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Halos and Horns

The best and worst of the year gone by.

Comments (75)
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Illustration by Rob and Damia Design

Horns to Springfield State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera and West Springfield State Sen. Stephen Buoniconti for their so-called attempts to "improve" the state's endangered species protection program. In truth, the bills pushed by these two urban legislators would strip the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife of its ability to oversee building projects that threaten endangered plant and animal species.

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Horns to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection for throwing out testimony offered by Piotr Parasiewicz, a highly credentialed expert on rivers, for a hearing on a water withdrawal permit for the proposed Russell Biomass wood-fired power plant. The plant would be sited on the Westfield River, a famous fishing stream that carries the federal designation Wild and Scenic River; the developers wanted permission to draw down as much as 885,000 gallons of water a day to cool the plant.

Parasiewicz, who has worked as a researcher at Cornell and UMass and even assisted with the Index Streamflow Report for the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission, could not make the hearing but submitted written testimony in advance. But it was not considered because, the state said, his information would deal with pollutants in the water rather than the drawdown per se. Yet Parasiewicz' filing did deal with water volumes, claiming, among other things, that 30 percent of water in the river in August's low flow period is already drawn down by other industries. And environmental attorney Margaret Sheehan said the state law governing water withdrawal permits mandates that water quality and the ability of a river with diminished flow to absorb pollutants be considered.

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A halo to Joseph Summer, executive director of Commonwealth Opera, for having the courage and passion to move CO from regional to professional company in an initiative that began last summer. CO's smart production of Cosi fan tutte in November was a benchmark of quality for the revamped company, and Summer and his daughter Eve, who served as stage director for Cosi, deserve celestial headgear not only as artists but as altruists, since both did their work on the November performance for free.

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Halo: Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern of Worcester is continuing his years-long battle to shut down the School of the Americas, now known for cosmetic reasons as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. The school, a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, since its founding in 1946 has systematically trained Latin American soldiers and police in torture and assassination techniques. Whenever a coup in South or Central America results in kidnappings, murder and mayhem, it's almost a sure bet that WHINSEC grads will have their fingerprints all over it.

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Horns: Boo to the 78 (to date) Massachusetts cities and towns (including Belchertown, Chicopee, Hadley, Holyoke, Ludlow, Orange, Palmer, Springfield and West Springfield) that have adopted local "public consumption" laws in response to the passage of last November's Question 2 (which made the possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil, not criminal, offense, punishable by a $100 fine). While legal under the terms of the ballot question, the local laws, which add additional fines for public smoking, show a blatant disregard for the will of the two-thirds of Massachusetts voters who approved Question 2. And let's not forget that Attorney General Martha Coakley—Massachusetts' next U.S. Senator?—opposed Question 2, and drafted a sample ordinance to help communities do an end-run around voters' wishes by creating local fines.

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Halo: Amy Zuckerman of Amherst founded Valleywood as an effort to bring the film industry to Western Mass., a surefire recipe for economic vitality and artistic energy. The effort is set to go nonprofit in 2010.

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Shining like a star in the firmament is federal pay czar Kenneth Feinberg, who held an ax to the salaries and compensation of high-level employees at the firms that took the largest TARP bailouts. The idea of seeing their top level employees' cash compensation cut by 90 percent, and the next layer limited to earnings of $500,000 a year (what would have been next? Bank of America VPs greeting customers at WalMart?), went a long way toward pressuring the companies that vacuumed up the most taxpayer money to pay it back; they'd returned, by press time, some $116 billion to the Treasury.

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Halo: President Obama's phenomenally effective Cash for Clunkers program was so popular that it ran out of funding almost immediately. Even so, it did more for the environment in one summer than the Kyoto Protocol has done in a dozen years, at least in the U.S. More programs that encourage a shift away from carbon-heavy energy sources should be modeled on this simple but profoundly efficient prototype for dramatic, relatively quick and painless modification of national and even global behaviors.

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Horns: Gov. Deval Patrick is a smooth-talking, handsome fellow who seems occasionally to remember his progressive roots. Alas, Patrick leaves this year pretty much as he left last year—sagging in the polls not because he pushed a wildly progressive agenda, but because he pushed casino gambling as sound economic development policy, biomass as sound energy policy and gas taxes as sound tax policy. His tin-eared dismissal of the impact on taxpayers of his proposed 19-cent-per-gallon hike in the gas tax last winter—"The average driver would pay the equivalent of one large cup of coffee a week, less than $8 per month"—showed that this governor fails to really understand the financial plight many working families are in these days.

Patrick also earned a political machine hack horn for cracking down on UMass about the scheduled appearance this fall of convicted 1970s bomber Ray Luc Levasseur. If you understand that law enforcement and courthouse personnel are important cogs in the wheel of the state Democratic machine, you understand why Patrick caved to the cops who wanted to quash the appearance by a former militant whose associate (notice: not Levasseur himself), Tom Manning, killed a New Jersey state trooper in 1981.

It's a sad day for academic freedom—in this case, for historians and scholars who wanted to hear Levasseur—when the governor puts pressure on the state university to limit their right to hear him or anyone else. Patrick didn't officially forbid the faculty to hold the meeting, but when the governor makes his preference known to a cash-strapped institution that depends on the state for its survival, it's a little like the boss nuzzling his prettiest employee and asking her what time she gets off: no explicit ultimatum has to be voiced. Bad precedent, gov. Very bad.

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Halos: From organizing the Easthampton mayoral debate forums to hosting Barney Frank's "Democrat of the Year" celebration to tirelessly campaigning on behalf of worthy state- and national-level candidates like Mike Capuano and even Barack Obama, Easthampton Democrats have proven themselves an effective regional political force. Even when they're "relaxing" at a local pub, they're cold-calling voters on multiple cell phones and checking registration info on thick stacks of paper. Watch out for Nicole LaChapelle, Joe McCoy and Ray Drewnowski, and especially new Easthampton City Councilor Andrea Burns; they've definitely got vision—and coffee—and Facebook savvy.

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A Halo: Hats off to (soon-to-be-former) Northampton City Councilor Michael Bardsley, a guy with big enough cojones to try to unseat an incumbent mayor whose power, politics and policies have become calcified in recent years. Bardsley ran a clean grassroots campaign, got his primary vote out and came within a whisker of beating Clare Higgins. Bardsley may have come up short this time, but in establishing a new coalition for change in Northampton, he offered some hope for a healthier kind of politics in a city too long dominated by the Higgins crowd.

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We don't dole out horns to Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins and her Clare Bears because they managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in this year's city election. Higgins and a few of her close allies, including WHMP host and former city councilor Bill Dwight, Higgins' campaign manager Lisa Baskin, City Councilor Paul Spector and Housing Authority chief Jon Hite, earned their trip to Hades for good old-fashioned hypocrisy. While endlessly running down Michael Bardsley in an attempt to raise doubt in the minds of voters about his leadership and management abilities, it was Higgins and her crew who demonstrated remarkable ineptitude at leading and managing.

Higgins spent the summer mired in controversy over her administration's unlawful purging of public records related to the city's landfill operation. When Bardsley initially raised concerns about the information that was missing from the public record, Higgins uttered her usual imperious dismissal. When Bardsley turned out to be absolutely correct, the mayor accused him of being a political opportunist.

The purged-records flap was followed by thespian Bill Dwight's adaptation of King Lear. It started off with a dose of angry, off-hand slander delivered via an email—recipients included Baskin, Spector and Hite—calling Bardsley supporters "teabaggers" and "angry white guys." When Bardsley called Higgins and Company out for the email, Dwight's anger gave way to self-flagellating hysteria and sadness as the radio king cried his apologies into the wind, in effect claiming, "The email I sent to the campaign leaders of the politician I most often interview on my show was personal!" But as quickly as despair had fallen on the king, so came the rage and fury. While he was sorry people had read his missive, he was no longer sorry about the harsh words he had spoken. In fact, he embraced them and began the serious work of dismissing the opposition, promoting his candidate and pretending to be a fair and balanced news commentator at the same time.

While Dwight captured the pathos of the role, it appears he misunderstood the Bard's intent. The play, a tragedy, was meant to end with the king's demise; but at the end of this production, Dwight and his winning candidate appeared together on his show the day after the election, sharing a good laugh, apparently still bewildered that anyone would ever object to their tactics.

Here's hoping Hell instills a little humility in Higgins and her pals.

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A halo to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.), former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, for myth-busting about Guantanamo. In eye-opening remarks posted on Washington Note, Wilkerson said only about two dozen detainees in the prison were "hardcore terrorists" with important information to give the U.S. The facility in Cuba was filled with people who didn't belong there, Wilkerson said, largely because of "poor U.S. policies such as bounty-hunting, a weak understanding of cultural tendencies, and an utter disregard for the fundamentals of jurisprudence..." Even in the cases of the two dozen or more genuine terrorists, he added, "there was virtually no chain of custody, no disciplined handling of evidence, and no attention to the details that almost any court system would demand."

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It's definitely been a halo year for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who makes the ordinary working American the center of his political paradigm. If it were only for trying to cap credit card and loan interest at 15 percent, he'd deserve a nimbus with wings to match. Add in his plan to bust up the financial institutions seen as "too big to fail" and to cut off the gravy train for misbehaving defense contractors the way Congress did for ACORN and you get an idea why our northern neighbors want to keep Bernie on the Hill.

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Horns: Seriously, Agawam Mayor Susan Dawson and Celeste Benoit, enough with the middle-aged girl-fights. After their dust-up over a boy (Benoit's ex-husband, now Dawson's beau) at Max's Tavern back in April, you'd think the 45-year-old Dawson and 61-year-old Benoit would have been sufficiently embarrassed to cut the nonsense. Instead, there they were again in October, tossing drinks at Pazzo's after Benoit reportedly couldn't resist needling Dawson over her loss in the primary election. Ladies, may we suggest a more age-appropriate forum for settling your differences—say, over a set of mahjong tiles?

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Halos: Working on the side of the angels with scared pregnant young women and new mothers in prison are the staff of the Prison Birth Project, operating at the Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee. (Factoid: 5 percent of females entering prison are pregnant.) A halo to these women who help their clients get the prenatal care, education, counseling and support they need.

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Halo: Fall River's Daniel Ouellette (formerly a Florence resident) may be able to lay claim to the title "weirdest musician in New England." His mix of baritone vocals, electronica and performance art is a unique creation. Just wait till you hear him sing "She Went to a Moustache Party."

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Horns to the jerks who stole two Easthampton Bearfest bears. Class act.

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Purgatory for the dopes who didn't use locking nuts on Easthampton Bearfest bears. Just sayin'.

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Halos to the geniuses who conceived of Easthampton Bearfest. We're not sure how anyone successfully pitched the idea in the first place: "Let's put a bunch of giant painted fiberglass bears around downtown—that will get people to come to Easthampton." But, boy, did it work: Easthampton City Arts' Bear Fest was an adorable success. If we had a dollar for every time we passed through downtown Easthampton during the five-month fest to see hordes of people, cameras in hand, strolling the streets to visit the 35 bears decorated by local artists, well, we'd have had enough money to buy one of those bears in the festival-ending auction, which raised almost $60,000 for city arts programs.

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Halo: Cheers to activist Mimi Odgers for leading the charge for the plainspoken Northampton ballot question that made it clear that—big surprise—residents don't want the city landfill expanded over the local aquifer. Now will the city's elected officials actually listen to them?

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Horns: Sure, for years Frankie Keough was able to furnish his multiple homes with mattresses, TVs and other goodies he swiped from the Springfield homeless shelter he ran. But seriously, has this man never heard of Raymour and Flanigan? After serving more than two years behind bars after pleading guilty to an embarrassing list of federal corruption charges—no-show job schemes, using on-the-clock shelter staff and residents to work on his home—you'd think the disgraced former Springfield city councilor would lay low for a while. But there he was, back under arrest in November after Rhode Island police caught him allegedly trying to steal a dining room set from the beach house he once owned, before it was seized by the government as restitution for his crimes. That escapade—which included leaving the state in violation of the terms of his parole—could land Keough behind bars yet again.

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Halo: May the Courageous Scientist halo illuminate the head of Gregory Gray, M.D., director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, whose work may contribute not just to controlling but to preventing epidemics of swine flu. Braving the ire of the pork industry, Gray has raised questions about the relationship of swine flu to swine farms, especially the very large commercial farms called CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) that are the backbone of that industry.

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Horns: Perhaps the biggest propagandist/hatemonger since Joseph Goebbels, Fox's Glenn Beck somehow manages to appear sensitive, almost maternal, even, to his legions of bellowing teabaggers. Alas, the only milk that flows from his Fox News-sponsored bosom is a venomous, mind-erasing colostrum of ignorance and hatred, and the worst of it is that the audience he targets is mostly one of well-meaning but easily riled simple folk who would follow a parade over a cliff as long as someone was waving an American flag at the front of it. One day, Beck will have his own Limbaugh Oxycontin scandal, his O'Reilly answering machine moment or his Haggard public revelation of ultimate hypocrisy, and we hope Fox News is there to cover it.

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Horns: One of these days, oil, we're gonna clean up our act, get us some solar methadone and tell your big-money pimps to fuck off. Seriously.

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Purgatory: Though we had to struggle against every liberal fiber of our being in doing so, we've had to put Sarah Palin in Purgatory rather than give her a straight-up pair of horns. Yes, she's only a moderately intelligent, anti-choice wolf-killer who's currently milking her book deal like a 30-uddered cow, and we certainly don't want her anywhere near the highest office of the land, but she sneaks into Purgatory for this reason: she walks her talk. Becoming a 45-year-old grandmother (with Playgirl model Levi Johnston for a son-in-law) and caring for a Down syndrome baby that you could have aborted but chose not to are not easy things to do, and aren't things you do just to further a questionably promising political career. Perhaps she can still be turned from the dark side if we can only get her to read a few books instead of writing them.

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Halo: At a Springfield City Council meeting earlier this year, Councilor Bill Foley teased his colleague Pat Markey about being "the darling" of the Valley Advocate. Admittedly, we don't like a whole lot of politicians. But we'll proudly claim Markey, who brought some too-rarely seen intelligence, honesty and common sense to the City Council. Our only gripe with Markey: we wish he'd stuck around for more than one term on the Council. Still, we're pretty confident we'll continue to see him engaged in the civic life of his home town.

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Horns: New World Theater produced innovative theater by artists of color, and became a Valley staple. This fall, the University of Massachusetts ended the group's 30-year run by yanking support and space at the University. Fine Arts Center Director Willie Hill told the Daily Hampshire Gazette the move will save UMass all of $116,000.

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Horns: If Bazukkah Joe Lieberman has proved anything this year, it's that the only party he's interested in being a part of any more is the Joe Lieberman Party. He's been an unrepentant apologist for Israeli aggression, the new justification for the military-industrial complex known as the "war on terror," continued bailouts and bonuses for the top 1 percent of American earners and a refusal to give the 75 percent of the American people the universal healthcare they desperately cried out for, even as their wheelchairs were repossessed and they chopped their medications in half to try and stretch them further. Even in an uber-corporate state like Connecticut, haven't the people had enough of politicians like this one? Filibuster this, Joe.

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Halos: For several years now, Bill Childs and his kids, Ella and Liam, have been treating Valley families to a priceless source of high-quality (as in non-cloying, non-cutesy, actually good) kids' music via their "Spare the Rock" radio show on WRSI. Things got even better this year, when Childs began putting together the No Nap Happy Hour live music series (Justin Roberts!), allowing parents who can no longer stay up late to still rock out, albeit with their kids on a Sunday afternoon.

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Horns: Shame on the 75 percent of registered voters in Springfield who failed to turn out to vote in Springfield's general election in November—the first under the newly adopted ward representation system. After waiting six years for the return of local control in city government, with the departure of the state-imposed Finance Control Board last summer, only one in four eligible voters could be bothered to exercise that right?

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Halo: If there's a newsstand in heaven, no doubt it's stocked with copies of the late, great Wondertime, the beautifully written and designed parenting magazine that was published in Northampton before being axed by parent company Disney earlier this year.

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Halos: Still providing the only real television news worth watching in the U.S., the dynamic duo of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and their ever-diligent staffs continue to expose the vacant hullabaloo of the right, function as the "gotcha" watchdog for the now-in-power left, and embarrass the mainstream news media by magnifying their daily inaccuracies and glaring omissions of important facts. And they're still hilarious, too. Keep an eye out this winter at Vancouver's Olympic Games for the Colbert-sponsored U.S. speed skating team (for real!).

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Horns to the National Football League: Thanks to a record number of nearly-winless teams like the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions, it's worth asking whether it's wise to proceed with 2010's planned no-salary-cap season. What's more, the League just cut a $100-million revenue-sharing program that helped subsidize lower-income franchises. It's not just banks and media that are suffering from a lack of competition these days. Time to throw a flag.

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Halo: Northampton attorney Dick Evans has spent decades fighting for sensible marijuana policy, including a bill, first filed in 1981, that would legalize pot and make it subject to government regulation and taxation. Twenty-eight years later, Evans was again before the state Legislature pitching that idea—which makes even more sense in these cash-strapped times.

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Halo: A shoestring budget and skeletal staff notwithstanding, Easthampton's Prison Policy Initiative keeps churning out provocative, thoughtful and groundbreaking research that looks at the way "criminal justice" really works in our society.

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Halo: No matter the weather, Daniel Evans provides entertainment to sidewalk strollers in Northampton. His golden-voiced singing is a real high point in the sometimes-cacophonous busking lineup.

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Horns: Many of the biggest banks in the U.S. are going straight to hell and, apparently, plan to take the rest of us with them. Bailed out and still overcompensated for their incompetence and/or consciously destructive mischief, what do these bastards do next? Answer: raise all our credit card interest rates just before a new law that reins in such usury kicks in in January, 2010. Maybe it's time we all got a little bit "Idaho militia" on their asses, stocked up on guns and ammo, stopped paying our mortgages and instead mailed them a letter that says, "You can pry the deed to my house from my cold, dead hands, bitches."

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Purgatory: It's too soon to tell where Lady Gaga will end up, so for now she can chill in Purgatory. An immensely talented and driven individual, the good lady nonetheless may be putting a few too many of her eggs in a basket that's still the primary playpen for cougar-in-chief Madonna. Leather thigh-highs aside, it'd be nice to hear something of hers without the 500 layers of production that seem to come along with every pop diva's recording contract. Ditch the Vocoder and sing us a lullaby that makes us go ga-ga.

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Halo: The Valley may not be a major stop on the map of hip-hop culture, but that could change now that Afrika Baby Bam of the Jungle Brothers has taken up residence in Holyoke and jumped into the Valley's music and arts scene with both feet.

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Halo: There's a lot to love about Northampton's Media Education Foundation. One highlight from 2009: Adriana Barbaro's and Jeremy Earp's fantastic film Consuming Kids, an eye-opening look at how marketers target and exploit kids, and the sobering, even terrifying social and emotional consequences of their efforts.

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Halo: Holyoke's Mountain Park seems to be on track to echo once more with the sound of music, thanks to Iron Horse Entertainment Group owner Eric Suher. Sure, he might have more than a lion's share of Northampton's music venues, but a Mountain Park revival is a fine idea very few people besides Suher could pull off.

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Halo: Yes, we agree it's high time to move the Springfield School Department out of its woefully inadequate digs on State Street. And sure, we get the argument that moving the department into the old federal courthouse on Main Street will keep a vital piece of downtown real estate from sitting vacant. But we've yet to hear a compelling case for why city officials didn't seek competitive bids to ensure that wherever the department moves, taxpayers are getting the most for their money. Halos to City Councilor Tim Rooke, School Committee members Antonette Pepe and Chris Collins and a handful of others who've continued to press for an answer.

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Horns: Bud Williams ended his 16-year career on the Springfield City Council with neither a bang nor a whimper, but rather the months-long whine that passed for his uninspiring mayoral campaign. If the complete lack of content to his "platform" wasn't scary enough, there was the horrifying specter of former Mayor Mike Albano—a contributor to Williams' campaign—lurking around City Hall once again.

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Halo: Amherst artist Matt Mitchell has embarked on painting the portraits of 100 people affected by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Faces of War Experience project. His remarkable portrait of badly wounded soldier Rick Yarosh is on display in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

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Halo: While people like Max Baucus and Joe Lieberman were busy stuffing their pockets with insurance and drug industry dollars and adding more amendments to their health care bill than there are ingredients on a Slim Jim package, Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) actually took the time to write a smart, no-nonsense health care bill called HR676. The text of the bill is under 20 pages long, practically a leaflet when compared with the bloated, 2,000-plus-page behemoth now dragging its dozens of earmarks through Congress. Endorsed by a wide variety of organizations including state and local governments, labor unions, the National Medical Association, the American Medical Student Association, the American Nurses Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the League of Women Voters (among many others) and co-sponsored by 87 representatives in the U.S. House (including the only other honest guy in Washington, Rep. Dennis Kucinich), it's a no-nonsense, pork-free answer to universal coverage on the industry's terms, rising costs and an increasingly burdened Medicare system. Too bad it'll probably never see the light of day.

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Our new president Barack Obama is stuck in Purgatory. Yes, the O-Man has bitten off quite a chunk of almost every issue that's key in a progressive agenda, but he's been chewing a bit slowly, dragging his feet somewhat on health care, global warming and green energy imperatives. He hasn't closed Guantanamo yet, is apparently still okay with letting Uncle Sam (and Aunt Verizon) read your emails, and seems to have an awful lot of Wall Street friends who are still doing better than most of us. Sending more soldiers to Afghanistan is also not encouraging, and certainly casts something of a grim shadow on someone's shiny new Nobel Peace Prize. This guy better step up his game soon in some area—say, threaten to veto any health care bill without a strong public option, or one that comes still stuck to a Stupak clause. Listen up, Barack: We, the people, actually elected you (unlike the last president). Can we vote for someone else in less than three years? Yes We Can.

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Halo: Eben Kling and former Montserrat College classmates Katherine Romansky and Adam Kology brought a Berlin art project called Papergirl to Northampton in September. Art works on paper, after being exhibited, were handed out to random strangers by distributors pedaling bicycles.

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Halo: Once again, filmmaker Michael Moore is timely as ever in his choice of long-standing institutions to boil in their own pudding, and this year he took on perhaps the biggest one of all in Capitalism: A Love Story. The film's examination of the effects of under-regulated global free market practices crosses party lines and ethno-racial barriers, laying bare real statistics that make our economic system seem as though it borders on the ridiculous. It proves that greed-driven business models will always swallow any concessions to the public welfare without adequate legal restraint, and amplifies questions we've all been asking for decades, like, "How come if you steal $50, you go to jail, but if you steal $50 billion (and lose it), the government gives you more money?" A great grassroots take on yet another failed societal model.

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Horns: You would think it was big corporate interests who got the people in the U.S. Congress elected, the way they bend over backward to please Wall Street even in the face of massive public opposition on issues like bank bailouts and a strong public option in health care reform. Oh, wait—it was.

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Halo: The world needs more Rock Gods from Chicopee. And "Rock God" Dave LeClair is back in business. He wrote a song called "Booger Boy"—what more, really, can be said?

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Halo: In April, Sirdeaner Walker experienced the unthinkable: her 11-year-old son, Carl Walker-Hoover, committed suicide, apparently distraught over being bullied at school. No one would have blamed Walker if that tragedy had sent her into deep seclusion. Instead she ran for the Springfield School Committee on a safe-schools platform. While she failed to win that race, Walker has continued the fight, taking her activism on behalf of anti-bullying legislation national.

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A halo goes to Brian Hale and the X Main Street Corporation. It's taken years of effort and perseverance to bring Springfield's Bing Theater anywhere near opening as a music and arts center. Now, after the yanking of state money by Gov. Patrick's budget cuts, that effort has resulted in a grant from the City of Springfield to complete the Bing project's first phase.

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Halo: In the South, West and Midwest, drought induced by development and by climate change is circling in, destroying farmland. In Massachusetts, open land is disappearing at a rate of seven acres a day as it is sold to create malls and subdivisions. We inaugurate the Green Pastures/Still Waters halo in tribute to the Kestrel Trust, which in 2008-2009 kept 614 acres of land in the Valley protected from development. Not only does the group's stewardship keep the Valley beautiful; it also protects water supply and supports the farming network that becomes more important as energy prices rise and agriculture in other parts of the country suffers from water shortages.

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Halo: Shelburne Falls musician Seth Glier gave his late 2009 tour in support of The Trouble with People a very green cast. He told the Advocate's Nightcrawler that he is "using all organic materials like hemp, bamboo and vegetable-based ink on tour merchandise, purchasing energy credits from TerraPass and traveling in a hybrid car."

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Horns: You'd think, being the editor and publisher of the Latino newspaper La Prensa, Natalia Munoz might have a better understanding than some why writing in broad generalities and using explosive stereotypes (especially the untrue variety) does a serious disservice to the democratic process. You would be wrong. Head on over to clareformayor.com, and right after the Northampton mayor's bio, there's Munoz' piece of slander calling itself an endorsement. Never mind that Munoz doesn't make a whole lot of sense—she praises Clare Higgins for the length of her service while she ridicules her opponent, 16-year City Councilor Michael Bardsley, for the same—but take a look at the last two paragraphs, where she attempts to elevate Higgins by vilifying the typical Bardsley voter and turning them all into low-brow caricatures. "We are also concerned," she writes, "that his campaign has drawn the more extremist supporters who are thrilled with just being able to vote out of office a woman, especially a gay woman. ...Bardsley should have actively rejected any support from sexist and homophobic voters." Now, there's some fine reporting. Keep up the good work, and when you bother to interview him, surprise Bardsley by informing him that he isn't gay.

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Halo: Few places have embraced the notion of the arts as economic driver in a more coordinated fashion than the City of Pittsfield. Here's hoping their endeavor continues to fuel revitalization.

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Halo: Every Friday, the Northampton Committee to Stop the War screens movies promoting social justice at the Media Education Foundation in Northampton. Oh, and they're free.

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Halo: Poet laureates can probably justify resting on their laurels. But Northampton's poet laureate Leslea Newman crowned her tenure by creating a participatory project for local poets called 30 Poems in 30 Days, in which poets crafted work to raise money for charity.

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Purgatory. Every emperor must fall from grace; it's amazing that Tiger Woods wasn't caught by the tail years ago. Often described as egotistical, childishly over-emotional and spoiled rotten as an unequaled paragon of his field for a decade, he may now perhaps be forced into thoughtful reflection while sleeping on Eliot Spitzer's couch. The Tiger must crawl away into a cave for a while, shedding endorsements and corporate sponsorships faster than Kobe Bryant, and consider what life after the fall will be about. Best of luck, Tiger.

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Horns: There's not much new to Holyoke Police Chief Anthony Scott's incessant complaining about the judiciary in Massachusetts, but that doesn't make it any easier to take. Scott, who has endeared himself to some in the local media for being quick to take his brand of reactionary politics on-air at the drop of a dime, has persuaded State Sen. Michael Knapik to file legislation to institute a modified system of electing judges—so we can get the same quality of hack on the bench that we get for the most part on Beacon Hill. Stick to police work, Chiefy. You and Knapik will find plenty of criminals to chase where you're going.

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A halo and a fond farewell to the late Ted Kennedy, a noble warrior on behalf of working people.

Comments (75)
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Clear words and honest position for a better Massachusetts. go on with good work and be proud for taking position. My best wishes for a sucessfull 2010.
Posted by SEO-Sys on 12.30.09 at 6:18
"...tell your big-money pimps to fuck off." Stay classy, Advocate. Also, no serious person believes that "Cash for Clunkers" was phenomenally, profoundly, or just marginally effective for either saving GM or the environment.
Posted by Glenn Beck on 12.30.09 at 6:55
Well, I agree with 98% of this. There is a reason I moved to the valley and it's good to know many of us share the same mind set. Community, fairness, tolerance and peace
Posted by Glenith on 12.30.09 at 11:32
More liberal garbage spit forth from Advocate "journalists". Chief Scott has done a great job considering that he has to contend with whimp judges. Northampton Committee To Stop War?? Wake up Lib's...people are trying to kill us just for being alive, whether we support war or not! What a joke. And Glenn Beck at least has the courage to speak the truth, not spin it into witless crap as the writers of the Advocate do. This paper use to be ok...unfortunately, it is now comprised of liberal infants who don't have a clue about the real world (thanks to our great liberal professors) unless it involves handouts, "gimme gimmies" and putting down people of character and strength. You are weak.
Posted by Michael on 12.31.09 at 4:28
i dont wish to place myself in the incredibly tired debate of liberal vs. conservative. But i must comment on Michael's post. I can understand why you would be pissed about some of the stuff the advocate wrote about, but do you really think that Glenn Beck doesn't SPIN his news??!?!? HAHAH, wow. Talk about naive....the guy is a fake! At least follow a conservative that is real about what he or she says.
Posted by Kevbo on 12.31.09 at 10:13
Hmmmm.....just purgatory for Sarah Palin just on the merits of her own personal pro-choice decision (I believe her teenage daughter and the hockey player made their own choice there.) And because she "walks her talk"? How about her "talk" about the simple frugal hockeymom life she leads, the Washington money she turns down (she sucked money from Washington to Alaska better than a Hoover upright!) Nevermind the "Bridge to Nowhere" debacle she got caught in & turned about-face), the $700 a night hotels & travel she charged to Alaska (and then doctored the books to make dragging her brood with her look legit). Or how about the transparency of her kind of government, like her "open" bidding process for the Natural Gas pipeline, or using a Yahoo account to keep her emails out of public access laws. How about her post-gubernatorial (probably to stop the numerous ethics probes for a while) GOP sideline sniping at every Democratic move---and downright LIES she spread about death panels & more, to scare seniors & others away from a civil debate for answers to this country's healthcare crisis. She might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she's got the sharpest horns, as far as I'm concerned. And I find it interesting that you have her listed next to the horns of the oil industry. Because I guarantee you, if she gets anywhere near the highest office of the land, she'll be smilin' pretty, cheerleading her best for Exxon Mobil, Cheney & anybody else with a dirty dollar to hand her.
Posted by Ellen DeBruyn on 1.6.10 at 6:12
Oops! I guess it's purgatory for me. Obviously, Sarah's personal "pro-life" choice (which, given her religious views, isn't much of a choice) and not "pro-choice" choice kept her from the flames. Happy New Year Y'all
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So right about Lady Ga Ga (I mean, has her "love of Grace Jones" sold any Grace albums? I think not--let's push the new Annie album instead), and EVERYONE...YOU REALLY SHOULD SEE DANIEL OUELLETTE LIVE IN 2010. Make it your resolution if you haven't one already, or add a second resolution if you have to!!!!
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i dont wish to place myself in the incredibly tired debate of liberal vs. conservative. But i must comment on Michael's post. I can understand why you would be pissed about some of the stuff the advocate wrote about, but do you really think that Glenn Beck doesn't SPIN his news??!?!? HAHAH, wow. Talk about naive....the guy is a fake! At least follow a conservative that is real about what he or she says.

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How the hell could you give a halo to that serial tree killer Eric Suher? The man's an arrogant criminal.

Posted by daLid on 1.17.11 at 4:27

I guess it's purgatory for me. Obviously, Sarah's personal "pro-life" choice (which, given her religious views, isn't much of a choice) and not "pro-choice" choice kept her from the flames.

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Halos: Working on the side of the angels with scared pregnant young women and new mothers in prison are the staff of the Prison Birth Project, operating at the Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee. (Factoid: 5 percent of females entering prison are pregnant.) A halo to these women who help their clients get the prenatal care, education, counseling and support they need.

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Parasiewicz, who has worked as a researcher at Cornell and UMass and even assisted with the Index Streamflow Report for the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission, could not make the hearing but submitted written testimony in advance. But it was not considered because, the state said, his information would deal with pollutants in the water rather than the drawdown per se. Yet Parasiewicz' filing did deal with water volumes, claiming, among other things, that 30 percent of water in the river in August's low flow period is already drawn down by other industries. And environmental attorney Margaret Sheehan said the state law governing water withdrawal permits mandates that water quality and the ability of a river with diminished flow to absorb pollutants be considered.

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How about her post-gubernatorial (probably to stop the numerous ethics probes for a while) GOP sideline sniping at every Democratic move---and downright LIES she spread about death panels & more, to scare seniors & others away from a civil debate for answers to this country's healthcare crisis. She might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she's got the sharpest horns, as far as I'm concerned. And I find it interesting that you have her listed next to the horns of the oil industry. Because I guarantee you, if she gets anywhere near the highest office of the land, she'll be smilin' pretty, cheerleading her best for Exxon Mobil, Cheney & anybody else with a dirty dollar to hand her.

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