Thursday, February 21, 2019
I regret hearing that longtime Springfield politico Dave Vigneault has died at the age of 82. Here's a picture I took of him years ago that the media has stolen and spread all over the place uncredited. Oh well, at least they steal from the best.
Dave was easy to get a picture of because he was everywhere, and it seemed as if no local political event of any importance ever occurred that he was not in attendance. His activism was of a passionate but humble sort, I remember him setting up chairs in the Pine Point Library for some event, despite the fact that he had once been the State Representative for the Pine Point neighborhood. I was not a fan of his political career, nor were most Pine Pointers at the end of it. Vigneault was a strong supporter of the disastrous school busing program imposed on the city in the early 70's, and most of the residents of Pine Point were furious with him for it. Media accounts said he left office because he felt "burnt out" but the truth is he had by that time become unelectable.
Next to the closing of the Springfield Armory, the busing program was the single greatest contributor to Springfield's tragic decline. The resulting white flight sent people who had lived in Pine Point (and throughout the city) fleeing for the suburbs, permanently changing those neighborhoods as the city lost a big chunk of it's wealthy and middle class taxpayers. With 20/20 hindsight we can now see that none of the Utopian fantasies of racial harmony through busing actually came to pass, while all the negatives that were predicted, like white flight, neighborhood destabilization and erosion of the tax base became all too true. Dave Vigneault's political legacy will forever be tarnished by his role in supporting that ruinous policy. The truth is you could generally count on Dave to be wrong on nearly every issue, which apparently was true to the very end, as it has been reported that he was out campaigning for Bernie Sanders at the age of 80.
Some of the media coverage described Vigneault as a "reformer" but I always considered him an inside player. It takes no courage whatsoever to be a liberal Democrat in Western Massachusetts. (Yesterday I saw a student walking across the UMass campus wearing a red MAGA hat - THAT takes courage!) Vignealt was indeed fully embedded in the local political machine, and those of us activists who were working to clean up the incompetent and corrupt Democrat machine in Springfield never counted him as an ally. His posthumous statements of praise read like a Who's Who of the political elite, including none other than William Bulger (brother of Whitey) who was probably the least reform-minded Senate President you could imagine. Indeed, Vigneault actually worked for Bulger at one point. I wonder if Vigneault ever overheard Bulger taking phone calls from his fugitive brother in his Senate office, as suggested by the FBI? If so, Dave carried that info to his grave.
I don't think Dave fully approved of me, although he was always very nice when I would go to the polls and see him standing outside, usually holding a sign in each hand for entrenched establishment figures we reformers were trying to throw out of office. But in the long run Dave Vigneault will not be remembered for his misguided views, or the legislative voting record that enraged his constituents, or the inside games he played with entrenched power players. Dave Vigneault will be remembered instead for being that guy that was always around the scene, helping in small but meaningful ways to make the political process work. Vignealt's death comes less than six months after the loss of a similar once ubiquitous figure in Springfield politics, Millie Dunbar. Like her, Dave was often the first to arrive and the last to leave an event, always willing to do the unglamorous grunt work of democracy without which it cannot function. I fear we have too few activist role models like Dave and Millie today, and we still need them.
Meanwhile, I took a video out the bus window the other day, just as a protest was forming in front of City Hall over the national emergency declaration to build a wall on our southern border.
Monday, February 11, 2019
Last Thursday former Ohio Governor John Kasich spoke at Amherst College. I was there.
The crowd completely filled the 600 seat Johnson Chapel. It was great to see so many young people interested in hearing a political speech. They say kids today are turned off by politics, but I don't think that's true, as evidenced by the turnout for Kasich's speech.
Kasich was in some ways on friendly turf, as Amherst (and neighboring Pelham) supported Kasich in the 2016 primary, which otherwise went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump.
The speech went on a bit too long, but was redeemed by its uplifting message of can-do optimism. I was surprised by how many religious references he made, I hadn't thought of Kasich as particularly religious before. Of course, hanging over the event is the constant speculation in some quarters that Kasich might challenge President Trump for the GOP nomination in 2020. Massachusetts homeboy William Weld appears poised to run against Trump, but few believe Weld would be more than just a gadfly running a vanity campaign.
Kasich, on the other hand, would be a serious contender, although he would still be regarded as highly unlikely to win the nomination from Trump. In any case, Kasich gave no indication in his speech that he is entertaining such plans, and no one asked him about it in the audience questioning session. Kasich declined to take questions from the local media.
Over all, I was impressed by Kasich's speech and now think better of him than I did before hearing him in person. I would not, however, support him over Trump if the President runs, as expected, for another term. But should Trump not run due to health reasons or whatever, who knows what the GOP ticket would be?
Upon the woodland way.
What is this sports car race image doing in the window of the Hampshire County Law Library?
Icy moon on Main.
Owen uses music to unleash his rage all over our Valley.
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
I recently came across this essay from January 2014 about the passing of local broadcast pioneer Kitty Broman. It's been out of print, so I decided to give it a permanent home here:
Former local media mogul and TV talk show host Kitty Broman has died at the age of 97.
In many respects Broman was a pioneer in television broadcasting, at least in the sense that she was often the first woman to hold certain positions in the broadcasting business, which in its early days was overwhelmingly dominated by men. My sainted grandmother was a fan of her program “At Home With Kitty.”
But even granting her that status, the substance of her work was often very light. As I explained once in the context of the first time I saw The Dan Yorke 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….
Kitty Broman and her husband Bill Putnam presided over the Valley TV scene at a time when disastrous decisions were made in public policy and corruption in public offices was rampant. Instead of working to expose those follies and villains, they played an insider’s game that ranged from cynically self-serving to mindlessly cheerleading on behalf of the region’s power players. In this Kitty was very much like her male counterparts in the local journalism of her era. Their legacy and hers is forever tarnished by the stories they didn’t tell.
Included with the prior essay was these pics taken of Stan's Drive In, a former fruit and vegetable, stand as seen from the bus in 2014. The building, and the beautiful tree beside it, were destroyed last Fall after having been abandoned for about a decade.
This 1995 video shows Stan's at around 2:50:
View from the steps of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Can anyone tell me something? In what sense is Charlie Baker still a Republican? His ridiculous new climate change tax is the sort of leftist boondoggle even Deval Patrick would not have dared to propose. Only the most dangerous sort of politicians want us to give up our economic freedom (in order to control carbon levels) and lots of our money (tax funded climate programs) promising that if we do, then the government will be able to protect us from the weather in the coming decades, despite our current inability to make an accurate five-day forecast.
Baker's entire new budget is riddled with taxes and fees designed to raise millions of dollars for the legislature to play with. Whatever happened to his old slogan "reform before revenue?" What about Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito? She used to be pretty sensible back in the day, has she no influence? This is more than just Baker coming across as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). With actions like these, it looks like Baker's not even pretending to be a Republican anymore. I stood up for Baker for a long time while others warned me I should not. I now admit they were right and I was wrong.
Aside from a snow storm around Thanksgiving, we really have had a pretty mild winter this year. There has been lots of rain and cold, but very little snow. That changed this week, as you can see from this photo I took in downtown Northampton.
Of course nothing can deter people from hangin at the Haymarket.
Despite the piles of snow in the street, my neighbor Ruthie the Pedal Person was out gathering the trash throughout the city, using her bike and without burning a single drop of oil.
A one-eyed snowman - excuse me, here in Hamp we say "snowperson" - stands in Pulaski Park.
Votive candles for the devout leftist in a store window.
UMass students passing the campus pond on their way to class.
Rockin out at the 13th Floor Lounge in Florence.
Friday, January 18, 2019
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, 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?
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.
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!