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November 25, 2005

Open Document, Insert Foot

Could the legislature smother the move to open source document formats before it begins? Sharp Tools worries that's the case, citing a friend who was at the legislative hearing:

Microsoft had sent a local Beacon Hill professional lobbyist, who charges multiple thousands of dollars a month. He was sitting there doing business on his cell phone, sending out runners, etc. What he was doing became clear later; while his pet State Senator was reiterating his client's talking points for the media, and everyone on the 'Open Source' side of the fence was sitting in the hearing either listening or awaiting their turn in the hotseat, he was busily lobbying to get a modification made to another piece of legislation.

That modification, it turned out, will create a 'technology oversight committee' which will have the power to veto the decision to move to Open Document formats. It will be staffed by representatives from branches of state government other than the one which proposed this change. Surprise! Pay no attention to what this hand is doing behind the curtain. [my emphasis.]

So, apparently the pro-open-source folks are hoping to win this one on the merits, while Microsoft is twisting arms. Sound familiar? And now the Romney administration seems to be backing off from its plans to move on due to some somewhat mysterious promises from Microsoft to open up its own file formats. "Trust us", says Mr. Softie.

Come on, it's time to move on. Free Software (or Open Source) was created in Massachusetts (full disclosure: my brother used to work at FSF). We ought to be the first ones to implement it statewide, and save some bucks in the process.

(Thanks to Universal Hub for the steer.)

UPDATE: ZDNet suggests that maybe the state should have kept it on the down-low.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 08:00 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Shorter Dick Cheney:

"We're fools but not liars."

Ha ha, I know, I know... they're both.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 07:42 PM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Trio of Special Elections

Thought we were all done with special elections?  Think again!  Cos has written up this excellent roundup of three more open seats that will be filled well before next year's general election in November.  --David

There are three more special elections coming up to fill vacant seats in the Massachusetts House - a new wintertime tradition! Unlike last winter, when three of the most conservative Democrats in the House stepped down, in three solidly Democratic districts, this time we have one Representative who moved up to the Senate, one who died of cancer, and only one who left the legislature. The districts are rather different, too:

  • The 27th Middlesex, completely within Somerville, MA, is very progressive and solidly Democratic
  • The 2nd Worcester is conservative-leaning and has been held by a Democrat but could elect a Republican. Its population centers on Gardner, and it also contains Winchendon and a few smaller nearby towns.
  • The 1st Bristol has been held by Republican representatives for a very long time, but might elect a Democrat. Foxboro is the main population center.

So we've got an urban metro-Boston progressive Democratic district, an inland semi-rural conservative-Democratic district, and a south shore Republican district, all up for grabs. The primaries for all three are on January 10th and the general elections are on February 7th. Filing deadlines are Nov 29 - this Tuesday.

Here's a roundup of the candidates so far...

1st Bristol - Foxboro and half of Mansfield & Norton

State Rep. Michael Coppola, R-Foxboro, died of cancer earlier this year. His widow, Ginny Coppola, has been recruited to run to replace him. She has some state house experience, having served as legislative aide to her husband's predecessor, 1st Bristol State Rep. Barbara Hyland. On the Republican side, the field seems clear for her.

Although this seat has been held by Republicans for a long time, one Democrat is reportedly considering a run - Paul Feeney of Foxboro, an aide to state Sen. James Timilty (D-Walpole). I don't know much about Feeney, though MassEquality says he's a strong supporter of equal marriage.

Timilty's Senate district, the Bristol and Norfolk, includes all of Foxboro, Norton, and Mansfield. Former Sen. Jo Ann Sprague, R-Walpole, stepped down last year, making it an open seat. Timilty ran against Republican Dave McCarter and won 57% to 43% districtwide. Relevant town by town results are:









McCarter (R)Timilty (D)
Foxborough 3,389 4,686
Mansfield 5,455 4,788
Norton 3,347 4,176

Remember, only half of Mansfield and Norton are in this district, but all of Foxborough is. Despite its Republican history, it looks like it could be a competitive district, especially with Timilty's support. We should know within the next few days if Feeney is running.

2nd Worcester - Gardner, Winchendon, Royalston, Ashburnham, Ashby

Conservative Democratic State Rep. Brian Knuuttila resigned in October to take a job with Worcester County Sheriff Guy Glodis. Knuuttila's former campaign manager, Gardner Chamber of Commerce President Michael Ellis, is running on the Democratic side... with Knuuttila as his campaign manager! Ellis labels himself "very conservative" and says he agrees with Knuuttila on almost all issues. Interestingly one one major issue they differ on is gay marriage: Knuuttila twice voted to amend the constitution, while Ellis says he opposes such amendments. That prompted MassEquality to call this race "the strongest opportunity" to replace an anti-equality legislator with a strong supporter of equal marriage rights, according to Bay Windows.

Another Democrat, Gardner City Solicitor Robert Rice, is also running, so he and Ellis will face each other in the primary on January 10th. According to that article in the Sentinel & Enterprise, Rice seems to be emphasizing his experience in both public and private employment and familiarity with "the plight of the small business owner". With an opponent who chairs the local chamber of commerce, it looks like this race may focus on small business issues.

The Republican candidate is Ashburnham Selectman Jonathan Dennehy, who announced his run the day after the election date got set. Another Republican, Gardner grant administrator Mark Hawke, pulled out of the race last week, citing state election laws that make it difficult to run for office while working for city hall. He is endorsing Dennehy, who has said his campaign will focus on financing for infrastructure projects in small cities and towns.

27th Middlesex - middle half of Somerville

This was Pat Jehlen's state rep seat from 1991 until she got promoted to the state senate last month (it's also the district I lived in from 1996-2003). It includes Davis Square and has become one of the most strongly progressive districts in the state.

The first candidate to signal her intention to run was Somerville Alderman-at-Large Denise Provost, who did all but announce at Pat Jehlen's victory party, and pulled papers as soon as they became available. Provost's neighbor, liberal Somerville planning board member Elizabeth Moroney, an aide to state Senator Pam Resor (D-Acton), is also running. The third Democrat in the race is Somerville Ward 5 Alderman Sean O'Donovan, viewed as a "conservative" by Somerville standards. Another Somerville ward Alderman, Walter Pero, was considering a run, but decided against it.

Provost, Moroney, and O'Donovan will face each other in the January 10th Democratic primary, which in this district will likely be the deciding election. John Roderick will likely run in the February 7th general election, as an independent. He ran for this seat as a Libertarian in 2002, against then-incumbent Pat Jehlen, who defeated him handily. The Somerville News reports that he is pro-choice, opposes the death penalty, supports gun ownership, and labels himself "a union man", and that he would like to see a non-Democrat run for this seat.

In this one, Denise Provost is strongly favored. She just won her second at-large race in a row, coming in first in a seven-candidate field for four slots. In 2003, she actually got more votes than the mayor (this year, the mayor's race was uncontested). Of her 5,776 total votes, 3873 came from precincts in the 27th Middlesex district. Her biggest base of support is wards 5 & 6, both of which are in this district. She has been twice endorsed by Progressive Democrats of Somerville (of which I am an active member) for Board of Aldermen, and I think she is likely to get the PDS endorsement again at the organization's November 29th meeting. She is allied with many of the same progressives who elected Carl Sciortino and Pat Jehlen. And she just ran an election campaign, so her signs have been all over the city for months, and she's got a very up to date list of supporters throughout the district. She simply never stopped campaigning after the November 8th election.

Sean O'Donovan is also an incumbent, but he's only been running in Ward 5. He won on November 8th with 1302 votes, and at the same time Denise Provost got 1299 Ward 5 votes for the at-large race. It's not clear if he has more support than she does even in his own ward. O'Donovan will be viewed as the conservative in this race, and insiders expect mayor Curtatone's organization to help him, though as far as I know Curtatone hasn't said anything in public. Either way, I think a united progressive community would win this district.

The wildcard is Elizabeth Moroney, who hasn't run for any elected office. She just resigned from a long stint working for Pam Resor in order to run for this seat, and Resor is loved by hooked-in progressive activists, but both she and Elizabeth are mostly unknown to Somerville voters. Moroney has a lot of liberal positions, but can she catch up to a candidate who's had several months head start in such a short campaign? If she does manage to draw off some more liberal voters, that could split the vote and give Sean O'Donovan a realistic opening.
Personally, I'm going to support Denise Provost.

I'd love to hear more about the Gardner and Foxboro elections, from people who live there or who know more about the candidates. [ed. note: Beyond 495 already has several posts up on the Gardner race and will no doubt have more as time goes on.]

Posted by Cos at 06:00 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More thoughts on the Delahunt-Chavez oil deal

Thanks to Ken at Dirty Water for noting a different take on the Delahunt-Chavez oil deal.  Steve Bailey, one of the Globe's business columnists, writes that he's no Bush fan, but he still doesn't like Hugo Chavez "grandstanding" by selling cut-rate oil to Massachusetts residents as a way of "pok[ing] a stick in George Bush's eye."  Bailey goes on to note that a lot of Venezuela's residents are a lot poorer than the poorest Massachusetts residents, and that Chavez's own country maybe could use the money more.  Ken agrees, saying that the whole thing seems to be "largely a political stunt by Chavez."

You'll get no claim from me that Chavez isn't grandstanding, or that he isn't delighting in embarrassing George Bush by doing more to help low-income Americans pay their heating bills than their own government is doing.  I wouldn't even say that this isn't a "stunt" by Chavez.  But I don't think any of that proves that Delahunt shouldn't have cut the deal he did.  Regardless of whether poor Venezuelans are poorer than poor Americans, or whether (as Bailey somewhat irrelevantly notes) Venezuela's infrastructure is in bad shape, the fact remains that there are a lot of people who live in this state who are looking at a very, very cold winter without help.  And there's nothing Bill Delahunt or, really, any other American can do to make Chavez run his own country better.  Delahunt is right: his job is to serve his constituents, and it seems to me that that's what he did by, essentially, taking advantage of bad blood between a President with no interest in helping poor Americans and an ambitious Bush-hating foreign leader who is, as Bailey says, "trying to establish himself as a player in Latin America."  Good for Delahunt for being clever enough to leverage that bad blood into a good deal for his constituents who can't afford to heat their homes.  Besides, as I said before, Chavez may not be the most admirable head of a major oil-producing country, but he surely isn't the least.

Posted by David at 05:33 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Get the blue laws out of this blue state

Please, please, will someone repeal our ghastly blue laws?  It's ridiculous enough that our chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General and would-be Governor Tom Reilly, had nothing better to do one day this week than to write a nasty letter to Whole Foods informing them that if they kept their stores open on Thanksgiving Day - paying their employees twice their usual wages in the process - they'd be criminally liable.  (The impetus behind the letter?  Not disgruntled employees who objected to coming to work - it was Shaw's Supermarkets, a major Whole Foods competitor.)  Today we read that police ("acting on a tip") actually forced a supermarket that had missed the warnings to close, and that "the attorney general's office would investigate all reports of illegally opened stores."

Great Scott, let's hope these scofflaws see some serious punishment!  How are parents supposed to teach their children respect for the law unless swift and harsh justice isn't meted out for such obviously criminal behavior?

Seriously, the idea that the power of the state to impose criminal penalties should apply to opening a store on a Sunday or a holiday has, as I've written before, always struck me as utterly absurd.  I'm all for legal safeguards such that workers can't be punished for refusing to work on major legal holidays or on the day that they observe the Sabbath.  I'd even go along with requiring the payment of extra wages for those workers choosing to work those days.  But let's please (1) get these regulations out of the criminal statutes (where they're officially known as the "Common Day of Rest Law") and into the labor code where they belong, and (2) get the all-knowing and beneficent state out of the business of dictating to private enterprises the days on which they may and may not serve the public.  For one thing, the state carries out that function extremely badly - really, you have to read these statutes to believe them.

I disagree with Globe paleocon columnist Jeff Jacoby on just about everything.  But he's right on this one: "The blue laws are and always have been obnoxious deprivations of liberty."  Yup.

Posted by David at 10:14 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

My open source software full disclosure

Here's my full disclosure regarding open-source/Free software issues: My brother once worked for the Free Software Foundation, which essentially invented open-source; he now works for, and I have stock in, Red Hat, a company which makes open-source software products, especially Red Hat Linux. I have not heard of Red Hat specifically gaining any business due to the proposed move to OpenDocument formats.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 10:12 AM in Random | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2005

Oh the huM&Mity!

The NYT reports: In a replay of a similar 1997 incident, the M&M balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City flew out of control, struck a lightpost, and fell to the ground.  Two people suffered minor injuries.  Many witnesses are expected to relive the frightening incident the next time they think about popping those tasty chocolate morsels into their mouths.  (OK, the NYT didn't report that last bit.)

Before: Mnm1_2

After: Mnm2

Posted by David at 10:38 PM in Random | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm heading off to the homestead for the traditional gathering of family and friends, and the annual exercise in overeating.  I chipped in a donation to Rosie's Place this morning.  If you have a chance, pick a similarly worthy charity and do the same, or volunteer a couple of hours, in the spirit of the day.  Today's Globe has helpfully published a large list of organizations looking for monetary and in-kind donations, and for volunteers.

Here's hoping you and yours have a wonderful holiday.

Posted by David at 12:46 PM in Random | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Good Old Boys Strike Again

Kudos to our absentee Governor for vetoing the bill passed by the Gold Old Boys in the House and Senate that would have placed new restrictions on wine shipments via mail. The Legislature acted after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that states must allow direct shipments to consumers from out of state vineyards. The vetoed bill tried to undercut the Court's ruling. Romney said the measure did not help consumers but protected existing liquor distributors in Massachusetts. Indeed. This kind of back-scratching legislation is what has given the Democratic Party, and especially the Massachusetts legislature, a bad name among many Massachusetts residents and national observers. Raise a Thanksgiving glass for consumer choice.

Posted by Bob at 10:24 AM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

Phoenix profiles O'Flaherty and Schiavone

Adam Reilly (who else?) writes up an interesting piece on this very interesting race that pits Christopher Schiavone, a gay ex-priest, against incumbent Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty (D-Chelsea), a non-gay F-bomb-tossing Irishman (part of his childhood was spent on the Emerald Isle).  And remember: if you read what the alert commenters at Blue Mass. Group like CharlestownGayGuy have to say, you knew this race was coming at the end of August!

Posted by David at 11:55 PM in Massachusetts, Vote 9.16.2006 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack