Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Tomorrow morning my nose will be intimately visited by an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon to correct a deviated septum that prevents me from breathing correctly. To put it politely, I will be out of commission for about two weeks.

Once the bandages come off, my campaign for North Adams City Council will swing into high gear. There will be around 6 weeks of hardcore retail politics until the election in November. I will be holding a few events, knocking on hundreds of doors and doing everything I can to convince a thousand or two of my neighbors that I am a reasonably thoughtful guy who is not afraid to do what is needed on behalf of our town.

There are lots of issues to press - like the city's completely opaque budgeting process, and many more ideas to hash about the future of North Adams. There are some very strong challengers this year and some well entrenched incumbents. It will not be easy.

We've got lawn signs to pound and many of the standard techniques in store, but more importantly, it will be hard work that can take this candidacy from underdog status to a contender. And actual hard work is something that only a few of the candidates for council seem to understand. It is time for that to change.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
  Gotta' Go
Mr. Sedaris is coming to the Colonial next month. I think I might have to get tickets. His chapter about the nudist trailer park in the book, Naked, left an indelible mark on my funny bone.

Some say humor is based upon a person's reaction to the unexpected. With David, you can see the ball bounce - it just never goes in the direction that rational intuition would dictate. This is a fairly representative reading by the author via the Colonial's Web site:

Thursday, August 27, 2009
  My Guy in D.C.
I may be the only politically active person in Berkshire County who doesn't have a personal story about Ted Kennedy. I remember being just a little awed when I first saw his name on my ballot. Somehow it seemed a tad surreal that he was an actual candidate who had to win his office.

It is interesting how here in the Commonwealth he was basically seen as our Senator. His political granduer was certainly acknowledged, but he was still just our guy in D.C.. Growing up in Detroit, the whole Camelot mythology was what people outside of the Bay State saw. It was not the man. They loved him or hated him. There was little middle ground. The vitriol tossed his way in life, and even on the day of his death by those who never came within a 1000 miles of the man only demonstrate the actual power of his standing.

Because Senator Kennedy passed during one of the great debates of our time - healthcare - I wonder if "they" will do to Kennedy what they did to Paul Wellstone immediately following his death. Wellstone was "my guy in D.C.." I worked for his campaign and found my 20-something self truly inspired by the selfless nature of his agenda. I have never forgiven Limbaugh, Fox News, or any of the responsible characters, for the smears, lies and defamation that were tossed about after Wellstone's memorial service in '02 simply to try and add a Republican seat to the Senate. Seven years later it is still an open wound.

I pray that Senator Kennedy's family, friends and allies are prepared for the same. The merchants of malice are already sharpening their knives for one final battle over the Kennedy legacy.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Oh, I almost forgot, I brought popcorn, as promised, to tonight's meeting with the hope that Mr. Billings' last act as councilor would be entertaining. Alas, his "letters" only brought up the sewer-user fee and his formal resignation.

I offered the popcorn to Jen Huberdeau and Tammy Daniels, but neither were interested. Eric Buddington and I enjoyed it instead.
At tonight's City Council Meeting I was struck by the debate surrounding the raising of the Hotel/Motel Room tax from 4% to 6%. When the proposal was offered, Councilors Alcombright and Blackmer suggested that, because of the short notice of putting this tax on the agenda, it should go to the finance committee where the businesses affected by it could publicly comment. This seemed eminently reasonable to me.

The mayor and those councilors who always agree with him argued that because the tax can only be implemented at the beginning of a quarter, this delay would cause the tax to be put off until January 1, 2010 instead of beginning on October first of this year. The mayor projected that the city would lose $5000 a month in revenue if it were delayed by the committee looking into the proposal.

But what really got me, was that the mayor seemed to suggest that The Porches and Jae's Inn had already received great tax breaks in the past from the city, so hitting them with a new tax on short notice was completely justified. Also, he suggested that the fact that because no businesses had called him in the past week regarding this tax was evidence that the proprietors of these businesses did not consider the tax to be potentially detrimental to business.

While I am all for making money off of tourists, I do think that the businesses affected should at least be invited to give input. To dismiss this suggestion as somehow trivial bothers me a lot. The Porches, Holiday Inn and Jae's help pump millions of dollars into the local economy every year. They deserve a tad bit more respect.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
  What Else is New?
The GOP opposes the idea of ensuring that Massachusetts has two senators until a special election. They a crying 'Hypocrisy!"

I don't suppose Republicans see the irony in that particular charge since the GOP also opposed the current law in 1994 because it took the power to appoint someone for up to a year from then Gov. Romney.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
  It's Not 1994
On most cold Minnesota afternoons in the mid 1990s, I would take my lunch break in my car from the job where I earned my paycheck by day while pretending to be an opera singer at night. Often I tuned my radio to whatever talk radio was on. Usually it would be Limbaugh who accompanied me while I ate my Taco Bell or Burger King, driving around the Minneapolis 'burbs, steering with my knees, heater going full blast.

It was 1994 and one of my clearer memories of the rants coming over my speakers was Rush doing his victory dance over the corpse of "Hillarycare."
"They had the majority in both houses. They had the Presidency. Yet they still couldn't pass the bill!"
This failed "socialist plot" became the rallying cry for the so-called Republican Revolution that took place at the ballot box in November of '94. It cemented the stereotype of the weak-knee liberal who couldn't stand on principle and precluded an ignominious collapse of two generations of Democratic legislative control. It is no wonder then that the GOP pulled out a more aggressive version of the same playbook this time around. The only difference is that someone learned from '94, but it wasn't the Republicans:
Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.
This is exactly the way that it should play out after the Palinesque insanity of the past month. The supposedly "moderate" Democrats will fall into line, because, otherwise, they will get creamed in the primaries as the "Blue-Dogs who killed healthcare." And the GOP? They will score some points and probably pick up a few off-year seats in '10, but they are on the wrong side of history on the first major social legislation in 50 years. Their marginalization into a party of primarily cranky old white southerners will be complete.

That damage will take years to undo.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
  The Crazy
I'm not quite sure why I thought this time around would be different, but it's not. Rick Perlstein does a very good job summing up the right wing insanity that always seems to accompany liberal presidents. Read the whole thing:
So the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the town hall hecklers -- these are "either" the genuine grass roots or evil conspirators staging scenes for YouTube? The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair, the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president -- too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters' signs -- too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don't understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can't understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.

In the early 1950s, Republicans referred to the presidencies of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as "20 years of treason" and accused the men who led the fight against fascism of deliberately surrendering the free world to communism. Mainline Protestants published a new translation of the Bible in the 1950s that properly rendered the Greek as connoting a more ambiguous theological status for the Virgin Mary; right-wingers attributed that to, yes, the hand of Soviet agents. And Vice President Richard Nixon claimed that the new Republicans arriving in the White House "found in the files a blueprint for socializing America."

When John F. Kennedy entered the White House, his proposals to anchor America's nuclear defense in intercontinental ballistic missiles -- instead of long-range bombers -- and form closer ties with Eastern Bloc outliers such as Yugoslavia were taken as evidence that the young president was secretly disarming the United States. Thousands of delegates from 90 cities packed a National Indignation Convention in Dallas, a 1961 version of today's tea parties; a keynote speaker turned to the master of ceremonies after his introduction and remarked as the audience roared: "Tom Anderson here has turned moderate! All he wants to do is impeach [Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl] Warren. I'm for hanging him!"

Before the "black helicopters" of the 1990s, there were right-wingers claiming access to secret documents from the 1920s proving that the entire concept of a "civil rights movement" had been hatched in the Soviet Union; when the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act was introduced, one frequently read in the South that it would "enslave" whites. And back before there were Bolsheviks to blame, paranoids didn't lack for subversives -- anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists even had their own powerful political party in the 1840s and '50s.
Paranoids, indeed. As a student of the Clinton years, I can attest that what I see now is very similar to what I saw then. Contrary to what certain commentators will say, there is no true parallel on the liberal side. The folks who claimed Bush was a leftover Nazi because his grandpa helped finance the Third Reich were never held up by Democratic leaders, let alone the press, as having anything more than rocks in their head. (Yes, Dave, I know that the huge antiwar rallies were organized by ANSWER. That is a case of strange bedfellows, not kindred political goals.)

But now, those who claim that everything Obama does is a giant plot somehow garner credibility and are tossed hunks of red meat by the GOP leadership. And don't forget that the nation's most popular Republican claims Obamacare would make her baby and her parents stand before a death panel.

Crazy doesn't even begin to explain it.
Monday, August 10, 2009
  Not Going Gently Into That Good Night
It seems Councilor Billings is have 3rd (4th or 5th?) thoughts about resigning his seat, regardless of what was said at the last council meeting. Moments ago he posted this in the comments section of the link to an iBerkshires article stating his resignation was imminent:
I don't intend to-- stay tuned---did you see a "g" for gentle in my name???? chbpod
I'm bringing popcorn to the next meeting.

UPDATE: From the comments:
I am submitting my resignation letter this week-effective for Aug 29----but I am thinking about filing a couple of papers for the meeting of the 25th--and they might not be regarded as gentle---chbpod
Seriously. I will bring popcorn to the meeting on the 25th. Is there a rule against food in the gallery?
  Quote of the Day
An older found quote from the comments of an April NYTimes blog post:
I know what Obama is… a Rorschach test!
I'd like to think that a person's instant reactions to the President wouldn't tell you a lot about them, but I fear that most of us believe it to be true. You have a pretty good chance of guessing a person's race, geographical region, cable news and radio habits, and of course their political bent within a few seconds.

That said, stereotypes hurt civic discourse.

The refusal to listen to, let alone accept complex answers and arguments, make our society weaker, not stronger. This holds for almost all aspects of public policy.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Ms. Huberdeau writes a great piece on this year's tomato blight. Usually I get a few hundred pounds of "seconds" from local farmers to make sauce, etc... This year I have only been able to purchase 12 pounds.
Two years ago, she said, the farm harvested so many tomatoes that, after giving the crop shares to their members, they were able to can 50 gallons of sauce for the Berkshire Food Project. In a recent newsletter to farm members, Zasada said the farm would be "lucky to distribute a handful of tomatoes to farm members."
This leads me to another thought about food production in the United States. I have raised the eyebrows of many a foodie when I have been confronted with the absolutism of certain food movements.

As a chef who loves cooking with and promoting local organic agriculture most people assume that I MUST believe certain things about how food must be grown and who should grow it. And, yes, I do think that low-impact, sustainable agriculture (L.I.S.A.) is the ideal, but while it works on the small scale, no one has quite figured out how to feed 6.7 BILLION people effectively exclusively using "natural" methods, not even Michael Pollan.

And Frankly, I am more interested in making sure people don't go hungry.

Sometimes, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Currently, when it comes to feeding the masses, non-organic farming wins out. I prefer organics. I prefer local. I prefer all sorts of things that are not realistic when it comes to feeding the entirety of New York City or Beijing or Sudan.

No one is going to starve in the Berkshires or the United States because of a regional tomato blight, but around 170 years ago, many of my relatives perished in Ireland because of a single type of crop failure. And in Africa, the use of fertilizers and such is one of the main components of warding off famine, pestilence and the violence such strife brings. I hope that the best practices of responsible contemporary farming make their way into the developing world, but more importantly I hope that people get fed. I cannot rationalize letting one single person die in the developing world because of our desire to implement more genteel methods of agriculture.

Food used to take up somewhere around 40% of the typical American family's budget. These days it is more like 10%. That is both good and bad. Small farmers are grossly undercompensated and junk food based upon cheap processed sugars, fats and cereal grains make up too much of our collective diet. Chemicals and farm waste cause countless environmental issues which probably lead to latent disease in humans.

But, because of modern agriculture and the social safety net (food stamps), the idea of famine in the developed world is a distant memory. And that fact alone might be one of the greatest American achievements of the 20th century.

Can we do better with safer and more conscientious food production? Certainly.

But are we going to break out the torches and pitchforks because of a failed tomato crop? Not in 2009, and thank goodness for that because it was not always the case.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
I was driving back from Greenfield last Saturday when I was passed by some emergency vehicles whipping towards Charlemont. A few minutes later I saw them parked on the bridge over the Deerfield along with a gathering crowd of tubers and locals. Now I know why:
Massachusetts State Police were working to identify the person, and had not confirmed if it was that of Shanara Henry, 18, of Springfield. Henry went missing Saturday when her tube tipped over on the rain-swollen river in Charlemont. Others in her group also tipped over in their tubes, but they made it to shore.
Stories like these break my heart.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Today's the final day to file your papers for public office in North Adams. Thank you to all whom I pestered with my clipboard and pen.

The horses are on the track.

I've been debating how to separate my campaign from my blogging and I've come to the conclusion that random thoughts about the election or about other races should stay on this side, while specific policies and pertinent biographical information will be posted to

I will try not to let up on my commentary. And those who wish to debate and comment civilly should do it here, not there.

As always, I want to hear your thoughts and ideas. Don't hesitate to shoot me an email about something new or old or post a reaction to one of my late night missives. The next 90 days are going to be interesting.
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.

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greg at gregoryroach dot com

"Livability, not just affordability." - Dick Alcombright

My ongoing campaign for North Adams City Council

iBerkshires' Online Event Calendar

Because a Chart is Worth 1000 Words

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