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Left In Lowell » Navel Gazing

Left In Lowell

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November 23, 2012

h/t to Lynne and Jack

by at 7:34 pm.

Now that some of the dust has settled, I wanted to express my views on the events that occurred this past week. I am referring to GLTHS Mary Jo Santoro filing a police complaint on my LiL colleague Lynne. This is not how I wanted or expected to spend my Thanksgiving week but if you enter the public arena, you should be ready for unexpected and unpleasant events.

First and foremost, I want to share publicly what I said to both Lynne and Jack. In my opinion, Santoro’s actions were not aimed at Lynne but they were aimed at LiL in general and Jack in particular. It is Jack’s investigating writing under the banner of “Mary Jo Must Go” that has the Superintendent, her supporters, her benefactors, her sycophants, her entourage and most importantly the hanger-ons that live off the job clearinghouse, self-defined political power base on the Merrimack.

Yes, Santoro would not mind if Lynne was wounded but I believe that particular action was orchestrated by one of Santoro’s staunchest supporters for his own twisted motives. Jack’s post were the ultimate target. The decision to go after Lynne was an attempt by Santoro and her companions to intimidate LiL into silence. I do not think this threat has worked. Lynne and Jack are stubborn and committed. When your principles are based on ideas and not on getting a job in the public sector for yourself or a family member, it is pretty easy to continue to fight.

I have no idea where Santoro’s complaint will land in the legal arena. We will wait and see but at this rate, pretty soon she is going to run out of people to accuse of harassment. That tactic has short shelf life.

What bothered me the most in the past few days was the pleasure some bloggers took in the possibility that another blog will be shut off. I can understand the Lowell Sun jumping on that bandwagon, there is no love lost between us and them. But for bloggers to find pleasure in the possibility that free speech will be curtailed is truly disturbing.

The internet and all of its wonderful democratic components should be applauded by all self-described bloggers. We should celebrate the ability to exchange idea no matter how appalling we find the words and their delivery. The freedom to share views, debate, argue and perhaps form a consensus should be embraced. You should fight words with words, not with the threat of police action.

There are so many avenues that are available to express one’s views in Lowell, LiL is not the only game in town. There are many blogs (I do miss the Mill City boys) and most of those blogs do not share our views. Some even like to position themselves as the anti-LiL. We have a local radio station that welcomes callers; we have a local television show that provides a wide spectrum of views. And of course we have our newspaper. There are plenty of outlets for everyone to present their views. Why try to harm LiL?

And as far as Mr. Mike Hayden is concerned, I would like to offer a suggestion. Instead of being fascinated by Jack and Lynne, try to serve as a mentor to younger Lowellians who want to get involved in public service or civic activity. If you are so confident in your views, you should be able to quickly form a cadre of up and coming leaders who can challenge the current sentiments expressed by the majority of Lowell voters that have clearly stated “we want people like Fred Bahou and Erik Gitschier” to serve on the GLTHS Committee.” By the way, Mr. Hayden I really do not care what you may say about me so if you want to go on Gerry’s blog and call me vile names as you do Jack and Lynne, it will be a total waste of your time as well as the readers. I do not need nor seek your approval on any level.

I would like to thank Mary Jo. On behalf of three Lowell homeowners, taxpayers who like this City and want it to prosper on all levels, thanks for giving us a kick in the rear end and waking me up from my slumber.

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.

November 10, 2012

Talty Terrible?

by at 11:02 pm.

So, I’m poking around the intertubes and I find a Blue Mass Group blog critiquing the work of the various pollsters and their endeavors gauging public sentiment, re: Warren/Brown Senate race.

Guess who was figured as the worst at electoral prognostication. Yep. Our very own UMass Lowell’s Public Opinion Center.

UMass/Boston Herald: Brown +1. Worst of the lot, and using recent data, no less: 10/31-11/3. This poll skewed heavily Brown in September also, showing Brown up 4 when every other poll except Rasmussen’s tie showed Warren with a lead. I’m guessing there was a problem with their overall voter sample weighting, their “7-item turnout scale” likely voter methodology, or both.

I’m not much of a “poll troll,” meaning one who obsesses over the results and methodology employed. I will take a gander at poll aggregators like the now popular, Nate Silver. I figure the poll trends will account for error in methods and data “noise.” So, you won’t find me jumping to the defense or assault of UMass Lowell.

I do, for some strange reason, want this polling group to be the best around. If only because they hang their shingle in our hometown.

October 28, 2012

Bring In Your Lawn Signs, Please.

by at 10:42 am.

It’s a good idea to secure the loose stuff that could fly around in the wind, e.g. political yards signs.
My printer pal is now officially ticked off. ;v)

Use this as an Open Thread, if you like.

October 25, 2012

Like Us On Facebook!

by at 2:29 pm.

Normally I don’t push too hard on Facebook likes, but sometimes I get in the mood. This is one of those moods. So, if you are a Facebook user and wanna catch our feed, it’s here.

I post lots of stuff on Facebook that I don’t get to here, tidbits that I find on subjects political, cultural, and community-based, most often very local. Some days I post more than others, but it’s never more than 3-5 items per day on average. Some of my tweets from @leftinlowell.com make it there as well, when I remember to check off the box to send them (I most often tweet from my phone). But often you’ll find stuff there that you’ll find no where else, like my most recent post on non-chemical agriculture, or sharing an article from Howl about the chicken movement in Lowell. Yes, chickens! If that intrigues you then go hit the LiL FB page. :)

I also try to remember (with varying success) to post a link when I create a new blog post here, so it can be convenient for knowing when LiL has new content. Jack and Mimi also have admin access to the FB page though they don’t use it very often (though, hint hint, feel free to).

If you find something of particular interest, you can always hit the share button on Facebook to publish something of ours into your own feed. We’re only as good as the community who spreads the word! And if you like our feed, then share our page with others!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program. Whatever that was. ;)

October 9, 2012

The Low(ell)-Down: Http/1.1 Service Unavailable

by at 7:04 pm.


The link goes nowhere, now. Now that C.Elliott is focusing on what councilors write on blogs about? Go to several of Lowell’s blogs and find the blog roll. You’ll find a link to C.Elliott’s (former) blog on most. It used to be there, but now it’s not. Honestly, the blogscape isn’t being cheated much by this development. However, there was a diary that used the work of the Blog of Record to take a swipe at the Mayor.

Does anyone besides me remember this? I distinctly remember the link to a Sun spinning of the Mayoral follies, right in the time of the inauguration of this council and the heading of ‘Insightful’ or something like that. Normally in a time like this, I just go over to the website and take a screen grab. Which is what I just did, and there is no website there. Oh, well!

Which Column Blog did C.Elliott link to? Was it this one?

Murphy flexes Mayoral Muscle
When asked by Elliott at Tuesday’s meeting why he selected Mendonca, a second term councilor, as finance chair, Murphy said he was choosing someone with the most “expertise and experience.”

But Elliott, who is in his 8th term, said Wednesday Murphy’s decision to end his 12-year run as finance chair was “personal” and likely made at City Manager Bernie Lynch’s request.

Or, was it this one?

Leahy speaks out on mayoral sweeps
Leahy told Martin, in his opinion, the mayor (who also chairs the School Committee) needs to be experienced, given the committee will have three freshmen members.

He urged Martin, if he is not going to vote for Councilor Rodney Elliott, to vote for himself. Martin served as mayor in the 2006-2007 term.

I think it was the former, not the latter.

Update: More clues lay over at Gerry Nutter’s Lowell - A Native Lowellians view of Lowell Politics

October 3, 2012

A Tale Of Two Activists

by at 11:21 am.

For those of you that avoided the Tsongas Center like the plague, on Monday, you would have seen a large spectacle. I took this pic from the top of the Ayotte Garage at about 4:45, that evening. This was not the peak of the event.



October 2, 2012

Her Blog. Her Computer. Her Time.

by at 8:45 pm.

Jen Myer’s sets us straight:

For anyone unfortunate enough to have watched the City Council meeting tonight and cares about the truth, here it is: my blog www.room50.wordpress.com is NOT a city website, as was erroneously stated by a city councilor tonight. It is owned and operated entirely by me. I do use it to promote the city and events that I attend in my capacity as Mayor Murphy’s aide. The post that was brought up at the meeting tonight: Mayor Murphy’s open letter in response to a factually inaccurate news story in the local paper was not posted on city time, on a city website or from city-owned equipment. Mayor Murphy emailed the letter to me, the newspaper and other bloggers at 8:20 p.m. I was at home. I asked him if I could post it on my blog. He said that was up to me . . . it’s my blog. I posted it — from home, on my own computer at my own discretion. Period.

Though, she told us once before.

Any questions?

Update: The related bit begins at the 2:19:17 mark.

#WorstestModeratorEvah! (Edited)

by at 7:42 am.

Raise your hand, who didn’t see (or at least start watching, perhaps you ran screaming) the Warren-Brown debate? I know you weren’t bothering with the Red Sox, so don’t lie. ;)

I find myself in total agreement with Outraged Liberal, who says, “It was nasty and brutish and when the smoke cleared there was one clear loser in last night’s US Senate debate: moderator David Gregory.” I felt, in a manner of speaking, betrayed. After all, I took some time off in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day down at the Tsgonas as a blogger, doing the blogger thing as best I could with an iPad and a smartphone (laptop is on the fritz). To have spent so much time prepping for this debacle of a debate feels wasted.

media trucks Tsongas debate 2012 What’s more, this was a huge production on the part of UML and the Tsongas Arena. A lot of money was spent last night. The media descended in a mass hoard on the city, the arena was full, and the task of logistics, printing signage, traffic direction, and the police presence, was just enormous. This truly was debate-as-spectacle at its finest. What we got in the final analysis fell so far short of all the prep and hype.

What a missed opportunity, as Dick Howe said last night on Twitter. If I find out Marty Meehan had any clout in picking the DC Villager to moderate this debate I shall be very put out. Being in the crowd, I got a sense that a lot of people there felt the same way. It’s not like an hour debate is long to begin with. And to have nearly half of it being used for the way-overplayed (and, I think, satisfactorily answered ten times over) Cherokee and asbestos-Traveler thing, as well as horse race questions that have no bearing on policy or how each of the candidates would conduct their tenure on the Senate floor, was worse than a wasted opportunity - it was nothing short of a travesty of democracy and a showcase of everything wrong with our media culture today.

The twitterverse that I hang out in pretty much agreed - the showstoppers for the most part were not either candidate. It was how horrid David Gregory was, how precious few minutes he spent on substantive issues like Afghanistan, jobs and the economy, the environment (hint: none) or any other issue of substance. And to leave us with a stupid baseball question (I could see Gregory crowing inside with “see? I know local stuff that’s local!”) when we had already lost so much time on inanities was just the last straw.

One of our local radio guys, or even, hell, Jon Keller! would have done a far superior job. As smug as Keller is in his commentary, he stayed out of the candidate’s way in the first debate, and yet controlled the flow of it pretty well. Meehan made huge mistakes marrying the Herald for their political arm; I am hoping that a divorce is imminent. The polls appear flawed (I don’t say that because they went the opposite way of the rest of the ones which I liked - I say that because there are serious questions about their undersampling of Dems and oversampling of Republicans in a presidential year with Obama topping the ticket), the debate was trash, and I think UML’s reputation has been tarnished by mating with the Herald. The only thing you can say about this event is that, short of being content-free, it was well-run, the staff managed the influx of reporters and radio and news trucks and visitors outstandingly well, and the audience appeared to be quite balanced in terms of its cheers and jeers (Brown got applause and so did Warren). The event ran smoothly and was a credit to the University and the city. Too bad we can’t say the same thing about the debate itself.

I will, however, leave you with this:

Edit: If you want a good post on substance, a good place to start is this analysis by Mass Marrier.

Instead on one major question after another, he played and overplayed his alleged impartial card (a.k.a. the bipartisan ploy). He couldn’t and wouldn’t tell us what we’d get by electing him to a full term. He’d pore over each bill’s contents, he’d listen to all arguments and only then decide what he believed and would do. While he refuses to call himself a Republican in person or in campaign material, that sounded dreadfully like the Romney/Ryan shtick. They say that their economic plan is too complex to explain, so we need to elect them and let Congress work out the details. Walrus wings, I say!

September 29, 2012

The Santa Clause

by at 8:52 am.

The Blog of Record informs us that Meehan and Pangy had a pow-wow. What did they speak of?:

Political insiders, however, speculated the political titans talked about Panagiotakos’ future: Specifically him becoming city manager.
As City Manager Bernie Lynch continues to be roughed up, Panagiotakos has said privately that he would indeed consider the job, but he doesn’t want to be viewed as pushing Lynch out.
Panagiotakos is everyones’ pol, and he relishes that. If he became city manager, however, starting on the first day he would lose some of that charm appeal and it would only get worse as time marches onward. That’s why not everyone is buying into Panagiotakos’ alleged interest.
Speaking of interest, Panagiotakos was vehement: he doesn’t have any.”Maybe five or six years from now, but not now.” He repeated it several times.

Why not now? Give me a sec, to think of a euphemism. … (more…)

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