Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Oh, well, that's much better!

WHDH is reporting that Richard Heartquist, husband of Ward 1 City Councillor Alison Heartquist, is now claiming he was not in the SUV that hit another vehicle because he was in the car of another woman, doing whatever.

Also there is a report in today's Daily News.

Drunken people often do stupid things. They need help.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My dressers!

In this time of turmoil and distress (Is that any surprise to any of you?), I count the little things as blessings.

I refer, of course, to the dressers in my sister's house ... two of them, that used to be mine.

The white and gold one was in my bedroom when I was a teenager. It's in the upstairs bathroom here. My dresser!

The blue one my parents gave me after I moved into my own place, so many years ago. I gave it to my sister after I moved into a studio apt. in Boston and did not have room for it. It is in the bedroom that I am using. My dresser!

As I said, it's the little things ... the huge thing, of course, is that my sister (the one that lives in Gloucester) and my brother-in-law took me in after I fled Newburyport.

Oh Lordie!

My sister just called me to tell me that this story was on the WBZ (radio) news ... it seems the name Heartquist is once again in the headlines. (I'm listening online, but I have not heard it.)

I'm not making any comment until I have all the facts ... you know how it is with me and the Ward 1 councillor ...

Have fun with this one, guys.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

And another thing

I went to the McDonald's around the corner here, on my way up to Newburyport.

I got my usual medium latte. When I lived in Newburyport, it was always a small latte at Dunkin' but hey, I need all the help I can get these days.

They gave it to me for *free*. I mean, they actually GAVE it to me.

Now that I have returned to the house, I see we got a whole page of coupons for stuff at McDonald's (excluding a Happy Meal, I note). The free latte coupon is for a small.

And I said to my brother-in-law, "Wow, I never got anything like this in Newburyport." He said they get them all the time.

Ah, Gloucester, I'm starting to really, really like you.

Happy Holidays from Gloucester

I ran into Tom Salemi (and his older son) a little while ago, in downtown Newburyport.

As Madeline Kahn said of Sheriff Bart in "Blazing Saddles" - "What a nice guy."

And no, Tom and I had not been sharing schnitzen gruben.

We wished each other a Merry Christmas, and I wish you all the best for the holidays and thank the gods (or whatever you believe in) for small blessings.

Let it be ... and bless us all. Stay safe.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ah, Christmas

Earlier today, we had a home visit for my mom to see if she would be safe in her home if she were discharged from the rehab facility.

Thankfully, they found the house to be safe and only suggested minor alterations to allow her to get around the house better with her walker.

Then we got the call that her target discharge date is next Wed., Dec. 22.

Home for Christmas.

What a relief.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Does the US Practice "Diplomacy of Empire?": another Dose from Mr. Cook

Love him and his organization, or hate them; no one can deny that Julian Assange and Wikileaks have rocked official Washington, and the global diplomatic world, to their respective cores.

With only a mere fraction of the 250,000 US diplomatic cables in Wikileak's possession released, one can only wonder, and perhaps worry, about what will come next.

Does Julian Assange possess a "Poison Pill" of information that could, as some have alleged, bring down the US financial and banking systems, or ignite what would, indeed, be a global conflict?

Not one for conspiracy theories, I must confess I wonder if he does because of the intensity of the US government's efforts to shut Assange up and and Wikileak's down.

To date, despite all the uproar,most of what has been released is not particularly earth shattering or dangerous, although it has proven terribly embarrassing to the United States  and will, no doubt, make the always tough of job of diplomacy that much tougher.

Think about it, was anyone surprised that a US diplomat sent a cable to a colleague in which he or she opined that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is "loco"? Chavez is loco. He holds some delusion that he is the reincarnation of Simon Bolivar, destined to reunite all of Latin America under a Bolivarian/Socialist banner and his leadership.

Was anyone really surprised the Sunni king of Saudi Arabia confided in a US diplomat that he would be pleased if the US took military action against the Shiite mullahs in Iran? Any one who pays attention to Middle Eastern affairs was not, of that one can be certain.

The revealing of such conversations is embarrassing, but the fact they occurred was no real surprise at all.

But some revelations were deeply troubling and could do long term damage to both America's financial interests, security, and  credibility  on the world stage.

Here in Latin America,  several diplomatic cables regarding US policies in the region have frustrated many and deepened suspicions that Obama's policies are simply a repeat of GW Bush's.

One such cable released by Wikileaks was sent to the administration by the US ambassador in Honduras when President Jose Manuel Zelaya was forcibly sent into exile in Costa Rica by the country's military.

That diplomatic cable made clear that what had transpired was, indeed, a coup-d-etat and, under US law, the administration was required to suspend all foreign and economic aid to Honduras .

The administration did not heed its own diplomat's counsel.

Zelaya was in a legal battle with the country's Supreme Court over his attempt to mount a popular referendum to amend the constitution so he could seek a second term. That legal battle, many believe, was used as a ruse by the Honduran oligarchy, and its international corporate sponsors, like Dole, Chiquita, and Monsanto, to remove Zelaya because they were angry he had raised the country's minimum wage, along with taxes on the wealthy and corporations to increase funding for public education and the nation's health care system.

Just as they do with the Honduran oligarchy, international corporations like those mentioned above wield great financial and political influence among America's own oligarchy, namely the bipartisan political class inside the Beltway. As a result, the coup against the democratically elected Zelaya was allowed to stand.

Another cable released by Wikileaks revealed a  senior US official calling for the "isolation", "neutralization", and "marginalization" of numerous  democratically elected Latin leaders for their refusal to sign the US brokered agreement at last year's UN climate summit in Copenhagen - an agreement many, if not most, environmental organizations view as deeply flawed.

One such leader is Rafael Correa, the Harvard educated president of Ecuador.

Many had long suspected US involvement in the October coup attempt  against Correa because of lingering US anger at his refusal in 2007 to renew the lease on a large air base the US military used to stage anti drug trafficking operations in neighboring Colombia. The release by Wikileaks of the climate summit cable has only deepened those suspicions.

So, why is all this relevant for a regional blog like the port reporter unltd. and its readers? Well, I guess it's because I believe, or want to believe, that most Americans, and certainly most on the North Shore, do not want the United States to be perceived by the rest of the world as a nation that practices, as Bolivian President Evo Morales said in an interview at the climate summit in Cancun last week, the "...diplomacy of Empire".

Sadly, the Wikileaks revelations are only serving to reinforce the perception that that is the case in the eyes of growing numbers of people around the world.

And that, certainly, cannot bode well for future of the US or the world.

Michael Cook
PV de Limon, CR
& Gloucester, MA

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 'horror' of paid parking, Gloucester style

I went shopping in downtown Gloucester today - and horrors! I had to pay 50 cents to park for an hour (which is exactly how much time I took shopping).

Actually, I had to problem w/putting my 2 quarters in the meter and then bustling off to support two local businesses by making purchases.

Gloucester is kind of how Newburyport was when I moved there - lots of little artsy shops with one-of-a-kind items and two neat indie bookstores I discovered.

Hey, I guess Newburyport still has all that!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bring out your dogs

I do have to note that there was a meeting of some standing committee or the other (Neighborhood & City Services, perhaps?) before the City Council meeting last night.

City Council chambers was full. Arriving late, I had to stand in the doorway.

For the City Council meeting - and to be fair the word spread pretty quickly that paid parking would not be brought out of committee - the place was medium-full.

Anything involving dogs, however, seems to bring people out in droves. Not being a dog owner (although I did once own a dog), I don't get it.

I do miss my cat, though.

Thanks, Tom Salemi, for turning on the "Bring out your ..." light in my head.

The strange case of Mark Moquin

Mr. Moquin was up for re-appointment to the Newburyport Housing Authority. He apparently ran afoul of someone in City Hall in between the writing of the letter to the City Council requesting re-appointment, and last night.

Ward 1 Councillor Allison Heartquist first requested that the appointment be heard in one reading, which requires suspension of the Council's rules, and then stood up and made some vague references to "inappropriate actions" and emails denouncing un-named persons in City Hall.

I guess emails denouncing someone are "inappropriate actions" - you know, unless there was some basis for it. I'm not saying there were not inappropriate actions; I just want to know what they were!

I wrote down that Heartquist said he was disrespectful of the mayor and the mayor's staff. She read from a prepared statement that had been folded up into a neat tidy, and very small, rectangle.

Then Ward 5 Councillor Brian Derrivan got up and echoed Heartquist's sentiments, adding something about criticizing siblings (I can only speculate that this had something to do with the re-appointment of one Jane Bagley Holaday to the Commission on Disability).

It reminded me of the time - was it 2 years ago? - that Building Inspector Gary Calderwood's appointment was up for discussion before the Council, and Mayor Holaday (then an at-large councillor) suggested the council put off voting on the appointment until they could hear Calderwood's rebuttal to the criticisms leveled at him.

The Council, if I am remembering correctly, ignored Holaday's suggestion and approved the appointment. I mean, obviously they did re-appoint Calderwood.

It was all very bizarre, given that Moquin was there at the meeting, as was Calderwood when he was up for re-appointment.

Moquin was an honoree at a YWCA breakfast in March.

Only Barry Connell (At-large) voted in favor of the re-appointment, with Council President Tom O'Brien and Greg Earls (Ward 2) excusing themselves from the discussion/vote.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Council postpones vote on paid parking

Read about it here.

Tea Party caucus spends a billion on earmarks

According to a little blurb in (the printed version of) The Week, the 52 current members of Congress' Tea Party Caucus, which vows to cut federal spending, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at over $1 billion over the last fiscal year. was cited as the source, but I can't find where they printed that ...
I did, however, find this - an article describing how Repubs are backing off a ban on earmarks because apparently they failed to realize what the word "moratorium" means.

Republicans Learn What the Word 'Ban' Means "When congressional Republicans backed a two-year earmark moratorium in a wave of post-election enthusiasm," writes Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason, "apparently they didn't understand that banning earmarks would entail not having any more earmarks."

You gotta love it, right? Am I right?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Denounce religious extremism - in all its forms: M. Cook's sporadic dose

Man, was I ever naive - not to mention wrong.

When I left the position of director of AIDS services at HES more than a decade ago, I really thought the worst of the fight for gay civil rights was behind us.

Ironically, one of the reasons I thought that was because of the AIDS epidemic itself.

As devastating as the epidemic was to gay men of my generation, it also forced the opening of countless thousands of closet doors, and the building of bridges within families and communities , as families and communities began to recognize and accept the gay men and lesbians within their midst.

That recognition and acceptance played a critical role in prevention efforts that helped stop AIDS from becoming a far more wide spread sexually transmitted disease in the United States, as we feared it might become in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The gay community's response to the AIDS epidemic was a collective profile in personal and political courage that served as a model for other communities and prevention programs targeting other diseases.

But, with all that, it's become increasingly clear the rights of gay Americans are perhaps in greater jeopardy today than they have been since 1978, when Dan White, the San Francisco city supervisor who, literally, got away with committing a double homicide because one of his victims, fellow city supervisor Harvey Milk, was gay.

I'm writing this right after attempts in the Senate to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" went narrowly down to defeat.

The forces of anti-gay bigotry and ignorance prevailed- at least for now.

What is unsettling is those forces seem to be gaining strength in the United States today.

In the last week, as I've kept abreast of news in the States via my laptop, it's gays who are increasingly being blamed for almost every issue confronting the nation today.

Whether it's the Wikileaks controversy or the economy, bigoted voices in the US are trying to make gays responsible for most, if not all, of what ails the US today.

It might all be comical if it were not so ugly and dangerous.

In addition, a few days before DADT fell three votes short of being repealed, Rachel Maddow had the Ugandan politician who is the driving force behind that country's "kill the gays bill" on her show.

What is fascinating, not to mention frightening, is the fact this man is also a member of "The Family," a secretive, right wing, Washington based, international, Christian fundamentalist/political organization that includes many GOP and Tea Party congressman and senators in its membership, many of whom cheat on their wives while rooming together at a notorious townhouse on "C Street," commonly referred to inside the Beltway as the "born again frat house."

Interestingly, all this happened the same week Gloucester's own Jim Munn wrote a compelling column for the Gloucester Times in which he reminded us that all religions of the world, including Christianity, have been known to resort to violent and brutal tactics in attempts to impose their particular theology on others.

Needless to say, the GDT blog thread in response to Jim's column lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree, mostly with comments expressing contempt for Jim's observations and outrage at his suggestion that Christian extremists have used violent means to advance their interpretations of Scripture.

But the truth is they have, time and again.

How many physicians have been gunned down, how many women's health clinics have been bombed, and innocent people killed in recent years by Christian extremists in the United States who believed just as fervently that they were carrying out their God's will as the equally monstrous extremists who carried out the attacks of 9-11 believed they were carrying out Allah's will?

The number of victims is irrelevant, murder carried out in the name of religious extremism is a particularly vile crime.

And today, as I write this, there are so called Christians in the United States, some of them sitting members within our government and powerful members of the Republican Party, who are welcoming and embracing a man from Uganda who is working to impose life prison sentences, and to even execute, members of that country's gay community - all in the name of Christ and Christianity.

If that isn't violence being carried out in the name of religion, will someone please tell me what is?

As I said, it all might be funny if it was not all so frightening.

Thanks Jim Munn for a spot on column, and all your years of dedication to Fishtown and its youth.

Michael Cook
Puerto Viejo de Limon, CR
& Gloucester, MA

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hello, Gloucester

I've been staying here in Gloucester for just over 2 weeks now.

As Mr. Cook has said many times, things are different here. The city does not seem as tightly-wound as Newburyport, although it is not as pretty, in the conventional sense. I like the perceived (by me) atmosphere of hard-working people trying to make a go of things in what have been tough times for some while now.

I had to drive all over the place to find a gas station that was open at 5:30 p.m., which was kind of trippy.

But now I know where it is ....

I have not gone down to the water yet - it's far more accessible here - but now that it's balmy outside, I may drive on over. My downfall will be the McDonald's that is just around the corner, and of course the tub of Quality Street (English candies) on the dining room table.

My 80 y.o. mom is in a rehab facility here in town, not even a mile from her home. We are hoping she will be home for Christmas. That's not exactly the reason I found myself here in Gloucester, but it's good enough for now.

(Set proper boundaries, people.)

I hope that I'll still be reporting on Newburyport, as I have been, and etc., etc., etc.

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Concern, but not alarm"

I hate to say it, but .... there ya go. The beach nourishment appears to be not as effective as it was hoped it would be.

Is that phrased diplomatically enough?

Estimates of the loss range from less than 10 percent to as much as a third of the approximately 120,000 cubic yards of sand deposited along 2,500 feet of shoreline in October by a dredging company under contract to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. (Daily News)

I like the disparity in the estimates of loss. My old pal Newbury Selectman Vincent Russo says 10% and Conservation Agent Doug Packer says as much as 30%.

But this is my favorite quote, from PITA President Ron Barrett: "I think it will last the winter," he said. "It all depends on how many storms we have."

I like Ron - he returns my phone calls - but ... Ummm, wasn't it supposed to last 5 years, or so?

The story does not reference how much the project cost us taxpayers ($5.5 mil). Of course, some of that was for dredging the channel alone.

Further, the "concern, but not alarm" was expressed by a resident, not anyone "official."

I bet plenty of people are alarmed.