Bechtel and the ‘walrus list’ etc.:
Ah, it took a few days of mind-numbing (but necessary) prep work to get to this point in the Globe’s investigative series on Bechtel and the Big Dig. And ...surprise!
... Mitt, you’re a former CEO. Would you have liked it if Bechtel had treated Bain like this? I didn’t think so. Get ‘em!
(Though it may be too late, even if the legislature changes the liability limitations.) ...
... Tommy and the Trav say they’re worried about the rinks, the pools, the kids, the parks. And, gosh darn it, we should closely examine elimination of the MDC
. And don’t forget the ‘walrus list.’ ...
... Ah, Mitt. Someone
who usually doesn’t have nice things to say about you has some very good advice today. Postscript on this item: Hub Blog feels terrible. My head is hanging low. Over the past week, I’ve been spelling Eric’s last name wrong. It’s “Fehrnstrom.” With an ‘h.’ I’ll try to correct it in some of the other past items. My punishment? I will voluntarily not accept pay for Hub Blog for the next week. ...
: “It never ends. Another day, another boondoggle.”
Nobel laureates don’t like tax-cut spaghetti approach
: What? Ten Nobel laureates
are criticizing the Bush administration’s tax-cut spaghetti
plans? I’m shocked. ... Besides the good intellectual/economic cat-fight nature of this story, I also liked it, from a journalistic standpoint, for another reason. Notice how the reporter, Kimberly Blanton, A.) Puts into perspective who these laureates are and where they’re coming from in terms of their political/economic outlook and B.) How high up in the story she put that perspective. A fair, helpful touch that immediately put things into more, well, perspective. The most obnoxious quote in the story comes from Nobel laureate Daniel McFadden, who refers to the proposed tax-cut package as a ''weapon of mass destruction aimed at the middle class.'' ...OK, Hub Blog’s view on all of this? The Bush administration clearly is groping for an answer to the economy’s woes, shuffling around its economic team, coming up with new ideas, throwing tax-cut spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks, etc. Listen, I like tax cuts. If they’re well thought out and targeted right. I also don’t mind tax increases now and then. If they’re well thought out and targeted right. I also like keeping a handle on spending and balanced budgets. And so does Andrew Sullivan
, who yesterday fired a conservative warning shot off of George's bow.
War and NATO
: As I noted yesterday in the item immediately below, we’re witnessing truly historic events these days. The future of NATO
, not to be too melodramatic, hangs in the balance. OK, let’s get it out of our system: Bush is not very deft at diplomacy and contributed, to a great degree, to the controversy in Europe. But that’s not the point now, as H.D.S. Greenway
noted the other day in the Globe. The point today is how Saddam is flaunting the UN and, as others have pointed out, how France and Germany are also flaunting the UN and NATO now that the US has embraced a more multilateralist approach toward the crisis. ... Read John McCain’s remarks
about anti-Americanism over at Instapundit. The Europeans are responsible for this mess, too, particularly France and Germany. Arghhhh. France, Germany, evil. ...
... Speaking of the multilateralism/unilateralism debate, check out Andrew Sullivan
(yeah, I’m quoting Andrew and Instapundit a lot these days, but, hey, there’s a war going on) and the ludicrous quote by Arthur Sulzberger Jr. about how this is about unilateralism vs. multilateralism. Yeah, right. And the Bush administration embraces multilateralism and ... and what? France, Germany and the NYT suddenly don’t want to play by the multilateralist rules. As I’ve said before, the entire multilateralist/unilateralist debate is sort of nuts, for there’s no such thing as pure ‘unilateralism’ and ‘multilateralism’ in the real world. You use them in conjunction with each other, like knives and forks
, each with their own distinctive strengths and weaknesses. The Bush administration, reluctantly and perhaps accidentally, discovered the dual use of both. Arthur Sulzberger et gang are now shell-shocked at the multilateralist turn of events. ...
... James Carroll
has a good idea. Carroll thinks we should haul Saddam before a world court for crimes against humanity. And then: “A forceful indictment in such a forum, followed by a trial, verdict, and world-enforced sentence, has an unprecedented potential for a laser-like release of transforming moral energy.” ... Wow. Wonder what he means by ‘world-enforced’? Maybe, after a trial, he means we can all stand up, all across the world, all at one time, and wag our fingers at Saddam and then huff and puff and blow Saddam down with a ‘laser-like release of transforming moral energy.’ You’ve been warned, Saddam.
Bush and Statecraft, Part II
: Got a surprising number of emails about my post yesterday
on this Globe editorial
criticizing Bush’s handling of European affairs -- specifically Rumsfeld’s ‘old Europe’ crack. I disagreed with the editorial. But that’s not the point. The point, now, is the truly historic events, in my opinion, that are now playing out in Europe: France and Germany are now blocking NATO support
for Turkey should that country be attacked by Saddam during war. The French and Germans are literally destroying NATO and the essence of its mission: cooperative security. Here’s a great William Safire column
on Germany. And here’s an interesting op-ed by a German editor
conceding that ‘Round 1’ has gone to “Mr. Big.” And, as usual, Instapundit has tons of material, such as on France’s role in NATO
and Colin Powell’s common-sense views
on the UN. What’s encouraging about the Instapundit items, in particular, is seeing people expressing appreciation for NATO and the UN, despite their obvious and serious flaws, and how we’re headed into truly turbulent waters if they disappear. ...
... An update on Hub Blog’s adapting (but not flip-flopping -- I hope) views on this: Clearly, I was and remain disappointed by the Bush administration’s handling of diplomatic affairs over the past year-- its blustering and condescending rhetoric, its go-it-alone mindset. I firmly believe that the German election ultimately hinged on an anti-Americanism exacerbated by (but not caused by) Bush’s belligerent rhetoric. (See Safire’s quote from the new German opposition leader, who says if her party had been in power, it would have signed the now famous letter by eight other European leaders supporting the US on Iraq.) ...
, we are where we are today -- and the issue is now, for the moment, not Bush. It’s France and Germany. They are now doing everything -- everything
-- that they would have howled at (and did howl at) when the Bush administration played its own unilateralist act. We acted in a unilateralist way, switched gears and went the more (but not entirely) multilateralist route -- and discovered the biggest proponents of multilateralism were hypocrites and preferred their own unilateralist self-interests. Fascinating. Amazing. Historic. After this all blows over (and I’m not convinced it will blow over), I hope three things happen: 1.) The Bush administration tones down its rhetoric and uses a more deft unilateralist/multilateralist mix of diplomatic tools, which it’s been employing with great effectiveness in recent months. 2.) We kick France out of NATO and 3.) We kick France off the UN Security Council. France is a great democracy and has a beautiful culture, but it has a toxic, disruptive, poisonous foreign policy. ... Postscript: Notice in the German editor's column above about how this is 'Round 1' in the match, meaning more is to come. And as usual:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Soaking the rich, protocol and Eric
: Reader Steve II (not to be confused with Reader Steve of Arlington) writes in with the following:
“Just wanted to throw my two cents in on a couple of things --
“The Ridiculous 'Soak-the-Rich'
op-ed from today [also see Hub Blog item below on ‘Allegations of ..’] and many of the pieces decrying 'cruel' cuts: What I find intellectually dishonest about these pieces is that they fail to mention the 800 lb. (gorrilla) in the room: That 45 percent of voters who wanted to repeal the state income tax, followed by that recent UMASS poll showing 70 percent of voters don't want new taxes. My real fear is that an incremental tax hike now will provoke a backlash. If you don't like a $3b shortfall now, how will you like a $9b shortfall later? You can't argue for higher taxes (or retaining services) without at least acknowledging reality.
“The 'Mitt isn't playing the game' argument [see ‘standard political protocol’ within this linked item
]: I am on the fence on this one -- wasn't he elected to stop playing the game? Part of me really likes that fact that he has no need for approval from the traditional political class (unlike the complex that Weld developed later in his term). The other part of me says that Romney is going to have to play the game at some point.
“An Indirect Defense of Eric Fehrnstrom: EF is the Communications Director for Romney. Romney, from observing at least the first few days, is doing a far better job of communicating (meaning using public pronouncements, talk radio, newspaper editorial boards, etc) than Jane Swift did. Ergo, EF is doing a good job. His spat with that mayor was stupid and should have been put to rest earlier, but I would suggest that we wait before throwing him to the wolves.”
Who is John Kerry? Part (Who cares at this point):
OK, last one. Promise. Sort of. From Mickey Kaus
again, this time with an emphasis on the ‘epiphany.’ Still think Wayne Woodlief’s article
had it just about right on how Kerry could have handled this better. A quote from Wayne’s column last week: “‘He (Kerry) has to be very careful to let his newfound heritage speak for itself,’ not to appear to be exploiting it, said Boston University professor Tobe Berkovitz.”
‘Allegations of cronyism and political horse-trading’
of cronyism and political horse-trading in Massachusetts’ judicial system? Allegations?
In Massachusetts? What Bulger brother was a clerk of something or other in what court of something or other? Was there one or two of them on the court payroll? Forget. Well, OK. The Globe had to be fair in its story. But this is still great news
. Keep going, Mitt. Much, much, much more to be done. Question: When can we storm the Bastille? We’re all excited ...
... The Globe raises some legitimate concerns about making sure elimination of the MDC
doesn’t lead to poorer services. Fair enough. Doug Foy, get on it. ...
... Adrian Walker
gets it. Mitt’s reversal of his proposed mental health cuts showed that something different is happening in Massachusetts: “It involved an unusual act in government -- admitting a mistake.” Don’t want to put words in Walker’s mouth, but Hub Blog got the feeling he was also maneuvering and/or encouraging the governor to display more “disarming candor” on another issue, to wit: On taxes. Methinks he’s right, if that was indeed what Walker was hinting at. More on this later. ...
... Wait. Hub Blog just had a John Kerry-like epiphany: We don’t have to cut or reform or make hard choices or pay for our services. There’s a magic-wand easy way out. We can soak the rich!
Why didn’t we think of that? ...
... But Mayor Menino
is already doing that, in a different sort of way.
There are only 1,500 of them left
: A nice story on a 106-year-old WWI vet
who’s going to be honored by the French government. Just a change in pace. Can’t believe there are still 1,500 American vets alive from World War I. Time marches on. Sad. ... And this is sad
, too. Different war. Same duties.
Waxing poetry on the war:
A lot of other bloggers are having fun with the anti-war poets, such as Instapundit
and Andrew Sullivan
(scroll around until you find the various items). Hub Blog is still kicking myself in the ass for not posting a truly silly, embarrassing Globe editorial from a few weeks ago about the power of poetry to move, blah, blah, blah. (It’s always embarrassing to see journalists sucking up to poets, who otherwise couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag, though they can occasionally think their way into a mental institution, like Ezra Pound.) If anyone can find the Globe editorial, send it Hub Blog’s way. Anyway, Cathy Young
has fun with the holy-poets issue, which involves sanctimonious protests like this
‘The fox guarding the chicken coop’
: The Globe has come as close as anyone could ever hope or expect in getting its arms around the Big Dig’s finances
-- and the result is an ugly picture of arrogance, incompetence and chicken feathers sticking out of the mighty Bechtel's mouth.
‘Let’s solve - not complain’:
Cats and dogs are now sleeping together. Hell has just frozen over. The world has turned upside down. Eileen McNamara
is actually being fair to Mitt. I can’t believe it. Eileen asks some good (though obviously leading) questions that Hub Blog dares to answer: “But the generous individual gestures of the governor and the CEO also prompt a broader question: Is private philanthropy a reasonable or effective substitute for public policy?” Answer: No. They complement each other. “Couldn't new tax revenue be earmarked to preserve the social safety net while Romney mounts his assault on the prevailing political culture on Beacon Hill that so enrages the electorate?” Answer: Yes
-- with this qualification: How much ‘new tax revenue’ are you talking about? Suggestion: Split the difference on the looming $3 billion deficit. Give us $1.5 billion in genuine streamlining, reforms, sensible cuts to get a handle on spending and a good old-fashioned bloody storming of the Bastille for morale purposes etc., and we’ll make up the difference in new taxes to plug the deficit. But no reforms, no new taxes.
Who is John Kerry? Part VI: It won’t go away!
The hip ‘Ladder District’
: I don’t think I’ve ever read a story like this
. Kind of like trying to figure out where all those ‘sick jokes’ come from after a tragic calamity -- and actually discovering the answer. And so now we know how the trendy ‘Ladder District’ got its nickname. Know what? I think it’s great. It’s encouraging to see people, for whatever selfish motives, pushing the image of a neighborhood or region. ... Wait a second. Want to amend that last sentence. It should read: 'It's usually
encouraging to see ...' Remember the laughable attempt by some Lynn officials to rename the city to 'Ocean City,' or whatever? Or the silly and unfortunately somewhat successful attempt by the old Framingham News/Middlesex News/Metrowest Daily News (whatever) to recast the Framingham area as 'MetroWest'? Or the town of Manchester changing its name to the more pretentious but still cheesy Manchester By The Sea?
Bush and statecraft
: As anyone who reads this blog knows, Hub Blog is no fan of the president’s diplomatic skills. So there was a side of me, while starting to read this Globe editorial
on Bush’s handling of our European affairs, that thought I’d end up agreeing with the newspaper’s view. But I didn’t. And I don’t. The editorial is too Franco-German focused. Of course the Elysee Treaty of friendship and cooperation between Germany and France is important. Of course we should encourage greater European integration (as we’ve done, to our great credit, during the post-war decades). But France and Germany have their own selfish national interests at heart -- and, it can easily be argued, they’re now the ones thumbing their noses at the U.N. and the rest of the world, not to mention the rest of the European Union and NATO, all in the name of solidifying their power base within the EU. Bottom line: Donald Rumsfeld wasn’t too far off the mark with his ‘old Europe’ crack. It served a purpose and gave cover for other European leaders to stick it to France and Germany by openly siding with the United States. ... Update - 12:40 p.m.:
Just noticed this Instapundit item
with a link to Tom Friedman's column
about replacing France with India on the Security Council. Makes sense to me. ...Update II - 2:17 p.m. -
And again via Instapundit
, check out this column by the UPI's James Bennett
on the 'old' and 'new' and 'new old' Europe. ...Update III
-- And now look at this NYT article
on what France and Germany are doing to: A.) the UN and B.) NATO. They're treating both institutions like old-fashioned unilateralists. Why? For their own ends. ...
... Along the same lines, Tom Oliphant
writes about the ‘credibility chasm’ between Bush and Colin Powell. Tom: “This is not good cop, bad cop. This is effective leader [Powell], divisive leader [Bush].” Hmmm. Has anyone stopped to think that maybe they work well in tandem
? And, come to think of it, wasn’t it Bush who hired
Powell? And, after pushing for a U.N. role that should have been tried a year ago, isn’t it Powell who’s now scrambling back
to the president’s more hard-line view on Iraq? The president isn’t the Churchillian god that some on the right have portrayed him as in recent months. But he’s clearly been leading in this crisis. He could have done a much better job leading and building consensus. Absolutely. But he’s been leading and setting the agenda. Absolutely. ... (Jeez. I find myself defending Bush today. Odd feeling after weeks of bashing his idiotic rhetoric and extreme unilateralist instincts.)
True grits and junk food
: I still don’t want a McDonalds
on Beacon Hill, even if it sells Ye Olde Baked Beans, or in the North End, even if it sells Paul Revere Frappes. The sooner McDonalds collapses, the better.
Those ‘across the board’ cuts and other issues:
Some emails from readers ...
From reader BK
“Did you notice that this week's Boston Phoenix landed on Mitt regarding the ‘across the board’ percentages of his local aid cuts? Maybe Hubblog could speculate how the the conversational give-and-take might have gone like had Hubblog's favorite Legislative leader given the Governor the leeway to ‘customize’ the local aid cuts city by city, town by town. I bet Mitt would have cut most of the cities less severely and a made deeper local aid cuts to a good many of those towns that helped carry him to victory. As he said himself during the campaign: ‘[I'm not running to be the Governor for the rich.] Rich people don't need my help; they'll get along just fine. ...’ Giving Mitt the ability to adjust the percentages of the local aid cuts city by city, town by town for six months during this fiscal emergency could have been acknowledged as something like giving him a ‘temporary line item veto.’ Too bad for your friend Tom Finneran (Ooops-- did I just ruin your ability to paste my post onto your weblog? I guess I just want you to keep ‘own[ing] your own anger’ about the one legislative leader in America who makes even Tom DeLay appear to be about as tough as a Teletubby).”
Hub Blog’s response
: You didn’t ruin anything. ... Also, I’m assuming you’re referring to this Phoenix editorial
. Didn’t see a reference to ‘across the board’ cuts, but catch your drift. Thanks.
From Brighton Reader --
"Eric Fehrnstrom should not be getting more publicity than his boss. This is the guy in charge of the new communications office overseeing all state public relations? Does he rate being the highest paid member of the administration? He sounds like a jerk, and I have a suspicion he is getting whacked on this incident by reporters for past obnoxiousness."
Kennedy on the war
: As a public service, I throw this chunk of raw meat out to the blogosphere -- an op-ed piece by Ted Kennedy
on the coming war with Iraq. ...
... My own views on Kennedy’s op-ed: Clearly, Kennedy, whose position on Iraq hasn’t gotten the same local attention and scrutiny as John Kerry’s non-stand stand on Iraq, has a flat-out antiwar position, which includes, as one columnist has noted, constantly moving the goal posts. Maybe Kennedy’s gotten a relative pass because he’s, well, Teddy and we’ve learned to expect this from him. My position is more in line with H.D.S. Greenway’s op-ed
yesterday, in which he expressed regret about when, how and why we got to this point, but that we’re now nevertheless at this point -- and we had better deal with it sooner rather than later. I’d add that the future of the U.N. is now at stake. Some are willing to say ‘good riddance’ to the U.N. I’m not one of them. If the U.N. keeps issuing threats and ultimatums at Saddam and then does nothing, the U.N. is nothing. It’s over. It will have lost all credibility. And that will be a tragedy. The U.N. has to stand firm on this. ... About the only thing I agree with in Kennedy’s op-ed is the administration’s somewhat loose talk of possibly using nukes. Know some of that talk is necessary for deterrence reasons; George H.W. Bush’s administration sent similar signals to Saddam in Gulf War I, but ... saw the “McLaughlin Group” last night and the consensus of most of the panel, both conservatives and liberals, seemed to be, to varying degrees, that: A.) Nukes won’t/shouldn’t be used and B.) They agreed with Kennedy on that issue. There’s just a sense -- again -- that the current administration’s rhetoric has gotten out of hand.
: Howie Carr
is one of the few local pundits who has already feasted on Kennedy’s Iraq position. Example: “More and more, Ted sounds like his old man, circa 1939, when he was sending cables to FDR from London counseling appeasement of Adolf Hitler, complimenting Neville Chamberlain on the bang-up job he was doing selling out the Czechs.” ... However, this column is perhaps a classic example of why one should cite Howie with extreme care. Notice all the personal attacks and digs at Kennedy. (I mean, making fun of a 70-year-old guy’s shaking hand?) The last two lines are incredible. Why the racial reference? Why? In a way, this Howie column itself is also a chunk of raw meat thrown out to the blogosphere. ...
Update - 9:30 a.m. -
NYT columnist Bill Keller
, a wary warmongering baby-boom liberal, has just joined the 'The I-Can't-Believe-I'm-a-Hawk Club.' I'm not a member of his Vietnam-era club, nor do I consider myself a liberal. But there are a lot of moderates, moderate conservatives and even some conservatives who agree with many of the same points in Keller's piece.
‘This was a mistake. ...’:
Hats off to the Romney administration for listening and willing to reverse itself on mental health cuts
. ''We have pretty much decided this was a mistake. This was a core service,'' Health and Human Services Secretary Ron Preston said. ''I'm not embarrassed about whether mistakes happen along the line. The question is, are you going to reconsider what you've done.'' ...However, a few grafs later, the administration indicates it may have to cut this ‘core service’ next fiscal year. Go figure. ...
... This is NOT a hats off item on behalf of the administration. They have let go, fired, whatever,
a campaign aide who had landed a job within the administration, after the Globe, sensing the administration had again broken its own promise about not hiring campaign workers, started poking around her employment status. This is the second time
in the past few days when the administration has been caught toying around with its no-patronage/no-campaign workers pledge. Which leads to this question: Why the hell did he ever make such an unrealistic pledge in the first place? Every administration needs -- at the top-level and in other sensitive positions -- people who philosophically agree with its political views. Otherwise, it would be next to impossible to implement a philosophical/ideological agenda. As Hub Blog has noted before, the administration might want to take a gander at the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Rutan
, in which the court specifically spells out what is ‘legitimate’ patronage (for lack of other words) and what is illegal patronage (usually non-management positions). The governor should read Rutan
, spell out Rutan
to the public -- and announced that’s the way it’s going to be. Until then, he’s boxed himself in with a silly, unrealistic hiring policy that the press, inevitably and justifiably, is going to keep after.
Greater Boston and Joan's column
: I really hate to bring up the ‘Who is John Kerry?’ issue again, but I watched ‘Greater Boston’s’ Beat the Press program last night. (Yes, I was in full PBS mode last night.) They had a segment on Joan Vennochi’s much-publicized/praised/maligned column on Kerry
and the ensuing controversy. Joan, who didn’t appear on the program, relayed news that she’s received hundreds of emails, apparently most of them vile in nature, regarding her column. Don’t know what the emails said, but it was suggested some might have referred to alleged anti-Semitism in her column. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I heard it incorrectly. But let me quickly defend her column (which I liked) nevertheless on that specific point: There was no
anti-Semitism in her column. None
. Not an ounce
. If that’s what some or most of the email criticism was about, she’s getting a truly bum rap. Read the article for yourself. Forget whether you agree with the ‘no core’ part about Kerry. (I happen to agree with the ‘no core’ part, FYI.) Do you see any anti-Semitism? I don’t. ... So let’s drop the issue. It's ridiculous and grossly unfair.
Habib Koite, known here
: Habib Koite
is my favorite African musician and one of my favorite musicians, period. Beautiful, beautiful music. ‘Ma Ya’ is a classic CD. Koite and his band, Bamada, play here this weekend.
Mitt vs. the mayors:
It’s getting ugly. Really ugly. I don’t know who to knock first -- the obnoxious mayors or the obnoxious behavior of Eric Fehrnstrom for an incident that, unfortunately, is coming to symbolize the relationship between the mayors and the administration. OK, let’s start with the mayors, since I already I knocked Eric yesterday. We’ll take ‘em in numerical order:
I. The behavior and words of Salem Mayor Stanley Usovicz yesterday
were gross and child-like. The mayor yesterday, throwing cheap shots at Mitt for wanting to close a polluting plant: ``You know, if you're a wealthy CEO, I'm sure closing businesses and throwing people out of work is an easy decision.”
II. Read this line from the same Herald story about what’s really bugging Usovicz and other mayors: “Tensions have been simmering toward a boil since Romney took office a month ago, as local leaders stew over Romney's budget cuts and his refusal to subscribe to standard political protocol.”
OK, the mayors have a right to be upset about state aid cuts, though people like moi and others will argue the cuts are A.) Necessary and B.) Not nearly as devastating as mayors, who saw spectacular growth in local aid in the ‘90s, are asserting. ('No the sky isn’t falling.’
) Keep in mind: Lawmakers gave Mitt the power to make cuts, and some have even had the gall to moan
that he didn’t cut enough. ...
... But the part about subscribing to ‘standard political protocol’? A little trickier. For the life of me, I don’t understand why Mitt doesn’t/didn’t meet with individual mayors after announcing his local aid cuts. I know he made a great PowerPoint presentation at a meeting of mayors etc. Admire him for going into the lion’s den to give the bad news. But there’s nothing to lose -- nothing
-- by meeting with individual mayors to hear them out, even if the state’s fiscal crisis precludes Mitt from acting on many of their complaints regarding local aid. Just hear ‘em out. Ah, but let’s be careful about subscribing too much to ‘standard political protocol’ in this state. At times, it’s wise to say ‘screw’ to the standard political protocol of Massachusetts. It’s the ‘standard political protocol’ in this state that partly got us where we are today -- the Quinn bills, the Scam-o-ramas, the machine, the hacks, the petty power plays and bickering, the land deals, the judgeships, the pension games, the cozy contracts, the permanent bureaucracy, the late-night legislative anctics and the, well, general rancor that was here well before Mitt.
III. Mitt is mishandling
the Eric Fehrnstrom incident. Sure, he should stand by his aide. But he should also personally apologize to the mayor and make it clear he doesn’t condone Fehrnstrom’s actions -- actions, it should be noted, that Fehrnstrom now feels compelled to apologize for, which sort of verifies the general descriptions given about the incident, right?
IV. Bottom line: Mitt is making all the right tough decisions on the budget, but his administration is hopefully learning a lesson or two on common-sense diplomacy.
: I posted an ‘Eric, Eric, Eric ...’ item yesterday, but last night I noticed a problem on the Hub Blog site: There were two of the same ‘Eric, Eric, Eric’ items, both garbled and a mess. Figured it was a blogger glitch that mysteriously fixes itself after a few hours. It happens. But this morning, same thing: Two items, garbled etc. So I tried to fix the item(s) but ended up canceling it (them). Any ideas about what happened? Anyway, the gist of the item was: Eric was behaving like a jackass. Sorry if anyone linked to the item(s).
More on the budget front. ...:
Need a dose of sanity after reading too much about the antics of mayors and press secretaries? Read Steve Bailey’s column
this morning about going after the corporate-tax loopholes. Steve: “No one wants to go back to the bad old Taxachusetts days; well-crafted tax incentives are an important part of any economic policy. But closing tax loopholes, like the ones Romney is going after, should be a priority.”
More on the hack front ...:
Mitt has quietly rescinded
his rescinding of 27 appointments made in the final ‘standard political protocol’ days of the Swift administration. Turns out Mitt didn’t have the authority. Well, it was a noble effort. ...
Reilly, watch these guys
: As I’ve said before, pay close attention to deregulation of the wholesale electricity market
in New England. Hub Blog has very bad vibes about this. The problem is not deregulation. The problem is the monopolization of the market. Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly says the plan is “fraught with peril for ratepayers.” If he goes after these guys, it should be on the anti-trust front.
Europe, Iraq and past and future wars
: Nice piece by Charlie Sennott
on Europeans’ worries about the coming war on Iraq. I don’t think the World War II memories fully account for European opposition and anxieties. There’s also a lot of anti-Americanism, hypocrisy (especially among the leaders of France and Germany) and geopolitical jealousy at play, etc. Nonetheless, the article reminded me of a book I read a few years ago, called “Aftermath: The Remnants of War,” by Donovan Webster. There’s a chapter in there about how the French are still cleaning up -- and blowing up -- huge quantities of unexploded mines, shells, grenades etc. from the war. Oh, not from World War II, but from World War I. Vast portions of northeast France are still uninhabitable because of the dangers. ... So, yes, World War II memories are still quite vivid in Europe, but ...
... H.D.S. Greenway
writes a compelling piece about the compelling case for war against Iraq. Noting how he’s argued before that “pursuing Iraq at this juncture was a mistaken priority,” he nevertheless concludes: “The choice today is containment or war. My fear is that containing Iraq is a failed policy and that if we choose containment over war, we will still get war, and a worse war when Saddam has achieved his clandestine weapons goals.” ... Perhaps a mention here of a review of the new ‘Quiet American’ movie
isn’t logical, but it sounds like a great movie and, yes, appropriate, in its own way, as we talk of liberating other lands from tyranny. Hub Blog also is a big fan of Graham Greene.
-- Hey, just noticed this article in the Christian Science Monitor
, also about Europeans' views on Iraq, past wars and America. It ends with these quotes:
" 'Europeans will be happy to see the end of Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction, but they don't want to expend the blood and treasure themselves,' adds Joffe. 'Call it chicken, or call it moral, but it's a mixture of cold, calculated realpolitik -- staying out of harm's way -- and keeping the moral superiority of having overcome the atavism of war.' "
‘Call it what you will’
: The past few days have been very strange and traumatic for Hub Blog. First, I found myself praising a Joan Vennochi column. Then I saw someone who might usually defend a Joan Vennochi column criticizing a column that I had praised. It was as if the local blogosphere had gone mad -- mad I tell you! Anyway, the world is returning to normal. Joan is back to her half-baked ideas
. And I do mean half-baked. ... Joan on Mitt’s local aid cuts and how they impact Democratic-led cities more: ‘That political payback or reality -- call it what you will -- is not entirely Romney's doing. When state legislators voted last month to allow the new governor to cut local aid, they set rules. One was that Romney could not change the local aid formulas established when this year's budget was passed. That meant Romney could not direct the cuts, he had to make them across the board.” ... But then she adds: “These two facts are true about the residents of these cities: They supported O'Brien over Romney. They also make up the state's neediest, most diverse populations.” ... So when you can’t pin down with facts
that Mitt was trying to screw Democratic cities, you drag in two other facts in order to support the thumb-sucking conjecture and innuendo. Or call it what you will.
Who is John Kerry? Part V
-- And now Wayne Woodlief
is getting in on the fun. Read on until you find the bonus ‘like an epiphany’ quote. And the John Kerry ‘voyage of self-discovery’ continues. ... See other 'Who is John Kerry?' posts below, as well as the above item, for more context and texture.
No, no, no -- wrong direction
: C’mon, MBTA. Keep the ‘night owl’ service
. It’s popular. Mitt should definitely intervene. This has nothing to do with the state’s budget deficit, so his no-new-taxes pledge doesn’t apply. We should be expanding MBTA services, not reducing them. The MBTA is in debt. No doubt. It’s also in need of reform. Also no doubt. So: Reform, raise revenues, expand services. However: No reforms, no new taxes, no new services.
Colin Powell’s U.N. home run
: It was a great but sad day for those of us who believe in the deft use of both unilateralism and multilateralism diplomacy
. Powell was great. The news he presented was sad. And war draws closer, inevitably, unless a miracle occurs, like Saddam being deposed. How can those who saw yesterday’s presentation and who have repeatedly asked for a U.N. role to resolve the crisis now back down from the realities we saw yesterday? But they are.
Kennedy’s reaction wasn’t a surprise. He’s been pretty consistent in his antiwar stand. But look at, um, John Kerry’s position: ''Convincing evidence of Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction should trigger, I believe, a final ultimatum from the United Nations for a full, complete, immediate disarmament of those weapons by Iraq. Over the next hours, I will work with my colleagues in the Senate to fully examine the evidence offered by the secretary for a complete and close reading. But, on its face, the evidence against Saddam Hussein appears real and compelling.'' ... More tough-talking gobbledygook. ...
Check out Margery Eagan’s column
on the same subject. Margery: “By noon the specter of war and images of another terror attack -- images stored away if not forgotten in the 16 months since the planes left Logan -- they were back again, front and center, full color, constructed methodically, compellingly with numbers and details and aerial photos and intercepted conversations. All this was rolled into a speech 80 ominous minutes long by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Surely, he is the lone man in Bush's administration who could pull off what he did. ... ‘This is evidence, not conjecture,’ Powell said. ‘This is true,’ he said. My guess is that when polling data comes in, most of America will think so, too.” ... I think so, too. ...
... Margery also has a quote from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: ``It makes you feel like something has to be done. It (the U.N. presentation) was powerful. ... My only worry still is if (Saddam's) cornered. Wouldn't he then as his last gasp use all (this weaponry)? I can't imagine him going happily into the sunset.'' ... It’s my worry, too. It’s everyone’s worry. ...
... Finally, Brighton Reader
sent in the following letter last night, tackling the issue of ‘unilateralism’ vs. ‘multilateralism.’ It was written, he says, last week and may be a little outdated. In a way, it is. The Bush administration is now showing a great effort (and skill and patience) at balancing the unilateralist and multilateralist knives and forks. I’ve been impressed. But I still think Brighton Reader
has some good points. Here goes:
“Since the Second World War, foreign policy in both parties has been dominated by what I would call ‘internationalists,’ people who believed the United States had to take a leadership role in the world, politically, militarily and economically. There were differences between and within the Democrats and Republicans, but there was an assumption that we and the world were better off because of this involvement. One principle that the internationalists practiced was that it was better to operate with our allies and within multilateral organizations, than without them, providing it was consistent with our overall goals and interests and the various groups functioned in a rational, orderly way. It wasn't a prerequisite to action, but allies were seen as assets. What disturbed me about the Bush administration's initial push for Iraqi disarmament is that there seemed to be an assumption that working with anyone else was a sign of weakness, something to be avoided. Accept the use of foreign bases, some troops, ships and airspace, but only as needed or as a bit of tokenism.
“After September 11 other countries wanted to assist us. The other NATO members offered to vote in favor of invoking the clause that called an attack on one an attack on all. This would have been the first time this part of the treaty had ever been activated.
“This is all going to make our work more difficult in policy areas outside of Iraq. Trade, the environment, nuclear proliferation, you name it and we are going to get smacked. And cruise missiles are not going to be of any use.”
Who is John Kerry, Part IV -- Joan strikes back
: Belatedly, Dan Kennedy jumps into the Kerry mosh pit, and what happens? Joan Vennochi starts slamming him
and Dan slams back. It’s not fair! I was there first! Anyway, in her letter to Dan, it sure looks like Joan is now going beyond what she originally wrote in her column
by moving toward embracing a variation of the Mickey Kaus Theory
of Kerry. Mickey: “I tend to think this shorthand [‘he has no core’] doesn't quite capture Kerry's mysterious loathsomeness, which has more to do with risk-aversion and megalomaniacal ambition.” ... FYI: Love that ‘mysterious loathsomeness’ phrase. Love the entire sentence. So let’s repeat it: “I tend to think this shorthand [‘he has no core’] doesn't quite capture Kerry's mysterious loathsomeness, which has more to do with risk-aversion and megalomaniacal ambition.”
Update - 8:45 p.m.
-- I've now received three comments about the use of the words 'slamming' and 'slam' above. Call it a case of metaphor overkill. (Mosh pit? Slamming? Get it?) My apologies. I went overboard. I'm starting to feel old. (They do 'slam' in mosh pits, right? And I did spell 'mosh' correctly, right? Please tell me I did.)
Update 2-6-03 - 6:35 a.m.
-- Another reader, not addressing the all-important question of John Kerry, mosh pits and slamming, suggests Joan would make 'a splendid blogger.' Agreed. I'd like to see more local columnists writing blogs. The more the merrier. Heard some time ago that Boston.com was exploring the idea of weblogs (as opposed to chat rooms with staff writers, I assume). Hope they do it. Other publications are already doing so.
Finneran, Finneran, Finneran
: It seems like it was all Finneran Day in the Globe and Herald this morning. Finneran, the bonus baby
. Finneran, the way he behaves
. Finneran, the lord of business-as-usual.
In a way, the Globe’s editorial against the Quinn Bill
and this story about education officials
finally doing something about the Quinn bill had, if you think about it, a Finneran angle. Wasn’t it Steve Bailey who wrote a while ago that Finneran was promising, under the table, to expand the Quinn bill in exchange for the firefighters’ help in killing the Clean Election Law? ... On any other day, all of this negative attention on Finneran would be gratifying to anyone who hopes to change the way they do business on Beacon Hill. But, in reality, it was a depressing day. Why? Because of this story
about all the people sucking up to Finneran. (Not the reporter’s fault; it was the event itself that was depressing.) Finneran’s stature is rising, not diminishing. That’s the depressing part. And he’s loving every minute of it. ... P.S. The event kind of reminded me of the old Weld-Bulger smooch-a-thons.
‘No the sky isn’t falling’
: Good piece by Steve Bailey
about local aid cuts. Steve: “Everyone is a genius when the market is going up; now we will find out who can manage and who cannot in tough times as well as good.” ... On a different subject about cuts, Scot Lehigh
writes about all the Bush administration’s planned tax cuts. Hub Blog would suggest that if the administration is losing moderates like Lehigh on this issue, he’s losing a lot of others as well. (Not talking about the war; talking about domestic policies and the economy.) Personally, I haven’t heard, in casual conversations, many people around here praising these tax cuts -- and I’ve heard a lot of people, many of whom like both Mitt and Bush, refer to them in almost apathetic and cynical tones. There’s a sense the president grabbed a handful of tax-cut spaghetti, threw it against the wall and is awaiting to see what sticks. Not exactly reassuring.
‘A vast waste of space’
: Tom Keane
tackles the frustrating, never-goes-away issue of: What do we do about City Hall Plaza? Tom’s idea has something to do with a bulldozer. But that’s not going to happen. So I have a radical idea: Housing. Specifically, townhouses surrounding city hall. Now THAT would bring life back to the area. Know there are subway tunnels underneath that restrict what can be built there, but look at the townhouses/apartment complex they’re building at the foot of the Saltonstall building along Cambridge Street. Very simple. Very exciting. Tight space. And retail stores at ground level. Creative use of government-owned land. Just an idea. ... Postscript: I’m one of the few people who actually likes the funky City Hall building, though I acknowledge it needs, well, some humanizing touches, such as to its no-open windows and dreary interior. Let a developer take over the building for housing, creating some truly exciting, funky apartment/condos inside. But that’s not quite the point (nor is it very realistic): It’s the plaza surrounding the building that truly sucks. ...
... If you haven’t already, check out Dan Kennedy’s post yesterday
on the latest proposals for the greenway after the Central Artery is torn down. Dan: “What's crucial is that the greenway have some buildings and some life, and that it attracts people down there 12 months a year, during the evening as well as the day. Those well-intentioned nature advocates seem to forget that this is Boston, not San Diego, and that the weather makes a park attractive only five or six months a year.” ... One point: I’m also rooting for a new museum along the greenway, specifically a Boston History Museum. But my sources -- and they’re pretty damn good -- say that Mayor Menino has quietly opposed the idea and wants local fundraising efforts aimed instead at the Museum of Fine Art’s major expansion plan. Maybe things have changed. Heard this info about a year ago.
‘Charlie Chieppo finally drank the Kool-Aid’
: The tragic thing about the new South Boston convention center
is that it may end up killing off the Hynes. As inadequate as the Hynes may be for big shows, it really shows off the city to out-of-towners because it’s in the Back Bay, where there’s actually life and energy around. Suggestion: If the Hynes has to be sold, perhaps sell it to a private convention center owner/developer. Doubt that happens. But Back Bay restaurants and hotels would appreciate it.
Who’s John Kerry, Part III?: Mickey Kaus
is having more fun with the issue. Also, Ben Affleck for Congress? (And then scroll down below the Ben item for more on Kerry.)
-- Dan Kennedy
has jumped into the Kerry mosh pit. Hub Blog is fascinated. I'm actually in the position of defending
a Joan Vennochi column.
Who is John Kerry? Part II
: A number of people (including yours truly
) have tried to make sense of the latest saga of Who is John Kerry? But, for my money, Joan Vennochi
parked it while many of us hit only sentimental singles (or at least I hit a sentimental single, or more like an infield dribbler). Joan on Kerry: “The revelations about Kerry's roots underscore a fundamental problem at the heart of his quest to be president. Ethnicity is not the issue; being a mensch could help. But Kerry's confusion about his heritage mirrors a larger confusion about his essence: Who is he? What does he believe in? Whether the issue is war with Iraq or support for affirmative action, his political core is hard to pin down, perhaps as difficult as his personal roots.” ... Joan also fires off this line. “(Kerry’s) dismal jokes during St. Patrick's Day breakfasts should have been a tip-off that Hibernian humor is not in Kerry's natural gene pool.”
... Speaking of John, a number of readers have sent in this link
about the senator (via Instapundit
The ferret and the deer
: After reading this article
about the latest antics of Gov. Tommy, I thought to myself, ‘Mitt, this is what voters put you in office to do: Stop the ferret.’ But ...
... then I read this article about the hiring of Mitt’s ‘Staffer of the Month,'
a lawyer no less. Kicker line: “Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom said Messina was hired for the $55,000 position solely on the basis of her qualifications.” ... You just gotta laugh and cry at the same time. It never stops. Question to administration: Was her hiring really worth it? Hope it was, for the hiring (and, even more so, the explanation) inevitably hurts the credibility of an alleged reform-minded administration.
: Margery Eagan explores our modern ‘tear-a-thon’
whenever a major (or even minor) tragedy hits. ... Margery asks when all this false yellow-ribbon/candlelight-shrine type of coverage started. Good question. Don’t know the answer. Though I do know the yellow ribbons appeared to have started during the Iranian hostage crisis. And then there were the candlelight shrines after John Lennon’s death. Locally, a friend thought Boston’s own contribution to this maudlin media grieving can be traced back to Reggie Lewis’ death. ... Read Margery’s column all the way through. There is a terrible fact -- and a truly revealing fact -- about George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara. Horrible. I had NO idea. My respect for the Bush family has only increased. (And it’s based on empathy, as well as sympathy, and we’ll leave it at that.)
‘Chirac is a dangerous animal/Bush help us’
: Excellent story in the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor on events in the Ivory Coast
and the French role there. Check out the photo. For the record, the U.S. is supporting France’s brokered peace, something I doubt will lead to much gratitude in Paris. ...
... FYI: I’m still slugging through Ernest May’s “Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France,’ as I noted in an earlier post
. I’ll give a more thoughtful review (if you want to call it that) later, but it’s pretty hard to keep an open mind when you read a passage like this in the introduction: “Recent studies of General Gamelin, of France’s prime minister, Edouard Daladier, and of Britain’s long-maligned prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, not only explain why they were thought to be heroes before the debacle of 1940 but why they deserved
to be held in high regard.” (May’s italics, not mine.) Or this: “In fact, the Maginot Line (was) indicative neither of despair about defeating Germany nor of thought mired in the past. It was instead evidence of faith that technology could substitute for manpower. It was the forerunner of the strategic bomber, the guided missile, and the ‘smart bomb.’” ... Like I said, I’m slugging through it, though May does have excellent observations on other matters. Have reached page 332. Again, more on it later. ...
... Oh, what the hell. Now that we’re on the subject of France, check out this article
on France and Germany’s recent diplomatic blowback (via John Ellis
). ... And, while you’re at it, check out this Globe story on General Tommy Frank’s views
on the war and coalition building. Now, as I’ve said too often before, I’m more than a little upset with the swaggering rhetoric of the administration. But this article shows (the piece really picks up steam in the middle) the extent to which we really are taking a multilateralist approach in fighting terrorism -- and so the charge the administration is always 'unilateralist' is obviously quite wrong while attacks on 'multilateralism' simply don't reflect what's going on in the world. The words ‘unilateralist’ and ‘multilateralist’ are being slung around these days with way too much recklessness. I’m as guilty as anyone. ... And, again, what the hell, check out this CSM editorial
on how we need to mend fences with France and Germany. It’s only a so-so editorial (if anything, too simplistic and soft on France) but it’s on the same subject matter.
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Blizzard of ‘78
: The Herald has been covering the 25th anniversary
of the big storm. And so has blogger John Farrell
, who has some old family film clips and recollections from local bloggers, including yours truly (eventually, or so I'm told).
James Fallows fisks Bush’s SOTU
: Interesting fisking (not necessarily of the negative kind) of the president’s State of the Union Address by James Fallows
, a former presidential speechwriter, over at the Boston-based Atlantic Monthly
. It’s pretty fair and good -- and I think, overall, Fallows admired the speech, at least from a technical standpoint, though he didn’t come right out and say so. Some samples from the terrorist/Iraq portion of the speech and Fallow’s comments in brackets and italics:
... There are days when the American people do not hear news about the war on terror. There is never a day when I do not learn of another threat, or receive reports of operations in progress, or give an order in this global war against a scattered network of killers. [Effective in conveying the message: more is going on than you think
.] The war goes on, and we are winning. [And it's going better than you think
... I thank the Congress for supporting these measures. I ask you tonight to add to our future security with a major research and production effort to guard our people against bio-terrorism, called Project Bioshield. [This name won't last. Too much like Marvel Comics
... If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. [Good strong line
.] And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country—your enemy is ruling your country. [Best line of the speech
... We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all. If war is forced upon us, [Brilliant "redefinition" phrase: we are not launching a "preemptive" attack, we are being forced against our will to war
... We Americans have faith in ourselves—but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.
May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. [Some time in the last twenty years, politicians decided that they had to end every speech with "God bless the United States of America." It has become boilerplate that replaces the effort to find a real closing theme or idea. The natural ending for the speech would have been the word "history,"in the paragraph above
‘If it wasn't for the disgrace of the FBI ...’
: One of the things that has struck me about the Whitey Bulger/FBI scandal is how many local journalists have personal stories to tell about their encounters with these characters. And Joe Fitzgerald
definitely has an encounter to describe.
$0 per square feet
: More than any other economic story I’ve read, this says it all
: $0 per square feet of sublease office space in the ‘burbs. As in ‘Z-E-R-0.’ You just pay the taxes etc. ...
... and here’s a story about the growing ‘hard-core unemployed.’
Reader Steve responds to $0
: 'Beat that, Silicon Valley!'
Two Globe editorials dear to Hub Blog’s heart
: The Globe gets the big-picture thrust of these issues: the need for more housing
in Massachusetts and President Bush’s AIDs initiative
As for the housing editorial: Yes, the state housing trust has been doing good deeds. But is $7.5 million really a significant part of the housing problem/solution here? Does the cut really deserve the headline ‘Romney’s hold on housing’? Isn’t it ultimately about building and zoning regulations? OK, restore the $7.5 million and cut somewhere else. But we’ll still have a ‘hold on housing.’ A small quibble I wanted to point out. ...
As for the prez’s AIDs program: The Globe is impressed with the proposal (as it should be), but allows ex-Harvard guru and now Earth Institute honcho Jeffrey Sachs to mouth off. Sachs: ''The United States has to get off its unilateralism on this issue.'' Not a small quibble.
‘Grieve the loss ...but’
: A nice piece by Joe Sciacca
on the need to mourn Columbia but also to move on. There’s a war to debate and wage. ... FYI: Joe seems to sympathize with Dems who say the president has yet to make a case for war against Iraq. Hub Blog’s view, as you probably know too well, is that the case for probable war was made a long, long time ago, but the president has done a lousy job selling it and reaching out to others. Read the quotes of Dems in Joe’s piece. These are good, patriotic people who still need a little more persuasion, not vilification.
‘America’s lofty ambition. ...’:
I’m sure a lot of great (and not-so great) things are being written across the country about yesterday’s Columbia tragedy. Here’s Boston’s small contribution to some great thoughts on the tragedy, in an essay by the Herald’s Tom Mashberg
, entitled “America’s lofty ambition requires us to risk more.” Excerpts:
“But Americans rarely are rendered wobbly by omens, real or imagined. The heavens have been scarred once again by a space shuttle calamity. But those on the land below, fired by the anguish of Sept. 11 and fueled for the fight against terrorism, have learned to overcome.”
“Seven brave explorers died when the shuttle fell from the sky yesterday. Four American servicemen died Thursday in eastern Afghanistan when their Black Hawk helicopter hit the ground. All risked all to serve their nation and the interests of humanity.”
The Mashberg essay was one of the better local pieces I've read so far on the Columbia calamity. One of the best TV interviews on the subject, which I just watched, was with John Glenn, appearing on 'This Week.' It was so mesmerizing -- his views on the early days of space flight, the scientific and medical benefits of space research, why America is so technically advanced, why space exploration is so exciting, why it's worth all the dangers and risks. Reminded me, in an odd way, of listening to Ted Williams talk about the art of batting. If you've ever seen one of the Ted interviews (usually played during a game's TV rain delay), you know what I'm talking about. Glenn's masterly tone, preciseness and knowledge were incredible.
Who is John Kerry?:
That’s the question many of us have asked about our junior senator from Massachusetts. And he’s asked the same question about himself on a number of occasions. It’s more than a little infuriating. But this article
explains a lot about Kerry. Literally. What a cool story. Right up there with Madeline Albright discovering her roots. ... Say what you will about Kerry, his reaction to finally learning about his family’s heritage is moving. A reader can almost see him reeling and choking up when given an old news clipping about his grandfather. ... Keep reading until the end, when Kerry’s brother is interviewed.
Update - 2-2-03 -
A friend and I were talking yesterday about this story. We both found it fascinating. But then the subject came up: What about the part in the middle of the story when the Globe appears to take digs at Kerry for allegedly not correcting the widespread assumption, based on his name and party affiliation etc., that he's Irish American? My friend's response: 'Of course he's had it both ways. Hey, having a name like 'Kerry' isn't a bad thing for a politician in Massachusetts.'
A reader just wrote in: '"I like the 'Of course he's had it both ways.' Typical JFK."
Update III -- Mickey Kaus
is weighing in on Kerry's 'voyage of self-discovery' and his have-it-both ways stance on the war.
Cuts, bad; Mitt, bad:
I give up. No more ‘reverse engineering.’ Can’t get into the minds of these people as they complain away about state budget cuts -- without offering any practical, realistic solutions. Complain, complain, complain. Eileen McNamara
, it’s your turn to complain. As for moi, here’s my Grand Compromise: Mitt comes up with a truly streamlined, reduced spending, reduced hack payroll, reduced Scam-o-rama (thanks for the term, Marg) budget -- with the Quinn and Pacheco bills definitely thrown in as a matter of high principle, among many, many other reforms -- and, if the legislature passes it, we’ll beg, borrow and raise taxes to make up the difference. But no reforms, no new taxes. Simplistic? Of course. But at least it’s in the ballpark of offering up a solution and compromise (which Mitt also has to do, FYI). Dear complainers: What are your
non-one-track solutions for digging out of a multibillion dollar deficit?
‘Overhaul housing regulations’
: Yes, we should
. And we need to. As Hub Blog has said before, if Mitt is serious about ‘sprawl’ and housing and zoning and transportation, this could be his true legacy as governor, not whether he sticks to his no-new-taxes pledge on the budget deficit.
The Columbia tragedy, Part II
: I often wonder how the World War II generation often put up with such horrendous casualty rates: Normandy, Iwo Jima, Okinawa etc. I still know of a lot of World War II vets who are still alive, and I desperately want to know how they did it. I want to know how they protected our liberty under such grotesque combat conditions etc. But they won’t talk. They’re still shocked, humbled, speechless, and admirably so, and I don’t want to disturb their peace. They’ve earned it. They’ve earned their peace. They’ve earned MY peace. So I don’t press it. ...
... One of the other things I’m also amazed about the Word War II generation is how civilians put up with such catastrophic bad news, on the war front and home front, with incredible resolve, even though the news was horribly bad. No Oprah-like sentimentality. There were battles. Hurricanes. Bombing runs. Floods. Sinking of ships with thousands aboard. The numbing disasters -- both domestic and war related -- seemed to melt together. As horrible as that sounds. And there were fires. Horrible fires. At home. No Nazis. No terrorists. Life just went on in its relentlessly sad way, amid all the horror. Bad news got swamped by more bad news. Take the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston
during World War II. About 490 people were killed in a stupid, domestic, preventable/non-preventable fire at a nightclub in Boston. Many of them were military personnel with their dates. Bet most people, outside of Boston, haven’t heard of this horrendous tragedy. But the tragedy -- and it was a gigantic tragedy -- was lost amid the fog of war, at least as far as the rest of the nation was concerned. In Boston, it’s still remembered, though faintly so, sad to say.
... And now we’ve lost the Columbia, a horrible tragedy, at a time when the nation is still grieving and reeling from Sept. 11. But there are those trying to politicize this tragedy, calling America ‘arrogant’ or trying to rev people up about Iraq -- and they’re all absurdly connecting this tragedy to ‘left’ and ‘right’ dots concerning their world views or whatever. I feel sorry for them. Advice to the easily revved up: Columbia is a first-class tragedy. Don’t cheapen the mourning with cheap political cheap shots, left or right, just because you’ve developed a narrow, gross, ideological focus that rules out acts of ... God. Yes, God. You know who I mean. ...
... Let’s keep things in perspective. Let’s mourn Columbia. Brave people died on a noble mission for humanity. Yes, humanity. Nothing more. Nothing less. And, by the way, we’re at war. ...
The Columbia tragedy
: Everything else today seems so trivial, so unimportant.
‘You are a terrorist, a species of ...’
: Chief US District Judge William G. Young, who leveled the boom on Richard Reid the other day, is getting a lot of well-deserved attention
these days for his remarks to the attempted mass murderer during his sentencing hearing: ''You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist, a species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.''
: Lawmakers are bellyaching that -- get this -- Mitt didn’t cut enough the other day. Here’s the Herald story
and the Globe story
. My favorite quote is from Rep. Byron Rushing, D-South End: ''I think that the governor has essentially set us up. ... Clearly, the governor has not come close to keeping his promise to not cut core services and he really is just miles away from the campaign statements that he made. But what he asked from us and what most of us were willing to give him was extended [emergency] power so he could come up with $650 million worth of cuts. And what he has given us is half of that.'' ... Question: Who was really setting up whom? Judging by his own comments, Rushing is all but saying: ‘Mitt didn’t make the cuts we all know are needed and the cuts we were all set to criticize.’
‘It was so bad ...’
: The worst defeat
in Celtics history. How bad was it? ‘It was so bad that fans actually cheered when the Pistons scored and booed when the Celtics made a basket. By the fourth quarter, what remained of a sellout crowd wanted to witness history, even the embarrassing kind.’ ... And no excuses for Walker being hobbled last night. The previous Celts record for a blowout was set earlier this year.
: Local blogger John Farrell’s
short story "Trypho" appears in the February issue of Literary Potpourri
. Haven’t read it yet, but hope to get to it later this weekend.
Extremist ‘unilateralists’ and ‘multilateralists’ (Or why knives and forks are not mutually exclusive), Part II
: Ah, what the hell. Said at the end of my previous post on this subject
that I’d end the discussion, for now. But then I stumbled across this Charles Krauthammer column
about the U.N., RIP. This isn’t a perfect example of extremist unilateralism. And this article about AIDS ‘activists’
may not be the perfect example of extremist multilateralism. But they’re both close enough to make my point. As for Charles, he’s all over the map, bashing the U.N. and not mentioning how the administration is now playing the U.N. card (quite deftly, I might say, though belatedly, I might add). Charles brings up the subject of NATO and the eight European leaders
who have sided with the U.S. in the Iraq crisis, but doesn’t mention how those leaders constantly referred to the U.N., Security Council, NATO etc. in their collective letter. ...
... The ‘unilateralist’ vs. ‘multilateralist’ debate is becoming more and more like an argument over whether you should just use a knife or fork while eating. Well, personally, I kind of like using both. Don’t you? ‘Unilateralism’ and ‘multilateralism’ have to be used in conjunction with each other. You toggle back and forth, using one for one purpose, the other for another purpose, and sometimes you use both at the same time, sort of like using a knife to push the peas onto the fork, something my mother always railed against but a practice my father did with a wink and great dexterity. Are the U.N. and NATO both flawed? Hell yes. But junk them? Hell no. Bush, if we’re lucky, is finally discovering the naughty delight of using the multilateralist U.N. to push the little peas on our unilateralist fork. And the more peas on the fork, the better. Know what the best part is? We're beating the French at their own knife-and-fork game! ... And, again:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
‘Tax hikes won’t fly -- not yet’
: They can whine
. But there won’t be a tax hike to plug the state’s current budget deficit. Mitt ain’t going to do it. And he shouldn’t. Or he better not. But next fiscal year, well, that’s a different matter. Scot Lehigh
explains why in probably the best piece I’ve read so far about the old no-new-taxes vs. tax-and-spend debate now playing out on Beacon Hill. ...
... Best right-to-the-point lead
on a column I’ve read in a while: ‘The Metropolitan District Commission is a cockroach.’ ...
Read Tom Keane
this morning. Talk about ‘No reforms, no new taxes.’ From Tom: ‘If Massachusetts raises taxes and the Quinn Bill (which boosts cops' salaries by millions in exchange for taking bogus classes) is still around, then taxes were not raised as a ‘last resort.’ If we raise taxes and the Pacheco Bill (which prevents the government from using competition to deliver services more cheaply) is still law, taxes were not raised as a ‘last resort.’” As Tom says, the list could go on and on and on. ... Speaking of Tom Keane, you really should read his column for the number of other delightful observations and one-liners he fires off. As I said yesterday, I think analyzing the ‘style’ of a speech is almost always subjective and more than a little ludicrous. But Keane probably came closest to pure objectivity when he wrote the following about the speeches by Mitt, Tommy and the Trav: ‘All looked a bit like animals caught in the headlights (Romney, a deer; Travaglini, a koala; Finneran, a ferret).’ ...
... No, no, no! No more Howie Carr columns slamming hacks! But, damn it, he did it again
. (Some think -- or hope -- the Bulger/FBI legal wrangling will drain Billy’s personal piggy bank. Think again. Billy has built up his own mini-law firm over at UMass -- and we’re paying for it.) By the way, Howie plugs the howiecarr.org web site
for those who care. Didn’t know there was one. Alas, it’s not a blog.
Armored car heist in Charlestown
: Question: Was he wearing a Charlestown hockey jacket?
Amtrak vs. the MBTA
: Cosmo Macero
referees a fight between a pot calling a kettle black.
‘Something with a little bite’:
This is, without a doubt, the worst column ever written by Brian McGrory
. Period. Seriously. Awful. Immature. Lazy. And you know what? He had to do it. There’s just something about journalism where you have to pursue these cravings and get them out of your system. Kind of like a character in one of the greatest books ever written about journalism, called “Dwarf Rapes Nun; Flees in UFO,”
by Arnold Sawislack. If you’re a journalist, buy it. Sort of like ‘Confederacy of Dunces,’ though obviously not as good. (What could be?) Anyway, quick story line of 'Dwarf Rapes Nun': A Fleet Street Brit editor, unable to find the Holy Grail of screamer headlines in the UK, comes to the US in his crazed search for the perfect tabloid headline. In the process, he turns a small, sleepy, Midwestern capital city upside down and inside out. ... As for Brian: You found your Holy Grail. (Or did you?) Anyway, congrats. I'm envious. Now back to work!
-- For some reason, I can't get the above link to work for the 'Dwarf Rapes Nun' book. But it is available over there at Amazon.
Extremist ‘unilateralists’ and extremist ‘multilateralists’
: Hub Blog is starting a new campaign. Against what? The abuse of the words ‘unilateralist’ and ‘multilateralist.’ We’re all guilty of it these days, including yours truly. Tired of the debate. Got truly fed up with it when I read this editorial in the Globe
, which, by the way, doesn’t mention the fact that eight European leaders just signed a letter expressing solidarity with the US. ... Anyway, what bothers me about the ‘unilateralist’ vs. ‘multilateralist’ debate (besides the fact that it’s now entered the official lexicon of the modern ideological/cultural wars) is that there’s no such thing as a pure ‘unilateralist’ or pure ‘multilateralist,’ try as one might to prove it. George Bush, with his swaggering unilateralist rhetoric, is obviously now engaged in a very multilateralist chess match over at the UN. (And, surprisingly, he just might win, to the regret of extreme unilateralists and multilateralists.) Meanwhile, France, the biggest proponent of multilateralism, is now acting like a true neo-colonial unilateralist in the Ivory Coast. (Or should I call it ‘Cote d’Ivorie,’ as some are now pretentiously calling it. Should we start calling England ‘Angleterre’? Just asking. But I digress.) There are many, many different shades of ‘unilateralists’ and ‘multilateralists.’ Don’t have time to slice and dice all of them to show examples. But let’s take the recent war on terrorism to make the point: I don’t think anyone seriously doubted America’s right to go after the Taliban and Osama in Afrghanistan, with or without international help. We had and have a right to defend ourselves. That’s embracing, well, a form of unilateralism. But in the case of Iraq it’s a little trickier, requiring, as Bush has found out the hard way, a little more multilateral finesse, something the administration has been particularly bad at acknowledging and handling. Dismissing either ‘unilateralism’ or ‘multilateralism’ is like trying to fix a flat tire with a jack minus the tire iron. You need both. End it here with this vow: From now on, humble little Hub Blog will start referring, when appropriate, to ‘extremist unilateralism’ or ‘extremist multilaterism.’ And, oh, as usual, here’s this quote:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Allies, unity and cohesion
: A number of readers have sent various links that deal with this stirring and moving letter
by eight European leaders expressing their support for the United States and for a united stand against Iraq. One letter writer, noting my past criticism of President Bush for not reaching out enough to all Americans and to Europeans, said: “See? We do have allies!” My response: “Isn’t it nice
to have allies?” Excerpts from the letter by the European leaders:
“Today more than ever, the trans-Atlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom. ....
“The trans-Atlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security. In today's world, more than ever before, it is vital that we preserve that unity and cohesion. ...
“All of us are bound by Security Council Resolution 1441, which was adopted unanimously. We Europeans have since reiterated our backing for Resolution 1441, our wish to pursue the U.N. route, and our support for the Security Council at the Prague NATO Summit and the Copenhagen European Council. ...
“The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community are our best hope of achieving this peacefully. Our strength lies in unity.”
Besides the humbling reference to ‘American bravery’ during the struggle against fascism and communism, notice also all the references to ‘bond’ and ‘relationship’ and ‘unity’ and ‘cohesion’ and ‘all of us’ and ‘solidarity,’ not to mention the references to the U.N., the Security Council and NATO. There have been many in this administration who have wantonly ignored, even belittled, the idea of going to the U.N. and building a strong coalition. Is there or is there not a faction within this administration that has been touting a unilateralist, go-it-alone Pax America approach toward the world’s problems? Of course there is. To deny it is to lie. And it’s that faction that’s been dismissing the U.N., dismissing European sentiment, dismissing anything that even remotely smacks of the dreaded ‘multilateralism.’ And now some of the administration’s most ardent supporters are excitedly sending me this stirring letter by European leaders -- with the leaders’ references to the U.N., the Security Council, NATO and the need to act in a, well, multilateralist way -- and say it represents their views and not mine? Pleasssssssse. I firmly believed this administration’s bellicose, blustering and blundering policies over the past year have needlessly turned off a lot of people across the world and even here in America
. And I firmly believe this: Had the president more deftly handled the diplomatic front over the past year, we might have a had ninth leader signing the European leaders’ letter. Who would have been the ninth? A different German chancellor than the clown we have now. The election in Germany was close -- and it was settled, ultimately, by a gross appeal to anti-American and anti-war hysteria, fed partly by a U.S. president who didn’t realize his words (and not necessarily his actions) were disturbing a lot of people. Seeing that Phase I (Afghanistan) of the war is over and that we’re about to enter Phase II of the war (Iraq), I hope the administration has learned some lessons when we move on to Phase III. And again, here’s a line I’ve been using a lot lately:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Glad to see that so many now apparently agree with this point.
P.S. And, oh, yes. I did get this link to Peggy Noonan’s review
of the president’s State of the Union Address. She liked the speech. So did I. Just wish he had used the same calm, reasoned, non-chest-beating rhetoric throughout the past year. It would have helped our cause a lot more.
Update 7:30 p.m. --
That old 'faux-hawkish multilateralist' Tony Blair
is urging President Bush to stick with the UN option. Meanwhile, read on about the turmoil in Europe this crisis is causing.
The worst Globe op-ed?: Politica Obscura
thinks he's found it.
‘The CEO sets the stage’
: Must admit: Saw only bits and pieces of Mitt’s speech last night
. What I saw, though, wasn’t great but certainly not bad. Don’t want to get into a style assessment of the speech, for those who like Mitt will say they generally liked the speech, while those who don’t like him will say the opposite. A waste of time. ...
... The most curious morning-after piece was this Globe ‘analysis’
of Mitt’s handling of the budget announcements. It’s as if the writer, Frank Phillips, can’t quite believe that a non-politician is running state government and is handling matters differently from past governors. I mean, the shock! The article is strewn with references to ‘CEO’ and Bain and ‘businesslike’ and ‘corporate’ and other private-sector lingo. Love this line: “The frustration was palpable because Romney's approach was such a sharp departure from recent governors of both parties: Other chief executives would almost daily make themselves available to the news media - usually right outside the executive office - and take questions from any comer. ... Still, Romney's cool corporate style may be an asset in winning public support as he deals with tough budget issues.”
... One complaint: I do wish Mitt had outlined more of the cuts. The announcement he was firing hundreds of lawyers was a little too much of, hmmm, how shall we say this, ...pandering to our prejudices?
... Maybe last night wasn’t the time, but the governor better be serious about restructuring and reforming government. I think he is. The planned elimination of the patronage-laden MDC
was a great first step in the reform campaign. One of many other suggestions: the Quinn Bill. For some reason, this has struck a nerve in people. They know it’s a scam. Here’s hoping Mitt guts or reforms it next month. Remember: $100 million. ... Speaking of scams and reforms, check out Margery Eagan’s column
this morning. From Margery: “It's like scam central around here. It's Scam of the Week. It's Scam-a-rama. But during every budget crisis, we hear the same song and dance. I repeat: Cops, firefighters and teachers must go first. And the children. What about the children? Second. Throw 'em overboard. Meanwhile, the scam-meisters continue on their merry ways, laughing at all us saps.”
A reader responds
"Just a bit of feedback on the Phillips 'analysis' piece. I think you should read the whole thing as a shot across the bow from the Globe at the Romney administration regarding lack of access. In general, the administration has been very disciplined about leaks. And when they do leak, it's to (the) Herald. … The discipline trend appears to be in keeping with the administration's aim of centralizing press at the executive level. Fewer connected sources at the agencies means less opportunity for enterprising reporters."
Hub Blog's response
: One is tempted to say, 'Welcome to business journalism, Frank, where the CEO doesn't always have to talk to the press.' ... Not saying that's good, but that's the way it is. ... The institutional clash between the political press and Mitt is going to be fascinating to watch. Mitt, who came from the private sector, is obviously stealing a page or two from the press strategy of George Bush, who also came from the private sector.
They’re already carping
: The administration reaches out to the world and proposes a bold, dynamic plan to tackle AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. And what are some ‘activists’ saying? I’m not making it up: The administration is being too ‘unilateralist’ in its approach
. Unbelievable. As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I’m against ‘unilateralist’ extremists in this administration. But one thing I should start stressing more: I’m against ‘multilateralist’ extremists, too. The ingratitude of some of these people is amazing. Simply amazing. ... Keep reading the article beyond the bureaucratic whining and posturing. Toward the end, the story gives an excellent account of how the administration planned its radical AIDS initiative. Hub Blog personally knows some of the people the administration consulted with prior to Tuesday’s announcement. They are first-class, brilliant people dedicated to fighting AIDS. The more I read about this plan, the more I like it.
The speech he should have given a year ago
: He was calm, focused, convincing
on Iraq. The sad part is: This is The Speech He Should Have Given A Year Ago (And Throughout The Past Year), coupled with a U.N. Policy That He Should Have Tried A Year Ago (And Throughout The Past Year). You already know my position, so just reread this post
and this post
and this post
to get a flavor of where I stand. What a shame. The damage has already been done after a year of bellicose talking to his own kind, rather than trying to convince others. ... One can only hope that, after Iraq, he’ll have learned his lessons and try different diplomatic and rhetorical methods to achieve the same ends and drum up more support. But this Fred Barnes piece
, while identifying Bush’s admirable goals for Phase III of the war after Iraq, isn’t encouraging. ... Wonder if the president has ever heard of the phrase: There’s more than one way to skin a cat. ...
... Reader BK
sent in this email to me last night:
“Hubblog’s job For jan. 29th
“1. Put liberal press cant and commentary on Bush's SOTU speech through the most stringent scrutiny and reverse-engineering possible.
“2. Full-speed ahead with Hubblog's unique -- and as yet still unchallenged -- selling proposition: covering the media's and the Democrats' inabilities to grasp Romney's new thinking and approaches-- while still criticizing Mitt on the merits wherever Hubblog finds it necessary to do so.”
More on Mitt below, but first the reverse-engineering of Bush’s SOTU. Think I’ve already started that process by expressing my regret with Bush’s atrocious argumentative style over the past year, while still grudgingly supporting him. (Is that technically reverse engineering? Not sure.) Anyway, I think Reader BK has an EXCELLENT take on the speech himself. Here’s BK:
“Bush's SOTU: I bet the Democrats in the chamber (and most of the media) thought that Bush started out slowly, that he looked a bit tired, that the speech was going to be mediocre. But within two minutes, he reached across the aisle and -- domestic issue by domestic issue -- started pulling their collective teeth out until I wondered whether he was going to stop pulling when he reached their brain stems. By the standards set by Bush's speeches of September 14th, 2001, September 20th, 2001, and last year's SOTU, this year's SOTU is only a very, good but not a great speech. The Boston media's opinionazzi will contend that it is even less impressive. But had any Democrat given last night's speech, it would be ranked as the most farsighted and courageous speech (let alone SOTU) that any leader -- Democrat or Republican -- has given in the last two decades. (And) great work on Kerry's foreign policy ‘masterpiece.’ Looking forward to your continuing and thorough guidance through JFK's year of ‘personal growth’ in his pursuit of the presidency of the world's oldest democracy.”
Oh, yeah, my masterpiece fisking
of Kerry’s masterpiece of a speech. Thank you. Now that
fisking the other day was definitely a form of reverse engineering. Ain’t easy being a multilateralist defending a unilateralist against a fellow multilateralist while also attacking the unilateralist’s penchant for treating others like dog doo-doo. ...
But where were we? Oh, yes. BK’s challenge to Hub Blog to monitor the local media’s spin this morning on George’s SOTU speech. No huge complaints, but did find this instance of reverse engineering: The Herald’s ‘analysis’
of the speech was more negative than the Globe’s ‘analysis’
of the speech. Thought that was rather curious. And any time you put a Scot Lehigh
column and a Derrick Jackson
column on the same op-ed page, with the two writing about the same subject, that, too, is a form of reverse engineering. (Loved Scot’s take on the sham interviews with Iraq’s scientists. Read it, even though you might not need more proof of Saddam’s cruelty.) Derrick will never, ever be convinced about the need to go to war, but he does raise interesting points about Rummy’s unilateralist ways and 'Powell's vindidation.' (That’s reverse engineering, right? Taking a slap at Derrick while also admitting he makes some decent points? Or am I supposed to dismiss everything he says just because he’s not 100 percent on ‘my side’? ). ....
... Meanwhile, loved this article
for one reason: John Kerry’s retort to the president. And here’s Johnnnnnnnny: ''We live in serious times facing serious challenges, and we cannot afford a mere rhetorical presidency. ... Americans are tired of politicians who make promises in speeches and break them in practice.'' ... A ‘mere rhetorical presidency.’ John Kerry said this. John Kerry. Methinks Tom Oliphant has a different impression
about who’s been a tad bit too rhetorical these days.
... What was the most encouraging, exciting, non-Iraq portion of Bush’s speech?
His call to fight AIDS
in Africa. It was AWESOME. Seriously. If funded and implemented correctly, this president will have saved millions and millions of lives -- and win millions of admirers in a continent that truly does look up to America and wishes we’d be more active there. Need more of this compassionate, intelligent multilateralist outreach, George. Wins 'friends' and 'allies.' ...
... What was the worst part of the president’s speech?
It’s what he didn’t mention: The evil, evil threat posed by Canadians
to our north. This is truly frightening. Hub Blog's new secret mission in the war: Must find 'Agent Deep Freeze' and neutralize him before it's too late.
Update -- 1 p.m. --
Love it. Love it! Europeans are squabbling
and taking sides (sort of) over Rummy’s ‘Old Europe’ crack. Interesting observation at the end:
“I don't want to exaggerate the depth of the differences or overplay the unity of the ‘New Europe.’ British opinion polls are indeed running soundly against the war in Iraq. Much of the Italian and Spanish media are profoundly anti-American. For that matter, support for American policy in Iraq might be found in France and Germany if the Bush administration, Rumsfeld included, cared enough to promote it. Nevertheless, differences remain -- so when foreign reactions to the president's State of the Union speech are quoted today, do find out which countries are speaking in the name of ‘Europe’ before drawing conclusions.”
Makes my points, counters my points. And that’s why I like blogging. Thanks to none other than (drum roll please) Reader BK, once again, for the link.