Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tin Foil Hats

I usually avoid InCity Times much like I avoid the comment section in the T&G. When I first picked it up years ago while waiting for a Chicken Pesto Pizza at the Corner Grille, I thought it was a good idea. The T&G was downsizing, WoMag was getting stagnant, and I hoped InCity Times would improve. It hasn't.

The combination of misspellings, innuendo, crazy conspiracy theories, and ignorance usually makes my eyes bleed. Every so often there's a good piece of information that shines through, which is why I occasionally go back.

Today, I went back looking for a nugget, and found this gem.

I don't know Don Abraham or Jeff Richardson from a hole in the wall. But I do know that Worcester isn't spelled "Worcetser." Seriously Rosie- you live here. Unless you have a printing press in your basement, you're probably typing your articles on a computer. There's this lovely modern invention called spell check, and it even recognizes uncommon names like.....Worcester.

It reminds me of 1992 when the Centrum hosted the first round of March Madness, and the board had games in Worchester, MA...but they had an excuse.  They weren't from here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Greatest prank ever???

Not if you are a tree...but very funny.

Here's Louie's reaction:

I'm going for a walk.

It's cold and windy outside, and I stumbled across clips of idiots babbling.

Then I stumbled across a compendium of idiots babbling some more.

I don't drive a Caddy....yet.

Both Glenn Greenwald and Bob Herbert tackle taxing 'Cadillac health plans.' As it stands right now, I fall just under the threshold for the 40 percent tax, which means in the next few years I too can have a Cadillac plan!

The bad news? I have a bare bones, If- you-get-sick-it-will-cost-you-plan from Fallon. I'm single, don't have children and certainly don't make enough to warrant paying that sort of tax on my health benefits.

That's why I'm with Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn) and not with Senator Joe Lieberman, (I- Aetna).

Monday, December 28, 2009


I highly recommend this article regarding climate change legislation's glacial progress through Congress.

Historic district comedy tour!

I saw this cartoon today and thought of the whole Montvale situation.

Lazy journalism, part 2!

Apparently I'm going to start a weekly series based on the Sunday column of Robert Z. Nemeth. I hoped Tracy would tackle this article because she is far more knowledgeable about the subject, but no such luck (yet?).

Mr. Nemeth begins his article with the following quote:
"Hard-core opponents of charter schools are licking their chops at the prospect of the state closing two of those schools, one in Springfield and another in Lowell, for alleged testing irregularities, mismanagement or lack of academic progress. They’re using the occasion to discredit all charters in the state. The effort is mean-spirited and misguided."
Apparently Massachusetts Education Commissioner Michael Chester is a 'hard core opponent' despite the fact that he was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick. In related news this week, Governor Patrick called for expansion of charter schools in the state.

Mr. Nemeth then takes exception to Mr. Chester's actions:
"Mr. Chester should be more concerned about the well-being of tens of thousands of children in regular district schools who receive substandard education."
Perhaps Mr. Nemeth should read this article about the new head of the Robert Hughes Charter in Springfield. With all the hoopla over the Donna Byrnes hiring last year, imagine Mr. Nemeth's anti public school vitriol if the School Committee hired a convicted felon to run a public school?

Mr. Nemeth finishes with the jewel:
"However, expansion comes with suffocating restrictions and creates a bureaucratic nightmare. It mandates quotas for low-income, special education, high-risk and limited-English-proficiency students, along with specific strategic plans to recruit and retain students from such categories. No district school is expected to function under such restrictions."
The reason district schools don't have such restrictions is because the entire public school system cannot turn away any students! Our public schools are full of high risk and underachieving students, and charter schools aren't. Comparing results from the two is highly illogical, and only serves Mr. Nemeth's agenda.

I hope next week he decides to leave his argument with Clive McFarlane to the break room at the T&G.

Lettahs to the Editah!

I try to ignore the letters to the editor. They usually make me want to retreat to a cabin somewhere in the White Mountains and not talk to people.

Today's T&G letters went from the reasonable to the ridiculous. I truly hope Charles Goodhue of Northbridge's intent was sarcasm or un-funny humor.

Christmas return lines...

I've never returned a gift... but for those who have, I stumbled across this video by Garfunkel and Oates.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Keep that Christmas music coming....

Dar Williams' The Christians and The Pagans will help tonight and tomorrow as I make soup, bake cookies, bake bread, and make jam.

Dar is always best live!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Christmas music

I can't spend a Christmas without this classic by John Lennon:

Chairs of Worcester

This poster is fantastic, and a perfect reflection of the winter months here in Wormtown.

It would probably make a good Christmas present too!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lazy Journalism

I've never been a big fan of Robert Z. Nemeth. His journalistic style and political philosophy reminds me of Sam the Eagle. His opinion piece in Sunday's T&G was particularly lazy.

I'm fine with his endorsement of Scott Brown. I don't agree, but after all, it's an opinion piece. But I do take issue with his sloppy journalism.

"If Ms. Coakley goes to Washington, she is expected to be in lockstep with Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader. Mr. Brown has been known for his independent voice."

Does Mr. Nemeth really believe that Scott Brown's 'independent' voice won't be in lockstep with the Republican minority in the Senate? If Mr. Nemeth believes that, he obviously didn't do his homework on the candidate. Next time, eliminate the word independent and just come out and say Republican.

Let's run down Mr. Brown's stance on the major issues:

Health Care: "I believe that all Americans deserve health care coverage, but that we shouldn't have to create a new government insurance program to provide it. I support strengthening the existing private market system."

Immigration: "However, we are also a nation of laws and government should not adopt policies that encourage illegal immigration."

Energy: "I oppose a national cap and trade program because of the higher costs that families and businesses would incur."

Abortion: "While this decision should ultimately be made by the woman in consultation with her doctor, I believe we need to reduce the number of abortions in America. I believe government has the responsibility to regulate in this area and I support parental consent and notification requirements and I oppose partial birth abortion. I also believe there are people of good will on both sides of the issue and we ought to work together to support and promote adoption as an alternative to abortion."

Death Penalty: "I believe there are some crimes that are so heinous that they deserve capital punishment. Our Government should have the ability to impose the death penalty in cases where it is justified."

Apparently 'independent' equals Republican in Mr. Nemeth's dictionary.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Keep Mike Lowell!

I have never been so happy to hear that my favorite player is injured and needs surgery.

Keep Mike Lowell in Boston! Let him play out the last year of his contract, and by all means, please don't sign Adrian Beltre.

I stumbled across a great site last night that keeps track of every Red Sox player and the number they wore.

"We'll knock the milkmaids over and roll them in the clover"

I caught The Brennan Brothers at the Worcester Hibernian Cultural Centre on Friday night, and they managed to surprise me with a Makem and Clancy song I had never heard before, Drink Up the Cider. I hope they keep it in their repertoire...perhaps they can replace Ratlin Bog, permanently!

I was disappointed to hear that SueAnn and Bill Dolan are being replaced in the kitchen at Fiddler's Green. They will be missed, along with their Tomato Basil Bisque!

Ziggy has pants!

This has been a great week for Stephan Pastis at Pearls Before Swine. Thanks to his efforts, Ziggy has pants.

Ultimate Christmas mix

I've been slacking lately on my Christmas playlist, but here's some more choices:

Cheech and Chong's Santa Claus and His Old Lady always makes me laugh. It's corny, ridiculous, and commercial, yet it works for me.

When I was a kid, I always needed to listen to the Muppet's Christmas album with John Denver, and Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913 was a favorite.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry funny Christmas!

Here's two funny Christmas posts, one by Stephan Pastis, author/artist of Pearls Before Swine, and the other from Tim's blog, Functioning Rageaholic.

More Christmas music

I think I will count down the remaining days until Christmas with music that I actually enjoy hearing.

Here's another favorite, off of one my desert island albums, If I Should Fall From Grace With God:

I've always felt that Fairytale of New York was the sequel to Rainy Night in Soho, another Pogues classic:

"The winners are at war with the losers, and the fix is on. The prospects for peace are awful." -Kurt Vonnegut

So far, it really hasn't mattered whether Barack Obama or George W. Bush is in the White House. In an excellent piece, Glenn Greenwald points out the similarities between the two administrations and their dangerous fascination with state secrets.

The less transparency we have in our government, the less freedom we truly have.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Maybe I should put a bucket over my head and a marshmallow in each ear."- Ani Difranco

I had the misfortune of hearing a Mariah Carey Christmas song this afternoon. I firmly believe that the majority of all pop Christmas music is complete and utter mindless filler, and about as emotionally filling as a Twinkie. Every Christmas I swear that I'll make my ultimate Christmas mix...perhaps this will be the year.

Here's a Christmas song that captures the season and will definitely be on my list:

While I'm on my soapbox, here's a post from Michael Boyle that captures that same spirit.

More from the City Square website...

From the Worcester section:

"The city's entertainment venues include Foothills Theater"

Unfortunately, not anymore. Update the site much?

From the residential section:

"CitySquare is restoring vibrancy to Downtown Worcester. This new, refined urban lifestyle makes Worcester a great place to work and live- at much more reasonable prices than Boston." -Roberta Schaefer, Executive Director, The Research Bureau.

Yes Roberta, Boston has an empty downtown mall also.


The News Section was last updated on 04/29/09.

Berkeley Investments in the news...

I found this gem in the Boston Globe profile of Barbara Lynch:

"But he (Park) has sold fewer than half of the 92 condos over her restaurants, which were more complicated and costly than he anticipated."

Good to see Young Park making news for his (partially successful) developments. I think he needs to come eat at a few Worcester establishments and find some more clients for CitySquare.

In a bizarre coincidence, there's a City Square Restaurant in Wooster, Ohio.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Privatize this, Part 3!

Here's a quote from  U.S.PIRG's website regarding PPPs and how the public needs to safeguard themselves:

"The city should ensure that any future privatization deals adhere to the following principles:

• The public should retain control over decisions that affect the broader public interest.
• The public must receive full value so future revenues are not sold off at a discount.
• No deal should last longer than 30 years because of uncertainty over future conditions, because the risks of a bad deal grow exponentially over time, and because long contracts transfer unnecessary control to the concessionaire.
• Contracts should require state-of-the-art maintenance and safety standards instead of statewide minimums.
• There must be complete transparency to ensure proper vetting of privatization proposals.
• There must be full accountability in which the elected legislative body must approve both the authority to negotiate a deal and any terms of a final deal.

 In addition, the city should adopt procedural safeguards for future privatization proposals that include the following:

• A minimum waiting period of 30 days between publication of the final terms of a privatization agreement and a vote (45 days for privatization of assets or services valued at more than $50 million).
• Competitive, transparent bidding for all professional services provided during the privatization process and for the privatization contract itself.
• Disqualification of city councilors from voting on privatization proposals when they have received campaign contributions from companies that bid on a given asset or performed professional services related to privatization. The Mayor’s office should similarly reject contributions from such companies and publicize contributions received for a defined period prior to the decision to consider privatizing an asset.
• Thorough, independent analysis of the valuation of assets proposed for concession agreements along with a comparison of privatization with other alternatives (including the option of bonding against future revenues with the same schedule of user fee increases without a private lease or transfer of ownership).
• Prompt public disclosure of all documents related to privatization bids.
• Clear directions for how proceeds from the sale will be allocated, along with the development of tools to enable the public to track spending of proceeds from privatization over time. These tracking tools should be integrated into a city wide budget transparency Web site that would enable citizens to have “one-stop” access to all city expenditures.
• Timely public disclosure of all documents relevant to a privatization proposal, including posting of such documents on a publicly accessible Web site.

Finally, to bolster confidence, trust, and transparency in government, Chicago should follow the example of a growing number of cities and states that provide detailed and up-todate searchable information about government contracting and expenditures on-line.

Specifically, the city should create a one-stop, comprehensive, on-line database that would enable citizens to obtain information on contracts, the current status of city accounts, special tax breaks, fee services accrued, economic development subsidies and city budgets. The Web site should provide summary information and enable residents to drill down to detailed information on city payments, including the city’s check register. The Web site should also retain previous years’ data for comparison."

I hope our City Council, City Manager, and local newspapers keep this in mind as this debate progresses.  I know I will.

Privatize this, Part 2!

It's been 18 days since I posted this, and 21 since Mike O'Brien's speech. (And more than a years since he first proposed the idea.) Nicole has blogged about it twice, including emails to city officials.

I feel like Keith Olberman's closing speech throughout the Bush Administration.

Today, Worcester Magazine's Jeremy Shulkin broached the subject of selling the City's parking resources.  I'm tired, cranky and don't really want to write about this, but here goes the quick quick version until I have more time and energy.

-Mr. Shulkin mentions that Harrisburg, PA had an offer for $215 million and rejected the deal. He also mentions discontent in Washington D.C. and Chicago regarding ticketing policies and high prices. Why doesn't he go into detail about these cities? Is it the limitation of the print media? Or is it because this seems to be a largely pro-privatization piece?

-Mr. Shulkin relies extensively on Rick Norment, the Executive Director of the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of privatization.

-The NCPPP is an organization that relies on the existence of privatization (or their euphemism of Pubic-Private Partnerships). Where is the voice from the other side? How can Mr. Norment be the only expert quoted in this article?

Here's a few reasons why people mistrust privatization.

Eight links, minimal effort, three searches on Google that took nanoseconds and then some reading.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Please Vote Tomorrow!

The primary is tomorrow. Find out where you are registered to vote on the City Website.

The main election will be held on January 19, 2010. If you aren't registered, you have to register by December 30th. Information can be found here.

Here are the websites for the Democratic challengers:
Alan Khazei
Martha Coakley
Mike Capuano
Steve Pagliuca

Here are the websites for the Republican challengers:
Jack E. Robinson
Scott Brown

Please vote!

The new hermit

Frugality and anti-materialism seems to be popping up everywhere. This story reminded me of one of my all time favorite books, Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon. I admire the author's discipline and ability to evade a mountain of student loan debt. However, I wonder what he missed in his years of avoiding contact with his fellow students.

While we're on the subject, here's another blog that I've been reading on the same theme, but even more radical.

This blog loosely fits in with the theme, especially the parts about Vicky.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rest In Peace, Liam Clancy

Liam Clancy passed away today at the age of 74.

I have many fond memories of seeing him perform at Mechanics Hall with Tommy Makem and his brothers. He would always play Worcester sometime around St. Patrick's Day, and my family would sit in the balcony over the stage. Every show was amazing- full of stories, jokes, and sing-a-longs. Liam was gifted with one of the greatest voices to ever grace a stage, and he will be missed.

May he rest in peace.

Here he is with Tommy Makem performing one of my favorite songs:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two Rhapsodies in the same week?

Are you sick of the Tiger Woods story?  Are you sick of the large amount of ink devoted to it and the huge number of on air stories speculating about a fender bender?

So is Jon Stewart.
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Tiger Woods Newzak

Daily Show
Full Episodes

Political Humor
Health Care Crisis

I couldn't have said it better myself...although I might have been able to sing better than Stewart, and that is not a compliment to my voice or his!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where's my red pen, part 2!!!

This sounds like a can't miss deal offered by a sleazy salesman.

Here's the headline:
Utility’s rate hike reduced by state
Some electric bills will drop

I admit I rarely read the Money if I was glancing through it like I usually do, I'd believe that the state was looking out for me and lowering my electric bill.

But then I kept reading, and found out that National Grid wanted a $111.3 million rate increase, and the state Department of Public Utilities reduced their request for a rate increase to $44.3 million.

So here's my modified headline:
Utility's rate increases $44.3 million
State DPU approves increases 

Author Martin Luttrell paraphrases the ruling with this gem: "So, as customers use less energy, the company can raise rates enough to make the additional $44.3 million in revenues approved by the DPU"

Later in the article, Luttrell quotes DPU Chairman Paul J. Hibbard:

"there are several classes of residential and commercial customers, and that some could see rates go up. For example, under the DPU ruling, low-income customers will see a typical monthly increase of 24 cents, compared to an increase of $3.70 under the company’s proposal."

So the moral of this article is that if I am poor and energy efficient, National Grid will raise my rates so they can turn a profit in order to build more green energy, despite the fact that they are one of four "investor-owned public utilities."  Perhaps we should eliminate the middle man and invest our money in the green energy ourselves.

And for further proof that you should always read until the end, the article ends with this nugget that should probably be a whole new article:

"The DPU has also denied NSTAR’s petition to collect about $33 million from its customers after negotiating lower power-supply rates.

NSTAR must return roughly $20 million of that amount it has already collected."

Where's my red pen?

I know ink and pages are limited in the T&G, but couldn't we get a more substantial article with actual details?

Here's what I mean:
"Mr. Rushton and Councilor-at-Large Joseph M. Petty opposed the lowest residential tax rate and offered a set of alternative tax rates that were less odious for business property owners, but both motions were soundly rejected."

-What was the alternative tax rate? I was working, so I couldn't attend the meeting. When I pick up the paper in the morning, I'd like that detail please. Nick Kotsopoulos has quotes from four councilors in the article, but couldn't print the details of the Rushton/Petty plan? I'm so glad that he quoted this gem from Mike Germain: “(the) economy is in such a mess."

Thanks. I hadn't noticed.  This is why ideas like Nicole floated are happening across the country.

Councilor Santa Claus, Updated.

I received a prompt reply from Bill Eddy regarding yesterday's post regarding a special election for a vacancy.

"1 & 2. Yes, candidates would have to collect the usual number of signatures (300 at-large, 100 district). In the event of a vacancy, the council would set an election date (90 days) with a signature filing date (between 30 & 45 days).

3. In the unlikely event of a vacancy, the city would incur the cost of an election from general funds. While we are attempting to fill a Charter void by having a process in place, it is worth some perspective. Since the inception of this current Charter in 1987, we have had 17 district councilors represent five districts. Of the 17, we have had 1 mid-term vacancy (1990). We have had at-large and school committee vacancies, but have never gone beyond ballot candidates which would trigger the special election scenario we propose."

Too bad the T&G couldn't be bothered to print the details.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I applaud the fiscal restraint and sacrifice, but wouldn't it be nice if our City Council rescinded the raises they gave themselves a few years back in the name of sacrifice?

And wouldn't it be nice if the taxpayers didn't pay for a city vehicle plus insurance for an employee who makes over $180,000? What other city employees have this perk, and how much would we save if the City Council eliminated this sort of perk?

And does any one else think it is a coincidence that this story appeared in the paper the same day the Council voted on the tax rate?

City Councilor Santa Claus, your time is up!

City Councilor Bill Eddy promised to change the City Charter after this November's election, and today the T&G reported that he is one step closer to amending our City Charter.

“Some might say we are trying to correct a problem that doesn’t exist, but I look at it as filling a void left in the charter.” said District 5 Councilor William J. Eddy, committee chairman.

Speaking of voids, I searched the City website for information regarding his order, and found this. When you click on attachments, you get this.

I'd like a few more details, please.

-Will the candidates have to collect the same number of signatures that they would in a regular election?

-Do they have 90 days to pull papers and collect signatures, or is there a smaller window of time?

Tonight I sent out an email to Councilors Eddy, Petty and Toomey. I'll post any details they share when I get them.

I'll have the fish, please.

This made me think and laugh, especially the Trout and Brownie. I wish I had thought of this myself...the ideas are starting to percolate in my head, and more will pop out at work tomorrow as I play with food.