Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Monday, April 28, 2008
  County Restaurant News
That's all for now.
Friday, April 25, 2008
  Crisis Management 101
I saw all the old Toyota trucks in the lot and wondered what in the heck was going on. Thanks to Glenn, now we know.
Over the past two weeks since Toyota Motor Sales announced an extended warranty for Tacoma pickups built between June 1995 and September 2000 because of a rust problem that rots their frames, the local shop has been inundated with customers.

As of Thursday, K & M had accepted 58 Tacomas that had the rust problem and has had to postpone any more inspections, be-cause there's no more room for the pickups in the parking lot, according to Leroy Burns, service manager.

"Most of the people are sad to see their vehicles go, but at the same time the money's making it worthwhile," Burns said. "It's a very popular truck, and with what Toyota's offering, people are taking advantage of it."

And Toyota's reaction to the poor corrosion prevention is textbook 'turning lemons into lemonade.' I am beginning to look at buying a truck as my trusty little Pontiac approaches its 11th birthday and Toyota definitely has my eye.
Monday, April 21, 2008
  Capitalizing on MoCA or The Planning Board Knows Best
I missed this little item last week. It seems the planning board, in all its wisdom, has stifled a big chunk of the upcoming restaurant and entertainment venue, The Alley's, plans:
The Alley, owned by Jack and Keith Nogueira, did not receive a full approval as a restaurant with weekend entertainment. The board opted to allow the restaurant to "get of the ground" with an approval of a restaurant with hours until 11 p.m. It requested the owners return when plans for entertainment were more solid.

"Do you define yourselves as a restaurant with entertainment or a nightclub with food?" Kyle Hanlon, board member, asked.

Keith Nogueira said the establishment would offer "table service" lunch during the day, with a pub-feel during the evening. He said entertainment and hours past 11 p.m. were needed to appeal to crowds flowing out of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on the weekends.

"Part of the problem with the entertainment end is that we'd rather be restrained by decibals, not by music type," he said. "We're not talking rock 'n roll or making a ruckus, but we don't want to be res-trained to an acoustic setting or jazz."

Board member William Schrade Jr. said he thought "pieces" of the entertainment plan, including a liquor license, were missing and that he supported the pair returning at a later date with more finalized plans.
Where to begin?

First off, it has to be noted that Keith Nogueira left his position in the performing arts department of Mass MoCA to open this restaurant. There is no one, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, in this city that has a better chance at exploiting the crowds departing shows and events at MoCA. To close him down just as things SHOULD BE getting hopping is just about the most asinine thing I've heard in a long time.

One thing that the article does not mention is that it granted The Hub, a place that claims simply to be a restaurant, a plan to stay open until 12 midnight. The Alley, a place that openly says it wants to have entertainment and serve late night food and drink.... 11pm.

Why the difference? According to a source, one board member even asked that same question but was met by silence.

I have heard time and time again that the planning board oversteps it bounds by meddling in actual business practices. It is one thing to make sure that a new or expanding business conforms to existing codes, laws and neighborhood norms, but it is wholly of another cloth to force those who are trying to help this city by investing equity and sweat to conform to some nebulous vision of what a business and our downtown should be. As far as late night downtown dining and entertainment goes, I believe the planning board is batting .000 in the past 5 years.

For the love-of-pete... get the hell out of the way.
  Pink Fleshed Fish
I've been watching this one for the better part of a year and it keeps getting worse. Just a couple of weeks back I was tooling around the commercial fishing docks of Bodega Bay, CA and the number of commercial boats for sale caught me off guard:
But last week, state Department of Fish and Game officials voted to ban salmon fishing in state waters, which extend out three miles from shore. Five days before, the Pacific Fishery Management Council had banned salmon fishing in the 200-mile-wide swath of federal waters off California and Oregon.

Federal and state biologists believe closing the season for virtually all the West Coast before it even revs up is the only way to boost the number of chinook salmon returning from ocean waters to spawn in the Sacramento River this fall.

Last year was the second-lowest spawning season on record along the Sacramento River and its tributaries. Just 90,000 chinook returned from the sea to complete their life cycle in the freshwater – a 90 percent drop from five years earlier.
90%. Oy.

If you think this will not affect you, you are incorrect. All fish, including farm raised salmon and trout to Alaskan Halibut, will be going up in price to fill the gap in supply. And as such things go, it will likely have a slight ripple effect throughout all meat and proteins.

I'd say go vegan, but those prices are going up too.
Drudge (I feel dirty) linked to this story about Costco limiting rice purchases and I realized that last month I faced the exact same thing at the wholesale level trying to purchase flour for the bakery. I, along with all of the other bakeries served by this particular supplier, was told I would only be allowed to purchase the same number of sacks that I had bought in previous weeks to prevent hoarding and speculation.

Wow. I hadn't thought of it in terms of rationing, but that is exactly what is was.

And I should mention that a 50 lb. sack of good flour has gone from $14 to $35 since last summer. When you consider that bread prices have only gone up around 30% you can figure out who is being squeezed the most. It is not the end consumer..... yet. Get ready for $4 - $5 bread. It's coming.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
  Ike was Right
The story from the New York Times tying media-darling military analysts to the Pentagon and contractors is not really surprising at all. The fact is that many retired upper-level military brass still have financial interests within the spectrum of military spending. What's disturbing is the fact that this effort to spin the press appears to have been so coordinated and purposeful. It smacks of the payola mini-scandals of Armstrong Williams being secretly paid to propagandize No Child Left Behind and of the Iraqi journalists who were bought and paid for. It is worth noting that it is illegal for the government to propagandize to the American public. There are legal issues as well as ethical ones involved here.

But the reason that this sounds so eerily true to me is a second-hand story from the winter of 2003 that I was told while I lived out in Tacoma, WA, the home of Ft. Lewis. Let me start with the basic facts that are not hearsay and second-hand:

A friend of mine and my wife is the daughter of a retired Army officer at Ft. Lewis. Her father worked alongside of a very famous military figure when he was the C.O. of Ft. Lewis. The two men were, and remained, quite close. The families were so close many years ago that our friend, when she was a teenager, was the regular babysitter of the children of the famous General.

The above is pretty much fact. I have seen the mementos and met enough of the people involved to have no doubts about the relationships.

Skip forward to early 2003. The famous General was interviewed in the Washington Post questioning the Bush Administration's run-up to war with Iraq. If you've figured out who I am referring to, you might remember the shockwaves that this interview sent through the flag waving, lapel-pin-wearing press. The criticism was doubly compounded by the role that this particular General had played in the recount of Florida presidential ballots in 2000. This guy was supposedly a Bushie through and through.

This is where the hearsay comes in. You can believe me, or you can think I am full of crap. That's up to you.

Our friend told us that, according to her father, the day the article appeared, the famous General got a call from the highest ranking civilian in the Pentagon. This person, who was becoming as much of a media darling as the General had once been, told the General in no uncertain terms, that if he expressed his opinions via the media again, he would have all of his clearances revoked and his professional consultant career would be over.

And that is where this second-hand tale and the story currently in the Times cross paths - Retired military brass who disagree with policy decisions are evidently biting their tongues out of fear of losing lucrative income. The consistency between these two stories leads me to give even more credence to both.
If anybody has a decent canoe gathering dust nearby, let me know. I'm looking for a fiberglass or aluminum canoe suitable for cruising down the Hoosac and small lake fishing with a kid.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
  You've probably already seen this...
... but it is probably the best political ad I've seen in a very long time!

And the candidate is campaigning on one of my two most personal pet issues. ya' gotta' like it. My sister and her family, who live in Oregon, had best vote for Wyden or there will be hell to pay at the family reunion.
  Plugging Holes in the Dike
This is an interesting idea. A seemingly very cheap way to keep disadvantaged kids/young adults in college and hopefully in the commonwealth:
THE NEW IDEA: Many residents in their 40s-60s have homes with empty bedrooms because their own children have graduated, married, moved on.
Foster care and DSS services basically end at 18. For that reason among others, young people in the 18-24 year range who have aged out of foster care often lack homes and adult guidance. These are state-created "legal orphans".

Additionally, some young adults who have been adopted are never successfully integrated into their adopted families and also find themselves without support during the "normal" college and trade school education period.

Massachusetts is poor in manufacturing and entry level work as well as having very high housing costs. For this reason, many of these young adults may start a community college, perhaps with tuition assistance, but cannot keep a roof over their heads, and may move to a "cheaper state" to survive and drop out.

Even without being made into legal orphans by the state, many other young adults must support themselves fully with no help from a kinship system. Many work very hard, taking one or two classes a semester for years while struggling to survive in the harsh Massachusetts economy.
Why limit it to community colleges? There are probably plenty of qualifying people barely hanging on in four-year institutions. I work with a couple of them.

What are the drawbacks to creating a state sponsored incentive for renting out rooms to poorer college kids?
  Healthcare Around the World
Last night's Frontline report on the best practices of universal healthcare from other countries is extremely informative. It puts the many lies of the free-marketeers up front and central without being combative.

Very rarely do I feel ashamed of the values put forward by our political leaders. Healthcare is one of those times.
I thought I've seen her running by the store a few times.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
It appears that the managements of Delta and Northwest Airlines have illegally whipsawed the respective pilots unions against each other. Delta's pilot union, knowing that there are many more senior pilots at Northwest, agreed to a new contract just hours before the merger that will pay them more and the Northwest pilots less as long the Delta pilots did not oppose the merger.

It must be noted that the Delta pilots refused to go to arbitration with Northwest pilots to have an independent 3rd party determine the fairest way to create a joint seniority list. I think that the Delta pilot union action qualifies, in John Stewart's new favorite phrase, as a "dick move."

Considering that the Northwest pilots are making about 1/2 of what they did prior to the airline breaking it's previous contracts in bankruptcy, I have a feeling that this is going to get very, very ugly. I think I'll avoid both airlines, if I can, for a while.
Sunday, April 13, 2008

This is the meritocracy of the free market?


This may be the best argument for the inheritance tax since Paris Hilton.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
  Topical Games
Olympic Torch Relay
Folks in Silicon Valley have too much time on their hands. Click on the image to play.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
  NYTimes Covers our Local Primary Care Crisis
The share [of primary care physicians] who accept new patients has dropped, to barely half in the case of internists, and the average wait by a new patient for an appointment with an internist rose to 52 days in 2007 from 33 days in 2006. In westernmost Berkshire County, newly insured patients are being referred 25 miles away, said Charles E. Joffe-Halpern, director of an agency that enrolls the uninsured.
The wait to see my physician for a non-acute issue is over 4 months.

Regular readers may recall my rant about my wife's inability to get an appointment with a primary care doctor after our long-time family physician left the state. I was party to another similar conversation with a friend just last week when she called Williamstown Medical for an appointment and was told that her doctor had too many patients (4000+) and she had to find someone else.

If the legislature wants to do something that's relatively cheap yet incredibly effective and popular, pass a Family Practice Incentive package with student debt and tax relief. Weight the benefits to encourage physicians to locate in areas with high patient-to-doctor ratios. And make it a stipulation that if a practice takes advantage of this program, they MUST accept Mass Health and Medicare patients.
Friday, April 04, 2008
  Wrong side of history
David Brooks is a disengenous twit when he writes things like this:
Martin Luther King Jr. at least left behind a model of how to repair the social fabric. He was scholarly, formal, assertive and meticulously self-controlled in public. If Barack Obama’s presidential campaign represents anything, it is the triumph of King’s early-60s style of activism over the angry and reckless late-60s style. King was in crisis when he was gunned down. But his inspiration is outlasting his critics.
The New Republic's Spencer Ackerman gets it just about right when he comments on Brooks' column:
Forty years ago today, a madman from David Brooks' America murdered our prophet. For a variety of reasons I obviously wish King had lived. But one of them is so we would have seen the right unmasked. Had King not been martyred, the right would treat him like it treats Jesse Jackson -- as nothing more than a "hustler" or a "huckster." You know, all those two-syllable words that are supposed to mean a different two-syllable word that starts with an N.
If you don't believe me, check out this thread at the always entertaining far-right site,
To: pinochet

King was a communist agent who worked to implement slavery worldwide. He was elevated to “sainthood” by the left, much as algore and obambi are today.

6 posted on 04/04/2008 7:31:42 PM PDT by Eagles6 ( Typical White Guy: Christian, Constitutionalist, Heterosexual, Redneck)
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To: tired1
King belonged to two dozen identified Communist organizations which were, at that time, identified by J Edgar Hoover.

Today they are called "progressive" organizations.

7 posted on 04/04/2008 7:45:34 PM PDT by oldtimer
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To: pinochet

If we have to put up with saturation media coverage of MLK every April on the anniversary of his assasination can we please do away with his holiday???

8 posted on 04/04/2008 7:46:41 PM PDT by blue state conservative
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There's plenty more where that came from. If King had survived to modern times, I could just hear the Rush Limbaughs of the world mocking him and doing Al Jolson-esque impersonations on the radio.

50 years from now, when I am hopefully a quick-witted old fart, I expect that some, if not most, of racial polarization in American politics will have diminished. 40 years after his death, MLK's legacy is still evolving. Just ask yourself, would David Brooks have written that column 20 years ago?

Being on the wrong side of history has a funny way of distorting your rear-view mirror.
  Jane Swift for McCain's VP
Now THERE's a rumor for ya'!
  Like Clockwork

Yep, my health insurance premium dollars are paying for world class Public Relations teams to scour the web... AGAIN!

As regular readers know, this is a familiar pattern. BCBS has sent their PR flacks to visit the site before, here and here, and the last time it caught CNN's attention.

I would suggest that every blogger type the words "Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts" into a post, but then my premiums would go up again because BCBS would have to hire more college educated web surfers, so please, no mischief.
  Another Day...
... another medical claim denied by my lovely friends at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Yes, we had a referral from our primary care doc, and we switched to a more expensive BCBS plan that was supposed to cover more out of network stuff, but, alas, some guy sitting behind a desk, who has never met the patient, never asked her a question nor even called her physician knows that this simple visit to a specialist was 'not a medical necessity.'

Just one more reason why I will laugh a bitter laugh when the major health insurers put themselves out of business by creating such a wave of angry American consumers that congress will have no choice but to create a single payer system. It probably will happen incrementally and take several years, but it will happen. The backlash has begun.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
  First Place is Not Always Good
Statistics compiled by the Associated Press and Department of Defense show Vermont has the highest per capita death rate in Iraq.

Based on population estimates by U.S. Census Bureau and casualty figures compiled by the Department of Defense and the AP -- 3.22 Vermonters have died per 100,000 residents in the Green Mountain state.

Vermont is followed by Nebraska, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.
This makes four years running that our neighbor to the north leads the list. The thing that is most striking about the states that bear the most burden is that they are by definition "rural." If you look back at other modern wars, such grieving was shared by rural and city folk alike. What does this shift mean, aside from the obvious? I'm not sure.
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

May 2006 / June 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / January 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / October 2011 /

greg at gregoryroach dot com

"Livability, not just affordability." - Dick Alcombright

My ongoing campaign for North Adams City Council

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Because a Chart is Worth 1000 Words

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