Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rhode Island Treasurer Caprio Woos Massachusetts Shoppers

Greetings from the state of Rhode Island! Since I've spent the past few days camped out at my mother's house, I've been watching our local news. Amid the stories of the latest record-setting blood alcohol content (kudos for not dying, dude!) is this interesting item.

Rumored gubernatorial hopeful and current Rhode Island State Treasurer Frank Caprio has installed billboards near the border of Massachusetts telling Bay Staters to spend, spend, spend on clothes in the Ocean State, since there is no sales tax on clothing here. He's even spent some of his campaign funds to create a website, which features a video of the too-tan Caprio giving potential out-of-state visitors the hard sell.

But Caprio is really reaching with this. Massachusetts doesn't have a sales tax on clothes for the first $175. After that, the Bay State only taxes on the amount over $175. So if you spend $300 on some astoundingly expensive specialty item, you pay only $6.25 in tax. Unless you live in Attleboro or drive a hybrid, you'll spend more on gas to get here than you'd save.

Also: Why aren't Rhode Islanders really angry that their treasurer is using this opportunity to raise some extra money to better his political career? Rhode Island is facing a budget deficit of at least $357 million in FY2009, and perhaps as much as $486 million for FY2010. Legislators on Smith Hill are preaching the same breathless rhetoric about needing new revenue as their cohorts on Beacon Hill. Why not start taxing luxury items in the Ocean State to make a few extra bucks instead of cutting services for those who can't afford a mink coat?

Caprio will argue that Rhode Island will collect the various meal and lodging taxes from shoppers who come to enjoy a break from the tyranny of Taxachusetts. But maybe he should stop playing governor and start acting like a treasurer. Most Rhode Island voters will be happy to watch the state get some revenue from those who aren't as white-knuckled as they are during this economic meltdown.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ethics, Schmetics

In an attempt to wipe the tarnish off its reputation, the Legislature has several competing plans to improve the ethical behavior of its members. Some ideas, like six-year term limits for the position of House Speaker, seem wise. Others, like ethics training every two years, are a complete waste of time.

(Can't you just imagine the retro film strip now? It will be titled "Ethics and you!" And just like the classrooms of yore, nobody would care.)

But none of the plans seem to address the major issue that's kept people like House Majority Leader John Rogers in place, even in the face of serious allegations.

There's no one agency or person who's responsible for investigating and prosecuting all the ethical violators on Beacon Hill.

Secretary of State Bill Galvin keeps track of the lobbyists, but does not have the power to compel them to talk. That's the responsibility of the Attorney General. Martha Coakley has asked a grand jury to look into the dealings of Cognos "strategist" and friend of Sal DiMasi, Richard Vitale. Galvin has also asked her to investigate the work Joe Lally did for the software giant.

For campaign finance violations, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance investigates and refers any criminal activity to the Attorney General. The FBI apparently keeps tabs on those who would use their position to help secure a liquor license. All this inter-agency volleying seems like it would lead to a lot of dropped balls. Perhaps we need one agency to keep tabs on all the players on Beacon Hill, be they lobbyists, friends of politicians with business before the Legislature, or just a good old-fashioned crooked salon?

I'm sure Gov. Deval Patrick's 12-member ethics task force will figure it out at one of their closed-door meetings.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Derjue-Turner Disadvantage

For single people in their twenties, Thanksgiving Eve is the time when they go out to their local townie bar with the few people they've remained in touch with during high school and get drunk. The thought occurred to me last night as I was emailing my former colleague, Joe Keohane, last night.

I was sitting in my Mom's house on Thanksgiving Eve, alone. Stone-cold sober. The people I still talk to from high school were out of town, and I feared to brave the dive bar alone. The only person lamer than me was Keohane, who was emailing while on vacation.

"Do a post about who's worse off, you or Chuck [Turner]," Keohane suggested. Hmm. The embattled Boston City Councilor and I both had a pretty tough week. It seems like a worthwhile experiment as I rest my stomach between Thanksgiving meals.

  • Chuck Turner has the FBI meddling in his affairs.
  • I had to deal with the less than cheerful staff at the Unemployment Insurance TeleClaim Center. Did everyone get laid off two days before the holiday? Because I was on the phone for an hour.
Disadvantage: Turner

  • Chuck Turner spent the day before Thanksgiving handing out meals at a Goodwill in Roxbury with City Council President Maureen Feeney, who's looking to oust him. Awkward.
  • I spent my day before Thanksgiving explaining to a classmate from high school that I'd just lost my job. At least Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen were bringing sexy to Goodwill.

Disadvantage: Derjue

Disadvantage: Turner

Disadvantage: Turner

  • Chuck Turner still has a job.
  • Me? Not so much. (Email's on the sidebar!)

Disadvantage: Derjue

So there we have it. In a squeaker, Chuck Turner has had a worse week than I have. While I may not have an income for the time being, at least I didn't have to pony up a $50,000 bond. Just another thing to be grateful for on this day of thanks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks. Yes, Really.

Well. That happened.

I'd like to thank everyone for the kind emails, calls, text messages, and riotous comments left on Boston Daily. I haven't responded to everyone yet, but know that I really appreciate it.

And yes, I'm fine. Really. That's not to say this doesn't suck mightily, nor that I'm not really disappointed. But I can't be angry with my colleagues over at BoMag. They took a big gamble in giving a girl with a writing degree and a Blogger account a job with a major city magazine. That kind of thing usually only happens in movies or chick lit novels. I think it worked out better than they thought it would. As I've been writing for the past year and a half, the media business is horrible right now, and I'm the one they chose to let go. That's baseball.

It's funny how losing a job is like a breakup. I'm in Rhode Island for the holiday, and I went out to get some last-minute Thanksgiving fixings by myself. I must have heard that Leona Lewis song that says "It'll all get better with time" about four times. And it will.

I also heard the song "Amy." You know, the one with the chorus that says "Amy, what you wanna do?" That one, I'm not so sure about. I'm thinking about it, obviously. I'd love to keep writing and snarking for my pay, for sure.

But I can't freak out over how that will happen this weekend. I'm going to drown my unemployment sorrows in turkey and wine, enjoy the one holiday I'll have with my paternal grandparents this season, and start making some calls on Monday.

But, since this is Thanksgiving, let's run down the list of things I'm thankful for. Obviously, the first item from last year's list will be a little different.

  • I'm thankful that Boston gave me the opportunity to work for them.
  • I'm thankful for the nice blogging on the part of Adams Gaffin and Reilly, and Paul Flannery.
  • I'm thankful for all the great people I met while I worked at BoMag.
  • I'm thankful for my excellent friends and family who have offered me their couches, their booze, and their efforts to get me a new gig ASAP.
  • I'm thankful for the family I babysit for, who've already offered me my a room if I need it. And it's a bigger room than the last time they housed my broke ass!
  • I'm thankful that I'm healthy.
  • I'm thankful the election worked out the way I wanted it to.
  • I'm thankful as always to my vices of coffee and alcohol.
  • I'm thankful that Tina Fey is working.
  • I'm thankful that I finally found a pair of skinny jeans that doesn't make my butt look weird. Now I can wear boots AND pants at the same time!
  • I'm thankful for Facebook. Seriously, I have a problem.
  • I'm thankful in advance for the person who gives me my next job.

Until I get a new gig, you'll find me back here, at long-neglected pasquinade. It's all the snark you loved (or hated) at Boston Daily, but with more first-person profanity and interaction in the comments. Hopefully I'll spruce this place up a little bit in the coming days. And if you'd like to feed me, buy me some booze, or give me a job (hey, it's either shameless self-promotion or the bread lines), hit me up at the email in the sidebar.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More NewsQuiz Goodness

I need a haircut. But they still let me on the TV!

Round two:

And the final question:

Stranded in Singleville

I've recently become sick of being single. Usually, I can deal with it, especially when I watch couples who clearly hate each other bicker on the street. I have been that couple; I do not wish to do it again. But lately, the couples who are all schmoopy and hold hands and do things together in Red Sox hats on Sunday afternoons are resonating with me.

So, I've been trying to put myself out there. I'm casually seeing someone, but I'm not sure if it will work, so I'm trying to make an effort to be open to new people. I'm smiling back at men on the train. And last night, I decided to chat up a dude who'd been ogling me at the bar.

He was cute—maybe in his late 30s, with glasses and a touch of gray in his hair. Things started out well enough. He was asked about what I do, talked about his job in marketing, and chatted a little with my friends.

Then, the ass-grabbing began. And apparently, when I left to hit the ladies, he described himself as "a prick" to my friends. He used the fishing dance move only semi-ironically. He was bombed. The situation was fast deteriorating, so I started to ignore him.

"You're mad," he said, his breath reeking of gin. "You're ignoring me."

Um, yes. I am ignoring you. Which I might not have done had you not fondled my butt two seconds after we started talking. I might have given you the benefit if you didn't advertise your douchebagginess to my friends, then backed up your claim by not once offering to buy any of us a drink. And I was 100 percent confident in my choice when I looked back and saw you feeling up yet another girl once you caught the hint that I was not going to go home with you.

"There are a lot of jerks out there," my mother told me this afternoon. And my ass is apparently their catnip.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Recollections of Election Night

I didn't get to experience CNN calling the election for Barack Obama first-hand. Some friends and I had just left the Sonia Chang-Diaz celebration at the Alchemist Lounge (read the work blog here) to head to the MassEquality party at Club Cafe. We were fervently hailing a cab on South Huntington when a huge, boisterous cheer went up inside the bar.

Just then, a cab pulled up. As we piled in, we heard the muted voices of NPR, and asked our driver if Obama had won.

"Yes," he said. My friends cheered, and our Ethiopian cabbie joined in.

More...As we sped through the South End, the NPR broadcast continued, with several cheers audible from the studio. As one of my friends, who volunteered for Obama during the primaries, called her parents and cried happily, I thought about what we'd just experienced.

When I was a kid, I was told that anyone could become president, even a person of color or a woman. But it always seemed remote and impossible, like hovercrafts or the idea most people would one day own cellular phones.

Last night, I saw a man be elected not because of the color of his skin, but in spite of it. There was plenty of ugly race baiting throughout this nearly two-year campaign, but most Americans didn't fall for it. Instead, they voted because they think this awkward-looking guy will be the one to pull the country out of its many problems.

I've never experienced the mind-blowing elation that many Obama supporters exhibit, largely because I'm the hard-hearted cynical type that the president-elect railed against in his speech last night. But I hope that he can make good on the promises he's made to help the little people and make the presidency something other than the world's punchline.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Civic Doodie

Everyone from Brian Williams to your Mom has told you to get out and vote. If you'd indulge me for a moment, I'd like to add my voice to the chorus. Vote. I don't care what or whom you vote for, as long as it's not yes on Question 1. Because that shit is crazy.

Now if you need me, I'm going to finish watching SNL's pre-election show, go to bed, and crawl into a bottle of tequila until we've got a new president. But, hey, free coffee!