Saturday, June 30, 2012

Things best not to say to cops (or anyone, really)

Pulling the occasional weekend duty at The Providence Journal required me to check the overnight police reports in the Capital City. Always interesting, reading the first-hand narratives of incidents and arrests that officers have written -- they often quote offenders, and their reports really constitute stories. Here are two cases where arresting officers tried reason, but were met with drunken anger. I quote:

-- Offender One, a woman.
"I don't give a f***. F*** that. These cops are a*******."

They also have handcuffs...

-- Offender Two, a man.
"You guys are a bunch of dicks, I don't have to go, f*** this."

Oh, yes, you do...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

President Obama's remarks on the Supreme Court's ruling on healthcare

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                                                                                           June 28, 2012


East Room

12:15 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon.  Earlier today, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act -- the name of the health care reform we passed two years ago.  In doing so, they've reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America -- in the wealthiest nation on Earth – no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin. 

I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this, about who won and who lost.  That’s how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington.  But that discussion completely misses the point.  Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.

And because this law has a direct impact on so many Americans, I want to take this opportunity to talk about exactly what it means for you. 

First, if you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance -- this law will only make it more secure and more affordable.  Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive.  They can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions.  They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick.  They can no longer jack up your premiums without reason.  They are required to provide free preventive care like check-ups and mammograms -- a provision that's already helped 54 million Americans with private insurance.  And by this August, nearly 13 million of you will receive a rebate from your insurance company because it spent too much on things like administrative costs and CEO bonuses, and not enough on your health care. 

There’s more.  Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parent's health care plans -- a provision that's already helped 6 million young Americans.  And because of the Affordable Care Act, seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs -- a discount that's already saved more than 5 million seniors on Medicare about $600 each.

All of this is happening because of the Affordable Care Act. These provisions provide common-sense protections for middle class families, and they enjoy broad popular support.  And thanks to today’s decision, all of these benefits and protections will continue for Americans who already have health insurance.   

Now, if you’re one of the 30 million Americans who don’t yet have health insurance, starting in 2014 this law will offer you an array of quality, affordable, private health insurance plans to choose from.  Each state will take the lead in designing their own menu of options, and if states can come up with even better ways of covering more people at the same quality and cost, this law allows them to do that, too.  And I’ve asked Congress to help speed up that process, and give states this flexibility in year one. 

Once states set up these health insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against any American with a preexisting health condition.  They won’t be able to charge you more just because you’re a woman.  They won’t be able to bill you into bankruptcy. If you’re sick, you’ll finally have the same chance to get quality, affordable health care as everyone else.  And if you can’t afford the premiums, you'll receive a credit that helps pay for it. 

Today, the Supreme Court also upheld the principle that people who can afford health insurance should take the responsibility to buy health insurance.  This is important for two reasons. 

First, when uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick, and show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums. 

And second, if you ask insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, but don’t require people who can afford it to buy their own insurance, some folks might wait until they’re sick to buy the care they need -- which would also drive up everybody else’s premiums.

That’s why, even though I knew it wouldn’t be politically popular, and resisted the idea when I ran for this office, we ultimately included a provision in the Affordable Care Act that people who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so.  In fact, this idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties, including the current Republican nominee for President.

Still, I know the debate over this law has been divisive.  I respect the very real concerns that millions of Americans have shared.  And I know a lot of coverage through this health care debate has focused on what it means politically. 

Well, it should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics.  I did it because I believed it was good for the country.  I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.

There’s a framed letter that hangs in my office right now.  It was sent to me during the health care debate by a woman named Natoma Canfield.  For years and years, Natoma did everything right.  She bought health insurance.  She paid her premiums on time.  But 18 years ago, Natoma was diagnosed with cancer.  And even though she’d been cancer-free for more than a decade, her insurance company kept jacking up her rates, year after year.  And despite her desire to keep her coverage -- despite her fears that she would get sick again -- she had to surrender her health insurance, and was forced to hang her fortunes on chance. 

I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law.  It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well. 

Natoma is well today.  And because of this law, there are other Americans -- other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers -- who will not have to hang their fortunes on chance.  These are the Americans for whom we passed this law. 

The highest Court in the land has now spoken.  We will continue to implement this law.  And we'll work together to improve on it where we can.  But what we won’t do -- what the country can’t afford to do -- is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were. 

With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward -- to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law.  And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time:  putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead. 

But today, I’m as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward. 

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless America.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Carol Young's book club

Carol on the right, me at head of table, photo by Wayne Coats.
Not often that I make a make a book appearance and am treated to a fine dinner, but that's what happened Monday when I was the guest at Carol Young's book club, which met at her home. Carol is a dear friend of many years, and was a colleague at The Providence Journal for decades before she retired two years ago. I discussed AN UNCOMMON MAN, my biography of Claiborne Pell. The company and evening were the best!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reports of my death...

... have been greatly exaggerated. But there have been reports, most recently last week in Forth Worth, Texas. I must say my trip to heaven was quite interesting. I have sworn not to reveal details, however. Sorry!

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Superman Building," a rare tour

As the next installment in our year-long series Reinvent Rhode Island, The Providence Journal on Sunday, June 17, will publish a story about possible future uses for the iconic "Superman Building," which Bank of America, lone tenant, will vacate by April 2013. We were lucky enough to get a top-to-bottom tour of this historic and intriguing building, which has a storied place in Rhode Island history.

Here are some photos I took. Look for more in The Journal...

The "Superman Building," opened in 1928 as the Industrial Trust Company building, from Kennedy Plaza.

View of the Plaza from atop the building. The three prominent buildings are City Hall, the Biltmore and the Westin.
The view south, toward the head of Narragansett Bay
Door to the fabled "Gondola Room," rarely visited by the public. Many myths have developed regarding what this room was used for. Docking of dirigibles? Private parties for the bank president?
The Gondola Room. design clearly inspired by the passenger compartment of a 1920s blimp. Note the leather and oak appointments...
Custom wine rack.
The lantern at the top of the building is visible for miles at night. Here's the inside of the lantern.
Executive dining room, 26th Floor. No longer used, but furnishings remain.
The executive suite was lavishly furnished. These will all be removed when BofA vacates.
Peregrine falcons nest on the building. Here's a newly hatched chick. There's a webcam for them...
The basement safe has concrete walls thicker than three feet and doors that weigh 17 tons, all steel.
Side view of one of the safe doors. There are four doors. The safe itself is bigger than a house, or so it seemed. We were not allowed in.
Another door, next to a stationery bike, which gives the scale.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Free speech rights, free speech symbol

Exercising their free-speech rights, members of Occupy Providence have set up camp on the sidewalk alongside a four-story symbol of those same rights, The Providence Journal's headquarters in the capitol city's downtown. Behind the signs they have hung from our building is our newsroom. The Occupiers are demonstrating as the netroots convention unfolds across the street, at the Convention Center.

4 p.m. June 7, 2012, The Providence Journal.

A speech at the Convention Center, across from Journal

Zombie Night

Spending the morning watching Providence Journal films as we plan our participation in this summer's Rhode Island International Film Festival. Some great work by many fine filmmakers. Lots of serious and public-service productions, such as COMING HOME, but some are just great fun -- this one, "Zombie Night," by Sandor Bodo, one of our longtime photojournalists.

More of the backlist on Kindle

Amazon is methodically migrating backlisted titles to Kindle. With the addition of MEN AND SPEED, my 2002 book about NASCAR, five of mine are now available on Kindle.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Boston's beautiful Custom House

For a piece I am writing about possible new uses for an iconic building in Rhode Island, I turned for inspiration to Boston, where the venerable Custom House is now a Marriott Resort. They have beautifully restored this building, which was begun in 1837, completed in 1849, and completed with a 496-foot tower in 1915. General manager Willie Nagda graciously gave me and Providence Journal photographer Steve Szydlowski an hour-and-a-half tour. Starting with views from the 26th-story observation deck:

Buildings to the west. Last time I was up here, in college in the 1970s, I used an 8-by-10 b&w camera.
View to north, overlooking Quincy Marketplace. Fanueil Hall in foreground, City Hall to left; TD Garden, home of Celtics and Bruins,  and Zakim Bridge in distance.

To the east, Boston Harbor, Logan Airport in distance.

Guest loft, made from 1840s office space.

The magnificent dome, 163 years old.

Exterior view from Greenway, where hideous Central Artery once stood. The Big Dig buried the highway and opened up acres of park.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

35th N.E. Emmys: No wins, a great evening nonetheless

We were nominated in two categories, but The Providence Journal did not take home an award last night at the 35th New England Emmys, held at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. We congratulate all of the winners. And we were thrilled just to be nominees, watching from directly in front of the stage, at Table 3 with Connecticut Public Television, which won several awards.

Yolanda and me, at Table 3, the 35th N.E. Emmys

The Emmys, of course, are sponsored by the regional chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. And so it said something significant that not only were several newspapers nominated in several categories, but the Boston Globe, led by former Journal visuals editor Thea Breite, won eight awards by my count. The Quincy Patriot Ledger picked up one. When you consider that newspapers cannot be eligible for many categories – “Outstanding Anchor – News,” for example – it demonstrates that this ancient medium, “print,” is very much alive in the modern age.

I’d like to give a special acknowledgment to the WPRI Target 12 investigative team, led by Tim White. They won for Outstanding Investigative Report. Tim is a great person along with being a great investigative reporter.
John, Yolanda, me.
The Journal was nominated in Outstanding Societal Concerns for "Justice for Jason: Foreman family strives to change Rhode Island Law," John Freidah, video journalist, and Cecilia Prestamo, editor; and in Outstanding Documentary for "Coming Home," John, Cile and me. These two films – and more, by other Journal documentarians – will be shown and discussed during panel sessions at this summer’s Rhode Island International Film Festival, where The Journal will have a large presence from start to finish. I also am serving as a 2012 Finalist Judge. Festival founder and chief George Marshall and his crew won an Emmy last night for Outstanding Public Service. See you starting August 7 at the festival!