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20 September 2009

Another Reason Labor Unions Matter

At least in Boston, labor unions do what the Democratic leadership can't—they can shun so-called Democrats who like to kiss the moneyed butts of insurance companies.

Stephen Lynch, who won the special election to fill Joe Moakley's seat some years ago and has faced only token opposition since, had taken out nomination papers to run for Ted Kennedy's seat. But now it seems that he won't run after all. And it's not surprising why.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely face only token opposition—the only candidates on the Republican side are a suburban selectman and a two-term state senator. But there are several well-known candidates among the Democrats. And when most of them showed up at the annual Labor Day breakfast, most of them got to speak, except for Lynch, who has continued his conservative bent in Congress by opposing attempts to reform health care.

A candidate who can't get any respect from labor unions won't win the Democratic primary in Massachusetts. Hint to progressives: you can run against Lynch in 2010 and get union backing.

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Posted by Tim W at 9/20/2009 03:13:00 PM

19 September 2009

Petty Bourgeoise

Just how petty can a condominium board be? Let's find out.

For children at the Room to Grow preschool in Tewksbury,... [t]heir playground is gone.

After a yearlong battle between the school’s owner, Wendy Bowen, her landlord, and the board of managers that governs her building, the slides, swings, and climbing structures were taken down on Aug. 28.

"We've been in this location for 20 years, and the playground has been here for 17," said Bowen. "But last August, they raised issues about it."

"They didn't show proper process for protection of the children," said Mike Naddif, who owns a unit in the building and sits on the board.
"What if something happened to a kid? All the unit owners would be liable."

In response to safety concerns, Bowen said, she increased her insurance to release other tenants of liability. Her landlord, meanwhile, worked with the Tewksbury Planning Board to track down original permits for the playground. Bowen said the landlord was able to find the permit from the initial building plans, but final permits after completion were not on file.

Then the board directed Bowen to dismantle the playground by January because it sat on common space that is part of the overall complex and does not belong to any one unit in the building.

In a residential condominium, it's reasonable for owners to make sure that others are not using the common spaces for themselves; people use their backyards, for example, for all sorts of things.

But have you ever seen a commercial condominium's open space? It's generally nicely landscaped, and quite pristine. And never used for anything. Rather than have open space used for the playground, just like it has for 17 years, some petty tyrants would rather it get sprayed with enough Roundup and fertilizer every two weeks so that it looks nice and green (and so that the Merrimack River gets enough chemical runoff).

But it gets better.

But the school was dealt a final blow when the board notified Bowen that she was going to be responsible for its legal fees as well as her own. Bowen said the additional financial burden was the last straw.

"To challenge the trustees' right to assess fees would have required costly litigation," said Mark Rosen of Goodman, Shapiro, & Lombardi, the attorney representing Room to Grow and the school's landlord. Bowen was advised to sign off on the elimination of the playground.

In response to questions as to why the playground became an issue now, after so many years, the board's attorney said timing is irrelevant.

"The central issue is not how long it's been here, but whether it has ever been a lawfully permitted use of the site," said Richard O'Neil of O'Neil & Associates.

"The bottom line is that there was never any such approval by the Planning Board."

This really is a fascinating story. A business owner and her landlord are on the same side of an issue—that it seems obvious enough that the town had approved of the playground and that the playground was doing no one any harm. They made sure that reasonable questions about liability insurance were covered. And it's not like her neighboring businesses mind having the youngsters around.

For Jack McKenzie, a unit owner whose accounting firm, McKenzie & Frawley, is just a few doors down from the school, that reasoning was not satisfactory.

"This whole situation has been unjustified. That playground has been here for over 15 years and it's never been a problem," he said.

"It's always been a pleasure to see the kids out there."

The problem, of course, is that some people let their anal sphincters define their entire personalities. In a perfect world, Mike Naddif would find that his more humane clients were taking their sales and marketing business elsewhere on the grounds that his marketing skills are clearly deficient. In our actual world, we can only hope that Wendy Bowen finds a better location for her school and that her landlord campaigns to kick the current condo board out on their respective backsides.

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Posted by Tim W at 9/19/2009 03:56:00 PM

18 September 2009

Just Stop It!

Every year, athletic teams at high schools and colleges are reminded in stark terms, that hazing of new players is intolerable.

And every year around this time, when baseball teams make their last road trip of the year, we see stories like this one of the Boston Red Sox dressing rookie players up. Almost always, at least someone is dressed up as a girl. (It's so funny: the rookies are sissies!)

it is well documented that hazing has led to serious injuries, emotional traumas, and even deaths. Why, then, do professional baseball teams do it every year? And why do the media always cover and encourage it?

(I should point out that the Yankees once did this initiation thing in a respectful yet funny manner. In 2006, the veterans made the rookies travel in George Steinbrenner costumes—blazers, turtlenecks, gray wigs, and aviator sunglasses. No bras. No go-go boots. Nothing sexually bizarre. And yet everyone had a good time in spite of all that.

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Posted by Tim W at 9/18/2009 04:16:00 PM

16 September 2009

Recipe for Disaster

A cookie recipe that calls for four ingredients and only a bit of sugar? Sounds intriguing. Until you get to the end of the accompanying article.

I made seven batches and only two came out right. A couple of batches were as flat as sugar cookies, others looked good on the outside but weren't airy on the inside, and still another tasted right but were too smooth on top, lacking the distinctive craggy texture. Food editor Sheryl Julian and another tester tried it eight times, adjusting the flour and the oven temperature, and every one of them flopped.

Two people who cook for a living tried this recipe 15 times with 13 failures? And it's still running in the paper? Someone at the Boston Globe has a sick sense of humor.

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Posted by Tim W at 9/16/2009 07:59:00 AM

15 September 2009

Why Newsweek is Teh Suck

My Newsweek subscription lasts through 2010 and I know for sure that I'm not renewing it. (It was a gift from my late father-in-law.)

There are lots of bad magazines out there, but why is Newsweek egregious in its own, Washington Post-owned way?

Take the 8 June 2009 issue. Among the features are two worthy articles on the Guantanamo Bay detention camps: one on the difficulty of reforming jihadists and one on the thorny problem of how to repatriate detainees. Both of these problems are real problems that our government faces now, and both are problems that our previous government ought to have foreseen.

Do either of these articles even get mentioned on the cover? No, the cover has Oprah Winfrey on it and the featured story is how many of Oprah's medical guests are pretty much frauds.

Um, we knew that. Oprah made Doctor Phil famous. (To be fair, Oprah also allowed Sesame Street to introduce Doctor Feel, who is only slightly more of a buffoon.)

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Posted by Tim W at 9/15/2009 07:13:00 AM

07 September 2009

One Small Step for an Elector, One Giant Leap for the Electorate

Well, what do you know?

Joe Kennedy decided today that he would not run to fill the Senate seat vacated by his uncle, Ted Kennedy.

I should note that Joe Kennedy held a House seat for six terms, from 1987 to 1999, but his tenure in the House was not a particularly stellar one. Were his last name not Kennedy, it would be difficult to say that he was better qualified than any of the current Massachusetts House delegation. And perhaps his not entering the race will make the media pay attention to the actual policies that the actual candidates—none named Kennedy— might actually propound.

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Posted by Tim W at 9/07/2009 08:15:00 PM

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