It Can Happen Here


When governments power falls into the hands of tyrants.

When justice is replaced with cruelty.

When the will of the people is denied by the wealthy and powerful.

The people then have the right and duty to rise up through acts of protest, civil resistance, and direct action foment nonviolent revolution.

This is how “government of the people, by the people, for the people” is restored.

It happened in the Philippines.

It happened in Estonia.

It happened in East Germany.

It happened in Czechoslovakia.

It happened in Yugoslavia.

It happened in the Arab Spring.

It’s happening in South Korea.

It can happen here.

Upcoming Protests and Rallies in Boston Area


Here’s a list of gatherings in the Boston area where you can make your voice heard on a variety of issues at risk in our current political environment. Please share the list and attend as many events as you can.

Saturday, January 14th:

Sunday, January 15th:

Monday, January 16th:

Thursday, January 19th

Friday, January 20th

Saturday, January 21st

If you know of any events not listed, let me know and I will update.

Also call or write your members of Congress and Massachusetts state government on the issues that matter to you.

The “We’re His Problem Now” Calling Sheet provides tips, scripts, contact information, and calls to action.

Good Things That Happened in 2016


2016 has been a notoriously unfriendly year.

We’ve lost many great people including David Bowie, Harper Lee, Johan Cruyff,  Prince, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, and Gwen Ifill.  Our election was notoriously divisive and sometimes downright tacky and ended up with an electoral college victory for an arrogant bully who enables all sorts of prejudice and hatred.  Add to that the Zika virus outbreak, Brexit, the Orlando massacre, murders by police and murders of police officers, rumors of scary clowns, and other disasters, wars, and terrorist attacks too numerous to name.

So for Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to make a list of some of the good things to happen in 2016:

  • Bernie Sanders becomes a prominent leader of the American Left
  • David Bowie died but not before releasing an excellent final album, Blackstar
  • Boston Public Schools high school students lead the way in protest against crippling budget cuts
  • Wild tiger populations are rebounding
  • Leicester City becomes the first club not in the “big 4” to win the English Premier League in decades
  • Bartolo Colon hits a home run
  • The new Ghostbusters is really good
  • The Juno spacecraft arrives at Jupiter
  • Stranger Things debuts on Netflix
  • David Ortiz’s fantastic final season
  • Unite Here Local 26 goes on strike for food service workers at Harvard, and wins!
  • Cubs finally win the World Series

On a more personal level, I’m grateful for the following things:

  • attended the Harris Hill Ski Jump competition
  • my mother returned to her childhood home in the Bronx, moving into a charming apartment in a lovely neighborhood, and we visited New York often
  • related to the above, we became members of the Wildlife Conservation Society and frequent visitors to the Bronx Zoo
  • Peter’s baseball team scored 18 runs in the last inning when they were down by 14 (they lost the game anyway, but they were so proud)
  • I got an iPad
  • we went to lots of Major League Baseball games at Fenway Park and Citi Field.  Both the Red Sox and the Mets made it to the postseason.
  • we rode the Codzilla speedboat in Boston Harbor and saw hip-hop dancers and fireworks at Christopher Columbus Park
  • Peter and I had a great ride in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon
  • I got my first digital SLR camera
  • Visited Canobie Lake Park three times, and Rye Playland once
  • I lost my keys in a park, but the Boston Park Rangers found them and I was able to retrieve them
  • Both kids started attending the same school and we have one drop off and one pick up!
  • Got to be a history geek with the kids at Old Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation
  • Led 31 Boston By Foot tours, my favorite for a couple of women from Toronto who told me that the first thing they did upon arriving in Boston was going to the Warren Anatomical Museum
  • Processed some big and interesting archival collections at work

Those are some things to be thankful for in 2016.  Let me know what you’re thankful for in the comments.

 

In the meantime, let’s sing along with Arlo Guthrie.

 

Concert Review: Leonard Cohen


Learning of the passing of the great singer/songwriter/poet/humanitarian Leonard Cohen, who died on Monday, made me want to reshare this review of one of the most entertaining concerts I’ve ever attended. I recently wrote a review of his new album You Want It Darker, released in October, but didn’t get around to posting it. I was going to note my awe at how vital he remained at the age of 82 and that possibly there was more to come. Nevertheless, it was clear he was ready to go and left on his own terms.

Books and Revolution

When I’m 74 years old, I hope I am as spry as Leonard Cohen.  Susan & I saw Cohen and his band perform at the Wang Theatre in Boston on May 30th.  He sang many songs while gracefully sinking to his knees and skipped off the stage at the end of the sets.  Oh, and he performed for over three hours.

There was no opening act but instead of a back-up band of no name musicians Cohen pulled together a diverse group of artists, many of whom would be worth going to see in concert on their own.  Despite their varied styles and talents, they came together as a tight band with an old-fashioned type of showmanship evident in coordinated dance moves by the back-up singers and stylish haberdashery worn by all.  Cohen frequently stood back to let his band members shine on their solos and a few of…

View original post 556 more words

Vote NO on Massachusetts Question #2, UPDATE


Last night I witnessed the Boston School Committee vote unanimously in favor of a resolution to oppose the Massachusetts ballot question #2 which proposes to expand charter schools in the Commonwealth by 12 every year for perpetuity while offering no additional education funding.  The Boston School Committee is one of 164 school committees (and counting) across Massachusetts who have come out against question #2.  None has come out in favor of it.  While the BSC is appointed by the elected mayor of Boston, the rest of these school committees are directly elected representatives of the people.  They join other elected officials in city councils (including Boston), Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and even  Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a strong supporter of charter schools, in voicing the people’s’ opposition to this reckless initiative.  The point is not that charter schools are bad – their value for good or evil is not relevant to this debate – but that the fiscal irresponsibility of introducing 12 new schools each year with no funding will devastate municipal budgets and ultimately harm all children regardless of where they go to school. Please join them in standing up to the big-money interests campaigning for this measure by voting No on #2 on November 8th (and then getting together on November 9th to fight for better funding for all of our schools). Remember to tell your friends and if you want to get more involved you can volunteer with Save our Public Schools and/or make a donation.

Here’s an updated list of articles. opinion pieces, and videos expressing the urgency of voting No on 2. The first post listed is the best, concise summary if you’re short on time, but they’re all worth reading and sharing with your friends and on social media.


 

Massachusetts Voters, Please Vote NO on Question #2


If you read this blog and live in Massachusetts and are not already aware, there is a ballot initiative question when we vote on November 8th regarding the expansion of charter schools in the Commonwealth by up to 12 new schools per year. The initiative offers no means for paying for this expansion so it would inevitably result in further defunding existing public schools and school closures.

So far, 120 school committees, 8 city councils,  the Massachusetts Democratic Party, The Massachusetts Municipal Association, and the NAACP have come out in opposition to this ballot initiative.  Even people who are big supporters of charter schools, such as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, believe that this particular initiative is fiscally irresponsible, and are voting no.

As usual, other people who are far more informed and eloquent than I am are better about writing about this issue, so I encourage you to read these articles that explain why the ballot initiative is bad for Massachusetts and who is behind funding it.  The first post listed is the best, concise summary if you’re short on time, but they’re all worth reading and sharing with your friends and on social media.


Having read all that, I hope you will join me in voting No on 2 on November 8th.  Remember to tell your friends and if you want to get more involved you can volunteer with Save our Public Schools and/or make a donation.

Remembering W.P.Kinsella


The Canadian author W.P. Kinsella died on Friday, September 16.  H’es most famous for the novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the film Field of Dreams.  From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, if you’d asked me my favorite author, I would’ve said Kinsella.  It’s been a long while since I read a Kinsella book and the last time I read him as an adult I found it wasn’t as good as I remembered, but still a key figure in my reading life.

I was introduced to W.P. Kinsella in an odd way when I received his short story collection The Thrill of the Grass as a Christmas gift from my grandmother.  It seemed an example of my grandmother being clueless since I actually didn’t like baseball at this point in my life.  Also, it was clear she hadn’t read the book since there were many depictions of sexual activity that I’m sure she didn’t want a 10-year-old reading.  But maybe Grandma was a conduit for something because within a year I had become an avid baseball fan.  And Kinsella’s sex scenes were not bawdy fantasy but depictions of the complications and conflicted feelings of people in committed relationships, something a boy should learn about.

And so I became a devoted Kinsella reader, getting every book of his I could find at the library or the bookstore.  His baseball stories were easier to find than his stories about Native Americans, although I read some of the latter too.  My favorite W.P. Kinsella story is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy which involves the 1908 Chicago Cubs, time travel, an endless baseball game and a torrential downpour, and a statue of an angel (which was creepy long before Doctor Who made angel statues creepy).  Here are some other memories of Kinsella’s work:

  • Long before I read anything by Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, this was my first exposure to magical realism.
  • A story of how the Catholic Church hierarchy is so removed from the people of the church, and the harm it causes.
  • Stories of First Nation people in Canada, including one where a couple disguise themselves as Indians from the subcontinent because they’d be treated better in Canada.
  • A swindler using the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate to win a bet.
  • Baseball fans use the 1981 strike to replace the artificial turf at the local baseball stadium with real grass, one square foot at a time, and the community that forms to tend the grass.
  • Tributes to J.D. Salinger, Richard Brautigan, and Janis Joplin, among others, in his works.
  • A manager has to deal with the knowledge that the Cubs will win the last pennant before Armageddon and there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
  • A story in which a bunch of male friends share punchlines of jokes and the protagonist reveals to himself that he is gay, through a punchline.
  • And my favorite story of all, “How I Got My Nickname,” which is the ultimate bookish nerd fantasy in which a bookish nerd gets a spot on the 1951 New York Giants (as a pinch hitter because he can’t field, throw, or run) and discovers that all the other Giants are readers who have literary discussions in the clubhouse.

I remember being a bit irritated that Field of Dreams deviated from the book – especially regarding J.D. Salinger and the oldest living Cub – as well as being cheezy and melodramatic, but yeah, I liked it too.

Here’s to W.P. Kinsella, and the stories we tell and the memories we share.

My Vote For President (and some more important things)


I know everyone has been waiting to see the official 2016 Presidential endorsement of a minor blogger with 289 followers, and here it is!  Actually, I think endorsements are mostly bunk and it drives me crazy how the media constantly speculates over who will endorse who and how many votes an endorsement will gain when I believe endorsements have very little sway in electoral outcomes.  That being said I thought it would make an interesting exercise just to lay out my thought process on voting in November.  And if like-minded individuals stumble upon this post, I believe it may help them too.

So, this November 8th, I will be casting my vote for President for Jill Stein of the Green Party.

I can hear some of you already crying out that a vote for Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.  But you ignore that United States President is elected by the Electoral College.  I live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which is perhaps the most Clintonian state in the union.  Even if every Massachusetts citizen voted their conscience, Hillary Clinton is genuinely preferred by most of the voters and would win the state by a comfortable margin.  All of Massachusetts’ 11 electoral will go to Clinton no matter regardless of my vote.  This is true in the majority of the states and the District of Columbia.  If you live in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio,  Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and want to stop Trump, by all means please vote for Clinton even if you don’t like her! If you live anywhere else you can safely vote your conscience for any candidate of you choice (although if your conscience tells you to vote for Trump, you should reexamine your conscience).

Why then, you may ask, will I be voting for Stein and encouraging others to consider to do so?  Here are four reasons:

  1. I think Stein would make a good President – Voting for a candidate one actually likes is such a strange idea in American politics, but I believe that the more people who do so the more likely we’d end up with public servants who best represent our nation’s hopes and dreams.  Too many people chose instead vote for a candidate that they think will win (because they like to be on the side of winners) or the lesser of two evils (because they want to stop the most reprehensible candidate without considering that they are still electing evil).  No candidate is 100% perfect, but I’ve been following Jill Stein’s career since she ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and appreciate her efforts.  Her background is as a medical doctor and as an activist she’s had success in advancing environmental and electoral campaign reform issues.  The issues that she puts in the forefront of her platform include those that are near and dear to my heart including poverty-reduction, public education, racial justice, environmental protection, greater equality for all, public transportation, and a foreign policy based on diplomacy rather than militarism.
  2. I believe we need more than two political parties – The Democratic and Republican parties do not come close to representing the full-spectrum of political thought in our country.  I think there needs to be many more viable parties in national, state, and local politics to both encourage greater participation in our democracy and better representation in governments.  A criticism I’ve seen lately is that third parties run “vanity candidates” for President and if they really want to make a change they should start the party at the local level and work up.  I’ve been frustrated that many elections in Massachusetts – from mayor to Congress – feature Democrats running opposed and wish that there were Green Party challengers, but ultimately this criticism misses out on a few points.  First of all, local elections get very little media attention to start with, and third-party candidates virtually nil.  Running  a presidential candidate who can’t win has an air of vanity to it, but it’s also an advertisement that makes people aware that the party even exists.  It’s akin to the fashion designer who makes a complex get up for a model to wear down a runway in order to get people to buy their off-the-rack clothing.  Secondly, many states require parties to win a certain percentage of votes in an election in order to earn and retain access to appearing on official ballots and to get matching funds from the government.  Running a Presidential candidate is a way that third parties can keep their party alive for the next local election.  It’s a screwed-up system, but for the time being, a necessary one.
  3. It can send a message to Hillary Clinton, and make her a better President – Over the course of her long public career as First Lady/”Co-President,” Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly advocated for policies that have hurt the most vulnerable in our nation and abroad.  This includes supporting unnecessary wars for “regime change,” dismantling social safety nets, increasing mass incarceration, privatizing public schools, deregulating the financial industry, and trade deals that allow international corporations freedoms from United States laws and regulations.  For these reasons I cannot vote for Clinton.  The primary election against Bernie Sanders helped push Clinton to abandon some of her older policies and adopt more progressive policies, but I fear that once she is President she may resume her old ways.  If Jill Stein wins 5-10% of the vote in a Clinton stronghold like Massachusetts that will be a sign to Clinton that the status quo is not acceptable and she will need to govern from a more progressive position.
  4. The Presidency is overrated – I expect this may be my most controversial position, but the power of the President is not as great as everyone thinks.  I frequently see charts showing how the country prospered during certain Presidencies and faltered during others as evidence of a particular President’s greatness or weakness.  But these charts treat the Presidency as if it is in a vacuum, ignoring all the other factors that affect the well-being of our country, including Congress and the Supreme Court, state and local governments, business, the actions of the citizenry, and foreign affairs.  While the Presidential election gets up to two years of coverage, and Presidents and candidates have constant media attention, it is dangerous to overlook the other elections for Congress, state and local governments, and ballot initiatives.  The low participation in these elections have moved our governments away from being representative of our communities, and right-wing corporatism organizations like ALEC have taken advantage of this to elect politicians friendly to their interests and pass legislation authored by ALEC.  We need full participation in our politics at every level to counteract this and give power to the people where it belongs.

So I implore everyone reading this to the following things:

  • Verify that you are registered to vote and if not find out the requirements and deadlines, and register ASAP!
  • Find out what will be on your ballot and research every candidate and ballot initiative.
  • Be aware that there may be primary or preliminary elections.  Make sure to vote in these too!
  • Contribute to your favorite candidates by volunteering, donating, or even just talking about them with your friends.
  • Keep voting in every election your eligible, not just in Presidential election years.  Be aware that not all election days are in November.
  • Keep in regular contact with your elected officials – mail, email, phone, in person – and remind them where you stand on the issues you care about most.
  • Make sure that even politicians you like know when you think they are wrong.  Don’t accept the idea that these are “attacks” that “hurt” the good politicians.  Dissent is necessary for healthy government.
  • Remember that electoral politics are just a portion of what makes our democracy work.  Most of the great advancements in US history came when people who cared got together to make a change.  Commit to being active in your community to whatever level you are able.

Father’s Day x 10


Today I officially celebrate my tenth Father’s Day. My oldest child is only 8 1/2, so you may wonder how that’s possible, but in June of 2007 when my wife was five months pregnant she presented me with this on Father’s Day. So that makes this my tenth celebration of Father’s Day as a father.

I have two children now and neither one of them has ever declared their delight in my library profession (or in archives and records management, where I’ve worked since 2008). This is okay as that’s probably not going to win them many cool points.  I do love Father’s Day though.  As someone with a birthday in late autumn it’s nice to have a summery day to celebrate on,  and my children always make me feel special.

Before I had children, I was concerned that I might not be a good father. This is partially because I’m an anxious person in general and partially because I did not have the best example in my own father. He was prone to anger and was abusive. He worked long hours and traveled a lot, so as a child I could go long hours without seeing him. When I was 8 my parents separated permanently and then were divorced. Around the same time my dad began suffering the effects of a particularly debilitating version of multiple sclerosis and so in my later childhood my sister and I would visit him in the nursing home and need to help him with simple tasks. He died when I was 17.


I do have good memories of my father. While its cliche, we watched sports together on tv and he took us to many games and it formed a nice bond. He also took us on trips to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and California and helped spur my love of travel and visiting museums and historic sites. Despite being a Nixon Republican, he got us the Free to Be .. You and Me album, which probably informed my young political identity. Most importantly, he wasn’t one of those men who couldn’t express their emotions and frequently told me “I love you.”

So in November 2007, this happened

and now I was a dad!  There have been some challenges – lack of sleep, a constantly messy house, a near end to “alone time,” and temper tantrums – but being a father is overwhelmingly positive

 

Since it’s my tenth Father’s Day, here are ten great things about being a father:

  • Hugs – there is no shortage of physical affection for a dad, and my kids are some of the best huggers around
  • Shared interests – it’s fun to see the kids taking an interest in doing things I love to do like watching sports and visiting historic sites (just like my dad!) or riding bikes and visiting zoos
  • Their interests – it’s also fun to see what the kids become passionate about.  My son became a fan of Magic 106.7 and thus I learned that Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and Pitbul actually have some good songs.  My daughter likes comic book heroes and movies and thus I’ve caught up with the rest of the world a bit on what this whole Avengers thing is about.

  • Children’s books – name a classic children’s book and there’s a good chance I didn’t read it as a child, because even though I was a bookish nerd, I focused on history and biography. Fatherhood has given me a second chance to read for the first time Goodnight Moon,Where the Wild Things AreHarold and the Purple CrayonThe Snowy DayAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and a whole bunch of Beverly Cleary books, plus many more.
  • Children’s tv – don’t tell the Gen Xers who share memes about how great childhood was in the 70s and 80s, but children’s tv is a lot better today than it was then.  I’ve enjoyed watching many shows with my kids including Bob the Builder, Curious George, Shaun the Sheep, Dinosaur Train, Paw Patrol, The Magic School Bus, Clifford, Thomas and Friends, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Mighty Machines, Doc McStuffins, and that old standby Sesame Street. Plus, my kids have shown only a passing interest in the annoying Dora and Diego shows, so we dodged that bullet.
  • Kid’s eye view – it’s wonderful to see things from a new perspective where things like riding the MBTA can be an adventure.  Plus, on a recent visit to the zoo, I literally got down to my daughter’s eye level and saw some birds I wouldn’t have seen from my tall daddy perspective. They also can bring a spectacular imagination to the mundane.

 

  • Play – oh the kids love to play, and while I may complain of being tired and achy, I love to play with them.  In backyard baseball, I discovered I was suddenly able to throw and catch a ball, at least with a small child.  And bathtime can be an adventure involving the activities of many toy sea creatures.  Pretty much anything can become a game. And when I’m really tired, climbing on a prone daddy can still be fun, so I can still be involved.
  • The introvert advantage – so get this, I go to a social function and I don’t have to talk about myself or justify my existence to anyone, I can just talk about the kids.  And when I’ve had enough of the adults, I can just leave them and go play with the kids!  Who knew that being a father could be an antidote to social anxiety?
  • Watching them grow up – every age has its wonders and both kids were unspeakably cute as babies, and while I miss a lot of what they were like when they were little, I continue to be amazed by watching them grow and learn and create identities for themselves.  I think it will only get better.
  • Kindness – at a baby shower someone asked me what I hoped for my son and I replied “I hope he is kind.”  I stand by this, and it warms my heart when I see my kids helping out at home, school, or church, when they try to take care of us when we’re down, when they show concern for the less advantaged, and especially when they are kind to one another, overcoming that sibling rivalry.

So that’s my tenth Father’s Day post, and I’m looking forward to many more.  To all the dad’s out there, as Ralph Kiner would say, Happy Birthday.  And to all of those who are missing their dads or never had dads they could miss, you’re in my thoughts.

5 Favors I Ask of Clinton Supporters Should Clinton Be Elected President


The Democratic Party has determined that Hillary Clinton will be their presidential candidate and many people I know and love are celebrating the fact.  Personally, Clinton’s record of supporting neoliberal ideology and a hawkish militarism make fear she would not be a good President, and I’m anxious that her unpopularity nationwide will mean she will lose the election.  But, I could be wrong. In fact, I hope I am wrong!  Perhaps Clinton will win election and become a brilliant, transformational President or at least hold the line against attacks on our people by an increasingly extreme right wing.  But I don’t think this is going to happen if Clinton is left to her own devices.

So here are five favors cordially ask Clinton supporters to do should Clinton be elected President.

1. Hold Clinton’s Feet to the Fire – I’ve noticed a pattern over the past 24 years. First, the Democrats with Clinton, then Republicans with Bush, and then Democrats again with Obama would speak of the President reverently and would object to any criticism of their President.  They hold the idea that we the people should always stand behind the President, and thus turn a blind eye to things their President would do that they would object to if anyone else did it.  I disagree with this notion.  I believe that one can admire their President and support most of what they do, but still be highly critical when the President does something they disagree with.  In fact, democracy functions better when the people make their voices heard.  So if Clinton switches her support back in favor of TPP, let her know that’s not acceptable.  If you think fracking is bad for the environment and surrounding communities, let Clinton know that she should advocate for cleaner, renewable energy sources.  If there’s pressure to go to war in Iran, Syria, or even Russia, let Clinton know that diplomacy and cooperation are always preferable to unnecessary war.

You will not be betraying Clinton, you will be helping her to be a better President.

2. The Campaign Does Not End in November – the triangulation strategy created by the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1990s has been successful in that 5 of the 6 the popular vote in Presidential elections has gone to Democratic candidates.  But this strategy concedes far too much to neoliberal interests while abandoning the traditional New Deal values of the Democratic Party. As a result of turning away from the working people and ceding populism to the Republicans, the Democrats have been considerably less successful in non-Presidential elections.  The Democrats ruled Congress for 60 years, but it’s been largely under Republican control since 1994.  In 1990 the Democrats controlled 30 state legislatures, but today have only 11. There were 30 Democratic governors in 1992, but today that number has been whittled down to only 18.

I’m of the belief that Congressional, state, and local politics are actually more important than who is President in the many issues that affect the every day lives of the American people.  Someone who shares that belief is the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who’ve been very successful in getting candidates elected in state and local elections who will represent their interests and enact their model legislation.  So please, for the love of God, if there’s an election, or a primary election, or a referendum, get out their and vote.  And vote for progressive candidates who share your values. And campaign for them so others will know who they are and what they stand for.  And if you’re one of those people who likes what Bernie Sanders has to say but thought it to risky to run him as President, then get your feet wet by voting for a progressive Democratic challenger to an incumbent in a local election, or even a Green Party or other independent candidate.  We need to make sure that at every level candidates who are representing the will of the people, not the will of ALEC, are getting elected.

3. Fight for Electoral Reform – With that said, it’s hard to get a sense of who are the true representatives of the people when the system is rigged.  Your voice needs to be heard to insure that every American citizen has a vote that counts.  Many Americans – especially black and brown people – have had their right to vote stripped due to mass incarceration, even for minor crimes.  Their vote should be restored and no one should be disenfranchised in the future. As we have seen this primary season, the primary elections are jumble of dysfunctional systems and rules that are confusing and often suppress the vote.  Each state should instead have primary elections – not caucuses – open to all voters.  Superdelegates and winner-take-all elections should be discarded, and delegates awarded proportionately based on popular votes (or do away with delegates entirely and let the popular vote speak for itself).  No one should arrive at the polls to find they’ve been purged from the voter roll. In fact, all citizens aged 18 and up should be automatically registered and able to show proof of residence if their address has changed on the day of the election.  Elections should take place over several consecutive days (including at least one weekend day) as well as early voting to allow every citizen the opportunity to vote.  And the Electoral College that denied Al Gore the Presidency in 2000 should be abolished, allowing the will of the entire country to decide the election, not just a handful of swing states.

4. Recognize That Elections are Just a Small Part of Our Role in Government – Electoral politics are big news, but there’s a lot more to government in a democracy than one team winning and the other going home.  That’s why I’ve found it so refreshing that Bernie Sanders is continuing his campaign to the Democratic convention.  I’m less committed to Sanders as an individual than to the idea of issues of inequality getting the attention and support they deserve.  Hopefully, the Democratic Party will invites progressives and independents into the convention and make these issues a part of the platform going forward.  But either way, American citizens will have to advocate for many important causes that aren’t going to get attention in Congress or state capitols otherwise.  The issues are many: Black Lives Matter, ending mass incarceration, fighting poverty, LGBT equality, environment and climate change, disabled peoples’ rights, affordable housing, equitable public education, and reducing the influence of billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street on American government.  Read up on the issues. Adopt an issue or more important to you and get involved, even if you can only spare a little bit of time.

5. Listen – My biggest frustration with the primary campaign is that far too many Clinton supporters were dismissive and condescending to Sanders supporters and the issues they cared about.  In the context of a heated campaign that may make sense, but going forward I think it’s important to listen to what people are saying even when you disagree with them.  And I don’t mean this selfishly “LISTEN TO ME!”, you can blow me off if you want to. But listen to the people of America who may be less privileged to you.  Listen to poor and the people of color and the immigrants.  Listen to this suffering from mass incarceration, the dismantling of welfare systems, and from the wars in the Middle East.  Listen to students in urban schools and union workers in manufacturing jobs. Listen to day laborers and refugees from Syria.  And when you do speak, try to amplify what they’re saying.

I thank you in advance.

5 Reasons Why Sanders Campaigning to the Convention is Good for the Democrats


If you listen to the popular news media and supporters of Hillary Clinton, the contest for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination is over and Secretary Clinton won.  But contender Bernie Sanders has vowed to continue his campaign until the Democratic National Convention in July, and even has a path to winning the pledged delegates.  I personally think this is a good thing, mainly because I believe Senator Sanders is not only the best candidate in this year’s election, but the best major party candidate for President in my entire life.  But if you are a dyed-in-the-wool Hillary Clinton acolyte you may feel differently.  Yet, I believe Senator Sanders campaign is ultimately good for the Democratic Party and should continue as long as possible.

Here are five reasons why:

  1.  The Republican Party is down to just one candidate, the odious Donald J. Trump.  While I expect that the mainstream media will continue to give an inordinate amount of coverage to Trump, if they’re looking for fresh election events to cover it’s going to be the campaign events, debates, and elections on the Democratic side.  The Democratic campaign has already shown that politics can be civil and issue-oriented, not only compared with this year’s Republican circus, but also with past Democratic primaries.  And the issues they’re discussing are important left-wing social and economic matters.  Having two months where the top political news story is two candidates courteously focused on substantial progressive issues can only be a good thing for the Democrats leading up to their convention and beyond.
  2.  Speaking of left-wing social and economic issues, Secretary Clinton has a history over the course of her public career of being on the wrong side (or more accurately, the right-wing side). This ranges from her hawkish support of disastrous military engagements in Iraq, Libya, et al to her cozy relationship with Wall Street financial firms and big business that has informed her support of financial deregulation and job killing trade agreements.  Competing with Senator Sanders has already forced Secretary Clinton to move left on various issues ranging from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the $15 minimum wage.  If Clinton goes head to head with Trump, the temptation will be to tack right on issues such as immigration and defense against terrorism, while abandoning left-wing issues.  A couple more months of dealing with left issues should make Clinton more appealing as a candidate to progressive Democrats and independents as well as making sure she will remain committed to these causes should she become President.
  3. The process of primary elections is not all that Democratic.  Caucuses require massive time commitments and primaries are often closed to party outsiders and/or require registration at a date ridiculously in advanced.  This election cycle has also seen travesties such as massive purges of voting rolls, limited numbers of polling stations opened, and lengthy lines at polling stations that are open.  Pretty much every primary season is weighted toward the states that participate earlier in the process meaning that primaries held in May and June are generally not contested.  This year the Democrats can continue campaigning and holding elections meaning that people in populous areas like California, New Jersey, Oregon, and Puerto Rico can participate in voting, many for the first time in a primary.  Isn’t that one tiny step toward a more inclusive democracy a good thing?  At the very least it will mean that voters in these states will be registered – as Democrats – and on the rolls for the general election in November.
  4. Of course, it’s also important to note that despite everything you may have heard Bernie Sanders is still very much in this race.  As of May 9, the pledged delegate count is Clinton 1706 – Sanders 1419, a difference of 287 pledged delegates with 926 pledged delegates to be decided (this does not include unpledged “superdelegates” who do not vote until the convention.  And Senator Sanders is polling very well in many of the populous states left to vote, including America’s most populous state, California.  Don’t we owe it to our country to let the democratic process play out in such a close race?
  5.  Finally, a contested convention may be good for the Democratic Party’s soul. There is a great divide between the establishment party members who follow the triangulation approach of the Democratic Leadership Council (co-founded by former President Bill Clinton) who have abandoned traditional popular labor and economic issues, and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, not to mention the growing number of left-wing people unaffiliated with either party.  The temptation is to sweep every thing under the rug and turn the convention into a rally for Hillary Clinton (while supporters of Senator Sanders and those who are like-minded are locked out of the convention hall).  But just perhaps it would be a good occasion to hash out all these differences in July, rather than having them come back to bite the Democrats in the butt in the general election and beyond. It could be the opportunity to create a new triangle for the Democratic Party with the DLC old guard only one point while the others represent the Democrats’ progressive wing, and the Independent leftists who could be drawn into the party (or at the very least, convinced to vote Democrat when it counts).

2016 Election Reading List


In 6 months Americans will go to the polls to vote for our next President as well as representatives, senators, and countless state and local officials.  I decided to put together a list of books on political and social topics that I find informative on various issues.  Of course, while I think these are important issues for the elections, some of them just aren’t going to be discussed by the candidates in this election, which all the greater shame.

At any rate, take a gander of this list.  I highly recommend reading all of them.  If you have suggestions for the election reading list, let me know in the comments.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his son, Coates explains the many ways that bodies of African-Americans are controlled in the United States.  It’s an insightful look into the reasons why the Black Lives Matter movement came into fruition, and the most important book on this list for everyone to read.

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things by Barry Glassner

Contemporary politics  in the United States is undergirded by a constant stream of fear whether it be terrorism, diseases, or crime (the latter often translating into a fear of black men).  24/7 media and politicians help spread this fear often in ways that distract the populace from more realistic concerns.

The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower by Robert Baer

In recent years, members of both parties have suggested the possibility of war with Iran. Did you know that Iran is twice as large and twice as populous as Afghanistan and Iraq put together? Iran is also much more unified with a stronger military, so Baer suggests that war with Iran would require an enormous outlay of money and military force, which would require popular support of a wartime footing akin to World War II.  Baer suggests instead a realpolitik approach of recognizing Iran as a major player in the Middle East and working to form an alliance.  Definitely a thought-provoking book.

Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) by David Cay Johnston

Socialism is a scary word, yet it is active in the United States government and economy.  Only in our case, it is large corporations that make enormous profits by getting taxpayer money.

Green metropolis : why living smaller, living closer, and driving less are keys to sustainability by David Owen

Many people think that living “environmentally friendly” means living close to nature, but Owen illustrates that living in large cities is the best way for people to reduce their impact on the Earth’s environment.  The reason is that dense urban living promotes using less space to house each individual, sharing of resources, and reducing driving, all of which results in cities having much lower per-capita carbon footprints than suburban or rural areas.

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?  by Thomas Frank

If you’ve ever wondered why in the past 25 years, more people are working more hours and barely getting by, while the rich get richer, even under Democratic presidents (and even in states with Democratic governments) this is the book for you.

The new Jim Crow : mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

The history of America is the history of African-Americans having restricted rights compared to white people, and that hasn’t changed despite the victories of the Civil Rights Era.  Alexander details how the War on Drugs was used to create a a massive increase in Americans in prison and on prohibition that inordinately affects Black Americans.  As a result, even when not imprisoned many African-Americans are denied opportunites for jobs, housing, and even the right to vote.

Reign of error : the hoax of the privatization movement and the danger to America’s public schools by Diane Ravitch

Public education is one of the most important services a government provides for its people, but in recent decades politicians in both parties as well as organizations funded by corporations and wealthy individuals have conducted a school “reform” movement that has been disastrous to public education.  Ravitch exposes both the failures of this reform movement and alternative solutions to both improve public education and alleviate poverty.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by  Naomi Klein

Klein’s expose reveals how the adherents of neoliberalism use natural disasters, wars, and financial crises to push forward their goals of reducing government services to the bare bones and replacing them with exploitative for-profit corporations.

Straphanger : surviving the end of the automobile age by Taras Grescoe

The love of the automobile has caused the United States (and Canada) to fall behind much of the world in public transit systems.  In Grescoe’s narrative he travels the world to various cities with succesful transit systems and offers advice on how they can be adapted in North American cities.

UnSpun : finding facts in a world of disinformation Brooks Jackson

Despite living in the Information Age, it’s become more difficult to separate fact from fiction as “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  UnSpun offers some solid strategies evaluating news and politics for factual accuracy.

Walkable city : how downtown can save America, one step at a time by Jeff Speck

As you may notice by now, many of my books deal with urbanism.  I believe good cities for people to live and work in are a solution to a lot of our countries social, economic, and environmental problems.  But for a city to be good, it has to be walkable.  Speck’s book details what exactly “walkable” means and how it is best attained.

 

 

BPS Student Walkout


25 years ago the students, teachers, families, and alumni of my high school – a small Catholic school in Greenwich, CT – were informed that as of June 1991, the school would no longer exist. The decision was made by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport as a cost-cutting measure due to declining enrollment. In the weeks prior to the announcement the Diocese floated the idea of consolidating my high school with another school in the diocese, thus pitting one school against the other as to which one would get to stay open, as well as making other claims that made many question the Diocese’s commitment to education.

I was graduating that spring and disappointed that I effectively would have no alma mater.  The stakes were higher for students in the lower grades, especially the Juniors who would have to attend another school for their final year.  And so, these students organized a walk-out.  I don’t know how much effect this protest had on the Diocese, but I do know that a sympathetic reporter from the local newspaper covered the walk out and it was given top billing in the newspaper, above news of the Gulf War.

All this is preamble to a sense of déjà vu, I’m getting as today students from across Boston Public Schools will walk out of class today and march on the Massachusetts State House to protest the state and city government’s continued cutting of school budgets. Like the protest at my school 25 years ago, this originates completely from those effected most, the students, originating with students at Snowden International School at Copley.  And in this case the stakes are much higher:

  • This is not 1 school, but 120 schools that will be affected
  • This is not a private organization paring back their commitment to education, but the moral and legal obligation of the government to provide equitable funds and resources towards public education for every child
  • Schools are losing teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors, and other staff.
  • Classes and programs such Advance Placement courses, foreign language instruction, and physical education
  • Life-changing programs like Diploma Plus at Charlestown High School are being cut completely
  • Extra-curricular programs, sports, and enrichment programs are being slashed
  • A complete list of what will be cut is available from Krissy Cabbage: http://krissycabbage.blogspot.com/2016/03/why-bpswalkout.html

Cc8iZUmWIAAboo9
I’m proud of the students at our high schools for taking direct action and stepping out in protest today.  Among other ways of showing support I’ve signed this online petition and encourage other Boston adults to do so as well.  I hope that our children’s voices will be heard today, and like the local newspaper did at my high school 25 years ago, the local Boston media will cover this event.

Unfortunately, there is considerable bias in the Boston media when it comes to public education as they news generally sides with the politicians and corporate “philanthropists” pushing education reforms that lead to underfunded schools and pitting schools against one another for resources.  If the media acknowledges opposition to what’s happening to our schools at all, it is to say that the Massachusetts Teachers Association is fighting for their union members. A recent Boston Globe column declared that teachers are vastly overpaid with generous time off and should considering voluntarily slashing their pay to save the school budget. Columns of this ilk are published with regularity, but the voices of teachers – real human beings with jobs include working nights, weekends & summers not faceless unions – parents, and students are rarely represented in the media.

In meetings and protests I’ve attended for Boston Public Schools in recent years, it is always the students who’ve impressed me the most.  They are eloquent in portraying the real effects of budget cuts and corporate education reform on their lives and education.  They are activists not by choice but by necessity.  They are the leaders of our movement and I hope and pray that their voices will be acknowledged before it is too late.


Update (3/8/16)

News coverage of the 3500 heroes who participated in the walkout:

Walk-In and Rally for Boston Public Schools


Yesterday morning, I was one of hundreds of Bostonians who gathered together to rally against cuts at Boston Public Schools and deliver a message to Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker to support our public schools. The Walk-In and Rally was organized by the Boston Education Justice Alliance and coincided with a national movement to oppose budget cuts and privatization efforts for public education.  You can sign the petition to stop budget cuts at MoveOn.

At Boston City Hall we heard parents, grandparents, teachers, school nurses, religious leaders, concerned citizens, and students speak about the effects of slashed budgets on our schools. As always, the students are the most inspiring and the real leaders of this cause. About half the group “walked-in” to City Hall to deliver a petition to the Mayor’s office (sadly, Walsh did not make team to speak with them). Then we marched down the streets to Massachusetts State House. I didn’t have time to join the action at the State House, but there was another rally within and presentation of a petition to the governor. Like Walsh, Baker declined to meet with his constituents. As student K’Damse McGee was quoted in the Boston Globe article, maybe he’s scared?

Below is some news coverage and then some photos I took of the event.

If there’s any coverage I missed, post a link in the comments.

What is the Future for Public Schools in Boston?


Once again, Massachusetts public schools are ranked the the best in the nation. This may be surprising to many based on the constant political rhetoric that public schools in Massachusetts are a “disaster.”  One of the major issues is the great gap in achievement between low-income students and their more affluent peers.  For me and many others, the obvious solution to this problem is to look at what is making schools succeed in more prosperous communities and apply the same type of resources, facilities, and teacher support to schools in impoverished communities.  By working to make education equitable across class and racial lines and through other programs to address poverty, we believe these gaps can be narrowed significantly.  Unfortunately, this goal is undermined by the efforts of our governor, mayor, corporate philanthropic organizations and those who support them to take drastic measures to “fix” public schools and  perhaps replace them outright. Worse, the proponents of this type of corporate education reform often seem to have ulterior motives at odds with the goals of creating equitable schools or alleviating poverty.

Some of the challenges to creating equitable public education in Boston and Massachusetts include:

  • Annual cuts to city education budget as well as cuts to education funding statewide.
  • School closures, usually in the poorest communities
  • Continued emphasis on frequent testing which takes up learning time with testing and test preparation which leads to “teaching to the test” (not to mention profiting companies that publish the test and preparation materials)
  • Using test results to justify “high stakes” measures such as firing teachers and closing schools
  • Funneling public money into privately-run charter schools at the expense of local school districts
  • The Boston Compact plan for unified enrollment which doesn’t seem to reflect any constituents’ desires for improving schools and has been funded by out-of-state interests

Thursday night the Boston Education Justice Alliance is hosting a Town Hall for parents, teaches, students and concerned citizens to discuss these issues and how we can create just and equitable public education in the city.  I encourage you to attend.  Here is a flyer and I’ve included links to the websites of the organizations involved:

2u7bzeq

 

I don’t get to write on education issues as often as I’d like to as by the time I get my thoughts together it’s usually no longer topical, but if you want to keep up with the issues I encourage you to follow the websites, blogs, and Twitter accounts of the many people and organizations below.  There is an incredible amount of passion, knowledge, and creativity behind this campaign.

Boston/Massachusetts Organizations and Blogs

National Organizations and Blogs

Boston/Massachusetts People and Organizations To Follow on Twitter

@AnEducationBlog, @bledwine, @BostonActivist, @BostonEdJustice, @bmadeloni, @BPSNightmare, @BSACbuzz, @caren4btunity, @ckollett, @clanghoff1, @ClayHarper, @ColumWhyte, @CPC_BPS, @dembinskis, @DowntownSchools, @dunneteach, @Fara1, @girlact75, @GoogieBaba, @Hcinjp, @jessicatang4btu, @johnflerner, @JonathanCohn, @jshoreboston, @kathoderaytube, @KeepTheCapMass, @KrissyCabbage, @mattwbennet, @mauraotoole, @NaamaGoldstein1, @parentImperfect, @Quality1st4BPS, @RWwatchMA, @StopTheCompact, @TracyNovick,@wheresmyporsche

National People and Organizations to Follow on Twitter

@alfiekohn, @AnthonyCody, @BadassTeachersA, @Dems4PublicEd, @DianeRavitch, @Edu_Historian,@EduShyster, @ESQPolitics,  @jerseyjazzman,  @lacetothetop,  @NEPCtweet, @StevenSinger3

 

Improving Public Space at Boston City Hall Plaza


The City of Boston has recently put out a call for ideas to re-envision City Hall Plaza.  Boston City Hall is a controversial building, a mid-century modern example of Brutalism that some people call the ugliest building in Boston.  I’ve even heard it called the ugliest building in the world!

There are some cool things I’ve learned about the architecture of the building such as the honeycomb of windows on the top floors indicating where the city worker bees have their office being joined to the public on the ground floor by the large shapes of the Mayor’s Office and City Council chambers.  The “brute” in Brutalism comes from the shape of the raw concrete that makes up the bulk of the building resting like a sculpture on a brick base.  I think the unadorned concrete’s aesthetic difficulties are what leads to City Hall’s reputation as ugly.

Nevertheless, ugliness is in the eye of the beholder and while I will not offer an opinion on the attractiveness of City Hall, I do believe that it fails as a public space.  Some of these failures can be addressed by modifying the building. For example, the entrance from the plaza is hidden and unwelcoming and should be redesigned.  The gaping auto entrance on Congress Street should only exist at a suburban office park, if anywhere, and not opposite Faneuil Hall, one of the city’s most historic places.  The lower floors in the interior are also dreary and cavernous, with a long line of glass-plated counters along the far walls adding to the general unfriendliness of the building.  Architecture fans want to preserve City Hall and taxpayers appreciate not spending money on a new city building, but I believe these problems should be addressed to make City Hall feel more like it belongs to the people.

The biggest problem for City Hall, I’ve long felt, is not the building itself by the massive 200,000 square foot plaza that surrounds it.  The architects wanted to send a message by having their Brutalist sculpture on a plinth surrounded by open space providing a panoramic view, yet to many Bostonians that message is an extended middle finger.  The open space accentuates the inaccessibility and unfriendliness of the building making it feel more like a fortress than a Palace of the People that it ought to be.  While the plaza is sometimes used for concerts and public events, it is a generally empty with no protection from the elements.  I remember once attending the Scooper Bowl and had to give up because there was no escape from the hot sun.  That’s right, City Hall Plaza made free ice cream not fun!

So my idea for revitalizing City Hall Plaza is to fill it up with small-scale buildings broken up by winding alleys and parks spaces.  When I catch a glimpse of City Hall from Washington Street or from the alleys of the Blackstone Black, I’m impressed by how interesting and attractive the patterns of its structure look at the end of the street vista.  Since City Hall looks best in small bits rather than all at once, my plan would emphasize its architectural strengths while also bringing it back to the city from its island of isolation.  Filling the plaza would also allow for a variety of landscaping, architecture, and activity that will make the area around City Hall a welcoming and attractive place where people will want to linger.

I below I’ve drawn a quick and dirty plan I drew on a Google Map of what the new City Hall neighborhood could like. A more detailed explanation follows after the illustration.

chp

 

Green Space

On the map above you will notice that there is still a considerable amount of area dedicated to open, public space. These areas are indicated in green above. Unlike the sun-scorched, wind-swept City Hall Plaza of today these public spaces will be planted with trees, shrubbery, and flower beds as well as various fountain, sculpture, and other public art.  Benches and picnic tables will encourage visitors to linger for a while.  There are four distinct types of public space:

  • The Triangle – Beneath the overhanging balcony of City Hall is a triangular space which would have less landscaping and more open space (kind of smaller version of today’s plaza) that would encourage a gathering place for public demonstrations, celebrations, and street performance, as well as provide a perspective to view City Hall.
  • Promenades – three promenades lead to the Triangle: one from the MBTA station, one from Cambridge Street (and the Center Plaza complex opposite), and one to the federal building complex.  With landscaping to provide shade and beauty, these promenades provide a visual link among the architecture of the are.  They also are functional walkways providing direct routes for the 20,000-30,000 pedestrians passing through the area each day.
  • The Circle – a green area surrounded by buildings near the JFK Federal Building that can serve as a lunch spot for local workers and respite for tourists.
  • The Amphitheater – the stage on the north side of City Hall used for summer concerts and festivals will be upgraded into a permanent venue for live music, dance, theater, and public addresses.

The narrow alleys that wind among the new buildings will also be an important public space.  My hope is that a person wandering along the alleys will see something at each turn that will surprise and delight and be encouraged to linger.

Buildings

The black shapes on the map above represent the footprints of small buildings on the scale you may find in the heart of an ancient European city or more close to home, the Blackstone Block across Congress Street.  I drew 16 different buildings, which may be too many, but whether it’s 16 or 12 or 10 or 8, I believe there should be several buildings intersected by winding ways that prohibit motor vehicles. It is my expectation that these would be small-scale buildings, ranging from about 3-6 floors in height.

While there would be a master plan specifying general rules for design, I would like them each to have unique architecture.  Instead of one big project by one big architectural firm and built by one contractor, the land should be parceled out to multiple firms each creating their own building.  Participants in construction would be encouraged to experiment with architectural styles and materials, blending and contrasting with the variety of buildings already surrounding the plaza.  This smaller approach also means that many smaller local and minority-owned architecture and construction firms can be encouraged to participate instead of big companies that typically get to work on a project like this. In fact, a different building could be built by companies representing different neighborhoods of Boston, emphasizing the centrality of City Hall to this great city.

The ground floor of each building will be dedicated to retail space – restaurants, bars, and cafes (with tables spilling out into the alleyways and promenades in pleasant weather) and shops of all kinds.  As a contrast to Faneuil Hall Marketplace which features more tourist-oriented and high-end shopping, some effort should be made to have shops and services that meet the needs of Government Center employees and residents of adjacent neighborhoods with things like a dry cleaners, delis, or even a child care center in some of these ground level spaces.

The upper floors of the new buildings would be primarily office space, although I suppose one may make an argument for residential apartments or even a hotel in some of the buildings.  I imagine that some buildings could be joined together with a picturesque bridge over an alleyway connecting upper levels of the buildings to allow for larger companies.  I think a brilliant idea though would be for the city to retain hold of some office space.  The city can help fulfill its initiatives for innovation and small businesses by providing low-rent incubator space to innovative local companies.

My idea is a big idea but Boston is a city that has a history of building on big ideas – from filling Back Bay to building America’s first subway to the Big Dig. There would certainly be a considerable investment that would have to go into bringing this idea to fruition, and yet the new buildings would also provide a new source of taxable income.  And yet even with the income, I believe my idea would provide many tangible benefits to the city, including:

  • vibrant, multiple-uses of underutilized public space
  • preserve unique and varied architecture of City Hall and surrounding buildings in a way that shows of their best side
  • create a new city center where people come together to work, shop, dine, drink, and play.

I hope this plan would help make the greatest city in the world an even better place. Let me know what you think about my plan, and any ideas of your own in the comments.

Retropost: Let it Snow x 3


With another foot of snow falling on Boston today, I thought I’d dig up this old post from 2008 about winter songs.  Sometimes you need to sing to keep from crying.


 

You may not believe it, but I spend inordinate amounts of time surfing the web. One day idly paging through Wikipedia’s list of Number-one hits, I discovered that the song “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow” performed by Vaughn Monroe was the number one song in the USA for five weeks in 1946. This surprised me for two reasons. One, I never thought of this little ditty we sing at Christmas time as hit record material. Two, the song charted in the weeks from January 26 to February 23, well after the Christmas season was over.

Listen to Vaugh Monroe perform “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!”

Of course, if you look at the lyrics for “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” as written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne you’ll realize that the song has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. It is merely a love song set in wintertime. I’ve long wondered why so many songs we sing at Christmas time have nothing to do with Christmas at all. “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Marshmallow World,” and perhaps the most ubiquitous “Christmas” carol of all “Jingle Bells.” It’s become a cliche to add the notes of the “Jingle Bells” chorus to the end of a recording of any Christmas song, but there’s nary a mention of Christmas in the lyrics. Couldn’t one enjoy a vigorous sleigh ride through the country in January, February, or even March?

That many popular Christmas songs of the 20th century were written by Jewish songwriters may play a part in the emphasis of winter imagery over baby Jesus and Santa Claus. But I think that at one time people liked to sing songs about the winter. If you think about it, the way these winter songs have been typecast as Christmas carols would be kind of like only playing Gershwin’s “Summertime” on the 4th of July with patriotic songs like “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.”

So I’ve come up with an idea. Now that we are a week past Groundhog’s Day*, why don’t we have a national celebration of wintertime by singing and playing these old classics. It could be an annual tradition every year from February 9-15 to acknowledge that whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not that we can make the best of what remains of winter in a joyous carnival of singing.

Who’s with me?

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

* Note: I also have a great carol for Groundhog’s Day.

Massachusetts – Public School Kids Really Need Your Help!


MASSACHUSETTS Supporters of Public Schools‬ URGENT HELP NEEDED! You do NOT need to have a child to do this!

Lobbyists paid for by funding through the Walton (Walmart), Gates, Broad and other 1% backed Foundations are hard at work trying to gain more of your tax dollars by lifting the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts.

If you feel you need more information, details on how Charter Schools hurt Public School funding can be found here and here.

Tell our elected leaders that if you lift the charter cap, it will close good public schools.

 

If you have a few minutes – and we hope you do!

Help Massachusetts Public Schools receive the funding they need.

Here are a few simple things you can do.

 

Please act quickly. The lift the cap bill maybe voted on as soon as Wednesday, July 16th.

 

  • Call your Senator and ask them to vote NO on Senate Bill 2262. Senator contact information can be found here. (If you’re not sure who your senator is, you can search for the answer here).  All you have to say is: “I am calling to urge the Senator to Keep the Cap On Charter Schools in Massachusetts and vote “NO!” on S2262.”
  • Sign this petition, asking Senators to  “Keep the Cap” on Charter Schools
  • Post a link to this page on your facebook page. Ask your friends to help too! (copy/paste – it works!)
  •  If you want to be a total hero, and again, we hope that you do, you can call all of the senators.