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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Gotcha politics

As a recovering political reporter, I'm quite familiar with the standard reporting ploy of searching for the Gotcha moment -- trying to get a candidate say or do something that will become a centerpiece of an opponent's political ads. Remember the "lead pipe guarantee?"

That's why I have to agree with Deval Patrick's steadfast refusal to say what he would have done in 2003 when faced with a yawning budget deficit. And why I have to laugh at the self-serving and misplaced indignation of Brian McGrory at Patrick's refusal to rise to the bait.

That said, offering his hypothetical answer to a future fiscal crisis was the only logical solution, and probably should have been offered earlier to keep the story to one cycle.

Another laughable gotcha moment is Kerry Healey's rush to anoint Patrick as the insider because he met with House Speaker Sal DiMasi and Senate President Robert Travaglini (at least he took my advice and skipped the photo op :-))
"He went into this race saying he had no debts to the political establishment on Beacon Hill. As of yesterday that statement doesn't hold," Healey said.
Hyperventilation aside, could it be Healey is miffed because of rumors that say she was shut out of the regular meetings Romney held with the leadership? Or do I smell an ad brewing?

Can't we talk about the real issues -- like what do we get (and not get) with our tax dollars and how do we build a solid state economy where people have good jobs and affordable housing, good, affordable health care, safe neighborhoods and quality schools.

Or does the tooth fairy bring all that for free?

Don't let the door hit you on the way out Mitt

As if you needed more proof that Mitt Romney has become a cardboard cutout candidate who has finally become the irrelevancy he deserves to be, here come two examples -- in a single day.

OK, Tom Reilly standing up to the Mittser now that both of 'em are lame ducks hardly qualifies as a profile in courage. More credit goes to Judge Thomas Connolly, who refused to be swayed by the vitriolic language that will be headed his way -- a lot of it from Romney -- to do the right thing.

Even more intriguing is the decision by Mitt's own Massport board to do the wrong thing. Mitt's behavior on this one has been broken clock-like -- you know even broken clocks are right twice a day. The overly generous sick pay policy that benefited such GOP stalwarts as Craig Coy and Ginny Buckingham needs to be reworked to more modest levels.

But the board's flagrant disavowal of El Jefe's call shows how little influence he has left. Even more intriguing is the subliminal message it sends to his second banana Kerry Healey in her campaign against cronyism.

House of Card(s)

All of a sudden, Bob Woodward's friends in the West Wing are ducking for cover.

After thoroughly enjoying his first two books which showed a resolute Bush, White House mouthpiece Tony Snow offered the central message that Bob was blowing smoke, using disgruntled former aides as a way to grind his ax.

"Look, this is a war, and you are going to have a lot of really smart people with completely different opinions," Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, said at a briefing on Friday afternoon.

In Washington, Mr. Snow said, "you're going to see people who are on the losing side of arguments being especially outspoken about their opinions." He added, "The average Washington memoir ought to be subtitled, 'If they only listened to me.'"

I guess that includes Andy Card, whose job it was the make sure the runaway train ran on time. He now admits he told W. that Rummy should head out the door. When the Decider decided otherwise, Andy took a powder instead.

Probably a wise decision considering the doorkeeper didn't really keep close tabs on everyone who came through it.

I guess it is true the fish rots from the head down.

Congressional pride

Yep, got to love our Congress. Takes forceful action to defend the homeland, protects the rights of children and others who need help, and respects the diversity that is the United States.

That noble spirit is ablaze across the land, spreading culture across the continent. No wonder we can hold our heads high as the defenders of all that is good and right and just.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A big ball of b-----

The wandering governor (you know our pro-choice, environmentalist) decided to drop into town for a rare sighting to say Deval Patrick and his supports were offering a "big ball of baloney" when they pegged the tax and fee increases under his administration at $965 million.

"What planet does that come from?" Romney said when asked by reporters about Patrick's contention.
Obviously not the same one as Slick Willard.

For the truth, let's turn to a source respected for it's independence long before the erudite Mr. Romney blew into town -- the Massachusetts Taxpayer's Foundation. You know the business-financed group who only Romney doubts.

"Our list is slightly smaller," MTF executive director Mike Widmer said in an interview with the Globe. He says the figure is only $740 million. Romney on the other hand, says its only $260 million. Hence his lunch meat tirade.

MTF explains the difference thusly:
In interviews with the Globe, Widmer and E. Cameron Huff, the foundation's research director, said the only significant discrepancy they found in Patrick's list was his figure of $230 million in increased costs of legal filings in connection with real estate transactions. When he proposed the fee increases, Romney used the higher amount, but actual collections have fallen $50 million to $60 million below that estimate, Huff said.
Let's do some fact-checking here: Mitt Romney said he was pro-choice. Mitt Romney said he was committed to the Commonwealth. Mitt Romney said he believed everyone, including business, needed to pay its fair share when he did the right thing and closed the tax loopholes he's now backing away from.

Mitt Romney also did the classic GOP dance about how a fee is not a tax, something I am sure your wallet recognizes as easily as mine.

But if that's not enough, let's look at some other folks' numbers. Like the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a group which lobbies for cities and towns -- and tracks the trends.

Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said huge cuts in local aid in 2003-04 to cope with the fiscal crisis continue to strain local budgets and tax bases.

"The cuts were so deep in 2003 and 2004 that there are still 113 cities and towns [out of 351] today that still receive less local aid than they did in fiscal year 2002, and that's without adjusting for inflation," said Beckwith, whose association represents the interests of local governments on Beacon Hill.

Or check out the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which unlike the MTF has been "tainted" by partisanship in its past life as the Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts. Despite that bum rap, it offers pages upon pages of reports documenting the true state of affairs under the Romney-Healey administration.

But in an effort to be fair, let's give Romney mouthpiece Eric Fehrnstrom the last word:
"It ain't as bad as Deval Patrick and the cities and towns make it out to be."
Check it out for yourself and see if Eric's math is as bad as his grammar.

A crumbling Commonwealth

(Former) Gov. Mitt Romney's drop-by the tell us the sky is falling (or at least the ceiling of the Sumner Tunnel) represents yet another example of the Romney-Healey administration and its GOP predecessors being asleep at the switch.

Republicans -- whether the name is Romney, Healey, Swift, Cellucci or Weld -- or Amorello or Buckingham -- have been in charge of the state's executive branch and have made critical appointments -- for the last 16 years.

If the Sumner and Callahan tunnels are in as bad shape at the newer construction on the Mass Turnpike the question is: where has the oversight been? Who has been in charge? And if there's no "undue risk" -- why the dramatic announcement with flags and podiums in the middle of a campaign?

It's not easy to dismiss this as Matt's fault. There is a systemic problem here that goes back four gubernatorial generations. Who's responsible? And should be continue to let them have the keys when they mess up so badly?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The D Word

I work for a living so I don't have time to get home by 6 p.m. to watch a televised debate. And that's without kids to worry about.

That likely makes me a typical consumer of news about last night's gubernatorial debate -- all I know is what I read in the newspapers. And on that basis, Kerry Healey has a problem.

The lt-gov appears to have a problem in accepting a responsibility -- something fairly typical of Republican candidates. In their view, it's always something or someone else. The Legislature. Immigrants. Islamofascists with weapons of mass destruction.

By this Globe account, Healey is already pulling out the big hammer and using the D word -- Dukakis -- to try and set the tone for this debate. That means she knows she's in Deep Doo-Doo.
"The thing that concerns me most is that if Deval Patrick wins this election we will go back to the Dukakis era when there is only one party represented on Beacon Hill . . . We [the Republicans] are tenuously holding down the corner office."
A brief history lesson for voters and others who weren't around when Michael Dukakis left office 16 years ago -- or when he ran for president 18 years ago. Not to mention when he beat Ed King in the vaunted "Rematch" 24 years ago.

Michael Dukakis was accused of abandoning Massachusetts and ignoring a fiscal crisis to pursue presidential ambitions. He ran a poor campaign and allowed George H.W. Bush to embarrass Massachusetts on the national stage. Sound familiar?

Kerry Healey's "partner" Mitt Romney has walked away from his job (something Dukakis never did) to pursue his presidential ambitions. Following in the Bush tradition, he is denigrating Massachusetts on a national stage. Only problem he is still ostensibly our "leader" for the next few months.

Healey is desperately trying to avoid running on the Romney record, such as it is. That's why she is focusing on illegal immigrants, driver's licenses and cell phone parking lots at Logan. The Romney-Healey record is not pretty: deep cuts in spending for local aid and education -- forcing property taxes to rise and public safety to be cut.

Then there's the Big Dig, something Romney discovered only after a fatality caused by 16 years of Republican mismanagement -- and only because it gave him a tool to cut down a political foe, Matt Amorello.

Christy Mihos has no intention of letting Healy walk away from that one -- even if her role was to stand in the background in an orange safety vest when Romney dropped into the state to try to show the national press corps he was "engaged." Mihos, who was martyred by former Gov. Jane Swift when she fired him from the Mass. Turnpike Board, has made the project and his role the centerpiece of his quirky campaign.

And Big Dig politics clearly deserve to be at the center of this campaign. Along with plans for restoring public health, education, public safety and education while not sending property tax rates any higher. Or encouraging people to stay in the state by providing good jobs at good wages (I couldn't resist) or affordable housing.

So let's focus on that -- not on a governor who left office 16 years ago after finishing his third term. And who, it should be noted, was followed by a governor who walked out in the middle of a second term on a quixotic bid for a Mexican ambassadorship; another one who walked out in his first full term to be ambassador to Canada and another one who tuned out in the middle of his term to run for president.

Let's deal with the present, not what happened a political lifetime ago. That well is dry.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's the economy, stupid!

Massachusetts has lost more than 100,000 jobs during the Romney-Healey years. Home sales are slumping after some of the biggest price run-ups in the nation. People are moving farther away from the central cities (and the jobs) to afford staying here. Those that stay have a hard time affording health care. Many are opting out of the Commonwealth altogether.

So in the face of the strong evidence that the Massachusetts economy -- the ability to attract jobs and workers -- should be the centerpiece of the 2006 gubernatorial election, what is Kerry Healey talking about? Illegal immigrants and crime.

Reading straight from the GOP fear and smear playbook, the second banana of the Romney-Healey administration knows she can't run on the team's pathetic record. So she raises issues like criminal offender record checks and licensing illegal immigrants to change the subject.

When pressed. I'm sure the braintrust would argue that illegal immigrants and criminals take jobs away from law-abiding, hardworking, taxpaying residents. To a certain extent that is true.

But the service sector jobs -- McDonald's, Staples, Home Depot -- are not the jobs that will help the state's economy grow from the abyss of the Romney-Healey recession. Rather, it is the technology sector jobs that Romney and Healey promised-- and for the most part failed to deliver -- that will produce the jobs and amenities that attracted so many of us to Massachusetts.

There's definitely room in this campaign to discuss issues like CORI and whether to punish employers who hire undocumented workers (that one should be resolved nationally but won't because of GOP demagoguery).

But first and foremost we should be talking about property tax rates that have soared in the absence of increased local aid -- local aid used to pay for education, firefighters and yes, police officers to control rising crime rates and capture undocumented workers driving without a license.

We should talk about rising health care costs and whether the new law will be effective in controlling those highest-in-the-nation costs.

We should be talking about whether we are doing all we can to improve our public education system -- elementary, secondary and higher ed.

We should be talking about how to lure high-paying jobs into the Commonwealth (and the service sector jobs that come with them).

We should talk about how we can make owning or renting a home affordable for our citizens.

We should talk about transportation systems that don't allow ceiling tiles to fall down on people, bridges to crumble or tolerate public transit that is slow, unreliable and expensive -- and going higher. Remember, the Romney-Healy administration is only against higher taxes, not higher fees.

I haven't heard Kerry Healey talk a lot about these issues during her nearly four years in the Statehouse. Why am I not surprised she doesn't want to start now -- not when GOP fear and smear hot buttons are so easily available.

Do as I say...

Those watchdogs of the Romney-Healey administration are at it again -- zealously guarding the taxpayers from the excesses of public employees feeding at the trough.

Riddle me this -- what is the difference between the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the Massachusetts Port Authority? Answer: Romney-Healey cronies ($5,850) ran one of them and not the other.

For once I agree with Eric Fehrnstrom: it is outrageous.

And we won't even get into the GOP/Romney-Healey relationship with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

No kidding?

This report in today's Washington Post reflects the true double-edged nature of the word "intelligence" in a political environment.

Anyone with even a smattering of smarts could have figured out the bottom line on this report of spies and analysts. Where does that put W., Rummy and Darth Cheney -- and the people who still believe them?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

What have you done for us lately?

The numbers are ludicrous. The CBS4 poll results showing Deval Patrick with a 39-point lead over Kerry Healey are indeed simply a reflection of the attention paid to Patrick's victory over his Democratic rivals.

But within those early numbers lies the nub of a major problem facing Healey -- and her decision to go loudly negative on Election Night. The CBS4 survey shows Patrick with stunning large margins among men and women and a solid lead among independents. The latter group of course, is the one that decides elections in Massachusetts.

Healey was over the top on Election Night. Democratic Party Chair Phil Johnston was equally over the top in his characterization of her remarks the next day. But the GOP slime machine needs to operate at full throttle if it hopes to keep its grip on the Corner Office.

Can someone explain why driver's licenses and in-state tuition is a leading edge issue in a state that has been bleeding jobs and residents as home prices soar through the stratosphere and beyond?

Why not discuss the impact of property taxes on the wallets of homeowners in the context of higher home values and state income taxes -- and the failure of the Romney-Healey administration to restore local aid (and local services like public safety and education) to the levels they were before they blew into town on a slate of false promises.

What makes a "career criminologist" who has spent her career in the classroom presume to define as "soft" on crime a man who served in the upper levels of the U.S. Justice Department?

And who is a bigger crony? The teachers unions or Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the GOP-loaded "management" company has produced a Big Dig that is not on time, not on budget and not safe.

Let's not forget that it was the Democratic Legislature that kept taxes from rising when the state was suffering from the post 9-11 recession. The GOP is fond of saying you need a check on the Democratic legislators. But the simple fact is the minority party is so weak that it cannot sustain any gubernatorial veto.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party reflects the range of political philosophy lacking in the one-note GOP. It was conservative Democrats like former House Speaker Tom Finneran who exerted the strongest influence on tax rates, not the Romney-Healey administration.

So it's not surprise that Kerry Healey came out loud and continues to pound on the traditional GOP straw men of taxes and crime. The Romney-Healey administration has nothing to show for its four years in office on those issues. The only way for them to win is to change the subject and pretend people won't notice.

The early numbers say people are not in the mood to be fooled again. But there is a long way to go and a lot of vitriol still to come from the GOP attack machine.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fear and smear, local edition

True to form, Massachusetts Republicans did not wait for the formal announcement before launching an attack on Deval Patrick as an out-of-touch radical liberal who will destroy Massachusetts.

Watching former Treasurer Joe Malone work through his talking points during an early evening "analysis" spot on NECN was to watch the Republican attack unfold. Faced with the record of 16 years of one-term or disinterested Corner Office residents, Republicans plan to use the same game plan they used successfully in 1990 with Bill Weld -- taxes and fear. Then it was crime. This time it will be the ill-defined "liberalism."

There's a big problem with that scenario and some of its refinements, like attacking the Democrat as an insider. As an (ineffectual)#2 to a governor with rising negatives, Kerry Healey IS the insider and she will be hard pressed to run on a record that leaves 48 percent of Bay State residents feeling the state is heading in the wrong direction.

She showed her willingness to attack with the salvo she launched against Chris Gabrieli. The difference is Gabrieli was vulnerable to some extent on the rich man charge, having personally bankrolled his campaign.

In Patrick she will face a far different opponent -- one she is truly concerned about despite all the bluster about Gabrieli. The Democratic nominee truly has an inspiring story to tell -- from the "rough side" of Chicago to Harvard, the federal government and the corporate boardroom.

Far from a wild-eyed liberal -- how could he make his way into corporate boardrooms if he was -- Patrick represents the true outsider in the race. He has no ties to the Legislature that has been the traditional GOP straw man. He created an impressive field organization that brought him impressive vote totals in places where liberals should not do well. Winning every county is a VERY impressive showing.

So what's next? Patrick needs to stress his freedom from the inside power structure of the Commonwealth. More importantly he needs to constantly remind voters of the lackluster performance of the Romney-Healey administration, the false promises and failures that culminated with Romney abandoning Massachusetts while blaming others for failures on his watch.

Christy Mihos will help that effort with his quirky campaign to prove himself right about the Big Dig, the biggest liability around the GOP neck.

Oh, and Deval, avoid being seen with Sal and Trav.

UPDATE: True to form, Healey came out swinging on taxes, crime and cronyism -- trying to tie the litany of GOP failures around Patrick's neck.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Oh what a tangled web we weave....

I'd be tempted to say the chicken are coming home to roost on the Bush administration, but with the dynamics of Washington it's entirely possible the chicken hawks will win.

Just how much do you think Colin Powell enjoyed teaming up with John McCain to stick it to the Bush administration's concept of a fall election strategy -- namely making the Democrats look weak on terrorism.

But McCain and Powell continue to show the occasional strains of courage that set them apart from the fear and smear wing of the Republican Party. And all that was necessary was to stand up for the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and the rest of the civilized world.

But let's not get too giddy too soon. This is, after all, an administration that can deliver a highly politicized 9-11 commemoration speech -- as usual equating a difference of opinion with treason -- and blithely label it as mainstream.

Stay tuned.

Fun with Biff and Muffy

Well at least Chris Gabrieli would feed off the private trough.

That's the most generous interpretation you can give to Kerry Healey's last-minute foray into the Democratic gubernatorial primary with an ad attacking Gabrieli for favoring state aid to stem cell research that would ultimately benefit companies in his biotechnology portfolio.

That tortured path of reasoning is of course very different from the direct approach favored by Healey's husband, Sean, who fed directly out of the public trough with a $1 million tax credit for investing in the "blighted" Pride's Crossing community. Until he got caught.

You knew that Healey would come out of the box swinging -- and you knew that with Mitt Romney's record of flip-flopping and indifference hung around her neck -- she would be swinging hard. But it's hard to believe she chose to play the class card, of all things.

Trying to influence the Democratic primary by a last-minute negative against the second-place Gabrieli, in the hope of getting who they perceive as a weaker candidate in Deval Patrick, is Machiavellian politics at its best (or worst). Straight out of the Karl Rove playbook.

It indicates quite clearly there are no ideas left in the Massachusetts GOP arsenal after 16 years of cut and run management of the Commonwealth (cut taxes and run to another job before the ceiling collapses).

The protestations of former Weld boy wonder Rob Gray that the ad was an answer to an independent radio ad recalling some of the lesser moments in Healey's four-year stint as Mitt's second banana falls short. If anything, the many of the union financiers of the Patriot Majority organization who placed the ad have endorsed Tom Reilly.

Rather, the salvo from the Healey campaign mirrors what we will be seeing on the national level: a bankrupt political party, bereft of decency and ideas, running a campaign of fear and smear to knock down the opponents' favorability ratings so they can sneak into office themselves.

It's only going to get uglier.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Duck and cover

It was vintage Bush -- trying to turn solemn moments into partisan advantage.

In his full court press to defend the indefensible, W repeated an oldie-but-goodie fear mongering line while pointing to the gaping flaw in his whole misguided Iraqi adventure. Let's go the phrase parser.
"Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq," Bush said last night in a prime-time address from the Oval Office, "the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad."
The "New" George Bush is trying to admit mistakes, albeit grudgingly. But never one to really admit to anything, he ducks responsibility and immediately turns to his straw man argument that pulling out of Iraq is the wrong way to go.

But no, we do not believe that we will be left alone by extremists and the battle against terrorism is correct. It's the tactics which are wrong.

To cover that problem, he then he goes back to the tired fear-raising argument that we will fight them in our streets. And then he utters the ultimate hypocritical flaw in his argument: "The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad."

If that is truly the case, why has the United States not committed greater resources to the fight in the first place? At least one prominent military leader lost his job while making that argument and Donald Rumsfeld remains in place after rejecting that argument.

If he truly believes in his cause he would take the hard road and increase troop levels to what is needed to do the job (and which could have prevented the civil war in the first place). No, our current policy is not cut and run. It's more like duck and cover. And equally effective as its namesake.

The Leader of the Free World keeps trying though.
"I am often asked why we are in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks," Bush said. "The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat," the president said, tapping his desk for emphasis. "The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power."
Really? Or if you just believe in coincidence, how does this strike you? Clear threat to whom and with what weapons of mass destruction?

But as administration officials would be the first to point out, neither of these most recent incidents happened on our streets.

Sorry W, but the world is a far less safe place because fundamentalist Christian leaders challenged fundamentalist Islamic extremists in new battlegrounds, rather than fighting real threats on real battlegrounds.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later

Thousands of trees will have died and untold bandwidth will have been devoured by the time the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania mark their exact moments in time.

That flood of verbiage will deal with who was to blame: Bush or Clinton?; are we safer?; what have we done right and what have we done wrong?

The Globe takes a good look at where Boston stands five years later -- and it is not a comforting picture in terms of the safety question. True to form, we geared up to fight the last war and have done little to secure ourselves against newer threats on the seas and on the rails.

Some of that verbiage may also focus on the place of America and Americans five years later. That is an even uglier picture.

Long gone are the days of Le Monde's declaration that "We Are All Americans." That was replaced by sneering references to Freedom Fries from a do-nothing Congress and the stoking of hatred toward a variety of people -- many of whom are quite frankly worthy of hatred (Islamic fanatics) or at least some humor-weary contempt (the French).

We have seen America become a nation ruled by a small coterie of men (and a token woman) that placed partisan advantage over everything. In that light, we have become champions of torture; prevaricators (a $50 word for liar); a nation led be people who see only black and white. You are either for us or against us -- whether you are a Muslim or an American who believes in both the Constitution and the shining principles on which this nation was built.

Are we safer now than five years ago? Dick Cheney, Don Rumseld and George Bush say so and we must either believe or be held out for scorn. Cheney's astoundingly arrogant and mean-spirited claim that a vote for John Kerry is a vote for being attacked may simply be the lowest of the myriad divisive messages spouted over the last five years on this side of the Global War on Terror.

The destruction of New Orleans and the failure -- even one year later -- of the agency created to "protect us" stands in stark contrast to the mealy-mouthed jabs offered by the man who holds the second-highest office in the land.

The subornation of torture and the "stuff happens" indifference of the "architect" of America's response to the GWOT is equally appalling. Yet five years later, we are numbed to the fact these men retain their authority after failing so miserably.

But it is George Walker Bush who deserves the largest dose of scorn. The man who proclaimed he was a "uniter, not a divider" has presided over the deepest unraveling of this nation since our Civil War (not the one they refuse to acknowledge in Iraq).

His defenders argue that those of us who chastise Bush are guilty of irrational hatred similar to that demonstrated by Osama bin Laden and his followers. They conveniently forget they exhibited an even deeper animosity to Bill Clinton, one that exists to this day, so deep that they gin up the "facts" of a "docudrama" to try and shift all the blame on him, conveniently forgetting their own culpability in ignoring warnings.

The 5th anniversary sadly offers the harsh reality that we, as a nation, are more damaged today than on 9-11-2001. Then we "only" dealt with the horror of death and destruction and thousands of lives needlessly lost to the irrational action of religious zealots.

Today we deal with that loss -- as well as the loss of comity and civility in our daily lives, a loss attributable to the rational acts of zealots using that horror for their religious, financial and political gain.

Quel dommage.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The politics of health care

Far be it from me to pretend that politics doesn't swirl around the topic of health care. The battle royals at the state and federal level -- the heavy lobbying by the pharmaceutical companies and the AMA's old line about Medicare being "socialized medicine" -- clearly show it's a minefield.

And let's not forgot all the arguments about a woman's right to choose, second hand smoke and alcohol. So why am I so annoyed by Mitt Romney's latest foray into making state policy conform with his presidential platform?

Perhaps it is because public health policy is the only area of state government where the (former) governor has shown any interest? Or his intrusion is so heavy handed, as this memo obtained by the Globe shows:
"If any of you are scheduled to speak at a meeting or conference of ANY type about ANYTHING that media MAY be present at you must send a copy of your comments or an outline of your presentation or your slides IN ADVANCE. To make this more complicated, even if you are NOT a listed speaker, but are going to attend a meeting that MAY have media present and MAY either be called upon or offer a comment or ask a question, you must notify Lewis in advance."
And maybe because some of the intrusions smack of bad public health policy -- like the decision to give a woman the right to choose to breast feed her child The foray into breast feeding policy was clearly an effort to suck up to the teat of formula makers like Nestle.

Not so says gubernatorial mouthpiece Eric Fehrnstrom. It's about competing political agendas.
"The liberal agenda of a narrow special interest group that wants to punish women who want to bottle feed, or the agenda of a governor who thinks women shouldn't be punished for bottle-feeding."
I see. So Romney is for a woman's right to choose? Or isn't he?

Then there is his blatant contradiction of legislative intent over stem cell research, insisting only he knows what those shifty scientists will do in the privacy of their labs. And unlike his hero George Bush -- he of the massive reading list-- Mittsy can't even keep his books straight, calling the activities Orwellian, not Huxleyian. On second thought, Orwell warned about government intruding into the most intimate matters of a person's life.

Please go away Mitt. There's a tunnel that'll take you directly to the airport.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Speaking of clueless

We can add Tom Reilly to the list of people who really should think before they open their mouth. Following hard on the heels of his pathetic performance in Thursday night's debate, Reilly continues to show the aggressiveness he should have exhibited during his investigations of Big Dig overruns.

The state's top prosecutor apparently has no need for evidence. After all, he accepted Marie St. Fleur as his running mate after rejecting the evidence that it would be a disastrous call.

And there has been ample evidence that his own campaign leaks like a sieve, conducting its confidential business in e-mails that make their way to the media.

But instead he blames Chris Gabrieli -- and uttering veiled threats about a criminal investigation.
"We'll see where this goes," Reilly said. "These are private, confidential financial records, OK? And to leak them in an effort to get at me and put them on the front pages of The Boston Globe is wrong. It's just wrong."
Talk about a clueless thing to say. Will he do the same thing over his improper decision to discuss an active investigation with a supporter?

Reilly entered the race with one strength -- the aura of winnability. He has destroyed that many times over, leaving himself now as the candidate of the Democratic political establishment in a state where voters are fed up with politics as usual from both parties.

Reilly is truly a decent and honorable man and has been an effective prosecutor. But he will long be remembered as the master of understatement when he said "politics is not my strong suit."

Who said it?

"If you want to accept to live in a democratic state, a democratic society, we have to tolerate the voices of dissent."

A. Dick Cheney
B. Mohammad Khatami
C. Mitt Romney

How sad is it, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9-11, that only one of these three even offers the facade of free speech.

Harvard MBA recipient Mitt Romney portrayed himself as the pandering hypocrite he is by his grandstand move to bar state police protection for a controversial visiting dignitary. For consistency, he should have done the same thing last night when Darth Cheney blew into town, to the Harvard Club no less, to lap up cash while avoiding all contact with the citizens of a state where he did actually get some votes.

Free speech is not free. There is a price and it includes the ability to hear things like the trash spouted by Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Or the tripe that passes from the mouth of Cheney. Or Romney.

How sad it is that in the court of public opinion it is the Iranian who, at least publicly, stands for the rights the United States has supposedly stood in defense of by its reckless foray into Iraq.

You think anyone else noticed? Probably not the conservative voters Romney is trying to woo as he runs for the White House. But you can bet it won't go unnoticed by the millions of Muslims we are trying to tell we are evenhanded and fair.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Knee jerk conservatism

Back from a break and this time, Tom Reilly didn't self immolate...

It is truly amazing how people come to accept the Big Lies, even in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary. This time I'm looking at the second oldest canard in the conservative playbook -- No New Taxes (please remember the anagram -- No Newt Axes -- it is relevant to the discussion.)

Our intrepid lit-gov Kerry Healey is going to take the pledge we are told, swearing fealty to Barbara Anderson and Citizens for Limited Taxation. It's all about controlling the Legislature, she says. Reilly isn't far behind in the pander parade, offering funny numbers to make the medicine go down smoother. Ditto for Christy Mihos.

Chris Gabrieli has a thoughtful compromise, tying cuts to restoration of services, while Deval Patrick is the only one with the courage to flatly say this emperor has no clothes: you can't cut taxes while restoring local aid, funding for schools, public safety and reducing the property tax burden.

First, some history. Yes Massachusetts voters opted to cut the income tax rate back to 5 percent in 2000, a move that then-Gov. Paul Cellucci promised would be painless. We know what happened to that promise. You can read the whole sordid history of "painless" Massachusetts tax cuts here.

What makes Healey's pandering especially egregious is her double-barreled pledge to freeze the gasoline tax as well. That money goes to repair roads and bridges (and subsidize the Big Dig follies perpetrated under Weld-Cellucci-Swift-Romney).

So our intrepid would-be leader is offering the classic Republican bait-and switch -- there is such a thing as a free lunch and you can have it all and not pay for it.

The saddest thing is so many people still believe this mega lie. I guess that means her administration will do everything on time and on budget too?