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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, June 30, 2007

Points to ponder

Emptying out a week's worth of thoughts rattling around the brain:
  • What is it about sports writers than make them incapable of following a consistent line of thought? After pounding the Celtics for months, if not years, about having an over reliance on kids, the knives are now out for Danny Ainge because he traded yet another "prospect" for someone with some experience. And it was nice to learn I started a trend -- I stopped reading Shaughnessy years ago;
  • Another interesting tidbit from the Globe's seemingly endless review of the life and times of Myth Romney is his declaration, after failing miserably in his effort to build an opposition party that it was time for "me-me-me." In effect, it was an acknowledgment he was about to abandon his commitment to the voters who installed him for four years to pursue positions (jobs and philosophies) that served his own narrow self-interests.
  • I don't care if the iPhone doesn't cure cancer, bad breath or solve the Iraq problem. I do care if I can complete a call without my words dropping off with me knowing it.


Friday, June 29, 2007

The Romney Myth

After almost a week of cloying copy that amounted to wasting newsprint that might have ben better used in training a puppy, The Globe has captured the political essence of Mitt Romney. There is a good reason he's known in these parts as Fraudo.

While the animal cruelty story will (rightly) get increasing national attention, the Romney "record" in Massachusetts is now in one easy place for all to see. Some highlights:
  • Romney was state shopping because ''he wants a position with enough national exposure to launch a presidential campaign;''
  • He set up a campaign operation and hired staff, all the while telling anyone who would listen that he would not challenge incumbent Jane Swift;
  • The devoted family man cut off his wife as she was declaring her "qualms" about what a return to Massachusetts after three years in Utah would do to her multiple sclerosis;
  • He filed taxes in and claimed his "primary residence" in Utah, then amended that claim when he decided to run in Massachusetts resident.
And that was BEFORE he was elected to office on the promise to clean up waste, fraud and mismanagement.

The Romney years -- with the penchant for overstatement -- are well laid out in the Brian Mooney, replete with how Romney overstated the size of both the state's fiscal problems and its eventual turnaround.
Romney and the Legislature did approve an austere budget to deal with nearly all of a projected shortfall, which never fully materialized because tax collections came in more than $1.2 billion above preliminary estimates. The spending plan also raised at least $331 million through increased fees for permits, licenses, and services - about a 45-percent jump - and $128 million in tax code tweakings to close ''loopholes'' affecting businesses. Another $181 million in ''loophole'' closings - businesses called them tax increases - followed in the next two years.
Romney has asserted that the fee increases totaled only $260 million in fiscal 2004 but that ignores at least $71 million in new fees implemented shortly after he took office.
At the same time, Romney presided over changes that boosted municipal reliance on property taxes from 49 percent of their budgets to 53 percent, prompting local cuts and higher fees in a cycle that continues today. And he also"over" raised" the gasoline tax -- and overstated the surplus generated in FY 2005.

And all the while he laid the foundation of a projected $1 billion shortfall that Deval Patrick found when he took the oath of office.

A few other choice morsels:
  • "As a candidate for governor, Romney vowed to slash the state bureaucracy and now, on the presidential campaign trail, frequently says: 'One commentator said that I didn't just go after the sacred cows, I went after the whole herd.' After four years, he reduced the payroll of agencies under his direct control by 603 jobs, to 43,979, according to his administration's tally. By contrast, one of his predecessors, Weld, closed state hospitals, privatized services, and slashed about 7,700 jobs in his first term."
  • "Romney gave jobs to many of his own campaign workers, but was aggressive in ousting longtime operatives of his own Republican party, including David Balfour, head of the Metropolitan District Commission, a patronage haven that Romney would fold into another state agency."
  • "In his final months as governor, Romney filled more than 200 slots on boards and commissions with party loyalists, state employees, and others. Fehrnstrom, his communications director, was named to the part-time board of the Brookline Housing Authority. After the Globe pointed out the appointment would help Fehrnstrom qualify for a large state pension, he resigned from the board, protesting 'unwarranted political attacks' on Romney."
It's safe to assume his ditching the job after losing badly in his effort to remake the Legislature will be an integral part of the final installment.

For now, we'll simply content ourselves to note that he did to Massachusetts what his dog did to the car roof.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

What will Cheney say this time?

It's become one of the golden moments of the Bush-Cheney values administration, Vice President Dick Cheney dropping the f-bomb on Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy on the floor of the Senate.

I can only guess what Darth had to say after Leahy's Senate Judiciary Committee dropped subpoenas on them over the administration's warrantless wiretapping policies.

Contrary to White House mouthpiece Tony Fratto's contention that the administration has been totally open and forthcoming (unsworn, unrecorded conversations is not my idea of openness), this is a necessary step to examine the depth of the Bush administration's contempt for the Constitution.

Slowly but surely, Congress is regenerating its spine. The Bush folks may soon need Mitt Romney to hose them down too.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A fresh breeze stirring?

Despite the stifling heat and humidity, I think I detect the ever so-faint rustle of a breeze, one that could signal better days ahead. Of course, it could be cut off in an instant, but the signs are intriguing.

First is the amazing medical-political act taking place in the US Senate. Two adult senators, both with some significant years on their bones, are spontaneously regenerating backbone!
First, Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, takes to the floor to declare the obvious, that the outlook in Iraq is bleak. Even more remarkably, he adds, "We don't owe the president our unquestioning agreement."

Then, Ohio Republican George Voinovich writes a letter to George Bush urging the president to develop "a comprehensive plan for our country's gradual military disengagement" from Iraq. "I am also concerned that we are running out of time."

Will wonders never cease?

There's a part of me that believes the Washington Post's four-part series looking under the rocks in the Office of the Vice President may be playing a role in this medical miracle. Exposure of the slime taking place in the name of the United States has to have a cleansing effect -- particularly when Cheney is running even lower in the polls than his boss.

Then there's the fact that the CIA has decided to come clean with its own "family jewels", making public it's sometimes shameful history of lawbreaking in what it believed was the pursuit of national goals.

Or was that the pursuit of presidential goals? I find it interesting the project was launched under William Colby and James Schlesinger, CIA chiefs to Richard Nixon -- and released by Michael Hayden, named to the post by George W. Bush. Interestingly -- at least so far -- no nasty stuff from the era of CIA chief George H.W. Bush.

Finally, there's a new poll suggesting the "younger generation" may finally be taking on the politics of their Baby Boom elders. Hardly definitive and who knows what bombshell may fall -- not to mention there are no guarantees these left-leaning folks will actually cast a ballot in 2008.

But when you are searching from the slightest hint of relief from stifling conditions, you'll grasp at even the faintest whiff of a breeze.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Slow but steady

I've been tough on House Speaker Sal DiMasi, so it's time for a little respect.

House and Senate conferees have agreed on a bill that would ease the burden of underperforming pensions on cities and towns. Communities -- and the state -- need to keep feeding the pension kitty and when pensions fail to bring in the right investment mix, local taxpayers get hit for the shortfall.

Under the bill, about two dozen communities, including six counties (I thought they were abolished?) will see their funds taken over by the state. Lawmakers estimate those funds fell $700 million short on performance standards over the last decade. (And that's without Myth investing for them!)

Coupled with a bill passed last week that allows city and towns to enroll their employees in the state's Group insurance Commission for health care coverage, two pieces of the Patrick administration's municipal financing package has made it through the Legislature.

Still ahead are the toughies. The meals tax proposal appears stalled -- and the same fate could hold true for the call to extend the state's personal property tax reach onto Verizon. Patrick makes a pretty convincing case that Verizon's arguments, well, are bogus:
Here are the facts: the fact is Verizon pays higher taxes in Texas, Washington, New Jersey, California and others. Guess what? In those places rates are lower than rates are for us here in Massachusetts. They charge less where they pay more taxes it turns out. Let's focus on the facts. No other state has this kind of property tax exemption for the phone companies. And yet employment has grown in all those other states. Not fallen off as they threaten here. And as for that claim about broadband investment, we've had this law for 92 years. We still don't have broadband investment in the western part of the Commonwealth.
As a frequent restaurant-goer I have pretty mixed feelings about the meals tax. As a Verizon customer and Massachusetts property taxpayer, I have real serious issues with a corporation sticking its tax bill on me.

Business backers say that companies will only pass through their tax bills on their customers if the Legislature raises the cost of doing business in Massachusetts. Guess what -- they already do. I pay higher property taxes because there is a lack of equity in the personal, corporate and property tax structure.

The message behind passage of this piece of legislation is that we are all in this together -- including multi-trillion dollar corporations like this one who prides itself on its ability to "hear me now."

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Monday, June 25, 2007

It's a Mitts-tery to me

Interesting decision by Myth Romney to once again loan his campaign cash as the June 30 reporting deadline approaches.
Romney was the head-and-shoulders leader among GOP candidates at the first reporting threshold, even with the $2.4 million of his own dash that he pumped in as part of his $21 million haul.

With Romney the beneficiary of good publicity from a place where it counts (and nothing bad so far from a place that still may get him -- I'm waiting for Parts 3, 6 and 7) it seems odd that he would announce plans to prime his own pump.

And that is particularly true with the announcement coming as he wrapped up a two-day fund-raising blitz in his erstwhile hometown.

Is there something coming -- either from the Globe or elsewhere -- that would prompt him to take this sort of defensive move at a time when he appears to be on a hot streak?

The GOP story out of this reporting deadline should have been an exclusive focus on John McCain's success or failure. Romney pumping his own money in could tend to dampen whatever results he does announce -- even if, as expected, he tops the list.

So has he tapped all the likely sources? Or is he gearing up for a rough road? Stay tuned.

And apropos of nothing, here's a good look at Corporate Man Romney building his brand.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mitt-Summer Madness

Things are looking rosy for our erstwhile governor as he flits into town in preparation to shatter another fund-raising record. Or are they?

The Man, the Myth and the Legend in his Own Mind will flip-flop into town tomorrow and Monday to hold another one of those visual phone-a-thons, this one designed to win the artificial second quarter fund-raising race.

But the the chattering class may soon start chattering a bit more about Romney driver/operations director Jay "Trooper" Garrity -- the overly ambitious aide who ran New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich off the road in New Hampshire after declaring they "ran the license plate."

True to form, the Romney people are dissembling, claiming Garrity said and did no such thing -- which would violate New Hampshire law.

But Garrity may also be in trouble in Romney's alleged home state, after claiming to be a state trooper in calling up the employer of a Masshole driver. We applaud his desire to get the jerk off the road, but not his methods -- which would be a violation of Massachusetts law.

It's beginning to look like Mitt World is populated by people who believe there's one set of rules for them and one set for everyone else. Including the Mittster himself and his flexible view on his core beliefs.

Oh one final thought Myth. You really want to use Fenway Park -- and annoy all those Yankee fans? Or do you think Rudy has them sewed up?

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Darth Vader or the Emperor?

I've personally been fond of the Darth Cheney tag for our believed vice president, playing on what he tries to pretend is his blind obedience in service to his boss.

But obviously, every now and then the question arises: who really is in charge. The latest claim coming out of the office of VPOTUS really does give you pause -- again -- to ask who is running the show.

Our No. 2, elected -- at least in 2004 -- as the second name on the ticket for president now claims he's really a member of the legislative branch. The vice president's only real job under the Constitution -- except to make sure the president's heart is till beating -- is to preside over the Senate.

And that means he is not subject to an executive order -- issued by No. 1 -- governing the handling of classified information.

But at the same time, he is using the prerogatives of an executive branch perch to try and abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules. All the while ignoring the requests of the legislative branch for information.

And people accused Bill Clinton of being slick?

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We're waiting Mr. Speaker

The Globe is pronouncing a local option meals tax dead in the House (with Speaker Sal DiMasi who represents the North End and its restaurants the only naysayer who really matters).

We are also well aware the The Speakah is among the principal opponents to Deval Patrick's idea of closing corporate tax loopholes. And there appears to be legislative sympathy to Verizon's plea for a tax break so they can continue to beautify the Boston area landscape with said same taxable property.

The Legislature is days away from producing a fiscal 2008 budget that is likely to call for tighter spending in key areas, using rainy day funds as a crucial piece of an effort not to cut services.

We know that corporate leaders are not about to buy into a proposal that will raise their cost of doing business. And no matter how many legal tickets they buy to Patrick fund-raisers they buy, it's unlikely to change Patrick's mind to drop the whole idea.

So the ball is in your court Mr. Speakah. The House has the responsibility to initiate all budget and tax measures. Is there something coming before the Legislature takes off for the summer sometime next month -- a proposal to be tossed about at the taxable hotels and motels and restaurants on the Cape and in the Berkshires?

Or are property owners going to continue to pay escalating tax bills, reject Proposition 2 1/2 overrides and watch their local quality of life continue to deteriorate indefinitely?

We know what you are against Mister Speakah. What is your alternative?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hell hath no fury...

I think there's an important element in today's lead story in the Globe, excoriating Deval Patrick for holding a legal fund-raiser, that was downplayed in the effort to promote a sexy quote.

The two business executives who helped pony up $25,000 are two of the principal civic leaders who are lining up against Patrick's proposed corporate tax loophole closing proposal, a fact noted in the 12th paragraph, right after a comment about how Patrick is building ties to the business community -- and right before one about how Liberty Mutual Group CEO Edmund Kelley was a big donor to Kerry Healey.

But none of that could compare to the Quote Hall of Famer offered by Tufts political science professor Jeffrey Berry:
"It looks like he's been housebroken," Berry said. "Words are cheap, and his rhetoric now appears to have been empty slogans. His supporters are going to be a little disappointed. But it is rare for politicians to follow through on changing politics as usual. Politics as usual has a lot of attraction once you are in office. Governor Patrick is not immune from the temptation."
Words are indeed cheap, and there is nothing in Berry's comments to suggest he knows that it truly is business as usual on Beacon Hill under Patrick. His ill-advised telephone call to Ameriquest was far more egregious on the symbolic scale, and yet the Ethics Commission found him free of conflict there.

I'm a believer in seeing some sort of proof, if not a smoking gun, before I draw conclusions. Patrick is guilty of no more than business as usual -- which admittedly always has a slightly seamy context on Beacon Hill.

But I would like to see a quid pro quo, some proof that he was bought for $25,000, before a story like this appears in such a prominent place in the paper.

The Globe has become much more aggressive in covering the Corner Office since it got a permanent resident to replace the vagabond who spent four, er, two years there. That's good -- even though I can't help but feel that it took a challenge from Patrick to engage them.

And some of those stories, such as the insinuations against an industrial accident board judge nominee, didn't have any legs to stand on past the dime drop.

I'm also pragmatic enough to remember back to the first Dukakis administration -- and what happened to St. Michael after he refused to work with the Legislature and the business community.

So far, I see a war of words between Patrick and those players -- a war over the importance of tax fairness. When and if Patrick backs off the proposal -- with nothing in return -- I will consider the possibility he was bought for $25,000.

Until then, I think the Globe should consider a major pitfall of the media business -- failing victim to the siren song of the "perfect quote." Or has Jeffrey Berry housebroken them?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Two Americas

Hard to miss the contrast between these two stories in today's Globe.

Ron Rivera, a truck driver for Tweeter, loses his job and his severance pay when Tweeter declares bankruptcy. Although he agreed to stay on and help close some West Coast operations, the Chapter 11 filing will deprive him of most, if not all, of his severance package.
"Will they get some of the money? Yeah," said [Sean Gilligan, a bankruptcy lawyer at Gesmer Upgrove LLP , a Boston law firm.] "But if you get 10 percent of your salary and you didn't get it for a couple years, how much is that worth to you?"
Compare that to Stephen Schwarzman, head man of the Blackstone Group, a venture capital firm who is due for a $450 million payout -- and a $7 billion stake -- as a result of a public stock offering.

The tax implications are so egregious that two senators have proposed legislation to nix Blackstone's bid to pay only 15 percent on capital gains as opposed to the 35 percent corporate tax rate.

Assuming the bill ever sees the light of day, do you think it will match the 10 cents on the dollar Ron Rivera will get? And just how much more will you and I pay in taxes to enable Schwarzman to enjoy "stone crabs at $40 a claw, fine wines, and brass bands."

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Wrong way tolls

Forgive me if I think that some (Romney era-holdovers) believe the only way to solve the state's transportation problems is to make a handful of people dig deeper into their wallets.

We are well aware that the entire state's transportation infrastructure is in tough shape and that one of the major reasons is the time and resources that have been plugged into the Big Dig. So why are the people who don't use the Big Dig every day being eyed as the principal source of new revenue -- in the form of rush hour tolls on the Mass. Pike?

And why are west suburban commuters targeted in tandem with MBTA riders, who are being asked to pay regularly increasing fares to keep their cars off the road?

What about our friendly daily commuters from New Hampshire -- many of whom abandoned the state because of property taxes and now enjoy free rides on unregulated roadways? Or South Shore commuters, who reap the most benefit from the new roadway in exchange for no extra financial pain?

Higher T fares of course mean more people saying no to the privilege of jamming into overcrowded sardine cans to share a fraction of a inch with a questionable-smelling commuter. Maybe that's the way to get them back into their cars and onto the pricier roads?

The simplest and most equitable way to finance necessary road repairs is through the gasoline tax. That's what it is there for. Yes, with gas hovering in the $3 a gallon range it is a painful prospect to ask commuters to pay more.

But then again, maybe they will respond by getting out of the cars and onto public transportation that will offer them quick, convenient and friendly commutes. Heck, folks coming in from the west can ride the Riverside branch of the Green Line.

Oh yeah, I forgot.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New York State of Mind

So what are the odds that the next President of the United States is living in New York today?

Michael Bloomberg's decision to dump his Republican affiliation for the final two-plus years of his term as New York mayor is far more provocative than his previous less-than-Shermanesque statements. In fact, it raises speculation to a fever pitch given the widespread dissatisfaction with the other 20 folks now in the race.

Should Bloomberg choose to run as an independent he would bring an unusual resume to the race. A lifelong Democrat who switched parties because the Democratic mayoral field was too crowded, Bloomberg is a gazillionaire who would not be afraid to spend his cash. He spent well over $100 million to win his two terms.

But Bloomberg is not another Ross Perot, a quirky businessman with an ego and the cash to back it up. He has been carefully plotting a course down the middle -- joining forces with Arnold Schwarzenegger among others. And his tongue won't act like Perot's crazy aunt in the closet.

And stranger things have happened. Born and raised in Boston and a lifelong Red Sox fan, Bloomberg presided over New York while Rudy Giuliani's beloved Yankees choked and sent the Red Sox on their way to their first championship in 86 years.

Being a serious presidential candidate in 2008 in a field that includes Giuliani and Hillary Clinton is far less bizarre.


"Thumbing its nose at the law"

It's official. The Bush administration thinks it is above the law.

While hardly a shocking revelation for an administration that started a war under false pretenses, reports by the Government Accountability Office and a congressional committee disclose the depth of the Bushies' contempt for the law. No wonder Albert Gonzales handpicked US attorneys in key states and W. is afraid to let him go.

The signing statement story has been one of the most under appreciated during the Bush reign. A Pulitzer Prize for the Globe showcases the depth of the administration's "I'm the law around here" attitude -- whether the topic is border patrol stations or torture.
Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project -- a bipartisan think-tank that has condemned signing statements as a threat to the checks and balances that limit presidential power -- said yesterday that the GAO report shows that signing statements matter.

"The findings of this report should come as no great surprise: When the president tells federal agencies they don't have to follow the law, they often don't," Sloan said. "This report should put to rest any doubts as to the real impact of signing statements. The Constitution does not bestow upon the president the power to simply ignore portions of laws he doesn't like."

Nor does the Constitution bestow upon the president's cronies the power to end-run laws they don't like.

It was clearly no "oversight" that Karl Rove more than half of the 140,000 e-mails Karl Rove sent or received over five years involved .gov accounts and his own account at the Republican National Committee. That's despite a law that requires official government business be conducted through official White House channels.

The report by the House Government Oversight Committee also found that the RNC hasn't retained messages for about 50 of the 88 White House aides who kept dual accounts.

Bushies of course are scoffing at the Democrats "partisan" forays. And I'm sure it's not a coincidence the report was released around the 35th anniversary of the Watergate break-in.

But you need to wonder whether this is the modern-day equivalent of Rose Mary Woods' 18-1/2 minute gap?

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

More points to ponder

Things to bounce around the recesses of your mind during your Father's Day barbecue...

  • Happy Anniversary G. Gordon Liddy. It was 35 years ago today that the Liddy-masterminded the "third-rate burglary" of Democratic National Committee headquarters started the process that brought down a presidency. Too bad both politics and journalism has been on a downhill track since then. And this guy makes Nixon look good.
  • First-rate chutzpah. Speaking of "this guy," the Crawford heat must be affecting his brain. George W. Bush castigating Democrats for out-of-control spending and irresponsible tax policy is about as credible as suggesting Paris Hilton is a valued contributor to American society. Bush the Magician almost single-handedly turned a surplus into a crippling deficit with budgetary sleight-of-hand like ignoring Iraq spending on the budget while cutting taxes for the rich.
  • I didn't mean it, honest. Joan Vennochi suggests "the Massachusetts liberal" is helping Myth Romney by doing silly things like rejecting marriage quality. I've been thinking the same thing for a while so now may be a good time to say "Mitt Romney is the greatest thing to happen to Massachusetts since sliced bread and he deserves our support, love and devotion." I must admit the same thought did occur to me. But Joan, I capitalize the "L" in liberal.
  • Click it for a ticket? Paul Levy offers an interesting e-commerce idea on how the Globe can attract the dollars it needs to stop its slide into "The New York Times: Massachusetts edition." Levy opines that by allowing the blogosphere a more robust presence on boston.com, the Globe and its masters could generate clicks and cash -- for itself and for bloggers eager to hitch their words to a more heavily read vehicle. Sort of like this.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Heavy artillery

Same-sex marriage opponents have decided to roll out the big guns in their never-say-die effort to impose their narrow-minded vision on Massachusetts.

After being out-organized and out-maneuvered by marriage equality supporters, Kris and his Massachusetts Family Institute minnows now plan to target four lawmakers who voted not to place the amendment on the 2008 ballot.

Where were you two and four years ago? Or did you really believe that stuff about jobs for votes?

But things really don't look good when the Ambassador himself downplays the chance of getting another crack at the ballot.
"The people who are advocating same-sex marriage are very, very determined," said former Boston mayor and US ambassador to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn. "They're very active, and they participate in the process. Give them credit: They know how to wage a political campaign, and politicians respond to that kind of pressure."
You may recall Flynn has had more political incarnations than Myth Romney, the anti-marriage stalwart who disappeared when push came to shove. From anti-busing activist to liberal populist to Clinton ambassador to the Vatican to Bush-voting conservative, Flynn has spanned the spectrum and knows reality when he sees it.

Too bad his friends don't have the same perspective. Perhaps in time. Remember Kris, the Herald thinks it's time to move on.


Ode to a Plastic Man

Memo to Romney security team: Never run a reporter off the road, especially when you "ran the license plate" and know that he's armed with nothing worse than pad, pen and tape recorder.

The New York Times' Mark Leibovich captured the essence of The Man, the Myth and the Legend in his own Mind by observing Romney on the stump in Iowa and New Hampshire.

(Just how hard did he need to look to find someone named Faux to offer lukewarm ennui about Romney?)

If George Bush won over voters by giving the impression he'd be a great guy to knock back a few brews with, Romney reminds people of a different Massachusetts governor (sorry Michael!) We all know how that turned out.

The Man from Massachusetts-Michigan-Utah-New Hampshire may be front running in Iowa and New Hampshire today, but all signs are showing this will not be a traditional primary year with those two states carrying their traditional clout.

And while state-by-state polls are indeed a better marker of a campaign, it's hard not to notice that Romney slips to fourth when Fred Thompson's name is tossed into the mix.

So have a Great Day while you can Myth.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

The morning after

Well, what do you know. The sun came out, the Earth is still spinning on its axis and the world as we know it did not end. Well, maybe. Check out this Herald editorial:
And with that, we all move on. Yesterday’s defeat of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage represents not just a victory for gay couples, but a loss for those who cynically sought political advantage by favoring the most uncompromising version of such an amendment. The latter, like presidential contender Mitt Romney got what they deserved.
Despite the loaded words of Kris Mineau and the poorly named Massachusetts Family Institute, the vote by the Massachusetts Legislature -- which last I looked was elected by "the people" -- came down to families, not promises of jobs and other unproven allegations.

Representative Richard J. Ross, a Republican from Wrentham, had a revelation Wednesday afternoon after meeting with a gay Republican who presented him with this challenge: As director of his family's funeral home, Ross had surely treated every family the same, no matter what their race, religion, or sexual orientation. So why would he do anything else in his other job, as a lawmaker?

For Senator Gale Candaras, it was the 6,800 phone calls, letters, e-mails, even faxes, from her district that left no question in her mind what her constituents wanted her to do. One letter came from an 82-year-old woman who worried that one of her young grandchildren might grow up to be gay and might not be able to marry the person he loved.

What about political horsetrading?

Senator Michael W. Morrissey, a Democrat from Quincy, said he ignored the lobbyists and the power brokers who wanted to talk to him and sought counsel from his wife, his family, his oldest friends, and a few constituents. He made up his mind moments before walking into the House chamber yesterday. "People's ability to be happy is fundamental," he said. "To pass judgment on that, in the end, I found hard to do."

Mineau and his band of zealots, looking to impose their minority will on the majority of Massachusetts, insist they won't go away. Promises abound of coming back in 2012 -- when gay and lesbian couples will be close to celebrating their 8th wedding anniversaries.

Let's hope more reasonable voices prevail -- although it's hard to imagine reason is a staple of these Theocons. After way too many years -- and tears -- this issue needs to be put to rest.

Heck, even the Herald says so.


Odds and ends

Pulling together a few random thoughts and ideas while continuing to digest THE story:
  • The personification of everything wrong with American sports today has rolled into town. He's been described as "loathsome, surly, churlish, rude, arrogant, petulant, boorish, pompous, spoiled, and mean-spirited, among other aspersions ... a lout, a twit, a jerk, and a jackass." Barry Bonds is the subject of grand jury probes for perjury and tax evasion. He called Boston a racist city without setting foot into it (OK, not the first and not without at least some justification in the past). He collects his millions while he cheats, sneers and disrespects every human being he encounters. Boos aren't enough. Solitary confinement -- just him and his ego -- seems like a good plan.
  • Hell hath no fury like a mayor scorned. Mayor-for-Life Tom Menino won't be shopping at Filene's Basement -- even after they re-open in 2009. Menino is irked that Filene's spurned city efforts to help them a temporary home during renovations in Downtown Crossing and instead made a "corporate decision." What were they supposed to do? Be the only business open in that shopping district that has withered and is about to die under your watch?
  • Myth Romney flip-flopping again? I didn't think there was any room left for the Great GOP Acrobat but the Mittser continues to amaze all comers with his political dexterity.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

They did the right thing!

After all the blustering, speculation, wild unproven allegations -- not to mention political posturing and outright intolerance -- the Massachusetts Legislature did the right thing and opted not to buy the absurd concept that the people of Massachusetts had the right to vote to deny a class of citizens a right granted to them under the state Constitution three years ago.

This a more than a victory just for gay and lesbians couples who will now have the right to marry -- and care for each other in hospitals, share property and all the other rights afforded to committed male-female partners. It is a victory for a state that says it will not allow hate, intolerance and bigotry to be enshrined in the Constitution.

It is also a victory for Deval Patrick, Sal DiMasi and Terry Murray -- who showed true leadership in getting the representatives of the people to see what fairness dictated. It is a particularly resounding victory for Patrick and Murray, who replaced figures who stood, to a greater and lesser degree, for the enshrinement of discrimination.

In a strange way it is also a victory for Mitt Romney, who led the forces calling for a ban on gay marriage as part of his effort to put his own ambitions ahead of the best interests of the state he was elected to lead.

Romney can now use the repudiation of his crusade as proof that he really is out of step with Massachusetts -- and therefore the right and true conservative he claims to be. Never mind all the flip-flops.

The story line will read like this: Mitt won the first round by the force of his persuasion. When he left, Massachusetts reverted to form. Therefore only Romney has what it takes to stand up to liberals.

Among the biggest losers are the Massachusetts' four Catholic bishops, who improperly injected themselves into the political fray by labeling the "the leadership of the Democratic Party" as the culprits behind the swing in votes.

Never mind that a number of Republicans voted to kill the amendment (including two vote switchers) and two key members of DiMasi's leadership team -- Thomas Petrolati and Angelo Scaccia -- bucked the Speaker.

Another big loser was Kris Mineau and the Massachusetts Family Institute, who waged a McCarthy-like smear campaign suggesting that Patrick and Democratic leaders improperly offering inducements for votes -- without coming up with any proof for the smear.

In the end, this was a vote about right and wrong. It was right not to undo three years of marriages (and divorces) of committed same sex couples. And it was right to take this divisive issue off the table.

Myth Romney will no doubt seek to capitalize on the vote as he continues to pander to the Religious Right. But this issue will no longer be front and center in the 2008 presidential elections. Instead we will be able to focus on the real issues -- like an immoral war that is far more of an abomination than anything that could be dreamed up by the Theocons to change the subject.

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Do the right thing

Showdown Day on Beacon Hill and all we have to read are tea leaves.

When the gavel comes down on the Constitutional Convention at 1 p.m., we'll know in pretty short order whether the pro- or anti-gay marriage forces have the votes. If it slams back down quickly, it means the votes to stop the call to let voters strip peoples' rights are still not there. A decision to go forward will end an end to the nightmare -- and a vote to do the right thing.

Nose counts are being kept close to the vest, a sure sign the anti-bias leadership is close to their goal of killing the amendment. Another sign is the heightened rhetoric of amendment sponsors who insist that only a vote on the 2008 ballot is democracy and that the arm-twisting in un-American.

Another fascinating tea leaf is the fact that -- so far -- only one former governor has shown his face in the state to lobby. Bill Weld completed his flip-flop by coming back to his original, libertarian view that government has no role in legislating morality.

There's no word on where in the world Mitt Romney will be today when the vote he helped to push is taken. His relative silence in recent days -- speaking on the topic only when challenged -- suggests the Man, the Myth and the Legend in his own Mind doesn't plan to play a role. I guess profiles in courage come harder when you are the presumed front runner in the early primary states.

It probably also doesn't hurt to know that you would probably swing a few votes to the other side simply by showing your face.

But there are some poignant profiles out there, showing this is not just power politics. And the Globe is to be applauded for a novel editorial letting lawmakers this is not just an abstract concept but a real vote with real consequences for all of their constituents.

In the end, it is not about "letting the people vote." Americans should not be voting about other Americans civil rights. The government has no business sticking into collective nose into private matters that hold no consequence beyond the individuals affected by the decision.

But the Theocons who dominate the Republican Party -- who has made a mockery of that party's libertarian roots -- see gay marriage as a cudgel in their Holy War to impose their own beliefs on Americans.

A yes vote will subject Massachusetts -- and America -- with 17 more months of vitriolic, hate-filled rhetoric. It will prevent action on the real issues that Massachusetts must deal with. It will cloud the real issues America must deal with -- how to extricate ourselves from civil wars -- based on religion -- that poses the truer Armageddon.

It's time for Massachusetts legislators to do that right thing -- exercise their responsibilities as representatives of the greater good and kill a bad piece of legislation. It's time to move away from the hate.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I've been workin' on the railroad...

Dan "I Don't Ride the T Because It's Not Convenient" Grabauskas is at again with promises of better, faster Green Line service on easier-to-board cars.

Of course, this will come after a nightmarish summer without Riverside D Line service during which buses will run along Route 9 -- which is undergoing a major repaving project -- and during 27 Red Sox home games.

Ever try to commute home on the Green Line during a Red Sox game? Ever try to walk through Kenmore Square when a game gets out? No Dan, I didn't think so.

But we should believe Smilin' Dan, because his face is up there on posters, framed by an American flag, telling MBTA riders that newer, faster and better is just around the corner.

Where have I heard this before?

Kenmore Station is now in its third century of renovations -- adding to traffic congestion as buses that used to slide into the middle of the square now have to circle around and through the tangle of cars, trucks and pedestrians. Adding more buses will certainly make things easier for a project that is at least a year or more behind schedule.

Copley Station, which has been under construction for at least six months (installation of the new turnstiles) now proudly boasts signs about what the new station will look like -- in 2009!

Arlington Street Station began its serious renovation in November (and was torn up earlier for CharlieCard changes). My best guess would be 2009 and 2010 here too.

But Smilin' Dan tells us that when the Riverside line re-opens in September, Longwood and Brookline Village stations will be rebuilt (along with an overpass in Newton); new tracks and ties will speed the Newton ride -- and all this will be done without keeping the neighbors up with overnight banging.

I'm still waiting for the three-car trains on the Green Line -- using cars with aisles wide enough to get through when you need to push your way to the front during rush hour to pay your outbound fare.

I'm still waiting for the faster service on Commonwealth Avenue thanks to the closing of three stations (none of which were among the seven that serve Boston University).

No one is disputing that a 100-year-old system needs improvements and upgrades to make it accessible to people with disabilities.

What is in dispute is the wide gap between promises and reality. The MBTA has shown itself incapable of meeting deadlines and already has three major (and behind schedule projects) -- on the Green Line alone.

Taking on yet another major nightmarish project, when they've shown themselves incapable of completing things on time and on budget, doesn't really seem wise. On the other hand, it certainly feels like the MBTA.

Doesn't it strike you as long overdue for Smilin' Dan to submit his resignation as part of the changing of the guard of the Patrick administration?

It's probably coming right along, behind that next three-car Green Line train.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Breaking some eggs

Critics of the Patrick administration are out in force this morning.

The Globe's page One notes how the special commission appointed to look at the state's business taxes is divided on a potential recommendation. The Herald, somewhere after a major splash on Hillary Clinton's makeup artist, says Deval Patrick is "railroading" the process.

Meanwhile, back on the editorial page, the Globe joins the tut-tut chorus in questioning Patrick's choice of MCAS foe Ruth Kaplan for the state Board of Education, worrying there is no "cogent" educational philosophy between that pick and his call for a "cradle to career" education plan.

But instead of railroads and tut-tuts, I see an administration that, after a fitful and slow start, is beginning to pick up steam. Isn't that a lot better than a disengaged plutocrat, who took no salary and offered exactly nothing in return as he focused on his own ambitions instead of those of the people who elected him?

The draft says the commission appointed by Patrick and legislators supports a change that could generate up to $100 million next year by barring corporations from registering as one kind of company on federal tax forms and as another on state forms.

I'm no expert on these things, but my hunch is the report is a tactic common in corporate arenas, summarizing what it believes is the majority opinion, with the authors striving to build consensus to that view during debate.

Patrick supports the tax change. The Legislature does not. The loudest private critic is Mike Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, who was appointed by House Speaker Sal DiMasi, the leading elected critic.

Whoever leaked the report was looking for leverage by taking the debate public early rather than wait for a consensus. That's undoubtedly because a Globe poll in April found that a small majority supports the Patrick concept. And that's why Widmer and some business allies opposed to the tax change are steamed.

But what's so bad about a little discussion and a little sunlight? If leaking the draft moves a few votes -- toward a position favored by a small majority of voters -- who wins? It's called hardball, but it's practiced in every other arena of life.

And the same applies to the Kaplan appointment to the Board of Education. Why does it seem as an end to civilization as we know it because one person who is not enamored of MCAS is in a position to discuss its flaws?

Isn't it just possible that the conversation that will result from her presence on the board will lead to strengthening education?

Is one person so powerful that they can turn around a ship by themselves?

Patrick is shaking up a state government that was moribund as a result of four years of neglect as Mitt Romney focused his sights anywhere but the Commonwealth. His tactics might seem beyond standard operating procedures, but he was elected to bring about change.

By igniting debate -- in meeting rooms, front pages and editorial pages -- he is doing just that. Taxpayers, homeowners, children and everyone else will be better off in the end as a result of the debate.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Let the people vote?

We're fast approaching another scheduled vote of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention on whether to take away the right of gay couples to marry. The bluster is starting to reach a fever pitch and who knows, we may even see our erstwhile former governor pop into town to try and score some political points.

So let's take yet another look at some of the arguments and tactics being used by gay marriage opponents as they work to build a divisive plank for a 2008 election season where virtually every other conservative position has been repudiated.
  • Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman because homosexuality is unnatural.
We'll skim right over the fact polygamy exists in many cultures and religions and head to recent scientific research that homosexuality appears to have genetic roots. And as for the argument that marriage exists to create children, I think the sharks may have other thoughts on the matter.

Anyone suggesting straight marriage is the only acceptable form of marriage and procreation is speaking through a very biased filter, seeking to impose their own world view and ignoring evidence to the contrary. This debate is far from over -- and in any event, government has no business legislating a narrow view of morality.
  • People have a right to be heard and have their vote counted.
And people -- about 170,000 of Massachusetts' 4.1 million registered voters are being heard. Over and over and over again.

Supporters of this ballot initiative are having a hard time holding 25 percent of the 200-member Massachusetts Legislature to cast a second vote on this initiative that's been put on the ballot by an even smaller number of voters -- many of whom signed petitions placed in front of them by people earning cash for each signature.

And since when is voting on taking away someone's right appropriate? If this question succeeds, what is to stop agenda-driven zealots from putting a question on the ballot to legalize slavery? Or take away a woman's right to vote?
  • Improper promises are being made to encourage voter switching.
Coming from a group that paid to collect signatures, this one is hilarious. Supporters of the ban failed to capitalize on the biggest political asset they had -- a sitting governor running for president who made the issue a centerpiece in his effort to woo conservatives.

Kris Mineau sounds an awful lot like Joe McCarthy when he declares "I have unequivocal corroboration that the Legislature has never seen pressure like this applied. " Where's the proof?

And, um, er, does this mean conservatives wouldn't stoop to the tactic? Or that they just don't have the goodies to hand out?

Massachusetts has a lot of serious problems -- high costs, inequitable tax structure, a failing infrastructure and an education system in need of repair to name just a few. The Commonwealth has not fallen into perdition as a result of allowing gay couple to marry.

Wasting time, energy and effort on an issue that now attracts a small minority of religious conservatives is not productive. It's time to move on and tackle the real problems facing the Commonwealth, problems left to fester by Mitt Romney and his band of zealots.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Paris Hilton presidency

Let's review here.

Children of privilege, used to having things handed to them without any effort on their part;

Being "young and irresponsible" with their own peculiar view of the importance of the legal system;

Dealing with a less-than-inquisitive media that indulges their foibles.

The only major difference is Paris turned to her mom in desperation as she was being led back to the slammer. W. turned on his old man when he tried, through some long-time friends, to bail him out of a jam he created when he dissed the old man in the first place.

Oh, and Paris doesn't have a close associate who shoots friends in the face (at least that we know of).

It's obvious a lot of the national obsession and her pals Britney, Lindsay and the late Anna Nicole is overload from the arrogant failings of the Bush administration. Many Americans would rather escape into the fantasy world of over-exposed celebrities than deal with the reality of Iraq.

The national media has been a willing accomplice in that escapism, knowing bimbos sell more magazine covers than bozos.

But is it any wonder that the world now views the United States with contempt, a nation so out of touch with reality that the temper tantrum of a hotel heiress without no discernible skills makes it on the front page of the newspaper that proclaims it carries "All the News that's Fit to Print."

Meanwhile, Bush plows on, savaging his foes with slurs rather than tears, offering platitudes about Iraq and global warming designed not to solve the problems but to pass the problems on to his successor and generally besmirching the image of the United States,

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Americans prefer to turn to People.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

The sky is falling, the sky is falling...

Talk about fear of dissenting views...

Jon Keller is in high dudgeon today, all hot and bothered because Deval Patrick has, gasp, appointed a non-believer to the state Board of Education. No, not some who doesn't believe in public education, but someone who thinks maybe, possibly that MCAS is not the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Brookline School Committee member Ruth Kaplan has called for abolition of the test as a graduation requirement. She has opined that the one-size fits all model doesn't encourage things like critical thinking skills through arts education and creates a two-tiered system that reverses special-education advances.

I've got no dog in this hunt but this hardly strikes me as the ravings of another Brookline lefty. The emphasis on MCAS has prompted many schools to "teach to the test," jettisoning things like arts and physical education to make the time for math table memorization.

Yet Keller approaches her appointment to the board with nothing short of unbridled hysteria (disclaimers notwithstanding):
...On paper, there's no reason why the anti-testing crowd shouldn't have a voice in the debate on the Board of Ed; this isn't Russia, or the Harvard faculty, where dissenting viewpoints are suppressed. But Gov. Patrick's comments, in conjunction with his appointment of Kaplan, are downright chilling to those who remember what the Ed Reform Act was all about.

The public school system was failing way too many kids - mostly the urban poor - at a prodigious rate. Students were graduating with educations that barely qualified them to punch the picture keypads on the register at Burger King, let alone set them up to compete for decent white-collar jobs in the high-tech and service sectors. Inept administrators and teachers remained forever in their positions, protected by the state's Luddite teacher unions and unaccountable for their failures.
Can we honestly say that today's education system is the be all of where we want and need to be? Cash-starved communities layoff teachers and charge parents for buses and after-school programs. Drop out rates aren't moving anywhere, except maybe up.

What is so terrible about adding ONE voice to a statewide board, a voice who can offer the criticism of where education reform has not yet gone, where it might want to look for the future.

Or perhaps we should rely on enlightened education experts like Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who dismisses out of hand a proposal for a private school in the new South Boston Waterfront community. Why? He doesn't like the developer.

Is that the type of sound education policy debate that Keller prefers?

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Free Paris! Free Scooter!

I think Scooter Libby may have found his magic "get out of jail" card. I just hope the ankle bracelet is as attractive.

The sad state of the American justice system was on vivid display with the decision of a Los Angeles court to let Paris Hilton serve 40 days of her already shortened reckless driving sentence at home. Special privileges anyone?

But that may just work to Scooter Libby's advantage. Maybe he'll be allowed the wear a tennis bracelet and avoid confinement. After all, as the Hilton decision proves, privilege has its privileges.

What are the odds though that Paris will whine that the ankle bracelet just doesn't go with her outfit?

And what do Anna Nicole's relatives think?

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Pardon me?

It would be positively hilarious to watch the Republican Party fall all over itself in defense of a convicted felon -- if it weren't for the fact that the law & order party is aiming to yet again soil the Constitution.

Rudy Giuliani, a former prosecutor, and Fred Thompson, who plays one on TV, are leading the cheers for a pardon of Scooter Libby, the Dick Cheney worker bee who lied to investigators looking into the probe who outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative.

The standard rationalization is that Libby's 30-month sentence doesn't fit the crime, if there even was one. But let's travel back down memory lane, when Thompson, the a United State Senator, spoke about about the rule of law in another high profile case, this one involving oral sex.

At that point Republicans thought making false statements during legal proceedings were very definitely a federal crime. Thompson voted as a senator to convict Clinton for obstruction of justice, though he voted to find Clinton not guilty of the perjury charge.
In explaining his vote to convict, Thompson at the time underscored the seriousness of the obstruction charge. "In the context of a federal court proceeding, that does violence to the rule of law," he told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal shortly after casting his vote. "It causes people to lose respect. That to me was the kind of thing the founding fathers would have said rises to the level of removable conduct."
Let's also consider the high level deliberations of George W. Bush, who roundly condemned last-minute Clinton pardons, particularly the rather nausea-inducing reprieve of businessman Mark Rich.

The White House, which proclaims its interest in democracy and the rule of law around the world (if not in hospital rooms or private homes) is said to be mulling its options over a Libby pardon. The path would seem clear, according to someone who spoke to the New York Times:
A former senior administration official with his own ties to the case said Mr. Libby had failed to meet the general standard for a pardon by not showing contrition or serving any time. This official also noted that Mr. Libby had also been found guilty of lying to investigators, the same offense that led to the impeachment of Mr. Clinton.

The former official, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the president, said: “It would show a deep disregard for the rule of law if he was to do it right now, when there has been no remorse shown by a convicted felon and no time has been served. How’s this going to fit in his long-term legacy?”

Ah, but sometimes a pardon is not a pardon. Just ask George H.W. Bush, who pardoned Caspar Weinberger and Elliott Abrams over Iran-Contra crimes as he was getting ready to walk out the door. And you know that just another third rate assault on the Constitution, much like the White House's outing of a CIA operative who sent her husband on a junket to Niger.

But for Libby's backers, it's not about the rule of law. It's about rewarding loyalty. The man fell on his sword to protect W. and Darth Cheney from winding up in their own deep doo-doo over contempt for the law.

And in this administration, loyalty tops every thing. Particularly the Constitution. It's not a question of it. It's a question of when. Because George W. Bush is the controlling legal authority.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What planet are these guys from?

Banning all immigration. Using nukes against Iran. Attacking Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy. Don't these guys read polls?

Republicans love to suggest that liberals are multi-headed wierdos from outers space who are out of touch with the American people. The performance by the 10 white guys who took the stage in Manchester last night suggests just the opposite is true.

Although 73 percent of the American public think the country is "pretty seriously off the track" men by the name of McCain, Giuliani, Romney think all we need to do is get rid of a man named Bush.

Oh yeah, and allow more Americans die in Iraq and make sure undocumented aliens remain out of the country. And that's before they raise pressing questions about evolution. About the only thing they agree on is that they can't run away from George Bush fast enough.

Anyone seen the documents of these aliens?

Can anyone say Dennis Kucinich -- who has taken a principled if not necessarily doable stand against further Iraq involvement (consistent with those polls, I might add) -- is more of a nut job than someone named Tom Tancredo, who suggested we suspend all legal immigration? Or Duncan Hunter, who thinks we should use tactical nuclear weapons to stop Iran (and set off the most massive religious war in the history of what would be left of civilization)?

Instead of hearing about high energy prices we hear about pardoning Scooter Libby because he didn't do anything wrong (forget what a jury says). And yet another pander to the "values voters" -- whose ancestors backed slavery, opposed a woman's right to vote and believed the correct place for African-Americans was the back of the bus.

So the GOP is now turning its eyes toward a man who played a New York City prosecutor on television (in comparison to a real one) as the latest potential savior of "conservative values."

But remember, it's liberals who are out of touch with American values. Maybe, just maybe, the crack of thunder that accompanied Guiliani's answer about abortion was really a commentary about the whole sorry spectacle that was taking place in New Hampshire while the world we entrusted to this party continues to fall apart.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Who's watching the watchers?

One of the little publicized outrages of the Bush administration is the behavior of the Food and Drug Administration, the agency charged with protecting our health and well-being by watching over the food we eat and the medicines we take.

But apparently the folks at the FDA have other ideas -- as reflected in this Boston Globe story that takes a look at a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who is taking on the FDA.

And what reward does Dr. Steven Nissen get for studies calling into question the safety of a number of FDA-approved drugs? The same as that reserved for liberals who oppose Bush's war or conservatives who oppose Bush's immigration plan.

In a word -- slimed.

Years before Vioxx was pulled from the market in 2004, Nissen pointed to its heightened heart attack and stroke risks. In 2005, as the FDA was on the verge of approving Pargluva, a diabetes drug known generically as muraglitazar that works like Avandia, Nissen pointed out cardiovascular problems, effectively killing the drug's development. And he also rallied other federal advisers to prod the FDA to put its harshest warnings on attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs, like Ritalin and Adderall, due to cardiovascular risks.

Such public stands have unleashed a firestorm of criticism. FDA spokesman Douglas Arbesfeld, in an e-mail to reporters days after Nissen's Avandia analysis was published by the New England Journal -- derisively dubbed him "St. Steven," and wondered whether his feet were made of clay.

Arbesfeld, responding to a Boston Globe question about the e-mail message, said the correspondence -- sent using his FDA e-mail address -- reflected his personal views and not the agency's.

This is an agency where the fox is literally guarding the hen house. The big pharmaceutical companies pay to the FDA to consider their products. Ever wonder why we have problems like the Vioxx nightmare?

Let's not forget the FDA's role in preserving the food supply. There's that same fox in the hen house feel to the discovery that animal feed imported from China is tainted with melamine -- a contaminant that has been found in a variety of pet foods.

Well, too bad for Fido, you might think. But for those heartless souls among you, consider this item. Or this. How long before it does make its way to us?

OK, still not convinced (or maybe thinking the FDA is doing its job closing the barn door after the great escape?) How about the failure to regulate human food supplements?

No wonder those who are profiting off the FDA's hands-off approach to human health and safety are trying to smear him, suggesting, heaven forbid, that he might be a candidate for FDA Commissioner under a Democratic president.

Can't have that now, can we, someone watching out for taxpayers when there is big money to be made. Just ask the head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, who hired former GOP House Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin to do their bidding. Or the Biotechnology Industry Organization, who scarfed up former GOP congressman Jim Greenwood to handle their lobbying.

So, do you really want to take that prescription? Or eat that cookie? Just checking.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

The Green Line is down

Well, you'd be depressed if you had to ride it too....

Actually it was only Boston College outbound from Kenmore. Sorta. Kinda.

Walking into the lavish turnstile area (how many years have you been working on that station now?) I was informed there was no outbound service to BC, but there were plenty of buses upstairs.

Yeah, right. Not a one. At 5 p.m. So I start walking in the drizzle, hoping it would stay that way.

Imagine my surprise when I got to Blandford Street and saw a two-car train loading for a trip. Outbound. And of course, no kindly MBTA customer service representative to explain what the blankety-blank was going on.

Onward and upward along Comm. Ave. Lots of trains going inbound, nothing more outbound. That includes buses.

I did manage to tie a 57 bus to Watertown, arriving at the BU Student Union at just about the same time. A couple more buses did head out -- relatively empty all things considered.

A second outbound train reached BU West about the same time I did. No more buses to be found.

Finally made it to Packard's Corner, only slightly less damp than if I had crammed into the two-car sardine tin that passed me after BU West. And that's when it hit me.

The MBTA is planning ahead, getting ready for the day the D Line is taken out of service for the summer. They've got to get ready to provide the service their customers have come to expect.

Me -- I got a good cardio workout and saved $2. Or was that $1.70? Or did I lose that one because I pre-pay my pass a month ahead of time to insure quality service?


A Tale of Two Salesmen

One man made a fortune in selling executives to invest millions in ventures that held the potential for vast gains for the investors.

The other made a fortune in convincing executives to invest millions in ventures that held the potential for vast gains in waistlines by selling large quantities of beer and donuts.

Today, one of those men is lunching with fellow millionaires, trying to sell himself as the next President of the United States. The other is lunching with reporters on park benches, trying to start a summer camp for city kids.

Massive oversimplifications to be sure, but the contrast between Mitt Romney, founder of Bain Capital founder, and Jack Connors, founder of Hill, Holliday, Connors and Cosmopoulos, is certainly striking. And that contrast goes to the heart of liberal-conservative divide in America.

Romney has built a resume on executive leadership, the engaged CEO. His former administration and finance secretary and Bain colleague, Eric Kriss, brings Romney's core strength down to this:
“Mitt ran a private equity firm, not a cement company. He was not a businessman in the sense of running a company. He was a great presenter, a great spokesman and a great salesman.”
Romney, son of the president of American Motors was born to wealth, built on it through persuasion and PowerPoints. Once he closed the deal, he moved on. Just asked the voters of Massachusetts, who elected him for four years and got two.

Connors, son of an HVAC repairman, built on persuasion and relationships. Once he closed a deal, he built new relationships, never forgetting where he came from and giving back to the community that nurtured his success.
“I’m in the relationship business, no question,” says Connors. “There were years when the creative was great, and there were years when the creative sucked. My job was to keep the client through all of those years.”
Romney closed deals without regard to the impact on the human beings that made up the companies he bought and sold., such as union workers who lost their job at an Indiana company after Bain Capital took over.

“Increasingly, this world of private equity looks like a world of robber barons, and Romney comes out of that world,” James E. Post, a Boston University professor who teaches business-government relations told the Times.

Connors never forgot his grandfather, a Boston cop, was fired by Gov. Calvin Coolidge to break the 1919 police strike.

Connors “hasn’t been successful by making enemies. That is his big thing,” says Anne Finucane a vice president at Bank of America,

Romney was born in Michigan, moved to Massachusetts for college, has homes in New Hampshire and Utah and expresses disdain for his "adopted" home state as he travels.

Connors was born and raised within a 10-mile radius and is the leader of an ever-shrinking executive group that looks out for the future of Boston.

Romney is now investing his time, energy and resources, into running for president, the ultimate resume-building exercise.

Connors is now investing his time, energy and resources into health care, his church -- and summer camps for kids.

Who is the more impressive leader?

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Points to ponder

Reflections on a slow Sunday...
  • Not that he's asking my opinion, but I would suggest that Pope Benedict XVI not ask Bernie Law to join him on any trip to Boston.
  • Conservatives are hot and bothered because George Bush is questioning their patriotism over their failure to fall in line on immigration. Welcome to the club folks.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

We can't afford not to do it

The ink is hardly dry on Deval Patrick's words about education -- including a call to make universal pre-school, longer school days and free community colleges -- and the naysayers are already out in full force.

Can we afford it? Is this a move away from testing?

The answers are really simple. We can't afford not to improve our education system from pre-K through college? No. We need to produce well-rounded students who can learn and compete in the 21st Century job market.

And we can pay for it in part by closing tax loopholes on corporations, who will benefit from productive employees who will be working in facilities helped along by other tax benefits. And those new workers will be paying income and sales taxes to Massachusetts instead of some other state.

One of the louder criticisms about the Patrick proposal, other than the whining about it being a "dreamer's wish list," is the fact there is no real meat on its bones. That's because Patrick is opting to put his call for civic participation into play by creating a committee to listen to experts (and academics too) about what is the right way to roll out a decade-long plan.

I know the thought of another committee or task force is the stuff of deep sighs. But so are soaring property tax bills, unaffordable homes, disappearing jobs, the violence that accompanies a lack of jobs and the movement of a talented work force to other states.

A solution that includes fair and reasonable taxes on businesses and individuals in exchange for a better educated, productive workforce is something to strive for. Throw in Patrick's efforts to improve the transportation infrastructure, the biotech initiative and you have the making of a comprehensive vision.

It's also worth noting the purveyors of the "dreamer" put down are the same folks who have peddled the anti-tax "something for nothing" philosophy that is bringing this state and nation to its knees.

This "there is a free lunch" crowd represents the ultimate in special interests. And they have a ready audience in a media that can't or won't take an in-depth look at the problems -- and potential solutions -- because it is too busy chasing Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. Or cutting its own workforce past bone into muscle in search of double-digit margins.

Time will be the ultimate test of whether Patrick has a real vision or is just peddling smoke. But after the cynicism of 16 years of GOP "leadership" in the Corner Office, I'm willing to dream just a little.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Educatin' Deval

Let's start with a few stipulations: The Ameriquest call was stupid. The Cadillac was bad symbolism. The drapes were a bogus issue.

But the lesson a viewer should draw from NECN's fine documentary, The Education of Deval Patrick, is that the governor's biggest "mistake"was to try to change the culture of Beacon Hill. And one of the biggest groups to resists change is the Statehouse press crops.

I've admitted to being a recovering political reporter and my primary turf was the corridors covered in that documentary. What qualifies as news under the Golden Dome may not match what qualifies as news to the rest of the world. It focuses on people, rivalries and the staple of political journalism -- the gaffe.

Patrick sure made his fair share of those. But as Alison King's report shows he did much more than that. He talked budget line items with staff; he familiarized himself with the details for a $26 billion organization that he was chosen to lead -- and whose deepest secrets were hidden from him until the early days of January.

And he left The Building. For Fall River. Northampton. Pittsfield. Medford.

Unless things have changed drastically since my time, that may have been the biggest mistake of all. Statehouse reporters covers The Building. Leaving it for The World is not something that comes easily. We expected the news to be made under our noses.

And when it wasn't, when the governor was out of The Building, we were left to dig for scraps. Like Cadillacs.

Deval Patrick did not make the care and feeding of the Statehouse press a priority. In fact, he tossed out a challenge when he addressed the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and told the media to "put its cynicism aside."

Big mistake. The Statehouse press corps does cynicism. And it doesn't do Fall River.

So when Patrick stepped outside his bubble of the Golden Dome -- frequently by King's portrayal -- the only reporters to be found were from the local papers and radio stations. They don't possess the same cynicism -- and they don't do Boston (although they may dream about it.)

As the documentary clearly shows, things got better when Patrick started to surround himself with people who knew these facts of life -- Joe Landolfi and David Morales and Doug Rubin.

A look at Patrick's schedule today still shows plenty of activity (and a lot of it outside The Building). In fact, that's a fact worth noting in itself. Patrick makes his daily schedule available, something Mitt Romney couldn't be bothered with -- probably because most of it focused way too far out of The Building and Massachusetts.

Yes, in an ideal world Patrick would have cleaned house of Romney-Swift-Cellucci-Weld holdovers in the first days, not the fifth month. And he would have avoided some tempests in a teapot over the departures of Harry Spence, Gerald Morrissey and Elmer Bartels.

I've often said I got into the business because I loved politics. Covering policy was the price I paid for the right to cover it. Over time, the love interested shifted (and political coverage descended to the gutter, then the sewer and is heading straight to the netherworld.).

I suspect Patrick sees politics as the necessary evil to do policy. The press corps still has my old view. Patrick was looking ahead four years. The press looks ahead four hours. The clash was inevitable.

Kudos to NECN for taking the time to do what the media often fail to do: put things into context.

But Deval, a word to the wise: Buckle up!

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