Thursday, May 27, 2010

MA Treasurer Sites, II

I click so you don't have to.

The candidates for MA treasurer/receiver general are still along a spectrum in their campaign sites.
Grossman is in the fine position of starting with a superior site. It has lots of detailed positions and other info. He has also received a massively high wall of endorsements. It there's anything you want to know about him, it's there. He backs it up with a similarly beefy Facebook page and regular tweets that alternate the political and personal. He stayed ahead as well as starting early.

Polito has made at least one substantial improvement on her site. The vid on the opening page has much better production values than I complained about previously. This version still uses unnecessary, distracting, unrelated background music, like it was done for a wedding. However, the sound is good on this one and it comes in on her rather than making her a swimmer in a wide sea. It also was specific to the race and provides reasons she's running. The secondary video is still lame and her Priorities page remains fluff with no substance. She may expand that when it comes time to debate Grossman and maybe Murphy.

Alas, poor Murphy, I knew him not well...by his inoperative site. Pity. He's a nice guy and has a middle position between Polito's fiscal conservative and Grossman's activist treasurer stances.

His self-announced drop-dead date for the website came and went and went. I've been checking. For weeks, the site had a coming-soon splash only. Then finally in the past week, a marginally functional opening appeared. You could donate or volunteer, but it had no info suggesting why you'd want to do either.

Now, we get the Drupal failure screen. That suggests that someone is actively working on the site, at least. It also educes a bit of empathy. I've planned a huge Drupal site and it can be daunting and time consuming. He and his designer may have been overly ambitious.

Regardless, as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, "There is no there there." I'll keep clicking on the sites and hope Murphy is on the net soon. He needs to get 15% of the delegates at the Dem convention next week. A website may not make the difference...yet again it might have.

Saturday Update: Murphy's site is back to a splash that offers donate and volunteer buttons. Those work, as do the links to the Twitter feed and Facebook page. There's no content yet.

Memorial Day Update: Half way there... The Murphy campaign site is partially functional and OK looking. The Issues and News pages have Greeked text instead of real content. The saga continues.

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DOMA Doesn't Do - MA

Having no problem with hypocrisy and inconsistency in recent memory, wingers may be able to deal with the latest challenges to DOMA. Early this month, the federal court here in Boston got the detailed assault via same-sex couples and GLAD. Yesterday, our AG's minions came from the states-rights angle.

That's right, kiddies, that would be moderately liberal Massachusetts invoking a states rights challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. Would that fall under even the devil being able to quote scripture for his purposes. This transcends irony and travels into the realm of black comedy.

First, you would have thought that Congress with Bill Clinton's eager support would never have passed DOMA. Doing so should have been intolerable to the GOP and blue-dog Dems. After all, it mocked the very compromise, the balance between a central government and the individual states, that enabled the nation from its start. It also is a direct repudiation of the comity that forms the basis for the various states honoring each other's laws and regulations.

Self-defined conservatives have repeatedly and vigorously protected the states against just such federal incursions. After all, it's right there in the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

DOMA clearly spits at and stomps all over that separation-of-powers mandate.

That's what the chief of our AG's Civil Rights Division, Maura T. Healey, argued before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro. As usual, the best coverage appears in Bay Windows. The Globe's version has less insight, but runs through some of the personal effects of the federal law on MA residents.

The major point is that DOMA prohibits MA from regulating its citizen's marriages. While the feds might pretend that defining marriage as only between one man and one woman at the national level should not, Healey pointed out how it does. This includes such absurdities as who's a spouse with the right to rot in a grave in a veteran's cemetery next to a legal-in-Massachusetts husband or wife. Healey made an apt parallel to the concept of the federal government funding white's-only benefits.

For its part, the feds remain half-hearted.
The U.S. Justice Department's Christopher Hall admitted that the Obama administration would like the law to go away, but while it is the law, he would defend it. He had to torture history and logic a bit to do so.

He pretty much came down to claiming that definitions for federal law and federal funding where really, honestly, actually distinct, even if they appears to encroach on states. He responded to Tauro's statement that the states have always regulated marriage by saying the feds do that for immigration enforcement.

For the Tenth Amendment, he said DOMA does not prevent any couple from marrying under a state's laws and regulations. He added that the federal benefits were a different issue.

That is what Tauro faces. Does this massive set of federal benefits from taxes to pensions to Social Security and on interfere with MA's right to regulate marriages? Does DOMA try to trump the Tenth Amendment.

Down on the waterfront, catercorner from the Barking Crab, likely nothing will have final resolution. Both MA and Hall ended with the predictable calls for summary judgment for their sides, with no trial. Even if Tauro were to rule against DOMA, the feds seem asininely committed to appeal, with the case going to the SCOTUS likely.

I like MA's chances at this level of federal court. Certainly Tauro should disregard Hall's comment that DOMA should be repealed and stick with the companion comment that it's the law of the land...at least for this historical moment. Yet, when the feds are so intertwined in this state in services and benefits, how they can whistle and claim they aren't goofing on our marriages is quite a stretch.


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Monday, May 24, 2010

Blinded by Delusion

We take our Ivy curtain as a norm here. Graduate from Harvard or if you must Yale or shudder from Williams, and you're in.

I had thought the silly and fairly dumb Bobby Travaglini was as arrogant as connected Bostonians get. I hadn't become aware of his Harvard alum brother, Michael. As showoff obstructionist city councilor and then senate president a few blocks away, Bobby put the duh in dumb. On a council with such blowhards as Jim Kelly and Dapper O'Neil, Bobby sat alone as the epitome of boastfulness without knowledge. Those other two clowns at least knew their constituents and the issues. Bobby just thumped his chest.

In 1994, relatively new mayor Tom Menino appointed the connected brother, Michael, as exec of the Boston Retirement System. The crimson grad was only four years out of Georgetown Law and an underling at a second-tier Boston firm. While brother Bobby moved into the senate, Michael used his connections wisely and well.

He switched to Putnam Investments and in 2004 became head of the commonwealth's Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) board. He's the highest paid MA employee, making at least three times what the governor does at $400,000, plus bonuses.

So now is the time for libertarians and Randists to say, "Ah, he earned every dime. This is proof of his superiority and the efficiency of the free market."

Well, switch back to the real world to hear that he's carrying that pretense to its logical conclusion. Mikey is quitting next month. He wants millions, not hundreds of thousands. He'll head to Chicago to a big investment bank.

This is really not a tale of the connected getting handed treasurers and proclaiming how the deserve it all — by their superior wit, wisdom and work. Oh, yes it it.

Little Mike says that the poison pills the governor and legislature are asking him and his minions to swallow are simply too bitter. The proposals in the works would limit their salaries to the governor's ($143,000) and limit bonuses for years when the pension fund (in the nature of $40 billion) loses value, even relative to market performance.

In other w0rds. that theoretical free market is great...when it means unlimited income for him. It sucks when he has to perform for it.

Mega Mike put it this way to the Globe:
"Someone else can hang around for that, but it's not going to be Mike Travaglini," he said. "Most people will say, `Good riddance. If you want to make more money go do it in the private sector,' and that's what I'm going to do. But there's a real threat to not being able to recruit and retain competent people here."
We heard this from the incompetent boobs at the big investment banks that crushed our economy recently. They are undoubtedly the best and brightest. If they are not allowed multi-million dollar bonuses, regardless of investment outcomes, the system would suffer. These allegedly brilliant clods who make years of terrible market bets will be forced, forced I say, to leave. Then where will we hoi polloi be?

Résumé Does Not Equal Reality


The fact remains that in the centuries these aristocratic buffoons have pulled this crap, they have illustrated not their innate superiority but their marginal, highly over compensated, incompetence. Far, far too many average or inferior sorts are legacies at Ivy schools and their equivalents. Far, far too many of those are given jobs they really can't perform adequately. Sorry, pretenders, CV does not equal ability.

So Bobby's brother will leave because he can't make a half million or a million or two million a year. Lackaday.

He was in charge when those funds under his direction took nearly a 30% dive. It seems he got a reduced bonus rather than being ridden out of Beantown on a rail. Poor guy.

I say let every one of those pretenders slither away. We may not be able to replace the current friend-of-friend promotion system we use that serves us so badly quickly. However, the gross incompetence uncovered in our latest great recession has at least made the regulators aware that they can't buy into the fantasies of the self-delusional sorts.

Investment banks and fund performance are measurable. You may have a connected brother. You may be from a famous college. What have you done for us...or to us?

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mini-Catalog of U.S. Tardiness

Now it's Portugal. How the small, ostensibly Roman Catholic countries continue to race past us socially. Today's Salon has a list of nationwide same-sex marriage and civil-union locales, which does not include the old U.S.A. Then, it piles up our LGBT shortcomings.

I've noted discouragingly often that we are a lumbering country in social and civil rights. For a people who built their personal mythology on action, we sure are constipated when it comes to liberties for all.

We can find some amusement that both Iberian nations enabled SSM, as has the very Catholic Massachusetts. If we set aside the Scandinavian countries, we might suppose you have to have a population dominated by fundamental religious trappings to break out of old-line subjugation. Then, there's South Africa...

At least those other nations don't have to face our states' rights issues. We have a few centuries of permitting our sundry states to follow our constitution in setting rules for anything not specifically allocated to the federal government. That certainly is more restrictive than a Portugal.

Another amusement is that the anti-gay and anti-SSM forces here keep trying to make the Defense of Marriage Act's one man/one woman definition of marriage expand to the state level. You'd think they would avoid setting up a national law that would end up being a single target for conversion to adding SSM. Meh. They're emotional and can't help themselves.

So, here we are as the slow kids in the rights race, being lapped by more socially agile nations. We'll get there.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Enough Whining About Kagan!

Isn't this pathetic? Congress is aflutter over Elena Kagan's lack of paper trail and checklist of cases she would have decided.

Shouldn't they be able to think for themselves...at least this once?

The looming confirmation hearings on this Supreme Court nominee really say much more about our elected officials than this appointed one. You would think they would think.

Even for a cossetted Congressional sort, this is not all that hard. Where you don't have fill-in-the-squares tables of history, you ask about what's important to you and your constituents. You follow up for clarification. You listen to answers to other questions. You mash it all up and conclude yeah or nay.

Instead, from all political angles, in expanding circles of relationship to the appointment, we find much rending of garments and wringing of hands. Lord have mercy, she doesn't have a judicial track record! How can I decide what to think without a list! Help! It's her fault. Damn this tabula rasa! She's unknowable!

Three concepts emerge immediately:
  • She should have and would have been a judge, on the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C., from 1999 if the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch, had permitted a hearing on her nomination by President Clinton. She was only one of many blocked by recalcitrant GOP sorts, causing huge backlogs from unfilled judicial appointments.
  • Many highly competent SC justices had not previous judicial experiences. Check FindLaw's list of 40, including from the last half of the 20th century Rehnquist, Powell, White, Fortas, Goldberg, as well as famous golden oldies Douglas and Frankfurter.
  • Sometimes hearings involve real judgment — like a justice has to do all the time. Ask questions and make informed opinions. People in the real world do it all time.
Yes, it is pathetic that media types as well as very invested lobbyist and political interest groups squeal for a scorecard with check boxes. They should be absolutely ashamed to admit their inflexibility and unwillingness to analyze.

Let the hearings start. Let the Senators squirm and admit discomfort. I have no reason to doubt that Kagan would be able to do her job. Those involved in the confirmation hearing should do theirs.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Beggar Man, Thief, Auditor, Treasurer, Secretary

The potential for fundamental reform starts with the second tier of MA government this fall. The contests for commonwealth auditor, secretary and treasurer are strong and offer clear distinctions. In theory at least, all three of these fundamental roles could switch to progressives eager to reform, or rather reformulate, the duties.

Even the Boston Globe is getting wind of the possibilities. Today the Metro front features a living-pages style intro to six candidates from three parties aiming for auditor. It's fab to see the paper doing some political reporting not off a press release or out of a press conference. Don't click on the story or pick up the paper expecting insight and details though.

First, as is the Globe's wont, there are no links to the candidates' campaign sites. Nor is there a table setting out the platform differences. Instead, we meet them like they were on bar stools, butt to butt. We get a wee flavor of personality and each gets to vent a little — she is an insider, they aren't CPAs like I am, it's good that the GOP convention didn't endorse me...

You get through the short piece without any knowledge of who swhat and who intends to change what. If you just can't stand it, click on the links below to their sites:
  • Guy Glodis, Democrat. "My goal is simple: to expose fraud wherever it may exist, and ensure that every tax dollar is used as intended."
  • Kamal Jain, Republican. Promises to help other Republicans as his own rising tide of transparency. He pledges the seeming contradiction of letting us all see where every dollar and dime goes, while making the process very simple.
  • Mary Connaughton, Republican. CPA and gadfly on the turnpike board, she promises to find fraud from public assistance up through big contracts and to squash unfunded mandates on communities.
  • Mike Lake, Democrat. Offers the same investigations and audits as others, but claims to be a truly independent outsider business type. He contrasts himself with Bump.
  • Nathanael Fortune, Green-Rainbow. Sketchy site, but stresses ROI on state expenditures.
  • Suzanne Bump, Democrat. With considerable high-level government experience, she says she'd stress more performance audits and focus on services contracts and reducing health costs.
Meanwhile, those other two positions have some fascinating options. We're doing our part at Left Ahead! in chatting with independent Jim Henderson for secretary, who wants a total rework of the office to make our commonwealth's public information, well, public for the first time. In the last couple of weeks, we had the two Dems up for treasurer — Steve Grossman, who calls for an activist, progressive office, and Steve Murphy, who has a toned-down version of Grossman's goals but still sees the treasury as a function to help create jobs. Our treasurer trifecta completes this week with GOP nominee Karyn Polito, who disagrees with the activist shift and wants to take pensions away from pols to keep them honest.

So, come next January, we could end up with middling bureaucrats in this three positions. We could also have one, two or three serious reformers. Meanwhile, there are some women and men who have a lot of convincing to do and a lot of face time to put in just to get people to remember them. Better they than I.

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Limits of Self-Indulgence


From grumbling and whispers to shouts, Bostonians are all over hospital exec Paul F. Levy. It may be justifiable, as he steadily exhibits the arrogance and sense of privilege of so many physicians. His particulars say more of us than of him.

Like so many Scrabble tiles, the variations on who and what you know are many. The self-satisfied Boston version from a century or two back contrasted our windy burg with Philadelphia, as in here it's what you know and there whom you know that advances you. The idea was simply that we were centrally a meritocracy and intellectual capital. Good on us.

That may not have been true many decades ago and certainly doesn't align with observable reality now.

The questions come in the forms of favoritism and nepotism, with undercurrents and implications of sexual morality. For his part, Levy has kept this furor going by being at once secretive and open. For the latter, on his hospital blog, he apologized two weeks ago and then followed up with links to media coverage yesterday. You can roll in the muck he offers to get the nits and grits.

The gist is though that he hired a woman he persists in calling my close friend. She held a nice job, reporting directly to him. Then when the situation caused enough stink among other employees, he worked to transfer her elsewhere at a similar highly paid position.

What is not forbidden



So, in our theoretical meritocracy, we have to wonder what the concerns are. First, she was neither his wife nor another blood or by-marriage relative. The standard nepotism rules fail there. Next, apparently this behavior was not in a list of things specifically forbidden by Beth Israel.

Yet, particularly because the married dad Levy does not specifically deny that he and his close friend had a physical relationship, the situation is not as clear and clean as it might be by its basic facts. Moreover, because he accepted a hefty fine from the hospital corporation, the rumors are loud and louder.

That's not a crime you say, even if true? Well, technically it is. One of our commonwealth's archaic and almost never enforced general laws (Chapter 272: Section 14) reads:
A married person who has sexual intercourse with a person not his spouse or an unmarried person who has sexual intercourse with a married person shall be guilty of adultery and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years or in jail for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.
Yet hospital corporations are no more concerned with such laws as any other business. After all, the subject of the moment is Dr. Paul or CEO Paul and not St. Paul or Mahatma Paul.

To the point though, taking Levy at his word, giving friends, classmates, Greek society brothers or sisters, and fellow alumni jobs is the way of the world. While it is common elsewhere, Ivy grads seem especially keen in taking care of their own. Somehow, Boston dropped the what-you-know stuff down the list.


Friends of friends



That certainly puts the lie to meritocracy. Who knows how many better editors, brokers, managers and more did not get a shot because their jobs were gifts to lesser versions of themselves. I'd bet that this is the largest theft from corporations then, now and in the future. Buddies, even mediocre or worse, rule.

For Levy's part:

  • He could have avoided the whole mess by asking a chum in another corporation to place his friend, lover or whatever she was.
  • He could have found a clean spot at BI where she didn't report to him.
  • When peers and underlings began to gripe about the situation, he could have accepted that he'd gone too far and moved her out.
  • When the situation came to a head, he could have been straight and candid, which he still can't seem to bring himself to do.

Unfortunately, he was a darling of Boston, of bloggers and of the medical community with his own site. He promised from his first post he'd be letting us into his brain. He included, "I thought it would be fun to share thoughts with people about my experience here and their experiences in the hospital world. This is my first blogging experience, so please excuse if I mess things up . . ."

Well, he didn't mess up his blogging. It was consistently readable, generally informative and occasionally moving. Unfortunately, he seems to have exceeded his limit for self-examination as well as candor. Even in his own medial community, he lost his credibility.

We can hope though that other top managers in various corporations might carry on this idea. Certainly most alleged personal blogs at that level seem to be entirely self-serving and written by toadies who live to aggrandize their bosses.

Until he got to his own failings, Levy set a different standard. I'd challenge the big shots in other supposedly caring professions to learn from both his blunders and even more so from his successes in communication.


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Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Hunting Grounds

While not new, drug giants' aiming at populous emerging economies is getting scarier. Only the latest coverage I've seen is in today's Big pharma aims for reinvention in the FT.

Particularly with expiring patent monopolies of their best sellers, the tablet touts are counting on the likes of Brazil, China and India to make up the difference. For decades, they had been like the big book publishers in the sense of developing and promoting a small number of mega-hitting drugs, sold largely in the U.S. and Europe. Now former third-world countries look like prime pickings.

This is uncanny and eerie to me, putting me in a marketing time machine to the late 1970s. The drugs were in cigarettes, but the idea was the same.

As chief editor of a grocery magazine, I was perhaps too chummy with tobacco companies. Our offices were in Manhattan, literally across the street from then cig behemoth American Tobacco. We had ads from them as well as the others, for all forms of tobacco and I knew the marketing guys.

By then, Americans knew cigarettes were killers and I had...finally and after repeated tries...beaten my own addiction. I had somehow come out of recovery from a gruesome auto accident and severe concussion smoking. As a team swimmer, I never had smoked and don't know what went on in my damaged brain to get me to start a two-pack-a-day Camel habit.

It surely was the times — the WWII generation smoked as did we, their kids. It surely was the studies, profession and avocation — I was a journalism major and cigarettes, coffee and booze came with it on campus, at the dailies were we interned, and at the student paper. It surely also was the location — in South Carolina, tobacco was a money crop, and cigs were a quarter out of a machine or just over $2 a carton. A cheap, ubiquitous drug delivery system that society endorsed...

A decade later, visiting tobacco guys got a little tougher for a new non-smoker. They smoked. Every one of them smoked all day. The unfiltered Pell Mell was still the stick of choice and still an American Tobacco staple revenue source. Typically, a marketing exec would light one off the smoldering tip of the previous one. Much like newspaper offices, the tobacco sellers' had a light haze of tobacco incense. If your suit didn't smell of your own tobacco going it, it did of theirs as you left.

For my magazine's convenience store and other grocery readers, I liked to do trend pieces on major product lines. As U.S. tobacco sales just began to show per capita declines, I asked about the domestic future and my exec was ready. American had been noticing and reacting. Their somewhat horrifying response was to target emerging economies.

While Americans were thinking of or actually stopping smoking, poorer countries were getting fattened for the hunt. We saw WWII types suffocating from emphysema and losing it to lung cancer. Some of us, including me, were planning on children and thought we might like to hang around to see them mature and raise them without that toxic incense.

Disposable Income



Instead, my tobacco man noted that in China and India, suddenly there was enough money that some of the many millions of adults had disposable income, for the first time ever. They couldn't afford cars or other luxury items. However, an affordable "treat" in the mind of many would be a pack of cigarettes. At least between their fingers and faces, they could look in their own minds like the glamorous sorts in the movies, TV shows and magazines.

While the tobacco and medical drug parallels are many, the big pharmaceutical corporations at least allege that their business is helping people get healthier and live longer. The marketing though is frighteningly similar.

My own prejudices after following pharma's machinations for decades is that this kind of health is pretty sick. For both body and mind, far too many drugs come out of the labs at high prices and the companies create conditions and markets for them, with the eager help of doctors, HMOs and hospitals. We know that it is much easier and vastly quicker for a doctor to treat a symptom with one or more drugs than to diagnose an underlying condition and work with the patient to cure its causes. Doctors allegedly are trapped almost to a one into a terrible cycle of marketing drugs. Moreover, if you listen to them and to the drug companies, this one, that one and the third drug each would add 3 or 5 or 10 years to your life. If any or all of that was true, we'd all be perfectly healthy and live for 213 years.

Yet, we shouldn't be too naive or delusional about this. Like nearly any other business, the huge drug companies don't exist to make the world better. Rather, they want to continue to make billions of dollars of profits. Thank us very much.

Of course, they look to countries with, in several cases, a billion or more customers. Even if they continue to shift their geographic market shares from the U.S. and Europe, boy, can they every make up the difference on volume.

Perhaps the only positive possibilities here for us are from that shift. If the drug sellers are hunting more and more overseas, might they ease off on us a bit? Might they spend less effort in artificially creating needs for their newest products (with monopolistic patents)? Might they fund fewer research projects designed to convince doctors and their employers that every patient absolutely needs to be on one or three or eight prescriptions daily.

It would be very difficult for them to ease off on an insidious system (warning: snarky link) that has been so profitable for the past half century. Of course, unless our nascent health reform begins to reward patient health rather than churn-'em-through office visits, there won't be much balancing pressure. Yet, it took us a long time to get into this drug mess. Just maybe, if the big guys are out hunting emerging markets, we may begin getting out of it.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

So-So Social Media So Far


Was it fully four years ago that upstart Deval Patrick was exploiting the net on his way to our governor's office? Since then Facebook, Twitter and countless apps for asses color politics.

What is and isn't happening...yet...in races fascinates me. As surprised as I've been that our treasurer's race offers real distinctions, I've wondered at the candidates' use and non-use of online tools.
Disclaimer: So far, we at Left Ahead! have gotten Steven Grossman on a show. He's very impressive. I've asked both Dem Steve Murphy and Republican Karyn Polito to join us, through their campaigns. Murphy's people replied but will set it up. I've heard nothing from Polito or her folk.
In a very unscientific survey of a very small universe — three, contenders for MA treasurer vary in their attempts to find their way to campaigning with online tools. Grossman, Karyn Polito and Steve Murphy all have Facebook pages. State Rep. Polito and Boston Councilor Murphy have non-campaign sites for their offices. They are legally required to keep those separate from fund-raising and pure politicking.

For campaign sites, Grossman and Polito's are fully operational. In a follow-up email podcast request to Murphy, I made a snide comment about the nakedness of his. In their phone follow-up to me, his scheduler lamented that they indeed knew that it showed no content and that it was supposed to be ready three weeks ago. You just can't get good help, eh?

For Twitter, Grossman and Polito have active accounts. Murphy doesn't appear to tweet, as we say.

So, as I am (perhaps excessively) fond of asking my sons, "What can we learn from this?"

Facebook

Kind of the tomato catchup of the web, Facebook is necessary for politicians. Many of us, me included, expect to find fully fleshed out pages for anyone running for anything. At the least, you can claim bragging right if your FB site has a large or huge number of fans. This phenomenon is new enough that we can't know yet how that extrapolates to votes or contributions though.

All three treasurer would-be folk have FB pages. Murphy's is lightly populated and really doesn't do much better than his bare campaign website. Grossman's is very complete. Polito's is fair.

Murphy. Not a lot of effort is evident here. His campaign doesn't seem to get new media from the look of this. He apparently has no Twitter feed. The only contact info is an email address. There's no campaign pitch and oddly no link to the campaign website. There's a single photo, the same one available on the small campaign flier included in the photo tab. It has no discussions and a single month-old event. His wall postings feature mostly requests for help getting signatures. 776 people have clicked Like.

Grossman. His page has effort in all categories. It links to both Twitter feed and campaign site. He has 28 photo albums, most political but a few from his business and general public speaking. He has a Boxes area with 45 links (including his LA podcast). He plugged in one artificial discussion, a fan saying how she asked a bunch of folk to become fans. He has an inspiring Ted-Kennedy entry in Notes. His Video tab has six entries. His wall blends where he will campaign, whom he met and what happened at stops, what media exposure he'll get, shows he'll be on, and notices afterward, generally with links. He also has posts on a running bit about where he stops for ice cream, in other words, he does a good job of showing himself and personalizing the wall. 2068 people have clicked Like.

Polito. She or her staff haven't put too much into this. She has a personal, state-rep page, and cannibalizes it for this not-very-up-to-date page. The state-rep version actually has more stuff, for example six newsy videos to zero. She uses many of the same photos, largely of her legislative election and service. She's been hitting the circuit running for treasurer, but the treasurer page doesn't reflect that yet. Her campaign website runs her latest tweets on the front, but the Facebook page doesn't even link to her Twitter feed. The personal page has treasurer-related fund-raisers and other events, while the campaign page doesn't even have a tab. There are no discussions and the Info tab doesn't even suggest any reasons to vote for her. Her wall mentions her campaign stops. 1721 people have clicked Like.

Twitter

Two of the three candidates tweet, Polito and Grossman. She seems to be fond of the idea, featuring her latest on her campaign website's front page. Grossman is the most active tweeter and varies his tweets more.

Her typical tweet is where she will campaign or her most recent stop. For two examples:
Had a great time at the Hazen Paper learning about their printing company in beautiful Holyoke! #matreas #mapoli

Whirlwind of a day! Boston in the AM, then to W. Boylston, Shrewsbury, Plainville, Salisbury and now home...Western MA tomorrow! #matreas
She seems to tweet twice on a typical day.

Grossman does more — two is low and four is common. For example:
Happy Mother's Day to my mom Shirley, mother-in-law Bunny, wife Barbara, daughter-in-law Mary Jo & all the incredible moms out there!
I'll be on "On the Record" with Ed Harding & Janet Wu on @NewsBoston Sunday at 11am - tune in to channel 5, WCVB! #mapoli #matres
I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for my candidacy @ the MNW Democratic Alliance mtg in Medway this morning! #thankyou #matres

Delicious Heath Bar ice cream & great friends @ the Spruce Pond Creamery in Franklin! http://twitpic.com/1m6hkp #icecreamtour #matres
He seems to be on a lot more media interviews and shows. He pre-announces those, may run a link to the broadcast later, and includes personal as well as campaign posts.

In terms of understanding the medium, Polito seems a noob. Her website's News section ran a passive-aggressive challenge nearly two and one-half weeks ago, "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." Grossman responded publicly two days later with a tweet, reading, "@karyn4treasurer, I accept your invitation to debate. Let’s talk jobs, holding big banks accountable, & protecting people’s $. When & where? " Three days after that, following the Left Ahead! podcast with Grossman, I tweeted her, "When are you taking Steve Grossman up on a treasurer debate?@karyn4treasurer." She has yet to respond to either.

In contrast, Grossman responds to tweets to him publicly or directly. He gets the conversational aspect.

There's no Twitter surprise. The use parallels the other aspects. The candidate most fully formed in one medium is so in the others.

Campaign Site

For Murphy, comparisons are unfair. I'll revisit that when his site really comes on line. Meanwhile:

Grossman. His campaign site is state of the medium. It has all features activated, from videos to audio clips to links to the big for social networks and related sites (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube), personal and pol endorsements, links to newspaper, broadcast and blog coverage, detailed personal, family, political and business profile, and both overview and drill-down coverage of his stances on issues. Other than too much gray runs of text in his issues, this is a professionally produced, highly accessible site. His events calendar is very detailed with links per entry. His support area provides seven ways to help, from monetary contributions to volunteering to endorsing and on and on. This very well planned site seems to use the best of available concepts and technologies.

Polito. Her site is good, but not better than that, particularly in contrast to Grossman's. The same designers did her state-rep site. Both sites are heavy on graphics and lighter on content. Unfortunately, the effect is often unsubstantial. For examples, the two videos on the campaign site purport to introduce Polito, but do not. The one right now on the home page, Happy Mother's Day from Karyn Polito, (also available on YouTube) claims to let you meet her but only talks about her elderly relatives. I think we know the difference. The image quality is high and you can even choose resolution. However, the production values are extremely poor in the low volume, the distracting and unnecessary background music, and the itty-bitty head and shoulders view swimming in the large frame. Likewise, the out-of-place Columbus Day video at the bottom of the Meet Karyn Polito page plays silly, distracting tunes while it shows snapshots of her forebears leading to her, trivializing the whole family while revealing nothing of Polito herself. The News is not new at all, even though her tweets suggest she's working the campaign. The Donate and Get Involved (volunteer) are adequate but about two elections behind in being enticing. Her Priorities, which she uses instead of issues or platform, are five buzzword phrases with no solid content, just vague descriptions. She apparently has no endorsements and for the life of me, I can't figure out why she doesn't put up current video, news, and media links. Where's the beef?

Media Whizzes and Wheezes

Elections are not determined by use of social media. Yet, as Patrick showed four years ago, netroots can be like grassroots in motivating support. Particularly younger voters appreciate candidates of whatever age making good use of current technologies, their technologies.

Oddly, Polito is the youngest at 43 or 44, Murphy is roughly a decade older and Grossman a decade older than him. The latter seems by far the tech savviest, making the best use of Twitter as well as having the beefiest and most inviting website and Facebook page.

The positive aspect for Grossman is not that he gets geek cred, but that you can follow his tweets, read his wall or pore over his site, coming away from any and all with the clearest sense of what he's been about and what he intends to do. Murphy's people say they know he's behind and intend to correct that. For Polito's sake, she'd benefit from friends or advisers letting her know the shortcomings in her presentations.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

So-So DOMA Suit Coverage

Alas, the local and nearby press coverage of the Gill DOMA suit in Boston yesterday is as colorless and lacking insight as I feared. This was yet another chance for great reportage and analysis of a seminal event by the MSM. Yawn. By far the best was the fastest, from Bay Windows' Lisa Keen.

  • The Boston Herald wee article did not even supply the basics and implications.
  • The New York Times report was better, concentrating on the federal government's role in defending a law it doesn't like.
  • The Boston Globe coverage should have been the best, but was not. Unlike the evocative writing and revealing analysis from BW, it turned to its wheezing norm of he-says, pseudo-balanced sort of journalism. They even tracked down the usual suspect, the head of the Mass. Family Institute, for an anti-gay metaphor.
Instead of history in a hurry, we continue to have missed stories at leisure. I'll watch for meaningful comments elsewhere, but as I've learned over the past seven years, for LGBT issues, start with Bay Windows.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

DOMA Hearing Very Pointed

Today was a gay day down on the waterfront, according to an excellent report by Bay Windows on the Gill case. I could not be there for the testimony on the suit against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) section 3, but BW's Lisa Keen was and sent well-written and inspiring coverage.
Small rant on big media: This is as Joe Biden might say a big f* deal. The outcome of the Gill suit could well accelerate and federalize the inevitable acceptance of same sex marriage in this socially slow nation. Where was the coverage of the two big Boston dailies, the broadcast, blah blah? Well, the weekly LGBT-oriented weekly, Bay Windows, was there. They at least care what we learn about crucial topics. Later today, WBZ did run OK coverage, citing plaintiffs here.
Read the whole article; Keen's a good enough writer for that. To cut to her conclusions:
  • U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro does not come in with obvious bias and is not buying any political ploys.
  • Right away, he cut to essentials, discarding chat about suspect classes and zeroing in on why the government thinks marriage should suddenly move from state to federal control. Department of Justice attorney Scott Simpson admitted that until DOMA, marriage was strictly per-state definition.
The next round in this is suit (almost certain to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court) is on Wednesday, May 26th, when Massachusetts' AG office argues its own attack on section 3 of DOMA.

For the blander take on today, see the GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) version here. The BW coverage is better, but GLAD's has clips of
its Civil Rights Project Director Mary L. Bonauto, who argued the case today.

Friday Follow-Up: The local and nearby press sort of covered the court session.

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Nibbling on DOMA

Today is finally show time for GLAD's piecemeal plan to cripple DOMA. This morning in federal court in Boston, three widowers and eight wed same-sex couples state their grievances against one part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Legal observers concur that this is a way station, that the case will head to the U.S. Supreme Court. When my favorite the field, Prof. Arthur S. Leonard, analyzes the case, I'll add that. As background, the National Law Journal ran an analysis of this and related cases.

The full complaint filed a year ago is here. The gist is that federal regulations and this part 3 of DOMA discriminate against Massachusetts same-sex couples who legally wed here. As described in the overview of the suit, the effects are real and measurable. For example, not being able to file a joint tax return as any heterosexual married couples harms the plaintiffs financially.

Underlying the case are some big issues. For one, comity — recognition of one state's laws by others and by the feds — is not honored. While not mandated by federal law, it is an almost universal norm in the country. This break with that norm clearly discriminates solely on sexual orientation. The courts have to weigh whether there is justification.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

What Cost Safety?

Pardon the cynicism, but it wasn't just this guy. Yesterday morning, Boston Councilor John Connolly and I had coffee at TC's in Hyde Park — one of many places bragging that they had water for coffee brewing.

Of course with our three-day water emergency, the sign was perfectly logical. Millions of us had the fear of something terrible wanting to get into our GI tracts from the pond and reservoir supplies running in our taps.

However, before we talked cycling, the reason for the chat, we concurred that we each believed our water had been safe all along. We also confessed to each other that we had followed the rules, boiling water and keeping a bottle by the sinks for tooth brushing and such.

As a nation, we have been reduced far too often to a better-safe-than-sorry chant and thought process. That's not the way most of us grew up, particularly us boomers. Instead, a little risk was the spice in life's daily stew. We preferred personal freedoms to hiding from thorns, abrasions and other small dangers.

Yet, now at its worst, we have that PATRIOT Act and the incursions into our liberties that would have been unthinkable even to the lead conservatives of a few decades ago. Particularly following the World Trade Towers attacks, everything seems better safe than sorry...no matter what costs.

So today, the shrinking but still largest local daily, the Boston Globe, runs "Tests confirm it — water was safe to drink all along." The piece notes that state and federal requirements included that boil-every-drop-of-tap-water routine. Bacterial tests on water samples had to be normal to go with spigot juice.

I've long ago lost track of the number of people I hear, of every age, who say, "Better safe than sorry." That in itself is sorry.

Sure, it makes sense to toss the stinky chicken in the fridge or to stay away from the unfenced cliff lip. But when did we become a nation of milquetoasts?

The considered taking of small and even medium risks used to be the American way when I was growing up. Surely the 9/11 events aren't enough to paralyze us, to make us all eager to accept any intrusion and indignity by government agents who way they are only out to keep us safe. Let it not be so.

So, John Connolly and I boiled our water for three plus days. In our defense, we live in families with kids in the house, so we have the reason and excuse of caution for others. On the other hand, we knew in our brains and hearts and from experience that the water from a different reservoir was almost certainly potable and safe enough.

We can only speculate how this would have played out if it had taken two weeks or a month to fix the aquaduct and OK the water supply.

It brings to mind the lyrics of the post-apocalyptic song by David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner, Wooden Ships. The words include:
Say, can I have some of your purple berries?
Yes, I've been eating them for six or seven weeks now,

haven't got sick once.

Probably keep us both alive.
None of us was to the point of desperation, as much of the current world is where all water is questionable. We can hope in our present that we 1) won't be like those crazed hoarders who filled up minivans with bottled water, or 2) don't meet each challenge with the collapsing response better safe than sorry.

Cross-post: This also appears at Harrumph!

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