Sunday, April 24, 2011

G&E Excesses/Smoking Pigs/Investment

Bumpkin has tossed out various G&E contracts and they are certainly loaded with perks on all levels. I have no idea how this compares with other municipals or public's but my first impression is it exceeds anything in the dreaded private sector (DPS). I still have memories of when I was a worker bee in the DPS and many of the G&E perks were unheard off. Now I can also compare this to the present day with friends and relatives who work in the DPS and the conclusion is the same - the G&E has a great gig going.

The Finance Committee has decided to examine the expense records of the G&E and in an article in the Sunday Enterprise what caught my attention was the expense report of Mr. Triner. This will be interesting since his out of pocket expenses amounted to $1,548 including $2.50 for a Snickers bar. I am not sure exactly what trip (AKA - Vacation) this was for but it may have been the D.C. trip as posted in the latest edition of the G&E bible known as The Messenger. If so I will just love to examine a copy of that report to see how much they spent. I may not know much but one thing I do know is travel bargains and I have enough sense to satisfy my snickers with a stop at a corner store rather than in the hotel.

The bar at $2.50 is just symptomatic of an attitude that treats the rate payers as a piggy bank. We recently had one departed member of the BOS hand out cupcakes to enraged rent payers. How did that work out? We have had a total change in the BOS in the last three years. Complete turn around in personnel including one who was ousted and re-elected once he discovered the facts that those in the cheap seats pay attention to Monday Night Live and also vote. Now the next examination has to be a commission that protects our interests with the G&E. After looking at the contracts and the fact that the commission did not even reprimand the excesses of the manager I have to wonder who is running the show.

Saturday I joined a group called Middleboro Mess Movers as we collected trash from selected areas downtown and one thing is abundantly clear - smokers are incredible slobs. I cannot believe the amount of cigarette butts especially around the town hall. My opinion is that those butts are primarily the results of town employees or those being tortured by various meetings. Do any of them have the slightest concern about picking up after themselves? In the parking lot it also became apparent that the mental process is that if I have to empty my car ashtray that means just toss it on the ground or pavement and let someone else handle the responsibility.

Now the other place I was at was that strip of land across from the VFW and adjacent to the Hideaway and that brings into play another group - lottery scratch ticket players. Place was loaded with the losing tickets. The next item was the excessive amount of cans and bottles in that area. Are these just being tossed out car windows? Are they the result of customers just tossing crap?

Bottom line is it is amazing the amount of trash that is just dumped from folks who are just plain lazy or just don’t give a damn.

I invest in a variety of “things” on a regular basis. I am no expert who will go long or short on the market or even dabble extensively in options but I feel I am educated enough. Years ago I took control of my own portfolio after comparing my selections with the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) who was doing it - at 1.5% win or lose. Some of the CFP’s are masters at “churning” or buying and selling excessively in your portfolio to increase their own commissions. Then top it off with the way you are “directed” to certain mutual funds, annuities and ETF’s. You get the idea. Not many but enough to make one wary. My own opinion is that selecting a series of mutual funds that meet your own investing habits and strategies is rather easy with the volume of information available on the internet and via investment houses.

I have become convinced after watching market trends that a certain level of a con game is going on. A multi-trillion dollar shell game. The latest is the issuance of a warning from Standard and Poor about the credit rating of the U.S.A. being decreased unless debt is controlled. When do they issue this sparking guaranteed to shake the markets pronouncement? Why on a Monday morning just before the U.S. markets open and Europe is in full swing. Poof! The typical over reaction and sell-off.

Now why not do it like a politician delivering bad news? Like on a Friday afternoon? The pol knows the Saturday newspaper is virtually just a few pages of useless information to which no one pays any attention. Why didn’t S&P do the same? Give everyone a good forty-eight hours to digest the info and let the government formulate their litany of excuses on why this is really not bad news.

I see this type of questionable timing happening all to often and just being suspicious in nature of the potential and proven manipulations of the financial markets I have to question the whole process.

A helpful stock picking process is to look at a mutual fund and examine what they invest in and what portion of that investment is their portfolio. This is especially useful if you wish to target a specific area such as health care or energy. You can even weed through the fund selections and narrow it down based on your own level of risk taking.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Marathon Monday And Being Fat Or Skinny.

What better day than “Marathon Monday” to put out a post of weight and being fat or skinny or in between. My personal opinion is that the Boston Marathon is one of the most over hyped useless sporting events imaginable. Most of the runners appear to need some serious counseling about working one self into a state of looking like a stick person and this is from an ardent runner - jogger who has done marathons with the last being the famed Coachman Marathon years ago that was a one shot one that ended up in Taunton.

Federal requirements for pounds per passenger on buses will now go from 150 to 175 pounds per person for an estimate. Our rather robust physiques are causing this change along with less standing room since we are getting larger.

The seats at Fenway Park have shown how much our derriere size has increased through the years. There is that great scene from the movie “Fever Pitch” where Lenny Clarke - now rather svelte - attempts to get himself firmly planted in his seat. Trust me if you are a plus size or 3X it is an adventure at Fabulous Fenway. In fact you can have what now passes for normal body mass and still have an adventure squeezing your carcass into the seat that you may have paid $150 for.

Some health insurance companies actually offer a discount for following the prescribed charts regarding your health - weight, body mass, non-smoking, not reading my blog, not having the physique of BB, and a variety of other indexes that show you are less of a risk. Otherwise you pay full price. Like a version of auto insurance where good drivers get a discount only good health habits get a discount.

The BMI is really interesting in that it can give some real false impressions. Pro football players at the skill positions rarely are within the correct parameters yet have fat around 5%. The problem is their weight and height.

Years ago I use to run in the mornings at D.W. Fields Park in Brockton as I returned home from work. I ended up occasionally with a small group and we marveled at a runner known as “Fatso.” Fatso ran faster as he gained weight. Fatso would also smoke when he ran. Fatso checked in at about six feet and an easy 250+ with a substantial paunch. Fatso was also in his early 40s. The group I ran with urged me to enter a road race that was being sponsored by the nurses association at the VA. First road race I was ever in. Anyways I start to follow Fatso who ran a fairly consistent seven minute mile. He has his son along riding a bike and handing him beers. He was running, drinking and smoking. I will brag and say I managed to finish 11th overall and 3rd in my age group and that was with over 300 runners. Fatso did very well coming in around 42 minutes.

There was a restaurant in Brockton called Sciliano’s that use to sponsor a road race each year and they had a heavyweight division in honor of Rock Marciano. You had to be over 200 pounds for that division. The year I ran that race Fatso blew away the heavyweight division. He was a genetic marvel.

Now Fatso brings up an interesting point and that is that he conditions his most important muscle his heart. His habits may certainly depreciate the value of that but somehow I imagine he is still lounging around somewhere smoking a pack a day and swilling beer. An exception no doubt. But one can be over weight and in good shape. It seems like a contradiction but I have seen too many examples to show that it can happen. Through the years I have played sports against many who may resemble a pear in shape but actually were in very good shape despite the extra baggage. Some have actually been high end in sports in high school and college from swimming to tennis to track and to basketball. The level of performance may have sunk a bit but that endurance is still there - a bit less but still present. I just get the prejudice opinion on my part that weight - and I am not talking obese - is just a bit overblown if you exercise on a regular basis especially cardio.

Who is Kelly Gneiting? He is an American Sumo who checks in north of 400 pounds. Kelly managed to run or at least waddle the LA Marathon in 9:48:52 and that may be a record for the heaviest man to run a marathon. It has been submitted to Guinness.

In the great Woody Allen movie “Sleeper” he runs the Happy Carrot Health Food store only to wake up 200 years in the future to be informed that all those bad habits such as smoking have actually proven to be beneficial. Oh the irony of it all!

I’m sure the airlines will soon charge by the pound. If you are now a certain size you may be required to buy two seats so you can plant your bulk. Sometimes airlines will just place you in a seat with a vacant seat next to you if a vacant seat is available. Some lucky ones actually get a first class upgrade but the airlines are probably cautious on the amount of vittles they offer them.

As I get older the weight is not the issue but the distribution is since I weigh the same as I did - 172 pounds - as when I got married 37 years ago. However I now have a 36 inch waist to my pants rather than a 34 and sometimes will move into a 38 just since I like roomy comfort. Gravity is nasty!

My wife - The Lovely Cynthia - is on a perpetual diet and has been for about twenty or so years. A few pounds here and there and then back on. Maintaining is the best way to describe it. I exercise a lot so that is no problem unless I stop since those “extras” are burned off. With my first Achilles surgery I went from a few hours a day of full court basketball and eighty miles of running a week to nothing. I was use to taking in 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day so you can imagine the results. Thankfully it was “only” twenty pounds.

Massachusetts recently rated the counties in the state for which was healthiest and Plymouth County came in ninth and I’m sure Middleboro did its very best to contribute to that score. Nantucket came in as healthiest but they probably didn’t show anyone the price of housing as that would have brought on a coronary.

In the states the usual suspects for the lard award are located in the south with old favorites Mississippi and Alabama using racing calorie for calorie to see just who can weigh in as the winner.

Now there is a certain amount of encouragement to just eat and eat and all you have to look at is “Do you want that Super Sized?” If that fails just take a look in The Yellow Pages under buffets. Meals in this country are notorious large. Several years ago in Helotes Texas the local McDonald’s would “Texas Size” your meal and that included a 44 OZ drink container loaded with French fries. Now Helotes is a suburb of San Antonio but when you travel the highways down that way there is an almost endless selection of fast food places. On the Bandera Highway from Helotes to Loop 1604 is a mere five miles but I’ve counted four Bill Miller Bar-B-Que’s and at least five Taco Cabana restaurants. Around here DD proliferates but that is only one chain. Just think of running the gamut of multiple FF chains all with a convenient drive thru.

On our last trip to NYC we had the new nanny police menus that have calorie counts included in the product description. I am still attempting to fathom how a salad can have 1,800 calories. My wife - The Lovely Cynthia - just thought this was a wonderful idea and it guided her selections. I let my palate guide me. But I recently saw a piece on TV where the calories listings had no impact on food selection and may actually have an adverse one. Seems some folks will look at a $12.99 meal with 1,500 C and one with 900 C and opt for the 1,500 C as a way of getting more “value.”

The human body really wants to get fat. We’re wired that one from back in the day when between meals could be measured in days and not hours and to quote a line from Rambo “trained to eat things that would make a Billy-Goat puke,” so the body always wanted to have a fat reserve incase food became sparse. That is always hovering around in our genetics.

My wife - you know who - is an ardent viewer of two shows on TV that are part of that morning - afternoon viewing time that focus on a female audience. One is “The Doctors” and the other is “Dr. Oz” and both can trace their roots back to Oprah Winfrey - that alone should make anything questionable. The Doctors focus on two subjects - sex and weight loss. Usually some type of gimmick is hosted upon the viewing audience via product placement. Some new beauty secret to make you 10 years younger or wrapped up in nutrition with the idea of losing weight via a book being pushed or some basic healthy eating ideas to at least attempt legitimacy while hawking products. It is all relatively harmless and I am sure the vast majority of the audience nods their collective heads in support and then promptly forget about it.

Dr. Oz has one of the most inane shows on TV that combines the theatrics of a low end quiz show with some apparent outtakes from a CSI show. I have watched the show and will say “He (they) are wrong” only to have my spouse jump to the defense of the fraudulent information. I merely guide over and do a quick computer search to show a few thousand references to back me up. I find Oz has a bit of humiliation and personal degradation in his show but that is just me. With both the shows I have a steady stream of negativity before they even start. I almost disagree even when I agree.

So today you can watch the marathon and enjoy or do like I do and go out for a relating run or walk and pay no attention to the fact that a major world class city becomes not the Hub of The Universe but the Hub of Inconvenienc

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

G & E - Again!

If problems are not addressed they exacerbate themselves such as personal health, repairing your house or examining the performance and management of a municipal utility.

The G&E meeting of Tuesday started out with a procedure I have never seen - a sign in sheet. My first reaction was I must now keep a jaundice eye on my bill - being the trusting soul that I am.

Mr. Granahan immediately issued his apology with several "I was wrong comments" but that is just not going to cut it as far as a detailed examination of the operation is concerned. That will take place. This just is not a "Let's move on situation" but a "Let's take a real close look situation."

Their budget has to be examined. Procurement procedures examined. Take a long look at job descriptions, qualifications, salaries, benefits, pensions, employee evaluation procedures, management perks, commissioner perks, and just about anything else that needs public scrutiny. Then they need to do some serious comps to see if Middleboro is the municipal exception or the municipal standard for both rates and employment issues.

What this comes down to is rates. Are we paying more than we should thanks to mismanagement or excessive expenses? Former Selectman Lincoln Andrews questioned why he pays less in Bridgewater per kilowatt than Middleboro charges. Former Selectman Adam Bond questioned the redundancy issue on legal representation especially paying for someone with limited experience in open meeting law and public records. Both questioned the competency of Mr. Granahan especially with his rather generous compensation package. A rate payer and Selectman Allin Frawley questioned the sick leave policy as reported in The Enterprise. I found it rather strange that management addresses bad behavior - excessive questionable sick leave - by a reward system. So now employees who are sick come to work and make others sick or risk safety since their performance may not be 100%? These are all important issues that directly relate back to operations, management and rate payer costs.

Why did it take the aggressiveness of a new commissioner to get this rolling? Why did the other commissioners display such a reluctant attitude in having Mr. Granahan do what was both right and legal? Is this stagnation that comes with a complacent attitude?

The G & E needs a financial and procedural audit.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Middleboro G & E?

A few weeks ago Charlie Cristello, the Middleboro Town Manager, had a visitor from the Enterprise who requested some information that is public record. Charlie simply wrote it down on a piece of paper and answered every question asked. This centered around his very own contract. The Enterprise has been having a very public ongoing battle with another community regarding access to public records and wanted to simply check out responses from various communities.

The recent election had as a major issue transparency. Business being done in public. Inquiring minds might want to know and if it is public information do it.

Now you come to our local G & E that seems to operate under rules that defy public access but also common sense. The Enterprise had a rather interesting article about how the manager John Granahan has managed to go into some type of corporate lock down over his contract, payroll information and the budget. Unlike the TM he has a different set of rules. Mike Solimni, a commissioner, has not been able to get the information. I can just imagine telling a CFO or a CEO to "buzz off" if they asked for corporate information from an underling. The diss of Solimini is a diss of rate payers.

Town Counsel has said they do not see the light (pun intended)in regards to releasing information that should be readily available. This stonewalling has also impacted other town officials who need the information for such foolishness as accountability and with a key phrase being the town (us) will be responsible for all G & E debt.

I called up several municipal power companies to question what they do. What policy do they have? It all came down to two words - public record. Mr. Granahan claims his contract contains "Proprietary information" and as one pundit said "What does it contain? The formula for cold fusion?" I didn't bother to ask procedures as just the fact that they realized honoring a request was their responsibility.

What other towns do is just a useful point of reference in case municipal unities have some type of Skull and Crossbones society going on but the core issue remains the same - the management style of Mr. Granahan.

Now their web site does have information such as their annual report but only as far as 2005. They do have open meetings but what good are meetings that are open when the information requested is not open?

The G & E seems - at least to this novice - to do a reasonable job of keeping rates low, servicing the power grid and contributing to the community but I just wonder if the manager is running another local fiefdom?

Saturday, April 2, 2011


The voting results were a total vaporization of the previous regime on the BOS as Allin Frawley and Ben Quelle both came in at about 3-1 over sitting members of the BOS. Marsha Brunelle actually finished 4th. A very distant fourth but close to her cohort Marsha.

Being a cheap shot artist that I am I can take my stick and once again poke it into the bees nest but the bees have no sting. IMO the arrogance that Marsha displayed accompanied by an equal strain or one that even exceeded hers was demonstrated by her husband and that was what finally got the enough is enough vote out. The connection was impossible to avoid. Now if I actually had a gracious bone in my body I would do the yada, yada, yada feel good and thank you for your service lecture but why should I change now?

Marsha Brunelle has a world of experience on various towns boards and especially the BOS but an increasing number of folks who tune in on Monday have obviously become disenchanted by the way she conducts business at the local government house. Just maybe someone will dig out a worn copy of Robert's Rules and some semblance of structure will return. One cannot dismiss the impact that her ill conceived attempt at controlling the dialogue on Monday played out and that issue certainly had "legs." What happens is a cumulative effect where time on the board has a tendency to build up animosity. Folks do have a tendency to remember the negative and give it more value than remembering the positive and there seemed a whole world of negative swirling around the last several years.

Marsha also represented being the point person on the recent rent control issue and we saw meetings filled with seniors who were just plain pissed off. Old folks - of which I guess I am now classified - vote and pissed off ones make it a point to "encourage" their offspring in the town to also vote with certain reminders about wills, inheritance and any other conceivable means of arm twisting. Case in point, of course, would be Moi and his wife - The Lovely Cynthia.

I was reading an interesting and rather dated science fiction book by Eric Frank Russell called "The Space Willies." That was quite prophetic considering the outcome of the race for BOS. A significant amount of "credit" for MiMi being now classified as BOS detritus can certainly find some type of time line that flows back to candidates night and the attempt by her own Willy to do a rather poorly conceived gotcha question.

In The Herald a few days ago an article about attempts by Democrat operatives regarding Scott Brown had the following quote by Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia: “The Democrats have got to dig up some dirt because they don’t have any alternative.” That is what Willy Duphily attempted to do with his pointed question to Frawley regarding CPA and Frawley's renter status. I have no idea of what the logic was behind the question. Now one would suspect that an effort would be made by a questioner to bring forward a well thought out and relevant question and not one that seems to have been found in some rubbish bin that is rambling loose in the frontal lobe. This is now the Duphily version of "cheap seats."

So we no longer will have MiMi to watch at BOS meetings unless she is in the audience or passing out cupcakes and possibly flowers. As I have stated before a political appendix. Now MiMi may be a wonderful person and maybe even to some locals a budding Mother Theresa but the reality is being a good person does not necessarily translate into being a competent member of the BOS. MiMi appeared ill at ease and out of her element. I rarely found even the slightest hint of a cognizant comment emanating from her slot on the board. The term that comes to mind is empty pants suit. Thank you, Willy!

Allin and Ben are sure not to please me 100% and I would certainly not expect that. I've met Ben a few times and watched him on candidates night and he is no slouch. This was no coattail win by Ben as he more than carried his share of the day.

Allin has put in an exceptional effort for both the campaign and his service to the town. This will be a learning process for him as it will be for Ben but both have the patience and intellect to do the job. I know Allin will do his homework and when a issue takes place he will certainly hone up on it - no deer the headlights look.

This result clearly shows that the casino issue is no longer a Middleboro litmus test for a candidate. Long gone. See ya!