Saturday, January 30, 2010

Apparently 41 is the new 50.

"We’ve balanced out the Senate, but now the key is to balance out Beacon Hill." -Brian Burke (R-MA) 

No wonder Massachusetts Republicans can't mount a serious challenge in this state.  They can't count!  Last time I checked, a balanced Senate would have 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.  But what do I know?  I went to an underperforming public school instead of a charter school.

How I spent my Friday evening.

Arctic winds and subzero temperatures?  Staying in sounds right.  What's on TV?  Nothing good- the Celtics were losing to the Hawks, nothing good on HBO....what's this on C-SPAN?  A question and answer session between the President and the Republican caucus?  I admit it.  I geeked out and watched the whole thing. 

Here's C-SPAN's video footage of the event.  Here's a transcript.
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There were times where I felt like Dr. Phil and Oprah should have been moderating.  The subtext of the debate was the highlight of the night.  Here's how it went:

Republicans:  'You don't listen to us and do what we say!'
Obama:  'I don't listen to you if you call me names'.
Republicans:  'Here's our idea which is way better than yours.  Why don't you do it?'
Obama (smirking): 'Because we won in 2008 and you didn't.  And you're still calling me names.'
-----
So how successful was this event for Obama?  Fox News cut away from live coverage with 20 minutes left to go.  MSNBC combined Keith Olberman's prime time show with Rachel Maddow's to broadcast the whole thing with a lot of high praise for Obama.  Fox News didn't show it at all and went ahead with their usual Bill O'Reilly fluff.  I think that says a lot about how well Obama handled the rhetorical grenades lobbed at him from the Republican caucus.  Mike Madden at Salon.com had the best wrap up.

Friday, January 29, 2010

“If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.” -Howard Zinn

I came across these two articles on Alternet.org today.  One is a memorial to the work of Howard Zinn.

The other scares the hell out of me.

Smith, Inc. Goes To Washington

This is hilarious.

Worcester as a comfy sweatshirt.

Tonight is my 'Why I Love Worcester' moment.

Flora + Dive Bar + The Howl + Erica and Alec = me in a really good mood.

I admit, there are times where this city gets me down.  It can be ugly, dirty, unenlightened (do you hear me T&G posters!).   Then there are other warm, beautiful January days where the late afternoon suns are a gift from the weather gods and you feel your case of mid-winter blues just fly away.

Tonight was one of those nights.  I admit that I am writing this post with the help of one dose of Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey, one dose of Stone 13th Anniversary, 2 doses of 21st Amendment Monk's Blood and 2 doses of Southern Tier Chocolate.

I love this town/city.  To most it might be just a way stop, others a fall back option.  This is where I was born, this is where I returned to after seeing a bit of the world.  I love it here.  It might be dirty and smelly and embarrassing in some parts, but it is just like my Sunday sweatshirt.  It's comfortable, warm and makes me happy.  I might wear it out to the corner store or a friend's house, but I wouldn't wear it out for a nice dinner (even though I still love it.)  Without it, my life isn't as complete, and there is always a chance I can improve it, once I get that lo-mein stain out of the center of my chest.

I wouldn't trade it in for anything else once I get it patched, and this is why I love Worcester.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rest in peace Howard Zinn.

The world has lost a brilliant scholar and someone I can truly say is a personal hero.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Housing Debate

22Barcelona a unique vision that could make Worcester an interesting place to live, and retain all those college students who live here for four years and then disappear. (Article on Boston.com)

The best part for me about this idea is the recognition that not everyone can buy a condo, house and car.  It creates a viable city where people live, work, eat, shop and play.  Worcester needs this sort of transformation, especially when it comes to open space and

A few more thoughts on corporations as people.

Here's a few interesting links (1, 2.)  The second article's claim that person hood was added to Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (Wikipedia article here) is interesting, and I'm going to have to look into that some more before I believe it.

Buy, Borrow, Loan or Steal this book!

There's a lot of progressive disbelief and apathy following the first year of the Obama Administration.  (The November 2008 version of me is jumping up and down saying 'I told you so!  That's why I didn't vote for him!')  Despite Obama's centrist embrace of Cheney Administration policies and appointees there still is a lot of angry yelling from the right that Obama is a socialist and a far left activist. 

I started thinking about a book I read a few years back called Blood of the Liberals by George Packer.  Mr. Packer gives a detailed history of American liberalism through his personal life and family history, and reminds the reader that despite the brand names, the parties aren't homogeneous and evolve (or in the Democrat's case, devolve.)

I was reading this book one fall afternoon at Coffee Kingdom, and had a college age woman look at the title of the book and her look told me that she thought I was some Rush Limbaugh zombie.  I had to explain that the title referred to his family pedigree as liberals, and didn't advocate spilling the blood of liberals.  I don't think she believed me, which says volumes about how poisonous our country's political sphere has become.

Where were they in 1993?

I proposed this idea way back in 1993 during Youth and Government.  Our model Senate voted it down, just like the real House and Senate will probably do.

Imagine TV stations actually had to air commercials at a reduced (or in my proposal, free) rate?  Equal time for each candidate, spread out through the day would ensure that I could watch a Patriots game without seeing the same four political commercials eighteen times in a three hour span.

What they say doesn't equal what they do.

I remember Scott Brown campaigning against last year's stimulus package.  He even had this quote in the paper today regarding President Obama's spending freeze:
"But anytime you can look at spending, I think that's one of the basic problems."
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Here is Karyn Polito (R-Shrewsbury) a fellow Massachusetts Republican and Scott Brown supporter, with Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray.  Why are they holding a press conference?  Federal stimulus money is going to be spent in Westboro and Marlboro to help reduce the costs of wastewater treatment plants.

Hopefully Representative Polito will let Senator Brown know about the stimulus money being spent in Massachusetts and how much she appreciates the help in her district.  Representative Polito emceed Scott Brown's victory party on Election Eve, so I assume they put their differences on the stimulus behind them.
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Here's a great breakdown on federal spending and our priorities.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Actual bike lanes???????

This is fantastic!  (Go to page 3 and 4 for the proposed views of Green Street and Millbury Street.) 

More trees and actual bike lanes!  I bike around Worcester all the time, and biking on some city streets is like playing biking roulette.

Jeff Barnard for City Council!

I would vote for his tax plan.  It makes sense, and it rewards behavior that the City of Worcester desperately needs.

I've never met Jeff, but seeing that his blog is always full of well thought out ideas, he's probably too qualified and too smart to enter politics.  I can still write him in though, despite Bill Eddy's disapproval.

2010 is going the be the year of Dual Tax Rate and Affordable Housing debates.  I hope all involved remember that we are in the middle of a recession and budget crisis created by the same bad ideas.  New ideas like Jeff's make sense and might actually work!

"I think few people would say that what we really need in America is more corporate interference in the political process." -Alan Grayson

I railed against Citizens United vs. FEC last week, and so has most of the liberal side of American politics.  The only exception is Glenn Greenwald, a writer I respect.  (Part 1, Part 2Questions 1Questions 2).

I don't agree with his assessment especially in his Questions section, largely because I think a contribution from Wal-Mart or Planned Parenthood is far different than an individual contribution.  Both organizations aren't full of employees who agree on every issue or candidate.  A contribution from an organization will reflect the views of its leadership, and leadership already enjoys a significant voice in American politics.  Why should it increase? 

What happens when a foreign or multi-national organization enters the fray?

I doubt that any of these bills will make it out of committee, but Alan Grayson (D- Fla) certainly has a good sense of humor balanced with a sense of justice.

If we voters are mad as hell, why do voters keep enabling the behavior that makes them angry?

There's a lot of anger out there among the American electorate (1, 2, 3, 4).  There's also more passion and interest in politics among some of my acquaintances than ever before.  How do we channel that anger into something positive?

The first place to begin is a rejection of political parties.  Neither party has served us well in the past, and the chances of either party improving are slim to never.  Whenever I bring this subject up, I get arguments, dismissals and eye rolling.  People are comfortable with their brands, whether is is Pepsi-Coke, Good-Evil, Democrat-Republican.  People constantly tell me that I throw my vote away every election when I don't vote for either party.  Yet I walk away from every election content that my vote went to someone who best represents my political philosophies.  (My discontent is that not enough people agree with me.)  I'm not throwing away my vote by voting for someone who won't win.  I'd be throwing away my vote if I voted for a candidate that is the best of two bad choices.

I'm not disappointed by the Obama Administration, much in the same way that I wasn't disappointed by the Clinton Administration.  I'm a registered Democrat, and consider myself a Democrat.  Yet I refuse to vote for a Democratic candidate who is beholden to interests that undermine our democracy and the true spirit of reform.  Both administrations are full of the same centrists and party hacks who only care about perpetuating their career and not true solutions.  We need health care reform, yet the true need has been derailed by moderate corporate mouthpieces that have destroyed a good idea in the name of profit.  After a full year of 'negotiations' we ended up with a bill that no one likes- progressive or conservative, and the Obama Administration enabled it.

Why?  Because the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate didn't understand that voting on the bill was the key.  They were more afraid of defeat than advocating the best policy.  If the Democrats had backed a strong bill and the Republicans had filibustered, then the Republicans would be on record as obstructionists on an issue that needs attention.  In 2010 and 2012, a good percentage of independent voters won't remember the speeches and negotiations over this bill.  But they will remember that the Democrats failed, not that the Republicans and Joe Lieberman threatened to filibuster.
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If Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi had any sense at all, the sample ad for 2010 and 2012 would have said this:

Have your health care costs increased over the past four years?
Have you or anyone you know been denied coverage?
Are you spending more money on coverage and receiving less benefits every year?
Here's why: Republican Candidate voted no on Health Care Reform.  
Democratic Candidate didn't.
If you vote for the Republican again, your costs will go up more.
Vote for the Democrat.  We'll fix Health Care.
-----
Every post election analysis wonders why the electorate swung away from one party to the other.  The analysis fails because no one ever wonders why the electorate keeps on swinging back and forth every four to eight years.  Independent voters change party allegiance based on two things: frustration with the incumbent, or hope the the new candidate will be better.  They forget that the perpetuation of the party either candidate belongs to will be more important than the promises of an election year (and that the independent voter will forget the promises a few years later.)

Neither party is willing to press forward on promises  even in the face of defeat.  To an elected official, defeat is the enemy, and narrows their chance for re-election.  Their advisers and pollsters steer them away from principle to pragmatic indecision and compromise that doesn't serve the public good.  (Here's a great example.)  They forget the simplest notion of politics:  if you have a good idea, and a chance to express it, do it and continue doing it.   Voters will respect you for it, even if they don't agree.

And if you refuse to bow to party pressure in the favor of principle, then the voters will truly understand what a real independent is.   Perhaps then we will be free of political parties.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Affordable Housing.

This past week has seen a huge uptick in stories regarding Affordable Housing.  I can't get into specifics like Bill Randell or Paul Collyer on the business side, but I can talk about the human side.  Jeremy Shulkin's article in Worcester Magazine lays out the main question for Worcester: Where do we go from here?

Mr. Shulkin states that an individual making less than $35,720 qualifies for affordable housing at a cap of $10,716 for rent or mortgage.  That equals $893 a month for the top end of the scale.  What happens at the bottom of the scale?  The minimum wage in Massachusetts is $8.00 per hour.  At 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, the bottom end of the scale (in theory) is $16,640 with $4992 for rent or mortgage, which equals $416 a month.

Your prospects are limited enough at $893 a month for home or condo ownership, so the answer is an apartment, with roommates.  At $416 a month you end up living in a three decker somewhere in Worcester, filled to the brim with your friends and relatives, working multiple jobs.  More often than not you're scrambling for rent and a way to pay bills.  You end up moving more than you should, and you end up in some shady apartments where the landlord doesn't maintain the property, and certainly doesn't live in it with you.  Code enforcement and Housing Courts are backlogged with good and bad tenants and good and bad landlords.  There's little relief in sight, and the best most people caught in this loop can hope for is an escape for their children.

That's a pretty grim reality.  How do we fix it?  Not with quotes like this:

"More emphasis should be placed on attracting a higher class of people, who in turn would improve the commercial vitality of the City, and allow the City to leverage more private investement [sic]."
I don't want to pick a fight with whoever said that, but I do want to pick a fight with the mindset that creates a quote like that and gets a lot of heads nodding in agreement.  I don't deny the reality of Worcester's inner city neighborhoods.  I've lived here my whole life, and volunteered as a coach for over 20 years at a little league that draws from the Piedmont area.  There are a lot of reasons why it's bad and anyone who thinks that it is either society's fault or the individual's fault isn't going to solve the problem.

I understand that Mr. Randell wants to improve the City, and he makes excellent points on his blog on ways to improve our housing stock and increase ownership.  Worcester has been searching elsewhere for a 'higher class of people' for as long as I've been alive.  There's always been a call from City leadership for an Arts District, or an Outlet Mall, or Mixed Use Parcels, or a Regional Airport that will save Worcester and bring the classy people flocking to us with open wallets.  So far, none of those have worked.

Looking elsewhere for saviors is useless in the middle of a recession.  I don't care how many reports, slogans and studies the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce or the Research Bureau have issued.  Until we improve ourselves, the surrounding area is going to look at us with disdain (largely because we do the same thing to ourselves.)

Here's my plan: Education, Jobs, Renovation, Re-use and Ownership.  The first two are pretty obvious.  If we improve our educational system and opportunities, then our residents will be more desirable as a work force.  If we create better jobs in the area from the bottom up, our inner city will improve.  The third is more complex, and is exactly where the affordable housing debate gets murky because we haven't done the first two things consistently.  We haven't managed our rental market properly at all.  We need a vigilant Code Department that can respond to problems properties and get solutions.  We need to cut down on the rate of absentee landlords.  We need to encourage ownership and occupancy as much as we do investment (much like Joe O'Brien did personally). 

If we do those three things well, then the higher class of people will be the people already here.  And when we get these things right, the 'higher class of people' elsewhere will realize that Worcester is 'The Paris of the Eighties', and move here.

Then we'll complain about outsiders ruining our City.  But that's a story I'll leave to Rosalie or Diane.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why is everyone surprised that Brown won?

Here's a few good pieces on Martha Coakley's loss yesterday.  I hesitate to read too much into her loss as a national bellweather, but I suspect that the hacks and talking heads will play this up because it is easy and can fit into 30 second 'debates.'

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20100201/greider

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/joan_walsh/politics/2010/01/19/lessons_of_massachusetts

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/20/left

http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/20/exit-poll-of-mass/

Here's why I think Coakley lost:
1.  She was a bland and uninspiring candidate.
2.  She was way too quiet in December, when she could have set the tone of the election.
3.  Scott Brown had a lot of help in the last two weeks, and came off very well AFTER the debates had aired.  Most independent/undecided voters don't watch debates.  They are more easily influenced by ads and word of mouth, and tend to focus on a few small issues.

4.  Voters in Massachusetts have elected 3 Republican governors since 1989.  Is it that hard to believe that they wouldn't vote for a moderate like Brown?  (Ignoring the fact that he will now have to march lockstep with a Republican minority in the Senate that is much more conservative than the voters in Massachusetts envisioned when they voted for him.)

My favorite analysis came from my cousin:

"A year ago everyone and his sister was telling me to vote for obama, i didnt, now a year later those same people are telling me to vote for scott brown, i didnt, for gods sake you elected obama for change, he is one vote away from giving that to you and your trying to stop it...its not Washington that's f'd..its you!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Our only hope today lies in our ability to capture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism." -Martin Luther King

This is a fantastic article about Martin Luther King.  Please read it today on your day off (or even if you had to work today like I did!)

Acorns in Wormtown?

While searching for daft, racist and idiotic Tea Party pictures, I ran across this post from April 17, 2009 on the IUSB Vision Weblog

I wonder if Mike Benedetti is one of the 'ACORN agitators' in this picture?  (This is why I need a sarcasm font.  I really don't believe the author's accusation regarding Mike.)

For a true explanation of what the Guantanamo protesters are doing, here's their website, Witness Against Torture.

"The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it." -George Washington

From George Washington's Farewell Address in 1796:
"I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."
 Why I'm not voting for Scott Brown:
 -He's pro death penalty.
-He's pro torture.
-He doesn't believe that we need a public health care option.
-He's pro Patriot Act.
-I could go on, but there isn't much that appeals to me about his candidacy or policies.

Why I'm not voting for Martha Coakley:
While Martha Coakley was Massachusetts Attorney General, she supported the renewal of the Patriot Act.  Any candidate that believes we can abandon our Constitutionally protected freedoms in the interest of National Security won't get my support.  That's why I supported Alan Khazei and Mike Capuano in the primaries. 

Why I'm not voting for Joe Kennedy:
I admit, he's intriguing.  He supports HR 2943.  He's against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He has some interesting ideas about economic reform, but his anti-tax, anti government regulation platform is nonsense and will lead to financial anarchy far worse than anything we have ever seen.  Any casual student of American History knows that the golden age of Laissez-Faire Capitalism was full of booms, busts, shortages, instability and zero protections for average citizens.
Joe Kennedy is a little too Libertarian for my tastes.  His self proclaimed "Tea Party Candidate" label turns my stomach due to the racist un-American undertones of the 'Tea Party Movement'.  He doesn't get my vote.
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So where does that leave me?  I am going to vote, and I'll have to write someone in.  Most people I discuss politics with admonish me for throwing away my vote on third party candidates and write ins.  I completely disagree- I refuse to vote for a flawed Democrat or Republican candidate because the two party system fails to produce meaningful candidates.   We end up choosing between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and these choices produce voter apathy and low turnout.  I always vote in Democratic primaries, and my candidates never win.  But I do show up as a progressive, unabashedly liberal voice in a party that is being frightened to the center and irrelevance.  And for the past 10 years I've voted along with Green Party candidates who best represent where I stand politically.

I register my dissent by not voting for establishment candidates that represent the worst of the two party system which has been co-opted by lobbyists, the military industrial complex, and financial conglomerates that are more concerned with profit margins than social justice and the well being of our planet.  If more people registered their dissent in this manner, perhaps we would have a more representative government.  After all, politicians hate it when we ignore them.  They can dismiss a few vocal protesters and ignore the apathetic non-voters.  But if we all unite and register our displeasure at the polls, then they will have to listen.

Please vote tomorrow.  If you don't like any of the candidate, write in an eligible citizen.  They have to be 30 years old and reside in Massachusetts.  All you need to do is write in their name and address, and you have registered your dissent, and that is far more powerful than staying home and doing nothing.
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"You can't be neutral on a moving train." - Howard Zinn

Lazy Journalism, Part 3!

I took two weeks off- one because Jeff beat me to it, and another because "Z" apparently took the week off also.  But now I'm back with my Lazy Journalism series (Part 1, Part 2) on my favorite curmudgeon, Robert Z. Nemeth.

“I’m not beholden to special interests. Because I don’t owe anybody anything, I’m free to tell the truth and fight for what I believe in."  -Scott Brown, as told to Robert Z. Nemeth
Candidates tell the voters and reporters many things, some true, some false, some chock full of BS.  It's the job of responsible voters and reporters to do a little digging and find out if the candidate is telling the truth.  It's especially important for reporters to dig a little harder- after all, their articles are read and trusted by many readers.  When a reporter doesn't dig deeper, they do a disservice to their news organization and their readers. 

If Mr. Nemeth had anything better to do with his time, perhaps he could have turned up these few choice facts about Scott Brown's claim that he isn't beholden to any special interests.

FreedomWorks and Club For Growth have been mobilizing support for Mr. Brown.  (Article on ThinkProgress.org)  FreedomWorks is headed by former House Republican Dick Armey, author of the Contract For America back in 1994.  You can thank Mr. Armey for this summer's disruptive town meetings regarding health reform.  FreedomWorks has been the chief architect of the angry and divisive tone of the town halls.  Instead of a true debate based on facts, we can thank FreedomWorks for displays such as these: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)  Club For Growth is a Wall Street PAC that lobbies for influence and bailouts from Washington.  Candidate Brown claims he is opposed to future stimulus bills, despite the fact that he accepts money from firms that benefited from the two stimulus bills.

OpenSecrets.org is a great website for tracking candidates and contributions to their campaigns.  Unfortunately, they only have numbers through 12/31/09.  It will be interesting to see the updated numbers for January, when all the attention on Scott Brown materialized.

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance has a partially updated website.  Scott Brown's last update was apparently in 2008???
-----
My favorite part of Mr. Nemeth's scribblings came in the paragraph regarding the recent failed underwear bomber.
"At a time when homeland safety is endangered due to an ultra-liberal mindset in Washington that at times appears to be more concerned about the rights of terrorists than the safety of Americans, the Senate needs a hard-liner on national security. Even before the Christmas Day attempt by an Islamic jihadist to destroy a Detroit-bound airliner with nearly 300 people aboard, Scott Brown, a lieutenant colonel with close to 30 years of service in the National Guard, expressed concern about flawed security measures and the apparent breakdown of the command structure. He said authorities should have recognized the warning signs before an officer described as a Muslim fanatic murdered 13 military personnel at a Texas Army base in November, just as they should have prevented the “underwear bomber” from boarding an airplane. "
I think the same could be said for the summer of 2001 when the Cheney/Bush Administration along with the CIA, FBI and NSA missed out on the largest terror attack on U.S. soil.  Eight years later we have the Department of Homeland Security, a Cheney/Bush creation that should be the focus of Mr. Nemeth's criticism, not the candidacy of Martha Coakley or the Obama Administration. 

Perhaps Mr. Nemeth believed Rudy Giuliani a few weeks ago when he claimed that "We had no domestic terror attacks under Bush."  (In a stunning coincidence, Rudy "9/11" Giuliani recently campaigned with Scott Brown.  With 'independent' allies like that, can we really trust Mr. Nemeth's candidate to keep us safe?  Did Scott Brown denounce the Cheney/Bush Administration when Richard Reid tried to blow up his shoe on an airliner?
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I'll end with this chestnut tossed in near the end of Mr. Nemeth's column:
"She hardly displayed a profile-in-courage by refusing to debate her opponent one-on-one, insisting on the presence of a nonentity who has no chance of getting elected."
 That nonentity is a candidate who gathered enough signatures as an independent candidate to appear on the ballot for this election.  Having that sort of organization and dedication should guarantee Joe Kennedy's appearance in the debates.  This is a democracy where any citizen can run for office, regardless of party affiliation.  I would think that Mr. Nemeth would encourage candidates like Joe Kennedy- after all, Mr. Nemeth constantly hopes for an 'independent' voice to guide us.  Apparently Mr. Nemeth's has a dictionary where Independent = Republican.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Brand integrity

The concept of brand integrity boggles my mind, especially after reading this article.

This candidate brought to you by.....FreedomWorks and Wall Street.

Last week I wrote about the sudden new interest in Scott Brown's campaign.  Now there's more, from some rather nefarious sources that don't quite jive with Brown's 'independent' image.

Always look at a candidate's financial backers.  They are the ones who will be showing up looking for favors a few years after the election once the voters stop paying attention.

"The general counsel said the investigation substantiated neither that the incident occurred nor did not occur. "

Let me repeat that gem for you:
"The general counsel said the investigation substantiated neither that the incident occurred nor did not occur."
That's the sort of sentence I thought only Douglas Adams could write.   Apparently T&G reporter Lee Hammel and General Counsel of the Worcester County Jail Jeffrey Turco are big Douglas Adams fans also.
 "Noting that the sheriff’s department is a law enforcement agency, Mr. Turco said the jail has not referred the incident to any other law enforcement agency.   “The matter is closed from our perspective,” he said. Worcester police are not investigating the incident, Worcester Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst said."
That sentence makes the argument for a Civilian Review Board of not only the WPD but the Sheriff's Department.  The alleged-possibly-non-occurring incident occurred off of jail property and in public.  If that had been anyone else in the City, charges would have been filed.  But apparently everyone in local law enforcement wants the episode swept under the rug, and the T&G obliged by running the follow up to the original story in its Saturday print edition with a few short paragraphs and apparently zero tough questions asked.

Repetitive Redundancy.

The T&G also ran two articles about the Senate campaign side by side.  The Brown article was cut and pasted from Globe reporters Matt Viser and Andrea Estes, and the Coakley article  was by T&G reporter John J. Monahan.  Both articles used essentially the same talking point from the Coakley camp at the same spot in each article.  The effect was even more jarring in print, seeing that they were placed right next to each other.  


From the Globe article:
“Let’s be clear: I stand with Main Street ... It should be clear to voters that I stand with them, with taxpayers — not with big CEOs looking to line their pockets.”
From the T&G article:
“Scott Brown is going to stand up for Wall Street. … I am going to stand up for Main Street. I am going to stand with taxpayers when I say we want our money back.”

Every day the quality of the T&G slides farther downhill.  Most articles are cut and pasted from the Globe, the Times or the AP.  Prices have gone up, content has gone down, and they wonder why it isn't a profitable business anymore.  I'm really enjoying the new space saver- the Sports section no longer lists the complete standings for the NBA or NHL.  They only list the division the Celtics and Bruins play in.

Salon.com had an article about Clinton's visit.  The author Joe Conanson also slipped up, stating that:
 "Moreover, Coakley had endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid during the Massachusetts primary, defying the entire Democratic establishment in the state (including Kennedy, Senator John Kerry, and Gov. Deval Patrick) that had backed Obama."

Jim McGovern endorsed Hillary Clinton.   I wonder if he was the unnamed congressman from this quote:
"“I think she can pull this out,” said a Democratic Congressman who showed up in Worcester."

Apparently the editors had the night off, or they don't watch the Food Network.

Emeril Lagasse is not Todd English.   In the print version of the T&G, this story has a picture of good ol' Emeril, not Todd English.  The T&G doesn't have the photo up on the web version of the story.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Redundancy.

There were thirteen Letters to the Editor in today's T&G.  Twelve were in favor of Scott Brown.  One letter was written in opposition to Scott Brown wearing his uniform while campaigning, but didn't endorse Martha Coakley.

Maybe there truly is a landslide of support for Brown.  Maybe Coakley supporters don't write letters.  I truly wonder if this overwhelming support for Brown has anything to do with T&G endorsing Brown on the 10th.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The slow, churning inevitabiltiy of government.

I noticed two new No Parking signs across from my apartment Tuesday afternoon.  We've needed them due to a bunch of new people moving into the neighborhood, all with cars, and most with limited off street parking.  There are days where a small car can't get through the bend on Courtland St.

So I wondered when this request was made.

The request was made by Thomas Moore on 8/11/09.  It was referred to the Traffic and Parking Committee.

On 10/14/09, the Traffic and Parking Committee approved the request and referred it to the City Council.

On 12/1/09 the City Council approved the request with a vote of 11-0.

On 1/12/10 the signs were installed.

I wonder when the first ticket/tow will occur?

Things that make me angry, Volume 732.3

Today I had to cancel my subscription to a magazine that I was getting for free through my credit card company.  I tried canceling online through the magazine website, but was directed to a phone number for a Newsub Magazine Services.

Six minutes and 46 seconds later, it was finally canceled, after they offered me 3 different magazines and a renewal on the magazine I was calling to cancel.

A simple one minute call with a live person would have been done the job.  But instead I had to deal with their robo-caller system that didn't understand what I was saying. 

Robo-idiot: Please say which magazine you are calling to cancel.
Me: Food and Wine.
Robo-dimwit: Did you say Jake and Vine?  Please say Yes.......or........No.
Me: No.
Robo-tard: Did you say No?
Me: Yes!!!!!
Robo-moron: Please spell out your last name.
Me: S-M-I-T-H
Robo-waster of time: I'm sorry.  I didn't understand you.  Please spell out your last name.
Me: S-M-I-T-H
Robo-dork: (Insert special error tone)- I can't understand what you are saying.  If you are having trouble, please spell your name slowly and clearly and move away from anything that is making noise.
Me: (In a completely dead quiet apartment where the only sound is me grinding my teeth and the cat cleaning her fur) S---------M---------I----------T-----------H
Robo-Palin: Did you say SMITH?
Me: YES!!!!!!!!!
DeafRobo: Did you say yes?
Me: YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSS!
Robo-trickster: I would like to confirm your cancellation of Food and Wine.  Would you like to cancel Food and Wine and then receive 6 complimentary issues of Food and Wine for just $5.95 to be renewed at the end of 6 months?
Me: What the fuck?  I just called to cancel Food and Wine!  I don't want more of it after I cancel.
Robo-ass:  I'm sorry, I didn't understand what you said.  Would you like to cancel Food and Wine and then receive 6 complimentary issues of Food and Wine for just $5.95 to be renewed at the end of 6 months?
Me: NOOOOO!!!!!
Robo-repeater: Did you say No?
Me: YESSSSSSS!!!!!!
Robo-Saleswoman: Now that you have canceled your magazine, would you like the Economist magazine for $28.95?
Me: NOOOOOOO!!!!!
Robo-Demon:Did you say No?
Me: YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!
Robo-dork:  Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: Go fuck yourself!

Silence.  Sweet, golden silence.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No more dumping (for now)

Thanks to the Parks Department for their speedy pickup on Mayfield Street.  I went by this afternoon and the trees were all gone.

Who said that bloggers in their pajamas can't change the world?

"Let business do what it does best." - Mike O'Brien

In this article regarding snow removal, the final paragraph stood out, which proves that you always have to read every article through until the last word.
"Meanwhile, the city is facing a potential $600,000 liability because its budget-savings plan to purchase the streetlight system from National Grid has been delayed because of complex negotiations. This year’s municipal budget had assumed a savings of $1.2 million generated by the acquisition of the streetlight network."
 There's been a big push by Mike O'Brien to privatize the City's parking assets.  The Research Bureau wants to privatize pretty much everything.  Why would the City want to buy our streetlight system if private business is the most efficient way to deliver City services?

Will it be enough?

Scott Brown is finally making national news.  Unfortunately it's all been in the last two weeks before the election.  I know the cynical view of politics believes that we only have an attention span of about two weeks.    I always see polls going into Election Day with a percentage of 'undecided' voters.  I've never known any regular voters who are undecided.  Perhaps there is a certain percentage of the population who don't tell pollsters what they believe.  Perhaps this is the population that stands slack jawed and gaping in the supermarket staring at mayonnaise display with their shopping cart taking up the whole aisle (I'm talking to you, fat lady in the brown fur coat yesterday in Big Y).   Maybe every voter I know is opinionated and informed (checking list of friends and family, yes they are!).

Brown could have used this attention back in November and December to create momentum and an actual, interesting, covered race.  Instead, Coakley's snooze fest during December has let him back into the race.  I wonder if she spent most of her money during the primary?  Or did she truly believe she had this race wrapped up?

Either way, I'm not voting for any of them.  Time for another write in candidate.

Coming Soon: another empty warehouse?

There's a new CVS opening up on the corner of Park Ave and May Street.  Should I take this article as an ominous sign?

I miss Cactus Pete's and their peanuts.

The impossible has happened!

There was universal agreement on the T&G comment section today!!!!! 

I'm amazed- only our City Council (with the exception of Bill Eddy and Phil Clancy) could unify the message boards with their vote to slap Adi Tibrewal and Lizz Todd in the face.  I emailed the entire City Council before the last vote to note my opposition to the 'historic' tennis court, and the only one who emailed me back was Bill Eddy, who agreed with me.  When government is conducted in a bubble, nothing good is accomplished.

Dear Joe O'Brien, Joe Petty, Rick Rushton, Kate Toomey, Konnie Lukes and Mike Germain:  You've disappointed me and lost my vote (assuming you had it in the first place.)  And if I lived in your district (or was named Paul Giorgio), Joff Smith, Phil Palmieri and Barbara Haller, you've lost my vote also!

In a related note, now we have a new potential lawsuit*** against the City.  According to my unofficial tally, we have a $10 million suit pending against the WPD and Cops after a police sergeant broke into someone's home for TV ratings.  We have the Redaction Imbroglio (brilliantly chronicled by Jeff at Wormtown Taxi) that has been going on for almost one year. 

***(Addendum- it's no longer a potential lawsuit.  Details are here.)

In all three instances, we have had bad decisions by leaders in our City Government produce lawsuits that have spent our tax money defending bad policy decisions.  Perhaps our City Government should stop making bad decisions for the New Year.  In the absence of any indication of previous wisdom on their part, I guess I can only hope for no decisions at all.

"I refuse to live in a country like this. And I'm not leaving." - Michael Moore

Here's a fantastic piece from Glenn Greenwald regarding the nation's attitude towards the financial bailout.  Beyond the ramblings of the Tea Party and the movies of Michael Moore (talk about two divergent paths!), there hasn't been much in the way of organized protest directed at Wall Street.

Has the toxic debate over health care and the war in Afghanistan blunted that anger?  Or are we really willing to be accomplices?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dumping.

I noticed a bunch of Christmas trees dumped on Mayfield Street next to Beaver Brook Park Sunday afternoon.  The same thing happened last year, and the year before that, and the year before that....you get the picture.

Last year the trees didn't get picked up by the City until April.  I decided to report it today (January 11th).  Let's see how long it takes!

I used the live chat option on the Parks page.  Six minutes after logging on, I was done chatting and Jessica assured me that she would notify the Street Division of the problem.

Random T&G links

Clive McFarlane had an excellent bit of satire today in the T&G.  I can't wait to see the howling from City Hall over this bit!

What took so long?  It's 2010!  No wonder the Republican 'leadership' in Congress doesn't have a health plan yet!

What took so long II?  It took three years to strip Finneran of his law license after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice?  For anyone who complains that Massachusetts is dominated by one party, Tom Finneran is the perfect example of how that analysis is flawed.  In any other state Tom Finneran would be a Republican.  His ideas, actions, and agenda while Speaker of the House were all conservative.

Under the headline Study: Newspapers still a step ahead in local news I found this gem at the very end of the article:
"For whatever reasons, the study found that fewer local stories are being published by the Sun and six other newspapers that cover the Baltimore area. The list includes other general-interest publications such as The Washington Post and the Towson Times and specialty publications such as the Baltimore Business Journal.

The change came into sharp focus in July when Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed deep cuts in the state's budget. There were 26 stories published on the subject by the Baltimore-area newspapers monitored during the weeklong study, as well as the AP and other publications around the country. The last time Maryland announced substantial budget cuts in 1991, there were 83 stories published in a comparable weeklong period, according to the study.

Jarvis contends that less original coverage doesn't necessarily translate into less information for readers, because the Web has enabled more people to post comments and links to other material that illuminate.

"Journalism today isn't just about the production of content," he said. "It's about where we can all add value."

 What a waste of time and ink to borrow that propaganda piece from the AP.  Perhaps the editors at the T&G should have devoted that space to actual local coverage.  It's also very amusing that the study focused on The Baltimore Sun, which was taken down by former Sun reporter David Simon in the fifth season of The Wire.  (If you haven't watched The Wire yet, go rent it- it's one of the best written shows in the history of television.)

Epic Failure, part 3

I tried to log on this morning, and my internet connection was down for the 3rd time since Christmas.  And that meant a visit to the very unhelpful and annoying Charter automated tech help.  6 minutes and 57 seconds later, I had service again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Breaking chains

I'm sure a lot of people will be wailing and gnashing their teeth about the demise of McFadden's on Front St.  I'm sure the propaganda wing of the Research Bureau will find a way to make McFadden's closing a perfect example of the inequities of the dual tax rate.

Personally, I can't say I'm sorry to see it go. I don't like seeing any business fail in Downtown, because I spend time there and don't find it as scary and menacing as the posters on the T&G message boards (with the exception of Gabe's comment...bravo!).

I won't shed a tear over the closing of a boring, unoriginal chain bar/restaurant with mediocre food and bad DJs, especially when there are so many better options within walking distance (even on a frigid winter night).

I'd much rather spend my time at The Dive Bar, Tammany Hall, Fiddler's Green, The Lucky Dog, 55 Pearl or the Armsby Abbey, all of which are located at the heart of the scary ghost town known as Downtown Worcester.  They all possess unique qualities that make them good places to visit and return, whether it is good food, great live music, or great beer.

Timothy McGourthy, the director of economic development for Worcester doesn't seem to understand that:
"“The owner said there are a few interested parties for that space,” he said. “That's a positive sign. This is one of those things that happen in a tough economy. But there are those that see this as an opportunity. The city will be supportive of whoever comes next.” Mr. McGourthy said McFadden's had a rich population of professional workers and students to draw from downtown, but was not able to remain with steady business through the day. He said that the delay of $564 million mixed-use CitySquare probably did not play a role in the company's decision to pull out. “They had a population in downtown that would go out to lunch, but they were never able to really capture it,” he said of McFadden's. “We want CitySquare, but we have to have something that brings people in. We will help whoever goes in there address the issue of being able to bridge the full day.”
 They didn't have steady business because they wasn't a reason for people to return! 

Two articles diverged on the Internet....

I've mentioned my ambivalent feelings about InCity Times before on this blog. (I'm not the only one.) Rosalie Tirella's latest articles best represent what a crapshoot that paper can be.

On the occasion of Joe O'Brien's inauguration as our symbolic weak mayor, Rosalie goes off on a rant that is unhinged at best. I'm amazed- she somehow manages to portray Joe as a racist good ol' boy based on events he had nothing to do with on a School Committee search he wasn't part of. Why does she retroactively accuse him of a crime he never committed....because he didn't sit down for an interview with her after she asked Barbara Haller to ask him for an interview.

Here she covers an issue that would likely be uncovered anywhere else. While it is covered in her usual angry, accusatory style, she points out how difficult it is to be poor and marginalized. That's the kind of stuff I want to read!

I ate my pudding.

It makes me happy when I read a story like this in the T&G about a candidate I supported speaking out as the voice of reason. Keep up the good work, Tracy!

It was also nice to see a reference to my high school history teacher, Gil Cronin in Clive McFarlane's column today. I wonder if such a project would be feasible during class time now that teachers are under pressure to teach the the MCAS?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRRRRK!!!!!!!!!

I sent our temporary Senator Paul Kirk an email regarding the health care debate back on November 30th.

Today I received an email back from his office on January 4th thanking me for my comments.

Too bad the new digital age can only make our emails faster and more efficient and not our public servants.

Reason #1 why Scott Brown won't get my vote on January 19th.

The September primaries were lackluster, and I doubt January will be much better. Perhaps it has to do with the quality of the candidates and their lack of imagination and inability to stray from party dogma.

Scott Brown came out in favor of waterboarding. Channeling his inner Jack Bauer, he fired off this ridiculous statement:
“It's time we stopped acting like lawyers and start acting like Patriots.  If there is a time bomb situation and they know of a person who in fact has information, it should be up to the president to determine what tools he wants to use to gather information, ” Mr. Brown said, including waterboarding. “I believe it's not torture.”
Here are two videos and articles from people who agreed with him regarding waterboarding, until they volunteered to see what it was really like.

The first video is from columnist Christopher Hitchens along with an article about his experience.



The second video is from radio host Erich Mancow. I challenge Candidate Brown to undergo the same treatment and see if his answer changes.

What would Barbara Haller do?

This item in the paper really got me fired up this morning. Eleven hours later I'm still fuming.

Why tear down houses when there are so many families and individuals at Abby's House, Friendly House or the Mustard Seed who could benefit from a home?
This whole situation was created by the poisonous 'debate' created by the T&G and our City Council in reaction to drunk, rowdy Holy Cross students and the 'need' for a PILOT program.

Every cliche has been thrown into the ring regarding the neighborhood surrounding Holy Cross. It's been characterized in the local paper as rich spoiled brats vs. hard working taxpayers. What hasn't happened is a reasonable dialogue where solutions are possible.

The partying isn't a recent development. It's been going on for years. But to me, it always seems as if the issue gains traction around elections, when it is an easy story for the paper and a winning 'issue' for the City Council to score easy publicity. If the City of Worcester and the WPD can't figure out how to contain a few apartments that are rented by absentee landlords to party prone college students, then how are we supposed to fix the difficult problems facing the City?

As acting president of Holy Cross from 1998-2000, Frank Vellaccio worked with the City to address the problem of off campus partying. Nine years later, nothing has changed, and it won't change until the City cracks down on off campus activities, and Holy Cross helps. What incentive does Holy Cross have to be a good neighbor when a good, decent man like Frank Vellaccio is dragged through the mud in the local paper?

Tearing down houses around Holy Cross isn't going to solve the party problems, unless the College plans on buying all of College Hill and creating a bombed out neutral zone. Holy Cross is a dry campus. All of the party problems are off campus. And because the only parties are away from where the students live, the parties are much louder and rowdier.

I went to Vassar College, which was the exact opposite of Holy Cross. It was secular, very liberal, and very lenient in its policies regarding alcohol and parties. In my four years there, you could always find a party on campus. There were rarely any parties off campus because the students weren't forced off campus to find a good time. The local bars didn't have hordes of underage students pounding down their doors for the same reason. Because the students were partying where they lived and actually had to pay fines for any damage to their dorms and rooms, the parties weren't loud, destructive or all encompassing. If you wanted a quiet weekend or a party, you could find either, no problem. I never had to worry about loud parties on my hall every Wednesday night, nor did I ever wake up to a bombed out hallway on a Sunday morning.

I know Holy Cross will never relax their policies on alcohol due to the religious nature of the school. Perhaps this could all be avoided if there was any sort of night life near Holy Cross, or even a viable public transportation system that operated past 9PM to ferry students to downtown and the bars. I'd suggest turning the vacated three deckers into transitional housing for the homeless, but that's been vetoed in the past by the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness. Instead of tearing down buildings, Holy Cross could extend their support of Dismas House to the vacated three deckers. Maybe the College could collaborate with Friendly House or Abby's House to provide homes for Worcester residents and a service program within the community for their students. Then we could see how colleges and cities can help each other, and leave any references to PILOT behind.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"With the debate on the verge of violence- or worse, of being turned over to committee" - Tom Robbins

Item 13b on tomorrow's City Council Agenda earns this quote from Tom Robbins.  (Side note- I waited too long to reread Still Life With Woodpecker.  There are so many memorable quotes and good chuckles in its pages that make me tempted to do an quotes column just like Bill Simmons.)

Five pieces of property will be added to the Montvale Historic District if the City Council votes in favor.  Two weeks ago they voted 9-2 to advertise the expansion with Councilors Clancy and Eddy dissenting.  I'm not sure if a vote to advertise will guarantee a vote to adopt the changes.  I hope not.  Liz Todd is one of the owners of 1 Montvale, and her plea for help was posted on Nicole's blog back in December.

I find it interesting that Mr. Crowley (savior of the New Year's Firework Display!) can use his seat on the Historical Commission to influence affairs in his neighborhood.  Having a personal interest in the outcome should be reason enough to recuse himself from the Historical Commission vote.  That hasn't happened in the two sagas regarding the 'historic' tennis court (well documented here on Wormtown Taxi.)

I hope that the City Council recognizes that the current expansion has no reason to come before them and soundly rejects the expansion.  I doubt they will, so I will end with another fantastic Tom Robbins quote:
"Tunnel vision is a disease in which perception is restricted by ignorance and distorted by vested interest.  Tunnel vision is caused by an optic fungus that multiplies when the brain is less energetic than the ego.  It is complicated by exposure to politics.  When a good idea is run through the filters and compressors of ordinary tunnel vision, it not only comes out reduced in scale and value but in its new dogmatic configuration produces effects the opposite of those for which it originally was intended."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cancel my burger order.

This is why I shop at the supermarket less and less.

Ammonia? Really?

The dangers of spell check.

Call in the quarantine experts now! After noticing that Rosalie couldn't spell Worcester in her last issue, this week's Worcester Magazine had two that I caught but spell check couldn't:

That would be Medal, not metal. (third person down)

That would be Joules, not Jewels. (5th paragraph)

Footnote to these past two spelling posts...am I becoming a SNOOT?

Blah, Blah, Blah



Individual Income Tax Rates:
1960:
20% ($0-$2,000 Head of Household, $0-$4,000 Married)
91% ($300,000+ Head of Household, $0-$400,00 Married)
2009:
10% ($0-$11,950 Head of Household, $0-$16,750 Married)
35% ($373,650+ Head of Household, $0-$373,650 Married)

Corporate Tax Rate:
1960:
30% ($0-$25,000)
52% ($25,001+)
2010:
Corporate Income Tax Rates
2010:
15% ($0-$50,000)
38% ($15,000,000-$18,333,333)

-----

I get it Scott. It's an easy message that pollsters tell you resonates with voters. But shouldn't we be talking about inflation, stagnation, globalization, down sizing, and shipping jobs overseas? That's the main difference between 1960 and 2010.

Then again, should I expect anything substantial from a candidate who said the following:

"I live every day like it's my last. Especially when JFK Jr. passed away and Princess Di. They're powerful, handsome, rich people, and they're dead. And they can't make a difference while I still can."

Friday, January 1, 2010

The world is a litter box....

Sometimes the problem with a democracy is the people that want to participate. Sarah Palin is a perfect example.

So is this petition that will come before the City Council on Tuesday. I can just imagine the lively debate this will stir up. Never mind the Montvale imbroglio- I want to hear Rick Rushton wax eloquently about the hazards of cat poop.

This is what happens when you put cats on leashes:



I'm going to have to go check this petition out. That's right down the street from me.