Sunday, July 29, 2007

Best Free Show: The Music

If you're looking for opera or chamber music, head to the Berkshires. Yet, don't let folk music limit your thoughts to the hippies of my era. Indeed the Lowell Folk Festival has World Music from many locales — Brazil, Nepal and hither and yon.

We have very different musical loves in our family and the folk there covers it and more. Blues suits me. My uxorial unit loves bluegrass. We split up at one point so I could do some Afro-Cuban, while she did non-Samba music from the Brazilian interior.

If you've never been to this festival, click over to the list of this year's performers. There's a great chance that you missed them, but that next year's versions will be as diverse and as good, and that you'll find someone you are delighted to hear. [Note that almost emtroes all include links to short clips.]

Our consensus favorite this year was Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy. She's in the picture left. She's big of bosom, butt and lungs. She admits to huge appetites and you believe every word of her Texas blues.

I can ramble and rant about everyone we heard. That should include the mention of gypsy guitar group (with jazz violin and accordion) Dorado Schmitt & the Django Reinhardt Festival All Star Band. He is a guitar master and French violinist Pierre Blanchard deserves his own mention for his powerful, animated play. (That's Schmitt seated and Blanchard crouched.)

For whatever reasons, many locals don't seem to attend. That's easy to tell because of the obvious racial composition at the venues.

Lowell is a very white town, if not by New Hampshire standards, certainly by Boston ones. The last census reports about 69% non-Latino white, nearly 17% Asian, 14% Latino and only 4% African-American.

At most venues, there are obviously far fewer than one of 6 Asians and fewer than one of 7 Latinos. I did not notice a single Black man or woman not connected with a band.

I should ask the organizers what's up with that.

Amusingly, many of the Boston-area types seem to be drawn from the UU/Yuppie/WASP/Volvo-driving subcultures (include me). One of the sponsors and the live broadcaster is WGBH in Beantown. That's fine for us, but this is too great a weekend not to draw more diverse audiences. [end rant]

Those who come enjoy and behave themselves. Even at crowded performances, there's no tension. There are a few festival jerks, like the loud family who arrived for Diunna, and the boys chattered while the dad came and went saying at high volume that he loved this kind of music, which he did not listen to at all. Huh?

There were seven simultaneous venues Saturday (including the street-performance zone). First timers here can quickly get the flavors of each.

Oddly enough, many of what I consider the best acts go on the Boarding House Park stage. This is what GBH simulcasts. This lawn area ends up fairly full, but I've never arrived and not been able to spread a sheet for us. Sometimes you can come late and still get right up near the stage. Yet while this probably has the greatest population density, it is also where the greatest percentage of the audience dances. Some, like the quasi-spasmodic guy at left who is always there, solo, but many couples or other combinations swing dance, samba or otherwise in the narrow walkways. No one hassles them (Boston venues could learn from that).

At the JFK Plaza next to the government buildings, there's a lot more space and a lot less dancing. Go figure. Gonzalo Grau y La Clave Secreta aptly bills themselves as hot Latin dance. Yet Gonzalo felt he had to go out into the audience several times to literally take people by the wrist and bring them up to move. They did and seemed to love it...once he prompted them.

Interestingly, they seem to consider the plaza a closed area. So, it is the only one that allows beer sales and consumption directly next to the music. People don't come to get drunk on Bud, Bud Light or even Long Hammer IPA, but you'd think it might lead to more dancing.

The plaza also seems to be the most diverse in audience, certainly with the highest concentrations of Latinos and Asians at the festival. Even here, there is no skew to Latin music. The festival does not have a lot of traditional or even new Asian performers, for what it's worth.

In case you haven't gotten the message, I love this festival. Also, as Lowell seems to have intended, it brings me back for other things. If there's one day a year you get to town, make it the Saturday of the festival, and plan your performers before you go.

After we were listened out, I wanted to head home to do my fabulous dinner-from-what's-in-the-fridge act, but two of our party would have died from starvation in the 40 minutes home. So on the way to the garage, we noticed a bar/restaurants that seemed to have a few seats and went in expecting the minimal.

In fact, at 79 Central, the food at Sangria's (inactive website) was an okay yawn. It bills itself as Mexican, as in woman's service magazine tells the homemaker how to make non-offensive food for gringos. They had a small range of draft ales. All of that was low-priced ($4 drafts, $6 sandwiches and $9 dinner plates).

We squeezed onto a tiny table and found ourselves listening to a blues band, three guitars and a harp (amplified mouth harp) with a lead identified in our hour and two sets only as Big Daddy. There are tons of Big Daddy folk and I am not sure who he was, but he was worthy of a nickname and even a cover charge, of which there was none.

We had dinner and drinks with live stage-side music from a solid blues band at Sangria's. The next time we head to Lowell, I hope they have their site working and announce who's up. I'll go.

We declared the day a success.

Part one is here. I'll cross-post there at Harrumph! as befits the embedded rants.

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Best Free Show in the State

Again, the Lowell Folk Festival does it right. It's free and there's more good, damned good and great music than you can get to for one, two or three days.

It's at the end of July, every year in downtown Lowell. There's some impressive history, tours by canal boat and such to please labor buffs. Lowell also has a summer music series in one of the main folk-festival venues, Boarding House Park. That has loads of individual blues, rock and pop groups for modest ticket prices of around $25.

However, the folk festival offers more, better and different benefits, such as:
  • One evening and two full days into night of music.
  • Dozens of diverse groups in a wide variety of styles.
  • The sweet anguish of finding that you simply cannot get to and hear everyone you want to; invariably there will be conflicting performances on one of the many stages.
  • The even sweeter joy of finding a new favorite every year, as though browsing Amazon or other site gave you 45 minutes to an hour of live music instead of a 32-second recorded clip.
  • A chance to meet a performer, have her sign her CD and tell her how much she rocked.
  • A wide variety of ethnic foods at nearby stands and numerous instant patios for a quick beer between sets.
I got over fearing I shouldn't talk about this. It's well attended and like a favorite restaurant, do you tempt others? The fact is, many people in all directions don't go to Lowell, even for the best all-around music event of the year. Too damned bad for them, and for you if you're like that.

We've been going for most of the past two decades. We have an adult son who slept in a Snugli to drum beats and even through wailing blues. Two others have come willingly most times, although the 13-year-old wasn't too pleased to miss video-game/Internet time Saturday.

In fact, he was pretty smug on the way up. We had an uncharacteristically late start. Some years, we can do it right by starting around 9:30 a.m. at Faneuil Hall for a musical parade with one of the performing groups, a train ride from North Station (package tickets for families and individuals from the MBTA) and a parade to open the festival for the day in Lowell.

Well, I had picked my groups from the sked and performer lists. The youngest was whiny, until we got on 93. Then he smirked as we got splatters and above 128, a cloud burst from solid black skies. Drivers slowed to 30 or pulled off the road. Nasty to us, a catalyst for, "I guess we'll have to turn around" from him.

Yet, it was meant to be. It reminded me of a birthday for my whiny second cousin Danny. I think it was his eighth and he had asked to have it at the Dairy Queen a few miles east of Romney, West Virginia. That town is in apple country of the eastern panhandle, surrounded by mountains. It's lush land and rains a lot there.

It rained and on the way out, Danny cried and complained. It rained harder. His solicitous mom reminded him that there were covered pavilions there and we could have burgers, cake and ice cream in the dry. Crying and complaining continued. Then about 100 yards away, we drove through the rain. He had his DQ picnic and most of us wondered and reveled in continuing to watch the rain that poured straight down like a cartoon a few hundred feet west in a steady curtain for an hour.

So it was in Lowell, right before the exits off 495, we got to dry road. It was the wet curse of the interstates. Our youngest admitted defeat.

Because we came by car, we did the right auto thing, drove right to one of the two big garages in town. They are very close to the venues and the festival deal isn't bad — $10 flat fee for the day. You should be ashamed if you don't donate a few bucks to the volunteers with their buckets, but amortized, this is the cheapest music festival you'll attend.

Next up, the festival music, plus a pleasant surprise on the way out of town. Cross-posted at Harrumph!

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10,000 Weeping and Whooping

It's a pity I don't believe in a hell. Surely, I could be condemned there after a post on Harrumph! about the three-day Women of Faith Conference here this weekend.

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Wampanoags, Wampum and Wishing

While we were off to the Lowell Folk Festival (more later), Middleborough's many were begging for casino rights. Town meeting went two-to-one to bring this new level of gambling to their town and Massachusetts.

If you haven't been following this, click over to Ryan's Take for an excellent recent series on this process. In particular catch Oh, What a Surprise... and Casino Stink... I share his skepticism that this will be a longer-term positive for either that locale or the whole state. As Ryan notes, this is binary and not a vote on a single casino, rather on having tribal casinos in Massachusetts.

This is step two of five. First was negotiations by town officials and the Wampanoag nation. Now came the vote. Next up is seeking Gov. Deval Patrick's approval, followed by legislative votes here, and then assessment by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior (Bureau of Indian Affairs).

The Boston Globe reports today:
Middleborough, a town of about 22,000, is in dire financial straits. The town collects only $3.5 million in commercial and industrial annual taxes and is currently facing a $700,000 budget deficit. A Proposition 2 1/2 tax override for additional school funding was defeated in June.
That certainly is motivation. However, if this gets approved and Middleborough decides later that they would have been wise to pay for their own expenses with their own taxes, tough.

Follow-up contradiction: I did not see the Herald this morning. Massachusetts Liberal did, and reports that a second, non-binding town-meeting vote was that they did not favor casino gambling in Middleborough. Huh? As the Herald reported:
In a possible reflection of such concerns, Middleboro voters sent a distinctly ambivalent message yesterday: Despite their approval of the Wampanoag proposal, they voted down a nonbinding measure which asked whether the town approved of bringing casino gambling to Middleboro. It was overwhelmingly defeated by a hand vote.
“When they got to vote their conscience, they did that,” said activist Young. “I want people to know about the voices that were never heard. They were the concerns of (neighboring towns) Lakeville and Plympton. They get all the problems without any of the mitigation.”

Related Podcast: Ryan and I jumped up and down on casinos at this week's Left Ahead! podcast. Click the peas to download the 7.5MB file or load your MP3 software and listen.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Two Huge Questions for Candidates

Isn't there a single Dem candidate for President with 1) courage, 2) progressive vision, and 3) financial support? After the CNN/YouTube debate-like-object, folks turned away chatting a little about who'd talk to dictators. Yet, the clearest differentiation was what they did and didn't say about same-sex marriage.

The two huge question are still largely unanswered:
  1. How can you claim to be for equal rights and still waffle over SSM or support civil unions?
  2. How quickly will you see that DOMA falls and married people have equal federal rights?
The managing editor of the Washington Blade, Kevin Naff, asks the federal question clearly. An excellent recap of the candidates' equivocation appears in a Huffington Post post by Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry.

Only Dennis Kucinich had clear answers to marriage-equality questions. A variety of his other position are troublesome, but his plain, reasonable and humane approach here must be ice water down the backs of the cowardly competition. It's a good thing for them that he's perceived otherwise as a bit mad.

The theme from the other candidates is that they begrudgingly or willingly favor civil unions, but that marriage equality is outré. Yet, to a one, they claim to favor equal rights and claim to be gay friendly. Could it just be that they see the polls that most American would go with civil unions but a majority (51% to 58% depending on which) still oppose SSM?

Perhaps most irritating is John Edwards' befuddled hypocrisy here. This blogger thinks his wife need to turn him around on this. Wolfson used Johnny's YouTube non-answers to illustrate the problem.

Rev. Reggie Longcrier asked plainly, "Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote. So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay Americans their full and equal rights?" Edwards failed, badly, and answered like the other top-tier candidates.

He rambled on about his personal conflicts and journey on this. He agreed that no President should use his personal religious beliefs in policy or law.

His response had Wolfson asking:
However, none of what Senator Edwards said answered the basic, and correct, question posed by Rev. Longcrier. Since the Senator rightly agreed that using "religion to deny gay Americans their full and equal rights" is wrong, and also believes, he says, in the provision of all legal rights and responsibilities, then why doesn't he support the freedom to marry under the law?
Next up, Barack Obama was all the more gutless and clueless. He muddled religious rituals with civil marriage. Yet Bill Richardson was to Wolfson's mind the weakest, saying that he'd work for what was achievable.

Nothing on the table is impossible. Achievable occurs when the leaders want something to happen.

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Sloppy Sodomy Syllogism on the Slippery Slope

A wave of the wig to Bay Windows for drawing attention to Mass Family Institutes's buggery alert! MFI must be bored or depressed and need a distraction from their fantasy of replacing the entire legislature.

I am not aware of a Tortured Logic Award, but this would surely qualify. To the MFI folk, the most recent effort to clean up our laws in Chapter 272. Crimes Against Chastity, Morality, Decency and Good Order not only portends a slippery-slope to hell, but in doing so directly links homosexuality, bestiality and legislation.

In case you didn't notice, about a month ago, a Sherborn teen was caught on surveillance video having intercourse with a sheep. We naive and godless sorts might think he had personal issues and needed treatment. Well, MFI would like to educate us.

In their email alert item headlined A slippery slope: Local teen charged with bestiality, they let us know:
This incident highlights the path that the state and the nation are heading down with the legalization of same-sex “marriage” and the decriminalization of sodomy. It becomes very hard to define unacceptable sexual perversions once the government endorses some as acceptable.
So, unless I'm too dumb to get this, the implication is that the commonwealth wants to give its blessing to raping farm animals by tinkering with archaic chastity laws and by legalizing same-sex marriage.

Let no one ask, Jesus Christ, what are these MFI folk thinking? Under the omnibus bills that tinker with bestiality, they would also strike the risible blasphemy statute, which currently reads:
Section 36. Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.
The evil types who would shovel the archaic detritus from Chapter 272 include lead Cynthia Creem in the Senate and Byron Rushing in the House. We covered the embarrassing statutes in January. The most recent nearly identical repeal versions are here and here.

A key question comes as to whether we leave unenforced and perhaps unenforceable laws on the books to satisfy the bluenoses or whether we can get real. I personally don't approve of adultery, for example. I have managed to do without it for 31 years, longer than that if you include my scruples when single. However, I can't see the justification for our law (Section 14) that provides "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." When I last checked, we are one of five states with any legal penalty for adultery.

For the picayune, the House version would strike Section 34, Crime Against Nature (Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years.) The Senate version change does not take away the 20-year penalty. It limits it to animals and does give an option of a fine of up to $5,000, which can be in lieu of or in addition to the the current bestiality sentence.

It's that liberality that seems to rile MFI. After they obsess about sex with animals, they demand to know what's wrong with sending someone to prison for 20 years for copulating with a sheep. Clearly treating their mental illness is not adequate. It would be far better to spend millions incarcerating them for two decades.

Who knows what the next leap of logic will be from these bozos?

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Dems See the Sword in the Stone

The American public appears to have thrown themselves at the feet of the Democrats. At the same time, the Dems are acting like daft adolescents unaware of their opportunities.

There's been a lot of proof of such trends. A major document in the area was the March 22nd Pew Research Center Report Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007, subtitled Political Landscape More Favorable to Democrats.

My pinko pessimistic self fears that there are so many DINOs in Congress that they cannot convert this into progressive change. On the other hand, just by standing still, they have come out on the good side of public opinion.

Disclaimer: I don't put a whole lot of credence in most studies and surveys. Certainly those in medical journals and by political or other interest groups contradict each other and often phrase questions to get particular results. In contrast, the Pew Research Center has a very different reputation. For example, they have good sample sizes of representative groups, they repeat many of these studies for decades for comparisons, and they make all their questions and findings part of their reports.

Pew has gone to the public on core political questions for over 20 years. The trends seem to speak to the Dems' inertia and lack of vision as much as to the GOP's immorality, greed and shameless pandering to moneyed interests. Those are my conclusions. Pew is much more circumspect.

I advise reading the report. The summary is here. The whole report with questions and results is here.

Key Trends

The summary lays out the gist, including:
Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.

At the same time, many of the key trends that nurtured the Republican resurgence in the mid-1990s have moderated, according to Pew's longitudinal measures of the public's basic political, social and economic values. The proportion of Americans who support traditional social values has edged downward since 1994, while the proportion of Americans expressing strong personal religious commitment also has declined modestly.
If you have noticed and been puzzled by other recent polls showing a low approval for Congress, including Dems, you can see what's happening with this. More and more American voters, particularly self-identified independents are leaning toward Democratic positions and identifying with the party. Yet, this is not the result of Dems' brains, vision or guts.

Instead, by my interpretation of the data, the GOP has fallen below the Democrats, who are standing still. The Republicans in both Executive and Legislative branches have acted so immorally, lied so often, been so corrupt that they have simply passed the stupefied Dems on the way down. Embarrassingly enough, voter approval of Dems has hardly wavered, hovering at 50% or a little above for the past decade and one half. Meanwhile, the GOP has seen its ratings go from 67% in in 1994 to 41% this year. See ya!

GOP Going Down

It's no surprise that the arrogance and incompetence of the Republican government has produced:
  • Only one in three voters "satisfied with the way things are going in the country, a 25-point decrease in the past seven years."
  • "Nearly three-quarters (73%) agree with this statement: 'Today it’s really true that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.' The percentage concurring with this statement has risen eight points since 2002 and represents the highest number in agreement since the early 1990s (80% in 1991)."
  • 69% of Americans, including 58% of Republicans agree that "it is the government's responsibility 'to take care of people who can't take care of themselves" — a steadily rising percentage.
  • Even with the unceasing drumbeat of terrorism, the percentage of Americans who believe that "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength" has fallen steadily to under half.
  • Similarly after the thousands of dead U.S. soldiers, the percentage who agree that "We should get even with any country that tried to take advantage of the U.S." has fallen from a high of 61% to 40% with 54% disagreeing.
  • Americans don't want us to torture anyone.
  • The younger voters are the less problem they have or even think about homosexuality or same-sex marriage.
  • A huge percentage (83%) of Americans are cool with interracial dating, even pre-Boomers (65%).
There are many other supporting trends. In short, this is a Democratic nation, ripe for real Democrats to step up and step in. The key questions is whether the nominal Dems in Congress really Democrats, much less progressives? Can they provide plans and programs to address the public's dissatisfaction and be, well, Democrats?

It's too easy to goof on the Republican voters. It's almost as though party affiliation is an intelligence test, one Republicans repeatedly fail. For one example, "Three-quarters of Republicans with household incomes of $50,000 or less say they are pretty well satisfied with the way things are going for them financially, compared with just 40% of Democrats and a similar share of independents (39%). Even among Republicans who say they often do not have enough money to make ends meet, nearly six-in-ten (58%) express
satisfaction in the way things are going for them financially. By contrast, just 30% of Democrats and 32% of independents who have trouble making ends meet say they are satisfied with their personal financial situation."

There are numerous other such findings in this study. I would like to think that the GOP doesn't necessarily attract most of the simple-minded Americans. There are Republican economists and others who do not appear to be dumb or delusional. Yet in numerous domestic and international issues, personal and broad, Republican respondents tow their President's like (like only 40% are concerned about government collecting their personal information).

Resilient American Dream

Amusingly enough, there seems to be one emotional blind spot widely shared. Remember that American dream — work hard and you have as good a chance as the well-born and well-connected to succeed? Well, all of us seem to hold that. The very rare come-from-nowhere winner is all that seems required here. Those who would agree that "Success in life is pretty much determined by forced outside of our control" are below half — 39% of independents, 35% of Democrats and 22% Republicans.

History and economics largely gainsay that view. As Leonard Cohen wrote:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows that the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
hat's how it goes

Everybody knows
No one can really explain how we believe that the rich are taking from the poor and simultaneously that we all have equal shots.

There is a cluster of other ironies thrown into the mix. For example, 45% overall want smaller government, including 68% of Republicans. Meanwhile, when we have GOP Executives and Legislative branches, we get much bigger government and much higher resulting deficits. Oops.

The picture overall from this report covering trends for two decades is intense. Any Dem politician who considers this at all accurate should be eager to act on its findings.

However, given the Bill-Clinton-style moderate-to-conservative Democrats we have been sending to Washington, and listening to the mush coming from nearly all their current Presidential aspirants, I have to wonder whether they can do it.

Can the Democrats articulate a vision to match the needs and desires of Americans, needs and desires that are largely progressive and egalitarian? It has been a long, long time, perhaps since post-WWI that this big a chance has presented itself.

If we had a Congress full of progressive leftists, this would not be an issue at all. With the current crop though, I am not sure 1) that they have the courage and vision to advance the necessary ends, and 2) whether American voters will or should believe DINOs trying to differentiate themselves from the failed Republicans.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lots of Music....Free...Lowell

Don't be a maroon, as Bugs might say. This weekend is the 21st annual Lowell Folk Festival. Be there.

Roll it around in your brain pan -- 21 years. If you have never gone to this three-day free festival, 21 times shame on you. It's fabulous. We don't miss it.

We never return without at least one new favorite and some CDs. This is where we first heard Bobby Parker live and Shemekia Copeland. I tend toward blues. My uxorial unit plays and love acoustic -- like bluegrass. There's Cajun, gospel and world music.

Did I mention it was free? You can and should make a small donation to the wandering do-gooders for a sticker that shows you support this, and surely you'll chip in.

Anyway, this year's schedule is here. The sketches of the groups and artists, most with sample clips are here.

Friday evening through Sunday evening has multiple simultaneous performances within walking distance downtown.

Handicapping Saturday, I went heavy on my daytime favorite styles (links open short clips):

There's lots of good eating and drinking, both at stands and the restaurants and pubs. The music goes to 11 p.m. or so.

You may hate and avoid music we like, but there's stuff there you will like.

Cleverly, these Lowellites know that this is likely to bring you back at other times. Yet, if you only go there once a year. This is it. Be there.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Listen Up, Deval: 2

We won. Now we have earned the hard, harder and hardest legislative climbs.

Even under assaults from the deceitful nasties on the anti-gay/anti-same-sex-marriage side, the good guys played nice...all the way through the June ConCon victory. While a few folk like KnowThyNeighbor were candid about evil doings, the pro-equality side showed amazing restraint.

Even advocates like MassEquality and interested observers like BayWindows bought into the first-things-first argument. The meme was that legislators and voters would be befuddled and maybe negative if the effort to defeat the amendment to halt SSM here included calls to fix underlying existing bad and malicious legislation.

Being an impatient and sometimes self-righteous sort (I loved the Lou Grant show), I called for such fundamental reforms during and after the 2006 general election.

Let's get back to business. Enough basking in the June victory. We have three legislative mountains to climb. We have a governor, lieutenant governor, house speaker and senate president who have records of supporting equal rights. They had to fight their reactive battle. Now it's time to pay some progressive dues.

Our mountains come in three sizes and difficulty factors. Let's see some action on:
  • The foothill. We have two disgraceful laws on the books that should be easy pickings with a legislature that went over 75% to defeat that amendment. Particularly Chapter 207, Sections 11 and 12 are those shameful 1913 laws that forbid out-of-state couples from marrying here if their home states wouldn't recognize the law. These statues are irrational, tainted with racism and now hatred of homosexuals. They are an affront to our proclaimed love of liberty and equality here. They also insult all logic by pretending that every married same-sex couple here will remain Massachusetts residents forever. This climb should be quick and easy. This should be a one-day debate and a single vote in each house. There's no excuse not to knock this out now.
  • The moderate grade. A steeper climb, but still an obvious goal is aligning the rest of Chapter 207 with the reality of SSM. At the end of an anti-SSM senate president's term and into a gormless and gutless one's, we had the Goodridge decision saying forbidding equal marriage violated our laws and constitution. The SJC ordered the legislature to fix that. Since, the anti-marriage-equality folk are wont to point out that the legislature hasn't changed the stray laws and regulations that use man/woman wording exclusively. The high court made it plain what's legal and what would permit challenges. This hill is tougher and gives the theocratic and anti-gay types the chance to rail about legislating what they say is immorality instead of freedom. The result should be clear victories in tweaking the laws, but the debate would be longer and less pleasant.
  • The big push. Off in the distance is Mount Initiative. We dearly pride ourselves on being in the half of the nation that has citizen ballot initiatives to change laws and put constitutional amendments on the ballot. That will not and should not change, but their forms and looseness have been so abused that we have to admit that mean-spirited and hateful groups have forced limits on all of us. We need only to look to California to see the future of initiatives that cripple a state financially and in freedoms. Actually small refinements, such as prohibiting amendments that would strip existing rights from any minority, would likely solve the current issues. Although we already have a limit that forbids trying to overturn a court decision, our last governor and attorney general somehow weasel-worded out of that stricture last time. May we have learned our lesson. This is the toughest climb with the greatest chances to stumble. Expect accusations of autocracy, of stealing the right of the people for redress. Instead, the reality is that those who force these repairs would take rights from others, would unconstitutionally insert their private religion into law, and would try to turn the progressive right to overturn bad legislation into a tool for discrimination. This climb is the hard one, but the one that will provide the long-term benefit of showing the rest of the nation that we won't be held back or taken captive by those who would abuse the process for nefarious ends. This debate could be many months and dozens of hearings before long debates. It will be worth it to get it right.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Impotent Threats on SSM

That sound from deep in the well is the Massachusetts Family Institutes's battle cry. The dwindling party of anti-gay, anti-same-sex-marriage forces who lost their last stand at the Constitutional Convention in June still can make muffled shrieks.

[Note: I touched up Kris' MFI pic by increasing the contrast. He looked inhumanly spectral and pale there. By the way, that's he on the right.]

MFI is spinning its withdrawal from the petition business. According to several sources, including WBUR, the nasties admit they can't get it together for a 2010 ballot drive. With the voters and legislature having moved on and back into the real world, and with every poll showing increasing majority acceptance of same-sex marriage, MFI is toast. It will be fascinating to see if they can milk more money from their previous supporters.

According to today's Boston Globe, FMI President Kris Mineau continues to push the fantasy that they will oust the pro-equality legislators and create a group that will pass their regressive, repressive platform. Apparently that would ideally be the 75% plus of the combined two houses on Beacon Hill.

However, he may have noticed that the last time they targeted pro-marriage-equality legislators, every one of MFI's candidates lost and every gay-friendly one won. Meanwhile, the legislator and voters have turned to education, health, highways and other pressing issues. Finally, the host of pro-equality allies did not disappear when the good guys one.

The resolve is there to prevent this kind of hate campaign here again, as is the gratitude to the legislators. "Over 200,000 members of MassEquality will be there to strongly support every legislator who voted in support of equality," said their campaign director Marc Solomon. "We've been there every step of the way."

The MFI man said, "We acknowledge that our support in the current Legislature is weak, but our support among the people is tremendous...This campaign is far from over, believe me. Some of these legislators will go away, but we will not."

It would not be a fair wager on who's going away here. In fact, we're standing by our prediction that Mineau will move on before too long, likely muttering and whining all the way.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

NM Joins RI in MA SSM

Huh? Block that acronym!

Put this in the 90% probability category. I say that GLAD says that Massachusetts Department of Public Health says that New Mexico is like Rhode Island for same-sex marriage licenses here. Huh?

According to GLADs blog, the legal strictures in both states permit their same-sex couples to wed in Massachusetts. Our inane and discriminatory 1913 laws forbid out-of-state couples from marrying here if that union would be illegal at home. We have called for the overturn of those laws and wonder why our gay-friendly governor, lieutenant governor, house speaker and senate president don't knock this flimsy structure down.

Regardless, apparently the Land of Enchantment also lacks laws forbidding SSM. So, whether it's an emotional satisfaction or preparation for legal action, here's the place for the Santa Feans and others to get it on.

For the other 10% of assurance, GLAD's note appeared in my box after closing hours at the government here. Neither the GLAD site nor either of the Massachusetts government ones (or the two big NM dailies) had the news report or any link to "a corrective notice to all Massachusetts city and town clerks authorizing them to allow same-sex couples from New Mexico to apply for marriage licenses."

GLAD's oversight is understandable. They aren't too technologically savvy and they also used this as a way to plug their own online pubs about same-sex marriage. We type A folk would like to verify this, but it seems reasonable.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wingers Playing Nasty

Tough games -- think rugby and lacrosse -- lack dainty politeness. The rough play of the wingers in recent months and years suggests that they would rather win than concur or cooperate.

We've heard their incivility in discourse, both in legislatures and on the street. More recently we see a one-two of escalation to the physical with an unwillingness to make responsibility, much less apologize. This blog covered and linked to a couple of these cases, such as here.

A consistent theme in such assaults (once they stop pretending that it never happened) is that the victims made them do it, as in deserved violence because they held an opposing view. That put me in Mr. Peabody's WABAC machine, to my water polo days.

On swimming teams in high school and college, we'd play and as a breaststroker with powerful legs, I'd usually be the deep-end goalie. Water polo seems to have rules well suited to an Ann Coulter or Larry Cirignano. When you get the ball, the other team can pretty much do what they want to get it, like force you under the water and hold you there. There's even a devilish twist in that it is a foul to put the ball under the surface at any time; even if you are tackled from behind and the tackler pushes your arm, if the ball goes under, the foul is on you.

Such as it was last week as a likely preview of what will happen in the Cirignano case if he does not cop a plea. His lawyer said that the victim had no business being there, with the implication that she got what was coming when she got shoved to the ground from behind.

To his credit, Worcester District Court Judge John Riccardione said free speech and the right to assemble trumped that inane claim. He rejected the motion to dismiss the civil-rights portion of the charges against Cirignano, which tried to say it was the same case as when Wacko Hurley and chums won the right to exclude gay groups from the South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade.

As the judge wrote in his opinion:
In holding her sign at the rally here, the complainant was simply expressing a view contrary to that being generally supported. This is speech which is clearly and unassailably protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and by the Massachusetts Bill of Rights,. To conclude otherwise would allow the group that arrives at the city licensing office first to censor the free expression of speech in a particular area of the city at any given time. This is an unsupportable proposition under constitutional law.
The rights of others and the commonweal seem far too difficult concepts for the current crop of righty activists. Yet, we can hope that Judge Ricciardone's views let us all and each have a say without being intimidated by bullies and thugs.

This particular case is not due to set a date for a trial until an August 20th hearing. In addition, this is only at the district court level. Yet, Ricciardone seems to have a keen respect both for law and for our shared liberties.

In an ideal world, Cirignano would have seen the inside of a jail quickly as some punk who starts a bar brawl is likely to. That's been his level. In addition, he likely would have had to apologize and admit his errors. That often works for little kids as well as bullies.

We can follow this and see whether slippery Larry can ooze his way out of this. Stopping such abuse of others is long overdue here. This is one trend that must come to an abrupt halt.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards Still Talking

Busy people. Busy day. (That was an early reader when my kids were of that age.) I've been gone and am catching up.

Meanwhile, Salon has a worthwhile interview with Elizabeth Edwards. Unlike her husband and all the other Democratic candidates for President except the wild one, she remains candid and clear speaking.

Consider her remarks related to same-sex marriage:
You're here in San Francisco again for another gay rights event. Why do you support gay marriage? Why not civil unions?

I remember hearing [former GOP Sen. Rick] Santorum ranting about how homosexual marriage threatens heterosexual marriage. I could be wrong, but I think heterosexual marriage is threatened more by heterosexuals. I don't know why gay marriage challenges my marriage in any way.

But your husband feels differently; he's a civil unions guy.

Well, I think it's a struggle for him, having grown up in a Southern Baptist church where it was pounded into him. I was raised a Methodist in military churches. Poverty was talked about; I don't remember homosexuality ever being mentioned. And I don't think that Christians who aren't engaged in a political campaign ever talk about it. They talk about poverty and other issues talked about in the Bible. But in churches, in political season, there's plenty of ginning up this issue.

John Boy should listen to the missus.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

No Free Pass, Yet, For Cirignano

Self-righteousness is surely the least palatable of human characteristics, yours or mine. Yet, a close second is failure to accept responsibility for our own actions.

Please forgive schadenfreude, as I revel in another hateful winger not getting a pass on his dastardly deeds. Larry Cirignano may eventually pay a nominal penalty for his disdain of American freedom, for his belief that he is above the ladder of law that should have no top and no bottom, for his negative fixation of things gay and equal.

Friday in a Worcester District Court, Judge David Riccciardone said in effect, "Y'all come see me on August 20th to set a trial date." He rejected the defense attorney's motion to give greasy Larry a free ride on civil rights violations for (ahem, allegedly) pushing a young woman, Sarah Loy, in the back and forcing her to the pavement for daring, daring to protest his and his chums' anti-same-sex-marriage diatribes.

The various witnesses have yet to testify, but the reports support that she held up a sign favoring marriage equality at an anti-equality rally in Worcester. Then Cirignano apparently crossed a large open area behind her and shoved her to the ground. Those little matters like free speech matter little to the self-righteous.

Larry's lawyer moved to dismiss this most serious of the charges, and not the assault and battery. He claimed that she had no right to free speech there and then, citing the odious St. Patrick's Day parade U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing banning of gay marchers in South Boston at a private parade.

The judge rather preferred the commonwealth and U.S. constitutions over bullies and thugs. Good on him.

As Bay Windows cited the judge's ruling, "In holding her sign at the rally here, the complainant was simply expressing a view contrary to that being generally supported. This is speech which is clearly and unassailably protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and by the Massachusetts Bill of Rights. To conclude otherwise would allow the group that arrives at the city licensing office first to censor the free expression of speech in a particular area of the city at any given time. This is an unsupportable proposition under constitutional law.”

The vanilla coverage was in the Boston Globe, which did not connect with Cirignano, but did get the predictable from Loy:
"I'm very glad that the city of Worcester and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are taking civil rights seriously," she said in a phone interview. "It's good news, because my civil rights were violated."
I'm with her. It's time the wingers had to face the music here and there.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

No Mulligan for Cheney and Bush

Yesterday at a news conference, or in President Bush's case a noise conference, he had the audacity to say just forget about his people outing a CIA agent. "It's run its course. Now we're going to move on."

He added that he won't comment on the Valerie Plame Wilson case as long as there is any investigation, which should take this beyond his tenure.

In saying this was old news:
  • He wants Congress and us in the public to ignore that this was part of a series of intentional tricks and lies to get America into a war, costing us thousands of lives and many billions of dollars.
  • He wants Congress and us in the public to not pursue the likelihood that he, his Vice President, there staff and others conspired to commit these and other crimes and then cover them up.
  • He wants Congress and us in the public to give him and his a free pass on obstruction of justice and other impeachable acts.
  • He shows at its very worst what has become the hallmark of the American right — a brazen unwillingness to accept responsibility for their acts.
There is no mulligan on any act of treason, or conspiring to commit it, of lying to cover it up, or contempt of Congress, or the dozens of other large and small sins, errors, and crimes that may be involved here.

No, this is precisely the time not to move on. That not-the-droids-you're-looking-for-move-along routine worked in Star Wars. Back in the real world, there must not be any such diversion.

Taking responsibility: I'll moderate any comments when I return after a few days.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Planting Juicy Impeach Seeds

There was a time when Ben Bradlee's Washington Post was a journalistic version of a Old West hero — make sure you're right and go ahead. Lackaday, the asthenic and spiritless version of the D.C. paper is nothing like that. Perhaps the book and movie on the new version of the Post might be All the President's Lapdogs.

Even the MSM has started muttering, "Impeachment." The timorous, barely Democratic Congress has yet to show that they respect the rule of law and the separation of powers enough to go after Gonzales, Cheney and Bush. When and if the mutters become roars, they will suddenly pretend to have been responsible and fair all along.

Meanwhile, let us consider the Post and the New York Times editorials. The Post struck first, but with a foam bat. While pretending to be shocked, shocked at Bush's commutation of Libby's prison term, their Too Much Mercy: Scooter Libby's prison sentence was excessive, but so is President Bush's commutation was a mealy-mouthed apology.

Many years ago, my wife used to work for Scholastic's sixth/seventh-grade weekly, Newstime. There and then, politics and criticism were flat out. Everything fell into the on-one-hand this, but on-the-other-hand that. It looks like the Post's editorial board could write for kiddy newspapers.

The gutless, gormless editorial in question contorted mightily to conclude that Libby's 30 months for conviction of false statements, perjury and obstruction of justice were excessive. They worked in all manner of extraneous crap, including comparing President Clinton's national security advisor's lack of jail time for lying about borrowing documents from the National Archive. Even worse, the board nailed up that canard of maybe Libby wasn't all that guilty if they could find enough hidden evidence to charge anyone with outing a CIA agent.

The thick smokescreen the Post laid down seemed only for the purpose of making kissy-face with the White House and conservatives in and out of Congress.

Likewise, today, the same group goes soft on professional liar Alberto Gonzales. In Mr. Gonzales's Inattention, they didn't call for his resignation or impeachment. Instead, they wrote that he either blew off reports of the U.S. attorneys scandal or didn't read them. As harsh as they get, they concluded that maybe he "showed an alarming degree of disengagement in overseeing the use of one of the administration's most potent -- and potentially invasive -- tools against terrorism."

Do you suppose the Post screens its editorial board to limit it to only those born with no courage gene?

In contrast, the NYT appears to be ready to roll this ball down the alley. Today, in Overprivileged Executive, they nail the posters to the wall:
  • ...Mr. Gonzales and his aides have twisted and mutilated the truth beyond recognition.
  • But instead of aiding that search for the truth, President Bush is blocking it...
  • ...privilege does not apply if a president’s privacy interests are outweighed by the need to investigate possible criminal activity.
The NYT view of executive privilege includes:
Mr. Bush’s claim is baseless. Executive privilege, which is not mentioned in the Constitution, is a judge-made right of limited scope, intended to create a sphere of privacy around the president so that he can have honest discussions with his advisers. The White House has insisted throughout the scandal that Mr. Bush — and even Mr. Gonzales — was not in the loop about the firings. If that is the case, the privilege should not apply.
On the White House aides Congress has subpoenaed, it adds:
Ms. Taylor is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and Ms. Miers before the House committee tomorrow. They are expected to claim executive privilege. If they do, Congress should use the powers at its disposal, including holding them in contempt, to compel their testimony.
I have to wonder how guts and insight have migrated 225 miles North/Northeast since the Watergate era. Be that as it may, the NYT at least is muttering. A few in Congress area already speaking out to protect their branch's independence. There's talk of contempt citations and a bit of chatter about impeachments — plural.

Let the muttering continue and expand. The Libby commutation may not have been illegal, but it may have been too much, too long, too far. He might even become the Scooter that wrecked the Presidency.

Update: Listen for more muttering and outright calls for impeachment. Today as the NYT describes it, speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former political director Sara M. Taylor refused to testify as to whether her boss, Karl Rove, knew of or was involved in the U.S. attorney firing. Later, George the Lesser ordered former White House counsel Harriett Miers not to appear tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee. If either house of Congress has a shred of honor, they will cite the lackeys for contempt and increase the muttering volume. The game is afoot!

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Monday, July 09, 2007

A Peach of Impeachment Causes

Well, Georgie and Dicky and their pathetic office gang of twits seem to have made impeachment easy and obvious today. Their up-yours letter to both houses of Congress dares the bodies to grow some 'nads and call the bad guys out.

What was that the Clown in Chief said — Bring it on!?

It's Congress' turn and obligation to do just that. Following lying about firing U.S. attorneys because they wouldn't use their offices illegally for Republican goals, Cheney and his minions hid their correspondence about that and other political tricks. Then they destroyed communications they were required to keep and lied about that. Now they are claiming another round of executive privilege to lie about the whole mess and, ta da, obstruct the investigations into the whole mess.

Obstruction of justice
, say it loud and louder. Another Tricky Dick, Nixon, was about to be impeached and maybe jailed for that, when his unelected, replacement Prez Gerald Ford pardoned him. That Clinton guy was impeached on much flimsier grounds of obstruction for lying about adulterous fellatio.

It's hard to count how many small and large errors and crimes these weasels in the Bush's government have lied about. Every one is actionable, some against Bush and Cheney. It only takes one and Congress has a basket of stinking tricks to choose from.

Impeach...savor the word.

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Poof! Goes Health Insurance

Equality through system failure is the future of health-care insurance foretold by Stephen Cecchetti, professor of global finance at Brandeis. If he's right, medical technology and related economics will force a single-payer system.

Here, I have had my laments. There's the mug 'em, drug 'em and empty their pockets health-care and insurance we have, which is the world's most expensive per capita, while our longevity and general health are well down the list. Then for the recent first step at universal insurance in Massachusetts, there's a strong likelihood that many employers will simply shift any financial burden back on workers by trimming wage increase and benefits at least as much as their minimum payments into the fund.

Well, Cecchetti is the former director of research and the New York Federal Reserve Bank. He has the long view and the numbers to support it.

He concurs in the lack of efficacy in our health-care delivery:

The US spends nearly 15½% percent of our GDP on medical care, roughly 50% more than countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands. And, as measured by life expectancy and infant mortality, Americans’ health outcomes are worse than those in much of the industrialised world. Something has to change. But change is politically and socially difficult, so in designing the new system we should make changes that are likely to last.

Yet, he has hopes and expectations based on scientific and cultural grounds. For science, he see genetic advances as busting the consumer insurance robbery disguised as free-market economics. He contends:

  • We're not far from inexpensive tests that will accurately forecast proclivity to disease.
  • Those likely to remain healthy will not buy expensive insurance.
  • Private insurance companies won't mess with the others.
  • There'll be no choice but for government to step in.

As he writes, "(w)hen either the insurer or the insured can forecast future events, and accurately distinguish one person from another, the rationale for insurance disappears. " In addition, Americans generally do not share Europeans' intolerance of disparity between rich and poor — except in one area.

Cecchetti puts it that:
Granted, Americans accept greater inequality than the citizens of many other countries do. Not so for health care. Members of wealthy societies share the view that their members are entitled to high quality medical care. Social justice demands that the rich and poor among all of us receive roughly comparable treatment.

We can muse here about our willingness to allow huge differences in income, education, housing and on and on. We like to pretend that all can live the American dream, if only they try. We are bobble-headed enough to pretend that birth, inheritance, connections and sheer luck have nothing to do with obvious success.

On this one subject though, we'd like even the least privileged of us not to sicken and die prematurely. Perhaps our sensibilities will eventually expand to other areas, but we can work with this one.

Cecchetti predicts that as private health insurers go away, the societal pressures for equal care will remain at the same levels. "This makes it inevitable that health care systems everywhere will provide universal coverage and be publicly run. "Governments will replace markets, insuring that the poor and uninsurable receive medical treatment at the same time that the healthy are forced to participate in a comprehensive system."

He adds that the most expensive treatments will go to only a tiny subset, as they do now, "but even so, everyone is going to receive adequate health care."

I confess that I am so wound up in the knots and nits of our baby-step health-care initiative this year that it took this article to make me step back for a more Newtonian view. The scenery is pretty good from there.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

5th CD: What's Experience Worth?

When Jimi Hendrix sang the question, "Are you experienced?" he wasn't referring to qualifications for U.S. Congress. Likely if he were alive and anything like he was way back, he wouldn't care which of the candidates wins the September primary or October election to become the 5th CD Rep.

For those who do care, how odd it is that experience is not a huge issue here. Those with the most applicable résumés try to push it; those who don't blow off the subject. The polls don't indicate that this issue drives voters, not here and now.

No candidate has represented the district in U.S. Congress before. Depending on how you slice it, the spectrum of expertise, accomplishment and comparable experience runs from tons to scant.

The most candid about the experience issue was David O'Brien. He had never been elected to anything, but was redolent of politics, serving many years on the state and national Democratic committees. He knows the people and how things work, and has seen how people get elected or fail trying.

He stayed in the race for only a couple of months, confronting the question directly. When sco asked him if he had what it took to hold the office, he said:
I do. I’m not sure that elective office is the only thing that should be measured when the voters look at all of us and our qualifications to be their next Congressman. I’ve got a pretty diverse background of experience in state government, in the federal government, in the private sector and working for nonprofits.
He sang the same tune, but a little different lyrics when he dropped out at the end of April, saying:
Everywhere I went people responded enthusiastically to my message of bringing real change to Washington. Unfortunately, the dynamics of this special election race made it very difficult for a non-elected first-time congressional candidate without personal financial resources to compete. Therefore, after much thought and discussion with my family and campaign team, I have come to the decision that I will not be a candidate for Congress in this special election.
We care about the dropout because a couple other candidates in this winnowed group also wade in the shallow end of the experience pool. A very large difference is that each of them has an emotional selling point they hope will more than cover for them.

Jim Ogonowski—Does not seem at all qualified but as the lone Republican will likely roll into the general election to be crushed under the sole of the Democratic nominee's shoe, be it loafer or pump. He was a USAF lieutenant colonel, not at all applicable, and makes much of being the brother of a pilot (John) who died when his flight AA 11 was flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

He has made what splash he could so far by being a contrarian. For example, he thinks we have no business in Iraq, but as we are there, we need to pile on the resources and, if you pardon the fantasy, win. Moreover, he identifies himself as a Roman Catholic, but has said he favors a woman's right to choose as well as birth control; he hopes his Church's leaders come around to his thinking.

Through some quirk of battlefield inspiration, he might rise to the role. Yet, we have no reason to suppose he will. He simply has no comparable skills or experience.

Nicola (Niki) Tsongas—On the face of it, she has no business in the race. She's never held elective office and has no actual experience in politics...except...except being married to a beloved politician who died youngish of cancer a decade ago. Her actual expertise is okay, but far below that of other candidates. She has sat on various boards and worked as the dean of external affairs and college advancement at Middlesex Community College. She's a lawyer who has had her own practice with other women attorneys.

That's all good stuff, but pretty ho hum.

Instead, people associate her with late hubby U.S. Rep., then Sen. Paul Tsongas. He was a solid, impressive leader, progressive enough to have set the tone that continued with Marty Meehan as they sort of reassembled what is not the 5th. The question that raises is do you learn enough helping a spouse run for and then run an office to do something comparable? Can you get meaningful experience by osmosis?

With no allusion to this race, Financial Times columnist Christopher Caldwell asked that last week about Hillary Clinton. Granted, she has subsequently won a Senate seat, but the questions are similar:
Mrs Clinton, a lawyer was made the custodian of various policy projects when her husband held power. Where is the advantage to Mrs Clinton? To say that her deeds were done on a national stage, while Mr Obama has been in the public eye only since 2004 is to measure relative fame rather than their relative experience. Both candidates have career experience that is arguably relevant to the presidency.

Stacking them up against one another requires figuring out what kind of experience one gains by being married to a powerful executive and the nature of the non-constitutional position of US "first lady". Was Mrs Clinton a combination of apprentice adviser and inheritor, Georges Pompidou to her husband's Charles de Gaulle? Or was she simply an observant and ambitious relative, George W. to her husband's George H.W. Bush?
No Lame Link: I won't bother linking to the June 29th, Experience can be a drawback. You need a separate paid FT subscription that includes the online edition to view it (boo). If you run across it at a library, it's good reading though.

The answer for Tsongas seems plainly that she is untested and inexperienced. However, she continues to lead the polls and fund-raising. Voters don't seem totally rational and detached about this race.

Disclaimer: I have endorsed Jamie Eldridge, both on this blog and on Left Ahead!

Eileen Donoghue—She is quite a step toward the experienced side. She's also a lawyer, a former and current Lowell City Council member, as well as a two-term mayor of the city. She has a solid track record on municipal-level accomplishment, with particular concentration on economic development.

It is a big stride, but not necessarily a vault to move from the city level to U.S. Congress. She would not be the first to do it successfully. On the other hand, she would come into the national scene as an unknown and have to create working relationships as well as learning how things work before she might be effective.

Barry Finegold—A state Rep. for a decade, he has the experience in time, but not so much on the score card. He was an Andover selectman for a year before getting a House seat. There aren't many bills that he sponsored. He brags about the Holocaust Restoration one that let Massachusetts residents who would benefit from Swiss government settlements do so without taxes. There's not much else on his list except for things he joined in on when they were rolling. How do we say not a world beater?

He's a super guy though, coaches kids teams, and is charming.

Jamie Eldridge—This one offers quite a contrast. On the face of it, he's in the Meehan mold. He favors progressive reforms and seems to do his own thinking and proposing, in the House, on the campaign trail, and up on his website.

He's been in the House for only five years, but provides an impressive list of accomplishments. He's the only one in the field that inspires confidence that he could walk into this Washington office and start making things happen immediately.

Jim Miceli—Avoiding as many debates as he could so far, Jim Miceli has been in politics for almost 45 years, but doesn't seem to have much of a résumé to show for it. After the Wilmington Planning Board, and MBTA Advisory Board spot and a few others, he has been in the House here since 1977, not that you'd know it.

He doesn't have an active website and doesn't seem to have sponsored anything noteworthy in the past 30 years. He only sits on a single committee, Personnel and Administration, and chairs nothing.

On the face of it, he should be able to claim the most experience. But doing what? Could he be the best napper and luncher on Beacon Hill?

Outlier note: Tom Tierney has registered to run, but seems to be a minor distraction. His website is virtually empty. It's front page says he'll be a one-trick pony — he'll fight to keep Social Security benefits as is. He's an actuary from Framingham and has a nice old-man haircut. Yawn.

Who's Worthy?

Here's the 5th, a fortress of progressive fighters for the common good of this commonwealth and the nation. You would suppose the voters would want the most progressive candidate or the most experienced one.

Yet, common wisdom so far favors Niki Tsongas:
  • Of the two sentiment-based candidates, she is by far the most personable and has lot of second hand contacts.
  • The primary campaigning over the summer gives her an advantage of recognition over substance.
  • The probable low turnout after Labor Day (and even if they move it out a week) is in her column too.
  • Nearly all the candidates are close on many major issues, like getting out of Iraq and some formula or another to improve health care and education, for example.
  • Not even Jamie Eldridge has been able to get the focus on either big topics or a single differentiator.
To her credit, Tsongas has not run from the seemingly continuous forums and debates held all over the district. With her advantages, she doesn't have to be great at any, or even very good. She just has to be not terrible.

Her strategy is not brave and certainly doesn't demonstrate the leadership of Meehan or her late husband. However, it is a pretty safe, and many would say smart, approach. She can't out-progressive Eldridge; she isn't there. She can't claim his experience or legislative accomplishments.

Her series of feel-good, say-little broadcast ads started, they kept the tone. She might or might not be good if elected. We have no historic way to extrapolate. Yet, she says comforting things that she hopes will resonate with voters, voters who know the last name.

In contrast, at his appearances, in debates, on his website and when he spoke with our Left Ahead! podcast, Eldridge was out there. He has a very strong, progressive, innovative platform, in stark contrast to the sponginess of the others. He seems to expect voters to decide on primary day that they would prefer someone most like Marty Meehan — unabashedly populist and progressive — and that would be Jamie not Niki.

To get there, he and his volunteers are literally ringing the doorbells in every city and dorp in this dispersed district. We won't know until September whether they want a proven legislator with accomplishments and real programs or something much vaguer.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Impeach...Savor the Word

In an odd artifact of the monarchy we rebelled against on this day, our President still has extensive arbitrary powers. One of these is commuting sentences and pardoning criminals. So your President cannot be impeached for waving off the 30-month penalty for Scooter Libby.

Indeed, that may be the least of his exposure. Ironically though, protecting his Vice President's convicted perjurer may well have been the cup of arrogance that makes his own bucket of crimes against America overflow. In addition, if it can be proven that Bush and Cheney conspired to keep the truth about allegations that led to war, revealing the identity of a CIA agent, causing the torture of uncharged civilians, and wiretapping Americas, all bets are off.

We could have the first dual removals from office of VP and Prez.

MSM stoker of the impeachment furor yesterday was MSNBC Anchor Keith Olbermann. He called for Shrub and Voldemort Bush and Cheney to resign. He listed criminal and moral charges. You can read the whole thing here, or check BMG for the embedded video here.

In our Left Ahead! podcast yesterday, Ryan and I kicked around the ripeness of time in forcing the duo out. Also check my choice for blog post of the week, regular_guy's An Open Letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Drinking Liberally, Oakland. He speculates that she hesitates to act because she is next in line for the Presidency after the nefarious pair in power. He then calls on her to do her duty to the nation and do it now.

It's time indeed. Bush and Cheney have assaulted and crippled our laws, into our constitution's bill of rights. Over three thousand Americans and tens of thousands of others have died as a result of their duplicity. It's time for each and all of us to kick the monsters out.

Olbermann has nailed a starter list of offenses up. Let's start examining what we'll need to get it on.

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Network 23 Stirring Your Brain

Blipverts took over 20 years, but they may be ready for prime time. In the Max Headroom world of Network 23, Blank Reg, and 20 minutes into the future, flashing, intense advertising could dominate or craze.

In this ADD world now, paying attention and controlling rather than receiving entertainment is just so, so, so 20th Century.

Clear Channel is trying two-second ads on radio in the latest short-attention-span ploy. On over 1,000 stations, they're plugging in ads for the passive. As the Globe piece describes them, "calls 'blinks' and 'adlets' that are tucked between music or disc jockey's chatter. Blinks, in about two seconds, may spit out three or four words like 'Sweet tea at McDonald's.' Adlets, about five seconds, offer a bit more: 'This Saturday at Rain, it's a glamorous VIP afterparty hosted by Fergie. Visit'"

Double ha ha here. The article has actual links, where the the mid-20th Century-style Globe is famous for ranting on about websites without hyperlinking. Apparently the subject matter dictated the content, as is apt.

Blipverts in the movie and TV series surely drew on the early TV era fears of the imagined evils of subliminal advertising. The idea is that we can process information much faster than hearing speech, so that a flash message will embed itself in our brains and compel us to though we needed help in that.

Now seems like a great time for advertisers to try for real. A generation of text-messaging kids, many of whom seldom read news, opinion or fiction, is prime lab fodder for this experiment.

Max himself said a couple of relevant things. And I love, love, l-l-love... love those blip-blip-blip-blipverts!

Yet in his frenzied, disembodied state he could be philosophic too, as in, "But, as a famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' And as I - another more famous person - once said, 'If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like.'"

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