Left In Lowell

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April 4, 2012

Merrimack Valley Food Bank Exceeded Their Goal

by at 4:50 pm.

And sends their THANKS, via e-mail. Thought I’d pass it along.

We came, We Saw, and We conquered….and conquered we did! 21,740 pounds of food and still counting, exceeding our goal of collecting 15,000 pounds!! We certainly couldn’t have done this without you, your families, students, and colleagues!

Thank you to everyone at Lowell City Hall, Mayor Murphy, City Manager Bernie Lynch, Councilor Marty Lorrey for getting the ball rolling on a press conference for us; Elizabeth Craveiro for coordinating the City Hall Food Bank Challenge – Genius Idea; and congratulations to The Department of Planning & Development – a.k.a. The Department of Canning and Food Elements for winning the challenge! Grand total of 2240 pounds of food collected at Lowell City Hall!

(more…)

January 17, 2012

Website Strike Tomorrow Against SOPA

by at 11:53 am.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that no web content maker on the internet should NOT be in total fear of SOPA. (Edit: I meant no web content maker should NOT be in fear…) I knew it was bad, but BoingBoing put it into real perspective:

Boing Boing could never co-exist with a SOPA world: we could not ever link to another website unless we were sure that no links to anything that infringes copyright appeared on that site. So in order to link to a URL on LiveJournal or WordPress or Twitter or Blogspot, we’d have to first confirm that no one had ever made an infringing link, anywhere on that site. Making one link would require checking millions (even tens of millions) of pages, just to be sure that we weren’t in some way impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four multinational record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their profits.

If we failed to take this precaution, our finances could be frozen, our ad broker forced to pull ads from our site, and depending on which version of the bill goes to the vote, our domains confiscated, and, because our server is in Canada, our IP address would be added to a US-wide blacklist that every ISP in the country would be required to censor.

So LeftinLowell is going to join the one-day blackout tomorrow, Jan 18th, from 8am to 8pm. Lest we go dark permanently under a SOPA world. If you have a website, you might want to consider the simple steps that the website gives you to do so - a simple javascript that goes into your head tag.

January 10, 2012

Support Babylon Restaurant (But Not Tonight) (Edited)

by at 3:44 pm.

Because they’ll be totally wall-to-wall packed. I must admit, I’m a little miffed at the Veterans for Peace and their “eat-in” at the downtown Iraqi restaurant Babylon, because I had plans to bring friends there for dinner tonight, that will likely have to move to another night. Jerks.

Just kidding, I think it’s an amazing gesture by the veterans and I think we all ought to support this great new addition to our downtown after it was vandalized. The last thing this family needs is to feel unsafe and unwelcome. While it’s not clear that the vandalism from last week was in any way motivated by the owners’ ethnicity, it seems to me that the odds may be that it was.

If you haven’t been to Babylon yet, you are missing a treat, and the community needs to support them right now, so stop by soon! Like that’ll be a huge chore, with its good price points and amazing food. One of my new fave downtown spots for meeting friends and grabbing some lunch. Just you might not get a seat tonight, is all. :)

Update: Cool review of Babylon by Merrimack Valley Magazine. Says the writer “fatoosh is tossed with plenty of exotic spices — including my new favorite, sumac” - yes yes yes! I never knew sumac was a spice before, but having some at Babylon was akin to my powerful cardamom revelation (another favorite “found” spice). Need to get my hands on some for cooking!

Update II: the Veterans for Peace are there til 8pm, so if you are good with a late dinner… :)

November 17, 2011

“Move Your Money,” Lowell Edition

by at 3:53 pm.

“Joe from Lowell” has been cheating on LiL, and posting on Dailykos, and via this front-page Markos diary about municipalities moving from TBTF (Too Big To Fail) banks like B of A, to local ones, I found Joe’s link to his own diary about Lowell doing just that.

Lowell jumped on this bandwagon before there was ever a bandwagon, it seems.

I assume everyone here is familiar with the Move Your Money Project, an effort to convince people to close their accounts with big, national banks and switch their banking to local banks and credit unions. The Move Your Money web site includes a great tool for finding such institutions in your home town. It’s a great idea, which helps to take down the Too Big To Fail banks a notch, and steer funds towards local institutions that are more responsible with their loans and services. But let’s not forget, individuals are not the only ones who use banking services. So does your local government, and chances are, they have a lot more money in the bank than you do.

Below [the fold] find a story about how the City of Lowell, Massachusetts is doing exactly that.

Here’s what the Lowell Sun has to say:

LOWELL — The city is gearing up to launch a program designed to boost the amount of money it places in local banks by millions of dollars in hopes of spurring small-business growth.

Devised by Lowell’s chief financial officer, Tom Moses, the Lowell Economic Advancement Program, or LEAP, would shift up to $2 million in city deposits to each local financial institution headquartered in Lowell that agrees to lend the city money to Lowell-based small businesses. The money would be diverted from funds currently in nonlocal banks.

The initiative is modeled after a similar effort launched by state Treasurer Steve Grossman to transfer $100 million of state deposits in larger banks to local banks, with the goal of boosting small-business lending.

There’s a lot more details in Joe’s post about the program, which has in place ways for the city to entice that small-business loaning. So it’s not just moving the money, but also asking those local banks to use the added revenues to help the local economy. Nice catch, Joe!

Now, the rest of us should consider moving our money! I would, but I already have for the most part.

Note: the whole “cheating on us” thing was totally tongue in cheek! ;)

October 16, 2011

Occupation: To Be or Not To Be…Coopted

by at 1:58 pm.

I spent most of Friday during the day in Boston, at Dewey Square, taking in OccupyBoston. I brought all the donations I could scrounge up (for instance, my entire adult history in mothballed bed comforters and towels) and hoped to hang around and get some video interviews and stories I could tell. Instead I wound up volunteering for a web project they needed - I thought my time would be better spent utilizing my skills as a developer rather than working on Occupy content and publicity for a small, local blog.

I haven’t written much here on the Occupy movement in the last few weeks, though I’ve been more than keenly following it online. There are so many thoughts swirling around in my head that I’ve been paralyzed from writing an essay-length post about it, although if you follow my Twitter account, the Facebook page which features many of the tweets, or keep up with @leftinlowell on the left sidebar here, you’ll know that I’ve been a very active author about OccupyBoston and OWS in the 140-character arena.

I could write a lot (and may yet) about what I found at Dewey Square on Friday - the strong sense of community, amazing solidarity, the organic means of organizing they employ - but many others have written about that already and you can find reams of pixels devoted to covering the news and day to day life of Occupiers.

But this afternoon, I found the 140 character limit failing me, and as I said in a direct response to an inquiry, needed a full blog post to explain my feelings and thoughts, specifically regarding the pressures that the Occupy movement is and will face in the coming weeks and months. Via @BostonPhoenix, I found this short description (and full video) of a Harvard political panel hastily formed to facilitate a discussion of the Occupy movement, including visiting fellow Ed Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania.

A far greater percentage of the audience than of the panel had actually spent signiicant time at an Occupation — Williamson has spent time at #OccupyBoston — but that didn’t stop anyone from speculating or projecting.

Rendell is not alone — especially and not surprisingly among Democratic politicians — in wishing that some of the enthusiasm of Occupy would carry over to the ballot box. What Democratic politicians have been very slow to acknowledge is that many Occupiers are as sick of Democrats as they are with banks — and are not enthusiastic about the possibilities of a two-party system they see as being hopelessly corrupted by corporate campaign contributions.

As a thoroughly committed progressive electoral political activist, I have, and will continue to, volunteer my time to electing good candidates at all levels of government, turning out the vote, encouraging voter participation, and going to the polls myself. It’s the least I can do for my democracy. But as an electoral activist, one who also has some experience in movement politics (the anti-war Bush era) I want to caution the Occupation against giving in too much to the powerful forces that would love to squeeze out this amazing energy for their own use.

There are so many pieces of evidence I could use to back that up. The most obvious is to look at what happened to the Tea Party movement. Although I am in total opposition to just about everything the TP stands for, the movement at its inception was grassroots at its core, expressing anger at the status quo. (I don’t argue about the need for such anger, but the TP is, at least in its current incarnation, gravely wrong on who was to blame.) Even one of its founders, a conservative blogger, now repudiates what it’s become - a front group for the financial backers of the Republican party and its politicians.

Or look at the Obama 2008 campaign. The enthusiasm of young volunteers and voters was part of the reason he was propelled to such heights of popularity. They were fired up, ready to go. And when they got there…they got some of what they wanted, sure. At least a modicum of health care reform. A half-measures stimulus package for jobs that turned out to be only partly effective - because the downturn was steeper than anyone knew, and because a third or more of the stimulus was ineffective tax cuts instead of direct stimulus spending. He has had a weak stomach for the fight…the opposite of a firm, demanding executive branch leader that we so need…instead, “capitulating” and “pre-compromising” are the catchphrases that come to mind about Obama’s first term.

Obama also put Wall Street execs into his economic brain trust. Wall St certainly doesn’t love this president, but if you were looking for them to enact policies against greed and corruption, you were sorely disappointed…besides the Elizabeth Warren-driven Consumer Protection Agency, we extracted no price from the financiers - not jail time pursued where possible, nor reigning their excess in, or asking them to pay their fair share of their own ridiculous bailouts.

The last of which, along with prolonged unemployment woes, prompted the Occupation movement to begin with.

If I have any advice for the burgeoning Occupy movement - if I could make any appeal at all to them that would matter (and by them, I do mean us, since I will continue to do what I can to support it), it would be this: if you allow yourselves to be coopted and pressured to work on elections, driven by the necessarily short-term thinking of electoral activism, you will be distracted from your larger goal, and you will be disappointed, time and again.

There are a few reasons for this, some inevitable in any circumstance, like the fact that we cannot all agree, even with those we agree, 100% of the time. I eased out of the anti-war movement because of the 2006 campaign for Governor Deval Patrick, swept up in the enthusiasm of what he was trying to accomplish, and believing that I could be more effective as an electoral activist than trying to change the stubborn mind of the Bush administration on its war policies. Choose between bashing my head on a wall repeatedly, or use a hammer to break through? Give me that hammer!

And in some ways, in some campaigns, you can be more effective as an electoral activist; ask for, and receive, real and lasting change. I am largely proud of my Governor, and the work I did to elect him. He has been an effective economic leader to say the least, nevermind his progressive support for gay rights, and for most social programs (your mileage may vary). But even I have had my enthusiasm for his tenure brutally dampened at times, especially now, that he, who should be smart enough to know better, has been on the forefront of the impending legalization of casinos. I have been disappointed, even in the best of our leaders, enough to distract me from more far-reaching goals.

If I can be disappointed in someone like Deval Patrick, just imagine the disappointment around a second term of Obama.

You can’t take on everything. Neither individuals, nor movements, can afford to be divided in their efforts or their aims. And in the end, electing more and better leaders will not change the system. That system is so broken, electing a Patrick or a Warren or this or that individual is like a plank trying to hold back a tide. The system needs fundamental uprooting and replanting, and no amount of progressive electoral politics (save the entire corps of incumbents being ousted and replaced wholesale at once by a massive grassroots effort of small donors and volunteers) will truly address the core problem at hand.

Electoral politics is about fraying the cloth of the “system” at the edges; Occupation should be about reweaving the entire bolt.

I have some ideas to propose (well one overarching, giant idea, really) of how Occupy can do this, for once, and for all. It’s an uphill battle so massive, so stacked against us, so big of an effort that just to think it makes me shiver in fear and excitement. But it is the only inevitable conclusion I can come to when thinking about the future of our country and how to right all the wrongs. I am talking about a constitutional amendment to rescind corporate personhood and the ruling of the Supreme Court that money equals speech.

All of what is broken with our system is about money and influence in our politics. Global climate change cannot be addressed because of the massive amount of money being pumped into stopping the regulation, and reversal of, carbon dependence. Economic justice is being thwarted by financial contributions from banks and Wall Street, so that the concept of going back to Clinton-era taxes on the wealthy and capital gains (money making money, as opposed to work making money) is nigh impossible to argue. And so on, and so on, and so on. If in a democracy being elected depends on monetary support, and people with more money can support more heavily than the rest of the 99%, then who will ever listen to the 99%?

A constitutional amendment is a big hill to climb. It’s a long-term hill, it could take a decade. It could take more. The money arrayed against such an act would be astounding - if you think Wall Street spends money on politics now, wait until you try this out.

However, no amount of cash is going to convince the American people that the system is working as it is, or that Citizens United was a good idea, or that corporations should have rights as though they were people. If lasting change is what Occupy seeks, than the moment is now.

But whatever form, and eventual goal, this movement takes on (if indeed it does not peter out after we see the economy rebound after some new temporary economic bandaid that puts off the inevitable real crash that I feel is coming) it needs to think beyond 2012. Beyond 2014, or 2016. Beyond the cyclical electoral process.

If that means fighting the pressure from Democratic politicians to elect them, as well as ignoring the temptation to help enact near-term policy bandaids, then as a staunch Democrat, I say, so be it. What you lose in short term gain is far exceeded by the long term possibilities.

I can’t help thinking that much of our future is dependent on what this nascent movement called Occupation does next (but no pressure!). And, I would love to be able to say at the end of all of this, “Our Democracy is dead…long live our Democracy.”

October 13, 2011

Elizabeth Warren Tomorrow on LeftAhead

by at 9:42 pm.

Tomorrow, there will be a special broadcast of LeftAhead!, outside of its normal schedule. I haven’t been able to remain a regular co-host there for quite some time, but the generous Mike Ball and Ryan Adams are allowing me to jump in for an interview with Elizabeth Warren at 1pm tomorrow, Friday, October 14th, live. Should be a lot of fun! You can find the info and links to listen here. It will also be archived as well.

I will be doing this from Boston, where I will also be heading to Occupy Boston to see if I can capture a little of what has been going on down there. Kind of a totally political day in store for me…so if you are interested in that, stay tuned to my twitter feed (@leftinlowell) either in the sidebar or at Twitter, and watch for some (I hope) short videos later on once I get home and can upload them.

October 2, 2011

From Quirky, to Movement…

by at 10:56 am.

I’ve been following (mostly online) the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston protests since nearly the beginning. They got traction and coverage on blogs and Twitter long before the media was covering it - in fact, before the unprovoked pepper spray incidents that made the news, the only place to read about what was happening was online.

The media complained that they weren’t cohesive enough and there wasn’t news to cover. Well, that has quickly changed and evolved. For starters, there were some very bad decisions from the NYPD - both institutionally, and by some idiot individuals - which put the protests on the map for the media, and solidified the motivation of participants and supporters. What’s more, it seems the organic sort of organizing that has sprung up has - and I have to use the word evolved again - to meet the challenges of running a protest, dealing with the media, finding a set of demands to articulate why they are angry and not going to take it any more. OWS has spokespeople and media tents and a strong online presence - all while being relatively leadersless in the traditional sense.

In some ways, my personal cynicism alert flag is up. (Yeah, I know, I’m too young to be truly cynical…) I spent years organizing with the peace movement against the Iraq war, butting my head up against the sheer stubbornness of the Bush administration and, later, Obama’s. After all, GitMo is still open, the USA PATRIOT Act was reauthorized and is being used to spy on Americans without due process, we’re still in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan though with some troop drawdown, and Obama even unilaterally bombed, for right or wrong, Libya, without the consent of Congress.

The only satisfaction we got out of our fight was that most of the American public got on our side after a while. But it still reelected Bush and let itself be lied to about Kerry’s war record and ability to lead, and we never got a truly different kind of leader to replace him in 2008, either. Obama put Wall St executives in charge of the economy even after it was evident they were full of shit.

But there is something really interesting happening with Occupy[America]. For one thing, it’s just average citizens (not diehard liberals or extremely informed people like me) who are protesting. Photo after photo, interview after interview, this is very evident.

There are so many people in this country who have been foreclosed on, laid off, unable to move forward, that a segment of them, with nothing left to lose, are truly taking the fight to the streets. Since they have nothing left to lose - no middle class lifestyle, no prospects - they have a lot to fight for. I always said the worst part about being an anti-war protester is that most of our citizens, even when sympathetic (and the majority was by the time I left that movement) are busy with their lives, making their livings, feeding their families, going to soccer games, and being generally content that things aren’t that bad for them, personally. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s totally human, and what’s more, a legacy of the last century of American progress. We built the middle class. A country with a middle class able to make ends meet is a relatively politically stable country. It’s a good thing.

Which is why I think there is something different in the air.

Gradually, we’ve seen the erosion of the buying power and the salaries of the middle class. For so many decades before, our children did at least a little better than their parents. Then, since the Reagan era, we started to see the slide. We began to only tread water…then occasionally swallowed some. Then we began drowning, but we as a people were the last to see it happen.

Even in the 2008 economic meltdown, we failed to notice our lungs filling with something other than air.

This generation of young people really are the first who truly believe - nay, who know - they are not destined to do better than their parents. Unlike the spoiled kids of my generation (raised largely in the 80s and coming of age in the 90s), they see the coming tide sweeping over them and pulling them under the water before they even get a chance to begin. They are left behind. And they know that if they do nothing, it will only get worse. They have nothing left to lose.

They join every one of their older siblings, parents, grandparents who have lost a house, a job, a future, despite being of the generations born with more promise. For some of us older ones, we’ve experienced firsthand how it’s gonna be going forward if there are no changes. For the rest of us older ones, we are beginning to understand how fragile our position of comfort is. The OccupyWallSt movement presents this to us in bas-relief - the notion that the middle class is under siege and has been for quite some time.

The thing that is different from now from these previous movements is that the situation that has caused these long term problems is not going to be alleviated by last generation’s leaders. Obama is cut off at the knees to even patch a pathetic temporary band-aid (the jobs bill) on our economic slide by Republican intransigence. And even Obama’s half-measures would probably only prove to elongate the stagnation, not solve the underlying problem. We’re now seeing the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us reach the levels seen right before the 1929 crash. Eventually, this was going to get noticed by someone. By everyone.

Even the Tea Party movement, while misguided to the extreme, is an expression of this loss of power by the average person. Why did they catch fire? Despite being such a minority of even the Republican party? Because poor and middle class Republicans too are suffering in this economic climate, this class warfare on us by the super-wealthy. They just aren’t right on who to blame for this.

Most of America, on the other hand, already knows what and who is to blame. They already overwhelmingly want to see taxes raised back up on the uberwealthy. They know that Wall St needs taking down a peg or three, and that we need to go back to regulating our economic system so that the playing field becomes level again. They just need the energy to look up from their day to day struggles against the tide, to look up, and see that horizon again.

I don’t know where the Occupy movement is going to go. It seems to change and swell bigger by the day, though it could have an upper limit, I suppose. But if this truly is the moment where the American people reach the tipping point, if this is the straw that, finally, after 30 years of straws, breaks the camel’s back, then maybe we can make the changes without the economic crash that I have been foreseeing for years. That crash (which will make 2008 look like cakewalk) could still be coming. But if we organize enough in advance, if we can offer an alternative to the American people now, perhaps we will not lose a decade like they did in the Great Depression. After all, we have history to inform us how best to rebuild the American middle class and spread prosperity around to everyone.

So, occupy on! There may not be an immediate result, but it could offer a long term solution. Hats off to the most powerless among us.

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” - V

December 1, 2008

Fight Hate: Phelps Coming to Boston

by at 12:53 pm.

Some of you might remember when the hateful Fred Phelps came to Dracut and Lowell. The best way to fight a person like this isn’t to give him the attention he craves and didn’t get from his mother as a child, but to use him to make progress instead. We raised over $600 for equality groups in MA in two counter-rallies where we asked people to give a pledge “for every minute that hate stands here.”

In other words, the longer he and his ilk stood in hate, the more money we raised for equality. Go gay agenda!

Well, now this moron is planning to come to Boston to picket the show “The Laramie Project” at the Boston Center for the Arts, and it’s time to use him like a cheap tissue once again to raise awareness - and cash! - for gay rights. Chris Mason posts at BMG that they are using the same exact idea, pledging per minute. Donations this time are for Driving Equality, an “85-day trek across America to all of the lower 48 states to advance LGBT equality.” You can pledge here.

November 7, 2008

Thinking Out Loud for 11/7/2008

by at 9:10 am.

Today on TOL, we’ll be talking to Paul Marion, Executive Director for Outreach at UMass Lowell, about this year’s F. Bradford Morse Distinguished Lecture taking place on Monday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at the F. Bradford Morse Federal Building on Merrimack Street. The guest lecturer this year is Prof. Padraig O’Malley of UMass Boston, who will talk about his efforts on reconciliation in Iraq and his history working for peace.

The event is open to the public, and is free.

Join us at 10am, either at 91.5FM or streaming online live.

November 6, 2008

Stop the Hate? Boycott Marriott

by at 2:54 pm.

Look, I know that boycotts during the Bush years were a dime a dozen and can be exhausting. But this one is very important.

The passage of Prop 8 - the hate amendment to the CA constitution that invalidates hundreds of CA same-sex marriages and bans future ones, was largely funded (and for a decade, planned) by the Mormon Church and its hard-right allies. There MUST be consequences. Past boycotts have worked. Don’t go spending your vacation money in Utah, and don’t spend one penny at any Marriott Hotel anywhere in the world.

AMERICAblog writes:

Our friend Brent Andrus, who is a lead donor to Prop 8, in fact runs a series of hotels, including (big surprise here), Courtyard Marriott, Fairfield Inn Marriott, Residence Inn Marriott, and Spring Hill Suites Marriott. Never, ever stay at a Marriott again. It’s clear that what people have been whispering about Marriott for years is true. It’s not just some independent company. It’s part and parcel of the Mormon Church and their bigoted agenda.

Never, EVER stay at a Marriott Hotel ever again.

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