In Which We Do Some Math In Ward 4.

It’s local election time, or as we at the Clam like to call it, “the time of the year we yearn to be eaten by coyotes.” We’ve noticed a few local city council races heating up, especially in Ward 4. So our guest poster today is Stephen Voltz, a lawyer and partner at Eepybird! He also wrote the book “How to Build a Hovercraft,” which is awesome because it teaches you how to build a goddamn hovercraft. Anyway, he had an interesting thought about Ward 4 candidate Kathryn Goodick. 

Last Friday evening I went to a small Coffee with the Candidate event for Kathryn Goodick at a friends’ house out on Wheeler’s Point.  I had been invited by the couple who was hosting it, both of whom I’ve known for some time, and both of whom I know to be smart, thoughtful and extremely nice people.

There was some cocktail party like conversation to begin, then we all sat down in the living room to listen to her speak for about 10 minutes or so on why she was running for city council.  The focus of her pitch was that taxes in town are too high, that the reason they’re too is that there’s so much waste and unnecessary spending in the city budget, and that the politicians who run the city won’t let the citizens see the budget in enough detail to meaningfully review it.

She opened her talk with a very effective story about how she became involved in local politics not long ago when she opened her property tax bill to discover that she’d been hit with a shocking 17% tax increase.

Her taxes were now so high she told us, that if she and her husband were to give their house to their children, her children still wouldn’t be able to live there because they wouldn’t be able to afford pay the real estate tax on the property.

She gave her pitch very effectively. I suspect she’s done it before and will be giving it again and again in living rooms all over Ward 4 until the election.

After she finished there was a Q & A session in which I asked a few questions primarily directed to asking her to talk about what plan she had, if any, for addressing the problems she raised. Because of another commitment I had that evening I had to leave before the Q & A was done.

After I left however, I did some fact checking into some of the things she had told us, and was disturbed by what I found. Saturday evening I sent her the email shown below.  She never responded.  On Monday evening I sent her another email asking for a response.

Radio silence.

I’m passing this all onto the Clam because it now looks to me as though Kathryn Goodick’s standard stump speech, the talk she’s likely giving in living rooms all over Ward 4 as she campaigns to be one of our next city councilors, is based on stories she simply fabricated. Her taxes haven’t gone up by 17%. Not recently, not ever.  At least not as far back as the 11 years easily available records go.Over the past 11 years she’s had an average annual tax increase of about 2-3%.And the story about her kids also appears to be less than plausible. And so does the claim that a regular citizen can’t get the details of the city budget. It’s very discouraging.

Initial Email, sent Saturday evening:

Hi Kathryn,

I was the tall bald fellow in the brown shirt who asked a few questions and had to leave your coffee early last night. Again, my apologies. I really wish I’d been able to stay.
I’ve been thinking about what you said last night though and some things are concerning me.
First, as I recall you told us that a normal person can’t get to see the city budget, and as a result none of us can really know how City Hall is spending our money. When I asked you what your plan was to address the financial concerns you were raising, you said that you didn’t have a specific plan because you hadn’t been able to see a detailed budget.


That made sense. But then when I looked online this morning, I found this.
Gloucester Massachusetts Budget FY 2016
There’s 142 pages of budget detail here. That seems like more than enough to outline a fiscal plan for the city.
I feel a little misled. You also told us that the reason you started to become involved in city politics was because you had had opened an envelope not too long ago to find a 17% spike in your property taxes. You said that your taxes are now so high that even if you gave your house to your children now they wouldn’t be able to live there because they wouldn’t be able to afford the taxes

That’s a really compelling story. But it’s hard to fit with the numbers I’m finding today. And maybe I’m missing something, if so, please let me know. According to the city’s records, in 2006 the real estate taxes for your home at 10 Dogtown Road were $4,852. Eleven years later, in 2015, they had risen to $6,347. That’s a nominal 2.8% annual rate, and in line with Proposition 2½. And it’s pretty much what every homeowner in the state gets hit with every year.

The biggest spike I see for your property was from 2014 to 2015 when all our taxes got the big water and sewer bill shift. But even that year your taxes only went up from $5,843 to $6,347. More than usual, but still, a one time increase of just 8.63%. The 17% spike you told us about last night would be twice that. Am I missing something?
And of course when we all got hit by that 8-9% spike we all knew what it was from. It wasn’t sudden overspending by the city, it was just the shift of the cost of the water/sewer debt the city has from our federally mandated sewer overflow project off our water bills and onto our property tax bills. (Not a good decision in my book, but it wasn’t the kind of irresponsible overspending you were telling us about last night.)

And after I left last night I also realized that I don’t really understand how you say to us that if you gave your children your house they wouldn’t be able to live in it because they wouldn’t be able to pay the taxes. Real estate taxes on 10 Dogtown Road are $6,347 a year. If you gave your children your house, living there would only cost them $530 a month. That’s more than affordable. Where else in Massachusetts can you rent a house for $530 a month?

I’m disappointed to say that the more I think about what you told us last night the more I feel misled.
I would very much appreciate anything you might be able to tell me to clear any of this up.
Thanks in advance,
Stephen Voltz

Follow up email, sent Monday evening:


Hi again Kathryn,

Haven’t heard from you re my email from Saturday.

I’m hoping you’ll let me know if I’m mistaken in my understanding of things or if there’s anything important you’d like to add that you feel I may be missing.

Thanks in advance,


10 Dogtown Tax History

Link: Real Estate Tax History – 10 Dogtown Road, Gloucester, MA (Douglas and Karthryn Goodick), T by E

Fiscal Year


Increase (Decrease)

% Increase









































*Estimate based on (Q1 and Q2) x 2


Mayoring by Degrees, a Clamvestigation

So, here’s the deal. Every once in awhile there’s a Gloucester issue everyone is talking about but nobody will actually spend an hour or two investigating, which inevitably leads to a ton of bogus information and rumors floating around. There was the lifeguard thing a month or so ago. There have been endless assumptions made about the possible uses of the Fuller property that a quick posting of the undisputed facts could have hosed away the stupid with. Now there’s Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken’s educational experience.

I guess we’re the one’s who have to do this. Again. Us. Your favorite local snarkblog and unhealthy drone obsessives’ web support portal. So before we get started, Gloucester Daily Times, do you ever wonder where it all went wrong? You are being scooped by people who spend 2/3 of their journalistic effort trying to come up with amusing combinations of human body parts and vermin.

The issue: Our current interim mayor is running for election to a full term. Flashback mode reminds us she agreed to only serve the interim and not run as mayor this round, but decided to anyway. Your beloved The Clam predicted this because once you’re in the number one slot it’s hard to go back the minor leagues. Still, this choice got some people not unreasonably upset. Fine. Our take at the time was voters will make their call with the “one and done” agreement collapse as part of their calculus.

We also used a picture of pug Gandalf. Is that ever not hysterical?

We also used a the image of pug Gandalf. Is that ever not hysterical?

Along with the pay and prestige, once you move from council to mayor the level of scrutiny gets higher along with the stakes. And what folks over at Cape Ann Online [motto: “WHINE LOUDER!!1!”] latched onto last week was Mayor Theken’s educational credentials. There were shouts she was claiming degrees she did not have, there were passionate defenses, lots of the usual name calling and the usual pants wetting/cryscreaming one finds over there.

Aside #1: This is why The Clam deletes most of your comments. Because we love you people, but most of you suck at comments. Sorry, but you do.

Aside #2: Amusing thought experiment: what would the appropriate degree be for running this town? I mean, we are personally not certified to do anything we actually do, so assuming degrees are even useful beyond the hard sciences, in an ideal world what degrees would a prospective Mayor of Gloucester hold? We’re going with a double major in Marine Science/Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on delusional disorders.

At the heart there were some real questions. So here we are. A quick investigation of which apparently only The Clam is capable of (pug wizards up over here) found Sefatia had claimed the following:

I have a bachelor degree in business management, masters in health & human services.


In a fit of journalistic pique we then went and ASKED the mayor about her degrees so we could PUBLISH what she said (take note of our mad journalizzm skillzz). We were directed to this statement on her campaign website, which we republish here in full:

“In February 1997, I started my employment at Addison Gilbert Hospital. At that time, I enrolled in certificate programs at Salem State through the Fishermen’s Wives when Salem had a satellite campus in Gloucester.  In September 1997, my husband took his own life due to depression and left me with three children. My children and I needed to understand how that happened and what that meant.   After taking my children to several therapists and finding no answers, I looked elsewhere.  Through my colleagues at Addison Gilbert Hospital, I was able to use the hospital’s Medical Library.  From there, I enrolled in online courses in my quest to find those answers.

In the meantime while still doing online courses, I was also taking courses through the Department of Public Health and became certified as a Health Education Advocate.  While I still felt lost, I continued those online courses and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Management from San Diego Pacific University in 2002.  I also continued my coursework through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  These courses are ongoing, and I continue them today to maintain my certification.

I continued online courses and in 2005 received a Master’s Degree in Health Service Management.

I also continue courses through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs and the Department of Medical Assistance and am certified in Health Services.

I have very proudly talked about my degrees at various times since 2005.  On my current bio, I chose not to include my degrees because it was brought to my attention that San Diego Pacific University is no longer in existence. I took the degrees off my resume because I didn’t want people to focus on them; I wanted them to focus on me. Because I know how nasty campaigns can become, I didn’t want all the questions which take away from the real issues and focus on the future of Gloucester; however, I do not want to discourage anyone from online education.  The online education not only afforded me the opportunity to earn two degrees, but it gave me the ability to help my children understand that depression is an illness for which sometimes there is no cure.”

Accompanied by this image:

And because fairness, we also asked candidate Council President Paul McGeary for his educational background, which is congruent with what he’s claimed as far as our research goes. We think this is also what journalists do, we guess? We have no idea.

Education of Paul McGeary

Educated at Worcester Public Schools through High School.

Graduated Holy Cross College, Worcester, with a B.A. in history (1971).

Graduate work in history at the University of Connecticut (1971-72)

Graduate work in history at Harvard University, (1992-1996)

Professional training in project management, personnel management and systems.

Highest degree attained: B.A.


We don’t know much about San Diego Pacific University beyond it was never accredited and it closed. We have no idea how much work they required (thesis?), what kinds of follow-up and backing they provided their alumni. It falls into the “Seems sketchy” to us category. We’ll leave it to the mayor, her campaign and her pr/opponents to answer those questions.

But it’s clear that in the end some Cheers and Jeers are in Order:

  1. Cheers: For distancing herself from degrees that seem to hold little real-world recognition and being up-front about that.
  2. Jeers: For not actually, you know, distancing. Like, physically. Take them off the wall maybe? Are they still there? We don’t know.
  3. Cheers: For being a person who’s actually lived a difficult life (which many of us relate to) to rise above great challenges with pride, love and a better understanding of what real people face in a world that can very quickly become cruel and disheartening. We love the Mayor for this as a human being.
  4. Jeers: For crossing the streams a too much with personal/objective issues as a candidate for Mayor. We’ve said it before, the biggest challenge Sefatia faces is keeping appropriate emotional distance from issues. Most politicians are lawyers because many lawyers are crevice stoats (YOU’RE WELCOME) who train on keeping emotions out of their work and therefore become heartless dickweeds. Sefatia has the opposite issue. We would like “just the facts” and less personal story when it comes to simple, objective questions such as what degrees one holds or has claimed to hold.

So that’s it. I doubt it will change any minds, but those are the facts and our take. I swear we’re going to get back to full-time making fun of things soon.


The shootings are not senseless

Every time there is a mass shooting (which on average is every sixty four days) one of the key words we hear describing the tragedy is “senseless.” This would suggest the action was without meaning or purpose.

I hate to tell you this, but nothing could be further from the case.

The most recent attacker, Christopher Harper-Mercer, follows the strict pattern of highly-aggrieved men trapped in a cultural paradox from which they cannot escape. His and the other attacks like it, congruent down to sporting military-style clothing, are an attempt to call “society” to task for leaving them behind. To these men, who perceive they are not receiving the level of respect to which they feel deeply entitled, it’s nothing less than a revolution. When you read their posts online they discuss previous attackers like the Dylan Klebold of the Columbine massacre and James Holmes of the Aurora theatre shooting and now Harper-Mercer as a martyr, a hero and most disturbingly, a “warrior” for the cause.

These young men, when you read their writings (and they write a lot), are trapped in ideologies insisting on a natural order where the strong dominate the weak.  Overwhelmingly their stunning number of journals, manifestos and posts show them to be captivated by thinkers and leaders like Nietzsche, Rand and Hitler. Ironically, these typically introverted outsiders fully buy-in to the idea that there should be a ruling class over the “undeserving” in society. Yet, in each case they have come to realize through a pattern of personal setbacks and failures they themselves are not exactly the Übermenschen ole Friedrich described in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Additionally, they all suffer from acute paranoia, developing a blind rage at those whom they feel have unfairly usurped the power that is rightfully theirs.

Usually I would make a mustache joke here but fuck it, this whole topic is too depressing.

Usually I would make a mustache joke here but fuck it, this whole topic is too depressing.

The shooting is simply a release of this cognitive dissonance. It fills the strong need to demonstrate in the context of their ideology they are not the losers, the “others” are. Dr. Donald Dutton and a trio of psychologists from the University of Vancouver went and read everything the assembled killers had written to date in 2013 and uncovered this pattern.

“They become and remain fixated and obsessed with rejection by what they see as an elite in-group, whom they see as having unfairly achieved success,” Dutton and his colleagues write in a compelling paper just published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior. “Instead of transcending the rejection, they formulate plans to annihilate the transgressors, which they justify as vengeance for the transgressions made against them.”

Ok, so that’s the individual motivation. But now it gets worse, thanks to the Internet with its dark corners like 4chan, these desperate outsiders have begun link up. They have developed an increasingly organized doctrine that blends white supremacist beliefs with garden-variety nihilism, the so-called “mens’ rights movement” pick-up culture, and others to form an ideological toxic sludge of byproducts from Western Civilization. And thanks to the NRA they can arm themselves for considerably less effort than it takes to adopt a cat from the animal shelter.

So, quick quiz: What do you call a group willing to kill innocents and die themselves for an ideology centred around striking back at what they are convinced is an irredeemably oppressive regime? Hint: it rhymes with “Leher-cyst”

The mass shooting epidemic is, in actuality, best described as a nascent domestic terrorist movement which like many others uses mass-casualty suicide attacks as their primary weapon. We will continue to see it develop and organize if social conditions continue as they have, isolating growing numbers of volatile young from the benefits of our society. The shooters are the tip of the iceberg, once you start poking around online you find a massive bulk of rage under the surface.

We refuse to admit this glaringly obvious fact at our peril. Yes, their ideology is hateful and stupid. But like most uprisings it centers in legitimate grievance, metastasized into it’s own mass of lizard-brain hatreds. Young men don’t regularly kill large numbers of innocent members of their own society in a healthy culture, that is a simple fact.

Think I’m wrong about this? Look at Saudi Arabia, which spawned Al Queda. Unlike what many of my liberal brethren believe, the 9/11 attackers who took down the World Trade Center, attacked the Pentagon and crashed flight 93 into a field in Pennsylvania were not indigent Muslims fighting back against the economic oppression of the West. They were, in actuality, disaffected middle-class young men who found themselves increasingly incapable in their home country of meaningful attainment in the highly stratified power and wealth structure imposed by the House of Saud and supported by its global superpower partner the United States. These men were seduced into giving their lives to murder Americans by terrorist recruiters who prey on finding such personalities and providing their perceptually meaningless lives with a grand purpose.

In 2007 American forces raided a suicide-bomber training camp in Iraq. Interviews with those captured conducted to discover the motivations for suicide attacks it was discovered over half of the recruits had come from a Libyan town called Darna. Here is what researchers found:

The reason why so many of Darnah’s young men had gone to Iraq for suicide missions was not the global jihadi ideology, but an explosive mix of desperation, pride, anger, sense of powerlessness, local tradition of resistance and religious fervor.

This is the exact same set of motivations, minus the organized religious component, we find in most mass shooters here. The researchers also found the attacks were typically organized and carried out from the bottom up, not as top-down attacks directed from an overseeing power. Again, just like here.

Suicide bombers also give long, rambling speeches posted on the web.

Before their attacks, suicide bombers also post long, rambling speeches on the web.

So why is this happening in the United States? For similar reasons it happens anywhere else in the world. These young men feel humiliated and powerless. They find themselves incapable of achieving the status they perceive necessary to secure what they want most, typically access to sexual partners (and let’s not forget that suicide attackers in the Islamic tradition are awarded 72 virgins in paradise). They then attack the people who they think are responsible for their standing, typically at a school or a workplace where their daily perceived humiliations are carried out.

Is this so hard to understand? Just like in other countries where there is extreme change and social tension, the formerly empowered group being pushed “out” is fighting back with violence. We continue to perceive these mass shootings to be individual, isolated incidents. They are not. They are like car bombings and transit attacks overseas, individual incidents but linked to a greater struggle.

“Humiliation” is the word you see again and again. That’s the engine driving this, the never-ending loss of face of volatile young men.

Today a growing segment of young adult males will not achieve the material and social success necessary to be attractive mates and form households. By way of comparison, a generation ago in his mid-20s my father had a house, a wife, two kids and a stable job things I was unable to achieve until my ’30s (he would go on to fuck all this up later, but that’s another story). Today Increased economic opportunity and higher educational attainment for women has removed the economic need to be tied down to undesirable dudes. This is a good thing for almost everyone. But for those on the outside, however, it turns social awkwardness and the tail end of the achievement bell curve into a prison planet of isolation. And that generates rage.

If a disaffected young man does not find an identity in some positive group or activity where he can demonstrate a level of mastery, he will find his answers late at night on a message board where an anonymous poster will explain the problem is not him, but instead is women or blacks or Jews or ‘sheeple’ or some other shared lunacy which in the group-reinforcement model that describes closed circles of thought will eat his mind.

And there will be guns around to level the score. Militarized, menacing, assault weapons optimized for mass output. A ticket to forever fame and glory among his new online friends and the ultimate bullhorn to telegraph his resentments at everyone else for less than the cost of a medium-range laptop.

I for one am not surprised that an increasing number of these men, whom the experts call “grievance collectors” have taken this route. What does surprise me is how they are organizing, though I suppose it shouldn’t. Here’s one of many posts in support of the attacker post CoAlpha a “radical free speech” site after the killings at UC Santa Barbara by Elliot Rodger in 2014. CoAlpha is just one place, there are dozens of others.

"Incel" is a term they use to define themselves. It means "Involuntary celibate."

“Incel” is a term they use to define themselves. It means “Involuntary celibate.”

We may not want to give this the legitimacy of a “movement” just yet. That risks elevating the perpetrators to the level of “freedom fighters” beyond their own small and marginalized ranks. But we have to let the air out of the support and encouragement for violent attacks carried out by the most unstable of their number.

And the most effective, cheapest and least blood-soaked way to reduce and remove the motivation for the attacks is to alleviate the fundamental grievance of inequity. Put simply- we can’t let a generation of young men flounder. Yes, they can be assholes and no we don’t need as much of what young men are traditionally good at anymore- dangerous, dirty and difficult jobs requiring brute strength and a lack of self-concern, but we need young men to grow up into reliable citizens. And for them to do so there has to be an acceptable pathway, not just a stew of grievances they marinade in until they get their shit together.

Because some won’t and we’ll all end up bearing that cost. And in an increasing number of cases, it will be too much to bear.








East Coast braces for misspelling/pronunciation of “Joaquin”

United States, East Coast

National Guard troops practice putting an "O" before "A" in a simulation run by Homeland Security

National Guard troops practice putting an “O” before “A” in a readiness simulation run by Homeland Security

Bracing for an unprecedented period of chaos, emergency crews, media outlets, government, and industry are all preparing themselves for the fucking-up of the National Weather Service official storm name “Joaquin” given to the category 4/5 storm barreling down on the United States mainland.

“Jesus Christ, this is going to be a complete shitshow,” said Emergency Services Response Director for Central New Jersey Tony Clarkson. “I swear, they couldn’t give the only category 5 in a decade a name like ‘Bob’ or ‘Steve’ for fuck’s sake? Half of my service guys are already calling it something sounding like ‘jock-quin.’ The radio traffic alone is going to be a nightmare.”

The insurance industry is expected to be particularly hard hit. Marcia Cranston, director of claims for the Haveford Group says she expects at least 10% of claimant forms to name the storm as beginning with a ‘w.’ “The last storm to cause significant damage beginning with that letter was Wilma in 2005. Now our system will to try and class this storm with that one because of people screwing the name up. This is going to take months to sort out. And the 10% number might be low, for all our sophisticated models we really have no good way of predicting what will happen.”

"There were people who spelled 'Sandy' with a 'c'. No, I am not shitting you."

“There were people who spelled ‘Sandy’ with a ‘c’. No, I am not shitting you.”

Many are hoping against hope the storm will save the bulk of its punch for Brooklyn or Hoboken, or possibly a college-heavy area like New Haven or Boston where the preponderance of classics majors and hipsters who enjoy the films of indie favorite Joaquin Phoenix will limit the possible disruption to manageable isolated communication outages.

“At least it’s not likely to hit the Deep South,” Cranston said, breathing a sigh of relief.

At press time tropical depression  Krzesisław was forming off the West coast of Africa and is being monitored by the National Weather Service Hurricane Center.