Friday, November 30, 2007

Still Mad Dad

Thanks to Bud over at MassResistance Watch, I don't have to detail the droning, quixotic appeal of Lexington's Mad Dad. His post today covers the effort.

If you don't want to bother, the gist is that they tried locally to customize curriculum down to the topic level. They got rejected in state and federal courts. Now they are appealing the federal rejection. Yawn.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beating Butts Brings Out Beast

After posting on how the bill to classify spanking of children as abuse intends to catalyze discussion, I checked Technorati, Google, and Yahoo to see what the MSM and bloggers were saying for the past week or so.

Well, it looks like the author of that bill will get that discussion going. She said she doesn't expect the bill to pass, but does want people talking. That's happened.

Online Passions

By the bye, if you want to get your own sense, search for spanking and massachusetts. I got 601 hits this morning. The default returns by date, so you get the freshest in every sense of the word. Adding the state helps filter out the S&M folk.

You can find your own links. I won't prejudice it with those to the many pro-spanking or the anti-spanking ones. Suffice it to say that the libertarian and atavistic attitudes here strongly prevail. Think, "Nobody can tell me what I can do to my kids!" and arguments about children being so irrational that only hitting them will keep them alive and those around them physically safe.

Reading the MSM and blogger entries makes me less open minded about this than even one day ago. I raised and am raising three boys without spanking or otherwise hitting them. Yet the responses from the pro-spanking folk ring hollow and worse. They might turn me into a strong no-spanking sort.

All Kinds of Rights

To the crux of the intrusive-government issue, I must quickly note that it is a fantasy that the state can't tell parents how to raise their kids. We have such agencies as the Department of Social Services, there are laws and regulations about how children must be educated and for how long and when and under what conditions they can work, and specifically for violence, the laws and regulations forbid serious injury, sexual abuse and much more. Spanking is on a spectrum and is not stand-alone.

What is far more disturbing is the children-as-property attitude in so many articles and posts. The dozens I read completely are an amazing throwback, and not in a good way.

Even Wikipedia has a complete piece on spanking with a lot of balance and many links. Parents who want to hit their kids at will can't find the medical and psychiatric support for doing so though. Research points the other way and is past the very old-fashioned view that irrational developing children understand pain as correction, making beatings necessary.

Reading the justifications suggests to me that MDs and shrinks are ahead of parents. Face it; nearly all of us start parenting the way we were parented. (If you came from an extremely dysfunctional home, you make break the cycle.) We feed and dress and school our kids by what we know. Most of us think what our parents did was pretty damn good — don't we think we're wonderful?

Property and Primitives

Instead, reading about the necessity of punishing kids physically brought up too many historical parallels.

Of course, kids do need to learn self-control as they grow. It is not at all convincing that showing them that angry violence is a solution to interpersonal conflicts and unmet expectations will help them do so. Instead, word and example are the proven methods. These require more of mind, patience and emotion from the parents. They also hold the peril of passivity.

Many of the pro-spankers set up a straw man here. You are either a caring parent who uses corporal punishment to teach and show love or you are a namby-pamby who tries to be a friend to your kids and turns out self-centered undisciplined sociopaths. Quadruple ha-ha on such illogic.

Too many of the pro-spanking articles and posts read like infamous justifications for abuse of wives, servants and slaves. The masters were often wont to speak and write in previous centuries about the necessity for beatings. The wives/servants/slaves were hysterical or primitive and only understood the switch or whip.

Kids aren't exactly the same, but close enough for me. Reading all that bluster about the necessity of having to show these undeveloped beings how to behave with physical punishment hardened me to such arguments.

I'll keep tabs on this. I hope that the discussion continues. Perhaps I'll run across a cogent line of thought justifying spanking as a way to teach social behavior...eventually. The literature and my small universe of three well behaved sons who learned without being hit strongly say otherwise to me.

At the same time, having three children has given me some empathy with spankers. Children can be annoying and infuriating. It would be expedient, quicker and easier, to hit them rather than deal more maturely and more rationally. Besides, in the main, parents are bigger and stronger. We can slap, spank and beat our kids.

House Bill 3922 classifying spanking as a civil offense in Massachusetts will not become a law. However, introducing it seems to have done what the author intended. We're talking.

Chatter Pointer: Writing of, there's local commentary over at UniversalHub.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Beating? Let's Talk About It.

The manufactured dust-up about an anti-spanking law here has strongly polarized folk nationwide. It remains to be seen whether as this House Bill 3922 gets a debate in committee and perhaps on the floor of either chamber it will cause the discussion that its author wants.

It had its hearing today before the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. It is unlikely to reach the legislature for a vote and certain not to become a civil law. Neither the author, Arlington psychiatric nurse Kathleen Wolf nor the sponsor, her State Rep, Jay Kaufman, expects this to become law. However, Wolf would very much like it to be the basis for public discussion.

As such, Wolf manufactured the fight. Kaufman might have finessed this, but it is his obligation to advance any bill suggested by a registered voter in his district, once it is in shape to go.

H3922 would not criminalize spanking, although it would classify it as abuse as intended to cause pain and humiliate — exactly what nearly all children's butt beaters intend. We already have a Department of Social Services to step in as necessary and laws that in theory hold parents responsible for maiming or killing their kids when the parents lose it. Pretending this bill is some sudden novel plot against parents' rights is disingenuous.

The other side has lost no time in manufacturing its debate on this, rising to Wolf's bait. Predictable among the responses are:
  • This is nanny state, liberals gone wild and proof we need less, not more, government.
  • Both conservative sorts as well as MSM don't bother to distinguish between such civil legislation (penalty is notifying the Department of Social Services to evaluate) and criminal law. They portray this as a SWAT team kicking in a house door to arrest a perfectly normal dad for spanking his wild child.

My Very Own Bottom

I have three children whom I have never spanked. I well understand the impulse; kids can be damned trying. In fact, a few days after the birth of our first, I began to get a sense of that. He did not sleep more than a few hours at a time for the first six months. We were exhausted and often short-tempered. I used to half-joke with my wife as I staggered with him from crib to her breast how clever nature was to make babies cute. When he smiled to see me and reached out to get picked up, my fatigue and anger vanished.

My own background is worth a mention. My mother had grown up with her strict, country mom hitting her with a paddle, belt or switch. When my sister and were very young and part of the Occupation Army in Japan, the maids did not hit us any more than they would have hit their own children. Their society did not work that way.

When we returned to the States, my parents divorced and my mother raised us, while working full time. My sister and I shared a bedroom and would talk after being told repeatedly to let our mother sleep. She tells the story of spanking me one of those times, when I was five. She said I was just lying there and she asked if it hurt me. I told her not really. She said it did hurt her hand and wrist, so she stopped and never spanked us again. We got lectures and restrictions but no corporal punishments.

That is my approach. It requires more wit and maturity than beating a smaller, defenseless person.

Likewise, I have friends who were abused in the name of punishment and training, often with skin-breaking belt beatings. They also responded by not ever hitting their children — no matter how justified it might seem at a moment of pubescent sass.

On the other hand, I know people who spanked their kids and some who also spank their grandkids. Invariably if the subject comes up, they'll say something like, "Well, I regularly got my butt beat and it didn't hurt me!"

Another way to look at that background and its result might be, "Well, yes it did. It turned you into a child abuser." Therein lies the crux of Wolf's debate.

Two Views in One Paper

Two disparate and telling views appeared in the Boston Herald. As you might imagine, their editorial played the Big Brother angle. However, columnist Peter Gelzinis wrote to the underlying issues.

The editorial included, "The bill is wholly unnecessary for more than the obvious reason - which would be the government regulation of parenting. Would the Spanking Police have a right to storm the front door if they hear that Dad gave Junior a swat for playing in traffic?"

Gelzinis, on a less emotional tone got a good quote from Kaufman:
I am keenly aware that bills are very dull instruments when it comes to trying to legislate good behavior. But what I’m grateful for with this is the chance to engage the public in a conversation on the troubling, almost epidemic rise, in the number of child abuse cases we see each year. It has simply become unacceptable, and if a bill like this can shed some more light on the issue, then the effort is worth it.
The columnist then added:
But then, when it comes to spanking, every parent is convinced they know how to do it just right, and it’s none of anybody else’s damn business - least of all the state. Problem is, DAs across the state this year charged about 5,000 people with not knowing where discipline ended and abuse began.
This bill is getting lots of coverage in the MSM as well as winger blogs and commentators. We don't have to wait for a Rush Limbaugh to take his turn, our local Hub Politics jumped right in with its ridicule and conclusion:
And where does it end? Will parents no longer be able to enforce their own curfews, deny their kids privileges based on their performance in school... Will the state start regulating how much parents can give their kids for an allowance?

Are we going to sit on our hands and let the state tell us how to raise our kids?
I must say that is very well put and clearly states the kids-as-property view in the guise of parents' rights. It leads to an equally precise response.

Sitting on your hands may work. If you are frustrated and feel out of control, rather than take a belt or paddle to your kid, sit on your hands! More humane and rational alternatives will come to you long before the DSS knocks on your door.

Next Day Update: Mass Family Institute testified against 3922. Director of Public Policy Evelyn T. Reilly actually seemed to reinforce Gelzinis' argument. She very carefully parsed the ideal situation — one likely out of reach of a parent acting in anger:
If administered carefully, with love and an explanation, many such children eventually express relief that there is someone in charge that they can rely on to guide them and show them right from wrong. Many children need to know that there is someone in charge who is even willing if necessary, though reluctantly, to judiciously administer a non-injurious spanking.

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GOP: Dirty Like Me

It's time for hip boots again, as the wingers' Pee Wee Herman imitation — I know you are, but what am I — returns.

Warning: Link above opens annoying wav file.

We have seen this for decades. Dick Nixon resigns the Presidency in disgrace, fleeing to pardon before impeachment could occur. They waited to nab a Democratic President to share the taint, impeaching Bill Clinton for lying about receiving adulterous fellatio. The cries of "I know yours was, but what was ours?" ring real tinny. Tromping the rights of Americans and subverting the Constitution repeatedly are most certainly not comparable to shame over adultery.

I get a felt sense that more Democrats on the national and even state levels have alcohol problems than GOP sorts. Likewise, the evidence continues to show that Republicans are a lascivious bunch, prone to multiple adulteries and bisexual or homosexual encounters too. That apparent anomaly is all the odder for the GOP claims of high morality.

Wingers don't seem to have many pegs on their hat rack. The one they offer the Dems has many more. They often return to their few and point to them repeatedly. A favorite after Clinton's dalliances, for example, is Sen. Ted Kennedy's confessed guilt 38 years ago in swimming to safety after an auto wreck that caused the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne.

On their scales, the many fewer Democrats' transgressions outweigh their own. At the very least, we are to believe that the revealed sins of one party's officials are the same as the others.

Moreover, far too many rightist columnists, commentators and bloggers rush to find ways to link hypocrisy and Democrat. Yet, for all but the most benighted, this slur should be coming from other lips.

Since Ronald Reagan's time three decades ago, the Republicans have been the one claiming family ideals, moral superiority, and sanctity of stereotypical faithful marriage.

As I am so fond of asking, what can we learn from this?
  • We have read surveys that report Republicans have sex more frequently than Democrats. Some GOP types like to crow that this shows their vigor. It might also indicate that they let their need for sexual satisfaction override their alleged loyalties and morality.
  • The amazing and continual dribbling out of more and more straight-identified GOP politicians having free or purchased homosexual encounters makes us ask whether closeted gays like to hide in conservative costume or whether playing the strict moralist gives one the impetus to play the naughty bisexual.
  • It is far, far easier to smear others and pull them into your mire than to accept personal responsibility and clean up.
Republican politicians with boy toys or mistresses seem to be becoming the norm. After this year's perp parade, we don't even seem shocked any more.

The fun continues when each of these revelations brings its own Pee Wee chant. The current version is great to explore, as both slanders are as of yet verified. Bluenose moralist Sen. Trent Lott may or may not have been yet another winger pol who paid for gay sex. The I-know-you-are folk immediately played the Sen. Hilliary Clinton is a lesbian card. (One bloggy example being widely republished is here.)

It looks like it will be easier to verify Lott's activities; there's an actual male prostitute named. Hillary, on the other hand, has long been a winger slur target for going to Wellesley, which has a strong reputation for solid scholarship and a healthy lesbian student mix. Now she is linked in totally unsubstantiated rumors to aide Huma Abedin.

It will be fascinating in a schadenfreude-ish way to see how these play out. One sure bet is that if Lott's rumor proves true and Hillary's false, there'll be no apologies from the commentators, columnists and bloggers who played Pee Wee. Meanwhile, it is more than enough for them to hope they can damage a leading Democratic candidate for President.

Late morning update: The male escort denies any connection with Lott. Wouldn't that be a static-reducing joy of his denials and those on Hillary's side simply quashed both of these rumors. I'm betting there are too many axes being sharpened for that to happen.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

An Economist Uses Forbidden Words

Recession and crisis are two terms Larry Summers does not fear using. In today's Financial Times, the economist and former Harvard President says the money biggies have to act now, right now.

His writing is a typical overgrowth of mumbling, but worth pushing through. He even has some direct declarative statements like, "Second, it is now clear that only a small part of the financial distress that must be worked through has yet been faced."

He cites the acknowledged mortgage and credit terrors, as well as the pathetic dollar, rising energy prices, the explosive Middle East and world economic woes. He figures that "economic policy needs to be governed by the clear and public recognition that restoring the normal functioning of the financial system and containing any damage its breakdown may do the real economy is the central macro-economic and financial challenge facing the US." He does not add what is implicit, that our Executive Branch and its simian leader won't and can't do the necessary.

He states:
  • The Federal Reserve must do far more than reduce deficits. "(F)iscal policy needs to be on stand-by to provide immediate temporary stimulus through spending or tax benefits for low- and middle-income families if the situation worsens."
  • Policy makers must do far more with more innovative methods to maintain the flow of credit. Their current techniques are inadequate.
  • The FHA must use existing and even direct lending to maintain housing demand, as well as introducing templates for restructuring mortgages for the millions who may face foreclosure.
He adds that even if these are executed well, they may not prevent recession. Yet, he notes they are far more than being done now.

He even gives us a touchstone for when we shall know we are on the right path. "In the US today, as in many other countries in the past, confidence will return the first day an official statement about the economy proves to have been too pessimistic."

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Who You Calling "Greatest"?

Well, I rolled and I tumbled, cried the whole night long.
When I woke up this morning, all I had was gone.
—from Rollin' and Tumblin' by Muddy Waters

Well, it didn't happen, but it felt close. Our Pats got snookered by a great defense last night and were extremely fortunate to snatch a scant win.

Cliché warning: I'll both belabor the obvious and torture sports analogies here.

The game of if, if, if will surely play in Philly today, as it should here. In an era, sports and otherwise, that stresses artificially produced parity, fans here are hungrier than ever for superlatives. The best NFL team ever. Unbeaten and unbeatable. Absolutely dominant. Blah blah.

My Childish Ways

It took me back to the little wooden desks of elementary school. We early baby boomer boys often drew combat cartoons to amuse ourselves as teachers did their best. We were, after all, children of WWII vets, and American combat victories were integral to our psyches. We'd sketch crude soldiers, sailors, fighter jets, tanks, and warships. We'd pencil bullets, heavy shells and rockets.

Americans would invariably win, but there was an artistic bifurcation. Most other boys would stack the deck. There's be two or even more Americans for every enemy. Our side would overwhelm the other.

I was in the triumph over powerful adversity group instead. (It may have been from too much classics reading, like about Thermopylae.) There were many more enemies, but the Americans won anyway.

Since I started sneaking peeks at the girls in the next rows, I set aside my battle sketches. Yet, like so many of us boys and girls, I transferred such thoughts and feelings to the vicarious struggles of sports.

While living in Chicago for many years, my sister fell into the masochistic pit of joy of being a Cubs fan. Those lovable losers' ballpark was as packed as the frequent world champ Yankees' one. Somehow, the Cubs wins seemed to resonate with and reward the fans even more than if they were inevitable victors.

Never Been a Team Like...

What the Patriots lost last night in winning so unconvincingly were the fluff and other meaningless verbiage that has surrounded them, both here and beyond the whole season.

I confess that as sports editor of my high school newspaper, I suffered from the fan's/writer's disease. My thoughts, feelings — and story leads — claimed extremes and trends that objective reality and even short-term future events belied. They were fun though.

Now I confess that the bonhomie around here is much preferable to the whining that proceed it. The Revs almost won it all, the Celts leapt from the sewers, the Sox have a couple of world championships in my lifetime, and how 'bout those Pats?

The best aspect is not having to hear the keens and snuffles and snipes of Sox fans. With two World Series victories in this decade, they have let go their worst traits. From the early days, through the Babe Ruth trade, to decades of bumbling, Sox loses were always someone else's doing.

Surely the worst was the puerile whine that the Yankees bought their championships with fat salaries. Even the local papers' columnists shut up about that when the Sox spent like crazy, began winning consistently, and ended up with the second biggest payroll and the most expensive ticket prices.

If this...if that...previously substituted for "They outplayed us." That attitude is one of champions, and one that seems to be becoming part of the Red Sox Nation's mind. Give your lumps, take your lumps, knowing you have a shot if your efforts and the mysterious factors of fortune combine.

Forget "Greatest"

Now the Patriots are headed toward another Super Bowl and likely more unwearable, tricked out rings. Yet, we know that the scares from the Colts and Iggles, as fans there are wont to say, have grounded the zeppelin of sports immortality (block that trope!).

Sports commentators had already been pulling in members of powerful Bears and other teams to figuratively spit on the Pats. Ptui, their defense couldn't carry our jockstraps, and so forth.

It is true that the major team sports have used capitalism at its worst to enforce parity and prevent dominant dynastic franchises. It reminds me of my oldest in kindergarten when the kids were grasping same and different. "We have the same!" was the frequent, joyful yell from the three and four year olds.

The widespread ideal that any given season, any team has a chance to win its division and go into playoffs is risible. First, we long have had teams like the Cubs and Sox whose fans filled the seats even when their guys go home after the regular season.

Also, there are a large number of sports junkies who love for big, bad teams to dominate. If those are in their market, they can somehow feel a vicarious potency. If they are elsewhere, their team has a villain to hate and hope of overcoming.

It is no surprise that the Pats have lost the greatest-football-team-of-all-time contest. The rules and schedules are different enough that comparisons to teams of decades ago are bagels to donuts, the same but different.

The Sox and their fans seemed to be learning that they don't have to be obnoxious Yankee slanderers and show their inferiority complexes. It's likely with another World Series in hand soon, we can act like real champs, delighted and proud when the Sox win, and accepting their shortcoming when they lose.

Down in Foxborough, the Pats are fun and seem to be having fun. It hasn't been that long ago that Tom Brady came in timid and considerably less effective than now. He also has better support from his enhanced team. Perhaps most impressive, being able to do so well in this parity era is huge.

Leave the greatest-of-all-time debates to the windbags on TV and the bar stools.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Media and Election 2008 Forum

Those damn bloggers...

Squeeze in now — by reservation — if you want to eavesdrop on or participate in a one-evening forum on how new media will affect the Presidential campaign and election. It will be in Manchester, New Hampshire on Thursday, December 6th.

Get details here. Download a handy-dandy PDF file you can kill a tree with here.

I have high expectations because the New England News Forum, of whom I've written, is a cosponsor. It's likely the one chance for bloggers, reporters, political-party sorts and such to meet and hash out strategies and issues.

Key details are:
  • The Unpress: New Gatekeepers of the New Hampshire Primary
  • Thursday, December 6th
  • 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Southern New Hampshire University's Walker Auditorium in Robert Frost Hall
  • Free, but register online
  • Pre-session networking and noshing event at the same place 6 to 7 p.m. ($10 requested donation)

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November Indulgences

Two non-political and artsy November JP posts are over at Harrumph!
  • Two exhibitionists at the Arnold Arboretum are here.
  • A hidden work of art is here.
November in Boston needn't be universally drab, and I am not relentlessly political.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Term Limits for Clowns and Saints

I felt uncomfortable in the Rialto barber shop in Roslindale Square. It was Albert Dapper O'Neil's tonsorial parlor. The barbers, except for the youngish woman, spoke lovingly of him. That's no surprise, as he was often charming face to face and had an endless pouch of funny stories, which he whipped out both there and at Syl's across the square.

He, Jim Kelley, and Freddy Langone were each and all clown princes of the Boston City Council. At the relatively low level, they parlayed a meager set of talents — likability, wit, clannishness — into secondary or even primary careers.

Certainly they must have been class clowns, rewarded for their cleverness at knocking others. I remember during the worst of the condo conversions here, Jim Kelley was that smart-ass kid again. One time when I testified before his housing committee, he openly ridiculed the concept that renters deserved any consideration. He was deep in the pocket of mega-developer Jerome Jerry Rappaport and played to his benefactor shamelessly while running the committee.

Those three in particular were always eager to play to the cheap laugh. Of course, we all like a chuckle, particularly during serious meetings.

Anti Everything

Unfortunately, the jesters we like to reelect came with too much baggage far too often. In playing to the lowest common denominator, they tended to come down on the regressive side — anti-school integration, anti-busing, anti-gay, anti-marriage equality, anti-renter, pretty much anti-rights for others who didn't look and act like their idealized constituents. Hell, it worked for them. Hell, it was a living.

On the face of it, nothing precludes buffoons from being efficient, wise and compassionate politicians. It just doesn't seem to work that way. Instead, voters tend to cut these elected entertainers tremendous slack. They'll take very routine performance and say, "See, he's a really good Councilor. He had them fix the pothole on my block." For each Councilor who supported repressive policies, you can find dozens of supporters to pile praise.

Is this any way to run a major city's governing body? Our voters seem to think so and have long before that trio.

Councilors might bewail their alleged powerlessness. Oh, the Mayor is the real power or we have to beg the state for anything we want to do. Yet, they control the city's budget. When it comes down to it, none of them wants to give up the job...unless there's a shot at being mayor.

I've been tangentially involved with the mayor and councilors for decades. I've testified at committees and body hearings. I've approached numerous councilors or mayoral candidates on specific topics while they were in or running for office.

Tobin on Terms

I must say up front that I like my guy for JP. My district (6) councilor is brighter and gustier and more progressive than the clowns past or present. He's either not jaded or just came in with better stuff. He leads the battle for free WiFi for Beantown, he's on the good side of equality and GLBT issues, and he wants to change his job for the betterment of us all. He wants four year Councilor terms, so they spend more time and effort on their jobs and less campaigning...and he wants term limits for mayor and councilor.

Moreover, and on a personal note, he keeps us happy with constituent services. That's an overlap with the jokers, who understood that people remember the smallest favor. In my case, the most recent was that I a parking ticket issue. As a result, I noticed some bad regulatory language in the city code. I mailed a letter asking for a change. Apparently the day he got it, he called me. He'll introduce the change and ask me to testify on it when it arises. We voters are often self-centered and simple. That kind of attention and empathy goes a long way.

Poddy Plug: By the bye, over at our podcast site, Left Ahead!, we'll have John on Tuesday, December 4th, at 2:30 p.m. to discuss term limits and more.

I can't see the Boston City Council getting a lot more power. Not only is the Mayor unlikely to share more, but the unique relationship with the commonwealth means that home rule stifles the city. It is a throttle on municipal governance under the principles of continuity and stability for the capital and its functions. Here, the mayor and council are often mendicants approaching a paternal governor and legislature for favors. That's not likely to change this week or in the foreseeable future.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Jury's Mind, Worcester Style

It's not O.J., but Larry Cirignano skipping on his charges raises that stereotypical question — What was that jury thinking?

Do to the diligence and solid reportage of Mike Benedetti over at Pie and Coffee, you get the inside view fresh! Well, not so fresh, rather more like third hand, from the juror to Mike to me to you.

Anyway, I have sat on several criminal trials and attended part of this one. Experientially, I have no doubt that Lightnin' Hopkins' lament was never more applicable than in trials, when he said, "I don't understand why people don't understand the way that I do."

I find myself wanting to ask jurors, "Didn't you listen to the evidence?" and "Do you understand the law as it applies to this, the way the judge explained it?" It sometimes seems juries can kind of adhere to the requirements, but often get all artistic with the law, like a cop at a late-night remote traffic stop.

In the Cirignano case, the burden of proof was very low on such relatively low-level charges. On assault and battery, he clearly shoved Sarah Loy and she even was hurt. The prosecution only had prove that he touched her when she didn't want it and that this might have hurt her. That's misdemeanor A&B. The other change of interfering with her right to free speech brought all kinds of extreme song-and-dance routines from the defense and ended up clouded enough that the judge finally took that charge off the table with a directed acquittal before the jury would even get it.

Granted, these were pretty small beer as charges go, but they do go to the core of our First Amendment rights. Does each of us have the right to reasonable protest without being physically abused? Does having a permit for a political rally in a public space give your group the right to act as police during the event? This trial answered neither.

At the trial, Mike and I wondered to each other what the jury was thinking, even before Cirignano skipped. We mused that we'd love to talk with one or more jurors. Well, Mike did and provides a long interview with the anonymous juror.

The transcript is fascinating and deserves a read in its entirety. Among some points that caught my interest were:
  • As we all suspected, the jurors in the main refused the judge's instructions and developed their own definition of A&B ("...when the victim ends up bloody, or beaten, or with a black eye.").
  • Most jurors also were concerned about whether Cirignano might face jail if they convicted him, regardless of the judge telling them several times and ways that they were not to concern themselves with the penalties.
  • The jurors were emotionally swayed by testimony of daughters of rally participants. Despite the girls' being contradicted by police and others, the jurors put a lot of weight on the girls.
  • The bulk of the jury were not strong First Amendment folk, rather they felt, "This should never have gone to trial, because she sshouldn't have pressed charges."
  • They also made the deliberations about same-sex marriage when told not to do so.
Reading the transcript gave the me the same creepy feeling as on some trials where I have been a juror. The cold light of reason shine very dimly in jury rooms.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

A Time for Latino Lions?

By demographics, Boston's City Council should have two Latino members. Following this month's defeat of Felix Arroyo, it will have zero, nadie, none.

The local MSM and some bloggers were quick to note (as I did) that Felix sealed his own political tomb with his laissez-faire attitude that typifies him. That meant low fund-raising efforts and little campaigning or organizing. He simply didn't get his many supporters to the polling places.

That aside, few are asking what's next for Latinos. As usual, the Banner is in the game. This week's front has Activists look to future after Arroyo's defeat. Reporter Yawu Miller doesn't get into the hand wringing, but provides the essential analysis.

In a town that's already 14% Latino (2000 census and growing), Boston has a steady flow of Spanish and Portuguese speaking citizens and citizens to be. Many are building lives for their families and facing those housing/employment/health big issues that Arroyo and the rest of Team Unity shine their lights on in the Council.

The article states, "Arroyo’s defeat could significantly weaken Team Unity at a time when its members were just beginning to use coalitions to more effectively push for legislation." At the most obvious, that means electing a president, and the four councilors were essential in elevating Maureen Feeney. It takes 7 of the 13 councilors to pass anything. So Team Unity has been influential.

Much is made of the impotence of the body. While it cannot make city policy and regulations without input and approval of the mayor, and in many cases, the legislature, it does direct policy and rule on the budget. Here having fair representation by ethnic and economic mix can be crucial. The article quotes Emerge's local executive director Caprice Taylor Mendez as saying, "Unfortunately, when it comes to affordable housing, school choice, jobs for youth — the vote splits along lines of race and ethnicity."

She added that this means the responsibility for these issues fall even more heavily on the existing councilors. They include two African-Americans, one Asian-American and one woman. It looks disturbingly like a less affluent version of the U.S. Senate to me.

We don't have to look to hard to see the traditional ethnic, cultural and racial disproportions of the council. For many decades, it was another WASP men's club in many ways. Then it began to disproportionately include Irish-Americans and then Italian-Americans. The shifts were sort of breakthroughs at the times, but we pinkish colored folk have long outnumbered everyone else, and women have never dominated or even held their share.

In a piece on WBUR after the election, Arroyo voiced the hope that other Latinos will do what they can without direct council representation. "I simply hope that it's a wake up call to Latinos that they need to be participants and develop coalitions and work with other people in order to be represented in the decision making roles that the city have because if that happens it's healthy for everyone."

That certainly is one approach and always a good attitude with Boston politics. However, it seems to be, if you pardon the expression, pale by comparison with having one or two Latino councilors in City Hall.

Giovanna Negretti, executive director of ¿Oíste?, called Arroyo's defeat "a setback." Yet, like Felix himself, she looked ahead. "“There are a lot of young, new people of color who are getting ready to run in 2009. This is not the end.”"

Indeed, there have been calls for more Latinos to step up to represent their communities' concerns — perhaps someone with more hunger that Felix has been showing. He's done a lot of good work, but may have lacked the drive of other Team Unity members.

This might well be the time for and inspiration for some younger, more energetic Latinos to capture one or two council seats. There's a body that always benefits from some new ideas in the head and fire under the butt.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oh, My, O'Malley

The unbelievably clumsy and irrational attack on marriage equality here by the Roman Catholic hierarchy says much on the current and future of orthodox religion. In Massachusetts, the church of the large plurality seems determined to trivialize itself.

In Baltimore yesterday, Cardinal Sean O'Malley did it yet again. He, an Archbishop of the church that has become synonymous with scandal, called supporting Democrats, " times, it borders on scandal as far as I'm concerned." He said he was willing to go beyond "his differences with the Republican Party over immigration policy, capital punishment, economic issues, and the war in Iraq, (viewing) abortion as the most important moral issue facing policymakers."

The analysis is in the Baltimore Sun here. The parochial, he's-our-local-guy story is in the Boston Globe here. A related big picture for trends in the nominally solid R.C. Spain in a two-year-old Washington Post analysis is here.

Our Stereotypes

Hark to stereotypes of our commonwealth, as rich as visions of the Manifest Destiny times of our Great Plains. Here, the huge grazing herds were not bison, rather Democrats and Catholics and Catholic Democrats. That was all we needed to know about politics in the Bay State. It is increasingly inaccurate and meaningless.

We need to keep in mind that heads of nearly all religious organizations are and must be politicians as well. O'Malley has proven himself in general to be a very good one. In his several diocesan locations, he turned around some pretty sick situations, getting congregants, elected officials and priests to work together. In this archdiocese, he faced even more disgrace, scandal and corruption than he had before, and did not fare as well cleaning it up and bringing various publics into line.

Moreover, with the new, strict and even reactionary Pope, we have heard O'Malley joining in those quixotic calls for punishing our elected officials — we should oust them from office and the church should deny them rites if they don't vote the way the Pope commands. Many Catholics seem to think the miters are on a bit too tight.

So the broader effect seems to be that the Vatican continues to grow in influence slightly in Africa and Asia. It loses a bit in members and a lot in clergy in Europe. In both Europe and the United States, congregants continue to self-identify as members, but pay less and less attention to both political pronouncements and calls for strict doctrinal adherence.

Even with their own figures (much higher than anyone else's accounting at 17.2% of world population), the church is stagnant in the balance. That may well suit the Pope, who announced several times that he'd favor a smaller, more obedient membership.

So, what about Massachusetts' native fauna? We do have a lot of Catholics and a lot of Democrats. While Rhode Island leads the nation in percentage (over 50), we are not far behind as number two, with 44% of us being Catholics.

Similarly, Democrats are a common species here, with a plurality of 37%. Republicans are a sorry 13%. However, the unenrolled, what the rest of the nation calls independents, are the remaining 50%. We see the volatility and unpredictability of that several ways. We do send Democrats to Congress and vote for Democrats as President. However, we seem to elect Republican governors who appeal to our fiscal conservatism and have no problem mixing and matching Dems and GOP candidates on more local offices.

Then for the General Court, I won't start on DINOs. I think of them the way O'Malley speaks of pro-choice politicians. Suffice to say that far too many nominally Democratic legislators here are not at all progressive or even liberal.

Lip Service

Back to the politicians who run the Roman Catholic Church. Spanish, French and Italian Catholics have openly, clearly and often broken with doctrine. The Spanish government and voters enabled same-sex marriage for example. Abortion and divorce laws and regulations increasingly become more liberal throughout historically Catholic nations.

Even more than the past few Popes, the current one has made it clear that the Vatican won't reconsider its links to doctrine and politics any more than celibacy or female priests. It's a like it or lump it attitude that has loosened the bonds for a huge number of Catholics.

It may be good for the Church that the elderly Benedict is like a short-timer. After running the former Roman Inquisition, that Vatican arm that enforces doctrine, for 25 years, Benedict is not exactly the flexible sort. He offers a rest from the slow but steady liberalization of some previous Popes, but he is the current doctrinally infallible leader.

Quixotic Campaign

Back in Boston, for the past several years, O'Malley let himself and his bishops and priests fall into the VoteOnMarriage trap on the amendment to halt same-sex marriage here. Still reeling from the many decades of large numbers of sexually abusive clerics, the local archdiocese didn't need to roll in the mud with the basest anti-gay, anti-equality wingers.

O'Malley never said, but I certainly assume that the Pope gave him his orders on this one. O'Malley has always been a loyal officer, apparently even taking his elevation to bishop and beyond with misgivings.

So, we had a military-style campaign as a result. From archbishop to bishops to priests to committee heads and congregants, the orders were both clear and disastrous. Use the pulpit and back of the nave for politics, even shaming people into signing ballot-initiative petitions in church. The clergy appeared with extreme right-wingers for causes that many congregants seemed to disagree with or at least feel inappropriate for their religious leaders' involvement.

Calls to conscience gave way to marching orders. That honestly doesn't play well here, in the rest of this country or in Europe.

After the huge initiative defeat in June, O'Malley clearly had led an ill-chosen campaign into ignominy. From both religious and political views, his drive further damaged his effectiveness here. Further calls for political signatures and funds, as well as voting by mandated doctrine, will be harder for many to hear or act upon.

Short and mid term, there may be no undoing of this mess. Certainly this is not the time and place where the archdiocese will be seen as the leader in working for people's bodies and souls. Instead, it seems to have disdained and squandered the good will and respect of the large number of Catholics here.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Art Exhibit Pointer

It's art for Ott. See my Harrumph! post on an exhibit at Harvard's Sackler.

It is a non-political and personal post.

Cruelty to Bloggers?

Just when I think I won't react to an online or paper column again, I find:
The former is much more serious and applicable. It is about bipartisanship and includes a sketchy road map to U.S. universal healthcare...and Democratic redemption.

However, prone to navel gazing, I fairly vibrated from the turns of phrase as well as the clear idea in the latter. It starts:
Whom the gods would destroy they first give a newspaper column.

It would seem to be a simple task to buff one's reflections, observations, and opinions to an 800-word sparkle twice a week, yet the job cores the skulls of all but the stoutest, most resourceful writers. The perceptive reporter turns into a bar-emptying bore, the meticulous stylist into a pompous hack, and the shrewd thinker into a merchant of flapdoodle.

In 586 words, Shafer savages Cohen's content and style. ("...Yes! Yes! Afghanistan completes Pakistan! Moderates must work with moderates for moderation! Why didn't I think of that?...At least Cohen didn't resort to the threadbare cliché of constructing the piece as a faux conversation or speech, as so many Times columnists love to do. Whoops! I forgot that Cohen did just that in his Nov. 5 column...)

It is brutal and far too accurate. Moreover and to this post, the criticisms are more than apt for most of us bloggers much of the time.

The currency of ideas mitigates modestly bloggers' literary lapses, but not to the point of painlessness. Clicking onto a well written blog post is rare enough that it makes us stop and marvel. The garments of blogging are too often soiled, tattered and poorly fitting.

Columnist Chops

My first regular columns were as sports editor of my high school paper. I usually only had to get clever or insightful once a month. Some were very good and changed school policy, but most were artsy and even pretentious. I can forgive my teen self. More important to this post's point, It was so infrequent.

In journalism school, it was a step or two up, at least in assembly-line speed. For a couple of years, I turned out two or three columns a week and numerous news articles, plus editorials. One year, the poor editor-in-chief was so overwhelmed by her once-a-week editorial that she was often in tears an hour before it was due. I'd sit down with her or without her and churn one out under her byline, week after week.

I own very few of those many scores of columns. They aren't online to examine, for which I am grateful. I certainly won't journey to the nation's oldest college library building, South Caroliniana, where the originals reside.

I recall how some of my columns made people angry and actually caused protests at the newspaper in person or by letter from students, alumni, administration, and the athletic director. That does not necessarily mean they were well written, much less high art. I confess that it was simply the power of the ideas themselves, not their expression. The provocateur, pundit and poet can often blur in the mind of the reader.

Sudden Gems

I can certainly empathize with the recently excoriated Mr. Cohen. To me, the immediacy of posting on this and other blogs where I write is cathartic and satisfying. Unlike the world of tech writing and most jobs, blogging gives us the delights of immediate publishing, plus the ability to correct, expand and refine thereafter.

Surely, the mean old Mr. Shafer has points about a highly paid and not at all overworked Mr. Cohen's lack of éclat. Yet the principle remains. It is tough to churn 'em out. Some are a lot better than others. Moreover, some columnists and some bloggers are not, have never been and will never be great or even good writers.

Much like anyone else, how many bloggers or columnists pass the table test, that is make you want to share a warm drink, a cold one or a meal, in ascending order of affection and respect for intellect?

Short of getting those rewards, I'll read for the ideas and then be delighted if the insights are brilliant or expression sparkling. Both seem too much to ask, but sometimes the gods of analysis and literature smile upon us.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mike Didn't Go For a Soldier

Veteran's Day likely has connotations for most of us and catalyzes various emotions.

In a real sense, I was born in the military — at Ft. Sill Station Hospital. My father was an artillery commander. My silver baby cup reads my name and birthday, and that it is from "OFFICERS AND LADIES" of the 17th field artillery battalion. When I was six months old, we headed off as part of the occupation army in Japan, from where my father also forayed into Korea to fight some more.

He and many uncles and great uncles got their wounds and medals in WWII and Korea. Moreover, my maternal grandfather had the odd distinction in our family of having snuck off underage to join the American Expeditionary Force in Europe in WWI. He was the age of my youngest now, whom I can't imagine in combat.

My parents divorced when he returned from Korea and they actually got to know each other. They had no business marrying and had the sense to quit. She raised me. Subsequently, he remarried and has two other sons, both of whom for some inexplicable reason spent a few years in the military. They also felt as I, that they had served military service long before they could join, and they don't understand why they did it.

I was of the age that saw our last military draft. The Army was determined to draft me the minute I got out of college and sent me letters to that effect. They had a place in Southeast Asia for me to go. In the first draft lottery, the day before my birthday was 341 of 365 and the day after it was 360. They took boys through 195. My birthday was 104.

I had no intention of going nor any of heading to Canada. I knew the war was wrong, fought for the wrong purposes and a waste of the lives of all who died there.

I dearly loved my grandfather, a remarkable man. Yet I knew he had been an eager fighter in WWI, going when it wasn't necessary. He had also been active since in the VFW and AmVets, even holding such offices as state chaplain in the former. I felt I couldn't even discuss it with him.

One summer day, I was sitting on the front porch in his little town, watching the apple and peach orchards on the mountain before me. I actually was hoping for a rain storm. Most of the time, you can see the cloud come up and over the mountain like an angry, dark beast. You can watch it flow down and see the rain drenching the trees and head to town.

However, my grandfather had something to say when he joined me. He told me that he knew well that I had always been gentle and preferred to reason rather than fight. Then, he said that if he were my age, he would not go to fight in Vietnam, that it was not a just war for good causes. Then, he handed me a C.O. letter that he had drafted without my asking or even implying. He said if anyone he knew was against war, it was I.

I was surprised. I was stunned and could only thank him. Of course, perhaps I shouldn't have been. He had known me from before I occupied Japan.

By the bye, I did not apply for conscientious objector status. Instead, I told the military that I would not fight, but if they needed a photographer or reporter, I wasn't afraid to go. I told them I would not carry arms in that war.

They sent C.O. papers. I returned them saying I wasn't applying for that status, rather that I absolutely wouldn't fight in that war. After three rounds of this, they eventually changed my 1-A (report for duty) status to a 3-A (the same as guys with a bunch of kids).

Yes, I'm glad the Germans didn't win either World War. Nearly everyone alive owes a huge gratitude to those who fought, those who supported and those who died. Not every veteran was or is a hero, but enough have been and the stakes have been so high, that this day and other days we are right to treat them all as such.

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Youth Comfortable with Sexual Identity

All right! The gender identity future here and elsewhere increasingly looks less judgmental and more positive. The kids are okay.

Click over to this morning's Boston Globe maggy for Alison Lobron's Easy Out. High school youth and those who know and work with them speak of their comfort with knowing homosexuals or being them. It is an excellent treatment of how the post-baby boom folk are likely to dispense with the fears and fetishes that dominate so much of gender identity today.

My two teens a home (9th and 12th grades) seem to have similar attitudes to many of their cohorts. Gay? Same-sex marriages? What's the big deal — those are just the realities of some of us.

Perhaps equally positive to the youth feeling comfortable coming to terms with their sexual identities is that this attitude permeates their schools and social environments. I certainly grew up when even for kids in school perceived manliness and womanliness were cudgels that kids beat each other with constantly. Any words, deed or garments (green on Thursdays!) that deviated from stereotypes brought out the ridicule and bullying. A future without that sounds good.

You need to read the whole, long, breezy piece. I won't swipe the best quotes. However, it does reinforce some of the findings of Indiana University biologist and sexuality researcher Alfred Kinsey almost 50 years ago. For example, a few sources in the article do mention aspects of that knotty issue of the spectrum of sexual identity. Kinsey found that virtually all of his thousands of subjects were at any moment on a range from heterosexual to homosexual, and that for some, their point would alter from time to time.

Those loony ex-gay promoters like to use this to "prove" that homosexuality is a choice and berate anyone for whom it never was and never will be. That a pity, because as this article illustrates so well from some youth who are coming to terms with whatever their sexual nature is, even straight identified youth can feel strong attraction for others f their gender and gay youth can feel the same for kids of the other gender.

Lobron spoke with gay and straight kids who are already comfortable with a society that includes GLBT youth and adults. They are also becoming comfortable with their own sexual identities. The kids are okay.

Content note: This excellent piece does not sensationalize. Specifically, it does not interview or even mention the Acton-Boxborough student whose parents were not supportive.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ward 19 Vote Same But Different

BMG points to O'Malley on the Web's breakdown of Boston City Council votes, ward by ward. My ward was as usual a little bit out of step.

He posted:
Ward 19 (Jamaica Plain: Moss Hill, Pond side, White City/Roslindale)
Yoon, 1771 votes
Arroyo, 1688
Murphy, 1098
Flaherty, 1094
Connolly, 1057

Yoon and Arroyo take Ward 19 with solid victories. Murphy, Flaherty, and Connolly are statistically tied and will almost certainly give a little extra love to Ward 19 with the hopes of edging past the other two in 2009.
Regulars here know that I've been a Yoon guy from when he first campaigned over two years I was this time. So initially I was pleased to see that my neighbors put him up top.

Sub-neighborhood notes: I assume Matt is not a Ward 19 guy. Locals throughout this area and New England can be real sticklers for terms and pronunciations. So, it's Pondside and White City is the pre-WWII name for Woodbourne for the construction company that built some of the house and stores. Also 19 goes up to the Curley School area and includes the Lamartine Street area — a pretty diverse district both culturally and in family income.

Another glance at the votes shows that despite the different proportion to some candidates from the main vote, we went for the incumbents. I liked that we wanted to keep Felix Arroyo in office, unlike the rest of the city who made him the only incumbent to lose. Otherwise, we're flowing with the river. We like Team Unity member Yoon, the most progressive Councilor, far more than most Boston voters, which goes with our political stereotype.

Yet, the basic tie well below the votes for Yoon and Arroyo for the three Irish-Americans indicates that to most voters seemed to have lumped them together. They do kind of look alike, but there were clear differences in their positions. It appears Ward 19 voters either didn't analyze those differences or there is some validity to complaints that the MSM did not make them aware of the underlying politics. I suspect it was likely both.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Boston Media Hoping for Small Scandal

Stephen Murphy is not likely to mature anytime soon. The big Boston dailies should set the example.

Instead, both the Globe and Herald are rubbing their MSM hands over the thought of a City Councilor feud. John Connolly erred personally and politically by sending true and legal cards without his name on them about how Murphy had pursued numerous other jobs to get out of being a mere Councilor. Murphy responded with bitter overkill defamation.

Now both dailies seem delighted that the normally publicly collegial Council may have another rivalry. Each has run articles and columns foreshadowing a long-running spitting contest among Murphy, who won reelection, and newcomer Connolly. Both papers couch it like this shouldn't happen, but they clearly want it.

MSM Rant: I'm with the numerous other bloggers and Universal Hub, like here, who say the MSM were amazed at the low turnout two days ago, but the media seem not to have noticed that they gave pathetically weak coverage leading up to the election. Let us heap shame on them. They failed their public responsibility.

If you missed the last mayoral election for any reason, be aware that the local MSM loved the spiteful sniping and feuding from chronic candidate Maura Hennigan when she tried to oust her long-term co-Councilor who became mayor. You can search this blog up top for mentions of her, like here. It was nasty, she was childish and vindictive, and the local papers loved every ad and oral slur.

Now Connolly hasn't even taken office and the Globe is drooling over what they hope is an open wound. Likewise, a snatch at the Herald in Wayne Woodlief's column can hardly contain itself in anticipation.

I predict peace or at least quiet. I predict that Connolly won't play this loser's game. Woodlief already says that Connolly's apologies won't work and that the grudge is likely permanent. That would be true if both guys were as recalcitrant and puerile as Murphy.

At the end of the campaign, Murphy easily out-flamed Connolly. He showed a real schoolyard attitude — push me and I'll slug you! His response to the card that called him on his years of making it plain that the Councilor role was not good enough for him to play was to call Connolly "a documented sneak and a liar." The amusing reality is the card was a little sneaky, but its contents were all too true.

Even after the vote count, the Herald piece quotes the theatrical Murphy as, "This was more like driving down the street and suddenly getting hit by a napalm cluster. This (Connolly’s negative mailings) was character assassination." In contrast, Connolly was calm, conciliatory and gracious. Meanwhile, the Globe cites Murphy as saying he's not sure he can ever forgive his old chum. "Time will tell. Only time will tell."

First, Murphy's not likely to find any support among other Councilors or Menino after his hard slams against Connolly. More important, Connolly is clearly not a grudge holder. I'm betting Murphy stays petty and Connolly does what it takes to placate the big pouter. It's good one of them can be adult after they have each insulted the other.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

You Say CALM. I Say CLAM.

I dig in my heels. I'm sorry for the precise among us, but I insist on using a mis-acronym for the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. In the related post this morning, I use an anagram to produce CLAM. It stays in the head.

In my childish way, I think that CLAM is a much more accurate association with those nasty folk (or maybe one) than CAL or CALM. The press releases under the League name are not gentle or pacific or quiet.

CLAM also seems accurate for a non-profit that has not filed its annual its 12 years of incorporating here.

I recognize the validity of the comment. I like CLAM and it lends itself to graphics.

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Is CLAM a Sham?

Into the void, C.J. Doyle bellows, "Follow me!"

Neither on the battlefield of his mind nor even at the buffet table does anyone seem to stir. Is there in fact a Catholic Action League of Massachusetts?

As a PR-release machine, this Massachusetts corporation is at its finest. The major dailies run the self-described executive director's predictably reactionary pronouncements. So do such niche interest groups as The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Crusade of Saint Benedict Center.

Rights — reproductive, gay, adoption, marriage — pick 'em. He's agin 'em. (That's he, right, from a George Rizer AP photo.)

He and his phantom organization came to mind this week during the Boston City Council elections. The CAL (or is that the CLAM?) apparently released its own candidate questionnaire.

Note: I was in a cleverness fit with CLAM. In this post at Blue Mass Group, someone pointed out that CALM would be accurate. In my puerile way, that doesn't suit me or lead to a decent graphic.

For some reason, Doyle didn't send one here, although I would have gladly run it. As one might suspect, MassResistance got it and featured it. See the PDF file of it here.

This is even dumber than the usual. It shows that one fringe candidate (who came in at the bottom of yesterday's at-large slate) supported CLAM's extreme positions (life at conception, no condoms available for school kids, et alia). In other words, the entire City Council, mostly Roman Catholics, disagrees with Doyle. Follow whom?

As it turns out, there doesn't seem to be a CLAM at all. To wit:
  • The Secretary of State's records show a non-profit incorporation in 1995 and a name change a year and one-half later.
  • Doyle is not listed in the officers, who were Daniel T. Flatley (Canton), Frederick M. Kelley (Belmont), and Robert C. Almond (Belmont).
  • The listed address is not any of theirs, nor Doyle's. The more recent Massachusetts Catholic Conference listing has yet another CLAM location.
  • That also lists the defunct CLAM website. You have to be pretty lame not to afford and put up a $100 a year web presence.
  • Far more telling is that the organization appears never to have filed its annual report, with financials. These are required by state law and regulation. Not filing for a single year could mean pulling of your incorporation and any tax benefits from funds raised. Not doing it for 12 years should mean that for sure.
  • A message on the phone that answers for CLAM claims they are busy at 8 a.m. There was no return to the message I left. The reverse look up for the number shows only Dedham with no mailing or street address.
A clerk at the Secretary's office said many tiny non-profits don't file their required annual reports, but that eventually it catches up with them. Both state and federal tax agencies are more likely to pay attention and demand accounting.

Under the name, Doyle has made numerous donation requests. The Boston Globe reported at the end of 2005:
A conservative advocacy group, the Catholic Action League, says it is receiving regular donations from about 1,100 Catholic families and has an advisory board packed with politically connected Catholics like former governor Edward J. King and former state Senate president William M. Bulger.
For a list of those advisers, officers and such as of 2003, see the letterhead on the message to the Bishop of Worcester. It would be fun for the MSM or someone else with resources to call these folk and ask about their involvement, financial and otherwise.

As for fund-raising, there is no way from the outside to know what's gone on or going on with CLAM. It could well be that Doyle's buddies at bars or a KoC hall provide what they need. Doyle may front it on his own. After all, there is no office, no website (or phone?) expenses, and no overhead, and electrons are basically free.

He could be stealing from you and me in state or federal tax evasion, or not. We can't know unless CLAM files accounting reports.

From the outside, this certainly looks like a one-man show, maybe like a blog. Doyle is publicly against all manner of personal freedoms and choices. He has the right to have an avocation of proclaiming his opinions, which is in the long-standing American tradition of pamphleteering. However, creating an apparently sham non-profit and benefiting from it without filing true contacts, officers and financial reports s not in Tom Paine's example.

I say that the MSM who want to quote the provocateur pronouncements from the CLAM should report it as it is — "Local attorney C.J. Doyle, who calls himself the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, said..."

We should know it's one guy with a figurative bugle shouting to follow him. Yawn.

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Boston Vote: This But That

Word among psychologists is that little surprises keep our minds sharp. Yesterday's Boston municipal elections did its part.

The at-large City Council was the highest interest in a very low interest election, but for the wrong reasons. Results are here. My picks are here. A wrap-up of the overblown postcard thingummy is here at Universal Hub.

Who's counting? The city and Globe are. City voter turnout was a shameful 13.6%, one of the lowest on record. White neighborhoods were disproportionately highly represented this time. This contrasts with turnouts around 50% in Brockton, Fall River, and Quincy. The no-President and no-Governor election didn't seem to bother their voters. However, places like Quincy got a boost from a heavily contested mayoral race (the incumbent lost big). As a bonus, Dick Howe offered great live blogging of their contested elections with an analysis centered on the new mayor.

Incumbent Stephen I'm-too-good-for-this-job Murphy and John I-used-to-be-a-teacher Connolly both won. It will be fun to watch them at the swearing in and maybe the rest of the Council will have giggles if they end up on the same committees.

To Connolly in his originally anonymous card, Murphy is a do-nothing with exit ambitions. Murphy''s personal response attack card uses exclamation points, as in, WE DESERVE BETTER THAN COWARDLY ATTACKS BY A DESPERATE CAMPAIGN!

Yes, watching them together should be fun. Although to act the spoilsport and having met Connolly, I'm sure he'll smooth things over.

My ballot card had incumbent Felix Arroyo though. As UH notes clearly too, this one of my guys did not bother to get out the vote. Our at-large Latino's lethargy seems to have made the difference. He came in fifth for four seats and may as well as come in ninth.

The contested incumbents held their seats with strong showings, above 80% each.

We have two newbies who may or may not make a difference. Connolly has solid ideas for funding, Council power, education and more. The new guy in Allston-Brighton, Mark Ciommo, has his own very specific to-do lists.

This certainly was no revolution. The old guard is still in those big old chairs.

Murphy does little and is not likely to start now. Flaherty is the carrion bird waiting, just waiting for his chance to become mayor. Sam Yoon is still agitating for big changes, but the power fulcrum has hardly budged.

Again, I do regret that Felix did not get it together. This defeat fits his normal casual attitude toward the job though.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wet Street Voting

JP was awash this morning. One downspout was clogged and puddling beside the window well where it flooded a few years ago. I ended up on a ladder taking off, clearing and re-affixing the spout at the roof line. I had to laugh when loosening the spout funneled a couple of quarts of rain into my raincoat arm and inside. I should have worn a bathing suit instead.

Regardless, this was after I slogged to the polling spot at the Woodbourne retirement home on Hyde Park Avenue. That coincidentally was the site of the first apartment building in the area. When the Woodbourne neighborhood went up after WWI, they put a large building (comparatively to the single-family houses) there primarily to buffer the houses from the noise and bustle of the avenue. We couldn't have our new middle class hearing carriage and cars.

Vote Now: The polls are like to be extraordinary light. The whole Boston City Council is up for the taking. Get up, stand up, vote by 8 p.m.

In the downpour, turnout was, well, not turned out. As I rounded Northbourne, I could see no one at the entrance to the little parking lot. There are normally two campaigners per candidate in front of the chain link fence. Instead the not-so-stalwart minions had stuck their sign handles into the fence and probably headed home or to the nearest Dunkin'.

Eventually, I did see a single campaigner with a sign. He had his back to the voter-less building and was facing the main street. He was from Michael Flaherty's campaign. That could suggest that the Council President has the best organization, or that his worker was particularly loyal, or that he didn't have sense enough to come in from the rain.

Inside, I was the only voter. Then I felt like a chump. Our district Councilor, John Tobin is unopposed. There are no ballot questions. I had my at-large candidates in mind. So, five seconds and smudges later, I was headed to the ballot machine. I didn't even have to stop at the second table. The cops watching and checking off there know me and said they had already gotten me.

My only excitement came with the Nellie poll watcher. She was in a panic about water. Because one drop of water had fallen from my brow onto the ballot, she was beside herself.

It was a small drop, it was near the bottom but not on the feeding edge of the page, and I pushed off with my thumb, but she was wide-eyed. It seems that an hour before a ballot with a soaked corner had jammed in a machine.

She went on, her voice getting higher and breathing shallower. Another worker came over, looked at the ballot and said that it was a tiny bit of water and certainly wasn't on the corner.

She continued. I suspect that this is why Scientology is still successful. This woman had been engrammed. If something bad happened one time, woe forever!

Eventually, I lost patience. I told her that because it happened once before, it didn't mean it was going to happen every time. She immediately yelled, "Yes, it does." I drew on the words of the other worker to note that the conditions were not identical, that we couldn't reasonably go from specific to general to another specific. She'd have none of that. This ballot, she asserted, definitely would clog the machine.

My subtlety exhausted, I nudged the ballot. The box safely ingested it. I bit my tongue, thanked her and left, feeling glad that I don't have to deal with her regularly.

Wowsers, who would have thought that poll watching would be such a high stress avocation?

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Facing Facebook

If you are big into social networking, you have already altered the web, as well as yourself. I had my own rants and analysis on this, but Tuesday's Financial Times did it better. Along with my commentary, I'll cite:
Goody Goody Note: The FT has a new policy about online reading. You get five accesses for free. Then if you give them an email and password, you can read up to 30 a month for free. Ah.

This is part two of computing past and future follows. Part one was a ramble (in both senses) down Memory Lane.

Step into the stickiness of Facebook. In the past year alone, its members have started spending over 22% more time on the site.

Well, ka-ching! Advertisers notice and their pitches will be on a screen in front of your face immediately. This is my sole shun the frumious Bandersnatch message. It is the newest money guys' way of hitting on you and as Lenny Bruce was fond of noting, "Reality is what is. What should be is a dirty lie."

Somehow serving up ads based on what you clicked (behavioral) is supposedly worse than digesting what you post about yourself and plastering your screen with targeted ads. Actually, the honest view of it as a more efficient way of pulling into the purchasing pit came from MySpace's CTO Adam Bain. He told the FT that the previous model was a “guess, based on somebody being interested in something, based on where they surf. We don’t need to guess [what people like]. We know because they are telling us what they are passionate about”.

Facebook will be tracking its members' purchases on third-party sites. Together, these seem intrusive and cynical. Yet, many of, particularly the 20-something and teens, who are avid social networkers are out there and don't seem to care who knows a lot about them. They are in these networks precisely because they want others to know about them. If ads appear, they seem to think, they can click or ignore them.

Elbowing for Dollars

From my view, the other side of this trend is that there is money to be made from it. More advertisers mean more revenue for some of the sites. This is like to filter down to blogs and such as advertisers track where their potential customers go. That's bad for MSM who don't own popular sites, but good for the general health of the web as a medium beyond just information.

The more important trend that the FT explores is a shift from portals to platforms. The portals most of us use as our browsers' home pages — MSN, Yahoo or Google — will change substantially.

The portal folk are buying, investing in, or stealing ideas from the social networks. We should probably watch Google most closely for the near and mid future. It has incorporated numerous companies, many who share the trait of having applications that Google can incorporate. It's anything for a buck and everything for everyone from one honking white page.

The two selling points of the platforms and even their portal older siblings are traffic and stickiness. When they offer popular features, that feeds on itself, more people come. Moreover, the social network side means that users are sticky, they stay on that site for long periods, minutes or even hours instead of seconds. Advertisers love both many potential customers and those whose eyes are exposed for long selling periods.

Yahoo's network division executive VP, Jeff Weiner sees the platform approach as right for the times. He told the FT:
“People want to control the media – they want to publish their own media,” he says. This requires new tools to let them organise and recombine information from around the internet in their own ways, whether it is professionally produced or user-generated.
As if to illustrate the point, Google teamed with Facebook to launch OpenSocial last week. It fundamentally is an open standard to let various social networks share. That's going to be hard for some of them to accept in this increasingly competitive end of the web, but Google certainly stands to profit from yet more apps to draw in more sticky customers. You can be certain that the social networks will not let themselves be fenced out of features their users want, even sharing buddy lists and messages among each other.

Not the Destination

More deeply, the power of social nets to transform the web is a fad, but not yet a long-term driver. The cautious view on this comes best from Google CEO Eric Schmidt. He admitted that the social netowrking "phenomenon (is) very real." However, he added that we could not yet predict "whether this would influence the underlying 'information structure' of the internet, as users start to organise and access more information through the prism of their social connections," wrote Waters.

So, there we have it, or not. Short term, there's no question that many, particularly junior high through first and second job folk and beyond are doing social networking. There's no question that advertisers are trailing them with tongues hanging out, and changing their offerings to match. There's no question that we'll see our portals morph, largely with additions and options.

I like that this diverts many from the mindlessness of cable and network TV. However, I remain to be convinced that self-absorbed social networking will in the end be better for them or society.

My geek self says that the shift from portals to platforms is no solution or final stop on a journey. The Net train is moving though.

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