The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Monday, January 8, 2018

2017 Year in Review


Downtown Amherst on New Year's Day, as seen from Starbucks.


A giant snowpile in downtown of Northampton.


Well, another year done gone. Lots to be happy and grateful about, with only an occasional mishap here and there. At the start of 2018, here's an update of where my online projects are at the start of 2018:


The Ogulewicz Chronicles - 2017 marked the first full year that this newly re-released and expanded memoir of Springfield politics has been available. This insider account by former City Councilor Mitch Ogulewicz, now features over 50 historic supplemental videos, making The Chronicles essential reading and viewing for anyone wanting to better understand what happened to the once great (and soon to be great again?) City of Springfield in the seminal decade of the 1980's.


The Diary of J. Wesley Miller - This massive Pioneer Valley history database kept expanding throughout the past year, as we followed the always interesting, insightful and sometimes downright bizarre adventures of one of Springfield's Grand Eccentrics (and his friend Eamon). Wesley knew everyone, and his behind the scenes views of our Valley's prominent personalities, politics and culture brings the modern history of our Valley fully to life with a degree of color and depth never before available. There's no end in sight, as the material currently available online covers only the years 1999 thru 2005. While certain years are missing, there is still decades worth of material yet to be released, going back as far as 1968. I only hope I live long enough to completely release all the contents of this historical treasure chest, which gets an average of between 50 and 60 hits per day, not bad considering what it is.


Tumblin' Thomas - This is the most popular website I edit, a fact which sort of irks me. I started Tumblin Thomas as a way of spreading memes, those one frame, one thought visual creations that can be anything from funny, to beautiful to sharply political. I created the tumblr in response to the meme craze so I wouldn't clog up my other blogs with them. That means it is the blog where the least amount of the material originates with me. In other words, the most popular blog I do is the blog I personally contribute the least material to. That makes the thousands of hits it gets weekly personally less gratifying than the numbers might suggest it should be.


The Baystate Objectivist - This, of course, is the blog you are reading right now, and it is the one on which appears my most serious writing about the endless kaleidoscope of topics that interest me. I'm gratified by the 9,000 to 10,000 hits it gets per month, but wish it was more popular than, say, my stoner memes on Tumblin Thomas. Oh well, this blog still has the distinction of being the Pioneer Valley's longest running blog - 20 years online this year, with seven years as a print publication before that. It is also the Pioneer Valley's first blog (I saw nobody else around when I started) which has sometimes caused me to be referred to as "The Father of the Valley Blogosphere" although I am demanding a paternity test. In any case, I'll try to do some retrospective pieces at various points throughout this year in celebration of the twenty years online anniversary, so that will be fun.

In the meantime, Peace and Love to you all in 2018!




Sunday, December 24, 2017

Yuling


The woodland way into downtown Northampton was an icy deathtrap this morning, but I traversed it safely thanks to my nimble footed agility.


Something to be grateful for this holiday season - no broken bones!

This King Street restaurant is available if you happen to be having a "Christmas Story" type holiday.



Soon I arrived at a cozy coffee shop.


The view out the window.


A dino-driver.


It was a Santa-driver who drove me into Amherst.


The Boy Scouts sold out their whole stock of Christmas trees, as they do every year.


Here is me on Christmas morn about ten years ago.


This morning's bus driver wears a Santa hat better than I do.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bobby Brown vs. the Police Commission


I was surprised and dismayed to see an obituary in the paper for ex-Springfield cop Robert Brown. Surprised, because I didn't know he was even still alive, and dismayed because he was a colorful character on the local political scene for many years. The picture that ran with the obit was obviously taken many years before his death recently at age 89:


In the Diary of J.Wesley Miller, there is a great anecdote about Brown and an encounter he had with the Springfield Police Commission:


Retired Police Officer and labor activist Robert Brown came to visit today. He arrived at 2:55 and I served strawberry shortcake and sherry, of which he had several refills. Brown told me that he used to go to First Church but the new minister there talks about Martin Luther King all the time instead of God so he stopped going. His father was a truck driver from Rumford, Maine. Brown is 76 years old and has six kids, three boys and three girls. He graduated from Tech High in 1945.

Brown said he hopes the Feds get something on Albano after all the trouble he caused the Patrolman's Union. Brown also told me of how "Efrem Gordon saved my ass!" It all started when Brown made an important arrest and two cops who arrived later wanted to put their names on the arrest report too. Brown refused to give them false credit and the cops got mad and said they'd get even.

One day Brown stopped to chat for a few minutes in a barbershop in Six Corners and the cops who were mad suddenly barged in and accused him of sleeping on the job and turned him in. He was hauled before the Police Commission chaired by the hard-nosed Beaumont Herman, who suspended him without pay for three days. Brown cried out, "Your Honor, I'm getting the shaft!" Bo Herman stood up and shouted at him not to use profanity and suspended him for another three days.

Brown went to see Efrem Gordon and Effie said he'd been before the Police Commission many times and that he would help him out. At the appeal Atty. Gordon showed that there were inconsistencies in the accusations against Brown and brought in dictionaries that showed the word "shaft" is not obscene. Bobby Brown was exonerated and thereby became the first guy to ever beat the Police Commission. Later Brown went to Efrem and told him that with six kids he didn't know how he could afford to pay him but Gordon said forget the bill because, "I've had so much fun beating the bastards!"


Efrem Gordon

The dirt road that goes past my backyard is covered with ice.


Craig Chaquico of Jefferson Starship has a new band. As you can hear below, it is very good.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Frankie's Bad End


As the first rays of the rising sun struck the woodland way into downtown Northampton yesterday morning I was surrounded by beauty in all directions.


Hamp's Happy the Homeless Frog is all decked out for the holidays.


Snow on the pumpkins outside Iconica Cafe, in the alleyway outside the Haymarket.


While looking through my archives for something else, I stumbled across this old newspaper clipping from 1974 about my former Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School and Duggan Junior High School classmate Frank Bourbeau, describing the circumstances of his tragic death.



I put a scan of the article on Facebook, thinking there might be a few souls out there who may still remember Frank and his family. I was surprised by the response!


Amazing how much people still have to say about this family, 43 years after Frank was killed in an accident for which drugs and alcohol were blamed.

Also on Facebook this week....



Last week I went to a birthday party for Amherst's poetic superstar Emily Dickinson at the Robert Frost Library on Amherst College. The old gal ain't doing too bad for 187 years old. Here's 69 seconds of what went down.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Fall of Rosenberg


Even the most harsh critic of Massachusetts State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg would have to feel pity for the pain expressed in the Senator's face in this Boston Herald photo by John Wilcox.


That is truly the look of a man whose whole world is collapsing right before his eyes. Rosenberg has stepped aside as Senate President while an investigation of undetermined length is undertaken into a sordid sex and influence peddling scandal involving Rosenberg's young husband Bryon Hefner. The step aside is supposed to be temporary, but no one expects Rosenberg to return. As Boston Globe columnist Scott Lehigh put it, “Make no mistake, he is done. When you step aside, you don’t step back, and Rosenberg knows as much.”

It is hard not to sympathize with Rosenberg, at least to some degree. He had spent most of his 32 year career as a state legislator, first in the House and then the Senate, as the ultimate political nerd and policy wonk. It is a common complaint that politicians don't bother to read the bills they pass, but that was never a complaint of the Amherst/Northampton voters who lived in Rosenberg's district. Everyone knew that Stan had no life, and spent most of his weekends in his lonely apartment, pouring over legislation. This made him invaluable to his fellow colleagues as the one to consult on questions about the finer points of legislation, which no doubt helped to pave the way for Rosenberg's long career climb. But Stan wasn't happy.

Or so he said when he suddenly announced that he was gay, which was something everybody already knew but which no one would talk about because Stan himself never did. While his emergence from the closet was greeted with yawns, people were quite surprised when he soon made another announcement: Stan was in love and having a serious affair with a man young enough to be his grandson. This was treated as happy news by most, who were glad to see that poor old nerdy Stan finally got himself a steady boyfriend! Almost everyone wished him and his young companion, ultimately his legally wedded husband, all the best.

However, problems surfaced early. It turned out that young Bryon wasn't content to just be Rosenberg's loyal companion, instead he seemed to want to get involved with some of the back room drama of statehouse political intrigues. Social network postings surfaced showing Bryon saying insulting things about major political players and trying to use his closeness to President Rosenberg as a means of injecting himself into policy discussions. The resulting uproar caused Rosenberg to promise that he would erect a "firewall" between Bryon and legislative activities. Thus did Bryon fade from view, at least officially.

There were, however, tidbits of gossip about the couple that kept surfacing. Unverifiable back channel sources long whispered that the sexual side of the relationship between Rosenberg, who is in his late sixties, and Bryon, who is barely thirty, was partially an open marriage. Allegedly, in deference to the stronger sexual appetite of the younger man, Stan agreed to look the other way if Bryon had an occasional fling with younger guys on the side. If so, this is not unheard of even in straight marriages, where the aging tycoon marries a young trophy wife and pretends not to notice that she has a thing going with the pool boy. If any of this accurately describes the Rosenberg/Hefner marriage, then perhaps the groping behavior alleged to have been committed by Hefner is merely this side of their relationship having gotten out of hand, quite literally.

Whatever the truth is, more and more salacious details are bound to keep surfacing for as long as Rosenberg is still on the statehouse scene, with a drip, drip, drip string of revelations that will keep producing sordid headlines like this:


So c'mon Stan, it's time to officially call it quits. You've been in the legislature over three decades, dude, it's supposed to be a legislative body, not a freakin retirement home! You've already had one cancer scare, go out and have some fun while you still can. Get Bryon out of that substance abuse rehab you stuffed him into to get him away from the media and instead take your cute, bow-tied boy-toy on a long, luxurious, around the world vacation, far from the reach of bad publicity back home, and don't come back until after the 2018 elections, when somebody else will have been elected to your seat. At this point, that's the only happy ending scenario you've got, Stan.

By the way, it will be interesting to see who will run to succeed Rosenberg. The instant front-runner would probably be Northampton State Rep. Peter Kocot. Another major contender would be Amherst State Rep. Solomon Golstein-Rose, although he is a political neophyte who is still in his first term. There are also other ambitious people in Northampton politics who might also be interested. Narkewicz? Dwight? Adams? Will Hampshire Gazette columnist Dr. Jay Fleitman seek the GOP nomination? Whatever happens, the battle to replace Rosenberg promises to offer political entertainment of the highest order.

A Majestic moon nestled in turbulent clouds over Amherst this week.

photo by Mary Carey

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

ARRGH!!



Much has been made of the complete freak out of the American Left over the election of Donald Trump. Indeed, in a lifetime of observing politics, I have never seen such a total refusal of the losing side to accept the results of an American presidential election. That refusal is all the more ironic because at one point during the 2016 presidential debates, Donald Trump refused to promise that he would accept the election results, causing a great outcry from Democrats who declared that Trump's hesitancy was a threat to democracy itself. The Democrat Party's media allies chimed in with solemn editorials demanding that Trump publicly accept in advance whatever the results were, with everyone of course at that time assuming that Trump would lose. So what did we hear from the Democrats when Trump unexpectedly won?


But is this angry denial on the Left so unique? Recently I discovered in the archives of The Diary of J. Wesley Miller this old issue of the Valley Advocate, which had on its cover a simple and concise response to the defeat of John F. Kerry by George W. Bush way back in 2004:


So maybe the more things change, the more they stay the same. Can it be that modern Democrats have pretty much always been graceless losers? Anyway, in that same issue of the Advocate, I was surprised to find a brief, pre-election interview with me that I had completely forgotten about. It was part of a series of interviews the Advocate did before the election with people like myself who have a reputation for sometimes sorta knowing what they're talking about when it comes to politics, but before the actual election results were known, with those results determining who was a guru and who was a fool. Here's the interview:

The international headquarters of the Baystate Objectivist - Amherst, 2004.

The Day After

Tom Devine, the force behind the long running Baystate Objectivist website, told the Advocate in an interview that he is hardly optimistic about a future under Bush or Kerry.

Advocate: How do you see the future of the country if Bush wins the election?

Devine: Because of our system of checks and balances, it is almost impossible to govern America from anywhere but the center. Therefore, any tendency of Kerry to be too liberal or Bush too conservative is likely to be reigned in. For example, Bush's desire to insert religion into public life will continue to be slapped down by the courts, while any attempt by Kerry to socialize medical care will probably be no more successful than Clinton's was.

Ironcially, on the issue where there is the most passion, the war in Iraq, there is actually the least disagreement between the candidates once you cut through the rhetoric. Anti-war voters counting on Kerry to radically alter Bush's policies are likely to be bitterly disappointed. What I fear most in a second Bush term is further curtailment of civil liberties in the name of fighting terror. If we are not careful, such restrictions could send us down a slippery slope that may land us where we don't want to be when it's too late to do anything about it. And look for a big escalation of the war against the insurgents in Iraq. Bush has been holding back because of the fear of a lot of casualties before the election, but all restraint will be gone after November 2.

How do you see the future of the country if Kerry wins the election?

I have a digital copy of a picture Kerry once gave to the now disgraced former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano. On it Kerry writes, "Mayor Mike, you're the best!" I'm fearful of whether someone who would write that has the judgement to be appointing Supreme Court justices.


Do you see a difference for the future of your community if Kerry wins or if Bush wins?

As a Western Mass peson primarily interested in issues of liberty, I am not particularly hopeful about either candidate. I've learned over the years that politics is not likely to be a means of solving problems. I trust technology to fix things more than politics. Most of the time politics is a farce that will only break your heart.


These are some views from the top of the parking garage of Union Station in Springfield I took in September. Here's looking across towards the former bus station.


Looking towards the Springfield Newspapers.


Looking towards the post office and beyond.