Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mayoral Poem

Taxes are too high,
Services are too low,
The Schools are terrible,
The Mayor has got to Go!

The outgoing Library chief says the Mayor is 'anti-intellectual'. The Mayor has no comment. I wonder if any Boston intellectuals will step in and defend the Mayor. Larry Dicara and Billy Bulger don't count, we'd like to see an independent person say that the Mayor has clothes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Greener World

My wife and I are taking a year to ride around the world by motorcycle for our honeymoon ( One of the most disturbing and obvious
facts of the trip is how far behind much of the rest of the world the USA is when it comes to green living and energy independence. I would like to share some of our observations, and some suggestions as to how we might proceed to move forward.

Forget the empty promises of politicians to “be a leader” in Green Technologies. First we must play catch up. Virtually all of Central and South America use only fluorescent
light bulbs. Wind turbines are everywhere, from Costa Rica to Turkey, from the fertile fields of Luxembourg to the sacred green hills of Ireland. Go to a gas station in Rio de Janeiro and you can fill up with 5 types of fuel: diesel, bio-diesel, propane, natural gas and minimum 95 octane.

The SUV is virtually an ‘America only’ vehicle, which is seen only intermittently elsewhere, and even then the vast majority are of the BMW X-3 size, not the mammoth
Chevy Suburbans or Ford Excursions. We could count the number of Hummers we’ve seen on the toes of a foot of a two-toed sloth. Even on the German Autobahn, the BMWs and Mercedes are typically of the lower engine size classes. The vast majority of cars in the world are tinier 4 door Toyota Corola sized vehicles. The majority of motorcycles are 125cc types from Japan and China which approach triple digit miles per gallon.

Recycling is huge and mainstream in Europe. Kitchen cabinets come with drawers separated into 4 different compartments for green, brown, and clear glass and plastic.
Large recycling stations are on main streets in the cities and in parking lots of the Wal-Marts and other shopping centers. The mentality to conserve and recycle has clearly become standard, and people do it as naturally as we go to get a coffee in the morning. In fact, grocery stores actually charge a fee for bags and most people carry their shopping home in fold-out crates and re-usable sturdy sacks.

Public transportation is more prevalent, cheap, and easy to use in almost every corner of the world. Almost everyone knows about the trains and subways in Europe. But we also used the buses and subways in Mexico City, Istanbul, Buenos Aires and Caracas. They were all at least as clean, timely, and easy to navigate as the MBTA, and usually even better than that standard; and they were of course fully taken advantage of.

Toilets in Europe now come with two flush options. One option is for solid waste which uses the standard amount of water, and one for liquid waste which uses a reduced amount of water to do its job. Another way that resources are being saved around the world is with the prevalence of motion detectors in residential and commercial buildings which turn on and off not just lights, but also escalators and other electric appliances.

Hot water, which can account for up to 25% of a person’s energy use in the United States, is handled quite differently outside the USA. The typical solution, especially in poor regions and warm tropical climates, is, of course, cold water only. Obviously that won’t cut it in the developed world, but there are other options. In Turkey, there are hot water solar panels on virtually every roof, and this is common in many parts of the world. The most common solution is “on demand” systems which only heat water at the shower electrically, or by natural gas or propane for larger systems which provide hot water for a whole house.

The big box hardware stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot in Ireland and the UK carry wind powered electricity generators for a few hundred dollars for homeowners to install themselves. There are places as diverse as floating reed villages on Peru’s Lake Titicaca to Internet Caf├ęs in Nicaragua which power their electrical usage using only solar panels; and many highway signs and roadside warnings are solar powered throughout the world.

Bicycle paths are common in most European cities which are older than Boston, and often have just as jumbled of a road system. In Amsterdam, which is world bicycle central, there is a parking garage next to the main bus and railway terminal with room for 80,000 bicycles. The folks we met said they use them year around, even in the snow.

On the positive side, thanks to the Clean Air and Water acts and other measures, the United States clearly has some of the best quality air and water in the world. It has been shocking to see some of the permanent smog over places such as Vienna, Lima, Budapest, and Sao Paulo to name just a few. Just the sight of these brown hazes hanging over any city is enough for me to question what, if any, real progress mankind is making. Don’t even get me started about all the polluted water ways we’ve found in our

What can be done? As the saying goes: Think Globally, Act Locally. I’ve mentioned things we’ve seen to pique people’s imagination as to how they might be more energy efficient, and to encourage them to see different solutions to energy needs, as we have done as a result of our trip. Thomas Friedman recently wrote in the New York Times that one of the best things we can do for the environment is to elect environmentally conscious leaders. In Boston and Massachusetts we need leaders who might do the following things:

1) Mandate that all taxi cabs be hybrid vehicles within 5 years (as done by Mayor Bloomberg in NYC).
2) Mandate that all non-essential city or state vehicles also be hybrid.
3) Mandate dual use toilets in new housing developments; and, make a deadline of perhaps 10 or 15 years for subsidized housing and public buildings to be retrofitted to do the same.
4) All replacement lights in public buildings and subsidized housing to use fluorescent lighting. Within 5 years all lighting to be fluorescent or other high efficiency equivalents.
5) Increase gas taxes. with the money raised to go directly into public transportation projects, such as extending the Green Line and other rail projects in the State and the Region. Gas is $8 a gallon in Europe, $5 a gallon in Brazil, and almost $10 a gallon in Turkey. The cost has not stopped driving or traffic jams, we need to make public transportation a viable alternative to cars. Perhaps a group from New England and New York could get together to impose a similar tax across the region to invest into a real regional rail system. This will help in many ways to make the region a more competitive place economically.
6) Mandate that new hot waters systems, especially in public buildings and subsidized housing be more efficient.
7) Mandate that shopping centers and parking lots of a certain size provide recycling stations for the public use. Provide similar recycling stations on public property.
8) Make bicycling part of the solution, not just a way for bike messengers to earn a dangerous living.
9) Eliminate school busing in Boston for environmental reason and move to neighborhood schools. (I realize this is a much bigger issue, but the City of Boston spends around 90 million dollars a year on transportation. That is a lot of fossil fuel. We also need better and diverse schools but that is another subject). At the least, convert buses to bio-fuel as is being done in many municipalities.
10) Insist that the MBTA provide professional service. If Mexico City and Istanbul, let alone Europe, can provide fast, clean, reliable, and timely trains and buses then we can do it in Massachusetts as well.
11) Get Wind Power moving! We’ve seen wind turbines in the Oceans near the Netherlands, in farmer’s fields through the flatlands of Europe, on mountains in Scotland and South America. There is a lot of wind in New England, and our energy costs are high. We need to do this and do it Big!

I believe that by taking steps such as these we will foster a sense of being environmentally conscious, that will hopefully move us from just taking advantage of these tried and true methods to using our innate Yankee Ingenuity to refine these existing technologies, and coming up with new ones so that we can become world wide environmental leaders.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Great thoughts on Global Warming from Vaclev Havel as I head to Prague

As we have been traveling around Europe we realize how far ahead they are in conservation, green technology and recycling. We also realize how far America is falling behind the EU everytime we go to pay for anything. America must wake up and realize that we can't rest on our laurels and must move forward.

Hope everyone is well, and that they will vote in the fall elections even though there aren't many viable races.

OVER the past few years the questions have been asked ever more forcefully whether global climate changes occur in natural cycles or not, to what degree we humans contribute to them, what threats stem from them and what can be done to prevent them. Scientific studies demonstrate that any changes in temperature and energy cycles on a planetary scale could mean danger for all people on all continents.

It is also obvious from published research that human activity is a cause of change; we just don’t know how big its contribution is. Is it necessary to know that to the last percentage point, though? By waiting for incontrovertible precision, aren’t we simply wasting time when we could be taking measures that are relatively painless compared to those we would have to adopt after further delays?

Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for the past hundred years at least, Europe and the United States have been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following their example. Nature is issuing warnings that we must not only stop the debt from growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer.

The effects of possible climate changes are hard to estimate. Our planet has never been in a state of balance from which it could deviate through human or other influence and then, in time, return to its original state. The climate is not like a pendulum that will return to its original position after a certain period. It has evolved turbulently over billions of years into a gigantic complex of networks, and of networks within networks, where everything is interlinked in diverse ways.

Its structures will never return to precisely the same state they were in 50 or 5,000 years ago. They will only change into a new state, which, so long as the change is slight, need not mean any threat to life.

Larger changes, however, could have unforeseeable effects within the global ecosystem. In that case, we would have to ask ourselves whether human life would be possible. Because so much uncertainty still reigns, a great deal of humility and circumspection is called for.

We can’t endlessly fool ourselves that nothing is wrong and that we can go on cheerfully pursuing our wasteful lifestyles, ignoring the climate threats and postponing a solution. Maybe there will be no major catastrophe in the coming years or decades. Who knows? But that doesn’t relieve us of responsibility toward future generations.

I don’t agree with those whose reaction is to warn against restricting civil freedoms. Were the forecasts of certain climatologists to come true, our freedoms would be tantamount to those of someone hanging from a 20th-story parapet.

Whenever I reflect on the problems of today’s world, whether they concern the economy, society, culture, security, ecology or civilization in general, I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights — these are the most important issues at the beginning of the third millennium.

We must return again and again to the roots of human existence and consider our prospects in centuries to come. We must analyze everything open-mindedly, soberly, unideologically and unobsessively, and project our knowledge into practical policies. Maybe it is no longer a matter of simply promoting energy-saving technologies, but chiefly of introducing ecologically clean technologies, of diversifying resources and of not relying on just one invention as a panacea.

I’m skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics — a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.

Either we will achieve an awareness of our place in the living and life-giving organism of our planet, or we will face the threat that our evolutionary journey may be set back thousands or even millions of years. That is why we must see this issue as a challenge to behave responsibly and not as a harbinger of the end of the world.

The end of the world has been anticipated many times and has never come, of course. And it won’t come this time either. We need not fear for our planet. It was here before us and most likely will be here after us. But that doesn’t mean that the human race is not at serious risk. As a result of our endeavors and our irresponsibility our climate might leave no place for us. If we drag our feet, the scope for decision-making — and hence for our individual freedom — could be considerably reduced.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Funny happenings in Chinatown

Frank Chin, the power broker in Chinatown who was behind the Mayor's guy Linehan getting into the final of the may 15 special election is back at it.

Reports are that he was recently at the Election Department in City Hall. What was he doing there? Well getting hundreds of absentee ballots of course.

Nice to know old school city politics of voting for what your ward boss tells you about is alive and well.

What does Frank Chin get from the Mayor to elicit such loyalty?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

City Budget nicely summed up

Although I am in Ecuador, a financial professional friend of mine took a look at the
proposed City Budget. Here is the summary:

here's the bottom line


Maxed out on Prop 2 1/2 and dipped into reserves a little
Counting on some extra from the state


Pay the 10% hike in health care that we got across the board

$7 million for a few extra cops

Send the rest to the school system - we have 4600 teachers for 54,000 students and 5000 other employees in the school system. That's one adult (all with health care) for every 6 students. One teacher for every 12. If a class size is 25 kids - that means the average teacher only spends half the day in a classroom.

Everything else is little more than inflation.

The globe calls this "strategic" - only if "strategic" is the new bloated!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thoughts from Central America

Today is the last day in Central America for Clara and I. We discussed at dinner last night what our biggest surprises were. Mine was how easy it was. It was not dangerous, it didn't ever feel dangerous (aside from a crackhead neighborhood in Panama City). Clara has happily surprised at how many tourists we saw in all the countries, for example in Nicaragua which receives a lot of bad press.

People everywhere were friendly, did not hate americans,

(although they think George Bush is an idiot and they can't understand why we elected him), and on the whole were positive about the future. In almost every country there is deep cynicism about government and corruption. A park ranger in Guatemala told us the people believe every penny of foreign aid goes into the politicians back pockets, and guide at the presidential palace in Mexico(!) told us that the Mexican congress is full of rich guys who vote themselves raises, give themselves tons of perks, don't do any work, and have no responsibilities. Talk about an honest government worker.

The recurring themes of politics here are similar in each country. The rich abusing the people and the land to maintain control. The deforestation across the region is obvious, and the trash and environmental damage are all too prevalent. I am convinced that it is no mistake that Costa Rica is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of the whole region. They have a stable, democratic government, they abolished the military in 1948, and they spend that money instead on schools and social welfare. They have protected the land, the flora and the fauna with a huge network of national parks. In response the people are happy, successful, and clearly are proud of their country and take care of it. It seems so simple, and the good news is that other countries are starting to see the light. We could do it Boston as well.

I intentionally was not keeping up with the news in America. I would catch snippets here and there about the Iraq war and the British hostages. I've received emails about some of the violence in Boston. The answers seem to be simple, hire more cops (as our lawsuit requests), and give kids and families hope for a future by providing good schools, and ending the corruption, nepotism, and racism that bars access to the valuable assets of the city. We just need the leadership to do it.

A quick note about District 2. Mary Cooney, Ed Flynn and Susan Passoni are 3 very good candidates. I believe either one of them will provide a beacon of responsibility if elected to the council, and I encourage voters to check out what they (and the others) have to say and make an informed choice. I'm a bit glad I'm not in their district so I don't have to choose between them!

We dropped off our bikes at the shipping company yesterday at the cargo terminal in Panama, we are getting on the plane today and will reacquaint ourselves with the bikes in Quito, Ecuador!

Hope Easter was good for everyone, and Go Sox!!!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bon Voyage!

Clara and I are finally leaving New Orleans today, heading towards Mexico.

You can follow our adventures at

My best to everyone back in Boston and elsewhere!


Friday, February 02, 2007

The Press Photographers at the BIG House!

Tonight and tomorrow we are hosting the Boston Press Photographers Association as they judge the best pictures of the year from Boston and New England photo journalists. We are honored to have the White House Press Photographer, a man with over 40 Time covers, and one of the top women photo journalists in the country sitting in our living room and deciding the best pictures amongst thousands of entries in many different categories.

There is best animal picture, best sports picture, etc.

They have bunkered down and no comments are allowed from the peanut gallery. It is fun to watch these professionals look and choose what is great and what is merely really good. Neat to sort of get a "year in review of New England" as well.

A friend asked us if we'd be willing to let them use the house, and we agreed as long as they took their shoes off(!) and made a donation to the South End Youth Baseball. It is a win/win on all sides!

Alas, no pictures of motorcycles or of any secret meetings!!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Reason Why Michael Ross had so many parking tickets?

I've heard that one of the reasons Councilor Ross had so many parking tickets is because he registered his car in Newton so he was ineligible for a resident parking sticker.

Why would someone do this? Because the insurance rates (and maybe the excise taxes) are much lower in Newton than they are in Boston. It would be expected that a graduate of business school would take advantage of the economic opportunity and indicate that his vehicle was garaged in Newton.

Especially when you can get parking tickets fixed.

Disclaimer: I have not fact checked this, only heard it from a source, who heard it.....

Thursday, January 25, 2007

To my anonymous source

To my anonymous source:

At the recent trial I asked the question that you suggested I ask of the person in question and the answer was in the affirmative. Due to constraints and agreements with my co-plaintiffs I was not allowed to follow up with further questioning or witnesses.

It appears that everything you have provided me is true. What do you suggest I do at this point?
Would going to the feds be appropriate?

I will be out of the country for a year soon, so if you have any thoughts try and send them in the next week.


City Hall wouldn't mind Boston full of only Rich People

BRA says wealthy only in Boston would be OK. "At the annual AIAS conference ( held at the Back Bay Sheraton over New Year's weekend, a senior BRA official, Prataap Patrose, Director of Urban Design, suggested in his comments, as part of a panel discussion on Urban Planning, that it would not necessarily be a negative development if Boston living was only affordable to the well to do. A fellow panelist Globe Architecture critic Robert Campbell, took the official to task noting that successful cities result when people of all incomes and educational backgrounds can and want to live and work in the city. According to audience members the fact that the press and other elected officials were not present prevented a quite larger public discussion and outcry about the official's comments."

this came from the livable streets alliance

Friday, January 19, 2007

Late night thoughts from the Bywater

Vaughan's, 1 am, January 19, 2007: New Orleans

Needless to say, there are no wireless networks available here in the Bywater, but then no one is asking for one. The city is Saints crazy, I've seen half a dozen bands in the last fortnight, from soul to brass, blues to the reincarnation of Mama Cass and every one has played "the Saints go Marching In" with cries of "Who Dat, Who dat, Who dat say they are going to beat them Saints?!?!

I was privileged enough to get a couple tickets to the Eagles game and I hate to say it, but it was louder than Yanks/Sox. It wasn't as intense, but it was loud!!! I was invited to a tailgate party by one of my workers, what a great time. It was about 130 yards from the front door of City Hall, in a park with a pavilion. There were about 60 friends, throwing the football, BBQ'ing, with kegs, pot luck food like crawfish cheesecake, and people smoking joints all within view of Mayor Nagin's office. (Known as C Ray by some pundits due to the fact that you Don't see Ray around) There was also the life size state of Ernie K Doe, deceased singer and perpetual Mayoral candidate with his personal Hearse. His widow brings him to events and parties around town. The Times Picayune recently had an editorial suggesting that Ernie K is seen around town more and is more engaged than our live Mayor. Despite being dead, Ernie didn't finish last in the most recent election.

I have put together a temporary work crew of an out of season professional golfer, a Tulane Law grad who hasn't taken the bar, and a guy from New Zealand with immigration issues who is going to join the infantry as soon as he sorts it out. Never a dull moment down here. We are getting great work done, with a wide range of topics discussed on the job from Caddyshack, to NZ's universal health care to whether anyone has seen a grown man naked, and of course the daily betting pool of when our resident white trash laborer will show up and what his excuse will be. (So far, two instances of not being able to find his way, despite being a Louisiana native, and one instance of locking his keys in the car) It's all good.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, gets down right, or on time, or at all down here. You may come to Boston and never see or eat a bean, but you can't escape the morass of the Big Easy down here. I drove 27 hours down here a couple weeks ago, with a 3 hour sleep in a Tennessee rest area and before I went to my place I stopped at the store for some food. With my 14 items I was third in line at the 15 items or less lane. 20 minutes, and two phone calls later I had checked out…, this morning at Home Depot (Lowe's is definitely better, cleaner, more organized, more knowledgeable staff) as I was trying to buy a microwave the two young clerks discussed boys and their cellphones while I clicked my heels. My standard sighing response these days is "well, I can certainly see how we won the war…, I'm just amazed it took so long" they usually nod in agreement. Everyone knows it, but no one does anything about it, kind of like the Weather, George Bush and Global warming. Or trash in Boston and the elected officials, see today's heeelarious Boston Herald article, "I'm going to do something about this right away", "I'm going to hold a hearing", "within 30 days I am going to have a report" Are they for real???!!!

Braintree has taken to spray painting "NO TRASH" on the street or sidewalk in front of people's homes who haven't paid their trash bills, in order to shame residents into paying. The trash collectors don't take the trash from any house that hasn't paid up. Maybe I should call my local elected official and suggest it.

Back to the present and Kermit is playing his IPOD during his "Reefer break", from Beyonce, to Michael Jackson, to 'Bounosera, senorita kiss me goodnight" His album "KERMIT RUFFINS LIVE AT VAUGHAN'S" is coming out on February 12, 2007. Their version of "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing" will be worth the price alone. Plus versions of "I'll be around" and his 13 year old daughter showed up at 1 a.m. to sing "I know what it means to miss New Orleans" with him. I can't wait.

Thanks to people who have asked me to run for Jimmy Kelly's seat, but first of all I live in Chuck Turner's district and two, I am absolutely taking the year off to travel the world with Clara. Can't wait to get further down the road, we're taking a family friend with us who is somewhat familiar with Central America on the first leg of our trip to Panama.

An All-Star jam is getting together here, with members of the Rebirth Brass Band such as 'trombone slim' in the house, the aging "Sleeping Giant" has already sung once, and more are on their way.

That's a lot of entertainment for $10. Happy Mardi Gras!

Another interesting thing from the Open Meeting Law trial was Steven Murphy. He had an amendment written up that would have kept any councilor who voted against the pay raise from receiving the pay raise. What a great way to coerce people and squelch democracy. He got very aggravated on the stand when I asked him about it, saying that it must have come from his computer and he would get to the bottom of whomever leaked it out. (It was his Lawyer who gave it to us) Interestingly though despite it being supposedly only on his computer, all the white counselors who were asked about it were familiar with it. Chuck Turner had not heard of it.

Speaking of Chuck he called me on my cellphone the night before the trial and started to discuss his personal finances. His lawyer had mentioned to the judge that even though some people voted against the pay raise, they were still taking the pay raise. The City's lawyer then apparently told Chuck that the issue of him taking the raise might come up at the trial. We had no knowledge of his pay, and it had nothing to do with the matter at hand. But it seemed to have an effect of bringing him into line with saying on the stand that despite the fact that the public never had a chance to see the pay raise statute, let alone a chance to comment or have a hearing he believed that the "public's business had been done in public" I was not surprised, but some on our team were.

It is odd being next door neighbors with the daughter of Congressman Jefferson, he of the $90,000 in the fridge. Me being so anti corruption and influence peddling. Some of the local wags refer to him as "Dollar Bill", the old nickname of the white high top wearing Senator from New Jersey who shares Sam Yoon's alma mater.

John Tobin has been quietly going around the city meeting with parents of schoolchildren in the Boston Public Schools. Whether it is politically motivated or not, good for him for putting in the work. One Ward committee has already talked about who they would support in a race between him and the Mayor. John better have some more good ideas in the next few months so that the Mayor can steal them and proclaim to be ahead of the curve.

It's 2 a.m. and the band is starting to roll again, with every song having a Saints and Super Bowl reference worked in.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Orleans March against Violence, written at Tipitina's

The Rally

I went to the Rally at City Hall Thursday, which I thought was an extraordinary affair. Three different marches, from 3 different parts of the City converged on City Hall. The crowd was white and black and Asian, young and old, business leaders and bikers.

There were about 5,000 people there, and the People spoke. There were about 10 speakers. An underlying theme was "enough is enough", which was repeated often. I was incredibly impressed with these common folk who came to speak. They really understood the core problems facing the City. They spoke of how the problem was not a Katrina problem, it was a problem that had started many years earlier. There were ministers, siblings of the murdered, business people, neighbors, community people, all speaking of the Anger and Frustration of trying to rebuild with a government
that "just doesn't get it."

They spoke of how music was taken out of the schools in 1985, how athletics have been taken out of the schools. The crowd was chanting "Music in the Schools, Music in the Schools" for awhile. Blacks and Whites spoke about how this was not a racial issue, this was a human issue that affects everyone, one preacher talking about how the city survived the water running through the streets, but it could not survive blood in the streets.

They spoke about how we needed independent accountability of our government and law enforcement officials. How the police needed to be paid more money. About how parents needed to take control of their kids, about how parents needed to stop worrying about other people telling their kids the proper way to act, about how we all needed to look in the mirror, about how young black youths needed to step up to the plate (this was said by a young black youth), they talked about the need for better schools, and hope for the children.

I was most moved by a speaker from the Hot 8 brass band, who had one of their members murdered around New Years. He talked about how he was scared to death of the police, as he looked directly at the Mayor, and a number of Police Officials. He talked about needing lights on in the streets and of being pulled over by cops while carrying his instrument around town, and of being arrested for having the wrong name. But, he also addressed the black youths directly saying "I am speaking as a black youth, you black youths have to stop messing around. I am tired of hearing 'Nigger this, and Nigger that.' Let me tell you I AINT NO NIGGER, AND I DON'T KNOW NO NIGGERS." This got one of the loudest rounds of applause of the day.

The crowd held signs from "Recall Nagin" to pictures of the Dead, to personal expressions of grief and tragedy endured. In standard New
Orleans style, marchers were led by traditional drumming, being met with drums when converging together, and the drums giving crescendo riffs at high points of speeches, a low frequency reminder of the important words being spoken.

One Minister gave the powerful words "New Orleans might be known as the city that care forgot but This won't be the city that forgot to care."

One of the Hot 8 members also talked about how we need to get Christianity back in the schools, this was met with tepidity and a low rumble of boos. He pulled out a dollar bill and started talking about it saying "In God We Trust" and how that somehow meant that we needed God in the schools. But, I thought the crowd was very respectful, with the tacit understanding that everyone was here with good intentions. In another forum, he may have well been loudly booed off the stage by this crowd.

Mayor Nagin was right behind the stage for all of this, listening to the anger of the residents, while catcalls occasionally bombarded him from the crowd.

Overall, I think the residents were on to the right issues. The Government needs to be held accountable in a transparent manner, with independent auditing. Bad schools lead to bad results for all the residents. Law enforcement needs to be adequately funded, and also open to oversight and audit. The leaders need to lead, to have a plan, and to advocate the State and Federal government for appropriate help. There were loud calls for the government to be honest with the citizens.

I was also impressed about how race was essentially a non-issue, that everyone realized they were in this together, and they were honest about the major source of the violence being the drugs in the city, and young black youth involved in the drug trade or victims of its effects.

The Mayor held a news conference later in the day to say that he heard loud and clear and that he gets it. Here is hoping that he does.

(This is very stream of consciousness, written with my laptop on the bar at Tipitina's while an all-star cast of New Orleans favorite's celebrate the 29th anniversary)

So, here I am speaking to Anne Deady from the University of Maryland Law School, we are enjoying the ambiance at Tipitina's for their 29th anniversary party gathering, they are inscribing names into the sidewalk outside, the Neville's are singing, people are chanting and dancing.

And of course, the Hi-Life's are $2.

She is here volunteering with the public Defender's office here in NOLA.
All week, she has been doing client interviews, one person has been in for 22 months without a trial. There were 250 people from around the country volunteering during their winter break from law school. Thank you Ann, and the others for trying to help this legal and law enforcement system which is on the verge of collapse.

Soul Rebels just came on, there is nothing like a late night brass band in New Orleans, Who Dat, Who Dat, Who Dat says they're going to beat those Saints???!!!! Of Course, they are breaking into the Saints Marching In.
Luckily I was able to get a ticket to the Big game tomorrow for $240 bucks, it is my first foray into the Dome, and I am excited. This city needs and wants the Saints to do well, and the Saints have been reciprocating and really connecting with the people. The group I'm going with is frying up some chicken, bringing some kegs and tailgating from about noon on just outside of City Hall.

Looks like Anderson Cooper has been reading my blog, and decided to head to Vaughan's last night for Kermit Ruffins. It was a rocking show by all accounts, and I'm sorry I missed it but I was grouting a bathroom and the grout was setting up and getting away from me, so I ended up until 1 a.m. doing the Karate Kid, "sand on, sand off" with a sponge, two buckets of water, and a lot of elbow grease.

Sorry, while I'm writing this the Rebels just broke into a non verbal brass version of the Violent Femmes…"…Love to strut your stuff" sings the crowd.

While I was writing this at the bar, many, many people came up to me and read over my shoulder and offered their thoughts and comments. From the law student above, to an English teacher at Delgado community college who didn't like the improper English of the Hot 8 speakers, to a woman who saw the "N" word and wanted me to stop writing and have a drink, to a middle aged woman who insisted I give her my card because she wanted to be my friend. I met a couple from Newburyport who were here for his 40 year birthday celebration. They had been coming for years, and turns out he has a couple motorcycles so of course the conversation drifted that way.

A group of 6 or so 40 something cousins insisted I dance with them when they found out I was from Boston, as one of them grew up in the Southie projects. Best of all, there were many more Red Sox hats than Yankees hats being displayed in the throbbing mob.

Long and short of it, is that I want people to know that New Orleans is still very much open for business, people are coming here and having a great time, and feeling completely safe. The City needs you, will welcome you, and will absolutely make sure you have a great time.

Come on down, help out, be a part of the solution.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Citizens March on City Hall to protest violence

There were 9 murders in the first 8 days of 2007 here in New Orleans. The violence and crime is everywhere, not just a few neighborhoods like in Boston. On Sunday a stolen car thief
screeched around my corner, 30 yards from my house, slammed into two cars, got out and brandishing a gun starting running down the street. He started taking his clothes off (will there be a "baggy jeans running" event in future Olympics?) until he was naked, as it started to rain. He wasn't caught, and the dogs lost his scent in the rain.

Welcome to New Orleans.

Murdered last week was the Hot 8 drummer, shot in the back of the head while he was in his car.

Also murdered was Helen Hill, the murder that really put this city over the edge. Helen and her husband met at Harvard. Lived in Nova Scotia, the South and here. Her husband was a doctor, she a filmmaker. They were great friends with friends I've made down here, a group I call my "anarchistic doctors", who set up a free medical clinic after the storm because the government wasn't getting anything done. This group of people are the most warm, wonderful group of people who are all about peace, loving the creativity and vibrancy of New Orleans, of all races and nations. We spent the Fourth of July playing with the kids in someones front yard, eating watermelon, and shooting fireworks off in the Neutral Ground. They had started a Food not Bombs group that collected donations at Whole Foods and distributed it to the needy.

Helen didn't want to return to New Orleans, with her husband and 2 year old. But he was insistent that the City needed people like them. So they returned to help. Last week an intruder broke into their home, murdered her, shot her husband 3 times and left, not to be caught.

The two murders have galvanized the City. There will be 3 marches converging on City Hall today, ending up there demanding accountability by their politicians. It has been reported on NPR this morning, with a soulful yearning message written by a friend and attorney.

The murder rate here is approximately 4 times greater than Boston on a per capita basis.

Please try and help anyway you can. Insist that your congressman release funds for FBI and other law enforcement help. People are really reaching the end of their rope here, and everyone is concerned, rich and poor, black and white, young and old. Hopefully those controlling the purse strings will hear.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

When I die, you better be second line

I LOVE New Orleans...
as frustrating as it is on a constant basis. They are just so darn polite..."I'm sorry we didn't call you back after the 10 messages you left us, we've been really short staffed. I appreciate your patience sir...." All said with total conviction.

But, really God's genius can be seen on a consistent basis in the presence of Kermit Ruffins. I'm not into drugs, but marijuana can't be that bad if combining it and the trumpet player results in so many, many, many smiles and joy.

Tonight I took a young white liberal woman from my area to the 'hood to see Kermit, despite being a native Louisianan (but growing up in the suburbs-like marriage, "the death of hope") Although she proclaimed to be really disturbed about the 9 murders in 8 days here in NOLA, when I mentioned the area off of St. Bernard Street she started asking the usual "is it safe there? Can you be intimidating to people? Isn't that where all the murders are?", and when she saw the neighborhood as we drove there she became more fearful.

All we have to fear is fear....

Once we arrived at Bullets Sports Bar, the good times began. The BBQ was smokin' right outside, the smell so good I told the chef I was getting fat just sniffin' it. The crowd was 90 percent black, and I realized that in New Orleans EVERYONE is a character. Three young guys pulled up on Superbikes for their share of the fixin's and to check the scene. I started a conversation by noting that one of the 3 was clearly a better rider, a fact I'd ascertained by looking at his tires, they were impressed and said yes indeed the youngest of them was a motorcycle dragracing savant and they regaled me with stories of highway wheelies, and dragracing stories of milliseconds and thundering wobbles. We got into a debate over roadracing v. dragracing, which quickly devolved into the glories of Nitrous and the latest computer shifting schemes, racing on the streets, before one guy humorously explained 'we're young and black, you think we can get a track?" After exchanging info and agreeing to go for a ride later, they headed off and I headed in.

Inside, James Brown was shouting that Papa's got a brand new Bag, and patron's were tappin, smiling and dancing, and this is before the act came on! Once Kermit started, the smiles expanded, the aisles got crowded, and the washboard player literally had sparks flying from his spoons.

Rounds of beers were shared, I learned the wisdom of 71 year old Ray who is a retired plasterer who still smokes and drinks, but lost everything in Katrina and moved to Baton Rouge, but he still comes down to his local when he can. I told him I think there are good people everywhere and he corrected me to say "there are good and bad people everywhere." He also told me, in the only sobering thought of the night that "this is my neighborhood, and I don't know what has happened to it, even I can be afraid walking these streets."

There were birthday salutes, funky hats, and Kermit playing one of my favorites, "when I die, better be second line, Oh when I die, you better be second line" I was wishing my wife was with me so we could dance to the second line, soon, soon...

Before the evening ended, I was licking my fingers with some BBQ and met lifelong Raiders fan John, who used to live in Dorchester. He escorted me to my truck, got my phone number and we agreed to hang out more in the future.

There was more, so much more, as always with the Crescent City, that will never die...

RIP Jimmy Kelly

Sunday, January 07, 2007

How Conservative or Liberal are you?

There is an interesting questionaire at

if you have a couple minutes you could take the quiz and see how conservative or liberal you
are. It is very subjective, and I even changed my answer a couple times so it is clearly
not an in depth analysis but can give a quick look at where you are. I seemed to come out as left leaning middle of the road. My results:

Overall: 40% Conservative, 60% Liberal

Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Deval Gets Inaugurated, thoughts on a bold use of the Bully Pulpit

As I was driving through the South Bay Shopping Center yesterday, seeing a new building go up, I thought of a good way Deval could use his bully pulpit.

There is something called the Boston Jobs Policy. 50% of the construction jobs in the City are supposed to goto Bostonians, 25% to minorities and 10 percent to women. However, this policy is not enforced, and basically given lip service by the Mayor and his administration. A review of 5 years of BRA projects showed that only between 20 and 25 % of the jobs are going to Boston residents and fewer still to minorities.

Why are young minorities in the City shooting one another? One reason is very tiny job prospects. Look around at the construction jobs, mostly white males, which the data show mostly live in the suburbs. Even in the heart of Roxbury/Dorchester a new building going up has only white guys visibly working on it (at least 10 as I drove by, with no women or minorities). Our trade school, Madison Park has fewer than a dozen young people getting the training to be carpenters and according to the teachers they are not getting the resources they need to prepare the kids for the real world.

Perhaps Deval could work with the Mayor on giving these kids an opportunity, so they have more to look forward to than guns and violence. Use that pulpit to get the City of Boston to enforce its own guidelines and hire local people, local minorities for these honest, good paying jobs.

Talking about Police Staffing, Violence on WRKO

I will be on WRKO sometime between 10 a.m. and 1 pm on Saturday talking about the police staffing levels and the increased violence in the City. In particular, I will be talking about our Citizen Lawsuit to force the Mayor and the City of Boston to enforce it's own laws by staffing the Boston Police Department to the number required by Ordinance, namely 2500 police officers.

Please call in and join in the discussion, with your thoughts and ideas on how we can reduce the violence in the City.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Patriots Playoff Tix Raffle for Good Cause!

A friend of mine who is a bigwig at Spaulding Hospital is offering a chance to
goto the playoffs, and help raise money for a great charity. Please indulge

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Network, official rehabilitation hospital
network of the New England Patriots, presents:

> New England Patriots Playoff Raffle
Includes two seats on 45 yrd line and two passes to VIP tailgate party

AFC East Champs, NE Patriots
> vs. New York Jets
> Sunday, January 7th
11am VIP Tailgate Party (includes barbeque and open bar)
> 1pm: Game Time
> Gillette Stadium
> Raffle tickets will be sold as such:
> 1 for $5
> 3 for $10
> 7 for $20
> The drawing will be held at 2pm on Friday, January 5th.
> Proceeds to benefit the Spaulding ski-a-thon teams.
> If you would like to purchase tickets or have any questions please contact
> Suzanne Showstack at or (617) 573-2903.