< .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Lies of Reilly

Hard to be original here after Joan Vennochi's latest skewering of Tom Reilly, but let's give it a shot.

In a great John Kerry-like moment, our esteemed attorney general now says he decided to pass on a lieutenant governor partner because he wouldn't release his tax returns. Instead, he decides upon a running mate who didn't pay her taxes.

That "reasoning" sounds suspiciously like Reilly's defense of his decision to look into the case involving the alleged alcohol-related traffic deaths of two daughters of a friend and supporter, claiming it was routine.

Tom Reilly's No. 1 attribute was supposed to be his ability to reclaim the Corner Office for Democrats after 16 years of Republicans using it as a way station to other things. It was that aura of invincibility, or at least inevitability, that made him the candidate of much of the state's Democratic high muckety-mucks.

But maybe it's time to take him at his word when he says politics is not his strong suit. The double-barreled accident and St. Fleur flap certainly damaged illusions about his invincibility.

And the ineptitude surrounding his staff's use of e-mail -- as Vennochi demonstrates today and in the infamous Killer Coke saga totally shatters it. Not to mention any illusions about his competence.

Campaigns are a reflection of candidate. The bumbling, dissembling and denials issued for things that are at the same time well documented by the campaign offers ample warning for Massachusetts voters that our attorney general can't be trusted to do the right thing -- or admit he has messed up.

Better to learn this now than a month or a year from now.

Oh, and why is it that Vennochi and not the Statehouse bureau is doing this great digging?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Wrong target

Looks like Mitt Romney got the wrong scalp.

As our (former) governor takes up his travels again after having tamed the Big Dig Monster, new evidence has surfaced that the Mittser got the wrong man.

There's no dispute in this corner that Matt Amorello had to go. Bizarre (although potentially easily explainable) things like security cameras just point out how big a distraction he had become.

But this nice piece of investigative work points out yet again how Matt was Mitt's straw man.

The decision not to re test the epoxy bolts is one of several critical choices over a 14-year period in which Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff -- a joint venture of engineering and construction management firms that the state picked to supervise the $14.6 billion Big Dig -- played a lead role in reducing the tunnel ceiling's safety margin. An investigation by the Boston Globe found that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff discouraged a proposal from designers to suspend the tunnel ceiling from a different kind of bolt they believed would be more reliable than epoxy. The Big Dig managers also turned down a pitch from the company that built the tunnel, Modern Continental Construction Co., to use lighter ceiling materials than concrete.

A review of correspondence between the companies involved in the ceiling project, as well as 1,800 pages of engineers' daily notes from 1999 and 2000, shows that Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff allowed ceiling construction to proceed during the three months that managers debated what to do about the unexpected loose bolts. By the time they came up with a plan, in January 2000, workers had already hung concrete ceiling panels in the east and westbound lanes of the connector, making retesting of the bolts much more expensive and time consuming.

The year was 1999. Jim Kerasiotes was still in charge of the project, the Weld appointee kept on by then-Gov. Paul Cellucci. Amorello was still licking his wounds after looking losing to Jim McGovern for the Third District congressional seat.

Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the well-connected management company designed to oversee the project opted to save money rather than push for safety. Under the oversight of Kerasiotes. And Cellucci.

What say you Mitt? Ready to keep the heat on and find the culprits? Or are you too busy kissing Trent Lott's backside while busting Michael Dukakis?

We're all Macacas

Virginia Sen. George Allen offered a revealing window into the GOP mindset when he flippantly referred to a tracker from opponent James Webb's campaign as "Macaca" and offered him a "welcome to America and to the real world of Virginia."

Allen, son of Richard Nixon's favorite football coach was in southern Virginia, speaking to an all-white audience when he used S.R. Sidarth, an Indian-American born and raised in northern Virginia, as a foil for the GOP's fear and smear message. Allen quickly tried to brush off the insult as a botched attempt to refer to Sidarth's Mohawk hairstyle. (We can ignore that he apparently can the difference between a buzz cut or a potential slap at a Native-American style.)

But Allen, who has a more than passing interest in the Confederate flag, consciously or not, revealed the heart of the GOP's 2006 campaign message -- scare the living daylights out of people to change the subject from the party's abysmal failures.

The party of compassionate conservatives has, in the last weeks, accused Connecticut Democrats of giving aid and comfort to al Qaeda by nominating Ned Lamont and attacked Democrats opposed to the administration's Constitutional hazy wiretapping program as being soft on terrorism. It's all part of their rich history of denigrating, demeaning and otherwise marginalizing those with the temerity to disagree.

Remember, theses are freedom-loving folks who believe the government should get out of the boardroom and into the bedroom -- telling people who they can marry and how they should procreate. They believe in the right to life and will kill those who disagree.

The party of Lincoln has morphed into the party that dominates the region where slaveholders insisted they were right. Any by God, they will slander you if you disagree.

The party of George Bush and the Do Nothing Congress is quick to label those of us with different political views as extremist. This is the same party that declared "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."

But what is most scary: Barry Goldwater eventually disavowed these same folks.
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Woman of the people

Now appearing in a backyard near you -- Kerry Healey.

The lit-gov's handlers think she may have a problem relating to you and me (foregoing a salary, ya think?) So they take her out to a few backyards, have her share a Coke and a smile -- and an occasional hot dog. Good metaphor actually.

What's next for the Daytona Beach native? The NASCAR vote? A brat and a brew?

The sad thing is she probably has more substance than the empty suit who is currently filling the office by grandstanding. (Yes, that link really is to Howie Carr!) Or doing a Bush imitation.

'Scuse me?

We know by now that the Bush administration's entire Campaign 2006 strategy is to get a little more mileage of that oldie-but-goodie: voting for weak-willing, lily-livered Lamont types will ensure al Qaeda will take up permanent housekeeping on our shores.

The only way to avoid this fate is to vote GOP, so the strategy goes.

So imagine my surprise (not) over this great piece of reporting by The Associated Press. It bears repeating:
While the British terror suspects were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives detection technology.
Remember, this is the same Bush administration that is in full-campaign mode, warning Americans they have more to fear than just fear itself and they would be nowhere without the vigilant Bush team snooping in the garbage and in their windows.

So how does this fear-mongering mesh with budget cutting? Inquiring minds want to know and are eagerly awaiting answers. Of course, they are also not holding their breath either.

The safer world that George Bush wants us to believe he has created includes millions of Muslims who hate us, a subset who want to blow us out of the sky. It also includes millions, if not billions of people who see the blatant contradictions between Bush word and action that 55 percent of the American public fails to see.

What are they smoking/drinking? No wonder the rest of the world no longer respects us.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Are you safer now than you were four years ago?

Ronald Reagan's 1980 victory can be attributed in large measure to the voters' answer to his simple question: are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Mired in the early stages of the Iranian hostage crisis, the public answer with a resounding "no," tossing out Jimmy Carter and launching a virtually uninterrupted push to install a conservative paradise on earth (except for that pesky Bill Clinton, but you how that was handled).

So 26 years into the GOP Conservative Paradise, it's only fair to ask a corollary of that question: are you safer now than you were four years ago? If you answer yes, you will be searched immediately to see what you are smoking.

Five years ago this week, the CIA presented (and George Bush apparently ignored) a daily briefing "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Less than one month later, four airplanes were hijacked, two destroyed the World Trade Center, one took a hunk out of the Pentagon and one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. George Bush stood on a pile of rubble in New York City and vowed to protect us.

Flash forward five years: a plot, alleged masterminded by Islamic extremists with ties to the Bin Laden organization is foiled. It was supposedly designed to blow up as many as 10 aircraft over the Atlantic, bound for the United States. The plot bears a strong resemblance to one foiled in the Philippines 11 years earlier.

In the intervening five years since Sept. 11, 2001, George Bush has guided the United States to war in Afghanistan and Iraq; along with his congressional colleagues created the Patriot Act which relies on wiretaps and secret surveillance; operated military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay; committed thousands of US lives to military operations; created a vast Department of Homeland Security; and talked tough about America's commitment to peace, freedom and democracy.

What has been accomplished?

The vanquished Taliban are staging a counter offensive and the elected leader of Afghanistan is mulling whether he will run again; Shiites and Sunnis continue to massacre each other in Iraq; and on a new front, Hezobollah, armed by Iran and Syria, is battling with Israel in the seemingly never-ending effort by Islam to destroy Judaism.

On the home front, the intelligence community is spying on cell phone records, library reading lists and anything else they can to try and track down "evil-doers." Away from the homeland, prisoners are kept without charges in secret prisons. In other words, the democratic civil liberties we are fighting for in the Middle East are being trampled in the name of that fight.

And despite all of those efforts, we are now faced with ever-tighter security checkpoints to make up for the fact we were not ready for this oldie but goodie one because we are fighting the last war against terrorists. Of course, if you take away the newspapers, how will people know the government is failing?

Anyone who dares suggest this fact of life is immediately labeled a traitor or coward, or worse still, a liberal, intent on strengthening our enemies.

George Bush's legacy. Do you really feel safer?

Friday, August 11, 2006

False claims

If the Bush administration "Global War on Terror" has been as effective as they claim in protecting America from attack, why is it that all parties seem to be coalescing around the theory that the disrupted London plot was an al Qaeda job?

If the Bush administration had pursued Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, rather than allowing him to escape to Pakistan (where these new British plotters apparently received aid and comfort), would this have happened?

If the resources pulled from Afghanistan to trigger a civil war in Iraq were allowed to fight the real anti-terrorism battle, would this have happened?

If the outrage on the Muslim "street" had not been allowed to grow through events like Abu Ghraib, Haditha and Mahmudiya, would this have happened?

Unlike the Bush administration, I don't profess to be infallible and all knowing. Of course, I do know that Bush et. al claimed to have weakened al Qaeda and put them on the run.

I also know that if religious zealotry and hatred -- whether practiced by people whose holy shrines are in Rome, Mecca or Jerusalem -- was not allowed to run unchecked, we would not be living in a world as unsafe as it has ever been, including the Cuban missile crisis.

How low can you go?

It didn't take long for the Blame Liberals First movement to seize on the aborted suicide bombing plot and turn the deadly matter into a political football. When you are desperate to hold onto office nothing, apparently, is out of bounds.

You've come to expect Darth Cheney to spin national security secrets for political gain. Picking up on the Rovian talking point about Democrats having a pre-9-11 mindset about national security, the shameless one suggested that the foiled plot is a sign of things to come if Republicans are swept from office. So important a point to make, he even deigned to speak directly to reporters.
"So it's an unfortunate development, I think, from the standpoint of the Democratic Party to see a man like Lieberman pushed aside because of his willingness to support an aggressive posture in terms of our national security strategy," Cheney said.
Sadly, it doesn't surprise me that Joe Lieberman stoops to the same level. The fear of losing office because you are out of touch with people prompts you to say things that are totally out of touch. It's appropriate the headline reads "Lieberman, on the offensive.." because this remark truly is.
"If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England," Mr. Lieberman said at a campaign event in Waterbury, Conn. "It will strengthen them, and they will strike again."
And while the GOP spin machine cranked out cutsie catch phrases like "Defeatocrats" and George Bush cut short his vacation for a campaign swing and the mind-boggling declaration that we are "This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11" no one has bothered to explain why nothing has been done to deal with liquid explosives even when all our security experts knew them to be a threat.

Or why no one has yet explained why cargo is not screened when it is loaded onto aircraft. Or why there are still no rules to deal with liquefied natural gas shipments through busy ports.

Nope, instead of action, we get false assurances and political grandstanding like Mitt Romney's stunt in calling up the National Guard even before it is clear what we are dealing with. Got to show you are decisive for those campaign commercials -- even if the greater threat to airport passengers at Logan is the Ted Williams Tunnel.

The GOP PR blitz is the clearest proof possible that far from being safer than ever before, we are more exposed than ever before. Violence in Lebanon; civil war in Iraq; Iran and North Korea playing with nukes. With those kinds of real fears I can see why the Republicans trot out the same old Big Lie -- anything to change the subject from their abject failure to protect America.

Did anyone else know immediately that this plot was real simply because it was the British, not the Americans, who made the announcement?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Moment of truth

Tuesday's Democratic senatorial primary in Connecticut is prompting lots of hand-wringing within the political establishment over what the impending defeat of Joe Lieberman means for progressive politics in the United States.

If you are reading this, you probably have a more than passing acquaintance with the argument that the anti-war "netroots" left is trying to yank the party leftward and away from the Clintonian Third Way path that Beltway insiders see as the salvation of the Democratic Party. Never mind it is an approach that has worked only for Bill Clinton, a unique political figure.

So, the pundits ask, what would a Ned Lamont victory do to the Democratic game plan to recapture Congress and the White House?

The real question, it seems to me, is what the Democrats demonstrating a backbone will do for their electoral prospects. The answer is a great deal.

GOP leaders are already doing what they do best, particularly when their party's favorability ratings are in the toilet: fear and smear. It's a long-held GOP tactic that you can win if you make your opponent the lesser of two evils. Candidates with the people skills of John Kerry and Al Gore are easy to smear.

But funny thing: even Republican candidates are running away from George Bush this year. The president's popularity runs in the upper 30s, nudging 40 percent. The only thing rated lower is the GOP Congress.

So the obvious question: can standing up and being FOR something (in this case opposition to the conduct of the Iraq war and the speedy return of our troops from a religious civil war) be a bad thing?

To Beltway Democrats, who have been scared of their own shadows (and the potential loss of the fruits of victory such as lobbying bucks) for too long the answer is yes.

To the rest of us out in the country, the ability to stand up and articulate a clear position (even if you don't agree -- although in this case I do agree) is a sign of moral courage. Lamont and the netroots are to be commended for honesty and forthrightness, something that has been lacking in Washington.

And for the scaredy-cat Beltway gang -- what have you got to lose? Bush and the GOP are down to their base. Their vile rhetoric is designed to insure the dead-enders show up at the polls and vote against the abortion, gay marriage and treason ticket. You know, the Mel Gibson-types.

You are never going to get those voters, so why worry about them? Why not try to encourage people fed up with the status quo and the vile state of the nation to turn out? All that might happen is you get a chance to lead? You can do that, can't you?

Blind faith

First, the obvious declaration: despite the accusations of rabid Republicans, there are reasons for secrets in government.

That said, here's the less-shocking disclosure that members of the US House of Representatives -- Democrat and Republican -- don't read what is in classified intelligence bills. It's not just intelligence bills that go unread too.

But the Catch 22 that surrounds the effort to be a responsible member of Congress (yes, an oxymoron) tells you more about the sad state of partisan politics and government in the United States today.

Reminds of the line about how you get people to vote Republican: keep 'em young and stupid.

Live fee or buy

Took one of those rare jaunts up to the Granite State yesterday. You know, the place that charges you for the "pleasure" of driving through it on the way to Maine.

This time, those good folks who live by luring Massachusetts residents' dollars with cheap booze and butts (sorry, no sale) gave me the added joy of a statewide traffic jam. It was bad enough the crawl started about three miles south of the Hampton tolls. Why did it continue to just about the bridge over the Piscataqua River and Maine.

New Hampshire's boast of being a garden spot where you can escape the decay of Massachusetts has always rung hollow with me. You do get what you pay for and endless battle over taxes ignores the fact the state's public schools (financed by an onerous property tax) leave a lot to be desired.

So, in the spirit of a truly flinty Granite Stater (you know like the guy in the mountain who crumbled), I took Route 1 back down, avoiding the tolls, saving a buck and honestly believing that the trip was no longer than the bumper-to-bumper crawl north.

And when I got the Massachusetts line -- where the strip malls gave way to trees and green, I heaved a sigh of relief at being home. Now if we can only get rid of Mitt...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fear and smear

It really is not fair to say that the Republican Congress and administration that it bows in allegiance to are guilty of doing nothing. Republican "leadership" has created a far-more dangerous world than we had on Sept. 10, 2001. And it has stripped the United States of the moral leadership it needs to prevent an even-deeper sinking into the morass.

It seems like a millennium ago when the world (even the French!) expressed compassion and solidarity with the United States. The arrogance of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld machine -- arrogance that has produced the "Axis of Evil" and such devastating spectacles as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo -- has exhausted US moral capital.

The most recent example of what this colossal failure has produced is a story hiding deep inside the A section of the New York Times today. The premise: the Iran is using Hezbollah as its surrogate to smack the United States around and this country doesn't have the resources -- military or diplomatic -- do anything about it.

Iraq was never the major problem among the three "axis" members -- as time has proven. Who has nukes -- Baghdad or Pyongyang? Who is clearly able to back up word with deed? Baghdad or Tehran?

The United States, by itself, cannot handle all the fires that have erupted because of its unilateral, go-it-alone mentality. That means it must depend on allies like those dreaded French to stop the devastation on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.

Faced with such obvious impotence, what does the GOP congressional lap dog do? Attack Democrats, of course. From the shamelessly partisan attempt to link the minimum wage increase to an estate tax cut to the equally shameless Rovian campaign tactics, the GOP is attacking only those they think they can beat -- Democrats.

Pulling a page from the Campaign '04 playbook, the fear and smear boys are on the march again -- this time taking on 16-term incumbent and Vietnam veteran John Murtha. The chicken hawks are out in force -- questioning his patriotism and bravery because he exercises his First Amendment right to speech.

Time and time again through recent American history -- the Palmer Raids, "Tail Gunner" Joe McCarthy, Spiro "Nolo Contendre" Agnew -- the forces of the right choose fear and smear when pushed to the wall. It is a history of cowardice -- particularly when compared to the actual military service of their recent targets.

It really is high time to ask the question posed Joseph Welch to the Wisconsin senator during the Army-McCarthy hearings.

"Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
Alas, the fear and smear crowd would trot out Anne Coulter with its answer. No.