Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Scott Brown Thank You Tour

Scott Brown Comes to Dracut, Mass. to Thank His Supporters

 

In the spirit of good journalism and fairness, I traveled this afternoon to Dracut, Massachusetts where I attended the reception for Senator-elect Scott Brown.  I went with an open mind, determined to view this man who has shaken to its core the Democratic Party and (to a lesser extent) the Republican establishment as well.  Now, for those who are not regular readers of this blog,  in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to confess that I was an active supporter of Martha Coakley, and fully endorsed her candidacy on January 17 as my first blog post.   

However, those of you who know me and those of you who have read my blog, know how much I value fairness, decency, and rational discourse characterized by courtesy and respect.  In fact, I am hoping that my blog becomes known as one which actively and eagerly explores all points of view and solicits all ideas, so long as the writer expresses them courteously and attempts to back them up with facts and evidence.    

Finally, those who have read my most recent blog entry on the State of the Union Address, know that I firmly believe that we need to give our elected officials a fair chance and a reasonable amount of time to put their agendas to the test and to measure results.  In President Obama’s case, I stated strongly that 12 months was not nearly enough time to judge either Barack Obama or his Presidency.   

In the very same way, I believe that it is incumbent upon each and every one of us—Brown supporters, Coakley supporters, Kennedy supporters, and even those who did not vote–it is incumbent upon us ALL to support OUR United States Senator (Elect) Scott Brown.  He was, after all, fairly elected by a solid majority in an election that was watched and studied carefully across our Nation.
Consequently, it was in that spirit that I journeyed nearly ninety minutes in my 1993 Ford Focus (sorry, no Scott Brown styled pickup truck) to see Scott Brown thank his supporters and meet some of those other folks who had voted for one of the other two candidates.  I got to the restaurant about one hour early and was met by a line of people which was permitted to head into the restaurant beginning at about 2:40—nearly an hour before Senator-elect Brown was to arrive.  I was fortunate enough to get a position right in front of the podium—prime territory for some great photos, a short video, and a chance to personally meet (albeit very briefly) our newly elected Senator.    

The hall was filled with young, middle-aged, and older men and women, some of whom brought a child or two.  I’ve got to say that my experience in chatting with these Brown supporters for nearly an hour as we staked out our positions (literally and politically) in Lenzi’s Restaurant was a very positive and enjoyable one—even as I announced my Democratic pedigree and my support for both Coakley and President Obama.  This atmosphere, frankly, was in stark and pleasant contrast to my experience in encountering a group of enthusiastic but angry Brown supporters as I left the Coakley-Clinton rally at WPI in Worcester  just two weeks ago.    

This afternoon, I was surrounded by eager, thankful and excited Brown supporters.  They seemed to still be basking in the glow of their election success.  I say “their” success, because so many of them felt that they were a part of the success of the campaign and the victory of Scott Brown.  Seeing the way Brown’s victory has reverberated across the country and is already showing signs of making a difference in Washington politics-as-usual, they seemed newly enfranchised, filled with an idealism that I suspect many have not experienced in many a year.  I spoke to an elderly man from Dracut who had fought in the Korean War.   I spoke to a young Political Science and Communications graduate of Westfield State College who seemed eager to volunteer for a position on the Brown staff.  Then, there was a very pleasant woman standing just to my right in the only position that was better than mine—right in front of the podium.  She had a number of newspaper front pages—one laminated—that she was eager to have autographed.  She was from New Hampshire, and only became a supporter after her sister from Massachusetts called her excitedly about this new amazing candidate that she had begun following and supporting.  You can find her photo and many others of Senator-elect Brown and his supporter on my flickr photo website at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrgrosky.   

I spoke to a woman of 60 years who was eager (like most) to get a photo with Senator-elect Brown.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure she entirely approved of me or of my being there (especially right up front!) since I made it clear that I had not been in Brown’s corner, and that I was a strong supporter of President Obama.  Still, I think I gradually won her over a bit, when I insisted that I would try to write a fair and honest piece on this Brown event.   I spoke with a very kind young  Greek-American father and his sixth grade son.  We spoke of subjects ranging from his strong support of the Senator-elect,  to his son’s education,  to the campaign of Michael Dukakis, to the gorgeous Greek isles of Mykonos and Santorini. I spoke with two young men who had autographed a basketball to present to Mr. Brown in the hope that he might use it to challenge President Obama to a game on his “home court” in Washington.  Then there was the elderly lady whom I was informed was 90 years old and didn’t have a computer when I naively asked if she wanted me to email a picture of her posing with the President.   And the woman with the double-sided poster: on one side “Stand Strong” and on the other “Show the Love–Honk for Scott.”  She said that I could take her photo if I mentioned the “Rabid Republican” website   (O.K……a promise is a promise).   

There was a good feeling in that room–a real comradery among people who were happy for their successful candidate, now a soon-to-be-Senator, and a conviction that they really had made a difference–a difference that maybe–just maybe–might prove to be long-lasting.  Oh, sure, I guess some people didn’t quite know what to make of this retired educator who kept shooting photo after photo with his trusty Nikon—this former Coakley supporter who kept insisting that he was going to give the same chance to Scott Brown over the next two years as he hoped they would give to Barack Obama for another year or two.  But, in the long run, I think there grew a mutual respect,  As I listened to their fears of a scaled-back health care bill which they acknowledged might be acceptable initially (until the Congress added more to it year after year), they listened to me speak of goals that the President had recommended–tax breaks for small business and other job incentives upon which we could, perhaps, agree.   

And what about the object of all that affection, good will, and excitement?  Well, a smiling and exuberant Scott Brown entered soon after 3:30 to the enthusiastic applause and wild cheers of the faithful.   He spoke briefly–about three minutes.  After explaining that he wanted to stay long enough to have a chance to meet, shake hands with, or pose with everyone, he thanked the crowd:  “I want to personally try to thank each and every one of you because without all of you…I wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to Washington and bring good government, and fairness, and discussion, and just problem-solving back to the equation.”  He seemed to answer, then, a question from the crowd:  “How are my days…?  My days are pretty much the same,” he playfully quipped.  “I get up, I go for a ride, I ride my bike, play with the dogs a little bit, give the wife a kiss goodbye, and then I go to see about a thousand people!”   He concluded, “and it’s all wonderful, and I’m very, very humbled and honored to be here and to have an opportunity to really make a difference and bring common sense back to the equation in Washington. ”  You can see the video at my YouTube    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsU53wnr05o
  

Just a  short speech and a much, much longer meet-and-greet that followed……Through it all, he seemed young and energetic.  To tell you the truth, he connected so warmly and directly with the crowd that as I watched the young and the old press for photos, handshakes, and autographs, I couldn’t help think and believe that this  is what it must have been what it was like  when Jack Kennedy first was elected to the Senate, Bill Clinton to the Governorship, and even (much more recently) Barack Obama to the Presidency.      

Will he stay true to his words and make good on his promises?  The crowd–voicing their fatigue (in some cases) and their disgust (in other cases) with the Washington career politicians, particularly with Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi–see him as a different kind of politician–a man of the people–a Senator whose only loyalty is to the people of Massachusetts.    

As for me, putting personal political biases and votes aside, I have to say that I was impressed with the man I briefly saw today.  He was friendly,warm,  personable, down-to-earth.  He seemed sincere, and though he was saying many of the same things at each of these five thank-you stops he has made over three days, the words still resonated true, as though they really came from the heart.  I wonder, too, if he will turn out to have more substance–to be more than I thought he was when I voted for Martha Coakley… Is he really the independent voice he insisted that he was, or was that just an attempt to obscufate the fact that he was a Republican who had voted with the state Republican leadership 96 percent of the time?   I certainly was encouraged when–in his first trip to Washington–he seemed to tell both Republicans and Democrats that he did not owe his election to either party and that he would vote his conscience.  I also liked his respect for those with opposing views–President Obama, in particular, and also Mayor Menino.   

Now, it’s true that many would call me an idealist, a cockeyed optimist;  some (especially on the left) might call me dangerously naive.  Yet after two weeks of disappointment with my candidate losing, and many days of seeing the vitriol of so many on the right (and a few on the left, as well) I admit that I was ready to be convinced that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that this light is not a freight train coming towards us, bringing us a disaster of epic proportions.  Scott Brown did not disappoint; I fervently hope he will not disappoint in the half-term ahead of him.  In any case, he deserves a chance.

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President Obama’s State of the Union Address

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OK….first of all the above Help Wanted ad is only in jest; the LAST THING we need is a new President—REALLY!  I’m not an expert (as if you couldn’t tell) but I am an American citizen who follows the news carefully through newspapers, television (ABC, NBC,CBS, CNN, and FOX), magazines, and the Internet.  I really make an effort to be well-informed–like so many others of you out there.  Yet one of the greatest problems in this country is the number of citizens who simply refuse to become well-informed by any measure whatsoever.  Either they watch/listen to only one station and hear only one viewpoint, or they simply tune out and do not spend any real time making an effort to really understand the issues.   Millions and millions of Americans did not bother to watch the President last night.  Instead they watched programs on other networks or dealt with other real or perceived priorities–playing cards, doing household chores, completing homework, visiting their favorite bar, catching up on some overdue sleep, playing with the children, working out at the gym, chatting on Facebook, playing video games, and any other of a hundred other activities–some important, some not-so-important.   News Flash:  It is incumbant upon those who live in a democracy–those who live in what many of us firmly believe is the greatest democracy in the world–it is incumbant upon every one of its citizens to become and remain well-informed.  And that requires work–real effort and time on all of our parts.

Of those who actually watched the President’s 80-minute address, some  did so with an open mind, intending to give our President a chance to explain what he would do in the second and succeeding years of his term.  Others, unfortunately, viewed the program with the most jaundiced of eyes.  They have already vehemently (and sometimes viciously) turned against our President–feeling that if he has not turned our country around in the grand total of 12 months, then he no longer deserves our support.  This outrageous opinion comes despite the fact that he inherited what many have called the worst recession since the Great Depression, two agonizing and expensive wars, a nearly double-digit unemployment rate, and a citizenry who seems to be conditioned to television’s 60-minute instant solution to complicated problems–a citizenry that seems to have totally forgotten that it took even the most successful of Presidents in the past (see Reagan, Clinton, Roosevelt, etc.)  nearly a full term or MORE to really begin to solve our Nation’s economic and other problems.

The afternoon before the speech, when asked by CNN correspondents what they most wanted to hear from their President in his State of the Union address, average Americans of all political stripes, stated overwhelmingly that they wanted to hear the President speak about jobs and the economy.  And so he did.  Addressing the intertwined problems of unemployment and the economy occupied the major portion of his speech.

I watched the President’s address in its entirety, and here is my analysis.  Under very difficult circumstances for our nation, he delivered a superb speech–perhaps the best State of the Union Address I have ever heard in my 59 years!  While he tried to give a realistic picture of the terrible situation our country was in when he took office, he also noted that “the worst of the storm has passed” because of actions his administration had taken–including the absolutely necessary bailout of the banks.

As accomplishments in his first year he pointed out that his administration had “extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans, made health insurance 65% cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA, and passes 25 different tax cuts.”  With regard to those tax cuts, he insisted, ” that we cut taxes for 95% of working families, for small businesses, for first-time homeowners, for parents trying to care for their children, for 8 million Americans paying for college.  “As a result,”  he stated, “millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers.”  And, he quickly added, “we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person.”  He gave many examples of the success of the much-maligned Stimulus Bill or Recovery Act, but in summary, he said that “Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.  200,000 work in construction and clean energy.  300,000 are teachers and other education workers.  Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, and first responders”  He noted that the Adminstration is on track to add another one and a half million jobs by the end of the year.

Yet he did not pretend that we are totally out of the woods.  He noted that “One in ten Americans still cannot find work.  Many businesses have been shuttered. Home values have declined, Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard.  For those who have already know poverty, life has become that much harder.”  He went on the state that “This recession has also compounded the burdens that America’s families have been dealing with for decades–the burden of working harder and longer for less; of being unable to save enough to retire or help kids with college.”

So nearly all of you would agree with our President that these are the problems he must confront—he has a duty to confront–head-on–in this next one to two years.  How does he propose to confront and solve these problems.  Here is his plan—NOT filled with details, because an 80-minute speech does not allow and is not intended to provide details.  Those details will come as specific proposals are advanced in the days to come.  Yet the address did provide some broadly stroked proposals in key areas to significantly improve the daily lives of the people of our nation.  In brief, here are those proposals:

1.  A fee on the “biggest banks” to recover the rest of the money we lent to them (Most has already been recovered).

2.  A new jobs bill, starting with small businesses–taking 30 billion dollars of the money Wall Street banks have already repaid and using it to help “community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat.”

3.  A new small business tax credit to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages.

4.  Elimination of all capital gains taxes on small business investment and a tax incentive for all businesses tha invest in new plants and equipment.

5.  Putting Americans to work building the infrastructure of tomorrow–highways, railroads, clean energy facilities, home energy  rebates.

Slashing tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and awarding  tax breaks to those companies that create jobs in the U.S.

7.  Serious financial reform–protecting our economy by providing for a strong, healthy financial market that “makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs” and which “channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes.”

8.  Encouragement of  American innovation–clean energy, safe nuclear power, new offshore areas for oil and gas development, advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies, and a comprehensive energy and climate bill.

9.  Doubling our exports over the next five years, and increase that will support 2 million American jobs by launching a “National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls…”

10.  Seeking new markets for our goods by strengthening trade relations in Asia and South America.

11.  Investing in the skills and education of our people by investing in educational reform which rewards only success–reform which raises student achievement.  This involves expanding these reforms to all fifty states so that “the success of our children ” depends more on their potential as opposed to simply where they happen to live.

12.  A bill that would revitalize our community colleges.  Ending “unwarranted” taxpayer-subsidies that go to banks for student loans and using that money to give families a $10,000 dollar tax credit for four years of college.  Increasing the Pell Grants which many of us relied on in the past to help fund our college educations.  A new requirement that would allow a million college graduates to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt to be forgiven in 20 years (and in 10 years if they go into public service.

13.  A task force on Middle-Class Families.  Nearly doubling the child care tax credit.  A plan to give every worker “access to a retirement account and expanding the tax credit for those who start a nest egg.”

14.  Stepping ups refinancing of homes so that homeowners can move into more affordable mortgages (noting that steps last year allowed millions of Americans to take out new loans and save an average of $1500 on mortgage payments.

15.  Health care reform which gives coverage to millions of Americans who have been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions,  preventative care in all plans, protection of Americans from the worst practices of the insurance industries, and the opportunity for small businesses and uninsured Americans to have the chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market.  These  would be plans that would preserve the right of all Americans who currently have insurance to keep their doctor and their current plan.  And very importantly, it would reduce skyrocketing costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses.

16.  A plan to freeze government spending for three years (except for spending relating to national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. This freeze would go into effect in one year, after our economy improves.

17.  The establishment of a bipartisan Fiscal Commission which would provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.

18.  To increase trust in government, a requirement that lobbyists disclose each contact they make “on behalf of a client with my Adminstration or Congress.”

19.  The establishment of strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office.  Here, the President actually took a daring swipe at the Supreme Court that just voted to “reverse a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests–including foreign corporations–to spend without limit in our elections.

20.  Earmark reform on all these pet projects (aka “pork”) that find their way into unrelated bills.  The establishment of a website that would post all earmark requests BEFORE a vote is taken on those requests so that “the American people can see how [and why] their money is being spent.”

21.  Renewing focus on “terrorists who threaten our nation.”  Continued investments in homeland security.

22.  Increasing troops and training Afghan Security Forces so that “they can begin to take the lead in 2011, and our troops can begin to come home.”

23.  Removing all of our combat troops from Iraq by August of this year.

24.  Commitment to support men and women in uniform and veterans when they come home; building a 21st century VA and a commitment (headed by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden) to support military families

25.  New initiatives, sanctions, and negotiations to reduce nuclear weapons around the world.

26  Providing world leadership in helping other counties with problems in climate change, HIV/AIDS, fighting bio-terrorism and infectious disease, and other problems.

27.  The prosecution of civil right violations and employment discrimination and strengthening laws dealing with civil right violations and employment discrimination; repealing the don’t ask, don’t tell law in the military.

Now, admittedly, this is a very ambitious agenda–but it is the agenda on which this President was overwhelmingly elected.  It is an agenda that he HAS made some progress on (as noted above) although we all wish that the progress could come more quickly and more easily.   The focus, however, is where the Americans wish it to be–on jobs and the economy.

Let me conclude with the point on which I began:  Let us give this President–OUR President–a real chance to succeed–not just 12 months.  As you might guess, I didn’t vote for Bush, or Nixon, or even Reagan, but I did give each of those Presidents my respect AND a full 36-42 months to make good on their promises and to make some real inroads in turning our country around in what I felt was a positive direction.  The idea of a 4-year Presidency is to give that President a term to really make progress on his agenda–even if it is not the agenda of the candidate that you would have preferred to occupy the office.  President Obama is President of ALL Americans.  As conservative Republican actor and activist John Wayne once said when referring to President Kennedy, “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my President.  I hope he does a good job.”

That’s what I would request of each of you.  Give our President a chance to do the work for which he was overwhelmingly elected.  Have the patience with his Administration and the respect for the Office and the Individual that true Americans have always given their President.  Stop the name-calling, the insults,  the profanity, the exaggerations, the refusal to even consider other points of view.  Educate yourselves on the issues and stay educated.  Let the best of your instincts and your intellect show themselves on talk shows, editorials, blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Internet forums. Let us try to work as one country–as one People–in solving the multitude of problems we face and making our country all it can truly be.

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Scott Brown, Haiti Relief, and Football

Election of Scott Brown in Mass. Illustrates Voter Anger and Frustration

This week’s election of Massachusetts relatively obscure State Senator Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate was a wake-up call to all politicians in Washington that the Americans are fed up with business as usual in the Beltway.  Martha Coakley may not have been the strongest campaigner, but after all–this is Massachusetts–the true-blue state that voted over 60 percent for Barack Obama just over a year ago!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I do have to admit that my adult son and I spent almost three hours alone on a downtown corner in an election-day snowstorm holding signs for Martha Coakley.  We recorded 52 thumbs-up from passing motorists vs. only 29 thumbs down during about a thirty-minute time period when we were making our strictly unscientific poll.  Since our town and the whole state voted strongly for Brown, the only thing we were able to confirm was the complete unreliability of these unscientific polls!

So, what does it all mean?  Well, first of all, it means that the people are unhappy with the slow pace of the recovery and the higher-than-ten percent unemployment rate (9.4 percent here in Massachusetts).  Secondly, they seem to be angry with both Democrats whom they view as trying to spend our way out of the recession by using huge amounts of taxpayer money (adding to the deficit) with additional government programs like health care.  Although many people in Massachusetts support the idea of health care for the 30 million Americans who do not have any health care (and the elimination of prior conditions as a rationale for rejection ), they are incensed with back-room deals and a perceived lack of transparency in developing a health care bill.  While this looks like good news for Republicans, it is clear that they should not be licking their chops just yet.  Surveys and interviews with voters show that the people are  also not happy with Republicans who seem to be refusing to compromise, and are now beginning to be known as the Party of “No.”  Many people I spoke to point to the fact that Republicans and Conservatives  like Sen. Jim DeMint or Rush Limbaugh seem to WANT Barack Obama to fail and are, therefore, doing everything within their power to be obstructionist and confrontational–refusing to work with the President or to offer realistic compromises.

For those who pay attention to history, it is clear that this financial crisis does not belong to any ONE political party.  After all,  Democrat Bill Clinton left a $237 billion surplus for Republican George Bush and a Republican Congress.  President Bush and his policies caused that surplus to disappear largely through unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving  Democrat Barack Obama (on entering office)  a $1.3 trillion deficit.

The general view seems to be that Scott Brown–an attractive and energetic campaigner–was able to tap into all of that voter frustration.  Running a smart campaign, he is the beneficiary of all of that voter anger and angst.  His job now is to  prove that he is, in fact,  the independent thinker, shaker and mover that he purported to be.  In the spirit of good government and true bipartisanship, I wish him all the best.  Our country needs it; our democracy demands it.

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NOW,  ONTO  SOME  OTHER  CONCERNS  OF  THE  WEEK:

Kudos to the American people who have rallied to the cause of disaster relief in Haiti by donating over 377 million dollars in the past two weeks.   As an American and an educator for nearly 37 years, it makes me proud to see how average citizens–many in financial difficulty themselves–have dug deeply to help friends in the world community who have been stricken by the disaster in Haiti.  While so many countries–including the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, Israel, Spain, and China–have sent doctors and/or rescue squads, many are also contributing huge amounts of money.  Based upon the percentage of amounts donated and/or pledged and on the per capita contributions (which takes the population of each country into account), it seems that the leading contributors are the United States, Canada, Spain, Great Britain, France, the World Bank, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and the European Commission.  I hope the contributions continue to flow in –even as Haiti fades from the nightly news reports, and the media focuses on other areas of the world.

Since they often are ridiculed for the causes they espouse, I also want to thank those celebrities who were involved as performers or phone handlers in the telethon for Haiti relief which was on all three networks yesterday.   Sure, our society rewards superstar celebrities with nearly obscene salaries for their singing or acting, but it behooves us to point out that a large number of these celebrities really do seem to have genuine social consciences that cause them to go into action to help in the worst of times.  Thanks to celebrities such as George Clooney, Madonna, Sting, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Kid Rock, Neil Young, JayZ, Beyonce, Shakira Wyclef Jean, Bono, Sheryl Crow, and Rhiana who all performed (partial list).  Thanks also to those who manned the phones:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro, Julia Roberts, Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Matt Damon, Clint Eastwood, Halle Berry, Ben Stiller, Stephen Spielberg, Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Reese Witherspoon.  As of this morning, their efforts had already raised 67 million dollars.  Quite a few of these celebrities have also made major contributions from their own personal fortunes to Haiti relief. Just a few of the heavy contributors:  Sandra Bullock (1 million dollars), Leonardo DiCaprio (1 million dollars), Madonna (250,000 dollars), Clooney/Pitt and others (1 million dollars)..

Just a few words on the NFL playoffs……..I am writing this just as the AFC Championship game begins.   As I think of the millions of fans who are diverted by football for a few hours from their financial or personal problems, I am reminded a bit of my Shakespeare classes at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.  It seemed that even in the midst of a classic tragedy like Macbeth, Shakespeare  managed to introduce some comic relief—just to allow the audience to breathe a bit–before the worst to come.  One hopes that we have already seen the worst, but it is nice–nevertheless–to be able to take a breath, watch the Jets, the Colts, the Vikings, and the Saints–and be concerned only with yards per carry, interceptions, quarterback sacks, and the like.  If only the problems of the world could be so simple.

My Predictions:

Colts defeat Jets 24-21;  (Jets’ defense not enough to stop Manning) and Saints defeat Vikings 31-27  (Bret Favre is good (and Adrian Peterson could help), but Drew Brees is better.

Until Next Week………….

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The Massachusetts Senate Race — Martha Coakley Vs. Scott Brown

      

Worcester, MA Rally for Martha Coakley with Former President Bill Clinton

 

In my first post for this new blog, I will discuss the Massachusetts Senate Race,  endorse a candidate, and explain my rationale for that endorsement.  I invite you to read, to agree, or to disagree.  All I ask is that those who disagree do so courteously–without being disagreeable.  This is a column for rational discourse and courteous debate of ideas and issues.    

The Senate race for the seat formerly held by The Liberal Lion of the Senate, the late Ted Kennedy, here in Massachusetts, is about as close as it can get, with the election set for Tuesday–just one day away (January 19).   It is Democrat Martha Coakley (currently Attorney General) vs. Republican Scott Brown (currently State Senator)   The tone of the campaign has gotten really heated lately with both candidates flooding the television and radio airwaves with ubiquitous commercials.   

On Friday night I went to a Rally for Martha Coakley which featured former President Bill Clinton, a supporter of Mrs. Coakley.   You can see some of the photos from that event in the collage above or by clicking on my flickr site at the far right side of this page.    

This race is an extremely important race–not only for Massachusetts, but also for the entire country!   

Why”” you ask.     

One Major Reason:  If Martha Coakley is elected, President Obama maintains his 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate.  This allows him a more reasonable chance of passing the agenda on which he campaigned so successfully—the same agenda which caused him to be elected by an overwhelming majority of Americans.  In particular, he needs every one of those 60 Democratic Senate votes in order to pass his Health Care Reform Act.    

On the other hand, what are the national implications if her opponent is elected?   Well, there’s the rub!  Scott Brown, in fact,  has pledged to be the 41st vote in the Senate to kill President Obama’s health care bill. In addition, his election would deny the Senate the 60 votes needed to block a filibuster on all of the items on President Obama’s current and future agenda.  If the Republicans (with a possible 41 votes) are allowed to filibuster, many of Obama’s agenda items may never actually come to a vote.     

My View on the Race:    

It seems to me that Scott Brown is trying to paint himself as an Independent, rather than the staunch and dedicated Republican which he surely is.  It IS true that he has voted with the Republic leadership 96 percent of the time–specifically 546 times with the Republican position as opposed to only 25 times against that Republican leadership position.    

In fact, Scott Brown seems to be a conservative Republican in the same mold as Dick Cheney and George Bush, the two individuals most responsible for the financial crisis in which we now find ourselves and for the War in Iraq.  Remember Republican George Bush calling himself a “Compassionate Conservative” to appeal to disaffected Democrats and Independents???   Hmmmmm…….A lot like Republican Scott Brown calling himself “independent” to appeal to all those “unenrolled” or “independent” voters!    

What are some of the positions which alarm me most about Scott Brown?    

1.  He OPPOSES cracking down on Wall Street bonuses, and he wants to provide LESS Wall Street oversight.    

2.  He wants to kill the health care bill, saying that we need to craft a better health care bill.  In a recent debate, the moderator pointed out that if this bill went down to defeat, it would likely be another 15 years (at least) before another bill would be introduced.  This is what happened when the Clinton attempt at a health care bill was last defeated.    

3.  He is NOT a friend of education!  He voted against smaller class sizes and for cutting funding for public colleges and universities.    

4.  He sponsored legislation to allow hospitals to deny contraception to rape victims.    

5.  He voted NO on a bill to provide for investment in and expansion of the life sciences industry in Massachusetts.    

6.  He voted AGAINST a bill which RESTORED all Mass Health benefits cut in 2002–including dental, vision, chiropractic, and prosthetics.    

7.  Incredibly, just one month after the September 11 attacks, Republican Scott Brown was one of only THREE Massachusetts state representatives to vote AGAINST a bill to provide financial assistance to Red Cross workers who had volunteered with the 9/11 recovery efforts.  Fortunately, despite Republican Scott Brown’s NO vote, this bill which authorized leaves of absence for certain Red Cross workers participating in Red Cross emergencies still passed 148-3.    

OK–enough about why I am NOT supporting Scott Brown, the Republican.   Now, why am I SUPPORTING and enthusiastically ENDORSING Martha Coakley, the Democrat?    

1.  She has a very impressive background, having graduated cum laude from Williams College and receiving a J.D. degree from Boston University School of Law before serving as a lawyer, joining Boston’s organized Crime Strike Force as a Special Attorney, serving as Chief of the Child Abuse Prevention Unit, and  investigating and prosecuting literally HUNDREDS of cases of both physical and sexual abuse of children, including the famous case of Louise Woodward.    

2.  She supports and will fight for  the current health care bill, knowing that it is not perfect but that it is the best chance to bring healthcare to millions of men, women, and children who are now without any heathcare at all.  

3.  She has comprehensive and detailed plans to improve our economy.  Specifically she has articulated clear plans for Middle Class and Small Business Relief Tax Program, a Jobs plan to get Americans back to work, and a plan for “enhanced financial reform” to prevent another economic collapse.  

4.  Martha Coakley has a strong record as  Attorney General.  She ” investigated and pursued cases related to housing discrimination, disability rights, fair lending, public accommodation, equal marriage, health care disparities, and hate crimes based on race, ethnicity, gender sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.”  

5.  As Attorney General and District Attorney of Middlesex County, she ” successfully advocated for and defended legislation to create and expand buffer zones around reproductive health care facilities to ensure the safety of patients and staff members.”  

6.  Martha Coakley is a tough, no-nonsense defender of the public interest.  She stands up for the common man, woman or child when big banks, utility companies, insurance companies, and even the “Big Dig” take unfair advantage.    

7.  Martha Coakley supports our Veterans.  She calls for  improvements in delivering benefits, providing quality health care, ensuring a seamless transition to civilian life, supporting military families, and promoting commitment and respect.  

8.  Martha Coakley would be the first woman in Massachusetts to serve as Senator–breaking that glass ceiling for all the girls and young women who now sit in our classrooms pondering how they can help to shape the future.  

For all of the above reasons (and many more) I fully support Martha Coakley for Senate.  

Just a few more points:   As many media and political pundits have theorized, this race is so close because citizens are really mad, and they are venting that anger on talk-radio, in letters to the editor, and in interviews.   

Well, I’m angry too!  I’m angry that so many people–including friends and family members–are unemployed or underemployed.  I’m sick that so many have lost their homes or are fighting to hold on to them.   

I’m frustrated that so many children arrive in our schools from poor homes, entering preschool or kindergarten so far behind already—with physical, cognitive, emotional or psychological problems–and our teachers are responsible for teaching  more and more with devastating budget cuts impacting them at every turn.  

I’m angry that we have lost so many of our young men and women to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–and so many more have been seriously injured and will suffer for years to come!  

I’m angry that a child born in a struggling town in Western or Central Massachusetts (or Eastern Mass., for that matter) does not have the same opportunities as those born in a rich town or an affluent suburb of Boston (thanks to the unfairness of property taxes as a support for education).  

HOWEVER, I would respectfully request that you do NOT displace your anger onto Martha Coakley.  It was, after all, the REPUBLICANS who were in charge for the past EIGHT years!  It was George Bush and Dick Cheney who got us into Iraq and into the “Great Recession” –even after inheriting a gigantic budgetary SURPLUS, courtesy of President Clinton.  In Bush’s first term, he even had a majority in Congress.  

For goodness sakes….you voted in overwhelming numbers for Barack Obama.   Give him a chance!  Even Ronald Reagan took a full term to make economic progress in our last recession.  

I support our President.  The economy is improving—people’s investments are coming back–thanks to improvements in the DOW and the NASDAQ.   President Obama is TRYING very hard to fulfill his commitment on health care.  You KNOW that if he had not made health care a priority, he never would have been able to do it later in his administration.  We now have a President that we can respect—as a serious thinker, as an articulate speaker, as someone who LISTENS to others and surrounds himself with brilliant leaders in their fields, as someone who brings people together, as someone who cares.  

Let me finish by noting that I admired the work of  Ted Kennedy as Senator.   Was he a perfect man?  No, he had his flaws like so many of us do–and he spent his life atoning for them and attempting to improve the lives of children, women, the poor, the elderly, and the sick.   Martha Coakley has attempted to do the same in her career thus far.  It would be a tragedy to allow Scott Brown to win this Senate Seat–Scott Brown,  a Republican who stands AGAINST so many of the positions for which Ted Kennedy gave so many years of his life!   

Please, Go to the Polls on Tuesday of this week, and Vote Martha Coakley for Senate.

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