Tag Archives: Massachusetts

The Importance of Making Good Choices: The Recent Cases of Paula Dean and Aaron Hernandez –originally posted on June 26, 2013

“It all comes down to the choices you make!”  Over the past 40 years in education, I have made that statement or ones like it thousandsDesktop2 of times to students and to my own children as elementary principal, teacher, and parent.  I have said it to them in the classroom, in my office, in the cafeteria, out on the playground, and on the soccer field.  And I have had a great deal of company in saying that.  So many teachers, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals, school nurses, and parents have their own versions:  “Take your time and make the right choice”   or   ”Be careful not to make a bad choice” or “Life is all about choices.”  Sometimes I tell children (as my wife has always said that SHE was told) “When you have a choice to make, pretend that your dad (or mom) is perched right there on your shoulder” and think “What would my dad or mom want me to do?”  or finally “What is the RIGHT thing to do?”

These thoughts are especially relevant  and close to my heart this week as the news reverberates with reports on the cases of two very different media stars–one a darling of television’s Food Network–Paula Dean, and the other a New England sports hero–Aaron Hernandez.

In Mrs. Dean’s case, what has her food empire in hot water are the reports of her using the “n-word,” making racist and anti-semitic jokes, and singing the praises of a hypothetical plantation-style wedding with Blacks dressed up in tuxes and waiting on Whites.  Thus far, these reports have resulted in her having her contract with the Food Network terminated after eleven years.  She also lost her very lucrative contract as spokesperson for Smithfield Farms.  All of this from not thinking carefully BEFORE repeating a racist joke—from making a poor choice in what stories to tell or what words to use to describe a group of people.  It apparently doesn’t matter that many of these offenses may be years old.  Many people may believe that she continues to feel and/or speak this way.  Many more may wonder if there are still additional people to come out of the closet who can report on offensive language she has used more recently.  Choices have consequences.

The second case continues to unfold in the headlines today as the police have arrested Mr. Hernandez–star tight end for my own beloved New England Patriots who recently honored him with a five-year 40 million (yes, you read that correctly) 40 MILLION dollar contract.  As I gaze past my computer towards the television news at this very moment, I see that Aaron Hernandez has now been charged with first degree murder and five weapons charges.  Whether he is guilty or innocent of such charges, one does not have to wonder how many opportunities he had that evening to make a choice–either a good choice or a bad choice.  It seems that he must have made some incredibly poor choices that night–choices that have resulted in his being released from the Patriots and much more seriously, being charged with murder.

Unfortunately, these are just the two most recent cases of famous people making the worst possible choices—choices that impact their lives in the most negative and destructive of ways.  Dan Levy of Bleacher Report points out that just in the NFL,  ”Just this year there have been more than 30 players arrested for myriad offenses, ranging from driving under the influence to assault to carrying a loaded gun in an airport.”

The following is a very partial list of just some of the hundreds of famous athletes convicted of crimes in the past few decades: Ray Lewis, Plaxico Burress, Dexter Manley, Art Schlichter, Donte Stallworth, Rae Carruth, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Ryan Leaf, Mercury Morris, Bam Morris, Lawrence Phillips, O.J. Simpson, Michael Vick, Marion Jones, Steve Riddick, Barry Bonds, Lenny Dykstra, Dwight Gooden, Denny McLain, Pete Rose, Daryl Strawberry, Ugueth Urbina, Allen Iverson, Charles E. Smith, Sly Williams, Trevor Berbick, Riddick Bowe, Esteban de Jesus, Mike Tyson, Tonya Harding, Craig MacTavish, Boris Becker, Roscoe Tanner, Oscar Pistorius (Wikipedia).  Most of these you recognize from American sports leagues, but there are many other names from countries and sports all around the world which are listed on this wikipedia site: Please feel free to check out crimes committed by athletes in soccer (world football), bodybuilding, Canadian football, cricket, cycling, darts, diving, figure skating, Greco-Roman wrestling, competition fishing, horse racing, rugby, motorsports, sailing, skateboarding, snooker, surfing, swimming, and martial arts.

Outside the sports arena, the list of celebrities who have had problems (some minor and some major) with the law goes on and on: Chris Brown, Kanye West, Roman Polanski, Joyce DeWitt, Phil Spector, T.I., Sam Shepard, Coolio, Katt Williams, Coutney Love, Amy Winehouse, Lil Wayne, Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears, Mel Gibson, Tobey Maguire, Soulja Boy, Andy Dick, Rick Springfield, and Big Boi (thanks to Wonderwall) R. Kelly, Kim Delaney, Yasmine Bleeth, Carmen Electra, Dennis Rodman, Barron Hilton, Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Capriati, Daniel Baldwin, Mickey Rourke, Steve-O, Lil Kim, Ozzy Osbourne, Fifty Cent, Vanilla Ice, Axl Rose, Christian Slater, Marilyn Manson, Lindsay Lohan, Eminem, Hugh Grant, Kiefer Sutherland, Paris Hilton, Kobe Bryant (thanks to AllWomenStalk???)

Politicians making bad choices ( in the past decade) which resulted in charges or convictions or resignations included the following:  Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, Elliot Spitzer, Tom DeLay, Jim McDermott, Jim Traficant, Dan Rostenkowski, Buz Lukens, , Ronald Blackley, Scooter Libby, Jesse Jackson, Claude Allen, Jack Abramoff.  Of course, Bill Clinton’s choices in the way he conducted his personal life–while not resulting in a conviction or resignation–greatly tarnished his presidency and impacted society and families in inumerable ways.

What is my point here?  It is a simple one–or rather, simple to state, but much harder to put into practice.  As parents, teachers, guidance counselors, principals, clergymen….we need to continue to help children—from the time they are very young through adulthood–we need to continue to help them to slow down, to think, to consider the available choices, to weigh the pros and cons and possible consequences, and to make good choices–the best possible choice in every possible circumstance.  We need to consider hypothetical circumstances in which one might find himself or herself.  We need to dialogue about choices available.  We need to role-play.  If a student DOES make a bad choice, we need to make sure that the students recognizes the choice the child had available to him or her, the choice which the child made, and the possible choices which would have led to a much better result.  The problem?  Good schools—like those here in our Athol-Royalston District and in many other districts in our state– are already practicing all of these strategies.  So what is to be done?  Do we just throw up our hands and assert that children, teenagers, and adults will continue to make poor choices?  Hardly!  Giving up is not an option–can never be an option.   We need to dedicate more time to teaching both children and adults good decision-making skills.

How can we do that, however, when schools are already jam-packed with time on reading, language arts, math, science, social studies–as well as art, music, health, physical education, and other subjects?  How can we do that when we need to continue to stress academics and time on learning so that we can compete with school systems in other countries, in addition to being  competitive in the global market.   How can we do this in the same 180 days of school we have had for decades?

One solution is to extend the amount of time we spend in the classroom.   I have long been an advocate of significantly increasing the time that students spend in school to accommodate both the needs of students and the needs of a more complex and competitive world.  Either increase the school day by an hour a day, or increase the number of days in the school year.  Increasing the school day by one hour a day–every day Monday through Friday– adds 180 hours –the equivalent of  30 extra six-hour days to the school year.  On the other hand, school systems could simply begin to increase the school year by adding additional days every year to the academic year.  Next year would have 182 days, the year after 184, 2015-16 would have 186 days, 2016-2017 would have 188 days and so on–until we eventually reached 200 days per year.  It is important to note that currently China has 260 days of school per year, Japan-243, Germany-240, Zimbabwee-225, Austrailia-220, South Korea-220, Israel-216, Russia-211, Netherlands-200, Scotland-200, Thailand-200, Hong Kong-195, England-192, Hungary-192,  Switzerland-191, and  Finland, New Zealand, and Nigeria all with 195.  Of course, increasing the school day and/or school year definitely would require additional funding for salaries commensurate with the added teaching time, but that is another subject for another blog entry.

A very important final point, however:  all the names mentioned above–all those convicted of bad behavior at least and serious crimes at most–are famous individuals.  Of even more importance is the undeniable fact that every day, every month, every year there are people in our own communities–young people and adults–who make bad choices (all-too-often horrible and disastrous choices–with irrevocable consequences) and who end up in real trouble with the law-or even worse.  Sometimes these choices end in serious injury or even death.  Sometimes we see their names in the police news or the court news or the obituary page, and sometimes we may not.  They are–all too often–our neighbors, our friends–sometimes even our family members or relatives.   For their sakes and for the sake of our children and our society, we need to find a way to ultimately help children, teenagers, and adults to make better choices.  It is the smart thing to do, and–more importantly–it is the RIGHT thing to do!

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Won’t Get Fooled Again: Governor Romney’s Terrible Record in Massachusetts

A Video Spotlighting Governor Romney’s REAL Record in Massachusetts

Although I am a lifelong Massachusetts Democrat, I once made the mistake of voting for Mitt Romney (back “home” after saving the Olympics), and though I was hopeful, I almost immediately began to regret my vote–as did thousands of other Democrats who crossed party lines as well as independents and even some Republicans who realized how much he let our Commonwealth down.  The show is an indictment of Romney’s term in office, and is an excellent counterpoint to all the boasting that he has done about all that he supposedly did for our state.”  I feel strongly that studying Governor Romney’s record in Massachusetts is important if one is to understand what he might do if he were elected President.  It is important to note that earlier in his campaign, Mitt Romney asserted, “If people want to know what I stand for, they can look at my record as Governor.”  Consequently, I explore Governor Romney’s record in Massachusetts in the following four areas:  jobs and the economy, education, women’s issues, and leadership style.

The Show is entitled “Won’t Get Fooled Again:  Romney’s Record as Massachusetts Governor.” I am  a retired Massachusetts teacher and principal, a professional photographer, a husband and father, and a political blogger.  I have become very active in state and local politics since joining the Athol Democratic Committee this year. I  produced the eleven-minute slideshow which features a quite a number of my award-winning Massachusetts photographs in order to spotlight Mitt Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts.

At this point, the video–which has been online for just over three weeks–has been viewed and “liked” by nearly 50,000  individuals on the internet–from 48 out of 50 states across our country, including an especially large number of viewers from such battleground or hotly contested states as Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, Arizona, Indiana, and North Carolina.  In addition, the video has drawn substantial and significant interest from over 17 foreign countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, New Zealand, Peru, Sweden, Austria, Japan, Ireland, and Saudi Arabia.

The video has been featured on several major Political websites:  “Voice 4 America,” “The Boomers Voting Democratic,” and “I Will Vote for Obama in 2012,” and “Positively Barack.”   In addition, it has been viewed on the following websites:  “Formidable Republican Opposition,” “Colorado Democrats,” “Obama for America – Pennsylvania,” “The Huffington Post,”and “MittRomneyVideo.com.” The afore-mentioned sites have a viewership of well over 200,000.  In addition, it has been posted and re-posted innumerable times on “Twitter,”  “Zomobo,” “Twikle,” and–of course–“Facebook.” The video has been “shared” by viewers on their own websites over 2500 times, and it has generated over 400 comments–overwhelmingly positive–from interested individuals.

If you wish to view the video, you can go to the following link http://tinyurl.com/cmz2ywu or just Google “Grosky and Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

 

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Reflections on the 2012 Massachusetts Democratic Convention

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As you can see from the photo collage above, I was very excited about being a first-time delegate to the Massachusetts Democratic Convention this past weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Having recently joined the Athol Democratic Town Committee, I eagerly looked forward to being directly involved in the Democratic (and democratic) process of selecting a candidate to oppose Republican Scott Brown in the race for Senator of Massachusetts.  I spent much of Friday evening enjoying Springfield by visiting separate receptions for U.S. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and Merisa DeFranco, as well as receptions for Lt. Governor Tim Murray, and State Treasurer Steve Grossman.  I also had occasion to see Congressman Richie Neal from Springfield and my own area congressman Jim McGovern.  I owe my friend on the Democratic Committee (as well as my wife) a big thank you for successfully wielding my camera and taking some really nice photos of me with the various candidates, a favor I returned, in kind, for him.

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Marisa DeFranco’s reception was rather sparsely attended, while Elizabeth Warren’s reception was absolutely packed with eager supporters.  The line waiting to get into Ms Warren’s reception at Theodore’s extended nearly a block outside throughout the evening. I enjoyed some barbecue ribs and conversation with supporters, but then moved on to other receptions, as there were hundreds of supporters waiting for a spot inside the restaurant, and we were unsure if Candidate Warren would show up, and if so, when?  (Note:  I did very briefly meet Candidate Warren later on in the evening as she was leaving Theodore’s).

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We moved on to a much smaller reception for Candidate DeFranco in the courtyard of Adolfo’s Restaurant.   Still, the smaller size of the DeFranco reception allowed me and my party to sit down and relax at a table, and to speak for 15-20 minutes to an enthusiastic DeFranco supporter who was explaining why Marisa was a great candidate   When Ms. DeFranco came in, I encouraged her to come to our table to speak to us, and she happily obliged, spending about 15 minutes with us–earning strong points for her warmth, her sincerity, her background as a lawyer for immigration issues, and her feistiness in carrying the fight to Scott Brown.   I was impressed with her, yet overall was more impressed with Elizabeth Warren, when I heard Ms. Warren speak twice on Saturday.  I like what Elizabeth Warren espouses regarding support for the middle class, jobs and the economy, accountability for Wall Street, protecting Medicare and Social Security, and civil rights/equality issues.  I also very much respect her background in education and her instrumental role in the founding of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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The next morning I went to the AFL-CIO breakfast at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, to see Elizabeth Warren and Joe Kennedy III speak. The room was packed, so my buddy and I sat on the edge of the stage with some other delegates while we munched on bagels and coffee.  We were shooed off there—naturally—once the speakers began arriving.  That worked out fine, however, as it earned us standing positions just 3 feet in front of the stage—great for viewing and listening to speeches (in a noisy room) and for photographing and videographing the speakers.  The speeches seemed designed to energize the crowd, and—as such—they were shorter versions of their usual stump speeches.  I plan to include excerpts of these speeches on my YouTube site sometime in the next day or two (http://www.youtube.com/user/mrgrosky1?feature=watch).  I enjoyed seeing and hearing from many Democratic Party luminaries from past and present including Tim Murray, Steve Grossman, Martha Coakley, Joe Kennedy III (running for Barney Frank’s seat), Former Governor and Democratic Presidential Candidate Mike Dukakis (with his wife Kitty), Rep. Richie Neal, Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Niki Tsongas, Rep. Ed Markey, former Democratic candidate for governor Warren Tolman, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, Newton Mayor and Former Senate Candidate Setti Warren, Massachusetts AFL-CIO Secretary Louis Mandarini, Jr., Secretary of State Bill Galvin, and Governor Deval Patrick.

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Elizabeth Warren’s speech showed both  passion and boundless energy, and helped to further energize the crowd.  It also helped me to begin the process of finalizing my decision on the race.

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After the breakfast, we headed to the Convention itself in the arena.  We saw tributes to retiring Congressmen John Olver and Barney Frank and then a rousing and emotional speech by Governor Patrick.  We then saw video tributes and fiery, passionate speeches by first Elizabeth Warren and then Marissa DeFranco.   After the speeches, it was time to vote—one by one—as we shouted our vote to the teller in our area.  From the votes I heard, I said to my friend, “I don’t think that Marisa DeFranco is going to get anywhere near the 15 percent she needs in order to get onto the ballot.  From the votes I’m hearing, I’d be surprised if she even got 5 percent.”  As you know by now, Elizabeth Warren won with 95.7 percent of the vote.

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In response to those on the internet or in the media who claim that Marisa DeFranco did not get a fair shake at the convention, I strongly disagree.   First, I was not pressured there by either of the candidates or by their supporters.  I felt–as did the overwhelming majority of Democrats there—from nearly every town and city in Massachusetts—that it was our responsibility to put forth the very best candidate who could best beat Scott Brown–something we regard as extremely important to the Commonwealth, to the nation, to the average citizen—to the middle class and the poor. Among the ways that Brown has hurt middle class Americans is 1. His filibustering of the American Jobs Act, 2. His filibustering of the Teachers and First Responders Back-to-Work Act, 3. His filibustering of the Rebuild American Jobs Act, and 4. His filibustering of the Middle Class Tax Cut Act (TWICE) Consequently, we need to ensure that the candidate who faces Scott Brown in the fall is the strongest possible candidate.   It is NOT our responsibility to put forth 2 or 3 candidates—just to honestly vote for the person we felt was the best possible candidate. No one was railroaded, steamrolled, or run over by a bus. All that happened was that in an absolutely free vote by delegates (elected freely by local Democratic committees) the vast majority of delegates (95.7 percent) voted for Elizabeth Warren rather than Marisa DeFranco.  For disapproving Republicans, this was—in fact—the exact same process followed when Christy Mihos did not receive the required 15 percent when he ran for the Republican primary two years ago against Charles Baker.  For a nicely-written blog on the very OPEN and FAIR voting process, please visit http://www.richardhowe.com/2012/06/02/elizabeth-warren-and-the-95-77/ For more notes on the convention visit http://www.richardhowe.com/2012/06/04/notes-from-the-democratic-convention/

Note: ANY registered Democrat can join his or her Democratic Committee, become a Delegate to the Democratic Convention, and vote as he or she wishes at the Convention.

Nearly all delegates with whom I informally spoke believed that Elizabeth Warren is an excellent candidate—and the strongest candidate to oppose Scott Brown.  Many felt—as do I—that a 2-3 month primary fight against a Marisa DeFranco would have unnecessarily drained time, energy, and money from the Warren campaign, resulting in her beginning the fight for the actual seat the Senate until the fall.  If DeFranco’s polling numbers and finances gave her even a long shot’s chance, that may have—just MAY have—been feasible.  But to waste months of campaigning time, as well as personal energy and campaign financing—on a primary fight against someone who may be a fine person, but is simply has virtually no chance of winning is a poor strategy for success against Scott Brown.  I believe that Elizabeth Warren has an incredible intellect, a strong record, and a genuine concern for the citizens of both our Commonwealth and our Nation. She will be an extraordinary candidate, and I eagerly look forward to her upcoming debates with Senator Scott Brown.

Note:  Many more photos from the Convention are posted on my flickr site which can be accessed very easily by clicking on the link in the sidebar at the lower right hand corner of this page.

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The Feb. 22 Boston Solidarity Rally for Wisconsin Workers

 

The Boston Statehouse Solidarity Rally for Wisconsin Workers

 

The headlines for my local newspaper today–while not unexpected–were still stunning.   “Wisconsin Assembly OKs Bill Taking Away Rights!”  What’s more, Wisconsin’s governor and state assembly–by their actions today– may have created shockwaves that will be felt nationwide over the next year to three years.

At the February 22 Boston Solidarity Rally for Wisconsin Workers, I was able to observe up close and personally how the actions of the Wisconsin governor and the Republicans in the legislature have divided our country.   On (mainly) one side of the street adjacent to the Boston Statehouse were the unions—the teachers, the firefighters, the ironworkers, the nurses, the Teamsters, and others who were protesting the attempts by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to not only force public employees to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance plans, but also to totally eliminate collective bargaining with the single exception of bargaining over salaries.  In the event this scenario passes, one might assume that bargaining over such rights as pensions, health care, working conditions, hours, sick leave, vacation time, promotions, layoffs and termination—all of these and more would no longer be subject to collective bargaining.

 

Participants in the Rally

 

 

On the other side of the street–adjacent to the Public Gardens, were the Tea Party members and like-minded individuals who were supporting Governor Walker and seemed to feel that the unions had too much power and that union members possessed too many benefits which were bankrupting the states.

While the rally was peaceful, there was little love lost between the union members  and the tea party members.  Those with union ties  see their  benefits and family security being threatened.  Teachers spoke about needing the best possible working conditions–including reasonable class sizes–in order to provide the best education for their students.  They pointed out that Massachusetts has the best scores in reading and math in the entire country, words echoed by Governor Patrick in his speech near the end of the rally.  Other workers spoke about unions having secured safe working conditions in dangerous industries.  Many hearkened back to the time of their parents,  grandparents, or great grandparents who had to struggle with unsafe conditions prior to the advent of unions.

 

Teachers at the Rally

 

For the Tea Party members, their focus was on what they see as excessively generous benefits of those in the unions, especially those in the public sector.  They repeatedly shouted that unions should have to give up money and benefits–just like others have done in these difficult economic times.  To this argument, many union members noted that unions had already sacrificed salary and taken furlough days at difficult economic times in the recent past—that their benefits were hard-earned–often at the expense of no raises or raises which barely met the cost of living increases.

What seemed to be particularly galling to the union members to whom I spoke (some on and some off-the-record) was that the tea party members and their families were all profiting from the work of unions in demanding decent pay and benefits for all—a 40-hour week, a decent minimum wage, safe working conditions, sick leave, protection from unreasonable termination—all benefits that many people simply take for granted today.  That these Tea Party members should now be attacking those unions who secured them these benefits that we often call working rights seemed not only extraordinarily ungrateful, but even outrageous.

 

A Different Point of View

 

While union leaders have declared that they would make concessions in both retirement and health care contributions–concessions that would amount to an 8 percent  pay cut– as long as they could maintain their rights of collective bargaining for working conditions and benefits,  the Governor has turned down that offer and has refused to sit down and negotiate.  Governor Walker, for his part, has “refused to either negotiate or compromise.”  He is quoted in USA Today as retorting, “We don’t have any money.  You can’t negotiate in good faith if you don’t have anything to give…For us, negotiating about not balancing the budget is not an option.”

It is clear that  all of the vitriol leveled toward teachers and public workers on radio and television talk shows is having an effect.   I heard many of the tea party members mouth words heard on shows featuring Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.  While driving to the rally, I tuned in to talk radio to pass the time, and managed to hear  Rush Limbaugh tell his audience that he compares the situation with public workers and teachers to that of bank robbers who have been robbing banks for 30 years and suddenly find that they can no longer rob banks for a living. ”  This level of mean-spirited and vicious hyperbole is unacceptable and even contemptible in a democratic society which at one time prided itself on its ability to discuss even the most controversial topics with not only rational thinking, but also at least a modicum of civility and decency.

At this important juncture in Wisconsin’s history, I urge the Governor and the legislature to reconsider.  Sit down together.  Talk.  Surely the words of the Bible would resonate with many of the conservatives in the midst of this battle.  “Come now; let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18)  If all of the stakeholders in this dispute could sit down together–the best and the brightest–who’s to say that better, more equitable solutions would not be in the offing?  Some have suggested that perhaps some concessions might be more palatable and more fair if they wer made effective only for workers who entered the profession in the future, while those with 10 or 20 or 30 years of service would be grandfathered under the current benefits packages.  There are many creative ideas out there—some offered by politicians, others by teachers or firefighters or nurses or administrators.   Yet as long as people shout at one another and rely on threats instead of rational discourse, these ideas may never come to light.

To view the video highlights of the Boston Solidarity Rally for Wisconsin Workers, please see my 3-part video series at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7jNKgFP78Y and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6sCjYi1niI&feature=related and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3vEOjgSlx0

or just Google “mrgrosky1” –That’s mrgrosky with the number 1 attached at the end!

To view photos from the rally, go to Mitch Grosky flickr website:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrgrosky/sets/72157626010505141/show/

 

 

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New York City: More than Just the Jets (Fortunately!)

New York's Times Square

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me point out that I was born in New York, and though my family moved to New England when I was only a boy of four, I have fond memories of many visits there, over the years, to visit my relatives.  My boyhood memories include great times at Coney Island, the Bronx Zoo, the Statue of Liberty., and later the New York World’s fair.  As we grew up here in Massachusetts, my younger brother and I always selected Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford to emulate when we’d play baseball.  We sang along with Frank when he belted out “New York, New York” at countless weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.  I remember admiring John Lindsey and John Rockefeller, even as I became enamored of the Kennedy brothers.   I appreciated the Giants and Bill Parcells, even before he came to the Pats.   And even though I am a rabid Red Sox fan, I have always appreciated and applauded Yankees from Thurman Munson to Graig Nettles to Andy Pettite to Derek Jeter to Mariano Rivera who have played the game with both grit and class.

“So what?”  you ask.  So, there is no way you can accuse me of being a Big Apple-hater!  In fact, I just got back from a few days of delightful New York sight-seeing where I visited the Bronx Zoo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Top of the Rock.  You can check out my photos at http://mrgrosky.wordpress.com/ and at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrgrosky/ .

That is why it almost pains me to say that the New York team which is visiting Gillette Stadium in Foxboro tomorrow–the New York Jets–is one which is unworthy of its fans and unworthy of the great city of New York.   Yeah, I know all about the Patriots and the great Snowplow controversy and Spygate ………The former was no big deal to anyone except Don Shula and some disgruntled Dolphins, and the latter was nearly identical to what many other NFL coaches have routinely done.    For that, they were justly penalized a total of $750 THOUSAND  dollars and a first round draft choice—the toughest penalty in NFL history.   But these two events are the sole blemishes on a team that for much of the 90’s and the first decade in the new millennium has represented class and the highest level of skill.  Since 1994, the Pats have the best record in football.  They have continued their extraordinary record even after Spygate in 2007, when many were hoping and waiting for them to fall on their faces.

Now the Jets, on the other hand, have long been a team that has fallen far short of expectations.   Many say that the first three words that a new Manhattan daddy hears his baby utter are “Same Old Jets.”

This year the Jets have notched new lows in outrageousness and lack of class.  Hmmmm…….where do I start?   There are so many examples that I’d better take them chronologically.  Way back in August there was the HBO Hard Knocks display of profanity by brash Coach Rex Ryan.  Then in September, a reporter complained that she was subjected to catcalls and jokes by players as she covered practices.    Jets owner Woody Johnson had to not only apologize, but was forced to pay for an NFL training program to improve the workplace environment.   Also in September, we had the allegations of driving while intoxicated against Jets receiver Braylon Edwards.  Then, in December, the Jets were forced to suspend their strength and conditioning coach when he instructed inactive players to form a wall on the sidelines before he tripped a Dolphins special teams player during the game.  Then in December and January, we continued to deal with the behavior of Brett Favre, back when he was a Jet–serious allegations of sexual harassment by this famous quarterback, who also happens, by the way, to be a married man.  In recent days we have arrogant Coach Rex Ryan trying to get inside Tom Brady’s head by saying that Brady studies—but not as much as Peyton Manning, and that Manning would have been watching the Jets instead of watching the Broadway show Lombardi, a la Brady.  Finally, this week we have Antonio Cromartie profanely attacking Brady with words that can not be reprinted here (because this blog is read by adults and children of all ages).   For that reason among others, I will not even tread into the dirty waters surrounding the Ryan/Ryan foot issue.

And what have the Pats done during all this time?  Kept their mouths shut, respected their opponents–including the Jets–and played tough, smart, great football–even while having one of the youngest teams in the league.  The Jets would do well to remember that words are cheap, and that it is action and results that count.

For tomorrow’s playoff game, I hope that the Jets leave the trash talk in the locker room, and come out to play some good clean hard-nosed football.  It’ll be the only way they have a chance.   If they get carried away with their own hyperbole, as they did the last time they met the Pats, it’ll end up being another blowout with the Pat winning 38-10.  If the Jet can play up to the level and quality of the city they represent—with class and with heart—it’ll be significantly closer.

Still, I’m predicting a Patriots victory 31-27.

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Julian Assange, Elizabeth Edwards, GPS

Thoughts for the Week (December 5-12, 2010):

Julian Assange–This week Mr. Assange, the Australian journalist and founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested for crimes against two woman.   Time and the courts will tell whether he is guilty of these crimes.  Yet Mr. Assange has already taken responsibility for a different very serious offense, that is  the leaking of thousands of sensitive documents—many of which may be endangering the safety of U.S. and other servicemen.  It is exasperating to me that certain individuals maintain a holier than thou attitude of knowing more or better than the rest of us what is best for us and for the world.   Mr. Assange’s philosophy has been quoted as “To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed. We must think beyond those who have gone before us and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not . . . The more secretive or unjust an organisation is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie. … Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.”

I understand that some things which happen nationally or globally behind the scenes would be best exposed.   Certainly abuses in human rights need to see the light of day so they can be exposed and prevented in the future.  Yet it seems to me to be a dangerous trend to force a society  to allow all of its actions–including military secrets–to be exposed and spotlighted on a world stage for everyone to see.

Daniel Yates, a former British military intelligence officer, wrote “Assange has seriously endangered the lives of Afghan civilians …”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,. Mike Mullen, said, “Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is, they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.”

U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell  has called Assange “a high-tech terrorist”.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for the above quotations).

As for me, every year or two we freely elect people to run our government.  I am content to allow those representatives (who have much more information and expertise than I) to hold in confidence that which they feel is truly in the nation’s best interest to do so.  I would ask that Mr. Assange and his WikiLeaks organization do the same.

Elizabeth Edwards:  The elusive definition of grace received a new meaning this week with the death of Elizabeth Edwards, an attorney, wife, mother, and  political activist who was against the War in Iraq and who waged battles on behalf of universal health care and gay rights.  Throughout the Kerry/Edwards vs. Bush/Cheney election fight, throughout her struggle against breast cancer, and throughout her husband’s infidelity scandal, she  maintained her honor and dignity, and came to symbolize hope and grace for young and old–Democrat and Republican alike.  I have added her last facebook entry to my own profile list of favorite quotations:

The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”       —Elizabeth Edwards

Peace be with you always, Elizabeth, and may your family hold in their hearts and minds the most beautiful images of a wonderful woman.

And finally, a few thoughts about that most essential of modern inventions, the GPS.

I bought my Garmin GPS about two years ago in anticipation of my cross-country trip shortly after I retired from 35 years as a teacher and principal.  It has since proven to be the one tech gadget I can not live without.  OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it is certainly the one that I try to never leave home without (Please excuse the mangled syntax and ending preposition).  It has made maps and mapquest obsolete.  I no longer need to listen to well-intentioned long-winded directions given by well-meaning friends.  I no longer need to rely on a co-pilot next to me armed with the latest AAA map.   I just type in my destination, and Jill (the American English voice of my GPS) directs me every step of the way.  If I make any kind of mistake, I inevitably hear those sometimes dreaded/sometimes welcomed words:  “re-caluculating.”  I sometimes think if nothing other than the Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) had come from our Space program, it would still be worth it.  (Yes, I know that the space program is responsible for far more technological advances than just GPS—just a bit of hyperbole to make a point).

Whether the GPS allows me to expertly navigate around my own lovely Commonwealth of Massachusetts or permits me to travel across the entire country and photograph the awesome sights that our nation offers to us all, it is a technological marvel, and one that benefits us all.

Now if only future techies could develop a GPS that could be activated when a political party seems to have lost its way…

Until next time,

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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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