December 28, 2006

New Newton North?

Filed under: Newton, Politics — marcstober @ 4:01 pm

The big issue in local politics here is whether the city should build a new high school (and more specifically, whether it should build the high school we’ve already had an architect design).
I decided to chime in on the debate with a comment on the Newton Tab blog.

Stay tuned for a stronger endorsement (if I can come up with one) before the referendum on January 23.

December 5, 2006

Food is the New Smoking

Filed under: Politics — marcstober @ 6:11 pm

The Boston Globe’s Maura Welch said it: “Food is the new smoking.” Cheryl and I were half-joking the other day that we should start smoking. I could easily avoid the random donut or after-dinner munching on pretzels by replacing them with cigarettes. It would be good for my career, too: the COO of my company smokes and it would be good networking to shiver together outside the front door.

September 18, 2006

Gabrieli for Governor

Filed under: Politics — marcstober @ 10:57 am

As a detail-oriented guy I find it annoying to show up to vote and find there’s a race for constable or clerk of this-and-that between two people I’ve never heard of. There ought to be somewhere on the web I can check on this in advance. Well—at least in Massachusetts—there is: go to

The primary for a candidate for governor has, of course, been well-publicized and in this race I’ve chosen to endorse Christopher Gabrieli. His early success was as an executive at a medical software company. Building software is about solving complicated problems on a daily basis, and solving problems in areas like energy, transportation, and economic development is the work of our government. Gabrieli is someone who already has experience with Massachusetts issues where both the private and public sectors have turned to him for leadership.

I also support his ideas for implementing a tax cut. I disagree with Deval Patrick’s position against an already voter-approved tax cut because it misses a bigger point: we want better government services and tax cuts, too. A governor in office might not accomplish both; but I think in the November election most voters will want a candidate who’s willing to try.

For Lieutenant Governor I am inclined to support Andrea Silbert, largely for distinguishing herself as a champion of working families (i.e., women), and in general for her giving importance to economic growth as well as social issues which is the sort of stance I expect when I register as a Democrat. I can’t expect Deb Goldberg to understand these issues having made her fortunes in a family business; besides which, though not necessarily any fault of hers, based my recent experience as a Brookline resident her elected experience has been with a particularly dysfunctional local government. I am somewhat inclined to support Timothy Murray because I do think central and western-Massachusetts voter should be better represented high offices but find Silbert’s positions slightly more compelling

September 11, 2006

Uncertainty, certainty, and 9/11

Filed under: Politics — marcstober @ 1:57 pm

I’m annoyed with all the “Monday-morning quarterbacks” who have sprouted up ascribing blame for 9/11 to Clinton, or Bush; or to the people who built the towers or were charged with planning for emergencies in them.

This kind of misses the point, which is that 9/11 was the sort of day you can’t actually plan for; you only can react to how it turns out. In fact, if I’m critical of anything it’s of some specific stories about how emergencies in the towers were too well-planned; responses to kitchen grease or wastebasket fires were so typical they didn’t plan for an actual unexpected emergency. Nevertheless, these were plans made on reasonable guesses of the risks. Someone else might have guessed differently—and in our free-market democracy it’s important for people to try out-guessing each other, so long as your remember you’re all just guessing in the face of uncertainty.

After all, this is how we deal with more mundane matters—do I bring an umbrella today? Which request do I handle first at work? So it’s a bit much to expect someone is going to have all the answers to the big problems of global politics.

Today we’ve changed some plans but I’m still not sure that as a country we’re any better prepared for next thing that’s really unexpected. Even the New York Times has gotten into thinking that there is just some set of simple rules by which we’ll all be safe.

Of course, one can be reasonably certain in hindsight, such as that the real blame lies with the terrorists.

August 31, 2006

Barney vs. Free Speech

Filed under: Parenting, Politics — marcstober @ 10:09 am

It turns out that Barney, the purple dinosaur, is not all hugs and smiles as he is at the center of a legal battle over the right to parody him.

What is most disturbing to me is that Barney appears primarily on public television. I tend to think of public television as an institution that exists, among other reasons, to provide an alternative source of information that doesn’t depend on a profit motive. So it seems kind of hypocritical for a studio they employ to be starting intellectual property lawsuits for apparently commercial reasons.

Interestingly this isn’t the first time I’ve written about issues with PBS children’s shows not playing nice when confronted with real-world issues, and the common thread seems to HIT Entertainment, a childrens-media company owned by a private equity firm Apax. So, has PBS made a deal with the devil? I remember a time (maybe when I was kid) when it seemed appropriate to let kids watch PBS (but not other networks) because Sesame Street, et al didn’t seem so “bad” for them. These days, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference.

I’ll probably keep sending a little donation to WGBH, but I should send a similar one to the EFF for pointing out this issue.

(The most interesting thing about Barney to me is that my two-and-a-half year old, who loved the show when she was one, has already outgrown Barney [and Teletubbies] for characters with more depth.)

August 5, 2006

Text of a Message I Sent to Senators Kerry and Kennedy

Filed under: Israel, Politics — marcstober @ 7:45 am

I think that Hezbollah is not only a threat to Israel; they are a threat to freedom and democracy everywhere. They are a threat to the religious freedoms, civil liberties, and national sovereignty valued by Americans and others throughout the world.

In 6 years I can only think of two policies of George Bush that I have really agreed with. One is his proposal for immigration reform that would make it easier for hard-working people (like my own great-grandparents) to immigrate to this country, and second is his support of Israel during the recent conflict.

Please do whatever you can to support Israel in this conflict.

August 3, 2006

Israel Defense Forces – The Official Website

Filed under: Israel, Politics — marcstober @ 3:36 pm

I posted an anonymous comment on a blog the other day, and then today came across this official statment from the IDF about the incident in Qana, saying that 150 rockets had been fired from that area.

To be more direct than my last post on the war: why do the people in that area–or their local and national government officials–allow Hezbollah to fire rockets from their communities? Why do they let their children be killed while they refuse to make peace?
Do they think that a Shiite Islamist regime is worth putting their families at risk? Ok, I can respect that–but not really. Are they just helpless themselves against Hezbollah? That would be sad, but in this case the IDF is being realistic (in comparison to the US in Iraq) to remove the threat without trying to be welcomed as liberators.

July 30, 2006

What’s Up with Lebanon?

Filed under: Israel, Politics — marcstober @ 9:41 pm

I’ve been wanting to write something about the war in Lebanon, but it’s been difficult to know what to say. On the one hand, it’s sad to see what’s happening to Beirut. On the other hand, it’s sad to see what’s happening in Haifa, and Israel’s actions are completely understandable and certainly justified.

I wish that the government of Lebanon would ask for peace. Peace, meaning not a ceasefire, but a normal relationship and a peaceful border. It does not seem like they have the ability, or maybe not the desire, to do so.

It seems that there are a lot of voices saying that Israel is not winning “hearts and minds” in Lebanon; that Lebanon’s recent moves toward democracy should be encouraged and Israel’s strikes will set things back. Inevitably these voices talk about the forward-thinking young Lebanese in Beiruit and the great new developments, cafes and nightclubs there. I don’t really think it’s the IDF’s primary job to win hearts and minds or Israel’s responsibility to support Lebanese democracy at all costs. Israel was attacked by forces operating out of a sovereign country, and that country is allowing those attacks to continue. While it’s great in theory that democracy is taking hold, it’s obviously not working yet, in that it doesn’t have control over an effective military and foreign relations. And as for the constant reports of cosmopolitan Beiruit–I don’t see how that matters. I don’t think anyone says that the cafes of New York or Moscow or even Paris are the key to a stable government, as compared to, say, strong institutions with support from the heartland.

For that matter, the whole concept of Hezbollah has me perplexed. Isn’t the idea that in a modern country, only the state has legitimate use of force, certainly against foreign powers? How is this in Lebanon even a matter of serious debate? It seems like this war is not just about Israel vs. Hezbollah vs. Lebanon, but about the surival of the whole concept of the liberal, democratic state–and I don’t mean in the American “blue state” definition of those terms but rather the idea of a sovereign state whose government is based on freedom and democracy, where people are pretty much free to do as they choose but rely on an elected goverment to create law and have the power to enforce it. (For further reading on this see this by Fareed Zakaria, which also makes me wonder if the whole red state/blue state thing could action be the right amount of choice so as to be good for democracy.)

The bottom line, then, is that this may be a fight for freedom and democracy, which may be something we’d rather not have to fight for, but is something worth fighting for when needed.

I would love on my next trip to Israel someday, after visiting other great places in the north like Haifa and Tsfat (Safed), to go spend a couple days on a side trip to thriving, cosmopolitan Beiruit. But until I, as a Jew visting Israel, can make such a trip as safely as going from the US to Canada, England to France, or even Israel to Jordan, it’s not peace.

July 13, 2006

Cheesesteaks and Politics

Filed under: Personal Blog, Politics — marcstober @ 2:32 pm

Jeff Jacoby writes about a controversy over the “english only” sign at Geno’s Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. What’s cool is that I actually was there and saw the sign on a trip to Philadelphia last winter.
Misreading a sign of the times – The Boston Globe

Personally I think it’s dumb sign, but he should be free to keep it up if he wants.

June 7, 2006

The State I’m In

Filed under: Politics — marcstober @ 10:26 am

The red state/blue state divide catches our interest because intuitively, we know that people in different regions have different viewpoints. However while the dichtomy makes a good sound bite it’s just as clearly an oversimplification. That’s why I like this article in the Globe, which divides Massachusetts into regions based how they vote. The areas enumerated here resonate with me as being much more accurate and useful in understanding other viewpoints. I’ve moved from Brookline in “Bigger Boston,” to “Shopper’s World,” that includes Newton. (The strange attraction of that mall deserves another post.) I do feel more at home in Newton and I do feel accurately described as someone who has an interest in doing well materially, but generally considers liberal social issues more important at the polls, which is how Shoppers World residents vote.
Similarly, the research this is based on from MassINC includes a national map which might explain why I feel more at home in the “Upper Coast,” which includes my native ground of Connecticut and current home in Massachusetts (and favorite cross-country place to visit of San Francisco) rather that in New York, which was in the “Northeast Corridor” instead, even if it was also a blue state.

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