Bubble or not
: Can someone tell Hub Blog where the American Prospect's Robert Kuttner is headed with this piece on the real estate market
? He raises an excellent question in the first sentence, then doesn’t deliver, unless you count the obvious what-goes-up-must-come-down cliche as compelling.
Kuttner uses Boston as an example of a city with high housing costs. "Boston, further, is an old city with little buildable land in its core areas," he writes. "And federal housing subsidies have virtually disappeared." Maybe that last sentence is the point: To bemoan the federal government's reduced role in housing. But Kuttner makes no mention that thousands of new private housing units have indeed been built in recent years on Boston's "little buildable land." And thousands of other private housing units are now on the drawing boards. There's an historic boom in real estate prices here, yes. But there's also an historic building boom without federal support. Why? Well, Boston is popular and vibrant. Demand for housing is high. The market is reacting. But could the building boom also be tied, at least partly, to the recent lifting of rent control in Boston, as many developers and experts have suggested? Could it be that Boston's current housing shortage is at least partly due to past, misguided government policies that stymied private construction? The bottom line is that Boston's housing market is wacky, dynamic and defies simple explanation. You wouldn't know that from Kuttner's throw-away, late-summer rumination.
Tolman update, Part II
: Count Thomas Keane as another one who thinks Warren Tolman's candidacy is surging
. (See item below.)
: The players and owners settled their differences and avoided a MLB strike. But Gordon Edes explains why the Sox may have lost
in the long run. Good explanatory piece.
: More bad news for Jim Koch and Sam Adams
beer. The Boston Beer/irresponsibility story isn’t going away. Buried in the same story are additional details about the ''Sex for Sam'' scandal, including the fact that “couples who had sex in public places were eligible to win a trip to Boston for a Sam Adams concert.” Koch wasn't just in the studio at the time. He was sponsoring
the sophmoric contest, for Christ sake.
Trains, trains, trains
: Hub Blog loves trains. The more, the merrier. There’s this good news
here, and also this interesting news
. And then there’s this
. The latter is pleasing but depressing at the same time. Why did it take so long for the MBTA to OK new commuter stops along the Fairmont line? Why did it take a mere $60,000 consulting report to change years, no, decades, of inaction? Hmmmmm. Hub Blog has its suspicions. This is Boston, after all.
: Seth Gitell is emerging as a top-notch political reporter for the Phoenix. Warren Tolman is indeed making waves
-- and people are beginning to recognize him. Gitell explains.
Sociology majors, Part II
: A friend and Hub Blog have been having an interesting correspondence about sociology majors posing as journalists, i.e. the type of reporters who do agenda-driven stories based on God-awful academic studies and government data. (See blog below.) My friend noted the "creeping" NYT phenomenon of such stories in print, which really say (as my astute friend puts it), "I'm writing this as a graduate of a prestigious university, you should know."
My reaction was this: "Having a closet sociology major on your editorial staff is an editor's worst nightmare, or at least it was my worst nightmare as an editor. The sociology majors are usually frustrated academics who see their jobs as journalists as engaging in 'real life' research, thus puffing themselves up in their own minds and making themselves acceptable to their tenured pals on campus. They usually rely on statistics, studies and professors for their sources. They couldn't cover a City Hall, a crime scene, a riot, a war, a hurricane, a flood or anything else that requires real, digging reporting. They need to have their info handed to them on a platter."
This is a real problem at newspapers: Reporters who don't report -- and don't like to report. They view themselves as "writers," "intellectuals" or "artists," and wince at the title "reporter." The Globe isn't alone in this trend. It's a growing problem throughout the industry. If an editor is truly lucky, the staff sociology major ends up leaving the paper to attend a writers' workshop or, better yet, moves to Europe.
The next attack
: John Ellis, a columnist for Boston-based Fast Company, muses on the possible reaction of Americans to the next terrorist attack
, assuming it's another whopper. The "Jacksonian" analogy seems forced. Still, Ellis' point is valid: We're not fighting a real war now, not in the conventional sense. We will be if terrorists strike again on the scale anywhere approaching Sept. 11. Postscript: Ellis, a former columnist with the Globe, has his own blog at www.johnellis.blogspot.com
A comic book?:
Remember those cool, futuristic sketches of the “soldier of the future” put out by MIT? The school cribbed them from a comic book
. Yes, a comic book. Life imitating ... comics? (Don’t tell the Europeans. They’d love to use this against us.)
How many more?:
The count is now eight local priests
criminally charged with sexual abuse.
OK, Jim Koch deserves criticism for whoring himself in general by appearing on a trashy radio show. But pouring perfectly good beer down sewers
: A friend recently wrote about the new “stealth environmentalism” in which NIMBY critics crusade against a policy under the guise of protecting the environment, when what they’re really trying to protect is property values. There’s a lot to be said against the proposed “wind farm” off of Nantucket. But this piece is classic stealth environmentalism
Believe, Steve, believe
: Steve Bailey has another good column, this one on the proposed resurrection of rent control
in Boston. Actually, a good case could be made that rent control is also bad for the environment. When companies can’t or won’t build in a city, they turn to the sprawl of the suburbs. Boston is in the middle of an historic residential construction boom. The urban trend should be encouraged, not discouraged. Environmentalists, take note.
: The Christian Science Monitor has a decent take on Sunday’s massive turnout
to view the Big Dig’s new tunnel. One objection: The story's claim that the turnout says much about Bostonians is backed up with an old stereotype of Bostonians. The fact is, just about everyone has a Tonker Truck gene in them. Doesn't matter what profession you're in. If you loved Tonker Trucks as a kid, then you love the Big Dig as a grown-up.
: Granted, Boston has a lot of academics in town -- and the Globe is the academics' favorite paper in town. But two pieces on income changes/disparities on Page 1 on the same day? This story
was particularly grandiose in ambition but hopelessly scatter-shot in reality: Income disparity, lack of education, globalization, tacky rich people washing their Porsches in front of their tacky homes. There were some gems of info in here, such as the amazing percentage of Asian-Americans now living in Weston and speaking in their native tongues at home. Or the marriage-rate disparity. Or the fact that the tacky person washing his Porsche is a self-made immigrant. But none of these items were fully examined. As a result, the story read like a young sociology major’s disjointed term paper.
Speaking of academics
: Harvard Law School is lifting its ban
on on-campus military recruiting, a ban that was imposed because of the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy towards gays. But the closer you look at the story, the more hypocritical Harvard Law School and the Bush Administration look. Turns out Harvard Law School already allowed military recruitment on campus through a technicality, permitting it to still receive federal funds. So much for its righteous ban. Then there’s the Bush administration putting the policy squeeze on a college, using the threat of withholding federal funds to get its way. Aren’t conservatives usually the ones warning about the feds insidiously using money as a bludgeon to impose policies? Postscript: Instapundit
reported this story four days ago.
: The Archdiocese of Boston is claiming it may have to declare bankruptcy -- and close schools etc. -- if it goes forward with a previously announced settlement agreement with the alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests. The Herald shows why this is bull
. A terrific, quick-hit investigative piece.
‘When newspeople go bad’
: Another friend, who’s also an unemployed journalist, sends this link
with the message: “You think you've
got problems, look at this guy. Just think, a bright future at the Weather Channel immediately extinguished over one's uncontrollable lust to hear ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise.’” At least he likes Jimmy B, compared with another Boston weatherman who recently bragged on the air about how much he loved Barry Manilow. And he’s still employed!
: In response to numerous O'Brien hack alerts on Hub Blog, a friend writes the following about the Dems' front-runner for governor: "I have an alternate explanation for one aspect of Shannon O'Brien's success. It is BECAUSE she is a hack, not despite it. She is the only female hack in what has been a true all-boys-network, and that is an important gender breakthrough. If she gives the slightest overt impression that she is anti-hack, she'll slide down the chute. This will be less of an advantage with the large undecided/suburban vote in the fall campaign, though not insurmountable." Makes sense to me.
Cathy Young pulls few punches in this op-ed piece on Martin Amis’ new book
''Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million.” But are all the punches fair? The punches she throws at Stalin and his legion of apologists are more than fair, needless to say. But what about her punches (as well as Amis') aimed at Christopher Hitchens? No admirer of Koba, Hitchens reviews (and gently defends himself) in this piece in Boston-based Atlantic Monthly
. Hitchens is too esoteric at times, and he continues, or so it seems, to still view the old Left through romantic lenses. But Hitchens makes a good case that Amis is exhibiting all the signs of a recent convert.
: Here’s another 600,000 reasons
why political leaders need to get their act together to make sure the final product -- the surface greenway where the Central Artery is now located -- is spectacularly beautiful.
This guy is a sleeper in the Dem primary
. I personally don’t like the Clean Elections law. I see PC policing just around the corner. But don’t underestimate how pissed off people are about the Legislature totally ignoring (once again) the voters.
Hey, he deserves every second of his 15 minutes of fame
Time to hunker down
: I lived in the Midwest for nine horrible years. One positive thing I learned there is that this damn little book
is pretty accurate. Hub Blog is bracing for a long, nasty winter.
Margery Eagan, who would consistently be Boston’s best newspaper columnist if she ever found consistency, nails it on the head
. Would the NYT be running same-sex wedding announcements if they were exclusively about a bunch of working-class nobodies living in Queens or Brooklyn? The NYT isn't breaking new ground. It's merely pandering to an attractive demographic group. Nothing wrong with that -- except the NYT is acting rather pompous about it.
: It's not exactly a new Truman Doctrine, but an article in the American Prospect, with headquarters in Boston and Washington, has a foreign-policy suggestion
for Democrats, who currently have no foreign-policy alternative except to suck up to Bush when he’s popular, oppose him when he’s vulnerable. Also, check out the correction
on the Prospect’s home page. Ooops
: You know this isn’t good for the kids
. Live ESPN broadcasts of the games. Brent Mussberger announcing. Lead story on the local TV news. Front-page treatment in the newspapers. Past scandals. The ugliness of so many Little League moms and dads. But the games are indeed mesmerizing to watch. These kids are good
OK, there’s some sort of ‘67 Dream Team reunion coming up, as the Red Sox quickly surpass the Celtics in terms of commercially exploiting its sports nostalgia. But why this story now? Why? But read it
. It’s one of the most poignant, sad, life-affirming stories I’ve read in a long time. Ah, Tony. Even in death, his tragic life tale continues to unfold.
Shannon O'Brien, Hack
: She’s a tough cookie, an excellent campaigner, and the front-runner to win the Democratic nomination for governor. But there’s always been something about Shannon O’Brien that bugs a lot of people, including Hub Blog. What is it? It’s that sixth sense Bostonians have about who’s a political hack and who’s not. She’s a hack. Howie Carr has the goods
. The amazing thing is that so many people sense this in O’Brien and secretly hold it against her -- but still kind of admire her, as if somehow she, as a female, might be able to rise above her hack heritage. We’ll see.
The Chinese connection
: Is Al Qaeda secretly trying to buy weapons from China, directly or indirectly? This article
doesn’t answer the question. But it raises the issue. It’s a great, well-nuanced history lesson on the murky relationship between Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. The Monitor also has a decent story on why the Kurds
probably aren’t going to help us if we go after Iraq. Who can blame them?
Brudnoy vs. NPR
: David Brudnoy goes after WBUR’s Tom Ashbrook
. I don’t like Ashbrook’s slippery attempts at denying what he said. I don’t like Ashbrook slipping his politics into his reporting. I don’t like journalists hiding behind their phony Objectivese Language (not to be confused with dying Latin) to promote a clear agenda. But calling NPR “repugnant”? David’s being a little overwrought. NPR is still Hub Blog's favorite source for radio news, warts and all. WBZ-AM in Boston, where Brodnoy works, is good for sports, weather and traffic updates. In-depth reporting that risks charges of bias? Not at WBZ. WBZ is a shallow, safe, quick-hit 24/7 radio station, which long ago systematically denuded its newsroom of local reporters and which airs only a few decent talk shows (like Brudnoy's) that harp on the reporting of other media outlets. 'BZ doesn't have bureaus overseas. NPR does. With ambition, comes risk. 'Nuff said.
Swamp of contradictions
: The state is pushing for yet another commuter line
to relieve highway traffic and to promote the economic revitalization of southeast Massachusetts. But there’s some opposition to the Fall River-New Bedford line on environmental grounds, because it would go through a huge, beautiful forest-swamp stretching over six towns. OK, excellent point. But then you read in the story the following sentence: The (proposed) tracks would be built on an existing railway bed abandoned in 1958.
Huh? Isn’t that relevent to the argument? The state isn’t exactly cutting an ugly swath through a pristine, virginal tract of land. Sometimes, one noble policy (promoting mass transit) clashes with another noble policy (protecting whatever). All policies, good or bad, have tradeoffs. This isn't even a big tradeoff. Build it. Or, rather, rebuild it.
: Why do I get the impression former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr., the lawyers, the judges and the FBI are all putting on an orchestrated
show for us? Why the sealed files? Why is the government paying Connolly’s legal bills? Why can’t anyone talk straight in this case? Is it because too many people have too much at stake in making sure all the facts don’t come out?
: The Boston-based Christian Science Monitor will become a prominent feature of Hub Blog. Its international reporting is often suberb, though it doesn’t have enough overseas reporters to give it critical clout. This story on Nigeria’s political/religious woes
is important. Nigeria has a population of about 125 million people (yes, 125 million), split roughly between Christians and Muslims. Nigeria is a powder keg.
: The Boston-based Atlantic Monthly is another publication Hub Blog will monitor frequently. Personally, I think it’s become the second-best magazine in America. (The New Yorker is always hard to beat, though the Atlantic is gaining ground.) Atlantic has an annoying policy of A.) Not putting its content online quickly and B.) only putting portions of its content online. Still, the September issue is out, and it includes the second installment of “American Ground,”
the three-part series by William Langewiesche on the sad, heroic struggle at Ground Zero in New York. Only excerpts are available online. But it gives you an idea why Langewiesche’s reporting is winning so much praise. Outstanding journalism. Buy a copy on the newsstand.
: Good column by the Globe’s Steve Bailey on Shannon O’Brien’s not-so-successful tenure in the private sector
, something she has conveniently left off her resume. Here’s Bailey’s kicker: “The moral of the story: The dreaded private sector is a dangerous place, a place where things happen sometimes beyond your control. It is a lesson Shannon O'Brien's campaign should remember, when it starts trying to pin every layoff at every Bain Capital company on Mitt Romney. But that's not how politics works, of course.” O’Brien is still the frontrunner in the Dem primary, but she’s getting knocked from all directions. This race isn’t over yet.
Double-standards on democracy
: Hub Blog’s intention is to make this site primarily about issues of interest to Bostonians. However, considering we live in the Hub of the Universe, Hub Blog will also write about issues of interest to the rest of the universe. In this case, here’s an outstanding article by the NYT’s Tom Friedman on the Bush administration’s double-standard regarding democracy
in the Middle East. By pursuing this depressing strategy, the Bush adminstration is doing irreparable damage to America's prestige abroad. What's worse, they don't seem to care.
: Marshall Carter, former CEO of State Street Bank and chair of the post-Sept. 11 advisory task force created to reform Massport, is blasting the Legislature
for not acting on the panel’s security recommendations for Logan Airport. Hey, Marshall, this is Massachusetts. Too many jobs. Too many contracts. Too many pals. Lawmakers were never serious about Massport reforms. Sorry, Marshall, but you were used as window dressing. What did you expect when they created the panel and slapped the old "blue-ribbon" description on it?
: Surprise! Robert Reich is getting support from his colleagues in academia
. But are they registered to vote?
: The Herald’s Wayne Woodlief
has it right: Shannon O’Brien’s critics are dead wrong about criticizing her handling of the state’s pension system. Has any of her opponents been paying attention to the stock market in recent years? Come to think of it, do any of her critics even understand the stock market? It’s a phony issue. And O’Brien is getting a bum rap. Woodlief also makes clear what should have been clear long ago: O’Brien is one tough cookie. She’s the odds on favorite to win the Democratic nomination -- and Mitt had better be worried about that.
: James Carroll analyzes himself this morning in this very weird op-ed
column marking his own 10-year anniversary as a columnist for the Globe. I'm sorry, but the problem with Carroll isn't just his moralizing pacifism. The problem, as I see it, is also his self-absorbed tone and style. He puts a halo over his own head, and then publicly bemoans the lonely burden he carries. H.L Mencken would have had a field day with this guy.
: The Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence has always been a strange paper. It just got stranger.
This article gets more interesting towards the middle. I have no idea whether sexual discrimination occurred. But for an editor to write an email to the publisher under the heading “newsroom revolt,” well, that’s strange. Verrrrrrry strange.
Gordon Edes says there’s no cause for alarm concerning
the Sox. He must mean that there’s no need for a four-alarm alarm, which was the case a year ago. But I think a two-alarm is definitely in order today. This team is not playing consistent ball. They’re struggling. Everyone knows it. Yes, they can still pull it off. Yes, they can turn it around. But ...
The Army Corps of Engineers has decided to permit construction of a nearly 200-foot high “wind” tower
in Nantucket Sound, possibly clearing the way for scores of other windmills to be constructed. This is great story: We’re on the verge of finally harnessing the wind for our energy needs. But, for some reason, I just don’t trust the guys pushing this plan. They sound eerily like gambling proponents talking up the economic benefits of casinos, or Enron execs touting the benefits of an unregulated energy market. It all sounds too good. Here’s the kicker quote from the president of the wind-farm company: ``The skyrocketing electric demand and the poor air quality and the drumbeat of war with Iraq certainly underscores the need for clean, renewable energy sources for New England.'' Yeah, right. He’s looking out for our best interests. It's about saving money, saving the environment and saving us from war. All in one package. Maybe I’m being too cynical, but my BS antenna is definitely picking up some beeps.
FYI on the Food Front
: For all you working in the Government Center and Financial District, check out the new Farmer’s Market on City Hall Plaza, on the Cambridge Street side, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Though the market is now in its second year, it’s really starting to take off. More selections. Bigger crowds. Hub Blog recommends Iggy’s French baguettes, easily the best in the city. Also, try out the maple-smoked gouda from Taylor Farm Cheese of Vermont. Finally, one stand (forget its name; it’s toward the middle) has the biggest, plumpest green beans I’ve ever seen. They should go well with tonight’s scallops.
A new job for Alex Beam?:
By now, most bloggers know of the now legendary column by Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, who earlier this year made a jackass of himself by criticizing bloggers and then fell for a blogger’s April Fool’s joke. Bloggers quickly made mincemeat of poor Alex. Now comes Boston.com, the online subsidiary of the Globe. And what’s Boston.com up to? Go to this site
and find out. Maybe Alex can write a column about how his employer appears to be commerically committing itself to blogging. Prediction 1: Alex Beam will be a blogger one day. Prediction No. 2: Alex Beam will like blogging. Prediction 3: Alex Beam will be good at blogging. Prediction 4: Alex Beam sooner or later is going to have to admit he was dead wrong about blogging.
Old Leftie geezer alert
: After Sept. 11, some of the old geezers of the Left -- many of whom you wrongly might have thought were long dead -- started coming out of the woodwork, most prominently Noam Chomsky, spouting the exact same things they spouted 30 years ago. Now comes Howard Zinn
, author of ''A People's History of the United States,'' with an op-ed in today’s Boston Globe. Hey, I can’t blame the Globe for running a piece by Zinn. It’s a Monday. It’s a slow news day in the middle of August. Might as well give old Howie a shot, for old time’s sake. Predictably, Howie attacks the United State’s foreign policy, using the old moral-relativism, America-is-just-as-bad argument against going to war with Iraq.
Take it away, Howie: “The fact that Iraq is a tyranny would not, in itself, constitute grounds for preemptive war. There are many tyrannies in the world, some kept in power by the United States. ... That Iraq has cruelly attacked its Kurdish minority can hardly be a justification for war. After all, the United States remained silent, and indeed was a supporter of the Iraqi regime, when it committed that act. ... Other nations which killed hundreds of thousands of their own people (Indonesia, Guatemala) not only were not threatened with war, but received weapons from the United States. Iraq's history of invading Kuwait is matched by other countries, among them the United States, which has invaded Vietnam, Cambodia, Grenada, and Panama. ... Other nations have such weapons (of mass destruction). Israel has nuclear weapons. Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons and have come close to using them. And what country has by far the largest store of weapons of mass destruction in the world? And has used them with deadly consequences to millions of people: in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Southeast Asia?”
Hey, I’m not too wild about going to war with Iraq. I haven’t been convinced by the Bush crowd. But Zinn isn’t presenting new, insightful arguments. He’s merely repeating the same dogmatic gibberish he’s been mouthing for decades.
Like daughter, like mother:
The gruesome murder of Alexandra Zapp at a Route 24 rest stop in Massachusetts continues to boggle the mind. But her spirit lives on. A Boston Herald story today shows why Zapp’s mother, Andrea Casanova
, is a class act, just like her daughter. From the Herald: “(T)he grieving Oregon mother has also spent time reflecting on the heart-wrenching impact the tragedy has had on the accused murderer's family. ‘His family said their heart went out to us. I just want to say our heart goes out to them, too. It's not their fault,’ a tearful Casanova said of Paul Leahy's family.” And Casanova has kind words for the state trooper who literally caught Leahy standing over the body of Zapp in a rest-stop bathroom. The Herald: “When she (recently) met state police Lt. Stephen O'Reilly, the hulking trooper embraced Casanova, who bears a striking resemblance to her daughter. ‘He had tears in his eyes and he said, `I'm so sorry I wasn't there earlier.' And I said `I'm so glad you were there,' ' Casanova recalled. ‘Honestly, if he hadn't walked through that door with the force of the law behind him, with a gun pointed, whoever would have come through that door would have been killed if it hadn't been him.’''
Forgiveness. Thinking of others’ well-being while still in mourning. A big heart of gold, just like her daughter.
‘Really poor judgment, Part II’
: Another day, yet another pedophile story with a Boston angle
. But don’t hold the presses. This one seems pretty ordinary (by Boston standards). And, oh, church leaders continue to show they're more interested in preserving their power
than helping the poor.
‘Really poor judgment’
: Another day, another pedophile story. But hold the presses! It doesn’t involve a priest. The Boston Herald is reporting that former WBCN-FM disc jockey Mark Parenteau
, who was a big fixture on the local rock scene for decades, was arrested on Friday for having sex with a 14-year-old boy and is facing first-degree child sexual abuse charges in Washington, D.C. ... My favorite quote from the article: ``If he did what they say he did, it's really, really poor judgment,'' said longtime WBCN disc jockey Charles Laquidara. A really, really powerful observation, Charles. ... Second favorite quote: ``This appears to be a man who has a secretive life,'' prosecutor Sharon Marcus-Kurn told a judge. Hmmmm, as opposed to doing it in the context of a non-secretive life?
Hello, this is the first entry for the new Hub Blog, a site that will cover issues of importance to Bostonians, who, as we all know, live in the Hub of the Universe, the cultural, political and financial epicenter of the world and beyond, otherwise known by tourists as Beantown. I hope to start posting on a regular basis, once I figure out how to properly use a blog. Thanks, Jay Fitzgerald