Saturday, March 15, 2014

Blarney Blowout

What do the hypodermic needle, tractor, submarine, tank, periscope, stethoscope, caterpillar track,endoscope and first true steam turbine have in common? Well, they have the same thing in common with artificial fertilizer, nickel zinc rechargeable batteries, the ejector seat, the guided missile, and high speed photography. They were all invented by the Irish. In terms of science, the induction coil and the self-extracting dynamo changed the way we produced power. The Irish invented them. Boyle’s law, Stokes Parameters and the Beaufort Wind Scale? Named after their Irish inventors. 

In the realm of health care, the discoveries and inventions range from Milk of Magnesia, to ways to use Radium through Radon as a treatment for cancer. Irish scientists were responsible for treatments for Leprosy, as well. .  Irish scientists were the first to split the atom. An Irishman created the light pipe, paving the way for fiber optics. They created advances in seismology, physics, math, and health care.
Here in Massachusetts, we know what a tremendous role the Irish have played in society. Our government has been populated with Irish and Irish American from our present Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh, through the State House, in Washington and across Town Halls throughout the state and throughout our entire history. Many of our most successful elected officials are of Irish Descent. House Speaker Tip O’Neill and the Kennedy family are but a few. Their contributions to our government and way of life have not only shaped our society in Massachusetts but throughout the US. 

My point, obviously, is that the Irish played a very major role in science, literature, music, and government.  They should get credit for that. In fact, there may not be a society without the Irish or at least a world that looks very different. After the fall of Rome, it was Irish monks who traveled Europe at great personal risk to collect books and knowledge. They brought these back to Ireland where they kept language, literature and culture alive until they could reintroduce these to the rest of the world.

It is distressing that these accomplishments are not celebrated when we think of St Patrick’s Day.  It is not surprising that some students and locals around UMass Amherst celebrate the day with a “Blarney Blowout”. I stress some students,Most UMass Students are hard working and focused on studies.But events like this continue the stereotype of the Irish for the next generation. It is not just this incident. Walmart sold cheap t-shirts this year that had sayings such as “I’m not Irish, but I drink like I am” or “Blame the Irish for my behavior”. The fact that these retailers stereotype this holiday should be unacceptable to us all. Don’t get me wrong, I love an Irish pub song and a Guinness as much as the next person, but as proud as I am that the Irish have been selling Guinness since 1759, I am more proud that Trinity College has been educating and giving scholarships to students since 1592! (The Medical School was established in 1711 and the Center for Molecular Medicine just won an award for cell imaging).

The Irish helped build our infrastructure in America, our bridges and railroads. They fought in our wars, sometimes as their own regiment. They’ve bled for us, have formed philanthropic organizations to better our condition and have provided us with culture and more stories than we can ever hear. I only wish some students were celebrating that heritage and culture as they raised a pint.

More than the students, I am disappointed that in all the stories  I read about this Blarney Blowout, I haven’t read one response from school officials criticizing the depiction of the Irish embedded in the incident. I have read that the incident is bad for the university and that drunken behavior isn’t tolerated, but not one mention has been made over the depiction of the Irish. What a shame. The UMass campuses of Boston and Lowell actually have Irish studies courses. The Amherst campus doesn’t.  I am proud of my state university. My daughter received her degree there. However, their response to this should have been to create a campus event to educate students. They should have an event to celebrate the accomplishments of this proud and ancient culture that influenced the development of Europe as a counterbalance to the prevailing attitude that St Patrick’s Day is a drunken bash.

I hope everyone has fun on St Patrick’s Day. I hope you go out and lift a pint or two and listen to some Irish music in celebration of the day. But I also hope that you raise a glass and think of the many wonderful contributions of the Irish here and throughout the world. That’s the real celebration! Slainte!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I flew to Detroit to sleep in the airport!

Recently, I was scheduled to go to Chicago for a few days to a business conference. I never made it there. I flew to Detroit and back again in a 24 hour adventure that was not of my making. Here is how my 24 hours went.

I arrived at the airport and checked at the Delta counter. My flight was from Albany to Detroit and then on to Chicago. The flight should have taken a few hours. At the check in desk, I was told that the flight was rescheduled from 4:25 to 4:55 p.m., but that there were no worries as there was still plenty of time to make my connector flight in Detroit. After we boarded at the later time, we pushed back and ran out to the runway, where we were stuck for over an hour and a half. We sat out there so we wouldn’t lose our position as next in line according to the pilot. The pilot also said that the reason for delay was instruction from the air traffic controllers in Detroit. They told us that traffic was stopped in Detroit and no one was landing there. So we sat in Albany.

After we landed, late, in Detroit, we sat for some time because there was not an available gate to taxi to. After we found a gate, we had to wait because no one was sent to drive the gangway to the plane. The pilot at that point, apologized and said we should complain to

There was no one to greet us as we came off the plane and after waiting for some time for a second ticket agent to come out and help at the gate where we landed, I was told to go to the help desk as they (the gate agents) couldn’t help. There was no information on our connections that we had missed.

I walked to the other end of Detroit airport to the help desk. It was quite a hike. Upon arriving I was greeted with a line stretching out for hundreds of feet. One of my fellow travelers, also waiting in this queue said he had counted over 1,000 people in line! We were stretched out along the corridor in the Terminal B area, where we could see people lined up to get into the help desk area halfway down a long corridor.

After standing in line for almost two hours, we got far enough along to see that there were only two people at the help desk. Everyone was more than a little cranky. You have to understand, this line stretched way down the B corridor and then snaked into the help area and went into a serpentine line set up to wind around like a bank teller line, back and forth. By the time you came far enough to see that the line didn’t end when you got to the help desk area, I had been in line for two hours. At no time during this wait did we receive any info from anyone with Delta. At the entrance to the help desk area, there were scanners so that you could scan your ticket or boarding pass and get electronic help or information. I scanned my ticket as I saw on the flight information boards that there were two flights to Chicago that were cancelled, but there was still one flight that may be late enough for me to catch. I thought that Delta may have booked me on a later flight after it became clear that I would miss my scheduled connection. The electronic scanner spit out a paper stating that no info was available and I should call an 800 number. I did that as did my fellow line dwellers, all of whom knew each other pretty well by then. I got a person on the phone and she asked me for my line number. I told her I didn’t know what that was and asked where I would find it. She told me to look on the ticket. I said there were a lot of numbers on the ticket and asked which one she was looking for. She said to look on my itinerary.  I told her I only had a boarding pass and not an itinerary. She reiterated that the number was on the ticket. At this point I overheard another person in line giving a number so I told her the similar one from my ticket. She was not helpful and seemed to treat the call as an annoyance. She found my info and asked me to hold. She came back some time later and told me that I had been booked on a flight at 5:50 p.m. the next afternoon. I told her that I needed something earlier because I needed to be in Chicago for a morning event. She put me on hold and came back to tell me that this was all they had. I told her that this was unacceptable and I wanted her to look at transferring me to another airline. I couldn’t believe that it would be that difficult to get from Detroit to Chicago. She asked me to hold and after a long wait, came back on and said I was booked on an 8:52 p.m. Delta flight the next night. I asked her what happened to the 5:50 flight and asked about other airlines. She told me that they weren’t going to put me on another airline and that none were available because traffic was backed up from today (Sunday). She also disputed that she had given me any flight other than the 8:52 p.m. flight. We actually had an argument where she denied giving me any info on a flight that we had talked about just a few minutes earlier.

I then told her that this was unacceptable and I wanted a full refund for my ticket so that I could make other arrangements. She refused and I asked who I could talk to. She said she would get a supervisor. I was then placed me on hold for approximately another ten minutes. After coming back on the line at that point to tell me I needed to continue holding, I was on hold for another ten minutes. She came back to tell me that she had talked to a supervisor and there was nothing else they could do for me. I told her that this was unacceptable. I also told her that I was not blaming her, but that I had close to a half million miles on Delta and the reason I hadn’t booked with them for a few years was because I couldn’t remember the last time I had a flight that was on time or that my baggage had arrived with me. I told her that she wasn’t being helpful and I wanted to speak to a supervisor directly. I was placed on hold.

By the time I talked to a supervisor, I must admit I had a bad attitude. However, so did the supervisor who argued with me. He told me that he would refund my ticket except for the portion that I used, from Albany to Detroit. I insisted on a full refund stating that the ticket was of no value. He said, well, I was in Detroit, I had used the ticket and must pay for it. I told him that I knew I was in Detroit. I didn’t want to be in Detroit, I wanted to be in Chicago, but because of them, I was in Detroit. He said that wasn’t his fault nor the airlines fault that flights were delayed into Detroit. I told him I knew that, but while they were able to let me know (after I arrived at the Albany airport) that my flight was changed to 4:55, they didn’t let me know that there were considerable delays into Detroit. If we had been taken back to the terminal in Albany to wait for the hour and a half that I sat on the tarmac, I would have explored my options there. I would have looked into later flights knowing I was going to miss my connection. I may have decided not to take a trip that was useless without a connection to Chicago. That was their fault to keep us waiting on a flight that they knew was going to miss connections.

I also told him that Delta had no one at the gate to help us once we deplaned, and hadn’t any info on changing our flights so that we could make arrangements or consider alternatives. Even having someone to direct us to the help desk center would have saved time for the people amassed around the gate desk. I told him that hundreds of people were in line at a help desk that was woefully understaffed with just two people, and after 2 ½ hours in line, I was restricted from finding alternative flights myself because of the lateness of the hour. I pointed out that I had spent a lot of time on hold because there were not enough people taking phone calls on their 800 line. I told him that all this was Delta’s fault. I also said that my time in Chicago was valuable if I attended meetings for two days and they were not helpful in getting me there at all. Since I was going to Chicago for two days and the airline couldn’t get me there until one of those days were over, it was a waste of time and money to go to Chicago. I reiterated that I knew that weather or air traffic decisions weren’t Delta’s fault. However, not having information, making decisions to keep us waiting on the tarmac, understaffed help desks, long waits or no answers on their phone line, and no attempts to book us on alternative flights were all Delta’s fault and that is not a way to run a business. They couldn’t deliver a product and in any other business, you would get your money back. He argued with me and was pretty rude. He said it wasn’t his fault that there were only two people on the help desk on a Sunday night, but I pointed out that if flights had been delayed all day, they should have anticipated this. He said he can’t make people take overtime and come in. The conversation pretty much went downhill from there.

At any rate, he reiterated that he was cancelling the remainder of my flight and would give me a refund for that. I told him I was calling Amex and placing a hold on the entire payment. He was unimpressed.

After hanging up with him, I stood in line for approximately another twenty five minutes. People around me were getting angry and one man was hung up on by the person on the 800 number while yet another was placed on hold for quite a while to talk to a supervisor that he never ended up talking to. At this point, one of the two women working the help desk came out and asked for everyone’s attention. She said she didn’t know what we wanted but it was going to take forever to talk to everyone. She said nothing could be done that night so we should all go find hotels and come back tomorrow. She said we could stay in line, but that is what she would tell everyone once they got to the help desk. Someone shouted that we were waiting for hotel vouchers because of our missed flights and the fact that we weren't leaving Detroit that night. The woman said that the delays were due to air traffic controllers in Detroit and that they weren't giving vouchers because this wasn’t their fault. She said they weren’t responsible and we should go someplace. She had a list of hotels that she waved at us, but said she heard everything was booked. She also said that we couldn’t even get luggage because the terminal was closed for the evening and there were hundreds of bags sitting in luggage claim that would take a long time to go through. She also told us that almost everyone had gone home for the evening.

At this point, I had been in line for three hours. I gave up on the “help” line and went to baggage claim. I found another very long line. I stood in this one for about 45 minutes. When I got to the claim counter, I was told that no one was getting bags tonight. I told this woman that I was a diabetic and needed my meds in my checked luggage. (I know that I should have kept them with me, but the flight with connections should have taken a couple of hours and I thought, “What could go wrong?”)

There was a very nice guy behind the counter and he took my claim number and told me to sit in the area. He also asked me if he could do anything else; did I need water or food or anything else. He was very nice and it took him almost an hour, but he found my bag and I was able to take my meds. The people at the luggage claim desk were very nice and a big thanks to the sky cap who helped me out.

So now it was after one o’clock and I didn’t have a hotel room or a flight. I called my wife and daughter and asked them to check flights out in the morning. There was nothing from Detroit to Chicago, so I had them check Detroit to Albany. A Delta flight the next day would have sent me to Atlanta to get to Albany and it was $1,300.00! Finally, my daughter found a Southwest flight to Albany with a stop in the Baltimore Washington International Airport. That flight was $210.00, so we booked it at around 1:30 a.m.

Next I called the Palmer Regency Hotel (A Hilton Hotel) and told them I wasn’t there (obviously) and that I needed to cancel my reservation that I should have had since the day before. They couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. They said they understood that weather sometimes prevents travel and they cancelled the entire reservation without a charge. What a change in service after dealing with Delta officials. Thanks Hilton!

I then took the shuttle to the North Terminal and camped out outside of the Southwest ticketing check in. There is a lot that goes on in the terminal in the early hours of the day. I was trying to cat nap, but the floors were being swept with machines and the announcements about increased security and “not taking luggage from a person you don’t know” evidently play 24/7! I wasn’t the only one sleeping in a chair as there were fellow travelers, some with children roaming the hallways of the airport.

Finally, at 4:00 a.m., I got into line with a bunch of other people at the Southwest counter. We traded Delta stories. The Southwest people came in around 4:30 a.m.and were great. It cost me $25 to check a bag at Delta (a charge that was not taken off my refund). It didn’t cost anything on Southwest. I was on a plane by 5:30 and we left on time for BWI. We arrived on time and after an hour wait, I boarded another on-time flight back to Albany.

Having left the house around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, I arrived home shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Monday. I realized that my 24 hour adventure was nothing more than flying to Detroit to sleep in the terminal before flying home.

So that the day is not a total loss, I am thinking about getting a t-shirt that states, “Delta East Coast Tour” and it would list Albany, Detroit, Chicago (with a circle and a red slash through it), Washington, Baltimore, and Albany. If I get a full refund form Delta, that is what I will use the money for.

I know that Delta is not responsible for the actions of air traffic controllers or the weather in the USA. But they could be better prepared and could care about their passengers. Here is where they failed. Delta should have been working on rebooking our flights early on. They could have had people at the gate to assist passengers and they could have beefed up their help desks. They used to do this. I was proud to be a Delta medallion customer. No more. They don’t care about people and it shows. That is disappointing. Even if I receive a full discount (like that’s going to happen), I still had to pay for parking, food, a baggage charge, and my lost time which has a value. I certainly can’t charge my client for a meeting I didn’t make, so this 24 hour excursion cost $12 for parking, $244 for the Delta flight to Detroit, and $210 for the Southwest flight home, plus gas, time, and lost business. Thanks Delta.  The sad truth is that Delta doesn’t care about that. They used to care. For me, I am now a Southwest customer.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2006 Convocation Speech

I listened to some Harry Chapin today. I don't know why it's been so long since I listened to his music, but it was far too long. In 2006, I was asked to give the Convocation speech for incoming freshmen at MCLA. Listening to Harry Chapin today reminded me that I talked about him in that speech and thought I would post it here. Far too many people don't get involved in our society, and Harry's admonition to each of us to "Do Something" is good advice. Hope you enjoy the speech, or at least the music references.

Convocation 2006

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Church Street Center
Daniel E. Bosley
September 5, 2006

Chairman Lamb, Members of the Board of Trustees, President Grant, distinguished faculty and administration, and particularly, the members of the class of 2010. Class of 2010, it seems like a long way away, doesn’t it? Yet it will be over in a flash and will be the most rewarding time of your lives. I want to thank you for the privilege of speaking to you today. I am very honored by this invitation. I am a little nervous though. Convocation speeches are daunting tasks; trying to tell you everything you need to know to succeed in college in fifteen minutes or so. I thought that maybe I should follow the traditional formula of a few jokes, followed by telling you how much the world depends on you, while throwing in a pithy quote or two. Should I admonish you that it is your responsibility to change the world and then send you off? That’s been done before and tends to be scary telling you that the whole world depends on you. Perhaps I should use a few Latin or foreign phrases. This always seems popular. And it always seems profound, whether it is or not. In regards to this, I am reminded of the former Congressman from this district, the First Massachusetts District. The late Silvio Conte used to end many of his speeches with the Italian phrase (and this is from memory), “Svegli l’amico, Il discorso finito.” In English, this means “Wake up, pal, the speech is over.” Goofy, but it sounds wonderful and would get applause.
As I thought about what I would talk about, I thought back to my own freshman year in 1972. Who was our convocation speaker? Did we have a convocation speaker? I don’t remember. But I do remember freshman year very well. I remember what it was like to be a freshman. I spent half my time excited that I was here, and half the time scared to death over the prospect of college. It is all different and new. Could I do college work? Would I make friends? My daughter is a freshman at UMass this year and she is going through the same mixture of anxiety and excitement that I went through and I imagine all of you are going through. That is a natural reaction. This is a big change from anything you have encountered so far. College is much different than high school. There, you were seniors last year. I would imagine you felt pretty comfortable. Here, you are back to being freshman again. There, you had the routine of high school pretty much down. Here, everything is a new experience. There your parents made sure that there was structure and reminded you that you needed to do your homework. Here you are on your own and have to do all this yourself, including laundry! There you were surrounded by your friends of at least the last four years. Here, you have to make new friends all over again. There you were home, and here, many of you are away from your families for an extended period for the first time. It is natural that you should be apprehensive about this. As I said, I know I was. But I will tell you that you are about to embark on the four most exciting years of your lives. College is a life changing experience. It is the bridge between the last vestiges of growing up and adulthood. Here you will learn to be your own person.
You will make new friends, friends you will keep and stay close to for the rest of your lives. I talked to my college roommate three days ago. We keep in touch and he is still one of my best friends. His daughter, who is my goddaughter and the rest of the family are coming to town in a few weeks as her college plays Williams in field hockey. You will have friendships such as this that will last a lifetime.
A whole new world will open up to you. I remember so many of my professors who made profound differences in my life. The world opened up from merely my local community and a small circle of friends to the rest of the world. Some of these faculty members are still here, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and all of the faculty and staff who make this a great institution. I hope that you rely on the faculty, especially your advisors as you get acclimated to college life. These advisors are invaluable. They will answer your questions, keep you on track, give you advice, hold your confidence, and tell you where the best pizza in town is.
While the commitment of this institution to educate you remains the same, there are many big changes since I started my freshman year here in 1972. The campus center was under construction and wasn’t going to open until 1976. There were no townhouses. Even the name was different. This was not the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, but North Adams State College. We had no cell phones; fax machines, Ipods, Laptops, or any computers for that matter. We didn’t have Instant Messenger (IM) or myspace. It wasn’t that we didn’t have them. They hadn’t been invented yet! It wasn’t until four years later in 1976, that Apple Computer was formed. Their first home computer, the Apple 1 ran off of a cassette tape and they sold 175 of them. So computers were not to be had. In 1972, the first hand held scientific calculator was marketed. We didn’t have them either because they were marketed at $400. But we were probably the last class that actually knew how to use a slide rule.
And it wasn’t just technology that was different. Richard Nixon was President and it was the first year that women were allowed to run in the Boston Marathon. Can we even imagine not allowing women into a race today?
In many ways, your lives are much different. You will be the best-educated generation ever. The Internet and ease of travel have made the world much smaller and that gives you opportunities that we never had when I was in school. You have far more opportunities than I did at your age to experience life elsewhere in the world. Take advantage of this. You will have a much longer life span and more technology than we ever dreamed of. And your education here will help prepare you for the opportunities and the challenges that lie ahead of you. This college will do more than educate you. The faculty and staff will give you the tools to learn and more importantly, to reason. Especially at a liberal arts college such as this one, you are taught critical thinking. And hopefully, they will inspire you along a course of action that you will follow the rest of your lives. That happened to me. I grew up in a single parent family in a very small town. My eighth grade class consisted of 8 students and my high school class was something like 216. I arrived on campus not knowing what to expect from college or quite frankly, what to expect from myself. But the professors and staff here did more than educate me. They gave me a passion that has lead to a career in public service. I was inspired by my teachers to get involved in my community and that has lead to being the state representative for this area for the last twenty years. I have been able to make a difference in my hometown and surrounding area. I have been able to touch the lives of so many others. I have been able to travel all over the world, Russia, South Africa, all of Europe, China, and Israel, to name some of the places I have been in order to gain a greater understanding of the world and our global neighbors. I have been able to give back to my community and fellow citizens because this college inspired me to give back, and gave me the tools to do so. Without the ability to go here and to grow here, I don’t know where I would be and I know that I owe this institution a large debt of gratitude. They will do the same for you.
Now you don’t have to run for office to get involved, but hopefully they will point you in a direction that not only involves a career, but also makes your lives more fulfilling. It isn’t enough to be educated, but we must be enriched by our experiences here. Our collective experience allows us all to contribute to the well being of our community. That contribution, helping each other become more enriched is what makes us a community out of a collection of individuals.
And that is what defines the collegiate experience. It is not enough to be book smart, but you need to be able to use that knowledge and have the desire to use that knowledge. That makes all of the difference. Are there any Red Sox fans out here? You may know that there is a website for fans called the Sons of Sam Horn. It is a site for real hard-core fans where baseball fanatics argue over such things as the Whip, which is walks and hits per inning as measured against individual batters or they argue over the replacement value of a lesser player over the salary of a regular on the team. I am intimidated by the statistical expertise on that site, but they are not always right in trying to predict how a player will do in Boston or even in the major leagues in general. That is because they can’t measure the value of the intangibles of a player. That is the spirit or passion that motivates a person to succeed. That is hopefully what you will learn from your next four years; that heart and commitment to excel at whatever course you take through life.
I know that you had a summer reading assignment. If I could suggest a companion to this may be Doug Morris’ book, “It’s a Sprawl World After All”. I will make sure that the library has a copy. It also talks about ways to do better than we have done in making communities more responsive to the needs of its citizens. In preparation for today and as you have that reading assignment, I was asked if I had a book that inspired me that I would like to have placed in the library. I thought a lot about this and decided that there are many books that have inspired me over my lifetime. One of these was a book that I read in a Clark Billings class on city politics in 1976. That book is “The Power Broker” by Robert Caro. I love that book and have given it out as a Christmas present almost every year since. I formed the literacy caucus in the State House in 1993, and I have gone around the state promoting literacy and reading ever since, so there are a lot of books I could suggest. However, I would rather they include some music in the library, especially music from the sixties and early seventies. That was what inspired my generation. It shaped our thinking. In many ways it spurred us to action. Music spoke to us. One of my favorite singer songwriters was a folk singer named Harry Chapin. Chapin died in 1981 in his midthirties, September 3, 1981, so Sunday was the 25th anniversary of his death. In 1980, he wrote a song called “Remember When the Music”. The first verse of this song went,
“Remember when the music
Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire
And as we sang the words, it would set our minds on fire,
For we believed in things, and so we'd sing.”
And we did believe in things and people sang as a form of social conscience and protest. Music was a unifier. It taught us that we were not alone in our thoughts and actions and formed social opinion. It moved people to action. Some of the issues are the same as issues today; “Immigration Man” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash spoke of the problems concerning immigration. Country Joe MacDonald asked “what were we fighting for” in Viet Nam and Phil Ochs sang “we aren’t going a ‘marching anymore.” Peter Paul and Mary sang about the environment in their song “Power”; and Bob Dylan asked “How many years can a people exist, before they’re allowed to be free” in the song “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Robert Lamm wrote a very powerful song for his band Chicago called “Dialogue Parts 1 & 2”. The song is a conversation between two college students. One is an activist worried about the problems of the world. The other is oblivious to what is going on and doesn’t think there are any problems, or at least, it’s not up to him to solve them. Student One asks, “Will you try to change things with the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
Student Two replies, “What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change? I always thought that everything was fine.”
The reason I mention this music is two fold. First, some of the problems today are the same as then. We are still arguing over immigration. Instead of Viet Nam, we are involved in a similar struggle in Iraq. Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” reminds us that we still need to do much better regarding the environment. While my generation was experiencing the roll out of the Civil Rights Act, today we are still hearing about racial profiling, questioning equal rights, and debating whether we should keep affirmative action. The need to be involved remains as strong today as it was in 1972.
The second reason I mention this is that like the second student in Lamm’s dialogue, apathy is as bad as making a bad decision. It leads to having no role in the decision-making process and let’s others make choices for you. So you have to be involved somehow, somewhere, some way. When he was much younger, Academic Vice President Steve Green used to wear a button that simply said, “Give a damn.” That was the attitude that many of us had. It wasn’t a statement about any particular political philosophy, but just said that you should care about what was going on enough to be involved. I am asking you to care and get involved, as it is a matter that is about self-preservation as much as anything else.
As I said earlier, you don’t have to be a politician to be involved or to make great changes. People who one day made a simple decision to take a small action made some of the most important changes in my lifetime. Rosa Parks decided one day that she was too tired to stand for a white passenger on the bus home and from this simple action of standing up for herself by sitting down, great changes occurred. One student stopping a tank in Tiananmen Square with a flower in his hand fed tremendous change in China. Sometimes it is the simplest action. And to act doesn’t mean that you have to create huge sweeping change. I am fond of saying that we need to keep changing the world incrementally, one day at a time. Bobby Kennedy said this far more eloquently when he said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Whether it is to join in a local activity, to get involved with some interest group, or to help your fellow students, get involved. To quote Harry Chapin, again, he once said, “When in Doubt, Do Something.”
This is a wonderful time to be in college. These are challenging times. Microsoft’s Bill Gates calls this the “Decade of Velocity”. We see changes in technology and science on an almost daily basis. The speed of this change is accelerating, and some of those changes are monumental. For example, we have hopes through stem cell therapies that we can cure diseases previously thought incurable. Through nanotechnology, machines are getting smaller and more intuitive. But through new technologies and scientific discoveries, we are also making life more complicated. How do we react towards our global neighbors in a global economy? How do we provide meaningful jobs? How do we deal with new issues of ethics brought about by new treatments involving genetics and stem cells? What we do with this technology and how we use it to change society depends on those of you who get involved to make those changes. Soon, it will no longer be up to me to make these decisions, but you will be the ones that will have to take on these tasks.
Let me end by going back to Harry Chapin. I met Harry in Williamstown one night in the mid seventies after a concert. A few friends and I walked into a local restaurant for dinner and he was at the bar. We stopped and said hi, and he graciously asked us to sit down. We ended up in a long conversation that is memorable to this day. Harry Chapin wasn’t just a musician, but also believed in the music that he sang. He started something called World Hunger Year (WHY), a non-profit organization that has been dedicated to wiping out hunger and poverty at the grass roots level since 1975. Every day they work with over 5,000 organizations on the grass roots level community by community to bring self-help programs to those in need. Every day, they create miracles for thousands of people. And they do it all at the local level. He didn’t just sing about this, he lived the life.
Back to his song, “Remember When the Music”, Harry sang,
“ And I feel that something's coming, and it's not just in the wind.
It's more than just tomorrow, it's more than where we've been,
It offers me a promise, it's telling me "Begin",
I know we're needing something worth believing in.”
He lived that life and 25 years after his death he is still making a difference. We lived that life and we sang and have helped change people’s lives for the better. And that is something worth believing in. Class of 2010, will you try to change things with the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas? Now it’s your turn to sing, and your voice lessons start with your first class tomorrow. Good luck. I wish you the very best success here at MCLA. Again, I want to thank you for this opportunity. And in closing, let me say, Svegli l’amico, Il discorso finito!
Thank you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comments on net neutrality

Considering the recent ruling on net neutrality by the FCC, I thought that I would publish my testimony before the FCC from February of 2008. This was a hearing held in Cambridge as as they began looking at this issue.

It seems that the same issues guided their ruling. They were torn between the need for greater bandwidth, and the need to keep the internet usable for everyone. This is only the beginning of this issue. They will have to come back to it again and again as we continue to evolve technologically.

Representative Daniel E. Bosley
House Chairman
Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies
Rm 42, State House, Boston, Ma.

FCC Public En Banc Hearing on Broadband Network Management Practices

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to participate in this hearing today. Broadband, particularly as it pertains to our economic development efforts in Massachusetts has been a focal point of my committee over the past few years. My district, the First Berkshire District, is a more rural part of the Commonwealth and our efforts to create jobs has been hampered by the inability to bring broadband to many of the communities of western Massachusetts.

For the record, I was the House Chair of the Government Regulations Committee for over ten years. This was the committee that heard all of our public utility legislation. For the last three plus years, I have been the Chair of the Economic Development and Emerging Technology Committee. More than that, I have been working for better telecommunication services in my district and throughout the state for all 22 years in the Legislature. Nineteen years ago I was an intervener in the first major rate case in telephony in many years. I took our Public Utilities Commission to the SJC in 1991 suing over rulings regarding rates and expansion of calling areas. In 1995, I was able to fund a Western Massachusetts initiative that became Berkshire Connect, a collaborative partnership formed to improve our county’s telecommunication system and Internet services.

In a $347 million economic development bill that I co-authored 2 years ago, I inserted a section creating an office of Broadband Director in our Economic Development Secretariat. The directive for that office included working on broadband expansion and this year, our Governor, Governor Patrick filed a bill to commit $25 million towards making Broadband ubiquitous in the Commonwealth.

I have made such an effort because the Internet has changed the way we conduct our business in the US, and it has changed our way of life. When I was first elected, I had one telephone number. Today I have eleven, I think. In those twenty-two years we have fundamentally changed our conduct based on new technologies. Without access to those technologies, we fall far behind other regions and other nations in our ability to create jobs and conduct commerce. I am here today to say that I support the efforts to craft some form of net neutrality legislation as a way of keeping the Internet vibrant, vital, and innovative. Without net neutrality, things such as Berkshire Connect would not happen and innovation will be stifled. Obviously, while my focus as a legislator has been on the business aspects of broadband, it is a much larger issue than just commerce. Broadband is dramatically changing the way we educate our children and treat our sick. In fact, in 1996, I was in a small town in Russia advising the region on how to set up unemployment systems. I had occasion to talk to a group of students from the Pskov Polytechnic Institute. I asked these students what brought about democratic changes to Russia and they immediately answered that the Internet was responsible. The government could no longer control the information that people received. The internet is a powerful influence in every facet of our lives today.

Mr. Chairman, in my ten years as Chairman of the Government Regulation Committee, I have seen many initiatives that were designed to advantage one company or another. These things include Reciprocal Compensation, Franchise Fee fights, open access or open documents, right of way fees and ownership as well as bandwidth and frequency issues. The discussions and deliberations over these issues have all been made from two very different perspectives. Businesses such as the Bells or Cable companies have a responsibility to their shareholders and want to profit from any expansion that they invest in. They argue for little government interference and the right to build out their networks as they see fit. Internet and smaller or start up companies want unlimited cheap access to the largest available customer base. They can argue as they see fit. On both sides it is their responsibility to argue the best possible policy for their companies or constituency. It is our responsibility in government to be the arbiters of what is good policy for our citizens.

There have been cases where Internet providers have slowed access or in a isolated cases to this point, denied access to certain sites. I know that they argue that they are doing so in order to ensure that they will be able to service customers and that it is not discrimination on their parts to do so, but good business practices. They also argue that they should have the right to tier their services or charge premiums for some sites especially those that use more bandwidth. I think they are wrong for several reasons. First, you can’t argue that you are not restricting access and then argue that you have that right. They have to pick one argument or the other. Both can’t be right. Second, millions in this country access the Internet at any one time. We cannot allow a few large companies to pick and choose what people should have access to. Tiering services creates the kind of stratification in our society that we are trying to get rid of and further restricts access to services and companies. The issue of tiered services reminds me of the issue of slotting for space in supermarkets. In any large supermarket, there are tens of thousands of different products. In order to ensure premium exposure some enterprising company offered to pay the supermarket for product placement. This is a good marketing strategy. However, today almost all firms are charged a slotting fee in order to get their product anywhere on the shelf. Small firms fall by the wayside and firms that could be major market players, or may have better products are prohibited from participating in the market. Many think this has thwarted competition and customer choice. What started out as an economic and marketing tactic has lead to a stifling of competition and only the wealthy companies can compete. Today, Food producers are routinely charged thousands of dollars for shelf space and even more money if they then want their product advertised or promoted. The markets use the same argument that is used by large Internet providers. If we don’t charge the users of shelf space, we will have to charge customers more for the goods we sell. Or if we can’t produce this revenue, we will have to limit our size and we can’t provide the services needed. I would submit that we should let customers decide which goods they want and let competition keep costs down.

Enough about supermarkets. If we want a truly innovative Internet, we need to make sure it is nondiscriminatory. That is my definition of net neutrality. The large providers will tell us that in order to provide services they must have some leeway in deciding what to slow down or they reserve the right to tier services so that people will pay for more excessive use of bandwidth. The question is, who decides what is excessive use? Is it the 50th Youtube video of people tasering one another? Is it the 100th video of people using Mentos and Coca Cola to create an explosion? Or is it a fringe political group? Or how about a group of social activists? How about such as the views of a black minister who was sick of discrimination and wants to become active in his community? If firms could prohibit some users and the Internet was in effect at the time, would the Reverend Dr. King get his website published or would it be excessive use to go to the website of a small town activist preacher? Would Google become a leader today used by millions if it couldn’t pass muster on start up as worthy of placing in an affordable tiered service. The answer is we need all of these sites if the Internet is to be truly nondiscriminatory and ubiquitous. Let users decide what they should open and download. That said, there should be some small exceptions. Providers should be able to remove viruses and viral sites as well as be able to remove or restrict sites that demonstrate a clearly defined public safety danger.

Lastly on this, providers claim that competition will keep them affordable and keep most websites in service supposes that there is enough competition to achieve this. This is just not so. In many places there is one provider. Some small providers try to compete by reselling services, but that leaves them subject to the whim and the bandwidth of the large providers. That doesn’t solve the problem. We must keep the Internet open and free from a few deciding what we can or can’t open and/or download.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, the issue is not content, it is capacity. And here the large providers have a point. The chairman of Cisco Systems has said that in one day, Youtube sends data equivalent to 75 billion emails. This is a problem and we need to keep up with expansion if we are to continue to expand the content and knowledge found on the Internet. I would make two suggestions. First, by keeping the Internet open and nondiscriminatory, we will continue to witness the kinds of innovation that has kept up with market demand for many. DSL was an innovation that allowed us to receive higher speed Internet over old twisted copper wires. Today people are looking at VPN or P4P in order to work within the existing system. Innovators are working to make packets smaller with new compression techniques. As long as they can participate in an open system, creative individuals and companies will find innovative ways to adapt and achieve more service within our existing system.

Second, we need a national broadband plan. Business claim that they have to maintain the right to make bandwidth decisions is a perverse incentive that allows them to maximize profits by keeping the system restricted. There is no incentive for them to expand capacity as supply drops demand and price. Yet, this system is as important to us as deployment of universal voice was in its time. Government must step in with a plan and with money to build out our systems, and not just to keep up with demand, but also to increase our average US speed in order to compete in the global marketplace. We are falling behind other countries in our ability to conduct business at maximum speeds. Japan is ten times faster than our speeds and others, such as Korea, France, and Singapore to name a few are leapfrogging over our aging infrastructure . Today Japan has fiber to the home in 80 percent of their households. We need to act to compete. We need a national plan to achieve universal coverage and to increase speed to 100MBpS. We need fiber to the house. A.T. & T’s stated policy is fiber to the neighborhood node, while Qwest hasn’t even committed to that penetration! This may be good for their shareholders but it is disastrous for our long-term needs. We need more long term planning and planning that takes into account our national needs and not just short-term profit margins. There is nothing wrong with making a profit and certainly these companies have a responsibility to their bottom line. But we have a national need that we need to address that transcends any one companies’ corporate strategy. While we have been trying to devise a plan in Massachusetts and other states, such as New York in the planning stages or Kentucky has implemented are increasing coverage on a state by state basis, we are the only industrialized nation in the world without a national broadband strategy. The Brookings Institute has said that widespread increased coverage of high-speed broadband would immediately add hundreds of millions to our economy and over 1.2 million jobs per year. This is too important and too expensive to presume that large companies will do this by themselves. I read recently that the large North American providers invested $70 billion in infrastructure last year alone. But at the end of the day, they have invested where they think they can make the most profit and investment is uneven. Verizon alone has spent hundreds of millions in Massachusetts over the last few years, and yet one third of Western Massachusetts has little or no access to Broadband, and those that do are at much lower speeds than are necessary to be competitive in today’s marketplace. Just as Massachusetts is poised to commit $25 million or more to broadband development, other states and the federal government need to work together to develop a national strategy. This is critical. We should be partners with companies to build a strong competitive market in order to keep up with demand, negate the argument for discrimination in use of bandwidth, lower costs to international levels, and provide the strong business network we need to compete with in today’s global economy.

Thank you and I look forward to questions after the entire panel has spoken.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

I haven't posted lately and feel bad about that. There are things I am working on and need to write about, but it is the holiday season. I went to the lighting of the menorah at the State House last week (on the fourth day. I guess the political calendar dictated that but it worked out fine because Rabbi lit the initial candle, then the Governor, Senate President and the Speaker lit a candle, so it worked out.)The children who sang were wonderful, and each constitutional officer spoke also. (I am going to miss Joe DeNucci.)

So here it is Christmas Eve and I am home, having finished my shopping and every present is wrapped, with big thanks to my daughter Stephanie. Tonight is traditionally with my family and we are headed to my sister's house. Tomorrow, we are home and at my wife's aunt Pat's house. It will be nice to see everyone and spend the day relaxing with relatives.

There are many problems in this world, in our country and in our state today. We still have many people unemployed and we struggle to create jobs. Our budgets aren't healthy enough to satisfy everyone's needs, and we are mired in a quagmire in Afghanistan. But if there is one universal theme in our stories of the holidays, it is a theme of redemption and hope. Whether it is a lamp that burns brightly for eight days on one day’s oil, or a star that burns brightly lighting the way to Nazareth, the holidays remind us that the human experience is one of rising above our adversities. Whether it is a band of brothers or one person with disciples, our collective religions tell us that miracles do happen if we have hope and faith and work together towards a higher goal of peace and brotherhood.

On this holiday, despite the news on Fox News or CNN, I will take comfort in my friends and family, renewed by the spirit of the holidays and its story of hope and faith. My wish on this Christmas eve is that we remember this spirit and use it to guide us the day after and the next day and that day after that. Here's to all of you on this Christmas Eve. I wish you all the best of holidays, and the merriest of new years.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Capuano For US Senator

The race to elect a successor to Senator Ted Kennedy holds its primary election on December 8. I am urging everyone to vote for Congressman Mike Capuano. I do not do this lightly. This is a decision that marks the first chance to vote for someone other than Ted Kennedy in 47 years. And Ted Kennedy was so important for our area and our state that we need to ensure the best person is elected to take his place and carry on the tradition passionately advocating for the people in the Commonwealth. I believe that the best person for this job is Mike Capuano. He has the passion, energy, intelligence, and voting record that make him a worthy successor to Kennedy.

We have been faced with a population that has not kept up with the US population growth. We have lost Congressmen in the past during redistricting and we face the prospect of losing another. That means we must fight even harder to make sure that the northeast and Massachusetts in particular continues to get our fair share of government programs. It means that we need to fight harder to shape national policy. Mike Capuano has proven that he is a fighter.

A few people have come up to me in the Berkshires asking why I am not supporting the “hometown” candidate. One letter writer has called me a turncoat for not advocating for the Berkshire candidate. I take exception to that. First, Coakley hasn’t lived in the Berkshires for thirty years. When she ran for state representative and district attorney, she stated she was from Dorchester. In my mind it is far more important to elect the best person based on credentials rather than gender, relationship, or where they lived thirty years ago.

I like Martha Coakley. I campaigned and voted for her as Attorney General. However, I have to judge her based on my interactions with her office. I have a list of five different issues that I have either spoken to her or her office about over the last three years. None have been acted on. A few, like gas pricing hearings to find out why we pay higher prices in the Berkshires as opposed to areas like Phillipston-Templeton; or why we can’t provide a list of companies raising charitable funds with how much goes to the charity as opposed to the paid fundraiser, have statewide implications. Yet, I have been told there is nothing we can do on my concerns or there has been no response.

I would however, like to be very clear. My vote is not against another candidate, but because I believe that Mike Capuano is clearly the best choice. Mike Capuano has always answered my phone calls. I called his office recently over the Financial Stability bill to advocate for some amendments that would help small communities. His staff was responsive, knowledgeable, and ready to work on my concerns. He is familiar with our area and always discusses the Berkshires with a knowledge that most from his side of the state don’t have.

And he has a record he can be proud of. He became the Mayor of Somerville and cleaned the city up. As Mayor, he was a respected leader advocating for our cities and towns. That is where I first met Mike. He was at the State House working to secure money for our communities.

Mike has experience in Washington and serves on a couple of committees that have given him experience in areas that we need in Massachusetts. One of the most pressing issues facing us today statewide is transportation. How do we make capital improvements on the MBTA without bankrupting the state? How do we get rid of the backlog of projects necessary to improve our infrastructure? Mike has worked on these. Mike serves on Financial Services and what is more important to our economy than stability and job growth? Mike has experience in foreign affairs and that has become increasingly important for Massachusetts as we try to expand our foreign trade, foreign direct investment, and deal with international companies. How many had the courage to stand up and vote against the Iraq war with Ted Kennedy? Not many, but Mike did. And if that isn’t enough, he is also the person that was charged as chairman to lead a Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement.

Add all this together and you get a hard working passionate representative that I would be proud to have as my Senator. I hope you look at all the candidates and examine their records. They are all decent people who want to serve you. But the person with the most experience is Mike Capuano. I hope you agree and vote for Mike on December 8.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Basic Research

There is a great op-ed piece today in the Boston Globe over something I have been writing about for a number of months. This piece written by Robert Weisman is titled Business Intelligence and can be found here:

The article states that we have little basic research in the US as compared to the past and that hampers our abilities to create new industries and new inventions or innovations. While our life science success in Massachusetts has been very good, it has masked this lack of basic research that we used to do in abundance. In a state that relies on innovation and creativity in our economy as much as Massachusetts does, it is critical that we return to our roots, tend our knitting, begin at home or any other worn but true cliché you can come up with.

The articles about Evergreen Solar in the Globe over the past few days detail the problem with picking winners and losers in our economy. I hope that Evergreen does well and becomes a leading company in Massachusetts, but we need to take precious state resources and put them in areas where all businesses can take advantage of them. We need to maximize our resources and let the market decide what is the next technology or invention. If I were king of the Forest, I would have used the stimulus money to launch a new economy rather than bail out the old. I would have called it “Retool America” and we would invest in job training, basic research along with the renewed emphasis on science and math in our schools. I would prepare industrial sites, manage our water and electric systems better and new equipment for our voke-tech schools.

A few years ago, I was in Mexico visiting companies along with other state officials including then Gov. Mike Huckabee from Arkansas. One of our fellow travelers told the companies in Mexico that they believe that Mexico took our jobs in the US after NAFTA was enacted. The companies replied that this wasn’t true and went on to defend their roles. However, they then bemoaned the fact that they were losing jobs and market to companies in China! Last year, I was in China in October to speak at a large tech conference. In meetings with Chinese officials, they told me they were losing jobs to Vietnam and Thailand because labor was cheaper. My point is this: We are never going to be the cheapest labor in the US. However, we can use our strengths in innovation and education to create new good paying jobs in new areas. We need to stay one step ahead of the competition on this and that means basic research to create new businesses.