Sunday, October 20, 2013

Balancing the budget, $23.95 at a time

We mailed an international envelope with $23.95 in postage on it. The post office cancelled the postage and returned the envelope marked “postage due,” demanding another $16.60 because it wasn’t a flat rate envelope. Except that it was.

They marked up the envelope to make it unusable, so we have to repack the order. They marked up the postage to make it unusable, so we have to pay for new postage. The post office should look at what happened, apologize, and cover the postage on the replacement package. But the reality is that the $23.95 is gone, because the only recourse that the post office offers is to fill out a form requesting a refund, which the post office will sit on for months and eventually refuse in the hope that we won’t appeal.

Mistakes happen. This one was that an incompetent postal worker didn’t know the post office’s own range of envelopes, and couldn’t be bothered to read the words “Flat Rate” printed on the envelope. What bugs me isn’t the mistake. It’s that the post office’s policy is to penalize the customer for their worker’s mistake.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ghosts of evil past

RadioBoston asked what questions people have for Martha Coakley. Here’s one:

According to lawyers all over the area when you were district attorney, you trained a generation of ADAs to lie in court, withhold evidence, and disregard both truth and justice, all to further your pursuit of higher political office. As attorney general, you have quashed investigations into Beacon Hill, allowed insurance rates to skyrocket, and failed to address the mortgage crisis in any way that truly helps homeowners or punishes banks. When you insisted on arguing a case before the Supreme Court yourself, you somehow failed to convince a conservative pro-prosecutor Supreme Court to rule in favor of prosecutors. That ruling is what has now led to the fallout from Annie Dookhan being such a mess. As governor, who would you lie to, lie about, threaten, or lock up in order to improve education, transportation, human rights, and economic opportunity in the Commonwealth?

Here is what I wrote in 2010. I still believe it to be true:

Martha Coakley is deeply unprincipled. She serves her own ambition, and nothing else. She does not believe in the rule of law, or fairness, or justice. She willfully damaged her community as a prosecutor over and over again. She sanctioned child molestation, shielded predators, and persecuted the innocent. And when given the responsibility to hire and train young attorneys, she coached them to lie to judges, conceal evidence, and do everything in their considerable power to destroy people’s lives, innocent or not, in a quest for headlines.

I will not consent to give a person like that my vote.

While I would prefer that political candidates be, on the whole, cut from better cloth than they generally are, I do not refuse to vote for candidates simply because they are thoroughly flawed. I do not refuse to vote for candidates simply because their ideals, principles, beliefs, goals, or actions are at odds with some of mine. I can overlook a lot, but I cannot vote for a person I truly believe is evil. I believe with all my heart that Martha Coakley’s success has been a triumph of evil.

I know that there are many good people and informed people who will vote for Martha Coakley. You, dear reader, may be one of those people. You may believe that Martha Coakley cannot possibly be as bad or dangerous or immoral as all that, or you may believe that there are other concerns which warrant voting for someone who is. If so, please know that I disagree. 

Voting for Carl Sciortino

I’m voting for Carl Sciortino for Congress, and I encourage everyone in this district to do the same. This is not criticism of the other candidates. This is wholehearted enthusiasm for Carl.

I’ve known Carl for many years as my state rep. I actually spoke with him as a state rep before I was redistricted into his district a couple of years ago. I’ve seen him at dozens of public meetings and events, and I’ve spoken with him at length about issues ranging from taxes to transportation to arts funding to CORI reform. He is smart, thoughtful, friendly, and genuine. (That’s not true of enough people, let alone enough politicians.) When I have talked with him about an issue that was new to him, he has listened to my thoughts, gone and learned more, and then gotten back to me. I agree with him on many issues, but more importantly I trust his priorities. He values people, he values transparency, and he values clear and open communication. He is clear about his views without dismissing others.

Carl has also been a very effective state rep. He has been a leader within the legislature on transportation issues, education reform, and human rights. He has been extremely accessible to his constituents, open to talking to anyone. I’ve often written in his name when I was not satisfied with the choices on the ballot for various races. I would love to have him as my Congressman.

Our Congress is currently extremely broken. I’m under no illusion that Carl will be able to fix that. But he will stand up for progressive values without increasing the polarization, he will work to pass and improve legislation that can make it through a broken Congress, and he will be in a good position to help our country become a better country as Congress eventually returns to the important work of governing.

So I’m voting for Carl Sciortino, and I hope you do as well.

A lecture on October 28

Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp hosts Political Science Professor Ben Berger in a lecture:

"Guilty—with an explanation: Moral engagement and disengagement in democractic life"

Each day we engage with certain moral principles and follow through with appropriate actions. We also selectively disengage from other moral principles. How do these processes work? Should some kinds of moral engagement and disengagement concern liberal democracies more than others? This topic bridges research from political theory, moral philosophy, social psychology, and cognitive neuroscience.

Monday, October 28, 2013
Reception with hors d'ouevres and wine at 6 pm, talk begins at 7 pm

Boston Marriott Copley Place
110 Huntington Ave
Boston, MA 02116

RSVP by October 21 to the Alumni Relations Office at or 610-328-8402.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Early intervention is many things

Early intervention is periodic formal testing of your child, telling you whether or not your child is sufficiently developmentally delayed to qualify for service.

Early intervention is periodic formal testing of your child, telling you whether or not your parenting has been adequate.

Early intervention is seeing your child qualify for services, then learn to walk, then actually start early intervention and have early intervention take credit for teaching him how to walk.

Early intervention is weekly visits to your home where a specialist works with your child on whatever skills you want them to focus on. The specialist answers your questions, offers suggestions, explains their methods, and includes you as a parent in the planning and the activities.

Early intervention is weekly visits to your home where a specialist works with your child on whatever skills the specialist wants to focus on. The specialist undermines your authority in the home and disrupts the nature of your home as a safe space.

Early intervention is weekly written notes evaluating your child, creating an enormous set of paper records that cannot possibly help your child. Early intervention is also being handed written notices telling you your legal rights over and over and over again, as if they can’t believe that you’re honestly not going to exercise your rights to escape from early intervention.

Early intervention is a playgroup with structured activities that you have to fight to get your child into for six months, while they keep promising that admission is right around the corner. Early intervention is where your toddler with excellent motor skills is placed in a group with barely crawling infants. Early intervention is where healthy snacks are fruit punch, cookies, and Froot Loops, where a rule against fruit means serving grapes or jam-filled cookies, where a rule against bare feet means that only some of the kids have bare feet, and where the teaching assistants barely seem to have a clue how to interact with a child. Early intervention is where the group’s daily schedule is written out, posted on the wall, and completely ignored. Early intervention is where the changing table is broken, the carpets aren’t cleaned correctly, and your wallet is stolen. Early intervention is continually dashed expectations and broken promises.

Some days, early intervention is a teacher misjudging your child’s emotional state, refusing to respect your knowledge about your child, and silently disregarding your instructions.

Some days, early intervention is a teacher telling you that you’re the one holding your child back. What a nasty thing to tell a parent, no matter whether it’s true.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Can't get away from the news

So the House of Rs has shut down the government, hurting a lot of people. Possibilities: 1. They think they'll gain a long-term political advantage by doing this, and that's worth hurting a lot of people. 2. They think they'll actually win some or all of their latest demands, and that's worth hurting a lot of people. 3. Shutting down the government and hurting a lot of people is not a means to an end; this is the actual goal.

I don't really care which of these is true. I just want to go visit Acadia National Park and forget about the news. And I can't, because the national parks are all closed.