Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gosssman against the wall


Neither has a pol/sales rep/cheerleader personality, Yet it's Steve Grossman v. Martha Coakley for MA Gov. She leads him by perhaps 30% heading to the Sept. 9th primary.

Our irony factor is that the third Dem in the primary has the best platform and policies. Donald Berwick (Dr. Don) is the true visionary and progressive in the race. He's nowhere near as well known as the two cabinet members and few give him even a slim chance.

Cliché time

Yesterday's intro of Grossman's first video ad reeled in the stereotypes and assorted tropes. (Click the ad below and judge for yourself.)

As usual, the silliest was in the Boston Herald. Immediately under the head Steve Grossman goes on the attack in first ad of race was a tightly cropped pic of him looking like a screaming berzerker (definitely not his style or wont). Winger columnist Hillary Chabot wrote it was a decision to go negative and got a pol turned UMASS prof to call it a Hail-Mary approach.

Set aside her perpetual melodrama and disdain for all lefty and Dem ideas and folk. This piece is asinine and wrong. Personally after observing and writing about politics — five years in South Carolina, 10 in Manhattan and 34 in Boston — I think I recognize negative and dirty politics. Grossman's I-know-biz-and-job-creation-from-doing-it doesn't qualify. He didn't even use Coakley's name and just said he could and had done it.

As usual, the LITE version came on TV news/noise. On WCVB, Janet Wu missed repeatedly with loaded content. For example, she denigrated his introduction of a female employee he had helped twice as her boss as "bragging." She has real emotional issues with Grossman. Then over at CBSBoston, Steve Keller was his usual hit-and-miss self. He began reasonably, raising the question of whether jobs would really be what swung this primary, as Grossman holds. Yet he thoroughly muddled this with a made-up alternative about it being centered on women. Lackaday.

Refreshingly enough, over at the Boston Globe, Joshua Miller had a passable take on the ad and related campaign. He describe the ad, noting that it drew a contrast. He avoided the clumsiness of the other commentators. He didn't analyze or speculate what might work for Grossman.

Any chance?

Big questions remain in what looks like a grim eight weeks for Grossman. When the first polls came out showing Coakley skunking him, many asked how one cabinet member had such a much higher profile. Likely her then humiliating 2010 loss to Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate seems to have played out in the predictable stereotype; in the minds of voters, she may have been elevated to Senator/Governor status. Grossman remains "just" a successful business guy who's done really good stuff as Treasurer and Receiver General.

To Keller's unanswered query though, what is this election about and what would enable Grossman to win? Unfortunately for him, timing on the jobs-creation is not good. Voters who get any news know by now that our MA unemployment is about 5.5% and many know folk who are back to work. There are still huge problems, like in gateway cities and lack of preparation in education to prepare young and reentering workers for future needs (which will also attract businesses).

Both Coakley and Grossman when they spoke with Left Ahead said these economic and education issues were huge. Yet at the moment, people here seem less morose and panicked about it all.

In TV dramas, such elections would pivot on a sudden surprise scandal revelation. Forget it. Coakley has been known to misspeak and misjudge her audiences, but she's no crook. Grossman is literally and figuratively an Eagle Scout. He's clean.

I suspect he'll not find the traction he needs in his job creation ad(s). Here's betting he has several more approaches ready to go. He might even be able to sweeten some of his issues area, say promising affordable daycare for working moms. No time to waste for him.

Vaguely related: My rant on his weird hangout for the ad last night is here.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grossman not chat ready


MA Gov-would-be Steve Grossman has lots of smarts and skills, but this social-media stuff doesn't appear to be on his forte list. I sat stunned listening to him lecture about his new ad this evening.

That doesn't seem terrible...except his lackeys promoted it as a Google hangout. Well, I know hangouts and this didn't qualify.

For the non-G+ folk, be aware that a hangout is not push technology. Those logged in expect to have the chance, even obligation, to participate with their webcams and mics.

It was supposed to be a discussion. Instead, he showed on-screen like an extra from a vampire movie (Pro tip: Shell out $25 for minimal lighting). He was the only person and only visual element, until he showed the 30-second ad...twice.

He then iterated and explained the obvious that we'd just seen. Yes, the whole point of the ad was that people are concerned about having jobs and he has a record of creating them. He figures a business sort is better qualified to do that than a prosecutor sort.

Fair enough, but we got it the first two times.

Time for a second pro tip — a hangout or similar chat requires interaction. Grossman didn't even take advantage of the built-in text chat functions.

It was lo those seven years ago that a certain Deval Patrick used social media well to get voter interest and commitment. Then his buddy a certain Barack Obama followed suit. Really, pols can do this.

This was definitely a stumble. Turning an interactive social medium into a one-way lecture sucks.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Cry Havoc...and Blather On


Some benign looking and sounding phrases are the most laden. Consider, if you will, parental rights...

The phrase in newsy yet again, today, this month and season and year because of Justina Pelletier. This young girl has become an amazing media critter and perpetual sideshow. Some docs, hospital departments and child-protective departments decided her parents were harming her, maybe causing severe mental and physical problems. They took her from her parents with the approval of a judge.

The mess only seemed to have stopped in the past few days. The judge reversed his edict. She got to return back to her family (Father's Day!).

Meanwhile, from a safe distance, we can be astonished at the motley crew of unified outraged supporters. The illogical and puerile (Jeff Beck, MassReesistance and Liberty Counsel) find common cause with pinkos in screaming about government overreach.

True enough that most of us adults know that physicians as well as bureaucrats are blowhards and arrogant pseudo-experts. That a judge joined a protective agency in pretty much stealing a child for a year and one half on the flimsiest of reasons should come as no surprise.

Yet I find it unfortunate that the core of the outrage in this case is the parents' rights wackos. For every lefty who is offended that Justina Pelletier became a game piece for these ego-driven government and medical types, there are several wingers who believe that children are property.

I've dealt with them before like here nearly seven years ago. These are the loonies who shout that they have absolute rights to determine public-school curricula and to beat their children with hands, belts or sticks. Children are subhuman to them.

So, yes, good that this teen got free from a crazy subsystem of medical, bureaucratic and judicial fools. We can expect the parents' rights crowd to scream that this just proves everything they've been saying is totally true.

No it isn't. That the governmental types, including institutionalized medicine, sometimes goof up proves nothing beyond their all to human failing. Children still should not be considered by society to be slaves of their parents, subject to any mental, emotional or physical caprice. Let's keep our focus on the well-being of the children, not the emotional needs of the demented alleged adults at home.


Friday, June 06, 2014

The Glib, Glob, Globe Really Tries


For the longest time, the Boston Globe didn't really try.  Truth be told, for MA politics, the NYT bureau chief, Fox Butterfield, was the source. It got worse when the Globe was sold and shuffled and stifled. Like all badly managed media, the top team fired reporters, cut back on local coverage even more and sucked with an even mightier wind. Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Here we alternated calling it The Glob or The Glib.

My retribution was the recent resurgence of political reportage in the new, John Henry-owned, paper. They honestly do more.

Too much of it is Murdoch quality. The wee competitor, the Boston Herald, remains in size and spirit, the true tabloid in the market. Yet the Glib/Glob/Globe tries in its own way to be as salacious and scandal mongering.

Just yesterday, I couldn't help bemoaning early in the chat with Dem candidate for AG, Maura Healey, on Left Ahead just how how low-brow coverage has been. You can click this link to go to the half-hour show, but know that the gist of the media mini-rant is that she was just the latest drive-by reporting false scoops by The Globe.

The empire is more like a shire, bragging about being the 24th largest circulation (total print and digital) in the country. That's pretty much on par with Boston not ever being the nation's capital or busiest port or largest anything except maybe just maybe money-market center. (Wait, we did have the first working subway by a couple of years; does that count?)

Back to Healey, I went on about how the local larger rag has a new emphasis to go with its insatiable Pulitzer hunting. It's pretty good about siccing staff on potentially prize-winning features, almost as though they work for the Washington Post. You can see when they get a good subject and how they worry it like a puppy with a balled-up sock. To their credit, they end up with more than their share. Meanwhile, local coverage is weak. Thanks to the media gods and Adam Gaffin for Universal Hub, which constantly beats the Glob/Glib/Globe in depth and range of coverage of Boston-areas news.

On the political side, the Henry version has spot scoops of scandal. Given a commonwealth-wide or high-profile MA regional candidate, Glob/Glib/Globe reporters apparently have the task normally assigned to opposition research by competitors.

Every candidate is in for a mud painting. Like Gov. would-be Martha Coakley didn't reimburse MA in a timely fashion for gas and mileage when she was campaigning while being AG. In the replace-the AG race, we see Healey and her partner inferred to be ethics violators (partner being Appeals-Court judge when Healey used their home as the campaign HQ for four months), and Warren Tolman, also running for AG, hit for owning part of an online-gambling software firm.

These and other other stories in this election cycle are OK and have modest factual value. However, they are not of real substance and seem far more intended to inflate the Glob/Glib/Globe rather than inform the electorate. They aren't, lackaday, John Henry, Pulitzer catalysts.

Now,  we suddenly got a new section, Capital, in the paper. This sports-section thin add-in that first appeared today does not atone to those of who lave long lived here for so many years of tepid local and political coverage. However, I'm willing to give it a few months to see if they can teach it to sing and dance politics.

It could end up being just another Sunday Globe Ideas Section, that's more unneeded, formulaic mush mouth. That'd be a few lefty pieces, one or two kinda right-wing ones, and some this-but-that yawners. TBD.

The first insert was not inspiring. The lead was a highly boosterism Clout or Drought. It chewed and re-chewed the meaningless factoid that for the first time in four Prez elections no MA candidate was likely to be running. Again, yawn. Again, how parochial can you get? Is this a The Onion parody of newspapers?

However, a lesser front-pager was a poll and analysis of what the public thought of gubernatorial hopefuls for the 2014 election. That was useful and well done.

I'll reserve judgment for a bit (not too long though). The recently reawakened Glob/Glib/Globe has paid long overdue attention to political coverage. Yeah for that. Much of it has been sad, strange, desperate barely-stories in the gotcha range, smearing one candidate or office holder after another. This unfortunately falls in the cliché of throwing enough sh*t against the wall to see what sticks.

So here's to the paper:

  • Stopping the puerile regionalism in coverage
  • Telling reporters who find a mini-scandal to go deeper and do analysis
  • Going after abstracts and ideas instead of left-brain obvious stories
  • Pressing pols to drop the PR and make real promises they can be held to

Let's drum our fingers while we wait and watch.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Liberty Belles and Beaux


Well, there you have it. Pennsylvania finally straggles in behind the rest of the U.S. Northeast in marriage equality. A federal judge today joined the great wind of marriage equality today.

Among the several intriguing aspects is the per-state decisions as well as the court-driven conversion.

It was only a couple of years ago that equality advocates feared the state-by-state process. They figured it too risky, too likely to see differing results, and too likely arouse negative reaction by locals. Instead, it has become the accepted norm. The MSNBC article linked above notes that "Just three states – North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana – currently have no marriage equality lawsuits pending in either state or federal court. "

In the childish and paranoid preemptive panic following VT's civil unions, then MA's same-sex marriage, that U.S. map was foreboding and very anti-gay. Old times.

Now we face the whining and duplicity. Wingers and anti-LGBT folk are in high activist-judges mode. That is, when the co-equal third of democracy, the courts, rules in ways they don't like, they are evil and immoral. In contrast, when they go for Citizens United approving unlimited money-as-speech or OK guns in schools and bars, they are stewards of America.

We lefties have much to carp about in the court system, particularly the Supremes. Yet, in marriage equality, life is good.


Mark Fisher Gets Shout Down Instead of Shout-Out


Like the old man in Moonstruck, "I'm confused." Not only did I get sucked into a winger radio show embedded in a RedMassGroup diary, but here I pass it along.

You can go to The Kuhner Report page for the audio show. You can catch it on Red Mass Group, replete with sniping comments from its readers. It is over 40 minutes of fast-paced accusations, counter-accusations, bluster, innuendo, and calumny.

H/T to RMG's Rob Eno. I had never heard Kuhner's show and would have been unaware of this high theater had Eno not featured it.

Guest for Jeff Kuhner's show yesterday was Mark Fisher, the Tea Party GOP candidate for MA governor. As he was when he joined Left Ahead, he started and remained calm and rational throughout the show. In stark contrast, a couple of caller- in said he was a liar, that he misrepresented him involvement in the GOP, and worse.

The gist of Fisher's contentions includes that a couple GOP Poobahs and moneyed types asked him to drop out of the gubernatorial race, giving nearly certain nominee Charlie Baker a clear field with no primary. In return, Fisher said, he would get a shot at a more winnable office, plus funding toward such a race.  He named the Grand Poobahs in the show.

There have been he-says/he-says disagreements on who offered whom what when. To us with clean hands, those seem like quibbles. Some Baker folk may imply Fisher tried to extort up to $1 million from the party bigs to get out. Fisher's competing implication is that they wanted to bribe him.

Regardless, the consensus among GOP functionaries seems to be avoiding the primary is essential for Baker's November victory. As an aside, I'm with various righties and lefties thinking a primary can only strengthen Baker's hand, particularly with unenrolled voters.

The lowest ring of his Kuhner-show hell featured Boston Herald columnist and GOP consultant Holly Robichaud. She is the show.

Robichaud plays the drama queen and is even worse than Chris Matthews and at least as bad as Bill O'Reilly in screaming, in shouting down other speakers, in raw, abrasive emotion in lieu of logic. She is unbelievable in multiple senses of that term.

Her basic refutation of Fisher relies entirely on ad hominem ploys. Again and again, she screams that she knows this or that person Fisher says was involved in proposing the deal. She knows, she just knows (without evidence) that what he said is impossible. She was as far as possible from demonstrating anything in her QED. She just knows, like a parent who just knows her son would never steal a car.

The show fascinates me. There's the circled-wagons aspect. There's the crazed shouting lady, bordering on sociopathy.  Mostly there's the raised curtain revealing the motley GOP crew backstage.






Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fully Baked Charlie Baker on Gay Folk


There's a disarming, charming big-lug quality to Charlie Baker, candidate for MA Gov. You see him, as well as his brother Alex mirroring him, in the new ad off his campaign site.

Click below for a worthwhile two minutes. It's not going to make you cry or touch you deeply. Both guys are stiff, but hell, they're from New England. Yet, regardless of what you think of Charlie, you are likely to feel more positive about him...unless you hate and disrespect gay folk.

The head on his site page featuring the video is Charlie Releases New Video, "Brothers" To Mark 10 Year Anniversary Of Marriage Equality. That shows at least a bit of guts for an otherwise personally timid Charlie. It has not been news to Charlie that Alex is gay for quite some time. Alex married a man 10 years ago when MA was just gearing up for same-sex marriage.

Nevertheless, even in blue MA where SSM has been the law of the land for a decade, being openly LGBT friendly takes a bit of courage for a Republican. After all, the official state GOP platform claims on the one hand to " reject all forms of discrimination, intolerance and exploitation" and right below that " We believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society." That passive-aggressive crap is just barely shy of overt anti-gay lingo.

So Charlie lets the exchange with Alex humanize him, in a big-lug, fraternal way. The arch conservatives and anti-homosexual types weren't going to vote for him anyway. As a political ploy, this can only help, In particular, unenrolled voters and wishy-washy Dems, particularly those who buy into the fantasy that we just have to have a Republican governor to keep balance in our government, are likely to feel good about the socially liberal Baker. That puts him in the mold of his mentor and former boss, GOP Gov. Bill Weld. That's good company around here.

Many around here though also know that the state house is full of registered Democratic legislators who are fiscally conservative, may also be somewhat socially conservative, and really were they honest and not afraid of losing their seats would swap registration to Republican. I've long held that most Republican pols in MA are Dems.

This ad can only help Baker get more undecided voters liking him. Nicely done at low risk, Charlie.







Kissy Kissy in Boise


Surely it's only coincidence that Idaho is one of two states shaped like a handgun. It is extreme — extremely gun rights, Republican, socially conservative, and no pathfinder in LGBT rights.

Now reduced to quivering yet angry wingers, the folk in the land of potatoes hear that they can't even delay homosexual couples marrying there. Yesterday, U.S.Magistrate Candy (yes, Candy) W. Dale rejected the state's request to delay implementation of marriage equality. (This link is to the Idaho Statesman, which has the best coverage of the issue. Click around there for more.)

This truly is the state of the art of same-sex marriage law.

It's been five or more years since anti-SSM/anti-gay types began admitting that the other side had one, that it was just a short time until marriage equality was the norm and the law. As Idaho and other recent cases have shown, you can't have federal and state laws that forbid discrimination while allowing discrimination in marriage. That conflict only resolves one way, in fairness and honesty.

Following the paranoia and panic from Vermont's civil; unions and Massachusetts gay marriages, the states with the dumbest legislators and most easily swayed voters did their worst. One-man/one-woman marriage laws and amendments sprung up like spring dandelions. They have delayed the inevitable but were a fool's fantasy, as useful as a picket fence in keeping out the winds of change.

So Magistrate Dale provided the bad news, news no petitioning bigot wants to hear. She rejected the request to stay the implementation of marriage equality in Idaho saying it "is not likely to succeed." She had previously noted that the state could not show damages if the marriages were allowed. Moreover, denying same-sex couples marriage "irreparably harms" them. Take that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter (yes, Butch and Otter) and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

The state GOP spokesfolk iterate that this decision will cause further disintegration of its society. Over a decade of refuting evidence in the U.S. and worldwide makes little difference to little minds. At least Idaho law still lets bigots fire any homosexuals who work for them. So there.

All around the country, judges federal and state agreed with the winger seers who foretold this trend. You can't have it both ways. You can't claim you don't discriminate and then discriminate against a whole class of people. Meanwhile, a few states have gotten ahead of this, enabling marriage equality by law. Collectively, they remove themselves from the little-brain group.

Idaho is in fact the way it works. Standing at a podium or sitting in a bar screaming about how unfair it is to have to be fair may give you a self-righteousness fix, Otherwise, it's like urinating in a Depend diaper. It gives you a nice, warm feeling but doesn't do anything meaningful.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I Have a Wing to Pick With You


Ed. Ed. Ed, and some more Ed. Broom the vanity and ego aside to get to a vignette from MSNBC's The Ed Show. There, the former right-wing talker but a left-wing talker for the past 16 years, Ed (of course) Schultz did his usual short segment Ask Ed (of course) Live.

That evening, his tweeted query was why didn't more conservatives appear there. He answered simply and disdainfully that he asked them and would welcome them, but they didn't want to. He figured they figured doing so would not help them get elected.

While I nod to Occam's razor, I don't worship the idea that the simplest explanation according to the known facts settles everything. I muse on why so few Republicans and other self-identified conservatives will talk with me at the weekly Left Ahead show.

It's been running for seven years. From the beginning, some weeks the founders — Lynne Lupien, Ryan Adams and I (Mike Ball) — sometimes like to cover topics ourselves. We'll all highly opinionated. About every other week, there's a guest.

Lynne long ago dropped out, pleading business busyness. I generally arrange and book most guests. A few contact me, but typically I call, email or meet potential guests. Often it's a deal to dicker on a day and time, even though we long ago picked a default that works for many, Tuesday at 2:30 PM. Few pols in particularly are solidly committed then.

We also make it pretty painless. We use BlogTalkRadio, so guests don't have to travel or give us an office space to record the show. For what used to be an hour and is now a half hour, they just call in and I manage the connections by computer and the tubes.

Moreover, we're probably too nice. We don't book multiple guests, don't bring on tit-for-tat adversaries to sensationalize or conflict. We don't try to trick anyone or spring accusations. We like to get to the big ideas and help the guest develop them on air. A few listeners used to on-line bullies on winger radio, or the Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews shouters are disappointed that we don't badger guests.

Are Wingers Gutless?


Scan the Left Ahead archives to notice a few things. First, the topics and guests are mostly politics and politicians. Second, many big ideas are subjects. Third, many of the guests are hotshots and big shots — a current or former governor, a state or U.S. Senator, and many office seekers. Fourth, there are damned few conservatives.

That latter is not from my want of effort. Some smart, fun and provocative ones included the very conservative MA pol Karyn Polito and the now late economics and transit guru William Lind. My politics differed markedly from those two's. Yet I think we brought out good stuff. Lind in particular could not have been farther from my political views, all except for transit-oriented development and mass transit. We had met at the Rail-Volution 2009 conference in Boston and bonded over our overlaps.

In many ways, Polito was the outlier for me. She spoke with me, took my card, checked the site and said, sure, she'd talk with us in her run for MA Treasurer/Receiver General. That was not at all hard, but she is quite the exception.

Virtually all the other right-leaning potential guests I meet or contact seem terrified or at least disinterested. So, I ask myself, are they cowards or is it like Schultz said, that they don't see the upside?

This has been happening again in this election cycle, which includes MA Governor. Scan the archives again and see every gubernatorial candidate, except the presumptive GOP nominee, Charlie Baker. That includes all five Dems, the several independents or political affiliation candidates and and the other Republican, self-defined full-MA-GOP platform, Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher.

I can't quite figure out whether :

  • Baker has no guts
  • His campaign staff has no guts
  • His staff's cost/benefit analysis doesn't see the ROI on an internet radio show
  • He or his staff thinks he's too important to be bothered

Bad Manners


Having spent much of my childhood in more genteel parts of the country, I can still be surprised by the poor breeding of Bostonians and New Englanders. For example, when they do not return phone calls or emails, I have to wonder, who are their people? Were they raised by wolverines?

Baker's camp has been the worst, in both of his staggers toward the governorship. I have gotten fewer than one response to multiple voice and email requests to Baker and his campaign manager,

You can amuse yourself by calling the Baker campaign number, (617) 254-2014.There's no human and no option to speak to one...ever. You can dump your request into a voice box or punch in by last name. The communications director, Tim Buckley, does not communicate and is not even in the directory. The campaign manager, Jim Conroy, does not communicate but is in the directory. There's a slush email box, info@charliebaker2014.com and the other's is conroy@charliebaker2014.com.

Conroy has ignored 11 voice or email requests. Because Buckley hides from ordinary mortals, the closest I could get was Facebook and requests through that info box, where he ignored an FB friend request and two direct messages.

Again,who are their people? Didn't they have mothers or someone to act like a mother?

The gormless Baker-camp non-reactions are particularly noteworthy and amusing in light of Fisher's prompt and warm response. He and I could hardly differ more politically, but we had a good chat. Moreover, he clearly was raised well.

Fear of Lefties


A previous failure of booking seems to blend all the possible causes. I had Jennifer Nassour in hand, only to lose her. She chaired the MA GOP from Jan. 2009 through Sep. 2011.

I spoke with her at two political Rappaport presentations at Suffolk Law, in early 2009 and early 2011. At both, she pressed her card into my hand and told me how much she wanted to be a Left Ahead guest. She punked on both.

Most telling here is her mortal sin, in GOP eyes. She was candid.

In the April 1 (yes, that day), 2009 issue of Bay Windows, she spoke about the new Republican party here, particularly how they wouldn't be guilt tripping on marriage equality, gay rights and abortion. Honk. Wrong.

She got months of pitchfork poking from the most conservative party members and the nasty MassResistance guy, Brian Camenker pretending to be a real movement. The gist seems to be not only should she not have said the party would stop its hateful rhetoric to bring in unenrolled and socially liberal GOP voters, but she should never have even spoken with LGBT-friendly media.

Since her time, the newest MA GOP chair, Kirsten Hughes, won't respond to repeated contacts.

Well,our show hides nothing. It's there in the Left Ahead name. We're reasonable and nice but we don't pretend to be anything else.

I've lost count of the potential guests who have heard the name on a phone line or seen my card and stopped dead. "Left...Ahead...are you left wing?" is the typical shocked question.

Nothing that progressives and liberals speak with anyone, and that we are antithetical to right-wing talk radio's bullying tactics doesn't cut it. Far too many conservatives seem terrified at speaking with "left" anything. Pathetic.

Lefty Anomaly


To smooth the edges and risk being simple-mindedly even handed, I'll admit that there's one left winger's crew who is afraid of me.

Following the initial show with Elizabeth Warren, her handlers seem winger gutless. They won't return my calls or emails either. Once burned, 1000 times shy.

I was blessed or cursed with being early to the Warren extravaganza, in Oct. 2011, right after she announced for US Senate, she spoke with us. It was genial, particularly as she and I are the same age, and both born in OK.

We had a jolly time, including an exchange in which I noted that with my OK/WV background, I have heard repeatedlyfrom the provincials in Boston that I am a hick. Moreover, the local wingers had railed against her as a 17-year Harvard professor, a.k.a an elitist. She laughed, saying she was new class, an elite hick. She said something about going for the hick vote. We laughed.

Well, the plug nasties were loaded for her, just waiting. Our show was just the first Warren-hunting expedition.

The next morning, I got a call and email from her communications guy, asking if I knew of the s**t storm. Turns out, the forces of evil had tried to run with that innocuous bit of humor. Suddenly everyone from FoxNews to winger talk radio and even the likes of ABC TV and the NYTimes portrayed her as ridiculing rural America.

Of course, she didn't say anything like that. However, the imps had been lying in wait for something they could use.

In our show, she said maybe there should be a group hicks for Elizabeth. Again we laughed. I actually made some buttons (reproduced here). My wife and I, from hick backgrounds, wore them. People asked for them and I produced more. I showed her one at Boston Mayor Tom Menino's block party the next July She alleged to love it. I sent her one, but given the crap she got for moments of humor, she most assuredly tossed it.

At that party, one of her staffers, a ziftig woman actually pushed me. She muttered something about how I'd better not try to pull any tricks and insinuated that I and not the forces of right-wing evil has caused the early dust-up.

Meh.

The sad aspect is that Warren's people have not responded to several show requests since. I'll try again, likely by being at one of her public events and squirreling up with her. After all, she adores my yellow glasses.

Of course the hick-vote fad disappeared months later, to be replaced by the Native-American one. Those gunning for Warren picked up her listing herself in a faculty directory as having Cherokee roots. They manufactured a fantasy that she had only gotten jobs at Pennsylvania and Harvard as a result. They morphed that with calls for her to release every academic job application she has ever made, much in the mode of birthers demanding President Barack Obama's short-form, then long-form birth certificate, and subsequently his college applications and transcripts. Pathetic. As with the President, the crazies won't let go of their silly slanders.

Common Senselessness


So there it is, kiddies. There are many variations on guest-interview shows. You might:

  • Be typical right-wing radio, badgering lefty guests and licking the hands of your own type
  • Play grade-school magazine, bringing on a balance of left and right wingers for mush
  • Let the guest shine, like Dave Leno or, dare I write, Left Ahead

There are others, but we are definitely in the latter category. So I still have to wonder why so many conservative sorts fear us.

Over the years, many right wingers have passed on coming on Left Ahead. Granted, we do not have prime-time TV or even cable reach. A small show for us gets hundreds of listeners and a big one 10,000. Those are far more than a pol talks to in a typical stump speech, plus anyone who listens live or clicks the archive play is committing to half an hour of dedicated ear time. If I were a candidate for any office, I'd chat with as many shows as would have me.

I note that the progressive and liberal pols have no problem going on hostile right-wing shows. Yet it seems rare that Republicans and self-described conservative types mirror that. Maybe I shouldn't advise them, but righties would be smart to go on pinko shows.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Latest Pathetic Winger Hero


SuperRancher (in his sad, strange little mind) Cliven Bundy is n the midst of his moment. Wingers throughout the country are proclaiming him at once martyr and warrior.

He'll plunge to earth all too soon. Perhaps when he does, a few of the FTW, make-up-rules righies will have passing thoughts on personal responsibility.

You can get tons of background, at least right now. Search the net to find conspiracy-minded crazies making up stuff and conflating others, like here. If you'd rather deal with reality and the provable, you'd be better off with the actual laws he's been violating for two decades, like here. If you'd like to read how the courts view his baseless claims in their rulings, go here and here.

The punchline is that Bundy has been stealing from the US government by not paying it for grazing rights on land he has never owned nor even had easements to. He owes over $1 million to us, a.k.a. U.S. His response has been that he wrote small checks to a Nevada County, which has no power to let his herds graze on federal land, and that he recognizes some of Nevada's authority, but none of the federal government.

His loony raps take two tacks:

  1. Minimize any fees he should pay, and all the other ranchers do already pay
  2. Assert his power to legislate and enforce laws, of which of course he has no such powers

I figure since he has lost all court appeals through the federal level and owes us over $1 million, he's looking at liens and foreclosure because his debts. He likely has more than enough money to pay back fees plus penalties and interest. If he chooses not to, the feds will likely take the legal and financial tracks, instead of seizing his cattle on federal lands. I'm sure his fellow ranchers would buy his land and herds if it comes to that. Then the tax resisters can shoot their guns in air, spit on the dry dirt, and moan about not being able to make up their own rules.

Winger media have been talking and screeching over each other to proclaim Bundy super. Some compare him to Henry David Thoreau and his actions that led to tax resistance in the mid-19th Century. You can refresh yourself with Resistance to Civil Government, which has become known as On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.

There's scant concurrence though. Young Hnnk T engaged in an act of conscience, not paying poll tax that he thought would go to support the Mexican-American War as well as slavery. He was willing to go to jail for his statement and in fact spent a day and night there (before someone, likely an aunt, paid his poll tax, largess he accepted).

Bundy on the other hand is clearly motivated by greed. He is a wealthy cattle rancher, doing all he can to keep his costs down and profits up. Coupled with his fantasy that he can make up any laws that suit those goals, he is as irresponsible, dishonorable and dishonest as they come.Thoreau snuck away from jail knowing that money in his name went for purposes he disapproved of, but Bundy seems to have no principles at all.

This is a pattern we have seen often from the American right. They want things to be the way that benefits them, but they are not willing to take their lumps in protesting. In short, by Thoreau's standards, they are not American, they aren't noble, and certainly not super.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Colbert has this


I'm certainly not an entertainment writer, unless you consider political blathering theater. Yet, I've heard and seen myriad Colbert Reports segments since he started nearly nine years ago.

Let's pretend experiential  observation equals insight and justifies commentary.

In the day since CBS announced Stephen Colbert as David Letterman's replacement on The Late Show, I was alternately not at all surprised then very surprised by the prophecies of doom.

I won't bother you with linking to the winger loonies taking this trivial announcement as an evil omen worthy of addition into the Book of Revelation. The usual buffoons like Limbaugh spoke of leftwing conspiracies and a future of propaganda, like,  like, well, I guess an apt analogy would be Bill O'Reilly and other Fox lying heads.

The surprises came when I read in several left-leaning sites and papers that S.C. from SC wasn't ready, couldn't handle it, and would definitely fail.

Many of the jeremiads came with such dire predictions. These bozos are sitting in corners squeezing their honkers. I apologize for including one link, from Wired where Peter Rubin writes, "this is not going to go well." Likewise, numerous blowhards conclude that because Colbert will do his stint as himself and not the O'Reilly parody mirror on this current show, he'll confuse us stupid Americans. Others claim that Kimmel and Fallon, the jumping Jimmies, have divvied up the youth viewers and Letterman's oldsters won't watch a lefty.

I am sure you have seen as well as I that BS commentators bluster immediately and then never, ever correct and apologize. They'll have to whistle loudly and look far away to avoid this one.

I'll write it here and be willing to take my lumps if I'm wrong. Colbert will do a great job, far surpassing the million nightly viewers he's gotten on basic cable, and will get his share of viewers across a wider spectrum of ages than Letterman.

Colbert is surely ready, more than ready, to leave his caricature of a winger behind. He is a terrific actor, comic, singer, dancer and more. The bigger virtues are that he is at once smarter than other late-night hosts and more clever, as in quick witted, than they.

He'll be several steps ahead of those on left, right and the incestuous entertainment industry media. They apparently can't imagine how he'll be able to amuse without terrifying pre-bed audiences with thought-provoking dialog with guests. They seem to envision every monologue as a political tirade.

Sorry guys and gals, Colbert is smarter than you. Just watch, listen and learn. We should be damned sure by the time Letterman steps down and Colbert steps up that he'll funny, very funny, very original and not at all repetitive.

I further predict as he gets his audiences comfortable, he'll turn Socratic. Look for his guest interviews to use that ancient maieutic method that upset the Athenian fogies down at the agora. Better than Jon Stewart and certainly more than the predictable other late-night hosts, Colbert and elicit the key ideas behind guests books, campaigns and lives. Count on his being the midwife for such oh-ho moments several times a week. That will be worth staying awake for.


Friday, March 28, 2014

MA GOP niggling and wiggling


You'd think from experience the utter disingenuous John Boehner or R.M. Nixon or even hearing the testimony of a sneaky what-your-definition-of-is-is W.J. Clinton that even arrogant New Englanders would sense their limits. Instead the MA GOP spits in the faces of one of their candidates, their convention delegates, the larger party and voters.

The self-created disgrace continues. For the latest on the filthy deals at the convention, see today's Globe piece. I've also been one of many who's covered this, like here.

The point is this is not going away. The GOP functionaries can continue to wave their hands, but that changes nothing. This actually is simple.

  • Certain GOP gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker didn't blow out the convention.
  • Also-ran Mark Fisher, the proud Tea Party, full-platform Republican, squeaked out a little over 15% of the convention delegate vote, as required to force a primary. 
  • Done and done? Big no. See the Globe piece for details on how the party snuck behind everyone to deny reality. 

The punchline is my standard from my favorite philosopher/comic/junkie Lenny Bruce — There is only what is and that's it. What should be is a dirty lie.

The local GOPpers instead try the same crap you can hear at a country club bar or a Dorchester pub. Lie loudly and repeatedly, daring more honest and honorable folk to challenge you.

The Party doesn't want their party inconvenienced. They appear to have it in mind that an uncontested primary is their best bet for winning a statewide office in who can remember how long. To make that happen, they have fudged and cheated and scammed. Honk. Wrong!

Regular readers here know that Fisher and I differ vastly politically. I like him and trust him though. He's a straight-ahead, Boy Scout kind of guy, as am I. Understandably, he's suing to get what he earned — a shot at losing to Baker in a party primary...fair and square.

I remain to be convinced that uncontested primaries are an absolute good. A lot of research questions that as well. Moreover, it's wrong, really immoral, to clear the field against the party procedures and rules, just because. Some of the party insiders, notably Executive Director Rob Cunningham, are even denigrating Fisher's call to obey their own counting rules as irrelevant.

The MA GOP has long specialized in patronizing and insulting the majority of our voters, a.k.a. the unenrolled. This year, they seem intent on telling their own to buzz off. If enough party members are as delusional, that may well work. I'm betting though that Fisher's suit calling for obeying the rules will make that moot.

Alas, this was so simple. I think of the non-stop lunacy of the national GOP on the Affordable Care Act. All that was necessary was honesty; say thank God that the Dems came around to the Republican plan for health-care and implemented it; we win! Instead, they appear to be what they are, obstreperous asses.

Likewise, in Boston, the MA GOP need only have praised themselves for their open democracy and model convention. Instead, they reveal they are liars, sneaks and frauds.  How simple victory could have been.

By the bye, if you ever need confirmation of how sneaky they are, go to the party site. They don't cover anything meaningful. They never have controversial issues. They are months behind the times. They don't even post the approved party platform. They lack both courage and wisdom. You can thrive with only one of those but not without at least one.




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