It’s About Guns! Don’t Be Distracted.

After a mass shooting such as the atrocious crime committed in Parkland, Florida yesterday, a familiar process begins in the media, both mass and social, and in politics. There are expressions of outrage at the nature of the crime and the fact that it wasn’t prevented, and there are expressions of sadness at the lives lost, and of support and sympathy for the families of those killed, and for those injured in the attacks. This is as it should be. When this goes away it will be because we have grown so used two such attacks that they no longer make an impression on us.

There is also a desperate search for motives and for answers to why and how a crime of this kind can happen. Continue reading

Genuflecting and the National Anthem

Last week Donald Trump tweeted 

Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable

This statement puzzles me. Though I am not a religious man, I was raised Roman Catholic. Lots of people make jokes about the transitions between sitting, standing, and kneeling that are part of the Catholic Mass being a strategy to keep worshippers awake throughout the service, but in fact gestures and physical actions have meaning in the Catholic Church, just they do in most faith traditions. A 2002 document from the Catholic Diocese of Worcester explains the significance of some of these gestures.  Continue reading

Presidential Behavior

Yesterday realDonalTrump tweeted, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

Dear Mr. President,

Regardless of how you feel about Judge James L. Robart’s ruling, or how incorrect you think it may be, you should show some respect, just as I have done you by referring to you as Mr. President.  I did not vote for you, and I am deeply concerned that you have acted against the best interests of our nation, perhaps even illegally in several actions you have taken since assuming office.  But I also recognize that you are the President because of your victory in the Electoral College, and the other of office you took in January.

You should show Judge Robart the same courtesy.  His not a “so-called judge”; he is a judge. To be precise, he is a US Federal Judge for the US District Court in Washington State, nominated by George W. Bush in 2003, and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2004. Ruling against your executive order does not abrogate this. He is and will remain a judge until he resigns, becomes incapacitated, or is impeached.

You must stop acting like a reality TV star. For better or worse, you are the President of the United States, now. It is not acceptable for you to personally attack a judge. I happen to think Judge Robart’s verdict was completely correct, and that he was right to put a stop on enforcement of your order.  I do not believe your order was constitutional. Moreover, it was sloppily and inhumanely executed. Nonetheless, I recognize that you have every right to use the bully pulpit the Presidency affords you to criticize the verdict.  You may launch a judicial challenge to the verdict, or call on the Congress to change the law so that your order will comply. But it is completely unacceptable that you challenge the legitimacy of the court simply because the judge disagreed with you.

Your criticism of the judge is completely consistent with your criticism of national icons, celebrities, law-makers, and even private citizens who disagree with your position.  That may have been effective for you in your business interactions, but it is not presidential behavior. No other president in my lifetime has proven as petulant, vindictive, and childish!



Is it only journalists who care about the President’s tax returns?

All traces of the Obama Administration and it’s agenda have been removed from the White House web site. The Wayback Machine indicates the same thing happened on January 22, 2009, so I suppose this is the norm, but it seems very strange to me.  Completely obliterating traces of the previous regime is something I’d expect from an authoritarian or totalitarian regime. In the US the Presidency changes hands, and it comes under the control of the leaders of opposing parties, but there is continuity in the office. Shouldn’t the White House web site better reflect this?

Perhaps the most strange to me is the removal of the petitions on the “We the People” page in the site, including petitions that had not yet reached their target.  There are already two new petitions, though. One calls on President Trump to immediately release his full tax returns, and the other calls on him to divest from or put in a blind trust all his business and financial assets. Both were added today, but as I write this, the petition calling for releasing his tax returns already has over 10,000 signatures.  Strange, since the President claims only journalists care about his taxes!

Now the Donald Trump is the President, it seems to me more urgent than ever that we know exactly what his financial interests are.


Teen Birth Rate Here and There

from "Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing." Adolescent Health Topics. The Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Dec. 2014.

from “Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing.” Adolescent Health Topics/Reproductive Health. The Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 12 Dec. 2014.

On Friday WBUR reported from Boston

The birth rate among teens in Massachusetts is at its lowest recorded level in the state’s history, a report out Friday says.

The birth rate of teens ages 15-19 fell 14 percent last year, from 14 births per 1,000 women in 2012 to 12 births per 1,000 women in 2013, the Massachusetts Department of Health reported.

“This is terrific news for all Massachusetts families, and a dramatic indication that our decisions to invest in our young people — through education, support and resources — can have a real and lasting impact on their lives and in their communities,” Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement.

Indeed, according to the Department of Health and Human Services,  the statistics on teenage birth rates were also terrific news for Massachusetts and for most of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota in 2011 when all those states already had rates below 20 births per 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 19.  They were the only ones, and they really stand out on the map. Continue reading

Last Week Tonight Tackles ” Most Collectible Kind of Debt There Is”

This was a really good report on student loan debt from John Oliver’s new show, Last Week Tonight. It was funny and at the same time some of the best reporting on the topic I’ve seen in a while, so I’m sharing it here.

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Happy Holidays

Master of the Trebon Altarpiece [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Once again conservative media is outraged over people who say “Happy Holidays, and once again I am disturbed by the vitriolic reaction against what is, to my mind, a magnanimous, generous, all encompassing gesture.  Wishing someone Happy Holidays seems rather Jesus-like to me.  I’m not sure if that makes it Christian, though.  An awful lot of Christians today seem to have a real chip on their shoulder, and don’t behave at all like the Jesus whose story is told in the gospels.

Continue reading

Bikes of Richmond

Bikes in the Fan of Richmond, Virginia during the Winter Break.

Global Warming and Electricity Bills

chapte21It seems like shops, restaurants, schools and libraries and other public places are increasingly leaving the lights on after dark.  I don’t mean a few lights so as to deter thieves or vandalism, but I mean literally every light in the place.  Why is this?

When I was growing up our we got scolded for leaving the lights on in rooms because electricity costs money and dad, wasn’t made of it.  As I got older and started paying my own bills, I knew exactly what he meant.  I was quite young when the oil crisis hit, but I remember it well.  I remember being told to conserve our resources because they were finite, expensive and because we did not want to be beholden to foreign powers.

The same period also saw the rise of the environmental movement.  Most electricity was produced by generators that polluted the air of our cities, and the meltdowns.  Accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl provided that even “clean” nuclear energy was dangerous.  So I have always turned off all anything that uses electricity that was not in use in order to economize, and because it was better for the environment.

Some of those reasons were overstated, but have they all evaporated?  Has electricity become that cheep?  Or is it that new light bulbs and appliances are so much more efficient that it doesn’t matter if they’re left on?  Seriously, I’m wondering.  Because when I see every light left on in a place like a library or school where people should know better, I have to wonder.



Unequal Clashes on the Roads: Bikes, Pedestrians and Motor Vehicles

The Overpass

The Overpass

I biked to the Green Line today from my home in MetroWest.  For most of the way to the Woodland stop I ride along Route 16 feeling relatively safe. Sometimes the vehicles come a little close for comfort and I worry I might get run off the road.  But I’m usually riding down the edge of the road, wearing a helmet, and not at risk of getting pushed into ongoing traffic, so I feel fairly safe.  But then I get to that giant clusterf–k of roads surrounding the 95/128 overpass.  In rapid succession you have Wales St., Quinobequin Road, the On and Off Ramps for the interstate, Neshobe Road, and finally Beacon Street.Every time I get there I feel like I take my life in my hands!

I obey the rules of traffic as much as possible when I commute by bike.  It seems like the safest way.   Today I tried to go straight through a green light while oncoming traffic was turning left.  I had the right of way, yet they started and just kept going.  If I wanted to get through, I would have had to insist.  I started forward and whistled as loud as a could.  An oncoming utility van with open windows slowed down, yelled at me, “You’re supposed to act like a car,” and then kept going.  It was a nerve-racking situation.  I was, in fact, behaving like a car, obeying the rules of traffic and I had the right of way.  I made it through safely, but I was flustered, and a bit breathless.

Continue reading