Archive - Jul 2012


July 30th

The C Word

There is a certain stigma around the C word, often accompanied by morbid curiosity. Most people think that it will never happen to them, but they may know someone going through the process. When you get diagnosed, it is likely to turn your whole life upside down. Ever since I've been tagged with the C word, I've been rethinking my life, how I interact with people, and how they react to me. Even when I get through this it will have changed me permanently, and I'm trying to explore some of this in my blog.

No, I'm not talking about cancer, although there may be some interesting comparisons. Looking at the American Cancer Societies' Cancer Facts and Figures, 2012, I find that are expected to be 1.6 million new cases of cancer this year in the United States. Looking at data from the Center for Disease Control, I find that the chances of getting cancer are greater for black people than for white people. But I'm looking at something much more rare.

According to Wikipedia, there are 7,382 State Legislators in the United States. If each race had two candidates and each legislator held office for two years, that would mean 14,764 every two years. Given that some terms are longer than two years, and some offices are uncontested, that number may be on the high side.

Doing the math, the numbers become stark. You are 100 more times likely to develop cancer than you are to become a candidate for State Legislature. In addition, I suspect the cases of candidacy are likely to be tied closely to certain risky behaviors. Most candidates start off by registering to vote. They proceed to regular voting, working on other people's campaigns, and perhaps even dabbling in politics at the local level.

Except for states where there are term limits, successful candidates tend to relapse quite regularly. My opponent for State Representative has relapsed into being a candidate seven times.

Unlike cancer, which disproportionately affects black people, candidacy appears to affect more white people. In the past, I've looked at the correlation between voting and health outcomes, and found that counties with higher voter turnout rates also tend to better health outcomes. The same may also apply to ethnicities in terms of candidacies and cancer rates.

Fortunately, candidacy is rarely fatal, and the stigma of candidacy is generally less than the stigma of cancer, although as Congressional approval ratings fall, and as more cancer survivors challenge the stigmas of cancer, this may be changing.

So, here I am grappling with my candidacy. More on how it changes lives later.

(Categories: )

July 24th

2012 #frff Emerging Artists Preview

Well, Wednesday morning, I pack up the car and head to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. It is an annual trip that the whole family greatly enjoys. For me, one of the high points is the Emerging Artists Showcase. Friday afternoon, two dozen emerging performers get ten minutes each to show off their stuff.

Each year, I try to find the list of performers ahead of time, listen to their music, and share some comments. It seems like each year, I get more and more busy, and have less and less time to really review each group. That said, here's the list.

I used that list to create a Spotify Playlist. I've been listening to the performers, and here are some of them, organized approximately by how much I like them.

Jarrod Dickenson (Facebook, Twitter: @jarroddickenson) is probably the top of my list.

Jon Brooks (Facebook, Twitter: @jonbrooksmusic) comes in second.

Gathering Time (Facebook) comes in third. I really liked their song Halley's Comet.

The problem then becomes that I like just about all of the performers, and it becomes hard to choose between different groups. Burning Bridget Cleary (Facebook) is a lot of fun to listen too and the story of Bridget Cleary is fascinating.

I also really liked Kate Klim (Facebook). Her music is really clear and crisp with interesting lyrics. Kamikaze Love is really good.

One band I had heard before is Poor Old Shine (Facebook). They played at Middnight on Main last year. Also, very enjoyable.

Three performers grouped together next, Julie Christensen, Miles to Dayton (Facebook, Twitter: @milestodayton) and Ryan Tennis (Facebook, Twitter: @rytennis). Each of them are enjoyable, and if I had more time to listen more closely, I might have one or another as a favorite. I believe some of these performers will be at various events up on the hill before Falcon Ridge officially starts, and these performances on the hill are really fun.

The next group includes Cary Cooper (Facebook, Twitter: @carycooper), Jim Hayes, Kevin Neidig (Facebook), Rebecca Pronsky (Facebook, Twitter: @rebeccapronsky) and sorcha. They were all okay, but by the time I get to this group, they all start to blend together. I'll probably have similar problems after a couple hours on the hill on Friday.

Honor Finnegan (Facebook), Heather Maloney (Facebook, Twitter: @maloneymusic), Sweet Talk Radio (Facebook), Sarah Blacker (Facebook, Twitter: @sarahblacker), Brad Cole (Facebook) and Dan Charness (Facebook, Twitter: @dancharness) didn't grab me on the first listen. However, as I've listened to some of them more, they've started to grow on me.

I couldn't easily find enough music from Chris Kokesh (Facebook), Steve Chizmadia (Facebook), The Marrieds (Facebook, Twitter: @themarrieds), or The YaYas to form an opinion.

So, there's a quick view of what I'm looking forward to in the Emerging Artists Showcase at Falcon Ridge. What are you looking forward to?

(Categories: )

July 22nd

Endorsements I am Not Pursuing

Running for State Representative, I get a lot of candidate questionnaires. I try to respond to the ones that are most in line with my own political views and are most likely to help me out in my quest to represent the people of Woodbridge, Orange and Derby. Others are for organizations that I generally support, but not strongly, and I don't expect their support to help me out.

At the same time, I get questionnaires from organizations that I have significant disagreements with. In the efforts to make my views known, I'm going to respond to some of these questions here.

The first questionnaire that I received that really doesn't fit with my views is the National Right to Work Committee. It was sent to me from Springfield, Virginia, and I don't know people in the district that are involved with the committee. The closest I've found for connections between this organization and the people of Connecticut is funding it has received from the Walton Foundation. I know a lot of people who shop at Walmarts. I'm not sure that Walmarts, or other corporate sponsors of this organization, are really support the sort of rights to work that I envision.

Their first question is, "Will you support enactment of a state right to work law by the Connecticut General Assembly?" Well, is that a law about a right to work for a fair salary? The right to work in a safe work environment? Because those are the sorts of 'right to work' that I support.

The second question is "Will you support legislation that ends monopoly bargaining over government employees by union officials?" My response is that I will seek to uphold the constitution, including "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." I view public worker unions as an important method for people to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances. I suspect my answers would not win me the endorsement of this organization.

The second questionnaire that I received that I'm also declining to respond to is rom the "Connecticut Campaign for Liberty". Their return address is Port Byron, IL. However, their website lists a Springfield, VA address as a contact. According to Wikipedia, "Ron Paul founded the Campaign for Liberty with a portion of the over $4.7 million left from his presidential campaign, and it is also currently funded through donations by both mail and the internet."

I know that there are some Ron Paul supporters in Connecticut, so this organization would probably be more significant than the Right to Work Committee. The first two questions they about opposing a National ID as well as opposing the use of unmanned devices by law enforcement officials are interesting questions, and I believe we could have interesting discussions about this. However, their next two questions probably rule out their support of me. No, I will not support a "Constitutional Carry" bill that would allow any law-abiding citizen to carry a firearm concealed without a permit. In theory, I can see why people want this, but the problem is the moment that a person transitions from being law-abiding to being a front page mass murderer.

The following question is really over the top. "Will you support legislation to nullify ObamaCare and authorize State and local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement the unconstitutional health care scheme known as ObamaCare?" No. While ObamaCare is not the health care reform that I would like to see, it has many very important aspects and should not be repealed or nullified. With relatives that have worked in local law enforcement and federal law enforcement, I think it is irresponsible to encourage one set of law enforcement officials to arrest others over differences of political opinions.

The most recent questionnaire that I received was from the NRA Political Victory Fund. This may not have been a good week for the NRA, but I have to compliment them on their questionnaire. Like the other two questionnaires, they are from Virginia. However, this questionnaire is much more in depth and thought out. There are 26 questions on it. They start off simply enough with a question about the Second Amendment, followed by questions about "restrictive state legislation regarding the sale, use or possession of firearms or ammunition".

If I answer these questions truthfully, I imagine I can alienate people on both sides of the gun issue. I grew up shooting guns. I've eaten meat killed by hunters. I think people should be educated about gun safety and, if their interested, about "Connecticut's hunting heritage". I generally oppose blue laws, and do believe that the Sunday hunting ban in Connecticut should be repealed.

At the same time, I don't believe that people should be able to buy as many guns as they want with no waiting period. I don't believe that most people need assault rifles or to purchase over 6,000 rounds of ammunition online.

I'm wouldn't be surprised to get more questionnaires during the campaign. Generally, I like them, even if I disagree with the organizations sending them. It provides a good opportunity to think about the issues in a little more depth.

(Categories: )

#frff Gospel Wake Up Call

It was a beautiful sunny summer Sunday morning. I sat in the pew at Grace and St. Peter's church and looked at the alter. Flowers in their vases sat on the green cloth of the alter, flanked by candles. Church services always seem to have a different pace to them in the summer time. More relax, laid back.

As I sat quietly on the wooden pew I thought about where I would be a week hence. Weather permitting, I would be sitting on a hill in New York State, listening to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Gospel Wake Up Call. It is an important part of the trip to Falcon Ridge. Some years, they've actually had Gospel, and it has been amazing. Other years, it has been more ecumenical or even irreverent. In many ways, there is a deep spirituality, without the trappings of certain religious traditions, or embracing many traditions.

The Kennedy's have often sung "Stand" there:

Allah, Buddha, Yahweh, Jesus, Brahma
People get ready there's a train a coming

or Tracy Grammer and friends sing Dave Carter's great song celebrating evolution from a spiritual perspective:

This is my home, this is my only home
This is the only sacred ground that i have ever known
And should in stray in the dark night alone
Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of eden

What will Eddie from Ohio, Brother Sun and Girlyman have to offer next week? What other performers will find their way onto the stage to join them?

Falcon Ridge is starting soon and other than some of the logistics of setting up camp, I'm so ready.

(Categories: )

July 21st

Learning from Casinos

I've never been a big fan of casinos. I tend to look at most forms of gambling as a tax on the statistically challenged and worry about the negative impact casinos can have on a community. Yet when approached wisely, as a place of entertainment, where patrons go in with a fixed budget they are planning on spending on their entertainment casinos can add some value. When they treat their workers well and have good labor relations, they can also improve the employment situation in an area.

Unfortunately, casino executives, like too many other executives, only focus on the employment aspects or other positive benefits they might bring to the community when they are lobbying for tax breaks or other special considerations from the government. The rest of the time, they focus on profits at the expense of the broader stakeholders in their enterprises.

This was illustrated to me yesterday in a press release I received from State Representative Linda Gentile. Rep. Gentile is one of the two State Representatives serving the city of Derby. I am seeking to join her as the junior member of the Derby delegation. (My district also includes all of Woodbridge, so I hope to be the sole representative of the Woodbridge delegation, and part of Orange so I hope to be one of three representatives in the Orange delegation.)

A couple months ago, there was an article in the Boston Globe, Have Mass. casinos become a risky bet?.

It starts off

Scott Butera is nothing but blunt when it comes to explaining what casino operators want from their customers — “their wallet and their spend.”

The chief executive of Foxwoods Resort Casino is also candid about customers he can do without — for example, those stereotypical busloads of senior citizens who show up with walkers and oxygen tanks….

It’s because those darn elders don’t gamble away enough of their money to help Foxwoods reach its goal…

Sarah Muoio, the executive director of the Derby Senior Center sent a letter to Derby State Representatives Gentile and Klarides which ends off with

I hope we can urge Foxwoods to terminate Mr. Butera. Offending the fastest growing population in the country is not good for business nor is it very respectful. I think this heartless, insulting man should be terminated for his disrespectful comments.

In yesterday's press release, Rep. Gentile issued the following statement:

I’m outraged by these disrespectful remarks and encourage Derby and all seniors to boycott Fowoods until they receive a public apology

Besides looking for an apology, the State should reconsider the estimated $15 million in tax breaks that it gave to the casinos early this year.

Organizations need to be much more sensitive to the clients they serve, and, if they are receiving tax breaks, to all the taxpayers in the State.

(Categories: )