Friday, January 30, 2009

Hysterical tax opponents are lying to you -- part 1: meals tax

Since Governor Patrick proposed giving cities and towns the option to raise meals and hotel taxes as well as tax increases on the sale of “junk food” and alcohol, you can hardly pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV news without coming across some hysterical legislator, business owner, or consumer crying that the increases will force people to go to another town or state to do their business.

Do not listen to them. With almost no exception they are either monumentally stupid or lying to you.

(The one exception would be those who are entirely opposed to taxes as a matter of ideology. I would suggest those folks are lying to themselves.)

I’m going to break down each of the three proposed tax increases in a series of blog posts over the next few days. First, let’s take a look into a bleak future where towns are pitted one against another because of their different tax philosophies. (Note, I have already discussed local option taxes once before).

There will be a Texas Roadhouse steakhouse opening in Leominster next month. There is already one open in Worcester. Let’s say that Michelle and I want a nice evening out and decide that’s where we want to go (we could do a lot better, I know. Just play along). The restaurant in Leominster is six miles from our home. The franchise in Worcester is 18 miles away. Both are a reasonable drive for a night out.

But wait! Leominster has decided to impose the dreaded local meals tax while the Worcester City Council has decided that they will lose so much business by raising meals taxes by 1% that the city will actually lose revenue. Maybe I should go out to dinner in Worcester to save money!

While Michelle gets ready to go, I decide to do the math. I assume that a gallon of gas costs $1.75 and that the average car gets 25 mpg (of course, your mileage may vary), for a cost of 7 cents per mile. Based on that, I can calculate the maximum distance I could drive and still save money on my meal. I’m not going to take into account what my time may be worth or assume any depreciation or maintenance cost…just the cost of gas.

If I go to Worcester, I will use $1.68 more in gas (24 miles round trip) than I would if I dine in Leominster. So the only way I will actually spend less in Worcester is if our dinner costs us more than $168.00. I don’t think I could have $168.00 worth of food and fun at Texas Roadhouse, and if I did I’d need a cab ride or an ambulance home and that would make the trip even more expensive.

Are you starting to see why opposition to the local option meals tax on the basis that it will drive diners out of town is rooted in pure stupidity? Anyone who tells you that the local meals tax will hurt business in one town and drive diners to another is lying to you (And if they dare suggest that it might drive diners out of state—where Connecticut already has a 6% meals tax, Rhode Island and New Hampshire 8%, and Vermont 9%—they don’t deserve your time).

Here is a chart showing the maximum distance one can drive and still save money under different cost scenarios. Refer to it the next time some hysterical official tells you your town will go to hell in a handbasket if it passes the meals tax.(I’m assuming the Governor’s proposed state meal tax of 6%, compared with the 7% meal tax in a town that also levies the local-option tax.)

There may be a lot of economic factors that will keep people from going out to eat or that may influence where someone goes for a meal, but the local option tax is not one of them. In an effort to give cities and towns more control over their own budgets, it should be passed by the legislature.

Next: The tax on “junk food.”


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I don't have any particular affinity for pandas, but this photo posted at The Washington Note is incredibly cute:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Could DeLeo's coup be Naughton's gain?

All signs point to Robert DeLeo ascending to the role of Speaker of the House this week when the full House meets to elect Sal DiMasi’s replacement. According to a list circulated by DeLeo’s staff Sunday night, the chair of the Ways and Means Committee has at least 87 votes. Among the supporters are all five of the North County’s Democrats (Hank Naughton, Dennis Rosa, Jennifer Benson, Stephen DiNatale, and Bob Rice).

As the DeLeo and Majority Leader John Rogers grapple for supporters, the Rogers camp has cried foul. One of their complaints is that outgoing speaker DiMasi waited until after the new House was seated this month to resign in an effort to shore up DeLeo’s support:
Representative Paul Kujawski, a Webster Democrat and a Rogers supporter, said he believes that DiMasi and DeLeo secretly plotted to transfer the speakership before DiMasi was reelected speaker on Jan. 7.

Kujawski and other Rogers supporters said the speaker and DeLeo were plotting to make the transfer after Jan. 7, after newly elected representatives who backed DeLeo were sworn into office and could participate in the leadership vote.

"When we met with [DiMasi] in December and he asked us for his vote, he said: 'I'm not going anywhere. I want to stay,'" said Kujawski, referring to DiMasi. "We believed everything he said, but it looks like he was just orchestrating the handing of the gavel to DeLeo. I feel completely deceived."
While Kujawski should stop whining—I mean really, it’s Massachusetts State House politics, why would you ever believe everything that anyone said, especially someone who is the target of an ethics investigation?—based on information I received last year he is absolutely right.

I spoke with an acquaintance who has business at the state house last summer about the prospects of a Rogers-DeLeo election should DiMasi step down. The source told me that Rogers would most likely win because he would be able to combine the entire Republican caucus with enough Democrats to cobble together a slim majority, similar to the way Tom Finneran took control a decade ago.

Of course, things have changed since last summer. A number of new representatives have been elected and the Republican caucus has dwindled. If six or ten votes have moved from Rogers to DeLeo because of the change in the membership, that very well may have made the difference. In fact, one legislator who attended a reception paid for by the DeLeo campaign just after the election told the Telegram & Gazette that he was “confident of Mr. DeLeo's chances because he has been rounding up the support of newly elected state representatives.”

Then again, it’s entirely possible that DiMasi was just looking out for number one and any benefit to DeLeo is just a pleasant side effect.

Finally, it will be interesting to see what effect DeLeo’s election will have on Rep. Hank Naughton. Naughton and DeLeo serve together on the Ways and Means Committee and DeLeo has traveled to our district to meet with Naughton and local officials. With a restructuring of committee assignments and the leadership team likely to follow the new election, will Naughton, who is also vice chair of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and a member of the Joint Committee on the Judicary, be in line for a more powerful appointment?


Monday, January 26, 2009

The Dunkin Donuts in Sterling is absolutely awful

The Dunkin Donuts on Leominster Road (route 12) in Sterling is absolutely awful. A complete abomination. I haven’t eaten at every Dunkin Donuts in the state, but I am confident that if there were a contest to find the worst Dunkin Donuts in Massachusetts, out local donutry would be a top contender. Just terrible.

(I realize that in an effort to improve my physical health I should probably swear off Dunks altogether, but I’m not ready to take that step.)

I’ve mentioned one of their problems before…mainly, the inability to place a chocolate covered donut in a bag in such a way that the chocolate stays on the donut as opposed to the bag. But over the last few months the performance of the Sterling franchise has deteriorated to the point that I can almost guarantee that something about my order will wrong.

There are only two reasons to even go to Sterling for a donut…it is marginally closer than the dunks in Clinton and for some unknown reason, they are the only franchise in the area that carries Bavarian Kreme donuts. (I love Bavarian Kreme donuts.) And lately they haven’t even been able to get the last part right. Two of the last three times I’ve gone to get a Bavarian Kreme donut, I’ve ended up with a lemon jelly donut. I know they are both covered with powder and their fillings are vaguely similar in color, but if you work at Dunkin Donuts you are paid to know the difference and to make sure that when someone orders a Bavarian Kreme donut you actually give them a Bavarian Kreme donut!

(If I may digress for a moment—and I may, since it is my blog and there is no requirement that I remain topical, or even coherent—what kind of a company sends different styles and flavors of donut to different franchises? For instance, Sterling is the only area franchise that carries Bavarian Kreme, but they do not carry a chocolate stick—if I want a chocolate stick I have to get a chocolate gazed donut instead. Yet the one at the corner of Main and Union Streets in Clinton has both chocolate sticks and chocolate glazed donuts, but no Bavarian Kreme…And don’t even get me started on the change from crullers to “sticks.”)

But the inability to correctly identify donuts is only part of the complete disaster that is the Sterling Dunkin Donuts. I like to be able to drink my coffee sometime within the hour in which I buy it. And I like it somewhat sweetened. So I order it with extra extra skim milk to cool it and two Sweet-n-Low (if you want to know why I’m so worried about not using sugar or cream while I’m wolfing down donuts…well, I have no answer for that). The good folks in Clinton always mark my cup with my order with “XXSK-2SL”. They don’t always get it as drinkable as I would like, but I know they have made the effort. In Sterling, I wonder if there is even a point to asking. It is always too hot and yesterday it was clear that didn’t add any Sweet-n-Low either. They didn’t mark my cup, so I’m not even sure the attendant was paying any attention. At least yesterday I was heading home so I could add more milk and Sweet-n-Low when I got back. And the milk they did put in my coffee wasn't sour, I guess I can be happy for that.

I brought home a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on an English muffin for Michelle. After she took her first bite, she remarked “you know, these sandwiches would probably be better if they would toast the muffin.” They didn’t toast the English muffin? Have any of the Wolfgang Pucks at the Sterling Dunks ever eaten an untoasted English muffin? Might as well chew on a block of Styrofoam.

What a miserable place to get something to eat. If you happen to be in the area and need a pastry, head up the street to Gerardo’s. Or, if you absolutely have to have something from Dunkin Donuts make your way to Clinton or Leominster. But for your own sanity, don’t stop at the Dunkin Donuts on route 12 in Sterling.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration somewhat-live blog -- the balls

You could interpret the headline as I am live blogging the inaugural balls, or my blog about the inaugural is the balls...I'll leave that up to you. And we're off...

8:03 -- I think Will I Am has got just about as much face time as the president this weekend. I'm watching the neighborhood ball on ABC at least until 9:00, then I'll pick up some CNN coverage of the other 500 million parties.

8:06 -- Queen Latifah appears to be surrounded by a bunch of young ladies who finally got to pull out their prom dresses one last time.

8:07 -- Mary J Blige is up. It's only been eight minutes, and it already looks like we're going to get the B side of all of the performances from the celebration at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday.

8:08 -- If this were New Year's Rockin' Eve instead of the Obama Inauguration, would I really be watching this? Other than the upscale outfits of the party-goers and the seal in the background, is there really any difference?

8:17 -- Apparently I can send a picture in to show the world how I am celebrating. Maybe I'll give it a try.

8:20 -- Ah, geeky teachers getting engaged at the inauguration...change is coming to America, indeed.

8:21 -- Mariah Cary rockin' the blingtastic microphone...and it has her initials on it. She brings along her own rhinestone-studded microphone and stand. She seems much less, how to say, mellow than in other performances.

8:25 -- "Lance is having a party in Maui." I wish.

8:30 -- I'd love to run into Vince Wilfork shopping for a sofa at Bob's Furniture. Just saying.

8:31 -- Michelle is not a fan of tie first lady's gown, with "the little puff balls on it."

8:33 -- Barack Obama is so popular he could recite the ingredients of the Big Mac and still get shrieks and applause from most any crowd in Washington right now.

8:36 -- There are so many digital cameras and phones in the crowd that it looks like a crowd of concert-goers from a different era holding up their lighters.

8:38 -- Denzel Washington, Stevie really is just a jazzed up re-run of Sunday's event.

8:42 -- Michelle thinks Faith Hill looks awful. Too skinny.

8:44 -- Speaking of skinny, it doesn't look like the President will be giving out any of his citations for physical fitness to the regular folks on stage with him. A collection of regular people indeed.

8:45 -- The President bumping booty with another of the party goers. Michelle thinks he really looks like he's having fun. I agree.

8:48 -- I checked in on CNN during the break and Anderson Cooper said that CNN would be covering all of the balls (insert Anderson Cooper joke here) as long as the Obamas are out on the town. This could continue to be fun.

8:50 -- And then Ray Romano comes out...maybe not. This is my opportunity to take out the dog.

8:55 -- I had a pair of glasses the same style as the ones Jay-Z is 1989.

9:09 -- Anderson Cooper criticizing the music choice of the Home States ball as the president and first lady dance. I'm going to be disappointed if the whole thing is just Anderson Cooper and his panel of stuffed shirts talking for three hours with an occasional cut-in to a ball.

9:15 -- You know, I've never watched Grey's Anatomy. And these overwrought commercials aren't going to get me to start now.

9:16 -- The whole text your inauguration party pic to ABC thing is corny.

9:22 -- Robin Roberts interviewing President Obama. I was hoping she'd throw in a "rock on with your bad self" from her ESPN days, but no.

9:23 -- I'd much rather hear one of Stevie Wonder's classics than whatever this song is.

9:27 -- Checking in on C-Span (yeah, I know, C-SPAN?) and the woman bing interviewed at the home state ball has a large round fur hat on. Looks like a furry hockey puck. I wonder if she realizes that she's not still outside in the cold.

9:32 -- Fox is covering the balls too. They just reported that Obama's dance at the Home States Ball was 69 seconds long, and was longer than the dances of the last two presidents. Bret Baier said that shows that Obama likes to bust a move. The same guy just hit on Megyn Kelly, who is at the Commander-in-Chief Ball.

9:38 -- Oh good, Megyn Kelly telling us how folks at the Commander-in-in-Chief ball are telling her they don't want to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and wished George Bush were there. Get over it, Fox.

9:41 -- Shephard Smith...who I actually like...just cut into a performance of some band at the Commander-in-Chief Ball saying how nice it is to just listen to what is going on at the ball. I think he realized the irony.

9:52 -- The President really appears to be having a good time with the troops from Chicago.

9:53 -- Aaaugh...CNN just cut to break while the president was speaking to the troops. Come on. Can't you just hold the commercial for a few minutes?

9:55 -- And the Obama's get "At Last" at the Commander-in-Chief ball as well, but this time instead of Beyonce, they get the Marine Corps Band or some other troupe. Different sound.

9:57 -- The soldier dancing with Obama looks like she's having a blast; the marine taking a turn with the first lady looks scared out of his mind, like the awkward kid who gets to dance with the prom queen and doesn't know what to do.

10:01 -- Oh Good Lord! Geraldo Rivera is reporting from the Youth Ball. With not the least bit of hyperbole, Geraldo said that today's crowd on the mall was the most integrated he'd ever seen in his life.

10:04 -- Now Geraldo is saying that Kanye West's criticism of George Bush after Katrina is 2005 is what drove Hillary Clinton's black supporters into Barack Obama's camp.

10:05 -- Still trying to figure that one out, huh?

10:17 -- Paste Aretha's hat on your head.

10:18 -- Hate to say it, but Fox really does have the best coverage of the inaugural parties.

10:26 -- Waiting for the Obamas to appear at the Youth Ball, Fox heads over to some ball where their correspondent is interviewing Star Jones. Now, if there is one person whose opinion matters, it is Star Jones. God, I miss her on The View.

10:33 -- Shepard Smith with a "You are looking live..." I'm going to guess that is an intentional reference to Brent Musberger's famous opening.

10:36 -- I find it intersting that Obama spoke from a podium and with a teleprompter when he spoke at the Commander-in-Chief's ball, but that he appears to be speaking contemporaneously to the Youth Ball, the Neighborhood Ball, and other gatherings.

10:38 -- So, it looks like they are dancing to "At Last" at most of their balls.

10:40 -- Bob Beckel on Fox reports that Obama is now down to 52 seconds per dance.

10:42 -- Robin Givhan, Washington Post fashion editor, says Michelle Obama has "Title IX arms."

10:52 -- Gary Tuckman of CNN just reported that the Youth Ball "is not a cheesy ball." He apparently doesn't know that Geraldo Rivera is there.

10:56 -- This Bret Baier on Fox might be the whitest person on TV. He just reported that they are playing "Play that funky music, white boy." in the background at the Biden Home States ball. He stumbled. Shepard jumped in to reiterate that the word was "Funky." Not sure what he heard.

10:58 -- Kid Rock tells Fox the one thing he hopes Obama accomplishes is to "save Detroit."

11:02 -- Carl Cameron reports that the cash bar at the Midwest Ball has been doing a very brisk business and that many partygoers have had a number of drinks.

11:03 -- Lance Harris reports that the sky is blue.

11:13 -- Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey is being interviewed on C-Span. He reminds me of Buford T. Justice's son in Smokey and the Bandit II.

11:18 -- I'm out. Congratulations to the new president. And America.

Inauguration somewhat-live blog, part 2

I admit, I am a sucker for the pomp and circumstance and the general majesty that is projected during any inauguration, state of the union, etc. So even if it had been John McCain's inaugural, I would have been in awe. That it was the inauguration of Barack Obama, who has the potential to be a transformational president for a number of reasons, made watching it that much more special for me.

In listening to his speech, I was struck at how strongly he articulated his differences with the Bush administration. Not that he plans on making such a stark break--he has spoken many times about how he plans to change the country's direction--but that he spoke about it in such unambiguous terms with the former president sitting at his side.

For instance, this line stuck out: "We reject as false a choice between our safety and our ideals." This is as succinct and direct a repudiation of the entire government's approach to security since 9/11 as I have heard. He outlined his differences with the Bush administration on foreign policy and economic policy is similarly direct terms.

A few other observations...

One of the reasons George H W Bush is awesome: he's not afraid to wear a fur hat in public. He's one guy I like a whole lot more now than I did when he was president. Instead of worrying about how he looks on stage, he probably thinks "I'm cold, I was the most powerful man in the world, and I can wear a fur hat in public if I damn well please."

Speaking of hats, I believe Aretha Franklin's hat is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station within the hour.

Joe Biden has a way of absolutely chewing up the scenery, doesn't he?

I couldn't tell if Obama was stepping on Justice John Roberts's lines when he was taking the oath, or if Roberts was using a different cadence than they had rehearsed. Either way, it made it seem Obama was eager to get started.

I was watching on NBC and they were annoying me with all of the cutouts to the school in Atlanta and some theater in New York and various crowd shots. I would have liked to just watch the speech without distraction. I suppose I could have switched to C-Span, but I can't give up my HD.

Inauguration somewhat-live blog, part 1

Good Morning, You’re looking live at the capitol, where we are beginning our coverage of the inauguration of Barack Obama. Here we go…

10:00 am – At least to start, I’m watching MSNBC. Once things start to happen I’ll move over to one of the networks so I can watch it in HD, but since everyone is just showing talking heads this early in the day, I’m going with the liberal commentators.

10:05 am – Chris Matthews is complaining about the cold. He says that he almost got frostbite waiting to through security and into their broadcast location. He says people can’t go more than six hours in this sort of cold and that he’s worried that the spectators won’t be able to hold out. He’s obviously never tailgated at a football game. Those people can hold out for days.

10:10 am – Keith Olbermann suggests that even though Muhammad Ali can’t speak anymore, he communicates “almost telepathically.” Keith is a little too giddy.

10:11 am – Magic Jonhson wearing a stocking cap. Good to see public figures who aren’t afraid to wear hats.

10:17 am – OK, Chris. You’re right, it is cold. I take it back. I just checked the temp at Washington National Airport and the reports are 23 degrees with a wind chill of 10.

10:27 pm – Jackson wants to watch a documentary on steam trains. Doris Kearns Goodwin is on MSNBC. I’m going to give in…the documentary has to be just as informative as she is. I’ll be back to the inauguration by 11:00.

10:42 am – Jackson has thrown a boppy pillow around his neck and is running around the room singing “I’m a W, I’m a W.” He does, in fact, look like a W with the open ends of the boppy as the outside legs of the W and his head as the middle tine. I should just live blog Jackson’s day sometime.

11:15 am - I do not want to hear talking heads while the dignitaries are seated, I want to hear someone tell me who all of these people are as they come in. A very old woman was wheeled in a moment ago who I think is Betty Ford, but damned if anyone on NBC would tell us who it is.

11:22 am - "It's cold out here!" And with that, George H W Bush has been more candid with the American people than his son.

11:24 am -- Bill Clinton looks sour. I wonder if he wishes it were him, or if he wishes it were his wife. Or perhaps he just had a bad breakfast.

11:27 am - Will someone put hats on the kids? I've seen all of these kids--including Sasha and Malia--without hats. The wind chill is in the teens. Have them wear hats!

11:30 am -- John Boehner's wife looks just like him. It's eerie.

11:37 am -- I'm closing it down for a time. Will be back after the ceremony.

Monday, January 19, 2009


This guy was keeping an eye on the backyard this afternoon while Jackson and I were shoveling the car out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't get around much, anymore

Looks like what passes for right-wing punditry in Massachusetts has decided to close the cocoon a few days early. One of the top Republican blogs in the state had this gem earlier today:
Governor Deval Patrick delivered his State of the State address last night. Much like President-elect Barack Obama, his address was one of hope, but lacking in substance.
The disheartened Republicans must not get around much, anymore. How else to explain that they missed the detailed, substantive stimulus proposal unveiled in Washington yesterday. Not that I expect reality to encroach on conservative commentary...


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The audacity of hope

Wekepeke: Here we go again

I suppose it was inevitable. After a summer and fall or relative peace surrounding the Wekepeke Reservoir, Clinton Selectman Anthony Fiorentino has decided that it might be time to revisit the issue again. From this week’s Times and Courier:
Clinton - Anthony Fiorentino remains concerned with how Sterling views the Wekepeke lands, even as that town’s selectmen chairman says his constituents want action taken sooner rather than later.

“We’re left with trying to get a deal with the town of Sterling to try and collaborate and trying to maintain that property as it should be,” said Fiorentino, a Clinton selectman, citing Gov. Deval Patrick’s 2008 mid-year veto* of $250,000 in state money earmarked to repair Wekepeke dams. The state had earlier mandated that Clinton repair the dams, an estimated $1 million job.

Fiorentino said Tuesday he remains in favor of exploring new ways to generate revenue on the 564-acre Wekepeke parcel, owned by Clinton but largely located within the town of Sterling.

“I look at water as a renewable resource. The Wekepeke is something that we need to explore and not forget about,” he said, adding, “The town of Sterling has expressed interest in that water. The town of Clinton needs to protect that. It should be something we actively consider.”
This issue is never going to go away as long as the leaders of Clinton and Sterling see the water on that land as a money-making venture. Every last bit of “renewable resource” has not been placed on this earth so that it can be exploited and sold to bridge the budget gaps. It’s OK for a piece of property to be left dormant. Open space is a good thing.

It’s bad enough that some of the leadership in Clinton see the Wekepeke Reservoir and aquifer as nothing more than a money maker. But the Sterling Selectmen have been little better in voicing their opposition to Clinton’s plan. Long after Clinton rejected Nestle’s initial bid the Sterling selectmen finally decided that yeah, well, maybe selling the water wasn’t such a great idea so we’ll oppose it.

Opposing the plan when it was still a going question would have been the responsible thing to do, but Sterling’s selectmen dragged their feet to see what Sterling could get out of the deal, only to finally oppose it after a decision had been made and after months of near-unanimous opposition from those in town who voiced an opinion.

But when it comes to deciding what to do with the land, the Sterling selectmen have been all over the place. I don’t blame Fiorentino for thinking Sterling has designs on the reservoir, because this board of selectmen has tossed out a number of ideas on what to do with it. They’ve talked about hydro-electric power, forestry management (i.e., logging), and leaving it alone among other ideas. The fact that the Sterling selectmen can’t come up with their own proposal and stick to it understandably leads to distrust.

Ultimately, the only option that will gain widespread support in Sterling is to keep the land as it is and to upkeep the dams. No commercial development, period. Earlier in the year the Sterling selectmen mused about what it would take to buy the land. My proposal at the time was to purchase the land from Clinton for the same amount Clinton would have received had it contracted with Nestle, minus the $1.5 million to repair the dams, payable over the terms of Nestle’s original proposal. But I and others would strongly oppose even that plan if Sterling were to try to turn around and develop it.

The first step to solving the problem is for the Sterling Selectmen to strengthen their opposition to Nestle by extending it to all commercial and revenue generating activities. The parcel has been a passive, open space for over 40 years. It should stay that way.

*As an aside, the $250,000 was not cut by the governor’s veto, but as part of a round of Section 9C cuts. State law mandates that the governor reduce the budget in an effort to balance it if revenues come in below budget. A veto can be overridden, a 9C cut cannot. The governor did not veto the earmark when it was passed as part of the FY2009 budget.

July 3: Naughton's Wekepeke earmark in final budget
June 19: Write the state house to support the Wekepeke
June 19: Clinton signs Wekepeke restriction. Now what?
May 2: Naughton secures funds for the Wekepeke
April 29: Might the Wekepeke restriction have teeth after all?
April 25: What would Sterling accept at the Wekepeke?
April 11: What does the Wekepeke Restriction actually say?
April 11: Clinton does the right thing
April 9: Sterling should offer to buy Wekepeke at Nestle's price
April 6: Sterling selectmen to oppose Wekepeke plan, but to what extent?
April 4: Vermont looking to restrict Wekepeke-style projects
March 27: This can't be helpful
March 25: Tough decision ahead for Clinton
March 21: Nestle's proposal could change everything
March 21: Nestle nominated for "Corporate Hall of Shame"
March 19: Sterling Selectmen disappoint at Wekepeke forum
March 16: Sterling should oppose Nestle...the right way


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


We had four great horned owls in the neighborhood last night, including two in our yard. When you can hear them over the TV with the windows closed, you know they are close.

Thanks to the brightness of the moon, I was able to see two of them. One of them was in the big catalpa tree right outside our window. He flew off when I went outside to get a better look. I'm not sure I'd ever seen a great horned in flight (if I had, I didn't know that is what it was) and I didn't realize what a large bird it is. This one must have had a wingspan of nearly four feet across as he glided, fully-spread to a tree in our neighbor's yard.

The other one was perched on the remnant of a tree along the back of our yard. He was silhouetted against the sky and very easy to spot. Again, he was much bigger than I would have expected, easily dwarfing the red-tailed hawks we often get. He was calling back and forth with two other owls who were somewhere in the distance to the south of our house.

It was very coo-coo-cooooooo-coool.*

*Officially the corniest thing ever written on this blog.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Was Evangelidis robbed, or is he a sore Lew-ser?

Despite my generous support of State Rep. Lew Evangelidis, he failed earlier this week in his effort to become minority leader. After losing by a 9-7 vote, he released the following statement to
"The most disappointing aspect of today's caucus was the way the process was conducted attempting to shut down all debate," the Holden Republican said. "Our caucus always laments how the majority party abuses its power and authority to serve their own particular needs, not the voters of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, that was the tact that was taken by the leader of our caucus. There was a refusal to allow the clerk of the court to come down and rule on a procedural matter of whether or not we had to adhere to the existing house rules. There was a refusal to have this election conducted by secret ballot and our current leader offered no plan when given the opportunity."
A couple of things…first, I challenge you to understand what Evangelidis is talking about without going back and re-reading it once or twice. You can’t do it. It’s a bunch of procedural gobbledygook. For someone who wants to be the public face of the Republican Party in Massachusetts, it’s an awful statement. If he keeps talking like that, no one will listen.

Second, it’s not a “tact that was taken” it’s a “tack that was taken,” as in, a course of action or conduct. I realize Evangelidis was running for Minority Leader and not spelling bee champion…but again, if you want to be the public face of the Republican Party, you should know what you’re saying.

And third, complaining about not having a secret ballot may have its merits in many situations, but not when you lose by one vote. The whole idea of having a secret ballot in a caucus like this is so that the members don’t have to fear retribution if they vote against the eventual winner. But in this case, a change of one vote would have deadlocked the caucus at 8-8, so what would someone who might change a vote have to lose? If one of the nine who voted for Brad Jones was a secret Evangelidis supporter, casting a vote for Lew would have actually changed the outcome. In this case, there was no reason to vote secretly because there would be no repercussions against a member for their vote. Complaining about this just looks like sour grapes.

Given Evangelidis’s public response to the vote, I wonder if reelecting Minority Leader Jones wasn’t the best thing for Republicans after all.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hungry like a wolf

Apparently there is a wolf-like animal roaming Sterling. From the Telegram & Gazette:
STERLING — The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife has set a trap to catch a possible wolf-dog hybrid that’s been wandering around East Waushaccum Pond since Saturday and was last seen near Chace Hill Road around 6 last night.

“It plausibly is a wolf hybrid but we haven’t ruled that yet because we haven’t caught it,” said Thomas French, assistant director for Fisheries & Wildlife.
Looks like a fierce beast, eh.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Looking back at 2008

Tying up a few loose ends from 2008...

Just the Facts, Ma'am
Blog statistics from 2008:
Posts: 212
Visitors: 14,935
Comments: 148

We've Got Issues
Here is my ranking of the four most important topics from 2008:
1. Election of Barack Obama
2. The Ice Storm of 2008
3. The Wekepeke Dispute
4. State Primary Elections

Deja Vu All Over Again
The five most-blogged-about subjects, based on tags:
1. Massachusetts (108 posts)
2. Election 2008 (104)
3. Sterling (63)
4. Clinton (36...that's Clinton, Mass. not Clinton, Hillary)
5. Barack Obama (29)

Look, Ma! No Drumlins!
The five most popular posts, based on visitors:
1. Media missing the fine print on possible Kennedy succession (May 21)
2. Live Blogging the Opening Ceremonies--part 1...and part 2 (August 9)
3. T&G Reporter still posting on controversial message board (November 19)
4. Ladybug Picnic (March 17)
5. Reporter apologizes for timing of story (July 29)

Five topics I think will keep the blog going in 2009:
1. The birth of Sara Elisabeth Harris
2. The recession/depression of 2008-09
3. Cuts in state services/local aid
4. The resurgence of the Bruins
5. The continued ineptitude of the Telegram & Gazette and the Sentinel & Enterprise


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