Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

I heard the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's version of "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo" on the radio three times in a half-hour today, so it must be Christmas. I hope you are as happy to see Santa as Jackson was at his Papa's Christmas Party last Tuesday night.

This post comes with creepy music video:

Friday, December 11, 2009

JFK Jr., Lady Di, and...Scott Brown?!

It's nice to see that Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown has a healthy self-esteem. In an interview with Chet Curtis last night, he put himself in some pretty exclusive company. When asked something what makes him, he answered (at about the 5:15 mark):
I live every day it's like it's my last. Especially when JFK junior passed away and Princess Di—they’re powerful handsome rich people and they’re dead and they can’t make a difference. Well, I still can. I can work every day and try to make a difference.
That's right, the only difference between the powerful, handsome, rich JFK Jr., the powerful, handsome, rich Princess Diana, and Scott Brown is that Scott Brown is alive.

Right. Otherwise, they're indistinguishable.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scott Brown, Relic

Fresh off his rousing victory in the Republican Senate primary, Scott Brown wasted no time in going after Democratic nominee Martha Coakley, unveiling an innovative, fresh line of attack sure to catch the Democrat off guard:
Brown signed the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a promise not to raise taxes on the American people, and immediately challenged Coakley to do the same.

“When I first ran for state office, I signed a pledge not to raise taxes. Today, as a candidate for U.S. Senate, I am renewing that pledge. Very simply, I will not raise taxes on the American people,” said Brown.
In his wide-ranging press conference, Brown also went on to wish the Buffalo Bills well in their third try at a Super Bowl win, congratulated Bill Weld and Charlie Baker on their innovative plan to roll the Big Dig debt into the Turnpike Authority, and reiterated his opposition to President-elect Bill Clinton's health care proposal.

Hey Scott! 1992 wants its gimmick back.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Live-blogging the Senate results

I'll be keeping an eye on the returns as they come in, but first, an update from Sterling.

7:50 -- To give you an idea of how slow it was at 6:15 pm when Michelle and I went to vote, we were able to park in one of about 10 spaces in front of the school, instead of the auxiliary parking lot. I've never been able to park there; there are always more than enough voters to fill those spaces. When we entered, there was no line. In fact, I only saw four other voters in the polling place. After casting my vote for Mike Capuano, Jackson read the ballot box and reported that there had been 461 votes cast. That would be just under 16%. I imagine they will not get to 20% turnout.

8:06 -- Watching the WBZ-TV Webcast, following Twitter, and constantly refreshing for results. FWIW, Jon Keller is better on TV than he is when he writes on his blog.

8:10 -- Here's the problem with twitter: first "results" from Boston are being retweeted all over the twitterverse: "early Boston returns Caps 33% Coakley 22% Khazei 33% Pagliuca 11%". Which is exactly how percentages would look if there were exactly nine votes cast. Early returns indeed.

8:14: Actually, the Globe site has the same results, but for the town of Gosnold. Which in fact did have only nine votes.

8:33 -- is blowing it big time. The graphic and map at the top of the screen shows Capuano with a 23 point lead, while the town-by-town breakdown correctly show the lead is Coakley's.

9:06 -- Well, there wasn't much to that. I change and feed the baby, do a chore or two, and I find out that the race has already been called for Coakley. I'll be interested to see how Sterling and other area towns voted.

9:14 -- For what it's worth, still hasn't fixed it's results, with 53% of the vote in.

9:50 -- Sterling finally reported in the last couple of minutes (or at least, our results were finally posted by the AP. Coakley 52%, Capuano 22%, Khazei 13%, Pagliuca 13%. On the Republican side, Scott Brown defeated Jack E Robinson 89% to 11%. It looks like 1,183 total votes were cast (732 Democratic votes, 451 Republican), for a turnout of around 21%.

Looking just at raw vote totals, Scott Brown received the most votes in Sterling:

One year ago this week

It was one year ago that Mother Nature decided that we'd been having it a little too easy, so she covered everything with an inch of ice and let gravity do the rest. In a lot of ways, we haven't completely recovered.

If you drive North on route 12 out of the center of Sterling you'll notice that the east side of the road was never really cleaned up, and large trees and debris still remain just behind the guard rail. The Municipal Light Department is still working in the northwest corner of town to permanently repair power lines that were patched together last winter. Looking up at the trees in my yard, I still see large branches that are just teetering on the edge of other limbs, waiting for the next round of ice and snow and wind to bring them the rest of the way down.

Coincidentally, the next round may be here soon:
Snow is expected to reach the east slopes of the Berkshires and Connecticut valley between 3 and 5 am Wednesday... and should reach the Merrimack valley between 5 and 7 am. The snow should quickly become heavy at times... perhaps falling at the rate of one inch per hour during the Wednesday morning commute.

The arrival of milder air will cause the snow to change to sleet and freezing rain Wednesday morning... before an eventual change to rain Wednesday afternoon. There is still uncertainty as to how fast this transition will take place.

Snowfall totals of 4 to 8 inches are possible... with the 8 inch amounts likely to occur from the Worcester Hills into southwest New Hampshire. A light coating of ice is also possible.

Be prepared for the possibility of downed tree branches and scattered power outages.
I guess I'll need to get the generator out tonight and fire it up, just in case. I'm not planning on being caught off guard again.

A look back at the 2008 Ice Storm in Sterling.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm voting for Michael Capuano tomorrow

I'm not going to go on and on about why, I just think he's the best of three decent candidates. He has shown both a commitment to progressive values and positions and the ability to get things done for Massachusetts.

Both Martha Coakley and Alan Khazei would also make good senators and the Democratic Party and the people of Massachusetts will be well served if either of them win. But we will be better served if Congressman Capuano is elected, and I will do my part tomorrow by marking my ballot for him.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The elusive Mr. Fur

It's been nearly two full years since I weighed in on the lair of looniness that is the Telegram and Gazette Letter to the Editor page. But this one got me:
Mr. Fur...spent three days and three nights up in the tree. We tried to entice him with cans of tuna but to no avail.

Finally, we contacted a local arborist with a cherry picker, who will remain nameless, to come and get Mr. Fur down from the tree. At my husband’s insistence, he finally came and rescued Mr. Fur. It took all of 30 minutes and we were charged $375. Although we were forewarned of the cost, such a small amount of time and effort on the arborist’s part could have resulted in a lesser, kinder cost.
Firstly...Mr. Fur?!

Secondly...I was getting a big time Helen and Stanley Roper vibe when reading this story. I can see poor Stanley standing at the base of the tree, holding a can of fish and calling "Come on down, Mr. Fur" day after day before finally calling someone just to get Helen off his case.

And finally, I was happy to see the writer protecting the identity of the cherry picker, so it's friends Thomas the Tank Engine and Roary the Racing Car wouldn't make fun of it when it got back from the rescue.

Previous T&G Letters to the Editor:
Best Letter Ever
In God we trust, in e-mails we don't
"suspiciously left-wing"
T&G Readers are off their meds again
"I like Jasmine Guy"
BREAKING: Election fraud in Auburn
"The sting of unboozed Democrats"
"Why is Mitt Romney ashamed of Massachusetts?"
"hot condiments cause them to be...interested in sex"
Disgust with that nasty Francona grows
It's that dirty Francona's fault
T&G reader takes on terrorism
Worcester: the San Diego of the East
Is State Senator Barrios a Bush Crony
Rem-Dawg Debate Rages in Worcester
Jerry Remy has "lost all touch with reality"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday's Debate: The Sarah Palin of the Democratic Party

I was going to live blog tonight's debate, but I bagged on it. Just didn't have the fire.I figured that no one was going to win the race based on tonight anyway, but I suppose someone could lose it. I'm not sure either of them happened, but here are my thoughts...

Mike Capuano and Steve Pagliuca appear to have embarked on a strategy of Mutual Assured Destruction. Capuano is right on this one: Pags is lying about his record. But the two of them go back and forth at each other like schoolyard rivals, and it ends up sullying both of them. Capuano just keeps sniping at Pagliuca for his wealth and ability to run TV ads. For two straight nights, he's accused Pags of being willing to send women into back-alleys to get abortions (for what it's worth, Martha Coakley lent credence to his charge by not disavowing the point when given the chance).

Pags volleyed back by comparing the abortion charge to the Republicans' nonsense about "death panels." He then called Capuano the "Sarah Palin of the Democratic Party." Which is just ridiculous. Pags is not a fighter. He comes across like the nerd who makes fun of the class bully than tries to find a way to keep his nose from getting broken. His charge fell as flat as you would expect.

Of course, the more those two guys fight, the better off Martha Coakley is. I have to say, she is looking better and better to me with each performance. I'm not sure if it's because she is becoming a better candidate or if it's because she is elevated purely by the Capuano-Pagliuca sideshow, but whatever the reason, I would be much more comfortable voting for her next week than I would have been had the primary been held three weeks ago. I still think she's too cautious and I disagree with her on important issues like the PATRIOT Act, but I haven't ruled her out.

As with last night, I thought the other candidate who did well was Alan Khazei. If I were scoring a winner, I'd give tonight's debate to Coakley and give second place to Khazei, but that isn't to say that Khazei did poorly. On the contrary, I think he again made a very good case for his election. He spends too much time talking about PAC and lobbyist money (I really don't think that wins too many votes--certainly not enough to warrant the attention he gives it), but he also articulates more solutions than any of the other candidates.

I'm still not sure which direction I'm headed, but I guess it's about time to get off the fence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tonight's debate: Khazei wins; Pagliuca is "proud of Burger King"

Tonight's senate debate is in the books and my reviews are in: Alan Khazei was fantastic. He was easily the winner. He gave specific proposals on the big issues and has finally found a way to present them without sounding long-winded. Martha Coakley also did very well. If it really is her race to lose, she isn't doing much to lose it. She seems like she's loosening up a little bit and actually showed some warmth and passion when talking about health care. Michael Capuano let his anger show, and it hurt him quite a bit. He was alternately passive agressive and whiny when dealing with Coakley, and downright nasty to Pagliuca. It's almost as if he knows he's not going to win and is getting pissed about it. Steve Pagliuca? You know you're having a bad night when you're relegated to saying "I'm proud of Burger King." Pags, you had a bad night.

Live blog!

You are looking live at a nondescript studio in Needham God! Ed Harding is going to moderate this debate? Ed Harding? Was Butch Stearns not available? Congratulations to all of the candidates. It doesn't matter how bad you flub an answer or how stupid you sound, you're going to be light years ahead of the moderator on the seriousness scale.

Anyway, on with the show...
  • The infinite black background makes each of these four look like zombies. Pagliuca looks particularly ghoulish. If the kids were still up, they'd run away screaming.

  • The first question is on Afghanistan, and I have to admit, that I am resigned to the fact that we're putting more troops in, and none of these guys are going to stop it. In the end, they are going to vote for authorizing funds because this or that will be tacked on to get their votes. Not to mention that it's going to be tough to "vote against funding the troops" when a Democratic president is asking for it.

  • On the PATRIOT Act, Coakley says we need to "build in the kind of civil liberties that we need." No, we already have civil liberties. We don't start with a law and then find a way to fit in our civil liberties. We start with our civil liberties and find a way to build laws around them. This is one of the fundamental problems I have with the Attorney General (and generally with other candidates that come from a law enforcement background). She is conditioned to fight crime first and worry about liberties second. I guess that's OK if your job is to put bad guys in jail, but that is not the job of a Senator.

  • And instead of calling Coakley out on it directly, Capuano pulls some passive aggressive nonsense about "I heard three nos and one non answer" and has to be asked three times by Harding who he's talking about. This isn't high school, Mike. If you have a problem with the AG, you need to call her out. Hinting and rolling your eyes and generally being a pissy bitch isn't going to get you one vote. Your point (which essentially was my point above) is completely lost in your childish peevishness. Grow up!

  • While they go around on this, why isn't anyone directly challenging Coakley on her defense of the PATRIOT Act as AG?

  • Oh, now we're getting twitter comments scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Hey Channel 5, I have an idea, how about completely distracting from the debate itself by filling the screen with stuff that a bunch of people who aren't running for senate have to say.

  • While I've been distracted, Janet Wu has been berating Coakley about her personal finances and the other guy with the beard has been trying to get Khazei to admit that he thinks people who buy scratch ticket are immoral and that he wants to restrict civil liberties by opposing casinos. See, this is what I hate. Small-time reporters trying to impress themselves by being tough. You don't appear tough, you appear petty. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Ed Harding has been a bright light so far.

  • Pags is uncomfortable talking about his political background. He shouldn't be. He's got this question before. In fact, the four questions from Wu and Grizzly Adams were all rehashes from the first debate. A waste of time.

  • Khazei has been impressive. He has specific plans and is able to articulate them. His answers on Afghanistan and job creation have been better and more specific than Capuano's, and the congressman should be the best candidate on specifics.

  • Arrgh! They are missing the point on the footbridge at Gillette Stadium, a park and ride lot, and the Nantucket Bike Path (and for what it's worth, a bike path and a park and ride lot help the entire community, so they shouldn't be lumped in with the footbridge). It's not about who gets the end result, it's how many jobs are added to build these projects.

  • Khazei mixes up TARP and the Stimulus. Capuano and Pags let him know.

  • How can these guys whiff on the question of what they've done in their own home to save money during the recession. Capuano: light bulbs. What about them? Did you switch to energy saving models, just buy new ones? Pags: We've redoubled our energy efforts and given more money to charity. What? Coakley: We cook a lot more. Grocery shop, eat in, and don't go out as much as we used to. And she has a little smug smile because she knows she got the answer right and the other two muffed it.

  • And then she comes out with one of the most absurd things I've heard in a long, long time. She claims that one of the reasons she opposed the decriminalization of marijuana was that it would lead to more public transportation workers driving trains and buses under the influence of pot. Where the hell did that come from?

  • Janet Wu wants to know why Khazei thinks he will be more successful than Deval Patrick has been. Huh? These are the people who bring you the news every day. Scary, isn't it?

  • More Pags, this time on health care: "There are 45,000 people dying. I talk to them every day." "I see dead people!

  • Capuano has really developed a dislike for Pagliuca. He's really going after him hard on Pags' charges that Capuano would not vote for health care reform. Really nasty.

  • I know I'm hammering on Pagliuca--probably too much--but here is a great example of how he just doesn't get it. Coakley gave a really good, personal, heartfelt answer about end-of-life issues. She talked about her experience with her mother, and how they dealt with her mother's terminal leukemia diagnosis. No one was going to give a better answer. Yet Pagliuca jumps in before Harding can ask the next question and spews a series of statistics. He has no sense of when to talk and when to shut up.
The candidates are on to their closing statements, so I'll give you mine: Khazei was fantastic. He was easily the winner. He gave specific proposals on the big issues and has finally found a way to present them without sounding long-winded. Coakley also did very well. If it really is her race to lose, she isn't doing much to lose it. She seems like she's loosening up a little bit and actually showed some warmth and passion when talking about health care. Capuano let his anger show, and it hurt him quite a bit. He was alternately passive aggressive and whiny when dealing with Coakley, and downright nasty to Pagliuca. It's almost as if he knows he's not going to win and is getting pissed about it. Pagliuca? You know you're having a bad night when you're relegated to saying "I'm proud of Burger King." Steve Pagliuca, you had a bad night.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Why sports editors should stay out of politics

The Globe Sports Editor on duty last night clearly missed the high school civics class on the difference between the legislative and the executive branches.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Steve Pagliuca: "I don't know if I have to vote on that or not."

You are looking live at the studios of WGBH-TV in Boston as the four candidates for US Senate are getting ready to face off for...

OK, who am I kidding. I have a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old. There is no way in the world I was able to watch a 7:00 pm debate live. I'd have loved to, but unless they're going to debate after 9:00, I'm just not going to be able to do it. So I recorded it and am now checking in a couple of days later. That's just the way it's going to be.

Anyhow, Emily Rooney is in her chair and we are ready to go...
  • Martha Coakley, are you stiff? No, and let me cooly and calculatedly and unemotionally tell you why.

  • Good, Rooney asks about the Father Goeghan case right away. I hope they get into that a little more, I think that is one area that deserves to be fleshed out. For her part, Coakley briefly explained that she did the right thing, and was not intimidated by the church.

  • Alan Khazei just can't stop talking. Coakley and Michael Capuano gave succinct answers and Khazei gave his stumps speech, which wasn't really related to the question about whether or not he's going to raise hell in the Senate.

  • Steve Pagliuca can't answer whether or not he'd had to sacrifice because of the recession. Because the answer is no.

  • Capuano charges his kids rent, and says he couldn't afford to let them stay with him for free? Really?

  • Rooney asks Khazei why he's in last place. She's asked more good questions in five minutes than Peter Meade did in an hour in the first debate. For what it's worth, Khazei is explaining why he's NOT in last place.

  • Pagliuca is really uncomfortable talking about his personal financial situation. He can't say what he would do with the Celtics if he wins.

  • Here is one of the differences between living inside 128 and living out here. Coakley says she doesn't make a big salary and hasn't. I'm pretty sure (I'll need to check later) that as Attorney General and before that District Attorney she makes quite a bit more money than we do. I certainly don't begrudge how much money she does or doesn't have, but the idea that she (and Capuano earlier) live paycheck to paycheck is hard to believe.

    (Update: According to the Boston Herald database of state workers' salaries, the Attorney General makes $133,644 and the Middlesex County District Attorney brings in $148,843. She makes a lot more money than she thinks she does.)

  • They have moved on to the question of what the candidates would do if their bishop told them that they could no longer take communion, using the Patrick Kennedy situation as an example. Interesting to hear the way the candidates describe their own religious situation. Khazei says he is a Catholic. Capuano says he considers himself a Catholic. Coakley says she grew up Catholic. Interesting that only one of them was comfortable describing himself as a Catholic without qualification (Pagliuca said he was raised an Episcopalian).

  • Coakley hits this one out of the park. I'm going to find the actual quote, but she essentially said she can't accept a church that protects pedophile priests telling people what they have to do to be a good Catholic.

    (Update: Here is the exact quote, courtesy of the Globe: “It seems to me a little bit ironic that a church that was willing to overlook the victimization of many, many children over several years is
    now turning around and saying to people who are good Christians, good Catholics, that, ‘You can’t join this.’")

  • Pags trying to answer a question about tort reform. He really doesn't have any more than a superficial grasp of any issue.

  • Khazei going on and on and on. I think he'd probably be a good senator. He seems wonky enough. Talking with him over lunch would probably be fascinating. But this is a debate, not lunch, and he needs to find a way to be more succinct.

  • Having said that, I'm not really interested in tort reform, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to catch up while these guys talk about it. They are actually getting into it here, though, for the first time. Khazei is for it (and Pags is tagging along), Coakley and Capuano are not.

  • Coakley would let the Bush tax cuts expire. Capuano agrees. Pags and Khazei too. I'll go on record right now as saying that each one of them will vote to extend at least the portion of the tax cuts that helped out the middle- or lower-class if they get the chance.

  • Funding health care--Khazei would tax the "gold-plated" health care plans. It's a bad idea. There are a number of people in employer-based plans who have what might be considered a "gold-plated" plan.
    Capuano wants a tax on individuals making over $500,000 (families over $1 million). Capuano is absolutely right on this one. Coakley punts, saying "we'll find some way to pay for it." That is not a plan.

  • Capuano is all fired up at Pagliuca. Pags has said--twice--that Capuano would not vote for the house bill. Cap has had enough. He's bringing the heat about the details of the bill itself, and sarcastically attacking Pags for "repeating sound bites" and asking him "Why don't you take out another ad?" Pags responds with what actually does sound like the same old sound bites (60th vote on health care, 400,000 dying, etc. etc.). Coakley hops in and explains her position and suggests to Pagliuca that women's rights don't have to compromised to get a bill. Pags responds that he is pro-choice which gets an "Apparently not!" from Coakley. Great exchange.

  • And Capuano zings Pags: "You would have voted for the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, because they have good titles." Kapow!

  • Emily Rooney with the eye roll! Fantastic!

  • Pagliuca is talking about all of the jobs that Bain has created. I guess he's got to defend his business, but it is risky ground. There are plenty of examples of companies that haven't done so well after being taken over by venture capital and private equity firms.

  • Talking about the footbridge at Gillette Stadium. Capuano with a good answer (although it might not be popular): I don't care as much about who gets the bridge as I do about how many people are employed to build it.

  • When the debate turned to foreign affairs, all of the life went out of the room. Pags and Khazei want nothing to do with this. Nothing at all. Capuano and Coakley are having a good discussion on the issues, but it's pretty clear that this isn't the priority for these four.

  • For instance, Rooney just asked Pagliuca if he would vote to defund the troops. Pags answer: "I don't know if I have to vote on that or not." Where have you been the last eight years, Steve Pagliuca? The entire 2004 election ended up being about John Kerry's vote on funding the troops--you know, "I voted for it before I voted against it." And you don't know if you have to vote on funding for the troops?
That's it. That was a hell of a lot better debate than the last one. Capuano and Coakley were clearly winners. If you want your candidate a little bit fiery and willing to mix it up, Capuano would be you winner. If you were looking for someone who came across a little more reflective, Coakley was your winner. Khazei was OK. Pagliuca was in trouble every time he was forced to deviate from his script. He is clearly not ready for this.

And I am clearly ready for bed...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Convicts who torched "Mary's House" finally put away

Two arsonists from Clinton--whose torching spree culminated in the destruction of Sterling's most famous historical site--have been found guilty of setting fires from Sterling to Florida, Mass. and are headed to the big house for 15 years:
WORCESTER — Two Clinton men were sentenced to state prison yesterday for a 2007 arson spree from Central Massachusetts to the western end of the state that the judge called “random, reckless and unnerved acts of evil.”

Saying they acted with a “sense of impunity” and a total disregard for the consequences of their actions, Judge John S. McCann sentenced John Rousseau [at right] and Michael P. Dreslinski [far right] to 14-1/2 years to 15 years and a day in state prison with 30 years of probation that will begin immediately and keep the two longtime friends, both 30 years old, under the court’s supervision until they reach age 60....

The first of the two local fires destroyed the 18th century homestead of Mary Elizabeth Sawyer, the so-called “Mary Had a Little Lamb House,” at 108 Maple St., Sterling, which was on the National Register of Historic Places.
The fire two summers ago was a really big deal in our neighborhood. The Sawyer House is less than a mile from our home, and the blaze shook up some neighbors who have been living on the hill for decades. Apparently there had been a series of barn fires in the area in the late 1970s, including one barn in our neighborhood that was torched. At least one of our elderly neighbors was fearful that the same thing was happening again.

I guess in some ways the same thing was happening, but at least this burning spree was spread out over the whole state, and not centered in one terrified community.

A real shame in all of this is that one wonders if the destruction could have been prevented. I guess it's typical whenever a serial criminal is finally put away to wonder if law enforcement could have done more. Typical or not, I'll ask the question anyway. Why couldn't these two have been put away before it got to this?

At sentencing yesterday, Judge McCann noted that Rousseau and Dreslinski had a long criminal history, going back to their teen years:
Noting that both defendants had adult criminal records dating back to 1996 that included breaking and entering convictions and arson-related crimes, Judge McCann said neither had shown “a propensity for rehabilitation.”

The judge said in a sentencing memorandum, “Their swath of destruction has grown wider each year and brought us to the present.”

He called the setting of the fires two years ago “random, reckless and unnerved acts of evil evolving over a one-month period of time.” He said the crimes jeopardized the lives of the property owners, their neighbors, firefighters and, in the case of the Florida fire, railroad workers whose communication system was temporarily shut down.
The record is full of missed opportunities. In 2003, Rousseau admitted to police that he had set a series of fires around Clinton that fall. At his trial, the confessions were thrown out and the charges were eventually dropped. Looking back at some of the stories from the trial, the similarities between the 2007 fires and the 2003 fires is stark:
Rousseau, 26, is accused of setting four fires in abandoned buildings as well as in a Dumpster behind High Street. There were no injuries in any of the fires. Rousseau is also charged with impersonating a police officer and four counts of breaking and entering in the night to commit a felony after he allegedly hacked into police radio frequencies and pretended to be an officer. He also allegedly hacked into the CSX railroad frequency and reported false bomb threats and explosions on the tracks in Clinton. He is currently living at his Wilson Street home monitored by an electronic bracelet.

The case was investigated for months by local and state police as well as the state fire marshal's office before the charges were made in November 2003.
Fires in abandoned buildings? Check. Hacking into railroad radio frequencies? Check. Corroborating with Dreslinski? Check. Once the charges in the 2003 fires were finally dropped, the Times and Courier wrapped up the story with a timeline of Rousseau's and Dresinski's exploits, starting with the vandalization of a Bolton school with a swastika.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end. After briefly flirting with a run for Clinton selectman, Rousseau teamed up with Dreslinski to set fire to buildings in Florida and Greenfield in late July, 2007. Even though the state police had fitted Dreslinski's truck with a GPS and knew he and Rousseau had been in the July fires, they did not arrest the pair until two weeks later, after they had torched the Sawyer house and a barn in Holden. It's too bad that the state couldn't have pulled together the evidence on the July fires in time to stop them from burning again.

For that matter, it's a shame that the authorities couldn't have been just a little more careful when this happened six years ago. I understand that the job of police and prosecutors is tough--certainly a lot tougher than my job. For the sake of our liberties, they have to be nearly perfect when it comes to locking someone up. Perfections is too much to ask of anyone, but a little perfection here would have gone a long way.

At least now there won't be a next time...until 2024 anyway.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Look

Well, I was screwing around with the design of my blog and I inadvertantly blew the whole thing up, so I have been scrambling to find a new template that works with Blogger (my previous design predated the Blogger relaunch in mid-2007). I'm not sure that I'm in love with it, but it will do, at least until I find something better.

Unfortunately, I've lost the comments from the last four years. While I was plugging along, my comment provider was bought out, so now that my template has changed, apparently the only way I can migrate the comments from the old design is to pay $12 per year. Not. Going. To. Do it.

Updated November 23: I figured out how to get back to the old design and the old comments. I'd kind of decided that I liked the new design...if I can figure out how to migrate the comments over, I might stick with it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Throwing a Flag on the Sentinel: 15 yards for incompetence

Well, the Sentinel and Enterprise screwed up another one.

In an article titled "Bill: Students should recite the Flag Code," both the reporter and the editor get it wrong. Like, the whole thing totally wrong.
BOSTON -- Sometime between five and eight years ago -- the two men differ in their recollections -- Wilmington American Legion Commander Joe Steen approached his state senator, Bruce Tarr.

Steen was incensed by a story he read about a group of Texas protesters stomping on an American flag, and he had a request -- a bill that would require Massachusetts schoolchildren to recite the U.S. Flag Code along with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Among the provisions in the code: Never let an American flag touch the ground; do not display the flag on clothing; in a row of flags, always display the American flag on the far right; the correct way to dispose of an American flag is by burning.

Over the years and many trips to committee, that bill morphed into S371, a measure that would make flag etiquette a part of public-school civics classes.
Just reading the first four paragraphs of this story, I knew something was amiss. I understand that Republicans like to wrap themselves in the flag and frequently propose pseudo-patriotic resolutions--with the explicit intent of having Democrats kill them, so they can try to pin their opponents as un-American--but I can't imaging that even the craziest of them would submit a bill requiring children to recite a federal law at the start of the school day. So I decided to look up S371, as referenced in the article:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. Section 80A of Chapter 131 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding at the end thereof, the following new paragraph: Any person issued a permit as provided by this section shall, within thirty days of the expiration of such permit or extension of same shall report to the director of the division of fisheries and wildlife, on a form approved by said director, the municipality of which the request was made, the name of the property owner, address of the property threatened, the name of authorized agent, method used to alleviate the problem, and the number and species of animals taken pursuant to the permit, and other information deemed necessary by the director.
Well, good. Either we're trying to teach schoolchildren how to report the removal of pesky animals, or the report incorrectly lists the bill number.

Let's see. I'll go to the legislative search function on, search Senate bills for the word "flag," and...hey, here it is. Look what 30 seconds of research can do! Sentinel reporters should try it. From S282 ("371" must have been a transcription's really close to "282"):

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. Chapter 71 of the General Laws is hereby amended in Section 2 by adding after the word “government” the following phrase:- “and a program of relating to the flag of the United States of America, including but not limited to proper etiquette, the correct use and display of the flag, and the provisions of 36 U.S.C. 170 to 177”.
That's not so crazy. I have no problem with schools teaching the proper etiquette of the flag as part of the curriculum. I'm not sure that is the sort of thing that should be done legislatively--the people who set curriculum standards in the commonwealth's Department of Education are a more appropriate group to be setting these standards--but nonetheless, I have no problem with that proposal.

(As an aside, I learned proper flag etiquette from my Grandfather, who flew the flag religiously outside his home. At that time, a little pamphlet describing proper etiquette was included with the flags that he purchased. I don't know if he always kept one with him or if he would slip it into his wallet at certain times to make a point, but I remember more than once he pulled that little tract out to show me what was or wasn't proper when we'd see a flag in our travels around town. The message got through to this youngster. While I don't go around telling people to correct the way they display the flag, I always notice if a flag is backwards, or in the wrong spot in a lineup, or not at half-staff at a designated time.)

Anyway, one thing that bill does not do is require schoolchildren to recite the Flag Code, despite what the headline says. Which is a good thing, because if you follow the links through the article to the American Legion website, you would find that the Flag Code is six pages of legalese. If my son and daughter must learn to recite something in the name of patriotism, I'd much rather have them learn the Gettysburg Address than be able to recite portions of "Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1."

Of course, if the editor had read any farther than the second sentence of the article, he'd have realized that the bill does not suggest "Students should recite the Flag Code."

Now, I'm just a blogger. I could get away with writing something that I haven't researched because I don't have to be accountable to anyone. People don't pay me to get "news." But years ago when I wrote for a newspaper, I thought it might just be in my best interest to look things up, just to make sure it was right. When I was an editor, I figured I should read the whole story before slapping on a headline, just to make sure it was right.

But then, I didn't work for the Sentinel.

(I realize the article was filed by a "Sun Correspondent" which means that it was originally written for the Lowell Sun, the Sentinel's sister paper. Doesn't change the fact that the editor of the Sentinel could have checked it out before putting into his paper).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Women for Coakley say woman for Coakley is not for Coakley because she's a woman

The irony meter started ringing early this morning. linked to a charge from the organization Women for Coakley that a NECN report was sexist for implying that Congresswoman Niki Tsongas might have endorsed Martha Coakley for Senate because she is a woman.

From Women for Coakley:
Reporters assume that if one man is endorsing another man it’s because that man is competent. To then turn around and ask women such a question is insulting and biased because the question’s very existence carries the presumption that the candidate’s qualifications weren’t enough to merit the endorsement.
I have no doubt that Tsongas’s endorsement is based on merit and not gender. But it’s awfully rich for “a small team of women seeking big gains for women in politics,” which is hoping to unleash “the full potential of ‘the other half’ of the population’s unique perspective, talents and leadership” to criticize someone else for asking if gender is part of the decision-making process.

Senate Debate Wrap-up: The (Thurs)day after

I’ve had a chance to mull over the senate debate and I’ve come to the same conclusion I had when I watched it: it was awful. Bad moderator, bad format, bad questions, bad video quality, you name it.

But there was an important “good” that came out of it, and that was the opportunity to see these candidates live. Sure, they’ve each done a handful of appearances and forums, but this was the first opportunity for many people to see the candidates outside of their commercials. Here are my thoughts on the candidates’ performances, in alphabetical order:

Mike Capuano was the most passionate, energetic (caffeinated?) of the four candidates. He also seemed to be the least scripted, speaking easily about the issues. While I’m sure he had prepared for the debate, he appeared to be winging it, and doing so successfully. He appeared to genuinely care about the issues.

It was nice too see the passion from him, considering that he appears nearly morose in his campaign commercials. Perhaps he is this energetic all of the time. If so, his commercials are doing him a real disservice. I came away with a much higher opinion of him than I had when the debate started.

Not that Capuano was perfect. He spent way too much time (that is, more than zero) talking about what a good “horse-trader” he is, and how his status as the only insider makes him much better equipped to deal with the workings of the Senate. Is that a plus? Yes. Does anyone want to elect a “horse-trader” to the Senate, or the State House, or selectman, or dog catcher? No. I’d suggest the word negotiator the next time this comes up.

Martha Coakley, on the other hand, was much more reserved and even. Whether that is her natural persona or whether she has trained herself to stay even-keeled, it served her well. (Unfortunately, there is still a bias out there against more animated female politicians. If she had exhibited the same “passion” as Capuano did, she’d have been characterized as shrill or scattered, not “passionate.”)

Come to think of it, I can’t think of one thing that she said that made me say “Wow, I like that Martha Coakley.” But I can’t think of anything that turned me off to her either. She was just solid. And considering that the debate itself was nearly a waste of an hour, solid was probably a very good result.

The only thing that stuck out to me as a negative was Coakley’s quip that maybe we should go and rob banks to help pay for...I don’t remember what. The Attorney General probably shouldn’t be advocating for the commission of a felony, even if it is in jest.

I really, really wanted to like Alan Khazei. This was the first chance I’ve had to see him and from what I’ve heard, he is the truest progressive in the race. I like the idea that he is not an “insider,” but has worked a number of issues on Capitol Hill. But I could not get into him at all. I appreciate that he has a great story to tell, but his father being a doctor from Iran is not relevant to every issue. I know that this is Ted Kennedy’s seat, but tying himself to one Kennedy or another in response to nearly every question (I was half-expecting references to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Joe-4-Oil, and the Kennedy Space Center in his closing statement) made him come across as a panderer.

He seemed stiff to me, like he was trying too hard to remember his points instead of being able to discuss them easily. And I positively rolled my eyes when he ended his closing statement by challenging the other candidates to weekly televised debates. That’s straight out of Campaign Tactics for Dummies and never, ever works.

It’s too bad that Khazei filled his allotted time with anecdotes about his father and the Kennedys, because once he got going, he seemed to have a pretty good command of the topics. But moderator Peter Meade kept cutting him off, becoming more and more petulant with Khazei as the night went on (which I thought made Khazei a bit of a sympathetic figure).

Steve Pagliuca suffered from a mix of poor preparation and bad luck. He really seems out of his element speaking from behind a podium. He looks like he should be leading some sort of business seminar, walking the stage with a clip-on mike and a power point presentation on the big screen behind him. His command of the issues appears to be pretty shallow; he’s OK when he can give the stock progressive stance on this or that, but is very shaky when it comes down to the details.

Had he been in a different place on the stage he might have been able to get by with that, but he was positioned after Capuano, so in three out of every four questions he spoke after the energetic wonk. Pags spent much of the night starting his responses with “I agree with Michael,” which essentially invalidated anything else he had to add. If he had a better command of the little things, he might have been able to respond effectively.

I’m not going to get into all of the ways that the debate itself was terrible. I agree with Emily Rooney, who killed the organizers in a blog post yesterday:
The format was lame, the questions were lame, the production was lame and the result was tedious...

Virtually every rule of "don't" was broken. Don't ask everyone the same question, don't ask yes/no questions, don't ask hypotheticals, and don't use a format that doesn't allow for interaction among the candidates.
That about sums it up.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keller: Deval Patrick should quit before he wins again

Channel 4 political editor, crank, and Deval Patrick-hater Jon Keller came up with a real doozy earlier this week in relation to a new Rasmussen poll showing the Governor with a big lead in his re-election race. How does Keller think Patrick should respond to the news that he’s on his way to reelection? Quit!
If Gov. Deval Patrick were to win re-election despite half the electorate wanting him out and only 14% admitting to a very favorable view of him - as this poll suggests would happen if the election were held today - what would re-election be worth? How would he function as a weak, widely-disliked lame duck, dealing with a hostile legislature? Why would he want to be in such a position? And how can he argue that it's in the best interests of the state to suffer through four years of that?
Seriously? The governor is so far ahead that he should quit, saving us the pain of four more years of Deval (despite the fact that we appear to be voting him back into office)? That might be the most ridiculous thing I’m going to read in the 12 months leading up to the election. Definitely the leader in the clubhouse.

Why does Keller fear that Patrick will win? Looking more closely at the numbers, it’s hard to see how Patrick loses. The scenario where Tim Cahill’s candidacy would hand Patrick another term appears to be coming true. Here are the numbers:
With Christy Mihos as the Republican nominee:
Deval Patrick (D) -- 34%
Christy Mihos (R) -- 23%
Tim Cahill (I) -- 23%
Not sure -- 19%
With Charlie Baker as the Republican nominee:
Deval Patrick (D) -- 34%
Charlie Baker (R) -- 24%
Tim Cahill (I) -- 23%
Not sure -- 19%
Patrick currently holds at least a 10-point lead. In a best-case scenario for a challenger (assuming these numbers hold as a minimum—a dicey assumption 12 months out), the third place finisher would end up with at least 23%, meaning it would only take 39% of the vote to win. To get to 39%, Patrick could lose the “Not Sure” voters by as much as 3-1 to whomever finishes second and still be victorious (39-38-23).

In a scenario where the two challengers split the undecided vote evenly, Patrick could still win even if he picked up no votes from that group (34-33-33).

In other words, Patrick only loses a race with three strong candidates under a scenario where the economy gets so much worse over the next 12 months that Patrick loses the support he has.

And while it is certainly possible that things will get worse, there is a pretty good chance that the economy is starting to turn around. If that happens—even a little—then the only way Patrick loses is if Cahill drops out or if Patrick suffers some sort of scandal that isn’t even on the radar at this time.

Keller is smart enough to figure this out—he knows that unless things get even worse, the only way Patrick loses is if he quits.

Of course, Keller fails to mention the obvious. A Republican who wins with only 35% of the vote will also be a “weak, widely-disliked lame duck, dealing with a hostile legislature.” If Cahill were to win, the same would apply. So why not ask one of them to quit, Jon?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"I agree with Michael..." and other thoughts from Monday's Senate debate

You're looking live at the JFK Library in South Boston where the four Democratic candidates for US Senate try to be even half the politician that Ted Kennedy was...will any of them measure up? Or will the least small of them win? And away we go...

(OK, it's not live. I watched it on tape delay because the kids had their Halloween parade and then I had to head back to the office. Deal with it).

Auuugh, my eyes! Instead of running this thing in HD, it's in widescreen standard definition, which means it looks like it's being broadcast from the bottom of the ocean. Guess I won't need my glasses...

The first question goes to "Martha." I wonder if they agreed to call each other by their first names. It seems too informal, especially when a sitting Attorney General and Congressman are involved.

First question is "What was the moment you thought you should be the next senator?" That's really a question without a good answer. I'd rather hear them answer the question "why do you want to be Senator?"

Wow, Michael Capuano talks way too fast.

There is an interesting dynamic going on with the way the candidates deal with the TV cameras. Martha Coakley and Alan Khazei are looking at what they think are the hot cameras or an advisor, or something, and it looks like they're staring off into space. Capuano looks straight at the moderator, Steve Pagliuca looks at the crowd.

"Senator Kennedy would have wanted me to do this." Wow Pags, just a little presumptuous, no?

Peter Meade, no one wanted to give you a moment, because no one had an aha moment or had a rock hit them in the head.

Capuano whacks Khazei for his not answering the hypothetical question about Hanscom Air Force Base, and then doesn't really have an answer. He then goes after Khazei a little more: "If you want to go down and change Washington, Good Luck." Risky business. It doesn't seem like the insider's track is usually a winning strategy.

And Pagliuca calls him on it. He sounds naive, though. "I'll tell the other senators that we can't afford to close it." That and three bucks will get you a cappuccino, Steve.

Martha has found the camera. She is preaching the importance of staff.

Oh, God. Pagliuca thinks that we won't have any bad deals because we have John Kerry.

Coakley: "They're both in Middlesex County, so I can't give either of them up." So, would one of them be more apt to be dropped if it were in Worcester County?

Khazei name-dropping Carl Levin and John McCain. Apparently he thinks the one who can name the most senators in an hour wins.

What an absolute farce. I'm 18 minutes into this and this is becoming a Republican's wet dream. Having a wonky insider like Peter Meade run this debate is the worst thing that could have happened because he's talking like the insider that he is and the entire first quarter of the debate has been about process, and "horse-trading." There are real issues to be discussed, yet the whole thing is about process. NO ONE CARES HOW LEGISLATION IS MADE! We want to know what these candidates stand for.

Peter Meade needs to stop answering his own questions.

Do we need another stimulus? Steve Pagliuca: "We might." Way to take a stand, Steve. And then he likens raising taxes on the rich to robbing banks. I don't think he has the first idea what he's talking about.

And Coakley jokes that we really should start robbing banks. There is a Republican campaign ad right there. She also won't commit to an updated stimulus.

Alan Khazei's father is a doctor....and Khazei is in favor of another stimulus. Not sure what one has to do with the other, but at least he took a stand.

Khazei is wrong that the problem of the stimulus was "8,000 earmarks." The problem of the stimulus is that the "centrists" stripped out things like money to build schools (as though actually building things is not stimulating).

Hey, Capuano agrees with me about the stimulus. But he's losing votes every time he talks about "horse-trading." He has to stop talking about that like it's a good thing. Being able to negotiate is a good thing, but the term "horse-trading" has a negative connotation. If I were a Republican operative, I'd run a 30-second ad consisting solely of a montage of Mike Capuano saying "horse-trading". End it with a tag line of "Can you trust a horse-trader to represent you in the Senate?" or something like that.

Health Care...Public option? With or without an opt-out provision? Capuano is for a robust public option. May not support Senator Harry Reid's opt-out. Pagliuca will only vote for a "robust" public option with no mention of the opt-out. Coakley will support a public option with or without an opt-out. Khazei is all about the public option as well, hates the medical insurance lobby, and would vote for the opt-out. His father is a doctor and his mother is a nurse. Coming up next, the work status of his siblings.

Meade is asking whether or not they need to have a Republican vote to justify the plan. Another wasted question. Of course they don't.

Hey, Khazei's father is a doctor...but he also is in favor of strong Malpractice reform, which sets him apart from the others.

Steve Pagliuca has actually read about the difference between a majority and a cloture-vote. Good for him. Earlier tonight, I read "Green Eggs and Ham." Vote for me.

Khazei is against a troop increase in Afghanistan...Capuano will also not vote for more troops. OK, he says we should get out of Afghanistan because we're done rooting out Al Qaeda, and they are now in Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, etc. and we should chase them down. I assume he doesn't mean that we should invade all of those countries.

Pags, you agree with Capuano on just about every question. Why don't you just vote for him?

Coakley knows that one of the troops killed in Afghanistan was from Massachusetts. Point Martha. She would also not vote for the troops.

Honestly, I'm having a hard time finding a difference between these guys.

Khazei in a nut shell: Kennedy, doctor, doctor, Kennedy, doctor, nurse, Kennedy, doctor, doctor, Kennedy.

General McChrystal isn't wrong. He's supposed to give his opinion. It's a data point that the president needs to take into consideration. One of many. I'm not sure saying that a general in the field is "wrong" about what he needs is a big vote-getter.

Immigration? Good question. Maybe the first one of the night. Coakley says no drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, punts on healthcare. Khazei says no to both. Capuano refuses to answer. For what it's worth, his overall question was the best one, but he refused to say what he would do on the specific issues Meade mentioned.

Capuano is wrong, by the way, that the issue will never come up or be voted on. The public option proposed in the house would exclude illegal immigrants from the possibility of receiving subsidized care. Not only will the issue come up, but it is currently before Congress. While I liked his answer about immigration in the whole, this dodge was weak.

The only issue that would preclude Khazei from voting for an Obama Supreme Court nominee is Roe v. Wade? Oh, come on. Pagliuca had no idea what the question was about. None.

It's interesting to hear Coakley talk about what she would look for in a Supreme Court justice, considering her widely panned appearance before the court.

Peter Meade needs to stop badgering Khazei. He lectures him like he's a schoolchild on the length of his answers. At least twice Meade has started to cut off Capuano and then clammed up to let Capuano extend an answer. If he's going to condescend to one candidate he needs to do so to all of them. It seems like "Mike" is his favorite.

And that's it. I can't say I was wowed, but I need to think about it a bit.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Clinton turns to bullying -- again

A couple of years ago, when Clinton and Sterling were in dispute over the fate of the Wekepeke reservoirs, a member of the Clinton Board of Selectmen finally had it to here with Sterling and tried to bully one of our selectmen by dismissing the town as full of lay-abouts with nothing better to do than to harass poor old Clinton.

Now Clinton’s long-running dispute with Lancaster over the Clinton Fish and Game rifle range is heating up again, and once again Clinton has had enough of its neighbors. This time, not only is one of its selectmen resorting to name-calling, but the police chief is threatening to stop or reduce mutual aid to Lancaster. First, Selectman Bill Connolly:
Selectman William F. Connolly Jr., a proponent of keeping the range for target shooting and for police use, is a former member of the Fish and Game Association who has battled Lancaster officials about its use, and tried to work out an agreement to satisfy both sides.

Mr. Connolly said although approval for police was made last year before he was elected to the board in May, he was under the impression all involved had no problem with police certification shooting, including residents near the range...

“Little Napoleon [Lancaster Town Administrator Orlando Pacheco] may think he can tell the Lancaster Board of Selectmen what to do, but he’s not going to tell the Clinton Board of Selectmen what to do,” Mr. Connolly said.
My guess is that Selectman Connolly is exasperated that Lancaster has gone back on what he thought was an agreement to allow the Clinton police to use the range. Frankly, I would be miffed too if the rules had changed out from underneath me. But deriding the administrator of a neighboring town as “Little Napoleon” is rarely a successful negotiating tactic. I can’t imagine that derision will help bring the two towns back into agreement.

(For his part, Pacheco doesn't have a reputation for professional language when it comes to negotiating agreements either. He has likened his own town's police union to "pigs in the mud.")

But more troubling is the implication that Clinton police might not be so willing to help Lancaster out with its public safety needs if they don’t get what the want from the negotiations.”
Chief Laverdure said he is particularly miffed because the stop order has caused bad feelings in the two towns after years of cooperation between the Lancaster and Clinton police departments, which has included using the Clinton police lockup for Lancaster prisoners, and assisting Lancaster with police calls.

Just last week, he said, six Clinton officers helped two Lancaster officers at a break-in on South Meadow Road in Lancaster, near the range, in which the alleged robber was still in the house.

“We combed the woods, we identified a suspect — and it’s a dangerous guy, and he’s still out there. We spent 20 hours on that case. I’ll be reluctant to do that again,” Chief Laverdure said.
It is outrageous for the police chief in one town to threaten to withhold aid to a neighboring community because of a political dispute between the boards of selectmen in the two towns. I guess it speaks to a certain naivete on my part, but I would hope that our police would stay out of public policy disputes. I believe the motto is “To serve and protect,” not “To serve and protect unless your town administrator pisses us off.”

Let’s turn it around for a minute. Would it have been appropriate during the Wekepeke dispute for the Sterling Police or Fire Department to come out and say “Well, since Clinton hasn’t repaired the dams up there, we can’t help out if Clinton calls for help; we need to make sure we are ready if one of those dams should blow.”? Absolutely not. In fact, it would have been offensive.

Just because Clinton is the big dog in the region doesn’t mean it should also be the big bully. It didn’t get them anywhere in the Wekepeke dispute and it likely won’t help out here either.

Family Planning and DirecTV

Like a lot of folks, we’ve been trying to find ways to cut costs. Every so often I will comb through our family budget and try to find places where we can save a couple bucks here and there. Now that we’ve had our DirecTV service up and running for over a year we’ve lost the introductory discounts, so I figured that would be a good place to try to cut costs.

Man, has this been a disaster.

About a month ago, I called DirecTV and asked to drop to a lower tier. We have been in the “Choice Xtra” plan (what’s with DirecTV and the dropping of letters?) which boasts over 200 channels and carries a cost of $61 per month, before HD, DVR, etc. I decided that we would go with the “Family” plan, which carries only 50 channels or so for a price of just $30. Both carry local channels, so I figured that we’d at least have 2, 4, 5, 7, 25, etc and we’d be OK.

Well, let me tell you what DirecTV’s definition of family is.

According to DirecTV, families only watch kids’ shows, religion, and National Geographic. Essentially, the breakdown is 20 kids’ channels, 20 religious channels, a farm channel, a do-it-yourself channel, National Geographic, and three music channels, which only carry kids and religious music.

No news. Not CNN, MSNBC, Fox, Headline News...nothing. No sports. Not ESPN, Versus...they don’t even include the local sports networks like NESN and CSNE.

Apparently, families are all religious nuts who watch kids shows in the morning, preachin’ and prayin’ in the afternoon, and tips on how to raise cattle or fix a toilet in the evening. The moms and dads in these families don’t care about the news and don’t watch sports. Families don’t have teenagers, who might watch MTV.

In short, the typical DirecTV “family” is disturbed.

Now, I rationalized that I could do without the news channels because I get most of my news from the Internet, and I didn’t really need ESPN—if there is a big Monday Night Football game or something on I can go watch it with my brother. But I couldn’t do without seeing the Bruins and Red Sox, so I asked what it would cost to add NESN and CSNE back to the package. I was told that I’d need to buy the entire sports pack, which includes all regional sports networks from across the country. It’s an extra $13 per month.

OK, so now my cost is up to $43. But at least I can watch the Bs, Sox, and Celts when they’re on, as well as coaches’ shows from every East Tumbleweed State College across the country.

So...that part about watching the Red Sox? Last night, I realize that this family package doesn’t include TBS. This means that I won’t be able to watch Sox playoff games. My options are either to go to the aforementioned brother’s house—which means some late night driving since the first two games start at 9:30 each night—or watch it on some pirated Internet stream from ESPN South America or whoever it is that broadcasts these games in Spanish.

(By the way, this works better than you might realize. I watched much of the last Monday Night Football game this way, and while I heard the name “Favre” a lot, all of the other words were in Spanish so I didn’t get as disgusted about it as I would have if the game were in English).

Neither of those are good ideas, so I called DirecTV to go up to the “Choice” tier, which includes TBS (and 149 other channels) at a cost of $56 per month. I figure that I’ll keep it until the playoffs move off from TBS, and then go back to the “Family” package.

When I got off the phone, it was time for me to put Jackson to bed. So we went upstairs and Jackson took his vitamin, brushed his teeth, changed into his pajamas, and then climbed into Michelle’s and my bed to watch “Kipper.” It’s become part of our routine to watch a little episode of “Kipper” on PBS Sprout every night before I tuck him in. So he’s comfy, I turn on the TV and...nothing. Well, there has to be some mistake; I mean, I now have 150 channels, something must be wrong.

Jackson’s not too happy but he takes the news OK and heads off to bed. After I kiss him good night, I check the TV downstairs and still, no PBS Sprout. So I log on to find out if I made a mistake when I ordered and find out that...the Choice package does not include the kids’ channels! Some choice!

Finally, I think I have this straight.
  • If I am a religious nut with kids and no interest in anything other than the Bible and Barney the Dinosaur (wait, there aren’t dinosaurs in the Bible. Hmmm...), the “Family” package is for me.

  • If I am a lonely, childless adult, then the “Choice” package is for me.

  • But if I am like most every other damn American family who has a range of interests like news, sports, music, drama, and children’s programming, I’ve got to open up my wallet to pay a premium for 150 channels I’ll never watch so that me and my family can enjoy the handful that we do.

And even for all that, they are still a better deal than Comcast.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

State house Republicans bad for business

Last week, three Democratic state senators offered up a resolution that would have called for a boycott of Hyatt Hotels for firing nearly 100 custodial workers in Massachusetts and replacing them with low-wage replacements. In opposing the resolution, Minority Leader Richard Tisei digressed into the usual anti-Democrat anti-business tripe. In part:
With unemployment at 9.1 percent, and so many companies struggling to just keep their heads above water, we should be doing everything we can to help them weather the downturn in the economy, and not trying to stigmatize them and drive them out of business....

I was discouraged to read over the weekend that EMC – one of the state’s largest employers – is moving 400 jobs to North Carolina because of the high electrical rates here in Massachusetts. These are the kinds of problems we should be addressing and trying to fix.

Instead of attacking businesses, the Legislature should be meeting in session every day to discuss how we can improve the state’s business climate, encourage companies to locate and expand here, and get Massachusetts residents back to work.
The criticism that the Democratic legislature is not doing “everything we can to help [businesses] weather the downturn in the economy” and that it should be doing more to “encourage companies to locate and expand here” was particularly rich considering what was going on in the other chamber at nearly the same time.

A number of mayors from smaller urban centers like Fitchburg were petitioning the Legislature to pass a package of tax credits that would encourage “companies to locate and expand” in these decaying communities. The proposal would increase tax credits to refurbish former mill buildings and provide direct tax credits to companies who hire new workers.

This proposal to encourage businesses to locate in Massachusetts communities by cutting taxes was opposed Republicans, including Rep. Lew Evangelidis:
Not everyone on the Revenue Committee was persuaded. Rep. Lewis Evangelidis, R-Holden, said he worried about the potential cannibalizing effect the tax credits could have on other communities.

"They might entice companies to move from one community to another," Evangelidis said. "Also, we're in a budget crisis, and tax incentives cut into revenues."
But Representative, “these are the kinds of problems we should be addressing and trying to fix.” “With unemployment at 9.1 percent, and so many companies struggling to just keep their heads above water, we should be doing everything we can to help them weather the downturn in the economy.” Why wouldn’t we want to provide tax credits to help match struggling companies wit struggling communities?

A ha! I think I’ve found the answer:
Their pitch came as lawmakers consider a bill of state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, described as an economic recovery act for older cities that serve as regional economic hubs.
It’s because the bill was proposed by a Democrat. Period. A tea-party attending tax fighter like Evangelidis is opposed to a tax cut because it might "cut into revenues?" How disingenuous. Look, I'm as partisan as anyone, but if you're going to try to make a name as a tax-cutter, then support tax cuts. Unfortunately, the State House Republicans seem to care more about opposing Democrats then advancing a policy agenda.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Bruins big gamble

You know what the best thing about October is? Hockey season begins again. And for the first time in at least 15 years, expectations for the Bruins are very high. After last season's surprise showing, the Bs are one of the favorites for the Stanley Cup.

Near the end of last season, the Bruins decided that their best chance to win a cup would be with Tim Thomas as their starting goaltender. So they went out and signed the then 34-year-old to a 4-year, $20-million contract. Well, I hope Bruins' management is right. Because they've tied themselves up in a salary cap knot for the next four years.

The problem with the Thomas contract is that the Bruins are hoping that he can do what almost no goalie has ever done before. Here's what I mean...

I've gone to and looked at every goaltender since expansion in 1966-67 to find those who started more than half of their team's games at age 34. There were only 28 goalies other than Thomas who met that criteria. Of the 28...
  • At age 35, 19 were still their team's primary starter (appeared in more than half of their team's games).
  • At age 36, 13 were still their team's primary starter.
  • At age 37, 11 were still their team's primary starter.
  • At age 38, 6 were still their team's primary starter.
  • Of those 6, only three of them were their teams primary starter for every year between ages 35 and 38. (Ed Belfour, Tony Esposito, and Dwayne Roloson).
  • Only two of the 28 won a cup as their team's starter between ages 35 and 38. (Patrick Roy at age 35 and Dominik Hasek at age 37).
Chances are at sometime over the next four years--if not for most of them--Thomas will be getting $5m to sit in the press box because he's hurt, or sit on the bench because his skills have atrophied. And because 8% of the cap is tied up in someone who can't play, someone else--Lucic, Savard, Wheeler, Rask--will be gone.

Obviously the Bruins felt that the best chance to win a cup in this window was to keep Thomas. Either they had to give him 4/$20m or they would have had to pay him $7m per year for a shorter deal. I guess they figured that it would be better to be hamstrung in '12 and '13 than to be short on money (or an experienced goalie) in '10 and '11.

But Thomas had better turn out to be Dominik Hasek (the only goaltender in the last 45 years to win his first cup over the age of 34--and even he missed half of his 35 season due to injury and did not play at all at age 38) or they'll be in trouble in the out years.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Expected 2009 Boston NFL TV Schedule

Every year I try to look at the NFL schedule and guess which games we in the Boston area will get to see on local TV week-by-week (Although for some reason, I didn't do it last year. Go figure.) The formula I use to pick the games is explained here. Here is the expected TV schedule:

Thursday, Sep. 10
8:30 PM...NBC...Tennessee at Pittsburgh
Sunday, Sep. 13
1:00 PM...FOX...Minnesota at Cleveland
1:00 PM...CBS...N.Y. Jets at Houston
4:15 PM...FOX...Washington at N.Y. Giants
8:20 PM...NBC...Chicago at Green Bay
Monday, Sep. 14
7:00 PM...ESPN...Buffalo at New England
10:15 PM…ESPN...San Diego at Oakland

OK, so I cheated on this one. I had originally predicted that Fox would send us the Philadelphia-Carolina game because it pitted two of the NFC's top teams from last year and was an NFC East game. You know, solid reasons to send an out-of-market game to Boston. But I checked the listings and apparently Fox has decided that we, along with the rest of the country, just can't wait to watch the magical Brett Favre play against a Cleveland team that was awful last year and that some have predicted will be the NFL's worst in 2009. You know, because he's Brett Favre!

Miami-Atlanta might be a better 1:00 CBS game than Jets-Texans. But CBS thinks we care more about the Jets than the team that actually won the AFC East, and Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are doing the game--making it their #1 national game--so we're getting them instead.

Sunday, Sep. 20

1:00 PM...CBS...New England at N.Y. Jets
4:05 PM...FOX...Tampa Bay at Buffalo
4:15 PM...CBS...Pittsburgh at Chicago
8:20 PM...NBC...N.Y. Giants at Dallas
Monday, Sep. 21
8:30 PM...ESPN...Indianapolis at Miami

Not too tough a call here. The 4:05 Fox game is either Bucs-Bills or Niners-Seahawks. The others are lay-ups (although I'd rather see Baltimore-San Diego as the 4:15 CBS game).

Sunday, Sep. 27

1:00 PM...FOX...Atlanta at New England
4:15 PM...CBS...Miami at San Diego
8:20 PM...NBC...Indianapolis at Arizona
Monday, Sep. 28
8:30 PM...ESPN...Carolina at Dallas

Since the Pats are at home and CBS has the doubleheader, we only get one game in each slot (the NFL has some arcane rule that a local affiliate can't show a game opposite the home team when they are at home). Dolphins-Chargers is the best 4:15 game and the one that would mean the most to Patriots fans, but the early assignments have Nantz and Simms doing Pittsburgh-Cincinnati in that slot. God help us if they ship that mismatch to Boston instead of Miami-San Diego.

Sunday, Oct. 4
1:00 PM...CBS...Baltimore at New England
4:15 PM...FOX...Dallas at Denver
8:20 PM...NBC...San Diego at Pittsburgh
Monday, Oct. 5
8:30 PM...ESPN...Green Bay at Minnesota

Same situation as in Week 4 with the Patriots at home. Nothing tough about this one.

Sunday, Oct. 11

1:00 PM...CBS...Oakland at N.Y. Giants
1:00 PM...FOX...Dallas at Kansas City
4:15 PM...CBS...New England at Denver
8:20 PM...NBC...Indianapolis at Tennessee
Monday, Oct. 12
8:30 PM...ESPN...N.Y. Jets at Miami

This is a very intriguing week. Not because there are a bunch of good 1:00 games to choose from, but because there are no good games. I stuck to the script and have CBS sending us the Raiders-Giants, but a rationale could be made for two of their other 1:00 games. Division-rival Buffalo against an awful Cleveland team? The Super Bowl-champion Steelers against a terrible Lions squad? Because of the Raiders' addition of Richard Seymour and the presence of the Giants, I'm sticking with that mismatch.

On Fox, I'm going with Cowboys-Chiefs because it's an NFC East team against former Patriot Matt Cassell. Tampa-Philly is the best game in this slot, but I think the presence of Cassell will make the difference in the assignment. Of course, Minnesota-St. Louis is a possibility if the network suits still think we want to watch Our Lord and Savior Brett Farve.

Sunday, Oct. 18

1:00 PM...CBS...Baltimore at Minnesota
1:00 PM...FOX...N.Y. Giants at New Orleans
4:15 PM...CBS...Tennessee at New England
8:20 PM...NBC...Chicago at Atlanta
Monday, Oct. 19
8:30 PM...ESPN...Denver at San Diego

Even though the Patriots are home, CBS can still show a 1:00 game because they have the doubleheader. I had Ravens-Vikings as the 1:00 CBS game before American Hero Brett Farve joined Minnesota, so I'm sticking with that one.

Sunday, Oct. 25

1:00 PM...CBS...New England at Tampa Bay (London)
1:00 PM...FOX...Minnesota at Pittsburgh
4:15 PM...FOX...Atlanta at Dallas
8:20 PM...NBC...Arizona at N.Y. Giants
Monday, Oct. 26
8:30 PM...ESPN...Philadelphia at Washington

Again, I had Minnesota on my schedule even before Roman God Brett Favricus graced us with his return, so nothing changes there. Falcons-Cowboys is the pick as it will most likely be Fox's national game at 4:15, though I'd love to see them send us Saints-Dolphins if Miami is still a threat in the AFC East.

Sunday, Nov. 1

1:00 PM...CBS...Miami at N.Y. Jets
1:00 PM...FOX...Minnesota at Green Bay
4:15 PM...FOX...N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia
Monday, Nov. 2
8:30 PM...ESPN...Atlanta at New Orleans

Easy pickings. AFC East rivals on CBS, General MacArthur's triumphant return to Green Bay on Fox at 1:00, and an NFC East game involving the Giants at 4:00.

Sunday, Nov. 8

1:00 PM...CBS...Miami at New England
4:05 PM...FOX...Carolina at New Orleans
4:15 PM...CBS...San Diego at N.Y. Giants
8:20 PM...NBC...Dallas at Philadelphia
Monday, Nov. 9
8:30 PM...ESPN...Pittsburgh at Denver

No tough choices here.

Thursday, Nov. 12

8:20 PM...NFL...Chicago at San Francisco
Sunday, Nov. 15
1:00 PM...FOX...Tampa Bay at Miami
1:00 PM...CBS...Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets
4:15 PM...FOX...Dallas at Green Bay
8:20 PM...NBC...New England at Indianapolis
Monday, Nov. 16

8:30 PM...ESPN...Baltimore at Cleveland

Each of the three afternoon slots could go in an different direction. Tampa-Miami is the 1:00 Fox game that would mean the most to Patriots fans and will probably get the nod, although Atlanta-Carolina is probably the best game in the slot. On CBS, Jaguars-Jets is the pick, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Buffalo-Tennessee will be a bigger game by week 10. If so, the suits just might send us that one. At 4:15, Eagles-Chargers is also a very good game and may be the choice if either Dallas or Green Bay falters.

Thursday, Nov. 19

8:20 PM...NFL...Miami at Carolina
Sunday, Nov. 22
1:00 PM...CBS...Indianapolis at Baltimore
1:00 PM...FOX...Atlanta at N.Y. Giants
4:15 PM...CBS...N.Y. Jets at New England
8:20 PM...NBC...Philadelphia at Chicago
Monday, Nov. 23
8:30 PM...ESPN...Tennessee at Houston

Colts-Ravens will definitely be the top CBS game at 1:00, but Buffalo-Jacksonville could be the call in Boston if the Bills are in contention in the AFC East. Washington-Dallas will probably be the top Fox game at 1:00, but the Giants win out here.

Thursday, Nov. 26

12:30 PM...FOX...Green Bay at Detroit
4:15 PM...CBS...Oakland at Dallas
8:20 PM...NFL...N.Y. Giants at Denver
Sunday, Nov. 29
1:00 PM...FOX...Carolina at N.Y. Jets
1:00 PM...CBS...Miami at Buffalo
4:15 PM...FOX...Chicago at Minnesota (move from 1:00)
8:20 PM...NBC...Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Monday, Nov. 30
8:30 PM...ESPN...New England at New Orleans

A very tricky slate to predict. The CBS game is a given, but the Fox games are completely up in the air. Fox has the doubleheader, but they currently do not have any 4:15 games on the schedule, so not only do I have to guess which games we will see, I also have to guess which game(s) will be flexed to 4:15. Originally I had expected Washington-Philadelphia to be flexed to the national game--and I think that will still be a good choice when the time comes. But now that the Superman is now in a purple uniform, I'm guessing Vikings-Bears will be Fox's pick. I think Carolina-Jets stays at 1:00.

Thursday, Dec. 03

8:20 PM...NFL...N.Y. Jets at Buffalo
Sunday, Dec. 06
1:00 PM...CBS...Tennessee at Indianapolis
1:00 PM...FOX...Philadelphia at Atlanta
4:15 PM...FOX...Dallas at N.Y. Giants
8:20 PM...NBC...New England at Miami
Monday, Dec. 07

8:30 PM...ESPN...Baltimore at Green Bay

Another open Sunday as the Pats are again on national TV. I don't see any flexing this week and I really don't see any tough choices, either.

Thursday, Dec. 10

8:20 PM...NFL...Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Sunday, Dec. 13
1:00 PM...FOX...Carolina at New England

4:15 PM...CBS...San Diego at Dallas
8:20 PM...NBC...Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants
Monday, Dec. 14
8:30 PM...ESPN...Arizona at San Francisco

Condensed schedule as the Pats are at home on Fox and CBS has the doubleheader. I don't think any flexing will affect this schedule.


Thursday, Dec. 17

8:20 PM...NFL...Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Saturday, Dec. 19
8:20 PM...NFL...Dallas at New Orleans
Sunday, Dec. 20
1:00 PM...CBS...New England at Buffalo

1:00 PM...FOX...Atlanta at N.Y. Jets
4:15 PM...FOX...Green Bay at Pittsburgh (move from 1:00)
8:20 PM...NBC...Minnesota at Carolina
Monday, Dec. 21
8:30 PM...ESPN...N.Y. Giants at Washington

Packers-Steelers is a lock to move out of the 1:00 slot and I can't see Fox letting NBC have it (NBC has the most awesome quarterback ever in the Sunday night slot anyway), so they are the pick at 4:15. Falcons-Jets is an easy pick in Fox's early slot.

Friday, Dec. 25

7:30 PM...NFL...San Diego at Tennessee
Sunday, Dec. 27
1:00 PM...CBS...Jacksonville at New England
4:05 PM...FOX...St. Louis at Arizona
4:15 PM...CBS...Baltimore at Pittsburgh (moved from 1:00)
8:20 PM...NBC...Dallas at Washington
Monday, Dec. 28
8:30 PM...ESPN...Minnesota at Chicago

I am going out on a little bit of a limb here. Jets-Colts is currently the only game listed for 4:15. Because the Giants are at 1:00, the Jets will not be flexed out of that spot. Normally, Jets-Colts would be a lock to be the Boston game, but I think the Jets will be out of contention by week 16 (and the Colts may also be done by then). Since I expect CBS to flex Ravens-Steelers to this spot, I'm going to guess that they send that game to Boston because it should actually mean something. St. Louis-Arizona is the least bad of two bad Fox games at 4:05.

Sunday, Jan. 3
1:00 PM...CBS...New England at Houston
1:00 PM...FOX...Atlanta at Tampa Bay
4:15 PM...CBS...Pittsburgh at Miami (moved from 1:00)
4:15 PM...FOX...Philadelphia at Dallas (moved from 1:00)
8:20 PM...NBC...N.Y. Giants at Minnesota (moved from 1:00)

Of course, other than the Patriots game, does anyone have any real idea which games will be flexed and which will be important in the final week of the season? No, but I've come up with what I think is a pretty good guess. The last time The Anointed One "retired" NBC picked his final game to be their prime time offering. This time, I actually think the game will also mean something, so it is my pick for Sunday night. I think Steelers-Dolphins and Eagles-Cowboys will also both include teams that are fighting for playoff spots (not to mention that the Steelers and Cowboys are marquee teams), so they are the choices to move to 4:15. Either Falcons-Bucs or Panthers-Saints (or both) will be for the NFC South title, so that will be the early Fox game.

How many times will your favorite (or not-so-favorite) team be on TV here in the Boston area? Glad you asked...

New England....16
N.Y. Giants.......13
N.Y. Jets...........8
San Diego...........8
Green Bay...........7
New Orleans.......5
Tampa Bay.........4
San Francisco.....2
Kansas City.........1
St. Louis.............1


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