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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, August 31, 2011

Taking one for the team

Elizabeth Warren appears to be a different type of liberal -- one willing to stand up and proudly admit it.

Warren isn't sitting back and taking it from the team that brought you CrazyKhazei as a campaign theme.
“Yeah, I’m a Harvard professor. But I wasn’t born at Harvard. I came up scrappy. I came up the hard way.’’
One of the most maddening things about American politics is the tradition of conservative Republicans painting liberal Democrats as three-headed monsters out of touch with the mainstream.

The demonization -- remember how Mike Dukakis was a "boutique" liberal from the strange land of Brookline and Cambridge -- was one of the most popular globs of mud tossed by George H.W. Bush -- is a set piece in the GOP arsenal.

The refusal of liberals to fight back is undoubtedly one of the reasons Republicans have been so successful in managing to get working men and women to vote against their financial interests and support swaggering Republicans like George W. Bush, or even his pork-rind chomping Yale preppie elitist father.

And right on cue, the latest version of the macho Texan, Rick Perry, is capturing GOP affection over that allegedly Massachusetts-based wimp named Mitt Romney.

Warren clearly threatens to upend that apple cart -- which is why Republican congressional leaders were dead set against her leading an agency designed to tale part some control for consumers raped by the financial crisis generated by Wall Street's elite.

And it's why Scott Brown's minions -- seeing what Perry is doing to Romney -- took Page One from the GOP playbook and are trying to hang Harvard around the neck of a potential challenger to the barn coat-wearing, truck driving friend of those same bankers.

Warren looks like she has a successful antidote to the mud and her refusal to follow the script is undoubtedly causing them some heartburn right about now.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh that's different. Never mind

The folks at the Union-Leader have come rushing to Myth Romney's defense over plans to bulldoze his California house and start over.

The Mittster's only doubling the size, not quadrupling it.

That will come as such a relief to the working men and women who are faced with similar decisions on a daily basis. And it should come as a great disappointment to mortgage brokers and tax assessors of La Jolla.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Goodbye Irene

The past and future of journalism were on display over the weekend as Hurricane Irene made its way up the East Coast. The future can't get here soon enough.

Howie Kurtz scored a direct hit in examining the hyperventilating, wall-to-wall coverage of television, particularly the cable news outlets, many of whose home bases in Washington and New York were in direct line with the storm. Somehow it seems appropriate that some of the worst damage was along the Jersey Shore.

While a substantially greater threat to safety than the Virginia earthquake days earlier,the overdrive coverage of both events could well leave viewers west of the Hudson wondering what happened in their necks of the woods while the media focused on their own fate.

It's worth noting that in an expanded, hour-long NBC Nightly News Saturday night, anchored by bigfoot Brian Williams, I saw no mention of the fact that US forces took out yet another biggie in the al Qaeda hierarchy.

But while Irene represented the traditional media at its worst, the storm gave hope for a brighter future. Brian Stelter of the New York Times offered riveting coverage, 140 characters at a time, from his position along the North Carolina shore as Irene made its initial landfall.

As he was during coverage of the aftermath of the Joplin tornado, Stelter offered facts, color and emotion tweet after tweet. The format proves that news can be timely and compelling without being verbose.

It was also a great opportunity for blogs, such as the indispensable Universal Hub, and for hyperlocal reporting on individual Facebook and Twitter feeds (although it would have been helpful if the Brookline Tab could have accurately figured out when the town was picking up my trash.)

And yes, in its own way Twitter signaled when the worst was over. That would have been when the anti-Obama cranks returned, trumpeting the Fox News "exclusive" that Joe Biden played golf hours before Irene came ashore.

With social media however, they can still report but I truly can decide.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

New mush from the wimps

The Globe endorses the concept of "see something, say something" in an editorial about an airline crew's overreaction to a passenger reading about vintage airplanes.

OK: The editorial is a ludicrous stretch at being topical, not to mention being wrong by failing to call out the policy for failing to have a middle ground between ignoring something and behaving as if there was an immediate threat to health and safety.

And oh yeah, as the Globe itself notes:
... It’s an odd reason to express concern about a passenger, one that might or might not have been influenced by the fact that he has dark skin. Gilbert is African-American but can pass for Middle Eastern.
Whatever happened to common sense -- whether in policies that offer escalating options based on actual threat assessments or in writing gibberish in trying to defend the indefensible?

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Friday, August 26, 2011

The rest of the story

The Tea Party Newsletter displays some half-vast editing today, offering a Statehouse News piece about GOP efforts to tie Deval Patrick to a fatal accident involving an undocumented immigrant.
Republicans today announced plans to file legislation forcing the Patrick administration to join Secure Communities, a federal program aimed at cracking down on criminal illegal immigrant that has sparked allegations by immigrant advocates and officials in some states that the program leads to profiling and nets petty criminals, rather than the serious offenders that supporters say are the targets.
Only one problem. The News Service moved a very different version, six hours later (subscription required and emphasis added):
Reacting to the recent arrest and arraignment of an illegal immigrant on a vehicular homicide charge, legislative Republicans on Thursday ripped the Patrick administration's immigration policies and announced a bill they said would force him to join federal efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

There's just one problem: the federal government is no longer asking states to sign up.
Crackerjack legislative work by GOP lawmakers, don't you think?

As for the Herald, the story they ran moved at 12:01 p.m., the update at 6:08 p.m. How did this rather major shift in the story manage to escape the editors? Too much Irene?

File under Gangs that Couldn't Shoot Straight.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

A wild and Khazei guy

Friends, Romans, countrymen. I come to defend Eric Fehrnstrom, not to praise him.

The chief political operative for Mitt Romney and Scott Brown (and according to my e-mail, a brand new follower, as opposed to @EricFehrn) has been unearthed as the twit (is that the right term?) behind @CrazyKhazei.

Alleged satirical or humorous political commentary is a long standing American tradition. Some of it is actually funny. I've followed a few of these twits, er tweeps, occasionally, dropping out after a couple of days or boredom (that means you Fake Deval.)

Despite the efforts of Democratic operatives to have a little fun at the expense of the intense and occasionally unpleasant Romney-Brown operative, this is not a firing offense. The cracks in the finely groomed image is punishment enough.

Can't we all just lighten up?

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beacon Hill earthquake

Is it a mere coincidence that the earth moved after Deval Patrick and legislative leaders announced a long-delayed compromise on casino gambling?

For all the apocalyptic talks on both sides of the issue about the good and evil of three casinos and a slots parlor -- and for all the hand-wringing over how this bill was crafted -- it seems like a nice Hollywood touch to add the wrath of nature to the debate.

But the reality is the measure unveiled yesterday by Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray is pretty anti-climatic.

While I have not read every clause, comma and citation and don't know if some goodies hide there, it appears the bill represents the last, best offer of the Patrick administration from the summer of 2010. That's when DeLeo went all in for the moribund tracks in his district and rolled snake eyes.

Critics are concerned over the fact the measure was crafted out of public view, but I can't recall a time covering Beacon Hill when I sat in the room when the lawyers cited chapter and verse and laid out the words on a typewriter.

Legislation is drafted in closed offices for public discussion -- and heaven knows this bill will have plenty of that -- in hearings and then again on the floor of the House and Senate.

That will be the time for opponents to raise the quite legitimate arguments about whether casino gambling is really the financial panacea supporters claim it to be and whether lawmakers are prepared to deal with the real problems of false economic hopes in a down economy.

But it's hard to ignore the ground shaking at this announcement. I'm sure casino supporters would have much preferred a rainbow leading to the Golden Dome.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tone deaf candidate

Myth Romney seems to have emerged from his recent unemployment: he plans to quadruple the size of his seaside California estate.

By now, you must also have heard all the obvious cracks: the La Jolla manse will be adding left and right wings, complete with changing rooms. The dog house will be strapped to the roof. The house is ideally situated to take advantage of the labor force needed to care for the lawn.
“They want to enlarge their two-bedroom home because with five married sons and 16 grandchildren, it is inadequate for their needs,” the official explained.
Think he'll have a problem getting a mortgage?

With exquisite timing, word of the expansion comes as Romney prepares for a fund-raiser on Martha's Vineyard, you know that island in one of the Mittser's home states that Barack Obama is taking heat for vacationing on.

Is there any wonder why the GOP keeps embracing Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry while waiting for the Alaska/Arizona savior to emerge?

Maybe Myth and Sarah Palin can compare their latest real estate forays in debates on the housing crisis?

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Monday, August 22, 2011

The media ate my brain

Darn, I missed America's version of the Royal Wedding!

Slowly returning the world and the blogosphere after the Overheated Debt Ceiling Melodrama -- and the Washington press corps' inability to see beyond political strategies -- I had hoped some time, distance and some R&R would help.

Wrong.

In the intervening days I've seen superficial coverage of Rick "Secede or Lead?" Perry as the latest GOP flavor du jour (except for this New York Times look at how bidness and gummit interact in Texas).

Then there's the ultimately phony "debate" about Barack Obama's Martha's Vineyard vacation (here's an angle no one except for one-time Massachusetts-based reporter would catch).

On the sports front, we're regaled with apologias for one over-priced athlete and another let down by his friends.

Whatever happened to media promises to stop messing around with the trivia, particularly in politics and government,and start to focus on real issues and real answers.

At least I know Kim and Kris' "Cinderella" wedding will be on TV in a few months. And Kris won't have to worry about it being upstaged by his NBA career.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

It's on!

You can believe Deval Patrick when he says he' s not running for Senate.

Elizabeth Warren offered unmistakable signs she's interested in taking on Scott Brown. And by enlisting top operatives Doug Rubin and Kyle Sullivan she has loudly signaled Patrick means what he says about staying out.

Warren came out strong from the gate, stressing her middle class family roots, ready for the GOP attack that success can only be marked as a captain of industry or Wall Street and not as a college faculty member, least of all at Harvard. Funny how the GOP accuses Democrats of playing class warfare when they excel at the tactic.

Growing up, every decision for my family involved a careful calculation about how we could pay for it — a visit to the doctor, a tank of gas to drive to my grandparents’ house, a new pair of school shoes.

My Aunt Bert cut everyone’s hair, my Aunt Bee bought my Easter dress every year, and my brother David paid for his school clothes with money from his paper route. There were plenty of ups and downs. When my father had a heart attack, the store where he worked changed his job and cut his pay. We lost our car, and my mother went to work answering phones at Sears so we could make the mortgage payments.

My parents worked hard all their lives. My three older brothers carved out their own futures—one was career air force, one worked heavy construction, and one started his own business. I went to college on a scholarship, got married, and started teaching in an elementary school. But I never shook off the worry: did we have enough money to cover basic expenses, enough money to help our parents retire, enough money to build secure futures for our children?

Warren's Blue Mass Group debut recognizes the strength of the Democratic primary is to raise the temperature among Democratic activists who have been hashing out the odds of this race -- and the chances of its myriad faceless candidates for months.

None of the Democrats -- Setti Warren, Alan Khazei, Tom Conroy, et al. -- have the stellar name recognition. And to a large extent, neither does Warren, although her championing of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau made her a household name among national Democrats and a regular guest of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher.

One thing is clear: a Warren-Brown match-up would be a doozy of a discussion about the role of banks and the financial industry in the fall of our nation's economy. Brown has racked in big bucks from the industry at whose feet Warren is not shy about laying blame.

The first thing Warren needs to do is raise her visibility among progressive voters who don't wallow in the blogs. And in hiring Rubin and Sullivan, who helped get an obscure black corporate lawyer from Harvard who possessed a great family story elected governor twice is a good way to start.

Things may start to be fun again -- until the Super Committee enrages us all.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kuchinich time

You would hope after the recent turmoil triggered by the Republican assault on fiscal rationality party leaders would have learned a lesson. You would be wrong.

After a questionable ratings decision by Standard & Poor's -- even if it fingered political posturing as a major problem -- and a wild ride on Wall Street -- House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell selected ideologues to a joint "super committee" that's supposed to reach a "grand bargain" on spending cuts and revenue increases.
Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group, said the nine members named so far did not inspire optimism. “I would not call it a dream team for a grand bargain,” he said.
No, naming Pat Toomey, the former head of the Club for Growth is not a symbol of compromise, no matter what words come out of his mouth today. Nor is the selection of Texan Jed Hensarling or John Kyl of Arizona.

As usual, the Democrats played fair in their opening move, naming three senators, including John Kerry, known for deal-making ability. But after the GOP counter, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi ought to put Dennis Kuchinich in the panel to show Republicans they won't back down.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Turkey surprise

It seems appropriate Congress set Thanksgiving as the deadline for agreeing on additional economic "adjustments." After all, the first stage is a turkey.

"Buoyed with confidence" would hardly seem to be the word from investors as they survey the process and the results of the Tea Party assault on our economic recovery. Lawmakers apparently ignored 800 years of economic history in opting to try and bring an already feeble recovery to a screeching halt.

Harvard economics professor Kenneth Rogoff, who studied 800 years of financial crises and is coauthor of the book “This Time is Different; Eight Centuries of Financial Folly,’" was blunt in his assessment to the Globe, noting typically takes about 4 1/2 years before per capita income returns to pre-recession levels.

Even worse:
“I don’t think the cutbacks are as big a problem as the process - and that was a disaster,’’ Rogoff said. “What really bothers me is that the whole process is a constitutional crisis that makes the US Congress look like the Italian parliament. And that’s not good for growth.’’
Wall Street certainly agrees.

So now it's up to 12 members of Congress to reach agreement on still deeper economy-damaging cuts. If they fail to come up with something, automatic cuts will kick in.

With Republicans talking about keeping anyone who supports a tax increase off the panel -- and Democrat countering with a oppose entitlement changes -- are we likely to see anything different come Thanksgiving but another giant turkey?

Maybe we should tell them to stuff it.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Cataloguing the wreckage

Just as Massachusetts appears to be rising above the recession, the budget deal being shoved down the nation's throat is poised to stop the climb.

That's a reasonable conclusion in the face of an estimated $1.2 billion, two-year loss stemming from the Tea Party-inspired end to the debt ceiling crisis they manufactured in service of their rich overlords.

The deal, if approved in the Senate as is now expected, targets such "fat cats" as the poor, the sick and college students who get assistance through food stamps, Medicaid and student loans at non-usurious repayment rates. Also on the line are industries that rely on federal dollars to innovate, including our two biggest drivers -- health care and higher education.

The exact outlines are still unclear and it is possible the recent rise in state tax receipts, if they continue, can help cushion some of the blow. But that would be money not available to use to help build Massachusetts' own tattered human service programs.

The Tea Party wreckage goes far beyond mere dollars and a recovery delayed. The strained bonds of civility, the shared sense of common purpose that has served this country well, are going to take some time to heal, if at all.

Much like their ancestors in the Old Confederacy, the Tea Party has created civil unrest by insisting on solutions that are wrong for America. It took more than a century to begin to repair the damage caused by that Civil War. There's no telling how long it will take to repair these destructive moves, especially when we have to go through this again at Thanksgiving.

Healing can't begin until we begin to throw those rascals out, which will not be a short-term process.

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Tyranny of the minority

The deal is done (maybe) and everyone appears to be unhappy. With flames leaping around Barack Obama, it's important to keep our eyes on the real devils of this mess: the Tea Party renegades who would sacrifice our economy and national honor for ideology.

No one wins in the plan struck by Obama and congressional leaders: an economy teetering at stall speed is likely to sputter to a halt. Assuming approval of the deal, by no means a sure thing, we will continue to be consumed by this issue and not the broader national recovery needs.

Oh wait, the uber rich, the ultimate Tea Party constituency, did get a pass on paying their fair share, so I guess the Koch Brothers and their compatriots get to hang a W.

Once the blame game begins in earnest, it's most important to remember that fact. Obama and congressional Democrats were painted into a corner by bomb-throwing zealots who put party and ideology ahead of the country.

The choices offered to rational, clear thinkers were bad and worse -- and a proverbial gun was put to the nation's head to accept them.

There was no negotiation as a minority of extremists drove the debate. If, as we fear, they also drove the economy back into a ditch in the service of the masters, liberals should eschew their own tradition of eating their young. The fingers of blame should clearly be pointed at the Tea Party radicals in 2012.

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