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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Chickens coming home?

As Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan notes, the fact that Massachusetts needs to borrow money in anticipation of making a January local aid payment isn't shocking.

But when the borrowing comes early, in a larger than expected amount and triggered to a continued drop in lottery revenues, there are clear signs that the chickens are preparing to roost after the Legislature's failure to take up taxes as part of the fiscal 2008 budget.

And the fact that the shortfall triggering this concern comes from lottery sales suggests a new form of gambling may not be the answer.

As usual, the Statehouse News Service has the best handle on the gathering storm clouds. But since you can see it without a subscription, allow me to share:

The state is turning to short-term borrowing for cash flow purposes earlier in the fiscal year than usual, tax collections in October were down compared to October 2006, growth in Lottery revenues has slowed and fallen far shy of budget projections, and tax refunds this fall are up, raising warning signs that capital gains taxes are not filtering in at the same clip as previous years.

The warning signs, outlined to the News Service by sources familiar with an updated cash flow statement marked for release Friday, come as budget writers in the Legislature and the Patrick administration contemplate a series of billion-dollar capital spending requests, while concerns increase about the affordability of last year’s health insurance expansion law, and policymakers continue to disagree on potential new revenues, including potential funds from legalizing casinos.
Throw in a sluggish state and national economy, the House's unwillingness to countenance any revenue proposals this year -- from gambling to closing corporate tax loopholes -- and you are talking about what Mass. Taxpayers Foundation President Mike Widmer is estimating will be a $300 million to $700 million dip into the rainy day fund this year and a $1.5 billion shortfall to start fiscal 2009 planning.

And let's not forget that the hare-brained scheme to abolish the income tax is likely to be on the ballot next year -- blowing what could be a $10 billion hole into the resources available to pay for "unnecessary frills" like school and public safety.

Enjoy the Christmas break legislators. It's going to get ugly in January.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Furniture Wars

Line of the Day, local edition, goes to Deval Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan:
"Now I get it. Rugs good, drapes bad."
And kudos to his House counterpart, Dave Guarino, for having the foresight to avoid one of the silly non-issues that engulfed the early days of the Patrick administrations.

Of course, I'm referring to DrapeGate (not to be confused with CaddyGate), where our newly elected governor set about to refurbish a threadbare Corner Office with new drapes and new furniture left despoiled by the office's previous occupant.

(Then again, how bad could it have been, Myth Romney never used it).

Patrick was pilloried (or is that Hillaried?) for spending taxpayers' money on the centerpiece of the taxpayers' building. He shunned the bargain basements and bought expensive draperies, sofas and chairs so dignitaries might think Massachusetts wasn't Mississippi.

And boy did he pay a political price for that.

So, DiMasi (and Guarino) had a better strategy -- 8 by 10 color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph of each one to show how shabby the Speaker's digs were. Oh, and instead of digging into his own pocket for the drapes, as Patrick did, DiMasi will use his campaign war chest.

And most of all, they did a pre-emptive move -- announcing it before reporters who troop in for the Speaker's holiday party see the place no longer looks shabby.

Glad to see there really was some action in the Legislature prior to heading out the door for the end of the first year of the session.

And don't look now, but the governor has been learning too. Should make next year interesting!

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Interplanetary travel

Americans rate the war, the economy and health care along with border security as the top issues in the minds of voters after seven years of the mindless policies of George Bush.

So what do eight white men in suits argue about for two hours? Sanctuary cities versus mansions; tuition for the children of illegal immigrants; waterboarding; and whether Hillary Clinton should be on a rocket to Mars.

Mike Huckabee may have offered the truest line of the night: Jesus, not to mention Buddha, Allah, Yahweh and The Almighty Cheese, are all way too smart to mess in American politics, especially the Republican deviant version.

This is serious stuff here -- can we stop pandering and treating it like a joke?

Myth Romney and Rude E. Giuliani continued their war over sanctuary, with Rudy scoring a great line about Mitt's "sanctuary mansion" policy. It was probably a good move from Myth -- not having to defend his judicial appointments.

"Illegal immigration" is a key issue for the 30 percent of dead-enders who still support the Bush-Cheney Debacle. And borders that are safe and secure from unwanted guests like terrorists is an important issue.

But for the life of me, what a Mexican or Guatemalan family looking for a better life has to do with Osama bin Laden and his band of crazies is something I've never understood. The 9-11 hijackers didn't come in over the border with the help of a coyote.

We need a rational discussion on both types of immigration -- dealing with valuing law and the American Dream as well as protecting our selves -- without the laugh lines and incendiary tactics of Tom Tancredo who undoubtedly believes the old Vietnam line about how "we had to destroy the village to save it."

The focus on religion also indicates the fringe nature of this pack -- whether it's the unasked questions about Romney's Mormonism to the inappropriate questions about the Bible. What about the Torah, the Koran and other holy texts?

THE most important document -- or at least the one that should be -- is the Constitution (you know that thing Bush is using for bathroom tissue?) It clearly acknowledges that while religion is a part of American life, it is not the only part and that diversity of opinion is a hallmark of this nation.

The only diversity on display in that room was over torture -- something that's not really countenanced in any of those religious tracts.

And oh yeah, the war that more than two-thirds of the American public no longer supports? Or an economy that is fast heading to recession? The closest we got to that topic was a discussion on whether taxes should be raised as a last resort -- or simply abolished.

Rejoice GOP candidates -- your time of year his here. No, not the time for mistletoe, snow and good cheer. It's the time for fruitcakes -- and you are ready to be shipped.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Look out below!

Stand back -- that falling object may well be the Mitt Romney candidacy.

Today's Herald reports on a monumental screw-up in the office of then Essex County prosecutor Kathe Tuttman -- six months before Myth nominated her to the bench. By failing to file paperwork on time, the Essex District Attorney’s Family Crimes and Sexual Assault Unit that she led allowed a convicted sex offender to walk.
Judge Kathe Tuttman, who has been criticized for releasing mom-killer Daniel Tavares, was the head of the Essex District Attorney’s Family Crimes and Sexual Assault Unit in November 2005, when the office missed two deadlines that led to the release of convicted rapist Daniel Parra. Prosecutors wanted Parra civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person, but slipups by Tuttman’s unit prompted the state’s highest court to throw out the case, records obtained by the Herald show.
The Tavares case -- in which Tuttman granted Tavares his freedom by overruling a lower court judge only to see him kill a couple in Washington state -- has been linked in recent days to the Dukakis administration decision to furlough convicted murderer Willie Horton. In that case, a couple was also slain.

To me, that link, while a nice slap at Romney, was a bit tenuous, even more so with today's Globe story that the Worcester County district attorney's office opted to save a few bucks by not extraditing Tavares from Washington state.

Instead, I thought the story was more a reflection of his lack of loyalty to anyone but himself rather than a hard-and-fast Dukakis moment.

But Romney, who is trying to outdo Dukakis by running on both ideology and competence, really has stepped into it here. This is not the actions of an appointee he threw under a bus. This is a major league mistake by a prosecutor who, six months later, he deemed worthy of a seat on the bench.

What happened to the vetting process our top-notch CEO is supposed to have put in place?

Rather than the business-like, PowerPoint-oriented, level-headed leader image Romney attempts to project, this looks more like the detached, "I'm the Decider" CEO image of Romney's fellow Harvard Business School alum George W. Bush.

It's certainly worth noting that when Tuttman was nominated in April 2006, Romney already had Massachusetts in his rearview mirror. He was logging many hours and spending lots of taxpayer dollars on his unannounced but thinly veiled presidential campaign.

By the time he walked down the Statehouse stairs In January, he had spent virtually two-thirds of the previous year on the road.

Dukakis often took heat for leaving the state -- particularly during a growing fiscal crisis. Because Romney's drop-ins consisted of having him stir up fires on campaign hot buttons like gay marriage, we were glad not to have him around.

But out of sight also meant out of touch. The Tuttman nomination is the price of that inattention to the job he was elected to do.

Somehow it seems fitting that Mr. Flip-Flop is poised to be done in by managerial incompetence. But you get what you pay for and thankfully, for taxpayers, Mitt donated his services.

And you can bet Rudy Giuliani will have his commercials up and running very, very soon.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Text this!

Nice of the MBTA to enter the 21st Century by letting riders know about delays.

Of course, I didn't think cell phones worked in the subway system. And I'm not sure that I want to constant text alert chirps whenever a bus or subway is behind schedule. Noise pollution.

And what constitutes "behind schedule"? When two Green Line trains arrive virtually simultaneously, followed by a 20-minute gap? When the 66 bus travels in packs?

Maybe they should send alerts when elevators and escalators actually work?

Good thing Dan "Must Go" Grabuaskas says the T isn't charging (yet) for sending the text messages. But they will stand add up to quite a piece of change for anyone who signs up to receive them.

The T still doesn't get the fact that good customer service isn't telling you how late you are going to be. Good customer service involves getting you there on time in a bus or train that doesn't do double duty as a cattle car and with operators who don't close doors in your face.

But then again, how would Dan know? The T is inconvenient for his schedule. Maybe if he got a text page when his train was ready?

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Loyalty test

Harry Truman once said anyone looking for a friend in Washington should get a dog. And since Seamus Romney can attest to how well Mitt treats his friends, it's no surprise that Myth threw one of appointed judges under the wheels of the bus at the first sign of trouble.

What is more amusing though, is watching the reaction from Romney opponent Rudy Giuliani, a man for whom loyalty is apparently the only test (like the current occupant of the Oval Office). Rudy is still standing by his man Bernie Kerik, the indicted former police commissioner who, among other things, is accused of letting the Mob renovate his house and who used a public apartment as a private love nest.

Naturally Myth and Rude-y were hard at it on Sunday, hammering each other in the best tradition of Democratic circular firing squads:
“I think that Governor Romney is trying to distract attention from what is clearly a mistake that he made, but the other big mistake that he made was crime went up,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Violent crime and murder went up while he was governor, and I think that that is something that talks about not just an isolated mistake, it talks about a series of mistakes.”
To which the Mittser retorted:
He is pro-choice like Hillary Clinton,” he said at a campaign stop in Concord. “He is in favor of civil unions, like Hillary Clinton. He is in favor of sanctuary cities, like Hillary Clinton. And the record of ethical conduct from, in this case, Bernie Kerik, reminds us very much of the administration Hillary Clinton was part of.”
Hmm, could he referring to men who have what are euphemistically known as zipper problems?

Points here probably go to Myth. It's harder to defend a law-breaking cop than it is to criticize a judge who, in hindsight, made a bad decision (though that certainly didn't stop Roger Ailes and George H.W. Bush).

What's most enjoyable though is to watch these two pretzels twist themselves into contortions trying to buy the favor of the GOP's Moonbat Brigade, the 30 percent of the American public who still think George Bush will go down as a great President.

Romney has now taken two positions on every position in the race, including loyalty. Giuliani is trying to catch up (and refine) his flip-flop technique but draws the line at loyalty -- the trait that got Bush into his most trouble (loyalty of course easily leads to stubbornness and the belief that only you are right.)

So, GOP voters are faced with a choice between a man who wasn't loyal to his own dog, to one who remains loyal even when his man is a dog.

What a country!

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Who's the moonbat?

One of the Right's new favorite epithets for their political opposites is moonbat. (Check out this item from the Herald's chief enterprising reporter as an example).

But for pure "moonbat" intensity is it hard to top this new installment to what the late historian Richard Hofstadter famously called the "paranoid style" of American politics.

And as Hofstadter himself noted, this "style is not limited to the right. But from Palmer to McCarthy to Nixon to Pat Buchanan -- and in such notorious organizations as the John Birch Society -- there is a distinct rightward drift.

The key is finding targets for intense discontent. Whether caused by economic insecurity (the Depression) or political or military ones (The Global War on Terror), difficult times require scapegoats.

The Right has been exceptionally good at finding them -- immigrants have frequently been the target. Long-haired hippie freaks, the somewhat outdated term for moonbat, were also popular.

But after you read this piece -- complete with obligatory references to the Council on Foreign Relations, black helicopters and sidelong references to George H.W. Bush's "New World Order" -- tell me who think the real moonbats are.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Turkey hash

Picking through the leftovers of the holiday week...
  • Glad somebody noticed. The Legislature went home for the year this week, passing 178 session laws, many not as scintillating as "An Act relative to the annual observance of Leopoldville Disaster Remembrance Day." As usual, the Globe offers more details on the editorial page than in the news pages. The session's most noteworthy achievement was what didn't happen -- the gay marriage constitutional amendment. An incomplete is a generous grade when you look at the to-do list catalogued by the Statehouse News Service (subscription required). Lots of work in January and beyond.
  • But I do like the metaphor. Gas prices hovering around three dollars a gallon. Oil flirting with the $100 a barrel mark. European tourists coming to sales tax-charging Massachusetts for bargains because the dollar is a joke. And the GOP candidates trying to scare the living you know what out of us. Yes, ship sinking after hitting an iceberg is a pretty apt metaphor.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Magic bus

Christmas arrived early for the MBTA police force -- or at least the 24-member civil disturbance unit.

The 13-passenger, $100,000 bus is the ultimate police toy -- done up in conspiracy theorist black, four surveillance cameras and an "elite unit" complete with $20,000 of new body armor, shields, and an arsenal of tear gas and pepper-spray grenades. The Full Toy Cop Fantasy also includes .40-caliber Sig Sauer pistols, long batons, foam, punch-proof vests, and bags full of shin, elbow, and forearm guards.

This modest, self-effacing unit doesn't want to call itself "elite" for fear of offending the special ops and motorcycle cops. And they want to assure the riding public that:
"It used to be about bringing out the dogs, hats, bats, and cracking heads," (Sgt. Chris) Maynard said. "That's not what we're about."
So what are they about exactly? People who don't swipe their CharlieCard properly?

The Toy Cop Unit was forced as a response to the realization they had no effective means to deal with the civil disobedience that never developed at the Democratic National Convention. The fact there has never been a need for them and they have set off an arms race with competing police agencies is irrelevant.

So now they are ready to deal with the next Red Sox celebration. After all, the Plexiglas can stop a Roger Clemens fastball. As Sgt. Maynard notes:
"It stops everything but firearms."
Well duh. Am I the only one who sees a problem with that? Why not a fully equipped rail car with a special posse on horseback? Pull into the station, blow the whistle and let them loose?

It worked in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But then again the horses didn't need to get up the stairs or through the turnstiles.

Just more evidence that Grabauskas must go.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving thanks

Turkey Day 2007. A time for family, food and football. A chance to reflect on the good home I am fortunate to have along with a good, fulfilling job. Not really a time for the partisan blasts that often emanate from this corner.

But I can't really let it go because this date -- November 22 -- has special meaning to me and many millions old enough to remember those words "In Dallas Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade..."

I was just leaving a seventh period junior high class when I heard the bulletin. I was settling into eighth period when the principal came on the public address system to say that Kennedy had died at Parkland Hospital.

Plans to buy a brand new reel-to-reel tape recorder went by the boards and we settled in for a national period of mourning for the young president so full of promise, gunned down in the prime of life.

But with the benefits of age, wisdom and hindsight, more than John F. Kennedy died that day. The hope and optimism that characterized this country -- the Cuban Missile Crisis notwithstanding -- died too.

The message was reinforced a little more than four years later, first with the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., by a white racist, then with Robert Kennedy's murder in Los Angeles at the hand of a Palestinian.

For me, the train that carried Kennedy's body on the journey from New York City to Arlington National Cemetery may just as well have carried the last shreds of hope.

Vietnam was then raging -- with far more opposition in the streets than today's discontent with Iraq. Conspiracies have flown about all three assassination but it's hard to escape a theme that runs through them -- discontent over ideology, race and the Middle East.

The hatreds that played a part or directly led to the murder of three clearly left-of-center political figures -- and the subsequent rise of conservatism in 1964 candidacy of Barry Goldwater and the 1966 election of California Gov. Ronald Reagan is also hard to ignore.

Today, Goldwater and Reagan are and were honorable figures in a conservative movement that has lurched even more sharply to the right -- dragged along by the Theocons who would impose their vision of righteousness and political correctness on the world. It's a often-overlooked fact that Goldwater has little respect for the Falwells and Robertsons who rose in his name.

So while I do have a lot to be thankful for on a personal level, I can't help but wonder how things might be today if things had gone differently on Nov. 22, 1963.

Would George W. Bush still be a drunken ne'er do well living of Dad's inheritance?

Would Dick Cheney have found serving in Vietnam was actually a worthwhile cause?

Would we have a government that respected the Constitution and would we be a nation respected in the eyes of the world because we stand up to torture and injustice?

Enjoy your family, food and football. And listening to Alice's Restaurant. Knock yourself out getting up at 3 a.m. to stand in the cold darkness of Black Friday. Enjoy the holiday season. I know I will.

But don't forget what might have been if things had gone differently that day in Dallas 44 years ago.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Grabauskas must go

It's time to put Dan Grabuaskas onto the next commuter rail train back to Ipswich. It's hard to comprehend why the Patrick administration, in moving to oust old-time GOP hacks like Steve Tocco and Mass. Turnpike Authority Board members, has left Grabauskas in place.

The Globe's latest look at the Terrible T focuses on commuter rail (you know the mode of transportation the head of the regional transportation authority shuns because "it tends not to be convenient for me.").

Here's the money quote:

"The bottom line is the bottom line. Customers don't care for the alphabet soup of the MBTA or MBCR. All they know is they're paying fares. They want to get to work on time. [But] as the owners, we're not getting what we're paying for."

While Grabauskas was speaking about a report showing commuter performance heading straight downward in October, he could have been speaking about virtually every segment of the transit system -- from Green Line trains that travel in pairs (followed by lengthy delays) and buses that operate in the same manner.

I don't ride the Red, Orange, Silver or Blue lines with any regularity, but I'm sure those riders have similar horrors.

And we, the real owners of the transportation through our fares and our taxes (remember, a penny of the sales tax is going to the system), are most definitely not getting what we are paying for.

Speaking of fares, why don't we, the paying public, have a right to know what the higher fares mean to the system's bottom line? We are now 11 months into the first year of the CharlieCard system and we have had no formal announcement of whether the higher fares have made a difference in the agency's bottom line.

Not to mention no idea of when they will actually implement the system in rational way (I can answer for Green Line outbound -- never).

For that matter, we really don't know what we are getting in the endless and seemingly motionless reconstruction of Green Line stations. Kenmore is at a minimum a year behind schedule, cold comfort walking through the giant puddles so graciously lined with stanchions so we could know how deep they really are. Why has the glass awning been in the same place for so long? Will they be done before yet another Red Sox season opens?

The fact they are trumpeting 2009 completions at Copley and Arlington (each under construction for probably a year if not longer) is pathetic.

We, the riding public, certainly know we're not getting what we pay for, we just don't know how much more that payment is. It is long past time for a full accounting of what the fare increases have brought -- both in actual dollars and in improved service, boarding and trip times.

And don't you find it convenient this report comes out as the great Thanksgiving exodus, complete with two-hour Mass. Pike backups, gets underway?

We've had more than enough proof that Grabauskas has had little positive impact on the system, save for his smiling face peering out from posters that he probably hopes will get him elected to statewide office some day.

The single biggest Thanksgiving gift Deval Patrick can give Massachusetts commuters is to get rid of this turkey. Stick him on the Purple Line to Ipswich and let him emulate Charlie: let him be the man who never returned.

SPECIAL SHOUT-OUT: To the operator of Green Line car 3831 on Comm. Ave. this morning for the spirit of the season. After running to catch the train while the traffic light was still red, I appreciate the fact that you chose to motion me to run to the front door of the first car, which was still open. Great customer service, pal. But sure enough, another train was about a minute behind. Happy Day, Turkey.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No place like home

The news business likes evergreen stories -- trusted old friends you can trot out every year like the start of new season -- beaches open, back-to-school and "Black Friday" as the start of the holiday shopping season.

And the chaos that defines travel around Thanksgiving. Notes the Boston Globe:
An estimated 27 million passengers are expected to fly US airlines during a 12-day period that includes Thanksgiving week - the busiest travel period of the year. That's 4 percent higher than the number of air travelers during the same period last year, according to the Air Transport Association. And if recent months are any indication, the start to this year's holiday travel season, which runs roughly through New Year's, could be one of the most frustrating for flyers: Fares are up. Planes are fuller. And more and more passengers are being bumped.
The simple question is why. The likelihood of crowded plans around the holidays is a definite perennial. Airlines know they are going to have increased passenger loads. They also know they can control for just about every variable except the weather.

So why are there not enough airplanes to take the people where they want to go? After all, this is the country that likes to brag it could send men to the moon and back. What's so hard about sending Mom, Dad, Jessie and Susie (and their luggage) to Dallas and back?

For several (recent) years we had the excuse of struggling airlines. Reeling from losses caused by the lapses of the entire industry on 9-11, we were told those poor companies were barely keeping their heads above water. Mergers and bankruptcies flowed like Scotch in a Northwest cockpit.

Funny thing, the airlines are now profitable, despite soaring fuel prices. So what else is to blame?

Tighter security? Sure it takes additional time to make sure people don't sneak those 3.5-ounce bottles of shampoo past vigilant Transportation Security Agency personnel. And while London Heathrow can get you through security with little frustration, you put up with the inefficiency because, well, because, I guess.

Airlines don't help the cause by trying to send out every flight on 9 a.m. from every airport across the nation.

But there has to be more to it. Particularly in a crunch period like Thanksgiving, why can't airlines meet the demand they know will be intense?

A big part of the reason is the federal government. From an antiquated flight control system using computers less powerful than the one I am typing on, the Federal Aviation Administration has proven incapable or unwilling to enter the 21st Century.

Then there is the matter of inadequate airspace. I'm as gung-ho as the next person to make sure our military is adequately trained to, but why are vast amounts of air space off limits to commercial jets to accommodate training flights that don't necessarily need to use that space 24-7-365.

And of course, all those planes that take off at the same time must also land.

It's incredible to ponder how this problem has eluded solution all these years. Then again, maybe it's not, given how many other things have gone wrong in recent years.

As for me, that small turkey in the oven looks a lot better than that big turkey in the middle seat next to me.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Bizarro world

We've reached the point where the Washington press corps and the Bush administration considers the lack of bad news as good news. When success is measured in fewer people dying and when partisan gamesmanship trumps the will of the people.

The Washington Post's Peter Baker sums it up this way:

In many ways, the shifting political fortunes may owe as much to the absence of bad news as to any particular good news. No one lately has been indicted, botched a hurricane relief effort or shot someone in a hunting accident. Instead, pictures from Iraq show people returning to the streets as often as they show a new suicide bombing. And Bush has bolstered morale inside the West Wing and rallied his Republican base through a strategy of confrontation with the Democratic Congress, built on the expansive use of his veto pen.

A case in point appears to be the Iraqi surge. The New York Times notes today that number of weekly attacks are down to the lowest level since before the attack on the Shiite mosque that triggered some truly horrific bloodshed.

Even The New Yorker suggests the surge is working in this report from Iraq. Yes, if you count suicide bombings as opposed to individual efforts by one man out to kill 100 people -- 10 for each finger of a murdered relative's hands.

The Iraqi government, or lack thereof, is learning from its masters, preferring to pit political and religious enemies against each other rather than try to unify the country and take advantage of any "success" brought by the surge,

And then there is that shining triumph to Bush's democracy -- Pakistan. We've spent $10 billion to bolster an army general who seized power, twice, and yet claims to be in favor of elections and other democratic trappings. Sound almost like an election scenario that played out in Florida in 2000, minus the guns.

And of course, George Bush and his dead-enders have managed to tie up Congress, particularly the 50 votes to act Senate, in knots. And he's adopted a new posture as fiscally responsible (conveniently forgetting that $10 billion for Musharraf, among other things).

Maybe we are more observant than Baker, who also dutifully notes:
Yet none of this has particularly impressed the public at large, which remains skeptical that anything meaningful has changed and still gives Bush record-low approval ratings. The disconnect highlights his dilemma heading into the last year of his administration: Can anything short of a profound event repair an unpopular president's public standing so late in his tenure? Can tactical victories in Washington salvage a wounded presidency?
Reporters have a name for this sort of story, prepared for a slow news day like a Sunday or Monday -- a thumbsucker. Let's accent the second syllable here if you believe the lack of bad is good.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Voters for Good Taste

At least the jacket isn't red.

With everything else that Republicans claim to stand for these days, you would think they would also believe in conservative fashion.

Then again, fashion sense is not really a trait held dear by Republicans other than the friends of Rudy Giuliani.

I don't even want to think about what the shoes or the accessories look like for this Full Des Moines.

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Rolling the dice, again

So, is Deval Patrick's casino gambling proposal a bad idea period. Or just an attempt to prevent an even worse fate?

I've been relatively quiet on the subject, slowly leaning to the anti-casino side as it has become clear that the revenue projections aren't likely to be as rosy as Patrick thinks.

But today's Globe story comes back to my original concern: if the train is leaving the station, to we want to be the conductor collected the fare? Or do we want to get broadsided with the problems and none of the revenues?

In a perfect world, Massachusetts does not need "destination" casinos. It does not need the additional pain and suffering of lives shattered by gambling. But it really doesn't need to face those problems without resources to handle them.

And the charade that passed for "process" in Middleboro stands to be repeated without a state role. I'd be curious to hear the response of casino foes on this score. Is there something missing from the Globe story that would make these fears unrealistic?

I'd also like to hear more from the Speaker other than a desire to put the issue off in the hope it will die. This should be the top priority when sessions resume in January 2008.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Bail Bonds

Barry "Free On" Bonds has finally been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. It will be up to a jury to decide whether to "cream" him or "clear" him. What Major League Baseball will do to restore its image is another matter entirely.

Let's face it, sports in general and baseball in particular has been less-than-heroic in dealing with steroid use. You can get four-game suspensions in the NFL for using banned substances and similar slap on the wrist penalties in baseball and basketball. What you can't do (or haven't done) is take definite action against people who are clearly cheating -- using drugs to improve their performance.

Bonds is simply the most egregious cheater of the modern era. Twice his former size, it seems, he assaulted records held Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron with an arrogance and disdain that reflected a cap size that wasn't just affected by any drug use.

Now, as pictured in a grand jury indictment, Bonds has been revealed as a dissembler who failed a drug test while at the same time perpetrated the fraud that as an athlete he simply took "the cream" and "the clear" from his trainer without so much as a question about the contents.

All the while, he snarled his way to the *record books, spitting on the integrity of a game that did little to try and uphold its name.

Baseball Commissioner piously states that of course everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Bonds was found guilty long ago in the court of public opinion. So too has Major League Baseball for its timidity in dealing with Bonds and Mark McGwire, whose congressional testimony was worthy of Alberto Gonzales.

Bonds is a free agent now -- the San Francisco Giants having cast him off once he achieved the *record. Wonder who will try to sign him now? Maybe he'll go into the memorabilia business with OJ?

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

It all depends on the meaning...

For a nation that had a lot of fun with a former president who parsed the word "is," you would think there would be less ambiguity over words like "waterboarding" and "torture."

But you would be wrong, and the "liberal media" is as much to blame over this scandalous state of affairs as are the policy makers that Michael Mukasey tried so hard defend from future war crimes s charges.

Check out this discussion on WNYC's "On the Media" (transcript here, audio here). Listen as editors of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times argue that since every Webster's definition of drowning includes death, this medieval method isn't really torture. The Tribune's deputy editor Randy Weissman.
Simply put, if you look in Webster's, drowning is death, and waterboarding would only fit that definition if, if the prisoner died. Ask most people if a person drowns what happens, you -— I would be willing to bet you that they would say he died.
So as long as the person doesn't actually die, he or she hasn't been subject to a process that simulates drowning, therefore it's not torture?

Never mind that military experts and some torture victims like John McCain tend to disagree. Says Malcolm Nance is a former instructor at the U.S. Naval Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape School in San Diego:
That's not an accurate description at all. And I've seen every one of the types of waterboarding that has been portrayed in the press, that's been described in the press. It's all still the waterboarding process, and waterboarding is intended to put water down into your throat, into your trachea and then, with enough water, into your lungs. You are drowning.
What's going on here? Listen to Rudy Giuliani:
It depends on how it's done. It depends on who does it. I think the way it's been defined in the media, it shouldn't be done, the way in which they have described it, particularly in the liberal media. But I'd have to see what the real description of it is, because I've learned something, being in public life as long as I have. And I hate to shock anybody with this -- but the newspapers don't always describe it accurately.
"It all depends on how it's done." "Newspapers don't always describe it accurately." Sound familiar?

I thought when I signed on that my job as a reporter was to ask questions, find out what the facts were and report them. No matter whose ox was gored. Today's journalist apparently also feels the need to couch those findings in some sort of cloak of "objectivity" that absolves from from any appearance of bias.

Not that taking that, pardon the expression, tortured position, helps in the face of politicians looking to take even more tortured positions to protect themselves from war crimes and score points for being tough.

Yet compare the outcry over this semantic dance about torture to the media reaction to Bill Clinton's parsing of the word "is."

Objectivity is a myth. People have innate biases that play a role in everything from deciding what politician to support to what ice cream to eat. A good journalist tries to recognize that by being, in the words now tainted by Fox News, "fair and balanced." But nowhere does that responsibility include accepting spin when it flies in the face of reality and common sense.

By falling back on Webster's to avoid the slings and arrows of outraged demagogues, the media is failing to do its job.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

National Rorschach test

Republicans see the devil incarnate. Some Democrats see a return to glory, while others lament about squandered lost opportunities.

The 2008 presidential primaries are ultimately about two men who aren't even on the ballot: George W. Bush and William J. Clinton. Yet, the object of their affection -- or derision -- is the single most visible female politician on the planet (with all due respect to Benazir Bhutto).

From the perspective of someone who believes that the end of the Bush fiasco calls for an end to Republican occupation of the White House and the other outposts of our government, the current torrent of words about the candidate who is on the ballot is a good thing.

The latest New York Times poll finds a majority of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire think Hillary Rodham Clinton is more likely to say what they want to hear rather than what she believes. But they also see hr as the best prepared and most electable Democrat in the field.

Republicans, on the other hand, see her as Bubba Redux, the punch line of jokes and those allegedly snappy nicknames dreamed up by the Troglodytes on the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

Seven years of Bush catastrophe and they still firmly believe their boy has been better for the country than Bill Clinton because Bush's self-righteous moralizing while condemning thousands to death and injury without a good reason is better than oral sex in the Oval Office.

What's more worthy of examination is the softer approach adopted by John Edwards and Barack Obama. Two months from the Iowa caucuses, both men are starting the Clinton Conversation -- with Edwards taking his gloves off while Obama adopts the glove slap across the face approach.

As I noted earlier, it's much better to have this debate now that in the days and weeks leading up to the general election. If Clinton fatigue is to outweigh Bush fatigue, it's better to know it now.

But what about that concept -- what exactly was wrong with the Clinton years beyond Bill's outsized libido getting in the way? Did Hillary have a penchant for excess secrecy in putting together a health care task force? Apparently no more than Dick Cheney and his energy task force.

The crimes of the Clinton administration -- rolled up and ties with a $72 million bow named Whitewater -- have proven themselves to be much hot air. The Clinton's chief accusers are now having lunch with Bubba and he's granting interviews to his tormentors.

We were not waging the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time (as much as Republicans tried to turn the Balkans mess into something else). Our economy was humming (perhaps too much irrational exuberance, but better than the have-have not situation we are in today).

Most of all, we had a nation where the Constitution was not treated as a candy bar wrapper (OK, so Newt and his cronies tried to stage a bloodless coup, but impeachment is defined in the document).

Billary are lightning rods, no question about it. The make the right turn apoplectic in much the same way that Richard Nixon, W. and Darth Cheney make Democratic blood vessels burst. There is a legitimate national debate about whether we want to continue with four or eight more years of vicious political infighting.

But that begs the question -- would all that go away with a President Edwards or President Obama (we know the answer to President Giuliani). My guess is no.

Republican attacks will continue no matter who sits in the Oval Office. That's all the party has left to show for an ideology based in fear and smear. So the pinata question is not the operative one in making this decision.

Rather it is who has the right combination of skills and vision to get out out of the pit of despair that has ruled this nation since the GOP took over Congress in 1994 and sent comity and fairness down the toilet.

So let's get past all this Clinton angst and get down to the real problems facing us -- and who can do the best job of fixing them.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dude, where's the blogs?

I've pretty much held my fire on the Globe's redesigned Boston.com, but the latest wrinkle I discovered today begs for an observation.

On the old site, news and business updates were easily accessible in a small line of links above the name plate. Today, after a fruitless search for that quick and simple access I discovered the problem.

Those links are now on the Boston Globe home page, underneath the formal Globe nameplate, one click deeper into the site. In other words, it now takes a minimum of two clicks to get to the news and business updates.


That's when you can find them at all. While the home page for all the local blogs still exist, finding it is a challenge.

And it took, by my estimation, one-full day for the editorial powers-that-be in the newspaper to learn that the URL of the White Coat Notes section had been changed. My guess is the same lack of communication between the Globe and Boston.com took place on other blogs.

While I'm on the subject -- why did they bother to keep the All Politics are Local blog when it hasn't been updated since Sept. 21?

And I won't even go near the question of why comments aren't being offered.

In contrast, while it gets harder and harder to find the newsprint stories in any daily edition of the Herald, the blogs are prominently posted on its front door. That's no doubt a reflection of the fact that the Metro has now passed the Herald in print circulation and the Herald's future is increasingly going to be online.

The news updates and blogs represented a significant improvement for the Globe. These changes amount to hiding them -- a significant backslide. Why should a reader have to click onto the home page of the static daily newspaper to get updates that reflect changes since the early morning hours when the dead tree edition was printed?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Slow news day

The great commuter race is the stuff of radio and television ratings weeks. Definitely not the gimmicky stuff that leads a great metropolitan daily newspaper. Right?


That swell Globe South feature which devours much of today's front page, much to the boredom and ennui of commuters from the north west and northwest -- many of whom don't have four commuting options. And did you guy forget about the bus? Driving to Braintree doesn't give the full exposure to commuting.

I can't wait for the Globe to commit this kind of personnel to riding the entire MBTA system, particularly taking a regular turn on Green Line (and the Boston College route) and see if the Breda car problems are solved as the T professes. But then again, Brian McGrory doesn't have a thing for the Green Line.

In the meantime, can I have a refund for today's paper too?

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Trouble on their doorstep

I guess I had to wait for the extensive coverage of the New England Revolution's exciting race to the MLS final.

There was a lot of hand-wringing earlier this week (including this story in the incredibly shrinking Boston Globe). The numbers are scary -- the Globe's daily circulation fell nearly 6.7 percent to 360,695, while the incredibly disappearing Boston Herald dropped 8.7 percent, falling below the 200,000 benchmark to 185,832.

The Globe and others sought to take note of the silver lining -- online readership, while far less lucrative in terms of advertising, is growing. In perfect timing with the launch of its redesigned web site, Boston.com, reported 2.3 million combined print and online readers in the Boston market, 4.2 million unique visitors to the website, and 61 million page views.

Someone should remind the Globe's home delivery department about this phenomenon. This free content phenomenon.

For a month or more on weekends, the Globe failed to meet its commitment to home delivery customers like me, who pay in advance and with some vigorish, er, premiums, to receive a newspaper on their doorstep at a regularly scheduled time.

One week it was the provide full coverage of the Indians' 13-6 extra-inning win over the Red Sox. The next week it was the Sox's win over the Tribe. The following weekend it was full coverage of a blowout against the Rockies.

Even though the Globe had the brains to stop offering this alibi, last weekend, I surmised it may have been to note the Celtics' romp over the Washington Wizards. I guess today it was Thursday's Revolution victory.

Week in and week out, bad service (and bills that are so obtuse that it is impossible to figure out if they give you the credit for late or non-delivery -- maybe Bruce Mohl should investigate?)

Daily newspapers have serious problems -- the Globe's newshole has shrunk to the point that it can't or won't cover local elections (although it can wring its hands about turnout).

The Herald? It's web site is even harder to negotiate than the skimpy and scanty coverage of crime and outrages foisted against the little guys and gals who make up its loyal -- and dying -- readership.

There is no question that younger news consumers are finding the ancient delivery systems -- newspapers, television and radio -- increasingly irrelevant to their lives. Older folks (you know the ones with the disposable incomes to buy things from their advertisers) are learning to rely more on the web too.

But we still prefer ink on dead trees to go with the morning coffee and bagel, particularly on weekends (and what is the assumption that no one is awake before 8 a.m. on weekends?) So we continue to be the people who pay them one-month in advance with a little something extra thrown in for their troubles.

The least the Globe can do is humor us by giving us something for that payment. And maybe they'd like to cover the story of the inventor working to add a toaster to the CD-DVD drive?

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Friday, November 09, 2007

FEMA Follies

Well, at least FEMA has learned to act with speed. Now all the have to do is pick the right projects.

The Washington Post reports today on how the federal agency that became the synonym for incompetence in New Orleans solidified that reputation by calling for a fake news conference. The answer reflects yet again the Bush administration's disdain for the truth.
The review "found nothing that indicated malicious or preconceived intent to deceive the media or the public," said FEMA's acting director of external affairs, Russ Knocke, who conducted the inquiry. "As an aside, the content of the press event was accurate," Knocke said Wednesday night. "It is obvious that there was a significant lack of leadership within FEMA external affairs."
As long as it is not malicious and without preconception then deception is OK, appears to be the operative philosophy. The problem, Knocke seems to be saying is they got caught.

How does that philosophy differ from propaganda:
What sets propaganda apart from other forms of advocacy is the willingness of the propagandist to change people's understanding through deception and confusion, rather than persuasion and understanding.
The explanations is obvious. We were taught that only the bad guys use propaganda. The lack of leadership extends far beyond the FEMA external affairs folks.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Troubles in Theocon Land

Let's see: Pat's for Rudy. Paul is for Mitt. Sam goes for John. And Heather is undecided.

I must admit I'm a little excited at seeing the rifts open up among "values voters." In particular, it's rewarding to see that High Priest Pat Robertson showing it is all about religious intolerance. I mean who else would overlook Rudy Giuliani's alleged sins in his personal life and baldly declare Rudy is the best bet against the "blood lust of Islamic terrorists."

The endorsement follow the decision by another High Priest, Paul Weyrich, to throw his support behind Myth Romney with this immortal line that I'm sure will soon appear in all Romney ads:
"I believe that he has flip-flopped in our direction, if you will - the direction of the values voters - and I think he will stay there."
Not to be outdone, Sam Brownback, an evangelical Protestant-turned-Roman Catholic, who attends two church services on Sundays and a weekly Bible study group, threw his support behind John McCain, the guy who once correctly called Robertson "an agent of intolerance," thereby throwing away his chance for an endorsement.

Our Man Myth has been sitting prettier recently, showing leads in New Hampshire and Iowa and some strength in South Carolina. The additions of Weyrich and Bob Jones III should help burnish his credentials in Theocon Land as he spends the inheritance he had planned to leave to Tagg and his brothers.

But that may not be the only fence-mending in the Romney clan.

Myth had a relative in the crowd
at a recent South Carolina event.

"In the front row over here is my niece, Heather Glenn," Romney said. "That's probably not your last name anymore, Heather. But Heather is a school teacher. Are you a school teacher?"

"No. I'm a pediatrician," she responded.

"She's a pediatrician," Romney said, to laughter. "Deals with kids. I haven't seen Heather in, um, 20 years. Good to see you, Heather."

Heather Krueger, MD, Romney's second cousin, is undecided on who she will support.

So much for family values.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Profiles in democracy

The contrasts could not be more stark.

Lawyers in Lahore, Pakistan battling to snatch democracy back from the hands of US "friend" Pervez Musharraf.

Half a world away in Boston, a mere 13.6 percent of Boston voters turn out at the polls to elect a City Council, throwing out an incumbent who didn't seem to care about the job and replacing him with a candidate who slimed an opponent -- and now colleague -- for the same indifference.

Boston has hardly been a crowing symbol of democracy in recent decades. The current Mayor for Life is the third in a row to hold office for a double digit years. The council has been home to such notables as Dapper O'Neil, Louise Day Hicks, Jimmy Kelly and David Scondras.

The city charter renders the body virtually powerless -- it can only cut a mayor's budget. In the past, it's principal raison d'etre has been to produce mayors -- but Ray Flynn's and Tom Menino's longevity have pretty much eliminated that option.

Toss in a rainy day and why bother to get wet becomes a real question. A very wrong one.

The rise of the Christian Right -- which started with school boards until it elected a president who will leave us with anywhere between two and four wars -- shows the value of voting in every election.

And so do the lawyers of Pakistan -- wearing coats and ties and carrying their legal briefcases as they battle with police -- trying to carry out the will of a military strongman who seized power, professed to be a democrat while taking in $10 billion in American dollars while always refusing to give up his uniform.

Or a president, who after winning by the narrowest of margins and the shakiest "mandate", proceeded to steer hard right and start those wars in the name of the people.

Joni Mitchell said "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." The lawyers of Pakistan know. Do we?

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

They did the right thing

Well, it took a few days, but the Herald editors (and Needham police) did the right thing.

The Herald runs what appears to be a verbatim transcript of an interview with Hillel Neuer, the Canadian civil rights rights executive who was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time in a Needham pizza shop Friday night.

The Globe also runs a transcript (and audio) of a 911 call that shows how someone can get caught up in a panic.

Neuer said it best in his conversation with the Herald:

“This whole thing was ridiculous and I feel very happy I was fully vindicated by the court. I hold nothing against the people of Needham. There were people who acted recklessly and they should reflect.”

The disorderly conduct charge against him was dropped for lack of evidence.

Stressful situations bring out the worst in people. Excessive media coverage -- helicopters hovering, breathless live at the scene stand-ups that can't offer any information -- add greatly to that stress.

But decisions made in the supposedly thoughtful, if frenzied confines of a newsroom are supposed to be different. The editors of the Herald, who ran his picture on Page One with enough information from their own reporters to have thought twice, are among the reckless actors.

There's a distinct likelihood the unusual transcript interview is a product of discussions between Herald lawyers and Neuer's attorney. A prominently displayed picture on their web site of a grip-and-grin photo of Neuer with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is another giveaway of a legal deal.

Whatever the motives (and the Herald surely is aware that Neuer, unlike Judge Ernest Murphy, is clearly not a public figure) the Herald ultimately did wipe a bit of the smear off an innocent man. But it never should have happened in the first place.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Hack heaven

I suspect the Herald's Michele McPhee is looking for an escape from Wingo Square.

Why else does someone defend the biggest waste of taxpayers dollars in this state?

Let me get this straight: Using cops at time and a half is a better solution to traffic flow issues is a better solution than lower-paid "flag men" on straight time?

Yep, there are a lot of payroll patriots larded through the budget thanks to 16 years of GOP hackarama. The state transportation agencies are a indeed a mess.

But personally, I would rather have the cops doing things like dealing with the murders that continue to plague Boston -- and the other real crimes that take place around the state. You don't need a person with a weapon to handle a lane drop, let alone an accident.

You will recall Bill Weld tried to end this taxpayer abuse -- you know how far he got with it. There were many who complained the Deval Patrick should have used his political capital early on to take this issue as a priority.

So this bit of unreality from the cop shop chief of the paper that perpetually ails against waste, fraud and abuse on the public payroll leads me to only one conclusion: I expect Michele will be fielding a job offer soon from Dunkin' Donuts. After all, it would hit them hard in the wallet too.

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Heckuva job, Pervie

The president, nearing an end to his legal rule, feels he need to extend his time in office for the sake of his country. So he declares an emergency, suspends the constitution, takes over the media and arrests lawyers.

Sound like a bad plot that desperately cries out for Jack Bauer's intervention?

Nope, it's our "friend" General Pervez Musharraf, whom the United States taxpayers have supported to the tune of $10 billion since 2001 to "help" us in our fight against the jihadists operating out in his country.

You remember Pakistan -- the host country to Osama bin Laden and his friends since the Bush administration failed to nab him at Tora Bora in neighboring Afghanistan. The country that has provided nuclear technology to Libya and North Korea (and probably Iran too).

The United States finds its "disappointing" that Musharraf did away with frills like democracy. After all, that is what we are trying to impose on Iran and Iraq. But our leaders are of one with their Pakistani counterparts.
“They would rather have a stable Pakistan — albeit with some restrictive norms — than have more democracy prone to fall in the hands of extremists,” said Tariq Azim Khan, the minister of state for information. “Given the choice, I know what our friends would choose.”
Sound familiar? Patriot Act anyone?

In short, a country that probably poses a larger danger to our security than any other, including the one lead by I'm a Dinner Jacket. But fear not. Just as with all of the "good work" of the Bush administration, that outflow of taxpayer dollars with continue to flow, (you want to know why we can't afford children's' health?) And we'll probably still bomb Iran and have a war in a fourth country.

Heckuva job Pervie.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Upon further review

The Herald today offers us an explanation of who the man staring down a State Police automatic weapon is and what he was doing in a Needham pizza parlor at the wrong time. Oh, and that their sources were wrong about charges.
Hillel C. Neuer, 37, who lives and works in Geneva, Switzerland, was cuffed after an hourlong standoff with police when jittery pizza shop workers thought they spotted him with a gun. No gun was found. Neuer was charged with disorderly conduct.
Of course, the charges seem like a bit of CYA in face of the facts. Nervous store employee spots nervous man and we take it from there. Thankfully the state trooper didn't have a nervous trigger finger.

The Globe took note of the exchange deep inside today's story, where it belongs. The Herald has moved on to better things on its front page -- The Battle of the Unbeatens.

One of the loudest complaints people express against the media is that the correction is never as prominent as the error. Of the course, the error here is in the lack of judgment of Herald editors, so Hillel Neuer should probably be grateful he got a grudging chance to save a tiny piece of his dignity.

Hopefully they won't charge him for the picture.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Wrong man?

Can someone tell me what's wrong with this picture?

Well, if you read deep into the Herald's story about yesterday's murder in Needham, you will quickly discover the man at the business end of the State Police automatic weapon has nothing to do with the murder they were investigating.

The Page One caption reads: A state police trooper trains his gun on a man he takes into custody at a Needham Center pizza parlor yesterday afternoon.

Seems like the Staties got their man, right?

Not if you read all the way to the end of the story:

In the other incident, police descended on downtown Needham with weapons drawn and arrested a man after a report of a person with a gun. Employees at the CVS next door locked up after a person ran in and said someone had a gun.

At Stone Hearth Pizza, a manager called the cops after a “very agitated” man came in, ordered a pizza with peppers and mushrooms, paced back and forth and changed his clothes in the shop’s bathroom.

A server calmly walked over to the shop’s only customers, a mother and son, and ushered them out. The shop’s eight employees safely left before the cops surrounded the shop.

Sources said there likely will be no charges against the man taken into custody at the pizza parlor. Sources said no gun was found, and investigators found no evidence of a crime.

This is not a slap at police, justifiably nervous town residents or the reporters who obviously did their job correctly.

But it is a question for Herald editors: why did you decide to run a picture, clearly identifying a "very agitated" man who, as a result of your own reporters work, you knew had no gun and probably committed no crime -- certainly not the crime that had Needham upset and angry and was the focus of your story.

And don't tell me the weasel words "downtown standoff" justify improperly linking someone who picked the wrong place and wrong to order a pizza with an unrelated murder.

Sometime ethics trumps a good picture. Heck, ethics ALWAYS trumps a good picture.

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Let's Go Celtics

Rick Pitino was right about one thing: Larry, Kevin and Robert aren't walking through that door.

But Paul, Kevin and Ray are very much a sight for sore eyes.

It's been long time since the Men in Green have been relevant around here. Some have suggested it started downhill the day Len Bias died. The slide really accelerated when Reggie Lewis passed away. Years of misery -- highlighted by M.L. Carr tanking a season for the rights to Tim Duncan; the on-again, off-again presence of Antoine Walker.

And oh yeah, Pitino walking in and then out the door.

Then "The Pest" decided to shake things up.

Readers may have noted my sports loves tend toward Cleveland. Except when it comes to basketball. The Cavaliers did not exist when I discovered the pro game and anyway, for too many years they were the simply the Cleveland Cadavers.

Nope, when I discovered the NBA, the men playing the game were named Russell, Havlichek, Nelson, and Jones, all held together by a man named Arnold.

I bled Green during the '80s when the TRUE Big Three walked the parquet. I've just bled the last few years. So the arrival of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett is a true cause of celebration (although I still keep wondering about Big Al's upside).

From the safe confines of the couch, last night restored a little of the magic. Unveiling the Red Auerbach Parquet. Paul Pierce's unusual "thanks for hanging in all these years" pre-game speech. And of course, the game.

Garnett is all he was advertised to be (as if there were any doubts). Allen is truly a dead-eye shooter. But it was Pierce who really caught my attention. It's amazing what can happen when the weight of a legacy gone sour is lifted from someone's shoulders (not to mention the end of triple-teams).

Pierce is not the first Celtic I think of when I consider the message offered by a smile. Let's face it, when The Chief finally showed his dazzling smile it was as he was lifted the championship trophy high.

But Pierce's intense glower has been the symbol of frustration the last too many years. That's why the picture in today's Globe -- an intense Garnett and a smiling Pierce -- is really a hopeful sign.

Let's Go Celtics.

(Boston Globe photo)


Friday, November 02, 2007

Stop torturing him

George Bush thinks Senate Democrats are being unfair to Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey, insisting on asking him questions for which he has no answers.
“I believe that the questions he’s been asked are unfair. He’s not been read into the program — he has been asked to give opinions of a program or techniques of a program on which he’s not been briefed. I will make the case — and I strongly believe this is true — that Judge Mukasey is not being treated fairly.”
In other words, stop torturing the guy, he doesn't know the answers.

And lawmakers haven't even resorting to water boarding yet.

But then W offers a truly inviting option:

"If the Senate Judiciary Committee were to block Judge Mukasey on these grounds, they would set a new standard for confirmation that could not be met by any responsible nominee for attorney general," Bush said in a speech at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "That would guarantee that America would have no attorney general during this time of war."
After Alberto Gonzales, it's hard to see where no attorney general is a bad option. Bush has declared the Constitution his personal Kleenex and any attorney general who does not stand up to him is worthless. Mukasey's performance before lawmakers suggests he is more of the same.

Maybe we should let George takes his ball and go home.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wish I had ExxonMobil's problems

The stock market tanked today because ExxonMobil's profits did not meet Wall Street's expectations.

Say what?

Those poor folks, like former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, struggling to get by on a $400 million retirement package, are going to have to dig a little deeper to afford their champagne wishes and caviar dreams. ExxonMobil ONLY made $9.41 billion in the quarter, down from the $10.49 billion of the same period last year.

And that's while oil prices have shot up through the $90 a barrel mark. Let that sink in: $90 freaking dollars a barrel. Glad I heat my home with natural gas. Glad but not gloating because my time will come.

The sanity gap between Main Street and Wall Street has hit a record-high chasm. I see my own modest retirement package take a hit because the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street are disappointed that ExxonMobil has not gouged enough profit out of obscenely high prices?

We suffer because the company can't manage its refinery operations well enough to hit the $11 billion profit mark -- for a three-month period. (The poor dears had only made $158.5 billion from the start of the Bush-Cheney administration and the first quarter of 2007).

How long will it be before W proposed a tax break to get them through hard times?

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Trouble in Hillaryland

The Inevitability Express has run into some heavy traffic.

Hillary Clinton is scraping off the bottom of her shoes after a debate performance Tuesday night that pumped energy back into some campaigns that were seemingly headed to life support.

Clinton stumbled by being for New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to allow undocumented aliens to get drivers licenses before she was against it (or was she against it before she was for it?)

It was an uncharacteristic move for the seemingly flawless campaign machine that was running up double digit leads on its foes.

And in a heart beat, it brought back all those nagging questions about the former first lady who entered America's conscience by not being Tammy Wynette and by not baking cookies.

America's lack of love affair with Hillary was immediately rekindled -- in personal conversations and in print.

There's something about Hillary that feels like nails against blackboard, even for progressive (heck, liberal) men and women. Maybe it's the difference between Bubba's good ol' boy personality and Hillary's colder, frostier demeanor.

It's just hard to warm up to her, even after a number of stories, particularly by Mark Leibovich in The New York Times, showing her calculations the product of maturation -- a step that seems to have eluded the current occupant of the White House.

I'm in that camp. I see the flaws but I also see parts of my own growth in her story. But I have been in a "heart says Barack, head says Hillary" mode for most of this year. I've been frustrated by Obama's inability to turn that soaring and hopeful rhetoric into a strong campaign.

And I've been worried that the reservoir of hatred for Hillary would prevent the Democrats from liberating the White House and return America to the people.

Clinton's stumble over drivers licenses will likely become the defining moment of the 2008 campaign. The safety valve has been popped and the anger and resentment, the fear and loathing will be released.

Barack Obama's and John Edwards' attacks in the days ahead will not come close to what the Republican Fear and Smear Machine (you know, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy) have in store for Clinton.

She will either weather the storm and emerge as a truly unbeatable candidate. Or she will have a lot more time to bake cookies. For those of us who desperately want a change in the Oval Office, it's better to have this happen now than one year from now.

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Rummy rants

Now I understand. You can't fight a war with a blizzard of words.

The Washington Post has a fascinating story today on Donald Rumsfeld and his "snowflake" memos, internal documents exhorting his staff to come up with "bumper sticker" slogans to defend his failed military campaign while searching for the SWAT team to take down his critic's arguments.

Rummy's last defenders still try to ply their trade:
"You are running a story based off of selective quotations and gross mischaracterizations from a handful of memos -- carefully picked from the some 20,000 written while Rumsfeld served as Secretary," Rumsfeld aide Keith Urbahn wrote in an e-mail. "After almost all meetings, he dictated his recollections of what was said for his own records."
How sad and pathetic.

Rummy's snowflakes obviously didn't fall on the fact he didn't plan for "victory" allowing the sacking of Baghdad and some of its ancient treasures under the shrug of "stuff happens;" how he told soldiers "you go with the army you have" when someone had the audacity to say they didn't have the armor necessary to fight; or certainly not his culpability in Abu Ghraib and the blot it will leave forever on America's reputation.

There's a Nixonian quality to these snowflakes -- find out when I said this and in what context so I can try to verbal bludgeon my opponent. The arrogance that comes from knowing it all (and nothing) at the same time. Of having a stereotyped understanding of our "enemy" as lazy, over privileged and easy to recruit to radicalism.

Sound like someone who currently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

W and Darth often say history will judge them in the proper context. Of that I have no doubt. To date, there have already been an impressive number of books documenting the arrogance and failure of power.

Historians have now been handed fresh source material.