Friday, December 28, 2007

Sentinel a self-described car crash!

A friend who for some bizarre reason reads the Worcester Business Journal forwarded me this semi-interesting interview with Chuck Owen, the publisher of the Sentinel.

Most of it's boring business-speak, but there are a few telling bits. Shall we quote them? We shall!
People go to stock car races not so much because they want to watch it go around and around and around. They go to see the car crash. We're reporting on certain pieces of news, news that people may not like, and they may call it negative, but it gets people to respond, to clean up, to take an active role in their community.
Well, what an enlightened approach to news reporting! I've never heard anything like that before!

Okay, I have. But it's usually used as a derogative way of describing the pathetic state of news reporting. Bragging about it is a touch bizarre.

Now, he's probably right that people go to stock car races for the crashes. But that's a fucking stock car race! Its primary purposes are to entertain rednecks and to sell advertising space!

The Sentinel, on the other hand, is a newspaper (albeit a poor one). Its purpose is ostensibly to inform people about the news, not to entertain them with fiery crashes and traumatic head injuries.

Now, I can't claim to have watched sports reports about stock car racing, but my bet is that they tell you about more than just the crashes. No doubt certain crashes are mentioned, but I'm willing to wager that they also tell you about who won the race, maybe some of the tactics, maybe some analysis of the flow of the race itself, et cetera. Which I guess makes them more newsy than our local paper, which only cares about the crashes.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to reporting on negative things. If anything, I think the media is too timid about doing so (when's the last time you saw a war photo in a newspaper that actually conveyed the horrors of war?). But it can't be your only focus, and it can't exist in a vacuum. You need context or these sorts of stories are both misleading and pointless.

Sure, you can run your depressing stories like "A Family's Christmas Nightmare". But while a family getting robbed of its hard-earned XBox 360 and Video iPod does indeed suck, you've got other families out there who didn't get robbed because they had nothing to steal.

Do those families not have nightmares too? When you can't even consider pricey electronic gifts because you're struggling to figure out how to both heat your home and feed your kids this month are you not newsworthy?

No, you're not. Not for the Sentinel, at least.

It's not sexy to suffer from complicated societal ills. There's no car crash moment in slowly wasting away. There's no easily identifiable burglar to demonize when the whole system is at fault. So your problems aren't going to be in the paper. Sorry about that!

How about the assertion that this negative focus "gets people to respond, to clean up, to take an active role in their community"?

Well, it's bullshit. Going back to the car crash analogy, what role does the average citizen even have? I'm not a doctor, I'm not a fireman, I can't fix cars. It's a one-time event that's responded to by the people best suited to respond to it. If anything, these stories give people a feeling of helplessness. That the world is rough, but that they can't really do anything about it.

What we really can do something about are those bigger context-laden stories (the ones that don't get reported because they're not sexy). You know, big issues like poverty and homelessness and suffering. They're things that take a lot of people doing a lot of work to really make a dent, but they're not dramatic.

And if they don't get reported on, they're not even visible problems to a lot of people.

So there you have it. The Sentinel will start giving a shit about you and me just as soon as something exciting (and terrible) happens to us. If you're slowly starving to death or something, don't look to them for help. It's just not car-crashy enough.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Move along, nothing to see here.


I had a post sort of half-written about this dumb Sentinel article and how they keep trying to create controversy where none belongs and then I got rambling about religious intolerance and zero-sum game theory and blah blah blah.

Then I realized just how fucking bored I was with the whole thing, so I stopped.

But I used this picture of Zombie Jesus that I found somewhere and sort of liked it, so here's a totally useless post just so I don't lose it.

Oh, but I did like this article, because of this quote:
[R]esidents who live near Kirby's bar [Hooligans] said they have a videotape of a fight outside of Hooligans that they want the commission to view. Tony Reyes, who lives at 35 Day St., said the tape shows a fight outside of the bar with blood and people urinating in public.
I want to see that videotape, because it raises so many questions!

Was the urination part of the fight? Was it used as a weapon? If not, how could these people manage to pee with a fight going on right near them? I have trouble if someone parks himself at the urinal next to me when I'm about to go. I can't imagine being able to pee with the danger of flying fists and blood heading my way.

Report more on this, Sentinel! Important questions have been raised!

Holy Zombie Jesus things are boring lately...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nazis and Arabs and Dickbags, oh my!

One thing I'll give the far right credit for; they're remarkably predictable. Predictably wrong, yes, but predictable.

You know what they're going to say well before they say it. You also know it's going to be dumb, but that every idiot right-winger out there will repeat it until it almost develops an air of legitimacy. There aren't a lot of original ideas coming out of that ideology, but there are a lot of lies.

What am I getting at? Who knows? But local radio dickbag Chuck Morse has a new blog post up that you could have seen coming a mile away.

It's not really worth following that link, because most of his post is misdirection, but here's the opening paragraph from the charmingly titled "Iran Report echoes American approach to the Nazi Holocaust":
Israel government minister Yitzhak Cohen, responding to the US Intelligence report concluding that Iran’s nuclear weapons program was shut down in 2003 stated: “The manner in which the Americans relate to the intelligence report on Iran is similar to the way in which they viewed reports they received during the Holocaust on railways transporting hundreds of thousands of Jews to their death at Auschwitz," [sic]
Well, if Israel says something, it must be true, right? They never do anything bad!

After that paragraph Morse goes on to babble about Nazis and ignore the whole issue of Iran. I suspect Morse has never heard of Godwin's Law or Reductio ad Hitlerum, but he pretty much embodies both of them. The man loves a good (and by good I mean logically fallacious) Nazi analogy!

Because that's the whole post. He doesn't really make any arguments about Iran, he just quotes shit about Nazi Germany and expects his readers to jump to the conclusion that Iran is the same thing because of his headline. Which is dumb.

Morse's only real mention of Iran boils down to this:
Author Kenneth Timmerman claims that Thomas Fingar, the chairman of the National Intelligence Council which issued the report, harbors political motives for publishing what his sources in the Middle East call “a deliberate disinformation campaign” cooked up by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards posing as diplomats in Europe.
Oh, so it isn't Morse's idea at all. It's Ken Timmerman's! Timmerman, by the way has an awesome web site. I love the banner at the top and the horrible flashing things everywhere! Also the lack of any evidence for his delusional claims!

Anyway, the basic idea here is that people who are set on invading Iran are unhappy about the NIE report that indicates that "Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015."

Oh, that sounds like good news to me! But it's bad news to the warmongering right, because it means they don't have a good excuse for invading Iran.

Mind you, if the report said "OMG Iran is totally going to bomb us tomorrow!" these same people would be cumming in their pants. But since it didn't their only recourse is to try to discredit it. Shame they didn't do that with the totally crap reports about Iraq's make-believe WMD program, but it's not like they're actually interested in the truth in either case. They just need a way to push their agenda and this NIE makes that harder.

Now, the parallel I've just made between the intelligence on Iran and the intelligence on Iraq is a totally obvious and relevant one to make. I think any half-conscious follower of politics would make the same one.

Morse doesn't. He sees some parallel with Nazis. I mean, everyone knows Nazis were bad, so obviously if there's a parallel then it means that this report must be bad too, right?

To quote Dickbag:
In April 1944, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler escaped from Auschwitz and subsequently issued a report in which they estimated that the number of Jews killed in Auschwitz between June 1942 and April 1944 was about 1.75 million.
Incidentally, that report actually was wrong. Current estimates put the total number of people killed at Auschwitz at about 1.1 million, 90% of them Jewish. Still a horrible thing of course, but facts are facts...

Morse goes on to babble about history and how we really should have done something about Auschwitz when we heard this report (which I'd agree with in theory, but I'm hardly an expert on WWII-era military tactics), and blames it on this dude McCloy. He closes with:
McCloy's motives in ignoring and in covering up the Nazi genocide are not known, nor are the motives of State Department official Thomas Finger and his coterie in their present attempt to obscure what appears to be a program by another genocidal leader to build an instrument of mass death, to be used against the Jews.

Let me put Morse's argument (if you can call it that) in a nutshell here.
  1. When the US got intelligence about Auschwitz in WWII it should have acted on it.
  2. The US just got intelligence about Iran saying it's not the nuclear threat we've been led to believe.
  3. Because of 1), we should ignore 2) and bomb the fuck out of Iran.
  4. QED
Make any sense to you? Because it doesn't to me!

Okay, maybe that's not fair. I left out Morse's number 2.5: "The people who made the Iran NIE are big liar-pants, because some crackpot says so!" But what the fuck does that have to do with Nazis? Oh, nothing! What does it have to do with reality? Also nothing! What does it have to do with pushing an agenda no matter what the truth is? A whole lot!

I don't know if the NIE is right or wrong. Nor does Morse. Nor does anybody except the people running (or not running) the nuclear programs in Iran.

What I do know is that when you get down to it, neither Morse nor any of these other right-wing warmongers really give a shit if the NIE is right or wrong. They want to bomb Iran, and no amount of evidence suggesting that's a bad idea is going to change their minds.

Oh, and Nazis were bad.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The War on Paganism!

Here I was, sitting back and trying to simply ignore the whole "Holiday Season," sitting at work, watching people slip around hilariously on the ice outside, when my peace was disturbed!

I blame the time-traveling Mr. Lincoln for forwarding me this Sentinel editorial, no doubt in an effort to get me riled up. And riled up am I!

The editorial is written by Sentinel editor/douchebag Jeff McMenemy and is entitled "Tree controversy shows what the world is coming to."

Oddly enough the piece doesn't really explain what the world is supposedly coming to. Is it Armageddon? Cultural awareness? Orgies on every streetcorner? Also, are you really supposed to end a sentence with a preposition like that, Mr. Editor? Shame, shame!

Anyway, McMenemy is apparently a Teutonic Pagan and wants to push the trappings of his crazy-ass religion (I can say that because my girlfriend is a pagan) on the rest of us. To wit:
I don't understand the world today sometimes. [Unicow's note: this is both self-evident and a really sucky sentence.]

Case in point being the decision made by Samoset Principal Donna M. Pierce early last week to take down the school's giving tree -- which was used to collect donations to give to less fortunate people in Leominster -- because she received several complaints from parents and school employees who said it wasn't fair to put a religious symbol in the schools during the holidays.
Holy crap he's a bad writer. Not to mention a misleading one. Did people really think it wasn't "fair" to put up a religious symbol (in this case a Pagan one) in a public school? I'd bet they thought it wasn't constitutional, which is unrelated to fairness. McMenemy clearly has no qualms about pushing his nutty nature-worship on the rest of us, but the Constitution of this country isn't real big on that kind of behavior.

He goes on to say:
Pierce later agreed to put the tree back up after a huge public backlash.
Hmm. Do you think Mr. Pantheism there reads his own newspaper?

Because there was this story which explained pretty clearly that...
A parent put up the tree Friday to the "surprise" of faculty members and students, who had been working on a display that now includes Hanukkah and Kwanzaa symbols, as well as Christmas decorations, Superintendent Nadine Binkley said Wednesday.

"A parent came in and put up the tree without consulting anybody," she said. "It was an individual parent who chose to do it as opposed to a unified effort from the school community."
Oh, what a huge controversy! The school took down something that was erected too soon only to put it back up when it was due to go up anyway! Oh no!

So, some parent comes in and does something that could be argued to promote religion in a public school setting if left standing alone. Instead of leaving it there, it's taken down until such a time as the planned and coordinated Xmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Whatever decorations can get put up and thereby avoid potential establishment clause issues (displays for religious holidays are okay in public schools only if you give equal time to all comers, and don't promote any religion). Horrible!

[Another note: I was going to make an establishment clause / Santa Claus joke here but decided against it. You're welcome.]

(Also, if you're curious about what is and is not acceptable when it comes to religious holidays in public schools, the Christian Legal Society has some information here.)

Actually, what the principal did makes a lot of sense. But it's not controversial and doesn't fit into McMenemy's preconceived "War On Pagan Traditions That Are Explicitly Warned Against By The Bible."

I mean, only an idiot would freak out over schools following their own schedules, right? Or is he advocating anarchy in our public schools now? What if the parent had put the tree up in September, Mr. Goat-worship? Should we just leave it up and thereby abandon all order? Think of the children!

If McMenemy had left it at that I wouldn't have been too bothered. I mean, he's just one dumbass among many. But for some reason he had to get nasty:
The correct thing for Pierce to do would have been to thank everyone for their concern, and then politely tell them the tree was staying up, and suggest they could lessen their chagrin by donating something to put on the tree.

That way these thin-skinned, politically correct left wingers -- because you know we Republicans love Christmas -- might actually do something helpful for once in their lives.
What the fuck?

"We Republicans love Christmas?"

Okay, I'd like to think that was tongue-in-cheek, and McMenemy just doesn't have the writing skills to convey sarcasm. But I don't think it was, which just means that Jeff McMenemy is an unbelievably huge asshole. Hey, fuck you, Jeff!

I get told by people all the time that Xmas is about giving and brotherhood and all that (hey, wasn't Jesus into brotherhood too?), and you come in defending it with the most stupidly divisive statement I've ever read? Fuck you again!

What, Democrats don't love Xmas? That'll come as news to an awful lot of people. Now, I hate Xmas, but I hardly speak for all Democrats (and my hate has more to do with the secular annoyance and conspicuous consumption than the let's-pretend-Jesus-was-born-in-December-even-though-he-wasn't religious tripe anyway).

And to suggest that the left-wing doesn't do anything to help the needy? What world have you been living in? Fuck you yet again! Fuck you and all your animal-sacrificing buddies!

I wasn't opposed to having Xmas trees in schools before (when done correctly, in a way so as not to promote religion), but now I am! Just to piss off Jeff McMenemy.

People like McMenemy are so keen on destroying the First Amendment and breaking down the separation between church and state (and make no mistake, that's what this is really about), that they become blind to what's actually going on.

In reality there's no controversy here. There's no sign of "what the world is coming to." It's a non-story that the Sentinel has tried to turn into a controversy by having three stories and two opinion pieces about it (so far). All that's really here is some right-wind fucktards freaking out over nothing, and using it as an excuse to attack people who they disagree with.

I may not subscribe to McMenemy's neo-paganist beliefs, but he's welcome to them. Trying to stir shit up for no reason isn't cool, though. Nor is it in keeping with his supposed belief system. Nerthus would be very disappointed!

ps Also, nice job pushing your pro-death penalty agenda in the same editorial thing, Jeff. 'Tis the season for giving (lethal injections)!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why Does Lisa Wong Hate America?

Sad, sad news today.

It seems that Mayor-Elect Lisa Wong has a problem with the incoherent ramblings old-school comedy stylings of beloved nonagenarian Andy Rooney.

I realize this is deeply troubling, so if you need to take a few moments to collect yourself, please do so now. It gets ugly from here on out.

The story begins a few days ago. Whichever one has the day with Andy Rooney giving his wonderful commentaries. Sunday? Yeah, Sunday.

Anyway, Rooney had the ingenious idea of looking at local newspaper headlines out of context and then complaining that he didn't understand them. Hilarious stuff, and totally original! Nobody ever makes fun of newspaper headlines!

You can view the genius of his performance here (link courtesy of 1970's Abraham Lincoln, the master of all internettery). By all means, do it now! Don't wait!

Did you notice the mention of Wong and Fitchburg? Hey, I know who that is! I also know that she's not a "he," but I'm going to assume that was dementia intentional and was just Andy being too lazy to even read one sentence into the article madcap crazy hilarious like usual! Oh man that guy is funny!

Because old man ranting comedy gold like that is obviously big news, the Sentinel today ran a story about it! Good reporting for once, Sentinel!
Rooney's rant focused on how newspaper headlines are too broad and do not give enough information to readers.

As an example, Rooney held up a headline from the Nov. 7 Boston Globe which read "Wong Claims Win in Fitchburg," and used it as an example of headlines that are vague.

"You don't know if Wong won in Fitchburg or if he just claimed to have won," Rooney said.
Oh man, that's lame funny stuff!

Anyway, the Sentinel went out of its way to interview Wong herself (himself?) about it!
"I think it's great actually that Fitchburg was mentioned in a positive -- if not humorous -- light," Wong said.
Oh no!

Wong is clearly calling the mention "not humorous!" Or maybe she's not, but that's how I'm choosing to interpret it!

That's Andy Rooney, national annoyance treasure you're calling "not humorous," Miss Wong! Which leads me to my question: Why do you hate America?

Also, other stuff might be going on in town. Beats me. This whole Andy Rooney thing has sent me into a deep funk about our mayor-elect's apparent lack of a sense of humor. Also, I had trouble coming up with the headline for this post, and I blame her for that too. Man, it's a dark day in Fitchburg...

Thank you, Sentinel, for your waste of space that could have been spent reporting on something meaningful important article!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Apes Evolved From Conservative Talk Show Hosts

Election's over, enough local politics for a minute!

As a guy who strives to provide a different voice in Fitchburg, I ingest a lot of media that I quite frankly can't stand. But unless you know what other people are saying you're in no position to point out that they're often totally wrong. That's why I read skim the Sentinel thoroughly for things to make fun of and that's why I occasionally listen to the horrible Chuck Morse show on WEIM.

I happened to be listening last night while Morse went off about how people who believe the theory of evolution is correct (i.e. everyone with even a basic grasp of science) are big fat jerks. Now, I may be a big jerk, but I'm not fat. Morse also updated his terrible blog with information about it! Incidentally, I think his blog gets even fewer readers than his radio show has listeners, which might put it into negative numbers somehow.

Morse is clearly neither a scientist nor a theologian. Nor does he seem to have any real understanding of science or theology. You'd think that would make him unqualified to have a meaningful discussion of the evolution vs creationism "controvery," and you'd be right!

But funny thing about evolution. Most scientific theories are debated by scientists. If some radio host started going off on a totally uninformed tirade about the theory of relativity people would just laugh at him. But evolution has been politicized to the point where anyone who's even heard of Darwin can rant about how horrible evolutionary theory is and have a similarly uninformed subset of idiots believe him.

But this is science, not politics. So let's get to the facts, shall we?

First, a quote from Morse's blog so you can see where this all came from:
I am proud of comedian, author, economist, and former presidential speechwriter Ben Stein for taking on the thorny issue of evolution versus intelligent design in his new film "Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed" due to be released in theatres [sic] February, 2008.

Besides delving into the raucous debate over the scientific legitimacy of Darwinism, the theory that claims that man randomly developed from muck and was formed by mutating over millions of years, the movie also documents the Stalinist tactics of the darwiniacs, the devout cult followers of this questionable theory.
Hmm, okay. Ben Stein was a teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." And though I don't see "scientist" or "theologian" in his credentials either, people seem to be under the odd impression that he's kind of smart.

After all, he had that show where people tried to steal his money, right? No way could that have been set up to mostly ask questions that he'd be likely to know the answers to!

Morse, as usual, began spouting things that just aren't true right away. There's absolutely no "raucous debate over the scientific legitimacy of Darwinism." There's a political debate, not a scientific one. Sure, there are debates within the field of evolutionary biology, but they're about elements of the theory, not the legitimacy of the theory as a whole. Nor is the theory "questionable" in the usual sense. All scientific theories are open to questioning, but the validity of the theory isn't in doubt in the scientific community (it's only in doubt by the moron community).

Also, evolutionary theory doesn't really claim that "man randomly developed from muck." It has little to say about the origins of life, and is really about the development of life after that point (which actually means it's not even incompatible with a "creator," but more about that later). He's right about mutations being important though, so good for him getting at least one fact right!

Morse talked last night about how he considers evolutionary theory "just a theory," and how he wrote a column several years ago that said that and got a lot of criticism. Chuck Morse apparently does not know the difference between a "theory" (as used by the general public) and a "scientific theory" (as used by scientists, natch). This is a common argument used by similarly-confused creationists, like the Cobb County Board of Education, whose unconstitutional sticker for textbooks is reproduced below.

Anyway, here's a link that explains the difference in ways even Morse should be able to understand. For those of you too lazy to follow it or that need a refresher, in a nutshell:
A theory is more like a scientific law than a hypothesis. A theory is an explanation of a set of related observations or events based upon proven hypotheses and verified multiple times by detached groups of researchers. One scientist cannot create a theory; he can only create a hypothesis.

In general, both a scientific theory and a scientific law are accepted to be true by the scientific community as a whole. Both are used to make predictions of events. Both are used to advance technology...

A theory is developed only through the scientific method, meaning it is the final result of a series of rigorous processes. Note that a theory never becomes a law unless it was very narrow to begin with...

...Real scientific theories must be falsifiable. So-called "theories" based on religion, such as creationism or intelligent design are, therefore, not scientific theories. They are not falsifiable and they do not follow the scientific method.
Pretty simple, no?

Evolutionary theory, of course, is a scientific theory. One that's as well-proven and accepted as quantum theory or the theory of relativity. It's open to debate and revision, but outright rejection of evolutionary theory would require some pretty dramatic evidence against it.

Back to Morse:
Stein reveals how how [sic] educators, scientists and commentators have been publically [sic] denounced, scorned, and in some cases denied tenure and even fired for the “crime” of believing that there might be evidence of design” [sic] in nature.
Maybe that's true. I don't know. If a science teacher is denying evolution in favor of creationism I'd certainly deny him tenure. Similarly, I'd deny him tenure if he was staying the Earth is flat or that gravity only exists because God keeps shoving everything to the ground. Science teachers are supposed to teach science, not crackpot theories.

Come to think of it, evolution is probably better understood than gravity (which works, but isn't well-explained). Probably even better than quantum theory (which is just incredibly hard to wrap your head around). Quantum theory is accepted as fact though, because it explains how the world works with incredible accuracy. Evolutionary theory does the same thing. And that's what a scientific theory is about! If it works, it's a good theory. If it doesn't, it's rejected and hopefully replaced by a better one. Hurrah for science!

Morse seems to have a touch of PTSD from his dramatic loss when he ran against Barney Frank for Congress:
I had my own run-in on this issue when I ran for Congress in Massachusetts against Barney Frank in 2004. In his opposition research, Frank had uncovered an article I had written that (gasp) questioned Darwin's theory of evolution. He brought this up during a joint television appearance on NECN - Nightline with Chet Curtis and Jim Braude.

Frank looked angry as he exposed what he considered to be a bombshell, a shocking scandal. By questioning Darwinism, I was not to be taken seriously. [blah blah blah]
Yeah, indeed Morse shouldn't be taken seriously. But it's not for "questioning Darwinism," it's just for being really really dumb. I wouldn't take someone who denies the Holocaust seriously, I wouldn't take someone who denies the theory of relativity seriously, I wouldn't take someone who thought that when I hit the button to open my garage door invisible pixies flew over to it in order to do the heavy lifting seriously, and I wouldn't take someone who denies evolution seriously.

It's not about asking questions (science actually encourages that), it's about intelligence. If you question evolution intelligently then you should be taken seriously. If you deny it wholesale because your invisible friend in the sky told you to then you absolutely should not be taken seriously.

Morse ends his blog post with this paragraph:
Darwin's evolution is the cornerstone of the secular faith because it removes the possibility of God. Thus, God is replaced by the State which is, according to the secular faith, charged with the moral responsibility to evolve man. This was the faith of the ancient pagans, the idol-worshippers of biblical times. The state set up an idol, such as Baal, and dictated the means of worship down the lines of supporting "enlightened" state power. This also gave the King, who controlled the false idol, the moral pretext to denounce and remove his enemies. Perhaps not much has changed.
Okay, ignore for a minute that most of it makes no damn sense and let's just focus on this idea that evolution=atheism. Morse doesn't come right out and say that in his blog, but he did on the radio. As we've come to expect, it too is totally made up.

Of course there are plenty of atheists who accept evolution as fact. The brilliant Richard Dawkins is perhaps one of the best-known evolutionary biologists at work today, and has taken an extremely strong stance against religion (and I dare anyone of faith to read The God Delusion without questioning what they believe). But there are plenty of others in the field who believe in a god.

One very well-known evolutionary biologist who also believed in a god was the late Stephen Jay Gould. Gould introduced the concept of Non-Overlapping Magesteria, which boiled down to a belief that religion and science are seperate "magisteria" with nothing to say about each other. For that matter even the Vatican under John Paul II has endorsed evolution, though I think the current pope isn't on board with that anymore.

The head of the Human Genome Project, Francis Collins, has also espoused the theory of Theistic Evolution (TE). I happen to disagree with Collins (personally I'm a Pastafarian), but the fact that so many respected biologists are clearly theists pretty effectively debunks Morse's claim.

As for Theistic Evolution, it's the belief "that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not be contradictory." And indeed, they need not! Who's to say that a god didn't set evolution in motion? That'd be a pretty clever trick! Certainly smarter than creating men with nipples and all humans with an appendix that does nothing except sometimes get inflamed and kill people!

One last thing I want to address. Morse talked a lot last night about how he got so much anger and hatred and so forth for his evolution denial. He seemed baffled by it, and suggested that evolutionary theory was the one thing in this country you're not allowed to question.

Now, I'd actually argue that other people's religious beliefs are the one thing you're not allowed to question, but let's just go with this...

Chuck, the reason people react so strongly is because you're totally uninformed about the subject you're discussing. To reject evolution at this point is (rightfully) seen by many people as a sign both of ignorance and of a desire to impose your religious beliefs on others.

No question here, so-called "Intelligent Design" is just creationism in fancy clothes. Its goal is to get God into the public schools, which is clearly forbidden by the Constitution. If you endorse gutting the Bill of Rights, you're going to piss people off. People who are pissed off are going to react strongly. It's not just atheists, it's anyone who respects the First Amendment.

I haven't focused much on the creationism side of this argument, because I believe it to be nonsense. You can believe it if you like, but the instant that belief turns into a desire to corrupt the minds of our children with fairy tales when they should be learning real science, you earn yourself an enemy. And I'm hardly alone in that.

Question evolution all you want, but learn a thing or two about it first. Try reading a book that doesn't agree with your religious preconceptions once in awhile. Just being a dumbass won't get you far.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wong Won, Donnelly Didn't

See that alliteration in the title? Impressive, huh?

Anyway, per the Fitchburg Pride, Lisa Wong just won the mayoral election with "a mandate-setting 72 percent of the vote."

Holy crap, Fitchburg! Way to go!

Now, I didn't make any predictions here, but I privately had told people I expected her to take "65% easily." Getting 72% actually doesn't even surprise me that much. People who had never taken an interest in local politics before were all over this race. That alone should have told anyone paying attention that Wong had it in the bag all along.

I don't have any information on the other races yet. Hopefully Wong's win means lots of smart people went to vote today (and indeed turnout appears to have been reasonably high). So hopefully lots of good candidates got in. I'll probably write something about all that tomorrow.

Anyway, this is a short post. I just wanted to congratulate Mayor-Elect Wong. Lots of people have high hopes for you. Try not to fuck up.

Update: make that 75%, not 72%. Damn you, Fitchburg Pride!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Councilor-at-large time!

Note to readers: I started this post reviewing all the Councilor-at-large websites but got distracted part of the way through. The election is now happening tomorrow and I'm too tired and lazy to finish what I started and update the bits that have changed since I wrote this like two weeks ago. Rather than let what I had go to waste I'm just going to post it. Enjoy. Or don't. Whatever.

Do vote though. And vote for the right people. Or else.

Post begins here ----\/


Time for more website reviews!

We've been through the mayoral candidates. We've been through the Ward Councilors who actually bothered to have websites. Now we have the councilors-at-large!

There are five councilor-at-large positions. One of them is currently held by Tom Donnelly, who won't be returning. Annie DeMartino and Thomas Conry are both incumbents, but don't seem to have websites. Jesus "Jay" Cruz and Dean Tran are incumbents who do have websites! We also have newcomers Shaun Cormier and Marcus DiNatale running (who have websites).

Once again I've failed to find a decent list or just who's running and how many seats are contestable (I'm assuming all, but who knows!). Shouldn't stuff like this be easy to find? Isn't that what the internet is for? Could some kind person with more time than me put one together? Maybe the city clerk or a newspaper reporter or somebody? Sheesh!

Not that it matters for this post. Here I'm just going to critique the websites of the four Councilor-at-large candidates who do have websites. Anyone else can go to hell.

Let's go in alphabetical order, shall we?

Shaun Cormier:

What are the first impressions of Cormier's site?

Every page has a bigass picture of the city, which is actually the only picture on the site! It's not a bad picture though, and the site is actually pretty simple and clean-looking. Also at the bottom it says "This website is designed and maintained by Shaun Cormier," which I'm going to take literally. If he did indeed make it all himself he actually did quite a nice job. Seems like a FrontPage jobby.

On his front page he does the traditional "I'm running for office because I want improvement in the stuff that currently sucks" thing, lists where to vote, and gives this more-specific paragraph:
If elected as Councilor At-Large, I will strive for improving communications between city officials, propose that the City of Fitchburg use renewable energy sources, look into tax relief for first time homebuyers, and find ways to attract more recreational businesses to Fitchburg. I will further strive to find ways for the city to save money.
Not terrible, but not inspiring either.

Moving to his About Me page, we find no picture! Hey, everyone else has had a picture! This lack of picture may not be a bad thing. Cormier's quite young-looking (and I believe is just 22, so that makes sense), and conceivably his youth could turn off some old fogey voters. Personally I see it as a strong point, but old people have more votes than I do. Then again, young people have computers.

He gives some of his background (lived here forever, etc), talks about his job (sadly without mentioning the really awesome parts), and takes this interesting swipe at the current state of political discourse in the town:
There have been many negative articles written towards city departments blaming city council or city council blaming city departments on certain issues. I want to see all city departments working together to help solve problems. I would especially like to see a better relationship with the city council and mayor.
Oh, snap! Take that, stupid people who can't get along! Cormier's coming to town and he's going to make you all do trust-building exercises and give each other Secret Santa gifts!

Next we have his Ideas page, which is like an "Issues" page, but without the word "Issues" being involved.

It's pretty decent, actually. The best we've seen from Council candidates so far, at least. Renewable energy is the top bullet (I'll come back to that in a moment). He wants to kick the asses of "Delinquent Tax Payers," who I would argue should actually be called "Tax Non-payers," but whatever. He spells "increased" wrong in this bit, but it's just a typo. Still, Unicow hates tpyos!

He also proposes incentives for first-time home buyers, which is nice. Wisely wants to exploit FSC, which is something a lot of people have been saying for awhile now but nobody has managed to do. Then there's more bugging the city officials to get together and hug. Fine.

Last, he proposes a Route 2 On/Off ramp (both West and Eastbound) on Mt. Elam Rd. Which I've heard talked about before and isn't a bad idea.

The next page is actually the most prominent link, entitled Renewable Energy Information. Cormier is clearly big into renewable energy, which is something I also feel strongly about. So kudos for that!

He talked about the need for renewable energy on his "Ideas" page, and here he gives basically just a buttload of links to information about it. Unfortunately he doesn't go into any great detail. Just links. Which I suppose is okay, but I'd like to see more explanation of where and how these technologies can be best used in Fitchburg. Wikipedia pages do not help me with that! They're great if you want to learn to speak Klingon or find out the history of LOLCats, though.

Then there's a Links page.

Hey, I'm on it! That's awesome! Go me!

Anyway, it's just links and links are boring. It's sort of nice that he links to his opponents though. Classy touch!

The last page is a contact page, and suitably uninteresting.

Conclusion: Actually, not too bad. It's sparse, yes, but it does have a few specific ideas and remains pretty light on the political rhetoric. The design is simple but unobtrusive. I'd like to see the renewable energy stuff fleshed out a bit more, though. Also, the site is totally devoid of any pictures of the toys he made. I want to see the fire-breathing horse "Butterscotch!"

Moving on...

Jay Cruz:

First off, I have a major problem with Cruz spelling the word "councilor" as "councillor" (with two l's). Yeah, I know both may in fact be acceptable in some areas, but "councilor" is the right way! If you're on the fucking council you should know how to spell councilor!

Anyway, Cruz's page is done by Kreative Dezign, the same people I criticized for the god-awful Seney site. Yet this site doesn't look too bad. It does have a very strange looking blobby blue picture on the front page. Which I guess is an old-timey picture of Fitchburg, but looks like crap.

Let's start with Jay's Bio!

He went to Monty Tech, was in the Marines, has some kids and a wife, served on a couple of boards, and owns a heating & air conditioning business. Boring. Next!

Oh, next he just tells me How to Volunteer. But he hasn't given me a reason to want to volunteer yet so I'm not going to. Then it's Make a Contribution. Same deal. And on to Fundraising, which I almost skipped!

Good thing I didn't, because I would have missed the charming photos of him surrounded by former mayors, children, and assorted old people!

Okay, that was a waste of time too. How about some issues or something Jay?

The next link is called Articles and has one article on it: "Cruz Plans City Council Campaign / If Elected, Cruz could be the only Latino on the Fitchburg City Council." Umm, he already is. He's an incumbent (albeit an appointed one). Big whoop.

Then he has Contact Information, an offsite link to register to vote, Where to Vote, and Useful Links, which aren't all that useful and don't include me!

What the fuck, Jay? No issues at all? No information about where you stand? Nothing?

Oh wait, there's a link to Charter Reform on the other side of the page. But argh! It just takes you to a question of whether you'd sign a petition to support charter reform! He doesn't even tell you if he supports it!

Fucking waste of time.

Conclusion: This site wasn't half as ugly as the other Kreative Dezign site I've looked at during this process, but it suffers the same problem. Total lack of meaningful content. It has like 5 different ways to contact Cruz in order to help him, but absolutely nothing about how he'd actually help me. This is not an informational website. It's not even about self-promotion. It's about trying to get people who already support you to help more, because nobody else is going to have a clue what Cruz thinks. Plus he spells councilor wrong. Bad!

Marcus DiNatale:

First impression? This site was designed for a tiny browser window. There's a little box with the important stuff in it, then a giant field of purply-red stars (communism?) as the background. I'm not crazy about the style, but it does look professionally done.

The front has a picture of Marcus, along with his slogan: "Stabilize, Prioritize, and Harmonize." For some reason this makes me picture him in a barbershop quartet.

He "respectfully" thanks you for visiting his website (really Marcus, it was no problem!), and seems to want you to send him a yard sign for some reason. His "priorities" are also listed, but is really the first part of a linked page (fancy!), so we'll deal with that when I visit the links.

Handily, the annoying "Volunteer/Contribute/Contact" links are all set aside from the links that might actually be interesting to me, so I'm just going to ignore all of those! Let's see what Mr. "I have a cooler goatee than Jay Cruz" has to say!

First we have Meet Marcus. Oh my god that's a confusing picture! The picture of Marcus in the banner has a goatee. In the picture of his family his father has a goatee and he's clean-shaven! But they look fairly similar! I've added some stuff to this screenshot to try to explain it:

As you can see, the goatee-Marcus up top corresponds to the clean-shaven Marcus down below. Disregard the goateed older DiNatale (state Rep. Steve!), and the sister (who really you wouldn't get confused about anyway but happened to be in the picture).

Why is everyone so proud of being a "lifelong resident" of Fitchburg? That's not a qualification! Also, he lists education and stuff. He's on the school committee too, which is good.

Moving on, he has a lengthy Priorities page! Like really dense-looking and long. The sort of long thing that actually discourages me from reading it, to be honest. I'm going to do it anyway, of course. But if I'm discouraged, then you can bet the casual web-weenie is even more discouraged.


Hello again, readers. This is where I got distracted! I don't remember what did it, but it was probably related to sex, drugs, or rock'n'roll. Regardless, I didn't finish, but really all that was left was to make fun of Marcus some more and then hit Dean Tran.

I'll give super-short reviews of both of their sites just so you don't feel slighted:

DiNatale: Okay, but boring.
Tran: Has a thing called a "shoutbox", which is the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Man, if I ever actually developed the motivation to review this thing I would have endlessly made fun of it. But I didn't, so bully for him.

There you go, folks!

Live Chickens? Seriously?

Turns out there was an article about Donnelly in yesterday's paper that I totally overlooked at the time.

Most likely I missed it because it was saying negative things about Donnelly, and so of course didn't have his name in the headline and was in the passive voice. Thanks for staying true to form, Sentinel!

Anyway, it was called A history of health-code violations and went a bit like this:
City Health officials have visited properties owned by mayoral candidate Thomas Donnelly 188 times and found sanitary-code violations in 95 instances during the past 23 years.

Officials found violations -- where a landlord fails to live up to the state's sanitary code -- in 65 of 101 inspections that were done in response to a complaint or during the application process for a rental permit, according to city records.
Oh, that's not good. No wonder they didn't have his name in the headline!

Going on:
Officials cited Donnelly's properties for a variety of violations, including things as small as an electrical plug that didn't work to more serious violations like holes in roofs, ceilings and floors.

Officials even cited one of Donnelly's properties at 93 Myrtle Ave. in August 2000 because one of his tenants had live chickens at the building.
Live chickens!

Now, I've lived in a few crummy apartments in my time. I'm no stranger to leaky roofs, or even the occasional mysterious hole in the bathroom floor (which was guaranteed to attract any item you dropped into it as if it were a black hole). But no live chickens. If you can get away with having live chickens in your apartment you have to pretty much assume that the landlord doesn't give a shit about anything.

The list of violations goes like this: chickens (natch), leaky roofs and water damage, mysterious holes, lack of heat or hot water, insect infestations, missing smoke detectors, leaky faucets, exposed live wiring (!), poorly-bolted toilets, rotten floors, mold and mildew, and birds living in the wall. I'm assuming the birds living in the wall weren't poultry, but who really knows?

Well those sound like lovely home accoutrements! Sentinel, why are you making such a big small deal about this?

There's also a lot of jibber-jabber in the article about how every rental property has some issues. Which is no doubt true. I'd argue that most don't have live chickens though. And none should have any of those things listed above. A missing smoke detector or leaky faucet I can understand, but holes in the floor and birds in the wall just shouldn't happen at all. Not to mention the exposed wiring or lack of heat.

Donnelly, of course, has a long record of blaming others for his shortcomings. Does it happen here? You bet!
Donnelly said sometimes tenants use the Board of Health to hold off on rent payments or to give the property owner problems.

"Sometimes people use the Board of Health as a game," Donnelly said. "Usually, not always, you'll have people who haven't been with us for a long time, you have people who have had problems with other property owners, they plead ignorant, or are ignorant."
Okay, I can believe that there are a few people who try to game the system. But Donnelly has 13 occupied properties, and 8 of those have had violation reports.

Additionally, note that first quoted bit up there. Sixty-five violations were found in response to a complaint or visit for a rental application. But 95 violations were cited total. I'm going to have to assume that the thirty violation difference is unrelated to devious tenants. And for that matter, that's a whole buttload of violations! How many nefarious tenants do you rent to, Tom? Perhaps you should review your application process?

I also have more than a bit of difficulty believing that people somehow poked holes in their own roofs or turned off their own heat in order to get out of paying rent. I'm not sure how they'd even do that, frankly. Firing off celebratory gunfire in the house during a sporting event, maybe?

Blaming the victim is pretty classy though. That's what I look for in a mayor!

The article also talks about how Tom's sale of properties to FSC (no conflict of interest there!) resulted in FSC getting some pretty shitty properties. Way to profit, city councilor!

Anyway, I guess the love-fest between the Sentinel and Donnelly has ended. A whole two days before the election. I wonder how long they've been sitting on this information. Wouldn't want to have jeopardized all those fascinating articles about how Lisa Wong's website is a communist plot.

Tom should have some extra free time after he loses the election tomorrow. Let's hope he puts it into bringing his rental properties up to code, for the sake of his tenants. And the chickens.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The taming of the tax rate: A short play

Okay, this is getting annoyingly ridiculous at this point.

Allow me to present for you a brief play I've written that imagines a conversation between Tom Donnelly and someone on his campaign staff.

Donnelly: Hey, it turns out I really like this negative campaigning stuff! It's a handy way to try to distract people from my history of inaction and lack of any real accomplishment!
Staffer: Okay. So what's next?
Donnelly: Well, so far all I've done is take things Lisa Wong says and say she's a big fat liar-pants. That seems to work pretty well!
Staffer: But according to these polls...
Donnelly: Silence, cur! Unless you're telling me something Wong has said recently that I can cause a stink about I'm not interested!
Staffer: Um, okay. Well, she endorsed Dean Tran's idea of only having a 2.25% increase in property taxes instead of the 2.5% you back. But I don't think we can use that...
Donnelly: Fool! Of course we can use that! We'll say she wears flip-flops in winter!
Staffer: But that doesn't make any sense...
Donnelly: [glowers menacingly]
Staffer: Fine, fine, whatever. But doesn't it make you look bad when you keep saying she wants to raise taxes and now you're actually supporting higher taxes than she is?
Donnelly: Flip-flops!!!
Staffer: [pulling out a calculator] But the tax rate shift you criticized her for comes out to a roughly 0.2% increase in the residential tax rate. And going to a 2.25% increase instead of the 2.5% increase you support is a 10% residential savings. That's, ummm, like fifty times as big. Doesn't that make you look pretty bad?
Donnelly: Of course not! She wants to change the status quo! That's scary to old white guys like me.
Staffer: But her increase costs the average homeowner about five bucks, while her decrease saves them $550. So she's saving them $545 more than you.
Donnelly: That's why we mention flip-flops! Everyone knows wearing flip-flops when it's cold outside is stupid, so they'll think she's doing something stupid!
Staffer: But the math...
Donnelly: Shut up, nerdlinger! [Donnelly storms out to go talk to the local press.]
Staffer: Man, did I ever pick the wrong horse to back...

The End!

I hope you've enjoyed this brief dramatic journey. Feel free to perform this at your next school play or dinner-theater event!

PS also a new poll is over there -->

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Donnelly goes negative!

A few months back, Tom Donnelly wrote a thing for the Fitchburg Voice blog.

In it, he had this bit:
Fitchburg is a great city that I enjoy living in. I choose to campaign in a positive manner, discussing the issues that Fitchburg faces, and focusing on the good things about Fitchburg. I have not and will not will use tactics of division and negativity.
Sounds pretty good!

Now go read this post over at Hello Fitchburg.

How times have changed!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Monster Truck Martini Rally!

Last evening I had the fortune of visiting Cafe DeStare on Main Street. It's quite nice! The super-talented "Scott Beddia Trio" (oddly composed of five people) was playing, the Red Sox game was on, there were sexy ladies, it was a nice place!

It's also the place that Lisa Wong praised as bringing some new life to Main St. in that fluffy Globe article about her.

Donnelly, of course, doesn't seem to care for it, and was quoted in the article as saying this:
"All this vision of wine bars is very cute, but that's not going to be the salvation of the city."

Okay, I agree, bars are not "the salvation of the city," even if they're nice like this one. Still, the rest of that article suggests that Donnelly is opposed to "wine bars" like DeStare (though actually it's a martini bar, but whatever).

So why was he (and his wife, and his very fetching daughter, and probably some sons or something, and maybe someone else associated with him) there last night?

More importantly, what the fuck is up with his giant monster truck that was illegally parked across the street from the bar? Witness the crappy cell-phone photo of it!

That's probably the best picture I could get of it. You can't make it out in the photo, but the back end (above the rear wheel) says something like "The Mad Fisherman," which is frankly quite confusing. Should I start calling Donnelly "The Mad Fisherman" now?

That's a rhetorical question. Of course I'm going to start calling him that!

A friend who saw the truck on a separate occasion (today, apparently) described it like this: "It’s like a bad campaign idea and a mid-life crisis rolled into one." That's possibly the most perfect description ever!

Here's another bad picture of the Mad Fisherman-mobile!

In this picture you can actually see the red DeStare sign across the street. Plus you can see the minivan-thing also illegally parked behind it (though it's dwarfed by Donnelly's overcompensation-mobile).

You see, the Mad Fisherman himself didn't appear to drive the bigass truck. That job must have been taken by one of his sharply-dressed followers. I'm not positive, but I suspect the minivan thing was his. Because, you know, it's like 60 feet from that spot to a giant free parking lot and that's too far for an important mayoral candidate to walk!

Anyway, Donnelly didn't really interact with anyone in the bar that he didn't already know. Which seems to be par for the course with the guy. On the other hand, neither did I!

But I'm not running for mayor.

Regardless, I look forward to Donnelly's new campaign slogan: "The Mad Fisherman will kick your ass into fiscal solvency with his bitchin' monster truck! Fuck yeah!!!"

I'd also like to thank him for making himself so easy to ridicule. Thanks Tom!

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Campaign Website Reviews!

Good news, people who like my reviews of campaign websites! I'm doing it again!

I've exhausted the mayoral candidates of course, and even though one of our mayoral contenders has scandalously changed her website, I'm not going to focus there anymore.

Rather, it's time to dig deeper into the bowels of Fitchburg politics (yes I know that's a disgusting metaphor) and look at some of the city council candidates! Fun!

Incidentally, do you know how hard it is to find a good list online of just who's running for what? The answer: pretty hard!

Lucky for me a bunch of the candidates don't have websites, so we can just ignore them. And because I'm incredibly lazy, I got all these sites from the handy list Jason has posted over at Save Fitchburg. So if anyone's missing, blame him.

Now, let's begin!

Ward Six

Why Ward 6 first? Because there's just one candidate with a website. It's incumbent and City Council President Jody Joseph!Before I relentlessly make fun of Joseph's site, let me just say it is nice to see an unopposed incumbent who actually bothered to have a website. Way to go Jody!

Oh, but wait... I don't think it was made for this election. On the front page there's a link to something called Ward Six Contest Looms which is talking about an old election. There's also this thing:Also, nowhere does it mention that he's currently the City Council President, which seems like it would belong pretty well in his accomplishments section or something.

Also, as you can see, the site is flesh-colored! Gross!

Okay, in fairness it's not exactly flesh-colored. If my flesh looked like that I'd be concerned. It's more like the Crayola color called "flesh" than actual Caucasoid flesh. Still sort of gross.

Either way, I call foul on this website! It's old and not sufficiently updated for the current election (it does have the date right though).


Ward Four

Okay, moving on to a ward that actually has two active websites and no incumbents! Ward 4 is a hotbed of internet activity!

Let's go in alphabetical order!

Stephen Seney:
The first thing that pops out about Seney's website is that it's really incredibly ugly. I mean super-ugly. Fugly, even. It was apparently made by Kreative Dezign, who seem to suffer from color blindness in addition to dyslexia.

I used to live right near Kreative Dezign's storefront and I actually thought it was a car customization shop for quite awhile. Obviously I was mistaken, because they make websites and stuff! Seney's site would fit in pretty well at a custom car rally, though. It's like a Honda Civic with a gigantic spoiler and spinny hubcaps. Style but very little substance.

As I am wont to do, my first step was to examine his Issues page. This is what I found...
As you can see, Seney has no issues! That screenshot there is all you get, concerned voters! Incidentally, the "my site is always being updated with new information" bit seems to not be the case. This issues page hasn't changed in the few months since I first looked at it.

Well, maybe the issues are cleverly hidden elsewhere. Perhaps the terrible navigation is to blame! So I clicked on the thing that looks like a play button beneath the heading "Who is Steve Seney?" and was presented with five options to find out! Sweet!

First up was Background, where I learned little of interest. Seney likes ice cream and fishing. Also, Fitchburg is his "home by choice." I guess it's nice that nobody's forcing him to live here. So that's something.

Next we have Education. In addition to his formal education we get this awesome bit!
I also consider myself self-taught in many areas that interest me. Real estate and finance are two of these areas. Additionally, and at times more important is the education that my parents gave me. They taught me thru their example as well as by their rules.
Okay, here's my contribution to Seney's education: "Thru" is not a word! The word you're looking for is "through". I know it's longer and sort of ugly, but that's the way it goes.

Also, who isn't self-taught in areas that interest them? I'm interested in physics, self-taught even! That doesn't mean I'm going to get hired at CERN anytime soon. I'm also self-taught in how to find good internet porn. So what?

Third, "Additionally, and at times more important is the education that my parents gave me." is a terrible sentence. Fix that please.

Okay, the "Education" page sucked, what about the exciting-sounding Commitment page?


Okay, the page is summed up in this one quote: "The citizens of Fitchburg deserve results not rhetoric."

Ironically, the entire rest of the page is nothing but stupid rhetoric. Basically, take every cliched thing you've ever heard a politician say and cram it all into the same page. That's what you have here.


Alright, Vision! I love a candidate with vision! I crave a candidate with vision! Tell me about your vision, Steve!
My vision for Fitchburg as a whole is to work with the Council, the Mayors office, Department Heads, and City Employees to strengthen our city. We are all on the same team and we must act that way. Everyone must bring their best to the table for the benefit of the resident’s Fitchburg.

That's not vision, that's more rhetoric! Worse yet, it's rhetoric with bad capitalization and missing apostrophes! Fitchburg should be run like a business, blah blah blah. So it's another page of nothing but vapid rhetoric. God this is getting tiresome.

One more, please let it be good...

Experience... well here's a handy quote
Owning a business taught me several things about myself and my abilities. I am constantly pushing myself to achieve more. I have learned to set goals and achieve them.
Oh yeah, more rhetoric. To hell with this!

Conclusion: Stephen Seney's website really sucks. He doesn't say anything at all about the issues, gives no specifics about anything, and does nothing but bullshit us with the very rhetoric he derides. Bad website! Bad!

Okay, now his opponent!

Kevin Starr:

So what's the first impression here? Well, Starr clearly likes the color red. Red signs, red website. Also, the black-and-white picture of him on the top of the page looks almost identical to the color picture of him in the middle of the page, but I think is different. But I'm not sure! It's kind of creepy if he can pose the exact same way in two separate photos, but maybe that could be considered a political skill. Sort of creeps me out.

Also, while the picture of his family is nice and all, I don't know what's propping up his daughter! She appears to be levitating between them somehow! Yeah, I know he's probably holding her, but I prefer to believe she's somehow magically floating there.

Anyway, this is a much more simple site than Seney's. No fancy but horribly-conceived navigation here, just a few pages. Is it a case of substance triumphing over style though? Let's see!

Wait a second! I was going to put a link here to another page, but there's trickery afoot! All the links are controlled by Javascript, so no matter what you click on the page still claims it's just Sneaky! Points lost for this, because it means that when I went there with Javascript disabled none of the links worked and I saw this:... which isn't very appealing.

Why the subterfuge? Digging into the site reveals the horrible truth! It's all hosted on the domain! Yes, Joe McCarthy! Probably a Joe McCarthy who makes websites and not the Joe McCarthy who gave birth to McCarthyism (and who died in 1957), but still scary! I wonder what Mr. McCarthy thinks of Starr's red theme...

Oh well, on to the About Me page. Note that if you follow that link it's not actually the way the page looks if you just go to the website and click the link, but I couldn't freaking link to it otherwise!

It's the basic background/biography page. He went to meetings at city hall when he was five? That's child abuse!

Nothing terribly exciting there, but it does have this bit:
My focus now is working with Councilor Boisvert and others to create a World War II Honor Roll. Over 11,000 city residents answered the call of their country. The Honor Roll will list each of those brave people, including my grandfather Peter Starr. We have a long way to go to raise an estimated $200,000.This monument would eventually be placed in Riverfront Park.
I didn't know about that before, and that's actually pretty cool. So way to go!

Still, the page is a throwaway, on to the similarly crazy-linked Issues page!

Okay, the page is pretty slim. Better than Seney's, but nothing to write home about. Basically he focuses on financial stuff, which is pretty sensible at this time. He does the same "treat the city like a business" bullshit that it seems like everyone running for everything anywhere does. Man I'm tired of hearing that. The only real specific on the page is this:
I will ask our mayor to have each city department make public quarterly financial reports stating the goals and objectives of each department. This would give the residents the opportunity to see how their tax dollars are spent every three months.
Decent enough idea. Still a pretty slim page.

Okay, one page left, but it's the one that may put Starr over the top! So far things have been pretty slim, but now we get to his Blog! It actually pops up in a new window and has a bit different design, but I'm going to consider it part of the site anyway.

Starr is the first candidate whose site I've examined who has a blog, and it's a good move on his part.

It's only been active since early October, but he comes across well in his posts. Positive, articulate, etc. Good things to be! It also gives him a bit of humanity, which is something that can often be missing from candidate websites. It could use a few more posts, though.

Conclusion: This is definitely not the fanciest website in the world, and could really use some more information on the issues. It is clean and simple though, and doesn't irritate or insult you with giant flag pictures and pages of rhetoric (there is rhetoric, but it's minor). The site doesn't really do anything wrong, but it doesn't really impress either. The blog is a very nice touch.

So who wins the showdown for Ward 4 website? Easy, Starr does. Not that either website is fantastic, but Seney's was actually annoying while Starr's was just sort of plain.

(On a side note, you may be interested in this information about Seney, which is also sort of disheartening.)

Anyway, that's it for this installment of campaign website reviews. I'll be getting to the candidates for Councilor-at-Large in a bit, but we have four websites to review for them and the post would just be way too big with all that in it! I might even deal with the school committee candidates. Anything could happen!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Taxes are boring.

The onslaught of Sentinel articles about how awesome Donnelly is continues!

Today's entry is called Donnelly sets foreclosed home as backdrop for tax debate. It's really really fucking boring.

There's a dual tax rate in Fitchburg for homes and businesses, you see. And there's a shift thingy. Donnelly backs a 137 percent shift, while Wong supports a 136 percent shift! Oh my god! That's an incredibly huge difference!

To wit:
Under the 137 percent shift, the owner of a $219,934 house pays a yearly bill of $2,585. Under Wong's plan to shift 136 percent, the same resident's tax bill would increase by $5.18 a year.
Wait... five bucks???

I probably have five bucks in change in my couch! This is worth a press conference and newspaper article? Wow, what an important issue to the people in town!

Rest assured, people of Fitchburg, Tom Donnelly wants to make sure you can afford that extra pack of cigarettes!
Donnelly said even though it is a small shift, any increase on residential property taxes is difficult for residents to swallow.

"I would keep taxes low to help homeowners in these hard times," Donnelly said
Thank you Tom! My five bucks will be well-spent on booze! It's actually very easy to swallow that way.

The business benefits Wong sees are similarly pretty minor...
Shifting to a 136 percent classification rate, as Wong supports, would save commercial businesses an average of $41.94 on a lot worth $332,085 and would save a $643,025 industrial lot owner $81.22.
Yay! That's like one or two printer cartridges! Go business go!

Really, I couldn't care less about all this. I wouldn't even have made this post except for this one bizarre statement in the article...
Donnelly said he is not opposed to shifting the tax rate toward a single-tax rate, but said now is not the time.

"You make changes in good times, not bad," Donnelly said.

Tom, during good times it generally makes sense to keep things going the way they are (or change them for the better). During bad times is exactly the right time to make changes!

Also, what the fuck, Sentinel?

Every couple of days Donnelly says something totally insignificant and the Sentinel slobbers all over him like a two-dollar whore. Every article begins with "Donnelly blah blah blah." Every story presents his dumbass statements as something important and relegates Wong to a rebuttal role. It's getting to be really annoying.

It's not like I ever expected the Sentinel to back Wong. Or to be anything but totally biased against her, actually. But it's just getting ridiculous.

On the bright side, nobody in town actually gives a shit what the Sentinel has to say. So there's that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dear Tom Donnelly, please stop making an ass of yourself.

Blah. I've been on a self- imposed news boycott for the last week or so. Resting, relaxing, actually doing work when I'm at my job, stuff like that. Ignoring the local politics and the exciting dual tax rate and stuff.

But I've been pulled back in by forces out of my control!

The forces in question are Tom Donnelly acting like a total idiot and the Sentinel continuing its trend of fellating him at every opportunity. Want to know more? Check out this oddly-capitalized article: Donnelly eyes Wong's Web site changes.

The gist is that Lisa Wong has someone other than herself doing her website now and that person has changed some stuff around. Jackass Donnelly sees this as some sort of scandal, which makes no sense at all. The Sentinel, being the world's worst newspaper, happily reports on all of it. Argh!

Here's some of the stupid article:
Mayoral candidate Thomas Donnelly is questioning changes his opponent, Lisa Wong, made to her campaign Web site recently.

Wong took down a section of her Web site titled "Accomplishments" and replaced it with a calendar tab where visitors to her site can view upcoming events.
Oh my god! A candidate actively involved in a political race made some changes to her website! (Incidentally, they were good changes! It looks much better now.)

Apparently Donnelly is desperately seeking out some validation that his stupid "Lisa Wong's slightly less awesome than you think" attacks are working, and he thinks that her website changes provide that validation. Which is so dumb it's laughable.

By the way, Donnelly doesn't have an "Accomplishments" section on his site either. He has a biography thingy that lists some jobs, but that's it. Also, Wong's biography does the same exact thing, but with more detail. You could almost say it lists her accomplishments...

Know what we really have here? A microcosm of the race itself!

Donnelly apparently hates change, because no sane person would give a fuck about this non-issue otherwise. Certainly he'd never change his site!
Donnelly's campaign manager, Joe Engwer, said the Donnelly campaign site has undergone no substantive content changes and instead the site is updated on a weekly basis for events and posting new literature about Donnelly.
Yeah, that's something to be really fucking proud of! Stagnation rules! Way to go with that message of change, Tom!

Wong on the other hand did change her site, for the usual reasons that people change websites:
Wong said she has a new campaign volunteer who has made changes to the site, Wong said the changes make the site more user friendly and are now more consistent in appearance to her other campaign materials.

"I'm very happy to have delegated that to someone who knows more about Web sites," Wong said.
Yeah, so she changed the site to improve it. Upsetting the status quo! Scandalous!

I have some totally unsolicited advice for Donnelly, presented in letter form for some reason:

Dear Tom,
Things like this make you look like an idiot. People change websites all the time. Going to the Sentinel and acting like it means something just makes you look like someone who doesn't understand the internet, and furthermore reinforces the belief that you're a cranky old guy who hates change.

You're not doing yourself any favors with the attacks on Wong. You look increasingly desperate and Wong comes out looking just fine. It's really embarrassing to watch, to be honest.

You're probably going to lose this race. Not because you're a bad guy (Though it did suck when you came to my door that one day and walked away to talk to someone you knew in the middle of me trying to talk to you. So you are sort of a dick.), but because you're just not what the city needs.

The least you can do is lose with dignity.
Best wishes,
The Unicow

ps I look forward to reading your accomplishments on your site, if you get some.

Also, here's something for the Sentinel:

Dear Sentinel,
Enough with the Donnelly/Sentinel circle jerks already!

The Unicow

There, that should fix things!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Is there big news today? Maybe, I dunno. I haven't really looked.

But there is something about today that's of no importance to anyone but me! One year ago today was the day that I got drunk and created Progressive Fitchburg! Happy birthday, blog!

A lot has changed since then, of course. Deval Patrick became governor, the Democrats took Congress, and we actually have some compelling local candidates running for office!

One of the nicest things to have seen over the last year is how many good local blogs have sprung up in that time. It used to pretty much be Save Fitchburg or nothing, but now there's a bunch of stuff worth reading (listed over to the right, go read them!). Whether you agree with any of them or not, it's great to have a variety of voices out there.

To celebrate my year anniversary I'm going to share some statistics about PF readers with you. This data has really only been collected since about last November, but I didn't exactly get a ton of readers back then anyway. Also I'm a bit of a nerd, so if this information is only interesting to me then feel free to ignore it.

Your operating system:
  1. Windows - 86% (89% XP, 6% Windows 2000, 3% Vista)
  2. Macintosh - 12%
  3. Linux - 2% (but much of that is probably me)
Your web browser of choice:
  1. Internet Explorer - 65%
  2. Firefox - 28%
  3. Safari - 6%
  4. Everybody else (Opera, Mozilla, etc) - < 1%
That's pretty dry stuff!

Here's a more interesting bit. What searches have led people to Progressive Fitchburg? The big ones are obvious, but they get more fun the deeper down you get! For some of them, I have no idea how they found me, and even less idea why they clicked the link.

Here are some of my favorites...
  • ron dionne home page fitchburg (139 hits): Looks like Dionne really should have made himself a damn website!
  • fitchburg lisa wong water (12 hits): Refreshing!
  • fitchburg pussy (5 hits): Which I assume led to disappointment...
  • god is killing me! (2 hits): Me too!
  • "gay jesus" (1 hit): Probably also led to disappointment...
  • "respect sanitation workers" (1 hit): I do!
  • 6 asian guys in fitchburg (1 hit): I suspect there are more than that.
  • can you tell me the laws that regulate convicted child molesters? (1 hit): Not unless you stop talking to Google like it's a person.
  • draconian liquor (1 hit): If this isn't already a brand of liquor, it should be!
  • fucking in fitchburg (1 hit): Sex tourism?
  • how do i stop my eyes from getting worse (1 hit): Stop masturbating.
  • how to make large foam cowboy hat (1 hit): Why would you want to?
  • "paul weyrich frankly, goes up as the voter population goes down" (1 hit): What the hell?
  • she works for unicow, boston, ma (1 hit): Whoever searched for that, please tell me who "she" is!
  • tired of white people on tv (1 hit): Me too!
  • who in fitchburg wants to fuck (1 hit): This is a recurring theme...
What a zany bunch of searchers you internet-folks are! I can only wonder what horrors another year may bring.

Anyway, thanks for reading!