Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I'm sitting in my pajamas with the snow falling outside, Jackson playing with his trains on the floor, and watching Nipsey Russell on the $100,000 Pyramid.

What could be better?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What on earth was the Globe thinking?

The Boston Globe is my favorite newspaper. It has been for as long as I can remember caring about newspapers, going back at least to high school. In my opinion, it belongs along side the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, and Chicago Tribune as the nation's great newspapers.

But who could have ever thought it was a good idea to publish an op-ed by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, nearly 20 years to the day after terrorists sponsored by his government killed dozens of Americans in the Lockerbie bombing? And why would anyone in their right mind care what advice he would have for the American government?

I'm baffled. And disappointed.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

East Brookfield?!

I've been called for jury service. I have no problem serving on a jury if I'm called, and I don't mind missing a day of work. I know that some people try to get out of it, or see it as some sort of inconvenience, but I'm happy to do my civic duty.

But can someone explain why the court is sending me to East Brookfield to serve?

There are four district courts within 25 minutes of my home yet the commonwealth, in all of it's wisdom, is shipping me an hour away to East Brookfield.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Sentinel is giving me an ice storm headache

It looks like the Unitil power company isn’t the only service unable to deal with the enormity of the recent ice storm. The Sentinel and Enterprise is also starting to crumble. The paper is apparently buckling under the fatigue and stress, as they are reporting stories from the future and carrying on conversations with imaginary friends.

For instance, take this report on one hard-hit Fitchburg neighborhood:
FITCHBURG -- When Highland Avenue resident Kevin Starr looked out of his house for the last nine days he could see neighborhoods all around him that had power. But he and a patch of about 20 houses near his home had been without electricity for 11 days...

Starr said he arrived home Monday to a welcome sight: Utility trucks in his neighborhood working on power lines.

"It's the first time I've seen them since the power's been out," he said.

By Tuesday night his home finally had power again, he said.

"It's a relief," he said. "But it doesn't change how I feel about Unitil."
What makes this story particularly insightful is that it was posted at 6:06 this morning…that is Tuesday morning, before Kevin Starr had been interviewed about his relief in having power restored, which also hadn’t happened yet according to the story.

The ability to report from the future will undoubtedly be the one thing that saves the newspaper industry…congratulations to the Sentinel for getting ahead of the curve.

Less innovative—but no less unusual for the Sentinel—is an editorial criticizing Unitil for their poor response to the crisis. Here is the start:
Twelve days after an ice storm hit North Central Massachusetts and thousands of residents still remained without power, National Grid has taken over power restoration in several Unitil towns and cities, including Fitchburg, Lunenburg, Ashby and Townsend.

National Grid took over power restoration after local officials and state lawmakers -- along with Gov. Deval Patrick -- became convinced that Unitil could not do the job itself because so many people remained without power 10 days after the storm.

Patrick said Saturday he will have the Department of Public Utilities investigate the response once all the power is restored.

"The governor and lieutenant governor are deeply concerned about the lack of progress to restore power to families in the Unitil service area," Sullilvan said in a statement. "Once power has been restored fully, the governor will ask the Department of Public Utilities to conduct an investigation into why it took Unitil so long to restore power."
Who the hell is “Sullivan?” Is he editor Jeff McMenemy’s imaginary friend? An Irish pop star so cool that he only goes by one name? An anonymous source whose first or last name has been omitted to protect his innocence?

No, apparently he is Governor Patrick’s Press Secretary Kyle Sullivan. If you look at this news article from Monday, you’ll notice that McMenemy has again resorted to the practice of taking a news article from the previous day, sticking an opinion on the end of it, and calling it an editorial. But McMenemy apparently left out Sullivan’s first name or position—he probably got confused about whether or not this was a “first reference” because it was referenced correctly in the story he was copying. So exact is the reproduction that this typo from Monday’s story also appears in Tuesday’s editorial:
Officials in Lunenburg, Fitchburg, Ashby and Townsend spoke to Patrick, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and Unitil officials Sunday morning in a conference calls...
Unfortunately, the copy-and-paste editorial isn’t a reaction to the stress of the moment, its common practice at the Sentinel. Instead of hammering the rag for its incompetence, perhaps we should celebrate its consistency—in these times of great crisis it’s comforting to know that day after day the people of the North County can count on the Sentinel to screw something up.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Putting the icing on a long week

A few stray thoughts about the ice storm, as I slowly die from shoveling the 22 inches of snow we received since Friday…

WTAG was absolutely awesome. The radio station was on the air nearly non-stop with constant updates from local town officials and messages from listeners. It would have been very easy for them to stick with their regular programming and just cover the storm during its local shows, but they have preempted their day time talkers to keep people informed. (OK, Jim Polito and George Brown could recite the Worcester phone book and be more informative than the Glenn Beck Show…but I digress.) And it’s not like WTAG was unaffected by the storm. For quite a while they were broadcasting with only a single cellphone as their means of receiving information—the shows those first couple of days consisted of the anchors reading text messages they were receiving since the station had no phone service. Even so, they kept at it and provided the only source of real time information to most of us in the affected area.


Karma really is a just never know when it’s going to present itself. After riding out the first strike of Hurricane Katrina while we were in Florida three years ago, Michelle and I watched landfall in New Orleans from an airport where we were waiting for a flight home. I remember remarking that we live in just about the perfect place: We’re far enough inland that we are spared the brunt of most hurricanes; we don’t live near a river, so we won’t be flooded out of our home; we almost never have tornadoes; we don’t have to worry about large brush and forest fires; we don’t live in the fear of earthquakes…the worst that ever happens is a huge blizzard, and even then we might lose power overnight. So much for that…


It’s really odd going to the gas station, pulling out the gas can so that you can fill up the generator, and seeing that every other car at the pumps is doing the same thing. No one is gassing up their car.


Ah yes, the generator…I finally decided Monday morning that I’d had enough of living like a refugee and that I was going to find some way to get power if it was the last thing I’d do. I got really lucky. I searched the online sites for stores throughout New England and finally found a Lowe’s in Newington, Conn. that showed the possibility of having some in stock. I called and was told that they were out—all of the generators in the area were being shipped to stores farther north. So on a whim I called Home Depot in Leominster and the woman who answered the phone told me to get in my car and get up there right away as a shipment of them was just pulling into the store.

It took most of the afternoon to set it up and I still wasn't particularly confident about it, so while Michelle and I spent the night at home, Jackson still stayed with my parents. Jackson slept in his own bed Tuesday night for the first time in five days and he was very happy about it. Watching him singing and dancing to a song on "Thomas the Tank Engine" with a huge smile on his face after being out of sorts for nearly a week was worth the $800 or so I paid for the generator.


Oh, and one more thing...anyone who says facing adversity and roughing it and all of that makes one tougher or builds character is full of baloney. It makes one cold and tired and frazzled. I fail to see the upside.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hour of Power

The Hour of Power was 5:00 pm today. After 124 hours of darkness and cold, we have electricity.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Please, no.

Still no power. Michelle called the power company to see if they had an ETA on getting electricity back and the attendant said our neighborhood was in such bad shape that she wouldn't even try to guess. She told us to call back in a couple days just to get an update.

This can't be helpful:
Forecast for Northern Worcester

Cloudy...snow...mainly after midnight. Snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches. Lows in the lower 20s. Northeast winds around 5 mph. Chance of snow 90 percent.

Snow...sleet and freezing rain in the morning...then a chance of freezing rain...snow likely with a chance of rain in the afternoon. Total snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches. Highs in the lower 30s. Northeast winds around 5 mph...becoming north in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 90 percent....

Snow likely. Heavy snow accumulation possible. Cold with highs in the upper 20s. Chance of snow 70 percent.
I'm afraid that if we're not back online by Friday, it could be a very long time.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nothing new

LEOMINSTER -- We are still without power, going on 72 hours since it cut out early Friday morning. Very little has changed. No word on when power will return. Speaking with neighbors today I heard one report that we were still four days away, but another said he'd heard it would be two weeks before the entire town was back online.

We spent much of the day clearing debris. It will be a long haul to get all of the branches cleaned up. Hopefully we don't get any heavy snows until mid-January. Burning season starts January 1 and if we can get a bonfire or two before everything gets covered with snow it will help quite a bit.

We're still in Leominster for another night. Temperatures may hit the mid- to upper-fifties tomorrow and if we can get the house warmed up, we might try to stay there tomorrow night just to attempt to bring a little normalcy back to Jackson's routine.

Here are some pictures I took in Sterling this morning. We still have a long way to go...

Power lines down at route 62 and Chocksett Road.

A utility pole and wires down on route 62 at Wiles Road. Route 62 is still closed at the Sterling-Lancaster town line.

The telephone/cable line that is still suspended over Redstone Hill Road.

The catalpa tree is still heavily covered with ice even 48 hours after the end of the storm.

The view beyond our back yard. Only a handful of trees remain unscathed. Everything over 25 or 30 feet tall has been snapped off.

The front of the house faces north and do not get sun during the winter. The ice on these bushes has hardly receded since the end of the storm.

This bush still shows the full thickness of the ice.

The north and northeast facing side of this evergreen bush is still heavily encased in ice. The south facing side is clear.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Don't want to live like a refugee

LEOMINSTER -- With apologies to Tom Petty, the refugee life is already getting old, and we've only been out of our house for two nights...

We've moved out of my parents' place in Clinton and into my brother-in-law's home in Leominster. While half to three-quarters of Clinton are still out of power--including my parents' neighborhood--the southern part of Leominster is back on power and on-line. It was nice to take a warm was nicer to take a warm shower and have the room also be warm, instead of stepping out of the shower and into the cold.

Jackson has been holding up pretty well. He woke up in the night during the storm and was pretty worried while he laid with Michelle and I--every time another tree would snap or ice would fall he ask "What was that noise, Daddy?" Still, he was OK until we awoke Friday morning. He was very upset after he woke up...when I asked if he was afraid, he said "I'm afraid of the ice on the house."

He had heard Michelle and I talking about how the ice had knocked over some of our trees and when he looked outside and saw the ice covering the windows, I think he was afraid the same thing was going to happen to the house. We talked about it and I explained that the ice can be very pretty, but that sometimes it gets so heavy that the trees fall. Even so, I explained that the ice wouldn't hurt him and that he'd be OK. He calmed down and seemed to get it, but it was heartbreaking to hear him be so upset about it.

Even though it was cold last night, Jackson did pretty well because he was sleeping the bed he stays in when he has sleepovers at Mimi and Buppie's house. Tonight he had a much harder time going to bed because he's not in a place where he is familiar. We're trying to keep things as normal for him as we can, but it's hard. He probably would have done better at Mimi and Buppie's again tonight, but the temperature in the house was below 50 by dark and a night of dropping temperatures probably would not have been healthy.

Tomorrow, we're planning to do as much cleanup of yard debris as we can. We're also trying to plug away in setting up Sara's room. Even though we don't have power, we still need to get the room ready. We've only got six weeks to go, so she could come any time.

A couple of other notes from the last couple of days...

  • Gas has been scarce as most gas stations are without power. I believe there is no gas available in Lancaster at all. The one station in the center of Sterling has also been down, although there may be power there by this evening as the center of town has had power restored. There are only two stations open in Clinton. Even at 7:30 this morning, I had to wait in line for 20 minutes to fill up.

  • While the stations that were open were not gouging customers, they weren't being entirely benevolent. The stations in town that were closed had prices posted from $1.63 to $1.67 per gallon. At the two open stations, the price had been jacked up to $1.78. On the one hand, they probably could have stayed busy at $3.78...on the other hand, they didn't need to kick it up the 11 cents.

  • My sister-in-law waited two hours for gas Friday afternoon in Leominster at what she was told was the only station open on the route 2 corridor for miles in either direction. She said she was in line in front of a woman from Phillipston, who had been told by the state police that this station 35 miles away was the nearest station that had power.

  • A neighbor said things are so bad in the northern part of Sterling that the the National Guard has been called in to help remove trees and limbs from roads in that area.

  • Thankfully, help is on it's way. While I was on I-495 heading back from Marlborough, I passed a caravan of seven utility trucks from North Carolina.

Powerless to do anything

MARLBOROUGH -- The situation has not improved in the last 24 hours. In some ways, it may have even gotten worse, if learning that my early indications of what to expect were incorrect.

The area of Clinton where my parents live--and where we spent last night--is still without power. Part of the town does have power, and has apparently been online through the entire storm. last night I went down to get grinders for all of us and ran into an elected local official who was taking pizzas to the firehouse in Sterling. He said that word in town was that it would be seven days until all of Sterling is back online.

Our neighborhood is still a disaster area. Route 62 from Redstone Hill Rd. in Lancaster to Sterling Road at the sterling town line is still closed as of 1:30 this afternoon. Traffic heading from Clinton to Sterling is being rerouted up Redstone Hill, but that area is still very treacherous. There is a cable TV or telephone line that has been ripped down and is hanging about six feet over the road as one passes Wiles Rd. Cars can get by, but a truck could easily catch the line. There are a handful of broken poles on Wiles Road and Route 62, with power lines down in multiple places along the roads.

Lancaster is also without power in some places, as there are a number of power lines down along Mill Street.

much of the area looks like a tornado blew through about 20-30 feet off of the ground. In many spots, every tree taller than that has been snapped off; only the younger trees have survived.

It still appears that our home did not suffer any damage, although there is a large limb resting on our power line from the street to the house which may have pulled it far enough off the siding that it will have to be reattached. Otherwise, we are unscathed. below are some photos I took yesterday morning at around 8:30. While they show much of the damage at our home, they do not show all of it. even in the 10 minutes I was out shooting these pictures four or five large branches or tops of trees crashed to the ground. The damage to our yard was noticeably worse when we surveyed it later yesterday.

Michelle's brother has reported that power has been restored (although not TV or internet) to his home in Leominster, so we may head there for tonight if the power is not restored to Clinton soon.

Limbs down in front of the house.

Our Birch tree has been destroyed.

The phone lines in have survived, despite the heavy ice. If you look at the back corner of the house you can see the power line pulling away from the siding.

The downed limbs of the catalpa tree.

The entire north and east side of the catalpa tree has been destroyed. This is the case with many trees, as the storm was a "Nor'easter" and the rain came from that direction, causing the heaviest accumulation on that side of the trees.

Tall grass.

Our blackberry patch.

Ice on the play set.

No game today. As you can see, the ice was so thick that it essentially tripled the thickness of the basketball hoop.

Post filed from Panera Bread in Marlborough, as it's the only place I could find with internet access.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Disaster Area

I have never seen an ice storm quite like the one I saw when I awoke this morning in the 37 years I have lived in Northern Worcester County.

Each of the five big trees in our yard were significantly damaged. The birch tree in the western yard was completely destroyed and the majestic catalpa tree that provides an incredible canopy of shade in the summer was at least half destroyed. The two maples and the beechnut were also heavily damaged. Luckily, none of them are close enough to the house to damage the structure.

We also dodged a bullet with the catalpa. Even though it was heavily damaged, for the first time in I can't remember how log we did not park one of the cars underneath it. Not because of any foresight--we had guests last night and had to pull farther into the driveway than usual. Very fortunate indeed.

Many of the roads in and around Sterling, Lancaster and Clinton were closed this morning because of downed limbs and powerlines. When I awoke at 8:00, traffic on route 62 had been routed up our hill because the main road was closed. When we left our house at 9:00 to find a place with some heat, a tree had fallen across our road and traffic that was using it to get from Clinton to Sterling was being forced to turn around. Not sure how long it was until the road to Sterling was again opened.

Update 2:00 pm -- Just got a call that Route 62 between Lancaster and Sterling is still closed.

We lost power last night sometime after midnight. It was a very eerie night. There was no light at all (street lights, neighbor's homes, etc. were all out) and the only noise was the regular crashing of limbs reverberating around the neighborhood. There was a crash nearly every couple of minutes--some close by, some from a distance. It literally sounded like the world was crashing down around us.

The power company told us that we should not expect power for a couple of days. While driving this morning, WBZ radio reported that the governor warned most of the 300,000 or more people in the state without power that they probably wouldn't have it restored until Monday.

I took a number of pictures this morning shortly after first light (a harrowing experience in itself as I saw five limbs and tops of trees crumble in the ten minutes I was out) and will post them once I have a combination of camera, USB cable, computer with power, and Internet. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I was listening to classic country music this afternoon at work and heard The Charlie Daniels Band's hit "The South is Gonna Rise Again." It got me wondering, doesn't "again" imply some sort of dominance in the past?

When was that? What am I missing?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jackson's November

A few photos of Jackson from the busy month of November...

Thanksgiving 058a
All dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner.

K and J
Staying warm with Kayla at a soccer game.

moms  camera 358
Self-portrait with Kayla and Auntie.

Jackson's first time bowling. After one attempt at the traditional between-the-legs toddler style. Jackson decided his best bet was to throw it two-handed from his chest--sort of like a shot put--which makes it look like he's actually making a bowler's approach.

bowling 10
Kayla and Jackson watching one of his throws.

Thanksgiving 036
Jackson and his Buppie having dessert at Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving 073
Jackson dancing at Thanksgiving.

Jackson was the life of the party dancing at a relative's wedding.

Family portrait.

Fits and starts...and a baby

Part of me envies bloggers who get to do it as a job--they get to read news, blogs, and other things all day, and when something catches their fancy, they write about it. For the rest of us, when we come across something that is interesting, we make note of it and hope that we’re still awake enough and motivated enough to write about it after we get home, have dinner, play with the kid(s), put them to bed, clean the house (OK, so I don’t lose a lot of time cleaning...but someone else must), walk the dog, put out the get the idea.

Even when I'm blogging a lot, I lose a lot of posts in my head because I’m just not as fired up about something when I get home as I was when I first came across it at lunch or whenever. But recently, it’s been almost impossible to get a thought from my noontime brain to my nighttime keyboard. It just hasn’t been happening.

In part, I think I’m suffering from political fatigue or burnout or whatever you want to call it. It was a very long election season and now that the good guys have won I’m having a hard time keeping my interest at such a high level. I know it will pick up again, but lately a lot of political items and opinions have been ending up in the waste bin of my mind.

I guess what I’m getting at is the recent trend of blogging in fits and starts as opposed to writing almost daily will probably continue. I may go on a two- or three-day blogging binge followed by a week or two of inactivity. It’s not like I will be getting less busy--once our daughter arrives in seven weeks or so I can only imagine how much less time I will have.

You know, now that I think about it, I’m not sure I ever announced on the blog that we are having another baby. Well, if I didn’t, here is the announcement:

We are expecting a daughter, Sara Elisabeth, to be born sometime around January 28. With just seven weeks to go, everything is on track for a healthy baby girl. Michelle is also doing well, thanks. We’re thrilled, and Jackson is also excited. He says that when Sara comes, he wants to help tuck her in. I think he’ll make a great big brother.

Anyway...if you’ve followed this stream of consciousness this far, I hope you’ll keep checking in. If you’re lucky, you just might find another new post or two. If not, keep stopping never know when something might make its way out of me head and onto the Internet.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I support Lew Evangelidis

Well, OK, let's not get carried away. I wouldn't suggest that any of my fellow townspeople vote for the State Representative for Sterling's other precinct if a Democrat were to oppose him. But I hope Rep. Evangelidis can get eight other members of the moribund Republican House caucus to vote for him in his effort to become Minority Leader:
Saying he is tired of watching fewer and fewer Republicans be elected to the state Legislature, state Rep. Lewis G. Evangelidis, R-Holden, is challenging House minority leader Brad Jones, R-North Reading, for that post.

"Everywhere I go, Republican leaders and state committee members are pleading for a change in direction and new leadership for our Republican Party," Mr. Evangelidis said in a statement issued yesterday after he told House Republicans of his plans to try to take the seat from Mr. Jones.
Being the leader of the State House Republicans is about as relevant as being the best ski area in Georgia, but it would be nice if someone in leadership were to come from Central Mass. Heaven knows the Democratic leadership hardly knows we exist, unless they are trying to win votes for speaker

For his part, Rep. Jones gave Evangelidis a less-than-subtle smackdown in response
"I welcome Rep. Evangelidis' newfound enthusiasm and interest in participating," Jones, a North Reading Republican, told
Evangelidis expounded on the rationale for his candidacy in his statement to the Telegram and Gazette:
"Outside the building we need someone who is going to be more visible and outspoken on the issues and inside the building I think we need someone who is going to be a little bit more confrontational with the Democrats," he said.
It will be nice to see Evangelidis be the one mixing it up if he wins the race. This is one Democrat who will have no problem being "a little bit more confrontational" should the new Minority Leader be one of my town's representatives. I hope we get the chance.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

T&G Reporter still posting on controversial message board

Yesterday, I noted that Telegram and Gazette reporter Karen Nugent had been assigned to write a story about charges filed with the Worcester County DA and the Attorney General that members of the discussion forum had threatened opponents of the rifle range, yet she did not disclose in the article that she is a poster on the web site.

In my post from yesterday, I questioned whether or not it was a conflict of interest for Nugent to report on the controversy since she was a member of the message board and had been an active poster. Let me add another question to yesterday's list: Should a reporter who has reported on a message board of which she is a member joke about the article with members of the board...including one who is a subject of the story...after it has been published?

In the article, which reported that members if the web forum were alleged to "have engaged in stalking, gay bashing, slander, sexual harassment and other civil rights violations," Nugent refers to complaints against William Connolly, Jr. and quotes his response. She also notes that Connolly is also a poster at the site. Yesterday, after the article had been published, Connolly posted the following as part of a comment in a thread discussing the complaint:
I think Karen has lost her edge. She left out all the really good stuff. Where was the "White Supremacist Gun Hate" stuff. She left out the "rugmuncher=vaginal oral sex" story line too. No kidding they really did send that stuff to the AG's office. Why wasn't it in the story too?
Reporter Nugent replied:
Really, Bill...You expect the editors to let "rug muncher" get in the paper? (I had to explain to one of them what it means!)
Should the reporter be discussing "rug munchers" with one of the subjects of an article about a discussion forum where gay bashing is alleged to have occurred, on the forum in question?


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Conflict at T&G? Message board poster reports on complaints against message board

This morning, Karen Nugent of the Telegram and Gazette reported on a complaint lodged by a group of citizens--including two selectmen--against the webmaster and members of the message board, alleging that the members have threatened and intimidated citizens opposed to the rifle range on the Lancaster-Clinton line.

There is one significant problem with the article: no where does Nugent mention that she is also a member of the message board, having logged 59 posts at the site and posting a comment as recently as November 7.

Without commenting on the issue (OK, one small comment...while I do not condone the attacks I have read at that site, the prospect that someone would be investigated based on anonymous message board posts is chilling), there are a couple of questions that need to be answered:
  • Did Karen Nugent inform her editors before reporting the story that she is a member of the site that is being investigated by the DA and the Attorney General?
  • If not, did she have a duty to disclose that to her editors?
  • If so, should her editors have kept her on the story, despite the appearance of a conflict of interest?
  • And then, should they have included a disclaimer that the reporter was a member of the site being investigated?
I am not suggesting that Karen Nugent reported the story poorly, or even that she has engaged in the specific discussions that the folks who lodged the complaint found so offensive. But I do think she and the Telegram have an obligation to either steer the story to a reporter not affiliated with the site, or at the least to disclose in her reporting that she is a member of the message board.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Radical proposal to change Sterling's government must be stopped

The frustrations that have been building in Sterling over the last year towards the Board of Selectmen and their tone-deaf performance in relation to a number of issues is coming to a head. At Monday's special town meeting, a citizen petition will be voted that could significantly change the way Sterling has done business for the last 120 years.

The radical article is Article Three, which would strip the Selectmen of the power to make any decisions on behalf of the town if presented with a matter of any significance. It would cripple the town’s ability to make any decisions quickly, since any significant item would have to be brought before the town for a vote. It would relegate the position of Selectman to little more than a glorified reporter posting updates on a website or a talk-show host facilitating open forums.

It must be defeated.

Here is the current succinct, 26-word definition of the duties of the Selectmen from the town bylaws:

Section 1. The Selectmen shall exercise a general supervision over all matters affecting the interest or welfare of the town, not otherwise provided for.
This definition has not changed since it was approved in 1889. It has worked for 120 years. And now, because of a Select Board that has been unresponsive, secretive and has generally had a really, really bad year, a group of townspeople are looking to completely overreact and saddle us with this 267-word jumble of unenforceable conditions:

Section 1. The Selectmen shall exercise a general supervision over all matters affecting the interest or welfare of the town, not otherwise provided for, and shall (a) remain well-informed about all such matters; and (b) keep the citizens and officials of the Town of Sterling timely and well-informed as well. However, insofar as any such matters will have, or could reasonably be expected to have, a fairly major or significant impact on the Town of Sterling from any perspective-be it financial, environmental, or otherwise- the Selectmen shall (c) advise the citizens of Sterling promptly on learning of the matter; (d) keep the citizens of Sterling timely and well-informed of such matters, as and when information becomes available; and (e) refrain from entering into any agreements and/or commitments without the citizens of Sterling as a whole having first rendered an informed vote with respect to any such agreements and commitments. With respect to all matters of such importance and significance to the Town of Sterling, the Selectmen’s obligations pursuant to subparagraph (d) above shall, at a minimum, require regular, up-to-date and informative postings on the Town of Sterling website, and Open Sessions where the Selectmen present the latest information and respond to all inquiries made by Sterling’s citizens. However, this is not intended to require the Selectmen to disclose information that they are not entitled to disclose as a matter of law, nor limit their right to withhold specific information to the extent, but only to the extent that such information qualifies, under the particular circumstances, for a legal exemption from disclosure under Massachusetts law and if it is in the best interests of the people of Sterling that the Selectmen exercise that exemption.
Before I break down all of the problems with the proposed new law, let me make this entirely clear: the Board of Selectmen have been ineffective responding to the issues of the last year or so. They appear to have violated the open meeting law by secretly discussing the Wekepeke with Nestle; they refused to take a position on the Wekepeke question until September, four months after Clinton rejected the plan; they dumped members of the Council on Aging and Personnel Board after the start of the fiscal year and did not communicate with the removed members; they are not proactive in informing citizens of the reasons for their actions, and do not educate the town on the actions they hope to take.

In short, they’ve been doing a poor job.

But the answer is not to break a system that has worked since the 19th century, it is to vote out the Selectmen who are not doing their jobs. There is an election every year, and we keep sending the same guys back to town hall. Someday, we will have a Board of Selectmen that we can trust, and when that happens, it would be a disaster if they were hamstrung by this suffocating bylaw.

Let’s go line-by line and review the problems with this proposal:

Section 1. The Selectmen shall exercise a general supervision over all matters affecting the interest or welfare of the town, not otherwise provided for, and shall

(a) remain well-informed about all such matters; and
How is this enforceable? Who determines what level of knowledge must be reached for someone to be “well-informed”? What is the remedy if a Selectman is deemed to be not “well-informed”?

(b) keep the citizens and officials of the Town of Sterling timely and well-informed as well.
I think this means to suggest that the citizens and officials must be well informed in a timely fashion. (As it reads, it suggests that the Selectmen must keep citizens and officials “timely,” which really isn’t fair since I’m often late for things and I’d hate for my Selectmen to be punished because I forgot to set my alarm…but I digress). Again, what is meant by “timely” and what is the “well-informed”? Not to mention that to “keep the citizens and officials” in line with anything is an impossible standard. Perhaps if the clause required the Selectmen to “inform the citizens…” it would make a little more sense, but the way it’s written the Selectmen are responsible for the citizens’ level of information and that is an impossible standard.

However, insofar as any such matters will have, or could reasonably be expected to have, a fairly major or significant impact on the Town of Sterling from any perspective-be it financial, environmental, or otherwise- the Selectmen shall
This paragraph is startling in its breadth and scope. It does not define what matters meet the standard of “fairly major or significant impact on the Town of Sterling.” However, it does say that it could include matters “from any perspective.” Think about that. From any single citizen’s perspective, a failure to plow a street on time or a fix a street light that has gone out could have a significant impact. According to the breadth of this clause, such an event could trigger the following:

(c) advise the citizens of Sterling promptly on learning of the matter;

(d) keep the citizens of Sterling timely and well-informed of such matters, as and when information becomes available; and

(e) refrain from entering into any agreements and/or commitments without the citizens of Sterling as a whole having first rendered an informed vote with respect to any such agreements and commitments.
The article then goes on to describe how the Selectmen may keep citizens informed.

To take a literal reading of this portion of the proposed bylaw if someone has an event that would have a fairly major impact from any perspective, the Selectmen must inform the town, keep the citizens informed as changes warrant, and “refrain from entering any…commitments” that might fix the problem until town meeting is convened to debate and vote on the item. Grinding the gears of government to a halt while the town either waits for town meeting or convenes meeting upon meeting upon meeting to decide governmental matters will render town government impotent.

Keeping the town informed is a good thing, and Lord knows the current Board of Selectmen doesn’t seem to find that to be a particularly important part of what they are doing. But again, the remedy is to vote in people who will commit to keeping the town informed and vote out those who do not take that responsibility seriously.

Kicking the crutches out from under the Board of Selectmen does more than incapacitate the board, it cripples the entire town. Tuning the Board of Selectmen into an essentially ceremonial post may punish the current officeholders, but it will punish the other 7,997 of us as well.


"Buffalo Bills -- masters of the morose"

I love that description of the Bills, in this recap of the team's loss to the Patriots on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

America wins! Live blog, part 2

It looks like Obama is going to win. Part 1 of the fun is here. As usual my comments are in red and Scott's are in blue...

9:39 -- The commentators on BBC America are much more entertaining than the American media. That's probably because, unlike Michael Vick, they don't have a dog in this fight. They can say anything they want without fear that the public is going to get bent out of shape, since the only people watching this channel are people who thought Footballers Wives was on tonight and mis-programmed their DVRs.

9:44 -- Okay, WHDH is calling a Yes for Question 2. I voted no, but it's because I don't think this bill goes far enough. I think marijuana should be legal, but regulated by the state in a way similar to alcohol, perhaps slightly more stringent. My plan: growing weed for personal use in the home will be legal. If you want to purchase or smoke outside the house, however, you would have to do so in designated hash bars, like they do in Amsterdam. Possessing marijuana outside of the home or a hash bar would be subject to fines and legal penalties, to discourage both dealing to minors and potential issues like stoned driving. This plan would both allow greater personal freedom while creating a new source of income for the state, who could tax weed purchases in the hash bars. Plus, a giant influx of potheads would come to Boston instead of flying all the way to Amsterdam. Frankly, as someone who doesn't smoke weed or drink, I think it's kind of silly for the government to say marijuana is illegal, but it's fine to get soused on rum every hour of the day; I don't believe weed is more dangerous than alcohol, it's simply more socially acceptbale. Vote no to hypocrisy and yes to government sanctioned hash bars.

9:56 -- "Fight I will!" And with that, John Kerry reminds us all why he wasn't able to do what Obama is doing tonight.

9:59 -- Frank Oz is his speechwriter.

10:00 -- I take back what I said about the BBC; DirecTV just replaced it with Comedy Central on the Election Mix.

10:02 -- Everyone is giving Iowa to Obama and and Utah to McCain. We're now up to a 207-129 lead.

10:07 -- The current count on Star Wars jokes is 3. If I can figure out how to work Plo Kloon into a reference, this will be a successful evening.

10:16 -- Obama has taken a 30,000 vote lead in Virginia. 8,000 vote lead in North Carolina, and 180,000 vote lead in Florida. Keep pouring it on Barack!

10:17 -- Scott has taken leave from his place at the nodrumlins presidential desk to get donuts.

10:19 -- By the way, here is a picture of nodrumlins election headquarters from just before 7:00, with the electoral map on the left and the congressional scoreboard on the right.

10:24 -- Fox news just reported that Chris Shays of Connecticut, the last Republican congressman in all of New England, has been defeated. There are no more New England Republicans in the house.

10:43 -- South Dakota goes to McCain. 3/5 of Nebraska goes to McCain.

10:44 -- Well, I'm back. This one horse town didn't have any stores open, so I had to go to Clinton for a pile of Hostess Cupcakes. I bet Plo Kloon wouldn't have had those sort of problems.

10:45 -- Fox has called Virginia for Obama. Searching for some confirmation from the other networks.

10:49 -- Anderson Cooper was just speaking to a hologram of Will.I.Am. Are you f***ing kidding me?

10:50 -- By the way, I've been watching Fox News because I like hearing them try not to act too sad. I'm planning on hearing Brit Hume announce Barack Obama as the next president of the United States in about seven minutes.

10:58 -- Just two minutes left. Someone get RZA and MC Serch ready for their remote.

10:59:50 -- It's like waiting for New Year's...

11:08 -- Watching the celebrations around the country, especially the pictures from historically black colleges was incredibly touching. As happy as I am that we have a new president...a new Democratic president...I can't imagine how emotional this must be for an African American, especially those who just 45 years ago couldn't vote in large portions of the South. Now, one of their own has been elected president.

11:14 -- CBS calls Florida for Obama.

11:15 -- Fox is going strong. First spin: reminding their viewers that Obama is actually half-white, so they don't need to really panic. Second move: suggesting that Obama's path was paved by the success of the Cosby show. Fox -- the comedy gift that keeps on giving.

11:22 -- The first crowd shot during McCain's concession speach focuses on a dopey guy who bears a strange resemblence to Neville Longbottom.

11:25 -- McCain looks like he's giving his speech from Downtown Disney.

11:29 -- McCain gave a gracious speech. A few hecklers in their crowd weren't quite as gracious, but there are always a few cads in every crowd. 11:30 -- While McCain was speaking, a majority of the nets called Colorado and Florida for Obama, and Arizona for McCain.

11:40 -- And now Nevada falls for Obama. Looking at the Indiana results, it appears that Obama leads by 8,000 votes with 96% reporting. Most of the counties that still have results outstanding are counties where Obama leads, so it looks like he might pull that one out as well. That would be huge.

11:54 -- So far, we've got 54 senate seats with Oregon and Alaska most likely going our way and the two independents. If Franken can pull it out (he was 42 votes behind with 46% of the vote in) the Democratic caucus will have 59 votes. Pretty good show.

12:17 -- Very nice speech. Now I'm going to bed.

12:20 -- What an amazing night. When I wake up, I expect that Obama will have won North Carolina and Indiana, and McCain will squeak out Missouri and Montana.

Election live blog...part 1

Here we go...will John McCain win or will America win? As usual, I am in red and Scott is in blue.

6:14 -- First results from Kentucky...with 5 of 3550 precincts reporting, Obama is getting trounced. Sadness and despair reigns.

6:35 -- By the way, nodrumlins is pioneering a new internet paradigm. Both Lance and I will be live blogging, of course, on separate computers -- while sitting about two feet apart in the same room. Soon, this will be the standard for all simulblogging, and in the distant future may remove the need for actual human interaction completely.

6:38 -- Lance is also currently setting up the Big Board. While CNN is struggling with their 3-D rendering from Industrial Light and Magic, we'll be using old reliable -- a giant dry erase board with a hand drawn map of the United States, filled in with the appropriate colored markers. In your face, Wolf Blitzer.

6:41 -- By the way, if McCain wins this, I'm going to lock myself in my room and play video games for the next four years.

6:42 -- Of course, I'm going to do the same thing if Obama wins anyway, but in that case it will be as a celebration of American freedom, rather than as a defense mechanism.

6:49 -- DirecTV has a fantastic channel set up called "2008 Election Mix", which shows eight channels simultaneously -- ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and BBC America -- and you can toggle between them to get the sound for whicever one you like. It's very soothing to listen to the Brits on BBC America chat in somnambulistic tones about voter turnout. Plus, they have Ted Koppel, so that's fantastic as well. Sweet.

6:52 -- The commentators on CNN and jammed together shoulder to shoulder as though they are traveling coach on Southwest. The benches at Foxboro Stadium offered more breathing room. On the plus side, they seem to be broadcasting from inside an American flag.

6:59 -- The commentators on CNN are giggling like schoolgirls about Obama, talking as though he's already won by 9 billion votes. Actually, I don't think schoolgirls giggle like this any more, they just text LOL to their MySpace page.

7:00 -- Here come our first projections...Vermont! Woo!

7:01 -- No call for McCain in South Carolina? I would have expected that to go for McCain right away.

7:05 -- Warner wins the senate seat in Virginia. Graham in South Carolina. Nothing surprising, but a pickup for the good guys nonetheless.

7:08 -- To prepare for the evening, I spent last evening watching a special Presidential edition of Antiques Roadshow.

7:10 -- NBC has trumped our big board by painting their map on the ice at Rockefeller Center. We're still beating CNN, though.

7:14 -- MSNBC just mentioned that Virginia is "too EARLY to call" for president as opposed to "too CLOSE to call." Which means that their exit polls suggest that someone has a significant advantage, but they are waiting for the actual returns to confirm.

7:18 -- Jessica Yellin, also known as Princess Leia, is appearing "via hologram" on the CNN set with Wolf Blitzer. If she had said, "Help us, Barack Obama, you're our only hope", I probably would have passed out from excitement. The only thing better would be having our own rink to paint.

7:23 -- We just heard our first use of the word "bicameral". Everyone drink!

7:25 -- NBC7 switches to local coverage, which means nothing, since the polls don't close for another 25 minutes.

7:30 -- Again, Ohio is too early to call. That means someone is pretty well ahead in the exits. That has to be good for Obama.

7:35 -- CBS is calling West Virginia for McCain, but most of the other networks haven't made a call. nodrumlins is still listing it as too early to call.

7:36 -- Okay, we're now ready to call West Virginia for McCain.

7:40 -- And now another 20 minutes of complete time wasting. Lance is currently looking through the exit polling online, which if correct, is pretty much giving every state to Obama. But you know how radical thouse internet sources can be.

7:42 -- McCain has a campaign advisor named Pfotenhauer, who, unless I am mistaken, was also a character on H. R. Pufnstuf.

7:42 -- Last year, the exit polls leaned strongly toward Kerry, so I'm not putting a lot of faith into them

7:48 -- Rockerfeller holds West Virginia's senate seat for the Democrats.

7:55 -- Fox News is having trouble with their online map. South Carolina isn't filled in even though the headline syas they called it; meanwhile, they have Delware filled in blue for Obama with the checkmark, but the polls haven't even closed there yet. Sound like they need a visit from holographic mapmaker Jessica Yellin. "If we don't get those maps running by sundown, there'll be hell to pay."

8:00 -- NBC is calling both PA and NH for Obama. Woohoo!

8:00 -- NBC calls Pennsylvania! Before even one vote is in? He must have trounced McCain there. Who else has an Obama win?

8:14 -- We've spent 14 minutes looking for more information on PA without much success. Ironic since, according to several license plates, we supposedly have friends there.

8:17 -- BBC (?) calls Kay Hagan to beat Liddy Dole in the NC Senate race and Jeanne Shaheen to knock off John Sununu, for what the BBC is worth...

8:19 -- Well, they are the most respected news source in the world, with apologies to Jon Stewart and The Onion.

8:20 -- Apparently Scott at the nodrumlins presidential desk has called Pennsylvania for Obama.

8:21 -- ABC has also called Shaheen in New Hampshire.

8:22 -- Well, I can make those kind of high levels calls. After all, I watched the Presidential edition of Antiques Roadshow, remember?

8:24 -- Channel 7 just called Question 1 in Massachusetts for the "No" side!

8:25 -- Multiple calls now for both Hagan and Shaheen, including the local stations for the N.H. race. I'm adding both to our big board.

8:32 -- CNN has called John Olver the winner in our district.

8:41 -- The NY Times has a cool site where they keep tallies of every major (American) network and which states each has called. The NYT, however, has chosen to call this site "The Presidential Big Board", which is copyright infringement. NYT, you'll be hearing from our lawyers.

8:43 -- Brit Hume just said "Elizabeth Dole has been beaten." Probably not the way he meant it...

8:44 -- Fox just called the GA senate race for Saxby Chambliss, which is a little disappointing if it holds. We'd have like to have a runoff there.

8:47 -- Scott at the nodrumlins presidential desk has called Georgia for McCain.

8:51 -- Saxby Chambliss? That's not a real name. That's, like, a name that Johnny Depp uses when he checks into a hotel to keep paparazzi off his trail.

8:54 -- McCain apparently won Sterling. In other news, Sterling has voted Dale Earnhart as honorary mayor, and announced the opening of a Stuckey's downtown. I'd type more Sterling jokes, but since I am currently in Sterling, I have to take a break to go secure my gun rack to my F-150.

9:05 -- Trying to find a consensus on the 9:00 closings. No one has called Colorado, but NBC says it is leaning Obama. Fox has apparently called New Mexico for Obama, but no other network has gone there yet.

9:14 -- We've called N.Y., R.I., Minn., Mich., and Wisc. for Obama and Kan., N.D., Wyo. for McCain. Right now, we're showing a 175-85 lead for Obama.

9:19 -- I'm going into graphics overload. Maybe I need to update my DirectX.

9:20 -- Fox calls Ohio for Obama! If that holds, that's it. It's over.

9:26 -- CBS and ABC have also called Ohio for Obama! Since three of the five networks have called Ohio, nodrumlins also calls Ohio for Obama.

9:27 -- That gives Obama 195 electoral votes. If we add only the safe Obama states of California, Oregon, Hawaii and Washington, Obama is guaranteed at least 77 more votes for a total of 272. Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States!

Fox: Dangerous Voter Fraud in Vermont!

I'm going to hate myself for not copying the caption that Fox News ran with this photo and headline earlier this afternoon, but it essentially said "Voters in Calais, Vt. vote in church pews with only volunteers to protect their privacy. Voting problems have been reported across the country."

That's not the exact quote, but it is close. Despite what Fox News suggested, I'd guess that Calais, Vt., is about the least likely place to experience voter fraud. I imagine voters there have been filling out ballots in church pews for decades, if not centuries.


Turning Sterling Blue

One of the things I'll be watching for tonight is how Sterling votes in relation to the rest of the state on the three contested races.

Looking back at the last eight years, Sterling has had a very strong Republican tilt when compared to the rest of the state/district. That's not to say that Sterling has always voted for a Republican--in the eight races since 2000 the town has gone four times for the Democrat and four times for the Republican--but even in those years when Sterling has voted for a Democrat, the winner's margin has been much smaller than the rest of the state/district as a whole

Here is a chart I put together showing those eight races. The table shows the final vote and margin in Sterling, the final statewide margin, and the difference:

As an example, in last year's Senate race between Ted Kennedy and Ken Chase, Kennedy won Sterling by 8 points, but his statewide margin was 38 points. That gives Sterling a 30-point Republican lean. (Note that in two races, the 2006 House and 2000 Senate contests, I have included an independent and a Libertarian candidate in the totals, as they were running to the right of the Democrat.)

Other than John Olver's first race as Sterling's representative in 2002 which produced a 46-point Republican advantage, Sterling's vote in the other seven races were remarkably consistent, reflecting a Republican lean of between 20 and 33 points (if the Deval Patrick-Kerry Healey race is also considered an outlier, then the spread is only 26 to 33 points).

So I will be looking to see how the town fares in relation to recent history. If Barack Obama, John Kerry, or John Olver are within 25 points of the statewide margin, that would be success. If any of the three can poll within 20 points of the statewide margin, it would suggest an unusual Democratic surge in town. (I don't think there is anyway that a Democrat would outperform the rest of the state.)

Based on an average Republican lean of 27.5 points and the statewide projections at, Sterling should look like this when the votes are counted:
Obama 59.0-39.1 (D +19.9) McCain 52.8-45.2 (R +7.6)
Kerry 64.4-32.0 (D +32.4) Kerry 52.3-47.4 (D +4.9)
Olver 71.0-29.0 (D +42.0)* Olver 57.2-42.7 (D +14.5)

*-Based on average margin of last two contested races.
No media polls have been conducted on this race.
My gut tells me that Obama will do better statewide than the projection (on the order of 61-38) and may barely sneak out a win--but not a majority thanks to Libertarian Bob Barr--in Sterling (49-48-3). I think Kerry will just about be on the R +27.5 number and Olver will do a little worse.


I voted

I cast my vote this morning at 8:15 (with an assist from Jackson, who slid the ballot into the machine for me). I was the 302nd vote in Sterling's precinct 2. There were no lines when I checked in, but 3/4 or so of the booths were full. One of the election workers told me that there had been long lines from the time the polls opened at 7:00 am until around 8:00.

At the time of the town election in May there were 2844 voters registered in my precinct, which means turnout was roughly 10% in the first hour. That doesn't mean that turnout is unusually heavy--in 2004 over 80% of Sterling's registered voters cast ballots. But it looks like essentially all able-bodied voters in town will come out to cast a ballot.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Talking myself down

I'm trying to convince myself that everything will be OK tomorrow. Looking at all of the polls (and believe me I feel like I've viewed a billion of them) I just can't see Obama losing, but I feel like I've been down this road before. Last election day, I sat down to watch the returns come in sure that Kerry was going to win, and I was very disappointed.

So yeah, I'm nervous.

In an effort to talk myself down, I decided to go back to last year and look at the polls and returns. What I found was comforting. Looking at the Real Clear Politics averages of the polls in last year's race, it turns out that the polls were right nearly all of the was me who was wrong. Specifically, look at these 2004 projections, both of the national polls and the battleground states:

Nation-wide Bush +1.5 Bush +3
Electoral Vote Bush +54 Bush +38

Florida Bush +0.6 Bush +5
Ohio Bush +2.1 Bush +2
Pennsylvania Kerry +0.9 Kerry +2
Wisconsin Bush +0.9 Kerry +1
Iowa Bush +0.3 Bush +1
Minnesota Kerry +3.2 Kerry +3
Michigan Kerry +3.5 Kerry +3
Missouri Bush +4.2 Bush +7
New Mexico Bush +1.4 Bush +1
Nevada Bush +6.3 Bush +3
Colorado Bush +5.2 Bush +5
New Hampshire Kerry +1 Kerry +1
While this poll or that poll may have been wrong, the averages were very much on the money. Only two of the states (Florida and Nevada) were more than three points off their averages. Only Wisconsin went against the candidate projected by the poll average. In other words, the polls predicted the result almost perfectly.

So unless all of the polls are particularly bad this year, we should see Obama win the overall vote by around 7.3 percent and by a 338-200 electoral vote margin.

That's a little better, but I'm still nervous.


My Election Day Ballot: Obama, Kerry, Olver

Here is my ballot tomorrow:

Barack Obama. Read the last nine months of this blog to find out why.

John Kerry. The Senate will be Democratically controlled, and we should not marginalize our clout there by replacing a long-time Democrat with a back-bench Republican. Kerry's reelection is especially important given the tenuous health of senior Senator Ted Kennedy.

House of Representatives
John Olver. I have met him twice and he seems to be an ornery old man who has little use for his constituents. The best thing he has done for North Central Massachusetts recently has been to advocate for redistricting us back into a Worcester County district where we belong (OK, to be fair, he also helped fund commuter rail improvements in this part of the district). Even so, his opponent is a not-ready-for-primetime Republican who thinks gas would cost 98 cents a gallon if he were elected and appears to be running for the Afghani or Iraqi parliament.

Ballot Questions
No on 1. No on 2. No on 3.


No, No, No

When you go to the polls tomorrow, I urge you to reject all three ballot questions.

Question 1
Repealing the income tax would be a disaster for the commonwealth, for cities and towns, and ultimately for the taxpayers it purports to benefit. Most municipalities cannot afford to take significant reductions in local aid and would be forced to raise property taxes, leading to constant fights over prop 2.5 overrides and higher property taxes or drastic cuts in services.

While some taxpayers in the highest income brackets would likely take home more money in an income tax vs. property tax tradeoff, seniors and others on fixed incomes who also own their homes would suffer disproportionally. The argument by the referendum’s proponents that its passage would lead to no reduction in services or higher property taxes and that it will lead to hundreds of thousands of new jobs is ludicrous on its face and should be rejected.

Question 2
In my mind, all of the discussion about whether or not a yes vote would save the state money, or contribute to a rise in teen marijuana use, or make the job of police easier or harder is ancillary fluff. The question should be decided on this basis: is the current penalty for marijuana possession too harsh? If so, is the new proposal the right way to remedy the issue?

The answer is no.

If people arrested for possession of marijuana were routinely incarcerated and or fined excessively then perhaps the law would need to be changed. But that is not the case. First-time offenders have their cases continued without a finding and stricken from their records if they remain clean for a probationary period. That seems fair.

In its place would be a $100 ticket. To put that in perspective, if I were stopped for driving 40 mph down Main Street in Sterling, I’d pay more in fines than if I were stopped walking down Main Street with enough marijuana to make eight or nine cigarettes. The possession of an illegal drug is more consequential than that.

The one area where I agree with the Question 2 proponents is in the area of CORI reform. But I do not think CORI reform should be approached in an ad hoc manner, with this new law affecting this class of offenders, and another new law affecting another class, and so on. The legislature should approach CORI reform systematically and comprehensively. It should not be undertaken one issue at a time through a series of ballot referendums.

Question 2 is not an appropriate response to the issues of marijuana use and CORI reform. It should be defeated.

Question 3
Perhaps at another time in our history I would be inclined to vote in favor of Question 3. Were this 1998, when the economy was at its peak and jobs were easy to come by, voting to close down an industry that employs between 700 and 1,100 workers (depending on who you believe) would have little effect. But this is not that time. Voting to put hundreds of people out of work is a difficult thing to do under any circumstance, but in this economy it is irresponsible.

The industry is dying on its own. I imagine that within 10 years, dog racing in Massachusetts will be only a memory. While it would be wrong to close the tracks by referendum, it is also wrong for the legislature to prop up this dying industry by artificial means, whether that be special tax breaks, earmarks, or slot machines.

The question’s backers argue almost exclusively on the emotional grounds that greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane. By some definition, perhaps it is. But by the definition of the state—which heavily regulates the tracks and kennels and sets strict standards for the treatment of the greyhounds—it is not. After the last attempt to close the tracks failed at the ballot box, animal interest groups worked with the tracks and the legislature to toughen those standards and to ensure proper treatment of the greyhounds. Those stricter standards seem to be working.

Question 3 asks for an emotional response at a time when the economy requires us to make dispassionate judgments. It should be defeated.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Question 3 Debate Rewind

On Monday, the Sterling Democratic Town Committee hosted a debate on ballot question 3, which proposes to ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts. Christine Dorchak, chairwoman of the Committee to Protect Dogs argued in favor of the measure; John O'Donnell of the Massachusetts Animal Interest Coalition spoke against it. I was the moderator.

The video has been posted to Google Video.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

National Election Predictions

Here is my guess at the electoral map. I think my Obama vote might be a state or two on the low side (or at least I hope so):


Senate: Democrats 56, Republicans 42, Independents 2 (Dems pick up 6 seats)

House: Democrats 265, Republicans 170 (Dems pick up 29 seats)



Can you tell where the Obama campaign filmed this commercial, released today:

Hint, look for these:

It's becoming widely accepted that John McCain's last desperate chance to win the election on Tuesday is by somehow winning Pennsylvania. Obama's campaign is so detail oriented and so complete, that they even film their commercials in the most important state and include nearly subliminal images that only a Pennsylvanian (or a road geek) would notice.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No on Question 2

After reviewing the arguments on both sides of the question—both by checking out their websites and hearing their arguments at the Sterling debate—I have come to the conclusion the right vote on Question 2, which would decriminalize the possession of marijuana, is a no vote.

In my mind, all of the discussion about whether or not a yes vote would save the state money, or contribute to a rise in teen marijuana use, or make the job of police easier or harder is ancillary fluff. The question should be decided on this basis: is the current penalty for marijuana possession too harsh and if so, is the new proposal the right way to remedy the issue.

The answer is no.

Question 2 would change possession from a criminal to a civil offense. The proposed penalty has been likened to a speeding ticket by both proponents and opponents, where the offender would be issued a citation for $100 and sent on their way.

If people arrested for possession of marijuana were routinely incarcerated and or fined excessively then perhaps the law would need to be changed. But that is not the case. First-time offenders have their cases continued without a finding and stricken from their records if they remain clean for a probationary period. That seems fair. Repeat offenders face stiffer penalties, but as long as we are dealing with the possession of an illegal drug—and the proponents of Question 2 insist that they are not working toward making marijuana legal—that also seems appropriate.

In its place would be this $100 ticket. To put that in perspective, if I were stopped for driving 40 mph down Main Street in Sterling, I’d pay more in fines than if I were stopped walking down Main Street in Sterling with enough marijuana to make eight or nine cigarettes. The possession of an illegal drug is more consequential than that.

(I realize that traffic laws and drug laws really don’t have much to do with each other and that there are probably many examples of criminal and civil penalties that look out of balance in comparison to each other, but since both sides use the “speeding ticket” shorthand, I find it an appropriate comparison).

The one area where I agree with the Question 2 proponents is in the area of CORI reform. The proposed change would exclude marijuana possession charges from a CORI background check. Proponents argue that people applying for a job or a loan should not be hampered because they have a mark on their criminal record for simple marijuana possession. I concur and strongly back a reform of the current CORI system.

But I do not think CORI reform should be approached in an ad hoc manner, with this new law affecting this class of offenders, and another new law affecting another class, and so on. The legislature should approach CORI reform systematically and comprehensively. It should not be undertaken one issue at a time through a series of ballot referendums.

Question 2 is not an appropriate response to the issues of marijuana use and CORI reform. It should be defeated. Vote no on Question 2.



I think I've become paralyzed by information.

As the election gets closer, I find myself glued to Google Reader getting the latest update from this newspaper or that blog on the state of the presidential race. You'd think that with so much going on I would have no shortage of things to write about. But it seems like every time I flag an item as something I want to share, a dozen more news items pop up and I just have to check to see if Barack Obama has widened his lead or if Sarah Palin has said something foolish...and whatever it was that I was going to blog about is no longer at the front of my mind.

I've got a whole list of things I want to comment on before the election, but there is always something else to read or some other video clip to watch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Question 2 Debate Rewind

A week ago Thursday, the Sterling Democratic Town Committee hosted a debate on ballot question 2, which proposes to lower penalites for the posession of marijuana. Whitney Taylor, chairwoman of the Committee for a Sensible Marijuana Policy argued in favor of the measure; Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early spoke against it. I was both the moderator and the best-coiffed participant.

The video has been posted to Google Video.

We've got two more forums coming up. We will be discussing Question 3, which would ban dog racing, on Monday, October 27 at 7:00 pm at the 1835 Town Hall. On Tuesday, October 27, we will be hosting a forum on Question 1, which would repeal the state income tax, at 7:00 p.m. at the Chocksett School auditorium.


Friday, October 17, 2008


Last week, I logged my 35,000th visitor. Other milestones:

1,000: July 31, 2006
5,000: October 21, 2006
10,000: February 1, 2007
15,000: June 24, 2007
20,000: October 20, 2007
25,000: February 24, 2008
30,000: June 18, 2008
35,000: October 8, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain's Transplant Folly

Perhaps the worst moment for John McCain last night was this answer he gave when talking about his health care plan:
Now, 95 percent of the people in America will receive more money under my plan...except for those people who have the gold-plated Cadillac insurance policies that have to do with cosmetic surgery and transplants and all of those kinds of things.
Immediately when he said that, Michelle looked at me and asked "He thinks people should have to pay more for transplants?" She said it before I did, but I was thinking exactly the same thing. What kind of out-of-touch do you have to be to suggest that someone who needs a life-saving organ transplant should only have it covered under a "gold-plated Cadillac insurance policy" that would cost more than what 95% of Americans can afford?

Catching up on the reviews from this morning, I've seen some suggestions that he was talking about hair transplants, which makes sense because he joked in the last debate about needing those and he coupled the reference with cosmetic surgery.

But there are millions of people who have had a life-saving organ transplant or have a transplant recipient in their family (I have two relatives who have had kidney transplants, for instance). For those people, McCain's answer was jarring. I read a lot of commentary so I was able to get a better idea of what he was talking about, but I wonder how many others heard his answer the way I did and questioned what would have happened to them or their loved ones had McCain been in charge when they needed an organ transplant.



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