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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, September 30, 2011

Bank on it

What's next -- a breathing fee?

Our poor suffering banks, bailed out by the federal government after losing billions in high-risk mortgages, are sticking it their customers again by charging for the services they put in to make sure common folks never darken their doors.

The latest is a monthly fee if you use your debit card to make a purchase. Or to put it another way, when you access the cash you leave with them (virtually interest free) to transact business. It's appropriate that it's being called a swipe fee, because that's what the banks are doing with your and my money.

The Times reports banks are also charging fees for both paper statements and online banking. No doubt they are looking at the airline model to charge you for walking into a bank to use a teller -- or an ATM.

JPMorganChase chief executive Jamie Dimond pretends to offer the common touch:
“If you’re a restaurant and you can’t charge for the soda, you’re going to charge more for the burger.”
A more apt analogy for Dimond would be "If you're a restaurant and can't charge for the champagne, you're going to charge for the filet mignon."

What no one in Washington seems to get, including, alas, Barack Obama, is that part of what is fueling America's rage is that the folks responsible for the economic collapse have to date walked away scot-free. Bank of America executives have not paid for the misdeeds of its "leadership." It's customers have and will continue to pay, 5 bucks a month at a time.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Epic fail

It feels like piling on. But even as a non-Red Sox fan, I must admit to complete shock at one of the most amazing chokes I have ever witnessed.

The TV went off last night with the Sox in a rain delay, leading Baltimore 3-2 and the Rays trailing the Yankees 7-0. To discover the Rays roared back while the Sox whimpered out was nothing short of mind-numbing.

Wasn't this the team being touted as the second coming of Babe Ruth and the 1927 Yankees?

Unlike the sudden demise of the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, the signs were all there. The Red Sox were clearly the best team in baseball between May and August. Unfortunately for them there was another month on each side of the season and the Greatest Team in history played those months more like my Cleveland Indians during their lowest days.

There is going to be a lot of soul-searching among Sox fans in the days and months ahead, with calls for the heads of Theo Epstein and Terry Francona.

But a little perspective. These are the guys who reversed the curse in 2004 and 2007. These are not the Bucky Bleeping Dent Red Sox who found ways to lose on a regular basis.

They are one of the most expensive collection of players ever assembled who failed to meet inflated expectations set in part by their inflated salaries. But the writers and fans who set those expectations play a role in the failure too.

I have a lot more to look forward to with my 80-game winning Tribe, who beat ever expectation I could have had -- with a much smaller payroll.

That will make the winter a little shorter and warmer for me.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keep 'em coming

Republicans appear to be looking to add some heft to their 2012 presidential campaign.

Chris Christie, the tough-talking, vacation-loving New Jersey governor (hey, he just dissed Snooki) is apparently the latest to fall under the spell of the GOP's Anybody but Mitt crowd. Rick Perry seemed to fit that bill until someone read his book and realized a candidate who calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme isn't going to do well with the seniors who became enthralled by the Tea Party last year.

Christie, whose principal accomplishment to date appears to be that he behaves like a stereotypical Jersey guy, has steadfastly refused to take the bait so far, knowing he holds Sarah Palin-like credentials of only being part way through his first term.

But the billionaire's club that finances the Tea Party appears to be whispering sweet nothings into Christie's ears as they work to their best darn government their money can buy.

It would be ironic if a guy who made his bones as a federal prosecutor was lured to the race by the race by the siren song of unlimited campaign cash.

If Christie jumps in, my one question would be his stance on Michelle Obama's White House vegetable garden. A whole different kind of green that doesn't appear to interest him.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

With a whimper

One of the more controversial issues in recent Massachusetts history is playing out quietly in the Massachusetts Senate this week.

It's not that casino gambling doesn't provoke passion any more. But amid the epic Red Sox collapse and cat fight gridlock in Washington, it seems as if the spirit has been wrung out of the debate. Oh wait a minute: what debate?

Sure the Senate plans to spend a large part of this week and next on the topic, but it's really nothing more than a civics class exercise for students who may hang out in the gallery. The fix was in for this piece of legislation since it emerged from behind closed doors in August.

Gone are the days of drama: Deval Patrick battling Sal DiMasi and a House firmly opposed; Deval Patrick battling Robert DeLeo and a House firmly behind a different bill that held sweetheart provisions for DeLeo's district.

Head-swiveling changes like that sucked all the drama out of the debate, enabling the Big Three to craft a bill that has barely managed to grab attention despite the reams of copy written about it.

That's also a product of a process where the lobbyists held center court. Was their a public hearing this year? Probably but who can recall. It would have been another piece of theater, irrelevant to the task dominated by lobbyists plying their craft -- on one side of the issue.

A slim majority of residents are said to support casinos with their promise of jobs and the chance at untold wealth. Nonetheless the bill offers little opportunity for opponents to air their views.

Against a casino in Boston? You are out of luck in voting your preference because the referendum will only be in East Boston, likely home of the DeLeo Dome.

So lean back and enjoy democracy in action. And place your bets on who pays the most to influence where the three casinos and slots parlor are eventually located. Anyone choosing Suffolk Downs-Wonderland wins. Big.

Which is more than can be said for the Red Sox.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm agin it

Let me get this straight: the party that never saw a tax cut it didn't love opposes a plan to keep $1,500 in the pockets of working men and women? Must be because it goes to the job workers and not the "job creators."

The Party of No, which stands firmly against the Buffett Rule and for the Bush tax cuts protecting Americans earning more than $250,000 annually is opposed to tax relief for those earning less than $106,000 annually. The reason?:
“It’s going to add to the deficit, and it’s not going to create any jobs,’’ said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a Utah Republican who as recently as last year worked with Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, on legislation that included a more modest payroll tax holiday aimed at employers. Hatch said his proposal was significantly different than Obama’s.
Um, the Bush tax cuts extended by Hatch and his crew (with Democratic submission) are going to add $5 trillion to the deficit that "didn't matter" when Ronald Reagan ran the show. The tab for the working person's tax cut? About $240 billion, with some real opportunities for business to be the GOP's treasured "job creators."

What's changed?
"Nothing, really,’’ said Richard K. Kaplan, a tax law professor at the University of Illinois. What has changed, he said, is a Congress that is more polarized and vituperative, with an upcoming election prompting Republicans to oppose any proposal that might boost Obama. ‘There are certain things we all agree on, Democrats and Republicans.’ “It’s not much more sophisticated than ‘I’m against it, because he’s for it,’ ’’ Kaplan said.
So if you withholding taxes go up on Jan. 1, remember it's the anti-tax Republican Party that's behind the tax increase.
“If the last 2 1/2 years have taught us anything, it’s that the conservatives in Congress are absolutely willing to go back on positions they’ve long held if the president decides to embrace those positions,’’ said Michael Linden, director for tax and budget policy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank closely aligned with the White House.
And you can take that to the bank. You know, the ones that Republicans think are over-regulated.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The GOP Follies

Herman Cain's win in the Florida GOP straw poll predicts just one thing: Barack Obama shouldn't rush to order the moving van for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been trading charges and insults with increasing intensity as conventional wisdom suggests one of them will emerge with the GOP presidential nomination to challenge a weakened Obama.

But Cain's victory in Florida -- along with Michele Bachmann's long forgotten triumph in Iowa -- suggests the real story is intense unhappiness with the GOP field, meaning Perry and Romney.

I'm convinced the Tea Party wing of the GOP will vote for the Mittster -- one day after hell freezes over. His fluid stance on positions and his religious beliefs are too much for the Red Meat Crowd to stomach.

Party regulars -- or what's left of them -- get heart burn over Perry whose book "Fed Up" is a road map of how to attack the Texas governor for his intemperate if not downright idiotic stances on issues like Social Security.

Support for Cain, Bachmann and Ron Paul only divert attention from the real problem Republicans have in fielding a credible candidate who can navigate both the primary and the general election.

Cain has as much of a chance emerging with the nomination as Bachmann or Paul or Rick Santorum. The mainstream media has begun to recognize that and carved these candidates from the serious coverage.

But perhaps in a reaction to the MSM judgment, rank-and-file Republican activists keep their names and hopes alive, giving Obama more time to get playbooks ready from two only less-flawed potential foes.

But there's hope (for Obama): Chris Christie and Sarah Palin may still be around the corner.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

We (some of) the people

What would America look like today if the strict constructionists had their way? A lot like the Tea Party -- mainly white and male. Or a lot like the group that drafted the US Constitution they profess to revere.

A column by the Globe's Peter Canellos
got me to thinking about what America might look like today if originalists like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas had their way interpreting the framers intent.

Well maybe only Scalia. Under the nation envisioned by the framers, Thomas was only three-fifths of a person and wasn't recognized as anything more until passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.

Under a really strict construction, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania would be the big dogs in a 10-state union (South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia seceded after all and there's an argument that could be viewed as treasonous under Article 3).

Voting would be restricted to white men over the age of 21. The United States Senate would be elected by the legislatures of those 10 states.

Our national defense would be a bit different -- no mention of the Air Force or Marine Corps.

You get the picture.

The gauzy vision of the past offered by the Tea Party as the days of individual rights and freedom was really a very limited world. The framers owned slaves and showed little regard for darker-hued skin people -- whether black, brown or red. It's an attitude that existed across a substantial portion of the nation through the Civil War until the time of the movement launched by Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others.

So while our Founding Fathers spoke eloquently about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" it applied to a handful of the chosen, the same demographic group now clamoring to return to the days of slavery, women's inequality and a nation governed by politicians responsive only to themselves and not the public.

Why in the world would we want to go back?

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Lean to the right, fight, fight, fight

They cheer for the death penalty and boo veterans who happen to be gay. They support billionaires and oppose caring for our sick and elderly. And yet the media treat them as mainstream.

The latest Republican presidential cat fight highlights how far over the right edge the national Republican Party has drifted. Yet the national media -- you know those liberal MSM wimps -- continue to cover the yowlings of the GOP candidates as if they are representative of the mood of the country.

Let's go to the polls: A majority of Americans say Medicare is worth the cost and support higher taxes on the wealthiest to close the deficit. The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" was hailed by much of the nation.

But the Fox News crowd has successfully cowed real journalists into accepting their far right worldview without a whimper. And the GOP presidential hopefuls trade red meat offerings to feed to beast, with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry leading the race to the bottom.

What exactly has happened to the real American commitment to justice for all? And to the journalism credo of putting news into the context of reality?

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

When will we ever learn?

Yet another special commission issues a report on the sad state of Massachusetts infrastructure and says the tab for inaction is mounting. Want to bet it receives the same fate as all the others?

No one wants to pay higher gas taxes or shell out more for what passes as service on the MBTA. But who wants to pay when a giant pothole eats the suspension or get stranded somewhere because the T shuts down?

Legislators say they understand the problem. But understanding is not the same as doing something. Even Deval Patrick has given up.

So here's a challenge: how are people going to get to casinos being held out as hope for the Massachusetts economy?

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Let me get this straight: no gun was found at the scene, seven witnesses recanted and three jurors changed their mind and the State of Georgia saw fit to execute Troy Davis?

What have we become as a nation?

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Silence is not golden

Be afraid, Tim Cahill. Be very afraid.

The silence from Martha Coakley was deafening as she announced the indictment of former probation chief John O'Brien. Asked if the investigation of he patronage haven that was the Probation Department was over, Coakley simply said:
"This is the beginning of the investigation, not the end of it."
The indictment stem from allegations that O'Brien became a Cahill fund-raiser to help get his wife a job in the state Treasury.Lassoed in the same net was former Cahill chief of staff Scott Campbell.

With Sal DiMasi looking at federal accommodations for the next eight years, Cahill's tenure as Treasurer rats the next best look for those making sure Beacon Hill politics passes the sniff test.

We've had an incredible run through the rot on Beacon Hill in recent years, but so far no one elected statewide. This could be getting interesting.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Battle lines being drawn

The deficit reduction proposal being offered by Barack Obama today is dead on arrival in Congress. But that's not the primary audience.

By embracing both a millionaire's tax and rejecting massive changes in entitlements, Obama is at long last laying down political markers to match those his opponents have been setting since his election.

Predictably, the GOP has already risen to the defense of the downtrodden, lamenting the proposed tax increase as "class warfare." Says House Budget Chief Paul Ryan:
“Class warfare may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.”
Right. And balancing the budget on health care for the poor and elderly and threatening the retirement benefits of those who can't afford $6,000 shower curtains isn't class warfare?

But Ryan is right in one regard: Obama appears to finally be playing politics, defined by listening to the voters who support tax increases to help pay down the deficit that Republicans cared about only after Obama was elected.

The proposals are window dressing because the task of budget cutting is now in the hands of a congressional super committee. While Obama could veto their work, it's far more likely that Obama and Democrats will stick to his guns and not try to negotiate with opponents whose only goal is his defeat.

And the destruction of the way of life as we have known it for four generations.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Buffeting the tide

Who's going to be the first Republican to rail against Barack Obama's proposed new tax on those earning seven figures a year?

Better yet, who going to be the first to ask the "job creators" why this is a hardship on them.

The Buffett Rule may have more mileage as a political ploy than as a revenue-raising tool. It is clearly going to challenge the GOP to get creative in maintaining their Grover Pledge. In the end, the House GOP will surely slam the gavel down on the idea put forward recently by Warren Buffett.

But I am still waiting for the political press corps to get serious in examining the GOP claim that taxes are a hardship on the job's vaunted job creators.

Entrepreneurs have received and deserve continued help in producing jobs. But the major corporations that are sitting on reserves -- often created by overseas subsidiaries where they do create jobs -- need to be made accountable.

I have no problem with job-creating incentives. I do have a problem with incentives that don't get the desired results. Or with the lack of accountability by the politicians who grant them or the companies and individuals who receive them.

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Have you seen the Globe today? (II)

We've now had a week of the new Boston Globe web site. The updated verdict? Sure would be nice to have a little news with the snazzy new design. It might make it easier to get paying customers.

Today we are treated to two separate discourses on House members flipping on casino votes and a feature on lazy lobster that consumes much of Metro front and all of its second page. That follows yesterday's scintillating front page take on fake IDs and bouncers.

Not to pick on Billy Baker, the talented writer who wrote both stories. Or to poo-poo the need for a good editorial mix that includes features with breaking news.

But the problem with the incredibly shrinking Globe has been a dwindling story count tied directly to the reduction in ad pages. The higher feature count sticks out even more when the overall content is sparse.

Replicating that model behind a $3.99 a week paywall doesn't strike me as a winner.

Then again, neither does paying three times that much for a dead-tree version that comes complete with a shredded page in Ideas that drives me to the web to read the columns.

One constructive suggestion: there needs to be some way to quickly scan for all content in all sections. Right now it takes too many clicks to get a feel for what's available.

Graphically and technically, the old Today's Globe site that featured the top stories with headlines for the rest right below was far more informative than today's multi-click model. But then again, clicks are the name of the game.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Boehner blather

One thing you can say for the John Boehner and the GOP. At least they're consistent in trying to run the economy over a cliff.

As Barack Obama offers a jobs package and a "super committee" weighs how to tame the deficit problem the GOP only discovered after Obama took office, Johnny One Note is offering his take on what America needs to do to get back on its feet.

And it's exactly what every respectable economist suggests is the wrong idea: more of the same.

Boehner is telling the committee taxes are off the table as a solution to the problem caused by reckless spending on credit card wars and Bush tax cuts for the rich that virtually mirror the size of the chasm.

“It’s a very simple equation,” Mr. Boehner said in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington. “Tax increases destroy jobs. And the joint committee is a jobs committee. Its mission is to reduce the deficit that is threatening job creation in our country.”
Not that the GOP has done much in the way of job creation. What exactly is their plan anyway -- other than more tax cuts for the "job creators" who haven't created any?

Granted this is largely political posturing - as we get closer to the deadline and the threat of mandatory cuts anathema to the GOP -- like reductions in the bloated defense budget -- things will get a bit more serious.

But for now Boehner has poo-pooed both the Obama jobs proposal (tax cuts to the middle class he proposes to pay for withe the elimination of tax loopholes) and the work of the super committee. At the same time, he has offered nothing concrete to address the jobs issue.

If we could levy a tax on political posturing and hypocrisy, we'd have a surplus in no time.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Numbers game

The Tea Party Newsletter is offering us what they promise is a "blockbuster" study showing the "Romneycare" is jobs killer. Color me skeptical.

The Beacon Hill Institute, known for its ideologically driven work, including its stalwart defense of supply side economics, offers a basic conclusion, according to research director Paul Bachman:

“Mandating health insurance coverage and expanding the demand for health services without increasing supply drove up costs. Economics 101 tells us that.”

I'm no student of the dismal science and I will allow trained economists to delve into the details. But something struck me as off-kilter from my layman's perspective.

The institute analyzed trends in health-care costs before and after the state law was passed. Researchers compared the Bay State’s numbers to national health-care cost trends. They found that instead of reducing health-care expenses as advocates had promised, Romneycare actually increased costs by $4.3 billion. Using computer modeling to determine the effect of those increased costs on businesses and Bay State residents, the institute concluded that the law has cost Massachusetts an average of 18,313 jobs.

Why a computer model to analyze the number of jobs? The law has been in effect long enough to be able to count actual jobs. And how does the model take into account the effect of the recession, the massive job loss here and he subsequent recovery that appears go have Massachusetts creating jobs faster than the national average?

The numbers may well be replicated if done by another researcher, the gold standard in analyzing academic researchers. In the meantime, I'm reminded of words famously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli:
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
This report is going to make a lot of noise on the presidential campaign trail. I'll be looking forward to a deeper analysis. Professor Krugman?

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dipping her toes

With multiple appearances but few words planned, Elizabeth Warren is stepping softly into the race for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott Brown. Not that no one is paying attention.

Expect a media scrum as Warren works her way across the commonwealth today, pressing flesh but apparently intent to let a campaign video speak for her instead of a formal announcement.

If she maintains the discipline not to stray from the plan in the face of clamoring journalists, Brown will have accomplished two things: images of her outside of newsrooms, TV studios and private living rooms meeting real people -- or at least those rounded up by her campaign.

And she sill have a strong on-camera message for Massachusetts residents who so far only know her from appearances on Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, not to mention lambasting in the Tea Party Newsletter:
“The pressures on middle class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington,’’ Warren says in a clip of the video. “I want to change that. I will work my heart out to earn the trust of the people of Massachusetts.’’
The national press corps has certainly taken notice, a good thing for Democrats hoping the pack's focus on Warren will change the subject for the over analyzed loss of the New York seat once held by Anthony Weiner.

Warren needs to hone her own persona as the daughter of a janitor and a store clerk to counter that of a (suede) barn coat-wearing (daughter's horse trailer pulling-) truck driving man who has done the bidding of the banks Warren has fought. And the man who won largely on image has has to be nervous.

While a recent Boston Globe poll found her with a 60 percent unknown rating, a WBUR-FM survey found those who know her place her nine points behind Brown if she gets out of the Democratic primary. And the luster on Brown, still strong, appear to be wearing thin.

So the game is afoot. But we will now all await a needed campaign stop, courtesy of Maratha Coakley: mingling with the fans outside Fenway Park.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Perry and thrust

Who would have thought Rick Perry would be looking for some comfort in Boston? Or the GOP would turn to Massachusetts to stop its rightward lurch?

But that may be the case as the Texas governor and this week's GOP front-runner arrives in town after being the main course last night Florida debate, grilled by his rivals about Ponzi schemes, HPV vaccines and jobs.

The swift rise of Perry and his rousing condemnation of Social Security clearly has party elders sweating bullets as they fear an erosion of the senior citizens they snatched from the Democratic side in 2010 with the phony claims about Democrats wanting to gut Medicare (conveniently forgetting Paul Ryan's plans).

But the fact that Tim Pawlenty is the best hope to stop the Perry juggernaut is the most vivid example yet of how deep the deficit of reality-based candidates is on the GOP bench. Just months after he ripped "Obamaneycare," T-Paw is now rushing to Mitt's side to stem the flood of tea that threatens to swamp the GOP.

It's a bit disconcerting for the swaggering Texas governor, no doubt, to find a warmer reception in the pages of the Tea Party Newsletter than he did on the stage of the Tea Party debate. But then again, we know Mitt Romney better than anyone else.

Welcome to the state you hate, guvnah. We won't bite anywhere near as badly as your Florida friends.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Have you seen the Globe today?

I usually stumble to the computer in the wee hours, routinely clicking on the Globe website and navigating to the daily's front page to find blogging fodder.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday's front page popped up -- well beyond the time the new page should have loaded. But that was the only unpleasant surprise once I spotted the editor's note down the left-hand column.

The new bostonglobe.com site is the paper's venture behind the paywall. At first blush, it appears clean and easy to navigate, organized like the dead tree version. Sections can be reached through drop down menus at the top that highlight the latest headlines. It would be nice to have a full set of links to each section's content at a glance rather than having to click into it and going through a slide show.

The biggest question is whether people are willing to pay $3.99 weekly for the site -- a far cry cheaper than the dead tree edition that plunks down on my doorstep but way more expensive than free. Another interesting question is whether this a model that will work better than the 20 free stories then pay model of the mother ship.

But the biggest question is how the Globe will differentiate content between the pay site and boston.com, which frankly could use a face lift (no doubt in the works too).

I'm somewhat skeptical that the ever-shrinking daily newspaper, which generates less and less fresh local content, will able to attract paying customers without some amazing news features that go beyond just the bells and whistles of a site that is easier to navigate and offers additional video and photos.

I've long felt the Globe has squandered the online opportunities available to the one-time paper of record by failing to offer in-depth extras to things like Statehouse coverage or sports, where tons of raw material is available to keep junkies satisfied for hours.

But in a news world now ruled by the concept of adapt or die, the Globe, barely removed from death's door a couple of years ago, is making a decent effort to change.

UPDATE: To someone attuned to gauging stories and their importance by their volume and placement in dead tree editions, a look at today's newspaper suggests the Globe certainly thinks this is the most important story in awhile.

But dead tree readers probably are already subscribers. Heavy handed salesmanship in two front-page items, two full inside pages and the lead editorial smacks of self-serving overkill.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never forget

I thought I would pass on adding my voice to the wall of words marking the somber 10th anniversary of 9-11. Or maybe just reprise sentiments offered six years ago (or three years ago) that are still remarkably on point.

And while I applaud the focus on the families who lost loved ones, despite the valiant efforts of New York firefighters and other real heroes, I find myself asking again, even more urgently, how could a nation so united on 9-11-2001 become so broken on 9-11-2011?

How can the people who rail about deficits today forget they were rung up by a president who told Americans to go shopping rather than join together in common sacrifice to finance military action against the "evil-doer" who launched the plot?

How can we forget that the evil-doer was allowed to escape from Tora Bora, only to be brought to justice earlier this year by Seal Team 6 in the backyard of our Pakistani "allies."?

How can we forget that our national resources -- human and financial -- were then diverted from that quest to a search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in a vendetta against Saddam Hussein, an evil-doer to be sure but someone with no connection to 9-11?

How can we forget the divisiveness sown by a political party and supporters who preferred railing for Freedom Fries and against cheese-eating surrender monkeys who had expressed their solidarity with us on 9-12-2001?

How can we forget the truth that brought us to this sad state of division in a mere 10 years after one of the most tragic but unifying events in our history?

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Texan is coming!

Rick Perry is coming to Massachusetts on Tuesday. Let's give him a better welcome than he would show Ben Bernanke in Texas.

And while that greeting doesn't include a visit to Martha's Vineyard, it should include some facts and figures before he addresses the Pioneer Institute's Better Government Competition.

It seems a bit odd to be getting a lecture from a governor whose state ranks worse than Massachusetts in unemployment, poverty, health care access, education testing, crime, divorce and teen pregnancy. But in a spirit of openness far beyond that of a man who proposed yanking his state from the union, I'm game to receive his pearls of wisdom.

But I do need to advise the governor to tread carefully. Wouldn't want him to mess up those nice cowboy boots by stepping into the residue of his words.

So an early "hey" guvnah. And y'all come back anytime you want a lesson on how to better serve the people who elected you.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

No is not an option

Barack Obama called the bluff of every Republican claiming to be interested in jobs -- and "job creators." But the early signs are not encouraging.

Like every joint session of Congress, the one that listened to Obama's speech last night was as much political theater as an opportunity to engage in substance. Republicans and Democrats took turns sitting on their hands, although the GOP appeared to suffer less from jumping jack syndrome.

My personal favorite was the party opposed to government regulation highlighting their unhappiness with Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp., sitting with Tennessee representative Marsha Blackburn to highlight the fact that federal agents raided two company work sites searching for illegal, partly finished, wooden guitar fingerboard blanks from India.

Made in America indeed.

But back to the speech. A bill larded with tax cuts for working men and women earning less than $106,800 a year stands in sharp contrast to the adamant support of a no new taxes on those earning more than $250,000. Tossing in cuts for "job creators" who have been sitting on profits rather than hiring is only icing in cake for those hoping to expose GOP intransigence.

Not that it stopped the Party of No.

Jeb Hensarling, co-chair of the "supercommittee" created after the debt ceiling fiasco to find a solution to the GOP's recent obsession with deficits, snarled:
“The president is essentially tasking a committee designed to reduce the deficit to pay for yet another round of stimulus.’’
No actually. Obama played the political message as well, promising a deficit reduction plan in 10 days -- during which time he will focus on selling tax cuts and some infrastructure as stimulus to get those with jobs spending again and those who create them to do just that.
“For everyone who speaks so passionately about making life easier for ‘job creators,’ this plan is for you,’’ [Obama] said.
Not so fast. Eric Cantor, the smarmy House Majority Leader portrayed by the Times as a geeky kid was seen "furiously taking notes as President Obama ticked off a list of tax cuts and programs he claimed that Republicans had supported." Did naaahhh-not!

Party over country, the GOP model.

Lost amid all the noise about the GOP's insistence on tax cuts for the wealthy, reduced regulation and deficit reduction is one key question: what specifically has the Party of No offered to create real jobs at real wages for the American men and women who don't toil in banks or on Wall Street?

That's the question we -- and particularly the media -- should be asking.

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Hair-brained debate

The Serial Flip-Flopper faced off against the new Mouth of the South, violating Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment and leaving those of us in the reality-based community scratching our heads.

There are two things certain after Mitt Romney and Rick Perry dominated the GOP debate at the Reagan Library: the potential GOP nominee will have great hair and even the Gipper wouldn't be welcome in the party that venerates his memory.

Perry once again threw barbs at Social Security, abhorred by the GOP base even while it is revered by millions of Americans. He no doubt confused his anti-intellectual fan base by referring to Galileo in his rejection of global climate change.

But in perhaps his lowest blow, he compared Romney unfavorably to one of his predecessors in the Statehouse Corner office.
“Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.’’
Not to be outdone, Our Man Myth appealed what passes for the center of the GOP by comparing Perry to his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush:
“Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.”
Romney, the closest thing the GOP has to a candidate who could appeal beyond the fringes, was also red meat for his Massachusetts health care law -- with no candidate offering support for the concept that Romney, in typical flip-flop fashion. actually tried to gut even as he signed it.

Those who watched (Snooki won the the time period the last time) were treated to a spectacle of a party that vows to reject anything good for the country that may be good for Barack Obama. They also reject policies, like raising the debt ceiling and yes, even taxes, that even Reagan saw as necessary were necessary after he created the deficit with his memorably named voodoo economics package.

As for me? I think Perry won. He has better hair. No gel.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Nothing to sneeze at

Generic drugs reduce the cost of prescription medicines. No one said anything about over-the-counter ones.

With ragweed sprouting and the hay fever season underway, I thought it was time to renew my long-standing prescription for the 12-hour version of Allegra. I admit I enjoyed walking past all the high-priced anti-histamines on sale in the aisles, particularly after the drug went generic a few years ago, knocking down my costs considerably.

So imagine my surprise when my friendly neighborhood pharmacist told me the drug was on back order, with no estimate of when i wold be available. Follow-up checks saw the message finally morph into the generic version I had taken for years was no longer being made.

Following their suggestion, I asked my doctor for a prescription for the 24-hour version. Lo and behold, the word comes back that I was out-of-luck there too. No more generic 24-hour Allegra either.

Out of options, I am now facing double the cost to buy an over=the-counter version of a prescription I have taken for years. I suppose I should consider myself lucky that it still exists, but I wonder if this is the way to reduce the cost of health care?

At least they haven't criminalized it. Yet.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Labor kicks the tires

It would seem the Democratic establishment has found a Senate candidate. Now if only the voters get a chance.

Elizabeth Warren continued her "listening tour" yesterday before hundreds of activists at the annual Labor Day breakfast. The fig leaf over her plans to enter the Democratic fight to challenge Scott Brown just about fell off.
“Whether I fight as an outsider or I fight from the floor of the Senate,’’ she said before she was interrupted by an ovation, “I will continue to stand for you.’’
The coyness of the Doug Rubin-inspired introductory swing is wearing thin among the potential rivals who have been beating the bushes for months.
“I’ve been out there for 13 weeks, 90 stops in the last 13 weeks,’’ Setti Warren said yesterday as he worked the crowd.
And while the young Newton mayor has been struggling to gain traction, he is as virtually unknown as his namesake, who showed up with a 60 percent unknown in the polls.

GOP consultants are equally unimpressed with the contrivance.
So far, it’s a low-risk, contrived mini-campaign,” [Todd] Domke said. “She’s running. Or she’s walking, at least.”
It's time to take the training wheels off.

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Monday, September 05, 2011

Mailing it in

Neither rain nor sleet is supposed to stop letter carriers from their rounds, No one figured on Congress.

But if the US Postal Service is dependent on congressional action by the end of the month to forestall the gloom of default I better switch to electronic bill paying, pronto, or flood Eric Cantor's office with first class mail.

The conundrum is classic: with the rise of e-mail, electronic bill paying and websites that replace catalogs -- not to mention UPS and FedEx -- the service that depends on actual business rather than taxpayer cash, is in deep trouble.

But unlike businesses that can slash and burn their way to solvency, the postal service also has an obligation to serve every nook and cranny of the nation. And remember the hue and cry when they proposed closing 43 offices in Massachusetts while also ending Saturday service?

There is a lot the postal service can do to make its situation better -- negotiate with its unions for example. But the powers that be appear to think that action from a congress that can't agree on the time of day is required to make a difference.

That means this isn't going to end well. But then again, many people think are lawmakers have been mailing it in for years, so who knows.

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Caveat pollster

The Globe is out with a poll this morning that says Scott Brown is vulnerable if Democrats can find the right candidate. That and five bucks will get you a coffee at Starbucks.

Surveying voters one year out from an election is an exercise in lazy journalism. Hey, it's a long holiday weekend and stories are scarce. What should we do? I know, let's take a poll!

Pollsters found voters knew little about potential Democrats, no surprise since most of them are faceless names who have never run statewide if they have run at all. Alan Khazei, for example, would rate well after the recent unmasking of the KrazyKhazei Twitter effort generated more attention to his campaign this time around than his actual campaign.

The Globe's Joan Vennochi is reacting to the Globe-generated hype of Elizabeth Warren by urging her to actually get in the race, a bit of pique probably brought on by the fact Warren is talking only to hand-picked reporters and large groups of Democrats until she gets her sea legs as a candidate.

But Vennochi has a point, since those same pollsters found Warren is unknown to 60 percent of those surveyed.

So here's a suggestion -- crank up the barbecue and flip open any cold one of your choice and ignore the poll. It's as relevant as a three-dollar bill more than a full year before voters might actually begin to pay attention.

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

This, that and the other thing

Random thoughts at the start of the holiday weekend:
  • Sen./Lt. Col. Scott Brown is back from a week in Afghanistan and says we should stay the course, particularly in rebuilding that nation's infrastructure. But if he's concerned about the jobs picture here, why don't he and fellow Republicans think we should spend those billions on our own citizens?

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Check the record

Tom Menino has some doubts about Elizabeth Warren. What do you think Gov. Tom Reilly? President Hillary Clinton?

The Mayor-for-Life is offering what could very well be an accurate assessment today of the race for People's Seat a year from now.
“Scott Brown has something about him that people gravitate to,’’ the mayor said yesterday after a federal housing announcement in Dorchester ... The thing you have to give Scott Brown a lot of credit for: He works hard. He’s out in the neighborhood, he’s out talking. It’s like he’s running for City Council. He’s out shaking hands. At every event that’s possible, Scott shows up.’’
In contrast, Warren has been conducting a low-key "listening tour" in advance of a keynote address to Monday's Labor Day speech to assembled union leaders and members. Not a lot of hand shaking yet, certainly not outside Fenway Park.

To some, the Globe's front-page paean to Warren, backed by a loving tribute from Brian McGrory smack of overkill by consultant Doug Rubin.

But before granting too much weight to Hizzoner's punditry, it's wise to recall his work on behalf of then Attorney General Tom Reilly in the 2006 campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He's been a frequent guest at Hillary Clinton's White House, no?

And is it a little nasty to recall how long he stood behind Dianne Wilkerson?

Let's check in again after Warren starts working the neighborhoods. Or after she kisses his ring.

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Thursday, September 01, 2011

There he goes again (II)

Is this the flip, the flop or a reverse flip?

Myth Romney is now looking for Tea Party support in New Hampshire, thanks to the meteoric path of the latest right-wing darling Rick Perry. The candidate who has kept his distance from the extreme right is worried that Perry was made significant inroads.

Such is the nature of political campaigns. But what kind of reception is he likely to receive?

Return with me know to the days of yesteryear, or at least March, for a look at the attitude of the Tea Party toward their erstwhile Winnipesaukee neighbor:
“Right now, it’s ABR — Anyone But Romney,” said Kevin McHugh, 38, a Salem Tea Party activist who just started the Facebook page “Mitt Romney and His Record,” which enumerates his flip-flops on health-care reform, taxes and abortion. “He’s got a lot of work to do.”
How's he done so far?
“It’s preposterous,’’ said Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks. “Mitt Romney is not and never has been a Tea Partier. He’s just a charlatan. This movement’s been going on since the fall of 2008, and he’s never attended a Tea Party rally. He’s never reached out to the movement before.’’
Lots of labor for Our Man Myth this holiday weekend.

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