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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back to work

The cheers are fading, the costs are being counted and it seems the Massachusetts Legislature is ready to go back to work.

Sort of.

Lawmakers held a hearing yesterday on Deval Patrick's billion dollar biotech bill and are looking to finally talk about casino gambling today. But next year's elections are not far from their minds.

That's evident in the slick political move engineered by House leaders in scheduled a hearing on the problems related to gambling. It's a perfectly fine approach -- if they had bothered to line up their Senate colleagues as part of the effort. Massachusetts legislative committees are overwhelmingly joint ones after all.
"If you're going to give the guy a fair shake, you should schedule a hearing on the casino bill and then, if necessary, ask other committees to hold hearings," said Senator Michael W. Morrissey, Democrat of Quincy and a casino proponent. "Have the governor's bill up first and go from there."
Evidence is starting to mount that casinos really aren't a good move. A recent report by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation suggested the financial benefits won't be anywhere near as rosy as Patrick suggests. There is no question in anyone's mind that gambling carries significant social costs.

So why does the House feel the need to stack the deck?

But those motives are simon pure compared to the fears by some lawmakers that Patrick's auto insurance proposal could harm their re-election efforts. Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and Rep. Antonio Cabral actually put those thoughts on paper.

While the bill they propose would close loopholes they see as harmful to minority groups and the poor in the administration's final set of "managed competition" rules opening the state's auto insurance market to greater competition and hopefully more choices and lower prices, they offer this gem:

In a letter to colleagues, Cabral and Wilkerson are soliciting more supporters for their legislation by explaining that some drivers could face increases of 9.3 percent and that bills will go out as the election season begins next year.

"Do you really want to try to explain that to your constituents while you are collecting signatures for your nomination papers?" they wrote.

I admit I was taken aback by headlines saying auto rates may rise by 10 percent next year after consistently falling for the past few. But putting your own electoral issues first, is well, I'll leave it to you to find the right word.

The games are over at Fenway but they are just beginning on Beacon Hill.

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You're kidding, right?

George W. Bush is ready to suck it up and do it his way because the Democrats in Congress won't work with him.
"He sort of longs for those days, when both sides were genuinely interested in getting along and getting a deal," said Rep. Adam H. Putnam (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference, who helped organize yesterday's White House meeting, attended by about 150 Republicans.
What fantasy world does this guy live in? Those days ended long ago, probably before George H.W. Bush roamed the White House halls. Newt Gingrich wasn't exactly a friendly deal maker.

Hint to W: offer sane rational proposals for foreign policy and taxation, nominate people with values who recognize that torture is wrong and don't label your opponent traitors. I guess it's hard to adjust from the days when a supine Republican Congress gave you everything you wanted -- by shutting Democrats out of the process.

Maybe then people will listen to you. And maybe it's time you see someone about your delusional behavior.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Red Sox family values

Where was Mitt?

It will be interesting to see whether the former governor of Massachusetts will be anywhere in the vicinity when the Red Sox rolling parade kicks off today. Truth be told, there's not a lot of votes to be found for the man among the millions who will likely skip out from work and catch a glimpse of their heroes.

But the battle for the hearts and minds of Red States Nation certainly offers a glimpse into those candidate body parts.

Romney -- who didn't hesitate to use Fenway Park as a backdrop to vacuum up campaign cash -- was really a cipher during the baseball playoffs. He never offered up a phony bet with any counterparts from Ohio or Colorado and was mum on Colorado's Tom Tancredo's not-so-phony offer to bet their candidacies on their respective teams.

I guess there are also multiple definitions of faith and loyalty. Not to mention humor.

Of course, I'm also not betting on Rudy Giuliani making the scene either. The Yankees Chief Fan proved himself notoriously fickle (or is that No Torre-ious) by offering a four-game boost for the front-runners.

I suspect Rudy would receive much the same greeting in Boston if he showed up in Yankees cap as Globe reporter Matt Viser received wandering through the boroughs in Sox gear.

But Mitt's lack of profile is fascinating. Maybe he wasn't buying the idea of Series success translating into votes -- after all it didn't work for John Kerry. Or maybe it's just part of the Romney legacy of using Massachusetts when it was appropriate -- and using us as a butt of his jokes when it's not.

If Mitt actually surfaces at the rally, rest assured he'll be as popular as A-Rod and receive an appropriate Bronx cheer. Or hand salute.

As for me, I won't be making the scene either, although I take some solace from the fact that my Indians actually caused some momentary angst on the Sox's otherwise clear path. Congratulation Red Sox. I'm already waiting for next year.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

“Some might compare the religious right to a snake...”

When you come down from the Joy of Sox, check out this New York Times look at the current state of the religious right.

Reporter David Kirkpatrick takes a lengthy look at the Republican Ayatollahs and the apparent ebbing of their power of their flock after seven years of George Bush. It is cause for some elation for someone like me who believes the culture war and the real war in Iraq prove that beliefs about supreme beings belong in homes and hearts, but not ballot boxes.

But I do heed of the image offered by the Rev. Terry Fox, who was deflocked when his fire and brimstone railings became too much for his parishioners.
"Some might compare the religious right to a snake,” he said. “We may be in our hole right now, but we can come out and bite you at any time.”
The right may be turning on George Bush, but it is a quarrel over competence, not ideology.

Fitzpatrick may well have found the key to what I agree is Rudy Giuliani's unlikely strength among Republicans. He is being viewed as the one Republican with the ability to continue the Christian Crusade against "Islamo-fascism" (a fair description, even if Jews like Norman Poderhertz are leading the war cry too)

And it should be a strong reminder for liberals that while Giuliani may seem like the least offensive GOP nominee, his presence in the White House could well be four more years of the Bush policies that have been the most destructive of American values.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Torture as a family value

In Myth Romney's world, the sins of the husband are visited on the wife.

Republicans are clearly getting nervous about Hillary Clinton's seeming stranglehold on the Democratic nomination. Why else is the party of waterboarding blathering on about "family values" again?

Questioned at a New Hampshire house party about promoting right-wing Christian values, Romney jumped at the chance to respond:
"At least during the time you're in the White House, you ought to live by a high standard, because the world is looking at you, you're representing not only yourself but your country, and the kids of America are looking at you."
We'll skip over the "at least during" part of the statement. I thought it was a tenet of "values voters" to be (self) righteous all the time?

The apparent disconnect (or disinterest) among this fringe group about the relative degrees of "sin" between infidelity versus lies that lead to torture and death is truly remarkable. Let's compare the number of deaths tied to Bill Clinton's lies to those of George Bush?

And if the sins of the spouse can be visited upon the other one, why isn't George culpable for time Laura Bush ran a stop sign and killed someone? I thought "values" was about forgiveness.

The United States is disappear down the moral drain in the eyes of the world thanks to the recklessness of the 43rd occupant of the White House and the Grand Old Panderers are worried about the marital infidelity of the 42nd? Or better yet, trying to blame the victim?

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Life goes on

Massachusetts residents apparently love a few other things besides their Red Sox -- including the thought of gambling. And most of all, they love a good political fight. Well get ready for a gem.

Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts Legislature are heading for a showdown. Patrick doesn't like the pace of business, and lawmakers are not enamored of his pushing and prodding for action. Throw in a potential battle between pro- and anti-casino members and it has a chance to be quite entertaining.

Patrick is held apparently held in higher esteem by the general public than we know-it-alls in the blogosphere and local punditocracy. His approval rating has worked its way back up to 56 percent after his winter missteps. As Jon Keller notes, without any major victories on his plate, Patrick's rise may well be tied to his casino proposal.

Patrick and House Speaker Sal DiMasi have been nipping at each other's heels all year and Patrick leveled a shot across lawmakers' bow at a recent level legislative hearing. (Brian McGrory's team couldn't find room for a story about Kevin Burke's statement of frustration (subscription required) but Renee Loth's team could. Bizarre to read an editorial about a story that didn't run.)

And while Senate President Terry Murray is doing her best to play Switzerland, there is clearly rising tensions over DiMasi's decision to assign oversight on Patrick's casino bill to staunch anti-gambling foe Daniel Bosley's committee.

I've said it before, but what the heck, I'll say it again. While Patrick hasn't established speed records in turning proposals into legislation, our lawmakers have not been burning the midnight oil either. There are only a few weeks before they break for the end of the first year of the session and while we are up to Ch. 140, an awful lot of those bills seem to deal with sick banks and police and firefighters skirting age requirements.

Let's hope for a Sox sweep, if for no other reason than getting our elected officials attention back on their -- and our -- business. Besides, it could be better than a Red Sox-Yankees brawl for entertainment value.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here, there, everywhere

Hey, is there some sort of baseball game tonight?
  • Deval Patrick is being accused of fouling off a few by not offering Terry Francona advice or citing his fave Sox player. You really want him to say that Cris should sit while Ellsbury plays? He's got a much more honest approach than Hillary's Cubs-Yankees waffling (a problem dodged) or Rudy's faux Sox fever. And when is Myth coming out for the Rockies?
  • Look out Mike Huckabee. The first sign that you are headed for problems is when the media decide you aren't such a bad choice. They need to build you up before they let you down. Not that I think an ordained minister who doesn't believe in evolution is what this country needs after eight years of Theocon incompetence.
  • Getting serious for a second (OK, maybe longer). I often think the biggest danger of blanket coverage of a sporting event is that it offers cover for politically questionable moves. As if on cue, enter George Bush, telling Cuba how to structure its transition of power. I thought he didn't believe in nation-building? Oh, that was just so 2000?
  • Now we really know where out tax dollars are going. Let's see, we have $400 billion for the Halliburtons and Blackwaters, but we can't afford to pay for children's health? There is actually a perverse logic here though -- privatizing everything in sight (even though when it comes to a war, we usually use the term "mercenary."

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

BU Redux

Note to parents of BU students: Check to see what those thousands of dollars you are shelling out goes for.

Some of the commenters to my recent post (and others on Universal Hub) appear to think they have the making of a civil rights uprising because those mean and nasty Brookline police officers are violating their civil rights.

Yep, it's a sad day in America when underage students can't walk down the street of the street in the middle of the night with a 30-pack.

And how about those nasty Boston cops who "force away the faithful" after Game 7 if the ALCS?

I guess mom and dad aren't getting the entire picture of life at BU. Or Northeastern. Or Emerson. Or MIT. Or Harvard.

It just seems the students at those other places have the good common sense to keep quiet.

If, as some commenters suggest, it's just a small group of bad apples causing problems for the bulk of the rest of them, how about doing some police action on their own? If you want to claim you are grown up and responsible, try proving it.

In the meantime, remember how ridiculous you look compared to BU students who clashed with police over important things, like a war where thousands dies with no good reason. And be really grateful there isn't a draft.

(Photo from Boston University Daily Free Press, Oct. 22, 2007)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Hail to the victors

OK, so the Tribe couldn't hold a three-game lead. It was still a great season for a young team -- playing against a veteran club with more than twice the payroll.

Congratulation Sox and Sox fans. I'm prepared for the grief this morning -- prepared for another 10 days or so of local TV news coverage that includes all baseball, all the time, except for the random murder or fire.

But a thought has been rustling around my head for the last week or so, as I experienced Sox mania with a slightly different perspective because this time I did have a dog in the fight. It took shape in a headline in yesterday's Times:

Are the Red Sox Ready to Become The Yankees?

Yes, this constitutes the Double Sour Grapes Award, a couple of losers whining about what might have been. But think about it -- who's the Cinderella team this time? The one that has won 20 of 21 in an improbable climb to its first World Series? Or the one with the second highest payroll in baseball who can buy and sell anyone they want?
For the first time in a long time, the Red Sox are in position to make the transformation. Boston can become the new New York.

The door is open for the Red Sox, with a rich baseball tradition and a high payroll, to replace the Yankees as the team the nation loves to hate. The question is whether the Red Sox, after years of being the object of sympathy and even pity, can adjust to being despised.

Theo, Tito and the ownership can't come close to the Yankees brass, particularly George Steinbrenner (a Cleveland native by the way) for sheer arrogance and obnoxiousness. But the sense of entitlement that emanates from the team is about the same.

I'm not suggesting the Red Sox didn't earn this trip -- the Indians had it in the grasp and blew it. But there's a larger picture to consider.

Do the Red Sox become something like their crosstown (sort of) homies, the New England Cheatriots? Or can they maintain the core of what made them lovable? Simply put, has the chase to catch the Yankees turned them into the Yankees?

The rest of the nation is watching. As for me, I can go back to trying to sleep normally again. And wait until next year.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Religious correctness

One of the Theocons' biggest raps against the Left is the accusation that we are slaves to political correctness -- that we rigidly hew to an orthodoxy and woe unto those who don't fall into line.

Someone please tell me how the "Values Voter Summit" in Washington this weekend is anything other than religious correctness gone amok?

The remaining GOP presidential candidates all appeared this weekend, offering words of tribute to the one, true and only religious vision demanded by the Ayatollahs of the Right. Some, like Rudy Giuliani, actually sought to hold their ground and hold to their positions, throwing verbal bouquets instead:
"I come to you today as I would if I were president, with an open mind and an open heart, and all I ask is that you do the same," Giuliani said yesterday. "Please know this: You have absolutely nothing to fear from me."
Others, like the shameless Myth Romney, continued his pretzel impression in search of the blessing. Romney found himself defending his faith, even making jokes about it.

But Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has battled questions about his shifting positions on issues and his Mormon religion. He tried Friday to signal a common heritage of faith with Christian conservatives, quoting the author C. S. Lewis and citing a verse from Proverbs about the blessing of children.

He also made something of a joke about the issue, saying at one point: “By the way, I imagine one or two of you may have heard that I’m a Mormon. I understand that some people think they couldn’t support someone of my faith. But I think that’s just because they’ve listened to Harry Reid.” (Mr. Reid, a Nevada Democrat and a Mormon, is the Senate majority leader.)

As I've said repeatedly: I have no problem with Romney's faith. My problem is with his beliefs. He doesn't have any.

Let's think about this pilgrimage for a second. Is there really just one true path to enlightenment and salvation? And is there only one true political path to that goal? Does everyone in this country need to believe only certain things in certain ways?

I didn't think so.

But lest you think I'm going soft on Myth, consider once again the depth and breadth of his support. Myth captured another straw poll, this time edging Mike Huckabee by 30 votes.

Of course, when you count only the votes tallied on site and not those placed online with a $1 donation, the results were starkly different -- Huckabee winning by 387 votes.

Money can't buy Myth love, but it does seem to get him votes.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Stop bitchin'

Glad to see Jon Keller is back up on his soapbox, telling Deval Patrick to rush right out and make televised public service announcements to encourage civility and respect in today's rough streets.

I thought Keller believes in limited government -- not to mention the fact that just about a week ago he lamented that Patrick is being unfairly asked to deal with problems beyond his job description.

Keller is right there is a problem in our communities if a culture of "stop snitchin' overwhelms the desire for crime-free, violence-free neighborhoods. The "culture in crisis" is real -- fueled by a political environment that promotes greed and hatred over every other value we should hold dear.

There is clearly no harm in Patrick producing a television spot -- and proclaiming from the pulpits -- that the code of silence that engulfs many communities is wrong. That would be a far better message than the one emanating from many pulpits today.

The question is: who will see it and how effective a message will it be? I doubt TV -- or even radio -- is a highly effective medium for reaching those who need to hear the message. Keller's messenger -- Suffolk DA Dan Conley -- would also be a lot more effective if he stopped playing political games.

And Patrick clearly has a host of problems on his plate -- like adjusting to the reality that he can't simply snap his fingers and expect things to happen. This administration has taken a long time to get up to speed -- but the fault must clearly be shared.

I would agree with him that the Legislature has been moving at a very leisurely pace -- even if the governor's office has been slow to file actual legislation to go with his vision.

(And while I was recently spun about the vision and accomplishments of the House to date, allow me to say I'm flattered that I matter, but I need more convincing!)

Sadly it appears the Legislature has made a habit of dawdling through the first year of the session, only to push things out by the time things wrap up 1 1/2 years later. Chapter 58, the health care reform law, is a prime example.

So here's the challenge to both sides. Stop bitchin' and get to work. The Patrick proposals spelled out in vision need a legislative framework -- and lawmakers need to step up the pace of their activity. It won't be acceptable to delay an up or down vote on casino gambling to 2009.

There are a lot of proposals on the table that could actually make a difference for this culture in crisis, a crisis being fueled by helplessness and despair that includes the inability and apparent unwillingness of leaders at the state and federal level to find any common ground to resolve the problems we face.

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Whose values?

Let me get this straight: I believe in the fact that all human beings should be treated with respect until proven otherwise. I believe in the rule of law. I believe that the environment is a treasure we hold for future generations and we have no right to spoil it. I believe it is wrong to lie, cheat and steal. I believe it is wrong to kill men, women and children -- civilians and soldiers -- in a war without justification or end.

So why is it that I am not a "values voter?"

Is it because I don't believe in a narrowly focused, socio-religious political agenda -- and that I think it is wrong to impose that world view on others?

Just checking.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Keller Kerfuffle

As regular readers know, I'm not a big fan of Jon Keller's world view. And while we've had enough of a passing acquaintance to nod to each other in passing, we are not friends.

But, I'm more on the side of Dan Kennedy and Adam Reilly than I am with the gang at Blue Mass Group who are still smarting over the question of whether bloggers are journalists. I did cover enough of the same stories with Keller to say that yes, unequivocally, he is a journalist.

But there's no question Jon has had a bad week as a journalist. First it was the question about the potential conflict of interest given his son's job as Jim Ogonowski's spokesman.

Then there's the mini-uproar documented by Jessica Heslam over whether Keller is guilty of plagiarism.

I vote no on the plagiarism and yes that Keller needed to disclose more than once -- and only on his blog -- what his son was doing on his own time.

Because it all comes down to WWJD -- what would Jon do? And in my mind, he is guilty of a "sin" that he regular nails people for -- not living up to lofty standards and expectations.

I probably can't begin to catalog the number of stories he has covered where someone is guilty of an appearance of a conflict of interest. My gut tells me he has probably called the Globe out more than once about the fact The New York Times owns a piece of the Red Sox -- a fact that the Globe (usually) dutifully notes when they write about the team.

(I'm in blogger mode here and not reporter so I am not going to begin to try to document these two allegations. If someone can prove me wrong, all the better).

But it is a safe assumption that Jon has repeatedly held people to high standards about what they say or do. So why should we not hold him to those same standards?

I'm also a bit dismayed that he hasn't addressed these issues -- on his blog or elsewhere. (He's certainly flogging the book there). Aren't we entitled to hear a "mea culpa" or a "screw you" from a man who demands that of the people he covers?

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The assault on free speech

The hands of time are ticking down the days of the Republican Revolution and the reality of being tossed overboard is hitting home. Why else the Republican assault on speech?

No, not the juvenile antics of the Bush administration to silence potential protesters by holding closed events and arresting people with political T-shirts. Or the offensive musings of Ann Coulter. Or even the amateur hour effort of Congressional Republicans to ban the reimposition of the fairness doctrine.

Nope, this is the granddaddy of them all, making sure only a handful of people and corporations own the media outlets in the city -- cutting off the chance that multiple voices can be heard.

The call by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to ease media ownership rules to allow corporations to own both newspapers and television stations in the same town is the final piece of the push -- begun with the elimination of the fairness doctrine -- to homogenize the "news" and deliver it with one voice -- that of the owner.

As far back as 1983, when Ronald Reagan launched this assault on a diversity of opinions, that very diversity was starting to crack. As Ben Bagdikian chronicled, 50 corporations controlled the majority of the news media. Today it is down to about five.

The elimination of the fairness doctrine led to the rise of right wing talk radio. The concentration of ownership in fewer hands -- all with the Orwellian claim there are no so many outlets, like the blogosphere to carry a message that there's no need for regulation -- would speed the demise of multiple viewpoints.

Do you honestly think more people get their facts from me than the Globe (owned by The New York Times)?

The plan is vividly on display with Rupert Murdoch, the purchase of the Wall Street Journal, the launching of the Fox Business Channel -- all led by the man who did Richard Nixon's media in 1968, ran George H.W. Bush's slimy campaign in 1988 and helped launch the "Fair and Balanced" Fox News Channel in 1996.

One man (Murdoch). One voice, consisting of sex, violence and mayhem and the infusion of political bias in the name of "balance." Something to look forward to, isn't it?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The self-importance of being a BU student

I always thought that John Silber improved the quality of Boston University students to compensate for the idiots like me who enrolled before he assumed the role of philosopher-king.

John, you should meet Rachel Kunkler, SAR '09.

Ms. Kunkler believes that anyone who lives within a few blocks of a college campus should learn to deal with the fact that college students have a right to sit on doorsteps, blowing smoke into other people's homes at 2:30 in the morning. After all, they aren't walking down the middle of the street, dead drunk, shouting obscenities at the top of their lungs.

Or, as Brendan points out on Universal Hub, these fine students pay rent just like them.

'Scuse me?

I've worked a long time to be able to afford to own my condo in Brookline. I live in Brookline, unlike Brendan, because I recognize it is a solid community with good schools, good services and a high quality of life (except of course for the blankety-blank self-important BU students.)

Look boys and girls, I was once just like you -- a BU student who rented in Brookline because it was convenient. But unlike you, I was mature enough and adult enough to recognize that I was not living in a dormitory but in a community -- with families working hard to pay the bills to afford living in one of Boston's best communities.

In short, unlike you I was an adult, not a spoiled brat transient. And I have maintained that respect for neighbors and community today -- as I work to pay my MORTGAGE. And the property taxes and trash collection fees that go to pick up the beer bottles, empty cigarette packages and assorted detritus you dump on the sidewalk outside my home.

So Rachel and Brendan, here's a suggestion. Move back into the dorms. Party your brains out (or smoke your brains out). Just stay the heck out of my neighborhood, blowing smoke in my windows, throwing trash on my sidewalk and parking your butts on the steps I own (not rent).

If you want to behave like adults, fine. If you insist on being the typical privileged BU student with a sense of entitlement try Allston.

Oh yeah, the students there are far more responsible.

And BU officials -- what do you plan to do about it so we don't have to waste expensive police resources on your kiddies?

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Tsongas tsuccess tshortlived?

Congratulations to Niki Tsongas for starting a new chapter in the legacy of the Lowell family that has played an important role in the Merrimack Valley ever since a slight young man with a strange name and some strong ideas was elected to Congress more than 30 years ago.

But I suspect Tsongas may very well be at the top of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee's 2008 hit list after what strikes me as a less-than-overwhelming victory over Dracut farmer Jim Ogonowski.

I haven't followed this race as closely as some, but I am struck by some of the same observations as the Phoenix's David Bernstein.

At the top of the list is the fact that Tsongas' support never seemed to grow between announcement to primary to general election. And with a tepid turnout for a race that had all the markings of a referendum on George Bush, that represents a challenge to both Tsongas and any potential GOP challenger, particularly if Ogonowski tries again.

The brother of the American Air Lines pilot who was at the controls when his aircraft was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, Ogonowski had a compelling story -- and stances on Iraq, children's health care and immigration that parroted the GOP line.

For someone with those positions to garner 45 percent of a low-turnout vote in the bluest of blue states is somewhat of a moral victory.

Tsongas has a few months to establish an identity separate and apart from her late husband -- to bring home some of that same bacon for which he was famous. If not, I suspect someone like Lowell's Eileen Donoghue might try another primary challenge.

And if Ogonowski opts not to try again, the RNCC will scour the district to find someone who can make a similar dent.

Congratulations Niki. But I would not advise taking out a really long-term lease in Washington just yet.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Sucker's bet

Buried deep in the bowels of the New York Time's magnum opus on states weighing the possibilities of selling or leasing their lotteries is this gem:

In addition to Ms. Brown at Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers has hired Bradley Tusk, who first pushed leasing the Illinois state lottery as deputy governor there, to sell other states on the privatization idea. In Massachusetts, Mr. Tusk’s efforts are being aided by William F. Weld, who served as governor there from 1991 to 1997.

“I’ve been out of office for 10 years, and I’m working with Massachusetts and a number of other states on the potential for monetizing various public assets including lotteries,” Mr. Weld says. “If the states can make more money for education or other causes by having a private company operate the lottery, there’s no harm done.”

Want to buy a used lottery from this man?

If the idea of casino gambling -- particularly on the final approach to one of the world's top 40 busiest airports as being touted by Mayor for Life Menino -- is risky business, what about selling the lottery to private investors?

But that isn't stopping Big Red and his band of crusaders from foisting this horrible idea on states desperate for cash.

The idea is very familiar in a way. A target, state officials looking for cash to pay some bills, is lined up for the score. Take the chance by selling or leasing a major asset for a big single payday and all your troubles will be over.

(By the way, that's my biggest concern over gambling -- that it feeds on those looking for easy solutions to complex problems. The rest of the issues, such as addiction and crime need to be seriously addressed but this one doesn't strike me as having a solution).

The numbers being tossed around by the Wall Street sharks, er, representatives are staggering. California could be looking at a $37 BILLION windfall. The masters (and mistresses) of the universe would also make out well, according to the Times, upwards of $250 million in fees.

And how would these noble firms out to help the public pay its bills get the all-imp0rtant return on investment? Lure even more folks to play games with odds ranging up to one in 175.7 million. The odds of winning the slots are apparently all in the computer chip's brain but it's hard to fathom that it is worse than Powerball and Mega Millions.

State officials were noncommittal when Weldo shuffled through but the Globe noted at the time:
Given the Massachusetts lottery's spectacular success -- it generates sales of $4.5 billion a year, the highest per capita in the country, and has the nation's lowest administrative costs -- it would be difficult for a private firm to match its performance, officials said.
Yes, as Tim Cahill has frequently noted, the Massachusetts lottery is a "mature asset," and it is more likely to continue shrinking than experience staggering growth. But at least it is a solid source of revenue for cities and towns.

And as the impartial reviews of casino gambling's potential start to filter in (and remove some of that rosy revenue glow) it remains clear that dumping the lottery would be a giant sucker's bet.

Why else would Weldo be behind it?

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Frankly, they just don't get it

The New York Times recording blamed those old familiar "production problems." The Boston Globe was more honest. Today's home delivery was being delayed to ensure we would read about the ALCS.

Still no paper at the doorstep, but here's what I needed to know about the Tribe's nice 13-6 win early this morning.

The gurus of old media still haven't gotten it through their aging heads that there are alternatives to paying extra to getting ink on dead trees dropped off at your doorstep. Particularly when they charge a premium for the privilege when someone is standing on a nearby street with a piles of papers somehow unhampered by "production problems."

This thickheadedness is all the more remarkable because the Globe, and particularly the Times, have very successful and very popular web sites where those of us not raised on newsprint and ruboff ink go can -- for free.

So I've instructed the powers that be at the two publications that when and if they get around to delivering my Sunday paper (promised at 10:30 a.m. -- better than the occasional 'it will be delivered tomorrow' foolishness) it will be on them. No charge -- particularly not the surcharge for "convenience."

By that time I will have devoured all the coverage about the Tribe's rousing victory, leafed through the meager offerings that pass for Metro/Region coverage and will have moved on to the Times and Washington Post. All without paying a cent.

Yeah Trot!

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

More inconvenient truths

Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize has the right hot under the collar, raising the canard that the Nobel Committee is anti-Bush.

After all, those Democratic Party voters in Oslo have awarded Peace Prizes to Jimmy Carter in 2002 "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."and Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2005 "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way."

But here's where those other inconvenient truths come into play. Both men (and the agency one represents) -- now joined by Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- happen to reflect what Andrew Card once derisively called the "reality-based community."

Despite years of denying the problems of global warming -- or insisting that Iraq has nuclear weapons or that Bush is building a better world through strength -- the realities are indeed winning out. Bush's dead-enders are simply having a hard time coping.

But perhaps even more damning is the better-late-than-never assertion by retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez that the Bush administration's handling of Iraq was "incompetent" and there is "no end in sight" to the conflict.

Sanchez's hands are not clean here. He was, after all, the general who condoned the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. But that fact alone may make him a better critics than the pinko liberals at the Nobel Committee.

By being one of the good soldiers who followed the orders of his civilian commanders, there's no chance the right would attack him, is there? (Gosh, I hope they aren't preparing a full-page ad for the Times!)

Nope, Sanchez's own errors make him an even more effective critic of W's failings.

Reality's a bitch, ain't it?

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Unrealistic expectation

Deval Patrick became a depository of hopes and dreams when he was elected. He is now seeing a lot of withdrawals, from people frustrated when things don't happen overnight.

You can never downplay the hurt and anger of parents who lost a child through a senseless act, and so Kim Odom was speaking from a broken heart when she lashed out at Patrick for failing to come calling like Boston's political and police leadership after her son was gunned down.

But simply put, it's not his job. He is the Governor of Massachusetts, not the Governor of Boston. Unlike Mayor Tom Menino and Police Commissioner Edward Davis it's not his job to protect the streets and citizens of Boston. His charge is broader.

This isn't the first time Patrick has been called out for not coming to call. After all, politicians are supposed to play the game. Patrick clearly has shown either a discomfort or disdain for that gain.

Had Patrick shown up to pay his respects, he would no doubt have been accused of grandstanding.

As Dorchester activist Lew Finfer notes, the expectations are higher because Patrick is not Weld, Cellucci or Romney. Patrick is also not the great liberal hope he was made out to be.

He is a man who is shaped by his background -- which included not only the mean streets of Chicago but the boardrooms at Texaco and Coca-Cola.

His election was an inspiration, but it was not a cure-all, a delivery from 16 years of indifferent Republican governors and seven years of a Washington administration that clearly values only the lives of the unborn.

The death of Steven Odom was senseless. So were the deaths of hundreds of other young men and women who die in the streets of Boston and around the nation because of laws that encourage gun ownership, even by those who have no business owning them.

Deval Patrick can't fix that. As much as we may want him to.

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Hate Perfected

I know I shouldn't do this. It's playing right into her hands, giving her the forum she craves like crack cocaine.

But I have two words for everyone who complains that it is the left that is full of hatred and intolerance, that the left is guilty of bringing down the level of discourse and compassion in this country.

Ann Coulter.

The blond demagogue is at it again -- this time taking on an entire religion. It is an act she has perfected, complete with the supposedly slinky black dress, to call attention to herself and her intolerance.

The problem is compounded by the need of the cable TV and talk radio maw for fresh red meat. So they keep giving this one-woman hate brigade a platform. And she does not disappoint.

The 1st Amendment protects her right to spew hate and venom across the airwaves and at conservative love-ins. And it protects and even requires that her garbage be reported.

But if the leaders of the so-called "moral" movement want to show they are what they claim to be, they have it in their power to marginalize and silence her.

Their refusal to do so says as much about the bankruptcy of their claim to superiority as does the current occupant of the Oval Office.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Flip-Flop Twins

It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. Yet there we have Myth Romney and Rude E. Guiliani trying desperately to run away from their political pasts.

You remember Romney, used to be governor here for awhile, so people say. He was elected on a platform that said he would be a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose. And that he is a strong supporter of gay rights.

But the Mittser, who has flip-flopped his way on issues from abortion rights to Vietnam, may have met his match in the two-term former mayor of New York, who conveniently fails to recall a divisive personality that was about to run him out of town until he stood up on 9-11 -- unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Rudy is wriggling his way out of past support for a woman's right to choose, gun control and gay rights, though far more subtly than the Man from Massachusetts-Michigan-New Hampshire-Utah.

The gulf that separates liberals and conservatives is vividly on display as two Republican moderates pander in a race for the base -- the Theocons and Neanderthals who vote in Republican primaries.

The latest battles are over taxes, spending and national security. Myth is once more trying to finesse his way out of the fact he raised considerable cash to get Massachusetts out of its last financial crunch. Fees aren't taxes, says Mitt, even if they come out of the same checkbook.

For Rudy, the problems is also taking credit for things he did not do, like tax cuts -- although his record is more clear that Romney's.

But the defining issue may have emerged that reflects the personality differences between the hot Giuliani and the cool Romney.
...Pressed to say whether President Bush needed the 2002 congressional vote granting him authority to strike Iraq, Romney said: "You know, we're going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn't need to do. But, certainly, what you want to do is to have the agreement of all the people - leadership of our government as well as our friends around the world where those circumstances are available."
While some pundits are comparing it to John Kerry's "global test" moment, I think the more compelling comparison is Michael Dukakis' exchange with Bernard Shaw on the death penalty:
"Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"

Dukakis responded, "No, I don't, Bernard. And I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent, and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime. We've done so in my own state."
That exchange went a long way in framing Ted Koppel's suggestion that "frankly governor, you just don't get it."

Now there's the ultimate challenge to Romney -- getting away from the comparisons to two of Massachusetts' previous presidential candidates. Somehow I don't think Rudy -- or the Neo-conderthals -- will let that happen.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Upping the ante

You can't say Deval Patrick isn't creative.

The Globe is reporting Patrick's casino gambling bill will include a special windfall for homeowners in communities where the property taxes equal 2 1/2 percent of their annual income.

That income tax break would come from cash available after putting in the infrastructure necessary to police casinos and the human problems they cause. The rest of an estimated $400 million in new annual revenues would go to road and bridge repair.

The concept met with a tepid response from the organization looking for all the cash to go back to cities and towns.

Geoffrey Beckwith - executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a group that represents the state's cities and towns - said the income tax credit does not address the revenue plight of cities and towns.

"This money is not local aid," he said. "We all know that property taxes are a major problem in Massachusetts. We believe the best way is to provide revenue sharing and local aid to cities and towns to reduce the reliance on the property tax."

It is a proposal that is also certain to challenge the rhetorical and logical resources of Citizens for Limited Taxation and its leader, Barbara Anderson, whose entire reason d'etre, allegedly, is to champion the cause of local property taxpayers.

The grassroots community that has backed Patrick but is at odds with him on gambling will also be torn by the notion that the proposal will fulfill a key element of his campaign promises to deal with high property taxes.

And most of all, it will serve as a distinct challenge to House Speaker Sal DiMasi, who has made strong suggestions that he wants the issue to go away -- even if that means sitting on it.

From a political standpoint, Patrick has rolled a seven. Now it will be up to the naysayers to offer alternatives to raise the cash Massachusetts needs to fix its infrastructure, help its residents and grow in the future.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It's Tribe Time!

OK, for the next 12 days or so I'm hereby changing the name of this blog to the Ohio Liberal.

Yes, I root for the team with the politically incorrect name and the logo. But, little known fact, the team is actually named in honor of the first Native American to play professional baseball, Louis Sockalexis.

You want suffering as a baseball fan, try the Indians. Ever hear of the Curse of Bobby Bragan? Or the Curse of Rocky Colavito -- and the role played by Terry Francona's father?

I lived it. The movie Major League, is the story of my baseball life. Is it an omen that they beat the Yankees to end their jinx? Or that I was in Manhattan -- watching Game Two end while standing on a sidewalk, a devoted Yankee fan (and dinner companion) cursing the Pinstripes fate?

So Sox fans, get ready for a challenge. You're going to learn about Grady Sizemore, who looks like he's 13 but plays like a very grown-up. Or Travis Hafner, Pronk to his friends. Casey Blake too.

Then there's the pitching: C.C. Sabithia, Fausto Carmona and Paul Bryd makes three.

But I have a hunch this one will turn on a couple of folks who swapped uniforms. If Manny is Manny, I may be out of luck. But Sox fans -- how do you like the idea of the Curse of Trot Nixon?

Go Tribe.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Partial lesson

The board of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is apparently listening -- with one semi-open ear.

Instead of an outrageous doubling of tolls in Weston, Allston-Brighton and the tunnels, the board voted a nickel-and-dime raise (OK, quarter and half dollar but that doesn't sound as good!) while promising to go back to the drawing board to find ways to pay their debts without sticking it only to Metrowest commuters.

Maybe they noticed a story in yesterday's Herald about what former MBTA riders are doing -- despite the "commuter-friendly" ennui of Dan "I Don't Ride the Railroad" Grabauskas.

The operative phrases in that story:
Relentless hikes in T fares are spurring disgruntled commuters to boycott buses and subways, leading to a 2.3 percent drop in ridership - or 8.7 million rides - over the last fiscal year, according to a Herald review of MBTA data.

From fiscal years 2006 to 2007, total ridership decreased from 382.3 million to 373.5 million, according to T statistics.
While it's true automobile commuters can't walk dozens of miles to the office, they do have options.

The airport tunnels have a captive audience -- swimming with luggage is difficult if not discouraged. But I would be curious to check traffic volumes on roads like the Route 9 and Soldiers Field Road/Storrow Drive to see what has happened in recent years -- and compare that to what will happen when tolls go up.

Anecdotally, based on the few times I try Route 9 during rush hour, I would say there has been a large increase in volume that will only get worse. And when Storrow Tunnel repairs get underway, watch out.

Still, the turnpike authority decision to go low instead of high is a curiously refreshing change from the arrogance that marked the board under Matt Amorello and his predecessors.

Memo to Deval: Isn't it time to sack Grabauskas, who is probably closing in on his 20-year state pension?

Heading out for a few days on a different mode of transportation. Happy Columbus Day!

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sad and strange case

If you're like me, you are probably scratching your head this morning not only over the sad story of the two Boston firefighters killed in the West Roxbury restaurant blaze, but the strange battle that has erupted over reporting it.

Strange because the Globe, Herald, Channels 4, 5, 25, heck even the often clueless BostonNow, have the story about the blood alcohol and drug test findings of Paul Cahill and Warren Payne. (We will slide right over how some try to ignore the Globe apparently had it first, even when others are blasting the Globe for the decision to run it.)

But WHDH-TV Channel 7 does not carry the story on its web site. Why? Superior Court Judge Merita Hopkins blocked them -- and only them -- from going with the story.

The findings have naturally created a "shoot the messenger" mentality -- how dare the media report the results involving two heroic men who gave their lives in public service?Whatever the final outcome of the results, nothing diminishes the fact the deaths were tragic.

But the outcry also shows the problems that arise when you put ordinary human beings, with ordinary human virtues and vices, onto a pedestal.

Much more troubling is Hopkins' decision to enjoin only one news outlet from reporting the story. If she is so certain that this is a case of privacy and not prior restraint, why is only one news outlet enjoined from publication?

The Herald's Jessica Heslam states the case well:
Judge Hopkins, who trampled on the Constitution in blocking Channel 7 from reporting the information, certainly has some questions to answer today . . .
It is hard for me to understand how a judge could rule that to prevent publication of records, even by ruling they are private, is not a prior restraint. But it is incomprehensible to me that the ruling could apply to only one news outlet.

I'm no fan of 7News, with its over-the-top emphasis on crime, mayhem and the latest "thing." I find their style to be overly aggressive and their heated pursuit of what I think to be non-stories as annoying.

But, to single them out is wrong. Whether we like it or not, this is a legitimate story. And as we have learned from CSI and the other shows of its genre, evidence doesn't lie. The odds on mixing up the samples, even in a medical examiner's office as screwed up as the one in Suffolk County, are astronomical.

Hopkins ruled that one news outlet could not report the kind of news we don't like to hear -- that even heroes are mortal human beings. That ruling is a bigger abomination than reporting the facts.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

GOP to Free Speech: Drop Dead

Rush Limbaugh and his minions in the right wing fear and smear machine are feeling some heat. What other conclusion can you draw when Republican lawmakers are fiddling with legislation that would use the law to maintain their superiority on the airwaves.

It's really easy to mark when the Right Wing Hate Machine got rolling. In 1985, the Reagan-appointed Federal Communications Commission eliminated the Fairness Doctrine. That provision of the Communications Act of 1934 made sure all sides of an issue received an airing in the public airwaves.

In convoluted logic, the Regan FCC ruled the doctrine designed to ensure fairness actually eliminated it. In reality, the reverse was true because the airwaves became the domain of right wing talkers who no longer needed to worry about presenting "the other side."

In Massachusetts, the phenomenon led to the rise of "The Governors," long-time talker Jerry Williams, anti-tax crusader Barbara Anderson and then up-and-coming Herald columnist Howie Carr. The Governors sank the mandatory seat belt law and made Michael Dukakis' life miserable.

It should be noted (in fairness of course) that the right side of the political spectrum moved into a void created by a lack of competition from the left -- a distortion that exists today even as the left learned to use the blogosphere.

Which brings us back to today -- and right wing fears that the left may be capable of mounting a challenge on the airwaves. So in true anti-democratic spirit (both upper and lower case D) the GOP has a solution:
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has said broadcasters should be required to give listeners both sides of political issues so voters can make informed decisions.

Conservatives fear that forcing stations to make equal time for liberal talk radio would cut into profits so severely that radio executives would choose to scale back on conservative programming to avoid rising costs and interference from the government.
The cause is aided by the fact that Limbaugh is now getting a taste of his own medicine. The OxyContin Head -- who regularly disparaged the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with the Bush administration talking points he parrots daily -- is now under siege on his own. His mistake: calling servicemen and women who oppose the war they are fighting "phony soldiers."

Limbaugh, who escaped military service because of a pilonidal cyst (basically a sore tail bone) is now facing some of the medicine he has dished out over the years.

Enter the congressional dittoheads, looking to cut off efforts to restore sanity (and fairness) to our public discourse.

It is important to note many of these same Republicans refuse to consider alternatives to the endless Bush war and stymie votes to bring about change. But they do have time to protect Rush.

What would Rush call them if they were Democrats? A hypothetical question to be sure, because they believe in censorship, not democracy.

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Dialing for dollars

Which came first -- the money or the support?

With word that Hillary Clinton is opening up a wider lead in the polls at the same time she took the quarterly fund-raising lead from Barack Obama in dollars and total donations, it appears the Democratic presidential primary process has hit a crucial juncture. And that it is clearly time for Clinton's challengers to take off the gloves.

An important caveat: National polling at this stage of the game (and frankly at all times) is far less accurate than state-by-state tallies. As we were reminded in 2000, the person who wins the popular vote doesn't necessarily win the election. And three or four months out from the first primary, when the bulk of voters are not paying attention, name recognition and popularity are crucial.

Still, these results mean the interesting argument that Clinton's polling lead over Obama is the result of younger potential voters using cell phones instead of landlines may not get a chance to be fully tested.

A few other observations. Poll after poll consistently show that people definitely have an opinion of Clinton -- for better or worse. The Post poll only looks at Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and doesn't take into account the vast right wing conspiracy that hates Hillary and her potential First Laddie with a passion that far outstrips that of the typical Bush loather.

The Times also mentions something the Post ignores on the fund-raising side of the equation: the Norman Hsu factor -- and what this fund-raising headache may mean in terms of digging up those old memories.

None of this negates the reality this is a two-person race. While it doesn't seem to be reflected in the Post poll, Obama's allure remains a wild card. He and Clinton are virtually tied in dollars -- no matter how rotten a benchmark that is. And the depth and breadth of his small donor base is a phenomenon that can be overlooked only at Hillary's peril.

So far, Obama has run a cautious race, but he can no longer afford that caution. And he has the dollars to make a difference. So stay tuned. It's about to get interesting.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Getting it into gear

After a slow start, the Patrick administration appears to be painfully inching into a higher gear. Hopefully the Legislature won't stall the forward progress.

State transportation officials are reportedly working on a massive overhaul of the administrative structure as a first step to dealing with the $20 billion problem of deteriorating roads and bridges. The Herald reports the plan may even include the MBTA.

Unfortunately, "It is not imminent; the plans are still months away," one administration source told the Globe.

Unfortunate because it is likely to face a major roadblock in the Legislature, which consistently rejected similar proposals offered by Myth Romney and his predecessors to merge the Highway Department and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority,

And unfortunate, because House Speaker Sal DiMasi appears to have an open calendar for the rest of this year and next year -- saying the House may not get around to dealing with the casino gambling bill until 2009.

In a response to a question about whether a casino bill would be debated this year or next (and shunned by virtually everyone except the Statehouse News Service (subscription required)), DiMasi offered:
"I don't really know. It appears that we might, depending on when the governor files it, and what we find out during the research, debate and analysis."
DiMasi is already on the record saying the casino frenzy is causing him stomach problems. Why he would want to prolong them is an interesting question -- although he did offer some thoughts about his siting concerns in the safe confines of his predecessor's radio show on WRKO.

The rumblings of long-time observers that Deval Patrick has taken far too long to get his administration's priorities in order (the casino bill is still a week or more away) appear to be hitting up hard against a legislative schedule that hasn't been overly taxing (physically that is) on lawmakers.

The DiMasi House took until its second year to really tackle the health care bill and we are now six weeks or so away from the end of the first year of this term with very little beyond the budget to show for it except for the defeat of the gay marriage amendment.

A test of wills between the speaker and the governor wouldn't be in the best interests of anyone. But we won't really know who is the unmovable force and who is the irresistible object until Patrick's team offers some specifics.

Here's a vote for more late nights in both wings of the Statehouse.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Where was The Globe?

It's a compelling yarn of small town politics, big stakes and backroom deals.

The Globe's Sean Murphy takes an in-depth look at the wheeling and dealing in Middleboro prior to the July town meeting vote for a casino. The look is pretty seamy -- with a retiring town manager working with selectmen, a shady and now discredited tribal leader and gaming industry fixers to arrange the land auction that paved the way for the deal.

The run-up to that rushed vote included included a deal to boost his salary (and his pension) and a grudging decision to take the question before voters -- a decision that led to the rushed town meeting on a sweltering July Saturday.

I think that Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz would be pretty interested in the sordid tale spelled out by Murphy.

So why does the story appear in CommonWealth, and not the Globe?

No disrespect to MassINC's fine quarterly publication -- a solid read for policy wonks and the rest of us who revel in the nitty gritty details of town meetings and transportation infrastructure.

But when a reporter covering Indian casino gaming publishes a 7,000-word look at the run-up to one of the more controversial aspects of the debate that is gripping (or nauseating) Massachusetts, why isn't that story in his newspaper?

Surely the Globe has published 7,000-word pieces before? The not-so-gripping series on Myth Romney must have included several yawners of that length.

Didn't metro editor Brian McGrory promise to take the Globe beyond being the paper of record to the "paper of interest"?

Let's recall the Globe has yet to acknowledge there were two votes that steamy Saturday -- yes to the casino and no to gambling. That sort of contradiction that should have prompted the unleashing of the Spotlight Team. But if that were the case, would Murphy's story have appeared in another publication?

McGrory owes us some answers.

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