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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, August 31, 2007

Chicken and egg debate

The telly was awash with the news that the Duchess of Cornwall had decided against attending the memorial service scheduled to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Huh? Sometime I think I needed a British-American dictionary to get through the London visit.

But the translation was fairly swift: Camilla Parker Bowles Windsor, the second wife of the heir to the British throne, decided (eight months late in the eyes of royals watchers) not to attend today's memorial for Princess Diana.

So in that context, it was rather interesting to hear a report from Jeremy Paxman, a BBC "presenter," blasting the way television works in the UK today.

"The problem is that news is determined not by its importance but by its availability," he said. "How else can we explain the decision to interrupt reporting of floods in Britain to go live to America breathlessly, to cover Paris Hilton's release from jail?

But it was a bit of a shock to hear Lionel Shriver, an expatriate American author, say the problems all stem from the US cable networks and the OJ Simpson story. Say what?

Shriver said UK news programmes were "streets ahead of their American counterparts" which air more pharmaceutical adverts than current affairs, but British TV was guilty of turning to the US for inspiration.

New and challenging programmes had been sacrificed for "bloated sagas" on Paris Hilton's jail sentence, the trials of OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson, and Diana's death.

This is not a defense of the garbage that cable network news has become -- whether it is the sad story of chasing Paris Hilton, Scott Peterson or OJ Simpson. Or Diana and Dodi.

But the description of British television news is as accurate as that of its American counterpart. Just ask Rupert Murdoch, the owner of SkyNews, Britain's alternative to the staid, stuffy and "fair and balanced" BBC. Or the numerous tabloid papers which he owns that serve daily scandals and topless women on Page 3.

So it was a bit jarring to hearing an American laying the blame at the feet of OJ. Unless I miss my calendar, the wedding of Diana and Charles was on every screen across the world -- in 1981. The Simpson slow speed chase came 13 years later.

Every British outlet has a "royals reporter," who spends ample airtime and print space chronicling the trials and tribulations of what may be the world's most dysfunctional family (and that includes the Simpsons).

Stockholm syndrome only applies to people who are kept against there will and Ms. Shriver seems to be a happy resident of the UK. So it is hard to explain how she managed to reverse the chicken and the egg or bad television news.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Those who can't remember the past...

Time away is good for recharging batteries and getting a fresh perspective. And the farther away you go, the better the perspective.

After my first visit to London, I came home thinking "so that's where Boston came from." This trip produced the "duh" moment -- a lot more than Boston came from the UK.

Wandering through the National Portrait Gallery is a sharp reminder of George Santayana's oft-used observation "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Room upon room brings back the violent history of wars and beheadings, of the clash between The Church of England and the Church of Rome.

But when you get to Room 14, with George III on one wall and George Washington on another, you are stuck by yet another thought -- how the arrogance of the British Empire sowed the seeds of its downfall.

The British under George III thought they were masters of all they surveyed. That uppity little colony on the other side of the Atlantic could be brought to its knees -- whether by taxation or weapons. After all, the sun never set on the British Empire.

History teaches us that was so very, very wrong. But our very own George III doesn't seem to recognize the obvious. A careful review of his steps and missteps suggest the American Empire can suffer a similar fate, brought down by its own wrong-headed insistence that the only correct course of action is that dictated by the world's reigning superpower.

The Brits, on the other hand, have learned well from their mistakes. London is a vibrant city of diverse cultures -- where Muslims in hijabs walk past Jews with tzizith with nary a head turned. (They have also learned airport security techniques far better than their American allies, but that's another story).

That history lesson was reinforced with the breaking news that Alberto Gonzales finally, mercifully stepped down. While the BBC did its level best to be the "fair and balanced" news sources that Rupert Murdoch only pays lip service to, the commentary clearly suggested amazement that Gonzo hung on as long as he did.

But the best example of the British recognition of history's lesson came from the pointed words of a tour guide, making repeated references to "Tony Bush" and offering his own view that his nation was far better off without our own George III's "poodle."

It's still not too late to learn. But frankly, I'm skeptical. When a US senator pleads guilty to a crime, then claims he is a the victim of a newspaper's "witch hunt" in reporting it, I think we may be heading irrevocably down that slippery slope.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rove Rage

He's leaving in two weeks, so why get bent out of shape by a political handler leaving with his legacy in tatters.

Because Karl Rove insists on spinning his web of deceit all the way out the door.

The fault with this country is those darn Democrats, Rove has spewed in forums as diverse as Rush Limbaugh to the New York Times.
“The dividers, over the last six years,” he said, “have been the Democrats, who have routinely said he was not elected, he’s illegitimate, he’s a liar, he deliberately misled the country.”
The argument over legitimate election is one for another day, fortified by a six-pack. Or two. Or three. Nor have a ever questioned Bush's parentage -- so I'm not sure what point Rove is trying to make about legitimacy.

But Bush's own record speaks loudly about lies and misleading the country. It's clear on Iraq and the false claims about weapons of mass destruction and the links between Saddam Hussein (and al Qaeda of Iraq) with Osama bin Laden and the 9-11 attacks.

He continues to fudge about what it will take to get out of a war that two-thirds of Americans oppose. A hint of the latest strategy was unveiled yesterday when one of his generals suggested to the Times that the troop withdrawal they have in mind are the men and women who comprised the surge and not the base that was already on the ground.

While standing for torture and against the constitutional rights guaranteed to Americans don't fall into the narrow categories Rove outlined, those "legacies" will surely be reflected in the history that Rove and Bush think will acquit them.

Domestically, we have a president who has left children behind and fostered an economic policy that favored the rich while ignoring the plight of the poor -- most notably in New Orleans. And for someone who campaigned to "restore" the office of the presidency, we learn the politicization of government has gone far beyond a few overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom.

But it is in the sphere of electoral politics that the Rove Legacy is there for all to see. The "uniter, not a divider" he has stage managed has divided this nation as badly as any times, perhaps as the Civil War.

And to be fair, Democrats have not been the only target. Look no farther than the 2000 South Carolina primary and the tarring of John McCain's war record and you see the origins of the Swift Boat Veterans attacks on John Kerry four years later.

And the Limbaugh Dittoheads were not too thrilled when the wrath of Karl was turned on them this year when they deigned to fall off the bandwagon on immigration.

The most offensive Rove sallies have come over 9-11, accusing Democrats (and independents and other free thinkers) who dare not to drink the Bush Kool-Aid as supporters of bin Laden.
"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.
Funny how despite all their efforts to suspend the Constitution, a jury convicted Jose Padilla in record time.

History will show Rove as an unrepentant divider, a man who placed political gain over whatever was right for the nation. Using 9-11 as a political tool to win the 2002 and 2004 elections was immoral.

At least Michael Deaver, who brought the art of artifice to the White House, stuck to pretty pictures rather than blood libels. And he was convicted of lying to Congress and a grand jury.

Go slide back under that rock Karl.

I'm off for some R&R. Thanks for stopping by and please come back when I crank things up again.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Shameful chapter

It all depends on the meaning of the word genocide, I guess.

The shameful action of the Anti-Defamation League to somehow try to defend gradations of mass murder is a dishonor to the organization's long history as a defender of those who no one else will stand up for.

A program entitled No Place for Hate is no place for geopolitical nitpicking about whether today's Turkey is an important enough friend of Israel to sit silently by as the world tries to face up to the destruction of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago.

The ADL charter states in unequivocal terms:
"The immediate object of the League is to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens."
Abraham Foxman's parsing of the meaning of genocide is the ultimate denigration of that charter. It is he, not regional director Andrew Tarsy who should be leaving the organization. His stance on the Armenian genocide is every bit as indefensible at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of Hitler's genocide.

There cannot and should not be an overlap between the worthwhile goal of teaching children tolerance and taking lobbying stances for other nations. That is especially true when leaders of the nation at the center of this storm are conflicted by its own current political posture.

There's a certain irony that this is transpiring as the name of one of Tarsy's predecessors hits the news again in a different context.

The span over the Charles River was named after Leonard Zakim to honor his unyielding belief in social justice, trying to right wrongs and ensure they do not re-occur.

There's little question in my mind what Lenny would have done in this situation: told Foxman it's time to go.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Zakim Bridge is falling down...


Well not exactly. But the latest report about potentially shoddy construction -- and definitely shoddy management and oversight -- of the Big Dig is enough to make you want to close your windows, lock your doors and curl up in a corner.

First, it's important to note there is a disagreement here between state and federal inspectors over the potential hazards, if any.

The Patrick administration's transportation boss, who inherited this mess from 16 years of Republican "management" says they are well aware of the problem and don't believe it poses the potential risks the feds say it does.

And it is worth noting the federal analysis comes from the Army Corps of Engineers -- which has not exactly acquitted itself with glory in dealing with the problems of the New Orleans levee system before and after Katrina.

Before we panic that the designated symbol of the Big Dig is more symbolic than we ever intended, it is worth noting this potential problem was caught BEFORE anything happened (as opposed to the ceiling tile collapse.)

What is really at issue here is the deplorable condition of our infrastructure -- the roads, bridges and tunnels we use to zip around from Point A to Point B. This is not a new problem -- the failure to waterproof the Storrow Drive Tunnel alongside the Charles River shows that.

(We won't even get into the hare-brained notion that the answer to fixing that involves cutting down 23 trees and running cars through a park).

Whether it was the inability of the New Orleans levees to stand up to what they were supposed to protect New Orleanians from, or the failure of the I-35W bridge period, or the $17 billion infrastructure repair bill the Commonwealth faces, there is a common theme.

And that is Americans like things shiny and new -- but don't want to pay to keep them that way. George Bush's dismissal of higher gasoline taxes to pay for infrastructure reflects the public mood (for a rare change). The fact that this is a wrong mood is irrelevant, sadly.

The United States continues to spend billions, if not trillions, of dollars to fix mistakes -- whether those are in Louisiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts or Iraq. In fact, there is a great willingness to spend to rebuild Baghdad than New Orleans.

The longer we close our eyes to our crumbling transportation system, the more likely it is that tragedies like the flooding of New Orleans, the Big Dig ceiling collapse and the I-35W nightmare will continue.

And as long as we fail to adequately manage new projects that we build, we are setting ourselves up for future tragedies.

But I suppose we could all take the MBTA to work. Oh yeah, I forgot.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Taking its toll

Stand by for a fleecing -- unless you use the new Route 93 of course.

Drivers using the Mass. Pike and the harbor tunnels are about to get whacked with a ginormous toll increase to pay for the cost overruns on the Big Dig. That includes people who use the 40-something year-old Pike extension through Boston and the ancient Sumner and Callahan tunnels.

It does not include those who use the spiffy new O'Neill Tunnel or Zakim Bridge or the new roadways that connect them to I-93 North and South.

It also means that when you add the "pool fee" levied on people using cabs to leave Logan Airport, it's likely to cost a minimum of $10 just to open the door. (Of course you could take the T, but that's a different nightmare scenario).

And oh yeah, those of you regular Pike users who get a little break from Fast Lane discounts, hold on to your transponders.

Turnpike Authority board members Mary Z. Connaughton and Judy M. Pagliuca want to spare Pike users from the central and western parts of the state the burden of the mismanagement of the projects transfered to the Pike's control in the 1990s.

That's noble. But they also apparently want to spare the free riders from the north and south who pay nothing while using the Big Dig regularly.

There is no question that the Turnpike Authority -- which was given control of the Metro Highway System by the Legislature in what now seems like a Faustian bargain -- is up against it.

But their solution -- to stick it even harder to people who do not benefit daily -- is ludicrous (it's worse than that but this is a family blog).

It's time for a statewide solution -- one that also deals with the $17 billion or so of infrastructure needs that have also come home to roost. You know crumbling tunnels and bridges that were allowed to fester while the Big Dig soaked in all the cash.

A bump in the gasoline tax is one way to address all theses problems, before the tunnels cost $10 each way.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Bush's brain departs

Farewell Turd Blossom.

Karl Rove's departure from the White House at the end of this month raises a host of interesting questions -- starting with why now. Somehow I'm not satisfied with his explanation that Josh Bolten has decreed leave by Labor Day or stay to the bitter end. Rules have never applied to Rove.

Rove says he headed back to Texas, no doubt interested in building stone walls, on his ranch and for the next round of congressional subpoenas that are likely to sprout like weeds.

In his "announcement" to Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot (an interesting subplot in and of itself) Rove shows the same kind of predictive powers he showed in the 2006 congressional elections, labeling Hillary Clinton a "fatally flawed" candidate and predicting the GOP can retain the White House next year.

In the accompanying Gigot editorial, Rove displays the classic obtuseness that describes the Bush White House -- insistent that the world is wrong, he and Bush are right and they will prevail in the end.

It is that arrogance in the face of overwhelming evidence that will describe Bush and Rove in the history books.

Good riddance. Take your boss (and his boss) with you. The sooner this nightmare ends, the sooner this nation can heal.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Barbecue blitz

With all due respect to the political pundits trying to find news on an otherwise boring August day, Mitt Romney did not win the Iowa straw poll because he used an orthodox approach to campaigning.

Well, actually there is some truth to that characterization. Just like the old-time ward bosses in Chicago, this "victory" was bought at the price of $35 a head, a bus ticket and all the barbecue you can eat.

Closer to the mark is this observation from The New York Times:

For all the hoopla and hype — there were news crews here from around the globe — the political significance of this event was questionable. Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York, like Mr. McCain, said he would not compete in the poll, citing the early advantage that Mr. Romney had built.

In addition, this was not exactly a textbook case of American democracy in action. It cost $35 to cast a vote, and most of the campaigns picked up the cost of the voting tickets. Mr. Romney dispatched a fleet of buses to bring in his supporters.

But our man Myth was on, telling reporters he was "pleased as punch" to have snagged the hearts and minds (or at least the stomachs) or Iowa Republicans willing to be bought for a song.

Myth is following the old school script in a year when that script's viability is being tested by ever-earlier primaries and caucuses not to mention YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. Then there is Thompson Tease (Fred, not Tommy We Hardly Knew Ye).

There is a reason the guy who plays a New York lawyer on TV has a strong following even as he plays it far too cutely. The GOP field is causing dyspepsia for the Hard Right -- what with Rudy's three marriages, Mitt's one and the disintegration of the Straight Talk Express.

It is worth noting that the two favorites of the GOP Ayatollahs -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback -- collectively squeaked by Romney.

Now of course two beating one is hardly a viable political option. But it reflects just how much resistance there is among the key players in the GOP to Romney and his flip-flops.

On the other hand, Thompson's flirtations -- and the fact he is on a third campaign manager before he has even formally declared his campaign -- are starting to wear. And I have always firmly believed Giuliani will wear out his welcome in time.

That, rather than his barbecue blitz, is the strongest thing Myth has going for him.

Help us all.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

So many gaffes, so little time

How could I have missed such a juicy Myth moment?

Asked by a potential Iowa voter why his five sons are not in serving in the war he so proudly supports, Myth offered up this classic:
"One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected.”
Not quite the same of Jenna and Barbara Bush partying their way through Daddy's Crusade, but open to such possibilities. Such as:

Does Josh's RV have armor to protect him from IEDs?

Did Tagg practice his answer to avoid the Cheneyesque "I had better things to do" response? I especially like the "“If I was ever called upon to serve my country" line since there is no draft.

And I can't help but be struck by Tagg's choice of employment: a marketing job for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Seems appropriate given his father's commitment to Massachusetts -- although some would call it treason.

None of this rises to the level of hypocrisy of Myth's conversion to the anti-abortion cause and how he hopes to buy his way to a "victory" in this weekend's Ames straw poll.

But at least he now knows how many counties there are in Massachusetts as well as Iowa.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Another year older...

... and further away from retirement. Thanks W.

The post-9/11 market swoon and the George Bush recession took a couple of years off the retirement account. It was unpleasant enough looking at the monthly account statement before today, This latest go-round, the result of tightening credit following the "irrational exuberance" of subprime loans is beginning to look like another year shot to hell.

And what is Fearless Leader's response to all of this? Cut business taxes and try to jawbone the markets into submission.

Yeah, and Alberto Gonzales is an honorable man.

It would be laughable if I didn't see those retirement years slipping farther and farther away. But I guess I'll always have Social Security.

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Who's counting?

It's something every child in school learns and it is certainly something that someone who purports to be a leader should know. So why doesn't Myth Romney know how many counties there are in Massachusetts?

Myth Romney's AWOL performance as governor has been frequently noted here and elsewhere. Not knowing something as basic as the number of governmental sub units of a state he purported to govern for four years would be comical if not for the fact he quit his job after two years (in action if not formality).

For the record: Suffolk; Norfolk, Essex; Middlesex; Plymouth; Bristol; Barnstable; Worcester; Hampden; Hampshire; Franklin; Berkshire; Dukes; Nantucket.

I could understand if he failed to answer the question -- I thought we abolished them years ago?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Shameless

There are flip-flops and then there are full reverse double axels with a degree of difficulty of 4.0 Myth Romney has just pulled one of those off.

From a man who ran for US Senate as, by his own definition, "effectively pro-choice," Romney has now come full circle -- and in just a matter of six months. The Mittster now supports the Human Life Amendment, which shoots way past overturning Roe v. Wade and straight on to offering 14th Amendment rights to balls of cells -- at the expense of the women carrying those cells.

He has zoomed right past support of state rights (a usual winner among the hard right) and over the right hand cliff of the "right to life" movement.

In his quest to disrespect Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee in the buy-a-vote contest in Ames, Iowa this weekend, Romney has pandered like he has never pandered before -- a rather strong statement coming from this corner.

It's amazing he can look at his pretty faces in the morning.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Where's our apology?

Myth Romney now says the biggest mistake he made in his personal and professional life is his support of abortion rights.

Leaving aside the likelihood the comment -- like most of Romney's political remarks -- was made with the audience in mind -- an obvious question arises.

Does Romney intend to apologize to the voters of Massachusetts who elected him thinking he believed in the right to choice -- the same as his opponent Shannon O'Brien?

Or will Romney continue the modus operandi he has clearly demonstrated throughout his political career -- say whatever he feels can help him get elected.

If this is a true conversion -- what about gun control? What about every other issue you have flip-flopped on since abandoning your job two years earlier?

And by the way Myth, where exactly is your vast foreign policy experience? You don't even have a couple of years in the Senate. Making nice with New Hampshire (especially when you live there) is not foreign policy experience.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Globe discovers the T

News flash: The No. 1 bus between Harvard and Dudley squares runs in bunches, making it impossible to figure out when it will show up and whether you will be able to get on.

The No. 1 has the worst complaint record in the system, with the No. 66 -- that also runs between Harvard and Dudley by way of Allston and Brookline -- coming close.

But guess what Globe -- so does the Green Line's B Line. And if you did a little bit of digging you would find horror stories involving just about every public transit line in the system.

The MBTA is broken -- bad service on bad vehicles facilitated by bad management. Anyone who pays any attention to the blogosphere knows that.

But for far too long, the Globe has ignored the mess under its nose. The ignorance is worst when it comes to this year's fare. Despite receiving a penny on the state's sales tax, the MBTA was running deficits bad enough to "require" General Manager Dan Grabuaskas to threaten service cuts -- or higher fares.

Where did all that money go? We know about the lemons purchased for the Green Line -- the low-floor Italian-made Breda cars that look sleek for the outside while failing to hold as many people as their predecessors -- at least when they weren't jumping the rails.

We do know some about the problems on commuter rail -- rolling dungeons where you swelter without air conditioning while unable to see out of windows that consistent of permanently scratched Plexiglas.

Now we get to pay higher fares for this rotten service (or at least some of us do.)

So it's nice to see the Globe has finally discovered there are problems with our public transit system. Let me add something else for you to look at -- what has been the result of higher fares? Is the system a little healthier or is it still hemorrhaging? Why should this public agency not report its revenue numbers monthly like other, bigger, agencies?

And I can't wait to hear about the smooth transition of those D Line repairs -- particularly with the Reservoir-Fenway branch about to shut down for the pennant race.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

A trillion for Iraq...

We all have our own horror stories. For me, it's walking over the BU Bridge and looking at the Charles below -- through the missing pieces of concrete. Driving over that bridge is something I do as little as possible.

The horrible collapse of the 35W Bridge in Minneapolis is simply the most graphic demonstration of the fouled up priorities of the richest nation on nation.

The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that Iraq is on target to cost American taxpayers $1 trillion. That's $1,000,000,000,000. That includes money to pay for troops and equipment. And it includes money to rebuild schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and other basic infrastructure. Wish we spent that money in New Orleans. Or Minneapolis. Or Boston.

Infrastructure. The word does not trip off the tongue, unless your native language is policy wonk. But it is the roads, bridges, public transportation, water and sewer systems we need for our daily existence.

Our water and sewer system is first rate -- thanks to a court order forcing the clean-up of Boston Harbor. The rest, well, not so hot. Things have been popping -- literally -- as manhole covers come loose for as yet inadequately explained reasons. The Mass. Pike tunnel ceiling collapse, while a spectacular infrastructure failure, is more a product of incompetence than neglect.

But back to the bridges. Massachusetts has 588 "structurally deficient" bridges -- the category of the 35W Bridge before it plummeted into the Mississippi. Nationally, that number is more than 13,000, or 13.1 percent of all bridges.

Massachusetts faces an transportation infrastructure "gap" of $15 to $19 billion over the next 20 years.

The Storrow Drive Tunnel is toast; the Longfellow Bridge and its distinctive salt and pepper towers is endangered; the aforementioned BU Bridge. All three of these are just along a short stretch along the Charles. The Herald singles out five bridges in Lowell. It is everywhere.

The answer? It's all about setting aside money to pay for it. You think it would be simple. But you would be wrong.

Just this week, we saw another call to eliminate the state income tax. There is the matter of squandered human and fiscal capital in Iraq. It's all part of a problem fostered by "leaders" who make taxes the enemy without offering solutions to the real problems.

So think about that driving over a bridge. Or a manhole cover. Is it worth a few more pennies a day for each of us to feel a little safer?

And don't get me started about the T.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's the point?

Forgive me if I don't understand -- but what's the point of having insurance if you can't collect?

The victimization of Katrina survivors continues with a federal appeals court ruling that insurance policies that were supposed to cover the losses of businesses and personal property did not cover losses from Katrina.

Yes, I know flood insurance is a very special thing -- something dreamed up because the insurance companies that take our money to "protect" our property are scared silly over losing their shirts by having to pay claims.

And there could very well be culpability -- or gullibility -- on the part of the insured who thought they were covered.

But the three-judge panel sided with insurers fearful of a "multi-billion dollar hit."

"This event was excluded from coverage under the plaintiffs' insurance policies, and under Louisiana law, we are bound to enforce the unambiguous terms of their insurance contracts as written," Judge Carolyn King wrote for a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, the panel found those who filed the suit "are not entitled to recover under their policies," she said.

I'm sure all those folks who paid multiple billion dollars in premiums are comforted.

The heart of this issue, obviously is whether the floods that followed the wind and the storm surge were an act of God -- or an act of the federal government and Army Corps of Engineers that failed to build adequate levees to hold back the water.

What is most appalling is the belief of the three-judge panel that:
...even if the plaintiffs can prove that the levees were negligently designed, constructed, or maintained and that the breaches were due to this negligence, the flood exclusions in the plaintiffs' policies unambiguously preclude their recovery. Regardless of what caused the failure of the flood-control structures that were put in place to prevent such a catastrophe, their failure resulted in a widespread flood that damaged the plaintiffs' property," and policies clearly excluded water damage caused by floods.
Want to bet insurance agents explained that to folks who plunked down their hard-earned cash?

Is it any surprise that two of the justices are Bush appointees -- 41 and 43 -- and one was named to the bench by Jimmy Carter?

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Taxing our patience

Memo to proposed casino developers in Middleboro and Palmer: come on down. As for the rest of us, well, if you thought your property tax bill was high now, just wait.

One of the most hare-brained proposals in state history is back: a petition calling for the abolition of the state income tax. Not rolling it back to 5 percent. Eliminating it. Tossing it out the door and turning Massachusetts into New Hampshire South (without the automobile lawn decor).

Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation adequately sums up proposal from Carla Howell, the 2002 Libertarian Party gubernatorial candidate.
"The voters would rue the day. . . . Essentially, she's trying to repeal the 20th century."
Howell tells the Globe the proposed 2008 ballot question would be a "huge benefit" to Massachusetts residents. She didn't elaborate -- or the Globe didn't tell us what that those benefits are.

Let's see know, with a state that relies on income taxes to pay for $10 or $11 billion of its $26.8 billion budget I can certainly see what those benefits might be: no more money for cities and towns to use for police, fire, public works and schools. No more money for the state to use to pay for the health care of its citizens.

And given the fact that Proposition 2 1/2 would actually keep a semblance of a lid on property taxes (but would not prevent their continued rose at a steady, deadly pace), a state that would be challenging Louisiana and Mississippi for the bottom of the barrel.

That is unless of course you enjoy gambling. The casinos located at virtually every intersection of every city and town would be the sole source of income for a state government trying to meet its constitutional duties to its citizens. Except for the skyrocketed taxes on booze and butts.

Or should I say citizen. Everyone else would have checked out and turned off the lights. Even Verizon.

The most frightening part of this scenario is 45 percent of Massachusetts bought into this hare-brained scheme the last time it was on the ballot. Are there more than 70,000 people in the Commonwealth willing to put this question on the table for discussion another time. Sadly the answer is yes.

Fasten your seat belt (no that question won't be on the ballot), it's going to be a bumpy ride.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

End of an era

In the end, it came down to money. It always does.

And with that, one of the best newspapers in the world is now in the hands of the world's last remaining newspaper mogul, for all the good, and mostly ill, that goes with it.

Rupert Murdoch will not turn the Wall Street Journal into a downmarket tabloid with pictures (or woodcuts ) of topless women on Page 3. It's entirely possible that the editorial page will actually shift a little to the left since not even Rupe the Rude is that bonkers.

Actually, it's more about business than ideology. And Rupe places business first, as has been chronicled over and over again.

The Fox News Channel, in all its Bush-backing, left-bashing propagandizing glory, is a business decision. Murdoch wanted a cable presence and needed something to differentiate it from the recognized leader in journalism, CNN.

So the business model became an ideological one, that CNN was a card-carrying member of the liberal media, the right's greatest canard. Murdoch's business plan worked because he came up with a catchy (if fake) slogan of "We Report, You Decide," which appealed to what was correctly perceived as an unserved market.

He then installed a TV executive with a history of right-wing hatchet work for Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, proclaimed his lack of bias, attacked the competition and won over that true-believer audience.

I've always suspected there are two markets for the Journal -- businesspeople who read it cover to cover and the rest of us, who skip over the last two pages of the front section. While Rupe is a cover-to-cover guy, he will not alienate those of us who pay good money for the dead tree edition or for the only successful paid online model.

Where the real disdain should now be aimed is the Bancroft family -- which squandered a great heritage and a great franchise by ignoring the operation of this journalistic treasure and then sold it down the river for a few pieces of silver.

And the episode should serve as a sharp warning to the Sulzberger family and its stewardship of some great (and once-great) newspapers.

The New York Times has made a hash of its business in recent years -- with Exhibit A being The Boston Globe. It's starving the Globe of resources is a journalistic shame -- while not on a par with the Journal falling into Murdoch's hands -- that will blot the Sulzberger legacy.

The barbarians are at the door Pinch. You are next. It's time to get your house in order. You can start by cutting the Globe loose to a responsible, local owner.

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