Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kansas City

Kansas City is the annual Red Sox road trip and this year on both the visit side and the baseball side it was quite successful.

We stay at son #2’s place in Leavenworth and you can’t beat the price - free. He’s former army and his neighborhood is interesting as it is a five year old development sprinkled with current and retired military.

Leavenworth is a base town and also a prison town with military, federal and state prisons numbering six. Many former military - such as my son - work in corrections, the VA or on the base as civilian security. The entire community revolves around this with special emphasis on the military. Just the names of local establishments, the constant displays of flags and all the special discount offers that go with being military.

You know you are in a different environment when the front page of the paper has a picture of a high school principal doing a repelling course as he participates in a Junior ROTC Program. Imagine ROTC in our high schools. Probably have the ACLU and soccer moms going ballistic.

Touring in KC area is always an adventure since it is not exactly a tourist hotspot. This time my wife - The Lovely Cynthia - had to do some touring with herself and another deserted spouse while we attended games. But three games were at night so the baseball escape route was rather limited. We did take in the HST Library again and spent some time at a wonderful museum in St. Josephs called the Patee House. Eclectic collection that took hours to tour. The city also had a Civil War festival going on and that took some time.

The ladies did manage a few shopping trips and the movies as we attended the night games. They also paid a visit to the HST homestead in Independence right near the HST Library. A potential visit to tha Jazz Hall of Fame and Negro League Museum did not materialize. Both are great to tour.

KC is Bar-B-Que and we were not disappointed. A small place was near my son’s house. Located on a country road with a dusty parking lot and a dumpster out front it didn’t look like much. The mimeographed menu was quite limited with about five sides and five dishes. My wife thought the brisket and three ribs would not be worth it since it was $10.95 and the ribs would be those baby backs. She took the small ribs cut instead. These ribs looked like something Fred Flintstone would eat. I ate the brisket and managed two ribs and gave up.

Now no adventure by Bogo is complete without a whiny complaint and mine is the ballpark. Great place except for one detail - they don’t do any replays of anything positive by the opposition. Ellsbury made a great catch so they show the run scoring on a sac fly. Larvarnway hit’s a wall double that looked like a HR but how could we even get our view with no replay? Great defensive plays totally ignored. This happens every year we go. I have complained before so why stop now? Just go up the food chain.

I spoke to the Direction for Fan Relations one Carrie Bligh and expressed my issues. That with some blind spots on the sight lines certain plays need a replay. In Boston every play is replayed as long as it meets the MLB guidelines. Most other parks do it. And in baseball a good play should be recognized even if it is by the opposition. I also mentioned that the owner is David Glass a former high level official with WalMart. And WM just prides it self on customer service.

Ms. Bligh fully agreed and said that at their end of year meeting this will be her priority on input from her side.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Paid Details

It is a rather simple sign shaped just like a stop sign and attached to the end of a long pole. One side has in red letters stop and the other side has in green letters go. A workman just moves the sign to inform traffic how to proceed in a construction site. I see this in my travels all over the country but with one exception - Massachusetts.

Here we have one of the most pronounced handouts to a union that I can imagine. It is called the paid detail and it can be the source of substantial pay to police. I have often wondered why I see multiple state police cruisers at work sites with officers not visible that often outside the cruiser. The lights provide that moth type attracted to drivers who are careless or have ingested too much alcohol or drugs and seems to have been responsible for a rash of tragic incidents in the last year or so.

On the local level the paid details will usually be found hovering around a G & E “work” crew to direct traffic and generally insure that the hole is properly excavated. Now the usual justification is it is a safety issue and we simple citizens should be content to have such well trained law enforcement officers in the general vicinity to make sure no evil doers or miscreant drivers create any “issues.” The retired officers especially look in prime physical condition to handle any problems that may occur.

Recently BB and I were returning from a running foray and were cruising along route 28 when a work site appeared. I could see the cones out and, of course, the mountainous G & E truck that was the usual hive of activity with a G & E crew. I slowed. Neither BB nor myself had the slightest idea if we were being waved forward. The arm signal could not be seen with the glare so I crept forward until I realized that there was actually a half hearted effort to signal us to scurry along. After running the gauntlet of cones we came across the second member of the detail who I noticed was deep in conversation with someone in a cruiser. I am sure the topic for discussion was advanced law enforcement techniques.

Attempts have been made to at least diminish the fiscal impact of this golden goose with the latest being by the Patrick Administration. From what I have read the savings are about nil so I guess it’s the thought that counts.

I know a few years back the administrators in Halifax attempted to eliminate paid details. Not sure if the chief was involved or this was some type of austerity program implemented to contain cots. I’m not sure if this was during the Benjamino regime and they may have been forced to find pennies elsewhere to fork out cash to their spiffy ambulance service.

Paid details will probably be with us forever. When I discuss it with officers in other states it usually results in inquiring about job possibilities, housing costs and the weather. But what I would like to see is a simple concession to logic - get those freaking stop/go signs so I have a clue of what you are doing.

Alone the legal front comes another jury that was sent down from the mother ship to make judgment. This one found one Albert Arroyo innocent of fraud which, specifically, was collecting a disability from the Boston Fire Department for an “on the job injury.” Now this “bad back” made it impossible for him to work even at a desk job or fire prevention but it did not stop him from competitive body building or palying hard ball baseball.

Albert also claimed during the trial that the union encouraged him to file for a disability. I just can’t imagine a public service union doing that!

I actually followed this trial and assumed it was a slam dunk but now you just never know. I have no idea what this brain dead jury was doing and the decision is just incomprehensible to me. So Albert will continue to collect 65 large each year for the rest of his life.

I have now lost count of the number of union inspired materials I have received from the Brunelle campaign. As a retired teacher my wife and I have been inundated with the usual MTA fliers. Brunelle is the education candidate? No....he is the one that will be able to do the bidding for the MTA just like his sponsor Pacheco has done.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ecomomy and Other

How dare those unknown faces at S & P downgrade our credit rating and put a damper on economic growth. The reality is they are just responding what we have done to ourselves. If you had an income of say 100K and a debt of 500K does that make you a 3A risk? No way! It is not the TP who was willing to set the government crashing against the fiscal rocks but a string of incompetent and compliant members of congress and the executive branch. Blame the messenger does not work.

When Obama appeared before the teleprompters the other day to help calm our growing fears something struck me. I put in the back of my mind as just a quirk on my part until Margery Egan and a few internet commentators pointed out the same. Obama appeared scared. I watched him on the internet and that was my reaction. A president who knew everything his administration has attempted has failed. A president who knew he was in way over his head. A president who left immediately afterwards for a political fund raiser.

Will the latest mess result in a new Congress? I firmly believe it will result in a new president as leadership goes well beyond the ability to present yourself well and talk a good game. I wonder if the Tea Party will be part of those swept out or if somehow Republican and Democrats running will attempt to adopt some of the TP fiscal agenda?

Why this administration is a wreck. David Alexrold a flack for Obama blames the whole fiscal mess on the TP. A recent comment I read said: “They spend money we do not have, and then they blame all the people who want to cut spending.”

As gas prices crash the one thing that pops up is our legislature and illustrious governor considering a raise in the gas tax.

The futures traders in oil have really gotten killed in the last two weeks. Many are sitting on $110 a barrel contracts and have been forced to liquidate other assets to cover and that includes investment houses and hedge funds. So that just adds to the frenzy.

There is actually profit to be made in a cash is king environment. Many stocks have shown substantial declines and for the five star companies out there undervalued is some real bargains. I like Boeing (BA), Alcoa (AA), General Electric (GE) and Morgan Stanley (MS).

Trickle down is the old RR song and dance that Democrats loved to tap dance all over especially the more liberal element within the party. Of course they were willing to use the same logic behind the Stimulus measures but just attempt to frame it differently but you have seen and will continue to see a rather negative trickle down. Anyone that is a member of FinCom, SC or the BOS sees it constantly. The state reduces a program and then the town gets stuck. Or the stte gets stuck when the feds do the same and it then trickles down from them to where the buck stops - us. Usually these programs have an “M” to designate mandated,

The international debt crisis has its foundation firmly rooted in socialism. The cradle to grave has a bill to pay and when too much is given and too little comes in borrowing takes place. And when a government realizes the insanity has to be moderated you have riots as in Greece. Now when this eventually happens in this country do I chain myself to the nursing home or burn my Social Security card in protest?

The AARP set to which I belong meaning over age 50 has tremendous political clout. There are a lot of us and we vote. Many younger folks do not - probably working too hard to pay my SS? Anyways, it will be interesting to see how energized the over 50 set is to rewarding themselves at the expense of everyone else. IMO the over 50 set is by far the most politically savvy group in this country and will be key for making the decisions that will impact for the next fifty years. If all holds true they will step up and take a hit “for the children.”

I just wonder if congress is capable on making revisions needed to the tax code. What can be done to make it more attractive for corporations to invest in the U.S.? What loopholes will have to be addressed? Eventually a tax hike is almost a given. I hate the idea but we will be in a hole with no way out. Everyone should get nicked and maybe a few nicked a wee bit more than others. No way anyone either GE or a citizen should pay zero taxes.

This generally runs counter to my own personal philosophy that the government has enough revenue but does not allocate it wisely. They screwed up. We have hired and fired them and they still screw up so giving into their spending addiction is questionable.

Talking heads are always discussing all the intricate programs that home in on a variety of statistical data that results in automated computer trading. Machines betting against each other? The response is so quick that huge blocks of stock can be bought, sold, bought and sold in a matter of minutes. This seems to be a significant issue on volatile trading days and I wonder about one point the “experts” don’t mention. On my laptop I have a button to turn the thing off. Years ago when I worked with massive mainframes - some of the biggest in the world - we had a lever that was labeled: Power on/off.

The Fed will keep a lock on their interest rates for two years so that is some level of stability.

I had several economics courses in college and if you really want to mess with you mind for a day or two read up on Keynesian economics and the negative and positive positions on it. Toss in all the other various schools of economic though and theory and then realize that these are the folks running the economic show. That’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Why do we fight two wars? We now have a mess in Afghanistan with a measured with drawl taking place. At the end of WW II the U.S. packed up and left. Equipment was left behind and some of it was some great stuff used for decades my scavengers from other nations. What is stopping our government from simply commandeering civilian aircraft and doing a reverse Berlin Airlift? Is it our “Word?” A bad war becomes a horrible war when it continues without resolution in view or any firm and attainable objectives. Just leave Afghanistan. Maybe put it on travel sites for those wishing to view life in the 17th century.

The defenders of the failed administration seem to just be in a constant snit over the reporting on FOX. I guess what passes for reporting on CNBC and MSNBC is acceptable?

The MBTA is nine billion in the hole. That’s their debt. Now there are reports they have been unable to pay claims against the “T.” Some have waited well over a year. The MBTA is a wonderful hack dumping ground that is certainly on a par with MassPort and the Lottery. BB wants to carry on about excessive pensions and benefits those three hack paradises would keep him blogging into the 22nd century.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Beer/EBT/Safer/Personal Racism

Craft Brewers are the latest to get screwed over in the convoluted regulations that seem to impede business and job growth at every step in Massachusetts. Regulations would almost mandate the purchasing of a Manufactures License since they could not necessarily meet the requirements for a Farmers License regarding using locally grown hops. Some of these small brewers are living on the edge as all expect to be the next Sam Adams but fall short. Some fail and some plug along with a nice work force, a quality product and a reasonable profit. All that seems to go out the door when the regulatory police step in. Does anyone actually sit down with these people? Do they actually look at the consequences of their actions? These are not polluters dumping who knows what in the middle of the night but small businessmen and women being strangled by an unresponsive and no thinking government.

I saw an article the other day in the Enterprise where new legislation is aimed towards attempting to curb some of the more elegant ways those using the automated welfare cards - EBT - spend their or is it our money. Seems that alcohol and cigs can be purchased but what is interesting is the rampant abuse. The Boston Herald ran their usual dump on the poor or disadvantaged or downtrodden or however you wish to describe the recipients series of articles or exposes several months ago. The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming on abuse and fraud in the entire system. Lax controls and easily to manipulate scams abound.

In Brockton I have a rental property and near the property is a convenience store owned and operated by “Jeff.” “Put a camera in my store for 24 hours and put it on TV” is his usual rant. If it was up to “Jeff” he probably would not allow half the purchases that go through his store but the last thing he needs in his life is some heat coming down on him from some governments agency charging discrimination. His biggest complaint is the prices that folks pay at his store when a Shaw’s is less than a mile away. “Why would someone do $40 worth of shopping from me when they can get the same from Shaw’s for $25? I’ve seen people come in and do that and drive away. I’ve seen them buy stuff and then go out the door and sell it for peanuts to get cash.”

And speaking of Brockton I just think of the total mess that they have regarding past due water bills. The spin from the city officials - especially the water department - is to try and place as much onus as possible on the homeowners. Well enough information has surfaced to show that the most significant problem in the entire mess is not the homeowners but the sloppy operation and billing practices of the water department.

S & P downgraded the U.S. rating but it was not based on the ability to pay but the ability to reach a consensus. Congress reminds me of two pubescent girls fighting over a Justin Beiber autograph. Now several years ago Japan had a downgrade and the financial experts stated that the result would be an increase in bond interest rates but just the opposite happened. The only ones in Washington that seem to have a clue are the Tea Party members. Oh how I hate to say that but I give them there props.

Bad economic sign #3,786 is that consumer borrowing is at its highest level in four years.

“Throw the bums out” seems to be the prevailing logic in dealing with the morass of inefficiency that is Washington. If I recall that has been tried the last two election cycles. Maybe third time is a charm?

A golden opportunity is at hand to revise our tax codes. Maybe actually not punish folks for making wise financial decisions?

The economic mess of 2008 took most 401(k)’s the last three years to recover. Now comes the latest blip and what may happen is a massive sell off that will really cause a tumble as folks get gun shy.

The Red Sox banged out another series against NY on the plus side. In 12 games it is now 10 wins but all that is meaningless as the two baseball titans are on a playoff collision course.

The Patriots seem to be collecting a few players of questionable character.

The Safer Grant appears in trouble as our vagabond fire chief has managed to get the whole process questioned. Now his Sharon gig supposedly fell apart over a residency restriction so why didn’t he just have a time frame for a move, then get it extended and then get another job?

With the double dip recession or is it just one very long recession the mood of taxpayers is going to be rather interesting. Look for public service employees to have a nice target on their backs. The pensions and benefits exceed that of the DPS (Dreaded Private Sector) so when cuts are mentioned by Joe and Jane taxpayer you know who and what will be targeted.

I have written to many politicians about adjustments to traditional 401(k)’s in regards to substantial losses some have incurred. These are tax deferred but it would be rather easy to target losses and make an adjustment based on either new tax policy or adjusting old policy. The idea is the money would grow and for many it has not. Some are forced into minimal withdrawal on greatly reduced portfolio’s. Barney Frank’s office has repeatedly refused to even respond to the issue and Scott Brown is just the opposite.

On a recent trip I had the opportunity to board the bus that Rosa Parks did her thing on and even sat in the very seat. It caused a flood of memories of when I was exposed to that “Quaint Custom” as a teenager. More on that below.

On a talk show the commentator was talking about a conversation he had while getting his coffee “With a lovely Chinese lady.” I have no idea why that was even pertinent to the topic. I doubt he would say “I had a conversation with a lovely White woman.”

Years ago two of my very liberal friends were commenting on the Obama speech given at the Democratic convention. I have heard them comment many times on other speakers but they both said “He was so articulate.” I chuckled to myself thinking what do they really mean? We found a Black guy who can speak a sentence with Ebonics?

I taught with someone many years ago who was Black and a forceful speaker. He told me when he got a comment like that his usual retort was “And I am house broken, too.”

When I speak to a person who is different in color or ethnic background what registers first is - and I will focus on color - Black. What I have to do is set makers in my mind to take all stereotypes and keep them locked away and make judgments based on what takes place. I have discussed this trait with folks other than White and have discovered it appears universal. Maybe a form of universal racism? Maybe just human nature?

I remember many years ago being in Charleston for several months. I was about fourteen years of age and my parents were spending some time in the area while my father set up a business. In those days you would take the bus everywhere and I remember boarding the bus to take me to the area of the movie theaters. I always loved to sit in the back where you had these round seats. Very roomy so I went and plopped myself down.

After a few minutes the bus halted and the driver scurried to the back. “What are you doing there, boy?” I responded with a simple “Sitting, sir.” “You not from around here are you, boy?” “No…I’m from Massachusetts.” So he says “Those seats is for the Nigras!” “What’s a Nigra?” “Those is colored folks, boy, now you move you ass down front or I’ll toss you off the bus!”

I remember the separation as you had the various signs that said “Colored” and “White” on restrooms and fountains. I remember having dinner at the house of a prominent Black who was a scrap dealer that my father would sell his scrape to. This man was wealthy and lived in a large home that was in a Black neighborhood. The irony is we could go to his home without incident but he could not go to ours. My father didn’t give a damn about color except green.

I experienced many other such demonstrations while down south and in the years that followed discussed with many folks of color about it. I was always shocked to hear so many with southern roots say in many ways it was better than the north. Up here it was all under the surface and hidden with smiles and platitudes. Down there you knew it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Tax free weekend has surfaced with its usual attendant list of just exactly qualifies. I noted our illustrious members up “On The Hill” went full bore to get this done much the same as they went full bore to raise the sales tax.

If they wish a real sales tax holiday extend it to big ticket items.

New Hampshire does not have tax free holidays since every day is a tax free holiday.

On a recent trip to the Midwest we spent much time on the Eastern Time Zone cusp of the great divide. Loved the idea that the sun was setting a bit past 9PM as I’d take that trade off versus a early sun rise.

The Enterprise has raised their prices and my wife - The Lovely Cynthia - refuses to scuttle this worthless mess that Gatehouse created. Alice does a wonderful job covering local news but as a regional daily the Enterprise now relies on wire stories and is just symptomatic of what one sees in the news biz.

As weeklies go the Gazette is still top notch. I love to get local weeklies when I travel since they are a find mix of local kitsch, hard news, hilarious letters and some quite pointed editorials. I would say over the years I have seen at least a hundred weeklies and the Gazette is right up with the very, very best.

On news stories I have noticed a migration through the years where opinions now surface in hard news reporting. This was once a big no no and a guarantee to have the news editor get all over you. No more. I have no idea if this represents a “policy” shift?

Rupert Murdock is getting some heat over the excesses of his tabloids. This seems to be motivated more for political payback than anything else especially with the weepy eyed liberal set tired of getting their philosophical clocks cleaned by FOX.

Ohio seems to really “get it” with building a trail system or at least the Miami River area does. This area is about the size of Southeastern Massachusetts but has 283 miles of paved trails and about 3,000 miles of hiking trails within the various Metro Parks. Now these trails are in pristine condition in that they are scenic, well drained, are well marked, have rest areas and bridges where applicable. Many are handicapped accessible.

Now in Michigan they do the same. Along I-275 and I-70 there were paved bikeways next to the highway. In the latest issue of Rails To Trails magazine they highlight the Michigan trail system. As with Ohio many of the systems interconnect and there seems to be a concerted effort by the state, local government and private organizations to make this happen.

In Massachusetts we have some marvelous trail systems for both hiking and biking but often large swatches are not connected. On the sidebar of this blog I do have a list of sites which detail some of the trails and as an ardent runner/explorer I have become quite adept at searching them out. I use to use old railroad maps, power line systems and equestrian places but with the internet you have an explosion of information provided by bikes (motorized and manual), hikers and just plain nature lovers.

On out trip we finished it off with a visit to the Columbus, Ohio zoo. Now I have some real issues with animal servitude and have heard all the pluses many, many times but still find something repulsive about the whole concept. That said I have visited zoos of all sizes just about everywhere I have traveled and this one may be on the top of my list.

First off is the price. Quite reasonable. Then you have a nice layout that is easy to follow. The food is good by zoo standards and quite reasonable. We had a salad and small drink combo (16 ounces) for $5.99. The place is clean and well maintained and best of all a great place to take kids. Much of the area is really kid oriented with hands on activities. Plenty of parking, too, and at $5.

What really set this zoo apart is they have a water park complete with several kids rides. Interesting concept.

The zoo also has many kids employed who would fit into the category of developmentally delayed and they usually partner up with other kids and are assigned to areas such as the various petting zoo areas which litter the place.

TSA is always a wonder to me regarding just how the agents interact with the public. TSA at Columbus was exceptionally professional and I have found the same at Fortress Logan in Boston. But I could make a very long list - too long - of places where any reasonable manager focused on customer service would probably can the lot of them.

Water rates going up in Middleboro. Does this mean we are getting hosed?

This July I have noticed a proliferation of weeds in our garden. July is usually relatively weed free but not this year. We have managed to stay ahead of the onslaught - for now.

The battle my son has had with the woodchuck appears over with the woodchuck being victorious. My wife - the you know who - was petrified about some of the measures he was contemplating regarding possible ways to have a demise of the woodchuck. Her solution was to fence in crops, plant things it does not want and even plant on the periphery of the garden its own buffet. Wonderful. What a kind lady.

OK….Mr. Woodchuck burrowed under multiple fences including all that had deep rock emplacement and snacked on her beets, squash and a few other items. My how the perspective changes when it gets personal.

I usually use a hoe (the manual tool - LOL) to weed in areas that are fairly open. I also use a smaller spade shaped hoe to get close to the plants. To my wife this is just the very last thing you do. I guess you could say she is a non hoe? Anyways at Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan is replica farms. On one farm set in the 1885 time period they were in the fields with - you guessed it - hoes! I ask “Excuse me sir, is that instrument you are using called a hoe? Is it specifically designed to removed weeds with breaking ones back?” His reply “Yes, it is. It makes the task easier and saves a lot of labor.” Now an experienced male would not have turned to his wife and said “I told you so” and I didn’t. I merely turned and smiled and listened to her blabber on about why the period farmer was wrong.

Now this visit was also before the woodchuck devastated her garden so I asked another “farmer” how they handled that situation? He didn’t come right out and give a direct answer but said they handle it the same way farmers have handled varmints since the first seeds were planted 10,000 or so years ago.

Certain local bloggers enjoy various diatribes at the pension system of pubic employees. Well the COLA just came through for the teachers and it is what it always is an increase of 3% on the first $12,000. Over the years this will certainly erode benefits so even those on the public you know what need a 401(K). But that is better than my Social Security COLA that amounted to zero.

IMO the “Concessions” will be minimal from the fire department union. Their main focus is job security and protection of wages and benefits. The safety concerns that have been highlighted at the various public forums and most pronounced by firefighters are accurate but if you wish to do the walk give some real serious wage concessions - otherwise it is just a way of expanding union presence.

Marc Pacheco is suppose to or has endorsed Roger, Jr. Look for the union label on this one. Pacheco is the number one water boy for public service unions in this state so that is no surprise. Pacheco is also an avid proponent for expanded gaming so I would think that could be another reason. Nothing like going to all those union boys and girls who were panting after casino jobs and telling them that Allin was an active mover in the anti movement.