Brooks Lyman

Oct 112014

Recent letters in The Groton Line and elsewhere have resurrected the idea of turning the Prescott School into a Community Center. This is a wonderful idea, except that I very much suspect that it won’t work very well. The problems ultimately come down to money (lots of it), the source of such funding and the will of the people of Groton to come up with the money, whether through a bond and tax increase or some sort of voluntary fund raising. The reason for all that money is, of course, to make the building meet current building codes for safety and handicap access, not to mention any changes to the interior to meet the desired requirements of a Community Center.

A better choice would probably be to share the use (after hours) of one of the current Groton-Dunstable Regional School District buildings. Unfortunately, there are various problems here, relating to security, additional cost of operating the building after hours and an apparent lack of interest on the part of G-DRSD in broad-based use of school buildings by Town groups.

Regarding other uses for Prescott, I am given to understand that G-DRSD is using pretty much the entire building for their administrative offices and records storage. Apparently the law requires that any scrap of paper relating to a student must be saved forever, not to mention the other records (business, etc.) of the school district. I once heard through the grapevine that one of the reasons for G-DRSD moving their offices from Tarbell to Prescott was that they needed more storage space for their records…. This raises the question of whether it is realistic to expect the G-DRSD admin offices to coexist in Prescott with Mr. Yenchenk’s business plans for any length of time.

Moving G-DRSD admin offices to various currently unused classrooms in different schools will work – clumsily – until the school enrollment increases and they need their classroom space again. So, retaining Prescott as the G-DRSD Administrative center makes a certain amount of sense. An alternative approach might be for G-DRSD to build an inexpensive (modern steel buildings are serviceable and energy-efficient) admin building somewhere on their property. Somehow, though, I can see them spending many millions of dollars to build a palace of an admin building (and there’s probably some state or federal law that requires them to do so).

No easy answers for Prescott School – Town Meeting is going to be interesting….

Sincerely yours,

Brooks Lyman

Jul 102014

Dear Editor,

I was surprised — and very pleased — to read the letter to the editor by Hugh and Marion Stoddart in The Groton Line and The Groton Herald. It shows a degree of common sense rare in environmental activists when it comes to nuclear power.

Nuclear reactors, when properly designed (Chernobyl was an example of poor — indeed, negligent — design) and sited (Fukushima was an example of very poor siting), are quite safe — even if they melt down like Three Mile Island. Newer designs — a South African design shows promise, as do several others — are much less likely to have problems than older designs. Given that the nuclear power industry is, compared to fossil fuel power plants, really quite young, such progress is not surprising.

Unfortunately, the “nuclear is evil” crowd has more influence than it really ought to and has stifled progress in this area for decades. We need to find (or allow the use of) a temporary (which might be a hundred years or so) storage solution for nuclear wastes until we have a way to recycle them, and we also need to reconsider power plants using Thorium instead of Uranium (one of the advantages of Thorium fuel is that it’s more difficult to extract weapons-grade material from a Thorium reactor.

Building a safe nuclear power plant is a fairly complex undertaking, and even without the current artificial (legal and legislative) barriers to building new nuclear power plants, it is a multiyear process, so it’s not a solution for next year or the year after. Leaving aside the obvious advantage of zero emissions, the other advantage of nuclear power plants, shared with fossil fuel power plants, is that they are compact compared with the amount of power they generate and can run continuously. Solar and wind, on the other hand, take up large land areas, are only usable when the sun shines or the wind blows, may not be cost effective from a capital investment vs power output standpoint, and, in the case of wind power, may have undesirable environmental effects: bird kills and noise among them.

All this said, I don’t expect that a revival of nuclear power will reduce the cost of electricity. It will, however, provide an ongoing reliable source of power and will probably help to keep the cost of electricity more or less stable. Relying on natural gas (backed up by oil — I won’t mention coal) to generate electricity obviously requires a sufficient supply of natural gas, and we apparently have enough gas supply to provide for home heating or electric generation during the winter in New England …. but not both. Since most of us who heat with gas cannot afford to convert to electric heat (!), we would prefer to maintain the current gas supply for residential heating. Increasing the gas supply would be nice, if the necessary pipelines were routed along existing utility or highway corridors (but not through backyards and conservation lands). Increasing our dependence on nuclear power would eliminate or minimize the need for extra gas supply. Thus the Stoddarts’ idea makes a lot of sense. Sadly, I don’t expect that many in the environmentalist community will follow where they are leading.

Sincerely yours,
Brooks Luman

Jun 182014

Dear Editor,

I have to say that Selectman Petropoulos is correct: holding a Special Town Meeting to discuss and vote on a nonbinding resolution in opposition to the proposed (Northeast Energy Direct) gas pipeline is a waste of town money. In addition, the fact that the majority of the Board of Selectmen voted to hold the STM without being properly petitioned to do so by the voters suggests a certain partisanship on the part of those BOS members. No doubt, the opponents of the pipeline could have obtained the necessary signatures, but there are rules in our government. It’s bad enough that the President of the United States honors those laws in their breach; let’s not start doing it in Groton ….

I am sure that those people who heat with oil and have plenty of money to pay for higher-cost electricity feel free to oppose an increase in natural gas supplies to this part of the country. The arguments in favor of increased natural gas supplies to northern New England are compelling: Alternative energy sources are (and will remain) insufficient to meet our future needs; we have decided that coal is overly polluting or causes global warming (What global warming, given stable global temperature for the last 15+ years?) and nuclear power is, as everyone knows, just plain evil. That leaves us with natural gas, which the nation now has plenty of for the next century or more. Until the scientists figure out a non-evil nuclear power source, the alternative for serious electric generation capacity (not to mention home heating) is either oil (which we also now have plenty of, but it’s also evil — that old devil global warming again) or natural gas, which is evil, but not so much as oil or — gasp! — coal.

The problem of course, is that we are here and the gas is over there — Pennsylvania and Western New York — so we need pipelines to bring it to us. Are there dangers from gas pipelines? Sure. There are also dangers from trucks and trains carrying oil products, as recent incidents have shown. Life is sometimes a gamble. But seriously, gas pipelines are generally safe, and I would have no particular problems with one running through my property (though not literally in my backyard, thank you very much).

Pace the environmentalist types, the best place to run a gas pipeline would be through uninhabited parts of town — such as our large holdings of conservation land, unused land behind the G-DR High School, etc. The worst place to run a gas pipeline would be a hundred feet behind someone’s house. Obviously, if the pipeline is built, there are going to be some unhappy people. Sorry about that, but we should try to get the best deal for everyone if the pipeline comes through. Here are some thoughts:

The pipeline company should be required to lease their right of way, not pay property owners a (usually insufficient) one-time fee for an easement. The easement should be as narrow as possible. Compressor stations should be quiet, and should be located well away from dwellings. Some comments on that: in the wee hours of the night, from my house on Townsend Road, I can hear big trucks on route 119, which is on the other side of the Throne a mile or more away. I know that silencing technology exists to make compressor and generator facilities amazingly quiet. The movie industry uses many large diesel generators in proximity to filming sites, and you can literally stand next to these semi-trailer-sized generators and not hear them operating.

In short, I do support a carefully laid out and installed pipeline, and I hope that people will defeat the article on this STM warrant.

Sincerely yours,

Brooks Lyman

May 272014

Dear Editor,

A few days ago in Commonwealth Magazine’s “Daily Download,” Gabrielle Gurley wrote an article titled “Martha Coakley and the “inevitability thing.” Below is the second paragraph from this article. I believe it speaks for itself:

Coakley’s most recent campaign finance misstep was eminently avoidable. However, the failure of the state’s chief law enforcement official to provide timely reimbursement of campaign travel expenses to state coffers makes her an easy target for Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates alike.

Since when (and why) do incumbents get to use the resources of the Commonwealth for political purposes? See paragraph 2 below. This is basically a no-interest loan to the incumbent’s campaign from the government — an advantage that a challenger does not enjoy. NO incumbent (or bureaucrat running for elective office) should have this advantage, whether they are dogcatcher or President, and no matter what party they belong to.. It only becomes worse (as in the case of Martha Coakley) when they fail to pay back the “loan.”

We hear talk about Obama’s presidency being the most transparent administration ever. Well, I guess that we can all take a joke now and then. That this opacity and dishonesty seems to have spread through all levels of the once-noble Democratic Party is not a good sign. To those who point out the sins of Republicans, I can only say that yes, they are fallen humans just like we all are. It’s just that the Democrats seem to have brought these sort of sins to the level of a practiced art form while Republicans just bumble along committing the occasional bit of corruption.

Apr 292014

The Groton Board of Selectmen had the Tarbell School Purchase and Sale listed as an agenda item for its 6:30 p.m. pre-Town Meeting Monday board meeting. According to several selectmen, Michael Rasumssen, the principle partner in the group seeking to purchase the Tarbell building, was unable to attend the board meeting on April 28, so the discussion has been postponed to the first BoS meeting after Town Meeting concludes, tentatively scheduled for May 12. — Ed.

Dear Editor,

Recent articles in the papers on the Prescott School sale refer to Robin Kane as the primary person involved in the current Purchase and Sale agreement outstanding on Tarbell School. My understanding, based on various sources of information, is that the proposal to purchase the Tarbell School came from a partnership put together to support Robin Kane’s Country Kids daycare center in its move to Tarbell School. Apparently, Robin is the junior partner. The intention was to renovate Tarbell to the (exceedingly high) building code standards for a school or daycare center, with Country Kids being the primary tenant in the building.

Unfortunately, Robin’s lease with Rivercourt, where Country Kids was then located, expired. Rivercourt wanted to use the space for expansion, so they said that Robin could stay on as a tenant-at-will with a 50% rent increase – talk about sending a message! Nice people…. Robin couldn’t afford to stay at Rivercourt, Tarbell was a year away from being ready to move Country Kids into, and if she shut down a daycare center with 70 children and more than 20 staff members for a year, it would be very difficult to start up again…. Fortunately, with the help of the Selectmen, she was able to find new quarters in the former Anytime Fitness building at Mill Run Plaza.

By this time, the senior partners had spent some serious money in architectural and engineering studies for the renovation of Tarbell. It should be mentioned, that while the building code requirements made the project expensive by most people’s standards – fire sprinkler system, etc. – the partners were prepared to invest over $750K in the project. To put this into perspective, we are told that Gregg Yanchenko expects to invest $1.7 million to renovate the Prescott School. The reason for Tarbell’s current state of limbo has nothing to do with the cost of the planned renovations and everything to do with Rivercourt’s actions, since finding another tenant like Country Kids is extremely unlikely.

As I understand it, Robin Kane no longer has any interest in Tarbell, but her senior partners would like to recoup their architectural fee investment, by completing the purchase of Tarbell from the Town and then selling it to some other party – “flipping” it, in the somewhat derogatory term that Selectman Peter Cunningham used. And while it may be the Selectmen’s legal option to rescind the P&S agreement, to suggest, as one of the Selectmen did, that the partners might “amicably” agree to this is akin to the tasteless and insulting “advice” to relax and enjoy being raped. More to the point would be to hope that the partners would be willing to eat many thousands of dollars of architect’s fees without resorting to suing the Town for breach of contract. Or perhaps the Town could purchase the architectural studies from the partners at cost…

Sincerely yours,
Brooks Lyman

Jun 122013

If you want higher taxes, more government intrusion into your life, more gun control laws that don”t stop crime but disarm the honest citizen, then vote for Ed Markey for US Senator on June 25. Congressman Markey purports to represent the people of Massachusetts, but he apparently doesn”t live in this state. He seems to be out of touch as well as out of state. Is this the man we want for our second US Senator? Ed Markey has served the Democratic Party and the United States government well for 37 years. He has served the people of Massachusetts somewhat less well.

I think it”s time for Ed Markey to retire. I hope you”ll join me in voting for Gabriel Gomez, who is all the things that Ed Markey isn”t: committed to tax and spending cuts, smaller government and sensible laws on gun control and other critical issues. He”s also a full-time resident of Massachusetts. Gabriel Gomez for US Senator!

Sincerely yours,

Brooks Lyman

May 062013

Dear Editor,

Steve Bocsenowski makes a good case for ecumenicalism in his Letter To The Editor. Unfortunately, he falls into the usual liberal trap: Islam, unlike the other major religions of the world, is not a “religion of peace” in the same sense that other religions are “religions of peace.” Take, for example, Christianity: The gospels and other scriptures preach peace and love for one”s fellow man, even one”s enemy. Christians, on the other hand, being fallen human beings, have committed many acts of violence, sometimes even in the name of Christianity. That some Christians are violent and intolerant is in spite of Christ”s teachings, not because of them.

Islam, on the other hand, contains in its holy scriptures –- the teachings of God brought to us through Muhammad – exhortations to violence, conquest and intolerance toward non-Muslims. Love and charity towards one”s fellows is, in Islam, reserved to fellow Muslims. Most Muslims are peaceful and tolerant toward all of their fellow human beings, but they are that way in spite of Islam, not because of it. This is a very great and important difference, and it makes it easy for radical Islamists to simply point to the Koran and the Hadith and say – correctly – that God”s holy word supports intolerance and violent Jihad.

I say the above not to be intolerant of Islam, but to be intolerant -– and wary -– of some Muslims who would take their holy scriptures literally when they should be taken allegorically and spiritually. If we do not recognize the problem posed by an un-reformed Islam, then we are doomed to repeat Boston –- and 9/11 -– over and over again.

As a side note, there is a lot of scholarly evidence -– mostly from Western scholars; unfortunately Islam isn”t tolerant enough or strong enough for introspection, unlike Christianity and Judaism – which suggests strongly that 1) Muhammad may not have existed, at least as the Prophet of Islam that the Koran, Hadith and Ibn Ishaq”s original biography claim him to be and that 2) Islam was devised sometime in the 8th and 9th centuries as a political religion to hold together the huge Arab empire.

Apparently, there is no evidence from contemporary historical records of either Arabs or the people they conquered, that the Arabs were motivated by a new religion called Islam. Indeed, what references to religion the Arabs of the late 7th century left suggests that they might have been pagans or Christians.

There is a very good survey of the scholarly literature by Robert Spencer titled Did Muhammad Exist? I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to get a better understanding of Islam”s beginnings. To summarize (and skip a lot of interesting material), whatever the motivations for the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries, in the 8th and 9th centuries the Caliphs found themselves with this huge empire stretching from Spain to India that had no unifying factor other than Arab armies. The Romans (the Byzantine Empire) were Christians; the Persians were Zoroastrians and the Indians were Buddhists and Hindus. The Arab caliphs apparently felt that they needed an official state religion to bind their empire together, so they cobbled one up, apparently (from lexicographic clues in the Koran) from Syriac Christian documents, along with a Prophet: Muhammad. Ibn Ishaq didn”t write the biography of Muhammad until over 100 years after the date of Muhammad”s death, and much of the material in the Hadith (the traditions of Muhammad) is admitted, even by Muslim scholars, to have been composed long after Muhammad”s death, and often for various competing political purposes.

The history from the Jewish and Christian scriptures that is included in the Koran, while said by Muslims to be the true version brought down from God to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel, is more likely to be a distorted version of the Old and New Testament stories, which have a far better provenance.

None of the above is to deny the existence of Islam, and while there is wisdom in the Koran, there is also a level of chauvinism and intolerance that is (as we are discovering to our sorrow) dangerous to our Western civilization. I don”t have a solution to this problem, except perhaps a form of limited isolationism, which might include such things as energy independence and perhaps some limits (or bans) on Muslim immigration. And, to paraphrase one of the founders, that eternal vigilance which is the price of liberty….

Sincerely yours,

Brooks Lyman

Apr 292013

First, check out this article, and then, here are my personal opinions:

1) Both Democrats are a disaster, both from a Second Amendment point of view and any other point of view. The only upside I can see in Lynch or Markey is that with a Democrat in the White House, they might be able to wangle some favors for Massachusetts. The cost of those few favors might come out of our freedom and our wallets…. Of course, if you like big, statist government, then vote for the Democrat.

2) That having been said, any of the Republican candidates would be better than either Democrat. However….

3) Gabriel Gomez has irretrievably stained himself with his comments to Governor Patrick when he asked Patrick to appoint him to replace Kerry, where he stated his support for President Obama and the President’s gun control initiatives.

4) Dan Winslow is better than Gomez or the Democrats on the Second Amendment and everything else. Just not, to my way of thinking, good enough. Winslow seems a bit too eager to compromise at the edges. We all know that compromise may be necessary, but we shouldn’t start off that way. Winslow currently has an A+ rating with Gun Owners Action League.

5) Mike Sullivan talks a good line. What makes me nervous about Sullivan is that he was for three years head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), the federal agency that regulates the firearms trade and enforces the federal gun laws. The problem is, that BATFE has never been particularly friendly toward the Second Amendment. That doesn’t mean that individuals within BATFE are necessarily hostile to gun rights, and Sullivan does seem to be more pro-Second Amendment than the other candidates. He also has held an A+ rating from Gun Owners Action League.

6) On other issues, I would say that it’s a toss-up between Sullivan and Winslow. Let’s face it, folks, this is Massachusetts, the home of the RINO (Republican In Name Only) and I am not going to put much faith in anything other than performance once elected. We all know that campaign rhetoric is as ephemeral and useful as the morning dew.

7) Personally, I think that Mike Sullivan is the best all-around choice of the three Republican Candidates. I would rank Winslow next and Gomez last.

Brooks Lyman

Mar 272013

The GHA is the primary provider of low-income and affordable rental housing in Groton. We are a state-chartered agency managed by a locally-elected volunteer five-member Board of Commissioners and a paid Executive Director. The GHA currently has 20 elderly apartments and five family units at Petapawag Place (across from First Parish Church). We also have 12 other family units in various locations throughout Groton, including nine units on Sandy Pond Road (near Shaw’s Supermarket). In addition, we are currently working to develop a property on Nashua Road to provide at least six more affordable family units.

The GHA Board meets monthly at 7:00 p.m. on the 2nd Wednesday of the month; meetings are held in the GHA offices at Petapawag Place. Board members are elected for as 5-year term. One of our current Board members has found that his other business and family obligations have made it impossible to continue as a Board member, and is therefore not running for re-election this spring. Unfortunately, this was not brought to our attention until too late for any candidates to get on the ballot. Therefore we are looking for write-in candidates.

If you are interested and would like more information about the GHA, please call our Executive Director, Lisa Larrabee, at 978-448-3962. Regarding write-in voting, the most important things are to get the candidate’s name written legibly (spelled correctly is nice, too) on the ballot, and to remember to mark the ballot after writing the candidate’s name in.

Technically, you are supposed to include the candidate’s address, but if the name is legible, the address is unnecessary. If you are running a write-in campaign, it’s always a good idea to let the Town Clerk (978-448-1100) know before the election so that ballot counters are made aware of your candidacy….

Sincerely yours.

Brooks Lyman
Groton Housing Authority

Feb 132013

Dear Editor,

When the Founders (mostly Thomas Jefferson) wrote the Declaration of Independence, they made two statements:

  • The basic principles of existence for a free people, and
  • A list of grievances against the British Government for attempting to abrogate those principles, which they expressed in very economical language: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness… ”

They went on to speak of free men establishing their government, and the right of the people to alter or abolish their government if it became destructive of the original purposes. In reading the writings of the Fathers, it becomes rapidly apparent they had no qualms about using force of arms to do the altering and abolishing, if more peaceful means failed. As we know, they had to fight in order to attain their freedom from England….

After the failed experiment of the Articles of Confederation, the founders wrote the Constitution that we live under today, and they were almost immediately moved to amend that Constitution with the first ten amendments that we know as “The Bill of Rights.” It is hard to say –- and scholars and pundits all have their differing opinions -– which of the Amendments is most important: the First Amendment, securing freedom of (political) speech and freedom of religion, and the Second Amendment, guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms, are probably in the top of the list. It has been said, that the Second Amendment protects all the others.

It needs to be said, that these rights are not granted by the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights merely acknowledges pre-existing rights of human beings – most granted by God, some based on long-held traditions of English Common Law. Consider the Second Amendment: it guarantees that the citizens may be armed. Why? Certainly not for hunting or skeet shooting. The Declaration states that we have God-given rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. What good are these rights if we are not in a position to defend them against those who would take them away from us?

The very proposition of a right to Life implies a right –- even a duty ­-– to defend that life, and thus the right to possess weapons for that purpose. The right to Liberty carries with it a duty to defend that liberty from those who would usurp it. Ultimately, this could mean armed rebellion. At the least, it means an armed populace that will give pause to any overly ambitious politicians or bureaucrats.

The faint of heart, Tom Paine”s “Summer Soldiers, and Sunshine Patriots,” those who trust in the police to protect them from harm –- something that the police are neither able nor required to do (there have been court cases on this subject, where people unsuccessfully attempted to sue the police because of failure to respond in a timely fashion to a 911 call) – may cower down and lick the hand that feeds –- or beats –- them. That is their privilege as free human beings. What is not their privilege is to attempt to force their status and their mindset on the rest of us.

If you don”t like guns, or object to the “evil, scary” cosmetics of Modern Sporting Rifles­ –- so-called “assault weapons” ­–- nobody is forcing you to buy one. If you only want to own one or two guns, that is your personal, free choice. Please don”t try to force it on the rest of us. We don”t tell you what to speak and write or how to worship God; similarly, we don”t tell you how many or how few guns of what sort you may own. Please return the favor.

On practical matters, please note that:

  1. Mass murders like Newtown are actually quite rare, and a very small part of the total murders in this country.
  2. While the number of guns and gun-owners has been increasing, the crime rate (including gun crime) has been decreasing – do you suppose that there might be a connection between an armed population and lower crime rates?
  3. Have you noticed that almost all the mass murders have been committed by political liberals/leftists who are either insane or on some drug like Ritalin (or “off their meds”)?
  4. Have you noticed that what liberal/progressive gun-control proponents apparently consider to be the safest places – “Gun-Free Zones” such as schools, some shopping malls and theaters – seem to be the targets of these insane mass murderers (apparently, they are not so insane that they can”t figure out where they can most successfully get away with their crimes).

As the old saw goes, “when seconds count, the police will be there in minutes.” A former Groton Police Chief once told me that the typical Groton 911 response time was three to five minutes. For three to five minutes you are on your own, and while we don”t have much of a criminal element here in Groton, we are surrounded on all sides by cities that do have large criminal populations, most of whom can figure out how to drive to Groton….

Sincerely yours,

Brooks Lyman