Jayson Blair, the Sequel -- or Part II: Mickey Kaus
and Andrew Sullivan
are slaughtering the New York Times. ... A Hub Blog reader writes in: “Bob Ryan gets a one-month unpaid suspension for saying something dumb, and what will the N.Y.Times (management) get? Zilch.” ... Personally, I’m betting Howell Raines eventually resigns if the tumult doesn’t subside and/or if another embarrassing controversy hits the Times; Andrew Sullivan is already pushing the Cardinal Law analogy. ... But, again, don’t dismiss the lone nut who’s ultimately responsible. The fact is, people like Blair are con men -- and con men prey on human sympathies, know what emotional buttons to push, how to lie and wiggle out of tough binds, how to play different people and factions off each other. They also come in (and from) many different colors, genders, ages, professions and backgrounds. If you haven’t witnessed at close range a demented con artist at work, you really haven’t experienced the warped side of life. ...
Perhaps my own bitter "Misery" and other experiences are clouding my perspective on this.
has some excellent thoughts on Jayson 'The Slasher' Blair. The name. So cool. So perfect. See Really Scary item below. ... And do check out Mickey
. He's reporting a near newsroom revolt in NY.
Jayson Blair -- coming soon to a movie theater near you:
Repeat the name: Jayson Blair. Again: Jayson Blair. What does it sound like? An ax-wielding, hockey-mask-wearing character out of a teen horror movie? You got it! And I’m sure the folks at the NYT
get it too. Somehow I don’t think there will be a journalistic sequel to this flick -- at least not at the NYT and Globe. ...
Here’s Joe Dwinell’s
local take on all the recent journalistic scandals. Here’s William Safire’s
noble defense of the NYT. ...
Moi? Clearly, there are a number of subplots running through this horror show: Affirmative action, a politicized editorial staff at the NYT, stupid faith in the young, bad newsroom management etc. But, really, it ultimately comes down to this: Bad luck. I once went through my own editor’s horror show -- more like “Misery” than “Halloween.” I played James Caan. My nemesis played Kathy Bates. No affirmative action involved. No politics and plagiarism involved. It was just 100 percent pure management/James Caan/Kathy Bates misery. I thought it would never end. ...
... Met up with some friends yesterday. Topic: Jayson Blair. People were interested in my opinion, as a journalist, and I told them my horrifying “Misery” tale. They were suitably horrified. Then I asked them to tell me their own non-journalistic horror shows involving the most devious, charming colleague they’ve ever worked with or for -- and we were like a bunch of scared kids sitting around a campfire telling creepy ghost stories.
‘If anybody else did that ...’:
More evidence that American Catholics
are not headed for a schism with the church -- but rather a permanent state of cynicism and apathy toward the church, similar to the cynical and apathetic attitude of French and Italian Catholics, who learned long ago not to trust the church hierarchy in important matters of this world.
‘A loophole diploma’
: From the Globe
: “By voting last week to allow communities to exempt special education students from the MCAS graduation requirement, the Massachusetts House placed a decade of education reform in jeopardy and, despite benevolent intentions, sent a message to those very students that is more
cruel than compassionate.” ... Well put.
'Books will be written on that ...':
Am I imagining this? They're all but giving up the search
for WMD in Iraq? Is there some major event going on today that's allowing this gigantic story to slip under the Jo Moore radar? Was the loopy Scot Ritter right all along? ... More debate and explanations, please.
‘Leo Strauss can seem like a conspiracy buff’:
Don’t know enough about Leo Strauss to tell if this Globe ‘Ideas’ piece
is a hatchet job, though the last paragraph’s nasty swipe at Strauss definitely indicates the author’s intent. All the same, this is another example of what Reader No. 1 and Hub Blog talked about the other day regarding the Globe finally opening up its pages
to exploring different viewpoints. The ‘Ideas’ editors may not like these conservative figures, but they’re taking them seriously by giving them respectful attention, i.e. they’re getting closer to putting their finger on the pulse of what’s happening on the right. ... The entire conspiracy theory surrounding followers of Strauss reminds me of the anti-Freemasonry paranoia of centuries past. The NYT, Le Monde, Christian fundamentalists and Lyndon H. LaRouche’s fascination with Strauss groupies tend to confirm this.
Jules Crittenden unloads his embed notebook
: Nothing really startling here
, though Jules’ description of his bus ride with David Bloom and Michael Kelly is spooky and laden with tragedy, particularly when Kelly taps Jules on the shoulder and starts a conversation. ... Jules once again defends U.S. troops
who fired on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel.
‘They can vote up or down’
: I have absolutely no problem with people voting on whether to override Proposition 2 1/2
. It’s their choice. Such votes bluntly clarify whether voters really want it ‘both ways.’ They usually come down on the side of lower taxes.
Does Mitt have the edge?:
One can go back and forth on the issue: Is he winning or losing? Last week, Eileen McNamara and Seth Gitell split
on the issue. This week a Herald analysis piece
has Mitt landing more punches than he’s receiving. ... What’s emerging, methinks, is a sort of slugfest draw. The two sides seem to be exhausting themselves on an almost daily basis.
... Ah, what do ya know. The protest over Mitt giving the commencement address
at Harvard’s JFK School of Government was orchestrated by a professional activist
who, typically, tried to portray objections as being devoid of politics. Sort of like anti-war protesters claiming their movement is ‘broad based’ and spontaneously springing out of nowhere. (See second item.)
The Great Smoking debate
: Count to ten
, Hub Blog. Count to ten. ... Anger management. Anger management
‘The wake of the Columbus Park calamity’
: Monica Collins
just nails it: They’ve destroyed Columbus Park in the North End. Wiped it out. Flattened it. For what? Seems like Boston has totally lost its feel for public parks and space. Nothing intelligent seems to get done these days. ... Monica’s column reminded me of Brian McGrory’s ‘Follies in the park’
piece last week. McGrory: ‘Our government at work. And those within it wonder why we've become a state of cynics.’ ...
.... Oh, this is great. From the largest and most influential landlord on Newbury Street
: ''Could Newbury Street become Boston's Rodeo Drive? Yes. I'd love to see it that way. I think it could be a lot better than it is today.'' ...
A good idea but ...:
An interesting exchange going on between Dave Winer, blogger and Berkman fellow at Harvard, and journalist Jon Bonne about Winer's idea to have bloggers cover the New Hampshire primary
. Bonne thinks it's a great idea, but pooh-poohs the thought that bloggers alone can cover the entire election process as well as paid journalists. He's right, of course. I simply don't understand why some bloggers believe blogging will somehow supplant journalism. They won't. They can't. The two complement each other. Bonne explains -- without getting defensive or righteous, as so many journalists tend to do when discussing blogging.
P.S. -- Speaking of Harvard and blogging, Christopher Lydon
tries to tie together Ralph Waldo Emerson, consilience, genomics, and Internet and web communications. It's really an item about Chris' own thought process.
P.S.P.S -- At the very least, Skip Gates
is sending a signal to Lawrence Summers. ... Hope Gates sticks around. The transformation of Harvard's Department of Afro-American Studies to the Department of African and African-American Studies sounds logical, exciting and overdue.
Elizabeth Neuffer, RIP
: A terrible tragedy
. ... Though I didn’t know her personally, I felt like I knew her personally. Soon after arriving back from my own extensive African travels, I accidentally walked into a reading Neuffer was conducting at a Harvard Square book store for her book ''The Key to My Neighbor's House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda.'' I was in a hurry at the time, but quickly became spellbound as she read passages from the book. I missed half my class, but didn’t mind. ... A fast driver and a blown tire. A curse of Third World travel.
‘A hideous off-the-court ending’
: Glad Mr. Berg’s season ticket
has been revoked. ... Still on the bandwagon. And I’m going to stay there. I like this infuriating, lovable team. Note Antoine’s honesty about how and why he snapped. The guy keeps maturing as a leader. ... Glad Danny Ainge
is joining the Celts, but I still have misgivings, as outlined the other day
. This is the wrong reason for hiring someone: “Ownership wanted the person who headed their basketball operations to ‘bleed green,’ someone familiar and popular with Boston fans who could help increase local interest in the franchise and rekindle tradition.” ... I.e. The Green Bay Packers Syndrome in a nutshell.
A fairly decent Globe editorial on the budget
: Sure, they’re still pitching for taxes
, but they’re now starting to tie the issue to reforms and restructuring. They get the connection, finally. Wonder when they’ll address the cynical Let ‘Em Beg for Taxes issue. ... The Herald is starting to refer to progressives as ‘so-called liberals.’
... The Hack Progressive Alliance: It exists.
Buying acceptance and respect
: Didn’t like the Yawkey era of the Sox. Didn’t like the way the boys fought and schemed to take over the team from a little whacky and obviously vulnerable widow. Didn’t like the underhanded way the team was sold. And I don’t like the Yawkey Foundation
-- which is nothing more than an insiders’ club designed to win acceptance and respect from insiders. ... John Harrington is like Jane Swift: He just won’t go away.
‘So count me as skeptical’
: And count me as skeptical.
P.S. Didn’t post yesterday because I was feeling awful. Still under the weather a bit. Thanks for the emails and link tips. I’ll try getting to them in the next couple days if time and health permits.
‘They're like canaries in a mine’:
A fascinating -- but ultimately disappointing -- story in the New York Times
about Cambridge’s experiment in assigning kids to schools based on income, i.e. an indirect way to assign students according to race. Why is the story disappointing? Obviously: It pulls punches. ... The problem with this scheme, like other attempts at massive and complex social engineering, is that the approach so often backfires precisely because it’s so massive and complex in its social engineering. The almost inevitable blow-back result when it comes to education: middle-class and upper-middle-class parents yank enough of their children out of the system to make integration goals mathematically impossible to achieve, literally.
There’s a beautiful quote in the story -- ‘They’re like canaries in a mine’ -- about how middle-class and upper-middle-class parents simply won’t put up with substandard education -- and will harass school officials at every turn to ensure their children get the best possible education. It’s so true.
But what happens when the canaries fly away before entering the mine?
Read until the end of the story to find out the views of Noah and Omar’s parents. They’re quite illuminating -- and Cambridge’s statistic-obsessed school authorities should heed their warnings and advice about achievement, private-school options, the quality of teachers, neighborhood schools, pride and determination, and other subtle human factors and concerns that computers can’t measure. It’s not all about race and income.
P.S. Am I the only one who thinks state Rep. Cory Atkins
shouldn’t have apologized if she didn’t think what she said was wrong?
The Great Smoking Debate -- Continued
: I told a reader yesterday that I was throwing in the towel on the smoking-ban issue and wouldn’t write about it again -- unless provoked. Well, I’m not provoked -- but I do feel vindicated a bit. ... Notice in this Globe story
how the Statehouse debate is now focusing on economic issues and not health issues. The regulatory fait accompli has accomplished its goal. As I predicted it would in an earlier post
(see P.S.P.S. section). ... Still maintain that Boston’s smoking ban was the result of regulatory subterfuge. ... I’m kind of heartened by a few emails from anti-smoking readers who admitted that, well, yeah, OK, the ban was achieved by deliberately dodging meaningful debate and votes by elected officials. As one reader noted: “It was not the best way to go about achieving a desired result.” ... Exactly. ... But the battle is over. So I’ll end it with a point that I made yesterday
in reaction to Tom Keane’s column: “I have a distinct feeling Tom and others wouldn't be too happy if one day their 'minority views' on other issues were treated in the same fashion.” ...
The Ghost of Jane Swift
: She either lied last year -- or she’s lying now
. Take your pick. ... More evidence that the state’s pension system is a deeply flawed joke: “Forman, 44, will now be eligible to collect about $35,000 a year immediately, even though he is well shy of retirement age. He will continue to get the pension after he turns 55.”
‘His remarks were a bit intemperate’
: Finneran’s harsh name calling -- followed by contrite apology
-- is getting to be a tired act that he first used against Bob Kraft. I’d rather see him apologize for the hack orgy he unleashed in the House on Tuesday. ... Thankfully, the Tip Tunnel flap is fading away (or so I hope) and Mitt is digging in his heels on more substantive issues. Suggestion to Mitt: If and when you lose the vote on Bulger
, tabulate the results (assuming they actually hold a roll-call vote) and then move on. ... Proof positive that Mitt is fundamentally on the right track, despite recent Hub Blog outbursts about his often woeful political instincts: Harvard students
are protesting his giving a commencement speech at the JFK School of Government.
Still on that Celts bandwagon
: Thought about quietly climbing off the bandwagon after last night’s loss
, hoping nobody would notice. Then I read that Danny Ainge might be coming back
to run the Celts’ basketball operations, so I’ve decided to stay on the bandwagon, even though I’m not too keen on the Ainge move. Why? Because it’s a classic Green Bay Packers Syndrome move -- i.e., the quest to recapture the glory days by hiring past players and coaches from the glory days. The nostalgic tactic hobbled the Packers’ rebuilding efforts for years and years after Vince left the franchise -- and I’m worried the Celts might be engaging in the same thing. ... Who knows? Remember: K.C. Jones. But also remember: M.L Carr.
Readers respond to a good or bad Hub Blog day -- depending how you view it: PoliticaObscura
is picking me apart -- in a good-natured way -- on Bob Ryan, the smoking-ban issue and Tip’s Tunnel. He ends the item: “Fear not everyone, I'm sure Jay will return to his senses shortly, perhaps after a visit to a (now) clear-aired tavern.” ... Question: Is it that bad? I need a drink (and a smoke). I'm probably unraveling over the unravelings. ... Attention Tom Keane: Up for that pub crawl later today? Anyone else?
Wait, Reader BK is jumping to my defense. I think. Reader BK: “A Husky, HeavyWeight Hub Blog today! Now you know what the First Marine Expeditionary Force must have felt like when they took on heavy fire near Al Kut.” ...
... Reader No Nickname agrees and disagrees, throws out an interesting theory -- and reminds me from the outset I’ll never make it in corporate America. Well, at least I've been in a corporate boardroom and knew what PowerPoint was. From Reader No Nickname:
“What’s a BlackBerry
“Globe Editorial Page
– I feel like the Globe editorial page is stuck in the 1980s but agree that the rest of the paper has shown remarkable improvement under Baron’s editorship. The detached patrician tone of the budget-related editorials is just one manifestation. They seem to be against every conceivable reform, except for the Quinn Bill of course, and uniformly for any and all tax increases. And some of the writers—I cannot read another Derrick Jackson ‘Bring on the Nanny State’ piece or another James Carroll ‘The Dark, War-making Heart of America’ piece.
– If I understand the bill correctly, all the local cops who benefit for this bill have it written into their contracts and the state subsidizes these payments for the cities and towns. Therefore, if you cut out the subsidy (at least for the municipalities), then you are de facto cutting local aid (because the cities and towns will have to make up the difference out of their own funds). I’m not defending the program, I just think it’s a little more complex then the broadbrush treatment it gets.
“Assignment to Gitell’s Replacement
– Let me pitch a theory that needs more development – much of the political stasis in Massachusetts is due to two politicians – Finneran and Menino. Two wired, powerful men who, for different reasons, do not have a higher office to aspire to. This has entrenched them into their current jobs and retarded the development of the next generation of political leaders. Instead, we have to settle for supplicants (to Finneran and Menino) like Michael Flaherty and John Rogers, accidents (like Tim Cahill, who owes his election to his daughter’s sloganeering acumen), and the occasional outsider/white knight (Mitt Romney).
“The Globe and Sports
– The Ryan mess brings up some larger issues. I’d like to see the Globe ombudsman draw some lines between journalism and crossmarketing on the Globe’s sport pages. I’m a little uncomfortable with their habit of printing partial interviews with sports figures that are really teases for complete interviews on NESN’s (which the Globe indirectly owns through the NYTimes’ stake in the Sox) Globe-linked show. And I note that the Sports TV/Radio column devotes about equivalent inches to both WEEI (which gets top 5 ratings and has no Globe writers) and WWZN (which gets low ratings and features Globe writers). Not that the Globe can’t earn a living, but some ground rules would be nice.”
Is Mitt unraveling?:
As he fights a momentous budget battle and tries to clean up the undeniable pigpen of a mess on Beacon Hill, is the name of a stupid tunnel
something a governor should care deeply about? And questioning people’s devotion to ‘our fighting men and women’? All for a lousy tunnel name? Is Mitt unraveling? ... This is hurting Mitt’s credibility. No doubt. It’s silly -- and he’s coming across as silly. ... This is also the type of issue that really makes you wonder about Mitt’s political judgment and instincts. I’m still working on my latest Hub Blog theory, but it has something to do with Mitt’s testiness -- and his being a sore loser and not setting smart priorities in tough fights. ...
From a Herald editorial
on the Tip Tunnel flap: “Romney should honor (the new name) and move on. He'll need every ounce of his political capital for far more important battles.”
Yes, move on, Mitt. For God’s sake, move on. There are far more important battles to fight (see depressing, out-of-control, food-fight, hack items below) ....
Is the House raveling the unraveled?:
Thank God for Tom Finneran and the Massachusetts House. Unintentionally, they may be saving Mitt from himself by acting in typical Beacon Hill fashion
-- and reminding us with exquisite Animal House timing how important it is to confront these cynical men despite growing misgivings about the governor’s political instincts.
Yesterday, the House voted to: expand the powers of the Bechtel Turnpike Authority, not curtail, reform and/or eliminate it, as the governor proposed; decrease the governor’s powers to set capital spending limits; increase House members’ powers of ‘earmarking’ -- which means Eugene L. O'Flaherty gets $312,000 for the Soldier's Home in his hometown, Daniel E. Bosley gets $200,000 for the Berkshire Area Health Education Center, Marie St. Fleur gets $348,850 for a substance-abuse treatment facility in her district, etc. etc.
It’s bad enough that the Legislature has a strange-hold over the courts. Now it’s grabbing for more power by chipping away at executive-branch authority -- and giving itself more and more power to set social-services priorities by pure free-for-all patronage standards.
They are literally in reform-mocking mode. ...
The House’s unraveling of ABCC reform and cuts
: The Herald lead
says it all: ‘House leaders are trying to seize control of a favorite patronage haven.’
What’s the principle at stake? Heating oil for the elderly? Care for the mentally ill? Schoolbooks for the kiddies? Nope. The jobs of brothers, sons, pals and other cronies over at the ABCC. ... Not even Tim ‘Article 12’ Cahill wants this stinker of an agency. ...
They are literally in reform-mocking mode. ...
Unraveling MCAS reforms?:
Hey, whadda ya know! More unraveling of reforms!
... Love this line from Rep. Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley): “The only students that are not currently able to receive a diploma have significant special needs and I believe that school committees will act responsibly.”
Let’s repeat a portion of that sentence: “The only students that are not currently able to receive a diploma ...” ...Hmmmm. Think about it. ...
Let’s cut down that portion into a smaller portion: “The only students ...”
They’re gutting the entire graduation requirement of MCAS under the guise of ‘special needs.’
They are literally in reform-mocking mode. ...
UMass bond deal unraveling?:
One victory for Mitt in this wretched week of hackdom run wild: Mitt’s blocking the UMass money, power and bond grab. ... But I’m sure Tommy and the boys will find a way to curtail this gubernatorial power. ...
They are literally in reform-mocking mode. ...
P.S. From the Herald
: “This isn't the Massachusetts Senate, where once Bulger ruled by fiat. He has not been elected to anything, and he should not be the one to make a judgment call on how $1 billion in public money is spent. And that's what this battle over Bulger's office is really about.” ... Love the description of UMass trustees as ‘bobble-head dolls.’
Summary graf of the unraveling
: See what’s happening Mitt? You’re busy fighting silly battles over tunnel names, opening yourself up to justified mockery. Your critics -- the machine Dems, the hacks, the so-called ‘progressives,’ the Boston Globe editorial writers -- are loving this. They’re lapping it up. They’ll deliberately ignore what the hacks have done this week -- and concentrate purely on non-substantive issues like the stupid tunnel flap and the permanent campaign. They’ll point to these and other insignificant issues and go, ‘Ha, ha, ha!’ And you know what? You gave them this opening. ...
They are literally in open reform-mocking mode. ...
Reforming the Legislature?:
Of course, the only way to truly reform our one-party machine Legislature is to introduce a two-party system in Massachusetts -- but I don’t hold much hope for the GOP unseating Democrat Joseph Driscoll
in the Fifth Norfolk District. Not if his opponent belongs to a party running on Tip Tunnel issues.
The Globe's ‘left-wing anti-war screech’?:
A quick time-out to defend a reform-mocking-mode nemesis, to wit: The Boston Globe. Andrew Sullivan
, taking shots at Howell Raines and the NYT’s drop in circulation, takes a swipe at the NYT-owned Boston Globe, which Andrew describes as having “seen its previously pious liberal bias become a left-wing anti-war screech.” ...
Whoa, Andrew. Know you have a vacation home in Provincetown and read the Globe regularly these days. But you obviously haven't been reading the Globe closely for decades. The fact is the Globe, admirably, has been moving in the exact opposite direction in recent years, in my and other observers’ humble opinions. ... The Globe’s pre-war editorials were far tougher and clear-headed about Iraq than those of its parent newspaper. By God, the Globe even gleefully engaged in some French bashing. ... The Globe also opened up its op-ed pages to pro-war writers such as Scot Lehigh and Tom Oliphant, perhaps the most articulate proponent of taking on Saddam. ... The Globe’s actual war coverage was outstanding. In the first 24 hours of the war, the Globe was, as far as I could tell, the only paper that generally grasped the Pentagon’s seemingly chaotic but revolutionary new approach toward battlefield tactics. I didn’t catch a whiff of Apple-like-quagmire bias in the paper’s war coverage -- not from its analysts, not from its embed reporters, not from its editors coordinating all the material. ... The Globe’s editorials were indeed eerily silent during the war, perhaps because events didn’t quite mesh with their world views and because, well, events were confusing. For whatever reason, they didn’t engage in Not Enough Troops or Quagmire hysteria -- unlike a lot of other armchair jackasses, left and right, who seemed compelled to voice fatuous opinions on everything, among them yours truly. ...
One other point: Reader No. 1 and Hub Blog were talking just yesterday about how the Globe has recently been opening up its pages to different viewpoints -- especially in its new ‘Ideas’ section. The paper still has a liberal bias, but it’s a more moderate liberal bias -- and not one out to quash dissenting views. ... A personal note: Glad the Globe's editorials haven't moved too far to the sane center. Life just wouldn't be the same without its embarrassing, pro-status quo, schizoid, Hack Progressive Alliance budget editorials. Another personal note: Its news-pages coverage of the budget fight has been excellent and fair.
Now back to Globe bashing. ...
The Globe smacks down Ryan
: Sorry, couldn’t resist. But at least I immediately acknowledge the pun -- and retract it. ... Sadly, Bob Ryan deserves what he got
. Bob Lobel gave him a number of chances to retract and distance himself from his own rhetorical folly. He didn’t. So he paid the price. ... A lot of readers emailed me yesterday, urging Hub Blog to get on the issue. Instead, I pointed them in Dan Kennedy’s
direction. Dan nailed it best: “It wouldn't surprise me if the Globe cracks down on its moonlighting scribes, who are paid to be outrageous when they're on the air.” ... Bingo. The fact is these TV sports shows are starting to resemble, literally, game shows, with sports writers acting like ham contestants. Ryan himself regularly appears on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” and “Around the Horn,” described in one story as a “highly opinionated, rapid-fire” show. ... Hope this blows over. Bob’s a great writer. ... Here’s the Herald story
‘Nevertheless, these are minority views’
: Tom Keane
does a pub crawl probably for the first time in months, if not years, and, not surprisingly, finds lots of happy people. ... He obviously wasn’t talking to the same bartenders and waitresses I’ve talked to regularly at the Sevens regarding the smoking ban. FYI: The Sevens bartendress did report they were crowded on Monday. But Tom should have gone over to the Hill Tavern, where I was. Alone. The only customer in the bar. ... Hey, Tom: Let’s do a pub crawl together. Seriously. We’ll have a good time. You can also ask your slanted questions to employees. I can ask my slanted questions. Bet we’ll come up with more ambivalent answers than either of us care to admit. You can also clue me in on what the next, inevitable step is in the non-democratic crusade. ...
And, yes, despite the 'Great Smoking Debate' letter below from a reader and my somewhat incoherent rambling response, I still insist the smoking ban was, in fact, achieved through regulatory subterfuge. No votes were taken by elected officials. No meaningful debate was allowed before elected officials who had ultimate power over the issue and who would have been held directly responsible by voters for their decisions. Yes, legally and technically, the health board acted within its legal authority. But, yes, the system was rigged, as we all know it, to skirt democratic debate and votes by elected officials. There was no ‘emergency’ requiring a SARS like response by the health board. It waited for years to act on the issue -- for political reasons. It finally acted the way it did -- for political reasons. By any standard, that’s regulatory subterfuge. Repeat: No vote was taken by elected officials. ... I have a distinct feeling Tom and others wouldn't be too happy if one day their 'minority views' on other issues were treated in the same fashion.
Tip's Tunnel -- at last
: I'm glad they're renaming it after Tip. But David Farrell
has some other thoughts.
The Great Smoking Debate -- and majority rule by regulatory fiat
: A reader writes in with his thoughts on previous Hub Blog posts about the smoking ban. My comments about elected leaders’ deliberate, wimpy abrogation of power follows. From the reader (excerpts):
“First, the Boston city council has NOT opposed the ban. It held hearings, made some noise, but nothing ever came to a vote, nor was anything put to the mayor. In the absence of any legislative action, regulatory bodies like the public health commission pretty clearly have the authority to regulate.
“Second, the Framingham situation is playing out in Cambridge but in a different way. There, the health commission has not regulated a ban because the existing rules on the books were put there legislatively -- that is, by the Cambridge city council. In what was perhaps a wise move politically (although not necessary legally -- see number three below), it has deferred to the council in
enacting a ban along the lines of Boston's. ...
“Three, this keeps getting framed as a democracy versus the regulators issue, when it's really one about state versus local power and the limits of delegation of legislative authority. Let me explain. I think you'd probably agree that state law supersedes local law (in fact, it has to, since under the state's constitution, localities are creatures of the state). ...
“In the case of the smoking ban, state law grants (or delegates) to local boards of health the power to enact regulations to protect health. One of those regulations is the smoking ban. The same analysis applies -- for a local body (a council or board of selectmen) to challenge this is, in effect, for it to be asserting that a locality can overrule the legislature.
“There is a different set of questions, however. For example, when the state granted that authority to the local health boards, did it really intend that it be construed so broadly that the boards could put in place a smoking ban? And, did the state cede too much of its authority to boards when it delegated such wide-ranging authority? (There are a good number of court cases out there that have made clear there are limits to the degree to which a legislative body can delegate its power.)
“Nevertheless, as it applies to smoking regulations, those issue of delegation and legislative intent have been argued in the past, however, and so far courts have upheld the actions of the health boards.
“And by the way, of course, the state could at any time simply change the law and say, ‘No, our grant of authority didn't include smoking bans.’ So far, however, it hasn't.”
Hub Blog’s response
I'll concede a lot of the legal and political points. But my questions remain: Why didn't Mayor Menino encourage the council to partake in the debate and decision? Why didn't he bring an ordinance to the council? What was he afraid of? Objections? Compromise? Couldn't the mayor's tactic be logically construed as trying to get around legitimate debate and actual votes by elected officials? By the way, would democratic debate and votes by the council even matter? Why the heck should council members stick their necks on the line knowing they can be overruled by non-elected health boards given the power by the legislature to overrule them? Isn’t that a little suicidal on their part?
This is NOT -- and has not been -- a truly democratic process. There have been no votes by elected officials on the issue. None. Whatsoever. Not on the local level. Not on the state level. By design and by intention. A mayor merely winked at a non-elected board -- and they jumped into action do his political bidding. Why didn’t the board act sooner? Was it -- gulp -- for political reasons? Notice how the mayor didn’t wink at an elected board that’s supposed to serve as a check-and-balance to his powers. This is a deliberately rigged system designed to absolve and give cover for elected officials afraid to make tough decisions and tough votes. We all know that. Ask yourself: What would have happened if the city council -- and every other elected local and state elected leader -- had been forced to make an actual vote on the smoking issue? Answer: Compromise. Well, well, well. We can’t have THAT in the middle of a crusade.
P.S. Still waiting for the public health board to start regulating traffic congestion and flow into the city. That’s a HUGE health issue. Bigger than smoking in bars. But public health officials -- and judges -- won’t act on it. Why? Because nearly 100 percent of voting-age citizens drive. Only 23 percent of voting age adults smoke. You’ll see no wink from the mayor on this issue. I can assure you, knowing the well-established political bravery of our current mayor. ... Ah, regulatory democracy when applied to a majority!
P.S.P.S. I know, I know. The legislature will soon 'democratically' resolve the issue. But note, during debates, how lawmakers emphasize the economic
reasons for a state-wide ban, not the health
reasons. The non-elected boards have given them a convenient economic fait accompli for an action lawmakers have refused to address in the past on health grounds. Repeat: The system was rigged and driven by non-democratic regulatory fiat.
The development blues
: There used to be a time when sidewalk superintendents of Boston would get excited about stories on development ideas for the South Boston Waterfront. Now? Just more blather and blandness
. ... Somehow you know the wrong project will be picked for the wrong reasons by a short-sighted state agency that’s desperate for cash. Etc. etc. etc. The same could be said about development ideas for City Hall Plaza and the post-Central Artery parcels.
‘His crusade against supposed insiderism’
: I tried to keep an open mind when reading this morning’s Globe editorial on the Bulger-Romney fight, ‘The targeting of Bulger,’
if only because I have strong misgivings about the higher-ed reforms and I’m getting tired of the Billy feud. ... But, my God, what a dull, banal and sad editorial by the Globe. Perhaps the most influential private-sector entity in the state -- one that used to throw editorial thunderbolts that changed the course of countless debates in Massachusetts -- is now meekly referring to ‘supposed insiderism’ (yes, ‘supposed’), praising Bulger’s deeds at UMass, attacking Mitt, falling back on cliché-ridden political analysis that makes Jack Anderson look cutting edge. The once mighty Globe, so out of it, so, well, safely bourgeois. ... Don’t know why I used that last word. But somehow it fits. I now have visions of Jill Stein whenever I see the word ‘bourgeois.’ ...
Hub Blog’s view on Bulger? Here’s the outline of how I’d have written the editorial: A.) Slam Bulger and any other public official who doesn’t assist public law enforcement in apprehending a known killer; B.) Maintain the wise and old adage that no man is indispensable; C.) Express both admiration for and frustration with Mitt’s actions against Billy -- admiration for the intent but frustration with the protracted/personal nature of the assault; D.) Spank and threaten the UMass trustees for their sideline, nail-biting leadership. E.) Urge a compromise in which Bulger is asked/forced/bribed to resign while retaining the office of the UMass president; G.) Reiterate Bulger has become a lightening rod who needs to go but the state shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of eliminating his office, as Mitt is advocating. ...
Of course, the Globe couldn’t write this because it’s too busy not-so-subtly angling for those tax increases, as everyone knows. ...
The Great Bond Cancellation
: Still waiting for Wall Street’s punishing reaction to the postponement and now cancellation
of the UMass bond package. ... Now who said Wall Street would react negatively to a cancellation? Who issued the dire warnings about not proceeding with the bond sale? Heck. Must have been a mistaken insiderism echo.
‘Questions for the Globe via Hub Blog’
: Reader BK sends in the following:
“Why is Romney's ‘advertising’ always false, but the Mass Teachers' Association's truthful, and, therefore, always to be accepted on its face?
“After all, aren't these the same teachers who-- after producing several years of atrocious MCAS scores from among their students --launched a campaign to do away with MCAS?”
Hub Blog’s response
: Again, the Globe is angling for those tax increases and no amount of inconsistency and double-standards will stop them. ... Some good news for taxpayers (in a twisted sort of way): The media budget for the MTA's
permanent campaign for new taxes wasn't as large as it could have been. The bad news: That was our
money he dropped at Foxwoods, when you think about it. ... Ah, our dear permanent bureaucracy.
'For all intents and purposes, they are the legislature’
: A lawyer on non-elected health boards
overruling voters and local elected bodies: “For all intents and purposes, they are
the legislature.'' ... Oh, really? Glad to know. I’ll write that down. ... Didn’t know the Boston City Council opposed the smoking ban. Can’t have that. You know, democracy? ... Can’t wait for the city’s health board to ban SUVs in the city -- and slapping huge new tolls to discourage pollution-causing autos from clogging up downtown streets. Forget about the economic impact. It’s about health. ... Cough, cough, cough
. ... And, God, the SUV fumes are making my clothes smell! ... For all intents and purposes, health boards are the legislature. ... Cough, cough, cough
. ... Do something!
Sen. Marc Pacheco’s ‘investigation’ of freebie free-enterprise:
From the Herald
: “Very few lawmakers have ever seen the inside of a corporate boardroom -- they regularly make fun of Romney's power point presentations, a private sector medium as common as post-it notes. There's no reason to bow to their silly angsting over policy advice coming from the consulting world. What's next, a State House ban on BlackBerrys?” ... BlackBerry’s? Don’t get it. The rest I do.
-- A reader writes in: "A BlackBerry is the hippest, coolest PDA on the market. Standard equipment, no doubt, for your
average Bain or McKinsey consultant. If you still have a Palm Pilot, you're like sooooo 20 minutes ago. I, of course, have neither."
‘This train robbery was undertaken during the Iraq war ...’
: No, it didn’t have to do with lack of U.S. Marines in the vicinity. From Brighton Reader:
“This train robbery
was undertaken during the Iraq war and thus got little coverage.
“The Amorello gang and their Harvard accomplices apparently thought they could behave like looters in Baghdad and get away with it while everyone was busy - the Hack/Harvard alliance. Glad that the Romney administration is hitting back hard, what happens with this property affects businesses, commuters and the waterfront. I am completely cynical about anything Amorello does. Don't be surprised if more Massport Harvard connections emerge and a few Massporters hop over the side and row for employment berths in Cambridge. Barrios' move
is interesting politically, probably a way to rattle the MBTA's fare booth over the fee increases. It is also the first real move in the state senate against Romney and also serves to throw a little gasoline on an internecine Republican fire.”
Is the budget debate fundamentally over? Part III:
Well, well, well. It’s going to be a fall campaign
-- a little later than Hub Blog predicted
but still on script. ... From John Rogers: ''The cuts are real, the cuts are coming, and they'll sink in some time in the fall. ... That could change the mood. We're rolling out reality.” ... OK, OK, OK, John. We get it. We know your plan. No need to keep winking about your intentions. ...
Sensing it has a winning issue on taxes (i.e. the oh-so substantive issue of ‘permanent campaigns’), the Globe
is now belittling and downplaying reforms -- again. No mention of the MTA’s media blitz and/or how the permanent bureaucracy has mobilized. ... Aren’t ‘progressives’ even the least bit embarrassed to be associated with these clowns? Lawmakers will scorch-earth cops, teachers, the public etc., all so they don’t have to take an unpopular vote now (i.e. raise taxes they believe are necessary) and avoid reforms and restructuring. Isn’t that called ‘cynicism’? ... The Hack Progressive Alliance: It exists. ...
Postscript: See what I mean, Eileen
? The battle is far from over. Question: Will you now start backing true reforms while pushing for taxes, Eileen? Or now that new taxes are being dangled before your eyes, will you abandon the reform cause you trumpeted for one paragraph?
Allow voters to overrule regulators? Perish the thought!:
In case you didn’t notice, the smoking ban in Boston
wasn’t implemented by democratic vote. It was imposed by a government agency. ... At least in Framingham
, they’re fighting back. Notice how a ‘staff attorney’ for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards -- described as a ‘not-for-profit trade association,’ which really means yet another ‘permanent bureaucracy’ outfit ultimately funded by taxpayers, sort of like the MTA -- is terrified that voters might actually want a say in some of these matters. Doubt the lawsuit will succeed, but I’m glad people are pushing back against the Puritans as a matter of principle, not that principles matter to the self-righteous when they’re in a crusading mood. ... It sure would be nice if we had a Jerry Williams-like backlash against the smoking ban, sort of like the anti-seatbelt campaign -- another good-intentioned law rammed down the people’s throats.
... Hope they pass a ban on SUVs in the city and charge new tolls for entering the city (ala like London). I’m tired -- cough, cough, cough
-- of their auto fumes -- cough, cough, cough
-- at my expense -- cough, cough, cough
... Did you catch Mayor Menino on the TV last night? He was quoted as saying something like: “People fear change. They don’t like change. ...” I.e. The Sensitive Father Knows Best act, mixed with Sensitive Psychobabble PC act. The two are really the same thing, you see. ... Talked to a suburban friend who doesn’t smoke and favors the smoking ban. His reason? “Last week, we (he and his wife) went out to a bar. When we got home, our baby-sitter said she could smell smoke on our clothes.” I asked him what bar he went to. Answer: A dive in the city. I asked him what time he got home. Answer: 11 p.m. I didn’t ask how much he drank, how far he drove after drinking, and how much of a tip he gave the bartender who worked until 3 a.m. ...
... Hub Blog conducted an informal survey of bartenders this past weekend. The question: Do you really think they imposed a smoking ban to protect your health? Not one said ‘yes.’ They all referred to the general anti-smoking sentiment sweeping the land. A few did mention the health benefits of the ban, but they agreed the ban wasn’t really implemented for their health. And that’s what we all know deep down: This really isn’t about workers’ health. It’s part of a broader crackdown -- a crackdown conducted in a non-democratic way with disingenuous rhetoric and intent. ...
No ‘free’ enterprise under any circumstances
: That should be the motto of Taunton Democrat Marc R. Pacheco
, author of the anti-privatization and anti-free enterprise Pacheco Bill. ... Repeat after me: This is Massachusetts. This is Massachusetts. ...
De-Baathifying Beacon Hill:
Reader BK, who not so long ago suggested Hub Blog should start a chart comparing the pace of reforms on Beacon Hill vs. reforms in post-war Iraq, sends in this missive:
“Re: Interim Iraqi Authority BEFORE Meaningful Reform On Beacon Hill:
“At this point, Hubblog, himself, could De-Baathify Tikrit before Hubblog, Lehigh, and Mitt, together, will De-Tommify the Massachusetts state legislature as controlled by Hubblog's beloved Baby-Booming Democrats. But I luvvvvvvv's watchin' y'all try as hard as yer tryin'!”
‘Isolated themselves from the thinking community’:
Indeed they have. Let me pull out the calculator: $775 million divided by 25 years
= $31 million per year for the next 25 years. Initial ‘investment’: $10 million. So a 200 percent return in the first-year payment alone and ... Not a bad return if you’re not ‘isolated from the thinking community.’
Is the budget battle fundamentally over? Part II:
Hub Blog asked that same question
a short while ago. I may be wrong, but my hunch is that the game is far from over. Still think taxes will be brought up again at the end of the session -- or soon after the Legislature passes its Draconian budget cuts and lets the public see how deep the cuts really are. New taxes may yet be rejected on every front, but the debate isn’t over. ...
But Eileen McNamara
thinks the game and debate are indeed over -- and that Mitt has won. So she asks a logical question: Why is he still waging an anti-tax media blitz? Good question. Here’s a possible answer: He also doesn’t think the budget battle is over. After all, the Massachusetts Teachers Association is still running its own pro-tax media blitz. The Globe continues to run pro-tax editorials. The Trav and Senate haven’t weighed in yet. ...
... The Boston Phoenix’s Seth Gitell
sees Mitt on the defensive and Finneran on a roll. I think his assessment is about right. Then again, the Herald seems to agree
with Eileen: It’s over. Assuming Tommy holds firm on taxes. Which I think is a big assumption. ... Bottom-line: The outcome of the budget fight is still fluid. ...
Great line from Eileen in reference to the Legislature’s pay and power grab: “These are the petty power struggles that have so diminished the stature of the Massachusetts Legislature and that call out for reform. This is the culture of political loyalty above public interest, of patronage above merit, that Romney was elected to change.”
‘Good job hunting’:
Speaking of Seth Gitell, is he really headed to City Hall? Yep, he is, as the Herald notes and jabs
. And, boy, what a jab. Not touching that one with a ten-foot pole. ... FYI: Gitell’s reporting during last fall’s gubernatorial campaign was simply outstanding, way ahead of the curve on a lot of issues, especially how Shannon positioned herself as the suburban candidate of NOW -- and paid the price. ...
Speaking of the Phoenix, maybe it’s time they close down the ‘War and Peace’
warblog. No posts since April 12 as of this morning.
-- 5-5-03 -- A reader writes in:
"Can you make heads or tails of the Gitell thing? It seems like a awkward fit all around -- a National Review contributor working for Menino? Plus, Gitell looks more like a freelancer/self-manager moving into the most grinding and structured of jobs, with the most grinding of bosses. Didn't he watch Boston 24/7 last year? Poor Carole Brennan's anger management seminars were painful to watch."
‘Why France fell’:
Hey, the Globe is trying to elbow its way onto established Hub Blog turf, to wit: Christopher Shea’s piece
this morning on French bashing and the fall of France in 1940. I’ve been over this subject again
: Hub Blog didn’t like Ernest May’s “Strange Victory” and instead much preferred William Shirer’s “The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940.” ... Also liked Philippe Burrin’s “France Under The Germans: Collaboration and Compromise,” which confirmed much of what Shirer said more than three decades ago. ... However, I didn’t know about a new book that’s out, “The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940,” by historian Julian Jackson, who apparently stakes out middle ground between May and Shirer/Burrin. ...
Didn’t like the ending of Shea’s piece, which I assume is the spin he wanted to leave in readers’ minds -- that America actually caused France to behave the way it does. To which I say: Oh, pleasssssssse. Give me a break. They’ve been behaving this way for centuries. Here’s my all-time favorite quote about post-war France from Luigi Barzini’s classic book “The Europeans”:
“Count Carlo Sforza, Italian foreign minister, once defined the differences between the Italians and the French after World War II. He said to me: ‘Simple. The Italians must forget a defeat. The French must invent a victory. Our task is infinitely easier. ...’”
‘I don't play the 'milk money.' ’:
Stumbled upon this Washington Monthly article
over at Josh Marshall’s
Talking Points Memo and, well, I couldn’t resist. William Bennett, the annoying conservative moralizer and author of ‘The Book of Virtues,’ has lost $8 million at casinos over the years. ... Bennett now defines ‘vice’ as anything that ends up harming one’s family. Or at least that’s what I think he says.
Let it be, let it be, let it be:
Solomonia makes the obvious case for not rebuilding the Old Man
: “The whole point of the thing was that it was a natural formation.”
‘This thing has taken on a life of its own’
: Some thoughts on Beacon Hill from Reader No Nickname. Excerpts:
– This thing has taken on a life of its own, mainly because it has not been done in recent memory. Think of it as moving the boxes around on an organizational chart. It’s a change in structure, not really a change in policy (although the two can mix), so everyone needs to lower their expectations a bit.
– The House leadership seems to think that using this term over and over really resonates as a criticism of Romney. Did they complain about spreadsheets ten years ago? Wait until they get email. For most people in my age cohort, these things are a fact of life and the criticism sounds silly. Were we all reading 30 page white papers from the Kennedy School before this started?
“Legislative Pay Shenanigans
– I doubt Romney will touch this one with a ten foot pole. There’s a really good separation-of-powers argument here that says the Executive shouldn’t mess with the Legislative branch. Just like the Legislative should not mess (as it does ceaselessly) with the Judicial Branch. It might score points for Romney in the short term to do something, but it’ll suck him into the quagmire when they start picking away at his budget.
“Mitt’s Machine Guns
– House and Senate seats are won on bottom-up, retail name recognition and shoe leather. Does the State Republican party really think they can threaten incumbents with a top-down wholesale campaign? As I recall, during their last push of this type, they won a seat on the planning board in North Andover. Build the party from the bottom up, stop letting Jack E. Robinson run for multiple offices, then start throwing your weight around.
“Lastly, glad I wasn’t the only one riveted by Manor House.”
Hub Blog's response
: Re PowerPoint: What do you expect from people who find the upscale Burgundy processed Cheez Whiz at Anthony's Pier 4 d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s? ... Re pay shenanigans: If it's such a 'separation-of-powers' issue, why does it take an old-fashioned checks-and-balances law to pass it?
Still cheering from the bandwagon
: Yep, that’s Hub Blog merrily up there on the Celts bandwagon
. Haven’t budged in a week.
‘In one fell swoop, Romney gave up every last card’
: As the Onion
might put it, 'Holy F#%cking Sh&t!’ The Herald
is going ballistic on Mitt for not submitting an Article 87 reform bill. Some choice comments from the Herald: “In one fell swoop, Romney gave up every last card. ... Now he has created the perception that he is not the reformer they voted for. ... It seems Romney can be shaken up instead by a few tough letters and the specter of losing a fight. ...The governor commands a singular bully pulpit in this state. He should use it, or go back to playing in an easier arena. Politics takes guts.”
... Yikes. The ferocity of the attack is, well, stunning. ... Wasn’t it the Herald which only last week was all but endorsing the House budget
and its pathetic baby steps in the direction of reform? They’re acting a tad bit schizoid, if you ask me. ... Just pointing it out. ...
... Clearly, the Herald views the yanking of Article 87 as a first-class strategic blunder, Mitt’s Waterloo. Hub Blog tends to view it as a disappointing but necessary tactical regrouping before resuming the campaign against Napoleon Tommyparte, Mitt's retreat-counterattack Russian Campaign. ... Hey, this guy, Mitt, has done more to promote genuine reform than any governor in recent memory. If he makes some mistakes now and then, fine. Buck him up. Slam him hard. Smack him over the head and mess up his hair. But question his commitment to reform? At worst, he’s guilty of naively believing in the Bill Weld Suck Up Theory of Dealing with Hacks, i.e. get all nice and cozy with the boys and trade favors. But Weld was merely trying to plug a budget hole and stop the rush to raise taxes; Mitt is trying to plug a budget hole, stop the rush to raise taxes and
change the culture on Beacon Hill. Lawmakers can and will trade and haggle over taxes and spending -- so there’s a time and place for the Bill Weld Suck Up Theory of Dealing with Hacks. But lawmakers will fight tooth and nail to preserve their power and perks. They will slash services. They will raise taxes. They will scorch-earth everything and anything in order to preserve their P&Ps. This is what Mitt is discovering: He has hit a raw nerve with reform. No amount of the Bill Weld Suck Up Theory of Dealing with Hacks will work on this one. ...
... Having performed some fine tuning to his Article 87 strategy and tactics, Mitt is now sending signals
he’s about to resume his assault on the Statehouse. ... Hope he’s not acting out of anger or personal grudges or desperation. He should put together a tough but doable Article 87 package and lob the dynamite
at lawmakers at the time of his choosing.
Now here’s an issue that will make or break Mitt
: This bill
is the antithesis of reform. The antichrist of reform. The voters of Massachusetts approved a very fair, very wise pay-raise mechanism for lawmakers. Now hacks like the Trav say neither the governor nor anyone else should have a say in setting salaries for lawmakers -- even though the people specifically gave the governor such powers. Yet another slap in the face of voters. ...
Let me get this straight: A checks-and-balances law needs to be passed to eliminate a checks-and-balances law. Now that's progress!
... If Mitt signs this bill, maybe the Herald was right all along and sensed something about this guy I don’t get yet.
This is just such a bad idea
: Enough said.
‘The end of an era’
: It’s like the Jazz Age coming to an end
. The Puritans have won. ... Hope the teetotalers and Amstel Lighters leave more than nickel tips for bartenders and waiters.
‘Cat-alog of complaints: Woman rips purr-loining of immortal mousers’
: I can think of at least one more pun the Herald could have squeezed into the headline. Do you see it? ... Love this story.
The crazy Heidi K. Erickson is all but flipping the bird at authorities. ... Hey, what’s wrong with a little backroom cloning and fetal abortions?
Presidential bloggers? Part II: Dave Winer
on blogging in the 2004 presidential race:
"One of the best ideas I’ve heard so far came from Mike Clough, a foreign policy expert I met at the Berkman Center. The idea is to somehow give a weblog to any New Hampshire voter who wants one, and then, much as I’m helping people at Harvard get started, to help the citizens of New Hampshire get started.
"Citizen bloggers covering the candidates for U.S. president. Everyone who hears the concept says Hmm, that might work.
More than anything, I want the U.S. presidential election of 2004 to be a real election, to mean something. I wonder if many other citizens feel the same way?
"With New Hampshire so close to Cambridge, the technology so ripe and the candidates so willing, it seems we may actually be able to route around the professional press and make something real happen this election cycle."
(Via -- where else? -- the Harvard
As they say, cool, dude. Gary Hart
and Howard Dean
both have blogs (via Mickey Kaus
). Dean’s camp is taking shots at John Kerry
. Don't see a blog on Kerry's official campaign site
, but it does link to what it obviously considers to be favorable stories. I'm sure a certain Globe reporter isn't too flattered by the site's lead link
-- and it doesn't even link to Boston.com. Am I stirring up the pot here? Just pointing it out!
‘Romney and his team have machine guns’
: Picture this: Mitt Romney scratching his head with one hand, while casually holding a stick of dynamite in the other, intently staring at the stick and thinking, ‘Hmmm. Is that a fuse at the end of this candle?’ Meanwhile, picture a terrified Tom Finneran and Dianne Wilkerson, arms extended in panic and muttering, ‘Now governor, put the dynamite down. Put the dynamite down. We’ll deal. We’ll deal. Just put the dynamite down.” ...
... Mitt has more than just political dynamite -- he also has Tommy guns. Or whatever. Finneran to House Dems
during a closed-door caucus: ''Romney and his team have machine guns, and they have bullets with our names on them.'' ...
... So what did we learn yesterday? We learned this: Dems are horrified at the prospect of an Article 87 showdown. Mitt was probably right not to file an Article 87 bill
, correctly noting that he wants the damn thing to pass and may need to modify it. Tommy and Dianne are also probably right to warn that an Article 87 at this time could blow up any goodwill compromise on reform and restructuring. But ... but they’re scared. If I’m not mistaken, one could sense genuine fear, mixed with anger, behind Tommy and Dianne’s ‘blunt’ message to Mitt not to file an Article 87 bill. ...They may yet pull a Lucy With the Football trick on Mitt, but that’s OK. Gov. Dudley Do-Right now knows he has a weapon he can always light and throw at any time. This year. Next year. Hmmmm. When are legislators up for re-election?
-- Dan Kennedy
has some thoughts on Mitt's permanent campaign strategy. I'm of two minds about it: I don't like it, but, then again, the Massachusetts Teachers Association is going crazy with radio and TV ads, etc. The entire permanent bureaucracy seems to have mobilized on the budget issue, throwing money and lobbyists and activists into the fray. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t see chartered buses parked along Beacon Street, unloading protesters by the hundreds. So I don’t feel too sorry for lawmakers who whine about Mitt’s strategy while encouraging others to engage in virtually the same activities. ... Still, ‘permanent campaigns’ in general bother me -- the constant polling, fund-raising, spinning, strategizing. It’s an insular world onto itself -- and it ultimately alienates voters who feel excluded from an increasingly impersonal and professionalized process.
‘Other assorted bad behavior’
: Tommy, Trav, Dianne etc. are probably cursing their luck Mitt didn’t accept George Cashman’s offer for a Teamsters endorsement. Joan Vennochi
explains Cashman’s last feeble attempt at power brokering. ... God, doesn’t it seem like eons ago that Bill, Paul and Jane were sitting in the corner office, thinking they were masters of Beacon Hill when it really worked the other way around?
‘I'm in a complete news void here’
: This is not good. Things are getting ugly in Iraq
. The amazing thing is that American officials seem barely aware they may have another Gaza Strip on their hands in Fallujah.
‘Her disastrous attempts to explain herself’: Adrian Walker
nails it: “A garden-variety defendant would face serious criminal charges for lying under oath, but a judge can get by with an apology?” ... Margery Eagan
(pay to view) recalls another post-sentencing antic by Lopez: Casting the victim as the villain. The real victim’s family
isn’t forgetting. ... Again: She’s getting off light. Does she know this? Probably not.
Manor House Update, the Final Installment
: I can’t believe I’ve been writing about it
. I can’t believe I’ve been watching and recommending it
. But Manor House
was darn fun. ... I was disappointed by the almost too perfect Mr. Chips ending last night. Hub Blog also was struck (to my embarrassment) by this obvious reality about an upscale PBS reality show, to wit: At the end of the show’s credits, the network touted tapes and/or future shows (didn’t catch which) about how the participants ‘auditioned’ for the show and other behind-the-scenes tidbits, i.e. the participants are now celebrities -- which is what they probably craved for and played to all along. At heart, they were all hams. Good hams, but hams nonetheless...
... Still, Manor House -- a British production that threw 21st century citizens into an early 20th century Edwardian manor home, complete with Upstairs Downstairs tension -- was brilliant. ... The teary-eye good-byes of the ‘masters’ was fascinating, matched and exceeded by the stoic contempt the servants actually held for them. ... The cranky and crazy French cook turned out to be my favorite character. Why? He just played himself.
Hey, I'm not crazy. I'm not the only won who loved the show. The Washington Post has a live chat (I think it's still live) with hall boy Kenny Skelton
, my second favorite character on the show. ... FYI, Kenny, in real life, does indeed despise 'Sir John,' the pompous 'master' in the series.
'Second to nobody': Mickey Kaus
is beating the crap out of John Kerry again. ... And so is William Saletan
Et tu, Luxemburg?:
There used to be a time when talk of a military alliance
between France and Germany would strike fear across the continent and world (scroll down if need be). ...
‘The true agenda of the moratorium crowd’:
There are so many exciting things happening in urban education these days: Improving test scores, rising school attendance, increasing interest in and commitment to neighborhood schools in general, etc. My favorite example: Beacon Hill residents rallying and lobbying hard for a public school in their affluent neighborhood. Their request was recently rejected, but they haven't given up the long-term fight. They want
their children in public schools. Bottom-line: We’re a long, long way from the ‘Common Ground’ days of public school meltdown. Charter schools have played an important role, albeit a sometimes distant and hard to measure role, in this trend -- providing choice, offering competition, promoting creativity and experimentation, encouraging parental involvement and enthusiasm. Charters don’t suck a dime from the public school system because they’re part of the public school system -- unlike the throw-in-the-towel and walk-away vouchers concept. ... Scot Lehigh
and Marc Kenen
tackle the latest effort by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to strangle change in the crib, using the budget crisis as a convenient excuse. ...
‘Six-month suspension with an apology’
: One of the more frequently asked questions Hub Blog gets is this: Why don’t/haven’t you covered the Judge Maria I. Lopez controversy
? Don’t know. Hasn’t hit a nerve. Too many others are opining about the subject. Bad decisions are made every day by otherwise smart people. Inherent distrust of prosecutors’ courtroom antics and tactics. She’s also a hubba-hubba looking babe who I’d ask out on a date if she wasn’t already married to a local media barron who could theoretically throw a wrench in my career if he put his anti-Hub Blog mind to it. Etc., etc., etc. But look at the words used to describe Lopez’s actions (all of them unrelated to the actual sentencing): “cover up,” “misrepresented facts,” “misled the public,” “testified with less than candor,” “distract.” ... She’s getting off light.
‘His solution: Open new supermarkets’
: I really liked this column by Tom Keane
. A lot. Say what you will about Mayor Menino, he definitely has a feel for what makes a neighborhood work on a more intimate level: reliable city services, safety, smart sidewalk designs, ground-floor retail shops, jobs, clean streets and parks. Add to this: supermarkets that ‘hold neighborhoods together.’ Of all obvious things. ... Were supermarkets on the Great Society’s official TTD list?
- Speaking of good food and grocery stores, some other readers have suggested that Hub Blog could increase its traffic by including, oh, recipes and Page 3 girls. Since I don’t know how to slap photos on the site (though my new super-duper Blogger Pro technically gives me the ability), I shall now provide my first recipe to readers. My mother and father tried this one last night -- and they went gaga over it, even calling me up afterward to sing its praise. Very simple and quick. Got this from a TV show and modified it. Ready? Here goes:
Hub Blog’s Steak and Balsamic Onions and Mushrooms
: Steaks of your choice, steak seasoning of choice (McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning-Spicy highly recommended -- salt and pepper will work fine), one large sliced yellow onion, 4-8 ounces of sliced mushrooms, Balsamic Vinegar, olive oil, S & P.
(and try to time it so steaks and onions/mushrooms are done at same time):
I. In skillet with olive oil, cook onions until soft but not all the way done; add mushrooms and cook for one minute; add about a quarter cup of Balsamic vinegar (more or less), with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another few minutes or so, until bitter taste of vinegar is diminished. Goal: Droopy, semi-drippy onions and mushrooms.
II. In separate and simultaneous operation, sprinkle seasoning on steaks (no marinades) and cook anyway you want -- grill, broil or sauté.
III. Bring together, slapping onions and mushrooms on top of steaks. Viola!
: Two. Hub Blog suggests serving the concoction with steamed broccoli, also smothered in portions of onions and mushrooms.
Notes: A.) You can use just onions or mushrooms -- Hub Blog’s mom went with only mushrooms and thought they were the star of the show. B.) You can use more or less onions and mushrooms as desired -- leftovers taste great on salads etc. C.) Live it up with the olive oil. D.) The true star of the show is the Balsamic factor; Hub Blog’s mom just went with a few tablespoons and added a bit more as she went along, cooking off the distant bitter taste until that desired, minimal-vapor level.
There. A Hub Blog first. Try it. Write back to me if you liked it. Real, real easy and fast. Next up: Hub Blog’s Chicken/Veal Marsala, courtesy of my favorite bartendress, who's very upset, it should be noted, with next week’s new restaurant/bar smoking ban.
Manor House Update
: To my surprise and delight, the second installment of PBS’ Manor House
was on last night. Saw the first installment the night before
. FYI: The Downstairs ‘revolt’ was brutally crushed, despite later meddlesome efforts of Edwardian socialists who crashed a charity event and tried to rally the servants. You have to watch the show to know what I’m talking about.
Jerry Williams, rabble-rouser
: Will McDonough. Michael Kelly. Now Jerry Williams. And once again, Dan Kennedy
has a terrific remembrance that I won't try to improve upon. Which leads me to think: A.) Dan is either one hell of a writer and reporter or B.) He has a CNN file of pre-written obits or C.) a combination of the two. Great piece. ... I was out in Illinois when Jerry reached his rabble-rousing peak. A friend used to send me clips from the Boston newspapers every now and then. Jerry was at the eye of almost every Beacon Hill storm. I remember thinking: 'Jerry's flipped out in a cool sort of way.' He must have been mugged by reality somewhere during his career.
‘We won't always have the strongest military’
: Sounds like a pretty obvious and innocuous quote by Howard Dean, right? The fact is we won’t always have the strongest military in the future -- nor possess a strong military option in every situation we confront today. So we’ll have to rely on deft diplomacy. But don’t tell that to Senator John Kerry
, who voted for the UN authorization bill against Iraq, who later criticized the Bush administration for its lack of diplomatic skills when it ultimately went with the ‘second-to-noboby’ military option, and who, not surprisingly, is having it both ways by going after both Bush and Dean.
All or nothing?:
Generally, Hub Blog likes the idea of slapping an entire reform/restructuring package down on the table and forcing lawmakers, on the record, to either pass or reject it, under the ‘all-or-nothing’ Article 87
provision. The Herald thinks so
, too. But I’d like to make one suggestion: Make sure they’re the best, most sensible reforms. Many of Mitt’s original restructuring ideas were, well, flawed and/or would give lawmakers too easy an excuse to reject them. Some reforms/restructuring that should be included: the Pacheco bill, bumping rights, court reform, the Bechtel Turnpike Authority, the Quinn Bill, Billy’s job, the health-care revamping etc. I’d leave out a few of the other ideas, such as the non-Billy higher ed reforms, where there are legitimate non-power-politics beefs involved. Some will say any Article 87 vote (or votes) would be partisan in nature, but, as Mayor Daley once said, good government is good politics. No need to juice up a reform package by trying to ‘embarrass’ Dems. Just include reforms people want -- and deserve. ...
... Speaking of Billy, read this Herald editorial
from the other day about the utter cynicism of Bulger, who lambasted Mitt for slashing higher-ed funds but who’s now content with the deeper and more ‘honest’ House cuts. Hmmm. Wonder why. ...Both the Herald
and the Globe
are going after the Quinn Bill. The Globe has a legitimate and inescapable point: Mitt isn’t supporting the Quinn reforms. He should. And they should be slipped into any Article 87 package.
‘The assault on freedom of speech’
: You know, this is a rather brave column by Joan Vennochi
. She’s taking on the critics of Rick Santorum, Trent Lott, etc. -- while still criticizing the views expressed by Santorum and Lott. Hub Blog can’t emphasize this enough: Santorum and Lott are morons -- and they deserve criticism. Yet, I’m also skeptical of anything that smacks of an Orchestrated Indignation Campaign. It’s the opinion-media’s version of pack journalism. Everyone feels compelled to get in on the act. ... Not sure about the use of the words ‘assault’ and ‘muzzle’ by Joan. I’d reserve those words for genuine government/McCarthy-like crackdown tactics. But I get her drift -- and agree. ... As for the Dixie Chicks and Hollywood types, they live by popularity, they die by popularity. They want to have it both ways.
: Can I make a recommendation? If you can, catch the ongoing episodes of PBS’ ‘Manor House,’
the upscale reality show that re-creates the Upstairs-Downstairs life within an early-20th Century Edwardian country manor. I was utterly mesmerized by the history, the interaction of the masters and workers, the grueling tensions and long hours of the servants, how some people are motivated by pride of work while others scheme, etc. I couldn’t stop watching it. A total surprise. Can’t wait for the upcoming Downstairs ‘revolt’ as promised in the promos.
Light bloggin’ and France is freaking insane, Part II
: Got a surprising number of emails about the post directly below. ... One of them asked me how I square my support for taxes (as long as they’re accompanied by true reforms) with my sarcastic criticism of the authors of this op-ed
as mentioned in the post. My response: Well, I was being a little sarcastic and flippant. But I wasn’t being that sarcastic and flippant. The authors’ description of taxes being ‘the least damaging’ alternative in a budget crisis struck me as absurd, anti-common-sense, ideological posturing. The fact is both cuts and taxes are damaging. One uses them in conjunction with each other. The authors were clearly promoting one alternative over another. ... Another reader gently chided me for taking on the august authors, Peter R. Orszag and Joseph E. Stiglitz, who respectively are a Brookings Institute scholar and a Nobel laureate. Hub Blog is no scholar and certainly no Nobel laureate. But I’m sure a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute and another Nobel laureate could be found to rebut their views. ...
FYI: No one wrote in about my closet Francophile dilemma!
Light bloggin’ and France is freaking insane
: I was so intellectually devastated
by this article (via Dan Kennedy
) that I couldn’t blog yesterday. After much soul searching, I’ve come to this conclusion: We should never again reduce government spending as long as we can raise taxes during a recession. Isn’t that the impeccable reverse logic of the authors’ arguments? It is. So, no more spending reductions, no more reforms and restructuring since that would reduce spending, etc. etc. ...
... Licking my deep intellectual wounds, I sought solace by searching for a story that would rationalize why I’m a closet Francophile. I found this article on the NYC smoking ban
, and I was overwhelmed with fond memories of sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes in the utterly free cafes of Paris. Then I stumbled upon this encouraging article
about how area American and French scientists are putting their countries’ political differences aside in the name of academic freedom, and I was overwhelmed with the blissful thought about how an influx of French into Boston might lead to a partial lifting of the smoking ban and higher quality baguettes. ... Then I read this article about how France is trying to organize
a new military alliance to ‘balance’ and confront the United States, scuttling NATO and achieving France’s ‘long-standing goal of unhitching’ the United States from European defense. France is talking to Germany and Russia about the idea. Hey, why not China and Iran? I guess rapprochement
is dead. ...
... I am left demoralized. So bloggin’ has been and will remain light as I try to right my world.
Recognizing Kevin White, Part II
: Brighton Reader writes in re this earlier post
“The unveiling of the two statues of James Michael Curley that are opposite city hall during White's last term inspired his budget director, Ed Sullivan, to make a tongue in cheek suggestion for a memorial for his boss. Rather than a mere two statues, there would be three: Kevin White shaking hands with Kevin White while the third one applauds.
“Like him or not, you knew when he was in the room. Kevin White had charisma.
“Boston politics has gotten a lot more boring since KHW left the scene. Mayoral races were once titantic battles where people felt a lot was at stake. Now we have token opponents and small voter turnouts.
“He was the last incumbent Boston mayor to make a serious run for higher office, losing to Frank Sargeant in 1970.”
‘They can save money ...’
: Day 4: Reforms held hostage. No, wait, the Globe has actually run a budget editorial that not only mentions the word ‘reform,’ but is about reforms
. The big news: It praises them without snide references about how they're really worthless twaddle beloved by Talk Radio hooligans. The Globe: “They (reforms) can save money that might otherwise have to come from direct services, and they increase credibility in the budget process, eventually enhancing public trust.” ...
The sad part about this is that it’s come so late and grudgingly. Can you imagine how many other reforms might have been squeezed out of Beacon Hill had the Globe put its foot down earlier and campaigned for better government? Still, the budget fight is far from over, and the Globe just articulated why it should be pushing harder for reforms as the budget ax falls on state services, not to mention on taxpayers. It might even enhance the public's trust in the Globe as a credible advocate in the budget process.
: William M. Fowler Jr. goes after the insipid designs
for the Wharf District after the Central Artery is torn down. William: “If as a community we cannot come to agreement perhaps the best alternative is to do nothing. Plant grass and leave it to a future, hopefully wiser, generation to solve.” ... Hub Blog announces a new Adopt a Reform program and is assigning the Globe its first homework/hatchet-job test: Reform and/or abolish the Bechtel Turnkpike Authority. The BTA wasted hundreds of millions of dollars by not recouping cost overruns from Bechtel, as the Globe’s Spotlight Team exposed; and now the BTA is screwing up another aspect of the Big Dig by submitting ‘mawkish clichés’ for future post-artery parks. The Globe has been a pitbull on both issues, and so logic dictates. ... Extra bonus points to the Globe if it crosses a line and refers to Matthew Amorello as ‘Fat Matt.' ...
Jules Crittenden fires back
: The Herald’s Jules Crittenden
explains his souvenirs problem at Customs: “Note to colleagues: It was with great surprise that I learned that images of Saddam Hussein and assorted military equipment, collected as battlefield souvenirs, might be considered part of Iraq's valued cultural heritage.” ... He adds that media coverage of the incident was ‘not of high caliber.’ ... He got nabbed for Hussein images and military equipment? Jeezus. I would have come home with a little more than that
. Hope this puts to rest the Great Jules Controversy. ... Wait. It doesn’t: What about the jezails
, Jules? What about the jezails
-- 4-26-03 -- Cosmo
is admirably riding to the defense of his Herald colleague, swatting off the heads of the armchair infidel ethicists.
Bandwagon Hub Blogger
: Yep, that’s me up there on the Celts bandwagon
. Don’t think they’ll go far, but it’s good to see a second season in a row with some real playoff excitement. ...
-- 4-26-03 - Don't forget the Pats. Big draft coming up
. Hope they trade up to at least get Johnathan Sullivan. Maybe even swipe away Dewayne Robertson from the Jets.
Is the budget battle fundamentally over?:
A reader brought my attention to yesterday’s Boston Herald editorial
endorsing Finneran’s budget and all but saying it was good enough -- baby-step reforms and all. ... Meanwhile, Scot Lehigh
is praising the House’s reforms, saying they’re logical and a good start. ... Oh, sure, there’s skirmishing between Tommy and Mitt over the silly $100 million Emerging Technology Fund
, another one of those ‘public-private partnership’ relics that so many pols seem to adore. But the fact is: A House budget has been presented, it includes some (but not many) reforms and no tax major increases. Everyone’s behaving as though the budget battle is drawing to a close. ...
So the logical question is: Is the budget battle fundamentally over? Reading Tom Keane
this morning, I thought he was about to pronounce winners and losers, such as when he wrote: “Yet to a remarkable degree, the House budget builds on Romney's submission. For the governor, this is a big win.” ... Hmmmmm. True. Mitt should be looking happy these days. But then Tom adds: “It's important to remember, however, that for Finneran this is a position grounded in tactics, not philosophy. He followed Romney's lead only because he figures legislators won't support a tax increase. But that could change.” ... And there’s the key line: But that could change
. My betting is it will. Tommy is still Tommy. The Senate hasn’t weighed in yet. The public hasn’t had time to digest the spending cuts. The public-sector unions and professional activists are only now clearing their indignant throats. I don’t think the battle is over. Act 4 of the drama (voting on an actual budget) has yet to occur. That's why Hub Blog is sticking to my mantra: No reforms, no new taxes. The reforms on the table are small in number. Many are temporary. And they can easily disappear in final conference committees. Mitt has indeed set the agenda and deserves credit. The House indeed produced a budget and deserves credit for at least addressing reforms. But when those House tax ideas are whipped out, as I think they will be later this spring or summer, Mitt better have his reform list ready, too. ...
... Steve Bailey
on putting the budget into perspective: “We will need to manage our way through the hard times, and that is why we hired Mitt Romney, a manager, not a politician. The rookie governor has made his mistakes -- his foolish boast of finding $2 billion in fraud, waste, and abuse was a whopper for which he is still paying -- but he has stayed true to his mandate: reform, not taxes.” ... Again, notice how Steve is writing in the past tense. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too cynical. I smell a rat. ... Did Mitt really refer to Beacon Hill as ‘Bacon Hill’
Day 3: Reform held hostage. The Globe is out of it. Someone pass it some smelling salts. Day 3 of running a budget editorial
without one mention of the word ‘reform.’ What budget debate are they following? Maine's? Vermont's?
‘The Quinn Bill is entrenched in the system’:
Here’s why both taxes and more reforms (or no reforms) are not off the table yet. Sen. Robert O'Leary
, who’s fighting to kill the Quinn Bill: “After people see what we do up here this year in terms of the programs we're going to be cutting and the kind of pain that's going to be inflicted across the board, they'll be more likely to sit down and look at a program a lot of people have problems with.” ... So the Let ‘Em Howl for Taxes scenario is still out there, but it’s a double-edged sword: People are starting to link taxes and reform together -- or at least one lawmaker thinks they will. Good. ...Mitt: Keep that reform list handy.
Recognizing Kevin White
: Don’t know what prompted Brian McGrory
to write this column, but he’s right about recognizing the good deeds of Kevin White ... White was no angel. McGrory mentions all the good people who got their start in government under White, but he neglected to point out some of the other characters surrounding Kev, such as, oh, The Trav, the former Eastie foot soldier. ... Still, time has healed most psychic wounds leftover from White’s last cynical years in office. All in all, he was truly a great mayor. So we now have two people who deserve a memorial of some sort: Fred Salvucci and Kevin White.
Attention all you tormented Fracophiles, Part II:
In an editorial, the Globe is urging a rapprochement with France
, saying there are signs “that President Jacques Chirac does not want to repeat in the postwar period the prewar clashes that tore apart the UN Security Council.” ... Oh, really? Has Chirac abandoned his 19th Century ‘balance of power’ philosophy on foreign policy? Has the United States suddenly shed some pounds on the balance of power scale? I’m all for mending fences. Time to cool down the rhetoric about ‘punishment’ etc. But I’m not about to let down my guard with the cynical French elite.
What’s next for the neocons?:
Boy, the word ‘neoconservative’ seems so outdated already, an ancient phrase used during those ancient times before the war in Iraq. Still, the CSM is tackling the issue in this editorial
and in this op-ed piece
, both roughly concluding that President Bush is (and should be) easing up on the neocon crusade. ... Still not enthralled with the neocons. They’re too gung-ho and moralistic for my tastes. I despise the thought of an ‘American Empire.’ But they have been proven right on a lot of issues lately. Gotta give ‘em that. ... Mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it again: I’m going to start judging Middle East matters, in particular, on a more case-by-case basis. I was proved right on a lot of issues regarding the war in Iraq. But I was also proved wrong on a lot issues. Hub Blog is kind of in a humble mood these days. ... Still want to see that WMD evidence.