Michael Hartwell of Sentinel & Enterprise is a liar

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a liar.

I’ve written about Michael Hartwell in the past. My initial criticism of him was largely confined to the fact that he uses a poor writing style to avoid answering tough questions. That might be fine for a regular journalist, but Hartwell acts as little more than a common pundit who feigns a neutral position. As such, he has put himself in a place where the onus is on him to defend his writings. (Armchair Psychology Alert: I think he enjoys the respect that comes from making people think he’s fair-minded. He isn’t particularly interested in uncovering respect for actual ideas, in part, because doing so would expose the fact that he’s just another ideologue.) In short, he is not a reputable source for objective information, but I can see how he could appeal to a Republican audience – people like to have their biases confirmed.

Unfortunately, Michael Hartwell of Sentinel & Enterprise isn’t merely a bad journalist. He is also a liar. In a post about the Nazi-run economy of 1930’s and ’40’s Germany, Hartwell says this:

Over and over again I find myself clarifying that fascism and Nazism were sister movements to socialism and communism. This runs counter to the cheap political trick where modern capitalist-loving right wing movements are likened to Hitler and his followers.

Hartwell then spends more than the next 10 paragraphs describing how socialism was the mindset behind Nazism and the Nazi economy. Once done, he says this:

If younger generations fundamentally misunderstand the driving force behind evil mindsets like Nazism, then they will be completely vulnerable if it comes back again, striking not with mere hate but with false promises of prosperity.

In other words, he just hates those “cheap political tricks” where people try to tarnish something by associating it with Hitler and Nazis. But, oh yeah. Socialism is nothing but associated with Hitler and Nazis. Hell, it drove Nazism. (Sorry, racism and nationalism! Maybe next time!)

Of course, none of this is particularly notable as far as lies go. After all, in the words of Hartwell, it’s not much more than a cheap political trick. Perhaps we can just file this one under “Ironic rhetoric”? Except it gets better:

Fascism was indeed a form of socialism on a national scale instead of as an international movement…

Fascism economic policies that were put into place include the strict control of all businesses, such as telling them what to produce, and setting of prices. Those that violated these rules were nationalized. The execution of German invalids was defended as saving resources for the fit Germans. The amount of control over individuals daily lives was staggering.

Emphasis mine.

Either no one ever taught Hartwell about the importance of topic sentences or he was just overtly implying that socialism led to the murder of retarded individuals. Let’s just link his words together in way which perfectly and honestly reflects what he said: Fascism is a form of socialism that led to Germans executing “invalids”. (He even gets cute and uses the politically correct language for the 1930’s.)

But now here’s the question: Will Hartwell own up to his claim? Take a wild guess:

No. I was demonstrating fascisms belief in central planning.

And of course the best way to do that is to point to the fact that 1) fascism is a form of socialism and 2) fascism led to the murder of “invalids”. What!? How is that dishonest!?

Give me a break.

If Michael Hartwell wants to blog up a storm of right-leaning tripe, that’s fine. It doesn’t bother me that he thinks a series a declarations and a handful of links makes an argument. However, it all becomes an issue when he runs away from points and even resorts to (overt) lying. Moreover, I think it’s an issue when his goal is to present his blog as a good source of journalism, something to which potential employers can look as a piece of his resume. That is why his (publicly listed) place of employment has been included in the title of this post. I think journalism in the United States is already quite awful. I’d rather not see it get any worse.

Catholic bigots harm child’s education

A child in Massachusetts was set to attend school at St. Paul Elementary School, but the sexually immature chief bigots, Rev. James Rafferty and Principal Cynthia Duggan, rescinded their acceptance of this new student because his mother is a lesbian. But in a surprising move, another sexually immature Catholic leader has stepped up to the plate in an attempt to quell the flaming bigotry.

The head of education for the Boston Archdiocese offered Thursday to help find a different Catholic school for a boy denied acceptance at a Hingham Catholic school because his parents are gay.

In a statement, superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neill said she spoke with a parent of the 8-year-old boy and “offered to help enroll her child in another Catholic school in the archdiocese.”

“We believe that every parent who wishes to send their child to a Catholic school should have the opportunity to pursue that dream,” O’Neill said.

Insofar as someone has a “dream” involving Freddy Krueger, sure that’s a dream.

This is surprising on a couple levels. First, I attended a Catholic school – which, incidentally, offered an excellent education bar the religion – and I vividly recall being told on multiple occasions that any and all students were welcome. The specific examples given were students of different religions, but it was a blanket statement we were being given, so I presume someone having a gay parent would have been just as irrelevant. Of course, this is New England, the place where bigotry tends to be less prevalent. Second, the Catholic church is against all sorts of random junk. No meat on Good Friday, no divorce, no birth control – plenty of parents go against all these haphazard (sometime irresponsible) teachings of the church. It is only the overwhelming sexual immaturity of these Christians which can explain the pointed bigotry towards gays. It’s disgusting.

While it looks like a new, clear policy is going to come from the Boston archdiocese which does not arbitrarily discriminate, that isn’t the case in another recent act of shame.

The Massachusetts case is similar to a decision by a Catholic school in Boulder, Colo., the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which said two children of lesbian parents could not re-enroll because of their parents’ sexual orientation. The Denver Archdiocese backed the school’s decision.

Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Allow fewer and fewer children to be polluted with the mind virus of religion while growing animosity towards an already battered institution? Sure.

Maine Freedom of Information Access Act

There is a law in Maine similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act. It allows the public to access information that is produced through government agencies (with notable exceptions). Many states have similar laws on the books, all varying in one manner or another. One of these states is Massachusetts. Recently, the Boston Globe used the act in order to obtain the disciplinary record of asshat trooper Michael Galluccio. This gave me an idea.

I am currently taking a journalism class because I was too slow at signing up for the classes I actually wanted (though I am enjoying this class). One of my assignments is to obtain information using Maine’s FOIA. Until I saw the Galluccio story, I was at a loss of what to do. However, with the knowledge that disciplinary records are public information in one state, I decided to pursue the record of a particular officer at the Augusta Police Department in hopes that Maine law is sufficiently similar.

Backstory: Sometime ago in high school I got a parking ticket. I was parked at the end of a series of spaces where there were yellow diagonal lines. Clearly, I was illegally parked. I do not dispute that. However, on the ticket the officer wrote “sidewalk”, indicating that the reasoning for the ticket was that I was parked on the nearby sidewalk. This was not the case. 1) Those yellow lines would not extend to a public sidewalk. 2) I went to City Hall and obtained a property blueprint for my school. It was clear that I was not on the sidewalk. I brought this to the attention of several officers, including the one who issued the ticket. Of course, they refused to admit they were wrong. It would be one thing to give me a ticket I technically deserved. Unfortunately, what they did is issue me a ticket for an offense I did not commit. It would be like arresting someone for assault who actually committed theft. The sentence (for the sake of argument) may be roughly the same, but that does not mean that the thief is guilty of something else simply because the result is similar. Just the same, I was never guilty of parking on a sidewalk. The ticket is bunk.

So fast forward to my journalism class and the Globe article and I’ve got my idea. I am going to get the disciplinary record of the officer who issued me the incorrect ticket. I make out a FOIA letter (which is a courtesy, not a required form) and head on down to the APD. I am told by Lt. J. Christopher Read that personnel files are not public information. Bummer, right? Possibly. I follow this up with a call to the Globe. They say he is almost certainly wrong. I then also ask my instructor. She says basically the same thing. I go the next necessary step and find the exact wording in the act.

Personnel records pertaining to municipal, county, and state employees are for the most part confidential. For example, complaints, charges or accusations of misconduct, replies to those complaints, charges or accusations and any other information or materials that may result in disciplinary action are confidential. However, if disciplinary action is taken, the final written decision relating to that action is no longer confidential after the decision is completed if it imposes or upholds discipline.

It is clear. If a state employee is disciplined and there is a final written decision, it is public information. I am entitled to it. Now armed with this information, I make some corrections. First, I obtain the name of the offending officer. I originally only knew him as Officer 135. I now know his name is Richard Dubois. I also change my timeframe. I originally asked for all records dating to January 2001. I figured that covered a couple of years prior to my ticket and it also wasn’t so much as to be a pain in the butt. Because I was given incorrect information, however, I have updated my timeframe to date to either 1990 or Richard Dubois’ date of hiring; if they’re going to make me do extra work, I’m going to return the favor.

I bring my updated information back to the APD and speak with Lt. Read again. I present my new letter and read, verbatim, the part of the act I have bolded above. He tells me personnel files are off limits. I again inform him that the exception is when disciplinary action is taken. He tells me that is simply my interpretation and he has been “at this for 20 years”. In other words, the explicit text that says “if disciplinary action is taken, the final written decision relating to that action is no longer confidential” can be interpreted to mean something other than, well, that final written decisions related to disciplinary action are not confidential. One wonders what Lt. Read thinks it means. I guess 20 years on the job gives a person super special reading skills and insights. Or it makes them stubborn. Draw your own conclusion.

After it has become clear that Lt. Read is not going to give me the information to which I have a law-given right, I inform him that he needs to give me a written response within 5 business days because the law clearly states that to be the case. He says – and I quote – “I’m not going to do that.” I then ask him if he is aware that there is a $500 fine associated with violating the act and he says “That’s fine.” I presume that is code for “I acknowledge the fact you have just told me, but I do not want to admit that I am ignorant of a tremendous amount of this law.” I then ask Lt. Read if he wants a copy of my letter. My intention here is quite kind, if I do flatter myself: the man is wrong and I know he is wrong. If he checks with other supervisors or simply reads the law, he may realize this. Without my letter, he will not be able to contact me and will thus be forced into violating the law. He says he does not want it. I inform him that I have an identical letter addressed to the City Manager, William Bridgeo.

Once I leave, I head over to City Hall. Mr. Bridgeo was in a meeting but I gave all this information to the clerk/secretary/whathaveyou in the office. She asks for the name of the officer who refused to give a written response, makes copies of my letters along with my excerpt of the act, and tells me that, yes, a written response is required. (She said 10 days, but seemed unsure and soon qualified that it may depend on the information requested. At any rate, a written response is required.)

Further information: I originally saw Lt. Read on Monday, March 9, 2009. I saw him next, new letter (and different dates) in hand on Wednesday, March 11, 2009. He has 5 (or 10) business days to give me a written response to my first request. The second request is being handled by a more responsible entity.

Lt. J. Christopher Read of the Augusta Police Department in Augusta, Maine

Lt. J. Christopher Read of the Augusta Police Department in Augusta, Maine

Troopergate resolved

Asshole trooper Michael Galluccio‘s ticket to a man trying to get his pregnant wife to the hospital has been tossed out. Of course, someone had to keep internalizing the rules.

Even after John Davis appealed the $100 ticket and a Cambridge clerk magistrate tossed it out, the department refused to give up. A lawyer for the State Police challenged the clerk magistrate’s decision and appealed late last month to restore the ticket. A hearing was scheduled before a Cambridge District Court judge March 18.

Davis’s attorney, David Lucas, said that in a dozen years, he’d never seen the State Police appeal a traffic ticket. He couldn’t quite believe the department’s prosecutor was going to pursue one against a woman in labor.

“When I asked, ‘Are you sure the State Police want to be on record as appealing this?’ what he said was, “I just wouldn’t have any credibility if I did not appeal this,’ ” Lucas said.

Right, well, the law is black and white. Just like reality. There are no shades of gray in life. If the State Police want any credibility they need to internalize rules. It makes sense. It’s basically their job to forgo reasoning for the sake of snap judgements based upon internalization. It works a lot of the time because that internalization happens to coincide with actual reasoning, but it’s still a huge fallacy. So it comes as no surprise that the police didn’t drop the appeal based upon any worthwhile reason.

But within an hour and a half of being contacted by the Globe, the State Police dropped the case. State Police Colonel Mark F. Delaney “immediately ordered it to be rescinded,” Procopio said.

The media was ready to pounce on this. That’s the only ‘reason’ the appeal was dropped. It was PR, pure and simple. The police don’t care that none of asshole trooper Michael Galluccio’s actions made any sense. It’s that they didn’t want a big PR flap over a $100 ticket.

He also said state troopers are expected to make judgment calls all the time. “We understand that there may be a backlash to that,” said Procopio. “That goes with the territory, and we understand that. That said, we make the calls based on public safety and the interest of justice – and not public opinion.”

And now the department spokesman is lying. He’s a fucking liar. There’s really no sugar-coating this one. The department makes a move that is blatantly motivated by public opinion and then goes on to say that the police simply do not do that. Rescinding the appeal after discovering the Globe is doing a follow-up? Nah, they just filled out the wrong form, said the wrong words, and slipped up with the wrong intentions. All an honest mistake.

Fuck these people.

Good news for Maine

A recent Gallup poll “asked representative samples in 143 countries and territories whether religion was an important part of their daily lives.” The United States, despite the religiously-driven anti-science movement, does not rank as having an especially high number of individuals who say religion is an important part of their lives. For all the countries surveyed, the median response was 82%. The U.S. came in at 65%.

This does not mean the U.S. is unreligious. The interesting thing about this survey is that it is strongly correlated with poverty. In nations where poverty is higher, so is the rate of positive respondents to the poll. That is, poor people cling to their religion. It makes sense that someone who has lost hope, or at least been placed in the dismal position of being desperately poor, would turn to mysticism as a last resort. Of course, this has not helped the people of Sri Lanka or Eygpt gain much wealth. Religion simply isn’t the helpful. In fact, it isn’t really helpful at all.

So what’s rather shocking, at least statistically, about this poll is America’s amount of wealth and rate of religiosity.

Social scientists have noted that one thing that makes Americans distinctive is our high level of religiosity relative to other rich-world populations. Among 27 countries commonly seen as part of the developed world, the median proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is just 38%. From this perspective, the fact two-thirds of Americans respond this way makes us look extremely devout.

Of course, the obvious point to be made is that this seems to directly contradict the issue of correlation. In fact, it does not. This is because as poverty increases by state, so does religosity. Alabama, the slack-jawed center of the South, comes in at 82% answering positively. Mississippi, the well-established cesspool of stupidity, Mr. 50 in Everything Bad, as it were, comes in a smidge higher than the worldwide median, at 85%. These two poverty-rich states are roughly equal to Iran with their rate of response.

It should be of little surprise, then, that all six states of New England fill out the top ten. In fact, the top four are, in order, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Tending toward less general poverty, these states also tend toward less religiosity. Of course, it’s important to also consider the more liberal, more moral, less evil leanings in this area as well. Such people – the ones concerned with reality – often have a liberal bias. Freed from the shackles of sheepdom as wrought by religion, these states have generally better standards of living and education. No big news there.

Trooper update

Recall the mindless robot trooper from Mass? Here’s a little more information on the situation…not to mention his name – Trooper Michael Galluccio

Jennifer Davis was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Nov. 18, her contractions just 3 minutes apart. Her husband, John, was trying to appear calm for his wife’s sake, driving in the breakdown lane of Route 2. They pulled up behind a state trooper to ask whether they could continue using the lane to reach the next exit, near Alewife Station.

Not only did the trooper say no, he gave them a $100 citation for driving in the breakdown lane, made them wait for their citation while he finished writing someone else’s ticket, and even seemed to ask for proof of pregnancy, Jennifer Davis said.

First of all, it should be pointed out that the first two officers, as mentioned in my first post and the above link, should have either stopped the couple and called for an ambulance or they should have given an escort. Second, the third trooper – Michael Galluccio should have done the same, but since he’s a mindless robot, he should be suspended for delaying transport to a hospital in a serious medical situation. He isn’t simply heartless. He violated the law, his duties, and all common sense.

Mass state trooper is a mindless robot

A state trooper in Boston issued a citation to a man for using the breakdown/emergency lane to get his pregnant wifewhose contractions were 3 minutes apartto the hospital.

The couple said two state troopers allowed them to use the lane, but when they ran into a third, he refused to cut them any slack on their way to Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge.

According to the couple, the trooper had the couple wait while he gave a citation to another driver and then gave John an envelope and told him he would be getting something in the mail.

They received a $100 ticket about two weeks later.

Jennifer also said the trooper made her feel as though she needed to prove that she was pregnant.

“He came over and said ‘What’s under your jacket?’And so I said ‘My belly.’ And he waited and was just kind of looking at me, so I took that to assume he wanted me to open up my jacket. And I did,” Jennifer said.

Their daughter Charlotte Jane was born hours later in the hospital

The couple plans to appeal the ticket.

A spokesman for the State Police said the trooper was using his discretion in following the breakdown lane law. If the Davis family decides to file a formal complain the incident will be reviewed.

There is a serious epidemic – and it’s encouraged in the media, schools, and workplace – to mindlessly follow the rules. We are told that the rules are there for a reason and we must obey them until they change.

It’s malarkey.

The rule is absolutely never important. It is the reason for the rule that matters. We should never simply do something (or not do something, as the case may be) because one person or one group of people arbitrarily place some sort of restriction on a situation. We should question the precise reasoning for these rules. This state trooper was not doing that at all. He saw what he thought was an illegal act and issued a citation. His basis was the rule, not the reasoning. He may get a promotion for being a good robot, but he isn’t advancing anywhere in the logic department.

I’m not sure what Mass law is precisely, but it would seem reasonable that the side lane is not simply for cars which have broken down, but also for emergencies, no? Assuming that is the case, the trooper actually failed at being a robot, too. The couple was in an emergency situation – in Boston traffic, no less. That would seem to justify their use of the lane from a simple legal standpoint, provided Mass calls it an “emergency lane” in some respect.

At any rate, this trooper should be ashamed of himself. The ticket should be revoked, an apology issued, and at least a one-day suspension handed down – not to mention a congratulations given to Jennifer and John Davis for the safe birth of their little girl, Charlotte Jane Davis, despite the efforts of this unnamed trooper.

Vermont rated healthiest state; Maine 9th

Vermont tops states in health, Louisiana ranks last.

It was the second straight year that Vermont topped the rankings. It was followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Idaho and Maine.

Louisiana fell from 49th to 50th, replacing Mississippi. Rounding out the bottom 10 were South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nevada and Georgia.

California, the most populous state, ranked 24th and New York 25th.

Vermont, with the second smallest population of any state, had the third-highest public health spending and an obesity rate of 22 percent, four points below the national average.

It also had low child poverty and violent crime, a large number of doctors per capita and good high school graduation rates.

Hawaii had similarly low obesity, the highest public health spending, little air pollution, low rates of uninsured people, a low rate of preventable hospitalizations and low rates of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Mississippi led the nation in obesity at 33 percent of the population, while Colorado was lowest at 19 percent.

22% is the obesity rate in the healthiest state. That’s absolutely absurd. But let’s keep outspending every nation combined on our military. Health certainly isn’t relevant or important to life.

By the way, is it any surprise the South makes up the whole of the bottom 10?

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