Monday, July 31, 2006

In the Pupping Zone

Let me get my biases out in the open to start:
  1. I think baby seals are cute.
  2. I think going to the beach is highly overrated.
So I find myself siding entirely with the seals in the dispute over who gets an historic beach in the tony La Jolla section of San Diego. From the New York Times:

It is generally agreed that the intruders, being harbor seals and all, are cute, and that they do not seem to be going anywhere. But their antics -- including females giving birth right there on the sand -- are driving some people crazy. And into court.

Antics? Oh those crazy female seals, giving birth on the beach. What will they think of next?

"It was kind of a family beach," said Valerie O'Sullivan, an avid swimmer who filed a lawsuit against the city in 2004 to restore the beach for human use."This isn't the only place for the seals. There are plenty of seals up and down the coast."

If I recall correctly, there is plenty of beach up and down the coast. Is this the only place in SoCal to swim?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is charged with protecting sea creatures, put up signs warning that it is a federal offense to deliberately disturb the seals and last year installed a camera to keep watch from its main regional office in Long Beach.

But the beach is open to human use. In April, the city, on the suggestion of federal authorities, agreed to restore a rope line across part of the beach during pupping season, from January to May, to discourage human contact with the seals.

When Michelle and I honeymooned, we went to La Jolla to see the seals. At that time (April, 2002) the rope line was up to keep people out of the pupping zone. (The Pupping Zone might be a cool name for a restaurant or a band, or a blog, now that I think of it).
A few years ago, nine swimmers, now known as the La Jolla 9, tried to swim ashore at the beach to prove humans and seals could readily share it. But the seals rushed into the water as the swimmers approached; one swimmer was accused of battering a seal in a panic, and all of them were cited for disturbing the seals.
I'm no expert, but if I were to confront a beachful of seals I'd probably do it on the beach, instead of in the water where, dare I say, the seals would have an advantage.
"Look at that!" said Gina Montefusco, a visitor from Washington, D.C. "This is just unique. I'm not sure I have ever seen wildlife actually in the wild, and never this close."
Gina's got to get out more. Go to a park and watch squirrels collecting nuts or ducks swimming on the pond. Then head out to a bite to eat. I hear there's this great new place called The Pupping Zone...


Mitt's 'tar baby' turns the news world upside down

It used to be that you knew exactly what you were going to get when you opened the morning papers.

If you read the Globe, you knew that Democrats would get the benefit of the doubt, and that Republicans would be viewed critically, if the Globe deigned to cover them at all. If you picked up a Herald, Governor Romney (or Cellucci, or Weld) would get the soft shoe treatment, while it was open season on Democrats.

I find that familiarity comfortable.

So I had to double check what I was reading this morning as I caught up on the governor's controversial comments in Iowa over the weekend. In response to a question about the Big Dig, he replied, "The best thing for me to do politically is stay away from the Big Dig - just get as far away from that tar baby as I possibly can."

The Herald coverage of Romney's visit bordered on hysterical, with the screaming front page and an article that quoted black activists and personalities condemning the governor's comments. For instance:

"Tar baby is a totally inappropriate phrase in the 21st century. If Calvin Coolidge didn't use it, why the hell should Mitt Romney?" railed Larry Jones, a black Republican and civil rights activist...."He thinks he's presidential timber, but all he's shown us is arrogance."


"He (Romney) obviously has lived a sheltered life," said Leonard Alkins, president of the Boston NAACP. "He's completely disconnected with reality in terms of racial sensitivity. He just does not get it."

Maurice Lewis, a former Boston television reporter who is black, said of Romney's choice of words, "I just think it's reflective of how he sees people who don't look like him. Words like tar baby and pickaninny are deeply rooted in the segregation of America. They don't have an ever-changing, ever-expanding meaning."

Jimmy Myers, host of the WILD 1090 AM morning talk show "Talk to Me," said, "I think someone who is close to Gov. Romney needs to explain to him a part of history that maybe his blue blood doesn't let him see.

"Mitt Romney is an empty suit," said Myers, who is black. "Well, now he's an empty suit with a little tar on him. He'll need miracle cleaner to get out of this one."

Surprisingly, the Globe's coverage presented a nearly opposite view, with most of the people interviewed for the article pooh-poohing the significance of the statement:

In 1981, author Toni Morrison published a novel titled "Tar Baby," and she has compared the expression to other racial epithets. She says it's a term that white people used to refer to black children, especially black girls.

Reached at her home near Princeton University, where she teaches, Morrison called the expression "antiquated" and one that's "attractive to some people, when they
begin to search for hints of racism....How it became a racial epithet, I don't know," she said. "It was my attempt to rescue the phrase from its low meaning. I wanted to annihilate the connotation and return the meaning to its origins. Apparently, I haven't succeeded."


"I don't believe he was making a disparaging remark, and if he was, I'd be the first person to call him," said Don Muhammad, minister of the Nation of Islam in Boston, who said he had not heard the expression in 50 years. "I suppose one ought to be allowed to clarify his remarks. I have no problem with it."

The Rev. Ray Hammond, chairman of the Boston Ten Point Coalition, said that he spoke to Romney yesterday and that the governor was contrite.

"I certainly understand why people are upset about it," he said. "He was very clear that he knew nothing about the history or the racist overtone of the term. He was mortified and he was very apologetic. I suspect he just didn't understand the origin of the term." He said he wouldn't use the term in the future, based on what he now understands.

The Rev. Eugene Rivers III, whose Ella J. Baker House recently received a state grant Romney steered to him to fight youth violence, said questions raised about the governor's word usage were akin to a tempest in a teapot.

"It's not the language I would use," he said. "It's too easy to be misunderstood. Someone could incorrectly assume that there is a racial subtext, for which there is no basis in fact. But I think some people read too much in language in a politically overcorrect environment. Frankly, what the governor has done on the public safety stuff would trump any colorful language he used."

Even liberal media critic Dan Kennedy mostly gave Romney a pass on this one. In fact, I think this is much ado about nothing (or at least very little). Was the use of the term "tar baby" insensitve? Probably. It's very easy to be insensitive about something you don't know or haven't experienced. I'm sure I've said things that have been insensitive because I wasn't aware that I was offending anyone. Didn't make what I said right, but didn't make it malicious or racist either.

I think the Globe covered the issue fairly, while the Herald was over the top in their treatment. I suppose that's my lesson for today: at the Herald, controversy trumps politics, even for a favorite son.

Update: Adam Reilly at the Phoenix uses this opportunity to remind us of Mitt Romney's greatest gaffes.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Breaking News!

Headline in today's Sentinel and Enterprise:
Florida man admitted to smoking crack with girlfriend
West Virginia man admitted to having false teeth
Texas man admitted to owning gun


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Guess I won't have to watch COPS after all

Just as I was gearing up to break my 18-year streak of never watching "Cops," it looks like the show won't be filming in Worcester any more. Apparently, the Worcester PD has decided to pull the plug on the show. Their announcement reads, in part:
...when asked to balance the perceived negative aspects of the program with positive stories of the community work that is taking place at all levels of this department, "Cops" producers stated that those stories are not the premise of the show and do not resonate to their target audiences.
"Positive stories of the community?" I guess I'm not the only one who hasn't been watching "Cops."

(via Radioball)


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Growing up too fast

I'm not an expert in child development, don't play one on TV, and didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. Even so, I was startled by Mayor Mazzarella's position on a proposal that the town of Leominster buy the former Julie Country Day School and use the space to expand kindergarten in the city. From today's Sentinel and Enterprise:

Mazzarella said the city is already looking into buying the school, but he thinks there may be enough space for more all-day kindergarten in some existing schools.

"We have Sky View that was built for 1,200 students, and there's 700-plus students up there," said Mazzarella, who serves as chairman of the school committee.

Is the mayor actually suggesting that we have the city's four and five year olds go to school with the seventh and eighth graders at Sky View Middle School? Again, I'm no expert, but it seems to me that our kids grow up fast enough as it is, without sending kindergarteners to middle school.



Lance Bass? Gay? You don't say...

Former 'N Sync member Lance Bass has revealed he's gay.

He tells People magazine that he kept his sexuality under wraps during his 'N Sync days because he was afraid it would derail the band's success. He says he knew that if he "ever acted on it" or admitted it, then "it would overpower everything."

He says he's coming out now because rumors of his sexuality were growing louder. But he stresses that he's happy and not at all ashamed of being gay. He says "I don't think it's wrong, I'm not devastated going through this. I'm more liberated and happy than Ive been my whole life."

Bass says he's in a "very stable" relationship with model-actor-Amazing Race winner Reichen Lehmkuhl.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fire up the Tivo: "COPS: Worcester" coming soon

I don't think I've ever watched an entire episode of "Cops." Watching police arrest toothless crack 'hos and settle down Billy Joe and Bobbi Sue after they've ransacked the trailer just doesn't do it for me.

But this season I may have to make time, since "Cops" is coming to Worcester:

WORCESTER--"Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?"

Whatever they do, it's going to be on camera. The show "Cops," seen on Fox, started filming in the city this week and plans to be here for several more.

A crew for the long-running and popular show that puts cameras right with police as they chase culprits, handcuff criminals and detain many shirtless perpetrators was at police headquarters Tuesday.

Jimmy Langley, a "Cops" producer, confirmed that crews would be riding along with the Worcester Police Department for several weeks. He said filming began Tuesday night, for future airings.

Not everyone is as excited as I am about this development. In today's Telegram, Dianne Williamson caught up with some activists protesting the show:

Protesters are accusing local police of "putting on a show" for a Fox camera crew, but I'm thinking the protesters doth protest too much.

Yesterday in front of City Hall, during the summer silly season, some 70 people gathered to complain that Worcester police transfixed by their star potential are harassing innocent citizens and running roughshod like Nazis over their rights, all for the chance to appear on the Fox reality show, "Cops."

I'm not buying it. But I am impressed with the show put on by the usual suspects of potentially peeved protesters.


The protesters are making some serious claims, saying that police have been harassing teens and homeless people since the "Cops" crew showed up last week. [Community activist Kevin] Ksen said a mother told him that her 13-year-old son was "jumped" by a cop. He said "everyone I've talked to has had a run-in with the police." But my favorite tale involves a church worker who was supposedly arrested by police for double parking -- while dropping off a blind woman. Mr. Ksen admits that he heard the latter story "second hand," but he obviously knows the value of a good yarn.

Oh, I hope that last one is true. Forget the pimps and 'hos, that would be good television.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Is this the cutest baby...

...or what?
Jackson smiling.

Jackson's first story.

Jackson's first time with the rattle.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Doing the Tomahawk Drop

WCBS in New York is reporting that a truck carrying a Tomahawk missile dropped the weapon on I-95 in the Bronx after being rear-ended by another truck.


Shouldn't there be some sort of military escort or something when we're trucking cruise missiles from one part of the country to another? When I was a kid, it wasn't unusual to pass a line of military vehicles on the highway transporting a tank or some other equipment to or from Fort Devens before it closed. You'd think a Humvee or two, or at least a couple of jeeps would escort this type of cargo to make sure that there weren't any accidents. If we require a double-wide trailer or other "wide loads" to be escorted along our highways, shouldn't we have some sort of protocol to escort a multi-million dollar cruise-missile?

And how does it roll off a flat-bed truck? Isn't there some way to secure the missile to the truck so that it won't bounce down the highway in the event of an accident?

Besides, who trucks a missile through the heart of New York City anyway? When I travel south from New England, I head out across the Tappan Zee bridge and down one of the parkways (or even to 287) so that I can avoid the city, and I don't carry explosive munitions.

(via Wonkette)


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Belichick on the hot seat?

Looks like Bill Belichick might be in for a little grilling soon. Seems he's been named as the "other man" in a divorce proceeding in New Jersey. From the Boston Herald:
Bill Belichick has been named The Other Man in an ugly New Jersey divorce case and the jilted hubby has asked the court to let his lawyers quiz the New England Patriots head coach about his relationship with the missus, a blond fortysomething mother of two.

Vincent Shenocca, a 42-year-old New Jersey construction worker, filed for divorce from his wife, Sharon, a former receptionist with the New York Giants, on the grounds of "extreme mental cruelty." Shenocca's court papers say his wife of 10 years "has had a relationship with Bill Belichick for several years" and would not end it, despite her husband's pleas.

"This relationship appears to have blossomed, including more frequent telephone calls, and (Mrs. Shenocca's) receipt of large sums of money and expensive gifts from Mr. Belichick, which she has used to purchase expensive clothing, pocketbooks, watches, a treadmill and maid service, most of which she initially hid from (her husband)," the New Jersey court papers say.

Shenocca told his wife "that he did not feel comfortable with her receipt of expensive gifts and large sums of money from Mr. Belichick," the papers continue, but she "refused to consider (his) feelings and has continued her relationship with Mr. Belichick."

Shenocca's attorneys filed a request with the court yesterday asking for permission to take Belichick's deposition to quiz him about what exactly is going on between him and the attractive blonde. A hearing is set for early August.
That deposition would be worth hearing. I can only imagine:

Attorney: Please state your name and occupation.
Belichick: My name is Bill Belichick. I'm the HC of the NEP.

Attorney: How would you classify your relationship with Mrs. Shenocca?
Belichick: I'm a man. She's a woman. We relate. I guess that makes it a relationship.

Attorney: Would you say you had a sexual relationship?
Belichick: I can't say. I'm not an expert on that. There are experts for that sort of thing.

Attorney: I undestand you gave Mrs. Shenocca a watch. Could you describe the watch?
Belichick: It's a watch. It keeps time. It is what it is.

Attorney: Would you classify it as an expensive watch?
Belichick: I'm not a jeweler. You'd have to ask him.

Attorney: How much did you pay for the watch?
Belichick: I won't comment on contracts.

Attorney: What would you have to say to Mrs. Shenocca if she had attended the deposition today?
Belichick: I won't comment on the parties that aren't here. We're here to give a deposition and we have enough to do without worrying about who isn't here.

Attorney: Thank you.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

You are what

Gosh, I hope not. Otherwise, my 2002 Sentra suggests I am a reliable, yet slightly-below-average disappointment. Hey...

Anyway, the Sentinel and Enterprise asked the question and checked out what the gubenatorial candidates drive in search of an answer.

Chris Gabrieli appears to be playing politics with his rides. Gotta make sure you look environmentally friendly when you're courting progressive voters:

Democrat Chris Gabrieli...recently purchased a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, a nod toward environmental consciousness and reducing the country's reliance on foreign oil.

It appears, however, that Gabrieli's concern for global warming is a recently acquired characteristic, as his 2006 hybrid, which starts at $24,530, according to the Toyota Web site, recently replaced a gas-guzzling Lexus sports utility vehicle.

The family with its five kids also owns a 2005 Volvo S60. And Gabrieli apparently couldn't resist the classic millionaire's toy: a silver 2005 Mercedes Benz 500 Series, which spokesman Dan Cence says he "doesn't really drive."

Honestly, why have it if you're not going to drive it? If I had an $80,000 car, I'd sure as shootin' drive it Christy Mihos, who apparently puts more than 25,000 miles on his expensive ride each year:

Gabrieli is in good company with the "unbought and unbossed" independent candidate Christy Mihos, who some years ago bought himself a 1999 Mercedes Benz G500, which costs $81,675 for this year's model.

The former owner of Christy's Markets has logged 181,000 miles on it to date, said spokeswoman Nicole Nionakis.

"He's hoping to get one million miles," she wrote in an e-mail.

As you'd expect, everyman Tom Reilly drives a modest family car:

You won't find glitz and glam in the Reilly garage, where state Attorney General Tom Reilly parks his beige 1999 Toyota Camry, a modest value this year at $18,247, brand new.

And is there anything more Republican than a gas-guzzling American-made pick-up truck? I wonder if Kerry Healey has a gun rack too:

As for Lieutenant Gov. Kerry Healey, don't let that trademark string of pearls fool you. When she isn't being escorted by state police troopers around Beacon Hill, Healey rumbles around her hometown of Beverly in a very un-girly vehicle: A Ford F-250, black.

This year's F-250 model starts at $28,000, said Steve Twombly, sales manager at Drum Hill Ford on Westford Street in Lowell. But since that's the only family vehicle -- and Healey has two kids -- she probably chose the "super cab," which bumps the price up to $36,000, he added.

"Kerry Healey only gets about 10 miles to the gallon," he joked about the rig.

Deval Patrick declined to respond, citing privacy issues. I wonder if he hides his tax returns in the glove compartment. Wouldn't want them to get out, either.


Conflicted over Lancaster's Wal-Mart

Actually, I'm not. I don't like Wal-Marts, don't think we need them in our community, don't think they bring much positive to the table. (In the interest of full disclosure, I do go the one in Lunenburg occasionally, usually to pick up photos).

My conflict surrounds the efforts of Leominster residents to kill the proposed Wal-Mart in Lancaster. I live in Leominster now and lived there while I was growing up, but I identify more with Lancaster. I went to school in Lancaster, as did my parents, grandparents, and great-grand-parents. I've umpired Little League in Lancaster for 16 years. My mother and grandmother grew up in Lancaster. My great-grandfather owned a store in town. While my house is in Leominster, I consider Lancaster my home.

As such, I have often sided with Lancaster in their ongoing David-and-Goliath relationship with Leominster. So while I don't think Wal-Mart is a good thing for Lancaster, I find myself almost rooting for the town when I read snippets like this, from today's Telegram and Gazette:

John and Patrice Harvey, of 960 Mechanic St., Leominster, representing "Our Lancaster First" came in with a 31-item questionnaire regarding the Old Union Turnpike proposal. Issues addressed included environmental impact, traffic impact and hours operation, as well as the possibilities of company officials reducing hours of operation and the size of the proposed building.

I'm sorry, but the idea that a Leominster resident would attend a meeting as a representative of "Our Lancaster First" is a non-starter for me. I don't think Lancaster should approve the Wal-Mart, but I would not presume to speak on behalf of "Our Lancaster," no matter how closely I identify with the town.

(As an aside, are the proofreaders at the T&G asleep? "We submitting..." and an if-than statement in the same paragraph?)

"I don't think Lancaster has the services to support it," Mrs. Harvey said. "They are going to end up hiring new police, getting a new cruiser, getting a new ladder truck and that's all money coming out of the proposed tax dollars that they are going to be getting from Wal-Mart."

But isn't that the point? Maybe the town wants more police, a new cruiser, and a new ladder truck and they're willing to trade all of the baggage that comes with a new Wal-Mart in order to get it. I'm not sure it's worth it, but I don't see how an opponent can argue that more law enforcement personnel and equipment is a bad thing.

I have much more sympathy for the views of someone who lives in town:

Ina Purvins of 634 Main St. said her biggest concern with the Supercenter is its potential 24 hours of operation.

"When we moved to Lancaster I remember there was concerned over a gas station having a lighted soda pop dispensing machine," Ms. Purvins said. "Lancaster, when we moved here, it just seemed like it was going to be a quiet town at night. So just the idea of a 24-hour store coming, it's going to make a difference on the amount of traffic on Main Street."

While I don't think the Wal-Mart will affect life "in town" much (the proposed site is about as far away from "town" as you can get and still be in Lancaster), Ms. Purvins note about vending machines reminded me that Lancaster has a number of little anti-sprawl statutes on the books (or at least they used to) that could be in play with a new Wal-Mart.

For instance, I remember that the town passed an ordinance a number of years ago outlawing video-games, pinball machines, etc. (As a Ms. Pac Man and Donkey Kong fanatic, I was stridently opposed. As a 12-year old Leominster resident who spent his days in Lancaster at school and with my grandparents, my voice was not heard.) Will Wal-Mart be prohibited from placing a Toy Claw game or similar vending machines? If laws are repealed to allow the development, will those decisions open the door to other types of commerce that have been prohibited in town for years?

The citizens of Lancaster have some tough decisions ahead of them. I'm sure they have the capacity to govern themselves, without Leominster's advice.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Bringing up baby right

Someone taught this child well.


Protecting our right to be broke and lazy

Get rid of them damn pesky immigrants! They work too hard and save too much money!

To Betty Motley, who retired last year after 21 years with six carpet companies, the choice is not that simple. Standing on her porch in a mill workers' neighborhood, she pointed out a green, two-bedroom house across the street where she said five Mexican men live.

"They don't spend anything, they're just saving," she said. Around the corner is Morales Market and a branch of Sigue Corp., the leading transmitter of money from the United States to Mexico.

Down the street, a woman named Diane, who would speak only on condition that her last name not be used for fear of retaliation from her supervisor, has worked 15 years for Mohawk said most of her white co-workers have retired, quit or been laid off.

She said that her new Latino co-workers work faster than she does and that she can't meet the new production quota, meaning she now makes less money.

"They're taking our United States and making it their United States," Motley said. "Mohawk and Shaw used to be our companies."

There is nothing more American than pissing away your paycheck and slacking off. (via the Washington Post, emphasis added)


Friday, July 14, 2006

Big Dig, Constitutional Convention make Rep's job tougher

For the most part, an incumbent state legislator has it made in Massachusetts. Especially a Democrat. Chances are he or she won't face any opposition in a primary, and in most districts the general election will either be uncontested, or the Republican opponent will be too weak to make a difference.

But first-term Rep. Jennifer Flanagan doesn't have it nearly so easy. While she isn't facing a Democrat in the primary, she is facing a former Democrat in the general election. City Councilor Claire Freda, who lost a close race for the Democratic nomination in 2004, left the Democratic party in February in order to run against Flanagan in the general election.

Things had been quiet for a couple of months, and then an incumbent's worse nightmare, one of those events that can cause a "Throw the bums out!" groundswell among voters: the collapse of a Big Dig tunnel.

Flanagan will try to distance herself from the Big Dig and by all measures, she should be able to. By the time she was elected in 2004, the project was nearly complete. But still, she is an elected official and if the situation surrounding the Big Dig gets worse, the pressure on incumbents will increase. Many voters won't pay close enough attention to differentiate between a a 10-term rep and a freshman.

And if that weren't tough enough, Flanagan may have to defend the legislature's actions at this week's Constitutional Convention, specifically the votes to table the Health Care amendment and to recess before taking up the anti-gay marriage amendment.

Frankly, I found Flanagan's vote to kill the health care amendment baffling. She has made healthcare issues her number one priority and I would have expected her to support the measure. Even if she didn't support the measure, I am a big believer in letting the process run as it was intended, and killing the amendment on a procedural vote to prevent it from getting the 50 votes necessary to advance is difficult to defend.

A Blue Mass Group commenter suggested that the leadership may have twisted arms to make sure it was killed. I'm not sure voting against yourself for that reason is defensible, but at least I understand. If you want to live to fight another day in this legislature, you'd better pick your battles.

On the other hand, Flanagan courageously voted not to recess the convention in order to postpone the gay marriage debate until after the election. She was prepared to put it on the line Wednesday, and she seemed peeved when the Sentinel and Enterprise asked for her reaction: "It's exactly what it seems to be," said Rep. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, who said she wanted to stay and vote to put the measure on the ballot. "It's right after the election."

It was good to see her speak frankly about the delay. It's obvious that the vote was taken so that the legislature wouldn't have a up or down vote to defend in this election cycle, and it was right of Flanagan to say so. It was also good politics. Leominster is a heavily Catholic city and while most voters are either Democrats or unenrolled, I'd expect the gay marriage ban to pass in our town. Flanagan is against the ban, and voting to deal with the issue now signals that even though she may not agree with the voters on this issue, she at least believes the process should go forward.

It's also possible that she voted no because it was a free vote. Knowing that her vote wouldn't matter in the final outcome allowed her to vote with her constituency, despite her position.

Whether Flanagan's vote was based on conviction or expediency, it was the right vote for this election cycle. If she is to retain her seat, she has to defend her right flank.

Freda has staked out the "conservative" position in the race. When she announced her candidacy in April, she told the Sentinel that "[Flanagan's] priorities are not our priorities. They're not mine, anyway." When she left the Democratic party, she told the Sentinel "I'm still a Democrat at heart. Some of the philosophies of the Democratic party seem to lean a little bit further (to the left) than where I am. It's just not the Democratic party that I grew up with." She also described herself as "a 'conservative Democrat,' who is concerned with 'working man's values, family values' and 'affordable housing...I'm basically one of the JFK Democrats."

(As an aside, seems like Freda and Joe Lieberman both read from the same script. You'd think a long-time Democrat would have the conviction to run within the party, not run from the party.)

Then a couple of days after Freda's announcement, The Sentinel teed Flanagan up by turning Flanagan's announcement of $1 million for school nursing into an opportunity for colleagues and opponents alike to criticize her for not sharing "our priorities."

Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said, "I don't know that (school nursing money) is my number one (priority). It's obviously her number one. It can't always be mine." Fitchburg rep Emile Gougen weighed in with "I don't know if that (priority) should be at the top, but it should be in there." And Freda piled on with this mind-boggling criticism: "It's going to be an added cost," she said. "It will be an added burden to the retirement system. I would not want it to be mandated to have a nurse in every school when you could better have a teacher." You would have thought that Freda herself ran the Sentinel's editors' meeting that day.

Rep Flanagan has her work cut out for her. She's running against a more conservative opponent in a moderate district. Her one huge advantage is incumbency. But she can't afford too many more weeks like this one if that is to remain an advantage.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Assessing the impact of the Big Dig collapse

Charley at Blue Mass Group has the best take on the political impact of the collapse, not only of the tunnel ceiling, but of confidence in state government. Here is an excerpt:
The Big Dig is a black hole that by its indictment of government incompetence, sucks all issues into its maw. Take taxes: depending on how you slice it, Massachusetts tax burden is not particularly high; if you've ever lived in Chicago or New York you know that's the case. And yet, in light of this colossal failure of accountability, how can any politician in Massachusetts credibly claim that tax money won't be wasted? All of the candidates promise new spending initiatives, in health care, education, potholes, law enforcement, whatever. In the public's mind, the Big Dig calls into question every single government spending initiative, however well-intended and well-designed, because it calls into question the ability of our government to deliver on its promises, and its willingness to put the public interest first.


Sixteen years of Republican governors didn't give us a safe tunnel. Neither did countless years of Democratic legislative dominance. Party didn't matter in this case: in fact, checks and balances were so effective that accountability itself was checked and balanced. Aside from the obvious (Bechtel), to whom to we go to get satisfaction in this case? The Governor? The legislature? The turnpike chair? The AG? Where is the pressure point for public anger?
Read the whole thing.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Jackson Update

Here are a couple of recent pictures of Jackson. He had his one-month checkup last week, and is up to 10 pounds. He's also grown to 22 3/4 inches long. He's started to track sounds and objects with his eyes, and is smiling without the influence of gas.

He's pretty adorable, huh?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Big Dig mess a sticky situation

At left, Turnpike Chairman Matt Amorello at today's press conference. At right, Amorello demonstrates the strength of the Big Dig epoxy in an undated photo from Turnpike archives.

I'm stunned at the information that is starting to come out around what may have caused ceiling tiles to collapse in one of the Big Dig tunnels. The Boston Globe has an update:
The metal tie was anchored in the concrete ceiling with epoxy, but not affixed to a metal support rail, as was done with ceiling panels in other tunnels, including those on Interstate 93 and other sections of I-90, Amorello said. Certain site locations prevented builders from using the support bar, Amorello said, without going into specifics.
Channel 4 has more:

The three ton panels should be secured by a combination of metal rods and powerful epoxy. In this case, if those steel tie backs were not properly fastened to the ceiling, essentially not even screwed in, that left only the glue to hold the huge slabs in place and that clearly wasn't enough.

CBS4's Joe Shortsleeve was told if the bolts had been properly fastened to the tunnel ceiling there would be tearing or damage as they pulled free from the ceiling. But we've learned the break was clean as if it never screwed in and the glue just let loose.

So, basically there are dozens of three-ton concrete slabs resting on top of steel ties that are super-glued into the ceiling? Superglue??!! For $14 Billion, the best we could do was to hope a few dabs of superglue were going to hold the thing together?

I have long been a fan of the Big Dig. I like the openness downtown now that the Central Artery has been torn down. I like the convenience of getting to the airport without going downtown. I think the Zakim Bridge is a fantastic addition to the Boston skyline. It cost way too much money, but all in all, I've thought it was worth it (and yes, that's easier for me to say since I didn't live or work in the city while all of the construction was underway).

But I'm horrified that it is falling apart, killing drivers in the process.


Worst sports collectible ever?

Friday, July 7, 2006

The Times & Courier's Minority Report

Remember Minority Report, the Tom Cruise movie about the ability to arrest people for crimes they will commit in the future? Reading this article in the Times and Courier made me wish this reporter had been just a little quicker with his inquiry:
Hume due back in court to face rape charges
By Patrick Brodrick/ Staff Writer
Thursday, July 6, 2006

CLINTON - A Clinton man charged with rape and sexual assault will be back in court on July 17.

Migisha Hume, 21, of 1 Coolidge Place, Apt. 620, Clinton, is being charged with two counts of rape, assault with intent to rape and indecent assault and battery on a person 14 years or older, after Hume allegedly assaulted a girl in the back of his car while his friend drove the vehicle. Hume will be back in court later this month for a probable cause hearing so the court can determine if there is enough evidence in the case to proceed with a trial.

Hume, who was reached after the assault, told the Times & Courier he did not wish to comment on the allegations being levied against him. (emphasis added)
Was reaching Hume before the alleged assault an option? If so, the reporter certainly should have told Hume that he'd be better off not assaulting someone. That's the trouble with reporters these days, they only report the news after it happens. More:
It was while the vehicle was driving around that Hume allegedly began kissing the girl, then forced the girl to perform oral sex on him. When he tried to remove the girl's clothing, police said the girl told him to stop, at which point the alleged sexual assault took place.
Let me get this straight, Hume allegedly "forced the girl to perform oral sex," yet the report suggests the assault didn't take place until the victim resisted his attempts to strip her? Isn't forcing someone to perform a sex act assault? What am I missing?


Pick up or delivery?

Looks like Boston Globe reporter Russell Nichols (or Political Editor David Dahl, who posted this update) should have grabbed a bite to eat before posting the following update on New Hampshire governor John Lynch:

Governor Mitt Romney is approving more than $500,000 stemming from a dispute with New Hampshire over the cost of flood control dams, his office said Friday.

New Hampshire Governor John Lunch earlier this week demanded $3.2-million from the state of Massachusetts, saying the Bay state has failed to meet its obligations under a 50-year-old flood control compact.


Welcome to the neighborhood

The Sentinel and Enterprise reported this morning that work has begun on the first of 74 new homes to be built off of Willard Street. That won't help traffic much on Central Street (not to mention the increased threat of moose accidents).

I'm always skeptical when a businessman suggests he is doing us a favor by selling us something, so bells went off in my head when I read this:

LEOMINSTER -- Developer Gregg Lisciotti says he plans to build 74 single-family homes on a subdivision off Willard Street.

The homes will each have three bedrooms and a two-car garage, and will be priced around $350,000, he said.

"We're aggressively pricing these and it's going to fill a void that Leominster needs," he said. "I don't think there are any more new homes in that range."

Boy, it seems like we have a lot of homes for sale in town, so I checked to see exactly how many homes in Leominster fit that description. Specifically, I looked for homes that were less than 10 years old and priced between $300,000 and $400,000.

I was surprised to see that there are, in fact, only 19 homes on that meet those criteria.

I don't know how much demand there is for $350,000 new homes and I don't believe that Mr. Lisciotti is building this development out of the goodness of his heart to serve the people of Leominster, but it was refreshing to see that for once, you can believe the hype.


Thursday, July 6, 2006

Red Sox Natives vs. Red Sox Nation

Ever since Tony Massarotti wrote about the pink hat and cell-phone crowd in the Boston Herald last month, there has been a bit of a blogswarm surrounding who is and is not a true Red Sox fan. Universal Hub documented some of the discussion when it first came up a month ago, and the topic has returned for round two in the last couple of days.

I don't like to say that anyone is more of a "true" Sox fan than another, but there are certainly two types of fans: Red Sox Natives, and Red Sox Nation.

I am a Red Sox Native, and proud of it. I am NOT a member of Red Sox Nation, no matter what Larry Lucchino and NESN and Dan Shaughnessy say.

A Red Sox Native is a fan of the Red Sox as a team, not the Red Sox as an experience. A Native was a fan before the mayhem of 2003 and 2004, and will remain a fan whenever the next Butch Hobson era arrives (heaven forbid it ever does).

As a Native, I have a love-hate relationship with Red Sox Nation. On the one hand, I appreciate the Nation because the team needs the revenue generated by inflated ticket prices, wall-to-wall corporate sponsorship, and yes, the sale of pink hats, in order to put a perennial pennant contender on the field. It's cool to see thousands of Sox fans every night when I watch a game on NESN, whether the team is home or away.

On the other hand, I hate all of those fans who cheer for the Red Sox because it's the thing to do, because Fenway is the place to be seen, because in New England one almost has to be a Sox fan in order to be anything. I hate that they don't know the language of the game, don't know what a "good out" is...that they boo Johnny Damon because they feel like they have somehow been jilted.

I hate that they talk about the Curse of the Bambino, and curses reversed, and all of that mystical hokum instead of understanding that the Sox were victims of bad pitching, bad defense, bad management, and bad baseball for all those years.

I hate that at least one citizen of the Nation is on his or her cell phone on my TV at all times. A Native would never risk missing a pitch by even having their phone on, never mind calling someone.

I hate that citizens of the Nation buy jerseys and T-Shirts with things like "Karaoke Guy" on the back (you know who you are). If I'm going to buy a jersey, I sure as hell am not going to but a home jersey with a name on it, since they don't exist in the real world. And nicknames? Ugh!

I hate that citizens of the Nation talk about how beating the Yankees in the playoffs was more fulfilling than winning the World Series, and that winning the World Series wouldn't have meant as much if they'd had to play the Twins or someone else. A Native realizes that we had won the pennant before, winning the World Series was all that mattered.

A citizen of the Nation is so happy that Bill Buckner can be finally forgiven. A Native remembers that we forgave Bill Buckner when we gave him a standing ovation on opening day, 1990. In fact, we realize that if anyone is to blame for game 6, it's either Bob Stanley or Rich Gedman, depending on if you believe that errant palm ball that allowed the tying run to score was a wild pitch or a passed ball.

A Native wears a hat that the team wears in a game (Blue, or 70s throwback Red). Citizens of Red Sox Nation wear whatever.

Red Sox Nation considers Wally the Green Monster as one of them. Natives booed Wally off the field when he was introduced.

Citizens of Red Sox Nation aren't necessarily bad people, they just don't know what they don't know. And while they cheer for the Sox in blissful ignorance, they annoy the snot out of Natives like me.


Tuesday, July 4, 2006

July 4, 1776

Monday, July 3, 2006

New England, The Patriots, And We

It's got kind of a "We are the World" vibe. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't find this nearly as bad as I remembered it. I suppose that's just the nostalgia...

(via Boston Sports Media Watch)


Saturday, July 1, 2006

Norman Mineta...Arrrr!

I guess when one is in a high-pressure job--Secretary of Transportation, for instance--he needs to get as far away from that as possible when relaxing. But pretending to be a pirate?

When [Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta] pilots the Rhode Runner, a 29-foot 1986 Chris-Craft cuddy, he can take off his shirt, clip on his Leatherman knife, and cruise, drop anchor or drift.

And one more thing.

"I imagine I'm a pirate," Norm said. "Of the Caribbean."


He looked through the windshield, scanning the water through a splat of osprey muck, at the wave runners, the sloops and the powerboats zipping by.

"Those are the treasure ships," he said, with a straight face. Those were the boats that Norm would plunder. He'd been a respected Democratic congressman for 20 years, secretary of commerce under President Bill Clinton, and immortalized by the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. But on his own little boat, inside his imagination, Norm wore an eye patch, a black pirate hat and a hook hand.

"As the captain of the ship, I'd be directing my crew," Norm said quietly. "I'd have cannons, depending on how large the target I'm after. I always like to think my boat is more powerful, at least 160 feet -- a multi-masted 200-footer."

(from the Washington Post, via Wonkette)


The Herald broadens it's readership

Apparently, it can now be found on the streets of Kuala Lampur, per Anna Husarska in today's Globe:
AT FIRST SIGHT, Kuala Lumpur is the Geneva of Southeast Asia, with its elegant Petronas Twin Towers, impeccable lawns, malls, and fast-food chains. It has a touch of zaniness, too. The day I arrived, the newspaper headlines read: "Robbery foiled, but cop loses gun" and "Robber fired twice at cop . . . and missed."


Is State Senator Barrios a Bush crony?

A Telegram and Gazette reader thinks so:
Lawmakers should prioritize issues

While our boys and girls are getting killed or coming home with no arms or legs in a war that shouldn't be, the big guys are all upset over peanut butter and marshmallow. They should be thinking of bringing our boys and girls home. I have a granddaughter in the National Guard whose time is up in December. Instead of coming home, they're sending her overseas for two years. Is that right? Bush and his cronies have lied to us from the beginning of the war.

So the real reason Democratic State Senator Barrios attacked Fluff was to divert attention from the war...makes as much sense as anything else, I guess.

Previous T&G Letters to the Editor:
Rem-Dawg Debate Rages in Worcester
Jerry Remy has "lost all touch with reality"



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