Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Jerry Madden, leading the way on crime reforms

I caught up with Jerry Madden, retired Texas state representative, in Dallas on November 27, 2013 to ask him how Texas became one of the first states to pass sweeping crime and justice reforms in decades.

Texas, with its reputation for locking 'em up and throwing away the key, not to mention its famous Death Row in Huntsville, seemed an unlikely state to embrace such reforms. It all started with marching orders for Madden, the newly appointed chairman of the Committee on Corrections, issued by the Speaker of the House: "Don't build any more prisons, Jerry. They cost too much."

With no particular experience in the court or prison systems, Jerry Madden tapped into his 12 years of legislative experience and his military and engineering background to search for solutions to the ever growing prison population that was costing Texas huge amounts of money and having little or no impact on crime.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Twelve Days of 2013

The Twelve Days of Christmas are upon us and, for the 30th time, investment house PNC has put a price of $114,651 on the 364 gifts called out in the song, a 6.9% increase over 2012. This accounting includes 12 partridges in pear trees, 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens, etc.

As much as I enjoy these go-on-forever songs, including Little Drummer Boy and 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, I decided to tap the idea of the Twelve Days of Christmas, not for musical purposes, but to compile a list of the twelve days of 2013, one from each month, that I consider the best gifts I have received this year from my lovely bride.

January 2nd - The culmination of months of hard work, no small amount put in by Mary as coordinator of my campaign for reelection, this was swearing in day on Beacon Hill. Mary understands my desire to serve as state representative and is my confidante and sounding board as I talk incessantly about how we can improve Massachusetts.

February 4th - Mary was amazingly supportive and engaged in my first colonoscopy. She even okayed my article about my experience published in the Barnstable Patriot to encourage others to step up to (or back into) this procedure. See the article here:

March 3rd - This is our son Chris' birthday. He's the oldest of our six kids and one of two children that Mary brought into our "Brady Bunch" of six. Mary has been the best mother and step-mother any child could hope for. All six are better off today because of her.

April 15th (Tax Day) - On top of everything else she does, Mary manages our CPA office, keeping the work flow moving and dealing with our many clients. She has my absolute trust and no one could be a better face and voice of our business.

May 28th - Mary is a 15-year breast cancer survivor. This was the date of her most recent mammogram. I never take it for granted that her early detection in 1998 was a life saver.

June 5th - On a day that should be All About Mary, her birthday often turns into There's Something About Mary in the middle of my crazy schedule. After energy education awards, realtors' day, and a formal voting session, Mary was very patient awaiting my return from Boston to celebrate her birthday.

July 4th - The Fourth of July starts the parade of our Cape Cod summer visitors. The amount of preparation that goes into being ready for the kids and grandkids is more than most realize and Mary is the one who figures it all out. This summer was no exception and a good time was had by all.

August 19th - Mary's volunteerism is a gift to everyone. This was the date of the organizing meeting for Sandwich's First Night, an event that was spectacularly successful last year and promises to be even better this year. If you want it done right and on time, Mary's the one you can count on.

September 26th - This was the date of the theater debut of Anonymous People on Cape Cod, a celebration of addicts in recovery sponsored by Gosnold on the Cape. Mary really gets this issue and understands how we need to change course in order to get a handle on addiction. She pushes me to continue making this a defining issue for me as state representative.

October 31st - We used to decorate our house off Old County Road for Halloween, adding music and effects to entertain/terrify the neighborhood kids. As you can imagine, it was Mary that always put things together, saving the best stuff from the year before and getting a few new things to make the evening more fun. Where we are now we get no trick or treaters. Five years, no one. But Mary never gives up. She's always got a bowl of treats ready to go, just in case. I love her optimism.

November 27th - Again, in a show of support and selflessness, Mary allowed me to take two days out of our Texas trip to meet with people who put Texas on a different and successful track relative to the sentencing and treatment of nonviolent criminals with substance addictions. I am grateful that Mary takes all of this in stride, knowing that this is important to me and, more than that, important to her.

December 18th - I had meetings in Boston this day and had committed to attend the House of Representatives Christmas party that evening. At about 2pm, I started having second thoughts about the party and being away from Mary. I picked up the phone and, in the most persuasive way I could, talked her into jumping on the bus, meeting me at South Station, and heading over to the party as a couple. We stayed at the hotel that night and returned to the Cape after a morning meeting I had at the Statehouse. Mary loves spontaneity. That is a gift I cherish.

These are twelve days of 2013 that stand out to me but, to tell it straight, not a lot more than the rest of the days that I am engaged by, motivated by, encouraged by, entertained by, consoled by, and loved by the most important person in my world.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Letter from a recovering addict

I received this letter from a Boston attorney who has been in recovery for many years and experienced the devastation that his addiction had on his health, family and firm.

Representative Hunt:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me to discuss the substance abuse problem facing us as a country, as a state, as families and as individuals who are suffering. This is such an enormous problem, yet I do not think it has ever received the type of thoughtful response it deserves.  

This problem causes such great pain for the individuals and families affected. This pain alone should more than justify and all-out effort to treat the problem as the public health epidemic that it is. Unfortunately, such great misunderstanding exists among a large percentage of the electorate and their representatives as to the nature of this mental illness, and it is a form of mental illness, that overcoming this is a tall order.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Comparison of gasoline prices to oil prices

Prices at the pump go up mercilessly when oil rises, but when oil drops, where is the relief?

The question is often asked: Why is it that gasoline prices always go up immediately when the price of a barrel of oil goes up, but never come down right away when oil drops? Of course, it’s a rhetorical question in the sense that the questioner has already concluded that service stations and oil companies are on the take” and are quick to raise prices but snail-like in the other direction.

So what’s the real answer?
To get to the bottom of this, I’ve aligned the prices for a barrel of oil sold into the United States with the average price in the United States of a gallon of regular gasoline over the period from January 1997 through April 2011. By picking a point in time (January 1997) and setting an index between the price of a barrel of oil and the price of a gallon of gasoline to be equal to 1, we can track the percentages of increase or decrease of the prices of each to see if one leads the other (which you might assume), whether they move together, or if they appear to have not so tight a correlation. I chose the beginning date simply because that is when the Department of Energy data started publishing these prices on a weekly basis. I have colored-coded the index columns in the spreadsheet to show week-on-week increases in green and decreases in yellow, making it easier to spot correlations.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Finding out what's in ObamaCare

Listening to Paul Krugman on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, you'd believe that the measure of success for ObamaCare is someone being able to log into the insurance exchange and create an account. He assures us that these glitches will be resolved.

There is no doubt that the not-ready-for-prime-time Internet software will be fixed eventually. That's not what people will be fuming about in November of 2014. Two aspects of the ACA will be front and center when voters are about to cast their ballots.

Monday, November 5, 2018

My tribute to Erkki Alanen, cartoonist

Anyone who has been to my office has seen my ten cartoons hanging on the wall. People often compliment me on my artistic talents but, although I was the gag writer, I did not draw them. The wonderful artist was Erkki Alanen, someone I met on the Internet, collaborated with, but never met face to face. Unfortunately, Erkki died a few years ago. Originally from Finland, he was a big guy with a big heart. I will miss his genius and knack for interpreting and developing my raw ideas.


I posted this article on October 4, 2008 and today, March 11, 2009, I received the following email from Erkki’s wife, Cathy. It's interesting how the Internet can bring people together from across the globe.