A new history book about Lowell by Richard P. Howe Jr and Chaim Rosenberg to be published on March 11, 2013. To order a copy and to learn about local readings and book signings, check out our Legendary Locals of Lowell page.
I just returned from the Lowell Memorial Auditorium where I saw comedian Lewis Black perform. My face still hurts from laughing so hard. I’d seen a prior Black performance on DVD and have caught him many times on The Daily Show, but this was my first in-person experience. He did not disappoint, covering a variety of topics including popular holidays, smart phones, airport security and politics. Black’s politics are liberal, but his approach tonight was mostly “a pox on both your houses” when it comes to Democrats and Republicans.
It’s hard for me to recall the specifics of Black’s act, partly because I was laughing so hard but mostly because Black punctuates nearly every sentence with at least one variant of a word that rhymes with “duck”. With other performers, such verbiage becomes monotonous but with Black’s high-blood-pressure rants, it seemed quite natural and fitting.
Monday morning update: For those of you unfamiliar with the comedy of Lewis Black, here’s a sample:
Visitors to the Boott Cotton Mills Museum at the Lowell National Historical Park become fully acquainted with the struggle by workers a century ago to win the rights and protections that culminated in the thriving and dominant middle class of the post World War Two era. Beginning in 1980, however, the powers who, in the Nineteenth Century and before treated workers as just another commodity that could be used up and discarded in the name of profits, began clawing their way back to power. Fifty years from now historians will characterize the thirty years since then as an outright economic war on the American middle class, a war that is sadly dismantling many of the protections that were created during the Progressive Era.
Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, may not have visited the Boott Mills, but he certainly appreciates what’s at stake in this economic war on the American middle class. In the following video, 13 minutes in length, Senator Sanders does a masterful job of indicting those trying to roll back these reforms, and reminds us of the consequences should they succeed.
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I’ve never dined at Upper Crust Pizza and after reading the story in today’s Globe about the upscale chain, I probably won’t eat there any time soon. The story is mostly about a dispute over employee pay with a lot of back and forth between former employees and the employer’s spokesman over hours worked and overtime wages paid or not paid depending on who you believe. The reporter, Jenn Abelson, travelled all the way to Brazil to interview former employees since the bulk of Upper Crust’s workforce, apparently, has consisted of illegal immigrants from a particular city in that South American country.
While the Globe strives for balance, the story seems to slant towards the hard-working, exploited-by-the-owner employees. What I find astounding is the way all involved – the owner’s representative, the employees, and the Globe – all brush past Upper Crust’s staffing-by-illegal immigrants business model. The Upper Crust spokesman channels Captain Louis Renault from Casablanca with his “What? There are illegal immigrants working here? I’m shocked?”
Before the current economic collapse, some of our fellow citizens blamed illegal immigrants for many of society’s ills including high crime, poor test scores and even the high cost of health care. In debate, I always responded that the immigrants were coming here for jobs (something fully corroborated by the Globe story) and that the best way to reduce illegal immigration was to crack down on those who employed them.
Illegal immigration is not such a hot button topic these days, partly because the Obama administration is cracking down more aggressively on employers than did the preceding administration, but mostly because the current economic collapse has curbed employment of all income groups, including the lowest. Congress continues to do nothing, however, mostly because the vast savings in wages and benefits that accrue to those who illegally employ those who are here illegally translate into a significant stream of contributions to the insatiable political money machine. Because of that, prospects for reform are dim. Perhaps in the meantime those who are so angry about this issue can divert some of that hostility towards those who employ illegal immigrants and to those in government who do nothing about it rather than demonizing the poorest among us who are here, after all, in search of a better life for themselves and their families.
An editorial in today’s Boston Globe touts commuter rail as part of the solution for revitalizing the Commonwealth’s so-called “Gateway Cities.” The gateways include the cities of Lowell, Lawrence, New Bedford, Fall River and Springfield. Citing transportation as a key element for policymakers to consider, the editorial notes:
FOR THE state’s gateway cities to thrive again, they have to be within easy reach of the 21st-century economy. Extending commuter rail from Boston would help, but these cities also need a more ambitious strategy to restore their position as local transportation centers…
As policymakers in Massachusetts have come to grips with the possibilities of “smart growth,’’ an answer has emerged: By beefing up the MBTA commuter rail system, Massachusetts could spur the transformation of old factory buildings near train stations in mill cities into complexes that mix residential and commercial uses, while taking pressure off the state’s ever-diminishing amount of open space. In this spirit, Governor Patrick has vowed to start work on the long-planned commuter rail line to Fall River and New Bedford.
The editorial suggests that the city of Lowell and its commuter rails experience might provide good evidence of the role for commuter rail. The editorial does note, however, that these gateway cities are far more that bedroom communities. Lowell’s Planning and Development Director Adam Baacke also weighed on on the matter.
The role that commuter rail can play may be most evident in Lowell, which has marketed itself as a low-cost alternative for artists and others seeking more space than they could ever afford in Boston or Cambridge. MBTA figures indicate that, every weekday, 1,400 people board inbound commuter trains in Lowell, presumably for jobs closer to the heart of Greater Boston. With sufficient frequency, the same could be true for trains from New Bedford and Fall River…
Adam Baacke, Lowell’s thoughtful planning and development chief, recognizes that getting by without a car in his city would be a challenge, but argues that even promoting more single-car households would produce dividends for developers, businesses, and residents. He points to Bellingham, Wash., and Boulder, Colo., as smaller cities that promote mobility through a well-conceived local transit system and a web of bike and pedestrian lanes.
To catch the full thrust of the commuter rail possibilities locally and in a regional corridor according to the Globe, read the full editorial here on Boston.com.
Lowell, its architecture, its accent, and its hairstyles circa 1990, is in many ways another costar of “The Fighter.’’ To hear the brothers’ mother and sisters go at it is to be back in a specific time in a specific place. Russell says he encouraged everyone to follow Wahlberg’s lead in how far to take their talk, even locals like Kate O’Brien (Conan’s younger sister) in her film-acting debut as one of the hilariously foul-mouthed sisters.
Writing for today’s paper, columnist Frank Rich vents his frustration about the President to try to wake up what Rich hopes is the inner Obama and get the President on the policy offensive against a resurgent GOP that is measuring the drapes for a re-do of the Oval Office. Economist Paul Krugman blasted the President earlier this week. If this is what he’s getting from the New York Times, I’d like to know who he thinks is going to back him up. He’s supposed to speak out about the jobs crisis this week. Let’s hope he’s strong. Read Rich here, and get the NYT if you want more.
I think it was Bill Clinton who told the Dem’s some years ago that “strong and wrong will usually beat weak and right,” so now’s the time for the President to speak out forcefully for action that will make the majority of citizens optimistic again and convinced that he can lead the country in the direction they want their lives to go in.