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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Raising Cain

Herman Cain certainly has exploded over the Republican presidential landscape. Or perhaps I should say imploded? The Godfather Pizza Man may be leading in Iowa polls for now, but with visibility come scrutiny and let's just say it hasn't been terrific.

In just one news cycle, Cain has been forced to deny allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior toward two women employees when he was chief lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association and to deal with a declaration that Planned Parenthood was created as a tool for black genocide.

This comes on the heels of his 9-9-9 plan, a flat tax that would hurt working and middle class Americans and the bizarre ad featuring campaign manager Mark Block taking a long drag from a cigarette while praising Cain.

Where do Republicans find these outliers? And what does the surge of popularity for Cain, after similar surges for Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry (not to mention the enduring fascination for Sarah Palin) say about the extremism of the Republican primary and caucus voter?

While media coverage of day-to-day life on the trail has helped bring out the character tics of the hopefuls, we have yet to see anything exploring the question of the GOP primary voter values. How widespread are the beliefs that raise Cain and others? What exactly is the role of religious activists within the GOP? What is the party and the outsiders cabal that is financing the 2012 campaign doing to either promote or defuse this faction?

Important questions that demand answers from a media that too frequently reports on the daily events without digging into their longer-term significance.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Denial is a river

Question for climate change deniers: how can you explain an October where temperatures soar into the '80s at the start of the month and we are under the gun for a major snowstorm at the end.

Darn liberal plot is not an acceptable answer.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Occupy Congress?

As the "super committee" grinds on with the same old, same old stalemate, maybe it's time to ask: what will it take for Congress to stop posturing and listen to what people are saying?

Poll after poll suggest the American people favor a balanced approach that includes tax increases as well as budget cuts. Yet Republicans continue to insist that the way out of the nations' economic problems -- caused by massive tax cuts and credit card wars -- is to strangle a potential recovery in the crib.

The Occupy movement has rightly focused attention on the role of Wall Street in putting greed ahead of the public good. But perhaps it's now time for the movement to pay attention to Wall Street's enablers -- the best damn Congress their money can buy.

Occupy Capitol Hill anyone?

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

A change is gonna come

The Massachusetts Democratic Party just got a whole lot more unified for 2012. No knock down drag out Senate primary or redistricting fights. Now it's a simple goal: defeat Scott Brown.

It was the equivalent of a political earthquake yesterday afternoon with the tandem stories that Alan Khazei was taking his hat out of the Senate primary ring and John Olver was retiring after 20 years in Congress.

Gone like that was a divisive game of musical chairs that would have pitted two of the state's 10 incumbent liberal Democratic House members against each other -- the rumble being Olver and his sprawling 1st District against Jim McGovern and his Worcester-based constituency.

Pundits have noted the 1st, based on population, could easily run from the New York border to Worcester. Now that will be the home base for Springfield's Richard Neal. And a potentially disruptive fight between Olver and McGovern avoided.

And it's all over except for the shouting in the Democratic primary or the right to face Scott Brown. With all due respect to Tom Conroy, Marisa DeFranco, James Coyne King and Herb Robinson, they have even less of a chance of halting the Elizabeth Warren juggernaut than Khazei did.

Not that the novice candidate would not have benefited from a primary to sharpen her campaign skills. While Warren appears to have made a smooth transition to public campaigning, it has not been without hiccups that the GOP has been quick to pounce on. A major gaffe (quick, it's Ben Cherington, not Theo Epstein) could be deadly.

But the dynamic of this race changed mightily from the moment she entered and a potentially divisive primary with Khazei slinging arrows had the potential for more harm than good.

So now there's only one face on the dartboard in Democratic State Party headquarters and the occupants won't be able to emulate Will Rogers famous line:
"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
Look out Scotto.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Tempest in a Tea Party"

If we had any doubts our 2012 Senate campaign is going to be a high-profile event, Elizabeth Warren put them to rest when she claimed bragging rights to the birth of the Occupy Movement.

Even as the Tea Party Newsletter launched a tirade about the possible health impacts from a long-term encampment, Warren took credit for being the intellectual godmother of the growing movement protesting corporate greed and the widening gap between rich and poor.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Warren said:
“I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do,” she says. “I support what they do.”
Republicans immediately pounced, but how different is her stance from Scott Brown's embrace of the Tea Party? In fact, that was Environmental Lobby of Massachusetts boss George Bachrach -- who knows a thing or two about congressional election politics from challenging Joe Kennedy in 1986 -- who put the exchange into context:
"This is a tempest in a Tea Party."
It's clear Brown and the national GOP fear Warren and her stand with the Occupy movement's 99 percent. While often criticized as incoherent, the movement does offer a clear message of disaffection with the rampant inequality in today's America as exemplified by the Congressional Budget Office report that the 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades.

Hard numbers like that are difficult to overlook, even in the non-reality-based community that includes the Republican presidential field.

Warren is trying to walk a fine line as she presents herself to an electorate that is still learning about her. By claiming intellectual parentage of a movement, she simply alienates the Brown base that already holds intellectualism in low regard. And accelerate the process of the GOP trying to throw the kitchen sink at her.

Hang on, it's going to be a fun but bumpy ride.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

Maybe it's not just Wall Street that needs to be occupied.

With the economy still struggling, homeowners struggling and unemployment high, now comes the tale of bankers with too much money on their hands. And they aren't just the big out-of-town behemoths either.
Hyde Park Savings Bank, a community lender in the Boston suburbs, lowered its C.D. rates this spring to encourage less-profitable customers to move on. As a result, Hyde Park shed about 1,000 of its 35,000 C.D. holders, preferring customers who also had a checking or savings account
In the words of a Colorado bank executive:
“If you had more money than you knew what to do with, would you want more?”
Excuse me, but I know what you can do with it. Lend to people looking to launch businesses and buy homes are jump start the economy.

Americans have been urged to move their assets away from behemoths like Bank of America and Citibank which squandered billions, took a taxpayer bailout and added debit card fees to nickel and dime the public that saved their skins.

But when the little guys behave like the big guys -- paying virtually next to nothing to keep your money, then whining about having too much, there is something fundamentally wrong with the entire system.

The bankers naturally complain about the big, bad federal government that is preventing them from making a living.
“It’s very hard for us to take deposits and make any meaningful spread,” said William D. Parent, Hyde Park’s chief executive.
We're supposed to feel sorry for them?

Here's an idea. Take a chance on the communities you claim to serve. Invest in local businesses and hard-working people squeezed by the big banks. And stop whining.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Kama Sutra Candidate

Stand clear: Myth Romney is about to engineer another flip-flop.

Romney, who has more positions than the Kama Sutra, is hedging his bets on the flat tax, trying to appease conservatives who love the method that transfers burden from the rich to the middle class.

But Our Man Myth only appears halfway through his somersault, fearful it will lose him votes (and cash) from the vast millions who actually pay taxes.

The concept is indeed simple: you pay the same tax rate whether you earn $10,000 or $10 million. While the actual dollars taken obviously will vary widely, conservatives believe the flat tax is better than the current graduated system which escalates the percentage as income rises.

Conservatives, you see, howl about the unfairness of making the rich pay more and have been lobbying for the flat tax, these days led by Dick Armey and Freedom Works, the "grassroots" organization brought to you by the Koch Brothers.

The most prominent acolyte in this campaign is Herman Cain, whose 9-9-9 plan calls for 9 percent rates on income, corporations and sales. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has jumped into the pool too,so is it any surprise that the ever flexible Romney is dipping his toes?

But in classic Romney fashion, his position has more layers than an onion. While he professes "I love a flat tax," he adds caveats (such as is not hurt the middle class and benefit the wealthy) that drive the Lord Grover Norquist a little batty.

Not so the reality-based analysts, who see things quite clearly:
“If you’re going to get the same amount of revenue, someone has to pay the price,” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. “The rich pay less, the poor pay nothing, and the middle class bears the burden.”
So Our Man Myth is once again saying what he thinks people want to hear, the classic salesman approach he has used through his many campaigns. It should come as no surprise, the people who have heard him longest are not buying.

But it is amusing to watch Myth dissemble on yet another position

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scotto knows best

That skilled foreign policy team of Romney and Brown are dissing Barack Obama over the US troop withdrawal from Iraq by Dec. 31. Too bad they don't know the facts.

In yet another example of knee-jerk Republican opposition, the Massachusetts junior senator and the Republican presidential front-runner are objecting to Obama following through on an agreement negotiated by George W. Bush four years ago, with military concurrence.

And it follows a decision by the Iraqi government to stand firm on the agreement, even as the US side looked to maintain a minimal presence. As the National Journal reports:
President Obama’s speech formally declaring that the last 43,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year was designed to mask an unpleasant truth: The troops aren’t being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out. They’re leaving because the Iraqi government refused to let them stay.
No matter for the Colonial Twins. Brown, whose National Guard JAG status should make him a believer in international law and agreements, says that a:
... rush to the exits will create an irreplaceable void and put at risk the gains made by our troops and Iraqi military partners.’’
Doesn't it take two sides to create a partnership, senator?

Meanwhile Our Man Myth offers a rhetorical flip-flop, taking both sides in accusing Obama of:
“naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.”
Whatever happened to the old attitude that political posturing ended at the water's edge?

So in that spirit, let us recall the war in Iraq was wrong in two major categories: Saddam Hussein had no ties to al Qaeda and he possessed no weapons of mass destruction.

Bush administration deceit costs us thousands of American lives in taking our eyes off the prize in Afghanistan and trillions of dollars in rebuilding two countries we have helped to tear apart by wars.

And it helped to bankrupt the American economy so we don't have the same resources to invest in our own nation that we do to build the roads, bridges and schools we are constructing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Goodbye Baghdad, Next stop: Kabul.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Scotto strikes again

Did Congressional Republicans really choose millionaires over teachers, cops and firefighters? Yep.

Decrying a "government jobs bill," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proudly led his Republican team, including our own Scott Brown, in lockstep opposition to a $35 billion piece of the larger Obama jobs bill. The money was targeted to state and local governments to prevent the layoff of teachers, police and firefighters.

Wasn't it just this week that Scotto declared his disgust with "political obstructionism?" Yep again.

The GOP has declared war on government jobs, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of them go to people who teach our children, plow our streets, pick up our trash and protect our lives and property. To McConnell, the Obama proposal is just designed to "bail out cities and states that cannot pay their bills.”

The sin involved in standing up for the public sector workforce, which continues to bleed jobs even as other sectors show some signs of life?

A surtax of 0.5 percent, starting in 2013, on income in excess of $1 million. As Vice President Joe Biden explained to the math-phobic GOP:
You have a one-half of one-percent surtax on the 1,000,0001th dollar -- in other words it doesn't affect anybody who makes $999,000, it doesn't affect anybody making $999,999 -- and if you want to find the guy who make $1,000,0001, it only affects that $1. That's the only thing the rate goes up."
Who exactly is guilty of class warfare? The party looking to protect 400,000 teachers, cops and firefighters? Or the one backing the "300,000 U.S. business owners" doing well enough to earn $1,000,001 a year and being asked to kick in an extra nickel?

No word from Brown on why he forgot his own sanctimonious declaration to "stop playing games" so soon.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Follow the money

Thanks to the Supreme Court, cash remains the mother's milk of politics. And Democrats still appear strong by that measure.

For all the sturm und drang of the Republican assault on the middle class, Barack Obama appears to be holding his own, thank you very much. He leads Mitt Romney in New Hampshire cash and, depending on who you read, is holding his own in the business community.

Locally, Republicans are in high dudgeon over Elizabeth Warren's out-of-state fund-raising prowess during a quarter when she was largely unknown to the Massachusetts electorate. And both the GOP and Globe apparently have developed amnesia over the impact of out-of-state dollars on Brown's coffers.

Why is this important? Isn't there already too much money awash in politics?

There can be little doubt that our political system has been corrupted by the money available to buy access and expensive TV time. Or that it will be even worse this election cycle thanks to the corrosive Citizens United decision.

But given the current rules of the game, cash remains a significant benchmark in handicapping political viability. And from that benchmark, the doom and gloom being offered by the GOP has failed to take root in most places other than the really high rollers on Wall Street.

And that too is a major sign of hope for the reality-based community.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And the winner is...

It sounds as if a lot of Barack Obama campaign spots were made last night in Las Vegas.

With America increasingly focused on jobs and income inequality (even Eric Cantor now gets it) the Republican presidential hopefuls argued about Mitt's illegal lawn care, his book editing efforts and who was stepping on the others time.

In the words of Politico columnist Roger Simon:
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright, the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light. And somewhere folks are laughing, and somewhere children shout, but there is no joy in Vegas - - the GOP has struck out.

It is astounding that the GOP candidates have yet to seriously address how they would tackle the nation's No. 1 issue -- how to create jobs. Beyond of course, giving tax breaks to the "job creators" who have done such an outstanding job so far.

Obama has been slow at times to step up to that plate himself, but he is finally fully engaged. Which is more than can be said for the GOP in Congress and on the campaign trail, which is still arguing about 2007, before the weight of their disastrous "leadership" helped to bring the nation to its knees.

The biggest potential loser in all of this is Our Man Myth, the "front runner" pulling only 26 percent support among likely Republican primary voters. When Rick Santorum can bring out your worst side, it's time for another serious message retooling.

Let's hope there are more debates like this on the road to New Hampshire's primary, in potentially only six or seven weeks.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Having it his way

Sen. Scott Brown, who voted in party lockstep to defeat Barack Obama's jobs bill, is now decrying "disgusting" political obstructionism. Is this a trick?

Brown, seeing a credible Democratic challenger in his rear view mirror, offered a gymnastic defense of his own role in the shenanigans that have gripped Washington in lieu of real solutions to real problems -- shenanigans that only escalated as the 41st senator took his seat as the GOP wedge to block Obama.
“The thing that’s frustrating to me is that there’s no Democrat bill that’s going to pass, folks. There’s no Republican bill, either,’’ he said before 300 businesspeople. “Let’s stop playing games.’’
Brown tells us of his efforts to be a "conciliator," by sharing a bike ride with John Kerry and striking up a friendship with Al Franken in an effort to "bring the Senate together."

Until he brings Mitch McConnell into the kumbayah circle it's little more than window dressing going into a tough election year.

And alas, it appears window dressing is his strong suit, from the barn coat and pickup truck to the appearances before friendly crowds where he takes limited or no questions. Brown has been remarkably adept at sidestepping both the media and the public who elected him,

If Brown really wanted to be the one who broke the obstructionism he could start by no longer voting in lockstep with McConnell -- except of course in those rare instances when it was good for his campaign fund-raising.

And he could offer a plan that includes concrete examples of reaching across the aisle to satisfy both sides. You know a package that includes extending payroll tax cuts and launching needed infrastructure repairs that will create jobs and jump start the economy.

Wait a minute, didn't Barack Obama already do that?

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Monday, October 17, 2011

'We’re here, we’re unclear, get used to it!’

The drumbeat is getting louder -- and I don't mean the one at the Occupy encampments across the nation.

Even as the movement spreads, the cries, particularly from the right, continue: what do they want? what's their agenda?

It's not hard for me to figure out. The 99 percent are unhappy with a national government that has held banks harmless for catastrophic mistakes. They are tired of bought and paid for elected officials who have done nothing to clean up the banks caused.

They want a Congress that focuses on job creation. One that focuses on tax fairness rather than policies that cut taxes for the rich by raising them on the middle class and the poor.

Are our friends on the right and their so-called leaders that blind? Or that scared that someone has finally started to figure out the shell game they have been running for years?

The action steps are a little tougher and will take a little longer: get the obscene amounts of money out of politics; find politicians who serve the interests of the people and not their campaign financiers; and get those elected officials to put the people above political parties.

Do those of us on the left have vision while the rest of the world wears bifocals?

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Heck of a job, Brownie

Memo to Scott Brown: You don't need a Democrat to know which way the wind's blowin'.

The Tea Party Newsletter takes note today of the "blips" affecting the Brown campaign (wonder where they got the idea?) And while the line-up of GOP-only analysts are mostly sanguine about the junior senator's performance to date, some are willing to note there could be trouble on the horizon.
“I think they’re minor blips, but he can’t afford any more blips really,” said GOP strategist Rob Gray. “He won in the (2010) special election in part because of a compressed time frame. Now the voters have more time to focus on him so he has to be a lot more careful.”
Yah think?

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Clueless capitalists

Anyone unclear on what the Occupy movement is all about simply needs to read this:

“Most people view it as a ragtag group looking for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” said one top hedge fund manager.

“It’s not a middle-class uprising,” adds another veteran bank executive. “It’s fringe groups. It’s people who have the time to do this.”

The condescension of the folks who led the economy down the rat hole, took a taxpayer bailout and then resumed earning massive bonuses is right up there with Marie Antoinette. And we know what happened to her.

The cluelessness is stunning, perhaps the reason they spoke to the Times with a promise of anonymity. For example:
“Who do you think pays the taxes?”
They pay taxes at a rate of 25 percent or more, not the cozy 15 percent paid on capital gains -- if is paid at all. Warren Buffett's 17.4 percent rate may be on the high side.

Then there's the fact that Wall Street knows it has the best damn Congress their money can buy. Speaking of New York's two Democratic senators:
“They need to understand who their constituency is.”
American business has been coddled -- by both parties -- as it shipped jobs and profits outside the country, retaining astronomical salaries and obscene bonuses buying and selling phony investment options. When that house of cards collapsed, none of the industry mates faced the music and were propped back up by a Congress that now refuses to do anything for he people who were left holding the bag.

Perhaps our arrogant money "managers" should think about that the next time they head off on an expense account dinner of Chateaubriand and champagne. After all, we're paying for that deductible business expense.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Tip of the iceberg

Scott Brown may be right that the flap over plagiarized text on his web site is "silly." But we now have a second instance where the senator is pleading ignorance over questionable staff actions -- and that has the makings of a trend.

Brown is blaming a summer intern for lifting whole passages from a speech by former North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole. "We corrected it once we found out," he told reporters, adding “There are people in campaign mode, I’m in problem-solving mode."

Like voting against a jobs bill without offering an alternative? But I digress.

This is the second time in as many months Brown has professed ignorance about the actions of staff "in campaign mode." You may recall he allegedly took Eric Fehrnstrom to the woodshed for being the twit behind the now defunct CrazyKhazei Twitter account.

Plagiarism is a serious issue and comes in all forms. The intern explanation seems plausible and it is far different from the flap that got Joe Biden into heaps of trouble a quarter of a century ago.

What's of greater concern is Brown's attitude. The senator himself was recently a bit fast and loose comparing his "College of Hard Knocks" background in an effort to smear Elizabeth Warren as a Harvard elitist. But private Tufts University and Boston College Law are hardly "hard knocks" compared to the public University of Houston and Rutgers Law School.

Recall too that Brown jumped into that fray with a locker room retort about Warren's appearance and a hefty dose of self-pity that he was the underdog in a race where he still has a far greater cash advantage than Warren.

Brown seems to be looking to trade-in his barn coat for a crying towel. But he should remember a simple rule we all learned in childhood.

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

And while we're at it, he should also recall those of the GOP's patron saint, Ronald Reagan.

Trust but verify.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011


All the endorsements in the world can't hide a basic fact: the Republican base supports Anyone But Mitt.

Herman Cain is the latest pretender to jump to the top, this time an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. He follows a long line of anti-Myths, including the meteor named Rick Perry, Donald Trump and straw poll winners Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul.

Toss in the unrequited love affairs with Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Bobo the Wonder Horse and it's clear that only Sarah Palin (OK and Newt Gingrich) has as many or more detractors than Romney.

Yet Our Man Myth continues to plug along. one day this week's Christie's endorsement, followed by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

The explanation is simple: while the Tea Party wing has captured the heart of the GOP, the old line party (you know the one despised by the Tea Party) sees the assortment of pretenders as political death -- unimpressive and unelectable beyond the diehards who vote in caucuses and straw polls.

Also working against Romney is the good ol' lamestream media.No, not deliberately mind you. But the MSM's addiction to polls, horse races, debates and gaffes leaves it blind to what is really happening within the nation and the GOP.

What's that? A congressional party that has placed defeating Barack Obama ahead of creating jobs and jump starting the economy. And a movement that has found a voice, if not a coherent, articulate message to object to the business of Washington.

And surprisingly for a poll-obsessed media, a blindness to one poll that carries real meaning: only 13 percent of Americans approve of Congress. As our most beloved fictional ex-chief executive @Pres_Bartlet noted: "The IRS has an approval rating of 40%."

As political scientists and consultants to losing campaigns like to point out, polls are simply snapshots in time. Romney will probably shake off the doubters and win the nomination.

But it's fair to ask the same question often heard about Obama: how motivated will the base be in going out to work and vote for Romney?

And what will an electorate bent on cleaning out Congress do to either man?

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What are they fighting for?

People say they not one is sure what the Occupy movement is all about. Organizers should send a bouquet of something to Congressional Republicans in thanks for helping to define the protest.

That's because one the same day Myth Romney and his GOP rivals debated solutions to our economic problems, the GOP gang in the Senate scuttled the $447 billion bill proposed by Barack Obama to try and jump start the economy and get people back to work.

So what have they offered as an alternative? Zero. Nada. Zilch. Unless you count fealty to the tax burden of "job creators" who have created nothing.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor piously intoned that the Party of No hoped:
“the president will drop his all-or-nothing approach and begin to work with us on areas of commonality,” including initiatives that could promote hiring and economic growth “We are willing to take up the things we can agree on."
What exactly are those initiatives Mr. Leader? Why after nine months of control over the House have we seen nothing from the GOP except for the all-or-nothing Paul Ryan budget that would slash trillions and gut Medicare?

That gridlock -- and the hypocrisy of a legislative blocking strategy instead of one that puts people back to work -- is what is motivates many of the people who have set up tents on Wall Street and Dewey Square.

The Globe's Mark Arsenault, who traded covering the halls of Congress for the tent city in Boston, heard articulate answers from the followers of the Occupy Boston encampment:

Take Joe Gallivan, who has been homeless, going from shelter to shelter, for three years and held a sign:
“I’m here because I have no place else to go.’’ said “I’m 54. I’m for hire.’’
Or Mark Hoffman, 49, a laid-off technology worker:
“I remember Reagan and Tip O’Neill sitting down and compromising."
These are the voices that have been drowned out by the Republican rush to make Barack Obama a one-term President. They are the voices drowned out by the AstroTurf Tea Party that blathers on about cutting federal expending -- except of course for keeping the government's hands off their Medicare.

Leaders of the Occupy movement have been accused of failing to produce a coherent message. They should listen to their own participants, who are speaking loudly and clearly

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Growing pains

The arrest of Occupy Boston protesters early this morning on the Greenway may represent a PR setback, but it's clear the movement is picking up steam -- and getting the attention of Washington.

The largely peaceful arrests feed the story line being pumped out by an increasingly nervous Hard Right who see the organic movement as a potential counterweight to the AstroTurf Tea Party funded by the Koch Brothers.

The right has been quick to label their bete noire, ACORN, as the moving force behind the rallies, even though ACORN filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy a year ago after being hounded by the Right.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor used the inappropriately named Values Voter Summit to label the peaceful assemblies as a "mob." Never mind that Occupy protesters across the nation don't pack the firepower seen at Tea Party rallies.

What has gotten the attention of Cantor and his crew are the stories being offered by the social media-sophisticated crew. And the attention in turn that has come from Democrats looking to counterbalance the outsized attention afforded the Tea Party since it burst on the scene two years ago as an anti-Obama movement.

Americans abhor unruly images of protesters clashing with police and the Boston incident will likely be a setback. But I suspect it will only be temporary, as were similar scenes played out in New York.

The reason? This is a growing movement which is media savvy. If the arrests prove to be a misstep, it's likely it will be countered in some visible way. Of course, a strong early morning Twitter sentiment suggests it was the police who overreacted.

One thing is certain: the whole world is watching.

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Friday, October 07, 2011

First blood

Elizabeth Warren has already nicked Scott Brown's halo more than Martha Coakley ever did.

What started as a light-hearted if pointed quip about Brown's Cosmo centerfold appearance has quickly escalated with what can only be called a high school comeback demeaning Warren's appearance.

Asked during Tuesday night's debate how she earned her way through college, Warren joked:
"I kept my clothes on."
Asked for a comeback on a drive time radio show, Brown offered up his best 10th grade persona:
"Thank God."
Sensing a gaffe, the campaign fired back. Wildly:
“It’s elitist of Professor Warren to look down at the decisions Scott Brown made to put himself through college and rise above the circumstances of his life,’’ campaign manager Jim Barnett said. “Scott has fought and scraped for everything he’s got.’’
(What's the matter: was designated shiv artist Eric Ferhnstrom reading his press clips?)

Warren, in contrast, took the high road:
“You know, I’ll survive a few jabs from Scott Brown over my appearance."
The response, from Brown's friends, was far more vitriolic:
“What a dumb thing to say,” said Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, who added that Brown already has alienated much of his Tea Party base by being too moderate.
Clearly the Brown campaign is nervous about Warren's burst onto the stage. But the class warfare approach is a dangerous one, something that could singe Brown as much as Warren.

While Brown has told us of his troubled childhood, Warren did not grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth. The daughter of middle class parents who had to scrape together after her father suffered a heart attack and was drowning in medical bills, Warren took a waitress job to help her mother pay the bills. The job allowed her to keep her clothes on.

As for Boston College Law School, Brown's alma mater, it proudly trumpets it's exclusivity among the Top 20 in the nation, a more prestigious perch than Warren's alma mater of Rutgers School of Law-Newark.

The Brown camp will be making a huge mistake if they try to make class warfare on a woman who raised herself on her cowboy country bootstraps. Being the enemy of banks is a far better place to be in America these days than being its friend.

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs

Maybe it was a sign: The iPhone 4S being unveiled to murmurs of disappointment. The wow factor people had come to expect was not there.

Then mere hours later comes word that the father of the iPhone -- and iPad, iPod and everything else Apple -- had lost his lengthy battle with cancer at the way too young age 56.

Steve Jobs was a technology geek and a marketing wizard rolled up into one package. The company he founded reflects those elements and what was also surely a streak of paranoia. But Jobs' genius revolutionized our world, exactly as envisioned in that 1984 commercial that launched Macintosh.

So as I sit here with my MacBook, gearing up for a day tethered to my iPhone, it seems appropriate to pause for a moment and reflect on the passing of an iconic man who changed the world.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Senator, I am no Martha Coakley

The crowd was small, The external audience limited to webcast. But the initial reviews say get ready for an Elizabeth Warren-Scott Brown showdown.

Even the Tea Party Newsletter, sponsors of the Lowell showdown gave her high, but predictably not perfect, marks for her performance. But for this non-watcher, the highest mark came from the obviously scripted line designed to contrast her method for earning cash during law school from that of incumbent senator Scott Brown, R-Cosmo Centerfold:
"I kept my clothes on."
That line seemed to bounce around ever corner of the Twitterverse from those who watched so I didn't have to. A breezy shot, it aims right at the critics who objected to Martha Coakley's lackadaisical campaign against Brown --which included never challenging the double standard that Brown's "youthful indiscretion" received a far different response than if would have if Coakley had done the same thing.

Warren was well-coached and while the crowd was small, the media gaffe patrol was on high alert for any opening night butterflies, so it was a clearly a solid first outing. And it set the tone for what is likely to be the undertone of any future battle with Brown:

"I know Martha Coakley. Martha Coakley may even become a friend of mine. But Senator, I am no Martha Coakley."

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Mitt may need a hug

Another one bites the dust. Who's next? Doesn't anyone in the GOP like Mitt Romney?

With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie opting out of the 2012 Republican presidential race -- and Rick Perry fading faster than the sunlight on a fall evening -- the Grand Old Party is faced with a dilemma.

No one likes the front-runner.
Even though he poses the most legitimate challenge to Barack Obama's second term.

And it's not just the Kamikaze Right that is less than thrilled with Myth. The leaders of the draft Christie movement included some of the grizzled old warriors of the kinder, gentler party. These are people given to agita at the thought of Sarah Palin jumping in.

Yet she seems to be the only frequently mentioned possibility who has yet to join in and flame out.

Of course there's always Jeb Bush.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Late to the party

Is the media missing the next Tea Party? Or is it expressing buyer's remorse for the current one?

It took the New York Times awhile to discover the band of protesters who assembled in lower Manhattan under the Occupy Wall Street banner. Now they seem to have caught on to the discontent on the left, although their Boston paper still seems a bit cynical and skeptical, having been burned in coverage by a blog that often covers Boston better than they do.

The Tea Party question, of course, remains to be answered. The thunder on the right was discovered only after a few loud voices emerged to challenge elected officials at "town hall meetings" during the slow summer news season.

The mainstream media has still done a poor job looking at the AstroTurf roots of the supposedly prairie fire emanating between the coasts.

The Occupy movement owes its new found attention to the New York Police Department, which first pepper-sprayed it and then busted 700 protesters crossing the Brooklyn Bridge under circumstances that could lead some to suggest entrapment.

What will be interesting to see is if the MSM takes an in-depth skeptical look at a movement with leftist roots -- something it failed to do with the right wing Tea Party. It's safe to say the money men and their sycophants on the right will start bellowing "communism" soon enough.

Bit what should be amply clear is there is a massive disconnect between our elected officials and the people, left and right, they claim to govern. And there is much that can be reported -- starting with the corrupting influence of corporate spending on the legislative process.

And reporters don't even have to stand in the rain to do that story.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

Five stages of campaigning

Wow, the first words of the 2012 Democratic Senate campaign haven't been mumbled and already we're in full hyperbole mode.

It appears Republicans and conservatives are so fearful of Elizabeth Warren they are rolling out 60-year-old smear rhetoric to protect their golden boy Scott Brown. On the other side of the aisle, observers appear to be going through the Five Stages of Grief trying to come to grips with the fact their cluttered primary field is narrowing quickly.

The Massachusetts Republican Party is setting itself an almost impossible task for inflamed rhetoric next year with this Joe McCarthy press release headline:
“Communist Party News Outlet Gives Favorable Review To Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren.’’
Guys, it's 2011, not 1951. And as the Globe's Glen Johnson points out, the GOP seems to forget that Oklahoma, Warren's birthplace, is celebrating it's 104th anniversary of statehood, with its state university football team ranking No. 2 nationally in that most American of sports.

The overheated rhetoric is par for the course, particularly as the GOP sees the sheen on Scott Brown fade and knows it will be going into battle with campaign cash offered by the same bankers who are painting Warren as the devil incarnate.

But the agita on the left side of the aisle is equally amazing. With Democrats set to debate Tuesday in Lowell, the Globe's Joan Vennochi is working her way through Elizabeth Kubler Ross' model.

While she appears to have accepted Newton Mayor Setti Warren's departure from the race, Vennochi is crossing the line between denial and anger over the media treatment of Marisa DeFranco and Herb Robinson; angry over the Washington establishment's anointment of Elizabeth Warren while bargaining with herself about the Harvard Law professor's emergence.

She may also be in depression over the fate likely in store for Alan Khazei, Bob Massie and Tom Conroy, destined to be, in some shape or form, sacrificial lambs for the Warren juggernaut.

No one would blame Khazei (and to a lesser extent Massie and Conroy) for being angry or depressed that the Warren hype is outshining credible campaign efforts. But before we get too far ahead, let's at least wait and see what happens in Tuesday's debate when Warren steps out of the protective cocoon in which she's been wrapped since launching her listening campaign.

That means sparing the flowers to the rival campaign and the columnists who love them for helping to put food on their table.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

Ultimate Friday news dump

As the news helicopters circled overhead, bringing us those breathless images of Tito driving away from Fenway Park, I thought, "what a great day to dump bad news."

It continued as Mrs. OL and I sat in a favorite Friday night haunt, TV screens bringing us endless images of Terry Francona arguing with umpires.

I guess it was Anwar al-Alwaki's ultimate bad fate not to be a Red Sox fan: he could only manage Page A-3 in the Globe, and barely a ripple in the Herald.

It's a standard credo in the PR business to try to dump bad news on a Friday afternoon -- fewer people pay attention to Saturday's paper. Whether that's still true in an era where fewer people pay attention to any paper is, as far as I know, an untested theory.

No matter. The rampant overkill of the quitting/firing of Terry Francona will rank as the high/low watermark of Boston media excess -- at least until Bill Belichick departs. Seriously, what exactly was gained by two TV news copters hovering over Fenway at midday -- except high fuel bills?

The endless chatter on TV, radio and social media was no doubt an amusing diversion for what is admittedly a rather large contingent of Red Sox fan(atics). But what news was imparted between Francona's morning visit and subsequent departure and his early evening return to say so long?

Television is of course, more culpable, simply because their need to fill a 24-7 maw with what the late Jack Cole once rightly called "alleged news." But with the expansion of the web newshole -- not to mention Twitter and Facebook -- the explosion of 24-7 "breaking news" has been unsettling.

I can forgive the non-stop coverage on NESN, my dinner companion last night. Co-owned by the Red Sox and the Bruins, it was truly doing it's job. But the fleet of news copters beaming back endless coverage of "we're not sure what's happening inside?"

I just wonder what real news we may have missed during Tito-thon.

UPDATE: The answer, of course, can be found on Universal Hub.

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