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Posts by bumpkin:
These gatherings have come to be some of my favorite holiday events. I’m very close with my brother. The couple hosting these Thanksgiving dinners are just great people. There is warmth, family, and lots of laughs. It is a group of people that are choosing to spend this holiday together and have created an unspoken tradition. At dinner I hijacked the toast to express my gratitude for being invited to their home for all these years.
I wanted to write this post as just a “hey, I had a great Thanksgiving” sort of update. I had no intention of mentioning that some of the couples were gay because honestly it was unremarkable to me and my kids. The word “gay” was not mentioned on the ride to dinner or back from dinner. I just wanted to write a quick remembrance of another really enjoyable Thanksgiving. Until tonight when I watched a recent episode of the Colbert Report that had Rick Santorum as a guest.
I am socially very liberal and fiscally pretty conservative. For me gay rights are a bit of a litmus test. I consider gay rights to be one of the most important civil rights issues of our time. It is a very very very simple matter of equal rights and fairness to me. I fully support your right to not be gay and fully oppose anything that tries to deny rights to gay people.
A few years ago we joined the Middleboro Unitarian Universalist church. There are quite a number of gay members. One of the things that attracted me to the UU’s was tolerance. They accept whatever religious beliefs you have(or don’t have) and are tolerant of other lifestyles. Tolerant is actually the wrong word. Fully accepting and welcoming would be more like it.
So tonight I saw Rick Santorum on Colbert. He reiterated his belief that marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman and that gay couples should not have this right. Santorum was plugging his new movie studio and test the waters for a 2016 presidential run. He is one of the de-facto front runners due to his strong showing in 2012.
He is also the living embodiment of all that is wrong with the Republican party.
You cannot spend time with a great family – who happens to be gay – and seriously believe that they are some sort of abomination against God. As long as the GOP is elevating people like Santorum – they are doomed in the national arena.
So I wanted to just tell you that I had a great Thanksgiving and had no intention of talking about gay rights. Blame Rick Santorum for being such an intolerant numbskull that I was force to speak up.
My column in the Nov. 14th edition of the Middleboro Gazette discussed my wife converting from Windows XP to Linux. Basically she just got fed up with having to baby the machine and spending inordinate effort to prevent viruses or clean them up after the fact.
My first computer ran Windows and I was relatively happy with it. Then I discovered Unix. I came to view Windows as an unstable joke of an operating system that was so fragile that it was laughable. This is in my mind today because of a ZDNet article I read today about a longtime Windows users who had finally gotten fed up with it.
I’ve also cajoled and coaxed countless ailing systems back to life, but during that time I’ve come to realize how fragile the Windows operating system is, and how something small and insignificant as a bad driver, incorrect settings, or the stars being in the wrong position can bring a system to its knees, and result in hours of work searching for a solution.
That’s basically what drove my wife to Linux and what drove me to it almost 20 years ago.
My very first distribution was Transameritech Linux around 1995. I was using Unix at work and wanted a similar system at home so I could play around it without fear of wrecking one of the $25K servers at work. I’ll never forget seeing that familiar Unix-like boot sequence on home computer which was running Windows 3.1 at the time. From there I went to Slackware and frequently had to build my own kernels. From there I moved to Redhat. At this point I was becoming quite the veteran and was becoming annoyed that many of my standard programs like emacs weren’t included by default. Then I found Mandrake. In my mind this was the first distribution that was really done right. It had a very polished desktop and an elegant menu system. Redhat looked positively primitive by comparison yet was getting all the press. I ran Mandrake for a number of years and eventually switched to Fedora. After that I think I ran Mepis for a couple of years. At some point I started running Ubuntu. There are a number of flavors of Ubuntu and I’ve run a number of them: Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Studio, and my current favorite Linux Mint.
That’s a lot of different Linux’s and I enjoyed them all. The desktop experience of most of them weren’t all that different from one another. Once you got the install done and got the gist of the menu and configuration it was a piece of cake. On all of them I ran the same web browser, editor(emacs natch), email, messaging client, etc, etc.
As I wrote in the Gazette column, I finally threw up my hands in discust and banished Windows from the home computer about two years ago. My wife has been using it at home during that time and so moving to Linux wasn’t all that scary. Her main applications for work are Excel, Word, Quickbooks, Firefox, and Thunderbird. LibreOffice easily covered for Excel and Word – even handling linked spreadsheets adroitly. Firefox and Thunderbird run natively on Linux so that was no problem. Quickbooks was the one that wasn’t simple. There is nothing on Linux that can read the Quickbooks format. I tried running Quickbooks under Wine withou success. Finally I installed a Windows XP virtual machine where she can run quickbooks natively. Windows because just another application that is running in its own window just like your spreadsheet or word processor.
Every year Linux pundits would predict that Linux would finally take off on the desktop. Even today desktop Linux accounts for a miniscule percentage of computers. Linux dominates today not because it conquered the desktop but because computing fundamentally changed. Android smartphones and tablets are actually running Linux under the hood. Chromebooks are running Linux. Many if not most smart devices are running Linux. It is taking off as the platform for automotive entertainment systems. Basically if your device has any level of complexity, there is a very good chance it is running Linux.
As I said in the column – I am not advocating that everyone switch to Linux. Pick a platform that works for you and lets you do you business with the least hassle.
Middleboro collects a 1% surcharge on property taxes. This amounts to about $200K per yer. The state of Massachusetts matches that money with fees collected at the Registry of Deeds. These fees go into a CPA Trust Fund and are distributed each year. For a long time the match was 100%. Increased participation and the terrible economic crash in 2008 caused a big dip in collections – the match dropped to around 25%. Last year legislation was passed that applied an additional $25M into the CPA trust fund.
DOR just released the Community Preservation Trust Fund distribution amounts. Each CPA community – including Middleboro – will receive a 52.23% match. That’s twice as much as last year. Middleboro will get a total match of $109,575. Our local collection from the property tax surcharge is just over $200,000. That’s over $300K for FY2013 that can be used for open space, historic preservation, housing, or recreational uses. That is $300K for just one year that would never, ever, be available without CPA.
Here is the full report from the Community Preservation Coalition.
First a little back story to set the stage:
Throughout the 90′s and 2000′s the GOP famously partnered with the far right and met with considerable success getting out the vote with wedge issues like abortion, gay rights, school prayer, flag burning and the like. After 8 years of Clinton, people wanted a president that was not so sleazy and so they settled for everyman George W. Bush. His presidency was listless and lacking direction until 911. Meanwhile the coalition with the religious far right continued on unabated. We saw the rise of conservative talk radio in the 90′s and the rise of Fox News in the 2000′s. Things were good but nothing lasts forever.
After 8 years of Bush the economy was crumbling. People were well aware of the needless Iraq War and weary of the Afghanistan War. They were ready for a change and boy did they get it in Barack Obama – the first black president. And then they came.
The teaparty exploded to life immediately after Obama’s election. The GOP resolved to block every Obama initiative and force his administration into failure in the hopes that the GOP could take back the White House in 2012. The teaparty grew in strength with highly engaged local activists and money coming in from traditional GOP funding sources. Meanwhile the early Obama administration soon found out that the GOP weren’t going to play ball in any way and so they started ramming through whatever they could on the strength of their majority in the House and Senate with the most significant piece of legislation being Obamacare.
And then came the 2010 elections.
The teaparty reaped the rewards of their hard work and wrested control of the House from the Democrats. Fox news and the conservative echo chamber convinced a lot of people that Obama was pure evil – socialist, fascist, Kenyan, shredding the Constitution, and a whole lot of other nonsense. But even with the teaparty successes there were alarming signs. The teaparty were beating solid GOP candidates in primaries and fielding their far right candidates who would then lose to the Democrat in the general election. Christine O’Donnell was an early example of this. At the same time mainstream Republicans became afraid of the power this bunch had and started posturing more and more to the right to appease teaparty militants. By the time the presidential primary season came, the GOP had a field of far, far, right candidates and a small handful of run-of-the-mill conservatives who were espousing far-right rhetoric. Each candidate attacked the other trying to grab the most-conservative brass ring. I remember one GOP debate that where 3 of the 10 candidates said they didn’t believe in evolution – that’s 30 percent. This circular firing squad did more damage than Obama and the Democrats could ever hope to do.
After Obamacare passed the teaparty went into overdrive and had enough racists showing up at their rallies that the left had an easy time painting the whole movement as a bunch of bigots. Do I think that all teapartiers are racist? Nope. But enough of them are that it has tainted the whole movement. They became more and more intractable until Speaker Boehner lost control of his party and couldn’t pass even normal housekeeping items like raising the debt ceiling. Immigration reform? Forget it. Debt reduction – no way. Congress ground to a halt. The teaparty had become a Frankenstein monster that the GOP could not control.
Along came the 2012 election and the teaparty fielded a whole bunch of very far right candidates who said a whole lot of very dumb things costing the party a number of Senate seats. Their far right and frankly crazy positions drove enough people into the Obama camp that he won a very solid victory. Given the state of the economy and his generally lackluster presidency the GOP lost the election that couldn’t be lost. The teaparty alienated hispanics, blacks, women, homosexuals, and pretty much everyone who wasn’t an old white guy.
Fast forward to today. The teaparty nearly drove the country off the economic abyss with a needless shutdown and threat to default. They had no plan to win. The saner members of the GOP were now sick and tired of these numbskulls and started to turn on them. That’s where it stands today. Moderate and even conservative republicans are sick of being manhandled by a minority that cannot be reasoned with and who will gladly burn down the house if they don’t get 100% of everything they want.
Going forward – the GOP is in a very very bad place. The teaparty is looking for revenge on the McCains and McConnells – in other words anyone who is not a rabid teabagger. They have enough grassroots clout to win a bunch of primaries and field the ultra-conservative candidates. 2014 will be real interesting. I don’t think the GOP will lose the House but it is a distinct possibility. Mainstream Republicans will not play ball with this group anymore and I expect that the party will splinter and become even more dysfunctional than it is right now – which is pretty damn dysfunctional.
This is all fantastic news for Democrats. Obama hasn’t exactly been the most inspiring president. The debt problem alone should have been enough to give the GOP a full takeover the House, the Senate, and the White House. Instead they are gladly welcoming all the people that the far right have driven away. Democrats can thank the teaparty for that. A rising Hispanic population continues to work in their favor. The GOP shows no signs of moderating – in fact many of their active members are calling for the party to become even more conservative. This all works in favor of Democrats. I don’t see any statistical way that the GOP can win the White House or even take many seats in a purple state. Sure they can still win a red state but as people become more tolerant, the far right engine that is driving the GOP will push their train right off the cliff. Can the GOP change? Sure – but not in time for 2016 and probably not for at least a decade. They will only be viable again when they moderate their message and can convince people that they really believe it. There is currently no real signs of that happening.
Now before you all slam me for being a liberal – which I am – remember that this is prediction based on what I see. If you see it differently good for you.
The first time I spoke at an actual town meeting it was a whopper – about 4,000 people. That’s a far cry from the 250 that normally attend. These days I’m disinclined to speak at them for various reasons.
We generally blow through huge spending articles with little or no discussion. At several recent town meetings there was some hot button issue or other such as the swearing by-law. This last meeting had an article about the Kiwanis cross. The dynamics of these kind of discussions are off-putting. They are long on emotion and short on reason making sensible/reasoned discussion all but impossible.
One of my recent columns discussed the stark contrast between two properties on River Street. A-Plus Waste Recycling service has featured the article on their web site with permission from the Middleboro Gazette editor.
On a partially related topic, I haven’t been posting much recently because I’ve been very busy with work and … camping. Last August we bought a used 32′ camper/trailer and have it on a really great campground in Plymouth. We all love it – even the kids(*gasp*). We’ve been down there most weekends with no TV or Internet and not missing either.
I’m hoping to start posting a bit more regularly but I’m not particularly interested in getting into the sort of vitriolic and uninformed nonsense that is common on Facebook. I definitely have a lot of thoughts about the recent shutdown/debt ceiling debacle which I’ll probably visit. These days talking politics is likely to bring on a case of the vapors from the far right but that’s beyond my control.