Snowy Boston – Updated


Updated 2-3-2011: 

Here is the new Shaq-o-meter with the addition of Nate Robinson who is buried after yesterday’s snow, sheet, rain mix.

So how much snow is there?  We have piles at corners.  Snow is taking up a travel lane on many streets where the piles are now extending out into the parking spaces forcing cars to park in the right hand travel lane.  I’m waiting for the day when we have single lane roads and cars yield to each other.  Walking is difficult.  Where the sidewalks are cleared, one can walk, but beware when you have to cross a street.  No wonder people are walking in the streets!

Boston is now at 60.3 inches for the season and counting.  Nothing to do but to have some fun with it all.

We measure the snow level against Shaquille O’Neal.

In 1995-1996, I think we used Robert Parrish.

And we save our precious parking spaces.  As removed snow takes up more and more space this becomes more and more critical.  Yes, we all know that we technically have 48 hours after the last snowfall before the space saver is in danger of removal and we all know of the person who saves their space long after any trace of snow has disappeared, but right now it is a matter of survival to save the space in front of the house.  It is so bad, I had to tell my sister she had to find somewhere else to stay this weekend because there was no parking for her car.

Boston parking-spot savers

I think this person is cheating because they really didn’t clear the space, but then look at the mound behind the chair.

It is supposed to snow a couple of inches tonight and maybe more next Wednesday.  Shaq is going to be buried before winter ends.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama and the State of the Union

At the 41st Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast in Boston, Melissa Harris-Perry asked us to remember the picture of King with President Lyndon Johnson and to superimpose President Obama on one of the men.  After a brief pause to let us think about it, she said that if we had made King Obama we had picked the wrong person, that Obama was President just as Johnson had been. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Marti...

Image via Wikipedia

While, as Harris-Perry pointed out there are a number of parallels that can be drawn between King and Obama.   “Both men are brilliant orators, both had a unique ability to capture the American political imagination … and both endured harsh criticism.”  And I will add, both are Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Using King’s book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, she pointed out

It was a period of backlash,” she said. “We were being told it was all moving too fast.

It is easy to behave as if Martin King was beloved in a bipartisan manner across races and communities — but that is not the reality of Dr. King..

But the primary difference is the King was an activist seeking change from the outside while Obama is the President who has to govern the country as a whole while still trying to move us toward a more progressive society and trying stay above the chaos.

Meanwhile we have the shootings in Arizona, Michelle Bachman giving a Tea Party response to the State of the Union Address (in addition to the Republican resonse), and new Tea Party Republicans pushing the more moderate Republicans in Congress into taking up legislation that I feel certain that Speaker Boehner does not view as in the parties best interest.  We can only hope that the chaos remains in the Republican Party and that incidents like Arizona do not spread.  Maybe the Republicans will lose the Tea Party Republicans to a third party.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Nate Silver posted a response to the recent polls the other day on Fivethirtyeight,

With the Democrats still in control of the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House, there is little that the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives can do before 2013 to enact legislation. The health care overhaul will not be repealed, and social welfare programs will not be cut — at least, not unless Mr. Obama wants them to be, or until a Republican occupies the White House.

What the Republicans can do now, though, is use their leverage over the budget process. On spending matters, Congress is compelled to act every year merely to maintain the status quo. Sooner or later — perhaps over raising the federal debt ceiling, perhaps over authorizing funds to put Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul into effect — there is likely to be a showdown between the House Republican leaders and the president.

The most recent precedent is a favorable one for Mr. Obama: the 1995 government shutdown. The public largely blamed Republicans for the mess rather than Bill Clinton, whose standing rose as a result; he went on to win re-election the following year.

He goes on the point out the parallels in the polls while remaining cautious about 2012.

Mr. Obama’s approval rating has risen a few points in recent weeks, and is now at roughly 50 percent in the average poll. Mr. Clinton’s approval rating was at 54 percent in November 1995, just before the shutdown began, according to both Gallup and Washington Post surveys.

A Pew poll conducted in October 1995, meanwhile, found that 36 percent of respondents approved of the job that Republican leaders in Congress were doing. The figure right now is the same, according to an AP-GfK poll, or a bit lower at 30 percent, according to Quinnipiac; both surveys were released last week.

Surveys conducted before the 1995 shutdown found that the public largely viewed Mr. Clinton as capable of compromise, but not the Republicans. Similarly, in this week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 55 percent said they expected the Republicans to be too inflexible in negotiations with President Obama, but only 26 percent said they expected that of Mr. Obama.

We have to remember, however, that President Obama is not Bill Clinton.  While we may have chacterized President Clinton as “the first Black President”, he was still a white man.  His alleged crimes were sexual, not racial.  We have to remember that a segment of the country will never accept Barack Obama as president because of his skin color.

President Obama’s recent moves have been toward the center, toward business, with the hope of creating enough jobs to win re-election.  I understand why he is not pushing more of a social agenda right now.  I think he did that, and did it well during the recent lame duck session.  He needs to put himself and the Democratic Party in a position to keep the Senate and the Presidency and to take back the House.  We need to remember, as Melissa Harris-Perry reminded us that the man in the picture is the President and not the activist.

Being Liberal or not being Glenn Beck

Being a bit behind in my reading (as always), I picked up The Nation from November 22 a few days ago to read Patricia Williams’ column, Veritas-iness and the American Way.  This started a train of thought about education, reading, why so many followers of popular conservatives are uneducated and how much of a threat this is to the American experiment. It also got me thinking about why being liberal became a bad thing.  Somewhere in recent history “liberals” became “progressives”.

According to my 11th Edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, the first definition of liberal is related to education, “of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts”.  The archaic meaning if “of or befitting a man of free birth”.  More current meanings include “marked by generosity” and “broad-minded esp: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms.”  The entry goes on to explain “Liberal suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given…”  From these meanings the political philosophy of liberalism was born.  Liberalism being defined as “a political philosophy based on a belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties.”  On the other hand, a conservative is defined as “tending to disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.”  Conservatism is “a disposition in politics to preserve what is established.”

Conservative and liberal.  These are two tensions that should complement each other.  But liberal has become synonymous for the over education elite who want to move away from the traditions of our Founders and the True Meaning of the Constitution. (my caps)  Is this because somehow our education system has failed?

Patricia Williams points out

Sadly, American education has suffered a miserable decline since those days.[when she went to public schools] According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, we are fifteenth in reading literacy, twenty-first in science literacy and twenty-fifth in math literacy. This slide was largely accomplished by a calculated disinvestment in public education that began with the anti-tax movement of the late 1970s. California, where that movement began with a series of ballot initiatives, had one of the best school systems in the world. It now ranks almost dead last here, just above Mississippi.

There’s a curious tension in politics between the popular hunger for better schooling and widespread resentment of those who actually find it. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have built a movement around the felt dispossession of those who don’t read newspapers, whose spelling is nonstandard and who cite Shakespeare to “refudiate” book-learning. Beck, who sniffs that public schools should be abolished altogether, exploits this ambivalence brilliantly by establishing his online Beck University, whose basic courses are Faith 101, 102 and 103; Hope 101, 102 and 103; and Charity 101, 102 and 103. Yet Beck U. also has a coat of arms with a numbingly lofty motto: Tyrannis Seditio, Obsequium Deo.

Here is one of Beck’s diagrams copied from AlterNet.

Being one of the over-educated liberals, I find the diagram incoherent and the connections based on a lack of understanding.  Does Glenn Beck understand that George Soros who is the heart of the “obam a pocalypse” help finance movements to overthrow oppressive governments in Eastern Europe? Or that he grew up in Nazi occupied Hungary? So yes, he has a connection to Hitler, but not the kind Beck wants to imply.  And Ivan Jones? 

Williams describes the crowd at the Steward-Colbert rally this way

…While Stewart and Colbert expressly appealed to “the busy majority” of reasonable, middle-of-the-road, somewhat-stressed-but-not-given-to-hysterics people, the signs among the masses were deeply inflected by class consciousness and the national educational divide. Some were relatively subtle: Which Way to Whole Foods? and Anyone for Scrabble Later? Others more overtly referenced Beck’s Rally to Restore Honor: Every Word on This Sign Is Spelled Correctly; I &heart; Evidence-Based Policies; and my favorite: If You Don’t Believe in Government Perhaps You Shouldn’t Run for It.

This was a crowd that listens to NPR (Kiss Me, Nina Totenberg!). It was racially and ethnically diverse ( Fox Told Me I Am a Terrorist). Their humor was sophisticated ( I Clutch My Purse When I See Juan Williams Coming). It was a throng of New York Times readers who eat bagels and peruse the Book Review. They marched with Kindles in hand, and their Patagonia backpacks contained novels by Anna Quindlen and essay collections like David Rakoff’s Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil and Other First World Problems.

If this sounds like a litany of class markers, we need to remember that class and education are not necessary correlates. This was a population of very diverse Americans who equate political sanity with studiousness and curiosity. It was a gathering of people fluent in subtlety and satire, tolerance and tact; who saw similarity in differences and differences among the similar; who appreciated metaphors, analogical thinking and the discipline of data. This is the opposite of fundamentalism. And it ought to be the very essence of American identity, for we can have no broad civic culture without it. Unfortunately these critical capacities are also the hallmarks of a good liberal arts education, which is increasingly unavailable to any but the very well-off. (The State University of New York, Albany, just announced that it may eliminate its Latin, French, Italian, Russian and theater degree programs.)

Why bother with the nuances of analytical thought? Consider this—recently State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted: “Happy birthday President #Ahmadinejad. Celebrate by sending Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer home” and “Your 54th year was full of lost opportunities. Hope in your 55th year you will open #Iran to a different relationship with the world.” Sarah Palin tweeted back: “Happy B’day Ahmadinejad wish sent by US Govt. Mind boggling foreign policy: kowtow & coddle enemies; snub allies. Obama Doctrine is nonsense.” This is not merely a lack of irony; it is a form of illiteracy, the kind of flat, childish reading that grasps the basic meaning of each word but not what they mean together.

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are frightening in their ignorance and I worry that the ignorance is spreading faster than we can stop it.  The problem in the United States today is not the divide between liberalism and conservative:  that tension has existed since the founding of the country.  The problem is the divide between those who can read and comprehend and those who can’t.  I am not talking here about the quality of the inner city elementary school, although that too is an issue, I am talking about people who are supposed to be educated and still can’t really read and when they do don’t understand what it is they read.  True conservatives should be just as worried about them as liberals like me.

Congresswoman Giffords, violence, rhetoric and other thoughts

Happy 2011!  I had made a resolution to post at least once a week this year and am already behind.  I have had a difficult fall with lots of energy sapping family and work issues.  It also didn’t help that for someone like me, the political news was depressing.  There were a number of bright spots including the Massachusetts election, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t tell, and ratification of START.  But overall it was pretty bleak.

But watching the first week of the new House was most entertaining.  At least it was until Saturday.

Bob and I were driving back from western Mass after a day of packing up my mother’s old apartment and when we got to Worcester, I turned on the NPR station to see if there were any news.  That was how we heard about Congresswoman Giffords, Judge Roll and the others who were shot and wounded.  I think that the assassination or attempted assassination of any political figure regardless of party or political philosophy is horrendous.  But this shooting is the culmination of the violence advocated by the radical right of the Republican party and the Tea Party Movement.

The first official to put the blame squarely where it belongs was Clarence W. Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff.  Sheriff Dupnik was blunt.  He was quoted in the Washington Post

There’s reason to believe that this individual may have a mental issue. And I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol,” he said during his televised remarks. “People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.

He went on to say

It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included,” Sheriff Dupnik said. “That’s the sad thing about what’s going on in America: pretty soon we’re not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people willing to subject themselves to serve in public office.

So let’s look at some actual facts since the Republicans and the Tea Party appear to be painting themselves as victims of the liberal media and claim no responsibility of what happened.

First it is a fact that Sarah Palin posted a map with cross-hairs over the Congressional Districts of 20 Democratic Congresspersons including Giffiords.  She remarked on the fact last year.

Ms. Giffords was also among a group of Democratic House candidates featured on the Web site of Sarah Palin’s political action committee with cross hairs over their districts, a fact that disturbed Ms. Giffords at the time.

“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” Ms. Giffords said last March. “But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.”

The image is no longer on the Web site, and Ms. Palin posted a statement saying “my sincere condolences are offered to the family of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.” (Late Saturday, the map was still on Ms. Palin’s Facebook page.)

Second, her office in Tuscon was vandalized after her vote in favor of Health Care Reform.  And both she and Judge Roll received threats. 

Third, her opponent in last November’s Congressional race held an event.  This information is from the blog, Firedoglake.

Kelly’s website has apparently scrubbed the event , but here is the account from the Arizona Daily Star:

Jesse Kelly, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be bothered in the least by the Sarah Palin controversy earlier this year, when she released a list of targeted races in crosshairs, urging followers to “reload” and “aim” for Democrats. Critics said she was inciting violence.

He seems to be embracing his fellow tea partier’s idea. Kelly’s campaign event website has a stern-looking photo of the former Marine in military garb holding his weapon. It includes the headline: “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

The event costs $50

I’m sure I will have much more to say on all of this as time goes on but I want to end with this from Paul Krugman’s column today.

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening: the purveyors of hate have been treated with respect, even deference, by the G.O.P. establishment. As David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

And this sums it all up.

Dan Wasserman