business manager with zero accountability.

Sometimes giving away our democratic oversight in the name of 'progress' and 'reform' isn't all that it's cracked up to be. 

Never in my backyard!

Remember the public outcry over the Worcester Youth Center moving next to Beaver Brook Park neighbors were worried about the the gang members it would bring to a public park and a nice residential neighborhood? 

Remember the crime wave that was going to engulf the West Side when a transitional house for former addicts was opened on Newton Square and the PIP clients were going to hang outside waiting for their girlfriends?

Remember when Paulie made up a whole bunch of BS about the PIP shelter moving to the corner of Chandler St. and Park Ave and hung a banner on his half destroyed/partially renovated three decker and threatened to stop working?

None of those things happened.  Perhaps we should throttle down the rhetoric regarding the temporary relocation of the SMOC Triage Center and recognize that the City's homelessness problem hasn't been solved, and needs a real presence in this City.

After all, it is the Christmas season, and we should be full of good will towards our fellow human beings.

Monday, November 7, 2011

BS, courtesy of the WPD.

The WPD's Press Release regarding the arrests of Occupy Worcester members contained the following gem:
I'm not sure how passive resistance and a non-violent occupation of the Worcester Common on a Saturday night can create the potential for injury for anyone involved.  Didn't we hire a media relations expert for the WPD?  Our new hire should be able to come up with a better excuse for tsk-tsking the occupation of the Worcester Common.

Thousands of dollars were spent to arrest 22 people out of a peaceful crowd for what purpose?  Perhaps next time the WPD and the City Administration shouldn't overreact to citizens engaging in a peaceful protest.  Instead they should focus on the calls from citizens requesting real police service, rather than people setting up tents on the Common.  Rumor has it that the WPD had a delayed reaction time to bar fights on Green Street and Shrewsbury Street because they were rounding up the peaceful people.

What should our priorities be?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Q's campaign signs.

I live near Steve's house and pass his signs every day.  They don't bother me, they aren't an eyesore, and there are quite a few of them.  It's also his right to display these signs as a sign of support for his preferred candidates and as a way to thumb his nose at a stupid City ordinance.

Who cares?  It's an Election season!  If he had a few Scott Harshbarger '98 signs, it would be an issue.  All the signs are current, and they will probably be down right after the election.

The City should back off and let the First Amendment live.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Occupy Worcester

I spent the afternoon on the Worcester Common with about 150-200 people interested in beginning a Worcester chapter of the Occupy Wall Street.  The general theme was decidedly non-partisan and full of hope for a better America.  Participants recognized that the two party system has created a government led by the highest bidders working on behalf of the biggest spenders, without best ideas and definitely without the best interests of all its citizens in mind. 

Where will it go from here?  The only ones who know will be the ones to show up.

There will be a General Assembly on Monday, October 10th at 5 PM.  Come speak your mind!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Today's Worcester Driving Moment.

Me (pointing at one way street sign after a wrong way driver cut me off in the cross walk):  "This street's one way!"
Driver: "I know, but the GPS told me to take a right."
Me: "Maybe you shouldn't listen to your GPS all the time."
Driver: "I know I shouldn't do it, but I'm running late for hockey and my son's only one block down from here."
Me: "Maybe you should go around the block instead."
Driver: "How do I do that?"
Me: "Back up, go down Hamilton Street one block, take three rights."
Driver: "Are you sure that's the right way?" 
Me: "More sure than your GPS is."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Live Estate Planning Chat at the T&G Website?!?!?!?

I hate it when my will gets tossed. Maybe Scott Croteau will help me with any legal challenges to my estate.
Remember when the front page of the newspaper was full of articles, and not grammatically incorrect filler pointing us to frivolous online chats, giveaways, and oversized color pictures? Content and good reporting sells papers, not cheap filler for the front page!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cursed Worcester potholes!

Worcester received recognition for our world famous potholes in last week's Sports Illustrated feature article on Dick and Rick Hoyt's running career. Hopefully Rick Rushton and Tim Murray can invite author Gary Smith to tour the streets of Worcester that don't have potholes....wherever they are.
If we're going to be known for our potholes, what better platform than the premiere sports magazine in America?
 -----
ABC News with Diane Sawyer has been featuring American made products in its Made in America segment. Worcester's Insignia Gloves received a nod last night from ABC News (story here, in the video, fast forward to the 1:40 mark for Worcester).


-----

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Woo-love and pay raises.

"Let’s give MBTA executives the benefit of the doubt and assume that it may never have occurred to them that anyone would be in a rush to get to Worcester."
Boston Globe Columnist Brian McGrory took a funny but easy shot at Worcester with his column's opening line on March 2nd. I'm happy Brian McGrory accepted Rick Rushton's offer to find out more about Worcester and gave us a little love in the Hub's paper today (03/23/11). I'm not going to write any more glowing words about Worcester or about the trip, despite my secret desire to someday 'earn' a scathing shakedown from Will W.W.

I enjoyed UMass Chancellor Michael Collins' quote about Worcester:
"We arrived at the UMass Medical School, where I found myself with Chancellor Michael Collins, the street-smart academician who surely had kept his wits about him over his years here. “I like every bit of it,’’ he said. Oh, Michael. “What takes three years to get done in Boston takes three months here.’"
Was he referring to his new house and his new pay raise to compensate for losing his housing allowance? During this current age of fiscal restraint and belt tightening, why should the UMass chancellor receive a $60,000 raise to compensate for his 'loss' of a $32,000 housing allowance and taking a hit on his taxes for living rent free in a house valued at over $750,000? Chancellor Collins has done an excellent job in his time at UMass Worcester, but he made $524,300. He wasn't suffering, or living paycheck to paycheck.

None of the employees of the medical school receive a raise when Congress and the Obama Administration passed their tax compromise last December. The continued reduction in taxes for 2011 came out of every worker's Social Security deduction. State workers don't pay Social Security taxes because they pay into the Massachusetts pension plan, so they saw their taxes went up in January. Perhaps outgoing UMass President Jack Wilson should be kind enough to ensure that every employee receives the same courtesy that was accorded to Chancellor Collins.

Today's lesson: The less you make, the less you receive from our government, while the more you make, the more you undeservedly receive from our government.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Get off my Common!

After reading Jeremy Shulkin's article (03/16/11) on the planned relocation of the City Hall WRTA hub to Union Station, I'm baffled. It's not because of Jeremy's always excellent reporting, it's because of the claims by our city officials that:
"It’s been no secret the current hub outside City Hall did little for drivers and the WRTA. The current location drew complaints about teenagers loitering and caused traffic congestion."
"City officials say this will lead to short bus routes, more direct connections and would fold bus, train and taxi services all into one area. The increase in people at the bus hub may also finally attract retail to move into the empty first floor of the Union Station parking garage.  “It’s certainly another building block for the critical mass that makes retail successful,” offers City Manager Michael O’Brien, who adds that increased commuter rail and housing developments will provide “the feet on the street that breathes life into those storefronts.”
People have been complaining for years about the 'scary teenage hoodlums' in our downtown. That perception is largely overstated, hyperbolic and ignorant. But the critics of the current City Hall WRTA transfer point out that the presence of these hoodlums has had a negative effect on businesses around City Hall. If that is true, why would our city officials want to move the riff raff to Union Station, and right across from the new CitySquare? Won't the businesses in Union Station suffer, and complain? Don't attempt to sell me this crap about teenage feet on the street that will save the empty Union Station garage.

I also question the need to split stops between City Hall and the new hub next to Union Station?  If riders want to transfer, will they have to walk around the current empty mall or through the future CitySquare to transfer? That is highly impractical and difficult for the elderly and disabled who rely on the WRTA for transportation.

On a positive note, I really like these ideas:
"Along with wayside message boards that will show riders how long until their bus shows up, riders will be able to upload cash directly onto a fare card that will double as a Charlie Card for those heading into or coming from Boston."
"City Councilor Mike Germain brought forward one idea last week, asking that the city look into working with Direct Air to provide a shuttle between Union Station and Worcester Regional Airport."
Perhaps they can also develop a smart phone app that shows schedules and route delays.

Schools and Testing.

Today's (03/18/11) T&G article  by Jacqueline Reis raised some fair questions regarding the selection of charter school students.  Last night's School Committee meeting raised the following point:
"Information was presented on students at the newly opened Spirit of Knowledge Charter School, which serves Grades 7-9. The district found data on 85 percent of the school’s students from when they were Worcester public school students and found that those students scored higher on the MCAS exams than the district average."
If the selection process is truly a blind lottery, why are they getting the better range of students? Is it because parents of the better performing students are opting out of public schools in favor of charters schools? Is it because charters have a history of pruning out undesirable students?  Or is it merely because our charter schools don't have to educate the more challenging students, like special ed or limited English proficient students? And why did they find data on only 85 percent of the students? These are fair questions to ask and have less to do with pro- or anti-union politics if our tax money is going to charter schools that spend our tax money and keep the profits but aren't accountable to the general electorate.

If charters are more efficient due to better innovations and no union interference, why was a public high school like Brockton High successful in turning around their school? The answer is innovation in the classroom, input from teachers, parents and children, and a cooperative relationship between administration and teachers.  Innovation needs to come from the people in the classrooms, not from administrators, politicians and bureaucrats, as Gary Rosen points out in his most recent piece (03/17/11) in Worcester Magazine. I also recommend this article about the test grading process and hopefully we can turn the current debate on extending No Child Left Behind away from arbitrary testing programs and on actual learning.
-----
And while we are on the subject of learning, would it be too much to ask our local paper to spell Worcester correctly?
I assumed it would be corrected in the online version, but it hasn't been caught by 5:30pm today.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Who benefits?

This quote, and the thinking that created it, confuses me:
"When Erin McFarlane looks at public workers, she sees lucrative pension benefits she doesn't ever expect to get. And it makes her mad.  "I don't think that a federal employee or government employee is worth any more than anybody else who does their job and does it well," said the Slinger, Wis., woman. She's been working a couple of bartending jobs since January, when she was laid off from her job at a Harley Davidson plant after almost a decade.  She's not alone in seeing public servants as public enemies in some ways.  It's a case of pension envy."
Maybe Erin is angry because her union failed her when management at Harley Davidson decided to restructure after "Harley-Davidson experienced the biggest drop in value. The “legend’s” value dropped by 43% to $4.34 billion, which is most likely connected to the 66% drop in the company profits in two quarters of the last year."

Perhaps the threat of plant closings and turning full time workers into part-time workers has something to do with Harley-Davidson, an iconic American brand, opening up factories in India. As long as we continue to espouse the wonders of free trade and globalization, let's also espouse the wonders of fair trade, environmental regulation, and worker's rights. Without a global campaign against human and environmental exploitation, the Erin McFarlane's of the world will be left angry, underemployed and wondering why they don't have pensions, health care or a chance at employment.

Why are U.S. government workers the only strong unions left in America? Because they are the only ones whose jobs can't be outsourced to India or China. The only threat is privatization, and that hasn't worked very well in Wisconsin. So rather than turn on the last few people in the U.S. willing to stand up for their right to a decent paying job with benefits, why don't you join them, Erin?

I don't know any union members who are millionaires, but I know plenty of billionaires who aren't paying their fare share.

Scott Brown needs money for his next campaign!



Knowing who your elected representatives get campaign donations from and how it affects their voting record is the most important question any voter can ask. So who is Scott Brown asking for donations?

David Koch, the billionaire who funds Americans for ProgressFreedom Works, and doesn't believe in big government yet gets billions in taxpayer subsidies. I recommend this piece about David and his brother Charles from the New Yorker, which I wrote about last September.

A cynic would question how much influence a campaign donor has over an elected official, but this prank call from 'David Koch' to Scott Walker shows how eager Walker was willing to talk to and get advice from his top campaign donor. What advice will the Kochs give Scott Brown and the People's Senate Seat?
-----
Apparently the Kochs don't always get what they want from their campaign donations, which is more taxpayer money, less regulation, and a government compliant with their wishes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Speaking of Jeremy Shulkin....

His post today on the MCAS irregularities at Belmont and Goddard was excellent.  Keep up the great work!

Seen and unseen....

There are times where I would rather pass a kidney stone than watch a City Council meeting, and this comes from someone who enjoys politics.  I hate grandstanding, I hate back slapping, and I hate speeches to Buncombe.  Why Buncombe?  (I highly recommend reading Toponymity by John Marciano for that reference.)

Sometimes we're rewarded with moments of bizarre hilarity and great one liners.

Phil Palmieri had an epic moment in last Tuesday's meeting, beginning with his call for a ban on illicit seagull feeding activities in Worcester.  Then he complained about the lack of snow removal in his district.  (Thanks to Jeremy Shulkin's LiveBlog for the quote- I'd watch the meetings on my computer, but Microsoft Silverlight is needed, and it won't install on my Mac.)
"The problem that I have…it was my impression that this mega-snowblower that the city now owns was going to be in districts with small businesses and major arteries so we could clear those streets…I must tell you, I haven’t seen it in my district."
There are many things we don't see in this world that still happen, Phil.  I've seen the mega-snowblower in action on Hamilton Street, which is the southern boundary of your district.  It has happened in your district.  Please return to your monumental task of banning seagulls from drinking Four Loko in Worcester.

And a big thank you to Konnie Lukes for asking: "Do you have a motion buried in all that snow?"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The future site of CityFarm, and Chairs of Worcester.

I'm going to miss sights like this now that everything is melting.  This has to be the most pathetic parking space holder I've seen all winter.  I'm not sure this antique will deter anyone from stealing this space on Abbott Street.  (In a related note, Chairs of Worcester posters are still available.)
I'm not going to miss sights like this sidewalk glacier located at 344 Park Avenue, owned by Impala Meadows LLC.

I hope the City is collecting fines for unshoveled sidewalks from the Krock family.  It's been over a month, and this sidewalk is still uncleared.   I'm not surprised that the sidewalks aren't cleared considering this piece of abandoned property doubles as a homeless shelter during the summer months.
Seeing that this property and all the other Krock owned properties on Winfield Street, Abbott Street and Mayfield Street have been abandoned for over 20 years, wouldn't this be a great site for CityFarm or some community gardens?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ronald Reagan Will Save Us!!!!

Fantastic, and just what we needed to put our "savior's" 100th birthday in perspective.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Revering Reagan.

Today's print version of the Telegram & Gazette featured a rather ballsy 'opinion' piece by Michael Reagan.  (I can't find the link for the piece on the website- apparently you only get the misfortune of reading Michael Reagan if you pay for home delivery.  Reagan isn't listed in their Syndicated Columnist list on the Opinion Page.)
Michael Reagan has made a career out of revering his adopted father, and I'm pretty sure if he was the adopted son of Gerald Ford, he wouldn't have much of a career in political 'journalism.'  He had a few whoppers in his piece, including the title, Ronald Reagan; Our First Black President?  He believes that Ronald Reagan was our first 'black' president, but he states:
-----
Hyperbole like this is meaningless and omnipresent in Michael Reagan's articles, and is the reason I usually don't read his work.  It was Michael Reagan's manipulation of the unemployment statistics and whitewashing of Ronald Reagan's actual record on race relations that caught my attention.
Michael Reagan uses the last six years of economic data during the Reagan Administration to make his case, and contrasts Reagan's final six years with the first two years of the Obama Administration, which is a terrible comparison, as Mediamatters.org points out.

 (This chart and a longer view of unemployment rates by race can be found here.)
-----
Michael Reagan proudly points out that:
"In a White House Rose Garden ceremony in 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill honoring Dr. King with a federal holiday on the third Monday of January every year."
He neglects to mention his stepfather's initial opposition to the holiday that vanished in the face of overwhelming support for a national holiday.  Michael Reagan is also strangely silent on his stepfather's belief in State's Rights, which was widely used as a code word for supporting Jim Crow and segregation.
-----
If it isn't Glenn Beck co-opting Dr. King's legacy, it's Michael Reagan misrepresenting his stepfather's legacy for political gain, and it only works if we don't know our history.  Perhaps this article was a nod to the Telegram & Gazette's past associations with the John Birch Society.  Maybe it was just filler for a paper that has consistently cut back on local content and actual employees in their building producing a local paper.  Either way, shame on the Telegram & Gazette for printing such revisionist garbage.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

At least they didn't say crumbling mill town....

Commonwealth Magazine has an in depth piece on the WinnCompanies' involvement in campaign donations and the company's success at securing tax credits and low interest public loans.  We've had quite a debate in this city regarding affordable housing projects, and while I love the idea of affordable housing, this sort of cozy relationship makes me very uncomfortable.  Is there a better way to create affordable housing without questionable campaign contributions and public money?

Here's the money quote about Worcester's Canal Lofts:
"In downtown Worcester, sitting in the shadow of Interstate 290, there’s an old mill building that has seen better days. A century ago, when Worcester was an industrial hub, the four-story brick complex was an envelope factory. That business faded in the 1970s, and eventually a furniture manufacturer moved in. When the property hit the market a few years ago, two-thirds of the Water Street mill’s square footage sat idle, and several windows had been boarded up. The mill had its location working for it, though. It was a quick walk from Worcester’s train station, and it stood in a neighborhood city officials were trying to fill with new restaurants and residences. The WinnCompanies saw potential, put the mill under agreement, and got the site permitted for the construction of 64 apartments. In June, Winn paid $2 million for the building and a parking lot across the street. The Canal Lofts, as Winn dubbed the project, illustrates the dramatic impact various pools of public subsidies have on Winn’s development projects. Half of the project’s apartments will be set aside as affordable housing units. Because affordable housing restrictions necessarily limit developers’ potential profits, federal and state policy­makers have put a number of subsidies in play to encourage affordable development. The Canal Lofts development is a $25.3 million project. Winn is borrowing $16.3 million from a pair of banks, and another $3.3 million in long-term, low-to-no-interest affordable housing loans from various public agencies. That would leave the developer on the hook for the remaining $5.7 million in development costs. But at Canal Lofts, Winn is tapping $2.2 million in state historic tax credits, $2.5 million in state low-income housing tax credits, and another $711,000 in federal low-income housing tax credits. Taken together, the credits lower the amount of cash Winn has to put into the development from $5.7 million to $314,000."

Friday, January 14, 2011

(D) None of the Above.

Today's T&G Poll (01/14/11) is a little biased, don't you think?
 Where's the fourth option?  Something along the lines of 'I'm not pleased with his performance' would be nice for those of us who don't fall into any of the T&G's pre-fabricated categories.
-----
After my post on 01/05/11 regarding Grace-Marie Turner's As I See It, I sent an email to Bruce Gaultney (Publisher), Leah Lamson (News Editor) and Chris Sinacola (Editorial Editor) registering my displeasure with their inability to properly identify Ms. Turner's connections to the for-profit health care industry.

None of them have bothered to respond.  Thanks for ignoring me!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New politics and old policies.

The Washington Post has an interesting piece on the intersection of Tea Party politics and school policy.  Desegregation plans, whether by race or by economics, require educators and elected officials to create plans that keep students from spending too much time on buses or concentrate the most challenging students in low performing schools.
"Over the years, both Republican and Democratic school boards supported the system. A study of 2007 graduation rates by EdWeek magazine ranked Wake County 17th among the nation's 50 largest districts, with a rate of 64 percent, just below Virginia's Prince William County. While most students posted gains in state reading and math tests last year - more than three-quarters passed - the stubborn achievement gap that separates minority students from their white peers has persisted, though it has narrowed by some measures. And many parents see benefits beyond test scores."
Using a 'new' political ideology to recreate a system that was showing progress seems counter intuitive.  Radical changes, whether they are influenced by the 'left' or the 'right', need to be thought out, studied, and implemented with the best interests of the students in mind, not the political interests Americans for Prosperity (Sourcewatch.org's profile here).
"Things have not gone smoothly as the new school board has attempted to define its vision for raising student achievement. A preliminary map of new school assignments did not please some of the new majority's own constituents. And critics expressed alarm that the plan would create a handful of high-poverty, racially isolated schools, a scenario that the new majority has begun embracing.  Pope, who is a former state legislator, said he would back extra funding for such schools.  "If we end up with a concentration of students underperforming academically, it may be easier to reach out to them," he said. "Hypothetically, we should consider that as well."
The lesson learned is that you get what you voted for.  Next time, make sure you know who's paying for your candidate's campaigns, because they are the ones who will be influencing your policy.

Breaking in a few Christmas presents.

I went for a hike up and around Newton Hill today on my new snowshoes, and used my new camera to document the results.  I was the only person in the park until the very end of my hike, where I found a few kids snowboarding by the tennis courts.
There were a few cross country ski tracks and snowshoe tracks already made on some trails, which made my afternoon easy, because there is some heavy, deep powder covering a firm base.
The summit was amazing and almost unblemished by human tracks, and the view perfect in all directions.
Nobody was out disc golfing.
I even had a flyover by a Chinook (I think?) that was heading towards Worcester Airport.  I tried to zoom in for a second picture, but I fumbled.
I'll be back tomorrow for more in preparation for my trip to the White Mountains at the end of the month.  I imagine I might need a few aspirin to loosen up tomorrow! 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Good idea, bad idea.

When scary things happen in this country, people rush to react as quickly as possible to threats, real and imagined.  The Arizona shootings have prompted the following ideas:

Bad idea: Peter King (R-NY).  How will banning guns in the presence of a government official prevent any future shootings?  All it will do is add a few more years on the sentence of any would be assassin.

Good idea: Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY).  Making extended magazines illegal would make it more difficult for would be assassins to target spray bullets throughout crowds. 

Bad idea: Robert Brady (D-PA).  A vague ban on threatening speech towards lawmakers?  Laws are already on the books to protect people from verbal assault and threats.

Well said, Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Arizona Shootings Reaction
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Perhaps we need to step back, take a deep breath, and stop blaming each other for Jared Lee Loughner's actions.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fear.

In light of the shootings in Arizona, perhaps we should re-read this T&G article on Police Chief Gemme's interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and the lawsuit he faces from Hector Pineiro.  Mr. Pineiro's family has been the victim of a home invasion, and Mr. Pineiro fears for his safety outside of his Main South office.  His solution is a concealed weapon, which is an invitation to more violence.
"Many things have convinced him of the need for a license to carry a concealed weapon. When leaving his office at night, he said he encounters people involved in criminal activities and is asked for money by others."
Some people would say he hasn't been attacked at his office, and doesn't need a gun.  Others would say he hasn't been attacked....yet.  Either way, making decisions based on perceived threats and fear isn't the best way to live: remember, Mr. Pineiro can't point out a single instance where he was been threatened with violence at his workplace.  Sometimes the bogey man isn't what we imagine him to be.  Either way, everyone needs to remember the whole text of the 2nd Ammendment:
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
It would be unconstitutional for Mr. Pineiro to bear arms without any government limits, and unconstitutional for the government to deny him his right to bear arms.  That sound exactly like Police Chief Gemme's solution to Mr. Pineiro's request.
-----
A few more thoughts about fear:

-Here's a great chart about things that our news media wants us to be scared of.  Be sure to toggle between total deaths vs. fear (bottom right corner).

-Glenn Greenwald has an interesting piece on governmental policies, WikiLeaks, personal freedom, and fear.

Editing.

There's been an orgy of blame lobbed back and forth across the U.S. political spectrum since the horrible shooting in Arizona.  Commentators, bloggers, reporters, networks, organizations, and political parties have been tossing responsibility for Loughner's actions around like a hot potato.

I'm not going to blame anyone other than Jared Lee Loughner.  However, there are a few things we can do to be a more civilized society.

-Reinstate the ban on extended clips that Loughner used, which expired in 2004.
-Stop using violent rhetoric in our daily lives.
-Recognize that there are over 300 million people in this country, all with different opinions, backgrounds, and ideas.  Listen to each other, and recognize that no one in the political arena will get everything they want, when they want it.  Having principles and being able to compromise are two amazing personal traits, but only if you know how to win and lose graciously.
-Do no harm, and be glad that we live in a country where violence isn't necessary to change administrations or remove politicians from power.  Be active in your public life, be informed, listen, learn, and vote!!!
-----
While we are on the subject of the Gifford shooting, here are three major editing fails from two prominent public figures and a news channel:

-Apparently Glenn Beck thinks that Martin Luther King Jr. wanted us to buy from Goldline International:

-Whoever runs Sarah Palin's Facebook page has been editing nasty comments responding to her condolences for the shooting victims.  I'd test it out, but I'd have to become a fan of Sarah Palin on Facebook, and that's not going to happen.

-Apparently Fox News doesn't want to talk about Sarah Palin and Gabrielle Giffords either.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lane confusion.

Here's the view on Foster Street looking southeast towards Union Station:
Here's the view on Foster Street looking northwest towards the Centrum (It will never be the DCU Centre!):

Why do they feel the need to shrink a two lane road down to one lane and then back to two lanes? 

Operation Enduring Craters: Mission Accomplished!!!

The Pleasant Street sewer upgrade started last spring.  Throughout the summer, fall, and even into the winter, Worcester's drivers had to negotiate Newton Square's large crater.  Back on September 14th I posted pictures of the crater with the joke that it wouldn't be done until after the first snowfall. 

I was right!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Who is Grace-Marie Turner?

Today's As I See It in the Telegram and Gazette featured an article by Grace-Marie Turner.  I'm constantly frustrated by op-ed pieces like this because there is limited context regarding the author, who they work for, what expertise they have on a specific issue, and most importantly, if they aren't local, why are they in the T&G?  Once again, the Op-Ed page fails to let us know who Grace-Marie Turner is, so I dug a little deeper.  Here are the results.
 -----
According to her bio at the end of the article:
"Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a nonprofit research organization focusing on patient-centered solutions to health reform. She can be reached at P.O. Box 320010, Alexandria, VA, or at turner@galen.org."
Here is an interview conducted by the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest:

.
Here is an interview conducted by ALG News:


It all sounds reasonable, until you realize who is interviewing Grace-Marie Turner, and who she works for.  Take a moment to read Sourcewatch.org's page on CMPI.  Mrs. Turner's interview denouncing the danger of imported, cheaper drugs for Americans takes on a whole new life when you realize she is being interviewed by a front group funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

As for ALG News?  Here is Sourcewatch.org's page on Americans for Limited Government (ALG), funded by Howard Rich, the subject of a September 2006 piece on PBS's Now.  (In a stunning coincidence, the front page for ALG links to Defundpublicbroadcasting.org.)  ALG was in Massachusetts as recently to search for voter fraud during the January 2010 special election.  ALG is an astroturf organization designed to push one very wealthy man's view on politics into the mainstream, whether or not these points are valid.  Here's an interesting website on Howard Rich's role in South Carolina politics, despite living in New York.
-----
So what is the Galen Institute?  According to their About Us page, the Galen Institute believes:
"-Consumers and their physicians should have authority and responsibility over health care decisions; The vibrant free market will encourage research and innovation and provide better access to new medical technologies; and A market that supports innovation will lead to lower costs, expanded choice, and increased access to better medical care."
According their web page, the Galen Institute is funded by:
"[a]variety of sources, including philanthropic foundations, individual donors, and companies both inside and outside the health sector."
According to Powerbase.org's page on The Galen Institute, they received funding from the following grants:

-The Scaife Foundations, the umbrella for multiple foundations, which is "Financed by the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune. At one time its largest single holding was stock in the Gulf Oil Corporation. Became active in funding conservative causes in 1973."

-Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which supports "[the] organizations and individuals that promote the deregulation of business, the rollback of virtually all social welfare programs, and the privitization of government services."
 -----
Do you really think that the Galen Institute would write an Op-Ed that would favor individuals getting access to health care that was efficient and cheap?  Or would they write an Op-Ed in favor of a busted system that denies care, jacks rates, and does it's very best to deny care if it is too expensive?  Here's Ms. Turner's money quote from her op-ed:
"ObamaCare imposes a battery of new rules on insurance plans, dictating that they must spend a certain percentage of premium payments on medical care vs. administrative costs. But many firms simply can’t meet the test, for a number of reasons."
Her problem is the new health care law mandates that 80 to 85 cents of every dollar spent by these plans go directly to actual health care, and not administrative costs or profits.  What are the reasons they can't comply?  Is it because she is funded by for-profit companies that don't want to lose their profit margin?

-----
If you follow their past behavior, the Galen Institute did their best (along with the rest of the for-profit heath care system) to undermine Michael Moore's Sicko.  That's fine, not everyone agrees with Mr. Moore or his movies.  But recently, Wendell Potter, a former CIGNA public relations guru, wrote a book called Deadly Spin: An Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Americans and Deceiving Americans.  In it, he details how the industry has resisted any sort of reform through astroturf organizations, misinformation, lobbying, and in Michael Moore's case, even researching his family.  I highly recommend Michael Moore's face to face discussion with Wendell Potter: Part 1, Part 2.  In light of Mr. Potter's revelations, can we really trust a tax exempt foundation like the Galen Institute to be objective when reporting on an industry that finances its own existence?
-----
You would think that the Telegram would reveal the Galen Institute's connections, but they followed the lead of other papers like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner.  Other papers like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Juneau Empire identify Grace-Marie Turner in a more responsible manner:
"Grace-Marie Turner is president and founder of the Galen Institute, which is funded in part by the pharmaceutical and medical industries."
-----
I wish the Telegram and Gazette was that responsible.  (Although if they weren't, I wouldn't have anything to write about today!)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What are you doing on May 21st?

Apparently some people believe that May 21, 2011 is Judgement Day.  (They obviously haven't been watching the History Channel's Mayan Doomsday 'documentary' or Sean Hannity.)  Despite previous failed attempts at setting the date for the Rapture, some people are going ahead and not making plans for May 22nd. 

I was thinking about writing about this 'prophecy,' and was unsure how to go forward with it until I saw a piece of graffiti at Barnes & Noble that said: "Unitarians aren't Christians." 

It's probably because they made plans for May 22nd.

Editor's Note:
With a little more research, I found out the Rapture is already happening....to mascots.  (Thank you sbnation.com, #29).