Post Thanksgiving, Day 2:
Worked out yesterday to try to shed some of the Turkey Day pounds -- and then afterward hit a bar for some holiday cheer at 3:30 p.m. Didn’t emerge until 8: 30 p.m. Somehow, I don’t think this is the way to lose weight. ... Again, keeping the posts light on this glorious holiday weekend ...
John Rawls tribute
: Hub Blog isn’t overly familiar with the works of John Rawls, but this piece
strikes me as one of the better descriptions of his views on a just society. Rawls died earlier this week.
Open testimony and secret courts
: The New York Times’ take on the never-ending Bulger saga
and Harvard’s ‘Secret Court.’
And last but certainly not least ...
‘Dominatrix pleads not guilty: Kinky Quincy Mistress demure in date with court’
: That’s the headline. Here’s the story
. (The Can’t-Stop-Reading lead: “Acting more the part of Miss Manners than mistress of the dark, a former Quincy dominatrix pleaded innocent yesterday to charges she helped dice up and dispose of a New Hampshire father who died in her homemade dungeon.”)
Update - 10:35 a.m.
: More Boston-area bloggers to check out -- DVZ Isle of Zile
and The Daily Steve
A fat and happy post-Thanksgiving blogger
: T-Day was everything I expected and more. Very content. (Hub Blog even made off with the leftover creamed onions, unbeknownst to rival siblings, who will be quite angry when they read this confession.) Will try to keep blogging light over the next few days. Must go to the gym to sweat off newly acquired bloat etc. Some casual posts for the day (OK, maybe not so light) ...
: Judging by the lead and ending of his story, Nick Cafardo
seems impressed with the Pats’ victory yesterday. Hub Blog wasn’t impressed at all, but I’ll take the win.
Two day-after Thanksgiving views of the American mindset
: In a piece entitled ‘The problem at the root of US-European discord,’ columnist William Pfaff
finds the problem: George Bush, neoconservativism, and Americans’ religiousness. Besides blaming every toothache in the world on Americans, anyone who can lump Madeleine Albright and George Ball into a neoconservative category normally loses me. But I plowed on and found this nugget: “Manicheism had largely disappeared in Europe by the 6th century, although it influenced the medieval heresies of the Cathars, Albigenses, and the Bogomils. Its dualism is an interpretation of existence that has proven persistent and seductive. In the United States its religious expression has weakened, but its influence on the American mind, as it addresses foreign affairs, is stronger than ever” ... But H.D.S. Greenway
sees some of the same religious factors and draws a different (and more balanced) political conclusion. “They (Pilgrims and other early American settlers) were not a tolerant crowd. The equality that Abraham Lincoln would later speak of did not apply then to all races and creeds -- an omission that haunts us even now. But the act of submission and obedience to just and equal laws, the determination to live self-governing lives, was a new concept then, and all too rare in the world even today. 'We must never forget this,’ the historian Samuel Eliot Morison wrote, ‘for in the colonies of other European nations the will of the prince, or his representative, was supreme.’” Greenway adds: “The rights, privileges, and aristocratic airs of European courts were not suited to the New World. ‘In Virginia,’ wrote Captain John Smith, ‘a plaine Souldier that can use a pick-ax and spade is better than five knights.’” ... Gee, William forgot to mention all those dukes, barons, princes, princesses, kings and queens -- not to mention assorted Kaisers, Generalissimos, Fuhrers etc. -- who were still around in the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th centuries. Must have slipped his mind during his weighty analysis of lingering 6th Century Manicheism.
A new epilogue for ‘Black Mass’?:
Howie Carr thinks Billy Bulger
is going to take the Fifth when he appears before a Congressional hearing. Howie: “How odd that it takes a Republican congressman from Indiana to hammer the final nail into the Bulger coffin. For once, the Corrupt Midget runs into someone who cannot be bought off with a courthouse job, a low-number license plate, or, failing that, a threat. No longer can Bulger haughtily quote Tacitus or say in his fake brogue that he will address the issue of organized crime score-settling in the state budget only when he ‘deems it appropriate.’ ... Believe it or not, there are still people defending the Bulger/FBI crowd. The book ‘Black Mass’ should be required reading for Bostonians.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving
: Off to watch a high-school football game, followed by the traditional stuff-a-thon at my parents. I have no doubt my Thanksgiving will resemble what Margery Eagan described a few days ago
. And I look forward to every minute of it. Have a great Thanksgiving.
Yes, let’s big-dig ‘em, by all means
: Introducing a new word (and not just a nickname) into the local vocabulary: ‘big-dig’ (v. -- to swindle money from feds, to shamelessly loot, to hoodwink non-Massachusetts residents into paying for local boondoggles -- big-digging
-- We sure big-digged them again
-- / ... Big Dig/big-dig (n.). 1. Name of large tunnel construction project in Boston in late 20th Century, early 21st Century, locally known as the ‘Big Dig’ project. 2. Noun used to signify big projects in Boston paid for by the federal government. -- Oh, don't worry. It's another big-dig. We're not paying a dime.
/ ... big-dig (adj.-adv.) -- to describe the questionable use of fed money for local projects -- Quick, finish the job. They're on to our big-dig scam.
... ) ... With that in mind, it’s good news indeed Mitt is big-digging
the feds again. All the power to him. I don’t want to pay for the 2004 Democratic Convention. Do you?
'Angriest Man in Boston' and 'Liveshot'
: Boston is truly blessed. The number of characters here per square inch can’t be beat. One can only imagine Steve Bailey
nervously eyeing the battery light on his tape recorder as John Silber spewed out the words. ... Who are you going to believe when it comes to John Kerry: Joe Klein or Howie Carr
Response from a Globe/Hub Blog reader
: “Is anyone getting more out of their column right now than the Globe's Steve Bailey? Consistently interesting and newsy stuff. I know Marty Baron comes from a business news background and he seems to be making a big difference in that section.” ... (The same reader also has some comments below, after Reader No. 1's observations, concerning my criticism of Theo.)
Free speech at Harvard
: Alan Dershowitz
and Globe columnist Scot Lehigh
perform a journalistic tag-team maneuver on Harvard over free speech and speech codes. Dershowitz’s mischievous head-lock tactic: Asking whether a typical campus speech code would apply to the words of Tom Paulin or Amiri Baraka. Of course, their words wouldn’t be included in a typical campus speech code -- but that’s the point. Dershowitz: “Clever people can always come up with distinctions that put their cases on the prohibited side of the line and other people's cases on the permitted side of the line. ... The real problem is that offensiveness is often in the eyes and experiences of the beholder.” ...
... Meanwhile, Lehigh argues that left-leaning speech codes are sending the wrong signals to students about their freedoms and responsibilities -- and, in the process, they're weakening the foundation of free speech in general. Lehigh's warning: “With the country drifting rightward in reaction to Sept. 11, left-leaning faculty members may find themselves exchanging the role of censor for that of censored.” ... At first, I thought Lehigh was overstating the possible consequences, but, unfortunately, I think he’s right. Recall the ‘disinvite’ portion of the Paulin dispute and the pressure put on the Cambridge bookstore to cancel the appearance of an author who dared to criticize NYC firefighters. Goon-squad tactics are certainly not unique to the left.
: Ideally, Harvard would seize on all these controversies to make a bold, dramatic policy announcement on campus free speech -- a bold, dramatic policy with an intended far-reaching impact on other campuses. But idealism, alas, is also in the eyes of the beholder, so don’t expect much from the leaders over in Camp Cambridge.
: Just finished reading this article
in my print edition of Atlantic Monthly. Bobby Fischer is off-his-rocker insane.
Mini-Duke, ‘Thanks Dad’ Part II
: We finally get rid of Paul ‘Thanks Dad’ Gaston -- and a short while later we get Mini-Duke
. This isn’t a very fair trade. Thank goodness I’m not the only one
who thinks the Theo move is strange. Very strange. (And what’s up with the Bill James appointment?)... Ah, we do indeed have a new ‘Thanks Dad’ appointment
in Boston. ... The jury is still out on the new Sox ownership, but the Theo appointment combined with this
makes you wonder. ... Margery Eagan
writes about why this is going to be the best but most controversial Thanksgiving in New England since the Big One with Miles Standish. Favorite graf from the column, referring to a local Loud Family’s typical T-Day dinner conversation: “Not only does everybody talk, loudly and all at once during the meal, the game and instant replays, they debate and argue, loudly. ‘You just try and stop 'em,’ says Kevin. ‘Food in their mouths. Drumsticks. And then my sister, the teacher, will be talking all her liberal pabulum. `Who's gonna take care of the poor?' she'll say. `We can't cut taxes,' she'll say. Every year. Drives me nuts.’ ''
Reader No. 1 responds to the hiring of Theo
: "Theo seems no more of a risk than hiring an ex-jock for the post, and perhaps slightly more of a risk than a conventional pick if only because brutal fans will pick on him for his youth the first time someone blows a lead in spring training. I heard Theo interviewed by Dennis & Callahan this morning and there seems nothing that an elocution specialist can't fix (Theo, please stop saying "I guess" so much, and pronounce your "ing" at the end of words). It's a fresh approach, and on-the-field aside, the new management had a good first year with fresh approaches. By the way, I think the BIll James appointment is brilliant. There's a world of difference between James and the rotisserie leaguers his work spawned. James loves the game and he understands it."
Another reader agrees with Reader No. 1
: “Go easy on Theo. I would be careful about taking the Ordway-esque position that the Sox GM job is brain surgery.”
Speaking of Miles Standish
: Always count on James Carroll
to liven up your day.
Blowing smoke in our eyes
: It was always a racket
, involving certain turf-conscious social groups and oh-so eager ad firms. Now the Globe is confirming (sort of) what we all knew at a gut-instinct level: The anti-tobacco advertising campaign doesn’t work, and we’ve been pouring settlement money down the ‘public education’ drain for a while now. (Question: How many McMansions and/or vacation homes do you think local TV and ad execs have bought with their indirect share of the settlement loot?)
: They’re throwing another tantrum
up north. Listen, I think most of the new Homeland Defense/INS laws stink. Hub Blog has a friend who’s about to be deported (they’re not using the word ‘deport,’ but that’s what it is), and it’s unfair. But crossing the border with a gun and without permission, after being warned not to do it again, in the post-Sept. 11 era?
‘What would Jesus drive?’ - Explained
: I’ve been wondering what all the fuss has been about. Alex Beam
explains. Fun piece. And what a stupid issue.
Local Dems in trouble
: You know the Democratic party
in Massachusetts is in trouble when they actually debate this question: “Should the party resolve that it will try to appeal to ‘moderates’ and ‘mainstream’ voters?” FYI: The words ‘moderates’ and ‘mainstream’ were stricken and replaced by ‘all voters.’ ... From the same article: “‘The party has to acknowledge the fact that its hold as majority party is diminishing. The party is shrinking,’ said Secretary of State William F. Galvin, a ranking Democrat who has never been a favorite of party apparatchiks.” ... Apparatchiks. Interesting word choice, but very appropriate when the words ‘moderates’ and ‘mainstream’ are all but declared taboo by the party’s ruling class.
John Kerry, confessor
: Haven’t read Joe Klein’s buzz-generating New Yorker article on John Kerry (I’m not a subscriber and the magazine hasn’t posted the story yet). But here’s the Herald’s take
on the piece. ... Joe Sciacca
This is a big story. Seems the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s
powers are about to expire. Hub Blog’s gut instinct is that the BRA has done more good than bad over the years. Look around. There really is a ‘new’ Boston, as much as I cynically like to poke fun of the word. Sure, the BRA, in its early stages in the ‘50s and ‘60s, acted in almost utopian/imperialistic manner, tearing down entire neighborhoods in the pursuit of ‘revitalization.’ But that early utopian mindset -- in which it was believed government could solve all theoretical problems through centralized planning and blunt force -- reflected a different time. Kane Simonian is long gone. So is Ed Logue, who slowly adapted to new realities as his long term as BRA director played out. Ironically, the ‘new’ Boston was partly created by an acceptance that the ‘old’ Boston had to be preserved. The BRA slowly changed with the times. Maybe the BRA’s powers need to be clipped, but Boston still needs a strong planning/development agency that can overcome the city’s historically powerful neighborhood bosses and interest groups. Otherwise, a lot of things won’t get done.
Religion in America
: Cathy Young has an interesting piece on the role of religion
(i.e. Christianity) in America. It’s a never ending balancing act. And, at times, it's our job to keep both sides off balance.
Jerry Williams is 79 years old?:
It’s pretty obvious even Williams doesn’t think his return to the airwaves
is a good idea. Jerry, hold your head high and just call it quits.
The ad recovery
: Well, this doesn’t bode well
for my job search ...
Throwing money at the problem
: Whatever it takes
. Whatever it takes.
Harvard's 'secret court'
: The fact Harvard University once convened a ‘secret court’
to root out homosexuals on campus isn’t so shocking, as tragic as it was, for it happened 80 years ago. What is
sad and shocking is that it’s still happening
today at another great American institution. Makes you wonder whether the Pentagon understands the 'whatever it takes' mindset of most Americans when it comes to the war ... Note: The Herald did a terrific piece yesterday on the Crimson exposé but I lost the link. If anyone has one, flip it my way.
: Oh, yeah, it should go without saying another (formerly) respected institution is also convening courts
'We don't need to change a thing’
: Interesting piece on how to brand the ‘new’ Boston
for the 2004 Democratic Convention. The best (but ‘minority’ ) view came from Barry Tatelman, of Jordan’s Furniture fame, who flatly said, “We don’t need to change a thing.” The Globe paraphrases Tatelman, “Let visitors see the city the way the natives do, and the visitors will also fall in love with the Hub.” ... Kevin Keller, a professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, advises: “Avoid the left-of-center liberal image and embrace more middle-of-the-road mainstream American values.'' You mean, accurately reflect the true image of the region (i.e. McGovern ‘72 and
Reagan ‘80 and ‘84)? The truth? Not sure that’s the non-Camelot image Dems want to send about the ‘new’ Boston. ...
Catholic pain and anger
: This story is painful to read
. Just painful. Is Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, who was falsely accused of sexual abuse, angry at church critics and accusers? Not really. He’s more angry at someone else. Guess who. Here’s an excerpt from the story that shows why Foster is a class act: “Foster says he has no interest in being ‘the poster boy for the falsely accused.’ Foster says it is the victims of priests, and not him, who deserve the church's undivided attention. ‘What I've been through doesn't compare to what these [victims] have been through. They need to hear how sorry the church is for what's been done. They need the apology. They need healing,’ he said. ‘They need to be reached out to. For people in authority, that's their first obligation.’ Asked if the church is doing better in that regard, Foster responded: ‘On one day, yes. On another day, no.’”... Eileen McNamara
, who deserves credit along with a few others for getting the ball rolling on this scandal, writes today: “Withholding the truth until forced to answer specific questions under oath might be a workable legal strategy (for the church), but it casts doubt on the well-orchestrated displays of public remorse the cardinal has engaged in during the last few weeks.” Casting doubt, indeed. ... This is a no-brainer strategy
. They should obey the law -- or face the consequences -- just like any other citizen.
Housing in Greater Boston, Part XXXVIIII:
I know, Hub Blog is overdoing it on the housing issue. I’m getting bored of it too. But a lot of good stuff today on the issue -- beyond the screaming and yelling over rent control. The Globe’s Anthony Flint
takes a thoughtful look at ‘smart’ and/or ‘dense’ growth. In a way, this is partly a story about the state's affordable housing law, Chapter 40B, which allows developers to override local objections in communities that have less than 10 percent affordable housing. The law is 33 years old, obviously hasn’t worked very well, polarizes debate whenever it’s used. Maybe it’s time to junk it. The problem with Chapter 40B, as Hub Blog sees it, is that that it’s part social program (an attempt to integrate
lower-income residents into more affluent communities, to put it bluntly), part housing program. What’s really intriguing about Flint’s article is that the incoming Romney administration appears to be embracing ‘smart’ growth policies. There’s a part of me who’s rooting for them to succeed, but there’s also a part of me who suspects the Romney crowd won’t be able to rise above their suburban/class status -- and a ‘smart growth’ campaign will probably founder the minute many suburbanites realize ‘smart growth’ might apply to their towns, lives and McMansion aspirations near 495. ... Here’s why
the Romney and Menino administrations should, in fact, take the housing issue seriously, as opposed to giving it the old lip-service or demagogue treatment. Unfortunately, Wayne Woodlief
doesn’t hold out hope of Menino backing away from his current child-like approach.
Brighton reader on rent control ...:
As promised a few days ago, I’m posting excerpts of an email from a regular Brighton reader, who lives in his owner-occupied home, rents to a tenant, and has a completely different take on rent-control. I’m printing this to show Hub Blog is oh-so fair and balanced. (Plus, I get to trash his views at the end because this is my blog. Just kidding ... sort of.) Here goes:
“The City Council did not ‘stand up’ to the mayor. It caved to landlords. ...
“Last year, the business community mobilized to defeat the Community Preservation Act in Boston. This year, landlords worked to defeat rent control in Boston. So where is their commitment and energy to create affordable housing? Families are leaving the city because housing prices are so high. The fact that rents have ‘stabilized’ after years of increases is not much
“What will they support? Fact: 5,000 square feet is enough land to build a single-family home in most of Boston, often less than that. Compare that to most surrounding towns. Both Massachusetts and Boston have low rates of home ownership compared to the national average.
“Take a ride through almost any street in the outlying neighborhoods of Boston and you will be able to pick out the non-owner occupied homes by sight. Those of us who live here are fed up, owner and tenant alike.
“Despite regulation in the 1980's, there were still big rent increases, huge numbers of condo conversions and eventually a market crash that hurt owner-occupants especially hard. Stronger regulation would have helped dampen the speculative frenzy.
“Sorry if that is not pithy enough, I have to master the rap art of blogging.”
Hub Blog’s response: First, you’re closer to mastering blogging than you think. Second, to your views, the mayor has shown little or no courage when it comes to housing issues in the city. His own support for the Community Preservation Act was, shall we say, lukewarm, at best, as we all know. Meanwhile, he drags his feet on some promising developments, such as Hayward Place, and has failed to outline any comprehensive, practical plan of attack to construct more housing in the city. (Setting lofty goals by picking numbers out of thin air might loosely be described as ‘strategic’ in vision, but he has no tactical plans to achieve those goals.) So what does Menino do? He proposes rent control, knowing full well it’s going nowhere on Beacon Hill and knowing full well rent control will not lead to the construction of one single housing unit. Not one. This isn’t courage; it’s cynicism. He cynically revved up the emotions and hopes of tenants, threw the problem on the lap of the council --and now he’s play-acting his indignation. This is leadership?
: Hub Blog should add that the Brighton reader and I are in full agreement about the deplorable housing policies of suburban towns, passing restrictive zoning laws to ensure construction of more and more tacky McMansions, etc. etc. Where are the environmentalists on the housing/suburban sprawl issue? ... Brighton reader has other observations that I'll try to post later. Some of them are hard to argue with.
Protests vs. pressure to cancel speech
: Here’s the Globe’s version
of the cancellation of William Langeswiesche’s appearance at WordsWorth in Cambridge. No word yet on what happened last night in South Hadley. Here’s the Herald’s story
from yesterday. (Note: I screwed up and inaccurately described the Herald’s story in an item yesterday. I’ve corrected the mistake. Hub Blog wasn’t having a good day in general yesterday.) ... What I find disappointing about this controversy: 1.) How quickly WordsWorth folded and canceled the event. The store could have -- and should have -- asked for security and proceeded with the event. 2.) Firefighters say they have every right to picket and protest, which is absolutely true. But it appears they pressured the store to cancel the event, which is much different and does raise free-speech issues. 3.) What’s next? Pressure on bookstores not to sell certain books?
The Gaiety Theater and housing
: Hub Blog has been pretty hard on the mayor in recent days. But I really do admire the way he’s tried to revive (and restore) some of the old, stately theaters in the Washington Street area. The mayor can definitely take credit for the eventual restoration of the Opera House, the Paramount, and the Modern. But he’s right to push for new housing (hundreds of new units, in fact) at the site of the old Gaiety Theater. The Globe has it right too in this editorial
. ... Now, if we could only get the mayor moving on Hayward Place
Well, it’s a start ...
: Massport is taking baby steps towards reducing patronage
within its ranks. Not sure if this is the answer. The top dogs don’t seem committed to the idea. Too much “sunshine” paperwork. Too many rules and potential loopholes. The answer, in the end, shouldn’t be very complicated. It’s called: “Rutan,”
the anti-patronage ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court
twelve years ago. Just follow Rutan, guys. Just follow Rutan.
Oh, it's not censorship
: It must be the drinking water in Cambridge. It has to be the drinking water. There's no other explanation. Yes, another offended group has caused the cancellation of an appearance
at a Cambridge bookstore by a journalist who dared to criticize firefighters at the World Trade Center site after Sept. 11. What person is now guilty of upsetting a victims group? None other than William Langeswiesche. Yes, the same author who wrote the stunningly moving and detailed "American Ground"
series for The Atlantic Monthly. Langeswiecsche doesn't seem all that bothered, and a First Amendment lawyer says it's not a big deal. But considering everything else that's been happening in Cambridge these days ... And, ah, a group calling itself the Muslim Legal Defense and Education Fund (MLDEF) has filed a disciplinary complaint with a local bar organization against Harvard law prof Alan M. Dershowitz
for daring to write a piece on terrorism for the Jerusalem Post. They say something about violating the Geneva Conventions, blah, blah, blah. ...
: Found more material via Romensko
. There's this story at the Herald
and this account of a protest in New York
. I'm sorry, but I read all three parts of "American Ground" in the Atlantic and, frankly, Langeswiesche was pretty convincing when he described evidence of looting by firefighters. Hey, the firefighters were and are heroes. But they're also human. There are always bad apples in a barrel. ... Postcript: The firefighters' sometimes emotional, unruly behavior during clean-up efforts at the WTC site seem to be confirmed by their behavior at the NYC book-signing event, sad to say.
: A reader writes: "You call the firefighters another 'victims group.' They WERE victims, you f&8cking idiot. Hundreds died.'" (My expletive deleted.) Hub Blog: My apologies. You're right. In all the bogus claims of victimhood, I shouldn't imply firefighters weren't victims. But I think most people know what I truly meant. Also, keep in mind it was local firefighters, not NYC firefighters, who threatened the bookstore with a boycott. ... A thought just hit me: Do I pull a Michael Moore
and delete the above reference to 'victims' or keep it in? If I take it out, would this note suffice to my honest and noble intentions? Or am I starting to sound like mainstream journalism ethics professor? Ah, I'll keep it in. I'm too lazy.
: Another reader from the Back Bay says I had no need to apologize. "At least you didn't censor yourself." Hub Blog's reaction: I do regret the choice of words. Thanks for the support, though.
Corporate Malfeasance Watch
: Love the word 'malfeasance.' So appropriate -- and John Ellis has been at the forefront of the Corporate Malfeasance Watch. This one
is from Boston-based Fast Company (via FarrellMedia's weblog
Mayor “I hear the Cries of the People” Mugabe
: Before Mayor Mugabe (er, Menino) declares World War III on the city council
for rejecting his rent-control bill, he might want to read Steve Bailey
and Cosmo Macero
, both of whom have simple suggestions -- none of them populist magic bullets, alas -- on how to start dealing with the housing shortage in the region. ... As for our “fuming” mayor, doesn’t it sound like it's only a matter of time before he starts referring to citizens as “my people”? Referring to himself in the third-person can’t be too far behind. ... I mean, the emperor is throwing a public tantrum -- a staged tantrum, but a tantrum nonetheless. Questioning the integrity of city councilors when everyone in the whole damn city knows how much cash he’s raked in from real estate developers? (Twenty-five percent of his recent campaign money came from the real estate sector, a nifty fact deftly inserted into the Globe story this morning. Bravo!) I also loved these quotes in the story. First, Mugabe: ''I don't want to question the integrity of any of the councilors; I just question their motives. ... You make a decision between the real estate industry and people in neighborhoods. This was the easy one - you're protecting people.” Second, Councilor Feeney: ''No one in this city can talk more about what developers have done for them than Tom Menino. People in glass houses should not throw stones.” I.e. Food fight! Well, the rent-control bill has succeeded on one level. ... Love this line too: “Rarely does the council reject his initiatives. Often their compliance comes out of fear of his fabled political retribution; most councilors rely on the administration to deliver city services to their constituents.” Don’t forget the jobs.
Kennedy, November 22
: Whether you love him, hate him or confused by him, November 22 is always a sad day. ... The Globe
has a balanced, fair editorial on recent revelations on JFK’s health (and drug) woes during his presidency. Only quibble: The Globe is way too nice to those at the JFK Library who authorized the release of the latest medical records. They’re still fiercely protecting the Camelot image and letting out only selected material to selected historians. ... Check out this oped by Kennedy author Laurance Leamer
, who casually asserts how medical information he obtained in the past would have been expunged, pronto, from the records if Kennedy supporters had gotten to the material first. ... Scot Lehigh
, on this anniversary, writes about the declining clout of the Kennedy clan. The litany of recent defeats and setbacks is astonishing.
: 'Kennedy to the rescue.'
Oh, it had nothing to do with the privileges. He was just trying to help working people.
Finneran and taxes
: Moderates and conservatives have a soft spot for Tom Finneran, who is, in fact, one of the more conservative members of the legislature and acts as a brake (now and then) on some of the crazier ideas that members tricycle through the corridors. This article
appears to confirm it. Then again, one has to remember our Irish Napoleon, just last year, opted for huge tax increases. He’s a calculating, enigmatic man, to say the least. Whenever Finneran starts sounding as though he’s putting principle over power politics, Hub Blog’s usually reliable Hack Antenna starts to beep and wobble. ... The most fascinating part of the same Herald article is how the results of the anti-income tax Question 1 have apparently shocked rank-and-file members of the legislature. Again: Message sent, message received. (And which might explain Finneran’s own post-election stance on taxes.) ...
Gambling in Massachusetts
: Hub Blog doesn’t care much about the moral or economic arguments for or against casino gambling. (Hey, it’s a vice -- and Hub Blog loves vices in general. So there goes the moral argument. The economic development argument is a little more complicated). Joan Vennochi
seems uneasy about casino gambling in general, a stand I respect, depending on which day it is. But this article
is the real reason why I’m highly, highly, highly skeptical about casino gambling in Massachusetts. Hub Blog won’t bore you too much with how I covered the emergence of ‘riverboat’ gambling in Illinois in the early 1990s. Let’s just say the casino industry became one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the state (rivaling the warring medical and trial lawyers groups) in a matter of only a few years, throwing around money and jobs with guilt-free abandon. Not bragging, but Hub Blog once caught a casino lobbyist literally handing out campaign checks to lawmakers in the halls of the Illinois Statehouse -- while lawmakers were in session and debating various changes to gambling laws in Illinois. Not making that up. Saw it with my own two eyes. Wrote about it too. In Illinois, it is (or was) perfectly legal to accept campaign checks from lobbyists in the Capitol hallways, as unbelievable as that may sound, though the Illinois House Speaker later castigated members for accepting the money in the hallways. He thought it was tacky. ... Anyway, back to Massachusetts. It’s the corrosive political impact
of casino gambling that has me worried. Remember: This is Massachusetts. ... Postscript: I'm going to stop talking about my Illinois experiences for a while. Starting to sound and feel like an old man, which I'm not, yet. I think. What day is it?
They did it. They actually did it:
The city council, overturning the widespread assumption it didn’t have a will or spine of its own, actually rejected Mayor Menino’s ‘Rent and Home Sale Control Bill,’
which is what the rent control/rent stabilization ordinance should have been called, before gory details of it spilled out and the mayor had to ‘compromise.’ Still, the council wouldn’t even go along with the compromise ordinance. And so the mayor, who rode this popular issue even though he knows it doesn’t have a chance in the legislature and even though he’s criticized rent control in the past, is now saying the council lacks the ‘courage’ to stand up to ‘special interests’ (i.e. the implication being the mayor does have courage, which is absurd, and that homeowners are now lumped into the evil ‘special interest’ category). ''I'm in the neighborhoods every day, and I hear the cries of the people,'' said Menino, sounding more and more like Robert Mugabe when it comes to whipping up emotions on land- and housing-reform issues. ... ''Our job is not to sell dreams,'' said Councilor John Tobin, calling the rent proposal ''disingenuous.'' ... Peter Gelzinis
writes a disappointing piece, casting the whole issue into a sentimental, class-conflict saga, as if opponents didn’t know that there are people out there suffering. ... What’s somewhat surprising is the reaction of the Globe, which said in an editorial
: “The Boston City Council took a difficult and principled action yesterday when it voted 6-4 to reject Mayor Menino's proposal to restore rent control to Boston. The vote, however, should not be construed as an antitenant measure. The council is clearly concerned about the affordability gap in the rental market and appears ready to take responsible action.” The Globe, while supporting the bill in general, at least didn’t resort to demonizing opponents. They know it’s a complicated issue. ... So does Adrian Walker
, who concludes: “(Menino) presented a not terribly fresh or good idea, and for once his personal popularity failed to carry the day.” ... Much, much more on this subject later. Need to get some work done. The rent-control issue, unfortunately, is not going away ... P.S. Sorry for not posting this earlier. Busy, busy, busy with work-related matters.
Harvard hypocrisy, romance and, oh, free speech
: So Harvard University’s English Department has flip-flopped and decided to reinvite the odious Tom Paulin to a give a poetry lecture
on campus. The Harvard Crimson, which originally broke the Paulin reinvite story, is now reporting
he’ll probably be speaking on campus next spring, which should give Harvard plenty of time to flip-flop again and possibly even pass a speech code or two to restrict what he can or can’t say.
Really, Harvard looks awful these days. Harvard Business School cracks down on a student newspaper. Harvard Law School revives the idea of a speech code in classes. Harvard’s English Department invites, disinvites, then reinvites Paulin to give a poetry reading. The whole bunch of them -- the lefty political fanatics, the HBS and HLS deans and professors, pro- and anti-Israel student groups, Lawrence Summers -- look like jackasses. They talk a good game about First Amendment rights, but when it comes time to tolerating someone else’s views, out come the goon squads and speech codes. They’re all hypocrites.
Summers, of all people, is turning out to be the biggest disappointment. Earlier this year, he courageously stood up to the lefty campus fanatics and questioned (without imposing any restrictions on their free-speech rights) the growing (and sometimes violent) anti-Semitism on university campuses. But on the Paulin matter, he sure looks like, according to the Globe account, that he gave a wink and nod to his girlfriend to yank the invitation to Paulin, who has expressed vicious anti-Israel sentiments in the past. (Naturally, Paulin says his views were misinterpretted in his now infamous Egyptian interview in which he reportedly said Brooklyn-born Jewish settlers in Israel were “Nazis” who should be “shot dead.” But this article in today’s Guardian
, which is covering the Paulin controversy at Harvard, notes he’s made similar comments elsewhere.) Hub Blog has no respect for Paulin. Hub Blog also doesn’t respect the Harvard English Department for originally inviting him to give a lecture, which sure smacked of the politicization of literary scholarship. But the invite was indeed issued -- and the department should have stuck by its guns, despite threats of goon-squad tactics by pro-Israel groups, who, unfortunately, seem to be aping the goon-squad tactics and threats long employed by anti-Israel groups, who specialize in shouting down and harassing those with whom they disagree.
All of this -- the speech codes, the thought police, the censorship, the shouting, the harassing, the hypocrisy -- is the direct culmination of the now decades-long politicization of academia. Free speech (not to mention free thought) has long been under assault on campuses across the country. The left has been the main culprit in this sad trend, but now the right and others are pushing back and using the same tactics. And they’re all being exposed as hypocrites. Perhaps it’s fitting that one of the greatest issues now facing academia (free speech and free thought on campus) is being played out at one of America’s greatest academic institutions, Harvard. Because Summers has lost credibility on the issue, it looks like both sides will have to exhaust themselves before common sense and common decency prevail.
Kennedy’s health, Part III ... and more:
The Atlantic Monthly hasn’t posted yet its cover story on JFK’s health woes during his life, but Robert Dallek, the author of the article and Boston University presidential historian, is interviewed about the subject
by the Atlantic. It has everything and more (too much more) on Kennedy’s health. (I mean, I really didn’t need to know how Kennedy performed sex with his bad back, though I did wonder ...) ... Speaking of the Atlantic and Boston University, the Atlantic’s Cullen Murphy
has a piece about BU’s Lloyd G. Balfour African Presidents Residence Program. At first, I thought he was joking, but sure enough, there really is a Lloyd G. Balfour African Presidents in Residence Program
. I suppose it’s a good idea, as long as the ex-presidents move into Boston without their gangster-like bodyguards in tow.
The ghost of Snoopy past:
Oh, man. Poor John Kerry. Mike Dukakis is offering to offer advice
to the presidential hopeful -- and Kerry’s trying to make it look like he’s putting up a fearsome, principled defense of his former boss while running for cover. From beginning to end, this story is truly hilarious. Here are the best lines: “One Republican professed to have forgotten the connection (between Dukakis and Kerry). ‘For crying out loud, I am from Massachusetts, and I had completely forgotten about Dukakis, I had forgotten how Dukakis plays into a Kerry race,’ said Grover Norquist, a leading Republican activist and president of Americans for Tax Reform. ‘We need to go back and pull all the Dukakis files and remind people where Kerry comes from, or the only part of his history will be that he served in Vietnam and was in the Senate. We need to remind people of his Massachusetts liberal days.’” ... You know what? I forgot too!
: The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz
looks at whether Kerry will be the new Dem front-runner if Gore doesn't run in 2004. (Not if the Republicans find those video clips of the Duke and Lt. Gov. Kerry together. God, the GOP must be drooling over the prospect.)
Little League parents at the university level
: Let’s just say they’re living a little too vicariously
through their children.
Respect for Condoleezza Rice
: Last week, Derrick Jackson wrote this column
and I thought, “Oh, my God. He’s going to write some really nasty personal stuff on Rice one of these days.” Wrong. Jackson shows, with class, that he can object to someone’s view while still respecting the person
Mitt, the brooms and bulldozers just won’t do
: If anyone has any doubt about how hard it’s going to be to ‘clean up the mess’ on Beacon Hill, check out this piece by Steve Bailey
and then this piece by Howie Carr
. Oh, what the hell. Also check out this piece by Tom Keane
. Even though Tom’s column is about the Boston Teachers Union, you get the picture.
Rejection of rent control?:
This can’t be true. The city council might actually stand up to the mayor?
Nah, they’ll buckle in the end. Still, they’re forcing some important changes in Menino’s proposed rent-control bill, which, upon closer examination, is even worse than originally described. Check out these ‘compromises’ by the mayor: “(Menino) also eliminated a provision giving the city and nonprofit groups the right of first refusal when the owners of some buildings are looking to sell, and inserted a provision allowing landlords who have been charging a tenant substantially less than the market rate to bring the unit up to market rate when the tenant leaves.” ... The city and nonprofit groups getting the ‘right of first refusal’ on the sale of private property? Not allowing landlords to raise rents to market rates after
tenants move out? ... Postscript: Hub Blog’s favorite reader from Brighton has some strong opinions about rent control. I’ll post them later.
The Farrells, bloggers
: David Farrell, the former Globe political columnist and managing editor of the Boston Herald Traveler, and his son, John, a writer and multimedia producer, have a weblog together
over at FarrellMedia
. John also has a plug for his new book, “Digital Movies with QuickTime Pro,” over at the new QuickTime support site
run by Clifford VanMeter.
Yet more proof ...:
Yet more proof that the Boston Globe will probably win (or at least deserve) a Pulitzer
. We're not talking about a regional story. Or a national story. Or even an international story. We're talking about the exposure of a 2000-year-old institution that's been systematically breaking one of the most important moral codes of Western civilization -- i.e. don't boink our kids. They just don't get it. ...
... Isn’t it a coincidence how cardinals in Ireland, England, America, Australia, Germany and all across the globe, facing the same sex-abuse problems within the priesthood and all doling out hush money (usually in the millions), say they didn’t grasp the extent of the problem when they were engaging in an obvious and widespread cover up of criminal behavior? That’s what Cardinal Law was still saying this past summer in these newly released transcripts
of his deposition. The Herald
has a different twist on the same documents, i.e. the same documents show he's a liar. But we knew that already. ... Meanwhile, Joe Fitzgerald
(no relation) is still engaging in his knee-jerk defense of the church, acting and sounding like he’s still fighting the Brahmin-Irish battles of the ‘50s, the anti-bussing/Globe battles of the ‘70s, the Barney Frank/Gary Studds controversies of the ‘80s. Joe, the reason some people don’t think Cardinal Law has yet to “regain his voice” is because a lot of us don’t think he can “regain” a moral voice he obviously never had. As far as Frank and Gary are concerned, at least we had/have an opportunity to vote against them. If area Catholics were allowed to vote on keeping Law, one can safely assume the final verdict would be that his voice in moral matters is no longer desired.
Postscript -- 11-20 2:25 p.m.
: Someone just wrote about how, before Hub Blog nominates the Globe for a Pulitzer, I might look at the work of the Boston Phoenix's Kristen Lombardi. My reaction upon going to the site
: Holy F*@)ing Sh$%! (I'm stealing a line from the Onion there.) I had no idea. And the stories stretch all the way back into 2001, when she was beating the you-know-what out of dear Cardinal "I didn't know the Extent" Law on the sex-abuse cases. Obviously, haven't had time to digest Kristen's work (there's just so much) but it looks impressive. (And, to the reader, sorry but I still think the Globe is probably going to win the Pulitzer, Hub Blog nomination or not.)
Boston, the ‘Third City’
: Brian McGrory nails it
. He’s happy, like everyone else in town, about the 2004 Democratic National Convention coming to Boston. But he’s not impressed with all the talk about how Boston needs to become a ‘world-class city,’ a phrase Hub Blog absolutely despises. McGrory: “Why do we need to renew Boston, remake, rebrand, or revive it? What's wrong with the way it is? What exactly is it that we're striving to become, a Northeast rendition of Dallas, Tampa, or Charlotte? ... Being world-class doesn't mean being declasse. Boston is doing just fine, thank you, and getting better by the day.” ... Hub Blog also likes McGrory’s comparison of Boston to San Francisco and Chicago. I’d throw in New Orleans and Charleston, S.C., as two other cities with a quaint, almost European-like feel. ...
... Ah, why the reference in the slug to ‘Third City’? When living in Chicago, Hub Blog was always impressed with the way Chicagoans merrily, proudly accepted their status as the ‘second city’ in America. No New York inferiority complex in Chicago (or at least not much that I could detect). Personally, I think Boston’s alleged inferiority complex towards New York is 90 percent bogus. Not once have I ever met a native of, say, Dorchester or Southie pining with envy to live in the Bronx or Queens. The Boston ‘inferiority complex,’ as small as it is, is mostly confined to a minority of downtown and Cambridge types, usually in the media/arts circles, pining with envy to make it in Manhattan (or gain the fame only Manhattan can give).
Now for Hub Blog’s world-domination suggestion: Let’s start referring to Boston as the ‘Third City’ within a new imperial, city-state East Coast Triumvirate of New York (with its awesome financial and cultural clout), Washington (political) and Boston (technology and academic). First of all, it’s true. Second, it’ll shut up the whining elites and remind them of the reality of Boston’s status as the smaller partner to NY, which I’m quite content with and always will be. Third, we can rule the world! Just an idea I throw out to my fellow imperial-minded conquerers. ...
Postscript: Boston will undoubtedly have to conduct tough bargaining with New York and Washington as we divide up, first, the Northeast, and, later, the world. New York shall be given imperial power over Vermont and Connecticut. They control them anyway. But we get colonial control over Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine. New York also gets New Jersey. Philadelphia will remain neutral and allowed to dominate Pennsylvania and Delaware, as long as it doesn’t ask for territorial control over Ohio. In which case, the East Coast Triumvirate will have to crush Pennsylvania with ruthless force. Washington gets Maryland, Virginia and, if it wants, West Virginia, as its immediate sphere of regional influence. Out of respect, Chicago and San Francisco will also be given their own city-state spheres of influence, to be decided later. Texas will be allowed to leave the Union, letting Dallas and Houston fighting for top do in the Lone Star State. Texas can take Oklahoma with it, as long as it gives back all NASA-related equipment. The rest of the country -- especially Los Angeles -- will just have to lick the Triumvirate’s boots! There. Settled.
Microcredit, macro results
: The Globe has a fascinating -- and totally unexpected -- editorial on a new trend in international development called ‘microcredit,’
or ‘micro-development,’ as others refer to it. The fundamental notion behind microcredit is this: Reduce the number of huge, magic-wand development loans/grants to Third World governments, which have a sorry history of squandering and looting the funds. Instead, provide smaller loans or grants to local entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses, however small and humble the enterprises may be. The Globe: “By their very nature, microcredit programs strengthen societies. Instead of being imposed by outsiders, economic systems are homegrown by people who have an immediate, personal stake in keeping businesses strong and growing.” ... Congrats to the Globe for grasping the importance of microcredit. The Third World needs more entrepreneurs, not World Bank and IMF bureaucrats doling out billions to corrupt governments.
Free speech at Harvard Law
: First, Harvard Business School. Now Harvard Law School
. The campus attempts to muzzle speech never end. The lead of this story says it all about the obnoxious proposal to infringe on people's First Amendment rights, something you'd think law professors and students, of all people, would respect:
“A Harvard Law School committee announced plans yesterday to draft a speech code that would ban harassing, offensive language from the classroom, a highly unusual step for a law school and a move that runs counter to a national trend against interfering with campus speech.
“Last night, the proposed code set off such a furious debate at an extraordinary campus 'town meeting' that some committee members and the law school dean said afterward that they were deeply uneasy with the idea.”
Harvard is starting to get hurt by all these embarrassments. Larry Summers needs to give another of his thunderbolt speeches, this time on campus free speech.
: Maybe Summers can take inspiration from Brown University President Ruth Simmons, as noted by Instapundit
‘Year of the Woman,’ adieu
: Cathy Young wants to stick a fork in all of the ‘Year of the Woman’
chatter before and after each election cycle.
Housing, Hayward Place and the mayor
: The Globe has changed its position on Hayward Place
and is now urging the Menino administration to push for housing at the proposed development site on city-owned land near Chinatown. This is becoming a hugely important test for the administration: As it bemoans the lack of housing in the city and calls for rent control, will the administration support a sensible development that calls for construction of hundreds of new housing units? Or will it buckle under the pressure of NIMBY opponents in Chinatown and of Millennium Partners? All the signs are pointing toward a bad decision
in favor of a new office building.
Mayor Menino, Man of the Hour
: The Herald’s Joe Sciacca
sings the praise of the mayor, who rightly deserves enormous credit for bringing the 2004 Democratic National Convention to Boston. But Hub Blog isn’t ready to jump on the Menino bandwagon. In recent years, Hub Blog can’t think of a truly daring, bold, unpopular stand the administration has taken in the face of intense opposition. The mayor, who seems horrified at the prospect of seeing even one-percentage point knocked off his approval rating, always manages to squirm, waver and waffle his way out of tough predicaments. He’s a mayor who likes to be liked, first, and right, second. He’s no Rudy, that’s for sure. And we all know it.
Kennedy’s health, Part II
: William Safire
and Andrew Sullivan
weigh in on the Atlantic Monthly/NYT
article about JFK’s extensive use of drugs to treat his numerous ailments during his presidency. Safire’s piece appears to have too much Nixon-backer resentment for my taste, while Sullivan just seems to be piling on. Then again, Sullivan does make an excellent point. “I just don’t buy the idea that this level of medication had no effect on the government of the country. It must have. The question now for historians is: how much? And what difference did it specifically make?” ... Yesterday, Hub Blog, being a typical sentimental Bostonian, was talking to a friend about the latest Kennedy revelation, and I expressed my relief that JFK’s thinking never seemed to have blurred because of all the medication. The reaction of my friend: “Oh, please,” he said. “We’ve all taken medications before. Except for aspirin, name one that doesn’t leave you a little groggy or whatever. ... and he was taking handfuls of really kick-ass stuff each day.” I had to concede the point, but again: There’s no proof it impacted his decision making on crucial issues. And the alternative to electing him in ‘60 was still Richard Nixon, who was verifiably crazy even without drugs. ... I think the real loser in this affair isn’t so much JFK but his family and his supporters. They’re still covering up and lying on his behalf.
: The December issue of Boston-based Atlantic Monthly arrived yesterday in the mail -- and Hub Blog was initially disappointed. On the cover is a photo of a vibrant, seemingly healthy JFK throwing a rock into the ocean, presumably at the Kennedy compound on the Cape. Pure Camelot. The headline: “A Picture of Health: John F. Kennedy’s physical condition was far worse than we imagined -- and his deception far greater. A historian examines newly available medical records.” My initial reacton was, “But this is such old
news.” Wrong. Once I started reading the article, I couldn’t stop. Throughout his life and presidency, JFK was far more ill -- and drugged up -- than previously known, as author and Boston Univesity professor Robert Dallek shows. I'd link to the article, but, alas, Atlantic Monthly
takes its time posting stories. ... This morning, though, the New York Times has a major piece on Dallek’s findings
, based on his Atlantic article. Here’s a quick summary graf from the NYT: “The records show that Kennedy variously took codeine, Demerol and methadone for pain; Ritalin, a stimulant; meprobamate and librium for anxiety; barbiturates for sleep; thyroid hormone; and injections of a blood derivative, gamma globulin, presumably to combat infections. In the White House, Kennedy received ‘seven to eight injections of procaine in his back in the same sitting’ before news conferences and other events, Dr. Kelman said.” And there’s also the Stelazine, an anti-psychotic that was used briefly (two days) during his presidency to relieve stress and mood swings caused by antihistamines used for food allergies. The list goes on and on.
What’s Hub Blog’s reaction to the new revelations (and they are new revelations)? First, admiration. Admiration for Kennedy’s courage and determination to endure what now appears to be a lifetime of unremitting, near-fatal ailments and pain. Second, pity. The evidence shows that his early serious illnesses (in high school and at Harvard) were misdiagnosed and the disastrous treatments (including steroids) probably added to his horrible medical woes later in life. Third, anger. Anger that he covered up the dire nature of his health -- and point-blank lied to the American people about it. Fourth, relief. Relief that all the drugs and pain didn’t appear to blur his thinking and genuinely upbeat outlook on life. ... Dallek, whose Atlantic article is excerpted from his upcoming biography of JFK, speculates Kennedy probably wouldn’t have been elected president had the American people known of his severe medical problems (let alone his lies). Then again, as Dallek noted, Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in 1960 to become president. Well, at least that’s something to be thankful for.
Dems and Boston
: The Washington Post’s Mary McGrory
is sticking up for her hometown, Boston. A real nice piece. ... Thomas Oliphant
has his own take on the ideas-challenged Dems' selection of Boston as its convention site. ... It’s doubtful the city will reap all the economic benefits
promised by backers of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, but this article shows why it’s still great the convention is coming here. It’s called “civic pride.” ... Wayne Woodlief
thinks Dems will be entertained by Boston’s rich history and its “ghosts of politics past.” No mention of McGovern, ‘72, thank goodness.
‘The phantom empire’
: In today’s “Ideas” section of the Globe, Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Life at Boston College, tackles the issue of whether America is now an empire
-- and he isn’t impressed with the arguments that we are and/or should be an empire, though he doesn’t deny America certainly resembles an empire. Kicker quotes: “The most important reason why Americans worry about empire is that it costs money. ... (Also) we resist an imperial role for America not because we are humanitarians and internationalists but because we are stingy with our government and lack genuine interest in the rest of the world. Our best defenses against empire, as it turns out, lie not in our virtues but in our vices.” ... Hub Blog is not impressed with either left-wing or right-wing arguments for/against/about American imperialism. I think Wolfe is on to something when he says Americans just don’t want, nor will support, an empire, despite the wishful thinking of Paul Wolfowitz et gang.
Changing voter dynamics:
In another excellent piece, the Globe’s Joanna Weiss
looks at the shift in political clout from Boston and surrounding urban areas to the suburbs. This is a trend that became quite evident in last Tuesday’s election, but Hub Blog suspects the shift reached a point-of-no-return roughly around the time of Proposition 2 1/2 and the Massachusetts 'Route 128' Miracle in the ‘80s. These people aren’t interested in redistributing the wealth. They distrust Beacon Hill. But they’re socially liberal (to a degree) and willing to pay taxes if they can clearly see a return for their money (otherwise they'll revolt, as they did with Proposition 2 1/2 and nearly did with Question 1). I.e. Their votes and allegiance are up for grabs -- which is troubling news for Dems but not necessarily good news for hapless Republicans. Reader No. 1, a former urban-dweller who now lives in the suburbs, has a lot of strong opinions on the subject. Hope he sends some in.
Boston -- let the clichés begin
: The Christian Science Monitor
scores a hat trick on the first major national story, as far as Hub Blog has seen, about Boston landing the 2004 Democratic National Convention: it calls Boston a “liberal city,” mentions how Massachusetts voted for McGovern in ‘72, and refers to Boston’s desegregation controversy of the mid-1970s. Good job!
And, oh, the article throws in: “Republican snickering about Boston being out of the mainstream has already begun. ‘If I were a Democrat, I would feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in Boston than, say, in America,’ teased Texas Rep. Dick Armey at a Monitor breakfast yesterday.” Ah, a bonus cliché joke!
This article is going to be hard for other national reporters to beat. Mixing Boston and the rest of Massachusetts together when it fits the stereotype and separating the two when it doesn’t, the CSM article obviously didn't mention Reagan winning Massachusetts in ‘80 and ‘84; four straight GOP gubernatorial wins; the surprising results of the anti-income tax Question 1 last Tuesday; last Tuesday’s overthrow of bilingual education in Massachusetts; the enduring popularity of Proposition 2 1/2; how the Dem machine keeps Massachusetts predominantly Democratic via redistricting, even though the majority of voters are now Independents while Dems are losing numbers (see above item and accompanying article
on voting trends); George Bush's solid approval ratings here etc. etc. etc. But including such nuanced facts would have complicated the stereotype, and certainly wrecked the joke. Can't have that! ...
And think: This was written by a Monitor reporter. You know, the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor.
The Dems are coming:
You knew it had to happen. But not this fast. Yes, we’re already bickering over the bucks
. It’s a minor skirmish, but still a probable/likely foretaste of what’s to come. Mitt and legislative leaders have a point: The state needs to watch every penny when it comes to funding the 2004 Democratic National Convention. But Mitt, who ran this past year’s Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, knows full well how that event was heavily subsidized by American taxpayers who received no economic benefits from the games. Yet the federal subsidies were made -- mostly for security -- out of a sense of national pride, duty and common sense. The same argument applies to the commonwealth in terms of helping the city out of a sense of regional pride, duty and common sense. Hub Blog isn’t advocating an open-checkbook approach towards the convention, but ... Scot Lehigh
mulls whether Bostonians have really undergone an attitude lobotomy. ... Tom Keane
tackles roughly the same subject, but adds that Bostonians should be proud of the city and the region’s transformation in recent decades: “To other cities, (Boston) has become a model to emulate. Perhaps skeptical Bostonians should concede the point: We really are OK.” ... Which is quite true. Let’s indeed concede the point. Hub Blog has traveled to Philadelphia a few times on business in recent years. Each time I mentioned I was from Boston, locals would invariably sigh but then get excited. Why? Because they viewed Boston’s economic transformation with more than a touch of envy -- and, yes, they viewed us as a “model to emulate.” Pittsburgh is another Northeast city that looks upon Boston as a model of an old industrial city getting its act together. But one other point on Keane’s column: Let’s not spin a new myth that Boston was selected by national Dems because of the city’s charm and urban success. That’s only part of the reason. The other part is that we effectively bought off a nearly bankrupt Democratic party. Money talks. And Dems, who desperately need money (especially after last Tuesday’s election debacle), understand what $20 million means.
Rent control and the Globe
: Is the Globe backing off a bit from its earlier support
(albeit, guarded support) of Mayor Menino’s recent rent-control idea? Today’s editorial
looks like it when it refers to the “mayor's overreaching rent proposal.” Maybe Hub Blog is reading too much into it, but there seems to be a subtle shift, or at least a new appreciation for landlords' side of the argument. ... While the city council debates the mayor’s plan, members should (but obviously won’t) pay attention to this news: The local housing market is cooling
. Which is yet another indication that rents, too, are stabilizing.
Celtic pride and profits
: Steve Bailey
has an informative, fun column on the new Celts owners’ financial plans and outlook. ... Speaking of the Celts, Hub Blog is jumping back on the bandwagon
after a truly miserable start to their season.
Wall Street gambling
: They say Wall Street is nothing but a big, regulated craps game. It’s a tired cliché. But Cosmo Macero
shows why there’s truth even in clichés. These guys at Sepracor are something. This story leaves you shaking your head in both wonder and utter disgust. Current and formers executives of a struggling, unprofitable, publicly traded biotech firm are now investors in a gambling operation with some, ah, rather shady characters. The word "gross" comes to mind. And, needless to say, it's not the type of behavior that restores investor trust in corporate leaders and the markets.
The tolling bells for Clean Elections?:
The Boston Phoenix
is taking Harvard Business School to task for its heavy-handed attack on a student newspaper. ... But in an even more interesting development, the Phoenix is now advocating (see same item and scroll down) that the Clean Elections funding controversy be set on the back burner for the time being, partially because of last Tuesday’s election results and for other reasons. “The Phoenix has editorialized on many occasions in favor of the Clean Elections Law and has called upon the state legislature to fund the initiative. But it’s time to put this issue aside. In this climate of plummeting revenues and widening budget gaps ... it’s hard to make the case for setting aside millions of dollars to fund political campaigns.” But the newspaper doesn’t stop there: “Up in Maine, which is an often-cited example of a place where Clean Elections work, gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Carter of the Green Party spent $900,000 of public funds and won about 10 percent of the statewide vote last week. That was about three percentage points more than what he got in 1994, when he ran on $40,000 worth of privately raised funds. It’s time to reassess just what it is that publicly funded campaigns buy
.” (Emphasis added.) The Phoenix isn’t just saying the state can’t afford the Clean Elections Laws. It’s now questioning the very purpose of the law.
The ‘new’ Boston
?: Most outsiders haven’t a clue how Boston and Massachusetts tick. They think of McGovern, ‘72, on one extreme, or Boston bussing, ‘75, at the other extreme. But, actually, if you mix McGovern ‘72 and Boston bussing ‘75 into a blender, you get, well, Boston -- perhaps the most parochial and insular city in America that still somehow attracts and charms so many from across the country and world because of its universities and quaint architecture; the same city that has a creaky old political machine running its politics but a dynamic R&D-dependent economy that increasingly looks to young entrepreneurs to keep it on the cutting-edge; a city that likes to think of itself as aristocratic but thrills at the latest exploits of Whitey and the boys; a city with cranky residents who snap at tourists but cranky citizens who deep-down wonder, with all sincerity, what others are thinking about them; the city that thinks it’s the Hub of the Universe but has to use Dunkin’ Donuts outlets as landmarks for navigating the city.
Ah, the Hub, the city of baffling contradictions that the national press can't and won't grasp when they thunder into town two years hence, armed with their murderous clichés and searching for the freebie parties and Sox tickets. Mayor Menino will mumble to them about the 'new' Boston while Jim Kelly picks their pockets like a good Afghan guide.
Of all the things written so far on Boston landing the 2004 Democratic National Convention (the fact that it doesn't make sense
, the economic benefits
, the political ramifications
, the shaking down of corporate titans
for cash in the name of civic pride), the best articles were the ones about Bostonians’ reactions to hosting the convention.
Here’s a great piece (and lead) from the Herald’s Peter Gelzinis
“When it became official yesterday, when he learned that some 35,000 Democrats would be coming to town in two years, the bloodshot eyes of one weather-beaten Boston Dem immediately brightened. ‘Does this mean we'll get the Combat Zone back, or maybe the Old Howard?’ he wondered. He was kidding . . . sort of. Like this politically wired gentleman, I am old enough to remember the ruins of Scollay Square, old enough to recall how The Zone, in all its seedy glory, was forever justified as a magnet for conventioneers, to say nothing of visiting sailors.”
The Combat Zone! Brilliant. Memo to the mayor: We need strip clubs in Boston before conventioneers arrive. Hurry!
And, of course, local pols will have to be consulted (i.e., the old veiled ‘What’s in it for moi?’ hint), as Gelzinis notes:
“‘If people from the neighborhoods are given a seat at the (planning) table,’ said Brian Wallace, the representative-elect from South Boston, ‘then I don't see much of a problem. I think people understand what this means for the city, for local businesses. Let's face it, the city's crossing a threshold here.’''
Yes, we’re crossing a psychological threshold, but first things first.
Then there’s this story in the Globe
on the reaction of average Bostonians:
“A handful of longtime Bostonians interviewed over the past two days view the city's aggressive convention bid as something of a novelty -- a departure from the traditional behavior of a city that declares itself the Hub, but doesn't care if anyone else agrees or not. ‘Boston is what it is, take it or leave it,’ said Tony D'Amore, a financial analyst who grew up in the North End and now lives in Revere. D'Amore, 29, was underwhelmed by word that the DNC would be heading to town.”
What? He doesn’t have an inferiority complex? Attention Jon Keller! (Jon has been freaking out lately because of what the Economist has been writing about Boston. I’d link you to his latest piece in Boston Magazine, but Boston Magazine isn’t exactly partaking in the ‘new’ Boston; it doesn’t post its articles online. But here’s the gist of what Jon says, based on the subhead of his article: “If we’re so smart, how did our state become an international political laughingstock?” ... Oh, Jon. You’ll get your New York network gig one of these days. Just be patient.)
Then there’s our, um, history and mindset:
“The reasons (for not getting major conventions in the past) include not just a shortage of big arenas, but also a certain standoffish Yankee sensibility, some historians say. Massachusetts Historical Society director William Fowler remembers attending a tourism planning meeting before the Bicentennial in 1976. The audience expected the head of an eminent Boston institution to tell it how to attract visitors. But the speaker, whom Fowler declined to name, instead said: ‘Don't come, we don't want you. If you come, you'll wear out our historical treasurers.’
Go away. Just go away. That sums it up. Parochial and insular to the core. Again, Mr. D’Amore (“Of Love”):
“(D'Amore) chafes at the idea that Bostonians need to win a popularity contest. He's not opposed to the convention, just to the idea that Boston needs bigger and better attractions to impress the rest of America. ‘People are happy how it is. If you want something bigger, go to New York,’ said D'Amore. It's a conservative city, he added. Just look at the fact that bars close at 2 a.m. on weekends. ‘The Pilgrims landed here, and it seems like they want it to stay that way,’ he said.”
Happy? Paging Jon Keller, again. But wait: Boston? Conservative? What about McGovern in ‘72? Never mind. Boston bussing, ‘75. Those damn Pilgrims. Actually, a friend of mine once summed up the Boston mindset by noting that the region was colonized by one emotionally and sexually oppressed ethnic group, the English Puritans, who were later followed by another emotionally and sexually oppressed ethnic group, the Irish. And that’s Boston. Don’t blame it all on the Pilgrims. ... But shhhhhh. Don’t say that too loud. This is the new, hip Boston, after all.
So there you have it: The ‘new,’ misunderstood Boston in all its glorious and gory contradictions, proud but befuddled host of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Can’t wait for the hordes of bored journalists to descend on “Beantown” in 2004 (as they’ll invariably describe it), the liberal city of McGovern, ‘72, and the city still living down bussing, ‘75, as they’ll also note (but not tie the two together). Can’t wait!
A Boston reader responds
: A Boston reader says we "bought off" the Dems to come to Boston and "the same could apply to the Olympics." He adds: "We could get caught but won't have to call in Mitt to rescue us. He'd already be here as our governor." ... Hub Blog's response: We didn't buy anyone off! The Dems are coming here for our rich history, our diversity, Paul Revere, the Kennedy legacy, the ... actually, the Olympics are a very good idea.
Reader No. 1 responds
: “Good little article in the Globe Living/Arts section about people who are already planning to get the H out of town
(including Reader #1's beloved spouse). Kinda underscores your point about our relationship with tourists. ... At the risk of overconfidence, because things can change fast in the world today, looks like a 2004 Bush landslide between the Boston convention, Speaker Pelosi, and the not-very-appealing Dem Presidential candidate pool (can you believe Al Gore was almost President?).”
Dems coming to Boston:
Well, my prediction has been officially proven wrong
. The Dems are coming to Boston in 2004. Hub Blog is waiting for the torrent of predictable and dumb cliches about how Dems will be meeting in the "liberal" Boston, how it shows the Dem party is drifting left, how this could help John Kerry, blah blah blah. ... Hub Blog's reaction? First, I'll need to rummage through my junk drawer to find my old Democratic Party Memebership Card from '77. Second, I have to fetch the vintage framed photo of JFK out my father's basement. ... Mayor Menino, who lobbied hard to land the convention, has really scored one on this. Now maybe he'll temporarily lift the ban on smoking in bars, extend T hours, keep restaurants and bars open beyond 2 a.m., and other critical matters a good host city should consider when welcoming tens of thousands of guests from around the nation and world. And, oh, apprehend Whitey Bulger before he crashes the party. So many things to do!
A reader from Arlington responds
: "Figures they bring it here after
I move out of the North End. I had big plans of renting my pad out for $$$ to some film crew." ... Hmmmm. Renting out the apartment. Never thought of that. Interesting. Very, very interesting.
Brighton reader responds
: "Hmmm, but isn't it curious how the needs of the tens of thousands of guests coincide precisely with the preferences of a certain Boston-based freelance journalist?" ... It is curious, isn't it?
: The Globe weighs in on the Harvard Business School free-speech controversy
. Frankly, I think the Globe could have been harder on HBS. But the Globe has to be more diplomatic, one supposes. But Hub Blog doesn’t have to be more diplomatic: HBS really is run by a bunch of First Amendment numskulls. Of course, HBS could be giving the future corporate titans an advanced case-study lesson on how to properly run a ruthless modern media conglomerate. Oh, those clever, clever deans. ...
Finneran in trouble?:
He won’t be toppled early next year, but he’s on shaky ground
. And he knows it. Love this quote from a state rep who says he won’t be casting a vote against Finneran: ''I'm not going to throw my district under a bus to lodge a protest vote.” Yep, that pretty much sums up the mindset on Beacon Hill.
: Hmmmm. Maybe my gut instinct was wrong about the Dems selecting Boston for their 2004 convention
. As they say, ignore that man behind the curtain!
... Steve Bailey
has a different take on the convention, corporate backers of the bid and how business is routinely conducted in Boston. Steve goes a little over the top when he writes: “In Boston, home of Paul Revere and Faneuil Hall, we love the pomp and circumstance of democracy - it's democracy itself that makes us nervous.” Otherwise, Bailey is on target (again). ... P.S. Here’s yet another How Business Is Routinely Conducted In Massachusetts
Routine Business, gambling style
: Speaking of routine business, this one shouldn’t surprise anyone in Massachusetts
. It’s like, well, duh. But, no, we still don’t get it. So you have this
and you have this
. Forget all the moral and economic arguments for or against casino gambling. The reason why it shouldn’t be introduced here in Massachusetts is because it would be here in Massachusetts. Repeat: In Massachusetts. You know, the thoroughly corrupt little state we all know and love. The state that’s run by a corrupt machine that would set the rules and laws for casino gambling. The state that doesn’t need a new incubator for more corruption -- a new ‘industry’ source for campaign contributions and jobs for ex-lawmakers etc. etc.
The politics of rent control
: Tom Keane
sums it up well about why it’s so easy for politicos to support the rent-control measure. Kicker line: “Rent control has one other virtue as well. Councilors - and the mayor - know it will never happen.” ... Unfortunately, it looks like the damage has already been done
Milking and bilking the public
: I don’t know what’s worse: The fact that state regulators have systematically allowed a monopoly to take control of the dairy industry here or the fact that regulators are now beating up a little guy
who dares to sell his milk at lower prices than his monopolistic competitors. It’s only going to get worse
Rent control is working already
: It’s working in the sense that it’s working the way critics warned
. And it hasn't even been passed yet. Congrats, mayor. P.S. Any word yet, mayor, on the proposed Chinatown development
you've been dragging your feet on -- you know, the one with hundreds of new apartments that would help relieve the housing shortage in the city?
Showcasing the city
: Businesses are lining up to support the city’s effort to land the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston.
Why? They want to showcase the city to the nation and world. They’re proud of the region and its recent economic transformation. That’s probably the best -- and only good -- reason for supporting Boston’s bid, though Hub Blog suspects a little arm twisting also made the corporate types see the light of day on the issue. ... They probably won't have to fork over the dough anyway. Hub Blog seems to be in the non-boosterism minority these days in thinking that the dog-and-pony lobbying/courtship is nothing but national Dems appeasing Boston pols. The Dems will probably decide in favor of New York or Miami. The image of Boston as “too liberal” is a powerful reason to avoid the Hub in 2004, even though that liberal image -- as last Tuesday’s elections showed -- is seriously outdated.
The church and reform
: Hub Blog doesn’t believe it. I’m in full agreement with Joan Vennochi
and James Carroll
on the same subject and on the same day. Did someone slip something into my coffee? ... Alex Beam writes about a reform dispute at the Christian Science Church
Campus free speech
: Another setback for campus free speech
. Except this time it’s not (surprise) from the PC Nazis. It’s from the Corporate Suck-up Nazis
. And it stinks just the same. ... But the PC types are still alive and kicking in Cambridge, though they’re losing this battle
. ... And Helen Thomas
tells MIT folks how she censored herself for so many years. Yeah, right. Her strong views never slipped into her reporting. She was an Objective Robot programmed to tell the truth. And now the switch has been turned off and she has the freedom to hate life. What a delightful personality.
Mitt and patronage
: Dan Kennedy
is having fun over Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping on the issue of his patronage hires. To a degree, Mitt brought this on himself (again) because he should have made clear before the election that, yes, of course, naturally, he’s going to put key people in top posts who philosophically agree with his agenda. Otherwise, how can an elected executive put his philosophical imprint on government? He didn’t make that distinction before the election, so he’s probably going to take some heat for it now. But let’s make one thing clear: Constitutionally, he’s absolutely correct, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, to exclude non-management types (“the little guys”) from patronage hires. In its landmark Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois
ruling, the Supreme Court said that political patronage hires, promotions, transfers and recalls were unconstitutional because they infringed on non-management workers’ rights to hold political views (i.e., the First Amendment) contrary to the views of whatever party was in power. The court specifically stated that top-level, policymaking positions (the type Mitt is talking about) were exempt from the anti-patronage ruling because elected officials are entitled to surround themselves with people who can shape the philosophical agenda of an administration. Maybe Mitt deserves grief over what he did or didn’t say before the election. But what he’s saying now is both constitutional and
in line with what elected officials can and should be doing in order to comply with Rutan
. So, Mitt, stick to your guns. You have no choice. It’s supposed to be the law of the land, even though it's been routinely ignored in Massachusetts. If Mitt is truly serious about cleaning up the 'mess on Beacon Hill,' one of his first acts as governor should be to sign an Executive Order bringing the executive branch into immediate, verifiable compliance with Rutan
. We'll see.
Postscript: Hub Blog knows a thing or two about the Rutan
decision, which was filed in the ‘80s by an Illinois state government worker upset with the well-oiled GOP patronage system run by then Gov. Jim Thompson. The ruling was handed down in 1990, at the end of Big Jim's long tenure as governor and ten years after he imposed a "hiring freeze" in state government, which was the clever mechanism the administration used to closely screen and control hirings in state government. Hub Blog was a Statehouse reporter in Illinois at the time. The Rutan
decision sent shock waves through the Illinois Capitol the day it was announced. An incredulous Thompson, hounded by reporters through the corridors and finally cornered outside his office, was literally reading the decision, jaw dropped, as he blasted its logic in answer to reporters’ questions. The administration eventually took steps to “comply” with Rutan, but, of course, got around it by creating lots of new policymaking “management” positions and issuing more no-bid “personnel services” contracts. (Ah, privatized, smaller government at work!) Hub Blog is unaware of later rulings that may have significantly modified Rutan
, but I’ll gladly stand corrected if someone points it/them out.
Postscript postscript: According to Hub Blog's understanding of Rutan
, Mitt shouldn't even be saying he'll hold it against people, when hiring, if they worked on his campaign. Political considerations should not be factored into hiring decisions of non-sensitive, non-policymaking personnel, according to the court.
The overplayed ‘unbecoming’ issue
: You got to admire the Globe for admitting that the ‘unbecoming’ story in the last week of the campaign -- you know, the secret anti-female code word that NOW discerned Mitt using in the last debate -- was simply overplayed
. Here’s Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund: “The Globe did indeed overplay the ‘unbecoming’ story -- to the detriment of more deserving issues. It was legitimate news fare, but rather than let ‘unbecoming’ define the day's coverage, it needed to be presented in the broader context of the post-debate home stretch. An issues-focused hard news story, with ‘unbecoming’ as one element, would have better served readers.” ... And Chinlund also interviewed Globe editor Marty Baron about the matter: “Last week, when the flood had ebbed, I asked Globe editor Martin Baron his view on how the Globe handled the story. ‘Overplayed’ but otherwise fine as written, he responded. ‘Although it was indeed the much-discussed topic of the day for both candidates -- which says something about the campaign itself -- it was really much ado about very little. So, in my view, readers who objected to the prominence we gave the story have good cause to grumble,’ said Baron.’”
End of matter. It happens. And Hub Blog also agrees with Baron that the Globe’s coverage of the campaign was, overall, balanced and fair. Yes, there was the ‘unbecoming’ issue, not to mention the ‘BYU donation’ controversy. But I was highly impressed with the Globe’s day-to-day coverage -- the profiles of candidates, the examination of issues facing the next governor, the variety of opinions in its columns and oped pages (from Brian McGrory to Joan Vennochi). Having been a political reporter, I’d grade the Globe’s coverage at a solid B+, maybe even an A-. Ditto for the Herald. (No one gets an A from Hub Blog!) It was just a great campaign overall. Kind of sad it’s over. ... Hub Blog agrees with Reader No. 1 that Brian McGrory, Margery Eagan and Scot Lehigh were at their best during the campaign. The Globe’s Joanna Weiss and the Phoenix’s Seth Gitell also rarely missed a beat. Both grasped the dynamics and importance of the Independent vote -- and Gitell was also the first to detect, as far as I can tell, the rumblings among social-conservatives over Shannon’s minor (but fatal) drift to the left on social issues. ... One major complaint about the media’s election coverage: the pre-election coverage of Question 1 sucked. The final results of Question 1 were a shocker -- and, in retrospect, they shouldn’t have been. The question was polling at 35 percent with two weeks left in the campaign and with about 20 percent of the electorate undecided. If even a quarter of those undecided had gone for Question 1 (a reasonable bet at the time), it would have meant it nabbing 40 percent support, a highly impressive figure. As it was, about half of the undecided broke in favor of Question 1, giving the measure its final 45-percent base. The numbers were there all along. No one was doing the math before the election, including Hub Blog. Question 1 ultimately failed, but its strong showing altered the post-election climate in Massachusetts. We now know a huge portion of the population is fed up with taxes -- and that 45-percent figure will hover over all future Beacon Hill budget deliberations.