Friday, January 25, 2013

Columnist and Wife Divided Over Cell Phone

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, January 25, 2013


By Bill Gouveia

My wife and I have become a split family. It happens to the best of us, but in this case I blame her. She just won’t listen to reason.

You see, I have an iPhone. My wife has a Droid. It’s amazing we are even able to live in the same house. This clash of technology is resulting in what the legal world would call “irreconcilable differences”.

For reasons relating to my job, we are on different cell phone plans with different providers. My wife thus has the choice of going with any phone and any wireless company she wishes. She has chosen to use one of the Droid phones and a different provider, despite the fact I have an iPhone and we share an iPad. I am having trouble understanding the logic behind this.

Of course, looking for logic may be my first mistake. Not that my Beloved doesn’t have what she considers to be some sound reasoning for staying away from the popular iPhone. But logic is often in the eye of the beholder, and over the last four decades we have learned we have very different definitions of the term.

My wife says she likes the features on the Droid. I’m not sure how this can be, since she uses so few of them. There is no doubt the phone has amazing capabilities and is better than the iPhone if you are a geek doing complicated things in cyberspace. But my better half is far from geeky, and her trips into cyberspace are more like John Glenn’s orbiting the earth than Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon.

The iPhone is easy, and gives us non-geeks limited geek potential. It allows you to perform a myriad of complicated tasks with relative simplicity of operation. In other words – it’s great for the “older generation” like myself who want things to happen, and aren’t overly interested in exactly why or how they happen. Touch the button, do what it says, and reap the rewards. It’s my kind of phone.

And since my youngest son has an iPhone and an iPad, we are able to “Facetime” with our beautiful granddaughter with a minimal amount of difficulty. No logging in to Skype and fretting because we can’t remember our password and don’t want to store it (because there are no doubt evil villains in the world desperately seeking to gain advantage through illegally obtaining our Skype password). When you live a good distance from those you love, it is a great tool.

And utilizing “The Cloud” is terrific also. Taking a picture on my phone and having it show up on our iPad is amazing, and sharing photo albums in that manner with family is also a wonderful thing. My wife loves the iPad and uses it fairly regularly, although in truth my nearly five-year-old grandson (did I mention his name is William?) is better with it than either one of us.

But she will not join the iPhone family, for reasons which again are crystal clear to her but a bit murky to most of the rest of us. Of course, I have my own theory about why she will not come over to the “I” side. And it has absolutely nothing to do with technology, cost, or ease of operation.

I think she just doesn’t want to have the same phone I have.

In the faraway world she seems to reside in so much of the time, this would be a bad thing. It would be the equivalent of admitting defeat and moving over to the dark side. It would be surrendering a portion of her individuality, and almost admitting I might be right. That – trust me here – is simply not going to happen.

So we argue about it. I tell her the iPhone would enable her to communicate more directly with her son and his family in Baltimore. She tells me the Droid has a windshield wiper that comes across her screen when it is raining out. I have no good reply to that point.

So we have agreed to separate in this regard. We are still sharing custody of the iPad, but I get it on the weekends.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Controlling the Question Key to Gun Debate

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, January 18, 2013.


By Bill Gouveia

When you need to win a political fight – and the facts aren’t on your side – you can’t just debate the obvious question. You need to refocus the public’s attention on what you want to talk about. Political battles are most often won by those who successfully frame the question to be discussed before the fighting even begins.

That is exactly what is going on today with the controversial issue of gun control. Both sides of the debate are working very hard, but not just on truly solving the problem. Instead they are laboring to convince the public that the real issue is what they say it is, not what their opponents claim.

Gun control supporters say it is time to limit access to assault-style weapons and large capacity ammunition clips. They want to ban assault weapons, limit devices that carry large numbers of bullets, strengthen and increase background checks, and maximize efforts in the mental health area. They want the debate topic to be: Should we limit the sale of some guns and tighten up gun registration to protect the public?

The NRA and some gun advocates reject that question. They say the issue is whether or not the country will continue to honor the Second Amendment. They claim law-abiding gun owners are being blamed for things not their fault, and that Liberals are using the recent mass shootings to try and take away guns. They want the debate topic to be: How can we stop an over-emotional response to recent tragedies and still protect the “right to bear arms”?

Let’s get something straight here. No one should be blaming guns themselves for any of the awful massacres that have dominated the news in recent years. You cannot blame a gun for being shot. They seldom (if ever) go off by themselves. They are fired by people. The responsibility for the damage they do rests with those people. So those who may be blaming the guns must stop it. And those with the opposing view making arguments like “People die in car crashes, but we don’t ban cars” – you must stop too. Both arguments are just dumb.

Allow me to humbly suggest the real question which should rightfully consume both our politicians and the public at large over the next several months. It’s a simple one, although any answer will be complicated and difficult. The question is:

Can we pass common-sense laws that limit assault weapons and large ammunition clips while maintaining the public’s right to own guns for self-defense and other legitimate reasons, while also overhauling mental health regulations all in the name of making our schools and neighborhoods safer?

I believe we can do it, and I believe we must. I also believe anyone who chooses not to at least try and engage in such a discussion is either selfish, a coward, or both.

This works both ways. Gun control supporters cannot simply jam new laws down the throats of gun owners or anyone else. Guns are an undeniable part of the American culture, and always will be. Those with a literal interpretation of the Second Amendment have a right to that view, and it must be respected. Their concerns must be discussed and addressed.

But a line needs to be drawn on just what kind of weapons can be sold to the public. Guns that fire an incredible number of bullets in virtually no time at all have no place outside of military or police use. And spare me the argument that you can carry lots of smaller clips and reload immediately. Of course you can. But it makes it harder to kill lots of people quickly that way, and in the end – that is a most worthy goal.

Don’t be fooled into believing upcoming legislation is about “taking our guns”. That’s merely an attempt to prey on your emotions and avoid the real issue. Don’t be distracted by those seeking to politicize our very safety.

There is always a price to be paid for keeping our kids and neighborhoods safe. If part of that price is restricting who can own certain guns designed for the sole purpose of killing many people quickly – then we can all live with that.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Time for Baseball to Fess Up to What It Is

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, January 14, 2013


By Bill Gouveia

The recent election (or lack of same) held for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has resulted in a renewal and intensification of the debate that has raged through the sporting world for the last few decades: How do you judge the Hall of Fame worthiness of players in what has become known as “The Steroid Age”?

Well, it seems pretty simple to me. You judge them the way baseball players have been judged since Abner Doubleday first threw a few sacks on the ground and created America’s national pastime. You judge them by how they performed on the field, and whether or not they did so within the confines of the rules.

It’s that simple. There should be no confusion about the standards by which major leaguers are judged. Baseball is – more than any other sport – a game of numbers. You score more runs, you win the game. You hit for the highest average, you win the title. You hit the most homers, you are the homerun champion.

But now there is much discussion about the worthiness of players who possess numbers that should easily reserve them a spot in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. While their statistics are undeniable, we now view their accomplishments as suspect because they may have taken a substance which – at the time they took it – was not against baseball rules. And we can’t put them in the greatest of all Halls of Fame because (gasp) that would damage the integrity of the game of baseball.

Integrity of baseball? Should those words ever really be used in the same sentence without the words “lack of” preceding them? It’s too bad Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame voters didn’t worry about the “integrity” of baseball when these players were on the field, earning their owners untold millions of dollars. Because when it counted – when MLB had a chance to really show they were concerned about the integrity of their game – they chose to turn a blind eye.

Is there anyone who really didn’t believe guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens weren’t taking some type of steroids or performance-enhancing substances during their playing days? I mean, just look at pictures of them early in their careers and then towards the end. Clemens bulked up like a weightlifter, and Bonds had a head that seemed to grow five sizes. Are you kidding me?

But they weren’t suspended by baseball, and they were barely even investigated until the situation could simply no longer be denied. Part of the reason is that early on, there were no specific rules against \what they were doing.

Look, I really don’t like Clemens or Bonds. I think they both pretty much represent what was wrong with professional sports for much of the last couple of decades. They are not role models for our children, and in many ways do not deserve our respect or support.

But this is the baseball Hall of Fame, not the good citizen Hall of Fame. It is a place where great players are honored for their achievements. It is supposed to be a reflection of baseball, not a glorified image of what writers or fans think baseball should have been.

And the undeniable fact is these men dominated their era. Roger Clemens was pitching to hitters who used steroids. Barry Bonds was hitting against pitchers who were using various enhancements. And they did their jobs better than any of their peers, whether those players were partaking of the same substances or not.

No matter what else they are or have ever been, these players are a product of baseball. They played within a system that glorified them when it needed them, and vilified them when they no longer served a purpose. Baseball simply can’t reap the benefits these individuals provided them, and then refuse to recognize their accomplishments.

Perhaps on their Hall of Fame plaques there should be a mention that they were suspected of using steroids. But Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens belong in Cooperstown. If they continue to be denied, then the Hall of Fame becomes nothing more than a carnival sideshow designed to promote a game that in fact no longer exists.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Selectmen Prey on Voter's Fear in Foxboro

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, January 7, 2013.

By Bill Gouveia

            “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” – Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III.

            Al Pacino wasn’t talking about the Foxboro Board of Selectmen when he uttered those words in the worst of the three Godfather movies, but it might apply today.  Every time you begin to believe that esteemed board can’t possibly appear any more overtly self-serving or administratively inefficient, they prove you wrong.

            It has been over a year since selectmen voted 3-2 to refuse to allow the Kraft Group to present voters the option of a casino to be located near Gillette Stadium.  It has been eight months since the Kraft Group announced they were no longer pursing the project after a decisive town election.  It has been almost three months since a Kraft spokesman said publicly, “We are not proposing a casino.  The town doesn’t want a casino.  They have made that clear.”

            Despite all that, selectmen Mark Sullivan and Ginny Coppola last week insisted the prospect of a Foxboro casino is still very real.  Sullivan actually said he didn’t believe the situation had gone away at all. 

“On either side – the ones that want it and the ones that don’t – nobody’s convinced it has gone away,” claimed the board’s vice chairman.

            Apparently Bob Kraft could climb atop a 30-foot tall stack of bibles in the middle of the Town Common on national television while screaming “I’m not going to build a casino” and Selectman Sullivan would still tell people the issue was in doubt.  While no one other than Sullivan knows with certainty his reasons, it is fair to conclude self-serving politics may be at the center of them.

            This board needs local voters to believe the only thing standing between them and the big, bad casino is - the selectmen.  They need voters and citizens to be afraid, and they need to harvest that fear into political support.  After all, what other major accomplishments can they claim?

            They have failed thus far to achieve a solution to the sewage plant issue.  They have reversed course several times on the new town hall.  They have botched negotiations with and alienated one of the town’s largest revenue sources over future development.  They have done little that might convince people to support them.  So they keep the casino issue alive so they can “rescue” the good citizens of Foxboro from a “threat” that in truth no longer exists.

            Selectman Coppola said without the provision that allowed selectmen to prevent the casino issue from being presented to the townspeople, “we could have had a casino jammed down our throat.”  That statement is completely inaccurate and untrue.

            All the selectmen prevented was allowing the townspeople of Foxboro the opportunity to directly make an informed decision on a possibly lucrative development.  The only way a casino could have been built is through Town Meeting action and a referendum.  The only folks who jammed anything (either down a throat or up any place else) was the board of selectmen, and they did it to both the Kraft Group and the voters they claim to serve.

            When Coppola talks of “local control”, it rings hollow.  Pretty much her entire campaign was about denying the voters control, rather than providing it.  The only thing Foxboro voters were “protected” from was the opportunity to make their own informed decision.

            There are no guarantees in life, other than death and taxes.  But Foxboro citizens have to ask themselves an important question:  Who has been more credible over the last year, the Kraft Group or the selectmen?

            Selectmen at first agreed to allow the casino issue to be presented, then reversed themselves.  They threatened to take Kraft-owned property by eminent domain, and then backed down.  They were successfully sued for refusing to allow Kraft representatives to speak at a public meeting.  They and their manager totally messed up (twice) trying to place the infamous billboards out to bid.

By contrast, the Kraft Group said if the town showed it truly did not want a casino, they would abandon the project.  And they kept their word.

The casino issue remains a topic of debate in Foxboro for only one reason – because the selectmen need it to be. 

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.