Friday, April 30, 2010

Grezzo closed?

Grezzo looks pretty much closed to me ... walked by around lunchtime and no activity whatsoever. So I guess Ari is vindicated.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Newburyport Business an attack site?

Well, reader Gail was correct about my little website being claimed as being a virus risk, except I could still get on the site unfettered up to just now.

I've never been an "attack site" before!

And thus the drama continues ...

Anti-bullying legislation

I am watching NECN, and I do believe they just reported that Mass. has passed the anti-bullying legislation. I was distracted by Scott Montminy coming on after the report (he makes me laugh out loud) ...

At any rate, see this story from today's Globe, if you want more info.

I'm not necessarily pleased with this. I think most of us were probably bullied at some point in our lives (and some of us are bullied still). I know it can be more brutal now because of so-called social media sites, cell phones, etc. - but wow, a law?

I remember once, when I was in high school, a group of "popular" girls walking up to a "loser" girl who was sitting at a table eating her lunch and just by glaring at her, they made her pick up her half-eaten lunch and scurry away. I saw the girl (well, the woman now) has a profile on Facebook ...

And me ... you know me ... I once I had a group of girls show up at my house prepared to beat me up! Or so they claimed. Not sure why they would imagine my parents would let such a thing happen, but oops, my parents weren't home. I emerged unscathed.

I'm not sure they would have been stopped by any law, but I could be wrong. I have not seen the details yet, but it could be yet another unfunded mandate (financial burden) for the schools.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

M. Cook: The Vatican, gay Americans, illusions of acceptance and Newburyport

After what happened in Chile on Monday, April, 12, what I'm about to say will no doubt irk and unsettle some in Newburyport's gay community, their supposed liberal, Democratic, straight friends and allies, and all those still swooning over President Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and so many other Democratic pols who love the gay community's campaign contributions, volunteer energy, and strong voting history, but who also often leave us high and dry if they think being seen as too concerned about gay rights and gay issues might cost them politically.

In Santiago, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See's Secretary of State, in a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the latest international sexual abuse scandal engulfing the Church of my childhood, and perhaps even Pope Benedict XVI himself, claimed the odd and unnatural tradition of celibacy was not what had fueled the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal. The scandal had been caused by homosexuality.

His exact words were, citing data from studies conducted exclusively for and by the Vatican; "Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem".

The problem with Cardinal Bertone's statement, beyond its lame attempt to put responsibility for the scandal on the backs of homosexual men, as opposed to the pedophile priests the Church hierarchy aided and abetted by simply moving them around from parish to parish and country to country, is that virtually all credible psychological and psychiatric studies make a clear distinction between pedophilia and sexual orientation.

Pedophilia, whether directed at male or female children, has nothing to do with sexual orientation. It has everything to do with power and control.

I suspect a big reason why so much of the Church's pedophilia scandal involves young boys is because young girls, especially in the days when I was a kid, were not allowed to participate in the rituals of the Mass.

Had the pedophile priests been given the same access to little girls as they were to little boys, I'm sure you would be seeing many more women coming forward with tales of horrific abuse at the hands of men who were likely neither gay nor straight, but simply sick.

Sadly, the Vatican's attempts to place the blame for its mishandling of these heinous crimes against children on gay men, and to make this a "homosexual" issue as opposed to a "pedophilia" issue, only minimizes and diminishes the very real suffering many girls and women have endured as a result of being mistreated by pedophile and sexually abusive priests.

But back to the Newburyport gay community, its liberal "friends", and Democratic politicians.

Their silence, not just in relation to this latest assault on the humanity of homosexual people by the Vatican, but on so many other issues pertaining to our lives, is truly deafening.

Months passed, for example, before either President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton publicly condemned legislation proposed in Uganda, legislation that was encouraged and promoted by a number of American fundamentalist Christian leaders by the way, that called for gay Ugandans to be sentenced to life in prison, and even death, for engaging in sexual activity with another consenting adult.

The leaders of all the countries of the European Union condemned the Uganda initiative months before the Obama administration even mentioned it publicly.

When President Obama and Secretary Clinton finally addressed the issue, their condemnations of the legislation were, for lack of a better word, toothless in comparison to their European counterparts.

In the wake of Cardinal Bertone's recent comments in Chile, a spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry, Bernard Valero, said, "France reiterates its resolute commitment to fight against discrimination and prejudice linked to sexual orientation."

As of this writing on April, 18, there has been not even a mention, let alone a repudiation, of Cardinal Bertone's attempt to scapegoat homosexual men for the Church's crimes against children by anyone in the Obama administration or the Democratic or Republican parties. Not that the silence of the GOP is any great surprise.

Even in the American gay community itself, there have been few voices raised to challenge what is just the latest attempt by a powerful institution to scapegoat and blame gay people for social ills and problems that are, when all is said and done, none of our makng.

Anyone who doubts this scapegoating isn't both deliberate and carefully thought out, whether it's done by the Vatican, Christian fundamentalist extremists in this country, or right wing politicians like Sarah Palin who appeal to the most ignorant and base instincts of the electorate in pursuit of power and self-aggrandizement; and anyone who thinks this kind of scapegoating isn't resonating loudly in some quarters with some people here in America, is a fool.

After nearly two decades of involvement in the fight against AIDS and for the civil rights of gay people, I thought, when I stepped back a little more than a decade ago, the worst of the fight was behind us.

But with all that is happening today, I would say another intense round in the fight is well underway - at least here in America and countries like Uganda, Iran, and China.

Sadly, I think too many gay Americans, especially those affluent enough to live in a community like Newburyport, have grown complacent and more interested in assimilation and "fitting in" than they are activism.

In some ways they are not so different from middle, upper middle class, and affluent Jews in Germany in the waning days of the Weimar Republic who also thought they had "arrived" and been accepted.

And we all know what an illusion that turned out to be.

Michael Cook
Nbpt, MA
& PV de Limon, Costa Rica

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who's delivering the news?

A week from Friday, as I think I mentioned previously, I will be participating in a forum on Port Media called "The New Media," or something similar.

I have a lot to say about the "new media." As in, it's hard to tell these days what is the media. We have a daily paper, a weekly paper, an independent paper (unless the rumors I'm hearing are true), Newburyport Business, and several blogs that at various times deliver hard news.

On top of all this are Facebook pages, where you can find news also being delivered (see the page for "City of Newburyport, Massachusetts," which is run by social media person/City Councillor Ari Herzog).

A fellow blogger once said to me that they only posted about things that had already appeared in print somewhere. I don't do that because things I put on here will usually be appearing in "print" somewhere, because I will have written a story/stories.

So ... the "new media" to me mostly means that there is a bunch of confusion, not among the readers but among the increasing number of websites and blogs springing up, Facebook posts, tweets ...

I justify my multiple role in all this by saying that I want to deliver news. Obviously, the best way to get it out to the most people is through the Newburyport Current. But that's a weekly publication.

My intention with starting this blog was to deliver news in the wake of my leaving the Current as a full-time reporter. All that has changed, of course, because I went back as a freelancer.

My intention with Newburyport Business was to deliver more in-depth stories about doing business in Newburyport. Somehow, it went off onto the verge. But now that things have been straightened out, it will go back on course.

And things have been straightened out.

What do you all think?

And if there's anything any of you want me to bring up in this forum (which will be me, Kim Gobbi from Newburyport Today, Will Courtney from the Daily News and Pete Falconi from WNBP), which will air LIVE at I believe 9 a.m. on May 7, please let me know.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Mary, you've got spunk."

You may have noticed I'm a little perkier now than I have been for a couple of weeks ... wait, is "perky" the right word?

I've never been what you would call "perky," unless by "perky" you mean "sullen."

Remember the one scene in the old "Mary Tyler Moore" show when her boss, Lou Grant, says to her, "Mary, you've got spunk."

She gets all smiley and then he adds, "I hate spunk."

What was my point again? Oh, yeah, perkiness.

Well, I had another successful "help Gillian" episode involving the other man I met through this blog (not Mr. T, the non-movie star, but the other one). Bless these men, even though you don't know who they are, because ... well, because I said to!

That's why I'm unusually perky tonight. It's group hug time.

Goodnight all. There's work to be done, online newspapers to tweak and hope to be dashed against the rocks of the south jetty.

Beach stuff from City Council

The City Council earlier tonight passed spending $25,000 from the Harbormaster enterprise account to match a state DCR grant for erosion control on the Newburyport part of the Plum Island beach - which, by the way is private property.

This caused a certain boat-owning, fee-paying Councillor to later say, "What the ...?"

Well, that might not be exactly what he said, but that's essentially what he meant.

The Council did NOT approve a $15,000 transfer from the free cash account to cover design and permitting costs for said erosion control measures. That money would be taxpayer money, as opposed to the Harbormaster money, which is paid mostly by ... a certain segment of taxpayers. But it's not a tax; it's a fee.

It's what boat owners pay for the privilege of keeping a boat in Newburyport.

The city has 3 enterprise accounts - the Harbormaster and the water and sewer departments. They are self-sufficient in that they operate only on fees they collect. And I guess that's only fair, since as a non-property owner, I don't pay property taxes but I do use the toilet in this cottage, take showers and .... buy bottled water.

And as Councillor Brian Derrivan noted, he has a homeowner in his ward (5) that, due to a mistake by the city regarding an improperly maintained drainage system, has apparently cost the homeowner a chunk of change ($55,000) to mitigate water flowing into the basement of their home.

"Where is my $55,000 for my constituent because of our mistake?" he asked right before voting "no" to put the money into the beach (along with Cronin and Jones).

If you're at all interested, go into the Planning Dept. and look at the map of the Newburyport beach that shows which part is owned by DCR and which is owned by Newburyport. There's just that one little portion, right before the Newbury town line, that is not owned by DCR - you know, where the city let people build houses on the dune and where there is now erosion.

The Council also authorized a letter to be sent to U.S. senators John Kerry and Scott Brown and U.S. Rep. John Tierney urging them to "petition the Army Corps of Engineers to set as a priority the expeditious repair of the Newburyport Harbor jetties in order to save the barrier island and its rich history and to set as a priority the lives and safety of people enjoying our coastal waterways and beaches."

Public service announcement

The Secrets of Success - Hope and Inspiration in a Bad Economy
Presentation by Fran Larkin
May 6, 7-8:30 PM Newburyport Public Library
Free event

Local author and inspirational speaker Fran Larkin will be giving an informative talk on the "Secrets of Success" and how five words and visioning can help you create meaningful change in your life. Fran will explain how developing your own personal vision, values, mission and goals can help reach your goals, overcome obstacles and reach success. Through anecdotes, stories, and personal experience, the power of the Five Words and the Visioning process is driven home. For anyone, young or old, who is at a cross road in life, this talk is for you.

After retiring from a 35 year career at IBM in Business Administration, Fran moved to Newburyport two years ago. Since his retirement, he has joined many local organizations and authored "5 Words and Then Some", became a board member of Pennies for Poverty: 2 Cents 4 Change, and is a retirement coach, Alzheimers advocate, and inspirational speaker on visioning.

A Pennies TOGETHER event. Email: for more information.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Landfill update

It's been a while for an update, but I got a copy of this letter DEP sent to New Ventures saying that if NV does not take action within 14 days, DEP will take over corrective action on the landfill berm using the financial assurance mechanism (FAM).

DEP also reminded NV that it must maintain adequate funds in the FAM

Monday, April 19, 2010

Update on my laptop

My dad appears to have fixed (or rather, facilitated the fix of) my Compaq/HP laptop ... no reflection on anyone else; he was willing to fork over dough to achieve this, being the parental unit and all ...

I'm lost with the technical details but now I have more RAM, a some gizmo to reduce the temp ... well, here's what he had to say:

The HP now has 2GB RAM (in place of 1GB) and the repairman installed a copper heat sink which lowers the operating temp, he said, by 10 degrees C.

Now all I have to do is pay a visit to my friend Mr. T (not the actor), who has graciously offered to deal with the "more than 800 MB all in use when the computer is at rest" that is apparently a culprit in all this drama.

Where would we be without our friends, huh? And I "met" him through this blog. Anyone else care to tell me I should give up the blog? I love my little blog!

Hope this helps someone, somewhere, who is dealing with a similar issue. We'll see how it goes and I'll post updates. I did not ask how much it cost to fix it (yet).

I have to say, I got all teary when my sister (with whom my dad lives) on Thurs. handed me the Presario that dad had sent with her to our weekly visit with our mom. It was that kind of week.

(I'm not entirely fond of the keyboard on the Lenovo, specifically that red pointer button thingie that I always hit when I go to type a "g" ... you know, the first letter of my given name ...)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oh give him/her the frickin' 5 minutes

Today I saw someone on Facebook had become a fan of a page called "I don't care if it's 5 minutes or a whole night, I just want to see you." It made me so sad.

There must be a whole lot of people with broken hearts out there (the page has more than 2,500,000 fans and counting) ... I started reading I began pondering why there has to be such misunderstanding and so much hurt between two people. And then I got sadder.

Have we all become that callous? Or were humans always this way?

After all - it's not a crime to care for someone; and if someone cares for you, you should give them at least the 5 minutes. You should be happy someone cares for you that much.

And it's what I would do!

Of course it does not help that this particular Journey song just started playing ...

"You're tearing me apart, every every day ...
You're me apart.
Oh, what can I say?
You're tearing me apart."

(That would be "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'")

What a miserable weekend this was; I'm hoping for a better next week.

Friday, April 16, 2010

New harbormaster

I ran into Mayor Holaday at City Hall a bit ago, and she told me the City has hired a new Harbormaster - one Paul Hogg (which is pronounced like "Hogue"). She was running off somewhere so that's all the info I got from her. Here is something from 2005, on the website of the Northshore Harbormasters Assoc.

I'm assuming it's the same Paul Hogg.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This just in from Costello's office ... (press release)

As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's Massachusetts Recovery Plan to secure the state's economic future, Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Steven Baddour and Representative Michael Costello today announced that the timeline for reconstruction of the First Lieutenant Derek S. Hines Memorial Bridge has been further reduced to just under two years, rather than the originally scheduled three years.

The project was originally expedited to a two and a half year schedule, but using innovative construction project procurement techniques, the Patrick-Murray Administration's MassDOT Highway Division, in close collaboration with city officials, Senator Baddour, and Representative Costello, was able to cut another seven months from the construction timeline. The estimated timeline for closure of the bridge is now between 19 and 22 months.

"Because the Hines Bridge is so important to drivers and commuters in Greater Newburyport we are expediting construction to minimize delays. This project is another example of our commitment to the traveler by working to shorten construction schedules while maintaining the safest roads in the nation," said Governor Patrick.

"We had several meetings about this project with Highway Administrator Luisa Paiewonsky, the mayors, city councilors, selectmen and the three area chambers of commerce. The state heard the concerns expressed at these meetings and responded with a new construction schedule," said Representative Michael A. Costello. "This is great news. It will minimize the impact on local businesses and the residents of Amesbury, Newburyport and Salisbury."

"During these uncertain economic times, minimizing the timeframe in which businesses and residents in Amesbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury are adversely affected makes expedited reconstruction of the Hines Bridge vital to the regional economy and quality of life," said Senator Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen), Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation. "I am pleased that MassDOT listened to our concerns and created a new construction schedule to address these important issues."

The Hines bridge, which connects Newburyport with Amesbury, is a design-build project scheduled to begin in October and conclude in May 2012. The bridge will be closed for the duration of the project. It was named after First Lieutenant Derek S. Hines, a 25-year-old Army Ranger who was killed in 2005 during a firefight in Afghanistan. Lt. Hines grew up in Newburyport and Amesbury.

MassDOT is using the design-build method on a number of projects, compressing the traditional design-bid-build method into a single entity with contractors responsible for design and construction of a project. Working together, design and construction teams are able to complete projects within shorter timelines.

"We are making unprecedented investments in rebuilding our transportation infrastructure. This design/build project is another example of our commitment to reducing the impact on surrounding communities whenever possible," said Jeffrey Mullan, MassDOT Secretary and CEO.

The $30.7 million project is being funded by the federal Highway Administration and the Commonwealth. The federal funding will pay for 80 percent of the project cost. The work consists of a major rehabilitation of the existing bridge, which carries Main Street over the Merrimack River. The work includes replacement of the deck system, new mechanical and electrical systems for the swing span, and rehabilitation of the stone masonry piers and abutments, wingwalls and sidewalk. The deck will be widened by 4.66 ft in order to accommodate requirements for traffic lanes, shoulders and sidewalk. This bridge abuts the Historic Chain Bridge, reconstructed by MassHighway in 2003.

The present bridge was erected in 1966 on the granite abutments, pivot pier and rest piers of an earlier swing bridge on the crossing, estimated to have been built in 1882.

It was scheduled for reconstruction after a barge hit it in November 2008. Temporary repairs were made at the time in preparation for the reconstruction. The new bridge will consist of a four-span superstructure with two fixed approach spans and two pivoting middle spans.

For transportation news and updates visit the MassDOT blog at or follow MassDOT on twitter at

Monday, April 12, 2010

No ban on mobile signs - this time

Well, you all will read it in the Daily News before I can get it up on NBPT Biz, anyway ... no self-editing on the Biz ...

The City Council did not pass either a change to the general ordinance regarding mobile signs nor a change to the zoning ordinance pertaining to signs.

There was general concern on the council about how loose the language was (especially in the general ordinance) and how either ordinance might apply to other people who are going about their business in trucks with graphics on the side, or people parking their business trucks at their own homes.

Ah, well ... tomorrow is another day and who knows what that will hold?

Landfills bill approved by committee

I received this a few minutes ago, from state Rep. Costello's office:

Legislation that would allow the state to access and directly manage landfills determined to be a public nuisance was approved today by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Environment.

The bill was filed by State Representative Michael A. Costello and State Senator Steven A. Baddour in response to conditions at Crow Lane landfill in Newburyport, which has been a threat to public health and environmental safety for years. In that time, residents have been affected by rotten egg odors and hydrogen sulfide gases emitted from Crow Lane.

Representative Costello, Senator Baddour, Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Laurie Burt all testified in favor of the bill at today’s hearing, which was chaired by Representative William Strauss (D – Mattapoisett) and Senator Anthony Petruccelli (D – East Boston).

“This bill will ensure that no other community in Massachusetts gets stuck the way that Newburyport has been stuck with this problem,” Costello said. “This legislation would allow the state to provide immediate relief to residents affected by the public nuisance and then go to court later to determine how to recover costs.”

“The residents of the Crow Lane neighborhood have suffered long enough”, said Senator Baddour. “The DEP must be given the power to intercede with problematic landfills to protect the health and quality of life for not only the citizens of Newburyport – but throughout the entire Commonwealth.”

The landfill operator, the state and the city have been entrenched in a legal battle for years over the conditions at Crow Lane. Costello and Baddour consulted with officials from DEP and General Court counsel and staff to write the legislation, which would bring landfill regulations into alignment with those for hazardous waste sites in the state.

“Newburyport demonstrates what goes wrong with a landfill that threatens public health and environmental safety,” said Commissioner Burt, “and how we are handicapped under solid waste laws in ways that we are not under hazardous waste laws.”

“It makes sense to bring solid waste sites into line with how we handle hazardous waste,” she added. Mayor Holaday spoke about the health problems that Newburyport residents have experienced as a result of the landfill including sinus pain, stomach aches, headaches and sleepless nights.

“I could go on and on about the violations that have occurred at the landfill. There’s no relief to us as a community,” Holaday said. “This bill gives the state the kind of authority it needs to resolve the problem. We can’t go through a nine-month, a 12-month court case while the community suffers.”

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I know her! I know her!

By the way, my awesome friend Debra Michals will be on the Today Show on Monday morning. She is scheduled to be on between 8 and 9 a.m.

Here's the scoop, if you have not already read about it on Newburyport Biz:

Newburyport local Debra Michals, Ph.D., is heading for NYC to appear on the Today Show this Monday, April 12. A writer who teaches women's and gender studies at Merrimack College, Michals was invited to speak about her research for a book on female breadwinners -- a hot topic these days, especially given the economic recession. In fact, it's such a hot topic that Michals was quoted about it recently in The Boston Globe.

I've become a curmudgeon

Some people would say I was one, already ...

This is the definition of curmudgeon: a crusty irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas. Some definitions include the adjective "ill-tempered" and leave out the "old" bit.

(I love definitions that force you to look up another word; in this case, I think maybe people would have to look up irascible.)

For some reason, now when I watch a rerun of Cheers, I am disturbed by all those guys going into that bar every day. Now when I watch The Office, I am disturbed by all the mean tricks the Jim character plays on the Dwight character.

What can it all mean?

Well ... instead of me being particularly irascible, maybe Cheers is a reflection of people's need to be somewhere where they feel important, or valued. That's why I'm less curmudgeonly when gardening time rolls around. That's where I go to feel good.

And perhaps the abuse on The Office gets that little bit of nasty out of the systems of the viewers. Maybe that's why I watch.

Oh - and Flint is burning down, house by house by abandoned house. I know, that is apropos to nothing ... as is, "Let's take out his brain; that should work."

Guest post: Obama, nukes & the facts. By M. Cook

I realize most Americans, even here in Newburyport, aren't paying much attention to politics yet this year.

The 2010 election season, after all, won't really get going until after Labor Day.

But there is a lot going on right now to which people should be paying attention. Nothing exemplifies that reality more than the ruckus the Right has been raising since President Obama and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev signed the draft of a treaty in early April that will reduce America and Russia's nuclear arsenals by more than thirty percent.

This new agreement is critically important because the START Treaty negotiated by Ronald Reagan expired in December.

But the Right, as it has since the day President Obama was inaugurated, seems more interested in giving President Obama a political black eye than it does in advancing the causes of nuclear arms reduction and non-proliferation throughout the world.

The same week Presidents Medvedev and Obama signed the draft of the new treaty, President Obama released his Nuclear Posture Review. In that document he redefined and limited the criteria pertaining to when the US would use nuclear weapons in response to a threat or actual attack.

A signatory nation to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that was foolsih enough to launch a chemical or biological attack against the United States might not be subject to US nuclear retaliation under the new Nuclear Posture Review, but the new policy makes clear that nation would be on the receiving end of a devastating conventional response that would leave it in ruins.

He made clear the exceptions to this new nuclear policy were North Korea and Iran, two states that have so thumbed their noses at international nuclear conventions that President Obama would have been foolish to let them think for one minute the US would not use nuclear weapons against them if they crossed that threshold first or appeared poised to do so.

But people on the Right, most notably Sarah Palin and Liz Cheney, are slamming our president's leadership role in trying to bring the world back from the nuclear abyss.

Mrs. Palin has said President Obama is the equivalent of the wimpy kid in a school yard who says to a bully, "... punch me in the face and I won't retaliate."

Ms. Cheney's comments at the recent GOP gathering in New Orleans, in my opinion, came perilously close to treasonous.

Rush Limbaugh has said President Obama has done "... a great job in undermining our national defense".

Glenn Beck says what Obama has said in relation to non-proliferation and how the US will determine when it might use nuclear weapons is the "....most dangerous thing I think I've ever heard a president say."

Now, I'm sure Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, and Cheney would also dismiss these words, "I believe we've come to the point that we must go at the matter of realistically reducing... if not totally eliminating nuclear weapons - the threat to the world", as the ranting of a liberal, socialistic, Obama-maniac begging to get punched in "the face" and too wimpy to "retaliate".

The irony is those are the words of the man the likes of Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, and Cheney lionize as a great American leader of immeasurable courage and patriotism - Ronald Wilson Reagan. He made those comments on March, 28, 1982.

In response to the latest attacks on President Obama's efforts to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world by right wing extremists like Palin and company; George Schultz, Reagan's Secretary of State and former CEO of the Bechtel Corporation, recently had this to say; " President Obama has picked up on the notion that we can seek a world free of nuclear weapons, and that was very strongly felt by President Reagan".

Schultz went on to describe what Obama is doing in relation to the treaty with Moscow and the Nuclear Posture Review as a "constructive step" that Ronald Wilson Reagan would likely have embraced and supported if he were still alive.

George Schultz is no bleeding heart liberal or socialist. He is an intelligent, genuine conservative, and a champion of international capitalism who has more foreign policy experience and knowledge than Sarah Palin could ever hope to have or acquire.

But the extremist, xenophobic, racist, Tea Party wing that now dominates the once great party of people like Abe Lincoln, Margaret Chase-Smith, and Dwight Eisenhower is more interested in seeing President Obama take a political hit than it is in maintaining the country's security and standing in the world.

The mid-term elections are still almost seven months away, but events in early April, especially on the global stage, made me realize how important it is that people start paying attention NOW.

The Newburyport Democratic City Committee, in concert with other progressive groups and individuals, has a duty to make sure liberal and progressive Newburyporters, along with intelligent independents, are accurately informed about and engaged in discussions of the many issues on the nation's plate today; from nuclear proliferation and arms control, to financial and immigration reform, and, of course, climate change.

During the first year of the Obama administration, the Democratic party; from the upper echelons of the White House right down to the grassroots level in communities like Newburyport, allowed the loud and bullying Right to set the tenor and tone of public debate.

To say that debate grew ugly is an understatement of epic proportions.

As the the 2010 election cycle heats up, it is imperative that Democrats and intelligent independents set the the tenor and tone of the discussion and that the discussion be based on facts, not the ideological fantasies and paranoid conspiracy theories politicians like Palin, in concert with their right wing allies in the media, have so successfully promulgated and promoted in the recent past.

It's time for, as Detective Joe Friday used to say, "Just the facts, Ma'am" just the facts".

There's been enough fiction, paranoia, and fear mongering in the last sixteen months to last a lifetime.

Michael Cook
Horton Street, Nbpt
& Puerto Viejo de Limon
Costa Rica

Friday, April 9, 2010

Beach update (Newburyport)

It appears that the $25,000 match for that DCR grant to NBPT for the nourishment project will come from the Harbormaster Enterprise Account. There's a request in to the City Council to approve transfer of the funds.

The account has $368,342 in it ... enterprise accounts are ones that support themselves through fees and rates.

The transfer is in for approval (as opposed to going to a committee). DCR (which owns the beach) will cough up $50,000 for the project.

AND it appears that another $44,750 is coming out of the account to buy a Beach Tech beach cleaning machine. Hmmm, it says in the supporting documentation for the transfer that the quote was only good until March 31 ...

An additional $15,000 for engineering and design costs for the nourishment project are in for transfer out of the city's Free Cash account.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

PSA from Councillor Herzog

Newburyport City Councilor at-Large Ari Herzog is holding office hours on Thursday, April 14 and Thursday, May 20 from 7 - 8 p.m. in the third floor conference room at the Newburyport Public Library.

Come on down to introduce yourself, ask a question, or share your concern about anything!

Follow future updates at

Greetings from New Zealand

No, I'm not in New Zealand ... but my sister (the one that lives in Gloucester) is. And she's been sharing photos on her blog, seagardensandglass.

The pics of that town, Hokitika, remind me so much of Bridgetown, in Barbados. I guess there is a definite Colonial style of architecture that was used in all tropical and/or sub-tropical colonies.

Now I want to go there, but I'm too old to spend that much time in an airplane!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

All landfill, all the time

OK, so ... this ruling took care of both motions filed by the AG, I was told a few minutes ago by Emily LaGrasse in the AG's press office. So while LaGrasse said the flurry of stories in the local media are not strictly inaccurate, the devil is in the details.

DEP will direct and disperse from the FAM to facilitate closing, if New Ventures cannot pay (but they have to prove that, apparently).

Plus there's this, which just came through from DEP:

Court Action Status

On Friday, April 2, 2010, Superior Court Justice John C. Cratsley issued a decision (attached) on the Attorney General Office's, March 25, 2010, Emergency Motion asking the Court issue an order granting the MassDEP and it’s contractors access to the Landfill to repair/replace the Flexible Membrane Liner (the “FML” cap) and gas extraction wells damaged by a wind storm on February 25, 2010. In addition, the Attorney General’s Office asked the Court order that the cost incurred for these repairs be paid to MassDEP’s contractors by reimbursement through New Ventures’ Financial Assurance Mechanism (the “FAM”).

The court’s decision does not remove New Ventures of its obligation to comply with the Final Judgment and complete the closure of the Landfill.

So the landfill will get capped and closed, one way or another.

Good grief ... what a debacle!

Guest post: "Green irony, in faux green Newburyport" by M. Cook

Shortly before I left Costa Rica, La Nacion, the country's daily paper of record, published an account of a study conducted by the office of the Costa Rican presidency and the University of Costa Rica, in concert with a team of British climatologists and biologists.

The study found that 90% of Costa Ricans not only believe climate change, global warming, and the rapid rate of bio-diversity loss, are real, but that human activities since the dawn of the Industrial Age are key factors in processes and changes in the global environment that, if left unaddressed, could make much of the world not only unsustainable, but uninhabitable in the not too distant future.

As I read the story, I thought, "Man, if only 90% of Americans believed the science, we might be able to stem this rising tide of environmental degradation, geographic destruction, and human suffering before it's too late."

But, alas, the number of Americans who believe we are facing a largely man made global environmental and ecological disaster of unprecedented proportions is much less than 90% - much, much, less.

But back to the 90% of Costa Ricans who've accepted reality, and the science behind it.

I believe Ticos are way ahead of Americans on this issue because many, if not most, still live in much closer contact with the land and the environment than the vast majority of Americans, whether those Americans believe climate change is real or not.

Ticos are living and seeing the changes first hand, as is everyone living in a sub-tropical climate, whether they want to admit it or not.

Many species of plants and animals are disappearing at an alarming rate, even in Costa Rica - a land perceived by many upscale, faux green Americans as some kind of environmental Mecca. I'll leave dispelling that delusion for another column.

All of Central America is in the midst of a devastating, prolonged drought that, as my 90 year old , Afro-Jamaican, friend George Hansel says, "Is not just 'bout weather man, it's 'bout climate. I live here almost one hundred years, in the last twenty half my land been taken by the sea. The sea is rising. Any man who say no, is a fool."

I told George about Plum Island.

He shook his head and said, "Them Americans are damned fools. More money than sense to build million dollar homes so close to the sea. From what you tell me Mr. Mike, soon much of that island be gone."

The prolonged drought and rising land surface temperatures in Central America destroyed more than 40% of Costa Rica's domestic rice crop this year, 80% of Guatemala's corn and bean crop, and the UN specialist for food security in Central America recently warned if the extended drought does not soon end, entire regions of Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras could be facing wide spread famine later in the year.

Such dramatic climate change trends are, by no means, limited to Central America.

But still, far too many Americans continue to drink the denial Kool-Aid the fossil fuel industry serves up because they don't see, or choose not to see, the changes happening all around them.

To them I say, "Think rising sea temps and levels at Plum Island, along with the increasing frequency of severe, beach eroding storms, and the early ice melt and rising water temperatures at Lake Winnipesaukee".

But even among those who claim to believe climate change is real and want to do something done about it, my first few days back in Newburyport left me convinced they, to paraphrase NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, aren't really serious about a "green revolution", they are more interested in a "green party".

Talking green, as Friedman points out in his compelling book, Hot,Flat, and Crowded, is all the rage in many hip and trendy, upscale, liberal, bourgeois bohemian circles in the US right now, but very few of those "greenies" are really waging a "green revolution", at the individual, communal, or national levels. A true "green revolution", as Friedman points out far more eloquently than I ever could, will demand a complete overhaul of how we've lived our lives and structured our society to date.

Anyone who doubts that assertion needs only to walk through the South End of this supposed "green" and environmentally conscious community and count the number of oversized, gas guzzling, Status Utility Vehicles on the streets, with more than a few of them sporting bumper stickers proclaiming their owners' concerns about the environment.

Um, can we call such vehicles what they really are - "Big time, rolling contradictions?

We are rapidly running out of time to, as Friedman puts its, "...manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable", in relation to what awaits the human race as a result of climate change, global warming, and biodiversity loss.

What I saw on my morning walk that first day back in town, convinced me that well educated, perhaps even overly educated, upscale, politically liberal, SUV driving, faux green, bourgeois bohemians, really are more concerned with a "green party" than they are a "green revolution", and that it's people like my old friend George Hansel, a man who never graduated from high school and still lives very close to the earth, who really grasps the enormity of the challenges we are facing and the enormity of the changes we are going to have to make if we are to have any hope of, "managing the unavoidable, and avoiding the unmanageable".

How ironic is that?

Michael Cook
5 Horton Street
Nbpt & PV de Limon, Costa Rica

Friday, April 2, 2010

Judge allows access for repairs (CORRECTION)

Got home at 4:30, there was another message saying the judge actually ruled in favor of DEP and the Attorney General on BOTH motions ...

I just got a message that the judge ruled on the first part of the motion - to allow DEP access to the Crow Lane landfill to fix the FML and gas extraction system - but not on the other motion (that New Ventures is in default of the settlement agreement and the state should step in to finish closure of the landfill).

What's up with Comcast?

I, and others, have been experiencing all kinds of problems with Comcast for quite some time now.

Apparently Comcast does not want you to use another application to download your emails. First I had problems with Windows Mail (as in, I wasn't getting emails and people weren't getting mine) and now I tried to upload my Comcast emails to Gmail and ... no dice.

It worked on the first attempt, but has not worked since. So now I have to sign in to both Gmail and Comcast (and, occasionally, my old Yahoo account) to see my mail.

Although I am often accused of not working well with others, I hate things that don't work well with other things. I think I just had an epiphany ...

Thursday, April 1, 2010


No new news, as of this evening, about the AG's motions in Suffolk Superior Court. I spoke with both Councillor Derrivan and Mayor Holaday.


Today I was, as usual for a Thursday, in Gloucester. My mom wanted to buy some Easter candy for the grandkids who aren't kids anymore, so we stopped in at Turtle Alley on Washington St.

Not only was I mesmerized by this chocolate machine, but the owner was cutting up caramel made right there in the shop to dip in chocolate that I would guess came from this machine.

My sister bought us some caramels (my favorite) and she bought me some of those birds' egg candies in a little cellophane bag.

Well, they WERE in a little cellophane bag ...

Godtfredsen leaving mayor's office

I could have said, "Another one bites the dust ..."

Julia Godtfredsen, the mayor's director of policy and administration, will leave the mayor's office on June 30, I found out earlier this evening. She has two young children and Mayor Donna Holaday needs someone who can give 50+ hours a week to the position, they both said.

Similar to the deal with former Planning Director Sean Sullivan, Holaday and Godtfredsen agreed to give it a shot for a fiscal quarter, but Holaday said she really needs more time from the director and Godtfredsen could not in good conscience to her family give the time. That's my summary of what both women said, by the way.

Godtfredsen - and just when I was able to spell her last name without looking it up, too! - worked on the city's budget and represented the mayor at various meetings, such as the City Council, the beach alliance and the former senior center building committee (as of tonight, it's called the "Center at Cushing Park committee," but that's another story altogether and you can read it on Newburyport Business). She was hired by former Mayor John Moak in Jan. 2009.

So if you know anyone ... the mayor is looking, and she'd like to hire someone local.