Going, going, gone ...: Donna M. Morrissey
is busting out of PR purgatory.
‘No ‘credible evidence’ of a patronage problem’
: Hub Blog was all excited when I read this Globe story
with a lead that started out: ‘Responding to the clamor for government reform ...’ Of course, lawmakers are merely going through the court-reform motions, while increasing funding and maintaining their grip on the purse strings. Still, the House Dems’ court ‘concessions’ were mildly encouraging. Until I read this Herald story
. Here’s the key passage: “House Ways and Means Chairman John H. Rogers said there is no ‘credible evidence’ of a patronage problem. ‘The governor seems to be playing on a myth,’ Rogers (D-Norwood) said.” ... I’m sure Howie Carr can provide more prosecutorial ‘credible evidence’ if you need it, John. For moi, this will always remain Exhibit A
... Next up: Reform and/or abolishment of the Bechtal Turnpike Authority. Joan Vennochi
makes a good case for it, without really making a specific case for it. Instead, she floats a really grand idea: Haul Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift before a hearing, swear them in, and ask the big question about the Big Dig’s buried $14 billion sticker price: What did you know and when did you know it? ... We’ll turn Joan into a fire-breathing reformer yet! ...
appears intrigued about an actual two-party system (pay to view).
State property and the housing crisis
: Not sure about rushing off to sell state land for $180 million
and dumping funds into a flawed, bloated pension system. But I like the concept of using the land for housing. ... If you want to see smart and creative use of state land for housing, stroll on over to the Saltonstall building near City Hall. ... Personally, Hub Blog prefers the new Bowdoin Street townhouses over the more futuristic Cambridge Street designs. But it’s housing. On state land. On a puny tract of state land.
Why didn’t they do this sooner?:
Amtrak is finally lowering the cost of the Acela Express
in order to increase its ridership market share. Why they pegged Acela prices to the price of Boston-NYC shuttle flights, I don’t know. They should have been undercutting prices all along, not matching them. ...
While Amtrak tries to expand rail ridership, the obnoxious MBTA GM Mike Mulhern
, carrying on the long tradition of the T’s bias against rail, is gloating over the Silver Line’s glorified bus service and figuring out ways to quash the masses’ bias for rail: “In some quarters, there's a real bias against bus service. ... Will we ever silence all the critics? I don't think so. But will we convince the vast majority of people that we're able to run a high-quality, bus rapid transit system? I think the answer to that is quite clear. We've almost doubled ridership (along Washington Street) in one year.” ... Need more proof about the T’s institutional bias against rail and for buses?
‘I helped them in the battle’
: Add Scott Bernard Nelson
to the list of embeds who made tough life-or-death decisions during the war in Iraq. Nelson isn’t exactly taking the Jules Crittenden ‘Screw them’ attitude toward potential critics. But after the obligatory nod to armchair journalism ethicists, one can sense Nelson has few qualms about what he did. Nor should he. ...
The consensus seems to be that the embed system worked
. And it did. Think of it this way: Would journalists (and readers and viewers) like to return to the Gulf War I days of spoon-fed briefings in tents and media centers?
Happy Patriots Day, New Englanders
: Giving myself a light blogging break this weekend and perhaps through the rest of the week. Isn’t it glorious? Easter, Passover, Patriots Day, all on the same beautiful spring weekend? Hope you’re enjoying your weekend, too. The Patriots Day holiday, in particular, has such a distinct, non-commercial New England feel to it. A springtime version of Thanksgiving. Appreciated. Unspoiled. Simple. ...
But I do have one other blog item to unload today. Here it is below (and please read it, especially Brighton Reader’s fascinating and timely history lesson on stolen art). ...
‘The Monument Men’ and a semi-correction correction
: No, I’m not pulling a Jo Moore, i.e. dumping bad news on a weird day so nobody notices. But I do want to quickly point out a few things that recently came to my attention:
‘The Monument Men’:
The other day, Hub Blog blogged about a Herald editorial
, which went after the critics of the U.S.’s failure to protect historic artifacts during the fall of Baghdad. I was (and remain) furious with the obnoxious assertion that we’re somehow uncivilized ruffians who deliberately allowed the tragic thefts. There was an elitist, cheap-shot nature to the harshest of criticism -- criticism that often and typically went well beyond justified lament. Still, I think we deserve some criticism for not anticipating the lootings and organized thefts. This article
and then this article
in the Globe show that the tragedy was far more widespread than originally believed. But Brighton Reader really put the tragedy into historical perspective for me. From Brighton Reader:
“The looting of Iraqi museums and libraries was awful, tragic and not unprecedented. Both the Globe and Herald editorials were simplistic. ...
“Preserving and recovering cultural artifacts is not new to the American military. During World War II, a special section of the US army was detailed to recover art stolen by the Nazis. All through the battles from Italy to the German surrender they worked to locate and protect paintings, sculpture and other important cultural artifacts. Known as the ‘Monument Men,’ they were not always successful, faced with hostility from commanders and with few resources, they persevered. Among the items recovered were the relics of Charlemagne, paintings by Caravaggio and sculpture by Michelangelo. One member of this operation, Walker Hancock, later designed the inauguration medal for his former commander, President Eisenhower. Hancock lived for many years on Cape Ann, where I met him and first learned about this largely unknown effort. A great book, ‘The Rape of Europa,’ describes the Nazi looting spree and the Allied recovery efforts.
“Given our ability to win wars in an incredibly short time, I think we are going to have to figure out how to get the countries where we fight functioning quickly. Basic police protection, emergency medical care, and yes, protecting the higher arts of civilization. It seems we can fight and win with fewer troops, but can we keep order, too?”
Wow. Interesting historical perspective.
‘A Semi-correction Correction’:
Also the other day, Hub Blog blogged on the Eason Jordan/CNN
affair, bringing up the issue of whether Eason et gang didn’t report on the death of a Kuwaiti woman during the first Gulf War twelve years ago. In the postscript, I neglected to add this sentence to the paragraph from Eason’s original op-ed piece
: “Then there were the events that were not unreported that nonetheless still haunt me.” My eyes just glazed over the double-negative “not unreported” and I wanted to cut quickly into the heart of the paragraph. So I omitted it. But a mistake is still a mistake, and I stand corrected and fall on the sword. I assume “not unreported” means just what it says: the event was reported. My apologies -- and my apologies to any and all who picked up this item on Hub Blog. I blew it. ... But, ah, why call it a ‘semi-correction correction’? Because A.) I won’t back down from my overall criticism of CNN’s behavior, 99 percent of which derives from other facts, and B.) I’m still scratching my head over “not unreported.” ...
... Have a great Patriots Day, New Englanders!
‘The seeds are being sown now’
: I love this. Reform and
a two-party system
. ... Can’t believe Mitt was/is honestly thinking of signing the pay-raise bill. If he does sign it, it’s game, set, match point, Finneran. Mitt will have lost all credibility, most of his support, and any emotional leverage with voters to carry on the reform fight after this budget cycle. ... Do you hear it? Members of the Progressive Hack Alliance are ‘emboldened’ by recent poll numbers showing the public will favor tax increases to soften the blow of budget cuts. Where’s the news here? Hub Blog favors the same thing. The catch is to force lawmakers to accept reforms into the packages -- some of which will soften the blow of both service cuts and
tax increases. ... Notice how anti-reformers (hacks) and/or luke-warm supporters of reform ('progressives') never want to soften the blow of tax increases. Oh, they tut-tut, reforms won't 'solve' the budget crisis or they're 'too small in savings.' etc. etc. ... The Progressive Hack Alliance: It exists.
Michael Widmer, God of Impartiality, speaks
: “While the fiscal crisis
is requiring painful spending cuts across all of state government, it also provides a singular opportunity to curb longstanding spending abuses and eliminate inefficiencies that have been tolerated in more prosperous times. In the urgency of crisis, state leaders have the rare chance to overcome the always loud but usually narrow-based political resistance to eliminating the favored treatment, special deals, and wasteful protectionism that government tends to accumulate over the years.” ...
‘A major reform of yet another Beacon Hill sacred cow’
: Just another ‘small saving’
that will lessen the blow of both service cuts and tax increases. ... Herald’s conclusion: “And who said a fiscal crisis was a bad thing?”
Our reputation as a civilized people, restored
: So it was a well-planned inside heist, complete with sophisticated glass cutters, knowledge of fake and real antiquities, museum catalogs, keys to vaults, indications the ‘looting’ started weeks before the Americans were in Baghdad and even before the war started, the likely role of ‘outsiders’ etc. ... Herald takes a swipe
at the Blame America First Club and the Globe. ... Reread the column by Paul Zimansky and Elizabeth C. Stone contained in this post
. Notice how much time they spend attacking the U.S. and how “American forces deliberately engineered that breakdown without having allocated adequate resources to put something in its place.” ... Deliberately engineered that breakdown
. Pathetic. They’ll never admit they were wrong. Not even partially wrong.
Mother Nature is sending us a signal:
Ah, the $1.2 billion Silver Line
. The most expensive bus line in history.
Borrowing to get out of debt
: No major philosophical objections to this borrowing plan
. The timing is tricky, though. Not sure if Wall Street will go along with it at this time. ... No matter what happens on the borrowing front (say it’s $500 million for the next fiscal year), it still leaves a $2.5 billion hole in the budget. No reforms, no borrowing?
‘Is that a breeze of reform?’
: Yes, it’s a breeze
. But only a breeze. ... More ‘concessions’
from Dems. The more the merrier. But lots, lots more are required to make us truly merry and to justify a tax increase. There’s still: the Pacheco bill, bumping rights, court reform, the Quinn bill, Billy, the Bechtal Turnpike Authority, pension shenanigans, a Rutan anti-patronage executive order if Mitt would ever sign one, pay raises to deep six, agencies to be eliminated and/or consolidated, shady land deals, democracy in the House, the Governor’s Council, no-bid consulting contracts, nepotism, tort reform, etc. etc. ... Sorry, the MDC, health-services consolidation, Medicaid cuts are not enough. They don’t go to the heart of how Beacon Hill operates. Not even close. They’re bones.
Update -- The Herald
is doing a jig over the possible/probable demise of the MDC. Personally, I'll believe it when I see it. The MDC has been pronounced dead before. The Herald rightly adds: "As Finneran and Rogers put the final touches on their budget blueprint, they should make room for more reform. The times demand it."
Playing proxy footsie with Al Qaeda?:
The Christian Science Monitor
is rummaging through the trash -- in a good sort of way -- and coming up with documents in Baghdad that show an African terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda was in frequent contact with Iraqi ‘chargé d'affaires’ in ... in Nairobi, Kenya. Wasn’t an embassy blown up there? ... The links between Iraq, Al Qaeda and the group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) of Uganda, are tenuous, as the CSM report notes, though some ADF forces did apparently train in Osama’s camps in Afghanistan. ...
Fighting a war you can’t win
: Ever wonder what it was like to be an Iraqi soldier and commander fighting the Americans? Scott Peterson and Peter Ford
have the scoop in interviews with top Iraqi officers. ... It’s almost sad. No, it is
sad. Profoundly sad. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds died from Allied air attacks. ... Saddam’s Stalin-Hitler-like vision of himself as a great commander led to blunders of incredible magnitude. ... The psy-ops campaign had mixed result: The leaflets were all scooped up by Ba’athist fanatics, but the faxes and e-mails to commanders had a "big impact.”
Red light ... green light! Red light ... green light!:
It’s starting to sound like a kids game. Doug Foy dumps on commuter rails in general, suggesting they contribute to sprawl, turning on its head the conventional wisdom that commuter rails help alleviate one of the major problems of already existing sprawl: Traffic congestion. ... Then Mitt goes to the South Shore
yesterday and says the Greenbush line isn’t dead
. Well, sort of not. Maybe. He’ll have to check the back of his envelope. ... Oh, we’ve only spent $100 million so far on Greenbush. ... Suggested compromise: A.) push ahead with Greenbush. B.) put Fall River-New Bedford on the deep back burner C.) insist Doug starts focusing on the real cause of sprawl: Z-O-N-I-N-G.
Jim Kelly, he’s back
: He sure doesn't sound like he’s mellowed
. ... I can’t figure out this line: ‘A 244,000-square-foot vacant Cambridge Street parcel is valued at $54.8 million.’ What are they talking about? What vacant parcel? Does anyone have an idea? ...
Michael Kelly’s last column:
It’s over at The Atlantic
, via Instapundit
. We’re going to miss this guy.
'The moon will run crimson with the blood of the Boston infidels ...':
You got to read this. Jim Caple
has former Iraqi information minister Mohammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf calling a Yankees-Red Sox game from Yankee Stadium. ...
Thanks to John Farrell
for the email link. You made my day, John.
‘Protesters should pay for their illegal actions’
: Reader Rich sends this note in about an earlier post
on street protesters:
“I respectfully have to disagree with your statement ‘We all know the idea to charge protesters to protest is wrong.’ ... As I understand it, the bill would tag anybody
(not just protesters) with a fine for blocking traffic. I see nothing whatsoever wrong with that. The courts have long recognized that 'time, manner, place' restrictions on speech are valid (i.e. content-neutral restrictions). There's no 1st Amendment right to sit outside someone's house with a bullhorn at 2:00am. Similarly, I see no 1A right to block traffic on public ways. The 'protesters' should
pay for their illegal actions. They want it both ways -- (and unfortunately you're buying into their act in this case) -- they want to be seen as committing civil disobedience but they want to escape all the consequences of their actions. It doesn't work that way.”
Hub Blog’s response
: Respectfully disagree. Here’s why: Besides Tom Keane’s astute point
about the correlation between marches and cleaner streets, I’m beginning to think they should be encouraged, begged, required and even paid to protest for another obvious reason, to wit: Whenever protesters put on their Mardi Gras outfits and hold ‘die ins’ and shout ‘Hey! Ho! ...,’ they become distracted from serious argument, they embarrass serious thinkers on their side trying to engage in serious argument, their elitist costumes and antics alienate everyone else, support for their causes invariably sinks -- and the rest of us win! ... Personally, Hub Blog thinks we should establish a secret slush fund to bribe ANSWER into protesting on behalf of Tommy and the Trav. Extra bonus bribes if they can do ‘die ins’ in front of Mitt’s office, hold anti-reform rallies outside for the cameras, block traffic etc. ... A winning strategy!
Scene 2, Act IV -- Throw reform bones at plebeians:
The reform ‘concessions’
the House is now offering up are part of the script: Cut services until people beg for taxes, throw in a couple reform bones to keep the howling masses happy. Superb acting, guys. Bravo! ...
... Mitt better veto Tommy’s pay-raise scam if he wants to extract more concessions -- and maintain his reputation as a reformer. Here are the three best arguments
I’ve seen for taking on Tommy, especially now that he’s offering up ‘concessions,’ perhaps calculating the ‘concessions’ will lull Mitt into being a nice guy about the pay raises. From the Globe:
“First, Romney has earned the label of reformer. But all his proposals for government reorganization will look pale if he winks at so blatant a power grab.
“Second, Romney must indeed work with the Legislature and its leadership, but he must also show he is a player. If he lies down on this fight, he can expect to be steamrolled by the legislators all year.
“Third, he might win. The 50 votes opposed to Finneran's proposal were tantalizingly close to enough to sustain a veto. If the same people voted, only one vote would need to change.”
This line needs repeating: “If he lies down on this fight, he can expect to be steamrolled by the legislators all year.” ... And steamrolled by angry voters, too. ... From the MetroWest Daily News
: “ ... the Legislature seems intent on rejecting Romney's reforms, not improving on them. In the last two weeks, task forces appointed by House Speaker Thomas Finneran have recommended against restructuring public higher education, closing under-utilized district courts, reforming the inequitable system of funding court budgets and making state employees pay more for health insurance.”
‘Let Greenbush roll, save South Shore’:
The Herald is coming out against the administration’s decision to kill off the Greenbush line
(no mention of the New Bedford-Fall River line, though). Good points are raised: 1.) Greenbush won’t cause sprawl -- as Doug Foy seems to be saying about all commuter rail lines -- because the South Shore is already densely built up. 2.) Killing Greenbush will only encourage rail opponents to litigate and drive up costs on other projects. ...
Speaking of litigation, MBTA general manager Matthew H. Mulhern
is practically inviting opposition to restoring trolley service along the Arborway in Jamaica Plain: ''If the MBTA was faced with overwhelming opposition to the project in the very community it was meant to be servicing, we'd have to take a step back.'' ... The good old MBTA. Deep down, you just know they hate rail and love those Silver Line buses.
Reader No Nickname responds
“I have to jump in on the article about putting the trolley back in JP. This is a nice idea that simply won't work in that space. The gist of the project is to replace the former Green line that ran down S. Huntington and Centre St. in JP (not the Arborway as the article suggests). The first problem is that this area is already within walking distance (b/w 4 - 6 blocks of the Orange Line) of the T, and how many people will really want to take the a 15-20 stop Green Line train downtown over
the 8-10 stop Orange Line. Plus the admittedly unspectacular, but serviceable 39 bus already serves that route. (So people who want mass transit in the area already have it.)
“The second problem is that Centre Street is already too congested. ... Trolleys will occupy the entire available driving lane, blocking traffic and be blocked by traffic. I defy anyone to drive this route at 5 PM on a weekday and explain how the trolley will solve any problems.
“Lastly, in an age of scarce budgetary funds, does it really make sense to spend tens of millions of dollars on a project that will only provide incremental improvements in transit service for a neighborhood that already has subway access and multiple T bus routes?”
Hub Blog’s response
: OK. You got me. Concede the argument for the sake of argument. Don't know JP as well as you. I’m just angry in general about all the rail setbacks in recent days, weeks and months. Particularly the Greenbush fiasco. ... And there is
a MBTA bias against rail and for buses.
MCAS criticism hits a new low, Part II
: Joan Vennochi
on the great Snow Day Essay Controversy
. ....%$#$@*&)B&6)T ... ^%$B7*&TV)*& ...*YbB(*&^&BVYyt65#@bv8!UCR ... Sorry. That was my head banging against the keyboard again. ... P.S.: Thank God they didn’t ask kids what their favorite candy was. We’d have people lecturing us about how some kids can’t afford candy and how there’s a Type B Diabetes epidemic among children today.
Jeff, Dante and Ellen on the CNN scandal
: Jeff Jacoby
is on this issue. So is Dante Chinni
. And so is Ellen Goodman
. Overall thought on all three: They make good points: past coverage of the PLO (Jeff), off-the-record journalism rules (Dante), coverage of wars in general (Ellen). ... But they all seem to miss the important, salient point: CNN knew people were being killed and tortured for their association with -- and inaction by -- a specific media company seeking access. ... Doesn’t this cross some sort of unique journalistic line? ... Sadly, all three op-eds veer away from this point and drift into tangential pet-peeve arguments about journalism in general.
The ‘wizard’ is revealed
: I knew about Billy using the endowment fund
as his personal Defense Fund. Didn’t know that public tax dollars are used to prop up the endowment fund.
Morphing into a neoconservative, Part II:
Reader John on Syria:
“ ... Definitely. I think a little note to these guys that we could smart-bomb one or two of their more obvious training camps might get the message across.”
Hub Blog’s anti-ideological ideological response: We’re there.
Deal with the reality on the ground, not some Bob Kuttner
lament about how we got there. Syria is a problem. ... If the French can be ‘pragmatic,’ so can we.
A Reform-O-Meter for post-Saddam Iraq and Beacon Hill
: Reader BK has a splendid, splendid idea! From Reader BK:
"Which will come sooner -- an independent Iraqi Authority (notice, I didn't say complete constitutional governement with nationwide elections, just an independent, reforming authority made up of Iraqis), or the reforms that Romney is proposing to Hub Blog's beloved and favorite state legislature?
"Hub Blog should devise a running Reform-O-Meter to keep track of this comparison -- a board that both Hub Blog and Hub Blog's many readers can submit their odds to on a daily or weekly basis."
Hub Blog's response
: I shall accept the challenge. Do readers have any suggestions on how to set up a Reform-O-Meter? Any and all ideas welcome.
Strange days indeed, most peculiar, mama
: The trend evidence keeps piling up: A Concord dad
taking out a contract on the wife, a Boston University professor
found floating in the Charles River, a Harvard grad student stabs
and kills an 18-year-old cook, MGH doctor murdered at work, suburban girl attacked while walking home, etc. ... Eerie events are unfolding in suburbia, academia and combos of the two. ... Hub Blog was going to post something on this mysterious trend, but Eileen McNamara
took the dive first. ... Court TV should open a bureau here. On average, our murders and unsolved mysteries aren’t as sensational as the grisly fodder routinely coming out of LA, but we seem to have an irresistible Upstairs Downstairs component that LA lacks.
'That's not to say the protests were worthless’
: OK. We all know the idea to charge protesters to protest
is wrong, unfortunately. But what is it about the professional antiwar lefties that instills such a visceral contempt for them? I think it has something to do with their immature snootiness. ...
... Tom Keane
has his own theories about the antiwar protesters and movement. But he has a surprising conclusion: "That's not to say the protests were worthless. Two weeks ago, in anticipation of Boston's demonstration, the city towed cars and, seeing an opportunity, also cleaned the streets of sand and salt left over from the winter. Mine was one of those streets. So from a purely selfish perspective, a good march at the beginning of every spring would be welcome." ... Hmmmmmm. "Dear ANSWER: How about a march down Anderson Street, ending at the White Hen on Cambridge Street? Thank you. Sincerely, Hub Blog."
‘Veto the pay raise, fight for reform’
: Veto it
, Mitt. Finneran has declared war on you. Declare war back.
MCAS criticism hits a new low
: Fourth-graders will have to retake their MCAS
tests because of this controversial essay subject: "Write a story about a snow day off from school that you remember.'' ... %$#43t88vch8821y5886^$v765%4088bv&^&%0pp([yf ... Sorry. That was my head banging into my keyboard.
We’ve lost the war, lost the peace, lost our enlightened reputation
: Yes, it’s true. Paul Zimansky and Elizabeth C. Stone
cover the ‘stain on our reputation as enlightened and civilized people’ angle. ... Robert Kuttner
rehashes the ‘Rumsfeld's war-on-the-cheap’ and ‘squandered’ angle. ...
... Scot Lehigh
must be taking lessons from Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf
because Scot sees things so differently: “The joyous celebrations that broke out in Iraqi cities, the dancing and the chanting, the victory signs, the thumbs up and the thank-yous, the handshakes and the hugs and the horn-honking, the cheers and the chanting, the sheer exuberant delight of a people finally free to express themselves, have given the lie to that claim more vividly than words ever could.” ... Scot, Scot. It’s over. We lost. We’ve squandered everything. ... And Richard Hottelet
, stop writing about how the “US has no better ambassadors than the GIs when their instinctive amiable generosity is given free rein.” ... It’s over, Rich. Gone. Squandered.
‘Every country had better take note’
: The Russian Army
seems impressed with our victory. Darn it. Meant to say ‘squandered endeavor.’ ...Anyway, says one Russian: "The Americans have rewritten the (military) textbook, and every country had better take note." ...
Does that mean Syria should take note? Hub Blog must be morphing into a neoconservative, for I found this Christian Science Monitor editorial
on Syria both realistic and appealing: “...If Arab suicide bombers are entering Iraq through Syria to strike at US forces, then Damascus must realize it is a party to an act of war.” ... Exactly. Not saying we should go to war. But we’re there in Iraq -- and if Syria (or Iran) seriously think they can get away with killing GIs with truck bombs etc., as they did in Lebanon in the ‘80s, they can and should be crushed. ... The Globe
also has an editorial on Syria, rightly asserting we need to rebuild Iraq first while keeping a wary eye on Syria, but the editorial is a little to limp for me. ... Again, I must be morphing into a neoconservative, but you gotta deal with the realities you’re up against. Syria is a nasty reality.
‘This is my favorite phase of the war’
: Jules Crittenden may have returned home, but Globe emeds Brian MacQuarrie
and David Filipov
are still reporting away. MacQuarrie’s story is great, following the GI ‘ghost chasers’ as they check out the latest horror reports and evidence about Saddam’s reign of terror. Says one officer: “This is my favorite phase of the war.” The officer is obviously a history buff. And so is MacQuarrie for riding along. ... Reading the ‘ghost chasers’ story, I couldn’t help but think of David Remnick’s “Lenin’s Tomb.”
Eason Jordan defends CNN in letter to Dan Kennedy
: Eason Jordan
has written a long letter to Dan Kennedy, defending CNN's actions. I was so infuriated reading the letter, I was set to fisk the damn thing. But Dan does a great job demolishing Jordan's arguments at the end. No need for a fisking. Eason just doesn't get it.
: Read the paragraph below from Jordan's original NYT op-ed
. See if you notice anything. Here's the paragraph:
"A 31-year-old Kuwaiti woman, Asrar Qabandi, was captured by Iraqi secret police occupying her country in 1990 for 'crimes,' one of which included speaking with CNN on the phone. They beat her daily for two months, forcing her father to watch. In January 1991, on the eve of the American-led offensive, they smashed her skull and tore her body apart limb by limb. A plastic bag containing her body parts was left on the doorstep of her family's home."
Notice it? See the word 'Kuwaiti'? See the words 'occupying her country'? Did this happen in Kuwait? A different country. Kuwait was liberated 12 years ago. Jordan couldn't tell this story until now? Never mind the danger Iraqi employees, sources and family members faced by having any association with CNN in Iraq. We're talking about Kuwait
. ... They sold their souls for access.
'Wave the white flag on mass transit's future'
: Continue to get emails on my post about the cancellation/postponement of the Greenbush and New Bedford Fall River
commuter rails, in addition to this morning's post from Brighton Reader
. Not only is it a bad decision, but Foy's logic is flat-out anti-commuter rail, under any circumstances. Anyway, a sampling from Savin Hill:
"Could not agree more with you regarding cancellation of the Greenbush line and the general mass transit mess in Mass. To throw away this idea now is to wave the white flag on mass transit's future for ... well, probably decades. You correctly tie the issue to a type of effette snobbery of all things suburban emanating from the earthy-crunchy types. ..."
Another letter, this one from John:
"Good stuff on your blasting Romney for the decision to bag the commuter rail. Far as I'm concerned, local Bloggers should start beating up on Hingham the way national blogs are bashing France."
Surviving the war and now HBS?:
First Lieutenant Joe Finnigan, who's deployed with the Third Battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment in Iraq and who conducted an application interview via satellite phone during a sandstorm in Kuwait, has been accepted into the Harvard Business School
. He doesn't know it yet. They're having trouble getting hold of him, understandably. Here's hoping he gets home safely and has a happy celebration.
Here’s why we should pray for the Boston College grad's safe return: Saddam’s Fedayeen are launching deliberate attacks
in Baghdad against civilians, trying to pin blame for them on Americans and disrupting the peace. The Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Petersen actually interviews one of the Fedayeen, who's confronted by a cleric: " 'You were not forced,' the cleric spat out. 'You fedayeen are hypocrites. Fedayeen is a missionary job; you are misrepresenting the faith, and slaves of wealth. You've lost all your respect for human life.' " ... Nope, we haven't done one iota of good in Iraq. Not one iota
Deep cuts and House pay raises
: You can’t make this up: House Dems
are pushing ahead with plans for deep cuts
in order to make the public scream for taxes -- while Tommy and Trav orchestrate pay hikes for members
, most of whom just voted to turn down pay hikes in order to ‘share the pain’ with the people. ... The cynicism is so par for these guys, it barely registers a blip on the outrage detector. ... Is there or is there not a voter-approved constitutional provision establishing how and when lawmakers should get pay raises? Not that voters and the constitution matter to these guys. ... Still: Not a peep from the ‘progressive’ community, as one reform after another gets shot down. They’ll feign outrage after they get the taxes -- when the leverage is conveniently gone.
Plato, Socrates, Jefferson, Locke, Marx etc. -- all rolled into one:
Here’s a quick profile of Harvard professor Brian Palmer
, who teaches "Globalization and Human Values: Envisioning World Community." ... That covers about everything, right? History, economics, philosophy, ethics, the future of the world, etc.
Hub Blog’s headache over humanitarian assistance in Iraq
: Hub Blog goes back and forth on this issue, causing dizziness, disorientation and throbbing headaches. Here’s why: Sarah Kenyon Lischer
, a specialist in humanitarian aid and a research fellow at Harvard University, makes some good points about the expertise of professional do-gooders in these matters. And then she bashes the military. ... Of course, you can’t bash the military too much as long as they’re hiring committed people like Michael Iacobacci
, a civilian contractor for the Army in Iraq. ... But, whoa! The former head of the Big Dig
is overseeing U.S. development efforts in Iraq. ... But, wait, the antiwar movement
now wants a say in rebuilding Iraq. ... See my dilemma? ...
... Favorite quote from antiwar ‘activist’ Katharine Preston of Lincoln, Mass.: "People who turn to antiwar protesters and say, 'You must have been wrong,' don't understand where we're coming from.” ... You’re wrong, Katharine. We know exactly where you’re coming from, even though the media routinely doesn’t tell us where you're coming from in stories about the antiwar movement. ... Second favorite quote from an antiwar ‘activist’: "There's not one iota of proof yet that what the US has done there has helped anyone." Remember: Not one iota.
Here's one iota -- besides the freeing of millions from a tryrant -- Hub Blog would like to see happen in Iraq: The capture of Saddam. The Brits are reporting he's still alive
The devil wants the Angels
: Frank McCourt
is a finalist to buy the World Series champion Anaheim Angels. ... Are those ugly surface parking lots near Fort Point Channel still ugly surface parking lots, Frank? Or are you still trying to throw wrenches into others’ development plans in order to maximize the value of your parking lots? ... Believe me, Frank is a kook. I’ve met him. I’ve listened to him. He’s a kook. Hope he buys the Angels. Improves the Sox’s odds.
: The war is over -- and Brighton Reader is back! Anyway, Brighton Reader takes aim at Doug Foy and the decision to kill the Greenbush and New Bedford/Fall River
commuter lines. From Brighton Reader:
“What is this guy thinking? Commuter rail is not going to cause sprawl. If zoning regulations stay the same, there are still going to be big subdivisions of oversized houses no matter what you do about public transportation. Provide some real incentives to communities to allow multi-family housing, smaller lot sizes and houses that are not enormous, and thus hopefully more affordable. One of the main reasons people keep pushing out to 495 and beyond is the hunt for a home they can afford. Foy also overlooks the economic benefits that commuter rail brings. The New Bedford/Fall River area has always had one of the higher unemployment rates in the state. They will benefit from having more people living in the area, spending the money they earn in Boston.
“And people really like commuter rail! It is popular!
“Totally agree with you about the message it sends about litigating projects to death, and also puts the administration on the side of elitists who want to keep their towns isolated Pleasantvilles.”
Hub Blog's response
: This is one of those issues that will leave a negative mark on Mitt's record for years to come, if not decades. Frank Sargent killed an auto highway through the city -- and he's fondly remembered for it. Mitt killed commuter rail lines into the city -- and won't be fondly remembered for it. The difference is 'auto' and 'commuter rail.'
‘The tax revolt will be something to watch’
: The Herald had a nice editorial yesterday about efforts by the anti-reform 'Let ‘Em Beg for Taxes' Dems pushing a trial balloon to raise the auto excise tax.
The Herald: “... on second thought, maybe they should let the plan go forward. The taxpayer revolt will be something to watch.” ... Indeed, let them go forward with it. It’s sure to further alienate Independent suburban voters
is taking a swipe at the Herald’s pay-to-view policy on its columnists. Glenn: “Why in God's name is The Herald
limiting its web content to subscribers?” ...
'Kubler-Ross's stages of dying':
A reader writes in to thank me for all my recent posts on Tom Keane’s
Let ‘Em Beg For Taxes theory on the state budget, adding that I sound like I’m going through "Kubler-Ross's stages of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance." ... Hey, I admit it. I see Finneran’s strategy unfolding before my eyes and I can’t believe people are falling for it. I’m scrambling for counter-measure tactics. ... FYI: Blogger’s permalinks don’t seem to be working today. Scroll down for numerous references to Tom’s column.
Cosmo takes a smack at CNN
: More on Eason Jordan and Peter Arnett in Cosmo Macero’s column,
which contends CNN is croaking itself. ...
... Dan Kennedy also has some thoughts on both CNN’s ‘ethics’
and Jules Crittenden’s classic ‘A mortal decision made’
column on the demise of objectivity in the face of enemy fire. Put another way: There are no atheists in foxholes -- and there ain’t no journalism objectivity either when someone’s firing RPGs at you. ... FYI: For the same Blogger-permalink reasons, you may have to scroll down below for my thoughts yesterday
on Crittenden’s piece. ...
Grab me one of those flintlock jezails, Jules
: The Herald’s embed Jules Crittenden
looks like he’s about to bid farewell to A Company, 4/64 Armor Battalion and head home, perhaps after he grabs himself and Hub Blog one of those souvenirs in Uday’s secret storeroom
‘Prepared for a backlash’ over Doug’s World
: The Romney administration says it’s ‘prepared for a backlash’ over its plan to kill the Greenbush and New Bedford-Fall River
rail commuter lines. They better be prepared. Because the backlash starts right here: This is an awful, snob-motivated, non-reality-based decision that’s being driven less by transit finances, as the administration claims and fibs, and obviously more by Doug Foy’s fanciful, ideological, anti-sprawl, utopian vision for developing the Perfect Hobbit Villages. ...
... Ultimately, the new transit plan’s glaring flaw -- abandoning commuter rail expansion in favor of expanding the Blue, Green and Silver lines, as if the two are mutually exclusive -- rests on the fanstastic assumption that’s there’s only one way to fight sprawl: Doug Foy’s Happy Hobbits way. ... What does Doug expect? For corporations and people to suddenly pack up their belongings and move from the suburbs to Revere, Medford, Chelsea and other inner-city communities because Doug slaps a T stop in them? Yes, I can envisage it: Like in the old WWII newsreels from Europe, we’ll see refugees hauling their belongings in quaint horse-drawn carts as they’re pulled in the micro-managed direction Dougie is wishing them, leaving behind empty suburban homes, schools, churches, office parks and shopping malls, all of which one day can be plowed under and returned to nature. ... Questions to Doug: Are you going to have high-quality schools in place when the happy masses roll into your quaint Hobbit villages? Will you have quaint patisseries
and butcher shops ready, too? When they arrive, can they do happy Peasant Dances around maypoles like in the movies Robin Hood and Braveheart? It will be so communal! How about organized Barn Raisings? Yeah, a Barn Raising! Oh, the masses can’t wait for their Perfect Hobbit Villages along the new Blue and Green line extensions! ...
... Back to harsh and depressing reality. ...
... Let me get this straight: The state has spent years and years planning the expansion of the Greenbush and New Bedford-Fall River lines -- buying up land, fighting anti-transit fanatics in Hingham, filing environmental reports, lining up funding, building consensus and hope. But now the state is going to abandon those projects and start anew with more years and years of planning on the Green, Blue, Urban Ring and Silver Line extensions etc., only to possibly later resurrect the Greenbush and New Bedford plans when we accept the reality that the suburbs won’t go away. Oh, this is great. ... The net result of this plan is going to be: No expansion of any
rail transit lines for years and years and years and years, compounded, and sending a signal to mass transit opponents that you can kill future projects by driving up costs through litigation. Including future projects such as the Blue, Green and Siliver line extensions. ... Congrats, Mitt! ... Your first big mass-transit decision is to kill off doable mass transit projects in pursuit of Perfect Hobbit Villages. ...
... Hub Blog has nothing against the extension of the Blue Line to Lynn, the Green Line extension to Medford, and the Urban Ring, a fanciful and far-into-the-future vision of a rail-and-bus service circumventing Boston. In fact, Hub Blog LOVES the concepts. Let’s move forward on them. Except for the overrated Silver Line. But what I can’t stand about this new non-commuter-rail strategy is that it’s so flavor of the month, so utterly blind to the market reality that most high-tech companies and their workers etc. are now based in the suburbs and the suburbs aren’t going away, so dunderheaded that it doesn’t accept the REALITY that people LIKE living in quieter suburbs (just like you, Mitt) and commuting into the city via the Fitchburg commuter lines of the world (just like your Belmont neighbors, Mitt). ...
... Ah, but there are evil Sheriffs of Notingham out there who will destroy Doug’s dreams for Perfect Hobbit Villages for the masses ...
... From Bennet Heart, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, on commuter rails vs. T lines: ''It doesn't need to be either/or. ... They should do everything they can to make the funding pie bigger for transit and rail.” ... Well, thank goodness the CLF hasn’t lost its marbles, unlike its former director who’s lost his now that he’s in state government. ...
... What the state needs is a reality-based INTEGRATED mass transit plan -- which requires both commuter rail for suburban travelers AND inner-city expansion of the T. ...
Hub Blog’s suggestion: Ram reforms down the T’s throat, pass a gax tax hike, fund what needs to be done: A fully INTEGRATED mass transit plan that deals with REALITY, not far-off Hobbit Villages. ... There are different and more realistic ways to approach sprawl, Doug.
‘A mortal decision made: Journalistic objectivity a casualty of firefight':
Read this story
. Now. Don’t put it off. It’s one of the most memorable and frank accounts of battle -- and journalism ethics -- I’ve ever read. Of course, it’s by the Herald’s embed Jules Crittenden, who openly admits to his spotting three enemy soldiers during a firefight and their subsequent deaths at the hands of machine-gun-firing GIs. From Jules:
“Some in our profession might think as a reporter and non-combatant, I was there only to observe. Now that I have assisted in the deaths of three human beings in the war I was sent to cover, I'm sure there are some people who will question my ethics, my objectivity, etc. I'll keep the argument short. Screw them, they weren't there. But they are welcome to join me next time if they care to test their professionalism.”
Hub Blog’s reaction
: Now I understand why Jules mentioned the word ‘we’ in this post
. I suspected this was the case. And I side with Jules 100 percent. ... As Jules says: Screw ‘em. ... Darwinian and moral question to fellow armchair journalists: What was Jules supposed to do? What would you do? Stay cool, calm and collected during a battle and let enemy soldiers fire off RPGs, allowing GIs and yourself to be killed in the process? Leave behind a widowed wife and fatherless children? It’s not even a close call. ... You shout ‘incoming!’ when you hear artillery coming in. You shout ‘grenade!’ when a grenade is lobbed in your midst. You shout ‘watch it!’ when an enemy takes aim at you and someone else. You push a person out of the way when a piano is falling from a tenth-floor window. ... Think of this honesty about a split-second, life-or-death decision during an intense battle and contrast it to CNN’s year-after-year, non-life-or-death, corporate-boardroom decision to cover up the truth in the name of network access. ...
Let ‘em Beg for Taxes
: Yep, Tom Keane
was right. They’re going for the more severe cuts and dumping Mitt’s reforms
. ... Two things: 1.) Mitt’s undeniably sloppy numbers are being used as an excuse to cover up their nixing of reforms. Mitt clearly shot himself in the foot in this regard. 2. ) Mitt should strip down all his reform ideas, throwing away the ones he knows are bogus, package them together and then force lawmakers to take a constitutional up-or-down vote on them. Forget the budget numbers. Make it simple and clear: These guys oppose any and all reforms -- and they will shamefully tax people to the max and slash services to the bone in order to avoid altering the way their world works on Beacon Hill. ... Wonder if progressives see the cynical strategy unfolding in the House.
‘Let’s hear from Bulger’
: From Eileen McNamara
: “The last thing this town needs is more secrecy or more deference to those who would use their power to protect the most depraved among us.” ... What is the rationale for letting Bulger testify behind closed doors? National security? I’ll bet, if we dig into the rationale a bit more, we’ll find the FBI’s cover-it-up fingerprints somewhere, as well as others’ embarrassed cover-it-up fingerprints.
‘This block needs retail dialysis’
: Don’t agree with turning Boylston Street into another Charles Street. But love the other ideas and overall vision for Boylston Street
expressed in the piece. ... One quibble: Don’t bad mouth the past-their-prime retailers on Boylston who stuck with the street through thick and thin. They deserve praise, not ridicule. ... One other point: Another show-off-Boston boulevard we should be concentrating on is Cambridge Street, from the Charles Street T stop to City Hall Plaza. The state recently postponed a much-needed and long-planned street and sidewalk project for this neglected gateway into Boston from Cambridge. Let’s get it done before the 2004 Dem convention.
Postwar Iraq and the Kurds
: Not a bad editorial in the Globe
, which suggests the administration should ‘sheathe the sword,’ cool down the rhetoric and concentrate on rebuilding Iraq -- while also keeping a wary eye on Syria and Iraq. It even slaps around Russia, Germany and France. Hub Blog would have been tougher on Syria and Iraq -- and more than just slapped around the Coalition of the Clueless. But the editorial is fundamentally on target. ...
... Tom Oliphant
writes a good piece on Turkey’s betrayal and the Kurds' loyalty. Tom: “It's bad enough that the Kurds are not receiving the proper affection and gratitude for all they have done to help topple Saddam. The kid glove treatment of a misbehaving alleged ally, Turkey, needs to stop now.”
Building a democracy after totalitarianism
: Smart piece by Paul Berman
on the success rate of rebuilding a country and establishing democracy after a totalitarian government collapses. The comparisons between post-communist Poland and Yugoslavia etc. are important. ... The main problem we’re facing in Iraq in establishing democracy: Saddam appears to have wiped out any and all liberal opposition. No Havels, no Mandelas, no Karzais. One might emerge, but it’s not clear right now if any survived.
A protest heard 'round the world
: From the Globe wire services: "Even as the war with Iraq winds down
, protesters in the United States and abroad continued their campaign against the conflict Saturday." ... As I've indicated before, they're not playing with a full deck. ...
The ultimate no-bid consulting contract
: Let me get this straight
: An $8,000 monthly retainer with a private-sector company to find public-sector contracts with the private-sector retainer paid for by public tax dollars since 1989. Not bad.
‘The House is more intent on protecting business as usual’
: Mitt on rejection of his court reforms
by a House committee: “The direction they may be heading is, `Give me taxes or give me cuts, but don't give me reform.’ ” ... Saw a snippet of Jon Keller’s interview with Speaker Finneran -- for Jon’s ‘At Large’ show tomorrow on Channel 56, 8: 30 a.m. -- in which Finneran vows to outdo Mitt in budget cuts. Maybe Tom Keane
was right. Personally, I keep going back and forth on the Let ‘Em Beg For Taxes theory. ... No reforms, no new taxes.
‘These antiwar protesters are so hypocritical’:
Perhaps the most awful great idea
in the history of the Commonwealth: Charging antiwar protesters to pay the cost for their staged arrests. ... Says state Rep. Brian P. Lees, R-East Longmeadow: “These antiwar protesters are so hypocritical. They stand out there with their signs that say don't spend our money on war. They should add a line that says don't spend our money on war, but spend it on arresting me.” ... Alas, the idea is probably unconstitutional and therefore regrettably regrettable.
‘Coalition of the Clueless’
: Am I the only one who thinks President Putin appeared embarrassed to be seen in the presence of his fellow ‘Coalition of the Clueless’
members, President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder? ... Notice how Putin was the only one of the three to embrace the American idea of forgiving Iraq’s foreign debts
. ... George Will
thinks the UN should be involved in rebuilding Iraq, but only on a limited humanitarian and civil administrative basis: “This invitation should be extended for the same reason France was made a permanent member of the Security Council in 1945 -- as psychotherapy for a crisis of self-esteem brought on by bad behavior.”
‘Uday Hussein's Weapons Store’
: A gold-plated AK-47, a gold-plated Walther pistol, a 200-year-old 5-foot-long Arab flintlock jezail (‘inlaid with mother-of-pearl’), Arabic swords, huge Braveheart-like broadswords, Winchester repeaters, Remington shotguns, more jezails, Baretta pistols, a gold-plated antique Mauser bolt-action rifle. And, oh, what appears to be one sound-proof torture chamber in the basement. Jules Crittenden
has the embed goods. ... Hey, I know I'm a non-legitimate blogger low in the social hierarchy of the journalism world, but I would have grabbed one of the those flintlock jezails and scrammed.
‘Unlovely and unloved’
: Globe ran an editorial this morning on the latest effort to change the ‘unlovely and unloved’
City Hall Plaza. ... Hub Blog is all excited about the redevelopment and the forthcoming Sidewalk Superintendent ideas. My suggestion: Townhouses, with ground-floor retail, with really narrow streets and/or alleyways. At least along Cambridge Street. Townhouses would pay for other plaza improvements. Need to bring 24/7 life back to the area!
Cosmo, big media and blogging
: Hey, Cosmo Macero’s blog
is getting some backing and a plug, albeit a small plug (for now), over at the Herald’s web site. Go to this link
, scroll to the right. See Cosmo’s handsome picture? Look right under it. See tiny ‘weblog’ reference. Click. ... OK, so it’s not such a big deal. But it’s another sign of the Big Media Blogging Convergence. FYI: There might also be some ‘guest blogging’ on Cosmo’s site ...
: On Cosmo’s site, I happened to notice this item
about the blogging Agonist controversy and comments by Sean Kirby, who rightly notes the strengths of the big media and how blogging won’t eclipse it etc. All of which is absolutely true. But there was something sanctimonious and annoying about Sean's tone, such as how many bloggers are “excellent freelance journalists whose aspirations to be important participants in topics of importance outpace their actual pull in the social hierarchy of the journalism world." Or: “Bloggers shouldn't overstate their role in that dialogue or imagine that their traffic numbers equal legitimacy.”
Social hierarchy? Legitimacy? Geesh. ... Hey, you newsroom janitors! Get out of the way! The big dogs are walking through. ...
: This on the day CNN’s Eason Jordan
writes an op-ed that will probably go down in journalism history as one of the greatest and most shocking confessions of a journalist who sold his soul for access. ... Check out Dan Kennedy's reaction
to CNN's social hierarchy, legitimacy and treatment of excellent freelance Iraqi employees who just didn't have enough pull.
Mitt raises gas taxes
: Yep, you read it right. Cosmo Macero
has the scoop, though you’ll have to pay the Herald’s own online fee/tax to read the column (i.e. pay-to-view). The bottom line: The administration approved what amounts to a 2 cents per gallon tax hike through an obscure fund that pays for cleaning spills and underground leaks at gas stations. ...
Hub Blog’s view: Fine. Mitt’s no-new-taxes pledge applied to the deficit. He never ruled out other tax increases. Unless this gas tax money is diverted to other projects or agencies (and/or frees up money for other uses), he’s keeping within his pledge -- not that I agree with the pledge. ... Also: Hub Blog is boldly on record as advocating a gas tax hike to pay for expansion of rail service and other infrastructure improvements -- as long as it’s tied to reforms at reform-challenged agencies like the MBTA.
They’re testing the tax waters
: House leaders are tinkering with the idea of changing the way auto excise taxes
are assessed in Massachusetts. Think suburban owners of a 2000 Mercedes S-Class are going to put up with paying $1,375 per year for the right to drive their car? Lawmakers are trying to frame the allegedly revenue-neutral move in progressive, soak-the-rich, class-warfare language, though they’re not quite phrasing it that way. ... Hub Blog can’t think of a better way for House Democrats to kiss away suburban votes in the next election. ...
... Kind of surprised the House has even broached the subject at this point. I thought the game plan was for House Democrats to first let citizens shriek over budget cuts -- then pull out the tax proposals. They don’t have the timing down, obviously. Or maybe Tom and Hub Blog
were wrong about our Let ‘Em Beg For Taxes theory. ...
is pounding the drums again for a broad-based tax increase. No mention of reforms. ... Howie Carr
is having a good guffaw at do-gooders’ expense. (Howie's column is pay-to-view.)
Another reform bites the dust?:
As the House floats its auto excise idea, other House members are belittling Mitt’s reform/restructuring plan for Massachusetts’ court system
. The lede of the story says it all: “Defending their power to oversee the courts, members of a special House task force yesterday ...” ... You get the idea. ... These guys are like the Catholic hierarchy: They will never give up power without a fight. Never. Hub Blog is almost embarrassed for suggesting yesterday what I thought was a reasonable compromise: A tax increase in exchange for true reforms. How naive of me. (See above ‘Tom and Hub Blog’ link for details.) ...
... But there’s good (and surprising) news on the reform/budget front: A progressive organization, Common Cause Massachusetts, is actually backing Mitt’s court overhaul plan. I’m shocked. Guess I’ll have to tinker a bit more with my cutting-edge theory about the Progressive Hack Alliance -- though it doesn’t fundamentally change my belief that ‘progressives’ tend to look the other way when it comes to patronage/nepotism/corruption as long as they get their cherished tax hikes.
One excellent reason to overhaul the courts
: John ''Jackie'' Bulger
, who pleaded guilty yesterday to lying under oath in the Whitey Bulger case, is a former court magistrate. ... Gee, wonder how he got his court job. ... Think it has anything to do with lawmakers “defending their power to oversee the courts”?
‘I don't know, sir, one palace don't need 50 fricking stereos’:
I didn’t think it was possible, but the Herald’s Jules Crittenden has outdone himself in terms of superb embed reporting from Iraq. Most of his past stories -- particularly those involving combat and the dialogue of GIs -- have been incredibly vivid and telling. ... But this story
, well, it’s different. He throws away the detached I’m Not Really Here language and starts referring to events in the personal “we” and “our” and “us” and “I,” as he tells tales of a chaotic Baghdad, GIs liberating stashes of Chivas Regal in Saddam’s palaces, soldiers bragging about wasting Iraqi soldiers. ... Jules just walks from one surreal moment to the next. Outstanding reporting. ...
The Globe’s Pulitzer and Kristen Lombardi’s reporting
: Dan Kennedy
has a nice piece about the Globe’s well-earned Pulitzer for its coverage of the sex-abuse scandal. ... Couldn’t agree more, as I indicated earlier this week
. ... Still, the Phoenix’s Kristen Lombardi was one of the first to expose Cardinal Law’s “culpability in the matter,” as Dan puts it. ... The Globe indeed blew the lid off the scandal; Lombardi was among the first to notice there was a lid at all. So she also deserves credit -- and gratitude -- for helping expose and dismantle a local pedophile network.
Next up: Syria?:
The Boston-based Christian Science Monitor is all over the Syria angle. There’s this CSM story
about how some in the administration appear to have "pretty much decided to go after Syria.” ... Then there’s the story by CSM embed Ben Arnoldy
about how Saddam’s forces brought in freelance Syrian fanatics to fight Americans, using local Iraqi civilians and their homes as shields. ... And here’s another CSM story
about America’s future foreign policy. Says one expert: "Syria may be next. ... The Syrians consider it a given." ...
Hub Blog’s view? One can’t escape these facts: We’re in Iraq. We’ve taken it. We’re going to have to rebuild the country and, if at all possible, establish democracy there. If Syria and Iran try to undermine our rebuilding efforts by sending in terrorists and thugs, they’re playing with fire. Syria and Iran are simply realities we have to face now that we’re in Iraq. We need to deal with Syria and Iraq on a case-by-case basis, aggresively and militarily if necessary. ...
... However, what bothers me about this entire affair is how the Bush administration has yet to spell out to the American people what’s clearly emerging as a grander vision of the world and even of history, a vision that goes well beyond the war on terrorism: Belittling alliances, the UN, global economic institutions, NGOs overseeing AIDS programs etc. A lot of today's policies are indeed driven by a laudable desire to prevent the spread of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. No doubt. But there’s a deeper philosophy at work here: It’s about the fundamental permanency of American power and how it should be wielded well into the 21st century to shape the world in our image -- regardless of whether we smash terrorism and bottle up all the world’s WMD. ... And it’s not a vision of the world and history that Tony Blair shares, FYI. ... Hub Blog's new mantra: Assess events on a case-by-case basis.
Armchair Gen. Savin Hill on suicide attacks in Iraq:
As noted above, the CSM is hammering away at the Syrians-are-in-Iraq angle. But let’s give Armchair Gen. Savin Hill, a loyal Hub Blog reader and contributor, a crack at roughly the same issue. From Savin Hill:
“Many reports (Thursday) on the news attributing suicide bomb attacks to Iraqi forces. I don't believe for a minute the suicide bombers are Iraqis or Fedayeen. The Fedayeen and and Baathist militia's weapons are AK-47s and RPGs, not plastic explosives, remote timing devices and an operational knowledge of bomb electronics. Suicide bombing is not something you decide over breakfast -- you need to recruit and train people for it.
“Note that in the largest concentration of militia and Fedayeen -- in Basra -- there were no suicide bomb attacks, just conventional weapons. And remember, these guys were fundamentally fighting for survival -- to keep their privileged place in a brutal regime. Fighting for survival by blowing yourself up is slightly inconsistent. ...
“Who carried out the most extensive suicide bombing wave in history last year? Hamas. Who trains, equips and even offers office space to Hamas in its capital? Syria. Would Syria be interested in waging a proxy war in Iraq -- to destabilize a new pro-US neighbor? I'll let you figure that out.”
George ‘They got it down!’ Bush
: My favorite reaction to news of the fall of Baghdad? The excited reaction of the undeniable Man of the Hour: George Bush. As he watched the televised toppling of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad, the president reportedly exclaimed, ‘They got it down!’ ...
... Though the administration is trying to dampen down current euphoria
, George Bush clearly deserves enormous praise. Forget past (and undoubtedly future) arguments over his diplomatic skills. What’s amazing about his leadership during the current military campaign
and the military campaign in Afghanistan is that he simply made the right choices, despite warring factions within his administration and the Pentagon. He put boots on the ground in Afghanistan. He put boots, tanks, Bradleys, embeds, Special Forces, Marines, Brits on the ground in Iraq (not to mention smart bombs hurling from the air), wisely splitting the difference between competing military doctrines within his administration. This isn’t luck. This was his call. Two campaigns, two brilliant victories.
... I know, I know. The war isn’t over. It wasn’t over yesterday when Saddam’s Stalinist statue was yanked off its pedestal, as the Herald’s Jules Crittenden
made clear. Even as adults and children chanted ‘Good, good, mister! Good, good, mister!’, GIs were rooting out Syrian Islamic extremists hiding in a neighborhood mosque. ... And the war won’t be over today or tomorrow, as the Globe’s Charlie Sennott and David Filipov
make clear. Resistance in northern Iraq -- and resolving the Kurdish question -- is still far from over. ...
But, what the heck, let’s celebrate -- or better yet, let’s read about others’ celebrations. From an American officer in Baghdad, as quoted in this Globe embed story
: ''The civilians all came out and were overjoyed to see us. I was surprised that a lot of them spoke English and had relatives in the United States. They were thanking us for our help and denouncing Saddam and the regime.'' ....
The Iraqis have relatives in the United States? OK, let’s switch over to them. From a local Iraqi woman as quoted in this Herald story
: “It was the happiest moment in my life. It's a dream. It's my dream -- to see Saddam's statue toppled down.”
What a day.
Update - 10:20 a.m. --
So how long is The War Isn't Over Phase going to last? I don't know, but Kiruk just fell.
... And Turkey
is none too happy about it.
Best local lead on a Fall of Baghdad story
: From the CSM
: “One of the most brutal and entrenched tyrannies of the age fell Wednesday with a crack heard around the world.”
Best online street map of downtown Baghdad
: Right here
. Now, where was that cracked statue heard around the world?
Benjamin Franklin’s sad and dying legacy
: Not quite sure why the fate of the Ben Franklin Institute of Technology has hit such a sad nerve in me. Maybe it’s the history. Not sure. .. But it’s clearly hit a sad nerve in Adrian Walker
as well. Adrian: “Sad it is, both because the institute serves a population that depends on it and because this debacle might have been avoided.”
The unfolding scenario for a tax increase
: Hub Blog was busy most of Wednesday, which accounts for the only one blog item yesterday. However, I did catch Tom Keane’s column
about what he thinks will happen in the end as lawmakers cobble together a state budget package: Taxes will be raised after enough shrieking over budget cuts. Tom: “The scenario I describe is really just a variation on the strategy Finneran successfully employed last year, when he almost single-handedly pushed through a delay in planned income tax cuts. If it worked then, it very well may work now.”
... Tom is probably right. But the big questions are these: Will any reforms be passed? And what will Mitt do and say if lawmakers move to raise taxes without passage of any substantive restructuring and reforms? Mitt made three vows during the campaign (not two, as the Globe once asserted in an editorial): 1.) He will not raise taxes to balance the budget. 2.) He will not cut core services. 3.) He will clean up the mess on Beacon Hill. If lawmakers raise taxes to avoid cutting core services, will Mitt stand idly by as as lawmakers also gut most of his restructuring and reform ideas? He could indeed sit on the sidelines, taking shots at lawmakers and making them pay the price. But he might also come across as another ineffective Paul Cellucci or Jane Swift if he chooses that option. Tough call.
... Personally, I think he could also throw his grudging support behind a tax increase -- assuming it’s going to happen anyway -- as leverage to get his reforms. He’d break his no-taxes pledge by doing so, but I think he could explain to the public that he had no room to maneuver, that a tax increase was going to happen anyway, and that he went for a compromise in order to achieve at least some of his aims. ... Hey, what do I know? I’m not a politician. That’s just one scenario. But I do know this: Mitt’s day of pledges reckoning is fast arriving. He’s done a great job making reforms a top issue. What’s he willing to do to make some of them a reality? ... The chess match is far from over.
A reader responds
: A reader writes in asking 'what's in it for legislators to cut a deal' with Mitt. ...I assume he's referring to a taxes-for-reforms deal. So the answer is: Mitt can give them cover. ... I hope that answers the question. And, again, it's only one scenario I'm throwing out there. Lawmakers could pass a budget on their own with a tax increase and just enough reforms in it to quiet the masses ... Or. ... Many other 'or' possibilities out there.
Local leftovers from Wednesday
: As I noted above, Hub Blog was busy on the Big Day in Baghdad -- and couldn’t blog as much as usual. But I did save some local stories of interest from Wednesday. Quickly, here they are in no particular order ...
Globe Special Forces Columnist Eileen McNamara
-- obviously aware of possible Jo Moore church tricks during the war and obviously aware most of her Globe colleagues would be savagely hungover from all their well-earned Pulitzer parties -- nobly stood guard on the ramparts and caught Thailand Paul's church attorneys going after both a victim and a parent.
... The Herald
reported that Billy will indeed be dragged before a Congressional hearing. Scot Lehigh praises Dan Burton
-- yes, praises, and rightly so -- for not letting go of the Billy story. Scot also makes mention of ''Black Mass,'' by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill. Hub Blog’s advice: If you haven’t already, read “Black Mass.” One of the three best books about modern Boston’s darker side. The two other books, of course, are “Common Ground” and “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” ...
... On of all days, the Globe editorialized
on Wednesday about Pentagon policies allowing single-parent GIs to serve in combat. An important issue, for sure. But editorializing on the subject as Baghdad was under siege and as the world’s attention was focused on more profound events unfolding in Iraq? Geesh. I don’t know. ... Robert Kuttner
, showing no sense of timing, began his op-ed on Wednesday by sniping at Rummy’s military tactics in Iraq, citing Maureen Dowd as an authority. Believe it or not, I kept reading after the Dowd reference and learned that Bob is now stomping off to the next ideological argument. Bob, calm down. Take a day off. Enjoy the celebrations. A nasty regime just collapsed. ... Derrick Jackson
was upset George Bush didn’t pray for Iraq during the war. Maybe he didn’t. But, Derrick, he did answer the prayers of a lot of Iraqis on Wednesday.
A Herald embed’s account of the killing of 2 journalists
: Talk about being on top of a highly controversial story -- and a highly controversial story involving journalists, reported by journalists and, if the action of the Committee to Protect Journalists is any indication, about some journalists taking a rather rash and double-standard side in the controversy. Setting the stage: Two reporters died yesterday when an American tank blasted a Baghdad hotel.
The Boston Herald’s Jules Crittenden
is embedded with the U.S. brigade -- and, I believe, the very tank company -- that fired on the hotel. Excerpts from Jules’ story:
“It was later in the day, after the Assassins had taken their first combat casualties, that the tank company tried to stop RPG fire from across the Tigris River and kill a suspected Iraqi forward artillery observer.
“One tank opened fire, hitting the upper floors of the 17-story Palestine Hotel, killing two journalists and wounding at least three others. The tanker had seen RPG crews operating around the hotel, headquarters for hundreds of foreign journalists, and someone peering out an upper window with binoculars. ...
“The incident, which set off a furor in Arab-language media, came on the day one of the unit's tank commanders was seriously injured by a sniper ... The Army tanker, who was in serious condition but managed to walk to a medevac track, was shot through the shoulder by a sniper in a building as armed Iraqis in civilian clothing were pushed back to an intersection outside the palace complex.”
Now let’s switch to another story about the killings
“Even if accidental, the two cases raised issues for the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, as did the US response.
“ ‘They (Pentagon officials) did not say what needed to be said: `We want to make sure our troops and fighters know this is wrong and we don't want to see it happen again,' said board member Michael Massing, who is monitoring the war from Doha. In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the committee said, ‘We believe these attacks violate the Geneva Conventions.’
“Even if fire was coming from the Palestine Hotel, ‘the evidence suggests that the response of US forces was disproportionate and therefore violated international humanitarian law,’ the letter said.”
Whoa! Hold on, Michael. I know you're upset. I am, too. But what’s with this ‘even if accidental’ and ‘even if fire was coming from the Palestine Hotel’ and ‘the attacks violate the Geneva Conventions’ and the ‘evidence suggests’ a ‘disproportionate’ force and therefore the U.S. is ‘violating international humanitarian law’?
Does Michael have any clue that the committee might have just crossed a line by sending that letter, by so quickly and so assertively proclaiming/suggesting violations of international laws without even a full day’s investigation of the facts? Did the committee bother to wait until it could interview its own colleagues -- embeds, such as the Herald’s Crittenden -- to get another perspective on the incident?
Does the Committee to Protect Journalists realize it’s opening itself up to possible charges of emotional bias and double-standards in the middle of a war? Has any such letter been sent to the Iraqi regime about ‘armed Iraqis in civilian clothing’ who are clearly hovering near the hotel (if not in it, as the committee acknowledges for the sake of argument) etc?
For a journalism advocacy group to so quickly make such serious charges -- in the middle of a war and while admitting the tragic hotel incident could have been an accident and at least more complicated than it appears -- is simply ludicrous and embarrassing.
Postscript: Maybe the committee should start investigating -- but refrain from firing off a letter concerning -- the death of two other journalists
in Iraq: “On Monday, Christian Liebig of the German news weekly Focus and Julio Anguita Parrado of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo -- both embedded journalists -- were killed when an Iraqi rocket hit a US communications center on Baghdad's southern fringe.”
‘It deserves the gratitude of Catholics everywhere’
: Globe editor Marty Baron to his Globe staff
on winning the Pulitzer for its coverage of the sex-abuse scandal: “You made history this past year.” ... And they absolutely did. They made history on so many levels, exposing a local and national pedophelia network, forcing a cardinal to resign in shame for taking part in that network, provoking Catholics to question the church, its leadership and its very logic and legitimacy, and changing the generational loyalty and dynamics of Catholics everywhere and forever. Spiritually, the scandal was an historic watershed -- and the church and its hierarchy will never fully recover from it. ... My favorite quote about the Globe came from an AP story
: “ ‘The Globe deserves more than recognition from its journalistic peers. It deserves the gratitude of Catholics everywhere,’ said Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.” ... ‘Deserves the gratitude of Catholics everywhere.’ As a Catholic, I can’t think of a better accolade. ...
... The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune
also won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the deaths of four boys who died in the icy waters of the Merrimack. ... And Winthrop’s Samantha Power, executive director of the Carr Center at Harvard, also won a Pulitzer for "'A Problem From Hell:' America and the Age of Genocide.” ...
All in all, a spectacular day for Boston reporters and writers.
'I heard Madonna was protesting the war'
: Speaking of fine journalism (and as the war apparently winds down), here’s a good behind-the-scenes piece
in the Christian Science Monitor about the military’s civil authorities who are tasked with winning the peace, which one officer described as “the exact opposite of the 'shock and awe' campaign.” ...
Meanwhile, another CSM embed reporter, Ann Scott Tyson
, writes a melancholy piece about how badly American GIs want and need the support of the American people back home. Says one forlorn GI: “I heard Madonna was protesting the war.” ... Speaking of the Christian Science Monitor, Hub Blog has been negligent by not giving the same attention to the Monitor’s embed reporters
as I’ve given to other local reporters. Ben Arnoldy, who wrote the first story above, and Tyson, who penned the second story, have done a stellar job in the Gulf, as have their embed colleagues at the Globe and Herald.
Now that the war is winding to an apparent close ...:
The war wasn't going well last week -- and John Kerry was antiwar. The war is going well this week -- and John Kerry now wants to change the subject
. Hmmmmmm. ... The Herald is now stalking poor John in Iowa and having a fun time.
-- Paul Krugman
is rushing to John Kerry’s defense, framing the issue around the ‘right to criticize in times of war’ and ‘questioning one’s patriotism in times of war.’ Granted, as I’ve noted already
, some dunderheaded right-wing hawks are indeed unfairly attacking Kerry on those fronts. ... But a lot of other non-right-wing people
(including Tom Oliphant) see something different in Kerry’s words and deeds. It has something to do with Kerry’s constant backtracking and pandering
to voters. Krugman conveniently doesn’t address this issue. And I'll leave it at that. (Krugman column via Dan Kennedy
The most questions ever asked in a column?:
Or the most desperate column ever written? You decide, dear reader. The whole damn column
is questions. Forty-one in all. Carroll is obviously reeling -- but I didn’t think reeling could get this bad. Ridiculous questions. Obvious questions. Leading questions. Contradictory questions. Questions, questions, questions! ... My question: Should I even bother clicking on his column in the future? I think 'the answer is no.' It’s getting to that point.
is having a field day with questions, questions, questions! He even asks if there's a shortage of exclamation points in Boston! What a foolish question! I think 'the answer is no'! What do you think, James? Does Instapundit make good points? Is there a shortage of other punctuation marks in Boston? Is he right about open-ended questions? Tell him it isn't so!
Gay marriages and gay GIs fighting for their country
: A majority of Massachusetts citizens now support gay marriages.
A slim majority, granted. But it’s a majority. Quick question: Do you think the Catholoic sex-abuse scandal has anything to do with this? I wonder. I suspect the scandal has factored into this shift, somewhere, somehow. Put it this way: When a priest or Bishop bellows from the pulpit about the evils of homosexuality, I know some church goers will nod their heads in agreement. I also know that more than a few parishioners will raise their eyebrows, look sideways at each other, stifle a mischievous grin and wonder, ‘Who the hell is he to lecture to us about homos in the wrong places?’ ... The sex-abuse scandal, more likely than not, will have a subtle and not-so-subtle impact on a wide range of political issues in Massachusetts, one of the most Catholic states in America.
And the war will have an impact, too, as Tom Oliphant
notes in his column this morning on gays in the military. The hypocrisy we’re showing towards gays -- treating them as second-class citizens while asking them to fight and die for our country -- is glaring and will come to light after the war, when the first gay war hero is inevitably drummed out of service amid outrage among constituents and some straight GIs alike.
A ‘vindication of the Rumsfeld doctine’?:
Armchair Gen. Savin Hill writes in. My reaction before getting into the thrust of his arguments: A.) This isn’t exactly a pure form of the Rumsfeld Doctrine (as I’ve said before). B.) The Brits developed their own urban warfare tactics without Rummy’s help or influence C.) I still admire Armchair Gen. Savin Hill’s insightful, non-partisan, non-ideological analysis of the war. Lots of honest analysis. Armchair Gen. Savin Hill:
“Verdict: Operation Iraqi Freedom was (ok, ok, is) a vindication of the Rumsfeld doctrine of a ‘transformation’ military in action. People still seem to be confused over what this is, so let me lay out the main elements:
“ -- Multiple, simultaneous attacks using multiple strategies and force dispositions: At any one time, we were launching cruise missiles on the leadership, using air assets on the com grid, using armor against conventional forces, and using special forces and airborne to seize special objectives. The point is, this was all done at the SAME TIME. The Southern front was conventional division/ground assault. The Northern front was a light-infantry/special forces operation. Two entirely different force dispositions working at the same time in different fronts.
“ -- Enhanced, new ‘remote sensing’ technology gave an unprecedented and fully coordinated view of the battlefield, accessible to any ground commander. This was done with JSTARS overhead assimilating and disseminating real-time data from unmanned drones at high, medium and low (hundreds of feet) altitudes.
“ -- The emergence of UCAS: Never even heard of before last week, US forces have apparently worked out a system of Urban Close Air Support. Unfortunately, it looks like we won't get a chance to practice it much. Nonetheless -- it points to a new urban fighting doctrine with far-reaching consequences: You are not safe in a city -- even in your capital.
“ -- Victory over ‘irregular’ forces: Brits proved their mettle, again, as experts in fighting against guerrilla, ‘irregular’ forces. Conventional forces cordoned off hostile areas while special forces went in at night and killed/captured targets and gathered intel. Of course, the 3rd ID just rolled into Baghdad and blasted apart anybody who looked at them funny, and that appears to work well, too.
“ -- Intell wins the day: From the first minute, it was apparent we now have intel assets that could provide ‘eyes on target’ of the highest echelons of leadership. That's game, set and match in military terms. The message: You are not safe -- even in your leadership circle.
“Verdict: No future enemy force, conventional or irregular, should feel safe today. Hooah.”
Mitt’s poll numbers
: These poll numbers
sound about right.
‘The price-gouging abounded’
: In an editorial, the Globe jumps on
a Hub Blog pet-peeve issue, to wit: The botched, monopolized, anti-competitive electricity deregulation in California -- and the lessons that might apply to what appears to be an increasingly monopolized and anti-competitive electricty industry here.
Sen. Having It Both Ways strikes yet again
: This isn’t as big as the ‘regime change’ fiasco, but it’s yet another example of Kerry’s sorry antics
. From the Herald:
“Kerry argued that the White House should restart a dialogue with (North Korea), even as it fights the war with Iraq.
“ ‘There are a lot of people in Washington and elsewhere who believe that one of the reasons the administration won't do that is that you need a boogeyman over there in order to be able to build a missile defense,’ he said.
“Asked about the comment, Kerry said some ‘serious policy people in Washington’ had made those assertions but said he did not agree with them.”
Notice how the senator is saying what he said wasn’t really what he meant but reflected what others said and so he said it. Translation: He’s having it both ways. Got it?
Two embeds -- and an armchair journalistic critic of embeds
: Two more good embed pieces from local reporters -- one by Brian MacQuarrie
as U.S. troops try to bottle up Baghdad from the north and the other by Jules Crittenden
about mopping up operations in the south. ...
... Meanwhile, an armchair academic criticizes
embeds and media coverage of the war in general, saying they’re “constrained by’’ all those “institutions” and the “ideology of society,” all of which “not surprisingly produces a view of the world skewed toward the powerful.” The author of the Globe op-ed is Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of “Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream.” ... Gee, I wonder what Jensen’s ‘view of the world’ and ‘ideology’ might be -- and how he views the war with or without facts. I can’t imagine.