Archive for the ‘Government activism’ Category

Support for Israel

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Dear President Obama,

When Palestinians kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, Palestinians danced in the streets, and the terrorists were praised by PA officials. Rather than helping capture them, the PA facilitated their escape; they still have not been apprehended. Palestinians who expressed regret over the kidnapping received death threats.

In contrast, when Israelis kidnapped and murdered a Palestinian teenager, the act was universally condemned by Israeli leaders, and Israelis and Jews all over the world. The Israeli police quickly apprehended suspects and promised to bring them to justice. The families of the SUSPECTS received death threats.

THIS is why there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Not because of new housing built by Israel in “settlements.” Not because Israel defends itself. Not because of the security wall which shut off suicide bombings almost like a light switch. There is no peace because Israelis want to live, and Palestinians want to kill them.

Of course, that is a simplification. There are Israeli extremists, and there are Palestinian doves. But they are the exception that prove the rule.

My wife and I lived in Israel in 1995-6. We experienced first-hand the threat of violence experienced daily by Israelis: Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated and there were six suicide bombings during our time here.

I say “here” because I am currently vacationing with my family in Jerusalem. Last night, as the air-raid siren blared, we huddled with our five children in the safe room of our apartment, comforting them and praying silently for our safety and for that of the millions of others within reach of the rockets, as well as of the tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers who defend Israel and its people against these barbaric attacks.

Some day, a Palestinian leader will emerge who recognizes that only a lasting peace with Israel will secure the future of the Palestinian people. In the meantime, since peace is not being offered, Israel can do only one thing: defend itself and its citizens.

I call upon you and the entire U.S. government to clearly, consistently, unequivocally, and without hesitation condemn the ongoing attacks against Israel by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad; acknowledge and support Israel’s undeniable right to defend itself against those attacks; and provide Israel with the political, diplomatic, and material support it needs to put a stop to them.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

[Also sent to Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and Representative Capuano.]

Olympics in Boston: Just Say No

Monday, July 7th, 2014

no_boston_olympics(I’ve just sent this letter, or a slightly tweaked version of it, to Mayor Walsh; Councilors Ciommo, Wu, Pressley, Flaherty, and Murphy; Senator Brownsberger; Representative Honan; Governor Patrick; Senators Warren and Markey; and Representative Capuano.)

Dear [title] [name],

I have lived in Boston since 1989. I have been a homeowner here, in Brighton, since 1997. My wife and I have five children, all of whom were born in Boston, and two of whom are in Boston Public Schools. We are Bostonians. And we absolutely, positively, do not want Boston to host the Olympics in 2024.

We do not have enough space. We do not have enough roadway capacity. We do not have enough public transportation capacity. We do not have enough housing capacity. We do not need to spend, literally, billions of dollars constructing facilities which will end up abandoned and unused after the party is over. We do not need years of construction disruption that will make the Big Dig look like a toddler digging in a sandbox.

Boston has nothing to prove; we are already a world-class city. Hosting the Olympics will in the end make us less so rather than more.

One cannot ignore the fact that the International Olympic Committee and Boston do have one thing in common: corrupt governance. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the head of the Boston Olympics exploratory committee, John Fish, is the CEO of a construction company that would earn billions in revenue were the Olympics to be hosted here. It is impossible to ignore the fact that our mayor is beholden to  the unions, whose members would also benefit financially from a Boston Olympics.

The problems I, and many others, foresee are hardly unique to Boston. In their current form, the Olympics don’t benefit ANY city, state, or country in which they are hosted. They have become bloated and corrupt, and this sickness will only begin to heal when the IOC can no longer find any city willing to host the Olympics in their current form.

For the good of Boston and the good of the Olympics, I implore you to oppose the effort to bring them to Boston in 2024.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

My letter to the FCC about the open internet proposal

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

To: openinternet@fcc.gov
Subject: Internet must remain open

To the commissioners:

Those who object to regulating internet service providers to ensure an open internet, as the FCC is currently proposing to do, adhere to the rigid political philosophy that regulation, by definition, stifles competition, innovation, growth, etc.

However, this philosophy is only even theoretically true when there is real competition and an even playing field. Unfortunately, the plain fact of the matter is that when it comes to internet service, far too many consumers don’t benefit from either real competition or an even playing field. In those circumstances, not only does regulation not stifle growth, regulation is essential for growth.

More than 30% of Americans live in areas where internet service is a monopoly. This problem is getting worse, not better, as cable companies continue to merge, leading to fewer competitors with iron-fisted control over larger and larger swaths of territory. Allowing the massive internet providers to game the system even further by charging fees for better access to their networks, or by charging their customers for access to content from outside their network, e.g., by introducing bandwidth caps that exclude content produced by the internet provider, will cause consumers to be screwed over even more than they already are. How anyone can suggest otherwise for a straight face is incomprehensible.

Those who oppose classification of the internet as a Title II common carrier make hyperbolic references to how “backwards” Title II regulations and how we need to look toward the future rather than the past. The fact of the matter is that the strict regulations placed for many years on POTS providers are the only thing that ensured that every person in America has access to telephone service. That is exactly what is needed for internet service, which is why it should be classified as a Title II common carrier and aggressively regulated to bring fast internet to everyone, everywhere in the United States.

Those who claim that such regulation will force the large internet providers to raise their rates are blowing smoke. Comcast, for example, is raking in huge profits, literally at the expense of consumers, by providing legendarily poor service and charging ridiculously high prices. If its prices were regulated, as telephone prices were for many years, it would still make a profit, it just wouldn’t be able to fleece consumers quite as much as it can now.

Congress is completely dysfunctional and is almost completely incapable of passing any substantive consumer-protection legislation. If that means it falls on the FCC to figure out how to reinterpret the laws Congress has already passed to allow it to enact meaningful open-internet regulations that will protect consumers, then so be it. Godspeed and get to work.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

A rotten start to my week, courtesy of, yet again, the Boston Public Schools

Monday, October 28th, 2013

To: Maria Vieira, Assignment Specialist, Boston Public Schools
To: Evelyn Adario, Assistant Director of Envrollment Planning and Support, Boston Public Schools
To: Denise Snyder, Senior Director of Welcome Services, Boston Public Schools
Cc: Boston City Councilor John R. Connolly
Cc: Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo
Cc: John McDonough, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools
Cc: Boston School Committee

Last night, in preparation for visiting a BPS family resource center this morning to prove my daughter’s residency for the exam school entrance examination, I sat down at my computer to figure out which of the three centers would be the least time-consuming for me to visit.

I dutifully typed their addresses, from the ISEE letter I received late last week, into Google Maps and calculated public transportation routes and estimated travel times from my home to each FRC and from each FRC to work. All three are, of course, inconvenient to reach from Brighton, but the one in Dorchester seemed to be the least inconvenient, so that’s the one I planned to use.

This morning, I typed the address for the Dorchester FRC into my phone and set off on my way. However, when I arrived at the location identified by my phone from the address in the letter, there was no FRC to be seen.

In fact, the FRC was miles to the north of where I was standing, because the address in the letter was wrong:

letter

The ZIP code of the Dorchester FRC is 02125, not 02124. (more…)

Why does dealing with the Boston Public Schools always have to be so unpleasant?

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

To: Acting BPS Superintendent John McDonough
Cc: Boston School Committee
Cc: City Councillor Mark Ciommo
Cc: City Councillor and mayoral candidate John Connolly
Cc: Mayoral candidate Charlotte Golar Richie
Cc: Mayoral candidate Bill Walczak

Dear Superintendent McDonough,

Why does it have to be consistently so painful  to deal with the BPS administration? Some of the many examples I’ve recently experienced…

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On the rationality and wrong of racism

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

After George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, a narrative quickly emerged that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, that he considered Martin suspicious merely because of the color of his skin and the fact that he was wearing a hoodie.

Leaving aside the question of whether that narrative is accurate in the particular case of the Zimmerman / Martin incident, it is indisputably true that profiling and judging people based on their race occurs every minute of every day in this country, leading to vastly disparate treatment of individuals.

Those who decry racism are right to do so. It is the root cause of a great deal of unfairness and suffering in the world, it causes strife where there need not be any, and it deprives individuals of liberties, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled.

However, there are three crucial facts about racism that are often ignored or at least unacknowledged by those who fight against it, even though they are also indisputably true:

  1. In many (but certainly not all) contexts, racism is rational.
  2. When people are prevented by force of law from behaving in a racist way, their liberty is infringed.
  3. Although we have chosen as a society to oppose racism (a choice I fully agree with), that fact does not negate either of the other two.

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My current take on Boston’s mayoral candidates

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

I’ve spent some time taking a look at all of the declared candidates for Boston’s mayoral election. Here are my initial reactions, for those who might be curious.

People worth considering

All of these are people I’d be happy to see elected.

John Connolly

(Web site.) Current City Councillor. I very much liked what he said and did about the Boston Arts Academy / MSBA renovation fiasco (email me if you’re curious). His web site has by far the most detailed platform of any candidate, and I agree with pretty much everything he wants to do. His connections would make him a less adversarial mayor than the outsiders who are running, but they might also prompt him to ignore some of the “business as usual” which really needs to be cleaned up. Overall, after looking at all the candidates, Connolly is currently my first choice.

Bill Walczak

(Web site.) If you’re looking for an “outsider” who has the potential to shake things up and yet also has the strength of character and experience to avoid being eaten alive by the establishment, Bill’s your man. Definitely worth a serious look. Education and community health-care are his two big issues, and he has a huge amount of experience with both of them.

Charlotte Golar Richie

(Web site.) She seems highly qualified. She has been endorsed by EMILY’s List. She would be Boston’s first woman mayor. Unfortunately, her web site is entirely lacking any sort of substantial content about her vision, plan, or platform.

Robert Consalvo

(Web site.) City Councillor. Worth a look, but if you’re going to vote for a current City Councillor, I think Connolly is a better choice.

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Fumes in MBTA buses: significant progress

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

I met several months ago with MBTA management to present my concerns about toxic fumes in certain MBTA buses. Thank you, again, to State Senator Will Brownsberger and his  Legislative Counsel and Policy Advisor, Michael Buckley, for making that meeting happen.

I am pleased to report that the MBTA took my concerns seriously, investigated them, and took corrective action which they hope will fix the problem.

I met today for a second time with Jeffrey Gonneville, the MBTA’s Chief Mechanical Officer, and Troy Ellerbee, Director of Bus Maintenance, and they filled me in on their progress. Read on for the details.

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MA Supervisor of Records denies my appeal based on specious legal reasoning

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

To: Shawn Williams, Massachusetts Supervisor of Records
Cc: Lori Sullivan,  the staff attorney in Williams’s office who research my appeal
Cc: Susan Krupanski, the MBTA employee who denied my legitimate public records request
Cc: Will Brownsberger, my state senator and an all-around good guy
Cc: On the Media
Cc: The Boston Globe
Cc: The Boston Herald

Dear Mr. Williams,

I have received your letter dated May 28, 2013, in which you denied my appeal of the failure by the MBTA to provide me with records I requested under the Massachusetts Public Records Law. A copy of your letter is attached for reference.

The legal justification you provide for denying my appeal is specious. Furthermore, your denial of my appeal flies in the face of available facts. Finally, on a purely common-sense level, your response is simply absurd.

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MBTA obstructs public records request, Secretary of State drags feet

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

A side effect of my attempts to get information from the MBTA about toxic fumes in the passenger compartments of their buses (I will write more about that later, after a followup meeting I’ve been invited to by the MBTA) was my discovery that the MBTA is not terribly good at responding to public records requests within the time frame required by law. Since I view that as a serious problem in its own right, I attempted to shine some sunlight on it in my February 13 letter to the MBTA:

I would like to add an additional item to my request, or if you wish you may treat this as a new, separate request under the public records law. Please tell me how many public records law requests the MBTA has received in 2013, the date on which each was received, and the date on which an initial response was sent. There should be no significant cost for satisfying this request, since there could not have been that many requests so far this year (mine, after all, was only the ninth) and all such requests are presumably handled through your office.

In a letter dated February 22, the MBTA lawyer who handles public records requests informed me that, “… after a thorough and diligent search of files, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has no existing, responsive documents.”

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