Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One week left ...

"... on the cover of the Rolling Stone ..."
Sometimes, a political cartoon - or any cartoon for that matter - really hits the nail right on the head. Here is the cover of the next edition of Rolling Stone - the week before Election Day in one of the nastiest mid-term elections that I've ever seen. As it has been for six years now, the nation is essentially split in two. And once again, the moneyed interests don't give a damn about the regular folks. To them, this isn't about making the nation better, it is about raw, unadulterated power. Pure and simple. A pox on both their houses. Go out and vote for the lesser of two evils and hope for the best.

Either way, Kerry's kinda right
Sen. John Kerry ... soulless yuppie ... a hapless Democratic nominee and a worthless three term senator. I've written all about it before so I don't really have to write about it again. But yesterday, Kerry finally told a truth ... or did he?
At a rally about education, Kerry stated that, "Education, you know, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Conservatives went after Kerry for essentially telling the truth about war. They went after him for telling the truth about what happens to kids who don't have any other options other than to sign up for the military. What most of us know is that po' folk have been fighting the wars that these chickenhawks put together, wars which the chickenhawks and their kids will never fight in because they get into the best schools and have the best connections. Many of these wars are useless wars. As Ralph Nader states so eloquently, If Iraq's main export was carrots instead of oil, we wouldn't be there. Let's be honest: It has been a tradition in this country to send the the lower class kids out to die in wars so that the upper class kids and their trust funds can grow.
But Kerry later corrected himself and said he was mangling a joke and was actually speaking about the president not getting a proper education and now being stuck in Iraq.
However, unlike before, Kerry didn't just sit there and take the criticism from the chickenhawks. He came out swinging:
"If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they're crazy. This is the classic G.O.P. playbook. I'm sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did. I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq. It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.
The people who owe our troops an apology are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who misled America into war and have given us a Katrina foreign policy that has betrayed our ideals, killed and maimed our soldiers, and widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it. These Republicans are afraid to debate veterans who live and breathe the concerns of our troops, not the empty slogans of an Administration that sent our brave troops to war without body armor.
Bottom line, these Republicans want to debate straw men because they're afraid to debate real men. And this time it won't work because we're going to stay in their face with the truth and deny them even a sliver of light for their distortions. No Democrat will be bullied by an administration that has a cut and run policy in Afghanistan and a stand still and lose strategy in Iraq ."
Wow. Who is this person? Where has this person been? Now don't get me wrong: I'm no fan of Kerry's and he probably should have known better than to spout off a joke like that which some might take offense to. I wouldn't have said something like this or I would have gotten the punch line down.
But at the same time, everyone knows that is a hard decision to put your life on the line for the country even if the country's government is making bad decisions with your life. Many of us who've matured since the end of the draft and the lousy economy of the 1970s, have had recruiters at our doors, paper and pen in hand. At the same time, we also looked away realizing that we were staring at no real future. Whether you have economic choices or not shouldn't have any influence on the decision to serve. If you want to serve, you should serve; if you don't want to serve, you should have other economic options and other options than just years of school to flip burgers.
Whatever Kerry's purpose for the comments, as a veteran, unlike Limboob, Dick Cheney, Tony Snow, Karl Rove, and a whole slew of others, he has earned the right to be critical. He led and bled in one of our government's stupid wars. He served with others and knows this to be true unlike those other blowhards. I also know as a lower middle class kid that there weren't many options for folks like us. Many of us joined - or thought about joining - because we didn't have options which others in America had, running the risk of being sent into some stupid war zone which we had no business being in. With recuiters and TV and radio commercials pimping money for college and other benies to sign up, only a liar would say that some of Kerry's comments weren't dead on correct. If you're a poor kid who didn't do well in school and didn't have any other options, yeah, you probably considered signing up for military service and now you're stuck in Iraq. And, if you are a pinhead president listening to the worst of the worst in your administration, some of the most evil people on the planet, who advise you to kill innocent women and children, who advise you to ignore your "political hero" Jesus Christ who clearly stated in the Book of Matthew what the rules to live by were, then you get stuck in Iraq.
I don't see the problem in these comments. They may insult some people but those people shouldn't be insulted by the truth. They should face it, fix the problem, and move on. But again, that isn't what absolute power is about, now is it?

Let's Active
I've been thinking about the mid-1980s jangle pop band Let's Active for about two months now. They came into my mind as I was searching for music to download on emusic.com. At the end of the month, I have to use all my downloads or lose them. So, I'm always trying to find stuff I would like, like replacing my vinyl with mp3s or obscure stuff I've always wanted to get.
Let's Active was one of those bands which isn't listed on emusic.com but I began to think about how happy listening to them always made me feel at the time. Since I only have them on LP and my record player isn't hooked up, I haven't been able to listen to them. And since I've been under a bit of stress lately, and needed some really upbeat jangle pop music, I decided to start looking for some of the band's music online. I thought about hooking my record player back up to record them to CD but then remembered that I was out of blank CDs which work with my burning deck. Plus, when would I have the time to burn them anyway? So, I went to a couple of music stores and not so surprisingly, I couldn't find anything by the band.
Thankfully, I had a gift certificate for BN.com lying around here and decided to look and see if they had the CDs, which they did! And the past two days I've been listening to Mitch Easter's Rickenbackers clang and chime away with prickly, reverb drenched chords. Their hummable tunes sung with the baby soft, cutesy vocals of Easter and Faye Hunter, and almost heavenly harmonies. Pure joy. "It's Saturday ... the day you waste a week for ..." Oh, how I miss those days.

Monday, October 23, 2006

November Noise Top 30 Chart
Reporting stations: WAAF, WFNX, WMBR, WMFO, WTCC, WZBC

1. Atlantics – Atlantics
2. Over the Edge – Tales from the Blacktop
3. Black Helicopter – Invisible Jet
4. Ho-Ag – The Word From Pluto
5. Pernice Brothers – Live a Little
6. The Sterns – Sinner Stick Together
7. Fluttr Effect – Marking Time
8. The Hidden – Winged Wolves
9. The Snowleopards – Stuck in the Middle
10. Apple Betty – Let’s Play
11. The Lemonheads – The Lemonheads
12. Mission of Burma – The Obliterati
13. Mittens – Fools on a Holiday
14. Bentmen – Mark of the Astro-Zombies
15. The Black Clouds – The Black Clouds
16. Tanya Donelly – This Hungry Life
17. Gene Dante & The Future Starlets – Gene Dante & The Future Starlets
18. Mercy James Gang – Yuk Yum
19. Marc McNulty – Neurontin
20. The Silver Lining – Well Dressed Blues
21. We Are Cassette – Galaxy
22. Age Rings – Look … The Dusk is Growing
23. Hanneke Cassel – Silver
24. Ezra Furman & The Harpoons – Beat Beat Beat
25. Feathers – Feathers
26. Matt & Shannon Heaton – Blue Skies Above
27. L.E.O. – Alpacas Orgling
28. Melt – Melt EP
29. The Motion Sick – Her Brilliant Fifteen
30. The Daily Pravda – She’s So Mature EP

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Election Day is coming
I haven't been blogging a lot about politics lately. For whatever reason, I'm kinda burnt on it. Plus, the polls say the Dems are going to sweep into Congress and the Senate in a few weeks and I just don't believe it.
I mean, in his Sunday column, Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph cited a Becker Institute poll saying that Paul Hodes was in the lead against U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, 48 to 39, with 13 percent undecided: ["Lynch airs his picks"]. Another poll by Becker also shows U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley with a lead against Carol Shea-Porter, 49 to 37, with 14 percent undecided. This is kinda shocking considering NH-CD 1 is considered a safe Republican seat. A 12 point lead is pretty safe - but not with 14 percent undecided.
Over the last month or so, I've been wondering about the Hodes campaign. It seems a tad lazy, almost not there in many ways.
I've been wondering about this since I found out that his campaign fired media rep. Michael Shea & Associates last month. Shea is one of the better Boston ad guys who has worked with all the top candidates. He knows the region and he is a hometown guy. According to Shea, he had been working with Hodes for more than two years and then was dropped like a hot potato for a big D.C. firm. Shea wouldn't comment on the record about the situation but you could tell that he was pretty hurt by the whole thing.
Not long after the sacking of Shea, Hodes went on the air with this almost silly TV ad attacking Bass for his Iraq votes, stating "I've got some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you ..." The ads though say nothing about himself or what he would do if elected. Bass quickly cut the ad up into pieces and showed Hodes saying, "We cannot just abandon Iraq ..." while at the same time campaigning to bring the troops home.
The ads were put together by Tom King Communications, an ad firm from Virginia, but they say nothing about Hodes.
Mike Pride, the editor of the Concord Monitor, posted this piece on his blog recently about Hodes' mailers: ["Hodes's folly"]. Mike makes some good points, especially in light of the sarcastic TV ads.
Compare this to Shea-Porter's tenacity in her race, pounding home the issues and standing tall against insurmountable odds. There doesn't seem to be any waivering with her. There doesn't seem to be any sarcasm either.
Lastly, in the wake of the Rep. Mark Foley page/instant message scandal, and Hodes criticism of Bass on the issue, one has to wonder why no one has yet analyzed the lyrics of the Hodes co-penned "Oscar Wilde" opera. The racy opera debuted last spring and I had to heavily edit before airing. The lyric about Wilde lamenting the fact that he couldn't have sex with boys and live like the Romans did would turn just about anyone's stomach.
And yet, here is what Hodes said about the Foley scandal to AP

"Look at it this way, if Mark Foley was a teacher in the school and Dennis Hastert was the principal and the principal learned that the teacher was sending Internet messages to a student, asking for pictures and having the kinds of conversations that were had...what would have happened? There would have been an outcry. There would have been action taken."

Don't get me wrong: I like Paul and it is probably time for Bass to go. While we should fear no art and maybe Wilde did have such thoughts in his head, do we really need to know about them? And why would Hodes work on such an opera a few months before announcing his campaign to run for Congress? These issues and the sarcastic ads which tell us nothing about Hodes, make one wonder if he is the best candidate to replace Bass.
Blog con audio
For those who are interested, here is the WKXL 1450 story about the N.H. Blog Con. Monique Coppola was nice enough to voice the text for me since I didn't have time: http://www.wkxl1450.com/mp3/OCT%20NEWS%202006/bloggers1024.MP3

Saturday, October 14, 2006

N.H. Blog-Con
“Blog Free or Die” was the theme at the first New Hampshire Bloggers Convention, held this afternoon at the Common Man Restaurant in Concord. The event was organized by TJ of Better Living through Chemistry [Terry Connor], with some help from Joanie from Grain of Salt, although she denies it. More than 25 bloggers from around the state attended.
I decided to go for a couple of hours and also interviewed TJ for some audio for the news department at WKXL 1450 [I will post the audio story after I get done putting it together tonight or tomorrow].
The group had collected in the lounge of the Common Man because no one really knew how many people were going to show up. Why spend money on a room or hall if no one was going to show, the logic would go? Next year, I hope it will be bigger and better, possibly an all-day event, with seminars and talks, especially with the primary rolling around. Maybe I'm jumping the gun and thinking too hard about it but I don't think so. However, it was a good first meeting.
The crowd was diverse and interesting, with a mix of political bloggers, parents doing blogs, some folks from Area603, and some political bloggers. There was talk of how to juggle life, family, and blogging, how to increase traffic, and different kinds of technology used. No one seemed to mind that I was a blogger and a member of the media - I guess we are all members of the media in our own way. Because it was so loud in the lounge and I knew I wasn't going to remember everyone’s name or sites, I started to pass around my steno pad to collect as many blog names as I could [the names and links are below].
A few thoughts: While New Hampshire is a small state, this was a good first meeting and a pretty good turn out. I sense that the blogs will remain healthy because there seems to be a lot of interest and energy from this crowd. I was surprised that I had probably been blogging longer than anyone else in the crowd. Some had just started their blogs, which was cool. Granted, I've been writing columns, music articles, and other things for more than two decades, just not on the Web that long.
After making the rounds, I finally found where the political bloggers were hanging out and began to throw myself into their conversations. One of them, Jen Wrobleski, who works for a company Netvocates.com, used to be my media contact at the state GOP. I was also surprised to find out that not all Republicans in this state are gun owners. I was surprised not to see any exclusively liberal political bloggers. I was also surprised not to see any of the most recent political blogs to spring up, like Blue Granite and NH-02 Progressive nor others like NHPolitics.com, PoliticsNH.com, or any of the other more established political Web sites. There was enough press about the event - The Hippo had a piece and lots of people linked comments about it, promoting the event - but whatever. Oh well. I was also surprised that I was the only member of the media attending the event to find out who these people were and what they are about. No Monitor reporter; No UL reporter; although there were some folks from the Nashua Telegraph, which seems forward-thinking in their approach to blogs, having created Area603 and also posting blog links on its own Web site. The lack of media presence may be the lack of understanding about the blogging process or the lack of acknowledgement that this is the wave of the future.

Here are some of the bloggers in attendance and their sites:

Better Living through Chemistry: http://blog.virtualdominion.net/
Grain of Salt: http://blog.grain-of-salt.com/
Wizbang!: http://wizbangblog.com/
Pun Salad: http://okoboji.unh.edu/punsalad/
Chasing Grace: http://grace.asilgrif.org/
Spina Bifida Moms - Sweetie & Me: http://spinabifidamoms.blogspot.com/
Southern New Hampshire Parents: http://www.snhparents.com/
Off Campus: http://offcampus.blogspot.com/
Someone's in the kitchen with daddy: http://daddywhatareyoudoing.wordpress.com/
Blanchard Creative Woodworking: http://snbcreative.wordpress.com/
A Dog-Eared Dog: http://gryffynz.asilgrif.org/blog/
American Barbarian: http://americanbarbarian.blogspot.com/
Dujour.us: http://www.dujour.us/
Dispatches from Blogblivion: http://blogblivion.com/
Weekend Pundit: http://weekendpundit.blogmosis.com/
Methuselah's Daughter: http://www.3500years.com/
Margaret Evans Porter: http://www.margaretevansporter.com/
Ernesto Burden: http://ernesto.burdenfamily.net/
Contratimes: http://contratimes.blogspot.com/
The Pop Diner: http://blogs.nashuatelegraph.com/the_pop_diner

Thanks again for the invite and the best to all of you. Long live New Hampshire bloggers!
Crossposted at Area603 and The Concord Journal, a new blog I'm doing for NewHampshire.com.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gov. Warner gets a life
Former Va. Gov. Mark Warner, probably one of the top tier of the potential 2008 presidential candidates on the Democratic side, sent out an email yesterday telling folks on his news list that he wasn't going to run for president.
There wasn't much of a buzz about it - there was little on the Warner fan site Daily Kos - but it did make the cable talk shows. That seems a bit strange since he seemed to be on the darlings and the anti-Hillary. Here is a compelling part of the email:

This past weekend, my family and I went to Connecticut to celebrate my Dad’s 81st birthday, and then we took my oldest daughter Madison to start looking at colleges. I know these moments are never going to come again. This weekend made clear what I’d been thinking about for many weeks - that while politically this appears to be the right time for me to take the plunge - at this point, I want to have a real life. And while the chance may never come again, I shouldn’t move forward unless I’m willing to put everything else in my life on the back burner.

This has been a difficult decision, but for me, it’s the right decision.

Wow, imagine that: Choosing to have a life over running for and possibly winning the highest office in the land. Can you think of anyone more qualified to actually be president?

Now flip to the hapless Sen. John Kerry - long face, smirk, and all - shaking hands at the Center of New Hampshire tonight, after the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, which was broadcast on C-Span 2.

A woman from Manch said to him, "You're running, right?" Kerry smiled and said, "I'm putting my heart out there. We'll see what happens ..." I'm putting my heart out there and we'll see what happens? What the hell does that mean? Gosh, he is so sad, so pathetic.


My former city councilor
I lived in Boston for many years and during a good chunk of that time, I was represented by David Scondras, an openly gay city councilor. Time has not been kind to David, who allegedly just can't stop hitting on under-aged boys: ["Ex-Boston City Councilor Scondras nabbed in underage sex sting"].
During the time he was a councilor, I respected David and I thought he was a good guy. I would later find out that he wasn’t really that good of a guy.

First, some political history: Scondras lost a tight reelection campaign in 1993 against the insipid Tom Keane by a measly 28 votes, mostly driven by the high turnout of the mayoral race that year.

It was a classic, nasty Boston brawl with Keane attacking Scondras for being too focused on national issues and Scondras pulling every cat out of the hat to try and salvage his job. Keane had the backing of yuppies and the old wealth of the Back Bay and Beacon Hill while Scondras had the backing of gay activists in the Fenway and minorities in Mission Hill.

After winning the seat, Keane did little for the district and a few short years later, he was on the short list of potential candidates to replace then-Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II when "The Wizard of Uhs," as Howie Carr deemed him, was rumored to be running for governor. When Joseph's brother Michael got caught sleeping with his under-aged babysitter, Joe's campaign for the corner office ended. Months later, Joe would decide not to run for reelection and Keane, and others, geared up to run for the open Congressional seat. Keane would later place 9th out of 10 candidates in the Democratic primary, spending more than $500k in his effort.

Sidebar: According to Keane's April 2006 FEC filings, he still owes $236,000 from his Congressional race from eight years ago. A good chunk - about $100k - is money he lent his own campaign. But there are still pages and pages of vendors and campaign workers who still haven't been paid, even after all these years. One of those vendors is Trippi, McMahon & Squire, made famous for helping launch Howard Dean into American homes in 2003-2004, which is owed almost $10k].

Keane's congressional run was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black since he won the council seat by using Scondras' desire to run for Congress against him.
Scondras, meanwhile, took a personal nose-dive. He became the butt of talk radio after the Boston Police released audio tapes of him calling 911 while allegedly intoxicated. He was later beaten to a pulp by a teenage boy he picked up in Copley Square and took to the Cheri theater movie house after Scondras allegedly put the moves on the boy when the lights went down.
After Keane’s disastrous finish in the 8th race, Scondras and others encouraged me to take at run at Keane for the council seat. I didn't know if I was up for another race but I toyed with the idea thinking that at worst, I could get 35 or 40 percent of the vote and possibly gear up for one more at-large race in 2001; at best, I might win the district seat. Some actually thought that I might win because so many people in the neighborhoods had grown weary of Keane’s inaction on a multitude of issues, including unregulated development projects and the massive Red Sox megaplex looming on the horizon [Keane would later come out and endorse the Sox project - essentially endorsing public eminent domain land takings for private use]. Others hadn't forgotten the nastiness of the Scondras battle and the hypocrisy of how Keane got the seat in the first place. It was a hard decision to make but my girlfriend, who had helped me through previous political activities, thought I would do well and suggested I go for it.

Right after I started lining up support for a run, Keane mysteriously dropped out, with some, including the editor of a weekly newspaper I later went to work for, speculating some problems behind the scenes. It was strange that he would quit because Keane openly spoke about bigger things he wanted to do, like running for mayor, something he would really only be able to attain from another elected position.
Keane’s exit created a frenzy, and Scondras made his move for a comeback all but sucking the life out of all the other potential campaigns. As I tried to build a campaign, every time I turned around, there were comments about moving aside to allow Scondras to take the seat back. Over a period of weeks, Scondras and some of his fans pleaded with me [and others] to stay out of the race, especially after Republican real estate agent and big money candidate Suzanne Iannella decided to drop her bid for an at-large and run for the Back Bay district seat. A Republican in the council would be a terrible thing, the thinking went [I would later openly endorse Iannella over the other finalist, Mike Ross, who would go on to win anyway]. There was a collection of people regularly emailing each other about the race and discussions raged back and forth for days [This was the days before Daily Kos and other posting boards]. Scondras later claimed that he had placed more than 100 people in good city jobs and he could do the same for me. But my point was always firm: It wasn't about getting a city job for me. It was about trying to fix things and make them better for everyone. Nothing had changed whether Keane was there or not. Maybe Scondras should stay out and allow someone else to have a shot at it.
Scondras then commissioned a poll and in a blazon attempt to push me out of the race, asked me to come over to his house to look at the results. I agreed but I didn't think the poll results would change my mind.

The poll showed that people in the Back Bay - not the Fenway - were more worried about a new Red Sox stadium. It also showed that most of the issues I was bringing up - better constituent services, better control over development, and reigning in the universities - were popular.
But as I took a look at the results, I noticed something glaringly missing from the poll: My name wasn’t in it! It was a name recognition poll and nothing more and Scondras completely rigged it to make himself look good by limiting the names to only a handful, including his, Iannella’s, and a couple of other candidates who probably weren't going to run. At this point in the campaign, there were as many as 10 people considering a run. Why limit the names to four or five?
After that, I pretty much decided I wouldn’t give up. I looked at Scondras' motives logically and decided that he really hadn't made a strong enough case for me not to run. While I would never ask someone not to run, hypothetically, if I were to do so, I would have handled the whole thing differently. I would have commissioned a poll with everyone which would then show that the people I didn't want to run had low name recognition, proving they wouldn't win. Not including my name in the poll and then asking me to come and look at it, was completely illogical for the end result which was me moving out of Scondras' way. Had my name been included in the poll, and I only garnered a handful of points, it might have influenced me to stay out. The end conclusion was that either Scondras had me in the poll and didn't share the results with me, or he kept me out of the poll which was just plain stupid on his part for the reasons I stated above. Scondras isn’t stupid - although looking at his recent arrest and the Cheri beating - maybe he is stupid after all. I wasn't biting though and I stayed in the race.

A few weeks later, Scondras announced he wasn't going to run which shocked everyone involved. Thankfully, most of the people who had urged me to run against Keane in the first place, came back into the fold to help me. Scondras continued to play political tricks during the campaign from the sidelines - pitting campaigns against each other to curry his favor. It was all so junior high. But that is expected of people who really need to be a part of something even if they aren't.

In the end, it was an interesting race and a microcosm of the problems in big cities these days. It was also a difficult race to run because there were limited opportunities to really get out and meet people, especially when holding down a full-time job. Unlike other neighborhoods around the country, it was difficult to door-knock brownstones and towering apartment buildings, which means you are relying on controlled forums, direct mail, and newspaper advertising, all of which is extremely expensive. One neat thing about this race was that I was actually taken seriously by the major media in the city, garnering some pretty good press mentions which I was thankful for. The Boston Herald and the Boston Phoenix were especially positive, with the Herald using my anti-stadium quips every chance they could to rile Boston Mayor Tom Menino and the Phoenix giving me equal play with the richer, better-organized candidates. The Phoenix also mentioned my campaign in its endorsement for another candidate.

I managed to wiggle out a fifth place finish out of eight candidates, which wasn't too bad considering I was out-spent by most and was constantly under attack by the mayor's minions. But it didn't matter that I lost because I believed I was doing the right thing at the time. The experience also made me decide to rule out any future runs for office and I even thought of swearing off politics altogether but that didn't last long.

Interestingly, this wasn’t the last time I had a run-in with Scondras over something.

A year after the council race, my then-fiancée and I were at a fund-raiser for a local non-profit when a woman from my old neighborhood came up to me and started chatting. I recognized the woman but I couldn't place exactly where. Then I realized that she worked for David in his council office. She looked at my future wife and asked, "Is this your sister?"
We both laughed.
"No," I said. "This is my fiancée."
“Fiancée?” she questioned. “You can’t have a fiancée.”
“Why can’t I?,” I asked.
You’re gay!” she blurted out to the entire room.
My fiancée and I looked at each other and starting laughing.
“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked.

She kept arguing with me, insisting I was gay, despite my protestations, as well as my fiancée's. After awhile, it turned from amusing to annoying but I had to know, Who the hell would tell you such a thing? The former Scondras staffer told me that David said I was gay and she believed him. I assured her that I wasn’t but it was no big deal.

My wife and I still joke about this incident but it just goes to show you what some people will go through to hurt others.

In the future, I may have to sit down and share more stories because it is clear that I'm never going to get around to writing that book!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Sustainable Energy Strategy: It's Time
Guest Perspective/Roy Morrison
The earth is getting hotter. Arctic ice and permafrost are melting. In New Hampshire, my neighbors are still harvesting tomatoes in October. It's time to act.
But there's good news. We can slash greenhouse gas emissions while eliminating dependence on oil imports and building sustainable prosperity.
This isn't pie in the sky. It's the law in California mandating greenhouse gas cuts of 25 percent by 2020. It's detailed nationally by the Sustainable Energy Network in a blueprint for efficiency and renewables.
We don't need new inventions. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory draft report finds that renewables could meet 99 percent of U.S. electricity needs by 2020. We don't need to break the bank. And we can't depend on a deal with the nuclear power devil to save us.
Electricity is 19 percent of world energy use. Nukes contribute just 3 percent. Even doubling or tripling the number of nukes, at great expense per pound carbon saved, will only be of modest help.
Today, a nuclear plant's fuel cycle (mining, milling, enrichment, et. al.) produces about a third of the net carbon dioxide of a natural gas plant. But the world is rapidly running short of high-grade uranium ore. Low grade ore processing can release more net carbon than it saves. The available alternative for a high grade uranium shortage is reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to launch a global trade in plutonium.

Choices
We need to cut rampant energy waste and take advantage of efficiency measures and plentiful renewable resources.
It's not heavy lifting to double auto mileage per gallon over the next decade, or to reduce oil and coal consumption 1 percent a year.
Conventional electric plants waste two-thirds of their energy. Instead, home based cogeneration systems (to be sold by Keyspan) are 90 percent efficient, producing electricity and space heat. Existing power plants, like the Bow N.H. coal plant, should pipe heat to Concord for district heating instead of dumping it into the Merrimack River.
Oil, coal, and nukes remain "cheap" because they do not have to charge their true costs. We have pollution belching coal plants because the producers can shift costs to people downwind or to future generations. We pay for Middle East resource wars in blood and in treasure, but not at the gas pump. We endlessly subsidize nuclear plants and their waste.

The Path toward Sustainability
Our hearts tell us what we should do. Market prices tell us what we will do.
The challenge of the 21st century is to make prices reflect what we know is right.
The single most important step to help assure sustainable prosperity is to use ecological consumption taxes to make polluters and green house gas emitters charge their true costs.
By replacing income taxes with ecological consumption taxes, the market will send clear price signals. What's unsustainable will cost more. What's sustainable will cost less. Entrepreneurs and customers responding to price will quickly move emissions toward the sustainable.
Al Gore has proposed a carbon tax to replace payroll taxes.
My preferred alternative is stronger medicine. An ecological value added tax, or E-VAT, could replace all income taxes with consumption tax paid at the point of sale for all goods and services.
The E-VAT is a smart sales tax that avoids double taxation for businesses.
The more polluting, the higher the E-VAT tax rate. Phased in over 10 years, the E-VAT would replace all income taxes.
An average 18 percent E-VAT could finance the federal budget. There'd be no IRS and just a one page E-VAT tax form for businesses.
Get rid of greenhouse gases and the IRS. Ecological taxation is a good deal for America.
Roy Morrison's Democracy, Markets and Survival on ecological taxes will be published in 2006. He is a energy consultant working on wind hedges and smart metering.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Teddy shows up!
Quite by accident, I caught the tailend of the debate between Sen. Ted Kennedy and Republican challenger Ken Chase on NECN. Chase was hammering away at the illegal alien issue while Teddy was making excuses about the bogus guest worker program.
But give the guy credit: He showed up to face his challenger. That was more than he did in 2000 when he faced challenges from black Republican Jack E. Robinson and Uzi-toting Libertarian Carla Howell - who almost beat Jack E. And that was more than Rep. Michael Capuano did in 1998 after he won the Democratic nomination and hid in Somerville City Hall and wouldn't face his three rivals for the seat. And that was more than a slew of others who don't bother to face their challengers because they think it is beneath them.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Sunday night thoughts
Alright, I'm done working for the night and I figured I would put together a post. Thanks to all the new people who have been visiting the site lately. Here are some of the things I've been thinking about lately, in no particular order.

Good band names
I mentioned recently that I thought Tina Fey's Scar would be a cool band name. Well, I found another one from this band who is on Fenway Recordings: Cold War Kids. That kinda tells you what the band is thinking about when they came up with the name. Another one? Bullet For My Valentine. I think they are a metal band. Don't know a thing about 'em but you can see something dark and violent in that name. There are others, I'm sure, but those are just a couple I've seen recently.

Gloating Dems
The Mark Foley scandal has unleashed a bit of over-confidence over at DailyKos, IMHO. The Dems are just giddy about their prospects in the mid-terms and that almost always leads to disaster. The Kool-Aid drinking crowd are so obsessed on their computers, they could miss the big one again. Can anyone say President Howard Dean?
But why shouldn't they gloat a little? It's been a rough couple of years. And maybe it is time for a major shift after watching what the Republican-led Congress has done to the nation. But, as Jesse Jackson once said, "Now is not the time to gloat!"
The biggest fear I have from watching all these folks is that they are so caught up in polls and noodling on their computers that they are probably aren't investing the time they need to in the field organizations of their candidates. It is the lifeblood of politics - not blogs, not ads, not goofing around in chat rooms - but ground assault field organizations.

Speaking of Dean
If the Dems take back the House, it won't be because of Rep. Nancy Pelosi and it won't be because of Rep. John Murtha and it won't be because of Bob Woodward's book or the admissions in it and it won't be because of the GOP stumbling all over the place. It will be, however, because of DNC Chairman Howard Dean's insistence that the Dems run a 50-state strategy. This strategy laid the groundwork for people to have at least a second choice in most Congressional districts [they should have four or five choices but that's a discussion for another time ... or probably another decade at the rate we are going]. It effectively put the Dems in play in many places which they would have normally not run a candidate. As part of the 50-state strategy, Dean also put all available monies into hiring campaign staff in red states to build field organizations in places where Dems haven't been competitive. If the House shifts to the Dems, and they only need 15 seats, Dean will be the one that Democrats can thank for thinking ahead and planning the assault.

'Beam me up, Scotty!'
I don't know if anyone else saw this but it is pretty cool: ["Scientists teleport two different objects"]. Science is so cool.

FCC Roundtables
One of the things which was brought up at the NAB Radio Show by the two FCC members in attendance was the fact that they were going to be meeting with a number of people around the country who are concerned about media consolidation. It seems as though the first one of these meetings has happened: ["Consolidation in Media Is Called Stifling"]. And this one, on becoming the media: ["Pirate radio challenges U.S. officials as it proliferates"].

Frist: Give it back to the Taliban
Just in case you were wondering what we were fighting for in Afghanistan, Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist believes we should let the Taliban have a role in the Afghani government: ["U.S. Senate majority leader calls for efforts to bring Taliban into Afghan government"]. Of course, this is the same Taliban who gave comfort to Usama bin Ladin and the same people who are killing our troops as we try to stabilize their government and economy ... and get the UNOCAL pipeline built. Unbelievable ... but actually not that unbelievable if you really think about it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Remembering a dear friend
On Sunday night, I received a phone call from a former political acquaintance of mine from Boston, completely out of the blue. When I saw the Caller ID, I gasped knowing it was probably bad news and I answered the phone.
Instead of saying, “Hello?” or “Hi,” I said, “Oh I hope this isn’t bad news …” almost thinking that it might be a joke call or one of those old friends reaching out because they've discovered they could find people on Google.
Unfortunately, it was bad news.
As it turned out, Eddie, a good friend of mine, passed away suddenly from a drug overdose and the caller wanted me to know about it. I was shocked by the news and started to well up, especially knowing that my late friend had battled substance abuse previously in his life and had been sober for a very long time.
We talked small talk and agreed to have lunch sometime. We do have a lot of catching up to do and I'm sure I will get an earful about all the bad things I've written about his former boss, Sen. John Kerry.
After I hung up the phone, I just stared at the floor. My wife, who had heard part of the call, remembered Eddie well and was also shocked by the news. I hadn’t spoken to him in years, but I regularly wondered how he was doing because for a number of years, he was an integral part of my life. And now, he was gone.
Eddie and I became close, fast friends in late 1991, after we were both drawn to the presidential campaign of former California Governor Jerry Brown. Both of us were Democrats - I was sick of the party, and looking for something new and Brown raised many of the feelings and frustrations which I had with the political system at the time. I still do have many of the same feelings – as do many other people – but this was before DailyKos and Internet chat boards where people could vent. Eddie was from a more establishment political background – Irish Catholic, Hyde Park – and some his friends laughed at him when he said he had decided to volunteer for Brown.
Over the course of many months, Eddie and I and many others would travel all over the east coast, organizing for Brown. It was a blast and one of the best experiences of my life [Someday, I will be able to put my book together and share all those great memories].
We really thought we were on the cusp of something really big, reform-minded, and special … something many of the people who are involved in the Democratic Party think they are involved with now even though they aren’t really.
Eddie took time to share his life with me; I was a bit more of an open book. Although, when I started to learn about his life, I gained great respect for him, his sobriety, and the hard time he had improving his life. We became more attached, would have coffee and would talk for hours. If I wanted to drink, he was comfortable with that, but I always offered not to drink if it bothered him. It never did. We would talk about failed policy, what we would do if we were in power, and future political ambitions. Eddie wanted to be Suffolk County sheriff but believed he needed to reach a level of maturity so that past indiscretions would be forgotten.
“Twenty five years,” he once told me. “After my law degree.”
I was still wishing I could be a senator some day even though, deep-down, I knew I would never get elected in a place like Massachusetts because despite some liberal views, I really did support Brown’s flat tax plan. I also wasn’t willing to part with my Bordeaux-colored locks or hard living rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle … at least not yet.
Later, after the Brown campaign, Eddie introduced me to then-City Councilor Tom Menino from his Hyde Park neighborhood. Menino was planning a run for Mayor and Eddie asked me to organize Back Bay and the South End for Menino which I happily did. Menino later won, becoming the longest-serving Mayor in Boston’s history.
Eddie also introduced me to District Attorney Ralph Martin, a black Republican who received a lot of Democratic support and also won his race.
And when Sen. Ted Kennedy was in a troubled reelection campaign against Mitt Romney in 1994 and they put out the call out for hire guns, Eddie told the campaign that I should be hired. The next thing I know, I’m organizing all the college campuses in the eastern part of the state and getting a check too. I learned a lot of good and bad things in that two month time period but I don't regret it.
Eddie was one of my first Instant Message pals on AOL as we both started learning about computers and the Internet. In my case, I started dating a graphic artist who helped me learn the value of the tool; Eddie started going to night school to get to that law degree and needed a computer. It was a pretty good time.
We kept in touch over the next few years as Eddie and others tried to land me a city job so that I would have the stability to go to college. Interview after interview after interview, I just couldn't get in because there were other people getting in to the lower skilled jobs and there were affirmative action quotas which needed to be obtained in order to make sure the city workforce reflected the makeup of the city. This frustrated me - being a lower middle class white person making $7 an hour trying to make ends meet - but I understood the logic.
After a slew of interviews over 18 months, Eddie told me it probably wasn't going to happen so I moved on, eventually getting a second job, a part-time radio board op gig, to subsidize my income. That job eventually led to a full-time radio gig but not much more money.
Later, in 1997, when I found out the City of Boston was going to cancel a preliminary election for its at-large city council race because there weren’t enough people running, I called Eddie and asked if he thought that I should run. He asked me what I would work on if elected. I said I would campaign on a platform of more affordable housing, preserving more open space, limited campaign donations, and a local currency program called Boston Bucks, a few ideas that I was toying with after reading the Boston Globe article about the cancelled election. The hot button issue at the time was the Mayor’s $7 an hour living wage ordinance. I told Eddie I would openly be campaigning against the ordinance and he asked me why, probably thinking I would catch holy hell and be linked as anti-union like the insipid Back Bay Councilor Tom Keane.
“Well, it isn’t good enough,” I said.
After that, Eddie said he would help if I decided to run.
After hemming and hawing for a few days trying to decide what to do, I jumped in on a lark with just five days to gather the 500 signatures to get on the ballot. In just a few days, Eddie hanging out in Hyde Park, myself in East Boston, the North End, and South Boston, and a couple of his friends hanging out at grocery stores in West Roxbury, collected more than 1,100 signatures in a few days to force a preliminary election. In just a few weeks, after a quick letter telling people I knew about the race, we had more than $3,000 to pay for all the signs, some small newspaper ads, and other stuff campaigns need [As an aside, the two big news/talk stations – WBZ and WRKO – refused to sell me radio ads because they didn’t want to have to offer a discounted rate to any of the political candidates. They refused to sell radio ads to the candidate who was working in radio. I was livid but this was on the cusp of the dot-con boom when WBZ was getting $900 a spot in morning drive! It was a lousy business model and later, when they did offer radio ads to the finalists, I was even more pissed].
I ended up losing the preliminary by a couple of hundred votes after a concerted effort by at least one other campaign to throw votes to an unknown candidate from Dorchester to keep me out of the final. At least two reporters the day after the election were nudging me about the theory although no one ever had any proof, it was all entirely hearsay.
I think I made some good points in that campaign. And, what I found out was that I loved campaigning even more than I did previously, especially if it was my own.
As Eddie started to raise a family and go to law school, we lost touch a bit but we would see each other a couple of times a year. When I was attending Harvard Extension School at night, we ran into each other and had a long talk in the yard which we had to break off because it was freezing cold outside.
Then, like so many other friends over the years, we lost touch. I heard he we was working selling computers with a family member. But, I never stopped thinking about Eddie. And now he is gone.
On Sunday, I thought about all those years and how just one life can affect another person so much. It was totally random, our meeting and friendship. It could have happened with anyone or it might not have happened at all. I thought about his adorable little children who will now be without a father. And I sat dumbfounded on my couch, furious that heroin had taken another person I knew and in this case, someone who shouldn’t have lost the battle because he had it beat. That damn evil filthy friggin' heroin. Arrgh.
Goodbye dear friend. I will really miss you. But I also know you are in a better place now and soon, we will all be joining you and we can enjoy the perpetual campaign.
Crossposted at Area603