The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Legal Marijuana and Generational Redemption

There were four referendum questions on the Massachusetts ballot last month. Question 1 tried to expand the government's gambling monopoly, which voters wisely declined to permit. It isn't gambling that's bad, its the government monopoly. Question 2 attempted to make it easier to create more charter schools, but was soundly defeated by a disinformation campaign run by teacher's unions who felt their education monopoly threatened by the proposal. Their victory will probably be a short-lived one, however, as President-elect Trump has nominated a passionate pro-charter advocate as Secretary of Education, which means directives favorable to charter schools will be flowing down from Washington to Massachusetts for the next four years regardless. On Question 3, voters put their hearts ahead of their wallets by voting for an increase in food prices in order to give farm animals the right to bigger cages. But the really significant ballot referendum was Question 4, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. The vote was closer than expected, but in a democracy it's winner take all, and a one vote win has the same effect as a landslide. Let's examine who gains and who loses from legalization beginning with....


Crony Capitalists - The law could have been written so that on a certain date anyone with a liquor license could automatically begin selling marijuana products, thereby allowing consumers the convenience of getting their buds with their Budweiser. Alas, such a quick, simple, effective and commonsense solution was never an option and we have instead ended up with a lengthy, complex, bureaucratic and corruption prone process that will probably mirror the slow motion procedure which failed to get a single outlet open until nearly three years after the referendum legalizing medical pot passed. Predictably, the whole medical marijuana process was tilted heavily in favor of political insiders, such as the dispensary planned for Springfield that actually awarded one company a ten year monopoly on medical marijuana sales (I would have loved to have seen the names of the silent partners behind that boondoggle). Fortunately, the Springfield City Council stepped in before the deal was finalized, but expect more of the same kind of corrupt shenanigans to litter the path to full legalization.

The Kids - It's an outrage that our culture currently steers young people towards alcohol consumption. While marijuana isn't harmless, it is dramatically less dangerous than booze and it is wonderful that today's young people will finally have a safer alternative to consider.

The Activists - When I was a kid smoking pot with my friends in Pine Point's Snake Woods, hiding from the police, I distinctly remember many of us saying, in full sincerity, that when we became adults and our generation was running things, we would definitely legalize pot. I'm embarrassed that it actually took us so long to finally do it, but our failure wasn't for a lack of effort by some never say die activists. Today, when pot is so trendy, it is too easy to forget that local legends such as Aaron Wilson, Terry Franklin, Rachel Newlander, Dick Evans and the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition were fighting the good fight back when it was difficult and even dangerous to do so. Thanks to heroes such as them, our youthful promise has been kept and my generation redeemed.


The Mob - People who buy their weed from Harry the Happy Hippie are too often unaware that behind their friendly local dealer is a terrible web of drug trade mobsters who are usually totally corrupt and prone to violence. Putting these bad actors out of business alone would fully justify legalization even if there were no other virtues.

The Taxpayers - If it makes money, tax it! That's been the motto of the Massachusetts legislature for several decades now, and marijuana will be no exception. The danger is that high taxes will push the cost of pot too high, so that the mob controlled cartels will remain in business. For example, medical marijuana sells for about $350 per ounce legally, but in Western Mass you can get an ounce on the black market for around $200. Ironically, a lot of black market weed appears to be medical marijuana that has leaked into the black market. It will be self defeating if you can get a big bargain by shunning the legal stuff and patronizing the mob instead, but who knows what the clueless politicians will end up doing.

Referendum Questions - The needless complexity and bad policies baked into the pot referendum bill is a classic example of a weakness of the referendum process, which is that they are often badly written. While you might expect that when you have hippies writing legislation, the upcoming legislative fracas over revising the law will only serve to undermine faith in the referendum as a policy making tool. Of course, we should not lose sight of the fact that the only reason we didn't get a professionally written bill is that the legislators themselves were too cowardly to touch the issue on their own, hence the need for the referendum in the first place.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Flag Flap Winners and Losers

Now that the whole flag controversy at Hampshire College is finally over, it is time to access the fallout, both positive and negative. Let's start with the....


The Flag - Old Glory hasn't gotten this much attention in these parts since the town of Amherst refused to fly the flags downtown on the anniversary of 9/11. (Amherst also ultimately surrendered and allowed the flags to fly).

Hampshire Student Recruitment Efforts - Barnum was right, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Hampshire's refusal to fly the flag turned the school, a small, relatively obscure private college, into a household name. In households with teenage Social Justice Warriors in them, Hampshire can now expect to receive a flood of applicants impressed by their flag rebellion. But beware SJWs, most Hampshire kids are actually more hipster than politically oriented and the flag haters are definitely in the minority.

Local Pols - What politician can resist a chance to defend the flag? It is the safest possible way to express outrage, and can be done in full knowledge that over 90% of the public agrees with them, thereby allowing them to stand on principle with almost no risk of politically alienating any voters that matter. Among the dignitaries in attendance, District Attorney David Sullivan was no surprise, he's been drifting rightward for some times now. His appearance at the flag rally comes right after extensively hitting the lecture circuit in a failed attempt to prevent the legalization of marijuana. One speaker who did raise eyebrows was Springfield Mayor Dom Sarno, who is otherwise rarely seen this side of the tofu curtain. Is this the start of an attempt to broaden his political base for a future run for a higher office? Richie Neal can't hold that seat forever!

Larry Kelley - His blog is a model of hyper-local citizen journalism at its best, and over the years Kelley has led numerous crusades on behalf of more flag waving. Last week's rally must have felt like Woodstock to him.


Hampshire President Johnathan Lash - There has been no up side to this for the embattled college president, whose poor judgement in removing the flag in the first place plunged his school into a nationwide firestorm of negative publicity. Despite improved recruitment of social justice types (see above) the school has also made a lot of enemies it never had before, enemies who probably can't be appeased until Lash is shown the door.

The First Amendment - Um, amidst all the shouting, let's not forget that both the praising and burning of flags are equally protected free speech under the First Amendment, okay?

Higher Education - This incident plays right into the narrative that our colleges and universities have degenerated into absurdly expensive political correctness indoctrination camps that leave their graduates woefully unprepared for real life.

Real Problems - While this brouhaha hogged all the headlines, much more serious concerns were being ignored. Let's salute the flag and get back to work!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Some Changes Coming

Hey everybody,

Guess what? I'm reviving this blog as a place for new stuff to appear, primarily writing. The Tumblr will continue, but will consist mostly of select political memes and photography by myself and others. This will be my blog for my written political, social and cultural commentary, with no limitations on what the topics might be. Can't guarantee that there will be something every day, but five or six times a week is the probable frequency rate. The first essay will appear sometime this weekend, so I hope you'll check it out.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kill the Casino

Coming attractions.

A message of hope.

My friend's backyard is pretty this time of year.

Me out by the chicken coop.

My neighbors the Pedal People were in the Boston Globe Sunday. Click here.

Who are the noble citizens behind this subversive local website? People, these government controlled casino monopolies are a totally corrupt scam - government should have no role in the gambling business other than collecting taxes. VOTE THEM ALL DOWN! Check out the new local anti-casino site here.

luke by m.e.labonte

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Multi-media artist Dann Vazquez recently released a bunch of pics from the January 2, 1992 episode of The Dan Yorke TV Show. Yorke was probably better known for his top rated local radio show, but the TV show was still a hoot and a revelation considering the poor quality of most of the local programming of that era. As I wrote some years ago:

Before Yorke it was extremely rare for local politicians to face any critical commentary in the local media. What coverage they received was either fawning or spinelessly neutral in that the politician was allowed to say whatever they wanted on the air without any meaningful challenge from the host. Political coverage also reflected the very strong bias towards the Democrat Party in the Valley, so it was rare to hear conservative or Republican views. When Yorke took over WSPR and began attacking local Democrats while simultaneously bringing in the Rush Limbaugh Show it was like a blast of fresh air blowing away the cobwebs of years of political and ideological stagnation in the local media.

The show, which aired five nights a week on WGGB-TV40, usually opened with a fiery editorial.

The donning of funny hats to make a point was not unheard of.

Yorke's guest that night was Senator Brian Lees.

What made the show a joy to watch was Yorke's often confrontational attitude towards his guests.

Here's an excerpt from a 1994 interview with me in the now defunct City Limits magazine in which I was asked about Yorke's show.

How did you first meet Yorke?

Again, I think it was Jay Libardi that suggested that I send copies of the paper to local media outlets. So I did and as it turned out I never received a reply from anyone. I'd sent one to Channel 40, but I'd addressed it to the general manager. Frankly, at the time I'd never heard of Dan Yorke. I discovered later that he'd been on the radio for years, but in those days I paid little attention to talk radio. This was just after Yorke's radio station had died, so he came out with his TV show, where I happened to catch him when I was channel surfing one night. For a number of reasons, he intrigued me.

I remember the first night I saw his program. He had as his guest Betsy Wright, a local tax protester who had her car confiscated by the IRS because she refused to pay taxes to support the military. Somehow, Yorke discovered that she worked for some social service agency that was dependent on taxpayer funds. Yet when Yorke tried to confront her on that fact, Wright refused to publicly reveal where she worked.

Yorke showed her no mercy. He was determined to make her face the issue of whether it was hypocritical for her to insist that people should be forced to pay taxes for social programs of the kind that paid her salary, but that somehow she had the right to withhold taxes for the military policies she disagreed with. What would her attitude be if conservatives started withholding taxes that support welfare programs? The rest of the media had given Wright a free pass with their glowing coverage of her activism, but Yorke insisted that she confront this inconsistency in her position. Wright repeatedly tried to dodge the question, and in the end Yorke completely destroyed her credibility. You could tell that she was very, very, sorry that she had gone on that show.

I had never seen local programming like that. The only thing remotely comparable was a local interview show that ran for a hundred years on Channel 22 called At Home with Kitty. It was hosted by Kitty Broman, a likeable enough gal but frankly her only known qualification for hosting the show was the fact that she was part owner of the station. The soundstage was set up to look like a living room, with a couch and cups and saucers set up on a coffee table. She even wore an apron. The illusion they strove for was as if the guests had stopped in for a cup of tea with Kitty. It was an unintentionally hilarious program, which showed the lamest puff pieces about local politicians. It almost seemed to be a rule that no controversial topics were allowed. I think many people used to watch the show just to make fun of it.

What impressed me about Yorke was that he didn't seem to be interested in a topic unless it was controversial. He didn't try to avoid confrontation or debate, instead he embraced and encouraged it. He wasn't afraid to put a guest on the spot and he did not try to make them feel that they were attending a tea party. I recognized that in a journalistic sense Yorke's show was breaking new ground, and that maybe it would be a forum that would be open to reporting about what I was doing. So once again I sent off copies of the Objectivist to Channel 40, only this time I addressed it to Dan Yorke himself.

So how did Yorke respond?

Within a week, I got a handwritten letter from him saying that he was interested in what I was doing, but wanted more information. The letter made no commitment that he would ask me on his show. I don't think he was sure what to make of my paper at first. Anyway, I sent him a letter describing the history of the project thus far, and the very day that he received it he called and invited me to come over to the station and tape a show with him that afternoon.

Me as a guest.

Sometimes Yorke's guests gave back as much as they got. Yorke liked that too.

Lees later became a reappearing fill-in host for Yorke and so did I. Here I am hosting the TV show in 1997.

The Dan Yorke Show went off the air in 1999. Today Yorke is a big success out in Rhode Island on WPRO.

Nowadays I have little to do with the mainstream media. I prefer to hangout in coffee shops like Raos in Amherst. Did you know there is a Raos in Thornes in Northampton? Check it out.

Here it is from the other end.

Now this is what I call an attitude of customer service!

Ireland I love you.