Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I've got a secret

So don't get me wrong I love Northwestern DA Elizabeth Scheibel: a successful woman, as such a great role model for my young daughters and of course that rarest of breeds in this state--a Republican.

But damn, she can be ultra-conservative when it comes to releasing information. And my friends at the Springfield Republican are correct when they editorialize that letting public documents like the Fire Department incident reports see the light of publication can possibly help with the investigation as readers may remember something in their neighborhood that occurred around that time.

Besides, the audio tapes of the emergency dispatch are already on the web. Here we are days later and she will not even confirm the names of the two dead citizens long ago confirmed to the media by family members.

Long time readers of this site may remember me breaking the story of the investigation into the horrific bus accident in Amherst that claimed the life of a two year old. My ultra-reliable sources confirmed both Amherst PD and State PD accident reconstruction teams concluded it was an accident and by mid-May the DA had both reports on her desk, yet she waited until September to officially close the case.

The Springfield Republican speaks:

Larry Kelley reported:

And many months later:

Monday, December 28, 2009

A night of terror

Okay I'll admit it again as I did a couple years ago on the floor of Amherst Town Meeting: The only opponent I have ever engaged over the course of my entire combative life that still haunts me to this day--over twenty years later--is FIRE.

I can still taste the smoke, hear the crackle of the beast as it consumed the formerly safe walls of my world and vividly recall the loud flashover explosion that momentarily froze the combatants on both sides.

The conflagration that destroyed my apartment on the morning of Friday the 13th in the winter of 1987 consumed no souls. And, it was an accident.

Unlike the terror attack this past weekend in Northampton with multiple homes and cars torched in the dead of night, resulting in the murder of two innocent people. Like the cowardly terror attacks of 9/11, this too is an act of war.
A closed off crime scene.
Union Street: just around the block

Friday, December 25, 2009

And so this is Christmas...

My God...thanks to Comacast I'm out of Internet for a few days and the Anon inmates take over. Yikes!

Be thankful for what you have. After all, you could be cowering in a cold wet cave in Afghanistan waiting for a 1,000 pound smart bomb to drop on your head.

Monday, December 21, 2009

And so this is Christmas...

Another successful season for Christmas tree sales by the Amherst/Pelham Boy Scouts. And this year, no $1/tree tax from the Town Mangler.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

But their flag is still there

So the Cowls family is calling it quits on their signature sawmill operation that represents nine generations of family blood, sweat and tears. The fundamental business model (and anybody who ever took a Business 101 course knows the 80/20 Rule--where 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your product line) of doing what you need to do in order to survive triumphs, as well it should.

Their main business, the building supply store, will continue on (and with the added value expertise of owners and skilled employees will continue to thrive.) And their vast holding of woodlands are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Alas, whatever the industry--it is simply impossible to compete with folks who sell $10 bills for $7.

The Springfield Republican reports

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Do they really have to ask?

My friends at the Springfield Republican are doing a survey looking for the "top local news story of the decade." One of the many possible responses is: "The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 claim the lives of at least 18 people with ties to Western Massachusetts."

You don't need a journalism background to figure out the correct answer.

The Springfield Republican reports

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let the scare tactics begin

So just as he did three years ago to lay the groundwork for an ill-fated $2.5 million Proposition 2.5 Override, the Town Manager is already threatening to take a meat cleaver to public safety items. This time it's that most basic of safety measures a civilized government provides to The People: streetlights.

The Town Mangler plans to snuff out half of them to save $50,000. Of course one accident, rape or murder occurring in that new zone of darkness will result in a lawsuit costing 100 times that amount.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"The sun will come out tomorrow," and 5 years hence

Image borrowed from:

Life in the news delivery world five years down the road will be: a narrative told by a genius, full of the sound and fury, signifying everything (to everybody). Or, a Hell of a lot of data/information from which a viewer can write their own narrative.

Like the previous decade, technology will continue to lead the way, opening doors-although not battering them down-- for innovative, cost effective ways to engage the citizenry and allow them to return engage .

Internet usage by average citizens worldwide will now be as ubiquitous and routine as running water.

Apple computer will dominate the (just now emerging) lightweight portable tablet market as they did with iPods and the iPhone, so consumers will have the best aspects of smart phones, MP3 player, netbook, video camera and e-reader all packaged in a sleek, sexy, easy to use gadget, with almost unlimited battery life.

Google will continue to dominate as an internet search engine and their Wave software allowing for live web streaming of information and real time interactions between providers and consumers of news and entertainment will be standard protocol.

Comcast will continue to dominate as an Internet /Broadcast service provider, but with government regulation will not become some rogue corporate superpower capable of taking over the world. High-speed wireless Internet will blanket the globe.

Newspapers will have survived, but most certainly not thrived. The gatekeeper role of the Fourth Estate is almost completely extinct. Big players-Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times-will still be cranking out print editions, but more and more of their readers will be viewing them on their portable tablets via the Internet.

The war between Google/Yahoo/search engines and newspapers will have ended with a strategic alliance allowing readers worldwide a "fair use" of a newspaper's website, thus continuing to drive traffic to them--but readers wishing more than casual perusal will pay a reasonable amount for the content.

The clash between Citizen Journalists/Bloggers and Professional Journalist will FINALLY be over, as more and more of the crotchety, ink-in -their -veins editors/publishers die off a la Thomas Kuhn's 'Structure of Scientific Revolutions' prediction.

Professional journalists will be far fewer but they will be cream of the crop, and legions of Citizen Journalists will fill in the gaps-especially with local news. Those Citizen Journalists will have rudimentary training and certification from a private non-profit (Knight Foundation?) giving them increased credibility with readers.

Almost every town or city boroughs with a population over 10,000 will have a local portal to provide news, weather, entertainment, and reams of data all packaged on an interactive platform based on Google Wave.

The word "breaking" in breaking news will take on new meaning as almost any event anywhere in the world will occur within eyeshot of somebody with a device to capture and transmit the event to a worldwide audience as it happens with "universal translator" software instantly translating words and text into their native language.

In other words: it will all be good.

Friday, December 11, 2009

David Pollack remembered

So it was one of those serendipitous virtual/real world interactions this evening when my family and I went out for dinner at the Amherst Brewing Company in the heart of downtown Amherst, and the tables next to us became a gathering spot for friends of Dave Pollack commemorating the one-year anniversary of his exceedingly untimely demise.

Earlier in the afternoon a firefighter had dropped off a memorial t-shirt at my Club (that most of the folks sitting next to us were now wearing) to thank me for remembering Dave, when all I did was post a photo and heartfelt text that he had provided.

As friends who knew him better told stories and raised their pints, I remembered that old Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A fitting tribute to Lt. David Pollack, Ph.D.

It has been hung on the wall at North Station since the day Dave graduated. His father accepted his Ph.D. on his behalf on May 22nd.

Dave and his family received a standing ovation from every single person in the Mullins Center... I have never seen anything like it before. Every faculty member, student, family/friend stood and applauded for what seemed like minutes...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NIMBY Experiment

Two years ago Amherst spent $8,000 on temporary speed cushions for Lincoln Avenue as an "experiment in traffic calming", and they were about as effective as whistling Dixie in slowing traffic from superhighway Rt. 9 over to Umass, the number one employer in the Valley.

Then in September the town placed concrete barricades to outright ban traffic from the final few hundred yards to Umass, the number one employer in the Valley. The response to that "experiment" was almost unanimously negative--to the point of outright nasty.

And unlike snarky cowardly Anon commenters on blogs, these folks (over 100) actually identified themselves.

So I'm a tiny bit surprised Phil Jackson--lead architect of all things Lincoln Avenue--showed up at the Select Board meeting to request official results of the most recent "experiment" that went as awry as anything Dr. Frankenstein created.

Outraged voices

Election snooze

Since Senator Kennedy did me a couple of B-I-G favors over the past 25 years, I should be more excited about voting for his replacement. But I'm not.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shedding Photons

Lights by Walmart
Electricity by WMECO
Tree by God
Best of all: no tax subsidy.

Never forget.

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

“With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounded determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shedding Light (but not a lot)

So I'm far from an art aficionado, but less far from a Yankee farmer with some degree of common sense. The art project "Shedding Light"--sponsored by the Amherst Public Arts Commission--strikes me as pretty dim.

It simply looks like Bob The Builder is inside preparing to go to work.

The Bully reports

Friday, December 4, 2009

Come all ye faithful

So last evening, for a few moments anyway, the seriousness of world and national events--more troops in Afghanistan, Tiger Woods indiscretion, party crashers at the White House--were forgotten. Drown out by a chorus of Christmas songs.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Death Star christened

About a month after it finally opened (a month behind schedule) the gigantic, gleaming $52 million recreation center received a formal unveiling this afternoon with Chancellor Holub and President Jack Wilson (neither of them dressed in work out clothes) doing the honors behind a podium in front of perhaps 85 dignitaries, while all around them a couple hundred students exercised inside and a half-dozen Grad students on the outside protesting a 300% fee increase for their membership.
Jack started his speech with an off-the-cuff joke about Grad students keeping in shape.

Since the center was financed by "student fees", undergrads work out free. Professors, Graduate Students and just plain old Alumni can join for anywhere from $125 to $200 per semester (up from a previous $40).

But these rates are comparably--if not slightly lower--to area private sector health clubs; well, except Planet Fitness but their rock bottom pricing is far from industry standard, although that still can't compete with "free".

Now you know why I call it the Death Star.

Nice to see the local building inspectors mess with everybody!

"Real Revolutions" indeed!

“In real revolutions things get worse before they get better. .. One of the bad things I think is going to happen is, I think civic corruption is just going to rise for towns and regions of under about half a million people. Which is to say, I think the old model of the newspaper is going to break faster than the hyperlocal civic reporting can come in its place.”

I commented to my online journalism discussion group that I hated to disagree with such a New Age Internet/Journalism Guru like Clay Shirky but, Citizen Journalists and Bloggers would indeed continue to shine a spotlight on civic government. After all, most City or Town Council's meet only once a week.

My Professor said we're both right. That in little old Western Massachusetts, Citizen Journalists could help to fill in the void, but almost everywhere else Mr. Shirky's scary prediction is on the mark.

And I could not agree more with my friends at the Springfield Republican: Nobody does investigative journalism better than newspapers.

Springfield Republican provides the perfect example

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The making of a Merry Maple

As they have done seemingly forever, Shumway & Sons Landscaping (a venerable Amherst surname, in business seemingly forever) donate their time and expertise to decorate the official town of Amherst, errr, Holiday Tree.

And yes, now that a Commenter reminded me, the Merry Maple dates back to at least 1968 because--how could I forget?--Hollywood came calling that spring to film "Silent Night, Lonely Night" and turned the town common into a winter wonderland.

The ARHS glee club got to sing, errr, holiday carols around the tree and if indeed Shumway did the decorating, they probably got paid a decent amount that time. The Amherst College Archives & Special Collections even has a box of clippings covering the momentous event.

The Bully reports

Sunday, November 29, 2009

They're Baaaack...

Okay, now we can exude the Christmas spirit; the Amherst Pelham Boy Scouts have set up shop on Kendrick Park as they have done for 50+ years (waiting, mercifully, until the day after Thanksgiving ) to sell trees over the next month where profits pretty much cover their overhead for another year.

As some of you may remember, the Town Mangler wanted them banished from the premises and taxed them $1/tree two years ago. Like trying to "take over" the July 4 Parade so anti-war folks could march, not one of his smarter PR moves.

One of the first edicts issued (unanimously) by the Kendrick Park Study Committee stated the Boy Scouts should have free access to the site for as long as they wish.

Even the Bulletin, eventually, covered it

Friday, November 27, 2009

And another one gone...

So it was announced at a Wednesday staff meeting that Department Head Epi Bodhi, Director of the Amherst Health Department is retiring. Ms Bodhi will probably best be remembered for the caustic Smoking Ban in Bars battle, dubbed the "issue of the year" by the venerable Amherst Bulletin for 1999. The ban, barely, held making Amherst for a brief while the only town with such an ordinance that now is now a statewide law commonly accepted.

And as a sizably-paid town employee (unlike the actual Board of Health that's made up of volunteers) she had to traverse a minefield as her boss Town Manager Barry Del Castilho and the Select Board lead by Bryan Harvey and ever so vocal pro-smoking Czar Hill Boss (affectionately refereed to a "Boss Hill") sided with the ultra vocal bar owners.

Yeah, you would think Public Health would be above politics--but not in Amherst. In fact, town officials will probably now use her retirement as fodder for the upcoming Override by adding her position to the body count of employees cut due to budget constraints (although a few of those cut have simply shifted to grant funding.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Story

(From the archives 11/21/07)

Only in Arlington would posing for the greatest illustrator in American history on assignment for media juggernaut The Saturday Evening Post pass for routine.

Richard (Dick) Hagelberg returned to the family dairy farm after surviving five years in the 9’th Army Air Corps, flying 65 treacherous daylight bombings missions over Europe, including D-Day.

One summer morning he sat beside his 51-year-old mother Saara (Finnish spelling) for an hour of modeling; and two generations later, the scene still resonates.

Rockwell desperately recruited the Hagelberg’s at deadline. Initially they refused, but acquiesced when he offered them each $15. After publication, as he often did with models, Rockwell offered to gift Dick the original painting. He respectfully refused.

Last year Rockwell’s ‘Homecoming Marine’ sold at auction for $9.2 million and ‘Breaking Home Ties’ (a farmer sitting on the running board of a pick up truck with his son dressed in Sunday best clothes heading off to college) brought an astonishing $15.4 million.

Rockwell’s 1943 ‘Freedom from Want’, an extended family gathering around a sumptuous turkey dinner, would prove more popular than the minimalist “Thanksgiving, 1945: A mother and son peeling potatoes.”

But the earlier Post cover had a distinct advantage.

Part of Rockwell’s public relations war effort, the epic series of illustrations based on FDR’s 1941 State of the Union speech, ‘The Four Freedoms’ heartened a battered America still reeling from Pearl Harbor’s infamy.

The US Government originally rebuffed Rockwell’s sponsorship proposal so he settled on his regular employer, The Saturday Evening Post. The blockbuster results appeared over four consecutive weekly covers from February 20 to March 13, 1943.

‘Freedom From Want” hit the stands on March 6, 1943, so unlike ‘A mother and son peeling potatoes’ that appeared on November 24’th, 1945, it was not simply a seasonal Thanksgiving tribute.

The Office of War Information printed and distributed millions of full-color reproductions of the ‘The Four Freedoms’ and sponsored the originals on a War Bond Tour of major cities that raised $130 million.

Americans adored ‘Freedom from want’; but with Europe in ruins our struggling and beaten allies didn’t want a reminder that America’s heartland escaped war’s devastation.

For his Thanksgiving, 1945 cover Rockwell journeyed to Maine for a change in scenery, starting work in mid-August--the day Japan surrendered.

Rockwell drafted a 16-year-old boy for the veteran and a friend’s wife acted as his mother. When the illustrator returned to his Arlington studio he couldn’t make it work—the young man didn’t exude the stress of war.

Rockwell recruited two more locals but once again didn’t like the results, considering it too staged. Fortuitously, Dick, recently returned from battle, arrived to deliver milk fresh from the nearby Hagelberg farm. The illustrator had his subjects.

Rockwell originally posed Dick in a wheelchair striking a pensive pose imitating Rodan’s ‘The Thinker’, but decided it was too sad. The selected scene is still slightly incongruous, as Dick is performing one of the military’s more despised chores—KP duty—yet he radiates contentment.

Saara Hagelberg’s loving expression—the look only a mother can give—to a son who survived the ravages of a conflict that had claimed so many sons, personifies Thanksgiving.

Rockwell rejoiced: this time the handsome young man had weathered the misery of war; this time his real mother sits by his side.

So why refuse to accept the original painting? Rockwell, as he often did with models, took liberties with Saara adding twenty pounds and twenty years to her appearance. In fact, Hallmark later used her Thanksgiving image for an “I love you Grandma” card.

The dutiful son knew his mother—although proud of the overall result—was mad.

Saara Hagelberg died of cancer only two years later, a few months before the birth of her first grandchild. By then a priest had purchased the painting and he donated it to an American Legion Post in Winchendon, Massachusetts.

A Rockwell Museum expert rediscovered Thanksgiving, 1945 in the late 1970’s; aghast it hung in a smoke filled building with no fire suppression. The Museum borrowed it, where it remains to this day.

In 1988 the Hagelberg family returned from Stockbridge, Massachusetts disappointed the painting was not on display.

In an apology letter curator Maureen Hart Hennessey explained, “The museum has almost 500 paintings in its collection and can only exhibit 40-50 at one time. We also rotate paintings for conservation reasons to help preserve them for future generations.”

A few weeks later the Hagelberg’s enjoyed a private showing.

In 1993 Dick Hagelberg, after helping build a home for his daughter Nancy high on a hill overlooking the family farm that he also built, succumbed to cancer. His wife Olga, a proud WW2 Marine veteran, still lives in that home in Arlington, Vermont.

And lately, even around Thanksgiving, she briefly struggles…but then vividly recalls—keeping alive those magnificent memories.

Sad Update

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Media Internet revolution: Version 3.0

We believe in the nimble, street-level approach to collecting news. We hope to offer great writing from seasoned journalists as well as fledgling reporting from citizens who agree to cover public meetings. Life is a Journey, and we are unfurling our sails.

Mary Serreze
Publisher, Northampton Media

This is how the seasoned Gadfly/Journalist/Information Technology guru turned Publisher described Northampton Media upon its recent September 15 launch. When asked what motivated the new on line endeavor, she enthusiastic replied: “I felt compelled--I couldn’t help it! I love the city of Northampton and felt the local daily newspapers were not doing their job covering local politics.”

With an "angel investor" providing $5,000 and a plethora of free advice from experts who had made the transition from print to Internet bandwidth, combined with her three-year experience doing IT development for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton Media can easily become the poster child for local Citizens Journalism in the Digital Age.

Serreze almost sounds as though she is taking this on-line journalism course, as she describes her role as a "curator and aggregater" of all things Northampton, freely linking to news articles in the Springfield Republican and radio station WHMP, and others not hidden behind a paywall.

Her goal is to make Northampton Media a “One stop shopping experience for fans of Northampton news.” She starts every morning doing a Google news search for anything concerning her adopted City of Northampton, where she has lived for twenty years.

The website already displays links to 25 local blogs (including mine) on the home page and photos or video accompany all posts (bordering on daily). A volunteer Arts/Entertainment editor starts work soon to diversify the offerings and make the site more mainstream.

Northampton Media is still a work in progress as Serreze says she launched a little early in order to closely cover the recent November 3 Northampton Mayoral election which certainly was one of the more contentious and as a result most interesting over the past dozen years.

The website is a step up from her blog as she feels that bloggers have undeservedly gotten a bad rap when it comes to journalism, so this new platform slightly disassociates from the term but still relies on the instant ability to post writing, photos, video and color graphics pioneered by Wordpress and Blogger.

While online since 1999 the Daily Hampshire Gazette has not embraced the Citizen Journalism movement, although editor Noah Hoffenberg says it is “not harmful or threatening to mainstream media.” In fact, he even went as far as saying it was a “good thing” citing “more people involved leads to a divergent perspective and opinions.”

The Gazette currently uses no outside bloggers or Citizen Journalists and doesn’t plan to in the near future. When they rolled out a major revamp of their website last year they had a half-dozen in house blogs from staff and editors but only the youngish sportswriter (former Daily Collegian writer) Matt Vautour seems to have thrived using the medium.

The Gazette is still very much a bricks-and-mortar newspaper (circulation about 20,000) and the website (about 1,000 subscribers) an afterthought. They layout/build the print edition first and then export to the web. But with their pedigree perhaps it is little wonder: The Daily Hampshire Gazette is one of the oldest papers in the nation first coming off the printing press in 1786.

And a recent $10 to $12 million investment in a new Italian four-color process printing press and the extensive renovation required to house it at their Conz Street, Northampton location underscores their continued faith in the printing press.

Although the building expansion/renovation seems not to have impressed former long-time editor and now publisher of Ed Shanahan, who quoted a local architect on his website last year: “I swear to God, that’s the first building that’s ever scared me.”

The Gazette continues to consider the Springfield Republican newspaper as their main competition, as two years ago they switched from an afternoon distribution to the early morning to match their rival.

And while they abandoned the idea of a Sunday edition they slightly revamped the Saturday edition (with the highest circulation of the week) and call it the "Weekend edition."

The Gazette also saw major changes four years ago when purchased by Newspapers of New England, a private company owned by folks with ink in their veins.

When I asked editor Hoffenberg why they simply do not issue digital cameras to reporters to go along with company issued laptops, he responded that it was a "quality" issue. Citizen Journalist or blog photos often do not look like the kind of photo that would pass muster for the Front Page.

Their staff photographers take photos and are good at it, their reporters write, and editors edit. Fair enough, but with all those layers to orchestrate immediacy is sacrificed--although in the last year or so they have gotten better with getting breaking news up on Gazettenet.

And although ensconced behind a paywall, they have recently started allowing non-subscribers to access articles that come up via a Google search. So they are, at least, starting to get it.

Conventional wisdom claims you "can't teach an old dog new tricks." With Northampton Media now nipping at their flank, the Gazette may want to take a refresher course in Internet news distribution.

Especially since they can conveniently do it on-line.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sign sign everywhere a sign

Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind / Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign

So this large sign out by state owned Rt 116 coming into North Amherst goes one better on copyright "fair use" borrowing. Not only the white on blue and same font but also the cute little graphics (I like the martini glass).

But the sign is (just barely) on private property owned by the Jones family, Amherst's ninth generation entrepreneurs extraordinaire. And if Cinda Jones can get the Town Manager to publicly belly dance at a Chamber of Commerce gala it doesn't surprise me she could jump through all the hoops required to get this sign up--even in the People's Republic.

I'm just a tad surprised she followed the state's half-assed concept of making them only one sided.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A tale of two signs

So four years ago when the town ripped off the state's design logo for signage (that Mass charges $1,200 annually per location) Hickory Ridge Golf Course was paying for this sign in South Amherst, but Cherry Hill in North Amherst got theirs for free (two of them).

May sound like a minor competitive advantage, but another major one is Hickory Ridge pays the town over $17,000 annually in property taxes while Cherry Hill pays zero. Even the 9-hole Amherst Golf Course, owed by tax-exempt Amherst College pays over $7,000 annually in property taxes.

Just another hidden cost of our municipal white elephant.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let's break out the booze and have a ball

The Lord Jeffery Inn

I owe you a draft beer Mr Marx, payable on opening night spring, 2011 at the Boltwood Tavern--assuming the newly renovated Lord Jeff Inn keeps the concept of a low-key, relatively inexpensive pub as part of the fancy more expensive Inn with rooms and fine dining.

Okay maybe it's not the ultra ritzy $24-30 million renovation originally planned, but I'll take a lousy $14 million anytime (seven times the current assessed value). Just get her opened again!

In addition to bringing folks to the downtown the Inn will pay significantly more property taxes (currently $30,000) increasing by a factor of 5 or 6. And they will also pay the newly increased lodging tax and meals tax. All in all, a bonanza for the town tax coffers and a much needed shot in the arm for downtown economic development.

All hail the purple and white!
Boltwood Tavern

Monday, November 16, 2009

When the State breaks trust

When Town Manager Larry Shaffer signed a 5-year Strategic Agreement with Umass for roughly $100,000 more than they had been paying Amherst for fire/ambulance protection the year before, he allowed them to take credit for the $100,000 Payment in lieu of Taxes Amherst receives from a separate account out of Boston.

Now, however, the Governor is talking about cutting that amount by $65,000. If so can we bill Umass directly--or take it out of the Town Manager’s pay?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gotta love local TV journalism

Okay, so let's forget attractive young cub TV reporter Jackie Bruno (in a C+ market area) botched Umass President Jack Wilson's surname (not Williams); and how the NJ State Trooper was killed (not by a bomb but by a handgun.) or the assault on two Mass State Troopers (also from firearms not bombs.)

And she probably could/should have pointed out Levasseur was MIA when the despicable deed of gunning down that NJ peace officer occurred.

But I'm actually glad that Umass Prof Sarah Lennox "admitted" she did not "know much about this case at all." Neither did I, when first getting involved. Because, like Professor Lennox, I agree that Academic Freedom and Free Speech are SACRED.

Of the 200+ media articles carried on Google News one of them quotes Mrs. Raymond Luc Levasseur saying the violence was not "terrorism" but "sabotage." As Commander Spock would say "fascinating".

Terrorism is exactly what the word implies: do as much possible damage, slaughter as many innocent people in the most heinous way possible--preferably at the beginning of a news cycle designed for peak media broadcast. And, better yet, repeat the act a few moments later--because if you execute the first part properly, NOW the entire world is watching.

Sabotage means to incapacitate in a sneaky sort of way (although that could indeed cause human casualties) the opposition's machinery. But the attack focuses on the physical infrastructure--not the flesh and blood component.

Big difference. Very B-I-G!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A proud tradition indeed

(9:00 PM ) So tonight the forces of fear and oppression won out, and all of us are microscopically worse off.

The academic forum on a twenty-year-old sedition trial where the main culprit was acquitted, but served 18 years on other charges did go off tonight at Umass...without, however, the main culprit. At the the 11Th hour his parole person suddenly decided that to exercise his First Amendment rights in the great state of Massachusetts (where the war for liberty first started) could violate his parole.

Umass police--including the Chief--were out in force, as was the media. I arrived about two minutes after the 7:15 PM start time (as I had to teach my wife's karate class at the Club) and the room was already sealed. It will be interesting to see how the local and Boston TV stations who turned out with the their very expensive satellite trucks handle this now-turned-non-story.

Sure, about 100-150 off duty cops showed up to hold signs. Fair enough. Ironically they were peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights. Something they managed to deny Raymond Luc Levasseur.

Yes, this is America

So I can’t even remember the last time I disagreed with my friends at the Springfield Republican, but today they kind of blew it with an editorial on Ray Luc Levasseur’s censored Umass appearance.

On the one hand they “were ready to defend his right to speak at UMass. This is America, after all.” But on the other hand they’re “glad that Levasseur, a convicted terrorist, won’t be able to lead a three-ring circus that would mock freedom of speech.”

Say what? How is simply exercising your American right (yes even someone on Parole has rights) under the First Amendment making a mockery of free speech? And who is responsible for the “three-ring circus”?

The Boston Herald and conservative talk radio whipped up the masses in a classic yellow journalism campaign that would have made William Randolph Hearst proud.

I do not condone violence to achieve change (and apparently neither does Lavasseur anymore); as President Lincoln so succinctly stated: “The ballot is stronger than the bullet”. As flight 93 headed towards Washington DC on a suicide mission the passengers took a vote before attempting to retake the plane.

To advocate freedom of speech but applaud its denial strikes me as hypocritical.
This from The Boston Globe:
Not everyone who suffered in the Freedom Front’s wake agrees with stifling Levasseur’s voice. Edmund Narine, who lost a leg in the 1976 courthouse bombing, said despite a desire to protest a Levasseur appearance, free speech trumps his anger.
Levasseur “should be prosecuted again, and if I have to return and testify again, I would,’’ he said yesterday in a phone interview from Kampala, Uganda, where he is visiting family. “At the same time if he wants to talk about it, and I don’t know what he’s going to tell the kids, but I think he should be given the opportunity to speak.’’
“I think the public can learn from someone who’s carried out these sorts of heinous acts,’’ said Narine, 72, who is a writer in Mission Hill. “It’s important for us to hear why they did it, what motivated them. . . . It’s good for all of us to hear that, especially professionals, because it might help them to take preventive action in the future.’’
Levasseur said he was humbled by Narine’s support.
“I think that’s a tremendous thing for him to do. And I appreciate it given what he’s been through,’’ said Levasseur, noting that he never intended to hurt innocent civilians.
The Springfield Republican Speaks

Worcester Telegram & Gazette Columnist gets it right

UMass President Jack Wilson (before the Body Snatchers got him)

Even the Umass Daily Collegian gets it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Worth dying for

UPDATE: 6:45 PM So the on-again, off-again speech by convicted domestic terrorist Raymond Luc Levasseur at Umass, you know, that bastion of higher education where the market of ideas--no matter how whacked--can be discussed in a civilized manner, is now OFF.

And if I had to guess, since a venerable duly appointed taxpayer funded government Parole Officer is involved, this time it's permanent. Now I know what Michelle Obama meant when she suggested sometimes you're ashamed to be called an American.

The Boston Herald "reports" (requiring three "reporters" no less)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Accuracy in reporting

UPDATE Wednesday morning The Boston Herald Screams

UPDATE Tuesday 10:00 PM The Boston Globe steps up

UPDATE 2:30 PM: So apparently it was not the Umass bureaucrats who reconsidered domestic terrorist Raymond Luc Levasseur's speech and showed some spine by allowing it on Thursday. It was those damn Professors. And you can certainly tell that from the "official" press release issued by the highly staffed "news office"--penned by former Gazette reporter now turned PR flack--Patrick Callahan:

Umass Office of News and Media relations, grudgingly, "reports"


UPDATE: 11:30 AM: So I'm seeing by Google news realtime updates that UMass has now reconsidered the cancellation of convicted domestic terrorist Raymond Luc Levasseur and his presentation is back on. Damn! Nice to see Umass bureaucrats have a spine.

So as if the People's Republic of Amherst is not getting hammered enough by conservative talk radio because the Gitmo story gets misrepresented that Amherst is embracing terrorists, now our local newspaper has to join in.

Town Meeting did not invite "Ravil Mingazov" to move to Amherst. They invited detainees who had been "cleared" of any wrongdoing and were free to leave Gitmo. In fact the word "cleared" appeared four times in the warrant article overwhelmingly approved by Town Meeting last week.

Yes, Ruth Hooke (the original petitioner) did mention his name as a possible candidate but he was not specifically mentioned in the article Town Meeting passed.

And maybe if Federal authorities read the venerable Daily Hampshire Gazette they will not clear Mingazov and then he will fail to qualify as "cleared" and as a result would not be invited to live in Amherst.

The Springfield Republican reports (with a more accurate headline and lead)