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 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 ('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
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


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.


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"
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'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'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  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'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 mascots.  (Thank you, #29).