Left In Lowell

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November 25, 2012

Mea Culpa

by at 12:09 pm.

So I was wrong in my Lyle post last Wednesday. I am retracting part of my commentary made there.

Specifically, it wasn’t Elliot who Lyle was talking about as “other elected officials” who are upset at my comments on this blog (over, I presume, the course of seven whole years). It was the other one I could have predicted is unhappy with me, Councilor Rita Mercier. (Damn, and I though my video commentary clip of Elliot the other week was pretty clever. I’ll have to make more of a nuisance of myself.)

MERCIER SAID she was not surprised by Lupien’s posting.

“She has a dirty trash mouth and that is wrong,” Mercier said. “No one should ever say somebody should be hung. I give Mary Jo credit for going to police and I hope she gets Lynne’s blog shut down so she stops trying to bully people in a nasty way.”

I find it rather telling that Rita wants to shut down free speech, just because it disagrees with her. Think about that for a moment. (more…)

November 21, 2012

Political Hyperbolae

by at 4:44 pm.

I’ve been literally running around in circles all day trying to finish prep for hosting of the Thanksgiving Day festivities. With a 24lb turkey to get into my Alton Brown brine (I even found candied ginger today, in my second MarketBasket in two days), a house to clean, and a lot of guests coming, it’s been hard to be online much. (PS: if you do not get your fresh turkey from Elm Turkey Farm you are missing something!)

But obviously there’s some to-do in the state of Lowell blogistan. So I am taking really precious time out of my day (vacuuming! washing floors! mashed sweet potatoes with cream, cardamom, and maple syrup yet to start!) to address it.

If you’ve read the online article from the Lowell Sun by reporter Sarah Favot (who has the GLTHS beat) you’ll know what I’m talking about. At issue is a comment I made on Jack’s post from November 18th. (I’m snipping out the irrelevant part at the beginning addressed to the Anonymous comments.)

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Apparently, Mary Jo Santoro decided to construe this as some sort of personal, physical threat, and reportedly went to the Lowell PD, who referred her to the Tyngsboro PD, where she was supposedly heading to today to file a complaint.

First and foremost, and I do believe this is pretty plain within the context of my comment, of course I meant absolutely no personal physical threat to Ms. Santoro. Anyone who knows me – or heck, reads my blog, knows I’m about as physically threatening as the mice that make their way into my house in the cold fall weather that I insist upon trapping humanely so I can release them in a nice field away from human habitation. (This year it was a mom and her three half grown meese children.) But even if you don’t know me at all or have never read a word of my blog, the comment totally does not meet any standard of threat that can be reasonably argued. Specifically, the use of very common phrases to denote “accountability” like head on a platter or hung (usually elongated as “hung out to dry”) could hardly be argued to be actual threats of harm. They are hyperbole.

Furthermore, political hyperbole is protected first amendment free speech. To quote:

Consistent with judicial construction given to other federal threat statutes, § 875(c) applies only to “true threats” which are not protected by the First Amendment. This requirement was established by Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969) (per curiam), which held that a threat statute “must be interpreted with the commands of the First Amendment clearly in mind,” and therefore be construed only to reach a “true threat” and not “constitutionally protected speech.” Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

When assessing whether a communication constitutes a true threat, context is important. Various factors must be considered, including the following: the reaction of the person who received the threat; the history and relationship between the defendant and the victim; whether the threat was communicated directly to the victim; and whether the threat was conditional. By properly assessing these factors at the investigative and charging stages of a case, federal prosecutors can avoid, minimize and overcome defense arguments to the trier of fact that the defendant was purely exercising free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

My comment is very obviously political hyperbole. Which of course I engage in on a regular basis. It’s fun. It’s protected. It’s even cathartic, but that’s not why I do it. I do it to point out injustices, bad political actors, and misuse of the public trust, its funds, and the abuse of power in general.

In other words. Protected speech.

Also, consistent with that quote from www.justice.gov, is that Ms. Santoro and I have zero personal interaction. In fact, and I quote her from the Lowell Sun article online today, “But I wouldn’t know this woman if I saw her in a parking lot.” Pretty much proof positive that we have no personal relationship or history whatsoever.

Furthermore, the speech was delivered not personally, not even with any knowledge whether or not Ms. Santoro would ever read it, but on a blog. Publicly. Not in a personal phone call, email, or any other delivery system direct to Ms. Santoro. It’s probably the least “direct” a communication could ever get, frankly. Excepting the Lowell Rumor Mill™.

Another point in the quoted legal paragraph above is whether the threat was conditional. As in, “if x happens, then y.” If a statement is conditional, it does not meet the standard of threat. Let me quote my own comment again, this time with italics where the conditionals exist:

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Lots of ifs there. I didn’t directly state that Santoro is falsifying her harassment case against Eric Gitschier. I stated that if that was the case, I would be very angry about it and, in hyperbolic phraseology, would want her held accountable for such an act. Furthermore, I support that view with a very compelling reason – that of the plight of a real woman in a real harassment/bias situation in a real workplace whose case may be undermined by any falsified harassment claim someone in such a high profile position makes.

Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

Was I unpleasantly sharp? Caustic? Vehement? Sure. Was it a threat under these conditions outlined? Absolutely not. This falls so far below the level of threat, that it honestly is a waste – of taxpayer dollars – to “investigate.”

I will not in this post question her motives for this action. I’m sure you can come to your own conclusions. I only hope, for all our sakes, that she is not doing this to suppress free speech or thwart legitimate questions or criticism about her tenure as a public servant who works directly for the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee, whom we, as voters, taxpayers, and citizens, elected to represent us.

I can also assure you, my free speech will not be impinged. I will continue to ask the tough questions, and yes, sometimes my language is colorful. I write sarcastically at times. I use political hyperbole. This should come as no surprise to anyone, considering I’ve been here since 2005 doing the same thing and writing the same way as I always have.

I’m not going anywhere. Lowell, you’re stuck with me.

October 16, 2012

Tremors Open Thread

by at 6:17 pm.

OK, anyone feel that? I did.

Did the earth move for you? I was at my fridge (yeah, my initial reaction was get the hell away from it!). Of course, it seemed minor, but what did you experience? Freaked my dogs right the heck out.

Update: USGS is saying it was a 4.5 4.0 magnitude, 6km SSW of Lake Arrowhead, Maine.

July 23, 2012

A Note From Jen Myers

by at 9:49 pm.

With permission, I lifted this note for those of you that don’t use Facebook.

Wow. Today has been overwhelming, almost like being at my own funeral (in a good way, without being dead). Thank you all so much for your support, kind words and friendship. I am excited about this new adventure, wherever it takes me, but that doesn’t mean I will turn my back on where I have been. I have spent the last 12 years hanging around the Sun newsroom in a variety of roles from stringer to Valley Dispatch reporter, Tyngsboro/Pelham reporter, Billerica (which is da bomb) reporter, City Hall reporter and most recently Senior Writer. I have worked with amazingly talented people, too many to list here. The newsroom is a unique place full of unique people and completely inappropriate humor, which makes it fun and a great place to be every day. It is a place where I met some of my best friends and the best people I have ever known, with whom I know I will remain friends for life.
I have had the opportunity to fly over the city (and Fenway Park) in a helicopter, spend a day at Shriners’ Hospital with awesome Billerica firefighter Phil Tammaro who was himself treated there for burns as a child and now gives back to the hospital, cover the wedding of two dogs in Westford (one of who was dying of cancer), and have been allowed into countless homes and lives of people in the best and worst times of their lives.
In my time covering City Hall, I learned an enormous amount about municipal government, finance, and planning, from the best municipal administration in the game, filled with brilliant, talented, funny, real people at all levels. I learned a lot about how the city rolls from a bevy of dedicated City Councilors, including my energetic, visionary new boss.
I also learned a ton about education from three great superintendents, their talented support staff, and the committed and hard working School Committee members I have encountered in the 5 years I have spent covering the School Department.
Most importantly I have fallen in love. In love with the city my Great-Great-Great Grandfather Ferdinand Longtin came to from Quebec in 1876, seeking work in the mills. A city whose diversity, neighborhood leaders, culture, food, natural beauty, history and passion make it the most amazing city on Earth. That is why people come and why they don’t leave; why generations upon generations of families call Lowell home.
I am excited about this new job, in which I can use all of the skills I have honed over the years and build upon the relationships I have formed. It is a comfort to know I am going to work in a building where I already have many very good friends and in a city where I hope to make many more while helping the Mayor’s office better serve and effectively communicate to the residents. I have HUGE clown-sized shoes to fill. Greg Page has done a remarkable job in his brief time in the office and I only hope I can live up to the example he has set of professionalism, organization and graciousness.

Update: The outgoing aide, Greg Page, jots on his blog, The New Englander: …And Now, a Brief Pause for Jenuflection

Jen Myers Quits Sun, Now Aide to the Mayor

by at 7:50 am.

Buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, ’cause Kansas is going bye-bye!”

The next few days will be frantic in the bubble. I expect the Mayor to stand stoic, with that easy confidence he puts on so well. The frantic will come from Campi’s camp. They will not know whether to shit or go blind.

Alternate diary titles: Defection Perfection, The Juice is Loose, …

Update: PRESS RELEASE Patrick Murphy announces new Mayoral Aide in City Hall

June 28, 2012

Open Thread: Mandate Edition

by at 10:46 am.

Update: “Those who have sought to demonize health reform need to put an end to their scare tactics. This needs to begin a new day, where the test is not what you can oppose but what you can propose.” - John Kerry

At a press conference held on March 6, 2006, Mitt Romney said he’s “very pleased with” the individual mandate.


June 5, 2012

“Actionable Intelligence”

by at 6:19 pm.

Pardon me while I spike the ball. This is a (another) “Huah” moment. Ne Desit Virtus (”Let Valor Not Fail”)

Senior al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan on Monday, US officials say.
Abu Yahya al-Libi, variously described as daring and charismatic, was becoming a familiar face to the jihadist movement through his appearances on the internet.

American counter-terror analysts have long argued that killing individual al-Qaeda leaders degrades the organisation by forcing the promotion of less experienced operatives. Drone strikes, they say, make al-Qaeda look vulnerable and undermine its global standing.

Behind the drone operations, of course, lies an unseen intelligence operation which fed US commanders knowledge of Libi’s whereabouts. We can’t know how that worked, but we can speculate that it involved the use of satellites and drones to track militants, listening stations to intercept their communications and agents on the ground to provide first-hand information.

The reach and apparent effectiveness of US intelligence in the region may well be as of much concern to al-Qaeda’s leadership as the death of their comrade.

Washington believes that following Osama Bin Laden’s death last year, Libi, an Islamic scholar from Libya, became al-Qaeda’s second-in-command after Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri.

If I’m gloating, it’s not as a soldier. It’s as an “Obama Democrat.”

Don’t be a chickenhawk! Vote Democrat in 2012.

May 17, 2012

Second Win!

by at 12:10 pm.

We get lots of blame or credit on this blog for being more influential than we are. (Blame if you are on one side; credit if you are on another.) I have always maintained that we honestly have had a lot less to do with major and minor political events here in Lowell than people think. All we do is talk about things on a little website and put a lot of what people are thinking out there in a public way. Sometimes you could maybe call that a catalyst for change; but we certainly know our place in the conversation, and it’s not all that huge. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em.

However, the one thing that I will take credit for (and have in the past) is the small margin of victory that ousted Mike Hayden from the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee in 2009. Our exposure of Mike Hayden’s hateful little website and discussion of the shenanigans at the GLTHSC might have been responsible for the narrow margin between him and George O’Hare, returning O’Hare to the Committee along with Fred Bahou, and bumping Hayden out. I gladly take the heat on that one!

Now, it appears, we WILL have a vacancy on the GLTHS Committee with Lenzi leaving (don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out) and Hayden has withdrawn his name, so he states.

Aside from his whiny whine about someone outing his interest (what, you sent it to 15 politicians and expected it to remain a secret? Are you nuts??) I especially liked this tidbit:

Secondly the amount of negative talk and blogging on my interest was enough for me to realize that my family and I do not need this negativity in our lives. … My political days are over.

Always happy to oblige! And dare we hope??

But I must object to one thing…any negativity is completely what you created yourself. I only quoted you, your comments, and your own website, and outlined a very suspicious pay package for the previous Superintendent in the 2009 race. You did it to yourself.

I do so love how these people project their own faults and foibles onto others who would point them out in order to make the discussion fair. It entertains me. So transparent, so easy to understand, and yet they cannot see it themselves.

Wonder if we’ll be seeing Hayden pop up any more in blog comments? I really do miss having Hayden to kick around…so to speak. Well, to let him kick himself around, rather.

May 10, 2012

Say It Ain’t So!

by at 8:31 am.

Heard today on WCAP news: Bernie Lynch is indeed interested in the open Cambridge City Manager position. I suppose this is the moment you come back at me saying the word “duh” and all, but color me unhappy about it!

I had a friend and colleague whose husband was a manager of a golf course. The only way to “move up” in the gold course management world is…to change jobs to a more famous, prestigious golf course. Even if it means moving hours away to a whole new state. So I’m not surprised Lynch is contemplating putting his hat in the ring (or inevitably going to do so, whichever you see fit). The only way to “move up” in your career as a municipal manager is to find a bigger city with more prestige, more responsibility, bigger budgets, etc.

But I hope that CM Lynch doesn’t take it personally when I say I hope they find many faults in his application and tell him to go back to his old job. :) Or that they like the Billerica town manager much better (who is also reportedly interested in the job according to ‘CAP)!

March 19, 2012

Cambridge Calling?

by at 10:16 pm.

So often, I hear the Bernie Bashers spinning yarns of Lynch escaping to Cambridge. Well, I better get used to it!

Cambridge — Robert Healy’s over 30 year tenure running the city of Cambridge as its city manager will come to an end a little over a year from now.

“I will be 70 years old in August of ’13, not that I’m going to stop working,” Healy said in a brief interview after the City Council voted to extend his contract for another year. “We won’t be here next January talking about the same thing.”

Healy said he would not reconsider his decision to retire but thought staying on while the City Council looks for someone else to take the helm “made a lot of sense.”

Healy’s contract will end on June 30, 2013.

Maybe the Council should give Lynch a new 5 year contract, this year?

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