< .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Massachusetts Liberal

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Oops, he did it again

If the goal of Mitt Romney's foreign trip was to be the Ugly American, he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Romney doubled down on his criticism of security at the London Olympics, and his fast day red meat speech at Jerusalem's Western Wall to take on the grandaddy of all Mideast blood feuds: declaring that Israel's "culture" was the reason the Jewish state was more successful than its fledgling and struggling Palestinian neighbor.

It was the equivalent of a child sticking a finger into an electric socket.
As I . . . consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.
And the response was equally jolting:
 “Today he referred to us as an inferior culture, when he said that Israelis have double our GDP,” said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian negotiator with the Israelis. “I’ve never heard such a racist statement from any Israeli. Yes, we have a conflict with the Israelis. But we never go down this road of racism.”
The seemingly irreconcilable conflict is about as deep and complex as it gets. The fierce hostility to Israel from Arab neighbors, many of whom have sworn its destruction, has in turn generated a standoff that includes occupation and an economic blockade of Arab territories.

In pandering for the votes of conservative Jews and Christians, Romney managed to ignore Rule No. 1 of diplomacy: be diplomatic. You do not offhandedly dismiss the views or sensitivities of the other side because you will need them to resolve conflicts.

It was the same ham-handed approach he offered in going all-in on the Netanyahu policy of threatening a preemptive attack on Iran even as the United States and allies are working a double-edged approach of sanctions and diplomacy to achieve the same end -- the elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat.

Even conservative Republicans found his performance odd:
"Because it’s billed as a layup — it’s billed as something that should be simple — perhaps he let his guard down," said Hogan Gidley, a senior aide under former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. "You say, ’Gosh, this guy is so scripted, the campaign is so disciplined, so smart, how could this happen?
One can only hold their breath to see what Romney will say or do -- and take comfort that the king of flip-floppers will come up with a new position if he ever addresses Palestinian supporters.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mitt's excellent adventure

An awful lot of red herring was served up on fast day astride the holiest site in the Jewish faith.

Mitt Romney's speech at the Western Wall offered little different from the standard speech of American presidents, including Barack Obama. Defense of Israel's right to exist and defend itself has been a foundation of American foreign policy since the Jewish state was created in 1948.

But that did not stop Our Man Myth from trying to create another one -- that somehow he has a special relationship with Israel and its leader Benjamin Netanyahu and would be a dramatically different friend than Obama.

While Obama has led the world's charge against Iran's threat to create a nuclear weapon -- one that would no doubt be aimed at Israel -- that state has chosen to keep the threat of a preemptive military strike high on its agenda.

In a sense it's been the ultimate good cop, bad cop scenario, with the American-led effort designed to squeeze Iran to the negotiating table while the Israelis offer the vision of what awaits a nation that refuses to play well with others in the international sandbox.

But in the hands of conservative ideologues like casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, whose hatred for Obama overwhelms reason, Obama is made to look like Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who tried to appease Adolf Hitler.

Same old story of Obama Derangement Syndrome, with a far more dangerous blowback to national and international security.

Romney apparently has a warmer relationship with Netanyahu than Obama, although with all things Myth, that's subject to interpretation.

What's overwhelmingly clear is that Romney offered nothing new in his second major foreign policy foray -- but at least he didn't step into anything quite as deep as his less than excellent Olympic visit.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Mitt the Twit"

So much for that special Anglo-Saxon bond.

Mitt Romney managed to miff London, British Conservative Party leaders and a host of proud Anglo-Saxons when he sniffed about the state of security at the start of the London Olympics. The headline in Rupert Murdoch's Sun aptly summarized the hard feelings after the head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee declared:
“It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting.”
No less a stiff upper lip than Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to shoot back:
“We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”
Ouchie.

What makes the diplomatic incident all the more amusing is it came just days after an unnamed -- and supposedly discredited Romney aide -- offered a thinly veiled reference to the difference in his man's background compared to that of noted Kenyan Muslim Barack Hussein Obama:
"We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special," the Telegraph quoted the adviser as saying, "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."
Can't wait to see what Our Man Myth says is Israel and Poland.

File under: Ugly American.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wrong green

I'm someone who cares about the environment, recycles regularly at work and home and thinks about how to make the world a little greener.

I also think expanding the state's bottle law to include water, juice and sports drinks is ill-advised in this state with widely available curbside recycling. And the suggestion it should serve as a resource for low-income residents -- in place of a well-run job training or benefit program -- is highly insulting.

The initial law putting nickel deposits on cans and bottles was an important step in cleaning and greening Massachusetts. I have a small stockpile of bottles in the basement that collect during rare trips out to the packie.

And as regular readers know, I am on the progressive side of the aisle, concerned about the well-being of the 99 percent (of which I a a proud member).

But I can't help but being appalled that expansion of the law is being touted as a form of public assistance:
There are a lot of people who supplement their income by picking up empty containers, and if the containers that don’t have a deposit are included, they’ll pick those up as well, which will benefit them as well as reduce litter,” said Phil Sego, a spokesman for Massachusetts Sierra Club. “It’s an unintended benefit.”
Is that the best argument environmentalists can come up with to extend a law that once was the only form of recycling but now is only a piece of a broader green effort.

And with all due respect, I'm not heartened by arguments of the folks who run the redemption center, who stand to get a cut with the expanded law. The bottlers who spew the containers have never really paid a fair share of their clean-up and relief for the centers should come from the firms that make the trash.

It sounds as if the strongest arguments in favor of expansion are financial, not environmental. That's the absolutely wrong reason to nickel and dime people.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Olympian flip-flop

Some men leave giant footsteps. Myth Romney is intent on leaving no paper trail.

The Boston Globe reports today the man who promised "complete transparency" when he took over the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics left behind no paper trail, much as he did when he left the governor's office in 2006 -- allowing his staff to purchase and destroy computer hard drives.

And in both instances, he had ready made excuses, from it was perfectly legal to this familiar response from current campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul:
“Mitt Romney resigned from SLOC in early 2002 to run for governor of Massachusetts and was not involved in the decision-making regarding the final disposition of records.”
In other words, the buck stops somewhere else.

It's now an all-too-familiar pattern, whether it is hard copies, hard drives or SEC documents. Romney runs things until it is appropriate for him to declare he has "no controlling legal authority," a concept that drove the Right wild when it emerged from the mouth of Al Gore.

This lack of records prevents anyone who comes along afterward to doubt or second-guess. It is the direct opposite of transparency, the same penchant for secrecy when Romney stands his own father's standard on its head and releases not 12 years of tax records but two, sort of, and says "trust me."

Romney has declared virtually all of his history off limits to scrutiny, changes positions as frequent as some people change sheets and demands that the American people trust him to do what's right.

It's a pretty outrageous demand coming from someone unwilling to be judged on an actual record and not a pre-packaged fantasy.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Misplaced priorities

What does it say about a nation where it's easier to buy ammunition than cold medications?

That's the cold, hard reality after we learned that James Holmes was able to purchase 6,000 rounds -- including 3,000 for an assault rifle -- over the Internet without so much as producing a driver's license.

Regular readers will recall I generally rant about the hoops needed to purchase medication to cure the sneezes and sniffles that come with a cold. The fear that someone can purchase massive amounts of the remedy to make crystal meth has made suspected criminals of all of us.

But clearly meth heads don't have the same lobbying power as the National Rifle Association, which has bought politicians of both parties to ensure that no regulation -- no matter how sane or logical -- can be applied to something that is far deadlier than thousands of cold pills in the wrong hands.

We can't accurately predict the results of elections let alone the weather. But we can predict without any hesitation what will happen after this latest example of Americans Gone Wild.

Nothing. Zippo. Nada.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 20, 2012

Romney agonistes

It all depends on what the meaning of the word control is.

Mitt Romney is working the thesaurus hard in trying to explain why he was "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” of Bain Capital but not the one making decisions on anything other his own severance.

The Globe spells out that Romney's relationship with the firm he founded was pretty much what he defined it to be at any given moment. The one last, overriding deal involved the leveraged buyout of Willard M. Romney:
“The elephant in the room was not whether Mitt was involved in investment decisions but Mitt’s retention of control of the firm and therefore his ability to extract a huge economic benefit by delaying his giving up of that control,” said one former associate, who, like some other Romney associates, spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the company.
There's only one thing clear in the verbal gymnastics on display in this ongoing story, which includes Romney's adamant refusal to release tax records that might shed light on his severance and subsequent overseas havens in which it landed. The presumptive GOP nominee did not receive a mere two weeks severance and a handshake of thanks that some Americans get when they leave a job.

And it was a lot better than the layoff notices that Bain, the company he nurtured and built into this image, helped hand out during and after his tenure, whether it was the companies that closed their doors forever or those who moved their operations overseas.

If only Romney had worked this hard when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mitt's money

Mitt Romney misses the point, as usual, in his refusal to come clean on the nature of the breadth and depth of his wealth.
“In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy,” Mr. Romney told National Review on Tuesday, explaining his opposition to a broader release of his tax data. “And I’m simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort and lie about.”
It's not about oppo research, Mitt. It's about being open and honest with the people you are asking to give you a job.

Running for president is like no other job. It requires a person to have an overwhelming ego and extraordinary resources, both personal and financial. And it requires that person to lay themselves bare -- no secrets.

Romney's refusal to reveal more than the snippet of income tax returns he has so far inevitably suggest major skeletons in the closet, things so glaring that an average American won't need an opposition research team and a microscope to find. The 13.9 percent rate he paid on income in 2010 stands as proof Romney has a better deal than most of the Americans he would represent.

There's probably ample signs of the legal tax avoidance available only to wealthy Americans -- sheltered investments in Bermuda, Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

And pundits have noted that after examining 23 years of returns that Romney provided John McCain, the Arizona senator decided on the untested then-governor of Alaska as a running mate instead of a man who had proven a tough competitor on the campaign trail.

The request for what might be called a fiscal colonoscopy is not an unreasonable demand of the Obama campaign. It's an integral part of the job interview process. Romney needs to prove himself to the American people, win their trust,

And that's something he can't do as long as he won't trust US.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Being Bielat

There he goes again. Being evasive about how he makes a living.

The last time we saw Sean Bielat, the man who talked a better game than he ran against Barney Frank, he was defending his decision to pay himself a salary from funds he raised during the 2010 campaign.

Bielat is back -- in a three-way race to be the Republican nominee against Joseph P. Kennedy III -- and he is just as slippery as ever in describing his livelihood. Or not describing it.

Bielat refuses to name the online start-up he runs - an interactive site that helps citizens directly contact any member of Congress about ­issues that concern them. He also refuses to name his financial backers.

Not the greatest example of transparency from a guy who showed a tendency to overstate and obfuscate during his last congressional run.

Republicans are having a hard time raising cash to take on Kennedy (for whom, in the interest of transparency, I have written a check). It will only get harder if the candidates like Bielat, who have already had some interesting uses for their donations, are secretive when it comes to finances.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

For Sale: Washington

Want an answer to why our government is gridlocked? Look at yesterday's Senate vote blocking discussion of a measure to bring sunshine to the campaign finance laws.

With Republicans -- including our own Scott Brown -- voting in lockstep, the Senate refused to even debate the Disclose Act. That's the Democratic sponsored legislation to undo the damage of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that is enabling billionaires like casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to spend millions to buy Mitt Romney.

Special interest money is flowing through Washington like water and yes, Republicans have the monetary advantage this cycle. But the corrupting influence of money afflicts both parties -- and the losers are the people who take second fiddle to the corporate interests who are adept at purchasing the Best Congress Money Can Buy.

Into this fray stepped Charles Schumer and Chris van Hollen, who have taken very prominent roles in raising money for Democratic congressional candidates. Cynics would suggest their interest is fueled because they know the decks are stacked.

Nevertheless, they proposed something very basic for the political health of our nation:
To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit foreign influence in Federal elections, to prohibit government contractors from making expenditures with respect to such elections, and to establish additional disclosure requirements with respect to spending in such elections, and for other purposes.
Republicans have responded to business as usual in Washington well, with business as usual. Listen to Senate Minority Leader Mitch "One-Term for Obama" McConnell:
“This amounts to nothing more than member and donor harassment and intimidation, and it’s all part of a broader government-led intimidation effort by this administration,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, who once advocated broader disclosure but has become the legislation’s fiercest critic.
The over-the-top rhetoric is the sort of free speech guaranteed by the Constitution, which is mute on the concept of government of the highest bidder as sanctioned by the Roberts Court.

It is worth mentioning again that the supposedly bipartisan, "independent" Brown voted to even allow debate on the topic that is rotting Congress from the inside out.

And it's also worth a mention that Brown has been silent on this topic, as he is on virtually anything that doesn't involve his family or Elizabeth Warren's heritage.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fine whine

I don't know about you, but I'd sure remember when I left a job that paid me $100,000.

That, in a nutshell, is why Mitt Romney's protests over Barack Obama's focus on his tenure at Bain Capital is significant -- and why Romney's complaints about the continued attention to the issue is nothing more than the usual whine you hear when bullies get a taste of their own medicine.

Romney aides are now claiming Mittnocchio "retroactively retired" from Bain -- turning a leave of absence taken in 1999 into a formal retirement three years later. That was after he saved the Salt Lake Olympics and negotiated a retirement package that's apparently so lucrative he's afraid to share his tax returns with the American public.

Romney and his surrogates complain it's unfair for the other side to sift through his resume for the types of inconsistencies that mar his political stances.

But the flip-flops in the documentation of his tenure is even more significant than those he has made on abortion and gay rights to name two. These inconsistent answers come in documents filed with state and federal authorities, a fact that would make mere mortals vulnerable to review from investigators far more important than reporters.

If Romney can't be straight about details of his career, why should we assume he can be honest about anything?

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mitt-no-cchio

Mitt Romney lied: a) to the SEC; b) to the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission; c) the American people; d) all of the above.

Those are the stark choices facing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a fact that seem to be eluding members of the national political press corps as they play the "he said, he said" game of "objectivity" in Romney's dance around his tenure at Bain Capital.

Take for example today's New York Times' account of Romney's defensive media tour:
Proving his presence at Bain between 1999 and 2002 would create a direct link to what Mr. Obama’s team describes as the outsourcing of American jobs. And it would contradict Mr. Romney’s repeated assertions that by then he had left Bain, the private equity firm he founded, to rescue the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.
But definitive proof about Mr. Romney’s activities remains elusive, leading to another day of increasingly bitter charges and countercharges from the two campaigns.
Except the real issue is not Bain and Romney's role in outsourcing American jobs. It is Romney's inconsistent statements to state and federal authorities, written or spoken under some form of oath.

Romney was at it again during his TV blitz, offering a carefully parsed statement from his rustic New Hampshire vacation retreat:
“There’s a difference between being a shareholder — an owner, if you will — and being a person who’s running an entity."
That's true -- as far as it goes, which is not very far. Documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission declare Romney as:
chief executive, president, chairman, and sole stockholder as late as 2002.
Chief executive, something he is currently running for, is something far different -- at least to 99 percent of Americans -- than shareholder or owner. Decisions are made by and bucks stop with executives, presidents and chairmen.

Or, in the words of David Bernstein of The Boston Phoenix:
...he was apparently freely signing off on anything required of the president and owner, without, apparently, feeling like that meant he actually had any responsibility for anything happening at the company. It looks like legal, regulatory, and fiduciary responsibilities don't really mean anything to super-wealthy executive types -- not like when regular people sign employment documents, or mortgage documents, and so on."
But if that is not clear enough, there are documents surrounding his 2002 run for Massachusetts governor that tell a different story.

First there's the testimony before the Ballot Law Commission -- which rejected a Democratic  challenge to his Massachusetts residency because he was in Utah running the Salt Lake Olympics:
“When I left my employer in Massachusetts in February of 1999 to accept the Olympic assignment,” Romney testified before the state Ballot Law Commission on June 17, 2002, “I left on the basis of a leave of absence, indicating that I, by virtue of that title, would return at the end of the Olympics to my employment at Bain Capital, but subsequently decided not to do so and entered into a departure agreement with my former partners.”
Romney also testified to "a number of social trips and business trips that brought [him] back to Massachusetts, board meetings” during his Olympic tenure. And financial disclosure records filed with the Commonwealth indicate:
... Romney earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.
In criminal terms, there is circumstantial evidence but nothing "beyond a reasonable doubt" to prove Romney was directly involved in Bain decisions from 1999 until 2001 that resulted in Americans jobs being shipped overseas.

There is, however, substantial evidence that Romney has told different stories about those years to different authorities, tailoring his testimony to the circumstances that best suited him.

Among the nicknames hung on Romney by the press corps that knows him best is "Slick Willard." A popular blog tracking his gubernatorial tenure was entitled "Romney is a Fraud." Personally I've always been fond of "Myth" Romney.

His track record on veracity is the issue facing the national media, one they have done an abysmal job exploring to date.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 13, 2012

Never mind!

Here's the tale of Mendacious Mitt and Slippery Scotto, two prominent Massachusetts Republicans with veracity issues.

Let's start with Senator Barn Coat, who when he wasn't meeting with kings and queens was taking calls from secretaries of state.

As Emily Litella was fond of saying: Never mind.

But Brown's fanciful mischaracterizations are a mere blip compared to the antics of Willard M. Romney, who appears to have filed what might charitably be described as misleading documents related to this ownership stake in Bain Capital -- and offering what may also charitably be called a non-denial denial about those actions.

While media outlets expanded yesterday's Boston Globe report on the Bain documents -- citing Romney's own testimony at the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission among other sources -- the Romney camp took the tried and true path of prevaricators, attacking the messenger.

When it wasn't accusing the Obama campaign of being "reckless," the Romney team demanded a correction from the Globe, without offering any specifics to back up its claim that the Globe erred in the story.

As Globe editor Marty Baron noted:
“The Globe story was based on government documents filed by Bain Capital itself.”
This latest episode only underscores what has been perfectly clear about Myth Romney since he entered the political arena in 1994. He will say and do anything to close a deal. Truth is merely one option in his arsenal, one that seems to be used only on occasion.

As a service to loyal readers, I leave you with this guide the new political pot-boiler, 50 Shades of Truth.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More Mythology

Mitt Romney just can't seem to handle the truth.

The Boston Globe reports Romney was still running Bain Capital three years after he claimed to have left. The source of this revelation? Signed government documents. Signed no doubt under "pains and penalties of perjury."

Romney's, um, lies, are found on documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and, in a lovely twist of irony, the Massachusetts Ethics Commission.

The SEC documents from 2002 list him as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president,” although Our Man Myth claims to have retired in 1999.

Ethics Commission financial disclosures say he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate and apart from the money he received as investment income.

The Romney camp dismisses the documents, saying what counts is the one he filed June 1 as a candidate.
“Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way."
So does that make all the other documents he filed "inoperative?"

Aside from the legal ramifications related to filing dishonest documents, the disclosures raise a string of questions starting with Romney's denials of involvement with some of the deals Bain brokered that left thousands unemployed while the company earned millions in fees.

They also join the flip-flops Romney has taken on probably every political position under the sun.

And they explain why Mitt Romney is unwilling to follow the precedent set by George Romney in releasing 12 years of financial records.

It has been reported Romney has placed some of his prodigious Bain earnings in offshore accounts in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, nations notorious for providing protection from prying eyes, like those of governments.

What is Myth Romney hiding from the American people?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Political theater

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. And again. And again.

Our Do-Nothing House of Representatives is voting today (by some counts for the 30th time) to repeal Obamacare. We know about it thanks to Fox News.

What we don't know is why, when lawmakers have failed to vote on any of Barack Obama's job creation proposals, are they wasting time -- not to mention lights, air conditioning and the tax dollars that go to their salaries and own health care needs?

Oh wait a minute, we do: political grandstanding.

It's been almost two weeks since conservative Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion upholding the constitutionality of the law designed to extend health care coverage -- and reduce federal spending. Yet the GOP continues to make health care repeal the centerpiece of their "plan" to get the nation out of the recession caused by their own policies of credit card wars and a financial community run amok.

I'm hard pressed to find a better definition of obsessive behavior. Or of an organization that puts its own political goals ahead of the welfare of the country it is supposed to be helping to lead.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Too much libor-ty

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be bankers.

It's way too early in yet the latest banking scandal to rock the financial world to understand the ins and outs of the Libor system. That's the London Interbank Offered Rate system that sets interest rates around the world,

But its not too early to see how big banks manipulated the system by shaving points off the rate and making substantial profits off the manipulation. Or to see how lax regulation led to the profiteering.

Nor is too early to remind Massachusetts voters which of the US Senate candidates is for tougher oversight of our financial institutions -- and which one would rather talk about his family. And his opponent's family.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, July 09, 2012

Too much news?

Newspapers are shrinking, television news programs are retrenching and reporting is even being moved offshore. So you would think the last thing journalists would complain about is too much news.

Yet that's been one of the reactions to HBO's "The Newsroom," Aaron Sorkin's homage to the era of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley, when news was presented by three networks in 30 minute chunks -- and anchormen were trusted, to the point of being seen as your friendly uncle.

Today's 140-character news cycle is a far cry from those days, which is at the heart of one journalistic lament about the overkill in information passing itself off as "news you can use."

But the number of shots at Sorkin's romanticized look at what a newsroom should be suggests there's more than a bit of jealousy among reporters who know that we can never return to those thrilling days of yesterday. No matter how much we would want to.

Sorkin has crafted programs around the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Tea Party takeover, offering his idealized view of journalists digging beyond the obvious headlines to the offer the story behind the story.

Last night's episode focusing on the deep-pocketed billionaires behind the supposed grassroots Tea Party movement is a story all but one news outlet has failed to address, settling for Sarah Palin soundbites and illogical quotes from people demanding you "keep your goddamn government hands off my Medicare."

We are also treated to a boardroom discussion with the head of news and the boss of the fictional company, who worried that she would now have to do business with the Tea Party candidates elected in 2010 despite her fictional anchors efforts to expose them as empty vessels.

Critics complain the episodes are over the top, that no newsroom operates like Will McAvoy, an openly conservative Republican who is managing editor and anchorman for a struggling news program and who adopts truth over ratings at the urging of a former lover hired without his knowledge.

While the character sketch is certainly over the top, dramatic license, the basic message is unmistakable and spot on: journalism has lost out to "news," an ephemeral concept that includes stargazing and consumer fluff instead of hard-hitting reporting in line with the industry's idealized motto of "comfort the afflicted and afflict to the comfortable."

You need look no farther than the casting of Jane Fonda, ex-wife of former CNN boss Ted Turner,  as the fearful network mogul to get the picture.

Newsrooms have changed substantially since my days -- not only technologically but in the forces driving them. Once loss leaders, news divisions are expected to generate rating and profits, hence the explosions of talking heads from Hannity and O'Reilly to Anderson Cooper who populate prime time.

Newsrooms have indeed lost their way, but not from the glut of too much news. Sorkin's dramas are shattering journalists own fantasies and that's what hurts so much.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, July 06, 2012

The cruelest season

What is it about summers and Massachusetts when it comes to presidential candidates?

Michael Dukakis retreated to a working state business hiatus in western Massachusetts in August 1988 and lost his post-convention bounce on his way to losing to George H.W. Bush, who steered clear of his cigarette boat -- if not Boston Harbor.

Sixteen years later, John Kerry opted to go windsurfing off Nantucket and give George W. Bush a perfect photo to go with his campaign ads.

Now, Mitt Romney is tooling around Winnipesaukee on a jet ski built for two, while conservatives use him for fuel in a camp fire of scorn over his "it's a penalty, it's a tax" flip-flop.

Is it any wonder Barack Obama is getting anywhere near Martha's Vineyard this summer?

While it is true that the majority of Americans are tuned out of the presidential campaign at this point, the ever-cautious Romney needs to be concerned that he is being used as the rope in the never-ending tug of war between the hard right and the majority of Americans.

Sniping by Rupert Murdoch and William Kristol has to be unnerving at some level to the otherwise sang froid Romney and his team. Between them, Murdoch and Kristol represent publications that can make Romney's political life more complicated as they continue to try and nudge Mr. Etch a Sketch away from the center that he's been inching toward.

But that even takes second place to the self-inflicted damage Myth Romney has created by his inartful gyrations over the Supreme Court's ruling on the health care mandate and the Arizona immigration law.

The DVRs at Obama's Chicago headquarters have no doubt been working overtime to record Romney's multiple choice answers -- and his aides stonewalling -- for use in campaign spots later this year.

The same holds true for those taking down headlines from stories about Romney's less-than-clearly timed departure from Bain Capital; his off-shoring of jobs; not to mention his own cash.

The time has almost arrived for the Romney clan to leave tax-free New Hampshire and head back out on to the trail. The Obama camp is probably even more sorry that the Romneys to see that break end.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Pretzel man

So is Myth Romney lying when he says the health care mandate is a tax or that he never raised taxes in Massachusetts?

The Man without a Core has produced his greatest flip flop yet with the admission that the Supreme Court ruling upholding health care's individual mandate as a tax, means the penalty assessments are just that.
“The majority of the court said it is a tax, therefore it is a tax. The majority has spoken,’’ Romney said. “There is no way around that.’’
Never mind that Eric "Etch a Sketch" Ferhnstrom declared that Romney disagreed with the Court's characterization -- or that Romney himself has fluctuated between the tax and penalty definition since Massachusetts enacted the law in 2006.
 “Using tax penalties, as we did ... encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves.”
But Romney has now opened himself up to flip-flopping on one of the centerpieces of his campaign -- that he never raised taxes during his term as Massachusetts governor. It was a needle-threading claim to be sure, given the $700 million in fees that were raised to close budget gaps.

Oh sure, Pretzel Man is trying to claim that if the Supreme Court calls it a tax on the national level that doesn't mean the same thing for the states, an insulting twist to the intelligence of anyone with a basic command of the English language -- and logic.

But, given Romney's own words calling it a penalty tax, Our Man Myth needs to explain what amounts to roughly $100 million in additional revenue that has gone into Massachusetts coffers since enactment of RomneyCare.

Which is the bigger lie Gov. Pinocchio?

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Glitch this!

You would think the MBTA would have had enough time -- to prepare better excuses.

The first few days of higher fares can only be described as disastrous for our transit system -- highlighted by a software "glitch" that causes chaos for commuters using their new passes to transfer from commuter rail to the subway system.

MBTA Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis blamed software for the snafu that required to wave hundreds of people through the fare gates.
“It was an unfortunate circumstance and something that I don’t think could have been foreseen, but we acted very quickly to fix the problem.”
On the Credibility Meter, that ranks below 0. With months to get ready for the changeover in fares, no one thought to test and re-test software to make sure it was ready for the contingency of a commuter rail-subway transfer?

Service was its usual mess. A Sunday night Fenway Park concert meant an endless wait in a hot Green Line station in the vague hope a car that did not resemble a human sardine can rolled in. Finally Mrs. OL and I settled for something that got us out of Copley and left only a 20-minute walk home instead of the usual two minutes if we had been able to board the correct branch.

Monday night's Red Line horror show would be newsworthy only if it was new instead of the daily ritual.

T officials expect a drop in ridership from the higher fares. It will be a lot higher than they expect if they do not begin to do something about the chronic and predictable rotten service that accompanies the higher prices.

Labels:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Warning shot

Mitt Romney isn't feeling the love from a prominent conservative who buys his ink by the barrel.

Rupert Murdoch's forays into the Twitterverse has been the source of some amusement as the Last Newspaperman has been offering his view on everything from the TomKat breakup to the state of European euro debates.

But the folks at Team Romney has to be at least a bit nervous as the Man Behind the Fox Network turned his attention to them:
"Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful"
Obviously Our Man Myth was attempting to do what he does best -- ingratiate himself with the conservative base he needs to win on November.

And while Murdoch's expressed his concerns with the candidate's brain trust rather than the candidate himself, it's also clear the wily media mogul knows that Romney's "old friends" are part of the core that has led hi to this point.

Murdoch has shown a surprising unpredictability in political matters -- supporting Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate bid in New York --  and it is well-established that Fox News is in the iron grip of Roger Ailes and not Sir Rupert.

It's not likely that any Murdoch enterprise will roll out the red carpet for Barack Obama. Nor will Murdoch endorse Obama personally or professionally.

But his skepticism is likely to send shudders through the Romney camp when the Father of the Movement questions the candidate's ability to prevail.

Labels: , , , , , ,