Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Here's a Halloween video for you. Might be NSFW in some environments, but only for a few moments.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Donnelly hides in his hole

So, I checked the paper this morning hoping that newly-announced mayoral anti-candidate Tom Donnelly would be in it, presenting all his brilliant ideas about how he'll do things if anyone's stupid enough to vote for him.

Alas, I was disappointed.
Donnelly on Tuesday said Wong painted a "rosy picture" during the last mayoral race, while he gave a more sobering prediction of financial hardships the city would face over the next two years.

"The disparity is in what was promised," said Donnelly, after the Councilor-at-large debate at Fitchburg State College Tuesday night.

Donnelly did not return phone calls for a more extensive interview by press time Wednesday.
That's all we get. I suppose when you're as terrible a campaigner as Donnelly is, it's best to avoid interviews.

But we do have a little bit, so let's unpack it. Here's what Donnelly is basically saying:

During the last election, Lisa Wong gave people hope for great things, and hasn't been able to deliver on every single thing. I, on the other hand, was a gloomy gus who never even tried to inspire people. Therefore, you should vote for me!

Inspiring! Since the current mayor wasn't able to deliver on absolutely everything she hoped for (which of course is all her fault, and has nothing to do with the city council, economic downturn, etc.), people should vote for Donnelly, who promises absolutely nothing. That way they won't be disappointed when he delivers nothing!


Oh, there's also this:
Transparency will be the focus of Donnelly's administration, if he is elected, he said Tuesday.
Is there even anything to respond to there? Transparency is what everyone running for office promises, especially if they have nothing else to offer.

Just how stupid does Donnelly think the people of Fitchburg are, anyway? Judging from the comments on Sentinel articles, most people who aren't rabid anti-Wong loonies have in no way forgotten what the guy's all about, or that he helped create the problems Wong has been trying to fix for the last two years. They also see through the whole "I'll swoop in late and avoid any actual campaigning" gambit.

His supporters are pretty much entirely limited to the nuts. Here's a typical example:
good for tom wong sucks and has ruined the city-we are number 11 at fu
Oh no! Not number 11 at fu! We need to get to work improving our fu ranking!

Those are your supporters, Tom. There aren't very many of them, and they're not very coherent. You are officially the anti-Wong candidate, nothing more.

And that's not a good thing to be.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tom Donnelly running for mayor!

The Fitchburg mayoral race has been really boring this year. Instead of crazy people like Ted DeSalvatore and townie losers like Tom Donnelly, we had crazy quitter Rachel Rosenfeld for a disappointingly short while, and now have Fuzzy Voisine "challenging" the mayor.

But Fuzzy's heart is clearly not in it. He didn't even show up to the debate, and his little recorded message on FATV was just an embarrassment. He was never even a remote danger to Wong's incumbency.

Now things have changed. It's not just Wong vs Fuzzy anymore. Rather, Tom Donnelly is back!
With encouragement from many friends and residents, Thomas Donnelly has decided to launch a write-in campaign for mayor for this year’s general election on Nov. 3.

Donnelly originally decided not to run after mounting an unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2007, feeling that the people made it clear then that they did not support him enough to gove him their vote.
Yep, Tom's back! And he's running a write-in campaign. With like a week to go. I imagine that he's hoping people will have forgetten what a massive douchebag he is and vote for him based on pure anti-Wong sentiment.

Actually, I don't need to imagine. He basically stated as much:
Many people changed their mind, however, as Mayor Lisa Wong’s term progressed, according to Donnelly.

“After people saw the way things have been going on in the city, they were saying that ‘I wish I voted for you’,” said Donnelly.
This is the political equivalent of seeing a few bumper stickers that say "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for the Other Guy" and deciding that you'll ride that tiny wave of discontent to victory.

So, what to make of all this? I have a few thoughts.

First off, I don't really consider Donnelly to pose a significant threat to Wong. He probably poses more of a threat than Fuzzy, but that's not saying much. He's also getting into the race extraordinarily late, and won't be on the ballot. He doesn't have enough time to present any compelling ideas, yet has to convince people to go out of their way to write him in.

Basically, his only hope is to ride purely on anti-Wong sentiment, which he'll be splitting with Fuzzy. Is there enough of this sentiment to give him a chance? I seriously doubt it, but you never know.

How about his strengths? Well, the truth of the matter is that Tom Donnelly has never presented any compelling ideas. He ran last time on the "vote for me because I'm an old white guy who has experience" platform, which he can't do this time around. But his lack of ideas does mean that this is the perfect time for him to get into the race. He can say any bullshit he wants, the bootlick newspaper will print it, and there's little time for others to rebut it.

As far as I can tell, Donnelly doesn't have a website (which seems par for the course this time around, annoyingly). He may or may not have an organization behind him to work on his sticker campaign, which will require a lot more work than if he were on the ballot. He hasn't yet put forward any reasons why people should vote for him, beyond the fact that some people don't like Lisa Wong. Really, he's more of an anti-candidate than a candidate. He's the one who bitter old townies will vote for because he'll tell them he's going to turn on their streetlights.

On the plus side, Donnelly getting into the race (or at least pulling up next to it) will hopefully motivate more people to go vote. Before, it would have been easy for the average citizen to skip the election, because Wong was essentially unopposed (sorry Fuzzy). Now there's a real reason to get out there and vote. The rabid anti-Wong whiners will no doubt be out to support Donnelly, so the pro-Wong masses will hopefully be similarly motivated to show up. While they're there voting for Lisa, they'll hopefully also vote in a few good city councilors, and not the bunch of losers who came out at the top of the primary.

So, there we have it. We're in both the early and late stages of Donnelly's campaign. Let's see how crazy he can get!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fuzzy states his case!

As they often do, the good folks at FATV have put together another informative video of municipal candidates stating their cases. It's pretty long, as they were each invited to give five-minute speeches and 17 candidates are involved, but there's one part of it you have to watch.

The part I'm referring to is Michael "Fuzzy" Voisine's message from 5:19 to 5:55 (yes, his five-minute message was 36 seconds long). It runs right after Lisa Wong's message.

If you're too lazy/at work to watch 36 seconds of haplessness, here's a complete transcript of Fuzzy's message (courtesy of Mr. Lincoln):
Hello Fitchburg. I'm Michael Voisine... Fuzzy as most of you know me. I'm running for mayor... and I'm looking to be all the people’s mayor. I'm hoping to get everybody out there voting. Every vote counts, so... I need your help to make things happen. If we all work together, I think we're gonna have a great time. Thank you very much.
Inspiring words indeed! Too bad the delivery really sucks all the life out of them (yes, the video is actually even worse than the text). He delivers it with all the certainty and vigor of a student trying to give an oral report on a book he didn't bother to read.

But whatever. C'mon Fitchburg, let's have a great time!*

*Preferably, by voting for someone who wouldn't be a total embarrassment to the city, unlike Fuzzy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WBZ-TV News Is A Chocolatey Fountain of Bullshit

It's not even worth the effort to respond to this piece of utter nonsense from WBZ. Hell, there's nothing there to even argue against. It's not based on anything remotely resembling facts, and is just the usual whining from people who experience petty crime and blame it on streetlights not being on.

Petty crime has always existed, it always will exist, and just because a few local dipshits want to link their particular case of vandalism to streetlights doesn't make it the truth. Five years ago, my neighbor had "fag" spray-painted on his car too, but he also got a bunch of swastikas to go with it. He was parked right under a lit streetlight. Whoopedy-fuck.

Sure, it's disappointing that a supposed "news" show would be so journalistically irresponsible as to claim that a few anecdotes equals a "crime wave," but it's exactly what one should expect from tv news. It's what they've been doing for as long as I can remember, and it's why I haven't willingly watched a tv news show since I was about 17. They tend to induce a sort of berserker frenzy of rage in me.

So, since there's nothing there to actually argue about, I'll just say the same thing I've been saying for 15 years: If you take anything on tv news seriously, then you are a fucking idiot.

That is all.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mandatory Swine Flu Shots? Nope.

Ugh. There are few things more irritating than misleading news stories about legislative bills. They're annoying mostly because it means I have to go digging through some piece of legislative gobbledy-gook in order to debunk them, and that's not fun.

Such is the case with the Sentinel article entitled Bill may make flu shot mandatory. The first flaw can be seen in that weaselly headline. What's with "may"? Either it makes them mandatory or it doesn't, right? This headline "may" be misleading!

Then there's this fearmongering lede:
A bill being considered on Beacon Hill would allow state government officials to search and destroy property without a warrant, fine and jail people for not taking a vaccine and bar people from assembling publicly during a state of emergency.
Well, that all sounds pretty bad. But is it actually true?

The bill in question is Massachusetts Senate Bill 2028. I actually heard about it a couple of weeks ago when a friend forwarded me a scary email from an antivaccination group, and wrote it off as senseless fearmongering from people who oppose vaccination no matter what.

I guess it's time to get more deeply into it. Here's the part of the bill that's going to scare people:
Specifically, but without limiting the generality of section 2A and notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, the commissioner shall have and may exercise, or may direct or authorize other state or local government agencies to exercise, authority relative to any one or more of the following if necessary to protect the public health during an emergency declared pursuant to section 2A or a state of emergency declared under chapter 639 of the acts of 1950.. During either type of declared emergency, a local public health authority as defined in section 1 of chapter 111 may exercise authority relative to subparagraphs (1), (2), (3), (4), (6), (7), (13), (14), and (15); and with the approval of the Commissioner may exercise authority relative to subparagraphs (5), (8), (9), (10), and (11):

(1) to require the owner or occupier of premises to permit entry into and investigation of the premises;
(2) to close, direct, and compel the evacuation of, or to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated any building or facility, and to allow the reopening of the building or facility when the danger has ended;
(3) to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated, or to destroy any material;
(4) to restrict or prohibit assemblages of persons;
(5) to require a health care facility to provide services or the use of its facility, or to transfer the management and supervision of the health care facility to the department or to a local public health authority;
(6) to control ingress to and egress from any stricken or threatened public area, and the movement of persons and materials within the area;
(7) to adopt and enforce measures to provide for the safe disposal of infectious waste and human remains, provided that religious, cultural, family, and individual beliefs of the deceased person shall be followed to the extent possible when disposing of human remains, whenever that may be done without endangering the public health;
(8) to procure, take immediate possession from any source, store, or distribute any anti-toxins, serums, vaccines, immunizing agents, antibiotics, and other pharmaceutical agents or medical supplies located within the commonwealth as may be necessary to respond to the emergency;
(9) to require in-state health care providers to assist in the performance of vaccination, treatment, examination, or testing of any individual as a condition of licensure, authorization, or the ability to continue to function as a health care provider in the commonwealth;
(10) to waive the commonwealth’s licensing requirements for health care professionals with a valid license from another state in the United States or whose professional training would otherwise qualify them for an appropriate professional license in the commonwealth;
(11) to allow for the dispensing of controlled substances by appropriate personnel consistent with federal statutes as necessary for the prevention or treatment of illness;
(12) to authorize the chief medical examiner to appoint and prescribe the duties of such emergency assistant medical examiners as may be required for the proper performance of the duties of the office;
(13) to collect specimens and perform tests on any animal, living or deceased;
(14) to exercise authority under sections 95 and 96 of chapter 111;
(15) to care for any emerging mental health or crisis counseling needs that individuals may exhibit, with the consent of the individuals.
Most of that is pretty uncontroversial, and all of it is contingent upon the governor declaring a public health emergency, and is limited to actions that help protect public health. When the emergency ends, the emergency powers go away.

How about that lede? Yes, in such a situation the state would have the right to destroy property, but only if that property poses a public health risk. They're not going to destroy your Xbox, but they could destroy your smallpox-infected blankets.

And yes, they could enter your property and even decontaminate it. But only if it's a risk to public health. Your anthrax lab may be in trouble, but your home probably isn't. Ditto to public assembly. If you're in the habit of hanging out with people who have ebola, you might be prohibited from doing so. If you're just going to the movies with some friends, no worry.

Now, that's not to say this is all a good idea. I'd be happy to see some amendments creating greater oversight than I find in this bill. The basic ideas aren't terrible, but they absolutely need to have sufficient oversight to keep them from being abused.

How about the claim that the bill would "fine and jail people for not taking a vaccine"? That's really not true. Here's what the bill says (with my emphasis):
(b) Furthermore, when the commissioner or a local public health authority within its jurisdiction determines that either or both of the following measures are necessary to prevent a serious danger to the public health the commissioner or local public health authority may exercise the following authority:

(1) to vaccinate or provide precautionary prophylaxis to individuals as protection against communicable disease and to prevent the spread of communicable or possibly communicable disease, provided that any vaccine to be administered must not be such as is reasonably likely to lead to serious harm to the affected individual; and
(2) to treat individuals exposed to or infected with disease, provided that treatment must not be such as is reasonably likely to lead to serious harm to the affected individual.
An individual who is unable or unwilling to submit to vaccination or treatment shall not be required to submit to such procedures but may be isolated or quarantined pursuant to section 96 of chapter 111 if his or her refusal poses a serious danger to public health or results in uncertainty whether he or she has been exposed to or is infected with a disease or condition that poses a serious danger to public health, as determined by the commissioner, or a local public health authority operating within its jurisdiction.
Part (1) there just gives public health officials the right to provide vaccinations to those for whom they're not contraindicated. No worries there.

Part (2) is the part that's being misrepresented in the headline. Nobody's going to be forced to get vaccinated. But if you refuse, and your refusal constitutes a public health threat, then you can be quarantined. Actions have consequences. But quarantine is not jail. That part comes from here:
Any person who knowingly violates an order for isolation or quarantine shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 30 days and may be subject to a civil fine of not more than one thousand dollars per day that the violation continues.
So yeah, if you violate quarantine and go running around coughing your drug-resistant tuberculosis all over everybody like an asshole then you can be fined and jailed. Forcibly quarantined, basically.

But no, you can't be fined or jailed for not being vaccinated. Only if you refuse a vaccination and are determined to be a public health risk worthy of quarantine and then you violate that quarantine, then you can be.

Now, all this stuff is conditional. It doesn't have to be done, and the decisions of public health officials constitute the final word. This just lays out what sort of options are open to them, without dictating what they have to do. I'd argue it would take quite a bit more than the current swine flu to trigger most of these measures, but they're available as options.

So yeah, that's some potentially scary stuff, and it definitely needs appropriate safeguards in place. But it's also worst-case scenario stuff. And while it could use improvements, the basic ideas behind it are sound from a public health perspective, at least for certain threats. Most public health officials are fully aware that quarantines and isolation aren't very effective at stopping the spread of influenza, so I'd be shocked to see that happen.

Continuing with the Sentinel article, here comes a group we probably shouldn't listen to:
Bob Dwyer, a coordinator for the Massachusetts Liberty Preservation Association -- a non-profit, non-partisan organization -- said the bill is a "power grab" by the state.

"If you don't want to take a vaccine you can be arrested," Dwyer said. "What type of freedom is that? I don't think declaring a state of emergency should change a person's Constitutional rights."
While it's true that the Massachusetts Liberty Preservation Association is politically non-partisan, it can hardly be said that they're non-partisan on the subject of vaccines. They're not: they're strongly antivaccinationist.

In other words, this is about more than fears of government overstepping, it's also about promoting their antivaccine nonsense. Stuff like this:
Vaccine trials and testing has been scaled back and expedited adding risk. Government officials have granted advanced approval of these highly questionable vaccines.
The swine flu vaccine has had extensive testing, and is made exactly the same way as the seasonal flu (which has lots of testing of its own). There's nothing "questionable" about it, and to assert that's the case is disingenuous.

Further down the same page they have videos by an antivaccinationist chiropractor who keeps promoting the disproven assertion that childhood vaccination causes autism. It doesn't.

Maybe the MLPA has valid points about the bill itself. Unfortunately, their lack of understanding about vaccines and public health and the fact that they're using lies about vaccines in order to make their argument means they really can't be taken seriously. They may not be Democratic or Republican, but they're totally partisan on the issue of vaccines. They're on the quackery side, and have no credibility on this topic.

The rest of the Sentinel article is typical newspapery tripe. Local citizens think A and B, local public officials think X and Y and Z. Not much of use in it besides this, from James Eldrige:
"What this bill really reflects is an updating of our public-health laws from the 1950s," he said. "The new bill provides many civil liberty protections and improvements."

Eldridge said the previous law allows for a "blanket statement" that does not specify due process laws. The new proposal gives authorities specific direction of when a person can be arrested.

"Certainly with the number of viruses that have appeared across this country in recent years, I think that the state needs to be better prepared so that if there is a serious pandemic, the state can protect the public," he said. "At the same time, that needs to be done with a balancing act between liberty and security."
Yes, this is an updating of what was already an overly-broad law. Is it still too broad? I think it is, but not by too much.

It's indeed a balancing act. With a major public health emergency, you do need to respond quickly, and you're probably going to need to step on some people's toes when trying to protect others. There need to be measures in place to make sure that as few toes are stepped on as possible, and that rights are preserved as much as they possibly can be. There should be zero tolerance for any abuse of these laws, and any potential Constitutional conflicts should be eliminated before the bill becomes law.

But even as it stands now, this bill really can't be construed to mean that everyone is going to be mandated to have a swine flu shot. That's just not going to happen on that kind of grand scale. It's unenforceable, especially within the timeframe we're talking about. I'd be surprised if more than a few individuals, if any at all, get that kind of mandate.

The bill isn't perfect, but nor is it the mandate for swine flu vaccination that some are claiming. By all means let's criticize the parts that are troublesome, but spouting false claims about it mandating the flu shot when that's not actually the case won't do anything but muddy the real issue, which is that we absolutely do need up-to-date legislation for dealing with a public health emergency. Perhaps this bill isn't perfect, but let's fix the real problems instead of freaking out about invented ones.