Monday, March 21, 2011

Local Forum on Healthcare Reform April 5

Not a bad event if you live in downtown Boston (I am the secretary of the group that is organizing the event).



BOSTON (March 21, 2011)-- The Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee today announced that Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, M.D. will participate in a community forum on federal healthcare reform, scheduled for April 5, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at the First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough Street, in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston.

Secretary Bigby will join some of the preeminent experts and leaders on healthcare reform, including Elmer R. Freeman, MSW, Executive Director of Northeastern University’s Center for Community Health Education, Research and Service; and Glen Shor, Executive Director of the Health Connector, the independent state agency helping Massachusetts residents find health insurance. James Roosevelt, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tufts Health Plan, will deliver opening remarks at the event. Representative Byron Rushing, 9th Suffolk District, will moderate the panel discussion.

"Healthcare reform is one of the most pressing issues facing all residents in the United States, and this event will bring the national issue close to home, as we will explore the impact of implementation the federal healthcare law on Massachusetts' health care reform," said Shelia Martin, vice president of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee. 

The free event is non-partisan, and refreshments will be provided.

Members of the media are encouraged to attend. For potential interviews with attendees or members of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee, contact Ross Levanto at or 617-510-4340.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The NCAA = Mr. Austere

March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. Given that UCONN played its first round game in Washington, I flew to the nation's capital to watch the game with Brett.

The NCAA has turned the basketball game into a plain vanilla experience. The Verizon Center in Washington, the venue for UCONN's game as well as three others held on Thursday, was denuded of any personality. The advertisements in the arena were covered. The wrap-around electronic display in-between levels only showed a blase greeting: "Welcome to the 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball 2nd and 3rd Rounds."

The replay screen above the court showed the game in real-time. No advertisements. No "pump up the volume" pleas during key portions of the contest. During halftime, they ran screens showing random trivia, NCAA buzzer beater moments, and video montages of previous tournaments.

No beer was sold inside the arena. I could not find a hot dog, either. And the sodas came in only one size, a souvenir NCAA cup. You got the feel that the entire event was scripted in a detailed, multi-volume event guide provided by the NCAA with severe penalties for non-compliance.

It's as if the NCAA wants to make sure that once inside the arena, the fan is locked in to watch the game and the game only. If you are not a basketball purist, there's no need to attend. I found the experience a bit bizarre, even though I did have a good time.

And the latest example of why this is one of the greatest times of year? The ESPN advertisement below. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Striking Distance

The camera is in my car, ready to go. I am a mere 173 miles to the 100K marker. Not bad for a car that has had a troubled life. More details to come. And as was the case with my first car, I will be documenting the moment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NCAA Bracket Pointers

Some free advice from a guy who has watched quite a bit of basketball this year. Though be sure to read the disclaimer at the end.

1) Beware the hype of the book cover. BYU will get knocked out early in the tournament because... wait for it... they are not very good. The last team from the Big East to make the dance (Marquette) would beat BYU any day of the week.

2) Beware of banged up Big East teams. The gruelling Big East season has created some casualties. Georgetown is one example. Without Chris Wright, the Hoyas are not a very good team. He's supposed to play in the NCAA tournament, but how effective will he be? Also, St. John's is in trouble, since D.J. Kennedy fell last week to a knee injury. St. John's is a deep team, but the loss of one of their best players doesn't bode well in the big dance.

3) The inequality of college basketball has never been more pronounced. While a 16 seed will one day beat a one seed, it won't happen this year. There's just too much disparity between the best teams and the worst conferences that send automatic qualifiers. Sorry, therefore, to my alma mater, BU, which seems destined to be put in the 16 slot.

4) The Big East is just too damn good. Even though they lost to UCONN this week, Pitt is the best team in the country. But how could they possibly be ranked number 1, given the number of losses they have, and the fact they were eliminated in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament. The problem is the Big East was so good, the teams ate their own in the eyes of the selection committee.

The old theory is that playing in a good basketball conference helps you, since it prepares you for the post season. We shall see if the Big East, this year, was just so good that it ended up tiring its members out.

Now here's my disclaimer: In all the years I have submitted brackets for various NCAA office pools, I have never ever come close to winning any of them.

With that, I predict a NCAA championship this year for good old Wofford! (just kidding)

Happy Selection Sunday!

The Forgotten Word: Sacrifice

More frequently I have been looking at the world today and think we all suffer from a supreme case of wanting to have our cake and eat it, too.

I don't consider myself brilliant, but it seems apparent to me that we're all going to need to pinch in if we want to: lower the debt, create jobs, fix the environment, improve our schools and have more money in our pockets.

One look at the U.S. budget is a case in point. I am not sure I understand how anyone ever got to the belief that we can dramatically grow tax revenues by dramatically cutting taxes. It seems counter intuitive to lower taxes in order to raise tax revenue. And yet, that's the tax philosophy that has been in place in the U.S. since the Reagan years. No wonder Reagan's Vice President once called it "voodoo economics."

Like modern chapters of "Alice in Wonderland," I find fellow citizens creating weird rationale for gluttonous behavior. There's so much information out there, and so much blather on talk and commentary shows, that it's easy for anyone to connect the dots to reach a conclusion that's convenient.

There was a time when a call for sacrifice was met with a puritan response. Roll up your sleeves and get it done. But none of our leaders is willing to ask for sacrifice today because it's not what the voters want to hear. President Obama's latest attempt aims directly at our patriotism. He wants to make the U.S. the best place on the planet to do business. It's a good message, but the specifics on what we might need to give up to get there are vague.

Well, I am willing to sacrifice. Here are two good examples.

From a federal perspective, I know that social security is in trouble. While I am acutely aware of the money that's being deducted from my paycheck to fund the social security program, I am equally acutely aware that the program itself will go insolvent unless changes are made. Rather than issuing platitudes regarding some amazing scheme that might exist to make it all better, and rather than just saying social security is sacrosanct but [enter in successful government assistance program here] is not, why not just say we need all to sacrifice and fix the problem. You know, tell us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, at the local level here in Boston and in my neighborhood, I am ready to sacrifice some convenience in the local trash collection options I have to save the city money, increase recycling, and make the streets cleaner. It's the reason I strongly support switching to two days of trash pick up, mixed with two days of recycling. It's called 2 + 2. Some of my neighbors are greedy about the third day of trash pick up we currently have on Beacon Hill. Or they think that giving up a day sets a precedent as part of a broader scheme by someone to take away benefits we enjoy in the neighborhood. The ironic part is, many of the people who argue for the third day are the same people complaining that the streets are filthy.

In many ways, it comes down to common sense and looking at situations from a mature perspective. I realized as a little kid that when my parents grow up and live longer, there won't be enough money in the social security program to pay for them, or me. In my neighborhood, it's elementary cause and effect to understand that less days of trash pick up means trash is on the street curbs less often. However, seeing the common sense and then having the courage to talk about it are, unfortunately, two entirely separate things.

When I was in high school, Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker held firm to a highly unpopular proposal implementing a state income tax. He talked straight with the people, arguing the tax was necessary to fix Connecticut's financial problems. Lots of people didn't like him, but the governor was resolute. Connecticut still has an income tax today, and shortly after the tax was implemented, the budget problems that dominated the headlines went away. I think the courage that Governor Weicker showed then is something we need to see more of now.