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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Engage with Grace -- a reprise

Last Thanksgiving weekend, many of us bloggers participated in the first documented blog rally to promote Engage With Grace -- a movement aimed at having all of us understand and communicate our end-of-life wishes.

It was a great success, with over 100 bloggers in the healthcare space and beyond participating and spreading the word. Plus, it was timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these tough conversations -- our closest friends and family.

Our original mission -- to get more and more people talking about their end of life wishes -- hasn't changed. But it's been quite a year -- so we thought this holiday, we'd try something different.

A bit of levity.

At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation started. We've included them at the end of this post. They're not easy questions, but they are important.

To help ease us into these tough questions, and in the spirit of the season, we thought we'd start with five parallel questions that ARE pretty easy to answer:

Silly? Maybe. But it underscores how having a template like this -- just five questions in plain, simple language -- can deflate some of the complexity, formality and even misnomers that have sometimes surrounded the end-of-life discussion.

So with that, we've included the five questions from Engage With Grace below. Think about them, document them, share them.

Over the past year there's been a lot of discussion around end of life. And we've been fortunate to hear a lot of the more uplifting stories, as folks have used these five questions to initiate the conversation.

One man shared how surprised he was to learn that his wife's preferences were not what he expected. Befitting this holiday, The One Slide now stands sentry on their fridge.

Wishing you and yours a holiday that's fulfilling in all the right ways.

(To learn more please go to www.engagewithgrace.org. This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team. )


Oh yeah, can't make me!

There was an old line in the Statehouse press corps that legislative rules were made for breaking. The rules are overridden in innumerable ways every session for matters mundane -- and occasionally major.

And it's also true that lawmakers passed important changes to their joint rules more than a decade ago after abuses that came in late-night and end-of-session lame duck extravaganzas where tax cuts were swapped for pay raises and favored constituents got sweetheart deals.

But the obstinacy of legislative leaders to take a six-week hiatus in the face of major budget headaches reminds of the old TV commercial where the tough guy challenges someone to knock a battery off his shoulder:

"Go ahead and knock it off. I dare you."

The tough guy today is House Speaker Robert DeLeo. The battery is the Legislature's chip that Gov, Deval Patrick deigns to question the seriousness and pace of lawmakers' efforts to cope with the endless fallout from the Great Recession.

I'm not talking about allowing staff to have a little extra time off around the holidays. These are the folks who do the actual constituent work, stay up late with their bosses and who are the ones being asked to take unpaid furlough days, unlike their bosses.

DeLeo's insistence to play by House rules and break until January seems obstinate in the extreme given the myriad of unresolved financial problems Patrick is asking them to join him in fixing.

Let's just say their efforts to date on the budget front have been underwhelming. And by putting off the inevitable they only deepen the cuts that will be needed to close the gaps.

Maybe lawmakers know that Patrick will get blamed for it all anyway so why do any heavy lifting?

Talk about holiday turkeys.

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Can't buy me votes

Word that Steve Pagliucia plans to drop another $5.4 million into his campaign account for the stretch run in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary race, raises the obvious question: is my turkey going to offer praise for Pags as before it provides me with a Thanksgiving experience?

And faced with the seemingly endless placements on radio, TV, web banners and who knows where else, I've got to raise the obvious question: does he truly think that he will be able to deliver on his promises for jobs, Wall Street regulation and everything else offered up in those endless spots?

And the same question fairly applies to his challengers: as the 100th member of the Senate, lowest of the low on the seniority list, do Pagliuca, Michael Capuano, Martha Coakley or Alan Khazei truly believe they can bring "change" to Washington?

The turkey, cranberries and pumpkin pie will go down a lot more smoothly than the pablum being offered in this spending spree.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh Tisei can you see

Why, exactly, did Charlie Baker pick is running mate in the days before Thanksgiving -- in the middle of a Democratic U.S. Senate primary?

And how does a 47-year-old gay white man who has worked in the Massachusetts Legislature for 25 years help Baker each the key voters who are looking for a change from politics as usual?

The obvious answer to the first question -- there are still a few weeks to hit the campaign finance circuit for 2009 before starting fresh in 2010.

As for the second question, a variety of responses: From Christy Mihos, Baker's primary challenger
“You can’t paint yourself as an outsider if you’ve worked on Beacon Hill for more than two decades,” Mihos told the Herald.
And from Tim Murray, who would meet Tisei in a lieutenant governor debate:
“Sen. Tisei is a 25-year State House insider who typifies the Republican establishment elite that created record levels of debt and deferred maintenance. I was a quarterback on my high school football team when Sen. Tisei started serving in the Legislature.”
Ouch, that one has to hurt.

And Tisei doesn't even make history as the first the first gay Republican lieutenant governor hopeful. Patrick Guerriero achieved that honor in his ill-fated pairing with Jane Swift in 2002.

Some pundits are saying Tisei will play the role Paul Cellucci played for Bill Weld, a consummate insider who knows his way around the halls that the neophyte gubernatorial candidate.

Problem is that between Baker (secretary of health and human services and administration and finance) and Tisei they have many more years of Beacon Hill experience than Murray and Deval Patrick.

The ticket doesn't bring much in the way of gender or geographic diversity either, pairing the Swampscott-based Baker with Wakefield's Tisei. Well at least they get close to 128 without being outside. And you need an outside 128 tour to make a necessary introduction and build momentum, something that isn't about to happen this week.

That said, Tisei is a respectable legislator, who worked his way up slowly but surely through the albeit tiny ranks to be Senate Minority Leader. He knows the rules and he knows the game.

And there is no disputing there is a huge level of voter anger out there -- the kind that propelled Weld to victory in 1990.

But the similarities end there. Deval Patrick is not Mike Dukakis when it comes to popularity. He is not fresh from embarrassing Massachusetts on a national stage at the same time the economy tanked.

Baker is a smart, nice guy from a middle class background but he lacks Weld's common, goofy touch that masked his patrician roots. And let's not forget that Weld ran against the GOP insider in 1990, former House Minority Leader Steve Pierce, who once had a commanding lead.

And last by no means least, there is no John Silber in the field, a Democratic who alienated so many members of that party's base that many of us held our noses and voted GOP.

As disaffected as many on the progressive side of the House may be with Patrick, he is not as out-of-step with the party as Silber was and not one to throw gratuitous bombs. In fact, he's proven himself a better campaigner than executive.

Oh did I forget the third candidate, Tim Cahill? A lot of voters won't. And Treasurer Tim has much better going rogue tendencies than Baker or Tisei.

So, enjoy the bird on Thursday and help rebuild the state's sales tax coffers on Friday. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a joyous Kwanzaa.

Vote on Dec. 8 and Jan. 19. Baker and Tisei will still be here. We may even know Christy Mihos' choice for second banana. And at the first joint appearance of the Baker-Tisei ticket, expect a lot of head-scratching about who this other guy in the white shirt is.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Judgment call

Just as the question about the size of Martha Coakley's lead for US Senate seat comes into focus, the Globe now offers a story that will truly test the breadth and depth of that support.

The Globe reports that in 1995 Coakley, then head of the Middlesex District Attorney's child abuse unit, opted for a probation deal over prosecution of "Father Jack" Geoghan, one of a handful of pedophile priests who received a virtual free ride from the Archdiocese of Boston.

Coakley made a legal judgment she did not have enough evidence to convict Geoghan on anything more substantial than a misdemeanor. She arranged a deal that led to no formal charges and no criminal record.

And no change in Geoghan's behavior -- or that of the archdiocese, then headed by Cardinal Bernard Law.

Coakley, who has been shy about discussing anything on the campaign trail, was quite straightforward with the Globe:
“He put these kids at risk,’’ Coakley said. “He put other kids at risk. But it doesn’t change whether I had enough to charge him with a crime.’’
But does it change the obligation to make the case public, alert parents to the potential threat to their children and, perhaps, pull the rug out from the enablers who simply shifted pedophiles from parish to parish?

Coakley's tactics can be viewed by some as unwarranted deference to the archdiocese -- waiting for cold, hard facts and a criminal conviction before taking on the church.

And as such, the timing of this revelation could not come at a worse time for comparison -- the stand-off between Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy, son of the man whose seat Coakley seeks to fill, and the Archbishop of Providence who is trying to read Kennedy out of the church because of his stand on abortion rights.

And who is upset that Kennedy chose to take their dispute public.

Coakley may well have made the best legal judgment she had at the time. But was it the right moral one, allowing a pedophile to remain in contact with children? Would have publicly blowing the whistle, even if it resulted in only a slap on the wrist, made a difference to even one child?

Victims of priestly pedophiles think it would have:
"Charging Geoghan with something and exposing him publicly might well have brought forward victims, witnesses, whistle-blowers, and evidence that could have resulted in a conviction and a tougher sentence,’’ said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
And while the context is different, Kennedy clearly thought blowing the whistle on the Archbishop of Providence's bullying intrusion into politics was the right call, something is father would probably have done.

Massachusetts voters will have to make up their own minds in two weeks. And I suspect there will be some ripples in the mile-wide, inch-deep Coakley margin. Especially among voters who are looking for someone to carry on in the tradition of Ted Kennedy.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

A mile wide and an inch deep

Speaking of Globe headline writers, a 21 percent lead in the U.S. Senate primary -- with 50 percent uncertain and 24 percent only leaning in one direction doesn't strike me as a "strong" lead.

Unless your previous life was building houses in south Florida prior to Hurricane Andrew.

Today's Globe poll confirms the perception that the Democratic primary is there for Attorney General Martha Coakley to lose, reaffirming her cautious, no-waves, no-show tactics. It also makes clear that the buckets of dough Steve Pagliuca has dropped may not be paying off as well as his investment in the Celtics.

Coakley benefits from strong name recognition as the only candidate who has previously run statewide. Capuano probably benefits from polling that started a couple of days before his Globe profile.

But most striking is the amazing fluidity of the race two weeks out, with only 26 percent of those surveyed firmly committed to a candidate.

Not that I disagree with pollster Andrew Smith, who declared "things could change, but it would have to go really sour for her over the next few weeks."

Which is what I suspect Capuano and Pags have in store for her in the back-to-back debates after Thanksgiving.

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Senate new math

I know that math has changed a lot since I was in school, but can someone please explain to me how a Globe headline writer comes to the conclusion that a 21-vote victory margin is "shaky support."

There will be a lot more horse trading and promises made to senators looking to trade their votes (and when I went to school, wasn't that called extortion or bribery?)

Under the Senate's arcane, anti-democratic rules (note the small "d") a minority can hold up the will of the majority by bickering, dickering, bargaining or just plain old party line obstinacy. To put a value judgment on political horsetrading isn't good journalism.

And I won't even begin to get into judging what kind of way it is to run a government.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coincidence? I think not.

I'm reading Joanna Weiss' inaugural op-ed while Mrs. O.L. is reading about the season's hottest new toy.

What's that say about us -- never mind the American public?

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Galooch's Law

Massachusetts, like other states, has a tradition of naming laws after people who inspire their creation, particularly for causes such as abducted children or victims of drunken driving.

So it's in that tradition that I'm here to propose a new piece of legislation for Massachusetts -- Galooch's Law. The focus -- taking aim at people who enable drunken drivers through direct intervention or indirect indifference.

Cambridge Democratic Sen. Anthony Galluccio was somewhat subdued at his court appearance yesterday on charges he left the scene after rear-ending a mini-van. It wasn't his first brush with allegations of operating a motor vehicle when he should have more sense than to get behind the wheel.
“You know, the legislative session has concluded,’’ Galluccio said, speaking to a dozen reporters and photographers as he left Cambridge District Court after a brief hearing in his case. “It gives me an opportunity to focus on personal issues. I am committed to doing that.’’
It could be a trying time for Galluccio without his legislative protectors, although Senate President Therese Murray has supposedly (and finally) told him to get a driver.

But then again, maybe not. After all he still has the Cambridge Police to protect his backside. You know, that same department that busted a homeowner thought to be breaking into his own home.

Galooch's Law, which I suggest be co-sponsored by 199 other legislators, would prescribe sanctions on public agencies or officials who tolerate repeated socially irresponsible or illegal behavior by one of their colleagues.

Penalties would be civil -- repeated public disclosure of the hypocritical conduct.

Obviously we should all remember who was responsible for the crackdown -- Sen. Anthony D. Galluccio.

And isn't it time for someone -- friend, family or public agency -- to take away his keys? Before he kills someone.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Beacon Hill firefight

Hey political junkie. Yeah you. Bored by the lack of real action in the Senate race? Well, I've got the cure for your blues.

That initial skirmish between Deval Patrick and House Speaker Robert DeLeo is starting to really percolate. And no, not over why lawmakers dawdled until the last few days of a do-nothing autumn to pass a charter school bill in only one branch.

Nope, this is over lawmakers heading out of town for the remainder of the calendar year leaving a lot of fiscal matters undone.

“It’s more than a little frustrating that they would leave for whatever it is, six or seven weeks, with so much of the Commonwealth’s vital business undone,’’ Patrick said during a rare, unscheduled visit to the State House press room.

“It’s my hope that the members will realize that their rules are of their own making, that they have it in their own power to work a couple of more days, or frankly, as long as it takes to get this work done.’’

Deval heads into the Statehouse press room? You know he's looking to raise the temperature by heading straight into the fire himself.

While DeLeo may or may not have ground to stand on in refusing to stick around to deal with the education bill, the excuses coming out of the Speaker's brain trust about the state of the state's finances are, um, laughable.
“We solved the budget gap last night,’’ [House Ways and Means Chairman Charles] Murphy said. “We gave him $484 million in cuts. What we have currently is a $190 million deficit. The $600 million was a simple projection we may or may not face down the road. We did what we needed to do. We didn’t agree with the governor in lockstep, but that doesn’t make it wrong or incomplete.’’
"We solved the budget gap"? Can't wait to see him eat those words. Maybe that's why DeLeo is reportedly not talking to anyone -- including the governor.

What we have here is an old-fashioned spitting contest between a Legislature that has as much contempt for a chief executive as I have seen in the time I have been watching Beacon Hill. That contempt is so deep that they chose not to give Patrick the tools to make the politically tough cuts in non-executive agencies, cuts he will be blamed for anyway.

But more amazingly, it has led them to defend the indefensible -- the Quinn bill and the continuation of Evacuation Day and Bunker Hill Day paid holidays. And all the while they have come up with no alternative of their own.

Nor do I find a lot of credence in Murphy's Senate counterpart, Steve Panagiotakos, saying they haven't had the time because Patrick only submitted his proposals on Oct. 31.

Mr. Chairman -- are you really a creature of the governor? You don't have your staff analyze trends during the Great Recession because you must wait for the executive branch's recommendations?

So while Martha, Mike and Pags offer sound bites on who's a better 60th vote on health care reform (assuming any of them will be seated when the final, unamendable bill comes to a vote in Washington), I'll focus on the smoldering embers of one doozy of a battle brewing on Beacon Hill.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pols gone wild

There wasn't some of the blatant stupidity that has marked some legislative sessions -- like the infamous 2000 House "Toga" party.

But the simmering animus between lawmakers and Gov. Deval Patrick boiled to the surface to close the first year of a two-year term that is likely to be the unpopular governor's one shot at political redemption.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo's angry rebuff of Patrick's call to tackle an education reform bill by staying in session a little longer stripped bare the personal hostility among Patrick, DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.

“I thought it was fascinating that the governor, with the number of charter schools that are throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that he happened to pick one that was about a half-mile from my community,’’ DeLeo told reporters.

Yep, it's all about you Mr. Speaker.

Let's review the year, which opened with former House Speaker Sal DiMasi engineering his re-election only to step down and eventually be indicted. By the time DeLeo moved up, several months were frittered away although lawmakers did, in the end, produce significant legislation reforming pensions, ethics and transportation under Patrick's prodding.

After returning from summer break, the House and Senate spun their wheels during the fall. Sure they passed about 60 laws and counting since Sept. 1, but they were the mostly of the sick leave bank, land-taking and bridge-naming variety.

And when it came to the crucial issues at hand -- a reeling economy -- the silence was deafening.

I take that back -- lawmakers have once again risen to the defense of the Quinn Bill and hack holidays as off limits in the budget-cutting process.

As for the one significant reform piece of legislation -- on that carries the potential of increased federal funding -- well, sorry Deval. The Senate was just too preoccupied to take it up until the last week of the session and the House didn't want to rush it through.

Besides, there's plenty of time in January before the federal funding deadline looms. And that way Patrick will have no choice but to swallow what lawmakers put before him or face the prospect of being blamed for the loss of federal dollars.

By many accounts, Patrick is a less than skilled executive, one who doesn't push hard for his objectives. It is his weakest selling point to an electorate looking for a leader next year and a theme that has been and will continually be hammered upon by his gubernatorial rivals.

But count me as one of those who think it is the performance of the Great and General Court that can and should be the focus of attention. The legislative foot dragging while the commonwealth is reeling from the recession is appalling.

Throw that into the context of DiMasi, former Sens. Dianne Wilkerson and James Marzilli and current poster child Anthony Galluccio and you have the image of an out-of-control band off politicians who equate taking away Evacuation Day with taking away Christmas.

Thousands are out of work and here's a chamber that works part-time, protects its perks (and its own) while everything around it crumbles.

Or that's how Patrick's campaign commercials will say it.

Sadly, there's no real solution in sight. The Republican Party's continued slide into irrelevancy makes it unlikely the local branch will be able to field a credible slate of candidates to challenge incumbents and change the nature of the branches. Maybe they are working hard behind the scenes, but I doubt it.

A new governor? If you really belief a new man or woman will change the dynamic that has existed on Beacon Hill for the last 20 years, you are eagerly awaiting the rival of the jolly fat man in the red suit next month.

There are myriad problems facing the Commonwealth and few solutions. The ones that exist are not easy. But in the face of this reality, members of the Great and General Court will no doubt be proudest of this headline as reflective of their "accomplishments" in 2009.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No interest

"Dear Valued Customer -- we're jacking up your interest rates to pay for our taxpayer-financed bailout you're already paying for."

That's pretty much the gist behind the mail that has been trickling in over the last few weeks from Citibank, telling me my base credit card interest rate will now be almost double that of what I get charged on a non-Citi card.

And thanks to the federal dollars that have gone to lobbying and televisions commercials (not to mention stadium naming rights) Congress is going to let it happen without so much as a whimper.

Does something strike as just a tad wrong about this situation?

I guess I'll just keep paying my bills in full every month -- until they start to charge me for being a really good customer who, unlike them, spends wisely and actually meets his debt obligations.

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Blocking schemes

It's that time of campaign season, when sincere volunteers and robo candidates bombard your phone with with pleas for support. It's one of the reasons I'm happy to have caller ID.

Or not.

There was an interesting contrast to the two calls yesterday. One listed the number and only "Massachusetts" as the caller. Wow, a whole state calling me! The other listed the number and "Capuano for Senate."

I always understood the name of the caller needed to be displayed along with the number, although there certainly isn't a heck of a lot you can do about it, even though the attorney general's consumer protection office does take complaints -- if no action.

But what was interesting to me is the call from "Massachusetts" came from the campaign of Martha Coakley.

Would be nice if the candidate whose office is supposed to arbitrate the rules actually lived by them.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When Coram met Ampad

Good thing that Senate Democratic candidate Steve Pagliuca hired Tad Devine to do his campaign commercials for him. That way he can't have Devine craft the kind of spot that did in Mitt Romney in his 1994 race against Ted Kennedy.

The Herald has a look at the role of Bain Capital in merger of Coram Healthcare of Denver, a financial transaction that resulted in a $254 million one quarter loss and the layoff of 365 people. Oh, and a $2 million paycheck for Pagliuca and Bain.

Sounds a lot like the saga of Indiana-based Ampad, a company that laid off 350 people after Mitt Romney and Bain came to town. Pagliuca recently said Romney got a raw deal in the ads Devine crafted for Kennedy.

Funny, but the saga sounds an awful lot different than Pagliuca's "Jobs=Dignity" ads that keep flooding TV, radio and the web.

The Herald story duly notes no liability was admitted -- as part of a $22.2 million settlement.

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Senators (and police) behaving badly

Not that I have any personal experience in the matter, but do cops normally drive you home if you are reported too drunk to do it on your own?

The special treatment afforded Sen. Anthony Galluccio by the Cambridge police also stands in rather sharp contrast to the "courtesies" extended Henry Louis Gates when police received a call that could have been considered an alert to a potential crime.

So we have the spectacle of yet another member of the Massachusetts Legislature behaving badly, compounded by special treatment. Galluccio has gotten a lot of free passes for his driving faults -- up until the time he decided to leave the scene of an accident.

No wonder lawmakers don't have time to tackle the state's problems. They are too busy dealing with their own.

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Another media zoo?

I couldn't help but notice the coincidence.

The Globe (properly) highlights the peril awaiting many poor families with children after yet another round of human service budget cutting that has -- to date -- been pretty hidden from public view.

Meanwhile, buried as a brief, we quietly learn of a deal with Zoo New England, contingent upon getting their fiscal affairs in order, to get a $5 million public appropriation.
“I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a new day,’’ zoo chief John Linehan said in a phone interview last night. “Certainly in many ways it’s long overdue.’’
That's a much more subdued response than last summer, when he hinted at euthanizing animals if the public spigot wasn't opened.

One contrived media flap later, Linehan did get public funds. Will the children of severely disabled parents get the same public reaction for a much more real scenario?

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Two faces of Pags

Mike Capuano has an anger management problem. Steve Pagliuca has a consistency problem. One can be fixed. The other? I'm not so sure.
“Steve appreciates the role lobbyists play in educating policy makers on the impact of legislation under consideration,’’ his press aide Will Keyser said. “At the same time, he believes it is wrong for lobbyists and special interest PACs to be a critical source of campaign funding for members of Congress.’’
I'm having a hard time seeing the same difference Money Pags sees between cash provided by lobbyist through election PACs to help a candidate and cash used to influence legislation. Both are stomach-churning examples of protected commercial speech -- and both have contributed mightily to the elimination of the buying of influence in America.

So tell me why it's OK for lobbyists to spend billions of dollars to get what they want in health care, climate change and financial regulation reform -- but it's wrong for them to contribute to candidates who can do their bidding in Congress and in legislatures?

Is it because Pags can purchase his own campaign exposure -- but the lobbyists who have worked for Bain Capital Partners have achieved the type of legislative gifts that has allowed Pagliuca to amass the private fortune he is spending on his campaign?

While Capuano needs to keep a tighter rein on his emotions (and stay away from baseball bats) he is consistent on the issues where Pagliuca is twisting himself into rhetorical knots.

Who's being more honest?

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Feds to T: Step aside

The Washington Post is reporting the Obama administration is looking at the idea of having the federal government take over safety regulation of the nation's subway and light-rail transit systems.

After two Green Line crashes in the last two years, it sounds like a marvelous idea.

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Truly fruity, oh Rudy!

Margery Eagan has a great column today that truly makes you hope the Mayan calendar might be right.

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Welcome back Sarah

I don't know about you, but I've been bereft without Sarah Schweitzer's ongoing saga of how old line and well-t0-do New Englanders have been dealing with the economic downturn.

So her dispatch from the Boston Athenaeum (usually pronounced Athen-EE-um, but sometimes as Athen-AY-um) was an unexpected gift.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

There's not an app for that

Excuse me, but why do I want to pay $3.99 to tell me the train or bus is delayed? I already know that.

And forgive me for being cynical about the ability to accurately predict when it will show up. And how, exactly, will it work in the subway without wireless access?

Until the T deals with buses and trolleys running in pairs, I'm not sure it can offer anything.

I may give the freebie a try though. And if they can develop an app that will actually make 'em run on time...

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Predictable hypocrisy

Leave it to the Republican Party to oppose the Constitution.

House Minority Leader John Boehner is in high dudgeon over the Obama administration's announcement that it will try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other alleged 9-11 conspirators in a civilian courtroom in New York City. The decision places the defendants at the scene of the crimes the are accused of perpetrating.
"For over 200 years, our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims," said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. "Once again we will ask our legal system to rise to that challenge, and I am confident it will answer the call with fairness and justice."
That's how it should be under the Constitution -- and a system that worked well in dealing with the crimes of Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

Yet Boehner blustered:
"The Obama Administration's irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people. The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found 'not guilty' due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause."
I see, upholding the Constitution is a "liberal special interest."

The only potential legal "technicalities" that pose a problem for the prosecution are the 183 instances of waterboarding, a form of torture recognized as such by all in the civilized world -- with the exception of the administration of George W. Bush.

I thought Boehner took an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution"? It's an obligation that supersedes that of defending the crimes of his political soulmates.

I'm more confident in the actions of a jury in New York City than I am of the GOP "braintrust."

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Circumstantial ugliness

There's no way Deval Patrick wins this one.

I seriously doubt Robert and Myra Kraft through they were buying support for a federally financed footbridge over Route 1 when they donated $12,000 to Patrick and the state Democratic Party.

But it hardly matters what the Krafts or I think. The appearance raises a stench.

Give it back Deval. For your own good.

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Oops, I did it again

The Democratic US Senate candidates have offered a veritable feast in the last few days for political watchers who love to watch candidates screw up.

We'll skip right over Alan Khazei reaching for the endorsement of Mike Bloomberg -- and all that's represented by having a former Medford resident and Yankee fan sign on. Besides, the way Bloomberg spent a ton of his cash to barely squeak out a win you would think he'd be more sympatico with Steve Pagliuca.

And we can only scratch our head over Martha Coakley's failing to remember she and her husband have some modest savings -- and not the big zilch she reported on her ethics disclosure form. What about the state pension?

And of course the Coakley-Mike Capuano dust-up on abortion and support for the health care is almost old news these days.

Nope, the leader in the gaffe parade today is none other than Pags, who was for a military draft before he was against it -- in the space of a few hours. Nor did Money Pags really do himself a favor by criticizing earmarks when the seniority of the Massachusetts delegation helps bring home federal dollars to try to stem the net outflow of cash from Massachusetts.

Let's move back to the draft. The number of tweets cracking wise about Pagliuca really meant shows just how deep a hole he dug for himself.

Pagliuca's mistake mirrors the Coakley-Capuano gaffe-athon. The bottom line is a military draft is one of the strongest anti-war messages around. Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on forever because the men and women making the sacrifices are volunteers.

The ultimate message learned from Vietnam by policymakers was the protests won't come if the folks doing the fighting are there by choice. Pagliuca acknowledged as much when he said he supported a draft from a sense of equality.

But principle gave way to politics when he issued a classic back-off:
“I incorrectly interpreted the question to be asking if I would support a mandatory draft in the event we needed additional troops, and my answer was yes,’’ he said in the statement. “I now realize that was not the question posed to me, and I want to be clear that I do not support reinstating the military draft at this time.’’
Nor did Pagliuca do himself a lot of favors trying to undo his "I agree with Mike" performance in the first televised debate when he jabbed at federal funding that has financed transportation infrastructure and established Massachusetts as a leader in medical research.
“Pork hardens your arteries. It doesn’t create long-term jobs.’’
Cute line, if only it held up to scrutiny.

The double-bonus debacle only heightens the impression that the visibility and name recognition Pagliuca has run up with his Bloombergian-spending on scripted commercials only masks a candidate who doesn't handle himself all that well in the trenches.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

What if you had an election & nobody came?

Here we are, less than a month from the Dec. 8 Senate primary election and apparently nine in 10 Massachusetts voters don't even know the date -- with 7 in 10 not even knowing the month.

Maybe the candidates ought to make some changes in their ubiquitous television and radio ads to highlight the date and not bicker over position.

The Suffolk University poll was conducted in the days prior to the eruption of the first significant media storm -- the duel between Martha Coakley and Mike Capuano over abortion restrictions in the House-passed health care bill.

That raises the hope that someone might actually show up on Election Day and keep all those poll workers company.

The survey also suggests that while money can't buy love, it can certainly buy name recognition. The non-stop effort by Steve Pagliuca to plaster his name over radio, TV and web banners has raised his visibiity beyond that of Bill Walker as the Celtics human victory cigar and vaulted him into second place behind Coakley in the Democratic primary.

But if Democratic awareness of the election would challenge those who think they are smarter than a fifth grader, Republican voter awareness is even less -- 98 percent of likely GOP voters didn't know the primary date.

The obvious factor now becomes field organization -- the person who gets their voters to the polls win. Coakley, having already run statewide, would seem to be in the best position. But Capuano has picked up some significant labor endorsements that could given him a boost in terms of boots on the ground.

Pagliuca has assembled a solid brain trust which has produced the ad blitz to raise his name recognition, but what about a field team? Alan Khazei, the forgotten man, reportedly has a good grassroots network but has become almost an afterthought in the race.

Look at the bright side -- turnout can't fall much farther. Unless there is a snowstorm.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First you say you will, then you won't...

Who knew you would need Dramamine to keep up with the Massachusetts Democratic Senate primary?

But in an outstanding display of political dexterity, Rep. Mike Capuano has emulated the new senior senator by declaring he was for the bill before he will be against it. And in the process, proved once again why people curse politicians.

To a seasoned observer (translate that into any insult you wish), posturing is a legislative art form. You say or do something one day to build an alliance or further a goal, then reverse direction if you didn't succeed in nudging the project in the way you wanted it to go.

It's part of the reason why lawmaking is compared to sausage making.

Capuano, of course, blasted Attorney General Martha Coakley for saying she would have voted against the House-passed health care bill because of the abortion restrictions inserted to make it more palatable to some Democrats. Capuano said his goal was to move the legislation forward.

Now, in a dizzying turnaround, Capuano says he would not vote for the final bill to emerge from conference if the abortion restriction is still there.
“If the bill comes back the same way as it left the House, I would vote against it,’’ Capuano said in an interview. “I am a prochoice person, and I do believe this is [necessary] to provide health care for everyone.’’
That is not an unusual stance for a legislator, although as John Kerry learned it is really damaging to a politician. Whether it will be as tough on Capuano remains to be seen (and it will be seen, over and over, in Coakley commercials).

And while my comparisons may not be as classically rooted as those of Scot Lehigh, I do share his concern whether health care coverage is available for the orthopedic consult needed to get a foot out of a person's mouth.

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Numbers please?

We're from the government and we're here to help you -- count.

Excellent piece of reporting in today's Globe on how many jobs stimulus dollars are supposed to have have created -- and what the reality is.

While I'm sure critics of the Obama administration (and Deval Patrick too) will latch onto the exercise as proof positive of fraud and other nefarious things, I think the answer may be more simple.

It's a government form, ergo it's confusing as all hell.

At least that's the reason I come to after reading the accounts of organizations who submitted the documentation.

A quick scan of the list suggests worthwhile projects that seem to have good intentions like adding or retaining teachers and cops. At first blush, nothing seems an outrageous use of federal dollars.

But the need to document the work -- for good government and also for political safety -- seems to have resulted in confusion and exaggeration.

So, for now, the moral of the story is no crimes here. And a reminder that there isn't a document or reporting requirement that can't be made complicated beyond belief.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Calculatin' Cahill

It looks as if Tim Cahill is planning for a gubernatorial campaign with more substance than his daughter inventing a catchy theme that won his the treasurer's job.

But his decision to hire a lawyer to do opposition research -- a move that could enable him to shield questions behind attorney-client privilege -- certainly raises questions about how transparent a Cahill administration would be.

And besides, all you need to do for oppo in this state is to read the Globe and Herald and the blogs. That should give you more than enough material.

I know there's certainly a Treasury trove of questions about Cahill.

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The substance of campaign headaches

Now I see why Steve Lynch opted not to join the race for the Democratic US Senate seat.

While Lynch told the Globe there was no favoritism in the earmarks for substance abuse grants to an organization to which his wife has ties, the reality has a certain unpleasant aroma that would not have played well in the race.

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Be careful what you wish for

So much for the play-it-safe front runner strategy. But I have to ask: what were you thinking Martha?

Attorney General and Democratic US Senate front-runner Martha Coakley certainly cast off the label of risk aversive yesterday by declaring she would have voted against the US House version of the health care bill because of its abortion funding language.

That stance flies in the face of the entire Massachusetts delegation, which held its nose and voted for the greater accomplishment over a political compromise that may or may not see the light at the end of the day.

Coakley appears to be arguing for the perfect over the good.
“I refuse to acknowledge that this is the best we can do.’’
Mike Capuano, who has been grasping the liberal mantle with all his might, wasted little time -- or words:

“I find it interesting and amazing, and she would have stood alone among all the pro-choice members of Congress, all the members of the Massachusetts delegation. She claims she wants to honor Ted Kennedy’s legacy on health care. It’s pretty clear that a major portion of this was his bill.’

“If she’s not going to vote for any bill that’s not perfect, she wouldn’t vote for any bill in history. She would have voted against Medicare, the Civil Rights bill. . . . Realism is something you have to deal with in Washington."
Coakley's words are the voice of someone who came up the ropes in government on the black-white, right-wrong side, a prosecutor for whom there is little wiggle room in the law.

That's starkly different from legislators or executives who are forced to negotiate and compromise to achieve an end product that hopefully will advance a cause even if there are a few roadblocks to work around. Kennedy was one of the finest negotiators in Senate history.

And, to the best of my understanding, the abortion restrictions contained in the House version are standard stuff that have been the law for years. Do I like them? No.

It was a safe vote to reject that amendment to make a stand. But to throw away literally decades of effort to begin and rein in the health care monster? Not even close.

More perplexing is the question of what support this gets her. Women? She's already pretty strong there? Pro-choice voters? Interesting question and I haven't seen poll numbers that break out choice voters as a subset of liberals supporting health care reform.

Is this a move to the center or right, preparation for the general election against a Republican? Hardly. Should she win, many Democrats would now hold their noses and vote for her -- and look for someone to take up the mantle when the seat is up again in 2012.

One thing's for sure. She did shake up a dull race by deciding not to sit on her lead. It will be fascinating to watch the fallout.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Of dinners and debates

One month out from an historic Democratic Senate primary and all we can talk about is debates and dinner tabs?

Oh, I forgot. We can also debate 15-year-old campaign commercials.

And the bad timing of the campaign award goes to the Herald for a story about Rep. Mike Capuano's voting record following a weekend he spent in Washington voting on historic health care legislation. A story in which not even Barbara Anderson would blast him and so the paper is forced to take an obvious quote about answering to voters and make it sound ominous.

I admit I don't know what I was expecting. Would decades of political coverage patterns disappear in the blink of any eye? It's always been about the trivial day-to-day campaign trail stuff. Substance? Who wants that? It's all about attacks.

Nor is it any surprise that Martha Coakley is hemming and hawing about debates. Front-runners do that. And when your frontrunner status is based on name recognition and a reputation for caution, you definitely don't want to rock the boat.

But we have the cold, hard reality that -- given the prima donna status of the Unite State Senate, where Joe Lieberman, Insurance-Connecticut, is threatening to kill health care reform if it has a public option -- the historic vote will be cast by one of the current candidates and not Paul Kirk.

We know where Capuano stands -- based on votes he cast this weekend rather than be on the campaign trail. What about the others?

What about financial and regulatory reform? We have the Pagliuca commercials. And we have an unexplored record of his tenure at Bain Capital.

What about Iraq and Afghanistan? Health care could be paid for by shaving the costs of these two wars -- but is there a price we would pay beyond dollars?

And it seems to me that Scott Brown does have a name against his on the Republican ballot. Rejecting a debate with Jack E. Robinson because it would be held at the Kennedy Library is one of the most laughable and pathetic dodges I have ever seen as a political junkie.

Hey, how about some real issues and some campaign coverage folks.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Anyone minding the store?

The screw-ups just keep on coming for the Patrick administration.

One day after the double whammy of stories that suggest the administration seems to favor the Patriots over the homeless we are treated to a Globe story that shows the one thing the state's overburdened transportation doesn't seem to be lacking is highly paid bureaucrats.

And this one really raises the question of whether anyone in the Corner Office is paying attention.

I agreed with the sacking of the ineffective Bernard Cohen, and while queasy about the appointment of James Aloisi Jr., I thought he might know where the skeletons were buried and do something about it.

It appears instead that he brought in his own skeletons.

So the new super Massachusetts Department of Transportation is larded to the gills with undersecretaries and spokesmen and women. What ever happened to the basic business practice of showing the old boss' minions out the door along with him (presumably with some severance or at least unemployment insurance.)?

Of course, this administration and who knows how many before it isn't the only one with political appointees filling its ranks. The Globe's MBTA editorial rightly notes the number of "heads-up" calls about job seekers that make their way from the offices of Transportation Committee co-chairs Rep. Joe Wagner of Chicopee and Sen. Steve Baddour of Methuen.

But if ever an agency needed a top to bottom cleansing of what Bill Weld once incongruously referred to as "walruses," this is it.

And governor, you may want to take a look at how well your own senior staff is serving you -- whether they inform of these inexcusable foul-ups. And if you press ahead despite their warnings, you may also need to take a good look in the mirror.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Appearance counts

To the policy wonks out there, the Globe's stories about the Patrick administration's use of federal stimulus cash to build a footbridge at Gillette Stadium and plans to reduce funding for the homeless are unrelated -- separate caches of cash to be used for different reasons.

But it's that political blindspot which has dogged Deval Patrick for three years and is about to create another major headache for a man who has allowed some significant accomplishments to be lost in a stream of unthought-through screw-ups.

The issue certainly wasn't lost on the Globe headline writer who labeled the footbridge a "golden gateway" between Patriot Place and a potential major commercial-industrial development on the other side of Route 1.

Nor will it be lost on advocates who will be appalled at the thought of the homeless being forced to live on the streets full-time because of budget cuts that will reduce beds, food and clothing assistance.

No one will take comfort in the cold words of an administration functionary who told the Globe:
“The administration has held homeless programs harmless in four rounds of budget cuts. The administration has made it a priority to end homelessness, but with the serious revenue shortfall that the state is facing, these cuts are necessary.’’
The administration wonks will plead the dollars going to Robert Kraft and the Route 1 footbridge are federal transportation stimulus dollars and can't be used for other purposes. But the rest of us will remember Kraft's threats to pull the Patriots out of Massachusetts and then House Speaker Tom Finneran's reference to the Patriots' boss as a "whiny millionaire."

Maybe a few Super Bowl trophies will melt the public's annoyance about taxpayer dollars going to finish a major stadium and commercial project Kraft launched with private financing.

But it certainly won't rebound to Patrick's favor as television crews do regular stories about the men and women wandering Boston streets in the soon-approaching winter cold because the administration could no longer "hold them harmless."

In policy and financial terms, the two situations might be light years apart. But to the public, they will be inextricably linked and that is why Deval Patrick has screwed up mightily. Again.

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Ready, re-aim, fire

Now let me get this straight -- you didn't notice the big ship with the guns when you bought the condo?

It seems neighbors of Old Ironsides are looking to change a 200-year-plus tradition of firing the warship's cannons twice daily.
“The residential population and congestion of this area has (sic) grown significantly and, it seems to us, that the cannon charge/noise is excessive,” the unidentified resident first wrote in an Aug. 26, 2009, letter obtained by the Herald.
One of the rules of real estate is location, location, location. The proximity to the Navy Yard, and the history that lives within it are no doubt factored in to the purchase, which should be the first clue that you are living near the world's oldest commissioned warship.

And if that didn't do the trick, the ease with which you can observe the annual spectacle of the turnaround on July 4th might be a factor too.

But apparently some intrepid urban adventurers didn't realize the downside.
Over the summer, we have entertained several times, and we have had guests sit up in shock when the cannon goes off,” the resident wrote. “It has also awakened them at 8 a.m. while they are vacationing and then blasted them again at sunset.”
Boo-hoo. Great alarm clock if you are lazy enough to loll around until 8 a.m.

You want excessive noise, trying living around a student late-night party. Maybe the Navy should re-train the guns on the units where folks have issues.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

This is going to get ugly

The tragedy at Fort Hood, with the death of 12 soldiers and the wounding of 31 others, would have been bad enough if the gunman was named John Smith.

But I fear that a nation that should focus on what happens when men and women in a voluntary military force are stretched beyond their physical and mental capacities by endless deployments will get lost on a false issue.

I fear we will focus on the fact the alleged shooter is named Nidal Malik Hasan.

Yes, the folks who like to pretend that Barack Hussein Obama is a really a foreign national sent to infiltrate and destroy the American way of life will turn its fury on an Army psychiatrist's religion and ethnicity.

Never mind the fact he is a Virginian who faced the same fears of deployment as many of the men and women he counseled. Forget about the fact he was trained as a soldier and a doctor by the U.S. Army.

None of this is intended to lessen the unspeakable horror of the crimes he is alleged to have committed. What it does amount to is a wish that we focus on the real issues and not on straw men that will be created by those who make hatred a central part of their lives.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Of old dogs and new tricks

Mayor for Life Tom Menino wants you to believe he is refreshed and energized as he stares at the start of his fifth term -- brimming with new idea to tackle the problems of education, public safety and city administration.

Of course this same new vision suggests the e-mail controversy surrounding top aide Michael Kineavy was simply a tempest in a teapot that will disappear now that the election is over.

The problem with both visions is they are coming through rose-colored glasses that suggest waves of new cash will come washing through the city, along with brilliant ideas on education reform. It presupposes the Boston Firefighters Union will roll over and cry uncle.

And it assumes Attorney General Martha Coakley will sit on pretty clear indications that the state's public records law was violated in the destruction of e-mails.

We've heard this talk before. After his 2005 inauguration, Menino called for the construction of a 1,000-foot tower downtown as part of his "bold vision." The site for this landmark is the Winthrop Square garage, not from from the one development project that will mark his fourth term: The Filene's Hole.

This time, Hizzoner is calling for a medical research and residential complex on the South Boston Waterfront.
“Researchers love to get together,’’ Menino said. “They speak their own language. They like to hang out together.’’
Work-play space?

Again, a slight problem. There are at least two research buildings on hold (including one hole in the ground) in the Longwood Medical Area where the majority of researchers ply their trade near the institutions that employ them. It's always possible another life sciences firm will decide to join the overbuilding, but live-work space?

The grim reality facing the suddenly upbeat mayor is that schools, public safety and infrastructure require money for improvement and that is one thing his government, the commonwealth nor the federal treasury have. And won't have for awhile.

But the commonwealth does have money for law enforcement -- and a decision on the e-mail flap is likely to put a major blemish on what is admittedly an otherwise spotless record. There are no bags of cash lying around under desks in City Hall but there has been an attitude of "l'etat, c'est moi" that can be just as harmful.

One good thing on the cash crunch-vision thing: the move of City Hall to an inaccessible corner of the Waterfront won't be happening any time soon. So those researchers won't have easy access for getting city business tended to.

Congratulations and good luck Mr. Mayor. You'll need it.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Unsafe at any speed

How'd you like to be on the Green Line this morning reading the Globe headline "Report Finds T's Riders at Risk." Actually it's a somewhat moot point: if you use the MBTA regularly, you already know that.

What's interesting in the report by a special panel commissioned by Gov. Deval Patrick is where the fingers of blame are pointed: not my favorite whipping boy, former General Manager Dan Grabauskas. Nope, they are aimed at the source of most of the state's woes these days, the Great and General Court.

David D'Alessandro, who headed up the panel created after Grabauskas' ouster, paints an ugly picture of MBTA management.
“It’s fair to say that they are not keeping up with the safety standards that they themselves subscribe to."
Two Green Line crashes and too many track fires to keep track of certainly validates that statement.

The report validates the contention of Grabauskas and others that the problems center on the strangling debt imposed upon the T by a good legislative idea with bad follow-through. In this case, it was a move to end the wasteful forward-funding system that allowed the T to present a blank check to the Legislature for payment.

And much like the mangled creation of the Massachusetts Highway System, that strangled and eventually killed the late, unlamented Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, lawmakers did just enough to sweep the mess under the rug for awhile.

For both the highway system and public transit, "awhile" is now -- the middle of a grinding recession that is forcing the state to choose between local aid for schools, teachers and firefighters or essential human services. Transportation is an afterthought in this mess.

I'm not sure I can give Grabauskas a clean pass. Yes, he was working with tied hands, but:
... the state underestimated the agency’s expenses by $558 million between 2000 and 2008, he wrote, because of unrealistic projections for operating costs that were outside the T’s control.

For example, the original plan left no money for workers’ health care cost increases, even though they grew by 73 percent in the first eight years. The T, the state’s largest electricity customer, saw fuel and utility costs more than double over the same period.

A good manager doesn't just throw up his hands and say sorry when he is given crap to work with.

The problem today is the years of neglect are showing up in frequent breakdowns, fires and gropers. That makes the system even less inviting to ride for all but those who have no other way to get to work.

And then there is the reliability of service on a system where buses and trolleys seem to run in pairs for their own safety.

Patrick's challengers are likely to blame him. But for a governor who has already pretty much tipped his hand that he plans to run against the Legislature, this is just another arrow in the quiver.

And in the meantime, good luck to the rest of us.

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Pundits gone wild

The great analyzers are offering tales of caution for Barack Obama this morning, with predictions that Republican victories against a wildly unpopular Democrat in New Jersey and by a conservative acolyte in Virginia may be early signs of a tsunami ready to sweep out Democrats a year from now.

The somewhat cautionary analyses will be twisted by the Official Mouthpiece of the Republican Party (Fox News to the rest of us) as a repudiation of "The One" and a reaffirmation that the GOP alone has what it takes to lead us out of the wilderness (conveniently forgetting who led us there.)

But the Times at least prominently notes the bucket of cold water that may turn the "your mileage may vary" analysis into a a pile of worthless words.

The GOP lost an upstate New York House seat that had been within the party for more than 100 years because the True Believers managed to force out a conservative who they decreed to be lacking in proper bona fides. The Conservative Party challenger fell and with it another GOP House seat.

Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan Republican Party chairman, seems to be on to something.
"Conservatives can win when they emphasize the right things and don’t allow their message to get co-opted. The Democrats and some of their friends in the media attempt to paint all conservatives as fire-breathing cavemen."
Of course, this is the same guy who labeled Obama as economic fascist, so take it with a grain of salt.

The fire-breathing cavemen and igloo women who stir up the GOP base are likely to be emboldened by the results in New Jersey and Virginia and gloss over the reality of New York-23. If it happens, that will be the ultimate lesson of the 2009 elections.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Inside out

Well at least the day wasn't a total loss for Steve Pagliuca. The Celtics cinched an important part of their future by signing Rajon Rondo to a multi-year deal.

But if the Globe's Bob Ryan finds the 23-year-old Rondo "inscrutable" what to make of one of the men who signs his paychecks?

I mean, how does defending Mitt Romney, while simultaneously dissing Ted Kennedy and your own media consultant, add value to your campaign to win the Democratic nomination for the right to take Kennedy's seat?

It's all well and good that Pagliuca considers Romney a friend and mentor. But there are very few more toxic names in Massachusetts Democratic politics than the former governor -- the man who seduced and abandoned the Commonwealth, running for president in 2008 (and no doubt again in 2012) by dissing the Bay State.

The link -- and the campaign cash -- was enough to make the true believers who vote in party primaries leery of Pags. But to compound that suspicion by saying Myth was right to complain about a 1994 US Senate ad crafted for Kennedy in a nasty race against Romney is strange strategy.

And to do so when Tad Devine, the creator of that ad, is working for him today, amounts to a self-administered migraine. As the Globe notes, Devine is:
"...now in the awkward position of defending Pagliuca’s business record using the same argument Romney made back then: that it is unfair to single out companies that failed without noting the many successes that led to jobs being created."
Devine will likely collect the checks for the warm-and-fuzzy Pagliuca spots for the remaining six weeks of the campaign. Not much worry beyond that, no matter the initial Western New England College polls showing Pags running a distant second to Martha Coakley.

And while Pagliuca tries to shore up his outsider credentials, Rep. Mike Capuano is playing the inside straight, and comes out smelling relatively clean.

Let's face it -- for better or worse (mainly worse), campaigns come down to cash. Where and how you raise it for the election and where and how you bring it home for your constituents.

Policy positions are fine, but pork is in the eye of the beholder and as we all know one man's (or woman's) earmark is another one's important local project.

Although Capuano may be on the periphery of the bubbling controversy over the friends of John Murtha, he has very clear and strong ties to bringing home the bacon -- particularly for transportation and health and biomedical research.

As the man who once held the seat Capuano is hoping to give up to move up once said "all politics is local." And Kennedy was never hurt by the fact he had the clout to deliver for his constituents.

A much sounder strategy to win a Democratic primary than feeling sorry for Mitt Romney.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Elephant death rattle

Shh. If you're really quiet, you may actually hear the sound of the Republican Party coming apart at the seams.

On the one hand, you have the effort by moderates trying to revive the virtually extinct New England branch of the party once so honorably represented in Massachusetts by the likes of Edward Brooke, Henry Cabot Lodge, Leverett Saltonstall, John Volpe and Francis Sargent.

But not so far away, the the upper reaches of New York state near the Vermont and Canadian borders, you see the reality of the modern day GOP -- a national party so intent on litmus test lockstep that it forced out its nominee in favor of the Conservative Party's read meat-eater.

Days before an election. Is it any surprise the maneuver has the fingerprints of Sarah Palin on it?

Republicans have long insisted they are the party of the big tent -- open to any and all who wish to escape the ideological purity that infected Democrats.

The reality is much different, where seeking wiggle room on abortion and taxes are good enough reasons to be read out of the GOP.

Compare that with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Insurance-Conn., the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, who is threatening to singlehandedly scuttle health care legislation if the public option is included while

Those of us in Massachusetts have long known the breadth and depth of opinion in the party where Tom Finneran and Scott Harshbarger could co-exist, somewhat peacefully.

Conservatives are likely to recall the 1964 GOP convention as the model -- where they cast out the Northeast strain of Republicanism represented by Nelson Rockefeller in favor of the sagebrush version embodied by Barry Goldwater.

The party was indeed reborn -- under the race-baiting of Richard Nixon and the economic sophistry of Ronald Reagan. Forty years later we have the result -- a not, so kind, not-so gentle philosophy of Reverse Robin Hood economics, a belligerent foreign policy and an intolerance of any idea not hatched in the febrile minds of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

The Party of No insists Barack Obama is a socialist or worse and says all will be right if we simply do it their way. But guess what -- we did do it their way for the last 28 years and what did it get us?

Two wars, a financial meltdown abetted by a lack of regulation, continued climate deterioration and a public discourse that is well, coarse.

So good luck to the New England GOP -- you know the folks represented in the United States Senate by Olympia Snowe of Maine, branded as a traitor because she did not march lockstep against health care legislation.

But you road will be long thanks to the Stalinists and their fellow travelers running the GOP. Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee, run out of office because of his moderate credentials, summed it up best.

“If you ask me, I’d recommend they run as independents."

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Family values

Funny, it seems the GOP "values voters" seem to be talking a lot less about the subject these days.

Could it be that this contrast -- a White House of Halloween trick-or-treating and an honest discussion of marriage compared to the tabloid trashing going on between Sarah Palin and the unmarried father of her grandchild?

Just curious.

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Is that all there is?

As we get ready to pull the curtain to unveil Boston Mayor Tom Menino's fifth term "vision," it seems high time to reflect what is and what's in store.

The Globe offers a look today at mixed messages in crime prevention and education. Scot Lehigh treated us to fifth term goals. We have seen the Filene's Hole and are "treated" to teeth-rattling rides along main thoroughfares like Commonwealth Avenue.

Michael Flaherty did offer words -- but it's unlikely they will be enough to derail the Menino Express.

It all comes to down to likability, of Menino's common touch mangling of the language as somehow representative of Joe and Jane Sixpack.

As a non-resident I don't have a vote or even a direct stake -- although I work within city limits so I am now contributing to the coffers through the local option sales tax. So my whining may fairly been seen as sour grapes.

But I really have to wonder if this is the best the city has to offer -- or if politics has become such a pariah profession that the best and brightest walk away before the start.

Long Live King Tom!

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