'This is a crime':
Well, not yet. But Hub Blog just watched NECN, as Mitt's running mate ('This is a crime') and NOW's attack dog argue whether the 'unbecoming' word is really an issue. This is becoming surreal. Truly surreal. This is about SPIN -- Shannon O'Brien never, ever, once mentioned in the debate that she thought the word 'unbecoming' was offensive. The fact Shannon O'Brien didn't make the word 'unbecoming' an issue during the debate
either indicates she was a coward for not saying so or a complete dunce. But, of course, she is neither ... but now ... but now ... we're supposed to honestly, as intelligent human beings, believe this is an issue just because the partisan NOW, Hillary and paid consultants huddle together and say, "We have got to do something radical to salvage this debacle," and then emerge to announce that the word 'unbecoming' is suddenly anti-women. The media is acting like a chicken with its head cut off. If this is 'objective' (a lot of people would call it ping-pong journalism), then I give up on objectivity. I truly do. This is nothing but World Wrestling Federation journalism (i.e. "In this corner ... And in this corner...!!!”)
: Writing this morning, Friday, Nov. 1, I see the ‘unbecoming’ issue has all but disappeared. The spinning ping-pong ball is now on Mitt’s Beacon-Hill-Mess side of the table. See election items above.
: Hub Blog had to blink a few times when I read how Shannon, Hillary et gang were seizing on the word ‘unbecoming’ as a campaign issue following Tuesday’s debate. Of all the things brought up in the debate -- Shannon’s tax dodging, Mitt’s inaccuracies on Medicaid reimbursements, Shannon’s tattoo, Mitt’s non-defense of Bill Weld -- Mitt’s use of the word ‘unbecoming’ initially didn’t even register a minus-one on the controversy scale. Not in post-debate analysis. Not in any morning-after coverage. Not on weblogs. Nowhere was Mitt’s use of the word ‘unbecoming’ in the debate mentioned as some sort of insult to women. But then Hillary Clinton flies into town, attempting to shore up (or scare) the Defend the Sisterhood vote, and suddenly we learn Mitt’s use of ‘unbecoming’ to describe Shannon was really a never-before-known code word to put women down. At least the Herald
called it for what it was -- ‘O’Brien plays gender card,’ read the headline on this morning’s story. The Globe
treated it a tad more seriously -- ‘Camps spar over Romney word.’ Here’s an excerpt from the Globe story: “That single word opened a new front in the campaign as O'Brien's supporters seized upon it to reintroduce the question of gender in the final days of the race.” Actually, that sentence is missing an adjective, for it should have read ‘opened a new SPIN front.’ And that’s all it is: a spin. You know, a deliberate partisan attempt to influence media coverage by describing events in a way partisan proponents want the public to see it, regardless of whether it’s true or not. Got to hand it to Shannon: She typically went on the offensive yesterday, slashing and attacking. Mitt? He’s on the defensive -- again -- this time over a word that 99.9999 percent of the viewers of Tuesday’s debate didn’t notice nor associate with ‘gender’ politics. Amazing.
Other election tidbits
: Joan Vennochi
seems to be taking a swipe at Eileen McNamara and other liberal suburbanites
who are swooning over one of their own, Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Here’s Joan: “As cozy as a mug of warm vanilla chai, Stein is the quintessential suburban professional mom: articulate, committed, darting from soccer game to neighborhood traffic control meeting, somehow carving out time to express concern about the downtrodden, chemical additives, and global warming - and not necessarily in that order.” Joan’s column is on the mark on a lot of points but she did get one thing wrong: A vote for Stein isn’t necessarily a vote for Romeny because polls are showing that many Republicans like her too. ...
... A reader from Lexington (Jill Stein’s headquarters in her fight for the downtrodden) writes: “Jill Stein is not getting the play one might expect out here in her home town, giving short shrift to your calculation that she may hurt Shannon on Tuesday. ... I personally don't think she will be another Ralph Nader, scarfing the 5-7% of the vote that would put Mitt over the top. I think -- as do others -- that if Jill had stayed ‘greener’ and stuck to the expected issues of a green party candidate, she would have walked away with 8-10% of the overall vote and a significantly higher percentage of the prized.” All excellent points which I’m beginning to agree with, but then ... then you see the ‘unbecoming’ tactics of Shannon and you have to wonder what her campaign’s internal polls are showing. The ‘unbecoming’ issue is clearly aimed at shoring up her (dwindling?) female vote. ...
.... The Herald has endorsed Mitt
, for what it’s worth. ... Wayne Woodlief
says Shannon’s abortion stand -- and showing off her tattoo -- may end up hurting her. I don’t know about that. I kind of wanted to see her tattoo. ... Margery Eagan
has yet more classic lines about both Shannon and Mitt.
'Supplemental second stage submission requirements’
: So the Boston Redevelopment Authority has changed the requirements, once again, for the proposed controversial development near Chinatown
, calling it “supplemental second stage submission requirements,” i.e. the predictable “Don’t You Ever Criticize the Administration Again in Public'' Amendment, apparently aimed at a developer who dared to criticize the mayor’s office
for dragging its feet on the project. City Council President Michael F. Flaherty is livid: ''It's outrageous that it has taken over 15 months for the BRA to make a decision,'' he was quoted in the Globe this morning. ''We need a defined start and a defined finish for the process in this city.'' But here’s Flaherty's real kicker line: ''Because the city waits so long (to approve apartment and condo projects), we now have to take up issues like rent control.” ... Yes! Someone is finally connecting the dots over at City Hall. This administration has a chance to OK a project that could lead to construction of up to 450-500 new housing units (at the development site itself and through linkage money), and what’s it doing? It’s greasing the deal for Millennium Partners Boston, which doesn’t want an apartment-building competitor across the street from its new Millennium Towers. Think about it: The administration, which is now pushing rent control, could have more housing AND introduce housing competition, both of which would help ease the housing crunch and lower rents. ... An ink-stained wag who’s familiar with the issue has told Hub Blog the administration will probably change the zoning at the site to exclude residential development, which, the wag noted, will mean the site will remain a surface parking lot for the next ten years. And make Millennium very happy.
'Cleaning the mess on Beacon Hill':
A reader from Brighton, who's no big fan of Shannon, writes this about why Mitt's repeated calls to 'clean up the mess' and 'cut waste' on Beacon Hill ring hollow, though it may be a laudable goal:
"Just a note on the political culture here in Massachusetts. The last governor who really tried to upend the patronage system on Beacon Hill was Michael Dukakis in his first term. His campaign manager got a handshake and a thank you, but was refused a job. Dukakis tried to get rid of the Governor's Council, and failed. The legislative leadership hated him. The liberals were angry because he cut services and bailed on him, supporting Barbara Ackerman in the 1978 primary. The conservatives were angry because he raised taxes. The state police were giving out 'Dump the Duke' bumperstickers at some of their stations on the Pike, they were angry over their pay and lack of overtime. Car repair dealers went after him because of proposals to crack down on unneccessary repairs. One special interest group after another had it out for him. The result was that he lost in the 1978 primary to Ed King. Once he got in again after the 1982 election, he had learned his lesson and did not attempt any of this the second time around."
Hmmmmm. I could say, 'Well, there's always hope,' but I fear he's right.
Reader No. 1 responds
: To add to the reader from Brighton's accurate recollections of the Golden Age of Reform ... Scot Lehigh's comments
this morning on how Weld changed the Beacon Hill mindset a decade ago were right-on. Romney surely knows this, but is apparently afraid to talk about it. (Shannon probably will never understand this point because she has accepted the State-House-centric view of the world as fixed and immovable.) Of course, the Weld-Cellucci administration also helped bequeath two calamities which are major factors in the current political environment:
1. The infamous post-1994-reelection legislative payraise deal between Weld and Bulger. It signalled that it was safe again to head to the trough.
2. The Big Dig -- By the time the financial dimensions were officially acknowledged, it was far too late to do anything about it. ("Blowing the whistle on the Big Dig" most emphatically does not mean eliminating union construction jobs. ...)
: I don't know why, but I found this article strangely inspiring
. There was a problem. The students, who just wanted to learn, complained about the quality of the course. The teacher agreed with some of their complaints. The administration looked into it and agreed with the students. So they replaced the teacher in mid-semester, allowing the teacher time to get better organized. Issue resolved. Move on. No unions. No lawsuits. No grudges. Everyone just being honest
. Hey, this isn't supposed to happen in 2002 America. ... And here's an even more inspiring piece
). Is there something in the water?
A reader responds
: Steve of Somerville writes that maybe the teacher shouldn't have been in the classroom in the first place, "which doesn't make it a very 'inspiring story' if you ask me." Point well taken. But he has taught at Harvard for a while, in smaller settings, and indicated he was just overwhelmed by the change to a larger class. He also sounds like a good guy. But the point is this: Everyone seemed to be honest and reasonable when it came to resolving the issue. The students, who pay a lot of money for a quality education, also stood up for better classes. All in all, I still find the story somehow refreshing.
: I'm getting slaughtered on this. Another reader writes, "He (the instructor) was giving the WRONG answers to students. Hello?" And Steve of Somerville responds to my response to his response: "Universities charge obscene amounts for tuition and students get this?" ... OK, I'm sounding a full retreat on this one. You try to be sentimental, and look at the grief you get. It's back to being snide!
The great debate
: Personally, I thought it was a great gubernatorial debate last night: Tense, dramatic, at times professional and passionate, one of the better political debates I’ve seen in a long time. Who won? Hub Blog thinks Mitt pulled it off, barely. For the first time in the campaign, he looked assertive, comfortable, even eloquent, leaving one thinking: Where has this
candidate been all these months? But I say he “barely” won because I thought Shannon did well, too. Sure, she was on the defensive on taxes and dodged more than a few questions, but she was typically deft and aggressive. She neutralized Mitt a couple of times with swift counter strikes. But it’s always rather silly to say “so and so” won, for we all filter opinions through our own prejudiced prisms. Still, I thought my observations were somewhat on the mark when I read this piece by the Globe’s Yvonne Abraham, who watched the debate with some undecided voters in Marlborough
. These voters were almost furious at Shannon for not answering the question, posed by Mitt, about whether she would raise taxes if elected. Then I read this piece
in the Herald about another focus group, and they thought Shannon had won. Who’s to know? Yet, I suspect the tax-dodging by Shannon will quietly hurt her. Never underestimate the power of pocketbook issues to sway voters, particularly in the middle of a recession.
Other debate tidbits: The Washington Post’s David Broder
wrote one truly boring piece on the debate. But he did (typically) have some fascinating non-debate news: Apparently both candidates’ internal polls show Mitt winning, as opposed to two recent outside polls showing Shannon winning. ... Wasn’t Tim Russert great as moderator? ... Hub Blog noticed an interesting contrast in today’s coverage by the Globe: The beat reporters actually covering the debate tended to think it was a somewhat civil, substance-filled confrontation, as reflected in this story
and in this story by Mark Jurkowitz
. But the oped writers were, well, somewhat cynical. Here are the Globe’s editorial
, Joan Vennochi’s
view, Scot Lehigh’s
, and Derrick Jackson’s
. Don’t know what it means, but the contrast kind of stood out. ... The Phoenix's Dan Kennedy
gives the nod to Mitt and has a lot of other interesting observations about the debate. (He wasn't as impressed with the candidates' peformance as I was.)
Rents stabilizing in Hub
: A new report on how rents are beginning to stabilize
in Great Boston. One has to wonder about the timing of this report, coming so soon after Mayor Menino’s call for a return to rent control. But Hub Blog has been hearing the same thing from Realtors across the area: Landlords are waiting longer to rent apartments, and they’re often throwing in choice incentives to nail down deals. The Boston Business Journal and Banker & Tradesman have been reporting the same trend for a number of weeks now.
Segregation in Boston
: Cosmo Macero
writes one of the more depressing (and sadly accurate) stories about Boston I’ve seen in a while. We really do have a long way to go to make the Hub a more comfortable place for African Americans, in general, and middle-class African American professionals, in particular, to live and work. Cosmo bases his column on a story about to run in an upcoming issue of Boston magazine. Too bad Boston magazine doesn’t put its stories online. What idiots. ... Along the same line, did you see the “60 Minutes” piece on Sunday night about how professional African Americans in the North are beginning to return to the South to live and work? Why? Because their job prospects are better there and they can actually buy homes in safe, predominantly black middle-class neighborhoods. Good for them. ... One last point on this issue: Hub Blog once knew a local bar owner who noticed she was starting to get a lot of African-American customers, mostly young professionals, on a usually slow weekend night. So, sensing a good business opportunity, she started putting out free food, offering special drink prices, playing music appealing to African Americans -- and her business boomed. She was happy. Her customers were happy. What happened? Someone complained, and all of a sudden the cops
started harassing her and her customers on those nights. The tavern owner, who is white and a good friend, begged me not to do the story, which I couldn’t do anyway without her cooperation. She was sickened by the blatant racism. She ended up losing her new customers. And that’s what a lot of blacks are routinely up against here and elsewhere “down North.”
Ninety Nine, gone
: Not as bad as the sale of Spags or the demise of, say, Lechmere stores, but another regional tradition (sort of) is being sold off
. The Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pubs were never all that good. There’s nothing sentimental and memorable about them, in terms of cuisine and decor. But for some strange reason they were always in the news, or making news, for all the wrong reasons -- shootings, conversations being wiretapped, a great place to go to chum for nasty local gossip, i.e. “Did you hear anything else about Donna and that married high-school math teacher? I heard about them the other night at Ninety Nine.”
Steve Bailey, blogger?:
A nifty roundup
of business tidbits by Steve Bailey, who shows he may indeed have the knack to be a blogger.
Polls, polls, polls:
Interesting numbers streaming in from all directions. The ones that hit Hub Blog right come from the Herald, which this morning is reporting that Shannon O’Brien is slowly opening a gap
between herself and Mitt Romney. Shannon leads 44-38 margin, with an 8-point margin of error, according to the Herald. But a poll taken by Harvard's Institute of Politics and New England Cable News over the weekend shows the race a virtual dead heat, with O'Brien getting 41 percent and Romney 39. Split the difference, and you still have a close race, with Shannon clinging in front. The Herald says 12 percent of the electorate is still undecided.
But what really interested Hub Blog were the numbers for the third-party (and fourth-party and no-party) candidates. In particular, Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate who many (including Hub Blog) have predicted could be a spoiler in the race, is pulling in 4 to 5 percent in both polls. Those aren’t impressive numbers. And they’re positively disappointing for Mitt because the Herald gives a few extra details to Stein’s numbers: 5 percent of Democrats supported Stein, 4 percent Republican and 3 percent independents. Four percent of GOP voters are backing Stein? Upon reflection, it makes sense, since Massachusetts’ Republicans are among the most liberal Republicans in the nation. Unless the numbers are wrong or unless Stein picks up some of the undecided votes, her candidacy will be a wash. Hub Blog still suspects a lot of levers will be pulled in her favor come next Tuesday, but numbers are numbers.
Other poll numbers
: Question 1, the anti-income tax measure, is getting trounced, 27-59 percent, according to the Herald. About 14 percent are still undecided. Hub Blog thinks the measure will pull in around 35 percent. Question 2, the anti-bilingual education measure, is sailing toward victory, with 63 percent in favor and 28 percent against. Another example of the allegedly hyper-liberal Massachusetts electorate throwing a curve ball at national conventional wisdom.
Reader No. 1 responds to Jill Stein observations
: While driving to work this morning the thought crossed that Jill Stein might pull as many Romney votes as from O'Brien, and I wish I had thought of it sooner. My perspective is less the Rockefeller Republican phenomenon and draws more on the analysis of "Ideopolis" (Judis/Texeria) and "Bourgeois Bohemians" (David Brooks). Dr. Stein is not just a liberal, she's an educated professional
. So is Mitt... that's one source of his (limited) appeal.
Other election tidbits
: If there’s justice in this world, Dan Grabauskas
would be elected state treasurer. He won’t. (See Herald poll story above for gory details.) ...
... Hub Blog was all set to take an unfair swipe at these stories by Joanna Weiss
and Brian McGrory
. You know, the typical bemoaning-of-negative-campaigning pieces. (Is there a checklist of stories political reporters feel compelled to do?) I decided it was unfair for two reasons: A.) Both Weiss and McGrory have written superb campaign stories/columns over the past few months, so they don’t deserve cheap shots from moi (at least not today) and B.) There’s this column by Godfrey Sperling
about political reporters of yesteryear, making one feel lucky we have political reporters like Weiss and McGrory today. It’s a hilarious piece, bringing back fond memories of the days when Hub Blog was a Statehouse reporter in Illinois. Sperling is right: No reporters in Illinois today take bribes, though they still like to rub shoulders with pols and give them free advice, particularly pols like former Gov. Jim Thompson or current Gov. George Ryan, who traditionally threw the best damn booze-soaked parties in Springfield, Ill. (George’s fun bashes occurred before a number of his key staff members were indicted by the feds, but that’s another story.)
Housing and Mayor Menino
: Charlie Stein
on rent control: “Is rent control a good idea? No, for all of the obvious reasons. Is it a surprise that rent control has emerged as a political issue? No - especially if you lift your head from the economic textbooks and look at what is going on in the real world.” A very good piece. ... Now, if the Menino administration was truly serious about building more housing in the city, this project
would have been approved a long time ago. But it may not be approved. Why? A.) The developer has dared to criticize the administration. B.) Chinatown, playing its NIMBY card, has lots of voters. C.) Millennium Partners doesn’t like the size of the project and it has more clout at city hall. A housing shortage in Boston? Nah. It's all about politics.
The depressing James Carroll
: I know, I know, I know. I swore off writing about James Carroll. But this piece ... this piece is horrible.
Starts off strong, with powerful images of innocent people facing death at the hands of vicious captors ... and then the piece veers into a moral-relativist lecture, with these lines the sickening back breaker: “The sniper in Washington, the hostage-takers in Moscow, the widow-bombers, the gas-wielding commandos, and the high-tech wizards of laser bombs above Iraq are all on the same continuum. Defense becomes offense, the protection of your children becomes the murder of another's, his threat becomes your preemption. You kill to stop the killing. Then you wonder, Are you the victim, or the slayer? But you are both.” ... Think about what he said and then read this story
about this victim/slayer graduate from Boston English.
: The Herald’s Joe Sciacca
isn’t impressed with Mitt’s ‘momentum,’ as Joe makes clear in his clever lead. ... Tomorrow’s debate is big. How big? Tim Russert
is moderating! Putting Russert aside, televised debates and even interviews can, in fact, be decisive (“I paid for this microphone,” RR, 1980; John Silber snarling at Natalie in ‘90 etc.). With the gubernatorial race so close in Massachusetts, Hub Blog has a hunch tomorrow’s showdown could be one of those defining events, i.e. it's not a good time for Mitt to roll out a new variety of his deer-in-the-headlights antics. Stay tuned. ... The Boston Business Journal has noticed a gender gap in campaign donations
, with female execs going all out for Shannon and the financial boys going for Mitt. Interesting piece. ... Both the Globe
have come out against Question 1, the anti-income tax measure. But the Globe
split on Question 2, the anti-bilingual education measure.
The mayor of Cambridge
: The BBJ’s George Donnelly
ties together all of Mayor Menino’s latest pronouncements (the proposed smoking ban, the proposed return to rent control etc.) and concludes he’s become ‘our Cambridge-esque mayor.’ The kicker line: “All are clear symptoms of a politician who has accumulated power for so long that he has tuned out voices of reason and has become a tool for activists. In bad times, he is picking on small and big business alike. The message is: Business should pay more for the privilege of being in Boston.” ... I can already hear the chant wafting from City Hall: “Four more years!” Ugh.
Return of the Patsies:
Things ain’t looking good
for the Pats. They don’t have answers
, and they’re going to be very, very lucky to make the playoffs. (By the way, a couple readers emailed me yesterday to ask why I didn’t post Ron Borges’ latest Drew Bledsoe puff piece on Sunday. It’s because I have willed my Must Win The Argument Gene into remission. I simply can’t and won’t stalk each and every one of Borges’ “I Love Drew” columns.) ... Some good sporting news: The Celts open their season
this week. Or at least I think it’s good news.
Reader No. 1's take on the Pats' loss yesterday:
"The game brought me back to the middle of Pete Carroll Year 2. It was not REMOTELY close! (I tuned out for long stretches so that my children could watch Scooby Doo.) The defense can't stop anybody anymore... shocking. And Belichick's decision to go for two at the start of the 4th was an incomprehensible momentum killer. Why not just put up on the message board: "You guys don't have a hope in hell of getting better than field goal range in the last 15 minutes of this game, so let's chip away at the edges and see what happens."
Shannon, Stein and a tightening race
: So tracking polls now apparently show (though Hub Blog hasn't seen them) the gubernatorial race to be a virtual tie between Shannon O’Brien and Mitt Romney. Only a week or so ago, it seemed Romney was doomed. Now, judging by all the patter around town, it’s O’Brien who looks doomed. Hub Blog ain’t buying it. There’s still one more debate on Tuesday, this time one-on-one, and Shannon is better than Mitt in these type of scrappy confrontations. There’s still plenty of time for Shannon to halt the slide -- and for Mitt to blow it (again). Still, there’s trouble brewing for Shannon ...
... Eileen McNamara
and Margery Eagan
both have columns expressing deep disappointment with O’Brien. Eileen: “If Massachusetts voters elect Romney, O'Brien will be more responsible than Stein, a physician and Harvard Medical School professor from Lexington who entered this race to raise the issues, not to play the spoiler, the name applied to any third party candidate who challenges the status quo.” (Can’t you just hear suburban liberals’ hearts go pitter-patter when reciting Green candidate Jill Stein’s resume and home town?) Margery: “Oh, Shannon, if you're going down in flames, go with guts. Don't lose because you've turned into plodding, hyper-cautious mush.” (Margery is no convert to Jill Stein, as you can imagine.) The significance of these columns is twofold: They identify growing progressive dissatisfaction with O’Brien, and, more importantly, growing female dissatisfaction with O’Brien. Then there are the ...
... Independent voters, who have decided the last three gubernatorial races. The Globe’s Joanna Weiss
has an excellent overview piece on those elusive Independents, and White does a terrific job capturing the complexity of the Massachusetts electorate, beyond the liberal stereotype of Massachusetts. The Phoenix’s Seth Gitell
has been way out front in covering the crucial Independent vote. His latest conclusion: O’Brien may be blowing it when it comes to wooing them. Unfortunately, the one issue in which O’Brien has admirably stuck her neck out on -- i.e. supporting gay marriages (sort of) -- may end up hurting her, Gitell notes. ...
... Meanwhile, the Globe has endorsed O’Brien
. I doubt newspaper endorsements mean much, but many friends insist a lot of voters do take their cues from Globe endorsements, so ... Jeff Jacoby
sings the praise of Question 1, the anti-income tax measure on the November ballot. Jeff takes the “small government is better” approach towards the measure. Hub Blog thinks the vast majority of its support springs from cynicism, not necessarily from an anti-tax backlash or desire for smaller government. Still, one can’t help wonder how the question will fare next Tuesday.
Investing in the state’s high-tech future
: Are you cynical? Are you tempted to vote for Question 1 just to send a message? Here’s a great reason to oppose the measure
. In an opinion piece, Ray Stata, founder of Analog Devices and chairman of the Center for Quality of Management in Cambridge, says the state needs to invest more in its high-tech sector. How? By bolstering the UMass system. Excellent observations on Massachusetts’ position within the high-tech world -- and the growing competition from other states. When Ray talks, people should listen. ... Postscript: Stata does not address Question 1. That’s Hub Blog’s projection, as they say in psycho-babble lingo.
BYU and academic freedom
: This is a weird piece
in this morning’s “Ideas” section of the Globe. Scott Abbott, who once taught at Brigham Young University and is now a professor of philosophy and integrated studies in Utah Valley State College, writes about all the church restrictions and pressures put on faculty members by the Mormon hierarchy, and the threat it poses for academic freedom (tying it into Mitt Romney, of course). OK, Hub Blog has no doubt the church is heavy-handed at BYU, which is why I would never want to attend the university, teach there or send my children there. But BYU is a religious school, and it deserves latitude to run it in a way that it spiritually sees fit. In some ways, BYU reminds Hub Blog of Catholic universities of, say, 30 or 40 years ago, when the Catholic church was also heavy-handed in the way it ran schools. Catholic universities eventually evolved into more flexible, open institutions (and many would argue they still have a long way to go on this front). The Mormon religion and BYU have also been evolving over the years, albeit slowly, and they should be permitted to evolve at their own pace. That, too, is a form of “academic freedom.” In the end, one suspects that Abbott, as a Mormon who knew about BYU’s conservative mindset when he first worked at BYU, is still a little bitter over his professorship spat with the school, which is revealed at the end of the article. Click here
for BYU’s somewhat curt response.
: Finally, some coverage of Question 1, the anti-income tax measure on the November ballot. Both of these opeds are disappointing. The first
, by Paul Guzzi and Michael Widmer, addresses the chaos the measure will cause if passed, but they don’t address the fundamental frustration and disgust that’s fueling its momentum. The second
, by Barbara Anderson, does address the frustration and disgust, but doesn’t address the chaos it would cause. Hub Blog’s hope: That the measure loses, but with 49.9999 percent of the vote. ... Is Shannon O’Brien getting a bit nervous
about Jill Stein? After wading through the horse-race material in this article, read until the end about the Green Party. Key quote from Stein spokesman Patrick Keaney: ``If (O’Brien) loses because of (Stein), it's her own fault ... We're getting calls and e-mails from Democrats who are sick and tired of Beacon Hill insiders running the Democratic Party and trashing the ideals of that once-proud party.''
Cruelty to humans
: Indictments were handed down yesterday in Boston against members of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty
, a “group that originated in Britain and uses violence and terror tactics against those it says do business with Huntingdon Life Sciences, a British firm that tests pharmaceuticals,” as the Herald put it. Look at the ages of those indicted. Look how young they all are. They almost deserve pity, for you know they were effectively brainwashed by other (and older) political fanatics who are still running around free. But the real pity should be saved for the Boston businessman and his family, whose lives were turned into absolute hell because of these kids.
The 'Company' and the Campus
: Chris Mooney, writing for the Boston-based American Prospect, is urging closer cooperation between scholars and the CIA
. His conclusion: "With due respect to anti-ROTC and 'CIA off campus' movements of the past, it's hard to see how banishing military and intelligence agencies from university campuses does much good for either side. It certainly doesn't serve the cause of political liberalism, whose adherents, one would hope, would want to persuade the national-security establishment to change questionable policies rather than simply call for a boycott." ... A sound idea, even if there is an underlying political motive to Mooney's call. But what's wrong with that? Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz are now busy setting up their own intelligence analysis team at the Pentagon, largely because they're skeptical of the CIA's analysis of Iraq's ties to terrorism. I.e. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz want to sift the same accumulated facts through their own ideological prism. The Left also can contribute to the CIA and other intelligence services, bringing their own views into the information-analysis process, as long as they're willing to participate. The more views, the better. But Hub Blog has a hunch many liberals would rather protest than participate, so ... we'll get more teach-ins instead.
MIT's Technology Review has an article on Microsoft's upcoming Palladium software
. Kicker line: “The consequences of its deployment in the real world, however, will likely be decreased user control over the contents of their computers and a serious increase in Microsoft’s stranglehold on desktops.” And we'd expect nothing less.
Hitchens on Orwell
: Christopher Hitchens
, a contributor to Boston-based Atlantic Monthly and author of "Why Orwell Matters," is interviewed about Orwell by the Atlantic Monthly.
Debate and election tidbits
: Watched a repeat of the gubernatorial debate this morning on NECN. Quick observations: Carla Howell and Barbara Johnson are indeed "kooks," especially Johnson. Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to exclude them from previous debates. Mitt took every opportunity to go after Shannon, but I didn't think he was all that effective. He seemed to be trying too hard. His closing statement started off strong (i.e. about what he stood for), but veered into an attack on bilingual education and Shannon's position on Question 2. Leaving one to wonder: Huh? Shannon was Shannon: Relentlessly on message, thrown a little off script now and then by Mitt. Her closing statement was rote nonsense. Jill Stein: Overrated. Chet Curtis: As moderator, he handled the kooky Barbara Johnson quite well. ...
For those who want a recap, check out this overview piece
; this Herald analysis
; Joan Vennochi’s version
; and Derrick Jackson’s report
. I thought Derrick got off the best line by far, referring to Mitt and Shannon as “Mitt O’Brien” and “Shannon Romney,” respectively. Yep, that pretty much sums up the (non)differences some of us have noticed too. ... Note: Both Joan and Derrick say nice things about Jill Stein’s performance. Don’t discount the Green vote in two weeks.
But the best column of the morning goes to Brian McGrory, who’s been on a roll lately. Earlier this month, McGrory followed Mitt around and stumbled upon the now famous Cannoli Incident
, proving beyond doubt Mitt is a nitwit. This week, McGrory followed Shannon around and found out she’s a robot
. Here’s McGrory’s account of Shannon giving a speech to a friendly rally: “Then she goes in for the kill: 'I'm running for governor of Massachusetts because I want to do the same thing for the’ - and she looks down at her text - ‘the workers of the state.’ After that, she's not just glancing down, she's outright reading, saying, ‘In an uncertain economy, people are worried about themselves and their families ...’” ... (Ah, Shannon’s new campaign slogan: “For the workers of the state!” Yes, the hacks will get the message.) ... But McGrory wasn’t through. Here’s his open appeal to O’Brien: “Romney has shown himself to be a leaden campaigner pushing porous ideas, though less so in recent days. The thousands of people -- myself included -- who once viewed him as an agent of change are now waiting for you (O’Brien) to lure them back into the progressive fold. But they need a reason that you've yet to give them.” ... McGrory on a roll, indeed.
The value of online polls
: This comes from an O’Brien campaign email to supporters after last night’s debate: “Show your support for Shannon's performance in online web polls. There are two web polls being held on tonight's debate. Click below to participate and make sure your voice is heard! Channel 5's the Boston Channel.com (left hand side of the page) ... Channel 7's website (the right hand side of the page) ... ” (Thanks to a reader for the tip.)
Good government is good politics (and the reverse): Steve Bailey
shows why we should be proud of our state regulators -- and not so proud.
Endorsement for Jill Stein
: Dan Kennedy
is reporting that the Newton Tab has endorsed Jill Stein for governor. Why? It has to do with reform, which Hub Blog has been somewhat obsessively hammering away at. (See overly long blog item below.)
Income tax referendum
: Radley Balko
writes at Fox.com about the upcoming Massachusetts referendum that would eliminate the state’s income tax -- and how it might do surprisingly well, largely because of voter dissatisfaction with the major gubernatorial candidates. Balko is definitely on to something.
The fact is Question 1 has received little or no mention in major media outlets in recent weeks. The last time Hub Blog noticed, the anti-income tax measure was pulling in anywhere from 30 percent to 40 percent, i.e. it has a heck of a lot more support than Green candidate Jill Stein could ever hope to garner. But there’s been no media coverage. No street buzz. No nothing. There’s just this eerie sense that it’s somewhere “out there,” lurking like a phantom west of I-495. The referendum is easily dismissed because it seems so absurd, so fantastic, so radical to the Boston establishment. But ... but then there are those polls. Instapundit
, which first tipped me off to Balko’s column, wrote: “I don't expect that this will pass, but if it even gets double-digits in Massachusetts, of all places, it'll be the political event of the season.”
Hub Blog’s hunch is that it will easily -- easily -- get double-digit support in November. That’s almost an automatic assumption in any state, including Massachusetts, which, by the way, does have a history of tax revolts, as Balko mentions. (The most recent is Proposition 2 1/2, the anti-property tax measure that was passed in the ‘80s and is still solidly in place in Massachusetts.) OK, maybe there will be an “anti-tax” backlash in two weeks. But here are some of the other underlying reasons why I think Question 1 could do better than anticipated (i.e. stay within that 30-40 percent margin, if not higher): A.)
(And the list could go on. This is just one week’s worth of typical slop in the commonwealth.) The image of Massachusetts, outside of our dear state, is of Harvard, of MIT, of all the college students, faculty members and pretty campuses, of Cambridge, of liberal snobs, of an intellectual elite with all their bow ties. No, the reality is the R. Emmet Hayes and ‘Travs’
of the commonwealth. The reality is not the taxes. It’s not about lack of taxes. It’s about an old-fashioned, unresponsive, Daley-like machine on Beacon Hill -- and the level of disgust among voters. Most people outside Massachusetts don't even know that this machine exists. They have the old "only in Massachusetts" image of the state as being hyper-liberal. They forget, or never knew, that Ronald Reagan carried Massachusetts in the '80 and '84 presidential elections, and that the last three gubernatorial elections have been won by Republicans. But the Dem-controlled machine on Beacon Hill still thrives -- and Republicans
end up acting just like them when they do get elected. This is what many people will be voting against if they vote for Question 1, Hub Blog suspects.
Hub Blog’s prediction: Question 1’s strength on election day depends on the inept Mitt Romney. If he falters (as it looks like he will), then look for a lot of angry protest votes in favor of Question 1. The question will still likely lose -- but it will definitely get far more votes than Jill Stein, the official Bread & Circus candidate.
: Hub Blog initially posted a different version of this blog last night. This morning, after I reread it, I didn't like what I wrote, and made some changes. So if you read an earlier version of this and wonder what happened, well, you're not crazy.
Ah, the ‘60s with a twist
: Bet the organizers of this Harvard divestment teach-in
weren’t expecting this.
Mitt’s business record
: Joan unloads on Mitt’s business record
. Where’s the surprise here? Mitt’s business record should be an issue, warts and all, just as Shannon’s record in government should be an issue, warts and all. (And both definitely have their share of warts in their respective fields.) But don’t look for Joan to write about Shannon’s warts. Or Bain’s successes. Or the inherent, brutal risks venture capitalists and private equity firms make every day. Or how such investment firms have played a crucial, historic role in helping develop Massachusetts’ modern economy (thanks to such VC titans as Georges F. Doroit and Peter Brookes, among many others). For Joan, the issue is about one thing only: Gender. Here’s a more balanced look
at Mitt’s business record -- and why he’s so incompetent in touting it to voters. Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. He’s a truly atrocious campaigner.
Shannon and lobbyists (and other election tidbits):
So, lobbyists are opening their wallets
for Shannon “I Understand Beacon Hill” O’Brien. This isn’t a surprise. She’s clearly the insiders’ choice in this election. But she’s also winning -- and where lobbyists’ donations go is often the most telling poll in any election, as Cosmo Macero
recently pointed out in this betting tip sheet. ... Howie Carr
takes a look at The Trav, our probable new Senate president. God help us. ... Ah, Shannon, er, there are many of us who are defending you on the pension fund losses. If you keep insisting on bringing the subject up
, it becomes an issue. ... Jane Swift
is tidying things up before she leaves the Statehouse.
The bilingual debate
: Hub Blog just can’t get worked up over this debate
. I lean one way one day, the other way the next. My hunch is that the current system is fine. Leave it alone. I also don’t like an out-of-state crusader
bankrolling a local referendum and inciting passions over an issue that was a non-burning issue only a year ago. But the anti-Question 2
crowd is annoying, too, as Tom Keane explains. This is one of those never-ending left/right issues that leaves the rest of us shaking our heads and wondering what action movie TNT is playing tonight. (See related education item below.)
The end of Western civilization!:
Speaking of never-ending left/right debates, the state Board of Education has approved new guidelines for teaching history
in lower-grade levels, with more emphasis on non-European studies. OK. Fine. Hub Blog firmly believes Americans don’t know enough about other cultures, especially African culture. Also, this issue tends to center around the teaching of World History, not American History, making an even stronger argument for including the study of the histories of Africa, Asia, India and other WORLD cultures in WORLD HISTORY. So the compromise approved by the board seems to make more than a little sense. But that’s not good enough for critics. They want less “facts” and more “context” when teaching about other cultures. One suspects -- since “context” is never really explained in the story -- that “context” actually means, in reality, a more politically correct interpretation of subject matter by using the magical "critical thinking" approach towards education.
Which leads Hub Blog to what has already become a mini-classic blog item (‘Today I Became One of Those People’
) by Jim Lileks, who recently bemoaned the fact that his toddler at pre-school is constantly subjected to left-wing, politically-correct teachings, including a suggestion that a nice family-friendly event to attend might be local “Peace Marches.” (One strongly suspects the same teachers would be deeply offended if their children were being urged at school to attend family-friendly NRA rallies.) ... One last point: Hub Blog recently had its own Lileks Experience while watching Boston’s community-access channel. There’s a very cute show in which city teachers help students, on air, to figure out their math, grammar and other homework-related problems. One day, a teacher read to students about organic foods, pesticides and other environmentally-correct subject matters. On and on it went, relentless ideological rants and indoctrination, disguised as teaching. That PC segment was the exception, not the norm, for the program, it should be point out. And that’s Hub Blog’s overly long education BLEAT for the day.
A new contest
: Hub Blog is introducing a new contest: Which local writer is the most strident left-wing or right-wing fanatic on the subject of Iraq? Today’s left-wing candidate is none other than the always-dependable Robert Kuttner
, who openly pines for the good old days of protests, teach-ins and other Vietnam-era actions that could be used against the Bush warmongers. If anyone can find a good local fire-breathing, right-wing rant on Iraq, Hub Blog would be interested in hearing about it. (Oh, where’s Don Feder when you need him? Don, we miss you soooooo much!)
Anti-smoking, the new Temperance Movement
: Derrick Jackson
is now demonizing restaurant and bar owners who oppose the proposed smoking ban
in city eateries and bars, linking them to the evil Philip Morris. (I.e. He’s trying to shut down argument by making crude comparisons meant to shame.) Hub Blog still can’t this picture out of mind: Old Temperance Movement ladies and bible-thumping preachers in 1919, carrying signs about demon rum, banging their tambourines and singing, “Give me some of that old-time religion,” as they pushed for Prohibition. Hey, Derrick, we’re talking about smoking in bars. Taverns. Watering holes. Speakeasies.
You know, where BOOZE is sold? Hub Blog can live with smoking bans in restaurants. It already exists. But bars
: John Harrington, you were and are so full of BS
R. Emmet Hayes, Insider
: It’s official: R. Emmet Hayes
, the ex-lawmaker and high-powered lobbyist husband of Shannon O’Brien, is now an issue in the campaign, as he should be. From the Globe article: “Never before had a statewide officeholder been married to a registered state lobbyist, and O'Brien's run for governor has intensified questions from political foes about the intersection between her duties and his business.” Yep, Shannon O'Brien knows how state government works. Sure she does.
: The Herald's pension investigation is getting more sick and disturbing
. Margery Eagan’s account of one Lt. John Mace
is a devastating indictment of politics in Massachusetts. Mace, who brutally tried to kill an assistant DA, is now collecting a nearly $73,000 per year pension. That’s right: $73,000. Margery: “This is the so-called Culture of Beacon Hill, of wired law enforcement officials, of the permanent bureaucracy, of the club of the politically connected. They fleece. We pay. Then we re-elect everybody. ... It's the culture, the club. It's what we put up with, day after day, year after year.”
Bill Bratton, the anti-insider Insider
: A couple of pieces on Dorchester’s very own Billy Bratton, who’s now off to the LAPD. Joan Vennochi
has an interesting column about what type of city (i.e. Boston) would let a guy like Bratton go. Joan’s conclusion: a city with small-minded political leadership. She’s right. But Hub Blog finds it curious that Joan hasn’t put down her Defend the Sisterhood sword long enough to connect the same dots with our august Dem candidate for governor. (Besides reading the Globe’s own R. Emmet Hayes story this morning, she might also want to take a peek at this ‘Trav’
editorial in the Herald.) Meanwhile, Brian McGrory
recently interviewed Billy in New York. Bratton has some depressing opinions about the Boston police union.
Rent control and Menino’s re-election
: The surest sign yet that Mayor Menino intends to run for mayor again ... and again ...and again: He’s come out in favor of reintroducing rent control
in Boston. In the past, the mayor has repeatedly reassured developers and landlords that he didn’t want to return to the old rent-control days. The result: Massive private investment in housing. Now he’s introduced this bureaucratic nightmare. This guy just can’t be trusted.
Local crack down on swindlers
: The state is taking action against Credit Suisse First Boston Corp
. Good. Credit Suisse deserves to get cracked over the head. And let’s give a round of applause to all the state regulators who have been forced to do the job of the feds. The Globe’s summary: “While Massachusetts (has) probed Credit Suisse, the state of Utah has been looking into Goldman, Sachs & Co., Illinois and Connecticut are investigating UBS PaineWebber, and California has focused on Deutsche Bank. Washington is investigating Piper Jaffray Cos., and New Jersey is probing Bear Stearns Cos. New York is investigating Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.”
The shock at how Massachusetts conducts its politics!:
Hub Blog can’t divulge who sent this following email. After all, his state pension might be put into jeopardy if his name is revealed. But here’s his heartfelt reaction to our probable new Senate President, as reported by the Herald
. Hold your stomach, for it’s about to ache (and Hub Blog doesn’t vouch for its complete objective accuracy):
“Travaglini as senate president? Trav? Disco Bob? The man whose city hall office closed on Fridays by 12, which was about 30 minutes after the paychecks arrived? Who always has a tan from all those trips to Florida, at least in his city council days? The former Kevin White precinct captain? ... Bobby Trav, the patronage wonk?! I cannot believe it. Birmingham was smart but ‘remote’? So they go for this guy? I will say one thing for these old KHW hacks (that is Kevin Hagan White, who once journeyed to Chicago to learn the secrets of the Cook County Machine), you cannot kill them, they just have to die on their own. Just incredible. Now DON'T attribute this stuff to me!”
OK, Hub Blug won’t.
And ... “It is just I never had the sense that there were any issues at all that Trav cared about, that there was anything he would go to the mat for."
Ah, another cynical and satisfied Bay State voter. If the rest of the nation only knew ...
: OK, last blog for a while. This one concerns Ron Borges
, who still can’t let go of last year’s benching of Drew Bledsoe. Ron does make a good point, however, that the Pats should never have traded Drew to a team within its own division. Otherwise, Ron, get over it. The Pats won the Superbowl.
Where are we headed?
: Hub Blog’s older brother recently wrote to say the blog shouldn’t forget to follow where the state’s high-tech economy is headed in the post-dotcom era. Here’s one thought,
but it's only a thought.
O’Brien and Romney on the economy
: The Boston Business Journal has two good oped pieces this week: One by Shannon O’Brien
on the local economy; the other by Mitt Romney
on the local economy. Take your pick. (They're both rather predictable pieces but still a refreshing break from the horse-race coverage of the campaign, which, by the way, Hub Blog is guilty of promoting, too.)
War and Americans' ambivalence
: This opinion piece
in The Times of London, which a reader sent in, is one of those instances where Hub Blog strays from all-things Boston -- Boston writers, Boston issues, Boston publications. One of my pet peeves is that the hard-core left and right have dominated the debate over Iraq, leaving more than a few of us frustrated that our concerns are not being heard. This piece is perhaps the best description of that sense of frustrated ambivalence, and I suppose only a non-American could have written it. Excellent observations and commentary.
Shannon, hacks, insiders and nepotism
: As Hub Blog has noted on several occasions, the state pension/stock market losses is a bogus story. The state’s pension fund was going to head south as long as the stock market fell in the same direction. So Romney’s latest TV commercial
is simply wrong in substance. And the Eron connection is flimsy, at best, though nonetheless intriguing. But ... but Romney is not fundamentally wrong for taking jabs at O’Brien’s husband, R. Emmet Hayes, despite O’Brien’s pious protest yesterday that Romney was dragging her family into the campaign. The fact is: O’Brien’s family is
an issue. She’s touted her family’s political pedigree as if her clan was the second coming of the Kennedy dynasty. Her husband, in particular, is a former state representative who turned his Beacon Hill connections into a lucrative lobbying practice. The list goes on and on of O’Brien’s relatives who are, or have been, on the public payroll. O’Brien views that political heritage with pride. Others view it with deep suspicion. And now comes this piece of news
: Senate Majority Whip Robert E. Travaglini, D-East Boston, is now in line to become the next Senate president. Guess where Travaglini’s brother is working? Here’s the Herald’s blunt description: “Travaglini's brother, Michael, is O'Brien's top aide -- which, given her tight friendship with House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, would link the three branches of government by ties much deeper than mere politics.” Mitt was wrong to bring up O’Brien’s husband in the context of the state pension fund. But, let’s be clear: Romney is NOT wrong to make her husband and other cozy insiders an issue in the campaign. The incestuous Beacon Hill culture is sickening ... and it just keeps getting worse (read blog item below).
Cruel and unusual punishment
: They can be convicted in the court of law. They can go to jail. They can be publicly shamed. They’ll have a record for the rest of their lives for abusing their public trust. But, for God’s sake, don’t take away their state pensions
. No! Not that! That would truly constitute cruel and unusual punishment in Massachusetts. Keep in mind: The Herald didn’t examine all the state pension funds to find out who’s convicted snout is still in the public trough. Says former state attorney general Scott Harshbarger: “This is just another example where, in Massachusetts, public corruption and the penalties for it become meaningless.” There's also a swipe at voters for cynically allowing these antics to continue. Cynical? Moi?
Smoking ban compromise?:
Forget it. The health Nazis have backed themselves into a corner and can’t compromise without looking like fools. So a smoking ban in Boston restaurants and bars looks like it’s going to be approved by the city’s health commission. Nevertheless, there are two interesting items in this morning's oped by Frank Bell
: A.) a hint that a legal battle could break out if the commission OKs the ban and. B.) an idea to issue special smoking licenses (with increased fees) for bars that choose to apply and pay for one. But, alas, the commission is in no mood for reasonable suggestions, so ...
: Congratulations to John Gould
, the veteran CSM columnist.
: The New York Times picks up the story -- first reported, as far as Hub Blog can tell, in the Christian Science Monitor
-- of Stalin-era mass graves
in Russia. Score one for CSM (though the NYT's piece is richer in detail).
: Here’s the best (and only)
reason to support the otherwise ludicrous Clean Elections Law. ... Oh, yeah, that’s right. Kerry is up for re-election
this year. ... Howie Carr bids an early adieu to Richie Rouse
Humanitarian vanity and blues
: Most aren’t aware of it, but humanitarian and international development groups have been embroiled in a major debate for years now over their own effectiveness. Which aid programs work? Which don’t? Will sending tons of food to a famine-stricken area relieve short-term suffering but also cause long-term harm by destroying
market incentives for local farmers to grow food? Does providing humanitarian assistance to one group in a conflict merely make it stronger to fight another day? And another darker question is being asked: Are various groups (i.e., NGOs -- non-government agencies) merely becoming self-promoting, make-work-for-idealists machines?
With all of that in mind, the article on the humanitarian movement
in this morning’s “Ideas” section of the Globe is both timely and relevant. Unfortunately, the focus of the piece, David Rieff, author of the controversial “A Bed for the Night,” doesn’t really contribute much to the debate.
Oh, sure, Rieff brings up a lot of tough points, but his own past and present views are full of contradictions. Yesterday, he was all for partial, muscular intervention in places such as the Balkans and Afghanistan. Today, he says aid groups are becoming too partial and aligned with Western governments, and then declares: ''Humanitarianism is neutral or it is nothing.'' But the best observation in the article comes from Michael Ignatieff, the Carr Professor of Human Rights Practice at Harvard, who is quoted as saying: “I sometimes think that what David is really interested in showing you is that he's the only person aware of the agony of moral choice.''
For those interested in the subject, Hub Blog suggests forgoing Rieff’s self-absorbed moroseness and instead check out Mary B. Anderson’s “Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace -- or War.”
Anderson is also president of the Collaborative for Development Action
in Cambridge, Mass.
: Here’s another article in this morning’s Globe, in which aid workers make dire warnings
of a humanitarian disaster in Iraq if the United States launches an attack against Saddam. Two questions: A.) The aid workers making these predictions sure don’t sound like they’re aligning themselves with the “imperialistic” United States, now do they? B.) Weren’t similar predictions made before the U.S. launched the war in Afghanistan?
The union is at fault?:
The Service Employees International Union Local 254 certainly isn’t Hub Blog’s cup of tea. And, it should go without saying, the union DOES have a selfish institutional motive for backing and launching the current janitors’ strike in Boston. But Tom Bonds
, vice president of Consolidated Service Corp. and director and treasurer of Maintenance Contractors of New England, is simply wrong when he writes that “the real story of the current janitors' ‘strike’ is about union bosses using Boston as a launching pad for their national organizing goals.” No, Tom, the real story is that contractors have provided obnoxiously miserable benefits and pay for janitors over the years, giving an obnoxious union the opening it needed to push its agenda. The janitors are caught in the middle -- and contractors are largely responsible for the current mess.
Harvard Square, mainstream
: A clever piece
on the demise of the once hip Harvard Square.
Bogus (but fun) issue
: This was a bogus story last month. It’s a bogus story
today. The stock market has simply tanked for everyone, and Shannon O’Brien doesn’t deserve the grief. (Nasdaq is back to its 1996 levels, FYI, though one has to wonder why the pension fund dropped so hard in September, when funds should have been conservatively invested.) Still, it’s fun seeing Shannon squirm a bit, considering that she specializes in making non-issues issues.
Oh, no (again):
. Now this
. What’s next? Probably EMC.
The 'Fix' is in
: John Ellis, the former Globe columnist, current Fast Company columnist and all-around great blogger, has a post about a new publication
he's helping get off the ground.
Dan Kennedy, Phoenix blogger
: Dan Kennedy has started a new blog
at the Boston Phoenix. Looks great. Bookmark it.
Mitt and religion
: The Globe’s beat reporters aren’t letting go of the Mitt/BYU story
. Mitt’s responses haven’t been too sharp, but, under questioning, he finally blurted out: ''It's a church college and its positions are exactly that of the church.” Exactly the point: People can still support their church (such as the relationship of American Catholics to Rome) without agreeing to each and every one of its dictates. But, no, Chris Gabrieli, Shannon’s running mate and attack dog on this sensitive issue, declared yesterday: ''You buy into the whole package when you make a donation." OK, Chris, then it’s gloves off on Catholics, right? JFK should have been held accountable in 1960 for his church’s teachings because he more than once plunked a nickel in the old collection basket, right Chris? ... Brian McGrory
rips into the issue, also noting the same uncomfortable analogy that could just as easily apply to Catholics and Catholicism. ... But it's not over. They’re now holding Mitt’s feet to the fire for serving on the board of the ... Boy Scouts.
Postscript: The Herald, as far as Hub Blog can determine from its online edition, isn’t touching the story.
Postscript postscript: A terrific analysis
of the Romney campaign by Seth Gitell. (And, no, he doesn't bring up the BYU issue.)
Reader responds: John of Medford sent this email: "Why don't they just attack Mitt, a bishop within the Mormon church, for supporting church doctrines in general? Why this attack on his donation to BYU? Perhaps it's because the former is too obvious."
What a town, Part I
: Gotta love it. Massport
refuses to reform itself. What a shock. And Jane Swift is holding open a plum patronage job for Daniel Grabauskas
, the likely GOP loser in the treasurer’s race. The Herald comes right out and says it: “Appointing Grabauskas, the former Registry of Motor Vehicles chief who has no corrections experience, would follow a steady GOP tradition of rewarding candidate flops.”
What a town, Part II
: This one makes you shake your head in wonder
. What a bunch of bozos.
What a town, Part III
: The tourism industry
is hurting in Massachusetts and across the nation. But, fear not. The city has a plan. ''Historically, international visitors have been growing,'' said Patrick Moscaritolo, president of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. ''That is an important market segment. So, I believe that we must stay aggressive and active in international marketing. When the economy improves, we want those travelers to choose Boston over other US destinations.'' Someone should contact John Auerbach
, who definitely has a love-it-or-leave-it mentality when it comes to foreign visitors. (Scroll down on the item to see Auerbach's quote.)
Nobel advice for Mitt
: Steve Bailey is back writing about business -- and not about human rights in China. And he parks it with this column on Robert Solow
, a winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, and Solow’s views on Mitt serving as our official Commonwealth Fuller Brush Salesman if he becomes governor. Note the small dig at the Romney/BYU story at the end of Steve’s piece.
Free mini-review by Hub Blog
: While huffing and puffing on a stationary bike at the gym, I finally finished reading the print version of John Updike’s short story “Varieties of Religious Experience”
(also see item below) in the November issue of Atlantic Monthly. Hub Blog is no literary critic, as the following mini-review will make abundantly clear. Still, here goes:
Not very impressive, though some tantalizingly interesting points.
As the title suggests, the story is about God and faith -- that of Americans and the Sept. 11 hijackers -- before, during and after the terrorist attacks. The story briefly traces the lives of Dan Kellogg, a 63-year-old Episcopalian lawyer who’s in New York on Sept. 11 visiting his daughter; ‘Mohamed’ and his Egyptian sidekick, two of the Sept. 11 hijackers; Jim Finch, a bond trader on one of the top floors of the WTC South on Sept. 11; and Caroline, a widowed grandmother on the United flight above Pennsylvania.
The snapshot of the religiously zealous hijackers, set in a strip bar as they get drunk in an attempt to disguise their identities and motives, is powerful and convincing. Mohamed is utterly contemptuous of American culture and its sluts, whores, materialism and openness. One can’t help thinking Updike is trying to make the point that the terrorists’ religious fervor -- and their overall conviction that their cause is just -- is stronger than ours.
Jim and Caroline are treated with dignity as their lives hurtle toward their end. They really don’t know what’s hit them. But their reactions in the face of peril and death are not quite believable. They’re too clueless, too nonchalant, too slow to comprehend their imminent doom. One instinctively suspects their final, horrifying emotions and thoughts -- as well as other victims on Sept. 11 -- would have been, if anything, more imbued with intense, sharp clarity. (To be fair, Updike’s portrayal of the “let’s go” rugby players is anything but clueless and nonchalant.)
And what about Dan Kellogg? You’ve read about him before in other Updike novels and stories: the slightly apathetic, dippy, divorced, unbearable-lightness-of-being suburbanite from the Midwest, who struggles with his own faith and purpose in life. That may or may not be the point of Updike’s story: Those with genuine conviction, those who did have simple purpose in their lives -- they died. And Dan is left alone at the end, surrounded by a daughter and granddaughter (from younger generations) with more conviction and hope than Dan could ever have. Maybe Sept. 11 really was the end of irony.
And that’s Hub Blog’s foray into literary criticism for the quarter.
Reader No. 1’s review: If you’re not interested in all this Updike chat, just scroll on down to other items. Anyway, here’s Reader No. 1's assessment:
“I took on your Updike challenge yesterday to read the story, then read your review this morning. I think I agree with most of what you wrote. While it is far from a masterpiece, I did find that I couldn't stop reading it -- first, remembering the day, and then next putting yourself into the center of the action. The description of events (the Trade Center falling) was very powerful in that respect, as opposed to the characters. For me, the character impressions that lasted the longest were Dan Kellogg's daughter and especially his youngest granddaughter. Yep, Kellogg is overly familiar. The observations towards the end, about why he doesn't give up going to church in the end, rang true. The Atta section was OK, but I didn't think we learned anything new. I suspect the thought patterns are a bit different. I certainly agree with your perception about the power of feelings (especially hatred) that Updike conveys. I did like some of the random observations in Caroline's section: her observation comparing the dress of the hijackers with her dotcom grandchildren conveyed how hard it is to really see -- know -- things in the modern kaleidoscopic culture. The bond trader section was not especially effective for me until Dan focused on the image of his daughter, alone. It's familiar but powerful.”
‘The End of the West’
: Well, that’s not exactly what the article
is about in the Boston-based Atlantic Monthly’s November issue, but that’s the headline on the piece, along with this subhead: “The next clash of civilizations will not be between the West and the rest but between the United States and Europe—and Americans remain largely oblivious.” A very interesting piece about the future of a united Europe and its impact on America.
Atlantic Monthly postscript
: The magazine also has a short story by John Updike,
called “Varieties of Religious Experience,” with an opening scene of the World Trade Center collapsing. Hub Blog hasn’t had time to read the story, but I’ll post later if I have any comments after reading it. I’d be curious to hear the comments from others, by the way.
Banned in Boston, Part 1 and Part II
: The Phoenix has two excellent editorials
about how city officials are now busy banning certain activities, just like the old days of ‘Banned in Boston.’ The first ban involves a gay nightclub, Machine, that recently booked a drag performer
who (and let’s be blunt) is effectively putting on a minstrel show. The city put pressure on the nightclub to cancel the show, which it did. As the Phoenix puts it: “Is Knipp’s show offensive? Probably. As a rule, blackface, which originated with white performers blackening their faces with greasepaint or burnt cork and caricaturing plantation slaves as happy-go-lucky simpletons intent on pleasing their masters, is offensive. But we have no way of knowing for sure if Knipp is a talented performer getting away with outrageous satire. ... Not that it matters, anyway. Free speech is free speech, even if it’s offensive. Knipp has every right to perform on stage dressed as an aging black woman with 19 children — if he can find a venue that will host him. And Machine had every right to be just such a venue.”
The second ban deals with the proposed smoking ban in Boston’s restaurants and bars. The Phoenix’s view (which is in the same editorial at the bottom of the link above): “Rather than instituting sweeping bans, we should let businesses, employees, and patrons decide if they want to allow smoking on the premises. This kind of micro-management by local government is bad social policy and bad business. ...Compromise, cooperation, and reasonableness aren’t concepts embraced by an administration that sometimes seems committed to squeezing the life out of nightlife.”
'Squeezing the life out of nightlife in Boston.’ Yep, that seems to be an appropriate epitaph for Boston.
Mitt gave money to BYU!:
Hold the presses! Mitt Romney, a Mormon, once made a large donation to the premier Mormon university in America, Brigham Young University! But wait. This isn’t a joke. This is an actual story
in the Globe this morning, making a big deal of Romney’s donation to the school and BYU’s antigay policies. OK, if this isn’t dragging Mitt’s religion into the campaign, then I don’t know what constitutes dragging his religion into the campaign. But think of it this way: Can’t the exact same complaint about the Romney donation/BYU-gay-policy be made about Catholic politicians who make weekly donations to their church -- not to mention to Boston College or Holy Cross etc. -- despite the church’s ludicrous stands on homosexuality, women, alter boys, birth control etc.? Isn’t BC now embroiled in a dispute over its refusal to officially recognize gay and lesbian groups on campus? Isn’t that refusal tied to the school’s Catholic heritage and the church’s teachings on homosexuality? But, no, Mitt and Mormons won’t get the same consideration. Of course they won’t. There’s a blatant double-standard working here.
The Bread & Circus candidate
: A profile of Jill Stein
, for what it’s worth.
: Jeff Jacoby says Carter should refuse to accept the Nobel Prize for Peace
because of the anti-Bush comments made by Nobel committee members. Sorry, but Hub Blog can’t get worked up over this issue. Carter should have won the award 24 years ago for the Camp David Peace Accords, but he was denied the prize because he was a sitting U.S. president (though the committee at the time said he didn’t get the award because his nomination for the award was made too late -- yeah, right). Now the Nobel board is once again making its decision based on a sitting U.S. president, only this time in reverse: It gave the award to Carter, in part, to spite Bush. The Nobel board is an embarrassment, but Carter deserved the award 24 years ago and he deserves it today. The Christian Science Monitor did a fine job summing up the ‘Ignoble Nobel’ in this editorial
Boston and public housing
: Adrian Walker drills to the unsettling truths
about Boston, housing segregation and the right to choose where one wants to live.
‘Americans back war - warily’
: That’s the headline on a story in this morning’s Christian Science Monitor, about its new poll on Americans’ views on Iraq
and President Bush. But there’s one problem: There are very few polls numbers in the story. Is Hub Blog missing something?
Shannon and gay marriages
: So Shannon O’Brien has announced she’s in favor of gay-marriage legislation
if, if, if, if, if if ... You get the picture. On the surface, her stand is laudable. Gay marriages are going to happen. And so be it. They’re better than those proposed civil-union non-marriages marriages, which, as people like Andrew Sullivan have pointed out, will likely/actually lead to a breakdown in traditional marriages, as straight couples opt in favor of civil unions instead of old-fashioned marriages, similar to what has happened in Europe. (Ah, the old ‘unintended consequences’ factor!) But here are some points to remember about Shannon’s not-so-brave stand:
-- She’s still flip-flopping on the issue, saying she’d sign a gay-marriage bill but prefers the civil-union route. ''I would support a marriage piece of legislation, but I think that the fight needs to focus on civil unions because I think it is one that we can win,'' she said.
-- She clearly won’t push for gay-marriage legislation on Beacon Hill. (See above quote and other power-politics disclaimers in her statements.)
-- She’s clearly trying to shore up her liberal base of support, going after the Robert Reich vote. (Note to Reader No. 1: Maybe she IS a little scared of Jill Stein?)
-- She’s clearly -- very clearly -- playing the religion card against Mitt Romney, even though she promised not to bring up Mitt’s religion in the race.
All of which shows: Shannon O’Brien will do and say just about anything to get elected.
‘Strong buy’ on Dems
: Cosmo Macero issues his analyst recommendations
on the governor’s race.
‘Rife with patronage’
: A Massachusetts government agency is ‘rife with patronage’?
And Hub Blog thought patronage was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Course. (A subconscious slip: When recently typing ‘Suffolk County Sheriff's Department,’ Hub Blog accidentally started typing ‘Cook County Sheriff’s ...’ and then caught the mistake. Hey, it was a logical slip, when you think about it.)
Smoking ban in Boston
: The Globe has endorsed the proposed smoking ban
in Boston bars and restaurants. The lead on the editorial starts out: “Each year, secondhand smoke kills 53,000 Americans, according to a 1998 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That is 13,000 more than the toll of breast cancer.” How can one argue with those stats? But can’t a similar lead be written about, oh, the abuse of alcohol? The point is not that smoking and alcohol should be banned. The point is that bars, in particular, are in the business of selling a vice: booze. Last time Hub Blog checked, booze also kills and destroys innocents in huge numbers. Yet we tolerate and regulate it -- not ban it, as the U.S. once tried to do during Prohibition. There’s something very, very illogical about the self-righteous way the city’s health department is moving ahead on cracking down on one vice in bars (smoking) while leaving in place the vice that’s the very essence and soul of bars: alcohol.
Postscript: One of the arguments against the smoking ban is that Boston may fall out of favor with overseas tourists, particularly Europeans. But the health Puritans have an answer to that: Foreigners have to learn ''that's what life is like in America,'' says John Auerbach, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. Oh, how perfectly Puritanical in logic and conviction. ... Postscript postscript: For the life of me, Hub Blog will never forget the remarks of Mayor Menino when he was in New Orleans last January to attend the Pats’ Superbowl game. Surveying the huge crowds surging through that city’s streets at night, the mayor said something like: ‘I don’t get it. What does New Orleans have that Boston doesn’t have?’ In a word, mayor, it’s called: D-E-C-A-D-E-N-C-E.
: If you’re a confused, reluctant warrior on Iraq, read this article about retired general and NATO commander Wesley Clark’s views
on Iraq. The hard-core left and right have painted the debate in simple black-and-white colors. It’s good to see someone of Clark’s stature staking out ground in the middle.
Stealth Boston colonization of New York
: First, Michael Bloomberg. Now H. Carl McCall
. A couple more transit and police chiefs in key positions, and the stealth takeover will be complete!
Run, John, run
: Let him out on bail
. Let's see if he runs or not. If he does, it might finally put to rest the silly arguments that he was really a hero.
: Hub Blog loves Steve Bailey, easily the best business columnist in town, if not one of the top two or three columnists in the city. But this morning’s column
shows why the Boston Globe’s business section is criticized so often within the business community: It’s often not about business, but politics. If you can find a business angle in Steve’s piece this morning, please pass it along. Hub Blog would like to know.
: The Christian Science Monitor
just nails it: Carter richly deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace, and Nobel committee members ought to be embarrassed. But they won't/can’t be embarrassed because they’re too drunk with their own power and self-righteousness. CSM: “Picking Carter so late (24 years) after the Camp David peace accords, and when a Republican president is in the middle of an antiterrorism campaign, belittles Carter's work and confirms the Nobel is used as a soapbox for overt political influence.”
: Supporters of the MCAS tests better start punching back. Opponents are now all but saying MCAS is A.) racist and B.) worth scuttling (which is what they’ve been saying all along). Joe Kennedy’s ploy
is bit more clever: He doesn’t quite come out and say, ‘Hey, let’s get rid of MCAS.’ But his proposal -- to eliminate the MCAS graduation requirement -- would effectively gut the program. Meanwhile, George Bachrach
is pretending again he’s one of the people. Hub Blog's long-term prediction: MCAS won't survive in its current form. But not for the reasons cited by the usual suspects. Instead, it will be suburban opposition that kills/dilutes MCAS. Do you really think the good people of Wellesley, Wayland and Weston like all the publicity about how their children fare so much better than others? It's unwanted social attention, to say the least, particularly if the education dispartity leads to calls for some form of income/education redistribution.
Reader No. 1 responds
"I think you might have whacked George Bachrach a little harder on his disgraceful op-ed. You were clever to see through Joe K's argument. On the other hand, you're way wrong about suburban opposition to MCAS. Here's why:
" -- School performance is a critical factor in determining real estate value.
" -- In this respect, the MCAS has provided a common yardstick for measurement of real estate value.
" -- Further, the majority of suburban parents see skill development as critical to their childrens' economic future. To the extent MCAS framework facilitates skill development (in addition to measuring it), they're all in favor.
"I'm a suburban parent; I know what I'm talking about. The suburban danger signs for MCAS won't be Bachrach-like arguments about how little difference it makes, or the conventional argument that it fails to take into account the richness of the educational experience. The suburban danger signs will be:
"A.) Kids stressed-out by lengthening hours of homework, drills, etc. on top of their other adult-run activities designed to provide richness in their lives (eg music, sports, etc). This is subjective, hard to measure, and unlikely to tip the balance. Think of it as an environmental consideration.
"B.) Other communities catching up on test performance, and therefore in real estate value. Watch for those in the elite communities to start looking for new yardsticks."
Dean for president
: Alex Beam has fun with Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s
unlikely quest for the presidency. Here’s the kicker line: “... It’s the story we tell ourselves every four years; the Paul Tsongas story, the Bruce Babbitt story, the John Anderson story. It is a very diverting fable, this notion of the brilliant, worthy, and committed outsider who has a decent chance of becoming our next president.” I.e. Watch for a lot of journalists to fall for the next “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” candidate, though Beam looks like he’s steadied himself already.
Taps for TAPPED?: Mickey Kaus
, who has predicted the imminent crack-up of the Boston-based American Prospect
for a while now, is reporting the mag may soon be published less frequently, either monthly or only ten times per year, and it may also eliminate its popular TAPPED blog. Yeah, we'll see. The American Prospect has been rumored to be teetering on the brink for quite some time -- and yet it hasn't collapsed. No matter what happens, one always hopes TAPPED survives.
: An interesting article on how opponents of war in Iraq are using the Internet
to spread their news. But there’s something missing here: There’s no mention of “warblogs” in the article. Hub Blog has deep reservations about the war, but there’s simply no denying that conservatives have absolutely dominated the debate online. Indeed, many liberals have bemoaned, online, how they’re behind conservatives in terms of using weblogs for political purposes. Maybe warbloggers aren't getting the same attention because they’re not the type to use their sites to organize theatrical street protests. Then again, warbloggers aren't even on the technological/political radar screen of your average newspaper reporter, so ...
Only a matter of time?:
Unfortunately, Hub Blog thinks this may indeed be the fate for EMC
Boom or bust
: Is there a housing-market bubble? That’s one of the most frequently asked questions at dinner parties, if only because so many have a stake in the real estate market today. This article
should lessen their concerns a bit.
That’s their record now
. Maybe they really were a one-year wonder
. The boo-birds are already chirping at Tom Brady
'Insult to democracy?'
: OK. Time to take a deep breath. Where does one begin with this article
? Granted, the piece -- entitled “Freedom to flame: Online political chat is an insult to democracy. Can it be fixed?” -- is somewhat narrowly defined as covering Internet chat and political discussion sites, as well as failed web ventures (such as voter.com) designed to spark online political discussions and participatory democracy. But that’s the problem: The article is too busy beating up on what many concede to be antiquated, early-stage web experiments -- and it misses the entire blogging phenomena now under way. It’s as if the author, Nicholas Thompson, is stuck somewhere in the 15th Century, belittling the quality of hand-written political pamphlets, unaware that Johann Gutenberg has just invented the printing press. Again, the article is mostly about Internet chat and political discussion sites. But Thompson consistently ties the subject to sweeping generalizations about the Internet, such as this: “Unfortunately, as we now know, the masses generally don't want to deliberate or hold anyone accountable online, least of all themselves." Again: Where is there a single mention of the blogging phenomena in Thompson’s article?
Postscript: Nicholas Thompson is a Markle Fellow at the New America Foundation
, which was founded by, among others, James Fallows and Francis Fukuyama, author of “The End of History and the Last Man.” ... Postscript postscript: For a great take on blogging, by the way, the folks at the New America Foundation should take a gander at this blog site