Thursday, June 29, 2006

Over the River Tomorrow

Light posting will be the order of the next few days. Along with many other sniveling bloggers, we're headed to the Media Giraffe conference on the UMASS campus in glorious downtown Amherst.

We'll take a laptop, but will probably be too in the moment to post. (See, we can do snatches of West Coast too.)

Expect yammering about media and long-fingered thought pieces. You've been warned. You might get the same from other regional bloggers attending.

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Theocratic Last Gasp?

Following yesterday's anti-gay, anti-SSM theater by our Governor and the local Archbishop, it's a good time to ask what the next Governor and the next Attorney General will do when faced with shameless theocrats.

It is tempting to dismiss Romney (hasn't that always been the case?) because he is using Sean O'Malley and the VoteonMarriage folk to advance his POTUS aspirations. On the other hand, for crying out loud in a bucket, he is the sitting governor. He is influential because of his position, as we saw too clearly when he and Tom Reilly danced in step to dust off and apply those 1913 laws to thwart SSM for out-of-state couples.

So yesterday, we saw two Boomer politicians, Romney and O'Malley, trying to justify a spot of theocracy. They can mutter democracy all they choose, but we hear God's law. They simply would have one religious group impose its religious preference and belief on civil law and procedures.

There are damned good reasons both our commonwealth's and nation's constitutions and Bill of Rights forbid this. Where are our chief executive and head legal officer to come heavy and stop this? One is a shameless seeker after power and the other lacks courage of conviction.

You can be very sure that the Catholic hierarchy and the clergy who want to create public policy and law that mirror their religious beliefs would be appalled if the situation were reversed. Let us assume the opposite absurdity, that the government would require them to perform same-sex marriage. That would be unacceptable to them, to us, to MassEquality and on an on.

So, why do our Governor and Attorney General abet the theocrats? That is so cowardly and dishonest to try to hide behind a gauzy veil of alleged democracy.

This should be a campaign issue. More than asking where the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state stand on SSM, let us ask where the come down on theocracy. Do they believe in a clear separation of church and state? Would they ever justify changing policy and law to reflect some church's views?

We have seen what happens when there is a lack of understanding and courage at top. Let's make sure the next team is better, wiser, and more in favor of equality.

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Herald Slurs Rabbi

A double tip of the toupee to Alfredo for drawing our attention to the Boston Herald's inattention. Their recap of yesterday's religious grandstanding lumped a very pro-SSM rabbi with the O'Malley/Romney axis of imposing narrow religious views on civil contract law.

The picture they used had the cutline:
Rabbi Daniel Judson (reform jewish) of Temple Beth David in Canton speaks to media against gay marriage.
Not only are reform rabbis not about imposing religion on whole cultures, Rabbi Judson is in favor of equality in general and same-sex marriage rights in particular.

I also suspect that he'd rather see Reform Jewish than reform jewish too. I've never seen the Herald cite the roman catholic church.

Afredo cites the temple's Website bio of the rabbi, including:
Rabbi Judson has a passionate commitment to social justice work which he shares with the congregation. In 2005, Rabbi Judson was presented the Signer's Award at the Massachusetts State House from the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, for his efforts to ensure the right to marry for gays and lesbians. He organized 100 Rabbis to sign an ad in the Boston Globe in support of gay and lesbian marriage. While a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College he served as the director for three years of the HUC Soup Kitchen which serves 200 meals a week to New York City's hungry and homeless. He is proud of the social justice work that the Temple has undertaken during his tenure, especially the work done with United Homes, a shelter in Dorchester for homeless men.

Update: As Ron noted (see comments), the Herald corrected its boner.
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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pro-Plebiscite Globe Filing

Another Scott Helman editorial disguised as news appeared today after Gov. Romney's I'm-with-them press conference on the anti-SSM amendment. A journalism student would have a fun content-analysis exercise with it.

As one might expect from a political blog, we write partisan posts here. Having come out of j-school myself, I would expect rather more objective coverage in a major daily.

Regardless, the gist of the dais drama was:
  1. Romney joined by three Catholic Bishops and two anti-SSM petition-drive leaders.
  2. Romney and Cardinal O'Malley saying that the amendment should go through two ConCon sessions to the 2008 general election.
  3. Romney saying that having the majority vote on rights for a minority is only democracy, not discrimination.
Now consider Helman's hair-on-fire reporting:
  • The two remaining Bishops become "and a phalanx of religious figures." With that loaded term is the implication of both number and strength.
  • Trying to influence the legislators in a Catholic commonwealth is not called political maneuvering or anything like it. However, he says that SSM "supporters on Beacon Hill will devise a tactic to prevent the measure from even coming up for debate." This, he writes, has "Romney and the religious leaders...clearly concerned..." So there you have one side's tactics as reasonable defense against sneaky tactics.
  • Likewise, without listing the actual "tactic", he concludes that if the ConCon votes on the Goguen/Travis anti-SSM bill first, rejects it and calls it a convention, "Such an outcome could abruptly end the long and active campaign to put the ban to voters in 2008." Here, he is buying into Romney assertion that 1) a plebiscite should define minority rights, and 2) that by implication noble and hardworking anti-SSM forces have labored mightily to serve the public, while those rascal pro-SSM people are anti-democracy.
  • Helman goes on with "The fears of Romney and other gay-marriage opponents may be well founded: Adovcates for same-sex marriage say they'll do whatever it takes to make sure the amendment dies." Here again, despite the scandalous petition drive, he would paint the pro-SSM forces as somehow manipulative and dishonorable in following the political rules that will benefit them.
It is astonishing in such a short piece how plainly Helman overplays his hand and shows his emotional reportage. If the guy believes in ballot initiatives that strongly, he should write an op-ed for the Globe. If he is so anti-SSM, he should refuse to cover the issue as news.

We looked over past Helman reports on the subject and see similar bias. This is by far the most heavy-handed. Yet, we wonder where were his editors when this stuff slithered through?

Heartening Update: An hour after Helman's piece, the Globe ran real reporting listed under AP's Steve LeBlanc byline. If you would like to see a balanced view, try his article.

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Wee, Wee Willy Romney

Alas, Mitt Romney, someone took your spine.

Today's press conference to align himself with the doomed anti-same-sex-marriage amendment was worse than original projections. Our sniveling governor pulled the worst possible ploy in pretending to favor the amendment -- before he skips away without looking back at its failure.

With the Fabulous Bishops as his backup group, Romney claimed that having the majority vote on the rights of a minority was the essence of democracy. That hasn't worked since ancient Athens and has a disgraceful U.S. history.

Speaking from his office, he said:
Our elected representatives in the legislature will soon hold a historic vote. It regards the institution of marriage.

But it will not be a vote for or against same sex marriage.

No, it will be a vote for or against democracy.

The people here today have followed the law, followed the process established in the Constitution, and gathered an astounding 170,000 signatures. Their effort means that the people, the citizens, will be free to choose how marriage is defined in Massachusetts.

This is democracy pure and simple.

Shades of Strom Thurmond and George Wallace! That man has neither shame nor morality.

The accompanying press release is at least temporarily at the top of Romney's page. Amusingly enough, he can't even be honest and honorable with this. For instance, it claims that he appeared "today with a broad array of religious, civic and political leaders" while he actually had three Catholic Bishops and the two heads of the Mass Family Institute/VoteonMarriage organization. Oh, a couple of legislators too.

Archbishop Sean O'Malley looked like the bored busboy waiting to clear the table. He too did the munging of church and state into some bastarized call for democracy, when he meant discrimination. O'Malley's quote included, "The debate over the meaning of marriage should not be limited to government officials. The magnitude of the issue calls for full participation by the citizens of the Commonwealth. We urge our legislators to let the people exercise their right to vote."

There is this representative democracy thingummy that they should have learned in civics class. Ohio-born O'Malley can't claim a bye on that one either. Abusers of ballot initiatives have overplayed this hand too many times and here we go again.

There were slurs of "unelected judges" from Rev. Roberto Miranda of VoteonMarriage. Yet the hypocrisy prize goes to the Mitt man himself, with jive like:
Is there anything more fundamental to this Commonwealth and this country than the principle that power is reserved to the people, that government is the servant, not the master? We ask for one thing: the constitutionally prescribed vote of the legislature. Let the people speak.
So there you have it. Our highest elected official is delighted to try to subvert the process and join the Bishops in appealing to the basest of human feelings, the desire to deprive others of rights.

Romney's leaving town long before this process finishes unless the amendment goes down in two weeks. He's using the anti-SSM forces and will let Mineau and O'Malley and their chums to simmer in their own fetid stew.

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Mitt Eats Toads Today

Our still-not-illustrious governor, Williard Mitt Romney, will try to distance himself from his inaction on same-sex marriage yet again today. He stands with some of the worst of the forces pushing the anti-SSM amendment at a press conference.

Short coverage from the Herald is here and from the Globe is here.

Two weeks before the ConCon to consider the amendment to stop SSM, Romney will stand with the likes of Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, whose arm has gotten this amendment to the ConCon.Brylcreem ad

Romney has been courting the most conservative voters in early Presidential primary states like South Carolina. One of his image issues has been to separate himself from his wishy-washy non-leadership on SSM when it was discussed and then mandated here. He was no enemy of SSM here and his inertia combined with the inaction by the General Court forced the Supreme Judicial Court to act first.

Now his position concentrates on the matter at hand. He is recently wont to say as Mineau puts it, "Gov. Mitt Romney has supported this amendment from the moment of its origination.
" Of course, his detractors note the sheer politicial expedience of his suddenly coming down the aisle speaking in tongues on this issue. Halelujah! Mitt's been saved!

An amusing angle is that Romney is out of here at the end of the year. The amendment appears to be doomed, either at this ConCon or the 2007 one. Under the remote chance that it gets on the ballot in 2008, it will most certainly lose big in a state that has long moved beyond this issue. Yet, our Cap'n Brylcreem doesn't care. He doesn't have to -- he's a candidate.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

MBTA Victim ID'ed

The MBTA has released the name and town of the man who died yesterday morning when hit on the Orange Line tracks at Green Street.

According to the news brief, he was 33-year-old William Mufkodauz of Quincy.

So far, there is nothing about him and no word about why he was on the tracks.

A quick Web search on that name and spelling had no results. A phone search for that last name came up empty too.

Note: The previous Globe version of this story had been updated to read that he did not have idenification on him.

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Cardinal Smackdown? Oh, Sure.

Not even we pinkos are above political theater. Today's is preparation for the July 12th ConCon that will consider same-sex marriage -- one way or another.

The Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry called on the four local Roman Catholic Bishops to lighten up, love down, be reasonable, show compassion, and develop spiritually. In other words, make like Jesus. The group has about 600 members, mostly clergy of various faiths.

The call is for Archbishop Sean O'Malley to lead his guys to stop campaigning to halt same-sex marriage. Oh, yeah, an appeal to reason. That'll work, eh?

They'll announce their call at a press conference today. According to a Boston Globe article, Methodist minister member, Rev. Tiffany Steinwert, makes it plain. "We respect the Roman Catholic Church's desire to speak in a public forum about this, but it has come to a point where their advocacy about same-sex marriage has come to impinge on our own religious practices, because not everyone believes same-sex marriage is wrong or sinful or against religious beliefs. What happens when the Roman Catholic Church seeks to create public policy based on their religious beliefs is that they negate other religious beliefs that might be contrary to that."

The head of the Coalition, Episcopal priest Rev Anne C. Fowler, notes, "Who are the religious voices who get heard? It's the religious right, and around here it's the Catholic Church. So here is the progressive interfaith community trying to take some action."

Given the military-style R.C. hierarchy, the appeal to O'Malley is indeed theater. He's not likely to announce, "Gee, I had it all wrong. I have to tell Pope Benedict to change his mind."

On the other hand, it can't hurt for the members of the General Court to have a reminder before the ConCon that not all religious functionaries are lock-step conservatives.

It could be that given enough input from non-right-wingers there aren't even the 50 of 200 votes to advance the anti-SSM amendment this year. That's iffy.

On the other hand, many legislators know this is a loser and are not eager to associate with it. Many would likely accept a procedural movement, such as voting first on the inane Emil Goguen version that is sure to lose, and then adjourning. There is a delicious justice to the thought that an old homophobe could catalyze such a loss. It is to laugh a Fitchburg laugh.

By the bye, Fowler said that the Coalition reluctantly spoke out after efforts to meet with O'Malley. The heroic Cardinal would not see them.

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Tom Reilly's Flimsy Briefs

I'm not a lawyer and don't play one on the Internet (no matter how tempting). On the other hand, it doesn't take much to see that the GLAD lawyers arguing against applying the 1913 anti-miscegenation laws against Rhode Island same-sex couples seeking to marry here have better stuff than our Attorney General's office.

You can read the briefs in PDF.
The gist of this Suffolk Superior Court fight is whether Rhode Island prohibits same-sex marriage. Absent a one-man/one-woman DOMA-style law, Reilly's people have to reach pretty far. Also, Rhode Island seems to be ready to recognize Massachusetts solemnized SSMs. Its attorney general has already supported a lesbian married couple who work in his state to name each other beneficiary of retirement plans.

Judge Judging: Tip of the toupee to Likes Bikes 2 (comments below) for reminding me to cite the judge, Thomas E. Connolly. He originally ruled against Goodridge et alii, only to be overturned by the Supreme Judicial Court.

The March decision upholding the 1913 laws (Chapter 207, Section 11 and Section 12) said that a lower court could decide per state whether the local laws forbade same-sex marriage. Those laws use wording of marriages "not prohibited" and "void if contracted" in the other states.

In the case, Wendy Becker and Mary Norton visited Attleboro from their home Rhode Island seeking to wed here. The city clerk's office denied their request.

Speaking to reporters, including the Boston Globe, after the hearing, Becker said, "We feel like we have had a very long engagement (18 years) and we're willing to continue to fight so we can eventually get married. We're focused on hopefully getting married in Massachusetts and we really think that is going to happen."

According to the Providence Journal, Norton said, "We feel like the word 'marriage' has a particular meaning of dignity, love and respect. We want that for our families." Becker added,"It's sad that we have to go to court to get married."

GLAD is goingfor the easiest pickings among such states. If they are successful, next on the list are those with spongy marriage laws like D.C. and the News -- Jersey, Mexico and York. Those are also areas without strong reactionary voter populations in a huff about same-sex marriage.

Because this is a single judge, the finding should be within six weeks and as short as two. Then whether the commonwealth would appeal a loss likely depends on the wording of the finding. Because the Supreme Judicial Court adjudged that the lower court could decide, this could well be the end of it.

For Rhode Island, the briefs are telling and very different. Read them for detail; they are short at 10 pages for the commonwealth and 18 for GLAD. Assistant Attorney General Peter Sacks got stuck with presenting the commonwealth's case.

The short version of the legalese is that the commonwealth's case rests on inference not explicit law. For its lead example, it cites gender wording in state law, but nothing that prohibits homosexual couples coupling. Rhode Island law and forms list "bride and groom" wording here and there. Reilly's brief argument leads with the example:

Rhode Island’s marriage licensing law requires as follows:
Persons intending to be joined together in marriage in this state must first obtain a license from the clerk of the town or city in which:
  1. The female party to the proposed marriage resides; or in the city or town in which
  2. The male party resides, if the female party is a nonresident of this state; or in the city or town in which
  3. The proposed marriage is to be performed, if both parties are nonresidents of this state.
That may be clear that the 18th Century locals hadn't considered SSM yet, but there is nary a prohibition there. Connolly might rule for a "common sense" view instead of the strict legal one he is supposed to take. Then again, he was battered by the SJC over his Goodridge ruling.

In contrast, the GLAD case burrows down into the March SJC ruling on the 1913 laws. It points out that the majority of justices in their opinions specifically rejected general Rhode-Island-style gender ruling as law.

The GLAD brief offers very specific arguments based both on Rhode Island law and the SJC case why there is no prohibition there. Apparently as attention getters to the Superior Court here, it cites SJC justices' opinions and definitions of what would constitute such a prohibition. It concludes that "Gendered-Statutes Are Not the Same As Statutes that Expressly “Prohibit” Marriage for Same-Sex Couples" and backs that up with considerably more detail and law than the commonwealth's tepid conclusion.

GLAD also differentiates Rhode Island and Vermont laws. To get around its conflict between no gender discrimination and the DOMA-style marriage laws, Vermont turned to civil unions. Rhode Island does not have the anti-SSM wording and is not comparable.

In short, GLAD has impressive answers for everything the commonwealth avers. In truth, that is not difficult.

Unless the judge here is wary of Tom Reilly and Mitt Romney, smart money is on a finding for GLAD.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

GLAD Plays the Rhode Island Card

As we type, GLAD and Tom Reilly (or his minion) should be arguing yet again those dreadful 1913 Massachusetts laws forbidding marrying couples who home states would not solemnize the same wedding. This time, it has the legal wrinkle of Rhode Island.

Before the Suffolk Superior Court, GLAD holds for Wendy Becker and Mary Norton that Rhode Island does not forbid their marriage. So, they should not be denied that right here.

GLAD argues today that according to the Supreme Judicial Court’s March ruling in the case, couples from Rhode Island should be able to marry immediately in the Commonwealth.

We'll comment after the arguments. Meanwhile:
Both links to briefs open small PDF file.

Note that Reilly and Gov. Willard M. Romney support the 1913 laws. They also downplay that these became law to support states that did not allow interracial marriage. We hold that the legislature should remove these posthaste.

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Big Town Trouble on the Tracks

Seemingly a suburban phenomenon, death on the MBTA tracks makes commuters reflect. That was Green Street on the Orange Line this morning. I saw neither blood nor corpse -- I was biking.

The potential for accidental, criminal or suicidal subway or trolley collisions are in Boston hundreds of thousands of times a weekday. Yet the inattentive, dull-witted or crazy events are more likely to happen in Natick or Beverly at commuter-rail crossings or tracks. The drunk lying on the line, the iPod-wearing teen struck from behind, the SUV-deluded hausfrau trying to sneak around a crossing arm, and of course, the ever popular despondent business failure are best suited to theater on long runs of rail.

Today though, I was at sixes and sevens myself. The insidious rain saturated my bike, clothes, road shoes and gloves Friday. I was aware of drizzle throughout the night. I woke wondering whether I took the 30% forecast of rain as a sunny day and accepted the muddy, filthy road track up my back (no fenders). That was a yes at 6:40 a.m.

The alternative was a 15-minute walk to Forest Hills $1.25 Charlie and a walk into South Boston from Downtown Crossing. Bike good. Subway only okay.

When I pedaled the nearly two miles to Green Street, I figured it was a body. Perhaps five city police cruisers, two or three MBTA ones and an ambulance filled Green Street in front of the station, and in typical city cop fashion, straddled all available sidewalk and bike-path space. [Safety? We don't need no stinkin' public safety. We're cops.]

Cyclists could just barely maneuver the crack between cruisers. Amory Street is not a viable option. It has been stripped for paving for over a week, and is a field of tire-cutting ridges and broken glass.

So the dueling thoughts played on the way to work. Someone was likely dead in the station, and yet, I had made the right decision to bike.

At work, the Net had sketchy mentions. The Globe was the lightest. It reported at the top of
MBTA ALERT: Orange Line passengers are being bused in both directions between Forest Hills and Ruggles stations, due to an incident at the Green Street station.
In a half-hour, this became:
MBTA ALERT: Orange Line travel is delayed in both directions due to a previous operational problem. reported that there was a body found on the tracks. The other stations didn't cover it.

Apparently the Globe runs what they're told. The MBTA reported only:
Due to previous operational difficulties, the Orange Line is now running with moderate delays in both directions.
So perhaps it is something more benign. Someone stumbled and broke a bone. All trains stopped until it cleared.

Only a week or so ago, I left the building at the same time as the FedEx guy picking up. He looked at the bike and said how dangerous it must be to cycle in town.

Well, it can be, but he has a much higher chance of getting in a wreck -- albeit with a lot more metal protecting him -- than I. You also have to wonder about slipping by the track or getting shoved or any of a number of other paranoid possibilities.

Or maybe you just go about your business.

I know I'll have to check to see when the local Websites bother to get and put out the story. I'll add the outcome.

What would Perry White do? Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the century with cell phones, TV, radio, the Internet, and an allegedly highly competitive mass media. So, there's a body on the Orange Line tracks, a dozen or so cops and a couple of EMTs handling it. Yet, in Internet time, we have squat. Didn't newspapers and broadcast used to race to news scenes to get the proverbial scoop? Didn't the Herald used to have great police reporting? When did the major daily rely on the there's-nothing-to-see-here MBTA office? After the initial newsflashes, aren't the media going to clarify their extreme teasers? Where are Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen when you need them?

Unfortunate Update: It was in fact death underground. Four and one-half hours later, the Globe covers it here. Apparently some unidentified guy was walking on the tracks for an unknown reason and a Northbound Orange Line train stuck and killed him. Witnesses said he walked off the platform and onto the tracks, going about 200 feet. He may have died from being thrown on the electrified third rail. The MBTA closed the line until 8:20 and will test the driver for drugs, as required by policy and regulations.

That's grim enough. Note that the MBTA site reads only, "All Orange Line service is on or near schedule." Move along. Move along.

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Parade Saves the Planet!

Beachfront property -- in my lifetime...I should certainly look forward to that, particularly if I don't have to move. Here we are at the top of a small hill at the very Southern end of Jamaica Plain. Our tiny lawn towers 64 feet above sea level.

So the polar caps and glaciers are melting. The sea around here could easily rise 20 to 25 feet.

Yet, as much as I love ocean swimming and beachcombing, I would pass up this one chance to transport my house almost magically to the brine. Hyde Park Avenue is my boat launch!

All that it would require would be the continued inertia of the one country -- as in this one -- that could make all the difference in global warming. If we instead believe George the Lesser and conservative entertainers -- Limbaugh, Coulter, Cheney and their running dogs, the trainloads of data and science over the past 60 years are wrong, all wrong. We need only skip and jump our way to an ever brightening future.

Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is both the adjective and noun. We recently saw it as family. I must confess that the four of us found the preponderance of scientific evidence more convincing than the Bush administration's never-mind dismissals.

I find myself halfway to that JP beach, when Parade chimes in. Today's hugely circulated Sunday supplement, features the topic in the cover story How Climate Change Affects You Right Now: A Special Report.

Now suddenly, we are in danger of exposing the public to truth and knowledge. If Newsweek and Fox News join Parade, the masses will ask embarrassing questions. When one of this unholy triumvirate grabs and issue, Oprah can't be far behind and even sugar-coated Republican lies turn bitter.

Both Parade and our chum Uncle have some lifestyle changes we can all do. Yet, how much easier it would be to pretend, as Newsweek and our own local dodo columnist Jeff Jacoby have a long history of doing. No, come to think of it, it really isn't much easier.

We have failing car companies telling us that it would be too demanding to require them to produce cars that get more than 30 miles per gallon. That alone would have the largest impact on both global warming and foreign petro consumption. Immediately this leads to an embarrassing set of questions, including, how is it that the major foreign car companies have all done this already, and why are the two U.S. companies who refuse the only ones who are going bankrupt while the overseas competitors are thriving? Think. Think. Think.

To An Inconvenient Truth, I must agree with Uncle that it is a call to quite achievable action and not a moment of hopelessness. It does highlight what John Stewart calls on his The Daily Show the views of a "fringe group of radical liberals, known as 'scientists.'"

Daily Show Note: The above like pops up the video. If you block pop-ups, go to the main site, to the Daily Show videos and then play CO2 No Evil.

It looks like I lose my Cape Cod Northwest beach below Forest Hills. When the mainstream, monosyllabic mags get behind something, it's pop culture and unstoppable.

The good news for the arch-conservative deniers is that they get an out. They can turn from non-scientific pretext to condescension. They can suddenly claim, "Well, just in case there is anything to this hysteria, we can try these remedies. They probably won't hurt anything.

Thank you, Parade. I'll hold off buying the surfboard.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Slaps and a Hug for Mad Dad

Predictable criticism and a surprising and touching outreach followed the latest lunacy of Lexington's Mad Dad.

The Lexington locals don't seem to like odor that rubs off on their tony town from the sensational posturing of the Parkers and their MassResistance/Article8 chums. You can check out the letters to the editor of the Lexington Minuteman in the June 22nd issue. The four are all in favor of common sense and tolerance and against the made up storm.

On the other hand, over at Bay Windows, Editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar, tries to soothe his febrile brow. She details their many commonalities as parents.

She also offers solid advice -- "start putting your children first."

She cuts him a terrific amount of slack, including:
Your passion for your sons is admirable. You don’t want them exposed to ideas that you think would be harmful to them. You’ve had heated exchanges with school officials about their education. You’ve engaged in civil disobedience to make your point. And you’ve filed a federal lawsuit to drive that point home.

But this month you let Brian Camenker, a fringe anti-gay activist, publish lies on his website about a playground incident your eldest son was involved in. You let Brian publish your son’s name. And you yourself have made claims about the school yard scuffle that both your son and his friends know to be untrue.

Then she writes in terms all of us parents should be able to understand:
David, I am urging you, with all sincerity, to rethink your actions and your words. You can hold whatever opinion you want about gay people and our desire to marry and raise children. But don’t let your deeply held beliefs about families like mine cloud the way you raise yours.

I bet you can’t believe that your oldest son is already a first-grader and that your youngest is in kindergarten. They’re going to be teenagers before you know it. Don’t squander this precious time with them. Stop using them as props in your political activism. Start putting them first.

Many workaholic parents have realized their non-familial activities hinder and mar their kids. Some have learned to do what is important for everyone and right for their kids. Likewise, maybe the Mad Dad can pray on those Susan's thoughts for him and his children.

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Riling the Gray Hairs

Physically 70 may be the new 50, but mentally -- and politically -- 70 is still 70. In Rolling Stone, an insightful analysis of the effects of the current same-sex marriage sleaze fest cites scared seniors as targets.

The political writer there, Tim Dickinson, does a nice recap of things well and not so well known. He also concludes that "The gay-marriage issue also plays well with seniors, whose turnout could be crucial in dozens of House races."

He quotes Dem pollster Anna Greenberg as figuring that this group could be pivotal this time. "Normally, you have 15 competitive House races -- tops. Now it could be as many as 50. We're seeing competitive numbers in districts that haven't been competitive in a decade. The GOP has a sense of urgency about maintaining these seats -- and without the energy of the base, Rove can't hope to reproduce the amazing turnout of 2002 and 2004."

On the other hand, the level of the seniors' schadenfreude is in question. The WWII crowd proved itself both anti-black rights and anti-gay rights in their turns. Many of that group are dead and the degree of the Korean War (the entitlement generation) one's bigotry is less clear.

The article figures, "If seniors turn out to oppose gay marriage, strategists say, it could tip House races to Republicans in central Pennsylvania, rural Ohio and Kentucky, and exurban districts in Indiana." Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report says anti-SSM plays well outside of major metro areas. Yet, he thinks the time has passed to play this card effectively. "My sense was that issue was uniquely situated for 2004. You had the court decision in Massachusetts legalizing gay marriage, then you had Mayor Newsom in San Francisco. One year earlier or one year later, it wouldn't have been as big an issue as it was right then."

As long as they can milk this though, Republicans are returning to the teats of the hate cow. The consensus across all political lines is that the anti-gay and anti-SSM battles have been lost. The critical mass of self-outed gays and the zero-negative-consequences of gay marriages and civil unions have dramatically moved the nation's culture.

We are left to wonder whether there is one more twitch of this dying beast's tail. Will the Republicans benefit one more time from this particular scare tactic? It could make the difference in control of Congress and the legislative agenda.

At the least, we can hope that the silver hairs are less vindictive and conservative than their older siblings.

Historical Note: The Rolling Stone piece traces the shift from conservative politicians race baiting to gay baiting to Jesse Helms' 1984 Senate campaign. Good background here.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Teddy's Windmills

For crying out loud in a bucket, as my mother was wont to exclaim, surely there is no connection between an offshore windmill farm and that federal amendment effort to ban same-sex marriage? Damned right there is! The link is at once scary, complex and amusing.

At a time when the sitting President is actively grabbing power and undermining our separation of powers on which our government relies, each of these issues strikes at states' rights from different angles. What for decades we ascribed to long-serving, archly conservative Southern governors and legislators is suddenly a D.C. and Massachusetts concern.

Yesterday, the leaders of both federal houses compromised on the Nantucket Sound wind farm. The essential factor is that our U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy dropped his demand that our Governor Williard Mitt Romney have veto power over the project. Instead, the head of the U.S. Coast Guard has approval rights, and rights based on navigational safety concerns. The sense is that the wind farm is as good as built.

As the Boston Herald version notes, it was two leaders of the Senate Energy Committee who forced the compromise. They "threatened to oppose final passage of the funding bill unless roadblocks to the 400 megawatt wind project were removed. " Chairman of the committee, New Mexico Republican Pete Dominici, said of the agreement, "The governor veto is gone and the Coast Guard is only allowed to address navigational safety concerns."

This is a huge concession for a coastal state. As the Washington Post quotes a gleeful industry leader. "This is a seismic shift in a 25-year-old policy that . . . was reinstated every year (since 1981) with little or no debate," said Jack Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council.

The complex irony cannot be overstated. A leftwing Democratic Senator wanted to keep the power in his state that he aligned with the very silly, allegedly conservative Republican Governor against the project. The concept circled the vortex of states' rights. Even though the wind farm would be four or five miles offshore -- in federal, not commonwealth waters, Kennedy wanted the traditional approval power to live in Boston, not Washington.

He initially very much opposed the Cape Wind project, all the while claiming incredibly that it was not a NIMBY issue. Now, according to a recap in the Boston Globe, he has set the tone for all the other backpedalers including himself. "We've always been concerned about issues of safety," he now claims. "The Cape Wind project has been moving forward irresponsibly, before any safety rules for such large off-shore developments have been established."

Of course, it's true that the Cape Wind folk did get in before there were a lot of new regulations. That was smart and pioneering in the American tradition. Wanting to punish them after the fact and try to apply procedures and rules instituted retroactively is both stupid and un-American, but hey, Kennedy tried.

When it became plain that other U.S. legislators in both houses didn't buy the Romney-veto thing, Kennedy suddenly got the safety religion and did what experienced Senators do best, compromise. The result isn't a direct gift to George Bush the Lesser, but it does transfer federal power for an offshore project away from the affected, abutting state.

As another Post article puts it, "It considerably strengthens the role of the Coast Guard," said R.S. Rep. William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat and former opponent of the project. He added that he expect Congressional action on it as part of the Coast Guard bill before the July Fourth recess.

Meanwhile, the recent failure of the anti-same-sex-marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution represents the opposite side of states' rights. Most observers judged that the amendment has no chance of passing and is just another scare tactic to get the most simple-minded self-identified-conservative voters to the polls in November.

However, its dark side is that Bush would propose legislation that would for the first time ever, move the purely per-state power to regulate marriage within its borders. This anti-states' rights ploy riled many Republican legislators, even those who don't fight Bush's policies of spying on citizens.

There can be no compromise on the amendment and states' rights. In itself, it would permanently set the precedent of the powers states reserve. This was the biggest debate as we initially formed this nation and defined the Constitution. The kindest thing you can say about this Bush effort, it that it is overreaching.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Crime Fighters and Punishment, or Not

We want cops around when we want them around -- when the burglars are trying to break in the back door. We don't want them around at other times -- when we drift through a stop sign.

So, we cut our police officers slack, a lot of slack, sometimes too much. Judges and juries tend to believe their testimony above even multiple witnesses. After all, these men and women are there to protect each of us. They are literally targets for the bad guys and some die every year on duty.

So, why would Boston City Councilors propose a civilian review board to judge alleged offenses -- brutality, bribery, perjury, et alii? Could it possibly be that the existing system, intimidated by the detective and patrol cop unions (or union-like associations), is too lenient on too many?

One Example

Forget the nebulous ones, those infamous he said/he said deals where a petty criminal charges that a beat officer shook him down for protection money, one on one. Let's look at one high-profile case from 20 years ago, one that illustrates many of the key issues.

Source Notes: There's a little free background on this case. For details, though, you need a Boston Globe account or to pay for the access, or a trip to the library. In the archive, search for Long Kuang Huang. Check 8/22/85, Huang Witness: Woman Yelled 'That's Not Him,' 8/23/85, Defense Witnesses Describe Chinatown Beating, 8/24/85, Judge Rules Huang is Innocent. Detective Kelly Suspended with Pay, 5/5/88, Critics Blast Roache for Decision Not to Fight for Officer's Suspension, 5/15/88 ,'I Really Felt Like I was Railroaded' Boston Detective Speaks Out on Huang Case, and 7/15/89, 2-Way Settlement Ends Police Suit 1985. Brutality Charges Dropped.

I attended the hearings. As a disclaimer, I also know Long Kuang Huang's civil-suit attorney, Barbara Arnwine, casually and socially -- good friend of a good friend. I did not discusss this case with her for this post.

Key events include:
  • On May 1st, 1985, plainclothes Detective Francis G. (Frank) Kelly arrested Huang on the charge of soliciting a prostitute.
  • Every witness including the prostitute said that Kelly picked the wrong man and punched the much smaller, lighter man repeatedly, all without identifying himself.
  • To its credit, the BPD brought him up on a hearing for using excessive force, conduct unbecoming an officer and filing false reports.
  • Despite much theater from Kelly's attorney, the late and very dramatic Thomas C. Troy, the witnesses held firm and it was pretty obvious that Kelly was continuing to lie about the incident.
  • Huang was found innocent of all charges.
  • The Police Superintendent at the time, John Gifford, recommended and the commonwealth's Civil Service Commission approved a one-year suspension without pay for Kelly.
  • Kelly got Municipal Court Judge Theodore S. Bakas to overturn the suspension.
  • BP Commissioner Francis (Mickey) Roache did not fight the decision, infuriating many Asian Bostonians and civil rights advocates.
  • The Supreme Judicial Court reversed that decision.
  • Flying lawsuits -- Huang for civil rights and Kelly for lost wages and legal fees -- ended in an ignominious, weasel settlement. For reasons only the Devil could understand, Kelly got $40,000 in wages, $55,000 in fees and $20,000 just because. Huang of the broken face got $85,000. Kelly, who remained on the force dropped a $1 million civil-rights suit against the BPD.

Personal Responsibility

Perhaps what fascinates most about this case is that even when under the spotlight of truth, Kelly continued to claim that he was in the right and was in fact the victim. "If I really felt it was Frank Kelly they were after, I'd feel bad," he said. "But it could have been any other police officer. This was an incident in which a group of people needed a cause. I became their vehicle."

He did, in fact, get a one-year suspension, initially. That is extraordinarily stiff for the BPD to request. It illustrates both Kelly's offenses and how it affected the public.

Following the case and attending the multi-day hearing, I have a very different perception from Kelly. The most obvious is how Kelly's testimony so fit the stereotype of any other criminal. He denied committing the crime. He testified contrary to the many witnesses. When found culpable, he claimed both innocence and persecution.

From the folding chairs, I recall strongly how incredulous I was at his testimony. Other than his rank and name, he may not have said a single true thing. He was no one's ideal of a police officer. I was not at all surprised that the hearing officers found him responsible.

At the very least, he needed retraining and a unified front in the BPD to let him know that assaulting innocent civilians and then lying about it were wrong. Officers who don't get those concepts should not be carrying guns and badges.

It is notable that both Roache and then Mayor Ray Flynn seemed to agree. They visited Huang and apologized. They wanted Kelly punished.

Different Rules?

Yet our oversight system here is not set up for that, unlike in many U.S. cities. It is like courts martial in that there are many escape hatches and much recourse for appeal built into the system, no matter how egregious the offense or obvious the guilt.

If one of us picked someone a foot shorter and 100 pounds light, pummeled him in the face in front of multiple witnesses, and lied about it on paper and on the witness stand, how likely would it be that we ended up being handed $115,000?

The current system protects wrongly accused officers and guilty ones equally. The penalties for all but the worst offenses, and of those only the ones proven without any question, are extraordinarily light.

Disgraced officers who should be canned may well get a 30-day or 45-day suspension, maybe with pay, in the end. Even here, they might continue to appeal these.

Is it any wonder that some in the BPD and many civilians call for meaningful oversight?

See Also: Who Polices Our Cops and Good Cop/Bad Cop: Says Who?

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who Polices Our Cops?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? — Juvenal from On Women

The question from the Roman poet and satirist about 1,000 years ago is seminal. Human nature being, well, human, we invariably look to outside oversight of those in any position of power.

Yet, police officers are second perhaps only to our current President in claiming that they neither want nor need nor accept external review. In one U.S. city after another, they have lost that battle...and for many good reasons.

City Councilor Felix Arroyo opened the long sealed vault of responsibility yet again, calling for a civilian review board (CRB). Mightily our blue boys shall lament!

Their claims of effective self-policing fade on examination. Perhaps no case is as clear and powerful to many in the public as the death of 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove. One officer was demoted and the maximum penalty for others was a 45-day suspension. There were no prosecutions for her death. The city settled with her family for $5.1 million.

Keep that 45-day suspension in mind. It is what the local police think is extreme punishment for their own. That has to change and they are not likely to do it on their own.

Consider for one article, an analysis by the Boston Globe of 116 cases from January 1, 2002 through September 22, 2005. These were the serious offenses, "including assaulting civilians, lying in police reports, falsifying evidence, or abusing drugs or alcohol. In 79 of those cases, punishments were negotiated with the officers. Of the 110 officers, dispatchers, and civilian personnel cited in the 116 cases, 86 were still in their jobs at the end of last year, according to payroll records."

Physical assaulting civilions or domestic assault. In the 19 cases that the BD found the officers committed the crimes, 13 got 45-day suspensions or less, 3 got longer ones, 2 lost their jobs, and 1 resigned.

False reports or investigative misconduct. Of the 35 deemed guilty, 27 got anything from a reprimand to 45-day suspension, 4 got longer suspensions, 3 were fired, and 1 retired (without punishment).

And so it goes. The whole article is a bit shocking, but good background.

Other cities have much stricter policies and many more rules requiring dismissal. Yet, here the spokes-officers won't yield. As the head of the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation, Lt. Joseph G. Gillespie, put it, "In my experience, punishment, if it has gone in any direction, has been too severe." Likewise, President of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, Detective Robert Kenny, pulled the old he said/she said wheeze and noted that criminals are among the complainants.

Indeed, if these are the attitude, who will guard the guardians?

Here, the police commissioner could institute stricter rules, in line with other major cities. That might be a tougher fight than starting a CRB. It would surely mean a legal battle. Likewise, the Council can drive for a CRB, another fight. Alternately, an auditor system (future post) is a possibility.

Unfortunately for the police here, they have boxed themselves in with over a century of non-punishments, blaming the victims, and keeping the rotten apples in the barrel.

Our current mayor won't lead this fight or even support it. He has proffered an asthenic police-reviewing-police system.

In theory, the leadership of the various police unions and associations should step up and clean house themselves. That would be the one proof that they were capable of monitoring their own. It would show that as a group, they have as much common sense as arrogance.

Don't hold your breath.

See Also: Crime Fighters and Punishment, or Not and Good Cop/Bad Cop: Says Who?

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Putting the Ass in Massachusetts

Picture this: the disgraced hate mongers in Lexington admitting that they were wrong and apologizing for claiming a scuffle between two 7-year-olds over a cafeteria seat was a premeditated, politically-based, parent-incited assault.

Well, I hope you have a good imagination, because it did not happen and is not likely.

The original, high-lunacy hysteria was well covered by MassResistanceWatch here, here and here. I'm tired of these people, but if you have the stomach, you can read their plainly dishonest and wild claims here.

Update: MRW has a followup.

This may finally have ended any conceivable credibility they have, even as two of the parents are trying to go forward with a doomed lawsuit. It's not going to help that their kid is a sandwich board that they put on public display for false charges. The other children, the teachers and aides, the investigating school authorities all concluded that one boy hit the other three or so times in a turf battle over who sits where in the cafeteria.

It was done for the kids, but not for the crazies.

So, it has apparently gone so far as to have Article8 folk coming into the elementary school library, pulling old local newspapers about the Mad Dad arrest, putting these on a table, taking pictures of them, and then claiming that the school officials use them to incite other 7-year-olds -- that's first graders -- against the poor chair stealer.

Unless something real happens, let's let these loonies sit in their corner and cluck.

I believe it is safe to say, this is time and campaign at which Article8/MassResistance has jumped the shark.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Good Cop/Bad Cop: Says Who?

Except for gnashing of teeth, rending of garments and ritual prophecies of doom for the populace, instituting external oversight on police runs smoothly. Hardy har.

Personal Note: I grew up in a Red Cross family. That meant working fires and other disasters, being the victim in or teaching first-aid and water safety and on and on. Many of my relatives were or are state troopers and we had cops around all the time. I am predisposed both to like police officers and to expect high ethics and performance from them.

Before getting to civilian review boards, auditors and the like, let's consider professional oversight generally. The cry is, "We are essential. We are professional. We can monitor and correct our own." We hear that from physicians, accountants, the armed forces, even pharmaceutical, chemical and food industries.

We also know that this is almost never true. Left to their own, each group will make excuses for its members, cover up breaches and even crimes, and close ranks against outsiders. This has led to the reaction of a nation of governmental and quasi-governmental boards, committees and auditors.

It's true that cops carry guns and badges. They are a bit of judge and jury too -- deciding which laws to enforce and who gets a blind eye, a warning or handcuffs. Yet the principles are the same. Except that because they come to work capable of wounding or killing citizens, they have an extra responsibility.

We'll run a few posts here on the topic. It is warm now and will become increasingly hot as Boston looks for a new police chief, as Mayor Tom Menino tries to leave a legacy from what is surely his last term, and as Team Unity (the City Councilors of color) raises this target up from where it's buried. Bang! Sizzle!

Link note: The following hyperlinks may require a Boston Globe account or purchase. The Globe coverage was in June 7, 2006, editions. Also, the Boston People's Voice is redoing its Website. Nothing has been online.
  • Felix the Bold: Councilor Felix Arroyo re-proposed a civilian review board (CRB), which the vast majority of U.S. cities have and use to great effect.
  • Tom the Timid: I like Menino, but he needs some 'nads on this one. He seems afraid of the police union. He responded to Arroyo with his fingers in his ears and his tongue blubbering. He wants some wishy-washy police review board. He also won't release a CRB-positive report he has on other cities' implementations.
  • Light from the Golden Dome: Over a dozen legislators want a say in the next police-chief selection. Key among their requests is a willingness to bring in and work with a CRB.
Speaking to the Boston People's Voice newspaper, Counilor Jerry McDermott was typical of the regressive forces. He called it a "feel-good measure," adding in George Bush style that we all need to support the police. It was a typical if-you're-not-100%-blindly-for-them-you're-against-them routine. There will likely be much of that coming up, as there has been in other cities that have implimented such CRBs.

Arroyo represents many black and other minority residents. He wants recourse -- one that citizens trust -- to track racial profiling and to respond to claims of police abuse of authority. Likewise Councilor Charles Yancey said, "For as long as I can remember, the public has been crying out for a system of accountability."

Of course, these demands don't materialize out of long evenings drinking and figuring how to devil the cops. There are too many low profile and a few high visibility cases (typically involving young, white citizens) in which seemingly abusive cops have walked away from beating or murdering civilians.

Internal Affairs has a powerful image -- on TV and in the movies -- but has not satisfied the public for a century or more here. Arroyo is saying what a city leader of courage has to say. He'll hear about this and bear the scars. He's used to that.

We'll deal a bit in CRBs and the options in a few future posts. Meanwhile, let it be known, Felix is right in that we need to do something and have for many decades. Expect to hear the bruxism of the victimized officers and the tearing of their threadbare fabric.

See Also: Crime Fighters and Punishment, or Not and Who Polices Our Cops?

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Gabrieli's Loose Lips

Are Chris Gabrieli's accomplishments reflected glory or creeping mold?

Many of his supporters happily buy his assertions that he created over 100,000 in his career as venture capitalist. Today's Globe as a lengthy piece detailing a more critical examination of these claims.

This is not so much the-man-behind-the-curtain exposé as whether he has an honest résumé in his claims. The short answer is that he has a typical politician (and VC) ego. Everything positive he can associate himself with, he says was all him. It's not as bad as a kid skipping stones at the beach and taking credit for the tide, but does require consideration.

Like the rest of his life, his political claims are as much hype as fact. That is not necessarily bad, either. He is after all selling himself first to us voters and then to the legislature and businesses. If 1) most of us buy into his program and 2) he is right that a couple of VC-style fixes can turn our economy around, all is swell. Otherwise, everything goes to hell.

Whether it's Patrick, Reilly or anyone else running, sales is a huge part of the game. Except for the Greens' Grace Ross, all the other performers in this candidate circus are selling all the time. They can learn from Gabrieli, who made a fortune buying into companies at bargain rates and then selling their potential to others much inflated. That has been his business and he apparently has been very good at it.

The article deals with the three main claims that Garbrieli implies will carry over to fixing the commonwealth.

Job creation

Gabby says in the 15-years he was at Bessemer Venture Partners, the firm put $1 billion plus into the economy, with over 100,000 jobs out the other end. Unfortunately, this one is pretty iffy. It seems in the big winners, like Staples, Gabby "to my best memory, was never involved," according to Staples founder Thomas Stemberg. A Bessemer partner mitigates this a bit with a claim that Gabby had some input by phone.

The Globe concludes, "But even if Gabrieli were involved in all the deals he cites, whether he or Bessemer could take credit for their later success is debatable, according to entrepreneurs and specialists."

Pension Funds

A bit of hyperbole seemed to have come here, as one is wont to do on the stump. He used to say that he convinced the treasurer and the commonwealth's pension fund to invest "up to 2%" of its moneys on Massachusetts -- jobs and housing. Somehow in the campaign, in speeches and on his Website, that became an unqualified 2% or $600 million.

Treasurer Tim Cahill talks like the fiscal conservative he's supposed to be. "I don't know what he's referring to. There is no dollar figure attached. The $600 million is obviously more than we're doing and will probably ever be comfortable doing." He noted that he, not Gabrieli, proposed this first, in Cahill's 2002 campaign. Gabby did help by getting consultants McKinsey & Co. to study this at no cost to the commonwealth.

Gabby's spin in an interview when the many differences in what happened appeared was a very positive, "I was involved throughout the process from start to finish, but it was a team effort. I'm incredibly proud of the huge new investment by our pension fund to grow our economy."

Stem-Cell Research

For a long time, the only substance in his campaign was a promise of $1 billion investment to jumpstart stem-cell research here. The idea was that it would do for the economy what mini-computers used to. Newton knows, we have medical pros and research facilities here.

Here, Gabby was directly involved, but to an unknown effect. He spoke with legislators when Gov. Romney threatened to veto portions of the supporting bill to legalize such research (we're not to the funding yet, just enabling the process).

He kicked in $90,000, raised another $96,000, and spent $130,000 of it on media buys. When the bill passed by a veto-proof margin, he declared victory. Legislators don't recall his influence, but they tend to have strong egos as well.

As Senate President Don't-Call-Me-Bobby Travaglini put it, "I wouldn't put him in the critical category, but he was helpful. I never viewed the bill as being in jeopardy, but it was in need of a process of education and familiarization."

Believe It Or Else!

From here, it looks like our VC demigod is pushing it but not faking it entirely. Like any politician or salesman, he is pulled toward exaggeration.

Do you think his shining presence can transform the commonwealth? Do you care that his claims look more like team plays in the light of day?

To the latter, any governor will need to be a team player as well as captain. There are a lot of big, swinging egos involved here. Everyone wants to claim credit for successes and avoid blame for failures. Maybe Gabby can also share honors, although his campaigning so far does not indicate that.

His supporters seem as much true believers as Patrick's. They are likely to riled by the Globe analysis but not dissuaded. Otherwise, Gabby should be glad so few of us read newspapers.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Al Gore and Sam Adams

The Dedham Community Theatre solves issues large and small.

Today, it came through on the heavy conundrum. We went to see Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Word from those who had already seen it was either 1) it is super depressing -- you need coffee and/or alcohol, or 2) it is a call to action -- you need coffee and/or alcohol.

A future post will discuss the brilliant fright flick. Meanwhile, be aware that in that tiny pseudo-downtown Dedham, the theatre has you covered.

First, in case you live in some 'burb, this is the same cinema build in 1927 that features the Museum of Bad Art adjacent to its basement men's room. Even if you don't feel like a flick, this is the one and only, thank God, such gallery. See it and buy the knickknacks.

Today, we pushed against the blue-hair tide. The other feature was the sappy and cutesy Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. That can warm your heart until you throw up, but the 70 somethings adore it.

We brought the 15 and 12-year-olds, got our popcorn, and asked the kids if they wanted a drink. Then we noticed that they have adult drinks there now, like middling wines and Sam Adams lager.

We'll have two Sams, if you please.

Carte Notice: They serve about five beers and four wines. None is remarkable, but it's a better choice than at many low-end restaurants. You can also sit at cafe tables in the theatre lobby and save a sip and chat.

How very civilized. No one's about to abuse alcohol at $5 a pop or pile them on in the movie. However, particularly for something so demanding, how very, very pleasant to sip and soak it up.

Just when you thought Boston was determined to stay provincial, the little surprises can remind you that it is in fact the little things that make us more -- or less -- civilized.

Thank you, Community Theatre, for the MOBA and for putting a touch of sophistication into the routine of us commoners.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Horrors, Could Mad Dad Be Fibbing?

Head over to MassResistanceWatch -- doing what it does best, keeping tabs and clearing the air. The site has the latest updates on the absurd allegations from Article8/MassResistance attributed to the Mad Dad.

It would seem that our anti-gay, anti-same-sex marriage forces don't know their limits. In making allegations that 7-year-olds were inspired to physical violence by liberal sorts, they appear to have overstepped.

Because of the accusations of inaction or worse by school officials as well, the Dark Side may have to backpedal at best. According to the school superintendent, the Lexington police need to see how such accusations arose when the adult and child witnesses have totally different stories from Article8.

It shouldn't be amusing, but every so often, Chicken Little gets called out.

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Tagged: 8 Random Things

Okay, I hear it and I admit, this blog can be too serious. This is another lightness break.

I just discovered that Luke at Apathetic Nation tagged me. Hey, I can do that too.

8 Random Things About Me

  1. I find British cryptic puzzles great recreation.
  2. My deep love of yellow extends to my leather Reebok sneakers.
  3. I believe that studying Greek was fabulous mind training (the same brilliant professor for six semesters didn't hurt).
  4. Machines and I get along just swell.
  5. It is simple for me to go to the fridge or pantry and turn out an elaborate meal from whatever.
  6. It is a sad week when I don't shop the Haymarket.
  7. I am an aggressive cyclist, but a patient, law-abiding driver.
  8. I have three sons, but look and act nothing like Fred MacMurray's Steve Douglas character.
Read 'em and weep or read 'em and laugh or read 'em and yawn.

I tag:

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Bush Mumbles Marriage

Let's go downtown, way downtown below the end of the Freedom Trail, to that distant Boston suburb, Manhattan. Let us muse on same-sex marriage with Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker's main political commentator.

Massachusetts can never be far from the discussion, so long as we are the only state that permits SSM. His nod to our commonwealth is to note, as Ed Holmes made on the Daily Show, that we also have the nation's lowest divorce rate.

Note: The link above opens a Windows Media movie.

Hertzberg quotes Focus on the Family' spokes-hysteric James Dobson, "For more than forty years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family." It's just that irrational and easily disprovable rhetoric that he writes that George Bush is finally easing away from in his own pronouncements.

Even as he says that he supports a Constitutional amendment to define marriage at a federal level and take the right away from the states, Bush, if you pardon, hedges. Hertzberg probably isn't cutting it too finely when he notes that (Bush) "didn't even say that gay marriage, per se, would be a bad thing. He merely said that 'changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure,' though he didn't say why or how."

To Dobson's non-point, marrying, adopting same-sex couples are overladen "scapegoats for the real troubles that afflict American families. In the past forty years, the definition of marriage has indeed been changed, not by any homosexual master plan but by an epidemic of heterosexual divorce."

There are both straights and gays who think marriage is an inane and dehumanizing institution, but Hertzberg is not among them. He agrees with Georgie -- half way. "Marriage is a social good -- Bush is certainly right about that -- but it has become a disposable good."

No matter how many rightwing entertainers or clerics mislead their listeners with talk of queer conspirators, U.S. marriage has foundered for many decades before SSM was even discussed.

For current events, Hertzberg even points to the sky-high divorce rates among our military deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, we don't hear calls from Coulter or demands from Dobson for study, counseling, troop rotation or other efforts to preserve the marriages and families of those we put in peril.

The WWII and Korean War era Americans united in passion and divorced willy-nilly. With zero assistance from SSM, our society seems to be doing its best to produce another generation with little respect for marriage.

We have no way of knowing how long Limbaugh's ditto-heads and the like will be willing to buy into that junk about a homosexual agenda. They need no help destroying marriage.

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Everyone to Amherst!

There are still cheap seats open in Amherst at the Media Giraffe Project conference. So far, there are 10 of us schlubs, a.k.a. bloggers without claques.

We're signed up for the one-day, $40 peanut-gallery version of the three-day Democracy and Independence: Sharing News and Politics in a Connected World.

It's much to MGP's credit that they figured out how to include oi-polloi bloggers amongst the notables, almost certainly on expense accounts. The latter group would be professors, big-paper and small-paper journalists, and broadcast biggies.

Even on our one day, we have lots of workshops and presentations dear to our hearts. It's citizen journalism, blogger/press links, future of the rich/poor digital divide, and hey, Ben and Jerry's for all.

I figure we'll all have to head over to Christopher Lydon's thingummy on creating a local Huffington Post -- New England Common.

There's room if you hop in now. Start with wonk NOT!'s Michael DeChiara's conference wiki. You can see which of us signed up and how to get in on the deal.

This is in two weeks, June 30th. You need to devote a Friday, losing money as I am if necessary. It looks like an intellectual investment to me.

Mammalian Aside: With mild sadness, we note that Media Giraffe Project is about serious business to the extent that they do not use said animals on their site or other promotion. We personally love giraffes. They are our favorite animals. We are not above using them.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sit It Down for Online in Manhattan

How much self-absorption can the blogosphere suck up? Probably even more...

We're headed to Amherst for Media Giraffe's version later this month. There was the overly covered Yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas, and on and on and like that.

Now the original self-absorbed online gang, Slate, is doing its do, in of all places, the New York Public Library. You know, that place associated still with palpable books, paper and all.

In a shock to our aging sense of time, this $15-a-chair discussion (you can't do it online, ha ha ha ha) is on Thursday, June 22th, at 6:30 p.m. Students and seniors are $10 a bum. Get your tix here.

This marks Slate's tenth anniversary -- repeat, tenth.

Billed as Online Media and the Future of Journalism, this is not only narrow, but fairly incestuous. Discussants are:
  • Michael Kinsley - Slate, founding editor, who writes columns for Slate and the Washington Post.
  • Jacob Weisberg - Slate, the editor.
  • Malcolm Gladwell - New Yorker, staff writer.
  • Arianna Huffington -, co-founder and editor.
  • Norman Pearlstine - Time Inc., ex-editor-in-chief.
So it's the got-bucks, pre-geriatric set, not the Kos kiddies for this one. However, the sked promises you home for an early bedtime.

This one may be the quasi-intellectual version of a WWF smack down. Slate promises:
In this discussion, experienced practitioners of online journalism and observers of it from more traditional media will wrestle with what may be the most profound changes to face their profession in a century. Has online journalism weakened reporting and ethical standards? Has the news cycle gotten too fast for its own good? Can investigative and in-depth reporting thrive in an age of instant online analysis? How much longer will the New York Times be delivered to your door? And what might Slate look like at 20?
Ooo, ooo. Wresting...profound changes...too fast for its own good...

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