Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Buying Mooninites with B.S. Bucks

Like a drunk snorting himself awake every once and awhile, the great Boston-Pee-in-Our-Pants Party won't stop. It seems longer than two weeks ago that a couple dozen advertising boards laid our beautiful burg low -- and with it our fantasies of sophistication.

Now Slate's Explainer by Kathryn Lewis piles it on. She further humiliates us by answering, "Did Boston's Bomb Scare Really Cost a Million Bucks?" The short answer is that this is a B.S. figure, inflated to overstate the importance and short-term, to massage our egos. In the real world, it keeps us down there with other hick towns with pretensions of worldliness.

More specifically, the bribes that stopped our mayor from stomping his loafers were rounded up -- way up several times -- by nearly everyone. That seemed at least temporarily to add a touch of gravitas to our stumble or at least tone down the world's snickering at our expense.

It seems the commonwealth's attorney general asked the eight affected agencies or departments for their best estimates of likely extra costs. Results included:
  • The state police were absurd, providing an impossibly round $200,000. That's a SWAG for sure.
  • The highway department seemed to have been reasonable and honest, at $13,157.
  • The total of Boston, Somerville, Cambridge and the agencies was $578,766.
So, how did we get from that suspect total to $1 million costs plus a $1 million blackmail tribute? As the Explainer puts it, "...the attorney general's agreement with Turner included another $421,234 in 'additional restitution funds,' divided proportionally among the claimants. That conveniently put the total value of the prank at $1 million even. (Turner's payment included another $1 million in 'goodwill' money for the Department of Homeland Security.)"

Even our otherwise savvy new governor and his attorney general got sucked into this vortex of pretense. Gov. Deval Patrick stuffily declared this was "not funny." AG Martha Coakley failed this first real test even worse. She doesn't seem to realize she's in the big time now.

She doing what she used to with street criminals, holding a hard line and exaggerating the charges against these two guys, expecting to dicker down to something more reasonable. Yet, by maintaining her position that she would charge them with "placing a hoax device" when everyone agrees that she can never, ever prove intent, she looks like quite an alarmist and pretty unprofessional. She should look around and notice that she is in the State House not a courthouse.

We avoid talking about this topic over the dinner table and at bars. We hope not to hear any more. Shame on Slate for harshing our mellow.

Here, all of our huffing and puffing and all of our self-righteous attempts to justify our being crippled by our overreaction to these devices don't cut it. The other cities that handled this with sangfroid and in ways that gave their citizens faith in their ability to deal with threats are still chuckling. So is much of the world press.

Starting with our mayor, we put our fingers in our ears. We don't hear you!

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Uncle said...

On the other end of sophistication, let it be noted that 30 seconds of Superbowl ad (most of them below mediocre) cost about a million and a quarter. I suspect Turner thinks they got about 5 mil worth of exposure for this (for once I'll agree with you on this) hillbilly extortion. I'd wonder if they plan to sucker Beantown again, but let's move on.

massmarrier said...

Just so. With Menino's attitude (and that of state officials), we aren't about to revise our reactions or do any training. So we're just waiting.

Then again, from old guy to another, even before our time, Boston was proud of its Blue Laws and banned in Boston. Why should a century or two, or new technologies, make any difference?