A liberal manifesto with a centrist tinge by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

President Barack Obama’s state-of-the-union speech was as much a liberal manifesto as I’ve heard in decades.  Not surprising then that so many of the talking heads take the speech as evidence that Obama is trying to move the American center to the left in much the way Ronald Reagan moved it decades ago to the right.

There were the President’s traditional themes of energy, education and infrastructure.  But he went on from there, talking about climate change, universal free pre-school,  raising tax revenues (this time through closing loopholes and deductions, especially for corporations and the wealthy), voting rights, supporting basic research investments, raising the minimum wage, and, most emotionally, gun control.  He even spoke about eradicating extreme poverty worldwide, albeit “with out allies.”  No wonder people chuckled when he said “nothing will add a dime to the deficit.”  It warmed a progressive’s heart, even while the President would be lucky to get a third to a half of what he would like.

But the speech was not a utopian fantasy. For one thing, there were a few sleights of hand.  He crowed about cutting in half the number of U.S. military to be left in Afghanistan a year from now.  But that number will still be the same or slightly more than when he took office in 2009.

He acknowledged that deficit reduction had to be part of the national agenda but may have lowballed (at $1.5 trillion) the amount that still needs to be cut ($2.4 trillion, according to former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin.

The President also made it a point to identify areas of agreement with the GOP (if only they could put national interest above party.) He said we need not a bigger government but a smarter one “that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.” The President emphasized the need for bipartisanship, reminding listeners how the cap-and-trade part of his climate change strategy was a market-based approach once favored by John McCain. How he and Mitt Romney agreed on linking minimum wages to cost of living. How lawful gun owners do favor better background checks. How his own comprehensive approach to immigration had long found support among many Republicans. How his effort to improve the voting process will be headed by lawyer for both his and Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Also decidedly centrist, the President called for greater accountability in education, saying federal aid will be determined by affordability and value.  And his willingness to tackle Medicare reform (the “biggest threat” to future financial stability) – promising cuts equivalent to those in Simpson-Bowles – will surely agitate liberals in Congress, including several in the Massachusetts delegation, who may not be assuaged by the President’s pledge to “keep the promises we’ve already made.”

Despite the hype around any state of the union address, will any of this matter? Senate Republicans’ blocking of Defense Department nominee Chuck Hegel is a worrisome sign that any plea for bipartisanship may well fall on deaf ears. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time a President’s state-of-the-union agenda became a futile wish list.

The New York Times has charted the percentage of SOTU addresses that became reality over the past 50 years.  The most successful was Lyndon Johnson.  His success rate was 55 percent, and that was with Democrats controlling both sides of Congress and the emotional impetus of the Kennedy assassination behind issue like civil rights, Medicare and education. We can’t expect as much action on the Obama agenda. Even the American people’s disgust with gridlock may not be enough to spur significant program advances in this second Obama administration.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

Gathering signatures in the snow

I’ve made no secret of my support of Ed Markey in the upcoming special election for the US Senate. I like his position on the major issues of the day and I don’t like the idea of adding another vote to the Republican caucus in the US Senate. But my reason for writing today is more practical than philosophical.

The first task in this as in any other campaign is gathering nomination signatures. To run for Lowell City Council, you need the signatures of at least 50 registered voters. To run for US Senate, you need 10,000. The official nomination signature petitions were issued by the Secretary of State’s office a little over two weeks ago and the deadline for submitting the signatures to local election officials for certification is February 27 which gives a candidate the month of February, more or less, to collect the necessary signatures. As this story in Wednesday’s Globe pointed out, that is no easy task, especially when the fifth biggest snowfall in recorded history comes right in the midst of it.

Most people have signed nomination papers but not many have collected them, especially in cold and stormy weather. Here are some helpful hints for anyone who would like to try it out and for those just curious. Wear layers of your warmest clothes and don’t skimp when it comes to keeping your feet warm (an old saying from the Army, “if your feet are happy, you’re happy” remains true). Gloves or mittens, however, tend to be an impediment. Nomination signatures once collected must be turned into individual town halls for certification against the voter rolls so you can’t put Chelmsford names on a Lowell sheet or vice versa. This means you must have multiple sheets on your clipboard so that when someone agrees to sign and you ask “what town do you live in?” you’ll quickly be able to flip to that town’s page. That’s tough to do when you’re wearing gloves. To keep your hands warm, I recommend hand warmers such as “Hothands” brand. These look like over-sized sugar packets and come predictably two per package (one for each hand). While in their plastic packaging they are inert but once open and shaken, they begin generating heat that lasts for several hours. Normally, you place a handwarmer in the palm of your hand within your gloves. When collecting signatures, I forsake gloves, leave the activated hand warmers within my jacket pockets, and thrust my hands in there while awaiting a willing voter (the clipboard with the nomination papers gets tucked under your arm). When you keep your pen in your hand within your heated pocket, it has the added benefit of keeping the ink from freezing. There are few things worse than handing a willing signer a pen that’s malfunctioning because of the cold. Speaking of pens, I prefer extra fine point markers such as the Uniball Eco. Ball point pens are no good in the cold and Sharpies, even fine point ones, bleed through to the other side of the page which also contains signatures.

That covers the mechanics. As for getting people to sign, the easiest way is to ask people you know. Most will sign without hesitation. But when you need a lot of signatures in a short period of time you have to plunge into public spaces and ask. Between nasty weather, hurried lives, and embedded conservatism, the success ratio of signatures to requests is this region is pretty low. Most people decline politely but some can’t refrain from being nasty. But positive responses come often enough to fully justify the effort.

If this sounds like something you’d like to experience for yourself, we’ll be out all weekend collecting signatures for Ed Markey. Just send me an email at DickHoweJr[at]gmail.com and I’ll get back to you with more information. If you prefer experiencing this vicariously, check back early next week for a follow-up report on this weekend’s experience. And if you cross paths with a clipboard carrying volunteer who asks you to sign, consider doing so, whoever the candidate may be. The person asking will be exceedingly grateful.

Legendary Locals of Lowell: Index (Part IV)

Here’s Part IV of the index for my upcoming book, Legendary Locals of Lowell, which will be published on March 11, 2013.

Howe, James E., 64
Howe, Richard P., 48, 67, 99
Hoyt’s German Cologne, 40
Hoyt, Eli, 40
Irish Mill Workers, 29
Irish, Cyrus, 62
Jackson, Patrick Tracy, 14
Jacobsen, Andy, 124
Kaufman, Mico, 120
Keith Academy, 67, 70
Kelly, Kathy, 99
Kennedy, Edward, 99
Kennedy, Robert, 99
Kenngott, George F., 111
Kerouac, Jack, 108
Khoeun, Samhkann, 113
Killoy, John, 70
King, William, 94
Knapp, Chauncy, 78
Kouloheras, George, 99
LaCourse, Julien, 94
Ladd, Luther, 80
Lawrence, Abbott, 24
Lawrence, Amos, 24
Leahy, Dan, 67
Leavitt, Patrick F., 93
Lefebvre, Guy, 119
Leggat, Susan, 105
LeMay, Armand, 99
LeMay, Curtis, 99
Lemoine, Bernie, 99
Liston, Raymond, 64
Longman, Evelyn, 112
Loucraft, Chick, 70
Loucraft, Irving, 82
Lowell Folk Festival, 106
Lowell High Girl Officers, 63
Lowell Kiwanis Club, 51
Lowell Machine Shop, 25, 26
Lowell National Historical Park, 32
Lowell Plan, 47
Lowell Sun, 50

Greater Lowell Area Democrats (GLAD) To Meet Tomorrow ~ Saturday February 16, 2013

Reminder for next GLAD Meeting

This coming SATURDAY!

Greater Lowell Area Democrats Regular Breakfast Meeting

Members of 3MAD Will Join Us!

Saturday February 16, 2013

8:00 AM

Independence Grill at the Radisson Hotel Rte. 110 in Chelmsford

Please join us at this meeting of area Democrats.

Marie Sweeney, GLAD Chair



The agenda for the February 16th meeting will include: discussing the upcoming caucuses - many  rescheduled; discussion  of a regional platform hearing on Public Safety & Crime Prevention; the Mass Dems convention rescheduled for July 13th in Lowell; the US Senate special primary / election and schedule; other topics on the minds of members.

We expect represenatives from both the Markey and Lynch campaigns to attend. Elected officials, candidates and their representatives are welcome to join us!  Please advise the Chair.

Please share this information with interested Democrats!