Friday, January 18, 2019

Politics of Personal Destruction

Alas, things have not been going well for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, with labor unrest its latest headache even as declining ads and readership have reduced the publication's size on some days to a step above a glorified pamphlet. It has been a challenging time for all newspapers, especially those in the mid-range level like the DHG.

Lacking the deep pockets of a media conglomerate overlord like the Springfield Republican, while still too big to hunker down in the grassroots like The Reminder Publications, the DHG is almost the poster child for a paper on the brink of crisis. Its demise would be a local media disaster, as that would also sink the sister papers it also produces, the already considerably downsized and scaled back Valley Advocate, plus the long struggling Greenfield Recorder and Amherst Bulletin.

Happily, the DHG and its media step-children (the Advocate, the Recorder and the Bulletin were once independent publications before the DHG rescued them from their death spiral) are refusing to go down without a fight. They have been seeking new ways to expand their readership base, and have recently made an overt overture to a group that they have to this point pretty much ignored, if not outright ridiculed - Pioneer Valley political conservatives.

That is a potential audience larger than you might think. For example, 1,870 residents of Northampton voted for Donald Trump, who also got another 1,233 votes in cobalt-blue Amherst. 3,140 Trump voters reside in Belchertown, while another 3,254 can be found in South Hadley. Trump beat Clinton in Granby outright, all just part of the 1,083,069 voters in the State of Massachusetts who rode the Trump Train in 2016.

In the 2018 midterms, not once did I hear a single statement from any of the cookie-cutter liberals elected across our Valley, that seemed designed to address or even to acknowledge the existence of their thousands of GOP constituents. Yet all the winning candidates were continually prattling the buzzword "inclusion" throughout their campaign speeches and literature. I guess their brand of inclusion includes only their fellow lefties.

To their credit, the DHG, hoping to attract the interest of right leaning readers, has put out a call for conservatives to submit columns for consideration to appear on their editorial pages. You would think that local Republican/conservative activists would jump at the chance to join the DHG's lonely current conservative, Dr. Jay Fleitman. Yet, it appears no one from the Right has stepped forward. Why not? Brian Cooper of Sunderland thinks he has a clue, as expressed in this letter that was published in the DHG last Friday.

It has been expressed on these pages in the past several months that the Gazette is lacking — and seeking — a greater diversity of opinion. The new editor put down words to this effect at the outset of her role, and more recently, columnist Jay Fleitman set off his usual firestorm of responses by criticizing the paper for its perceived failure in this regard thus far.

It’s no secret that the general editorial tone of the Gazette and much of its readership is well to the left of center. But it only seems appropriate that in a community where diversity and inclusivity are so tremendously valued that we also seek diversity in thoughts and ideas. But do we?

Go check out some of the doctor ratings websites to see how that’s been working out for Dr. Fleitman and his medical practice. He has dozens of votes between several of those forums where he’s been given the lowest possible rating, some with comments specifically denouncing his newspaper column, votes which skew downward the overall score of his business in the eyes of prospective patients. Having accompanied a family member in need of assistance to Dr. Fleitman’s office and sat through several appointments with him, I can attest that he is both a thorough doctor and a kind, compassionate man. I draw the conclusion that most of the negative reviews came from the disgruntled readers of his column and not from actual patients.

In other words, local people in our community are deliberately and maliciously trying to have a negative effect on his ability to earn a living because they disagree with the opinions he expresses outside of his business.

Dave Ratner of Soda and Pet City fame must know this narrative all too well. As reported here and elsewhere, he was threatened with a massive boycott of his pet food stores by people enraged that he would dare accept an invitation to a White House ceremony to represent a trade association of small business owners he’s active with. Proof of his dance with the devil was forever enshrined in a photograph that was published, depicting Dave appearing in the Roosevelt Room with the Bad Orange Man himself. That kicked up a hornet’s nest of hundreds of negative reviews of his business on Facebook, Yelp and elsewhere. Yelp caught onto the vandalism and pulled the plug on his page altogether until the swarm had moved onto something else to be offended by. Again, local people right here in our community were trying to snuff out someone’s life’s work and livelihood because of a perceived political position they didn’t like.

Also last year, when people participating in a protest in Northampton parked in a local auto repair shop owner’s business lot and their cars were towed, it was automatically assumed to be in direct retaliation for the protest itself. Dozens of online reviews of his business were left over the next several days making false claims of being cheated out of money, receiving shoddy auto repair work, and numerous personal attacks. All because local people in our community wished to punish a man and his ability to earn a living for assumptions they made about his politics.

Similar searches of online reviews of some of the academics and authors who contribute left-leaning work to the Gazette yield no such online mobbing whatsoever.

So I ask: What person in their right mind would voluntarily expose their livelihood and thereby their families to certain and malicious, mean-spirited attacks by contributing a regular, conservative opinion piece to this newspaper and the community it serves?

Brian Cooper

Pretty strong words, and every one of them true.

Meanwhile, I am glad to see that the blog Turtleboy won its first Amendment lawsuit in what is a victory for all who blog and step on the toes of public officials.

Turtleboy focuses primarily on Worcester area politics, especially the McGovern crime family which has dominated Worcester politics for years.

Turtleboy has been known to wander into Valley terrain.

The Turtleboy blog is named after Worcester's most famous statue, which features a naked teenager doing something with a turtle. Is he trying to capture it? Is he riding it?

The turtle doesn't look too happy.

At an art gallery this week:

Later, coffee downstairs at the Haymarket:

Explorations of the harmonically bizarre in Greenfield recently.

Springfield Logic

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


As you may have heard, Tumblr is now banning all content that they consider pornographic. It is part of a trend among many once edgy sites to de-pornify themselves so they can go big time mainstream. I have a Tumblr called Tumblin' Thomas but I thought the ban would have no effect on me, since I never post pornographic content, or so I thought. It turns out that Tumblr feels that at least a few of the things I've posted since I joined in 2013 no longer meet their decency standards. Who knew? Here are some of the offending images and a video.

Well okay, maybe this Easter greeting was a bit bold.

What on Earth? How can any image of Justin Bieber be considered obscene?


Um, no comment.

I thought this Friday the 13th post was funny, not dirty. (click to enlarge)

A 1981 picture of a shirtless Jim Neill talking on the phone is pornographic? It must have been the white jeans that sent the lust levels to unacceptable heights.

Then again, apparently their standards of what's obscene are sometimes quite accurate.

Finally, c'mon, this ain't pornie, it's cute!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Massachusetts Meltdown

People tell me of their adventures:

Aw, just a thought at the moment, I got a ticket a for improperly changing lanes, first one in years, then a few months ago got one for expired inspection sticker. I heard that if you appeal an expired inspection ticket in court, as long as you get it inspected by the court date and show up with it in court, they write it off, so that's what I decided to do, thinking I have to get it inspected by the court date.

Then, while waiting for the court date, I got pulled over again, and the cop said "I see you already got a ticket and haven't learned your lesson, here's another one." There's a stupid rule that if you get 3 tickets in two years - basically 3 tickets within 8 months of each other - which really isn't that many, if you think about it (esp if they foolishly include things like expired inspection or registration, which has nothing to do with actual driving) - you have to take a "drivers safety class." They actually looked at my history and saw that my first improper lane ticket actually contained two violations - which makes technically four violations in two years, so they are making me take the exact same class twice, at $150 a pop.

The woman at the registry still tried to defend it when I told her how obvious it was that it was all about money, which contributed to her being able to sit on her fat ass all day and answer these stupid questions about all these stupid rules.But whatever. Then, after sending in my first ticket to appeal it and realizing that they now add court surcharges to just appeal a ticket, and seeing that it was taking forever, I just went ahead and paid both inspections tickets online.

Next, I got a letter from Northampton court with my appeal date and had to call them up and say "I paid this" and was told "Okay, we'll have to take your word for it, because the registry doesn't let us know when people end up paying their tickets instead." (Oh really? And why the hell not? Kind of seems like they should, doesn't it?)

Then, a few weeks later, I get a letter from the registry about the second ticket, saying "Pay this ticket and all of these extra charges by this date or your license will be suspended etc." so I had to call them up and be put on hold forever to finally tell them that yes, i already paid that one, too. You see how it is? Their attention is all devoted to squeezing more money out of the populace, but not into taking responsibility once they get that money (i.e., making sure that everyone involved knows that something has been paid - that should be easy enough to do).

They can screw up as much as they want, but if you make any kind of mistake - with anything - you're fucked. I hate this state with a passion and all of its droves of stupid people and all of its silly ridiculous rules. All it takes is a little time somewhere else to realize how much this state sucks. Makes me want to move to New Mexico and take my stupid driver safety classes there and give them my money instead of the crappy state of Ass-o'-two-shits.

I really don't like it here. The land - yes. The people - no....except for a few.

- An Anonymous Soon to be Former Massachusetts Resident.

The antique shop under the old Augie's sometimes has things of interest to local historians.

Here is a 1958 poster from the American Bosch, once a major employer in these parts. It also lists an after-party at St. Ciro's at 274 Main Street in the Orchard.

I didn't stop in to check the price, but as of this morning it was still for sale.

The Bosch

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Merry

Downtown at dawn today as birds go by in flying V formation.

Jake's has painted their windows for the season.

Early morning customers at the Haymarket Cafe.

What's become of the baby this cold December morning? A Grateful Dead Christmas carol.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Return to NETA

Now that much of the hoopla has died down, I decided to pay a return visit to NETA, the Northampton marijuana shop. When I was there on Opening Day, there was a three hour wait in line to get in. I refuse to stand in such a line, so I've been holding off returning until the wait time went down.

Recently the media has been reporting that the lines have been shortened considerably, but could still be a half hour or more. I figured I should get something to eat before going to NETA so I wouldn't get hungry standing in line. Therefore, I stopped at the King Street McDonald's, which was shining in the morning sun as brightly as the American dream.

After leaving McDonald's, I headed downtown towards NETA. On the way, I passed the bar Hugo's, which was going out of business on that very day after having been open since 1970.

Oh well, I guess people will have to go to the Ol' Watering Hole, which is right nearby and only five years younger. Personally, I don't like the way things from the 1970's are now starting to be considered old.

When I got in arrived at NETA it was 11:24am and the line wasn't too long. The companionship among the others who were waiting with me was really quite amiable. The person in front of me told me they worked at the local post office, while the person behind me had driven over the border from upstate New York. I finally entered at 12:03pm, a wait of exactly 39 minutes.

Our prize for entering was a free apple.

The buyers are treated respectfully by a friendly staff, and no one is rushed in choosing their purchase.

I knew exactly what I wanted: A chocolate bar just like the one that David Narkiewicz, the Mayor of Northampton, purchased as the first customer to buy legal marijuana in Northampton. Afterwards, the Mayor announced his intention to donate the mood-altering candy bar to the Northampton Historical Society or whatever to preserve it as a historic artifact to be admired by generations yet unborn.

Here's a closeup of Hizzoner's purchase.

Inside, we were handed a menu of available products, and sure enough, the candy bar I wanted was listed.

However, when I got to the counter, I was told those candy bars had just sold out. But I couldn't help but notice that on the other side, across from the recreational marijuana area, in the section where they keep the cannabis available for those with medical marijuana cards, there were plenty of boxes of the very candy I wished to purchase. Yet when I pointed that out, I was told that nothing can be transferred between the two sections. So I couldn't have the candy bar I wanted, even though I could plainly see a good supply of them just across the room.

Why did they even preserve the category of medical marijuana? What purpose does it serve now? All it does is give you a pass to skip the line, since the wait for recreational pot remains quite lengthy, while the line for the medical marijuana is short or non-existant. Oh well, like so many things about the implementation of legalized pot in Massachusetts, it hasn't been thought through very well. I ended up buying a different kind of candy than the Mayor bought, which was handed to me in a white bag with the NETA insignia on it.

Since I first tried marijuana at the age of 15, this was the first time I ever bought it legally. Here's the box that my purchase came in.

When you open the box, it compliments you.

The candy comes in these push-out containers.

Now, with the ruby red candy fully exposed, what do you think I did next?

Here's a hint: I did not donate it to the Northampton Historical Society. As I experiment with these newfangled marijuana products in the coming weeks, I will tell you what I think of them.

In the meantime, I went to Emily Dickinson's birthday party this week at The Robert Frost Library at Amherst College.

Here's her cake. The old gal ain't doing too bad - still relevant at 188 years old.