Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Shut Up, Sox

Just once, I'd like to see the Red Sox NOT comment:
Although we are disappointed that Roger Clemens will not be joining the Red Sox, we are glad that we went through the process and reconnected as an organization with Roger. We wish him the best of luck with Houston and in the National League. When Roger's career does come to an end, we will welcome him to Fenway Park and will forever consider him to be a legendary and beloved member of the Boston Red Sox.
Blech! Shut up already. Why the team feels the need to comment on free agents they didn't sign is beyond me. They did the same thing when Damon went to the Yankees, only worse, they held a press conference.

They sound like the guy who remains friends with the girl he wanted for a girlfriend, but who ended up going out with someone else. Like saying nice things will somehow make it better.

Update: Apparently, the Sox are acting like a jilted teen because they courted Roger like one. Aww, wasn't this a cute idea:
Apparently, the Red Sox appealed to the sentimental side of Roger Clemens more than we know. According to agent Randy Hendricks, the club's final offer to the pitcher who made No. 21 famous in Boston was a one-year contract worth precisely $21,000,021.
They also promised to wear Clemens' varsity jacket and write Sox+Roger TLA 4-eva! on each page of Schilling's journal.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why can't we get players like that?

With apologies to Bob Lobel, we bring you the story of former Sox pitcher Scott Sauerbeck:
SHEFFIELD VILLAGE, Ohio -- Indians relief pitcher Scott Sauerbeck was arrested early Tuesday in Sheffield Village, police said.

Officers said they followed a 1966 Lincoln Continental that was being driven erratically northbound on Abby Road at about 3:45 a.m., when they noticed the passenger and driver pull into a driveway and flee on foot behind a home.

Police found Sauerbeck, 34, and 28-year-old Lily Miller, of Lakewood, hiding in the bushes. They were both arrested.

He was charged with obstructing official business and wrongful entrustment, because he gave his keys to someone who had too much to drink.

Police said Miller's blood-alcohol content was .253, three times the legal limit. She was charged with obstructing official business and driving under the influence.
Sauerbeck was awful when he was here in 2003, but he wasn't that much worse than a couple of the guys we have now. If we're going to be stuck with the likes of Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez, they might as well provide a little entertainment.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day, Lancaster

Scenes from this morning's Memorial Day services and parade in Lancaster:


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Coaching trouble

Are you afraid that your son or daughter might be scarred for life as a result of being on the wrong end of a blowout? Then move to Connecticut, where the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference will be suspending coaches of football teams that run of the score:

HARTFORD, Conn. -- High school football coaches in Connecticut will have to be good sports this fall -- or risk a suspension.

The football committee of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school sports, is adopting a "score management" policy that will suspend coaches whose teams win by more than 50 points.

A rout is considered an unsportsmanlike infraction and the coach of the offending team will be disqualified from coaching the next game, said Tony Mosa, assistant executive director of the Cheshire, Conn.-based conference.

"We were concerned with any coach running up the game. There's no need for it," Mosa said. "This is something that we really have been discussing for the last couple of years. There were a number of games that were played where the difference of scores were 60 points or more. It's not focused on any one particular person."


Some states, including Iowa, continuously run the game clock in the second half if a team has a 35-point lead. The Connecticut committee rejected a similar proposal because members thought it would unfairly cut into backups' playing time.
One of the things school sports teaches students is how to deal with adversity. Teaching kids that someone will step in and save them from further trouble when they are facing adversity isn't realistic.

Teaching good sportsmanship is also important, but disciplining coaches who don't teach it a certain way (or at all) isn't the answer. The message kids on the winning teams will receive isn't "we don't run up the score because it's right," it is "we don't run up the score because the rules say we can't."

I've coached for a long time (basketball, not football), and have been on both sides of some pretty bad blowouts. My philosophy had always been that our teams would play the first half straight regardless of the score, and then once I was sure the game was in hand, I would play more of our reserves, call off the press, instruct the girls not to shoot three-pointers, etc.

There was a time when I would get offended by coaches who would beat us badly and not play out the string in the same way that I would. But over time I began to realize that all I could do was coach my team, and it wasn't going to do me any good to worry about whether our opponents were treating us in a sportsmanlike fashion or not.

Further, I came to believe that a team should not alter their style just to keep scores down. A team that beat the Crusaders by 40+ points this season continued to shoot three-pointers until the final buzzer. Were they being unsportsmanlike? No. They are a run-and-shoot team which always stations four of their five players outside the arc. That is their offensive philosophy. Should they no longer play their style because they are ahead? Shouldn't the younger players or reserves have the chance to become more familiar and comfortable with the style that they will play when they become starters?

In another game this past season, we were being pressed to death and had fallen behind by 20-some points. At the end of a timeout, one of my players turned to me and said, "Well, at least they won't be pressing us anymore." I asked her why she would think that and she replied "Isn't their a rule that they can't press once they have a 20-point lead?" Apparently that was the rule when she played in the middle school league, and she just assumed it would be the same.

I told her that we didn't have any such rule, and further, that it was OK with me if they kept pressing because the more we played against the press, the better we'd become. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only responsibility I have, to keep my team working and learning, not to keep their feelings from being bruised by the score of a basketball game.

I realize that football is different. There is an element of physical domination in a football blowout that may not be there in a similar basketball event. A losing football team might get the living snot beaten out of them both figuratively and literally. But tying disciplinary action to the final score is a situation that is ripe for abuse.

What if Coach A has been blown out by Coach B year after year, hates B with a passion, and finds himself being blown out again. Would he take a safety in a 49-0 game just to stick it to the winning coach?

If a team finds themselves ahead 56-6 or so, do they take a safety to get back under 50 points? Or maybe a coach instructs his defense to let the other team score on every possession so they can keep getting the ball back.

On the other hand, there might be some coaches who would like the opportunity to take a weekend off during the season. These coaches from the San Diego area, for instance, decided to attend a "coaches clinic" in neighboring Nevada:
Allegations of improper expenditures by the Fallbrook High football booster club have been referred to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department after the Fallbrook school district found an ATM withdrawal of $164.95 at a brothel in Nevada, among other questionable transactions on a booster club debit card.

Fallbrook Union High School District Superintendent Tom Anthony said he referred the case to the sheriff's office in Fallbrook after the district conducted its own investigation. The case was referred last week to the financial crimes unit, Sheriff's Lt. Grant Burnett said.

Anthony said some transactions on the debit card were "extremely disturbing" to him and the district's board of trustees. Chief among them, he said, was the ATM withdrawal during Thanksgiving weekend last year at 48 Kit Kat Drive in Carson City, Nev., the location of the Kit Kat Guest Ranch, a brothel.

Debit card records obtained from Anthony show a withdrawal at that ATM of $164.95 at 3:21 a.m. on Nov. 26. It was categorized on the debit card account as "Coaches Expenses: Clinics."

Debit card and travel records show that then-head football coach Dennis Houlihan traveled from Los Angeles to Reno that weekend via Alaska Airlines and rented a car from Nov. 25-27 in Reno. Purchases for his air travel ($253.40) and rental car ($87.51) were on the debit records, categorized as coaches expenses.

The debit card records also show a withdrawal in Carson City at 9:45 p.m. on Nov. 25 for $282 -- hours before the withdrawal at the brothel. It also was categorized as "Coaches Expenses: Clinics."
Can you believe the ATM at the Kit Kat Guest Ranch charges $4.95 per withdrawal?


Friday, May 26, 2006

Tsunami update

A couple of weeks ago, I mocked one of my fellow Leominsterians for Tsunami concerns. In response to a question from a Sentinel and Enterprise reporter about whether or not she was afraid of the bird flu, a Leomisnter resident replied:
"We'll deal with it when and if it comes. We could have a tsunami. Are we going to sit around and worry about that all the time?"
My snarky reaction was that since Leominster is at 404 feet above sea level, a Tsunami is the last thing we'd have to worry about. Looks like I was wrong.

Adam at Universal Hub has been following the predictions of a Frenchman that a 200m Tsunami will hit the East Coast this weekend. Apparently the disaster was supposed to occur yesterday, but further calculations have revealed that the Tsunami will occur during a 48-hour window:
I have received information psychically, which is corroborated by scientific data, according to which on May 25, 2006 a giant tsunami will occur in the Atlantic Ocean, brought about by the impact of a comet fragment which will provoke the eruption of under-sea volcanoes. Waves up to 200 m high will reach coastlines located above and below the Tropic of Cancer.
Maybe I'll head up to Mt. Wachusett tonight and watch the waves roll in...


A request and an apology

Jackson was due to be born Wednesday, but there hasn't been any inkling that he's ready to come into the world. Michelle has had a wonderful pregnancy up to this point. While that is a blessing, I wonder if Jackson is a little too comfortable in there.

I can understand why he wouldn't want to leave the warmth of his home right now, but let's go already. Maybe he's waiting for the heat this week (90s by Monday) to come out so the transition will be easier.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law taught our niece Kayla to do the "Baby Jacks" dance in an effort to spiritually encourage the baby out. My sister-in-law described the dance as "like a rain dance." After a week of rain, we finally got Kayla to stop. I suppose we owe the good people of the Merrimack Valley an apology.

Sorry about that, folks.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Unintended Consequences

I don't think this was quite the visual KABC was going for:



Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Miffed Man Mucks Mom Memorial on Muddy Mother's Day

Trying a little channel 7 vibe here with the headline, work with me...

You may remember that about a month ago, a mother and her unborn baby were killed in Lancaster by a drunken driver. As often happens, the family and friends of the victims erected a make-shift memorial at the crash site. Apparently, the man who owns the property on which the memorial was located has seen enough of it, as related in this story from the Sentinel and Enterprise:

Man admits burying cross from crash victims' memorial
By James Downing

LANCASTER -- A memorial for the Leominster woman and her unborn child who died in an April car crash is missing a cross and a pair of baby booties.

"I removed them because I'm an atheist and I do not want any Catholic symbols on my property," Bill Brodmerkle told the Sentinel & Enterprise Friday.

Brodmerkle said he buried the cross in the backyard of his house at 414 Sterling St.

He said he did not knowingly bury any baby booties, but the weather has been bad and he might not have noticed them.

The guy doesn't want any "Catholic" symbols on his property, so he buries the cross...on his property. Am I missing something here? Is it not still on his property? Is the issue that he thinks hosting a cross on the side of the road in front of his house is an endorsement of belief, like a statue of the Madonna or a political sign touting a candidate?

Brodmerkle said he had been promised the memorial would only stay up for two weeks following the crash.

The cross went missing on May 14, according to John Rousseau, James' brother.

Brodmerkle left a couple of porcelain angels, a wreath, stuffed animals and some now-empty flower baskets untouched.

"I'm sorry for the tragic accident," Brodmerkle said. "I'm also regretful because the person made a forthright and honest promise" to remove the memorial, he added.

Brodmerkle said he is open to returning the cross.

Mr. Brodmerkle obviously feels strongly about the cross (although I wonder why he drew the line between the cross and the porcelain angels, which to me also would qualify as "Catholic" symbols). Not only did he go out of his way to bury it despite the historically bad weather, but the cross erected to memorialize a young mother-to-be and her unborn infant went missing on Mother's Day!

At least he's open to excavating the muddy thing and returning it. Then, it will be off his property once and for all.


Today's nominee for the worst political ad ever

A Republican candidate for California State Assembly sent out this mailer attacking his Republican primary opponent for having a heart transplant. (Insert Dick Cheney joke here).

Click the photo to see it in all it's glory.

(via and Daily Kos)


Monday, May 22, 2006

Jerry Remy has "lost all touch with reality"

Letter to the Editor, from Saturday's Telegram and Gazette:

Sports announcer has a doll, not a mascot
SANDRA J. BELBA, Worcester

I'm a Red Sox fan, although I do enjoy the Patriots more. But I enjoy baseball and the Red Sox.

What I don't enjoy is Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo. I have listened and watched other games on FOX, NESN, ESPN, etc., and all the other announcers seem to be into each game and they tell you if it's a ball, strike or if the pitch is high, low or whatever.

Mr. Remy and Mr. Orsillo talk more about past games, haircuts, scratch tickets and so on, instead of the game. It's between the third and the seventh innings when they seem to be chit-chatting the most. They do pick it up for the eighth and ninth innings.

And will someone please tell Mr. Remy that Wally, the little one he has with him in the booth, is a doll and not real and not the true mascot. He's lost all touch with reality.

There was a time when the way to air any greivance one had was to write a letter to the editor. Sadly, the internet is changing the way we complain publicly. But it's good to see there are some out there who still write to their editor about the really important issues.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Happy Birthday, Buddy

Today, Michelle and I attended my niece Kayla's second brthday party. Her birthday is actually next Wednesday, but we held the party for her this afternoon. She may end up sharing her birthday, as Jackson's due date is also Wednesday. We have an ultrasound Tuesday to schedule a date to induce labor if he doesn't come on his own.

Here are a couple of pics of the festivities:

The guest of honor making her entrance.

Uncle Lance showing Kayla how to use her new baseball equipment.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The littlest Supercenter ever

While the Sentinel and Enterprise was examining the issues surrounding the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed for Lancaster, the Telegram and Gazette was bumbling around the same story. Can you find the problems with this excerpt from Karen Nugent's article Thursday?
The plan is for a 200,000-square-foot Super Wal-Mart, meaning a full-scale grocery store and garden center would be included along with the department store. It would be situated at the current Lancaster Golf Center, off Old Union Turnpike Road, just south of Route 2 near the Leominster line.

Mr. Dunn, who is the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Wal-Mart plans to build the store on the golf center's parking lot, and leave three lots along Old Union Turnpike open for restaurants -- Olive Garden was mentioned -- and coffee shops.

"It's a very clever plan," he said.

A plan for a Wal-Mart in Leominster, not far from the proposed Lancaster site, was withdrawn in April 2005 after neighbors vehemently opposed to it filed an appeal with the Leominster Planning Board.

Were the errors easy to spot?

Let's start with the size and site of the Wal-Mart supercenter. Apparently, they are going to try to shoehorn a 200,000 square foot building into the parking lot of the Lancaster Golf Center. That would be quite the engineering feat, since the parking lot appears to be around 45,000 square feet in size, based on aerial photos of the site from Windows Live Local. I suppose they could build it in the style of a Victorian-era department store housed in a four- or five-story building, but I'm guessing the planning board might have issues with that.

Next, check out the suggestion that Olive Garden might be one of the restaurants built as part of the project. In fact, the last restaurant that would be built there is an Olive Garden, since there is already one opening across route 2 in Orchard Hill Park this fall. A builder has been hired, and they've even posted ads looking for a manager of the restaurant. I guess there could be an Olive Garden built on the site. That would be the ultimate affront to Mayor Mazzarella, wouldn't it? Not only did Lancaster steal Wal-Mart from Leominster, they're building their own competing Olive Garden right across the street!

Then there is the assertion that the Wal-Mart was pulled from Leominster because it was appealed to the planning board. If only it had been that easy! The groups fighting against Wal-Mart spent a year and a half in court trying to scuttle the plan after the planning board approved it in the Fall of 2003.

There's little excuse to have the details wrong in an article like this. Checking the facts this story was just a matter spending less than an hour on Google. And even then, I only did it to have a couple of links to back up what I knew to be true. Anyone who has been reading the local papers over the last few years would have known the details of the Olive Garden and the fight against Wal-Mart, and a drive by the Lancaster Golf Center at any time in the last decade would be enough to know that you couldn't put a Wal-Mart in the parking lot.

Selectman Dunn described it as "a very clever plan." Opening a five-story Wal-Mart and a competing Olive Garden is a very clever plan, indeed!


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Guess who's back...back again

Well, it was bound to happen. Wal-Mart is back, and this time they are looking to build their 24-hour Supercenter in Lancaster, at what is now the Lancaster Golf Center. From yesterday's Sentinel and Enterprise:

LANCASTER -- A Wal-Mart representative has presented town officials with plans to build a 200,000-square-foot "super" facility in North Lancaster, according to Board of Selectmen Chair David Dunn.

Dunn said the shopping complex, which would be built off Route 2 on the current home of Lancaster Golf Center, would also include three lots on Old Turnpike Road for other businesses, such as restaurants and coffee shops.

The main store would include a grocery store, a garden center and a department store, he said.

So here we go again, with another large-scale development pushing out a locally-owned business. The article suggests that the Lancaster Golf Center may relocate to another parcel in the same area, but I'm skeptical of that. If this parcel was so attractive for commercial development, what will keep the owners of the Golf Center from selling their remaining land for another development? It's too bad. Not that Lancaster needs a driving range, but it's convenient on those days that I like to frustrate myself without spending four hours on the course.

But in a couple of ways, this is fundamentally different from the development issues that Leominster has been having, and that I have written about in previous posts.

First, development in one part of town has not been putting pressure on similar businesses in another part of town. In Leominster, new restaurants like Chili's, and the proposed Friday's and Olive Garden threaten to cut into the business of city restaurants. Because Lancaster has almost no retail development as it is (no retail stores, groceries, one pizza joint and two diners), bringing in a Wal-Mart, restaurants, etc. won't have the same effect on the businesses in their community that it would have in Leominster.

Secondly, the proposed development in Lancaster is not in a residential neighborhood. The issues that the developers of Orchard Hill and the Rte. 117 site have faced stem in large part because they are in or abut residential neighborhoods. People are worried about how the increase in traffic, noise, light pollution, etc. will affect their way of life. No one lives within walking distance of the Lancaster site. In that sense, it is a good place for development.

As you can imagine, the mayor of Leominster is not too pleased. In today's Sentinel, he responded:

"I've said right along that they've identified this area and they're going to end up somewhere," Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella said. "I said this would happen, but I'm not happy to say I told you so."

The proposed store's location is particularly painful because it is almost literally on the city line, meaning the community impact will be large but the direct financial compensation will be zero, officials said Wednesday.

"We'll still get the traffic. In fact, it will probably be a worse situation," Mazzarella said, referring to the Route 117 proposal, which Wal-Mart abandoned last May. We'll get everything, but we won't get the tax revenue."

I'm guessing the response of Lancaster officials would be that revenge is a dish best served cold. A few years ago, Mayor Mazzarella blew up an agreement with Lancaster and Lunenburg to share sewer lines in this area because he feared that Lancaster officials would develop the land in this part of town. Rumors at the time specifically mentioned Target or Wal-Mart. Mayor Mazzarella claimed that he was opposing the project because he needed to protect Leominster businesses such as Searstown mall.

Of course, once Lancaster was no longer a viable option for development, the climate magically changed from one where our businesses needed protecting, to one where Target and Wal-Mart would be good for Leominster because they would spur competition and bring more people to town to shop.

And now that the development is on the other side of the town line, traffic will suddenly be a problem for the city. I don't see how having Leominsterians travel rte. 2 to Wal-Mart will be worse for the traffic situation than having us clog up Lancaster and Central Streets to get to a development in town.

Leominster might benefit from having leaders who can credibly oppose this development on behalf of the city, but the mayor has no basis to argue against the project and he knows it. He can't fight it on grounds that Leominster businesses might suffer (and they probably will) because he was in favor of this very project when it was proposed for Leominster. And he can't fight it on the basis of traffic impact, since the attitude towards Lancaster was "the development's not in your town, you don't have to worry about it" when the Wal-Mart was proposed for rte. 117.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mitt Romney, crimefighter

Yesterday, I wondered how Governor Mitt Romney's role in the aftermath of the floods would play. I mentioned that he was already getting some softballs from the national press and used Diane Sawyer's question about rescuing people off the roofs of homes as an example.

Guess I should have watched the clip from Good Morning America a little closer. The big reaction today has been Romney's comments on looting, which he takes some credit for fighting. From the Herald:
Gov. Mitt Romney's take-charge role in Bay State flood zones played well on national TV, but critics say the White House-seeking Republican went too far in warning about a risk of looting.

Responding to "Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer's question about the need to rescue people from their homes, Romney said the state National Guard stood at the ready.

"We're continuing to be very, very careful and going through our neighborhoods, securing them, and making sure there is no looting of any kind," Romney added.

The remarks puzzled local officials who reported no incidents of looting in the Bay State, New Hampshire or Maine, and prompted experts to question if Romney was raising red flags for no reason - or for political reasons.

"By and large, (looting) is a disaster myth," said Dr. Steven Rottman, director of UCLA's Center for Public Health and Disasters. "It tends to divert resources from public safety needs."

Tobe Berkowitz, associate dean of Boston University's College of Communication, said the nationally televised remark "was unnecessary and uncalled for."

"It was a mistake at best. If it was a strategy (designed) to show the country that he's a firm law-and-order governor, then it was a stupid strategy," Berkowitz said.
Romney has been getting battered pretty good in some circles today. Universal Hub is, um, relieved: "Hoo boy, thank goodness we had brave Mitt Romney taking decisive action to stop all those looters."

Jay Fitzgerald is expecting we'll be seeing a lot of the flood in 2008: "Raging waters, National Guard troops, senior citizens being evacuated, horror and panic in the eyes of victims -- and at the center a calm and cool commander, Mitt, the only man between mayhem and order."

Howie Carr (sub. req'd) isn't worried about looting, except from the CSI Miami crowd: "Looting? Not around here, Governor, not unless the looters have got some of those airboats like they use in the Everglades."

Governor McGruff does have his defenders, however.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Romney's missed opportunity

Talk is starting that Governor Romney may be able to bolster his presidential hopes by taking charge of the situation on the ground in response to the flooding this week. He's been everywhere.

CNN has been carrying Romney's press conferences live, the Weather Channel has been following him around, and he fielded a couple of softballs from Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America this morning (she asked if there were people stranded on roofs waiting for rescue!). The Boston Herald suggested that "Another turn in the national spotlight could introduce Romney to potential presidential supporters across the nation as a take-action leader if he handles it right."

But, Romney may also have to explain why he vetoed millions of dollars of flood intervention funds for the city of Peabody from the budget after the last time that city flooded. From today's Salem News:
Two years after veto, mix of anger, optimism
By Ben Casselman
Staff writer

PEABODY--When Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed nearly $6 million in flood-prevention funding for Peabody in 2004, his spokeswoman said the governor didn't have enough information about why the money was needed.

He has it now.

On Sunday, Romney visited Peabody, where the weekend storm left some parts of the city under 5 feet of water. According to those who were there with him, the governor promised to secure state and federal money not just to help the city recover from this flood, but to help it avoid similar disasters in the future.

"He's certainly aware after he saw what he saw last night," Rep. Joyce Spiliotis said yesterday. "The governor made a commitment (Sunday) night when I was up there with him that he would help."

Romney's office did not return a call seeking comment.

Yesterday, as emergency crews continued to rescue drivers and residents from the flood waters, Peabody officials expressed a mixture of anger that Peabody's flooding problem has been ignored for so long and hope that this latest disaster would finally bring help.

"If this is the event that focuses everyone's attention, from the governor's office on down, then we're going to be better for it in the end," Rep. Ted Speliotis said.

Peabody officials had similar hopes two years ago, when the downtown flooded for the fourth time in eight years. Romney wrote to President Bush urging him to declare it a federal disaster area, and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency urged the city to seek state and federal funding for a long-term solution to the problem.

The Legislature took that advice, approving $5.7 million in flood-prevention money, which would have been matched by more than $10 million in federal funding. Officials said the money would help divert flood waters into Salem Sound, "significantly reduc(ing) downtown flood frequency and related damage."

But in September 2004--less than six months after his letter to President Bush--Romney vetoed the funding, prompting an angry response from Peabody officials.

"We do not understand why something that was a good idea in April is now a bad idea in September," they wrote in a letter after the veto. "Your administration recommended that state funds be used to leverage greater federal funding. Governor, what has changed since that time?"
Peabody Square has been the photo op of the flood, with every network originating their coverage from the site; the New York Times topped page 1 with a picture of the square (above).

The question is whether the "in charge" Romney of the video clips will win the day, or whether the story of Romney's missed opportunity will turn the tide.

(Hat tip: Blue Mass Group)


Monday, May 15, 2006

Remembering the Great Flood of 1936

Rivers north of Boston continue to rise, "triggering the worst flooding some areas have seen since 1936." In Lowell, the rising Merrimack river may force "the closure of the historic Francis Gate for the first time since 1936." So how bad was it in 1936?

This won't come as any consolation to those folks in the Merrimack Valley and on the North Shore who are in shelters with their homes under water, but the "Flood of '06" (as Ken Barlow was breathlessly calling it on channel 4 last night) is a fairly tame event compared to the flood that ravaged nearly all of New England 70 years ago.

I'll have to be honest, I hadn't even heard about the Great Flood of 1936 until a couple of weeks ago, when the Times-Courier ran a column by local historian (and AUC classmate) John Schumacher-Hardy looking back at the disaster. I was surprised to read about the magnitude of the flood since I'd never heard my grandfather or grandmother talk about it. They used to tell stories of the devastation wrought by the 1938 Hurricane, but I'd never heard of this flood. It was pretty bad in Lancaster:

On Wednesday evening, March 18, [1936,] the north branch of the Nashua River was rising at a rate of one foot per hour. It rose so quickly by Bennett Bridge on Route 117 that Phoebe Lovely had to be rescued by row boat in the night. Her house, currently the residence of Town Clerk Sue Thompson, was last on the right before the bridge, traveling west.

Arletta Ross, who was 10 years old at the time and living on Otis St., well remembers how her father, Horace Johnson, and neighbor Eliot Hamilton had to carefully row the boat down Main Street (Rt. 117) to fetch poor Mrs. Lovely. The waters had risen so high, Ross explained, that they had even covered the small park in North Village.

The Thursday, March 19 Clinton Daily Item reported: "It is a weird and awesome sight in Lancaster, today, as the town is virtually an island, the only opportunities for its citizens to reach Clinton being to walk across the old bridge of the Worcester Consolidated Street Railway, adjoining Vose Bridge, or to utilize the B. & M. R. R. bridge across the North Branch of the Nashua, from Lancaster Center depot."

In those days there was no Route 70. That stretch of highway that juts north out of North Village by the corner of the former Fairbanks-Dwyer Inn hadn't yet been built. The only roads in or out of Lancaster Center and North Village were Main Street, Center Bridge Road, Seven Bridge Road and the then-open Shirley and Harvard roads.

All these automobile routes had become impassable due to the heavy flood. If their bridges weren't washed out entirely, as in the case of the old iron Center Bridge, then they were too weakened to be safely traversed. The road along the low-lying stretches of the other routes had been completely submerged.

Chet Locke, Sr., still currently living in Lancaster Center, was a lad of 12 years old at the time. Locke vividly recalls looking out from the back of his Main Street home, over the field behind there, and seeing what "looked like a huge lake." The entire valley between Lancaster Center and George and Ballard hills had filled with the flood waters. He also noted, when the waters finally did subside in the following weeks, large chunks of ice littered the entire vast meadow plain for weeks more until they finally melted.

I consider myself very familiar with town, and I cannot envision a flood of this size. I've seen Bolton Road, Center Bridge Road and Seven Bridge Road (Rte. 117 east into Bolton) under water at various times, and it's not unusual to see the south bank of the Nashua River overflow into the valley between Main Street and Langen Road.

But the river would need to be three or four feet higher that I've ever seen to overflow the bridge on 117 west toward Ballard Hill, and even higher than that to encroach the bridge south out of the center of town. It's unfathomable that there was so much water in town that it covered the green in North Village.

Even so, Lancaster got off easy compared to much of the rest of New England. Over 430,000 people were left homeless in the Connecticut River Valley. Much of Manchester, NH was under water in what is called the worst flood in the state's history. Over 150 New Englanders died and the storm did between $250 million and $500 million in damage (in 1936 funds).

Not only was New England affected, but the entire northeast from the Ohio River Valley to Washington DC and north to Canada was affected by flood in March of 1936. The floods were largely responsible for giving Congress the impetus to pass the 1936 Flood Control Act. Policies implemented because of the act have been credited with mitigating some of the damage due to the current flood.

If you listen closely, there are still a few people out there who are aware of the impact of the Great Flood of 1936. On WBZ radio this morning, the mayor of Haverhill said that while much of his city is under water, his parents report that this flood is nothing compared to what they experienced in 1936. And on his weather blog, Matt Noyes of NECN (who is the best forecaster on TV today) explained "In some areas around the Merrimack Valley, record flooding is forecasted by the River Forecast Center. It's important to note that for many of these areas, those records do not go back as far as the Great Flood of 1936, and flooding of that magnitude is not expected."

For more on the "Flood of '06," Universal Hub has been posting reports and photos from area bloggers for the last few days.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Leominster expands recycling program to condos

The Sentinel and Enterprise has the good news that the city will be placing recycling recepticles at condominium communities. The first one community to receive the service went online yesterday.

It's nice to see the city offering communities some city services. Although condo owners pay the same property tax rates as other homeowners, they do not receive curbside trash collection, recycling, or street clearing during the winter months.

In announcing the initiative, Mayor Mazzarella said "It has a major effect, not only on the environment, but on the cost. The more you recycle, the less you pay for trash pickup." Hopefully by dropping the cost of trash pickup citywide, the mayor and city council will be more willing to offer condo communities trash services as well.


Friday, May 12, 2006

T&G: Walgreens may also force out treatment center

We've known for a couple of weeks that one of Leominster's most historic restaurants is scheduled to be razed to make way for a Walgreens. Today, the Telegram and Gazette (which has been ahead of the Sentinel every step of the way on this story) reports that a residential drug and mental health treatment center will also be razed to make way for the national chain:
Drugstore plan may push out treatment center
Leominster program officials await word from landlord


LEOMINSTER--If a developer's bid to build a Walgreens pharmacy on Central Street is approved by the city, a landmark downtown eatery won't be the only casualty.

The potential loss of Monty's Garden Restaurant has garnered much attention, with the owners saying they will relocate if their building is sold.

But the occupants of the neighboring New Dimensions Residential Program still don't know what their future holds.

"We've heard nothing," program director Wayne Rushlow said this week. "I've got 32 guys in here and the majority of them don't have anyplace to go."

New Dimensions has operated in rented space at 49-51 Central St. for three years, and was in place under different management and a different name at the same location for seven years before that, Mr. Rushlow said.

"We're really proud of our program," he said, noting the privately funded center is rare in that it provides treatment for dual diagnoses of substance abuse and mental health issues.


Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella has said the [Walgreens] would be beneficial to the downtown corridor, not only because of the traffic improvements but because there hasn't been a drugstore downtown in years.

Mr. Rushlow said his program also fills community needs, hosting daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that are open to the public.

"It is a viable program we provide and guys need it," he said.

Mr. Mazzarella, who said New Dimensions has operated with a fairly low profile in its downtown berth, said a handful of such agencies are operating in the city.

If Mr. Rushlow's program moves within the city, Mr. Mazzarella said, an important element in a successful transition will be to have a dialogue with their prospective neighbors.

"The key is working with the neighbors and getting an idea of what you can expect," Mr. Mazzarella said yesterday. "If you set certain expectations and fail to live by them, that's when you have problems."
It doesn't sound like the mayor cares much that the treatment facility might close. Is the mayor suggesting that New Dimensions has failed to live up to expectations in the three years at the site?

Will the mayor hold Walgreens to the same standard? "If you set certain expectations and fail to live by them--" say by sickening children by selling expired baby formula--would that be "when you have problems?"

Since Leominster apparently has the reputation as a "walking community" (that was one of the reasons Walgreens needed to be downtown), it seems like it would be important that a residential treatment center stay downtown, where residents can easily access other services.


Worst pun ever?

I'm sure this isn't original, but it was the first I'd read it...In a speech on political humor, former US Senator Alan Simpson referred to a barefoot, frail Gandhi with bad breath as:

super-calloused fragile mystic hexed with halitosis

I laughed.

(via Dana Millbank at the Washington Post)


Thursday, May 11, 2006

The war on terror truly is global

Or at least it could have been, had President Bush taken the advice of Defense Under Secretary Douglas Feith. As reported in Newsweek:
The memo's content, NEWSWEEK has learned, was in part the product of ideas from a two-man secret Pentagon intelligence unit appointed by Feith after 9/11: veteran defense analyst Michael Maloof and Mideast expert David Wurmser, now a top foreign-policy aide to Dick Cheney. Maloof and Wurmser saw links between international terror groups that the CIA and other intelligence agencies dismissed. They argued that an attack on terrorists in South America--for example, a remote region on the border of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil where intelligence reports said Iranian-backed Hizbullah had a presence--would have ripple effects on other terrorist operations.
I wonder if the "War in Brazil" would be more popular with Americans than the War in Iraq? (via Talking Points Memo).


Smile while you can

The BBC reported earlier this week that Wal-Mart is attempting to trademark the Smiley. Wal-Mart claims they want to trademark it in part to keep a Frenchman from beating it to the punch.

When you need support for a crazy idea, blame the French. Seems to work most of the time.

Of course, the Smiley is not just one of the most universally recognized symbols in the world, it is a source of local pride:

As is well known by now throughout the world Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts created the smiley face in 1963. That image went on to become the most recognizable symbol of good will and good cheer on the planet.

As the years passed Harvey Ball became concerned about the over-commercialization of his symbol, and how its original meaning and intent had become lost in the constant repetition of the marketplace.

And now, the very embodiment of over-commercialization wants to take the Smiley out of the public domain once and far all.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Panicked over the bird flu? It could be worse..."We could have a tsunami"

Panicked Leominster residents flee flu-ridden birds, despite mayor's plea for calm.

That was all I was planning to add today to the absurd notion that the mayor of Leominster called a press conference to tell residents not to panic in response to last night's made-for-TV movie, Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America. But thanks to the Sentinel and Enterprise--whose reporters I sincerely hope penned today's article with tongues planted firmly in their cheeks--the bird flu is the gift that keeps on giving:

Many locals feel bird flu TV movie goes too far
By Marisa Donelan

Leominster resident Dali Morales says a made-for-television movie about a fictional avian flu pandemic in the United States, which aired last night on ABC, is too over-the-top.

"When I first heard about it, I thought the ideawas kind of cool," she said Tuesday afternoon. "I've enjoyed disaster movies in the past. (Bird flu) is something that could happen, though. (But) I think the people who made the movie went too far."

The film, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America," featured corpses heaped upon each other and whole neighborhoods under quarantine, according to a report by the Associated Press.


I don't think people are going to go out and prepare for anything," [Morales] said."They'll see it as a fiction movie, that's taken something that might happen and made a big exaggeration."

See that was my point yesterday: nobody was going to panic about the bird flu based on a TV movie because it was obviously fiction....what, you mean someone might?

But other local residents disagreed, saying the movie might stir up some anxiety over bird flu, a disease some doctors have said could create the world's next pandemic.

"I think the movie will start some hysteria unnecessarily," Leominster resident Donna Erickson said. "We should be leery of the disease, definitely. But I think the movie could potential spark some mass hysteria over something that hasn't happened yet."


Leominster Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella held a press conference on Monday to inform the public that city officials have a plan in place to deal with the bird flu, should a pandemic occur.

The mayor said on Tuesday that he didn't plan to watch the movie.

"No, I don't watch TV," he said.

Mazzarella said he doesn't think people will panic after watching the film, but it might raise awareness about the potential problem.

Wait, wait, wait. Now, the mayor does not think people will panic? Do you think he might have spoken up when Leominster Health Director Christopher J. Knuth said "I just don't want people to panic" at the press conference the mayor called to discuss the bird flu?

Guba Belanger, a Bedford resident who works in the Fitchburg Schools Central Office, was undecided Tuesday afternoon whether she would watch the movie....

The film may frighten some viewers who confuse television with reality, Belanger said.

"Everything on TV seems so real," she said. "It could really give someone a scare if they turned on the movie in the middle."

Again, I'm not concerned. My whole point all along is that my fellow citizens of Leominster are grounded in reality and...oh no...

Regardless of whether the movie is realistic or not, Erickson said viewers should remember that disaster hasn't yet struck.

"I think the filmmakers are taking advantage of the possibility of the flu," she said. "We'll deal with it when and if it comes. We could have a tsunami. Are we going to sit around and worry about that all the time?"

"We could have a tsunami"??!! Looks like the mayor has the topic for his next press conference. Perhps he can use the forum to remind my frazzled neighbors that Leominster is 404 feet above sea level and a tsunami is probably the least of our problems.


Tuesday, May 9, 2006

State investigates Walgreens for selling expired formula, sickening baby

Forget about the bird flu, Leominsterians should be panicking about the possibility that Walgreens, the savior of our downtown, will sicken our children by selling expired formula. From Tim and Sue at Daddyrific, via Universal Hub:
The state Department of Public Health is now investigating the expired formula Susan and I purchased from Walgreen's last week because Greg got sick from it. We're excited about DPH's response because we have received lackluster responses from both Walgreen's and MeadJohnson, the makers of Enfamil. In fact, Walgreen's has yet to respond to an e-mail I sent them the day we bought it, save for the typical auto-generated response. In it's response, MeadJohnson hid behind the fact that there's an expiration date on the packaging. They did offer us some coupons, though.

I spoke with a very helpful and knowledgeable woman from DPH today about the situation. For the record, DPH responded to an e-mail, by phone, within an hour of receiving it, and the representative has been nothing short of excellent. I contacted them on Friday, and within hours, they sent out people from the local health department to clear out the expired formula from the Walgreen's. It should be noted they did this on Friday night, about 36 hours after we first bought it, and at least 24 hours after Susan gave the manager an earful and showed him the expired formula on their shelves. Apparently Walgreen's employees didn't give a damn that they were selling expired products.


Drawing the line between patriotism and marketing

On her photo-journalist site, Isis has an essay on the military and it's relationship to American youth. In it, she visits some events such as an event the Department of Defense sponsored on the Mall in Washington which appears to be a giant military county fair. Where the face-paint is camouflage, kids get to sit in combat helicopters instead of monster trucks, and a good time is had by all.

She writes about the conflict she experienced between feeling proud and patriotic on the one hand, and concerned on the other that kids were only seeing the glamorous side of war.

The goal of the event was explained to me as a way to show the public what the military is doing, using for combat as well as put a friendly face on the American soldier.

I really sort of am embarassed to admit that I had a great time while I was there. I thought the whole event was kinda cool. I got to climb on tanks look at big powerful guns up close, and there were a lot of give aways, not to mention some VERY good looking soldiers. But, as some of the camo smoke screen was lifting and my hormones got somewhat in check, I noticed that it was pretty obvious that the event and the freebies were geared to marketing the military to kids.

Screen savers, video games, and posters were handed out showing kids very high tech graphics and slick images. The big friendly soldiers were available playmates and it was an arsonal playground. As an overgrown tomboy, I remember playing soldier, I had toy cap guns and threw many a water balloon grenade. But, in reality is it fair to our children to show live and up close that military hardware and wartime action is a game?

As fun as it is to play on this large and powerful equiptment, in other parts of the world there are children who are facing military hardware in an atmosphere of terror, death and fear. Is it so wrong to also show our children and keep them informed of the gruesome visions of the piles of bodies and survivors of wartime with missing limbs and broken lives? I saw no mention or images of that side of war reality.
It is a dilemma that I can empathize with. I want Jackson to grow up proud of his military heritage (both of his grandfathers served in Vietnam), proud of America and all of its symbols--including the military, and supportive of our troops wherever they may be stationed, regardless of whether or not he agrees with policy. An event like the one described here can be useful in teaching those values.

On the other hand, I want Jackson to learn that war has consequences. That people die and are injured, that lives and families are ruined, and that the decision to go to war should be a difficult one.

And I want him to understand that he can support our troops and hope and pray that they succeed and come home safely, while still opposing the policies that send us to war.


No need to panic!

Mayor Mazzarella held a televised press conference yesterday to implore Leominster residents not to panic in response to tonight's made-for-TV movie about a fictitious bird flu pandemic.

No, really.

The Sentinel and Enterprise has the goods:

Mayor: Don't panic over bird flu
By J.J. Huggins

LEOMINSTER -- Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella and other city officials held a press conference on Monday, partly in preparation for a television movie, to say the city is ready for a potential bird-flu pandemic.

"Please keep in mind this is a fictional movie, not a documentary, and at this time there is no pandemic in the world," Leominster Health Director Christopher J. Knuth said during a televised press conference at the Leominster Access Television studio on Manning Avenue.

Knuth referred to the movie "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America," which airs at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC.

There have been no verified cases of the avian flu in the United States, Knuth said.

While the bird flu or some other type of flu pandemic is possible and could affect this country at some point, Knuth said he doesn't want people to overreact after watching the movie.

"I just don't want people to panic," he said.

There have been no cases of the bird flu being transmitted by human-to-human contact, Knuth said.

There has only been bird-to-bird and bird-to-human passing, he said.

Knuth, Mazzarella and Fire Chief Ronald Pierce all said they have a plan in place if needed.

The plan involves sites in the city where residents would be able to receive vaccinations, and the officials said they will release more details at a later date.

"We're on it, we have a plan," Mazzarella said.

Well thank God for that. I had been planning on donning a gas mask, squeezing into a hazmat suit, and hunkering down on my porch with a shotgun to take out any flu-ridden goose, duck or gull that might fly over head. But now I can rest easy.

Although I'm not sure I can get my head around this idea that everything I see on TV isn't true.

Oh, and that wasn't the only thing on the agenda at the press conference. Once the mayor shrewdly calmed everyone down and quelled the impending panic, he had a really important announcement to make: Walgreens is coming! Look at these great plans! From the Telegram and Gazette:

Leominster drugstore plans traffic light
Walgreens would upgrade lot


LEOMINSTER -- A company that wants to build a Walgreens downtown would install a traffic light at Lancaster and Central streets and improve a municipal parking lot in the area.

John J. Stewart, a project manager for the Richmond Co., said yesterday two parcels are under agreement for purchase for the project.

"We came in and knocked on some doors," Mr. Stewart said, explaining how the company approached owners of a building holding Monty's Garden restaurant and another that houses apartments.

The Central Street buildings would be razed to make room for the store, although the restaurant, a longtime fixture in Leominster, plans to relocate.


Mr. Stewart made his presentation yesterday during a news conference held by the mayor.

A CVS drugstore is farther up Central Street from where the Walgreens is proposed.

Mr. Stewart said "without a doubt" the two companies do cut into each other's business.

But he said that one reason this site was chosen is because downtown Leominster is a walking community.

"Walgreens wanted to be part of the downtown," he said.

And that's when I figured out the genius of Mayor Mazarella's master plan. We learned that the "plan involves sites in the city where residents would be able to receive vaccinations" and that "Leominster is a walking community." It's all pretty clear:

In order to combat the spread of the bird flu, the city will help build a drug store on every third block so that all Leominster residents can walk to a site where they will be vaccinated.



Monday, May 8, 2006

Could a baseball team succeed in Leominster?

Once every summer, the local papers check in on the possibility of building a minor-league baseball stadium at the site of the old landfill at the intersection of rtes. 2 and 190. Today, the Sentinel and Enterprise ran this year's obligatory study of the project. The article looks at the status of the plan, and compares the effort to bring a team to Leominster to efforts to put teams in other New England cities. Some excerpts:

City making pitch for baseball
by Aaron Wasserman

LEOMINSTER -- Though the project left the spotlight last summer, city officials are quietly working on potentially elaborate plans for the capped landfill on Mechanic Street.

The city's assistant planning director, Andrew Taylor, said this week that a professional baseball stadium remains the potential centerpiece for the site, located near the intersection of Route 2 and I-190.

"We, as a city, feel it's a tremendous project to bring a minor-league baseball team into the city," said Taylor, a former executive in the San Francisco Giants organization and former general manager of the Arizona Fall League.

Officials are also contemplating what can join the stadium on 30 acres positioned behind Fidelity Bank's new headquarters, which is scheduled to open later this year.

"Baseball is so seasonal here in New England that you want to have activity on the site all year long," said Taylor, who mentioned he is interested in attracting a hotel or restaurants. "We're trying to figure out, in addition to the stadium, is there the opportunity to do some more thing there?"

Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella, a strong proponent of the project, said he would also like to see a restaurant or an indoor recreation facility join the stadium.

"I'd love to see a baseball complex there," he said. "It's an ideal location."

So far so good. I think that would be a great location for a stadium. Easy access to the stadium from the highway, hopefully with minimal impact on the neighborhood. For those who want to eat or shop in town, it also provides easy access to Searstown, or to the downtown via Mechanic Street.

But I have some concerns. With so many teams close by (Worcester, Lowell, Nashua, Manchester, and Boston all within an hour or so) will a team in Leominster be able to draw enough fans to be profitable? The article points to Manchester as a success story:

More encouraging is the new minor-league baseball team in Manchester, N.H.: the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, a Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, which debuted in 2004.

The franchise and its new stadium, which opened last season, have spurred more private investment in the city's riverfront district and improved the city's image, Manchester officials say.

"It enhances the image that we are a growing city that is just at the beginning of its reshaping," said the city's mayor, Frank C. Giunta. "Having a minor-league team provides the additional entertainment we couldn't get other than going, really, to Boston."


"Manchester is a city on the move -- a great deal of economic development, a lot of progress on housing and new business development," he said. "It's a city on the precipice of being an unbelievable city."

Leominster officials believe landing a professional franchise could improve the city's regional profile.

"I'm enthusiastically endorsing the concept of a ballfield down there," City Council President Robert A. Salvatelli said. "It would be a major, major coup if we could pull this off."

John J. Souza, the Planning Board's chairman, said of the idea, "It's one more thing for Leominster to put its name on the map."

Officials believe the ingredients are there to re-create Manchester's success: solid residential and commercial markets, and a highly visible piece of land with good highway access.

Despite the similarities, I don't think that Manchester is a very good comparison for one important reason: The Fisher Cats are affiliated with a major league team. Leominster would not be, unless the Fisher Cats, the Lowell Spinners, and the Red Sox all waive their territorial rights, which preclude another affiliated team from playing within 35 miles of their respective parks.

With an affiliated team like the Fisher Cats or the Spinners, fans have the opportunity to watch players that will someday play in the major leagues in addition to the excitement of rooting for the local team. When I was in Toronto last summer for the Red Sox-Blue Jays series, there were a number of fans there with Red Sox shirts and Fisher Cats hats. Similarly, it's not unusual for fans of the major league team to travel to a minor league city to see their teams play. As a team in an independent league like the Can-Am League, a Leominster team would not have the same advantages.

A Leominster team would also likely split some of the potential fan base with the Worcester Tornadoes, a Can-Am League team. In fact, a check of the Tornadoes web site reveals that the Tornadoes are already working on building a following here in Leominster, with two visits to Leominster schools scheduled this month.

The city needs to be 100% sure that a team will be successful before it helps to build a ballpark. Unlike an indoor arena like the Tsongas Arena in Lowell or the Verizon Center in Manchester which can be used to host hockey, basketball, tennis, boxing, curling, and other concerts and civic events year 'round, a ballpark is what it is. Other than the occasional concert while the home team is on the road, or perhaps hosting a baseball event like an MIAA state championship,when a ballpark is empty, there isn't much use for it. The worst thing that could happen would be to build a ballpark and then have it sit empty ten years down the road because an independent team or league has folded.

If the city can ensure that a team will call Leominster home for years to come, I'll be the first one in line to buy tickets. But if they aren't sure that a tenant will be a partner for the long haul, they should not build the stadium.


It's how easy to create a new license plate?

Apparently, there are no restrictions to the message on a commemorative license plate in Massachusetts, as long as the organization creating the plate has $3,000 reservations and is registered as a non-profit. You'd think it would take more than that, but as an anti-abortion group found, that's all there is to it. The Boston Globe reports:

Merry Nordeen is gathering support for a ''Choose Life" license plate, part of a nationwide effort by abortion opponents to raise money for groups that support adoption. In some of the 12 other states with Choose Life license plates, critics who contend that the plates are political statements have filed lawsuits, and one case from Tennessee may end up going to the US Supreme Court.

Three years ago, Nordeen, who opposes abortion, contacted the Florida-based group, Choose Life Inc., that promotes the special plates, sunny yellow with ''Choose Life" written in a child's handwriting above a crayon drawing of two children. If she is successful in bringing them to Massachusetts, she said, she hopes the Registry of Motor Vehicles will allow the same design.

''I thought, 'Gee, I'd really like to have a plate like that on my car,' " she said. ''Unfortunately, it was not available in Massachusetts."

Last weekend, Nordeen took her campaign to the Internet, asking supporters by e-mail to back her effort to collect 3,000 registrations by summer. If she gathers $40 registration checks from 3,000 people who agree to buy the license plates, the state will issue them, said Amie O'Hearn, a spokeswoman for the Registry.


Massachusetts has 12 special license plates that support causes from environmental protection to curing cancer to the families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None supports political or religious groups.

If the Choose Life plates are approved, $12 of the $40 fee would go to the state. The other $28 would go to the groups supported by the Massachusetts Choose Life chapter, headed by Nordeen and her husband, Kenneth, who are the parents of six children. Nordeen said the group would award the money to antiabortion organizations that submitted grant applications, from pregnancy counseling groups to agencies that place children for adoption.


The plates have been lucrative for the nonprofit groups they fund. Nationally, the plates have raised $5 million for pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and nonprofit adoption agencies. About $4 million came from Florida residents who have chosen the license plate, the country's first, since it became available in 2000, said Russ Amerling, national coordinator of Choose Life Inc.

In Massachusetts, however, the Legislature does not need to approve the special license plate. Any nonprofit group can receive a special plate, as long as it submits 3,000 registrations.

''If you meet the criteria under the law, then you can have a plate," O'Hearn said.

If a nonprofit group supporting abortion rights met the same criteria and applied for special license plates, she said, the Registry would approve its application. No abortion rights groups have yet applied.

I don't think a license plate is the place for a political statement (as the Centerfield weblog wrote: "If you want your free speech, make an effing bumper sticker, don't drag the state government into a food fight."), but I'm not sure there's much that can be done about it, since the legislature decided that any non-profit with 3,000 applications can have a plate. You'd think there would be some sort of restriction on message, or the provision that the legislature (or someone) should approve a message. But I guess not.

Now, if I can just get 3,000 alumni to buy a Fiat Lux license plate, maybe we could put my alma mater back on sound financial footing...


How desperate are we for new recruits?

Steve Gilliard at the News Blog posted this article from the Oregonian about a high school senior from Portland, Ore. who was signed up and is being readied to go to basic training despite the fact that he is autistic. Here is an excerpt:

An Army of one wrong recruit
Autism - The signing of a disabled Portland man despite warnings reflects problems nationally for military enlistment

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Jared Guinther is 18. Tall and lanky, he will graduate from Marshall High School in June. Girls think he's cute, until they try to talk to him and he stammers or just stands there -- silent.

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jared is polite but won't talk to people unless they address him first. It's hard for him to make friends. He lives in his own private world.

Jared didn't know there was a war raging in Iraq until his parents told him last fall -- shortly after a military recruiter stopped him outside a Southeast Portland strip mall and complimented him on his black Converse All Stars.

"When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, 'Well, that isn't going to happen,' " said Paul Guinther, Jared's father. "I told my wife not to worry about it. They're not going to take anybody in the service who's autistic."

But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he not only had enlisted, but also had signed up for the Army's most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.

Officials are now investigating whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in Southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared's disability, which should have made him ineligible for service.

It's hard to comprehend that the pressure on military recruiters is so great that they will ignore the mental fitness of potential recruits in order to meet their quotas. I'm sure that most recruiters are more responsible than this one, but I wonder how many other young soldiers who are unfit for duty are fighting in our armed forces.


Sunday, May 7, 2006

Wingnuts find baseball

The right wing of the blogosphere found baseball this weekend, thanks to a post by widely-read conservative columnist Michelle Malkin on her daily blog. A reader tipped her off to a Cinco de Mayo promotion the Texas Rangers ran Friday night where the team wore uniforms emblazoned "Los Rangers," and the response was predictable:

I'm not a baseball fan, but several readers wrote in about the Yankees-Rangers game last night...

I understand the Rangers wanted to do something innocuous to recognize a holiday celebrating historical and cultural pride. But the politically correct selectivity here is telling. While it's considered a celebration of "diversity" to acknowledge the military sacrifices of another nation's heroes, it's considered racist to acknowledge the military sacrifices of one's own.

Case in point: Can you imagine if someone proposed changing the Rangers' jerseys to "Confederate Rangers" to celebrate Confederate Heroes' Day?

Oh, and I'm sure I'll be labeled a racist for pointing out the double standard.

Well, I'll leave the question of whether or not she's a racist up to others, but I will confirm that Malkin is not a baseball fan.

If she were, she'd have noticed that the Rangers' promotion is just the latest in a string of promotions that teams have run in the last few years where they honor a former Negro League team that was housed in their city, or honor the team's Hispanic heritage.

For instance, the San Francisco Giants wore the name "Gigantes" on their uniforms for a game last year, and the Milwaukee Brewers have a similar promotion scheduled for later this summer.

And the suggestion that it is "racist to acknowledge the military sacrifices of" Americans also shows her ignorance of the sport. For instance, the San Diego Padres have been honoring the troops at a home game each year where they offer servicemen and women discount tickets and wear camouflage uniforms in tribute. This year's game was on Saturday, April 22:

Saturday's 7:05 p.m. matchup with the Mets marks the Eleventh Annual "Military Opening Day" presented by Northrop Grumman Corporation. The Padres will continue their custom of donning camouflage uniforms, this time wearing a desert pattern worn by troops serving the Middle East.

Five thousand half-price tickets, offered to the military community until 24 hours prior to Saturday's game, are available by presenting a valid military identification card at the Padres Advance Ticket Windows at PETCO Park. Several other pregame ceremonies and festivities are planned, including a "drop-in" visit from the Navy Leap Frogs Demonstration Parachute Team and a HH60-J helicopter fly-over by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Giants, showing their "politically correct selectivity" also have a "Salute to the Military" night, along with promotions honoring the heritage of the Japanese, Chinese, Irish, Italians, African-Americans and Jews.


Saturday, May 6, 2006

Site Redesign

Today, I'm unveiling a new site design for No Drumlins. I had been using one of the generic Blogger templates for over a year and have been thinking about changing the look a little since relaunching the site a couple of weeks ago.

Mainly, I was looking for a template that would adjust to the screen instead of being a fixed size. I purchased a new laptop a couple of months ago and it has a widescreen display. Many websites (including this one) would leave wide swathes of unused space when viewed on my screen. I also realized that some of my readers still use a monitor with 640x800 resolution, and would have to scroll side-to-side to see the entire site. So after searching around for a new layout, I found one at and tweaked it to what you see now.

As you poke around the site, you'll notice that most of the items and links that were available on the old site are still available here. A noticeable difference is that my Bloglines blogroll is now on the left column. The blogroll includes all of the sites which I read via RSS feeds. If you have a blog reader or news reader and wish to subscribe to this blog, a link to my Feedburner feed is at the top right.

Among the links on my blogroll are a number of news, sports, and political sites. I also have links to blogs written by a handful of friends and other writers from North Worcester County. Those blogs include:
Another great source of local links can be found at Universal Hub, which has links to over 1000 area bloggers.



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