Category Archives: National Stuff

Market Basket/Demoulas Dysfunctional Family Threatens Jobs, Economy, Food in New England

I went foraging for food today.  I went to Shaw’s. On my way past Market Basket there were employees that I’ve known for a long time out on Storey Avenue protesting with signs. And I honked like mad in support.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I talked to one of the employees at Shaws.  The grocery store is scrambling to keep up with demand, and the gentleman thanked me for being patient and supportive of their effort to get food on the shelves for the folks in Newburyport. He also said that he fully supported the workers at Market Basket, and I quote:

“Once it’s no longer in the family and it becomes public, it’s all over.”

(And I remember Shaw’s when it went public.  The prices there are now a whole lot higher than at Market Basket. And as I remember it, it didn’t used to be that way.)

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

Then I went over to Market Basket and took photos of the people protesting.  Their spirits seemed to be much better today than they were yesterday.  I think they really appreciate the local support, and the larger support for their effort.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I put my Shaw’s grocery slip in the window at Market Basket, I hope other folks do the same.

Market Basket

Shaw’s grocery slip taped inside Market Basket by a customer

And one of my favorite photos is of a really sweet young lady holding a sign inside Market Basket, next to the photo or Arthur T, that says, “More for your dollar Family.”

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting inside Market Basket

For an explanation of what’s going on, my favorite is still Buzzfeed, “Mind-Blowing Pictures of Empty Shelves As Employees Protest Corporate Greed,” which can be read here. Yesterday’s post on the Newburyport Blog about Market Basket, “Newburyport, Market Basket, a PR Disaster,”can be read here.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Sign outside Market Basket in Newburyport

Newburyport, Market Basket, a PR Disaster

Today, walking into Market Basket, one of Newburyport’s grocery stores , the one that I have shopped at for decades, it felt as if there had been a local disaster, and the employees were required to do their best, stocking what they could in a very spooky feeling store.

empty-store

Not many people in Newburyport’s Market Basket, or check-out line.

I walked around, took photos, and asked how the folks who worked there were doing. Some said that they were holding up Ok, some said that they were really scared.

no produce Market Basket

No produce on Newburyport’s Market Basket’s shelves.

Buzzfeed has an article, “Mind-Blowing Pictures of Empty Shelves As Employees Protest Corporate Greed,” which explains what is going on, better than I can.  I’ll quote from that article, which can be read in its entirety here.

Newburyport's Market Basket-empty shelves

Empty Shelves at Newburyport’s Market Basket

“Deliveries from Market Basket’s warehouses were halted on Friday, July 18th as warehouse workers walked out to protest the firing of three top level executives in the company…

Market Basket, a family-owned company founded on principles of quality, low prices, and excellent customer service, fell victim to a long-running family feud last year which resulted in board room shake-ups and the ouster of beloved CEO Arthur T. Demoulas…. He is famous for his hands-on approach to management and frequently visited the chain’s 70+ stores, chatting with managers, associates, and customers…

After the new management team refused to address concerns regarding Artie T’s removal, associates, vendors, customers, and even Massachusetts lawmakers banded together to send the board and the new CEOs a strong message about loyalty to their Market Basket “family” through boycotts, rallies, and petitions…

Stores remain open and fully staffed, but with no deliveries everything from produce and meat to plastic shopping bags is in short supply…

On July 20th, at least eight more high-level associates from the corporate office were fired via a letter delivered to them by courier. The eight highly respected associates lost had a combined 280 years of experience with the company….

Associates maintain that they are fighting not just for themselves and their co-workers, but for customers as well, many of whom have fixed or low incomes and rely on Market Basket’s low prices…”

Market Basket, Newburyport, empty parking lot

Pretty empty parking lot at Market Basket

The complete story on Buzzfeed can be read here.

Another Idea on how to have a Win-Win on Recycling Plastic Bags

An idea. I’m brainstorming here.

RecyleCleanThe plastic bag industry definitely has gotten the memo loud and clear about recycling plastic bags. However, the plastic bag recycling industry wants clean dry thin filmed plastic bags for recycling, not soiled ones. That means they want plastic bags to be returned to participating stores. Neither the plastic industry or the City of Newburyport wants them in the recycling bins (plastic bags reek havoc for our recycling machines). The thin film plastic bags and other clean, dry thin film products are then bailed and shipped to places in the United States or to Canada or China for recycling. Recycling thin clean, dry thin film plastic is a billion dollar business, for real (see earlier entry).

So this might be a way to have small stores to be able to recycle plastic bags, if that is what they would like to do. Maybe the stores downtown, on Storey Avenue and in the Tannery might be able to participate (if they wanted to, along with providing reusable bags and bags made out of paper, I’ve seen some really nice ones from stores downtown). And maybe either Market Basket or Shaw’s might be able to be the “anchor store” (see below).

If the “industry” is involved, (the “bad guys”) in helping the city with a plastic bag recycling program, then the plastic bag industry has a real incentive to not only help us start something effective, but make sure that each year it becomes more and more successful.

So this is a quote from PlasticFilmRecycling.org on a “Business-to-Business” (B2B) pilot program.  And the website may look like a non-profit, but the American Chemistry Council is behind it (see the fine print at the bottom).  So yes, I am proposing that environmentalist work with “the bad guys” to come up with a solution instead of an outright ban on plastic bags. Nelson Mandela knew about working with your enemy–he becomes your partner.

b2b

This is from “Business-to-Business” (B2B), the entire link can be read here. 

“The B2B recycling program staff facilitated partnerships with large retail “anchor” stores and their smaller neighbor merchants that are located in shopping centers and malls. The anchor stores serve as collection points for clean, used plastic bags and film from their customers and from the neighboring stores. The anchor store is then able to use its existing infrastructure to transfer or “backhaul” the plastic bags and film back centers in delivery trucks that would otherwise return empty to their distribution centers.

The smaller retailers benefit because they are able to take advantage of a recycling opportunity that in most cases would be too expensive or unavailable to them. The anchor store benefits by being able to sell more recyclable material and to promote its environmental efforts by using existing resources and committing to a relatively small increase in labor. The Orange County SWMD benefits in many ways including conservation of landfill space due avoided disposal of tons of plastic bags and film, increased recycling rates, and avoided costs for a commercial recycling program as a result of the successes of the B2B recycling program.”

NOAA_debris

And to learn about Marine Debris, visit NOAA’s (U.S Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Marine Debris website here, including information on what is sometimes referred to the great garbage patch, or how debris accumulates in the ocean here.

From NOAA: “Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways…”  “The term “Pacific Garbage Patch” is a popular nickname for an area of marine debris concentration in the North Pacific Ocean, located in between Hawaii and California…” “While higher concentrations of litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, much of the debris is small pieces of floating plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye…”

And from NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog, which can be read here.

“With all of this information flying around, much of it conflicting, what is actually known about these topics? And what do we believe?

First, the name “garbage patch” is a misnomer. There is no island of trash forming in the middle of the ocean, and it cannot be seen with satellite or aerial photographs. While it’s true that these areas have a higher concentration of plastic than other parts of the ocean, much of the debris found in these areas are small bits of plastic (microplastics) that are suspended throughout the water column.  A comparison I like to use is that the debris is more like flecks of pepper floating throughout a bowl of soup, rather than a skim of fat that accumulates (or sits) on the surface…”

“The bottom line really is that all of this human-made trash simply does not belong in our oceans or waterways…”

All of this is not good.  

Why I Personally Like my Plastic Bags, and NO, I’m Not in the Pocket of the Plastic Bag Industry

Gluten Free

Gluten Free

I just vowed I wouldn’t go there, put people ask me, “Why in the world do you want to have plastic bags so much?” And for anyone thinking or saying that I must be in the pocket of the plastic bag industry (because that seems to be the immediate reaction if you happen to like plastic bags), the answer is “No,” and believe me, I have opinions on stuff, people have accused me of a lot worse (see 7+ years of earlier posts).

I have something called celiac disease.  It has been ruled as a disability under the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA).  Who knew? not me that it was ruled a disability, until all this research on plastic bags last week. See the link on ADA and celiac here.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come out with a ruling saying something cannot be labeled gluten free, unless it is really and truly is gluten free, which they have said is 20 parts per million (20 ppm), in other words–a microscopic amount. You can read all about it here, if you feel like it. (That one I knew about, the FDA ruling thing. The White House actually sent me an email telling me about the new gluten food labeling by the FDA, it made my day, week, month, year.)

When I was diagnosed (and all of that info is on the blog if you want to go look for it) back in 2009, no one knew hardly nada about what celiac was. Now, gluten free, here we come, which as it plays out, is fantastic for people with celiac. I was told is that microscopic amounts would make me sick (as in eventually kills you), so scrub out your kitchen, throw out and replace all sorts of stuff.  I thought they were being hysterical nut cases. It turns out “they” were right. When I got rid of anything that might have microscopic amounts of gluten, I started to get better.

The weird thing about celiac is that if effects everyone differently, it has all kinds of different symptoms, and basically they still know mostly nada.  But I am one of those pesky folks where only digesting microscopic amounts takes me 6 weeks to recover. And am I paranoid about getting “glutened?” you bet I am.

Which brings me to plastic bags at the grocery store. When they open one of those plastic bags, I know that no gluten has ever, never ever, been in there.  I am safe, safe, safe. No need to wonder, did I bring home gluten stuff in this bag?  Do I throw this bag away? Do I throw them all away to be safe?  No, every plastic bag is a safe bag for moi.  And it brings peace of mind and serenity to the ever not wonderful challenge of going to the grocery store as a celiac (where gluten is everywhere and not in everything anymore, but still in tons of stuff). And I take those plastic bags that make me feel safe and never glutened, and recycle them back at the grocery store.

Whether people understand my fondness for plastic bags having celiac disease, is up to them. But for me, it is huge.

The Recycling Plastic Bag Slurping Machine

recycle-machine-happyChild

Fun recycling slurping plastic bag machine

I really like the idea of a single use plastic bag recycling slurping machine. (Please see earlier entry here.)

First of all, the plastic bag industry has a huge PR problem on their hands. The sustainable bag folks are right, plastic bags are wandering around not only our local environment, but all over the place.  And the approach at the moment is to ban them outright, which causes all kinds of friction in communities, all over North America.

And it’s time that the plastic bag folks worked with environmentalists instead of against them, because for the plastic bag industry it comes down to keeping your product which equals = $$ money.

For example, If you had a recycling machine that slurped plastic bags (without slurping in little hands that might feed them) for either a small amount of money, or maybe something like points that could be redeemed for money, you could be a hero to young mothers and fathers everywhere. What little child wouldn’t be mesmerized by machine that slurps plastic bags.

If a young mother or father who needs to go to the grocery store, and young Emma or Aiden is tired and cranky and doesn’t want to go to the grocery store, the young parent can say, “Honey, if we go to the slurping plastic bag machine first, will you help mommy or daddy go grocery shopping, and then we can use the rest of the plastic bags at the slurping machine when we’re done.” It might be a real incentive to a) recycle plastic bags and b) go cooperate with their parents at the grocery store. You, plastic bag company,  become a hero.

On one of those horrible rainy days when kids are stuck inside, a trip to your local supermarket or wherever, where young kids can feed in plastic bags to the plastic bag recycling slurping machine, could be a real godsend for something fun + practical to do.  Been in those parents shoes, know what it’s like.

And if little Emma or Aiden can make some money to boot, they are going to be begging their neighbors, their Nana for their plastic bags to take to this fun plastic bag slurping recycling machine.  Pretty soon, Emma and Aiden, whether they are environmentalists or not, learn about recycling because it’s fun, and they get lots of positive feedback from helping people as well.

Schools could have fundraisers using the plastic bag recycling slurping machine, make a little money, and learn how to help the environment while they are doing it. And you plastic bag industry look great.

The plastic bag recycling slurping machine wouldn’t be good just for Newburyport, it would be good for everyone all over the world.  The plastic bag folks could then help solve a world wide problem, and be heroes instead of the goat.

Recycle_BagThe other thing, is that the production of the plastic bag recycling slurping machine would help create a whole new industry and lots of new jobs (preferably here in Massachusetts).

This also assumes that people know loud and clear where to take those single use plastic bags.  Having great big huge “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” logos on plastic bags, and exactly where to return them, would be real easy to legislate (much easier than an outright ban). And plastic bag industry, why not beat the government to the punch, and do that yourselves. Again, you would be heroes, instead of the people known for causing a major environmental problem.

A Fun Way to Recycle Plastic Bags

Recycle_BagRecycle_BagLook, not only do I get that plastic bags are detrimental to our wetland and coastal areas, I agree with it.  However, instead of an outright ban, I’d like a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of single use plastic bags.  And I understand that Market Basket has been unresponsive to this issue (and the single use plastic bag industry must be as well, since their “recycle and reuse” logo is so tiny, you can hardly see it), and I hope that the proposed ban forces Market Basket to have a meaningful dialogue with the city council and residents about how to solve this issue.

And this is what I don’t understand.  First of all, it would be a giant PR move for both the single use plastic bag industry and the supermarket industry if they put big, huge colorful “reduce, recycle, reuse” logos on their plastic bags, with where to recycle them (i.e. at Market Basket or Shaws) in big bold letters, instead of in fine print at the bottom.  Both industries would be heroes instead of goats. Seems like a pretty good idea to me. If both those businesses/industries did that, we might not be having this local fight over plastic bags, that we are having now, and they would help the environment all over the place. This would be a good thing.

recycle-machine copy

Fun slurping recycling machine

The other thing is, that if I was an inventor, or if I was the plastic bag industry, I’d find me an inventor, to have a fun way to recycle the plastic bags once they got to the supermarket.  If I was an inventor, I’d invent a machine that slurped the plastic bags in one at a time and gave a penny for each plastic bag, or a penny for 5 plastic bags (whatever is economical and fair).  First of all, little kids (or even grown-ups) would be mesmerized by a machine that slurped plastic bags.

And when you could first get money for returning cans, people were scouring all over the place, cities, suburbs, to find cans to make some extra money.  If you had a fun machine that slurped plastic bags AND got a little dough in the process, I bet the same thing would happen, and I bet you would have a whole lot less single use plastic bags wandering around our environment, and I bet they’d be reduced in a major, major way, pretty quick.  It would be a huge PR win for the plastic bag industry, and they wouldn’t be so vilified and it would be fun to boot. And it would be a good thing for the plastic bag industry to work with environmentalists  to help solve problems for a win-win solution.

Peace With Your Enemy

Peace with your enemy

Peace with your enemy

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995) – Nelson Mandela

This quote seems very appropriate for Martin Luther King Day. It also seems appropriate for Newburyport politics (and all politics).

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing Back Then

I pissed off a lot of people with the “Please Leave My Plastic Bags Alone” post.  I was even asked not to write anything more about the subject (democracy, free speech anyone??), so, at least for now, technically I won’t.

This has been making the rounds on the internet for months and months and months (the source unfortunately is unknown – wish I knew!!), so if you haven’t seen it…

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing Back Then

“Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Milk Bottles, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Milk Bottles, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”

Contemporary Art, Gone the Way of the Buggy Whip and the Typewriter?

I wonder to myself if contemporary art, like the stuff being painted today, like today’s fine art, has it, or is it going the way of the buggy whip and the typewriter? This is from a contemporary painter (and a good one!!) no less.

In the movie “Other People’s Money,” Danny DeVito’s character, Larry the Liquidator, a successful corporate raider, sort of, very sort of, like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, compares the company in question to the last buggy whip maker, technology having made buggy whips obsolete. No point in having a buggy whip factory around anymore.

Lots of things have become obsolete. Camera and film stores, Ritz Camera and Infocus in Newburyport, sayonara.

CD stores… adios.  Newspapers, alas, are going goodbye.  Patch-AOL here we come. HuffPost the updated, un-obsolete medium. Books, adios. Kindle, the Nook, IPad, cha-cha-cha.

The United States Post Office, oh dear.

The typewriter – gone with the wind.

Twitter and texting, yup. Complete sentences, TMI.

Starfish, digital photo by 4eyesphoto (used with permission)

"Starfish," digital photo by 4eyesphoto (used with permission)

None of this is bad, it just is. Most of it is really fascinating. But what about the quaint idea of painting.  Photoshop, my love hate relationship with Photoshop, in my mind, has changed painting forever.  And for goodness sakes, any photo can now be put on canvas in an hour by places like CVS.

The thing that make my heart go pity-pat when I walk into a gallery, is really great digital photography. It reminds me of that now quaint painting style, Photorealism, one of the last contemporary art movements, that used to make my brain twirl. And there is some amazing digital photography being made.  The photo by 4eyephoto.com that gave permission to use their incredible photograph “Starfish,” to my son’s theatre company for their poster, a gorgeous example.

The quaint art of painting going the way of the buggy whip – reality??

Where to Vote in Massachusetts and Newburyport on Tuesday, November 6, 2012

vote

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a very cool tool to find out where to vote in Massachusetts and in Newburyport!! this Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

You just enter your street number and its name, and your city or town, or your zip code, and voila, it tells you exactly where to go!! (it even tells you what ward you are in, and how to get in touch with the City Clerk).

Once you put in your information, it also has a link to a copy of the state’s sample ballot for your location, so that you can see who to vote for, as well as what the 3 ballot questions are, and what the 2 non-binding ballot questions are. (The link to the sample ballot is at the top after your address, where it says, “My State Ballot”, under “Who is on my Ballot.”)

Voting hours are 7am to 8pm.

Be sure to vote.

To use this fun “where to vote” tool, please press here.

For a link to a copy of Newburyport’s sample ballot, please press here.

sample-ballot3

When you press the link, the state’s sample ballot will look like this.

Paul Ryan’s Plan, The Middle Class and Nursing Homes

Medicaid pays for 60 percent of people in nursing homes (and that includes people in Newburyport).

“..his (Paul Ryan’s) budget would impose immediate cuts to Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor that funds nursing-home care and other benefits for 6 million U.S. seniors.”  - Bloomberg Businessweek,  Brian Faller, August 14, 2012

“Among the victims someone’s grandparents who, without Medicaid, won’t be able to afford nursing home care…  Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Downs syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the people who count on Medicaid.”   The Wall Street Journal, Aug 17, 2012

So if your spouse, parents or  grandparents are in a nursing home, and their care is paid for by Medicaid, and Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney get elected, they plan on cutting Medicaid ASAP.  And what happens to Middle Class families? It would look as if they would be faced with the draconian choice of letting their loved one not be cared for, or quitting a job to provide full-time care.  What does that do to the finances of the Middle Class, it would throw them into chaos, which is what one of the things that Medicaid (and as a btw… under President Reagan, Medicaid legislation was passed so that spouses would not go bankrupted - Reagan’s spousal safety net) is meant to prevent, here in Newburyport, locally, and all across America.

Preservation is in the Business of Saving Communities

Preservation is in the business of saving communites

Preservation is in the business of saving communities

Newburyport preservation quotes:

“There may have been a time when preservation was about saving an old building here and there, but those days are gone. Preservation is in the business of saving communities and the values they embody.”

—Richard Moe, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Newburyport and the Ideological Right – They Deliver

Maybe my hyperventilating over Governor Romney’s running mate (see previous post), Tea Party darling, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh endorsed, Paul Ryan, has something to do with my first-hand local experience with the “slash and burn,” “take no prisoners,” “malign all opposed” politics of the folks who do not want to preserve Newburyport’s historic assets, the proposed Local Historic District (LHD), led by a member of Newburyport’s very own Tea Party, and I gather fan of the John Birch Society.

On my walk around Newburyport this weekend, I ran into a friend who wanted to know what I thought of the article in the Boston Globe about the progress of Newburyport’s Local Historic District’s (LHD), and the LHD’s slow winding path getting to the Newburyport City Council.  And in the course of our conversation, I said something to the effect that, “People wonder why, at this point, I’m not doing more.” The response was, “Well, you got the shit kicked out of your, everyone knows that.”  For which the person got a hug.

Fox News Opinion on the web has a piece called, “America’s coming civil war – makers vs takers,” predictably the wealthy, the makers, pitted against everyone from seniors, to folks who need help with student loans to go to college.

Our local “Say No to LHD” folks definitely feel like that same strident, militant mindset… heck, it is that same militant mindset.  The LHD, in their minds, equals “social engineering,” yes, this is true (I hate to even link to the actual factual proof, because it gives the John Birch Society such pleasure. How do I know that, because that particular post went viral, via the John Birch Society’s Facebook page – I wish I was kidding).

Yes, and anonymous townies, threatened by “newcomers,” joined in the fray (and townies who no longer live here, or live/visit here periodically).  But it is our own John Birch tea party folks who are still willing, if not proud, to give their names to the cause of stridently and militantly destroying Newburyport’s hope of having a Local Historic District.  (They also, as I understand it, complain loudly to their city councilors, the mayor, the press, when a pro-LHD human being loses it, the person in question, I believe, has been identified.)

Do I have first hand experience with the hatred of the ideological Right?  Yes.  Do I know that they will deliver on their promise?  Yes.  Does that make me worry about Governor Romney’s pick for Vice President, that it isn’t all fluffy talk, that delivery of this far right ideology is very real?  Yes, you betcha.

Hyperventilating

Ever since Governor Romney announced his VP pick, (late Friday night during the Olympics??) Paul Ryan, I’ve been hyperventilating.  Really (unfortunately).

The issue, Medicare.  If Romney/Ryan squeak by in November, I’d squeak by under their Medicare radar before it turns into a voucher payment plan, but I’m still hyperventilating. Why?  I’ve paid my own health care cost as an artist from way back in the dark ages (“in the day,” maybe not quite that long), and to say I don’t trust the healthcare private insurance folks to do anything but look after their bottom line, without state and federal regulation, would be a vast, vast understatement.

(In 1990, I paid $340 a month for my son and myself, for GREAT health insurance. Today, here in Massachusetts, that kind of health insurance that we had, doesn’t exist for any price (that I know of). Something similar, but not really, would go for $2,165 (a month). For a family $3,545 (a month).  In New York State for a parent and child, a similar, but not really, insurance exists for $3,176 (a month). For a family, it’s a whopping $5,294.  How about those apples? And people think Massachusetts is bad!)

As an artist, I’ve been waiting for the day when I am relieved of the onerous burden of crazy individual $1,000 a month and rising health insurance premiums (and that’s cheap compared to a state like New York State, demonstration above), and having an offspring that has fallen right next to the preverbial artistic tree, I’ve always wanted that for him and his family as well – some sort of safety net, you betch’a.

Private Health insurance industry to regulate itself, no, no, no – dream land.

Medicare vouchers to keep up with health insurance cost, please, dream on.

That’s my main hyperventilation.  But the other, Mitt Romney was an old fashion Republican moderate  in Massachusetts (I know, I know, you know).  But with Paul Ryan, darling of the hijacked Tea Party, as his running mate, has he sold his soul? or was he lying way back “in the day?”  Not good either way.  To have someone so ideologically extreme on the ticket, unsettling and telling.

“…the only way for Ryan’s numbers to work would be to effectively eliminate nearly all non-defense discretionary spending, including not just much of the social safety net but infrastructure spending, R. & D. investment, federal support for education, air-traffic control, regulatory and public safety spending, and so on (editor’s note, moi – let’s not forget NPR and The National Endowment for the Arts). This would be, needless to say, a radical remaking of the federal government.  …it would basically return the federal government to something like its nineteenth-century role—and early nineteenth-century at that.” The New Yorker,  August 12, 2012, “Paul Ryan’s Budget Games.”

“More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan, and eagerly accepted by the Tea Party-driven House, come from programs for low-income Americans. That means billions of dollars lost for job training for the displaced, Pell grants for students and food stamps for the hungry. These cuts are so severe that the nation’s Catholic bishops raised their voices in protest at the shredding of the nation’s moral obligations.

Mr. Ryan’s budget “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment,” the bishops wrote in an April letter to the House. “These cuts are unjustified and wrong.”

It (the federal government) will not be there when the unemployed need job training, or when a struggling student needs help to get into college. It will not be there when a miner needs more than a hardhat for protection, or when a city is unable to replace a crumbling bridge (editor’s note, moi – or sidewalk).

And it will be silent when the elderly cannot keep up with the costs of M.R.I.’s or prescription medicines, or when the poor and uninsured become increasingly sick through lack of preventive care.  New York Times, August 11, 2012, “Mr Ryan’s Cramped Vision.”

So I’m hyperventilating for my offspring and his family’s future, much less my old age, should I get to live that long, should this pair get elected in November.

“..the Ryan budget is a plan that forfeits the future and global leadership to China.” Steve Clemens, The Atlantic, August 13, 2012.

George is Grinning and Orren Fox

George

George

George is grinning, huge wide smile, and those of you who have been readers of the Newburyport Blog for any length of time know that George is usually a glum sort of fellow, even with his passionate romance to Georgiana Tadpole (if you really would like to know about any of this frog stuff please press here).

Instead of telling the readers of the Newburyport Blog what is making George smile so hugely right off the bat (although he’s not smiling in the picture, I couldn’t get one of him smiling), I’m going to start at the beginning.

Way, way back (“in the day,” I’m not sure if it’s that far back) in 1990 I painted a whole bunch of paintings for a major New York show, oil on panel, and the panels warped (I used the wrong kind of panel – never did it again).  Panic city, you betcha.  I went to what was then Wendover Woodworks on Liberty Street in Newburyport, and one of the owners, Andy Willemsem saved my sorry soul by making some absolutely gorgeous frames that solved the warping problem and saved yours truly.  It was then I met Andy’s partner in this wonder furniture creating place, Henry Fox.

About 15 years ago, wandering around my Newburyport neighborhood, I ran into Henry Fox, who told me the harrowing tale of his son, born 3 months early with a host of medical problems who had been saved by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MassGeneral in Boston, and had just been moved to one of the more local hospitals.  I later shared this story with other families who had critically ill new borns, including my most wonderful neighbors, who found themselves and their newborn son also at MassGeneral. (The young man is now happily running around our neighborhood.)

Andy Willemsen moved on and Henry Fox named his wonderful furniture business after his two sons, “Fox Brothers.” (Still there on Liberty Street in Newburyport, still amazing.)

Fast forward to 2012, yesterday, a “new” or “new” to me, George and I being 5 years late to the story (not quite as bad as my late arrival to the David Sedaris planet, see earlier post, but not so good)  local Newburyport blog called “Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs,” by a fifteen year old young man called Orren Fox.

I’m thinking Fox?? Fox?? Henry Fox?? The timing’s right.

And sure enough this blog is written by Henry’s son Orren, the one in intensive care 15 years ago.  How cool is that, but it gets so much better.

Scrolling down the blog’s sidebar the young man has been interviewed/written up by the Huffington Post, NPR, Yankee Magazine, the Boston Globe to name a few, and has been to the White House, March 7, 2012,  for “Know Your Farmer Event.”

I’m beginning to join George in grinning from ear to ear about this young chicken farmer and organic food activist.

“Margaret Mead would have loved Orren.  A soulful and gifted young man who has done more to help make a positive impact by 15 than most folks do in a lifetime.” From Do Lectures.

And Orren has added bees, in “Bee Happy” – check it out here.

AND Orren has serendipitly gone into business with his brother Will (with a little help from Dad) making “FoxBoys” longboards, skateboards in the most glorious shape, a little like a boat, read and see all about them here.

And Orren Fox is so media savvy as to make grown “social media” folks weep – along with the Happy Chickens blog there are the Facebook pages that one actually enjoys looking at and reading, and twitter accounts.  But it may be in the blood because his Mom, who gave birth to him all those many 15 years ago, is Libby Delana, the founding partner of Newburyport’s Mechanica, the next generation branding firm.

So if you are discouraged by the news or local or federal politics, life in general, go investigate Orren Fox, a young man who transcends the sustainable movement.  It doesn’t matter if you are dark “green,” light “green,” in-between or orange; right wing, left wing, moderate or independent.  When you read about this fantastic story, you like George, will be grinning from ear to ear and doing a dance in the end zone of your choice.

Almond Meal-Flour Cookies (They are Gluten Free)

And now for something completely different.

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour at Market Basket and Natural Grocer in Newburyport, click to enlarge.

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour at Market Basket and Natural Grocer in Newburyport, click to enlarge.

A lot of people arrive at the Newburyport Blog looking for “Newburyport, Gluten Free.”  I get emails from folks wondering if there is a Newburyport gluten free support group.  Nope, there isn’t, but I’ve sure have learned a whole lot about good old gluten free stuff, including the wonders of Almond Meal, incredibly good for you (whether you are gluten free or not), if you click the thumbnail of the back of the almond meal package, you’ll see.

The wonders and nutritional value of almond meal, press to enlarge.

The wonders and nutritional value of almond meal, press to enlarge.

Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour can be found at Market Basket here in Newburyport as well as Natural Grocer.  It’s magic.  Aside from easy to bake cookies, that have changed my gluten free life, it’s also an amazing coating along with parmesan chess on things like fish, it has its own oil.  Who knew.  Now the readers of the Newburyport Blog know.  The frogs wish that almond meal had come into their lives decades ago (were they around decades ago, I don’t think so. Frogs!!).

_______________________________________________

Vanilla Almond Meal Cookies (and variations)
(Adapted from Elana’s Pantry, elanaspantry.com, Elana Amsterdam, website and cookbook)

1 ¼ cups blanched almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
Dash pumpkin spice or cinnamon (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup oil, canola or grapeseed oil (each has slightly different effect, I use canola oil)
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons GF vanilla

  1. Combine almond meal, salt, baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Stir together sugar and water, add vanilla in a smaller bowl and then oil and combine.
  3. Mix wet ingredients into dry.
  4. Form ½ inch balls and press onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 350° for 5-6 minutes
  6. Cool and serve (can also freeze, I freeze in plastic square containers separated by wax paper, can put in microwave to unfreeze or eat frozen!)
  7. Makes around 27 cookies, about 60 calories each
  1. For chocolate cookies use 2 teaspoons vanilla and 2 Table spoons cocoa powder (put into the dry ingredients)(I also like a dash/shake of cinnamon).
  2. For orange cookies use 1 teaspoon orange extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I like a good shake/dash of pumpkin spice).
  3. For peanut butter cookies work in 1-2 teaspoons peanut butter at the end.
  4. For marble black and white cookies, take half  the mixture and add 1T of cocoa. Take one half vanilla and one half chocolate mixture for each cookie. (You can also add a teaspoon of peanut butter to the vanilla mixture to make marble black and white peanut butter cookies.)
  5. For lemon cookies use 1 teaspoon lemon extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Zest from one lemon optional, but delicious, and I like a good shake/dash of pumpkin spice.
  6. For chocolate chip cookies, use the vanilla recipe and add Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels, the tiny ones. (You can also add chopped slivered almonds, and chopped dried mango is also fantastic. Any of those three ingredients, separate or together, are terrific.)

(There is also a more detailed almond meal-flour chocolate chip recipe here.)

For Newburyport’s LHD, Conspiracy Theories Just Don’t Fit

I totally agree with the P.Preservationist.  When it comes to advocating for Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) one cannot have a rational back and forth discussion with folks who bring in an expert from the John Birch Society, to explain a conspiracy theory about the United Nations (UN) hatching a social engineering plot about lowering the standard of living for all Americans, and linking that to historic preservation and a proposed Local Historic District in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  (I am not making this up, see previous post.)

Newburyport, Creepy is Us

It would be hard to make this stuff up. It appears that this is being fairly aggressively advanced by our own Newburyport Republican Committee.

An information session on Agenda 21 by leading expert, Hal Shurtleff (who is a member of the John Birch Society).

“Join Bill (Hudak) at the Newburyport RTC (Republican Town Committee) Meeting at Stripers (January 12, 2012 7:00pm – 9:00pm)  in Salisbury for an important information meeting regarding Agenda 21.

Throughout our Country, in MA, and right now in Newburyport, the rights of homeowners are under attack with increased momentum. This is not a coincidence. Please read below to learn about the factors that result in fewer property rights for families across America.

Agenda 21 has infiltrated Newburyport as well as hundreds of other towns. Elected Mayors and town officials are solicited and encouragement (often with taxpayer funded grants) to participate in the many Agenda 21 programs. These programs often come to a city with nice names like The Green Communities Act, Sustainable Development, and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability). They result in mandates like stretch building codes and the mentality that accepts powerful local historic districts (my emphasis). These organizations appear locally driven, but they represent the coordination of local governments by global entities and the U.N. with social engineering as a true objective.

Mayors and city legislatures may not comprehend what they are endorsing when committing a city to an Agenda 21 Program. Regardless of the specific Agenda 21 program, citizens soon realize their choices become limited, homeowner rights are restricted, and they lose economic progress in their city.” The quote can be read here.

It would be hard for me to believe that any Democrat in my city of Newburyport would feel this way. The Republican website (Bill Hudak for US Congress) points to a website written by Rosa Koire for more information. Rosa Koire has also written exactly the same thing on another website.

“In a nutshell, the plan calls for governments to take control of all land use and not leave any of the decision making in the hands of private property owners.  It is assumed that people are not good stewards of their land and the government will do a better job if they are in control.  Individual rights in general are to give way to the needs of communities as determined by the governing body.  Moreover, people should be rounded up off the land and packed into human settlements, or islands of human habitation, close to employment centers and transportation.  Another program, called the Wildlands Project spells out how most of the land is to be set aside for non-humans.

U.N. Agenda 21 cites the affluence of Americans as being a major problem which needs to be corrected.  It calls for lowering the standard of living for Americans so that the people in poorer countries will have more, a redistribution of wealth.”

And this is being used as a way to fight against the proposed Local Historic District in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

For me this is beyond a “good grief.”

Editor’s note:  New York Times article, February 4, 1012, ”Activists Fight Green Projects, Seeing U.N. Plot,” here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/04/us/activists-fight-green-projects-seeing-un-plot.html

Party Affiliations in Local Newburyport Politics?

cartoonOk, it’s a little dated. I drew it back in September 2007 for the Newburyport Blog and I’m too lazy to draw another one. Paris Hilton, who?? Probably to be replace by Kim “let’s get divorced” Kardashian. And super-duper cutting coupons (boy, did I get flack for that one), now a major cable TV show. And “poverty,” is that on anyone’s radar anymore??

But the basic premise is the same. So little interest, much less overall civic passion, in our local Newburyport elections/governing stuff.

And it has been a goal of mine to try and make local government in some small way engaging. And, actually, not to brag, but to brag, someone actually told me that they became involved in Newburyport civic involvement because of The Newburyport Blog. I said to myself, “Say what?” But truth be told, a got a little teary, really, at making a difference in just one person’s life.

And I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the Newburyport Republican Committee’s decision, at least for this last election, to actively sponsor and support local Newburyport candidates. And their invitation to vote for 1 or 2 Newburyport City Council At-Large candidates, instead of all 5.

I would say, and I’ve run this by a fair amount of people, that this involvement and suggestion created a certain amount of anxiety in almost all the candidates running this week for Newburyport City Council At-Large, and also some odd version of hostility that I haven’t seen before. In Newburyport City politics, hostility has often been us –vast understatement (we’ve been referred mega times as “Cannibal City” after all), but it’s always been issues, and sometimes, sadly, personalities, but always non-partisan. And in the last few years, things have become more civil, to the point, where one often thinks that the calm almost drove the Undertoad to higher peaks.

This involvement and suggestion by the Newburyport Republican Committee, certainly created some buzz, at least for maybe 5%-1.5% of the Newburyport population. Whether to get party politics overtly involved in Newburyport elections, not illegal, not a crime, but a wise decision for the good of the City of Newburyport? One wonders. And if that decision stays, it will definitely create a new dynamic.