Friday, April 30, 2010

Treasurer Tweets and Tussle


Who'd a thunk the treasurer race would be the best theater and political fare. So far, it's looking that way in Massachusetts.

State Rep. Karyn Polito and Somerville marketing magnate Steve Grossman are going at it...strongly but still civilly. They swapped tweets and the game (a.k.a. debate challenge) is on!

On her campaign site, she issued a debate call, replete with mild slur against his record and hard slap to state Dems. Apparently she hasn't yet picked up on the fact that he doesn't do nasty. He simply responded to her Twitter flow that he'd love to kick the treasurer can around, that she should choose the day and location.

Karyn may quickly have to adjust to such a nice guy. Consider that initial challenge, including:
Steve is a major fundraiser and leader of the Democratic Party in Massachusetts and nationally. My record is different. I’m a mom, a small business owner, and an independent voice in the Legislature fighting for lower taxes and less spending. I look forward to debating with Steve on who is best suited to act as a watchdog against the excesses of the one-party political machine on Beacon Hill.
Having seen him in action, I figure that she's in trouble immediately if she thinks she can out-family this most family man of pols. Plus, playing the local GOP wheeze of elect-me-or-it's-one-party-dictatorship so early and without cause is not wise.

Moreover, she a loose tweeter as well. For example, in her stream is a reaction to Grossman's powerful statement at his kickoff that he'd be an activist treasurer, using the office and pension funds to keep banks lending to small businesses and to help create jobs. Polito's unfortunate tweet on that reads, "karyn4treasurer I'm not a "social activist" when it comes to managing tax $$. I'm a "fiscal conservative" who seeks highest return 1st. http://bit.ly/bg5106 "

That link is to a Boston Herald editorial hitting Grossman for his activist comment. Polito's gratuitous prefix of social is a standard winger trick. Rather than denigrate the ideas and goals, she needs to come up with some of her own.

I'm betting in a debate the Polito/tabloid view will look pretty reactionary and lame in the light of Grossman's strong program to help us out of the recession and financial squeeze from banks.

At the least, Polito may get some help in creating a real platform. The asthenic website has only sizzle, and barely audible sizzle at that, in her Priorities section (no platform, issues or similar yet; priorities reads more like wishes). She throws in the predictable clichéd phrases of accountability and transparency, with noting specific. In contrast, Grossman has a fully fleshed out program.

Granted, his is a different view and it should make for a clear choice. She says so far she just wants to take care of the money and be real conservative. He says that even with the safest investments, using them wisely and inspiring banks and employers to earn the right to use it can do a lot more for workers, small business and all of us.

Maybe she has more, but the initial money-in-the-mattress strategy has never been a winner.

By the bye, over at Left Ahead!, Grossman will join us for our weekly show Tuesday at 2:30 PM Eastern.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

That Activist Treasurer Candidate


Steve Grossman has at least one powerful tie and quite a few powerful ideas. This morning at the Parker House where he formally announced his run for MA treasurer, he displayed them all.

Quick to say that he is not a professional politician, Grossman showed the 100 or so of us that he is not an entertainer. He's not a charismatic preacher sort or even a sales type.

What he is includes low-key witty, totally sincere and far, far ahead of his two announced opponents in positions and proposals. By the bye, you can judge the latter at:
He's set the standard for content and set it high. They can only react.
Left Ahead! aside: Grossman joins us Tuesday, May 4th, for our podcast at 2:30 PM Eastern. I'd asked Murphy nearly a month ago. He said he wanted to and would get back with us within the month. Tick.
Come with me to the Kennedy Room (of course) this morning for a taste of what we'd get in a Tim Cahill replacement as treasurer. Note first that Grossman may not be a pol, but he knows them. He headed the DNC in the Clinton era from 1997 through 1999. His work there lets him use laudatory blurbs on his brochure from Clinton and Ted Kennedy. He took off from heading the family business, Grossman Marketing Group to do Dem party work (leading in turn commonwealth then national). That tradition permeates the family back to his grandfather Max' helping re-elect John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald Boston mayor. It's not enough for a Grossman to be a successful entrepreneur.

Think back to the Patrick/Murray campaign kickoff in JP. Many hundreds stomping in a gym as Deval Patrick, Tito Jackson and other rousers fired 'em up. Today's version wasn't like that. Rather it was much smaller. The crowd applauded and cheered almost non-stop, but it was almost entirely over what he said and not the delivery.

The only other comparison is that Grossman too started late (about 40 minutes to Patrick's 90). That afforded eavesdropping time today. In the row behind me, for example, leftist, philanthropic sorts Brookline realty goddess Chobee Hoy and Boston/NYC socialite Smoki Bacon chatted it up. That type of friend can only help the campaign. Likewise, a few legislators like Sen. Jamie Eldridge trotted down Beacon Street for the event.

The room was not even ballroom size and set with only 24 chairs facing the dais with a single podium. There were no little bribes like coffee or doughnuts. You came for Grossman and you'd get Grossman. Period. The muted golden floral carpet paralleled Grossman's substance and seriousness. He didn't use a warm-up act and introduced himself.

Apparently he's not rigid on conventions. For example, as you are supposed to start your music album with a fast tune, you hear that your speech needs to open with a joke.

Instead, he started with his family...and not in the abstract. Half of the chairs had reserved-for-family signs and then had family in them. He introduced four generations of them, several who work in his company, from his mother and mother-in-law down to the itty-bitty grandkids. The 13-month one got a pass on the trip.

His wife, Barbara Wallace Grossman, chairs Tufts' drama and dance department. She is quite short but has the presence of Queen Elizabeth. She also seems to have perfected Elizabeth's swivel-wrist wave. Like the other adults Steve introduced, she projects intensity and competence.

The recurring family theme gave Grossman his joke material, his punchline for the morning, and the repeated tie-in to his aims as candidate for treasurer. Joke 1 was not new but well delivered; his father said he had one mouth and two ears, to use them proportionately. That led to his saying he applied that to listening to customers, employees and citizens.

Joke 2 was that his sons told him he had better win this election. The reason is that "being chairman isn't a job."

Grossman isn't smarmy or even charming in the style of Clinton. He has a clipped, rapid delivery, which works in large part because he speaks clearly and with substance. There was never a moment that I felt he was trying to pull something. Instead, he was far better prepared than typical candidates, offered detailed proposals and used his right hand to reinforce his points. He's comfortable on stage.

The only quibble relates more to his personal style and manners. During a brief question period at the end, two difference reporters tried to draw him into dissing the current treasurer, Tim Cahill, who is stepping down and running as an independent for governor, and then Gov. Patrick. Grossman would have none of it. Rather than say Cahill goofed up here or there and that Patrick hadn't done enough to grow or retain jobs, he went into specifics about what he'd do as treasurer to solve problems.

Yet behind it all is an almost revolutionary program, which Grossman refers to as activist. I think of how things might change if Jim Henderson wins secretary of the commonwealth. Both want to make numerous substantial changes in the the offices.

For Grossman, he refers to treasurer as chief financial officer of this commonwealth. As CFO, he'd want to do a lot more than oversee the lottery and tally the pension funds.

His stated aims are far-reaching in terms of the traditional view of the position. He'd like to help people and companies get back on their feet out of this great recession. He wants to help small businesses. He wants to hold banks accountable for how and to whom they lend. He wants to give citizens easy-to-understand practical solutions to their financial concerns. Finally and of prime importance, he wants to help create jobs here.

Unlike the typical generalizations from statewide office candidates, he puts out specifics. That reminds me of Patrick when he ran for governor. Neither is afraid to be first out with a detailed program; let the others play catch-up and try to poke holes in his platform. Hey, it worked for Patrick.

Sticking His Neck Out


He offers six solutions. They don't yet appear in this form in his site's issues area, but I bet they will soon. Briefly, they are:
  • Use the full power of the pension funds to create jobs. He sees shifting a half billion dollars to safe lending and investment designed to grow employment. He'd invest our money with banks that lend to small businesses.
  • Protect consumers by moving money. He would lend to small businesses, help those in foreclosure, and remove state funds from companies with high (think 30%) credit-card interest rates.
  • Work with the legislature to re-enable letting small business groups negotiate rates and buy insurance together.
  • Provide and enhance financial literacy for citizens from secondary school up so they are smart consumers.
  • Provide complete and online transparency and accountability for details on those dealing with the commonwealth.
  • Open the treasury to all who can compete for its needs, not just the biggest banks.
He clearly has set the tone and topics for this race. There's lots of time for the other two to compete on substance. If their sites are any indication, they're not in the game yet.

By the bye, in the Q&A, he explained why he is pro-casino. Among other factors, he buys into the arguments that those would bring steady cash flow as well as maybe 7,000 building trades short-term jobs and perhaps another 8,000 in permanent service ones. I remain to be convinced.

Of course, Grossman managed to circle his presentation back to his family, this time to father Edgar. It was almost an I-swear-on-my-father's-grave moment. Instead, it was how he used his father's epitaph for inspiration. He says that tombstone reads "HE MADE OPTIMISM A WAY OF LIFE."

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Well, La-Di-Da, Lida

State Rep. Lida Harkins seems to be in grace deficit. I try to ignore this — particularly as she was one of our Left Ahead! podcast guests last month — but she just won't stop. The latest is over at the Needham Times.

I thought this was something long-term politicians learned early. Grace and manners in defeat are essential. You want voters to remember you well if you want to run for anything or be public in any way. Moreover, her refusal to endorse the fellow Democrat who beat her in the special election race for Scott Brown's state senate seat puts her vanity ahead of the party. That's particularly damning in that district that by rights should revert to a Dem.

The primary winner, Peter Smulowitz, did play hardball toward the end of their primary race. He sent out a flier that pointed out that Harkins had accepted contributions from three former House Speakers who are under indictment or convicted of ethics violations or related money crimes. Plus, when she knew of their alleged corruption, she kept the funds.

Wash My Hands


Now, after losing the primary, Harkins certainly knew the expected and right and civilized thing to do was to congratulate the winner and endorse him in the final. Instead, she says, "I’m staying out of the race altogether." Low brow and low class...

Asked by the Needham reporter if she'd endorse the GOP candidate, Richard Ross, Harkins replied that she was chair of the town Democratic Committee. Because she respected the position, she would not endorse a Republican. Yet, as chair of the Needham Democratic Committee, she has no problem screwing the party out of spite.

If you have a mind to listen to her podcast, you might also click Smulowitz' version. It was also last month and is here. Both of these were before the flier incident.

Also, shortly before the primary, she pitched herself in a BlueMassGroup diary. She included her 21 years in the House and that she has nine grandkids in public schools. To the donations, she wrote:
The assumption that my position as a leader in the State House means that I was in some way involved in the behavior of past Speakers is completely unfounded. I have always valued my independence and fought for the issues that I believe in.
A nice little boy would not criticize his elders, particularly a granny of nine. Yet, Smulowitz is an ER doc as well as political contender. He thought the ethics issues would be fair game, likely after the executive branch here championed ethics reform following the latest Speaker's indictment in a series of them.

A piece in the Boston Globe
cited the figures. As well as donations from Sal DiMasi, Harkins got:
  • $1,600 received from Charles Flaherty (1996 tax evasion guilty plea) at $200 a year for the last eight years.
  • $200 in 2002 and $400 in 2004 from Thomas Finneran (indicted 2005)

To Smulowitz, facts are facts. Before the primary, he said, "My opponent took campaign contributions from three different, three consecutive indicted speakers."


Woe is me!


Her take is very different, as in, "I’ve never been cited for wrongdoing in over 30 years of public service. It’s disappointing that Peter feels he has to smear my record to make him look good." I'd note here that the I've-never-been-caught defense is often not the wisest tack, even when you are clean. It makes people wonder.

Understandably, Harkins was miffed when accused by association with her donors, her disgraced donors. It appears any chance of her taking the blow in stride disappeared when she lost the race. Unfortunately, we hear her still accusing Smulowitz of "gutter politics" and being "slanderous."

I suppose it's possible in 21 years of General Court politics and several earlier as Needham School Committee's that this is the worst campaign charge she's faced. If so, she's been damned lucky.

Smulowitz didn't make up anything or even twist the truth. It was up to the voters to decide whether accepting and keeping money from convicted and indicted Speakers is OK or wrong.

He no doubt knew that Harkins wouldn't like having to explain those awkward truths and they'd never be BFF afterward. However, he probably didn't consider that Harkins would spit on the party as well as him if she lost.

Well, I hope someone like MA Dem Party Chair John Walsh can play uncle to this grandmother. She's not too old to learn a little about losing gracefully.


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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rep. Tsongas in Two Days

Nike Tsongas mugRep. Niki Tsongas joins us at an unusual time and day this coming week on the Left Ahead! podcast show. Listen into the live stream at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, April 24th.

We’ll be talking issues and re-election with the Fifth District Congresswoman. She certainly didn’t stop after helping win health-care reform. She’ll tell us what she see coming up short-term and beyond.

She is also one of several Massachusetts in Congress targeted by the GOP. As many as 11 are aiming for her seat. She talks to us about how the campaign is going and how she’ll win her third term.

If you can’t catch us live, go to the same URL or Left Ahead! to listen on demand.

Cross-post from Left Ahead.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

MA GOP Headed for a Fall Fall?


Apparently the beer poured, if your pardon, liberally in Worcester and certainly the happy hormones flowed even among the sober at the MA GOP convention. While it may be a bit ghoulish to whisper a what-if here, it's not too early to wonder how this manic-depressive routine will play out if Charles D. Baker Jr. concedes to Gov. Deval Patrick on Nov. 2nd.

Yes, yes, understandably, our elephants are gleeful, spiteful and looking forward to more than snagging the gubernatorial office back. They also want to manifest what the Boston Herald described in convention coverage as a "newly resurgent Republican Party."

Pic note: The image is an adaptation from the Herald's Kelvin Ma, for which I claim fair use.

We've had a lot of Republican governors here, roughly half holding the office in modern times. So, were Baker to best Patrick, that by itself would not be news or even that remarkable. No, the local GOP is drooling and wildly hopeful because one of theirs, Scott Brown, won the special election to replace U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy. From that material, they have built a splendid political ship to sail them from the backwaters of power in Massachusetts.

And if that ship sinks? What if Brown's win was an anomaly based on a lame Dem opponent and not as he describes it "an overwhelming people's movement — at one of he most important times in American politics"?

Indeed, we have a widespread MA GOP felt sense of a good future about to become great for them. As GOP nominee for commonwealth treasurer, Karyn Polito told the Herald, 'The whole pulse of the party is in the freshness of the new faces you see here today, young people energized. It’s very obvious to me the whole complexion of the party has changed.” Likewise, they quoted Delegate Adam D. Waitkunas as, "All the energy is behind Charlie."

We can say they are overdue for getting to feel that positive. While like national Republicans, the locals have never had a problem bragging, running down the Dems, or making impossible predictions of victory, I have to wonder what the letdown will feel like if Baker comes up short.

Dumb claims


Unfortunately for the GOP, both Brown and Baker are playing the same weak hand, if their speeches are an indication. In Baker's, for example, he cites easily refutable misinformation and disinformation about current and past governors' budgets and taxes.

That is doubly unfortunate in his having been secretary of administration and finance for two Republican governors in a row. Not only does he know better about the deficits, surpluses and expenditures, he carries a lot of baggage here. For example, he was the leading adviser on the Big Dig finances; he likes to pretend now that no one listened to him. That won't fly. Likewise, bragging about Governors Weld and Cellucci balancing budgets by cutting taxes, he exposes himself as proponent of hidden taxes in terms of outrageous, unwise inflation for deferred infrastructure maintenance and building. We are still paying our way out of the Big Dig and tax-cut scams.

Then in his last job as head of Harvard Pilgrim, Baker led a turnaround...but at enormous cost to citizens. His health-care giant fired employees left and right and jacked up premiums non-stop for a decade. He should be on the voters' wanted poster for health-care profiteers. As CEO, he set the pace for unaffordable health care.

We have a lot of debates, a lot of campaigning, a lot of advertising and a lot of spin to come. Maybe it'll be like Tinkerbell and if enough people keep believing, Baker will fly. I predict not.

So back to the question, if our local elephants have vested all in Baker, how low will they fall if he fails, how hard their landing? Well, I wouldn't want to see it or hear the whining.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

DIY Craziness

Tip of the toupee to the Daily Show for a recent lead-in segment on FoxNews trying to link President Obama's disarmament conference to Islamic extremists. The talking bobbleheads were too ignorant to recognize the standard Bohr model of the atom as the basis for the conference logo. We were all exposed to the atomic model in school. They were also so stupid that they displayed some flags of Muslim nations and pointed out they were similar. Uh, yeah, in that they all had some circles or arcs in them?

I propose that we keep an eye out for such inane comparisons. In that vein, I present my first contribution to Foxisms.

When Adobe Acrobat Reader did its automatic update today, the symbol on the installation gauge had the possibility in Fox-think of being like the old Soviet flag. Coincidence for a company based in left-leaning California?

Let's be dumb like Foxes. I'll present. You decide.

See the inspiration below.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
A Farewell to Arms
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

GOP Dreams of Top


At local and national levels, Republicans finally get to strut again. Failed shadow Vice President Sarah Palin never stopped strutting. That is, after all, the only way she can move. Increasingly though, her fellows join her.

Nationally, Republicans are fairly wetting their Depend garments in anticipation of 1) taking a Congressional majority (pure fantasy) and 2) sweeping all open seats (bloody unlikely). Yet, we can be almost positive of one outcome — as in almost all mid-term elections, the party out of power gains Congressional seats. Actually, let's make that two outcomes — whatever the loss, Republicans will grossly exaggerate their success and predict that they will create a juggernaut rolling to majority out of it.

Of course, there is a harm in leaving the GOP to hopes and delusions. When they continue to marginalize themselves through obstreperous and unworkable positions, democracy suffers. We don't have a worthwhile political and policy dialog. The we'll-show-'em Republicans become less and less in the game, further delaying their comeback. Even the befuddled and relatively gutless Dems in Congress end up advancing the country and being seen as the good guys.

DINOs and RINOs


Here in Massachusetts though, we could see real advances even with the predictable mid-term successes for the GOP. The cowardly crypto-conservatives here often hide as Dems, even the elected officials. They might emerge from their cover to snipe on this or that bill, but largely pretend to be that other party's members to get elected.

Much of the rest of the nation buys into related misconceptions. Notably, we are allegedly extremely liberal, in no small part because Dem registration is more than double GOP. That dismisses the slim majority of voters who are unenrolled in any party, as well as the number of DINOs in the party.

Many voters often loudly and insistently call themselves independents and like to claim they could, if so inspired, vote as a bloc and sway any election, any time...if only they chose to do so. They don't choose.

I would love to see more confrontation. That can't happen until the hidden GOP types out themselves. We have seen that in other places and periods, notably the huge shifts from Democrats to Dixiecrats to Republicans throughout the South following voter registration and integration and (shudder to many there) election of a Roman Catholic President.

Here some solid victories in 2010 and 2012 at the state level should inspire DINOs to switch. That has more benefits than simply being able to recognize which army someone follows. Primarily, that could frame and clarify debates both in the General Court and during election campaigns.

Elephants on the move


Meanwhile, we have some strategies, at least short-term ones. While I can carp about so-so coverage by the Boston Globe, it has two nice pieces today. Check State GOP looks to gain more ground and Cahill calls the two-party system 'broken'.

Starting with our governor's race, the GOP is probably deluding itself here as the national party is. Is somehow extrapolates such factors as failed candidate Palin's celebrity and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's victory in the special election for Ted Kennedy's seat into a great portent of success in all endeavors.

They surely will have a lead candidate in Charlie Baker. He is stained with two dreadful marks — in charge of Big Dig money and overlord of a huge health-care provider. The first destroys his fiscal cred and the second lumps him in with modern robber barons.

Then even if he can tap dance away from those, he faces an incumbent governor who can unroll a tapestry of reforms and accomplishments. Baker has a huge vanity and Republicans are throwing bucks his way. He might be able to pull it off, but I doubt it sincerely.

A couple of other players to watch are goofball multi-millionaire Christy Mihos. He's missed deadlines, kited checks and more. Yet, he swears he can get the 15% of GOP delegates from the convention to get on the primary ballot. Maybe yes, maybe no, but either way, he's doomed to another also-campaigned ending. (As a pastime, perennial office seeking must be more exciting than many hobbies.)

The other fun at the GOP convention will be lurking Tim Cahill. The Dem turned independent treasurer of the commonwealth, he'll be there to impress conservatives for his gubernatorial run.

His other politically promiscuous move recently was to attend Wednesday's Tap Party play date on our Common downtown. While Brown and Baker blew off the event, Cahill told the Globe, "I went because I think we need to stop being afraid of talking to people we may not agree with on everything and start talking about how to fix the problems we face."

He said our local two-party system was broken. He presented himself as a sort of populist fixer. Unfortunately for his hopes of grabbing every unenrolled voter's mind and heart, he didn't spit out Palin-like slogans. He said he wanted to make sweeping reforms and fundamental changes. Good luck pitching that when the disaffected voters are tired of thinking and striving, and want simple and even simple-minded answers instead.

Tea sippers


Cahill is not the only politician here willing to make out with the Tea Party. The state party chair, Jennifer Nassour, snuggled right down. She told WBUR that she'd like to deal with TPs. She also put that interview at the top of the party's Facebook page.

The BUR piece includes:
But Nassour says she hope’s the Republican Party can benefit from Tea Party enthusiasm. “I feel that it’s important for us to embrace everyone, whoever it is,” she said after the rally. In order to win in Massachusetts, Nassour and the GOP have to capture conservatives without alienating independents. And Nassour’s job is winning in November, as she acknowledged: “I would like them to come and talk about having a two-party system and how we can merge together and get our candidates elected in November.”
In terms of the unlikely, we have to wonder what the chance that the tremendously ego-driven TP folk will stroke the MA GOP back. Unfortunately for her hopes (that word again), the numbers suggest they don't identify primarily as Republicans. She'll have to supply convincing reasons for aligning beyond the we're-not-Democrats one.

So, let's keep tabs on the predictions filling the air. We've heard many of the right that the GOP will cleanly sweep state and national races. I call bovine feces on that and forecast a net loss for Dems in line with any mid-term election. Voters who just can't stand Obama and liberalism will be partially offset by those who see the GOP as obstructionist and anti-humane for their health-care-reform ploys.

Then check back for the 2012 view. Mitt Romney still lusts for the top office and wants to convince America than he's more than Captain Brylcreem, the good-hair guy.
Congressional podcast: Keep tabs at Left Ahead! or our BlogTalkRadio site. We'll have more candidates on, including U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas. A boatload of Republicans have filed for her seat.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Not 1¢ for Cycles!


Truckers don't get it and don't want to. Their groups would crush Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood into the pavement and obliterate his benign comments about walkers and cyclists.

After reading and hearing all the brouhaha on this mess, I had to track down the actual material. Sure enough, the likes of two lobbying groups are behind the relentless distortions and slurs.

While unnamed in most print and broadcast tales, they are the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Highway Users Alliance. NAM is like it says, but the Highway Users is deceptive. They claim to represent all motorists, a sort of jolly uncle taking care of car and RV drivers and, oh by the way, trucks and buses.

The reality is that they are the lobbying arm of truck and bus companies. Their business is ensuring the continuity and even expansion of the subsidies for highways over anything and everything else. They don't like those concerns over the environment or anything that would slow or alter the present outrageous subsidies for highway construction, maintenance and policing.

In various previous professional lives, I have written about and been familiar with the advocacy groups for construction, manufacturing, computers, grocery, small businesses and more. Their lobbyists are single-minded and often duplicitous, the epitome of why PR can be so risible. Each would have you believe that their industry or interest group is the major driver of the U.S. economy and unique, requiring special consideration.

Professional liars



Reasonably enough, the jobs of the lobbyist and other top staff at these groups is to promote the devil out of their members' positions. Unfortunately, that passion can drift into hyperbole and lies. In the case of NAM and the Highways folk, the attitude clearly is a zero-sum game. A single cent or the slightest consideration for pedestrians or cyclists means they are being robbed of what has become their rights.

They want the rights to all federal transportation moneys. They don't want any grants or even matching funds going to bike or pedestrian paths or even adding ped/cycle accommodation to highway and other construction or rebuilding.
Bias note: I am an active cyclist. I do own a car, but take most trips by cycle or foot. Less frequently, I take a bus or subway.I use the car for grocery shopping and similar errands.
So what is it that LaHood said that so riled the flacks? You can read his thinking and background at his blog. That post includes links to the bicycle-summit talk as well as Transportation's policy for what has come to be called pedal parity.

He summarized the policy as including these recommendations for states and municipalities:
  • Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
  • Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Go beyond minimum design standards.
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips.
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
  • Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
  • Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.
Those are in line with the regs from the Mass. DOT. Those work OK here except for a state-level problem and one huge federal issue. Locally, the requirements for streets and highways being designed, re-designed or maintained have huge loopholes.

For example, they mandate adding pedestrian and cycling accommodation wherever possible, such as painting bike lanes. In reality, any road where the engineers can can even tenuously that they finished design before the rules kick in have exemptions. More practically, roads with such strictures as old stone walls by the shoulder are exempt. In short, it is the exception that a repainted or repaved street gets a sidewalk, ped/bike path or even bike lanes. Whining overrules the rules.

The federal issue is that highways are funded at a 90%/10% or 80%/20% federal/local level. If bike or pedestrian accommodations get any money at all, they are well below that, often well below 50% federal. It's crazy for the feds to call for less traffic, gas use and pollution and not pony up.

Multi-modal magic



So, the Secretary offers options, a.k.a. recommendations, not mandates. He'd like planners to consider walkers and cyclists along with motorized-vehicle drivers. By the bye, his list dovetails and builds on what citizens, towns, dates and the feds have been preaching for a long time now — less traffic, less pollution, fewer accidents, lower noise, and all wrapped up in multi-modal transportation.

Then consider some of the reactions from the truckers and NAM. Start with the federal-bucks-are-ours approach in the NAM post Maybe the local folks should pay for their own bike paths:
We’ve already pointed out (here, here and here) that 80 percent of U.S. freight moves by truck and argued that LaHood’s pedal parity is nonsensical for a modern industrial nation.

In his expert response, Greg Cohen, President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance, also raises the important point that the public overwhelmingly believes funding for bike paths and the like is primarily a city and county responsibility, followed by the state.
Also, even though LaHood was at a bike summit and speaking specifically to ped/cycle issues, NAM was outraged that "In the entire interview (with the NY Times), there is not a single mention of 'freight.' The words 'truck' and 'trucking' do not appear. What Americans want right now is jobs, the creation of which requires the efficient movement of freight on trucks. Secretary LaHood’s expressed vision of transportation priorities just doesn’t seem to recognize that economic reality."

This attitude of indispensability is not exclusive to truck and factory types. Anyone who claims to speak for small businesses likewise claims that the country would collapse if not for them. Many sectors of the economy are equally egocentric and parochial.

However, NAM and the Highways lobbyists outdo themselves. Merely mentioning the possibility of pedestrians or cyclists getting design consideration and maybe a small share of the huge highways pie makes the interest groups seethe.

End of the world as we know it


For a solid example, check the Highways folk's take in their Raging Battle brochure. The inflammatory title sets the tone including the incendiary descriptions of what they claim is really behind LaHood's words:
Highway Funding for Six Years
As our elected officials consider the next six years of transportation funding, many are responding to well-funded national and grassroots activists that demand radical antimobility policies for every corner of America.
Anti-Mobility Policy Proposals are
gaining momentum...
• Reducing the share of highway user fees actually spent on highway projects.
• Sanctioning the federal government’s takeover of local land use plans so that they are less accessible to auto and truck traffic.
• Limiting the amount of highway funding available for new capacity.
Congressional/U.S. DOT Proposals are
being considered...
• Reducing miles of auto travel.
• Restricting movement of goods by truck.
• Coercing people out of their cars (“livability initiative”).
• Manipulating the price of fuel to make driving less affordable.
So, to them, the Secretary is anti-mobility and including pedestrians and bikes in road design is coercing people out of their cars. Clearly (to the trucker flacks) American liberty itself is at stake here. The only line missing was something about prying my steering wheel from my cold, dead fingers.

It's really pretty silly stuff, but consider the audience. NAM is plain about representing manufacturers. The Highways lobby is slier. It's site's graphics as well as words suggest it's for plain Americans who drive cars, pickups and RVs.

Judging from their membership levels and fees, they are not quite so egalitarian and plebeian. They offer corporate, small business, state advocate and conference only member levels. (No, there's no soccer mom or commuter level.) The conference is a relative bargain, assuming you have a place to stay and don't have to travel to the location. The other annual memberships run from $1,000 to $3,000 to $5,000 to $10,000. Somehow that lacks the Everyman touch.

The real disconnect and what shows the lobbyists so out of sync with reality can be in their reactions to that NYT interview. LaHood said, "We're always going to take care of our highways." He just sees it as more American to expand our options:
My response is that this is what Americans want. Americans want alternatives. People are always going to drive cars. We’re always going to have highways. We’ve made a huge investment in our interstate highway system. We’ll always continue to make sure that those investments in the highways are maintained.

But, what Americans want is to get out of their cars, and get out of congestion, and have opportunities for more transit, more light rail, more buses, and some communities are going to street cars. But many communities want the opportunity on the weekends and during the week to have the chance to bike to work, to bike to the store, to spend time with their family on a bike.

So, this is not just Ray LaHood’s agenda, this is the American agenda that the American people want for alternatives to the automobile.
But to the liars and loonies among the lobbyists, this remains an either/or. It seems to be the transportation version of adultery even to speak of funding multi-modal. Consider NAM's Embracing bicycles at expense of freight jobs reality:
Treating bicycles and other non-motorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe. If put into effect, the policy would more than undermine any effort the Obama Administration has made toward jobs. You can’t have jobs without the efficient movement of freight.
So, not only would LaHood and DOT be unfaithful to trucking. They would also cause the loss of jobs and threaten all of America. Bike trails are surely the road to ruin, eh, guys?

Money...not yours


Unfortunately, the NAM and Highways lobbyists are likely not joking. They may well believe a penny spent elsewhere is stealing from them. That suggests more than their failure to see the present and future. It also points out how overly entitled they are.

Their members' gas taxes and road use fees don't begin to repay us for the costs of building, maintaining and policing highways. Yet, they still want every federal transportation dollar by rights.

Some economists point out that by deeply subsidizing highways, we make moving freight cheaper. In turn, that makes things that move by truck, like groceries, less expensive than they would be otherwise. Yet, it is time to wonder whether hiding the true costs and passing them along as taxes to all of us is of questionable fairness and equality.

It may be time or even past time to make trucking firms, bus companies and even car drivers pay much more for highways, enough to compensate for roads' costs. Then they would charge more to move goods and pass those costs along to consumers. Yet, we could drastically reduce the multi-billion dollars of taxes that go to subsidize highways.

We haven't lived that way since then President Eisenhower started the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways in the middle of the last century. It would be a huge shock to have people pay for what they use instead of concealing it as taxes.

Never mind. Let's stick with LaHood. He just wants us to stop whining about congestion, noise, pollution and traffic. He wants us to start doing the minimum — considering ped/cycle when we build or re-build. I'm with him.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wall of Pols for Deval

Only somewhat plugged in, only somewhat of a wonk, I still reveled in the local political types coming to the gym for Deval Patrick and Tim Murray's opening rally/sally/volley yesterday. Many of my favorites showed, but of course, we were left wondering about those local pols who did not appear.

As of yesterday, I have to drop all pretense of deriding pols who work the room. I found myself going to one pol after another myself. I know them, many have come on as guests to Left Ahead!'s podcast, and despite a so-so batting average, many of those I endorse who went on to win were there.

First...the crowd though. English has been on the verge of trying to go out of business for a long time. It's the RCN of public education. Banners in numerous places cite it as the first public high school in the nation (1821), not to be confused with Boston Latin School, the first public school (1635). Being first is not always a great thing. Think about the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Boston's subway; they honestly don't carry their age that well. However, English moved a few times and took over the ailing Jamaica Plain HS in an effort to save both. Tenuous at first, it's sort of working.

Most of us who visit the school for public hearings, candidate nights and such head to the auditorium, which is a bit rundown but serviceable. The rally thingummy was in the gym and from overhearing people, I was one of many there for the first time. It was smallish, but not seedy, not bad at all. For a school allegedly barely in business, they played good host.

Some of Each



By count, they had set up for about 300 folding chairs. The bleachers on one side would have accommodated about the same. There was a smallish press platform for the TV cameras and such opposite the dais and behind chairs of hoi polloi.

In theory, the rally started at noon, the doors opened at 11 a.m. and no one believed anything would be on time. Not only is that the norm for politicians, but Deval and Tim started at different places about 8:30 and would converge on the first major rally, so noon was like a Manhattan dinner party start hour.

I arrived around 11:30 after a cathartic stride up from the bottom of Hyde Park. Even coming up on Doyle's for the left turn to English, I didn't see any hoard. Had I driven, I could have parked on Washington Street. I felt a slight disappointment too not to see any Charlie Baker's or other adversaries' minions holding signs or chanting. Where's the spirit of competition?

In the gym, we had our rainbow. Massachusetts may not be post-racial, but Deval's supporters seem to be. While there was a good share of us beige or pink skinned types, a clear diversity representing the various races and cultures here arrived and mingled. Yes, I can be simple-minded about this all and yes, I am a Unitarian, and yes, I like the crowds supporting Deval and Barack representing a real range of citizens.

I did a quick scan and approximation. Unlike most public gatherings, this one seemed consistent with Boston's diversity. It was a bit short on the growing Latino population, but otherwise seemed well representative. Likewise, the couple of dozen young folk with STAFF badges on their lanyards were a pretty good blend of colors, but almost entirely teens and 20s. People my age were put at tables to sign folk in and collect tickets.


Where's Menino?


Instead of where's Waldo, I wonder where's Menino? Our mayor wasn't evident. I'll try to find out why.

In a different Boston school four years ago (BLS), Tom Menino introduced the new candidate, the un-favorite of the Democratic Party, a certain Deval Patrick. I would have supposed right now would Menino would be very savvy to stand up with and for the governor.

Many Boston pols were not so trepid or shy. Most of city council was there. Apparently Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo was too, but I didn't see him. Rep. Liz Malia showed, as did Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. I assume some legislators went to the many smaller gatherings on the two days, or the other big rallies in Worcester and Holyoke later Saturday.

Glad Handing



I spent a little time with:
  • Chang-Diaz — very little in this case as she was her usual intense self—turning those intense gazes from one hanger-on to another. I admit that I like her and her record, that I endorsed her in both the failed and successful runs for office, and that while I hear many say only she can look great in everything those gigantic hoop earrings, I see someone with the drive and vision that many other pols should emulate.
  • Rob Consalvo — the councilor in my new district (5/HP). He's highly personable, although I disagree with him on terms limits for mayor and council (I for and he con). We chatted Cleary/Logan Square businesses as well as libraries. Townsend's is solid. He recommends Rincon and he had news on The Hyde. Locals have never forgiven the new owner at the latter for putting anything where the beloved diner-style Dot's was. Cops I chat up while doing clerk or warden duties at an HP polling place bemoan the demise; they care about eateries. Rob though said he and some other city officials had met with The Hyde's owner and agreed to provide him with a grant to complete the renovation of the spot. When my family tried it out, the owner came around to say he wanted to put in a small micro-brewery when he could. I bet that would be great fertilizer for the restaurant. Apparent Boston is willing to invest in that. Rob noted that The Hyde will be closed for a few months to accommodate the improvements later this year. That's good stuff for someone who lives up the hill from there to hear, particularly as The Hyde already features my favorite ale, Dogfish Head 60 Minute.
  • John Tobin — is no longer my district councilor after the JP to HP move, but I keep tabs with him. He's the busiest legislator in the body and clearly has both ambitions and the drive to achieve them. Just recently at his coffee shop office hours, we talked libraries, as we did yesterday. We are of one mind on public libraries, particularly as they now are the single source for computer, printer and internet access for many of the lower-middle and lower classes. Closing a Boston library is broadening the digital divide in another neighborhood. John still says he won't vote for a budget that closes any of our public libraries. He's been joined by two other councilors; two more and the budget won't pass without tweaking. This should keep many flies on the walls alert this spring before the June 30th final budget vote.
  • Mike Capuano — U.S. Rep. Capuano is unquestionably one of my favorite pols. I hear people say he's abrasive, but I see and hear candid and ethical and compassionate. He's a true progressive and suits me just fine. I thanked him for ending up supporting health-care reform in Congress. In his typical fashion, he immediately let me know again that he would not have voted for the Senate version handed to the House. He and I lamented the exclusion of single payer and agreed that the new law should just be the start of this reform.
  • Ayanna Pressley — the delightfully sincere councilor holds no grudge that I ended not endorsing her in the multi-candidate race (she was close for me, but I favored two others slightly more). She said she'd come on Left Ahead! to update us on the first 100 days, her transition from John Kerry's staff to city politics, and those little issues like being a woman in a man's world. She makes me smile with remarks like, "I get up every morning and get to actualize my values. Now, how many can say that?"
  • John Connolly — This at-large councilor has the unenviable job of heading the education committee during this schools/funding crisisand swears he wants that job. He showed at the rally in character. Most other councilors were dolled up, the men other than Felix Arroyo (heavy sweater) were in fancy suits and silk ties. This John came as John, in jeans and pushing a stroller with his sleeping daughter Clare. In fact, he refused VIP seats up front to help guarantee that his child could continue her nap. As a dad of three, I appreciate someone who cares for his kids like that. We'll be talking education more and have a session next month on biking.
So, as podcaster and blogger, I had a good enough time before the stars came out.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Deval's Us v. Them Campaign Starts

The Patrick/Murray Extreme Local came to English High in Boston today...and by tomorrow night will have stopped at 19 other campaign sites. The guys will earn their sleep.

As a simple man from the land of the maple trees, I made no effort to race around with Deval/Tim. Rather I showed up well before the noon event in JP along with hundreds of others and waited. Noon became 1:25 before the lieutenant governor showed in the English gym.

There was no foul though and people weren't leaving. Most came in pairs or foursomes or more. Socializing, the ritual hugging of liberals long untouched and unseen continued. Then Tito Jackson popped to the podium around 1.
Self-spoiler: Deval did show, thoroughly roused the room and got his biggest of many big cheers with, "The re-election campaign starts right here, right now!" I have no doubt he went on to use that line in Worcester and Holyoke and maybe other places. That rallying cry was of a piece with his well-crafted and better-delivered stump speech. Everything is about including "us."
Up on the podium, Tito did his warm-up act with nearly as much candor as passion. If you have not heard him in action, try to. I suspect that if everyone who voted for Boston council in the last election has been to a Tito speech, he would have won a seat. As it is, he serves as Patrick's political director.

Admitting he was there to keep us focused and add some energy for Murray and Patrick when then arrived, he did. Leading simple chants (like Pat-rick and four more years) and clapping, he charmed the crowd by confessing he couldn't and wouldn't try to sing.

The House Specials


Before the candidate pair appeared around 1:30, we got what has become a standard routine, including:
  • Inspiring guest, in this case a young Kenyan woman (name when I can get it) who intends to register the 76,000 or so African legal immigrants who have no yet started voting.
  • Courageous liberal pol, in this case U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano, who started with a nice angle of once-a-mayor-always-a-mayor comparison between Murray (Worcester) and himself (Somerville) and brought in a specific and heartfelt praise of Patrick as who doesn't just talk, but fights for what's right.
  • Blessing of the spouses. Diane Patrick and Barbara Capuano both got credit for allegedly lending their hubbies for the greater good and putting up with the absurd hours and duties from them.
Shortly before Murray appeared, the dozens of campaign staffers handed out hundreds 1x2-foot campaign signs, with the new slogan — on our side, with our in a different color for emphasis. It seemed every other person had a sign, which they dutifully thrust up rhythmically during the speeches. The gym was set for about 300 chairs, with another 150 or so people in bleachers and likely as many standing behind the chairs. There were a lot of signs.

So, let us muse on how good is the slogan, which we shall definitely hear repeatedly. Four years ago, together we can took on a magical twinkle. Try as they might before and even after the election, Deval opponents were unable to adequately denigrate the intellectual and emotional pull of that one.

This one is fine, but lacks the mystique. In fact, it has a darker undertone, one we heard in Murray and Patrick's words today. The re-election is us v. them, progressives v. regressives, hopeful advancers v. backsliders.

My Miscall


Here's a check on my prognostication. Immediately following Patrick's January state-of-the-commonwealth address, I called his campaign strategy — rather poorly, it seems. I correctly pegged the obvious of let-us-finish-the-job and don't-change-horses-in-midstream that followed the impressive litany of the administration's many accomplishments. On the presentation though, I blew it. I predicted that he'd follow through with the address' we made it personal angle, linking every achievement with a person or group of people involved and helped.

Instead, the rhetorical device will apparently be that we delivered; now the challengers want to undo what we have accomplished together. During Patrick's speech today, he repeatedly named a topic and problem, cited what we said by way of promises and detailed how they delivered. Then, it was the challengers (an unspecified and amorphous group of dastards) want to stop or reverse our progress. The conclusion came in the question of whether voters would want to go back to the bad old days. Of course not, if you put it that way.

Leading challengers Republican Charlie Baker and Independent Tim Cahill have been trying to claim that the current administration hasn't accomplished enough or maybe even that they haven't done anything meaningful. I call bovine feces on that; Patrick/Murray can much more easily make a case of health insurance, ethics reform, transportation overhaul and more.

Now, whether the us v. them plays well remains to be seen. Clearly Patrick's campaign wants to put its arms over the shoulders of voters. The message is that we've been in this together for three years and we need to keep marching forward.

By the bye, maybe the same team that came up with on our side chose the music loop for the rally. It included a few ho-hum Springsteen tunes, likely for the beat. However, most were deliciously heavy handed lyrics that went with the campaign. Think the Beatles' Come Together, Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours), and Bachman-Turner Overdrive's You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.

Of course, the campaign has the advantage here. Reactionaries trying to reverse what many will see as pretty positive progress, particularly in a terrible recession, would have far fewer snappier tunes to choose. There are a lot more rock songs about hope than hiding.

Master of the Dais


For personal style too, Deval ended up owning the podium, even eclipsing Tito. Suffolk County Sheriff did a solid job in bragging about how she didn't want to see youthful offenders crippled for life with CORI records, and how Patrick was fixing that. Capuano was his irascible, candid and charming (to us who like honest) self. Murray lead into and introduced his boss in his own intelligent, cogent but fairly low-key listing of his and the administration's accomplishments. Yet, as we got into it, for the first time since Tito took the stage the audience flagged and sat down.

It was Deval who was most out there as the most skillful orator. He had both the content and style. He got big points for going into each major challenge, how they fixed or are fixing it, and how it showed that they delivered on promises. The they (challengers) are likely to be left with picking big things they see undone or if they are foolish enough trying to twist a reform or accomplishment into something less.

The hope for debates heading into the primary is likely Grace Ross again. This time, she's running as a Democrat and not a Green. Last time, she asked the most pointed questions and made everyone else squirm. She definitely was good for the process and we can hope for more of the same over the spring and summer. The primary is September 14th this year.

For a bit of background, we spoke with Patrick on Left Ahead! in February. The podcast is here.

Part 2: Coming up in the next post, expect a little commentary on the crowd. My confession is that I can disparage pols who work the room, but I was a blogger/podcaster who did the same, greeting pols.


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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Boston Book Bummer

Looks like Boston Mayor Tom Menino and hired gun Amy Ryan will anger the most residents since Bill Buckner's ball bobble. He brought her in to head the library system and really to wear the black hood of closure and firing.

Today, the drama went as scripted. Months ago, the consensus was that they'd shut branches and slash hours...oh, and of course dump staff. The report and proposal arrived this morning. The basics are in the Globe and a breakdown at Universal Hub.

Even with a bit of smoke and mirrors with three options, this will anger a wide spectrum of voters and even kids. It's difficult to imagine another budget and service area that could have done as badly.

By coincidence, Councilor John Tobin had his JP office hours this morning (Ula Café) and held forth. He was still reverberating from the public meeting on libraries the previous evening at the Curley School. He said about 200 were there, anticipating that one or both JP branches would close...and not accepting of that.

Today's Herald quotes him as saying there had to be other ways to deal with libraries. He cites numerous well paid staff, including Ryan at $175,000, he said, " “I want them to look at other areas where they can cut out waste. Automatically they say, 'We have to close 10 libraries.' It’s insanity."

The insanity may really be in assuming the public will accept losing their branches in the name of yielding to the terrible economy. This morning, Tobin noted that it's not just book lovers who would take the hit of branch closings or severely limited hours.

As the original advocate of free wireless internet access throughout the city, he keeps that in mind. Tobin says that many Bostonians can't afford even the modest fees of budget access plans, much less the computer and printer they'd need. "It's not in their top 20 list after they pay their rent and food bills."

Yet for all those Bostonians, libraries are the only computer access they have. That's adults looking for jobs as well as information and youth doing their school assignments. "All our libraries are wireless," said Tobin, "and to me this is almost a civil rights issue. The internet is the modern telephone." He sees library closures as slamming the middle class and poor.

Tobin added that Ryan is not a singular villain here. As he put it, "Everything is micromanaged from the other side of the fifth floor (Menino's office)." He added that the mayor had long looked to such closures as part of his budget-balancing plans.

For Tobin though, it's too much. He concluded, "I'm just not going to vote for the budget if they close one library."

It remains to be seen how many councilors would join him and how many are hearing loud screams from constituents already. We do know the budget requires a supermajority — 9 of the 13 councilors. On paper at least, that's where their only real power rests.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

O'Malley Just Loves His Boss

Mad as a March hare comes to mind, albeit that phrase has decided sexual tones. Instead, let's put Sean Cardinal O'Malley's latest laugher into the sycophancy class.

On his personal blog (apparently the only bishop or higher's in the R.C. church), Boston's Archbishop writes that Pope Benedict XVI is a swell guy and was as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Specifically, "What is very clear to me — and I think to all who are fair-minded — is that Cardinal Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict has been dedicated to eradicating sexual abuse in the Church and trying to rectify the mistakes of the past. "

Any questions? He thought not. Be quiet and remain seated until you hear otherwise.

What's sad and incongruous is not that a church politician would make kissy-face with the big guy. Rather it is that of the ranking prelates, only O'Malley has gunslinger cred. He's the guy, not Ratzinger cum Benedict, who cleaned houses and set up systems.

Consider:
  • 37 years ago, O'Malley was a young priest living with poor Latinos in D.C. and participating in such social action as rent strikes
  • In the next decade, he worked for and with the Virgin Island's homeless as AIDS striken.
  • Elevated to a bishop in New England, he emerged as the sex-abuse fighter, the East Coast hired gun brought into town to clear out the bad guys and make the townspeople feel safe (and non-litigious).
  • He cleaned up Fall River, then Palm Beach, then Boston, tromping heavily on abusive priests and undoing the mistrust of the negligent bishops who had been there.
  • Boston may have been the toughest, trying to deal with the mess left by Bernard Cardinal Law, who skipped state ahead of the law to hid out in Vatican City.
Of course, as one might expect, the higher O'Malley got, the lower he acts. There is some cliché about power corrupting that comes to mind.

O'Malley earned his chops doing what others found impossible or at least supremely unpleasant. Now, he has reduced himself to painting a fantasy portrait of a misunderstood Pope. Yet, in light of the plethora of documented facts of then Bishop Ratzinger's actions and inaction, O'Malley's apology is incredible. (Note that a quick search for Ratzinger and abuse among other such terms will provide far more than you care to read or even think about the subject.)

Catholic chums tell me to expect nothing better. After all, they say, bishop and above are political positions, not religious and moral ones. Yet, considering where O'Malley has been and what he has done, I would still expect better of him.


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Cowardly DeLeo


What's worse as a speaker of the house, a pol on the take or an arrogant incompetent? Think. Think. Think.

We've seen quite a bit of the former here in Massachusetts. Now we get to deal with the imperious fool-in-chief Robert A. DeLeo. Mr. Speaker (maybe that should Master and Lord Speaker) DeLeo developed and squatted on a massive casino gambling proposal for months and sprang it on the General Court once he figured he had the votes.

The joke on the rest of us is that he won't allow public hearings on this bill that would fundamentally and permanently alter our lives. Like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, he may not have a heart. That decision suggests he may be short on brains as well.

This is the same MA House that queered every revenue proposal Gov. Deval Patrick brought forward for two years. Now it thinks that the outrageous promises of wealth the casino industry has made will be our way out of recession problems. We need only look at Louisiana, New Jersey and other states where those promises have destroyed the local economies and made only the gambling companies richer.

Even if enough legislators buy into the fantasy, doing this without letting the public scream, pontificate and stomp feet is dumb, dumber, dumbest. What was that Bugs Bunny so often said, "I got a baaaaad feeling about this!"?

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