The posts on this page are from a variety of Salem blogs and the views expressed are those of the individual blog author.

November 26th, 2017

Salem Wants Your Reactions to Recent “Haunted Happenings” Halloween Celebration

Everybody has an opinion although sometimes people don’t want to hear yours. But we do when it comes to reactions, comments, criticism, and suggestions about Haunted Happenings in Salem Ma. Gone but not forgotten, our month-long celebration of Halloween (and all things spooky) doesn’t just happen by itself. It takes a lot of planning by […]

October 16th, 2017

Returning to the blog

Pamplemousse, a French-themed kitchen shop in the middle of Downtown Salem.

After a long time, in Internet terms, I talked myself into blogging again.

When I posted my last blog entry, after my dear friend Charlie Reardon passed away, I was well and truly burned out.  I’ve always been a pessimist about the city I live in, always cynical.  As a “Masshole” (and proud of it!), I have always been obsessed with local politics.  That is both very good, and very bad.

I still sit on the Commission on Disabilities;  in fact, David Martel and I are presently the most senior members, having been appointed 10 years ago this summer.

I’ve been on Facebook in the interim–I still am, in fact–but I’ve found that I miss posting photos and events, and not all of my friends are on Facebook.

I also found new activities to take up, which I want to share here.
I don’t intend to change the blog very much.  I still hate talking about national politics, now even more so.  I do talk about local politics, when it interests me.  (Despite what one would think, I have always been politically involved, voting since 1984. )

I’ll talk about disability issues, Salem photos, some local politics, and whatever new thing I have found this week.

À bientot! (See you soon!)

September 20th, 2015

Derby Wharf Exhibits Should They Stay or Be Deep-Sixed?

The National Park Service is looking to possibly shake up the look of Derby Wharf at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site and it wants your input. Residents & tourists alike have come upon “interpretive exhibits” along Derby Wharf which consist of five units of vertical text/image panels, a small mast and yard arm, an […]

January 1st, 2012

Is My Councilor Better Than His Voters Because He Served?

Honor Guard, James Ayube Roadway Memorial Dedication

Dedication of the James Ayube Memorial Riverway, September 30th, 2011

A few days ago, I was reading the threads on Salemweb, and ran into Lloyd’s political commentary mixed amongst his Christmas best wishes.  (Christmas is not my favorite holiday, but I hope everybody had good festivities nonetheless.)

I don’t pay a lot of attention;  most of the threads on that board rehash old arguments that would never be settled even if Kim Driscoll were hit by a meteorite in bed tonight.

And why would I take issue with best wishes anyway, even if they’re satirical?  But Lloyd, in this thread, said something that has bothered me enough to stick my head out on a topic I never felt safe to bring up before.

Lloyd:

To Mike Sosnowski – Many thanks for your hard work in the face of dealing with individuals who have little or no appreciation for your service to your country, or your dedication to the ward you live in. Semper Fi.

I’m sure Lloyd didn’t mean anything negative in particular, except for criticizing those who don’t agree with Mike.

Or who don’t appreciate Mike’s service to his country as a Marine.

I respect his service.  But I have disagreed with Mike on many occasions.  I don’t approve of his performance.  I don’t like how he toadies to the Common and the Federal Street associations.  I was livid when he let someone from Northfields tell me what I should have or not have in my neighborhood.

But he’s a veteran.  I should not speak.

Right?

One of Mark Twain’s best short works, “The War Prayer”, goes right to the heart of my unease.  He describes the great swell of patriotism surrounding the Phillipine-American War, which he hated.

In a church, a fervent pastor is leading his flock in excited, vigorous prayer, praying for their young men, soon to go into battle, and for their total victory over their enemy.

In the middle of the prayer, a wild man walks in, and explains:

“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory–*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

If you pray for our victory, Twain says, you are praying for some mother’s son to die, for someone’s home to be bombed, for some child to die in fire.  (It’s worth going back to read the whole piece;  I do it no credit.)

I’m no pacifist.  I’ve grown up all my life knowing a military and veterans and armed forces and I don’t see that going away.  But war, as Sherman put it, is hell, and I hate sentimentalizing it or romanticizing it.

More to the point of my councilor, when I am told to support my councilor because he served,  I hear these unspoken things:

  • “I served and I’m a better citizen than you!”
  • “You can’t tell me what to do.  I served and you didn’t!”
  • “You’d act better if  I sent you to boot camp, wouldn’t you?!”
  • “Yes, I can tell you what to do!  Say Sir, Yes Sir!”
  • “You didn’t serve.  You’re not really a citizen.  Or a person.”

This last point is inordinately cruel:  Though I did register for Selective Service and had no qualms or fears of the unlikely possibility that I would be called up, I would have never been able to pass the physical in any event;  my early eye history and my hearing loss would have certainly disqualified me.

If my councilor is superior to me because he served, and if I could not serve, I would have to think I’m an untermenschen.   (Societies that thought they had untermenschen they needed to deal with have all been stable and happy societies that have never made war within their nations or outside of it.  Right.  Sure.)

Mind you, I don’t think Mike himself thinks this of me.  He might hate what I wrote.  He could even yell at me as if he were my DI—and he’d be perfectly entitled to do so, given our disagreements!

But I’ve heard comments like Lloyd’s from so many people in the past few years.  Several years ago on Salemweb, I had made a comment on Eisenhower (whom I admire) and how I would not necessarily vote for a veteran because none of them were like our former General and President.

I got an extended lecture on the Greatest Generation.

I suspect the person who gave me that lecture, which has become a catechism over the years, did not serve.  Many people who are gung-ho about our military, who love our military above all else, the Fighting Keyboard types who would bomb Iran tomorrow, did not themselves serve.

To too many Americans, our soldiers are totems.  We worship them.  We use them to make ourselves feel better.  We can stand next to the lowest Army private and be his or her friend and be better because we are associated with a soldier.

To hear people tell it, the late James Ayube died for our sins.  I attended the dedication ceremony that named the bypass road for him, and I was dismayed about how my state rep, John Keenan, and my mayor Driscoll, just waved away the facts of Ayube’s death as if they were just a force of Nature.  I am left thinking that ceremony was not so much for Ayube’s family but for ourselves.

I don’t expect a ceremony like that to be a discourse on our foreign policies, but we, the people, are responsible for the well-being, the safety and most importantly the prudent use of our forces, with our  young people that we have asked to fight for us on our behalf.

We can’t take his death for granted, nor romanticize it, nor sentimentalize it.  But I’ve given up on our politicians realizing that because they of all people benefit the most from standing next to a soldier.

Getting back to my point, I’ve heard from a lot of people over the past few years, and not a few of my Facebook friends, who love the idea of a military government, even though it’s against our Constitution.

The military will just make things work!  In a military government, Lloyd can have me sent away for treason.  The Army can kill all them liberals!  Shoot illegal aliens all day, all night, with dogs and choppers and night vision, everywhere! 

I have to think if I am going to toady up to my councilor just because he served, I am helping to insure that the military takeover that we have always criticized other nations for doing, that could never happen because we loved Freedom more than anyone else, will easily happen right here at home.  To hear some tell it, we’re well on our way to welcoming our new Army overlords.

I won’t do it.

Mike can show up at my door anytime and give me General Patton’s method of discipline.  I understand it.  I’ll take it.

But I won’t kiss his ass just because he served and I didn’t.

June 8th, 2011

Four Years Blogging

Pauline and Monique, age 2, 1981

As is my tradition, I pay tribute to my late Mom and mark the anniversary of my blog.  As is also my tradition, I am tardy with it.  By at least two weeks!

Before I explain the picture, I want to give my belated welcome to Keep It Klassy, Salem, a relatively new blog that has been around for several years.  I don’t agree with the blogger on many things but I am delighted that someone is following Salem politics after the demise of the old Salem Politics blog.  His blog is in my blogroll now, as is the new Salem Patch, which has flashes of excellence and could be the future of news media on the North Shore, at least if AOL lets it.

Now, the picture.  As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I came from a foster home, and Jeannette Moisan was my foster mom and for all purposes my defacto Mom.  On the left is Pauline, Jeannette’s biological daughter.  If we were related by blood we would be brother and sister.  But she wasn’t my foster sister;  we had many girl foster children but none of them was ever, or ever could be, a “sister”.  So Pauline was also my defacto sister.

The cute little toddler with her is Monique.  Mom looked after many kids like her, but she was one of the sweetest.  She would turn on the charm and be manipulative as only a toddler could.  We had a dozen Monique stories, such as when she learned to say my sister’s name—and then kept her up all night saying “PAU-LYLINE!”  Or the time Pauline was in a fruit stand in Peabody and Monique yelled “DA-DA” (her name for me.)  Pauline tells her, “Da-da’s not here!”  Unknown to her I had, for whatever reason, walked down from Varney St. to find Pauline and walk into that same fruit stand…

What a sweet kid she was.  It was hard to see her go back to her Mom.  I hope she’s doing well today.

One last picture with Jeannette:

Monique and Jeannette eating Fudge 1981

June 8th, 2011

Four Years Blogging

Pauline and Monique, age 2, 1981

As is my tradition, I pay tribute to my late Mom and mark the anniversary of my blog.  As is also my tradition, I am tardy with it.  By at least two weeks!

Before I explain the picture, I want to give my belated welcome to Keep It Klassy, Salem, a relatively new blog that has been around for several years.  I don’t agree with the blogger on many things but I am delighted that someone is following Salem politics after the demise of the old Salem Politics blog.  His blog is in my blogroll now, as is the new Salem Patch, which has flashes of excellence and could be the future of news media on the North Shore, at least if AOL lets it.

Now, the picture.  As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I came from a foster home, and Jeannette Moisan was my foster mom and for all purposes my defacto Mom.  On the left is Pauline, Jeannette’s biological daughter.  If we were related by blood we would be brother and sister.  But she wasn’t my foster sister;  we had many girl foster children but none of them was ever, or ever could be, a “sister”.  So Pauline was also my defacto sister.

The cute little toddler with her is Monique.  Mom looked after many kids like her, but she was one of the sweetest.  She would turn on the charm and be manipulative as only a toddler could.  We had a dozen Monique stories, such as when she learned to say my sister’s name—and then kept her up all night saying “PAU-LYLINE!”  Or the time Pauline was in a fruit stand in Peabody and Monique yelled “DA-DA” (her name for me.)  Pauline tells her, “Da-da’s not here!”  Unknown to her I had, for whatever reason, walked down from Varney St. to find Pauline and walk into that same fruit stand…

What a sweet kid she was.  It was hard to see her go back to her Mom.  I hope she’s doing well today.

One last picture with Jeannette:

Monique and Jeannette eating Fudge 1981

May 26th, 2011

Back after an absence


Essex Street Mall 2011-05-26 007, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

Via Flickr:
Nature finally turned a switch to “Summer” today, as these folks are realizing.

And I’ve turned a switch, too.

I haven’t posted in almost six months.  I’m dispirited.

Last winter, my building had the bedbug hysteria that has affected many households in recent years.  Dealing with bedbugs has combined the worst aspects of moving and losing your house to fire or flood.  The Salem News covered the story in my building and it brought out the worst aspect of pest infestations—the moral opprobrium that comes when your betters can look down on you for being “dirty” and “unclean”, even though bedbugs, roaches and mice are blissfully unaware of class distinctions.  

In a building with a shared laundry space, like I have, I’ll never know how I got bedbugs and I just don’t care who or what “gave” them to me.  I just know that pest infestations don’t make me or my neighbors “immoral” or “unclean” or “lazy”, but that was on the minds of many of the Salem News commentariat.

There’s more, too.  Last spring I had quite a screaming match with my ward councilor Mike Sosnowski over a parking proposal at the Jail.

What I learned from that affair is that it doesn’t matter what neighborhood I live in, or what stake I have in anything, if someone more important than me thinks different.  At that meeting, a person from the Northfields neighborhood association asserted that me and my neighbors did not want commercial use at the Jail no matter what.

It doesn’t matter that that Northfields guy probably doesn’t even have a view of the Jail from his house.  And he never cared before about the apartment complex I live in.

As far as I can see, Mike Sosnowski has more or less aided and abetted groups like Northfields.  If you live in cheap rental housing, you will not get representation in Salem.

You will not get it.

Better that you show Mike your mortgage statement—or proof of McIntyre architecture—before coming to him with a problem.

I was at a meeting this past Saturday of the Alliance of Salem Neighborhood Associations.  It was held at the function room of Beverly Cooperative Bank, which is where the Downtown group meets.

I had my own problems with that group, and didn’t want to attend this meeting, except that I made a verbal commitment on recorded video and had to go. 

(I know the camera is on during our Commission meetings.  If I make a gaffe or a curse, then I do.  I don’t try to walk back what I said.  I said it and it’s on tape and that is that.)

Several people in the Alliance complained about being “outsiders”.  I wanted to say to them:  “Where’s Lucy [Corchado, head of  the Point association]?  Where are they?  The Point is a neighborhood, isn’t it?”

Those people have their own advisory board at the highest level of city government.  They have Jason Silva’s [Mayor Driscoll’s chief-of-staff] private number on speed-dial.  I have no doubt that someone like Michael Coleman can have Mike Sosnowski swing into action at 3 AM on a Sunday if he so commands it.  If Teasie Goggin wanted to repeat Mike Bencal’s Al Haig moment (“I’m in control here”, after the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981) when he tried to take charge of City Hall when the mayor was away a few years ago, she has more than enough social capital to do so!

They have that advisory commission in addition to the Alliance!  Tell me they are outsiders again?

As it happened, the meeting was a waste of time for me and and my colleagues on the Commission on Disabilities, since it was supposed to pertain to the MBTA parking garage, but was instead an unfocused rambling about pedestrian access and getting traffic usage stats, only to find out the state had already done that but nobody from the Alliance even read the report.  The Commission probably could have used that, but the person presenting that report didn’t bother to tell us where we could find the data from the state website.

(I’d filmed video of the meeting.  It would have been nice of them to tell us when the MBTA part of the meeting would get under way so I wouldn’t have to guess how long the batteries in my camera would last.  Not long enough as it turned out.)

If I can’t be involved in the workings of my own city, the one that I have spent 47 years in, I think, why am I bothering to blog?

I’ve asked myself that question over and over during the past six months.

The only thing keeping me going is the Commission—whose purpose I believe in with all my heart and soul—and Salem Access Television, where I have been applying my IT talents for 11 years.

I’m very proud, in fact, that SATV now has much of its local programming available over the Net.  Public meetings—including the Commission’s—are now available through our Government page.

I worked very hard with Sal Russo and the staff over the past year to make this possible and I am inordinately prideful.  I’ve been delighted to flip the figurative “bird” to a few former board members who thought this was a “fad” or “something for Dave and Sal to spend money on”.  (In fact, video-on-demand has been a roaring success at SATV.)

There are many other thoughts, ideas and initiatives at SATV and the Commission to make fodder for many more years of blog posts, which is why I’m continuing to blog.

But I will never, ever, let myself believe that I have a stake and a say with what happens in Salem.

I don’t.  And I won’t.

May 26th, 2011

Back after an absence


Essex Street Mall 2011-05-26 007, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

Via Flickr:
Nature finally turned a switch to “Summer” today, as these folks are realizing.

And I’ve turned a switch, too.

I haven’t posted in almost six months.  I’m dispirited.

Last winter, my building had the bedbug hysteria that has affected many households in recent years.  Dealing with bedbugs has combined the worst aspects of moving and losing your house to fire or flood.  The Salem News covered the story in my building and it brought out the worst aspect of pest infestations—the moral opprobrium that comes when your betters can look down on you for being “dirty” and “unclean”, even though bedbugs, roaches and mice are blissfully unaware of class distinctions.  

In a building with a shared laundry space, like I have, I’ll never know how I got bedbugs and I just don’t care who or what “gave” them to me.  I just know that pest infestations don’t make me or my neighbors “immoral” or “unclean” or “lazy”, but that was on the minds of many of the Salem News commentariat.

There’s more, too.  Last spring I had quite a screaming match with my ward councilor Mike Sosnowski over a parking proposal at the Jail.

What I learned from that affair is that it doesn’t matter what neighborhood I live in, or what stake I have in anything, if someone more important than me thinks different.  At that meeting, a person from the Northfields neighborhood association asserted that me and my neighbors did not want commercial use at the Jail no matter what.

It doesn’t matter that that Northfields guy probably doesn’t even have a view of the Jail from his house.  And he never cared before about the apartment complex I live in.

As far as I can see, Mike Sosnowski has more or less aided and abetted groups like Northfields.  If you live in cheap rental housing, you will not get representation in Salem.

You will not get it.

Better that you show Mike your mortgage statement—or proof of McIntyre architecture—before coming to him with a problem.

I was at a meeting this past Saturday of the Alliance of Salem Neighborhood Associations.  It was held at the function room of Beverly Cooperative Bank, which is where the Downtown group meets.

I had my own problems with that group, and didn’t want to attend this meeting, except that I made a verbal commitment on recorded video and had to go. 

(I know the camera is on during our Commission meetings.  If I make a gaffe or a curse, then I do.  I don’t try to walk back what I said.  I said it and it’s on tape and that is that.)

Several people in the Alliance complained about being “outsiders”.  I wanted to say to them:  “Where’s Lucy [Corchado, head of  the Point association]?  Where are they?  The Point is a neighborhood, isn’t it?”

Those people have their own advisory board at the highest level of city government.  They have Jason Silva’s [Mayor Driscoll’s chief-of-staff] private number on speed-dial.  I have no doubt that someone like Michael Coleman can have Mike Sosnowski swing into action at 3 AM on a Sunday if he so commands it.  If Teasie Goggin wanted to repeat Mike Bencal’s Al Haig moment (“I’m in control here”, after the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981) when he tried to take charge of City Hall when the mayor was away a few years ago, she has more than enough social capital to do so!

They have that advisory commission in addition to the Alliance!  Tell me they are outsiders again?

As it happened, the meeting was a waste of time for me and and my colleagues on the Commission on Disabilities, since it was supposed to pertain to the MBTA parking garage, but was instead an unfocused rambling about pedestrian access and getting traffic usage stats, only to find out the state had already done that but nobody from the Alliance even read the report.  The Commission probably could have used that, but the person presenting that report didn’t bother to tell us where we could find the data from the state website.

(I’d filmed video of the meeting.  It would have been nice of them to tell us when the MBTA part of the meeting would get under way so I wouldn’t have to guess how long the batteries in my camera would last.  Not long enough as it turned out.)

If I can’t be involved in the workings of my own city, the one that I have spent 47 years in, I think, why am I bothering to blog?

I’ve asked myself that question over and over during the past six months.

The only thing keeping me going is the Commission—whose purpose I believe in with all my heart and soul—and Salem Access Television, where I have been applying my IT talents for 11 years.

I’m very proud, in fact, that SATV now has much of its local programming available over the Net.  Public meetings—including the Commission’s—are now available through our Government page.

I worked very hard with Sal Russo and the staff over the past year to make this possible and I am inordinately prideful.  I’ve been delighted to flip the figurative “bird” to a few former board members who thought this was a “fad” or “something for Dave and Sal to spend money on”.  (In fact, video-on-demand has been a roaring success at SATV.)

There are many other thoughts, ideas and initiatives at SATV and the Commission to make fodder for many more years of blog posts, which is why I’m continuing to blog.

But I will never, ever, let myself believe that I have a stake and a say with what happens in Salem.

I don’t.  And I won’t.

May 26th, 2011

Back after an absence


Essex Street Mall 2011-05-26 007, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

Via Flickr:
Nature finally turned a switch to “Summer” today, as these folks are realizing.

And I’ve turned a switch, too.

I haven’t posted in almost six months.  I’m dispirited.

Last winter, my building had the bedbug hysteria that has affected many households in recent years.  Dealing with bedbugs has combined the worst aspects of moving and losing your house to fire or flood.  The Salem News covered the story in my building and it brought out the worst aspect of pest infestations—the moral opprobrium that comes when your betters can look down on you for being “dirty” and “unclean”, even though bedbugs, roaches and mice are blissfully unaware of class distinctions.  

In a building with a shared laundry space, like I have, I’ll never know how I got bedbugs and I just don’t care who or what “gave” them to me.  I just know that pest infestations don’t make me or my neighbors “immoral” or “unclean” or “lazy”, but that was on the minds of many of the Salem News commentariat.

There’s more, too.  Last spring I had quite a screaming match with my ward councilor Mike Sosnowski over a parking proposal at the Jail.

What I learned from that affair is that it doesn’t matter what neighborhood I live in, or what stake I have in anything, if someone more important than me thinks different.  At that meeting, a person from the Northfields neighborhood association asserted that me and my neighbors did not want commercial use at the Jail no matter what.

It doesn’t matter that that Northfields guy probably doesn’t even have a view of the Jail from his house.  And he never cared before about the apartment complex I live in.

As far as I can see, Mike Sosnowski has more or less aided and abetted groups like Northfields.  If you live in cheap rental housing, you will not get representation in Salem.

You will not get it.

Better that you show Mike your mortgage statement—or proof of McIntyre architecture—before coming to him with a problem.

I was at a meeting this past Saturday of the Alliance of Salem Neighborhood Associations.  It was held at the function room of Beverly Cooperative Bank, which is where the Downtown group meets.

I had my own problems with that group, and didn’t want to attend this meeting, except that I made a verbal commitment on recorded video and had to go. 

(I know the camera is on during our Commission meetings.  If I make a gaffe or a curse, then I do.  I don’t try to walk back what I said.  I said it and it’s on tape and that is that.)

Several people in the Alliance complained about being “outsiders”.  I wanted to say to them:  “Where’s Lucy [Corchado, head of  the Point association]?  Where are they?  The Point is a neighborhood, isn’t it?”

Those people have their own advisory board at the highest level of city government.  They have Jason Silva’s [Mayor Driscoll’s chief-of-staff] private number on speed-dial.  I have no doubt that someone like Michael Coleman can have Mike Sosnowski swing into action at 3 AM on a Sunday if he so commands it.  If Teasie Goggin wanted to repeat Mike Bencal’s Al Haig moment (“I’m in control here”, after the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981) when he tried to take charge of City Hall when the mayor was away a few years ago, she has more than enough social capital to do so!

They have that advisory commission in addition to the Alliance!  Tell me they are outsiders again?

As it happened, the meeting was a waste of time for me and and my colleagues on the Commission on Disabilities, since it was supposed to pertain to the MBTA parking garage, but was instead an unfocused rambling about pedestrian access and getting traffic usage stats, only to find out the state had already done that but nobody from the Alliance even read the report.  The Commission probably could have used that, but the person presenting that report didn’t bother to tell us where we could find the data from the state website.

(I’d filmed video of the meeting.  It would have been nice of them to tell us when the MBTA part of the meeting would get under way so I wouldn’t have to guess how long the batteries in my camera would last.  Not long enough as it turned out.)

If I can’t be involved in the workings of my own city, the one that I have spent 47 years in, I think, why am I bothering to blog?

I’ve asked myself that question over and over during the past six months.

The only thing keeping me going is the Commission—whose purpose I believe in with all my heart and soul—and Salem Access Television, where I have been applying my IT talents for 11 years.

I’m very proud, in fact, that SATV now has much of its local programming available over the Net.  Public meetings—including the Commission’s—are now available through our Government page.

I worked very hard with Sal Russo and the staff over the past year to make this possible and I am inordinately prideful.  I’ve been delighted to flip the figurative “bird” to a few former board members who thought this was a “fad” or “something for Dave and Sal to spend money on”.  (In fact, video-on-demand has been a roaring success at SATV.)

There are many other thoughts, ideas and initiatives at SATV and the Commission to make fodder for many more years of blog posts, which is why I’m continuing to blog.

But I will never, ever, let myself believe that I have a stake and a say with what happens in Salem.

I don’t.  And I won’t.

January 22nd, 2011

Political Violence Should Be Scary

Sign:  If Brown can't do the job, a Browning can...

[Creative Commons photo by cjbrenchly]

Nelson Benton, editor of the Salem News, is scared of the Second Amendment advocates of violence:

One of the more disturbing aspects of all the back-and-forth about the tragedy in Tucson is that there exists an element | and it may be growing | that views the right to bear arms as an essential adjunct to their right to overthrow the government by violent means.

Nelson, you’re right to be scared.  The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords of Arizona, and the deaths of a federal judge, and a nine-year old girl, is intended to scare us all.  It was an act of terrorism no less in its emotional impact than Oklahoma City or 9/11.

You’d be wrong to assume that this has happened out of nowhere.  And you’d be wrong to assume your own paper didn’t have at least a small role in the violent rhetoric.

This goes back at least 30 years. 

When I was in college in the early 1980’s, Massachusetts government was in bad shape.  We had, and still have, a legacy of corruption, patronage and just plain incompetence.  Our state buildings were constructed, and fell down, on the take, while numerous connected contractors had their hands out.

It was, and is, shameful.  The anti-tax activist Barbara Anderson made her bones during that era. 

So too did talk radio.  I, and numerous other Salemmites and Bostonians, listened to the triumvirate:  Jerry Williams, Gene Burns and David Brudnoy.  They were all libertarians.

And they all preached that government was bad, private sector was good and the best government was the least government.  That philosophy influenced me almost to this day.

We’ve heard the narrative against public employees, politicians and government for so long we take it for granted, and take it as truth.  We’ve taken these beliefs as faith for 30 years.

Second Amendment advocates have been promoting the right to bear arms for just as long;  indeed, libertarians have often been natural allies in their fight.

Now, Nelson, you’re surprised and alarmed by the violence? 

In recent years, your newspaper has been an unpleasant one to read.  Barbara Anderson has written op-eds for the News for years, and they are not of the mild-mannered housewife I often heard with Jerry Williams, but of a harder, almost insane tenor.  She started going off the rails with her 9/11 column, but her most recent column on the Tucson shooting is just nuts.

Another of your op-ed writers, Taylor Armerding, was once a fiscal conservative, though a hard one.  Nowadays I’m afraid that he has a carry permit and will make headlines like Jared Loughner did.

And that says nothing of the cesspool that is the comments section of the Salem News web site. 

I fear, Nelson, that your paper has done its part to further today’s political violence and that your paper’s owners are OK with this just as Roger Ailes and Fox News are fine with Glenn Beck.

Nelson, don’t look to Tucson for the Second Amendment Brigade.  Look to Arlington, and perhaps, even Salem.

January 22nd, 2011

Political Violence Should Be Scary

Sign:  If Brown can't do the job, a Browning can...

[Creative Commons photo by cjbrenchly]

Nelson Benton, editor of the Salem News, is scared of the Second Amendment advocates of violence:

One of the more disturbing aspects of all the back-and-forth about the tragedy in Tucson is that there exists an element | and it may be growing | that views the right to bear arms as an essential adjunct to their right to overthrow the government by violent means.

Nelson, you’re right to be scared.  The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords of Arizona, and the deaths of a federal judge, and a nine-year old girl, is intended to scare us all.  It was an act of terrorism no less in its emotional impact than Oklahoma City or 9/11.

You’d be wrong to assume that this has happened out of nowhere.  And you’d be wrong to assume your own paper didn’t have at least a small role in the violent rhetoric.

This goes back at least 30 years. 

When I was in college in the early 1980’s, Massachusetts government was in bad shape.  We had, and still have, a legacy of corruption, patronage and just plain incompetence.  Our state buildings were constructed, and fell down, on the take, while numerous connected contractors had their hands out.

It was, and is, shameful.  The anti-tax activist Barbara Anderson made her bones during that era. 

So too did talk radio.  I, and numerous other Salemmites and Bostonians, listened to the triumvirate:  Jerry Williams, Gene Burns and David Brudnoy.  They were all libertarians.

And they all preached that government was bad, private sector was good and the best government was the least government.  That philosophy influenced me almost to this day.

We’ve heard the narrative against public employees, politicians and government for so long we take it for granted, and take it as truth.  We’ve taken these beliefs as faith for 30 years.

Second Amendment advocates have been promoting the right to bear arms for just as long;  indeed, libertarians have often been natural allies in their fight.

Now, Nelson, you’re surprised and alarmed by the violence? 

In recent years, your newspaper has been an unpleasant one to read.  Barbara Anderson has written op-eds for the News for years, and they are not of the mild-mannered housewife I often heard with Jerry Williams, but of a harder, almost insane tenor.  She started going off the rails with her 9/11 column, but her most recent column on the Tucson shooting is just nuts.

Another of your op-ed writers, Taylor Armerding, was once a fiscal conservative, though a hard one.  Nowadays I’m afraid that he has a carry permit and will make headlines like Jared Loughner did.

And that says nothing of the cesspool that is the comments section of the Salem News web site. 

I fear, Nelson, that your paper has done its part to further today’s political violence and that your paper’s owners are OK with this just as Roger Ailes and Fox News are fine with Glenn Beck.

Nelson, don’t look to Tucson for the Second Amendment Brigade.  Look to Arlington, and perhaps, even Salem.

September 20th, 2010

Charlie Baker, Moral Auditor

Salem office,  Department of Transitional Assistance

A few months ago, Charlie Baker, the Republican candidate for Governor, proposed his “Baker’s Dozen” for cutting costs.  I’d read about it in Blue Mass Group when he first proposed these measures but initially I didn’t take them seriously;  candidates say things or are reported to say things all the time that turn out to have too little context to reasonably comment on.  Besides, most day to day political coverage is noise.

I reread the post on BMG that first caught my attention, Charlie Baker proposes new government bureaucracy to approve lifestyles

Charlie Baker’s Dozen ideas to eliminate government waste is still on his campaign’s website so I’m going to assume it is on his ongoing platform.

Point 8:

8. Conduct forensic financial analysis for benefits eligibility – Between $10M to $20M in savings
State agencies need to consider more than just tax returns when determining individuals’ eligibility for public benefits and services. A lifestyle analysis quantifies the living expenses of individuals – such as credit card bills, recreation activities, auto loans, grocery bills – and compares the expenses to known sources of income. If the money spent during the period analyzed exceeds the known funding sources, it is quite possible that there is another source of income. The state should conduct this analysis on a pilot basis for a few services – such as public defendants and public housing – before individuals are deemed eligible for the benefits.

Baker’s idea came from, amongst others, Dan Winslow, former legal counsel to former governor Mitt Romney in an article for Commonwealth Magazine.  Beyond Red and Blue wrote about this in 2008:

For state entitlement eligibility, a simple LAF checklist can consider discretionary spending such as whether persons or households seeking free or discounted state services own property, have credit cards, hold bank accounts, or own a new car, multiple cars or a boat. The checklist could also consider whether an individual purchases cable television, Internet service, or premium cell phone service and whether they buy airline tickets, possess illegal drugs, or smoke a pack of cigarettes daily.

On the face of it, Baker’s proposal seems to be just a financial audit, like the ones Social Security does on SSI recipients.  But Winslow’s association with the Romney administration makes me recall Eric Kriss’ infamous “Givers and Takers” speech of a few years back.

With that history I don’t think this provision is a financial audit.

It is a moral audit, and Baker wants to be our moral auditor.

Many, many people in the disability community, and outside it, get public housing, health insurance and food benefits.  There are people who may get any of the three without ever having set foot in a welfare or Social Security office.

There are working people who live in Pioneer Terrace, a much-maligned housing project near Salem State.

Many will be affected.  Charlie Baker, in his ads, brags about firing 5,000 state employees if he’s elected.  How many people would we need to staff his new moral auditing division?  How many of the 5,000 would need to seek public assistance?

David, of BMG, makes the point that “lifestyle analysis” requires expertise and not cheap at that, based on how the IRS goes after people with yachts.  I think he’s wrong on this point, though. 

The Baker administration, if elected, wouldn’t go to that length;  It would outsource the new agency to one of the Indian or Chinese shops to which most of our customer support calls end up.  The outsourcers would get a directive to flag as many people as possible for fraud for the cheapest possible price, working through their backlog as fast as they can, however they can.

Someone in public housing would get a thick envelope and a threatening letter, and a request to account for all the spending they made over the past five years, say, all in longhand with a 10 day filing deadline.  A representative would follow up with questions, all along the lines of:  “Why did you get that?”,  “Why do you need a computer—can’t you go to the library?”, “Why did your son pay for dinner out?”, “Why aren’t you getting a better job?”, “Why are you still in public housing?”

And then the eviction notice would come.  Maybe there’ll be an appeal process.  If it’s funded.

I think Winslow’s, and Baker’s mindsets are such that they would not stop at a merely fiscal audit, even if they might not say it out loud.  Certainly, Romney only disavowed Kriss because he made his own reputation look bad;  Romney hired him, as he did Baker and Winslow, and he damned well knew what they were all about.

It’s a “small government” nanny state and it will demean many people in the disability community.  Many of them already fear they are somewhat “less worthy” than an able-bodied person.

If we vote for Baker, we may be telling them, as well, that because they are often on the wrong end of the economic scale, they should not be allowed to manage their own lives either.

There will be the stories that come out with this, like the little old lady who gets audited (“But I voted Republican!”  “Oops, our bad!”)  or the disabled war veteran (“Say, son, you sound like you’re old enough to enlist.  Don’t you love your country?  Why aren’t you in the service?”  “Um, ah, err…”  I’d love to hear that one.)

But first, the dignity of the state’s disabled community will be degraded.  And a lot of money will be spent.  Baker won’t care, as long as he’s spending it.

September 20th, 2010

Charlie Baker, Moral Auditor

Salem office,  Department of Transitional Assistance

A few months ago, Charlie Baker, the Republican candidate for Governor, proposed his “Baker’s Dozen” for cutting costs.  I’d read about it in Blue Mass Group when he first proposed these measures but initially I didn’t take them seriously;  candidates say things or are reported to say things all the time that turn out to have too little context to reasonably comment on.  Besides, most day to day political coverage is noise.

I reread the post on BMG that first caught my attention, Charlie Baker proposes new government bureaucracy to approve lifestyles

Charlie Baker’s Dozen ideas to eliminate government waste is still on his campaign’s website so I’m going to assume it is on his ongoing platform.

Point 8:

8. Conduct forensic financial analysis for benefits eligibility – Between $10M to $20M in savings
State agencies need to consider more than just tax returns when determining individuals’ eligibility for public benefits and services. A lifestyle analysis quantifies the living expenses of individuals – such as credit card bills, recreation activities, auto loans, grocery bills – and compares the expenses to known sources of income. If the money spent during the period analyzed exceeds the known funding sources, it is quite possible that there is another source of income. The state should conduct this analysis on a pilot basis for a few services – such as public defendants and public housing – before individuals are deemed eligible for the benefits.

Baker’s idea came from, amongst others, Dan Winslow, former legal counsel to former governor Mitt Romney in an article for Commonwealth Magazine.  Beyond Red and Blue wrote about this in 2008:

For state entitlement eligibility, a simple LAF checklist can consider discretionary spending such as whether persons or households seeking free or discounted state services own property, have credit cards, hold bank accounts, or own a new car, multiple cars or a boat. The checklist could also consider whether an individual purchases cable television, Internet service, or premium cell phone service and whether they buy airline tickets, possess illegal drugs, or smoke a pack of cigarettes daily.

On the face of it, Baker’s proposal seems to be just a financial audit, like the ones Social Security does on SSI recipients.  But Winslow’s association with the Romney administration makes me recall Eric Kriss’ infamous “Givers and Takers” speech of a few years back.

With that history I don’t think this provision is a financial audit.

It is a moral audit, and Baker wants to be our moral auditor.

Many, many people in the disability community, and outside it, get public housing, health insurance and food benefits.  There are people who may get any of the three without ever having set foot in a welfare or Social Security office.

There are working people who live in Pioneer Terrace, a much-maligned housing project near Salem State.

Many will be affected.  Charlie Baker, in his ads, brags about firing 5,000 state employees if he’s elected.  How many people would we need to staff his new moral auditing division?  How many of the 5,000 would need to seek public assistance?

David, of BMG, makes the point that “lifestyle analysis” requires expertise and not cheap at that, based on how the IRS goes after people with yachts.  I think he’s wrong on this point, though. 

The Baker administration, if elected, wouldn’t go to that length;  It would outsource the new agency to one of the Indian or Chinese shops to which most of our customer support calls end up.  The outsourcers would get a directive to flag as many people as possible for fraud for the cheapest possible price, working through their backlog as fast as they can, however they can.

Someone in public housing would get a thick envelope and a threatening letter, and a request to account for all the spending they made over the past five years, say, all in longhand with a 10 day filing deadline.  A representative would follow up with questions, all along the lines of:  “Why did you get that?”,  “Why do you need a computer—can’t you go to the library?”, “Why did your son pay for dinner out?”, “Why aren’t you getting a better job?”, “Why are you still in public housing?”

And then the eviction notice would come.  Maybe there’ll be an appeal process.  If it’s funded.

I think Winslow’s, and Baker’s mindsets are such that they would not stop at a merely fiscal audit, even if they might not say it out loud.  Certainly, Romney only disavowed Kriss because he made his own reputation look bad;  Romney hired him, as he did Baker and Winslow, and he damned well knew what they were all about.

It’s a “small government” nanny state and it will demean many people in the disability community.  Many of them already fear they are somewhat “less worthy” than an able-bodied person.

If we vote for Baker, we may be telling them, as well, that because they are often on the wrong end of the economic scale, they should not be allowed to manage their own lives either.

There will be the stories that come out with this, like the little old lady who gets audited (“But I voted Republican!”  “Oops, our bad!”)  or the disabled war veteran (“Say, son, you sound like you’re old enough to enlist.  Don’t you love your country?  Why aren’t you in the service?”  “Um, ah, err…”  I’d love to hear that one.)

But first, the dignity of the state’s disabled community will be degraded.  And a lot of money will be spent.  Baker won’t care, as long as he’s spending it.

September 20th, 2010

Charlie Baker, Moral Auditor

Salem office,  Department of Transitional Assistance

A few months ago, Charlie Baker, the Republican candidate for Governor, proposed his “Baker’s Dozen” for cutting costs.  I’d read about it in Blue Mass Group when he first proposed these measures but initially I didn’t take them seriously;  candidates say things or are reported to say things all the time that turn out to have too little context to reasonably comment on.  Besides, most day to day political coverage is noise.

I reread the post on BMG that first caught my attention, Charlie Baker proposes new government bureaucracy to approve lifestyles

Charlie Baker’s Dozen ideas to eliminate government waste is still on his campaign’s website so I’m going to assume it is on his ongoing platform.

Point 8:

8. Conduct forensic financial analysis for benefits eligibility – Between $10M to $20M in savings
State agencies need to consider more than just tax returns when determining individuals’ eligibility for public benefits and services. A lifestyle analysis quantifies the living expenses of individuals – such as credit card bills, recreation activities, auto loans, grocery bills – and compares the expenses to known sources of income. If the money spent during the period analyzed exceeds the known funding sources, it is quite possible that there is another source of income. The state should conduct this analysis on a pilot basis for a few services – such as public defendants and public housing – before individuals are deemed eligible for the benefits.

Baker’s idea came from, amongst others, Dan Winslow, former legal counsel to former governor Mitt Romney in an article for Commonwealth Magazine.  Beyond Red and Blue wrote about this in 2008:

For state entitlement eligibility, a simple LAF checklist can consider discretionary spending such as whether persons or households seeking free or discounted state services own property, have credit cards, hold bank accounts, or own a new car, multiple cars or a boat. The checklist could also consider whether an individual purchases cable television, Internet service, or premium cell phone service and whether they buy airline tickets, possess illegal drugs, or smoke a pack of cigarettes daily.

On the face of it, Baker’s proposal seems to be just a financial audit, like the ones Social Security does on SSI recipients.  But Winslow’s association with the Romney administration makes me recall Eric Kriss’ infamous “Givers and Takers” speech of a few years back.

With that history I don’t think this provision is a financial audit.

It is a moral audit, and Baker wants to be our moral auditor.

Many, many people in the disability community, and outside it, get public housing, health insurance and food benefits.  There are people who may get any of the three without ever having set foot in a welfare or Social Security office.

There are working people who live in Pioneer Terrace, a much-maligned housing project near Salem State.

Many will be affected.  Charlie Baker, in his ads, brags about firing 5,000 state employees if he’s elected.  How many people would we need to staff his new moral auditing division?  How many of the 5,000 would need to seek public assistance?

David, of BMG, makes the point that “lifestyle analysis” requires expertise and not cheap at that, based on how the IRS goes after people with yachts.  I think he’s wrong on this point, though. 

The Baker administration, if elected, wouldn’t go to that length;  It would outsource the new agency to one of the Indian or Chinese shops to which most of our customer support calls end up.  The outsourcers would get a directive to flag as many people as possible for fraud for the cheapest possible price, working through their backlog as fast as they can, however they can.

Someone in public housing would get a thick envelope and a threatening letter, and a request to account for all the spending they made over the past five years, say, all in longhand with a 10 day filing deadline.  A representative would follow up with questions, all along the lines of:  “Why did you get that?”,  “Why do you need a computer—can’t you go to the library?”, “Why did your son pay for dinner out?”, “Why aren’t you getting a better job?”, “Why are you still in public housing?”

And then the eviction notice would come.  Maybe there’ll be an appeal process.  If it’s funded.

I think Winslow’s, and Baker’s mindsets are such that they would not stop at a merely fiscal audit, even if they might not say it out loud.  Certainly, Romney only disavowed Kriss because he made his own reputation look bad;  Romney hired him, as he did Baker and Winslow, and he damned well knew what they were all about.

It’s a “small government” nanny state and it will demean many people in the disability community.  Many of them already fear they are somewhat “less worthy” than an able-bodied person.

If we vote for Baker, we may be telling them, as well, that because they are often on the wrong end of the economic scale, they should not be allowed to manage their own lives either.

There will be the stories that come out with this, like the little old lady who gets audited (“But I voted Republican!”  “Oops, our bad!”)  or the disabled war veteran (“Say, son, you sound like you’re old enough to enlist.  Don’t you love your country?  Why aren’t you in the service?”  “Um, ah, err…”  I’d love to hear that one.)

But first, the dignity of the state’s disabled community will be degraded.  And a lot of money will be spent.  Baker won’t care, as long as he’s spending it.

September 11th, 2010

Not Remembering 9/11

Flag Towers Memorial, Salem, 9/11/2002

As we mark the ninth anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attack on September 11th, I’m proud of this artwork.  I produced it for my friend Leo Jodoin and his TV show, Salem Now, which I have been a crewmember for the 13 years it’s been produced.  It features the improvised, informal, but now established, 9/11 memorial at Market Basket.

I’m proud of my art.

But I’m not proud of what has become the fetish of worship and hysteria that now defines September 11th.

Over a very long summer, we have been hearing about the imam who plans to build a Muslim cultural center a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center.  His plans have gone through and before a large number of boards and commissions in Manhattan, as any other project would.

In Salem, I know this process well, and the Commission on Disabilities is one of the participants in the rituals that developers go through to get things built.

The imam’s project has gone through all the hoops and hurdles in Manhattan.  But a lawsuit from one of the relatives of a 9/11 victim is reportedly pending.

To say what I think of this, I need to go back to last spring, when the developers of the Salem Jail wanted to turn the greenspace fronting Bridge St. into a parking lot as a condition for a restaurant on the premises.  There was a heavily attended meeting about this that saw nearly all of the neighborhood groups come to testify.

I wrote about what happened in that meeting but I’ll repeat it:  A guy from Northfields spoke out against the proposed lot.  But more than that, he went into a long speech about what kinds of development would be suitable in the neighborhood.

My neighborhood.

And he told us that the elderly complex—my building—would not be in favor of commercial development.

I was livid.   Beyond mad.  Angry.   Pissed.

The Northfields guy was telling me and my neighbors what was right for us.  I can’t even speak for my neighbors!   We have, in fact, been living next to a commercial office building for many years.

Now, how am I going to tell that imam that he cannot build his center because I believe Muslims brought me pain on 9/11?   I don’t consider myself to have any standing;  as of now, it’s not even clear if the courts will give standing to any relative of a 9/11 victim to bring suit against the organization that plans to build there (a former clothing store that is not even within sight of the WTC block.)

I didn’t like that guy from Northfields presuming to speak for me or my neighbors, so why should I have a position on that cultural center?

There is no rule of law that could enable me to go to Manhattan and stop this.  It’s gone through all the permitting down there and that should be that.  The First Amendment has no asterisks saying “except some religions we don’t approve of”.  (Catholics who oppose the cultural center might want to look at their own history in America first.)

In the next town over, there is a political activist, famous for her anti-tax, limited-government advocacy.  She writes for the local daily, whose editorial board shares her opinions.  She has spoken out against the cultural center (it is not a mosque.)

Does she really think that is in her limited-government bailiwick, to just reach out and tell a municipality in another state even that they must deny a project just because she doesn’t like it?  That is by no means small, limited government!

If she were consistent with her desire for small government and private-sector development (and the imam runs a private organization), she’d advocate for someone like the Koch brothers to buy the Ground Zero site, an enormous parcel of land that much of Salem would fit into, and turn it into a martyr’s center to the sacred 9/11.  (Newt Gingrich also wants to “federalize” the site to create such a memorial.)

There is already a 9/11 church at the site, and their pastor has the hate for Muslims. 

And that is the other reason I feel shamed this day.

For some years now, the Republican party has become more radical and more religious, throwing many moderate conservatives, particularly those in the Northeast, out the door.

They have all but encouraged Christian fundamentalism.   This atheist does not see a lot of distinctions between Al Qaeda’s apocalyptic Islamism, and what Christianism is said to be by many fundamentalist pastors.

Pat Robertson said that “9/11 happened because America looked away from God”.  Was God rooting for Islam that day?

A few years ago when Janet Jackson “performed” at the Superbowl, one columnist from a Seattle paper said that “Al Qaeda had a point!”  We fear jihad, but we now have our own “prayer warriors” in Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, Fist of the North Star.

We all were happy to see the Taliban in Afghanistan, and their theocratic government, brought down.  But I’ve come to think that, to prominent Republicans and Christians, amplified by Fox News, the only sin that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have committed is, is doing terrorism in Allah’s name rather than in Jesus’.

I have recalled General Boykin’s words:

.’ Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

And that man was a high-ranking officer in our Army.

We even have our own apocalyptic movement in America.  Osama Bin Laden had to inherit his wealth, but Tim and Beverly LaHaye, authors of the “Left Behind” series, have made their millions convincing people that God will take his own people and leave the world to rot for Satan—and that a good Christian should wish for it!

Afraid of violent Islamism?  From what rhetoric I’ve seen over the past few years, we have more to worry about from our own people.  The Tea Party, whose copies of the Constitution only seem to have the Second Amendment in them, loves its armaments.  Prayer warriors, backed up by Browning, Smith and WessonSomeone flew a plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas.

If Tim McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building in OKC today, rather than in 1995, I am certain people would be excusing what he did.  “It’s too bad about that dead baby but her mommy shouldn’t have worked for the government!”  McVeigh himself would be a prisoner of conscience.  Not only would the Tea Partiers call for his freedom but also not a few editorial boards, perhaps even our activist next door.

All because Bin Laden happens to be a Muslim instead of a Christian.  I wonder if he’s for limited government in that world caliphate he wants to build?  If anyone is concerned about the moral state of the world, he certainly is!  He could convert to Christianity tomorrow—as extremely unlikely it may be—and he’d fit right in with some!

That’s why I don’t want to “commemorate” or “remember” or “memorialize” this day.  We put Japanese-Americans in camps in the name of December 7th, Pearl Harbor and we were wrong—and we knew it.  I don’t want to see what we’ll do against Allah—or for Jesus—in the name of 9/11.

UPDATE:  I haven’t read Dinesh D’Souza’s book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, or heard of it before this week, but Andrew Sullivan reviewed it for Powells a few years back.  I’d still like to find it at the library and read it, but from what I read from this review, and other blogs I’ve seen online about D’Souza on his most recent book, he’s virtually shaken hands with Bin Laden, and he recommends his ideological peers in the Republican party do the same.  That has only reinforced my commentary.

September 11th, 2010

Not Remembering 9/11

Flag Towers Memorial, Salem, 9/11/2002

As we mark the ninth anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attack on September 11th, I’m proud of this artwork.  I produced it for my friend Leo Jodoin and his TV show, Salem Now, which I have been a crewmember for the 13 years it’s been produced.  It features the improvised, informal, but now established, 9/11 memorial at Market Basket.

I’m proud of my art.

But I’m not proud of what has become the fetish of worship and hysteria that now defines September 11th.

Over a very long summer, we have been hearing about the imam who plans to build a Muslim cultural center a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center.  His plans have gone through and before a large number of boards and commissions in Manhattan, as any other project would.

In Salem, I know this process well, and the Commission on Disabilities is one of the participants in the rituals that developers go through to get things built.

The imam’s project has gone through all the hoops and hurdles in Manhattan.  But a lawsuit from one of the relatives of a 9/11 victim is reportedly pending.

To say what I think of this, I need to go back to last spring, when the developers of the Salem Jail wanted to turn the greenspace fronting Bridge St. into a parking lot as a condition for a restaurant on the premises.  There was a heavily attended meeting about this that saw nearly all of the neighborhood groups come to testify.

I wrote about what happened in that meeting but I’ll repeat it:  A guy from Northfields spoke out against the proposed lot.  But more than that, he went into a long speech about what kinds of development would be suitable in the neighborhood.

My neighborhood.

And he told us that the elderly complex—my building—would not be in favor of commercial development.

I was livid.   Beyond mad.  Angry.   Pissed.

The Northfields guy was telling me and my neighbors what was right for us.  I can’t even speak for my neighbors!   We have, in fact, been living next to a commercial office building for many years.

Now, how am I going to tell that imam that he cannot build his center because I believe Muslims brought me pain on 9/11?   I don’t consider myself to have any standing;  as of now, it’s not even clear if the courts will give standing to any relative of a 9/11 victim to bring suit against the organization that plans to build there (a former clothing store that is not even within sight of the WTC block.)

I didn’t like that guy from Northfields presuming to speak for me or my neighbors, so why should I have a position on that cultural center?

There is no rule of law that could enable me to go to Manhattan and stop this.  It’s gone through all the permitting down there and that should be that.  The First Amendment has no asterisks saying “except some religions we don’t approve of”.  (Catholics who oppose the cultural center might want to look at their own history in America first.)

In the next town over, there is a political activist, famous for her anti-tax, limited-government advocacy.  She writes for the local daily, whose editorial board shares her opinions.  She has spoken out against the cultural center (it is not a mosque.)

Does she really think that is in her limited-government bailiwick, to just reach out and tell a municipality in another state even that they must deny a project just because she doesn’t like it?  That is by no means small, limited government!

If she were consistent with her desire for small government and private-sector development (and the imam runs a private organization), she’d advocate for someone like the Koch brothers to buy the Ground Zero site, an enormous parcel of land that much of Salem would fit into, and turn it into a martyr’s center to the sacred 9/11.  (Newt Gingrich also wants to “federalize” the site to create such a memorial.)

There is already a 9/11 church at the site, and their pastor has the hate for Muslims. 

And that is the other reason I feel shamed this day.

For some years now, the Republican party has become more radical and more religious, throwing many moderate conservatives, particularly those in the Northeast, out the door.

They have all but encouraged Christian fundamentalism.   This atheist does not see a lot of distinctions between Al Qaeda’s apocalyptic Islamism, and what Christianism is said to be by many fundamentalist pastors.

Pat Robertson said that “9/11 happened because America looked away from God”.  Was God rooting for Islam that day?

A few years ago when Janet Jackson “performed” at the Superbowl, one columnist from a Seattle paper said that “Al Qaeda had a point!”  We fear jihad, but we now have our own “prayer warriors” in Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, Fist of the North Star.

We all were happy to see the Taliban in Afghanistan, and their theocratic government, brought down.  But I’ve come to think that, to prominent Republicans and Christians, amplified by Fox News, the only sin that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have committed is, is doing terrorism in Allah’s name rather than in Jesus’.

I have recalled General Boykin’s words:

.’ Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

And that man was a high-ranking officer in our Army.

We even have our own apocalyptic movement in America.  Osama Bin Laden had to inherit his wealth, but Tim and Beverly LaHaye, authors of the “Left Behind” series, have made their millions convincing people that God will take his own people and leave the world to rot for Satan—and that a good Christian should wish for it!

Afraid of violent Islamism?  From what rhetoric I’ve seen over the past few years, we have more to worry about from our own people.  The Tea Party, whose copies of the Constitution only seem to have the Second Amendment in them, loves its armaments.  Prayer warriors, backed up by Browning, Smith and WessonSomeone flew a plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas.

If Tim McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building in OKC today, rather than in 1995, I am certain people would be excusing what he did.  “It’s too bad about that dead baby but her mommy shouldn’t have worked for the government!”  McVeigh himself would be a prisoner of conscience.  Not only would the Tea Partiers call for his freedom but also not a few editorial boards, perhaps even our activist next door.

All because Bin Laden happens to be a Muslim instead of a Christian.  I wonder if he’s for limited government in that world caliphate he wants to build?  If anyone is concerned about the moral state of the world, he certainly is!  He could convert to Christianity tomorrow—as extremely unlikely it may be—and he’d fit right in with some!

That’s why I don’t want to “commemorate” or “remember” or “memorialize” this day.  We put Japanese-Americans in camps in the name of December 7th, Pearl Harbor and we were wrong—and we knew it.  I don’t want to see what we’ll do against Allah—or for Jesus—in the name of 9/11.

UPDATE:  I haven’t read Dinesh D’Souza’s book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, or heard of it before this week, but Andrew Sullivan reviewed it for Powells a few years back.  I’d still like to find it at the library and read it, but from what I read from this review, and other blogs I’ve seen online about D’Souza on his most recent book, he’s virtually shaken hands with Bin Laden, and he recommends his ideological peers in the Republican party do the same.  That has only reinforced my commentary.

May 13th, 2010

Tavern in the Square sidewalk controversy

Update on last summer’s controversy over Tavern in the Square.  The tavern’s outdoor seating has been completed and is now open for diners. But as mentioned in the Salem News, it’s not necessarily open for pedestrians.  Due to sta…

March 17th, 2010

Armory Park, Measuring Up

Following up on my previous post, I’m visiting parks around my neighborhood and comparing their size to “Monopoly Park”, my name for the Salem Jail greenspace that some think is “dinky”. This is Armory Park, dedicated in 2002 and built o…

March 17th, 2010

Is the Salem Jail Greenspace really that small?

Proponents of a parking lot for the Salem Jail green space all say nearly the same thing:  “It’s a dinky little space near cars and traffic!  Why do you want it green?” Indeed it doesn’t look like much now, littered by constructi…

March 14th, 2010

Final Thoughts on Jail Parking and the Greenspace

Final followup, I hope, to the ongoing Salem Jail Parking drama.  The Salem News gave an account of last Tuesday’s meeting, and talked about it some more. Any time the neighborhood associations get involved in discussions like this, I’m…

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