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None-of-the-above an option for dissatisfied voters by Marjorie Arons-Barron

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

ballot-boxWe believe in informed consent. What about informed dissent? The New Hampshire Union Leader recently reported that Granite State legislators will consider a proposal to allow voters unhappy with their choice of candidates to mark their ballots for “none of the above.” What it says is that they care enough to go to the polls but are unhappy with the choices with which they’re presented.

If “none of the above” were to win an election, the bill, filed by Democratic state representative Charles Weed, would provide for a special election in which you’d have to choose a real live person. Supporters say it’s a better way to protest unsatisfactory choices than writing in your grandmother or Malcolm X or by staying home, which too many people do already.

Nevada has had a none-of-the-above option since the late ’70′s. A federal appeals court has let that law stand. I don’t know that the impact of the law has been anything other than ambiguous. Other states have considered and rejected similar measures, but there remains some grassroots support for the idea.

I do know that in 1979 House Bill No. 788 was filed in the Massachusetts legislature calling for a special commission to consider providing voters with a “none of the above” option in choosing candidates for state, county and municipal office. It was filed by a member of the election laws committee for James H. Barron (sound familiar?). Jim made his proposal to test the theory of “rational abstention.” Was increased non-voting a function of civic indolence or was it an a thoughtful response to unworthy choices? At the public hearing Jim suggested that, if, “none of the above won,” there could be a second election in which none of the previous candidates would be on the ballot. If “none of the above” won again, the office would remain vacant. Needless to say, it never got out of committee. After all, what legislator wants to run the risk of losing to nobody?

It is tempting to support a ballot option that means that none of the candidates is worthy of my vote. To call attention to the issue, an individual in the U.K. changed his name to Zero, None-of-the-Above and ran for office to build support for having the option. He came in dead last. But the NOTA option can have an impact. editor Peter Weber writes of a U.S. Senate race in Nevada in 2012 that was decided by fewer votes that those cast for “none of the above.” Weber says all states should have the none-of-the-above option. But I think that, if the voters were forced to choose candidate A or candidate B, the outcome would have been less muddy. Was second choice for so-called “NOTA” voters candidate A or candidate B? It matters.

WBZ commentator Jon Keller says the none-of-the-above option is a cop-out, and I think he’s right. More often than not, we’re stuck with voting for the lesser of two (or more) evils, and sorting out the candidacies can be hard work. But sorting it out is the challenge of being an informed voter. If the outcome of a race in which “none of the above” wins were a requirement for a subsequent special election, having the option is an indulgence and a waste of taxpayer money. There’s no doubt we need better candidates willing to come forward and run for office, but creating a none-of-the-above option to avoid making a tough choice is not a way to bring that about.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

Civil War Solon Perkins Saga Continues

Eileen Loucraft offers more insight into  the Solon Perkins – Civil War soldier saga. But questions remain: Why did Mrs. Perkins give the flag to the Middlesex Bank? Were there Perkins-Knapp connections? More research coming…

From E. Loucraft: His mother, Mrs. Wealthy Perkins received the gideon from the estate of Benjamin Butler. The General had been holding the sash of Solon A. Perkins and his Captain Henry A. Durivage, of 3nd Calvery Massachusetts. Captain Durivage drowned in the Mississippi River in April of 1862 and Lieut. Perkins commanded the 3rd until his own death. Captain Durivage was the son of 19th century author Francis Alexander Durivage of Boston and later New York City. So instead of the sash ending up at Memorial Hall it ended up at the bank.

My note: What is now known as Memorial Hall is located on the second floor of the now Pollard Memorial Library. Since the library was built as a memorial to veterans and with expectations that surviving Civil War veterans would have a place to occasionally meet - the expansive upper hall was the site of the meetings  of the   B. F. Butler Post 42, G.A.R. organization. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army, US Navy, Marines and Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War. The Lowell Post  42 was established in 1868. The furniture and accoutrements of the GAR were in the hall for many years. BTW – the LMA has the sash!

From the Lowell Daily Sun, December 15, 1894:

A Valuable Memento

Mrs. Wealthy Perkins, mother of Capt. Solon A. Perkins, who enlisted in this city when 27 years of age for the war, has the sash worn by her son when he was killed in the engagement with the rebels in Louisana. The sash, with another, was formerly in possession of Gen. Butler, and was enclosed by him in a receptacle for safe keeping, with the following memoranda. The sash and letter are to be put in Memorial hall.”

“The two sashes in this box belonged to two of the bravest cavalry officers I ever knew. The smaller one was worn by Henry A. Durivage, 1st lieutenant of the second company, Mass. unattached cavalry, who was lost overboard from the steamer North America on the Mississippi river at the head of the Passes, April 21, 1862. The larger one belonged to Capt. Solon Perkins of the same company, who was killed near Port Hudson, La., in June 1863. Both were dear friends, and better or braver men never lived.

B.F. Butler”

Check out this web page with a gideon in excellent shape –

Greater Lowell Area Democrats (GLAD) To Meet ~ Saturday January 11, 2014

Reminder ~ the next GLAD Meeting this coming  SATURDAY!

Greater Lowell Area Democrats (GLAD )Regular Breakfast meetings resume for 2014 on Saturday January 11, 2014 at 8:00 AM SHARP! in the PARKHURST ROOM at the Radisson Hotel Rte. 110 in Chelmsford. (The Parkhurst Room is nearby the Grill – we are moving to allow 62 young lady skaters to have breakfast together.)

Please join us at this meeting of area Democrats.
Caucus Training will begin at 9:15am.
For more information:

AGENDA: The regular agenda for the first meeting since our holiday break and the first of the New Year will include: the financial report; the delegate caucus schedule; rules discussion for the 2014 nominating convention; candidates for the 2014 Constitutional and other races; activities of Democratic State Committee; dates for upcoming GLAD meetings and other topics on the minds of GLAD members, associates and guests.

We expect 4 candidates to join us to join us at the meeting. They will be there to speak, meet and greet! for Governor Juliette Kayyem; for AG Maura Healey(8:45am); for Treasurer Tom Conroy(8:25am); for LT Gov. Steve Kerrigan (8am). (Approximate times…)
Elected officials, candidates and their representatives are welcome to join us! Please advise the Chair.
FYI: Because we will be having “Caucus Training at 9:15am as part of the meeting and  with our many candidate guests we need a sharp start at 8am!
Please share this information with interested Democrats!

Catching up on movies by Marjorie Arons-Barron


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

For much of the year, my husband and I debate whether a movie is worth seeing on a big screen or relegated to Netflix. But our winter holiday tradition is to binge on in-theater movies during the last 10 days of the year. Friends have asked me what I liked, and so here goes.

movie graphicWe believe what we want to believe is a unifying theme of three of the season’s most heralded films.  The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s  brilliantly executed story of the debauchery and criminality of stock broker Jordan Belfort, a real life stock trader who did time, wrote a book about the excesses of his way of life and is now selling himself as a  motivational speaker.  He became a multi-millionaire because his victims believed what they wanted to about easy money.

A slice of American life in the ’80′s, Wolf  trumpets the themes of greed, materialism, sex, drugs and the objectification of women, not absent in today’s society. Belfort’s victims are never shown in the movie. The audience serves as the proxy target, as Wolf of Wall Street alternately disgusts and seduces, overwhelming with the attraction of easy riches. Continue reading

Chinese food on New Year’s Eve

Chinese food on New Year’s Eve. For several years I’ve been intrigued by this practice. It’s certainly common around here but is it just a Lowell thing? Or is it a New England tradition? What are the origins of this tradition? Why do people do it? Where do you get your Chinese on December 31? Two years ago I posed these questions on a Facebook group called “You Know You’re From Lowell When . . .” and received more than 100 responses. Here they are with most of the names (and some potentially libelous comments) removed:

Couple of years ago, on the spur of the moment my family decided to order Chinese food for New Year’s Eve. Mistake. The wait was two or three hours, we were told at Wah Sang on Chelmsford St. People had put in orders days ahead. We tried a couple of other places and found similar back ups. Finally, we landed at a Chinese place at the shopping center off Plain Street. Waited 30 minutes. Took the food home. Not good.

As a kid, I would go to Cathay Garden on Lwl-Lawr Blvd with my family. I don’t remember getting take-out in those days. Also when younger a few times went to the upstairs Chinese restaurant on Merrimack Street, maybe called Chin Lee’s? During high school years in Dracut the Lo Kai was a favorite gathering place for the then-novelty Pu Pu Platter sampler of appetizers. Hong and Kong in Chelmsford was an occasional choice. Current preference is

Wah Sang on Chelmsford St.

Chens Kitchen on Mammoth Rd has the best Chinese food around

wah sang/ Chelmsford St

Gold Star, Oakland Sq.

Lo Kai Dracut, as a bus boy for the area’s finest waitresses..

Hong Kong is very good. But for really really good Chinese food, the Ocean Wok right after the Hampton Beach Bridge. They are awesome

Chopsticks express just over the line in Tewksbury.

When I was a kid my parents would get the new year order from the Hong Kong. I always assumed it was a Lowell thing until last eve. My best buddy Bill informed me he would meet up after he have his annual new year’s Chinese food. He and family are from Arlington.

Wu loo Ming in Billerica Continue reading

The new route to Logan Airport

Yesterday I drove to Logan Airport for the first time since last Friday’s closure of the Callahan Tunnel which will remain closed until the end of March. From Lowell I took Route 3 south to Route 95/128 south to the Mass Turnpike east. I stayed on the Turnpike, passing through the Ted Williams Tunnel, and soon found myself at the airport without any difficulty. That drive was in the middle of the afternoon. Traffic tightened up a bit inside the tunnel but never slowed below the posted speed limit. For the return trip home, the usual route – the Sumner Tunnel to Route 93 north – was still open so I took that. The Sumner will close for maintenance once the Callahan is done. With so many people taking days off this week due to the Christmas to New Year’s work and school let down, I suspect that the real test for this new traffic pattern will come next week.

Headlines to hope for in 2014 by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s on blog. You can visit it here.

Each year, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial page editor Tom Waseleski prepares for the New Year an aspirational list of headlines.  For several years, I have shamelessly champagne-glassesborrowed the idea and herewith present my own suggestions, with precious little expectation that we will see them atop newspapers, magazines or teasing newscasts in 2014.  Please send your own in the comments section below.

Young and healthy acknowledge own mortality, enroll in Obamacare

Unemployment dips to six percent

Congress stays in D.C. weekends; reaches accord on long-term comprehensive budget

World verifies Iran’s dismantling its  nuclear capacity

Palestinians/Israelis craft terms of two-state solution.

Congress passes background checks for all gun purchases

2014 ends without a single school shooting

Wayne La Pierre accidentally shoots self; blames federal regulators

Putin sings with Pussy Riot at Russian gay rights fundraiser before Winter Olympics

Middle class sees first wage gains since 1970′s

Chris Christie clears Republican field; likely  to face Hillary Clinton in 2016

Last US troops leave Afghanistan; Kharzai declares personal bankruptcy

Amazon drones deliver packages to Metrowest Boston

$80 billion in Medicare fraud eliminated; providers protest pay cut

NSA restricts privacy invasions

Extremist  parties lose support in  European elections

China shuns bellicose foreign policies; focuses on problems at home

Zhokar Tsarnaev receives death penalty on day of 2014 marathon

WGBH improves WCRB signal; suburbs get classical music without static

Patriots win Super Bowl in last 22 seconds of game

Republicans urge raising income threshold for Social Security Tax (a repeat from 2010,2011 and 2012)

Jim Barron finishes long-awaited book (also a repeat)

As I said, these are aspirational.  What are your suggestions?

“Legendary Locals of Lowell” still on sale

On Christmas night and again yesterday, I noticed some Tweets on Twitter by people who had received Legendary Locals of Lowell as Christmas gifts. Thank you to all who made those selections and to those who received the book as a gift, I hope you enjoy it. The book is still available on Amazon and yesterday while at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Nashua, I noticed plenty of copies in the “New England” section (shown above).

I have several ideas percolating for my next book which will certainly be about Lowell in one way or another. Whatever it turns out to be, I hope to have it available by summer. More on that later.