Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Panic Sideshow

As the national and beyond financial plunges and panics play out to unknown ends, I'll keep one eye on a sideshow. Specifically, the Korean-War-Era Americans have been getting their economic way since the 1950s, regardless of what happened to the rest of us.

The 10% to 12% of us of that group have been the leading proponents of the AARP crowd. They have demanded and gotten protection from the economic hardships the rest of us endured. Despite the misnomer of one of their nicknames, The Silent Generation, they have been anything but quiet.

They get to stay on their easy ride, but that train will surely stop at the BAILOUT STATION.

As background, we need to know that this group has sloughed off its sociologists' original nickname, The Entitlement Generation. Somehow that got passed along to the young workers, a.k.a. Gen-X and Gen-Y. Also, in a fit of passive aggression, many of them like to call the baby boomers The Me Generation. Despite the diminishing real income and wealth, despite the boomers paying the freight for both the Korean War Era herds as well as their own children, we are to believe it is those dreadful, selfish boomers who are worthy only of disdain.

Unlike the WWII folk, the vast majority of the Korean War men had nothing to do with the police action as it was called at the time. That has not stopped the generation from lumping themselves with the overlapping WWII folk and saying, "You owe us. You owe us big time. You'll owe us forever."

Disclaimer: My father was in protracted combat in both WWII and Korea. He'd admit the benefits as triple dipper — Army retirement, teacher's pension, and Social Security — allowed him great comfort and freedom. There are still a few in their 80s and 90s who overlap both WWII and Korean eras.

The original entitlement folk have successfully finessed a lot. They don't lack for ingenuity and for self-preservation. While the working crowd, mostly boomers, paid and still their Social Security, Medicare and other benefits from payroll taxes, they saw that they were shielded. While the rest of the nation saw its income drop and diminish, they made sure their benefits — with full COLA adjustments — continued. A good part of that is that Congress still includes a fair amount of them and seems terrified of cutting their benefits. Effectively, the Korean War Era folk have said, "You share in the pain, not us."

That gig is up. There will be adjustments now, even for these most sacrosanct of seniors. I'm betting that the first scream and the first protest campaign are already loaded, at AARP and elsewhere. We are to think about what they did for us (even if a small subset of them) and not what they took from us.

This will be fine theater to distract us from the coming, long-lasting economic pains.

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dianne's Folk Still Polarizing

I figured soon-to-be-ex-Sen. Dianne Wilkerson wouldn't get blowback from voters in general and Latino ones in particular until she sought her next office. Instead, it looks like her campaign people are so tone deaf that they want it right now.

Following a long series of racially and ethnically divisive and insulting comments from her campaign, including Wilkerson herself, they continue to pile it on. Apparently, their strategy is to get black voters in Second Suffolk rabid about returning her to their seat.

It's fine to talk about district diversity, to court the Latino vote, and to crow about winning predominately Latino precincts. But to Wilkerson's campaign, when it comes to the election, no Latino and certainly not one specific Latina need apply.

The great irony was from the mouth of Wilkerson's campaign manager, Boyce Slayman, as reported in PolitickerMA.
"You know, because of the dynamics that have been introduced because Ms. Diaz-Chang has an exotic name and two different ethnic groups," Slayman said, mistakenly flipping Chang-Diaz's last name. "There has been some exploitation of that by some zealous supporters. Race is not the issue for us we wanted to make the issues experience."
Pair this up with METCO Executive Director Jean McGuire's colorist views, as quoted by the Dorchester Reporter. "This is the first time in a long time we will not have a senator who is a person of color," she said, echoing the odd refrain of Wilkerson. "There are white Hispanics and black Hispanics. She is not a person of color."

That's quite the opposite of what primary winner Sonia Chang-Díaz and other Latino voters say and live. Throughout the campaign, she has identified herself as a woman of color, including her Costa Rican father as more background. As she put it, "I believe that it is dishonest of Sen. Wilkerson and her campaign to suggest that they have to choose between having a person of color in the State House and having strong ethical leadership in the State House...Let me say very clearly I'm very proud of my Latina heritage."

You'd think that Wilkerson wouldn't let her ego obscure that she'd need votes beyond those black voters who still want to return her to office. Intentional slaps at Latinos who are not dark enough to suit her and her supporters isn't going to play very well.

Throughout the campaign, Wilkerson has repeated that Chang-Díaz is not representative of the core, of the base of the district. Those have been code words for saying, "She's not one of us. She's not black." That's some pretty offensive campaigning, more in line with 1950s Deep South than 21st Century Massachusetts.

Returning an amoral, failed politician to office yet again because she is of the same race as a large voting block of the district is not good government or even good sense. Defining on the fly what of color means to discredit another candidate is also not good politics. It's virtually impossible that Second Suffolk's Latino community will accept being told what skin tone they have to have to be acceptable for public office.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sonia Can Count and Keep Running

While the kind of live-blogging PolitickerMA has sort of kept an update of today's recount in half the wards of the Second Suffolk Senate race, word just in from Sonia Chang-Díaz:
It's Official: Chang-Diaz is Democratic Nominee

BOSTON – Sonia Chang-Diaz is the winner of the September 16th Democratic Primary in the Second Suffolk, according to election results announced following today's recount. Chang-Diaz is now the Democratic Nominee for State Senate in the district, and will appear as such on the November 4th ballot.

"I'm honored to have won the support of the voters of the Second Suffolk in this election, and I'm looking forward to joining Barack Obama, John Kerry and the rest of our Democratic ticket on the ballot this November," said Chang-Diaz.

"I also want to thank the city Election Department and all the volunteers for their efforts today, working to make sure the votes were fairly and accurately counted. It was a smooth, efficient process, and I think all the voters of the district can feel confident in today's results."
Apparently there were 17 unaccounted-for ballots among the 8,000-plus. That would not have altered the outcome of a 228-vote victory.

Amusingly though, while Boston's Election Department reports its totals, none of the state elections are real until the Secretary of State's office says they are. So, the nit-pickiest of us can wait until early next week to carve the headstone for Dianne Wilkerson's failed re-election drive.

Moreover, Wilkerson continues to insist that she'll win on a write-in...as a Democrat. She'll lose that big. You can tell people you read it here.

Not only will Sonia be on the ballot, where most people smudge the oval for a candidate. She'll be the Democratic nominee in a solidly Democratic city and district and state. Wilkerson's fantasy that calling herself a Democratic candidate makes her one is more magical thinking. She has made herself an independent, an independent loser.

Even my youngest child learned in kindergarten that he couldn't make up the rules for everyone.

This is an ignominious way to exit a long-held office. Dianne seems to want to play the part of a punch-drunk ex-boxing champ.

Now, just in from PolitickerMA, Wilkerson's camp admits it lost the recount, but is thundering along to Little Big Horn. In the statements, they are intent on the sticker campaign, pretend that the high-turnout for the Presidential race will compensate for the not-on-the-ballot issue, and absurdly enough, given Wilkerson and her supporters' racist comments, say it was the Chang-Díaz folk who brought race into this. Wilkerson Campaign Manager Boyce Slayman said:
"You know, because of the dynamics that have been introduced because Ms. Diaz-Chang has an exotic name and two different ethnic groups," Slayman said, mistakenly flipping Chang-Diaz's last name. "There has been some exploitation of that by some zealous supporters. Race is not the issue for us we wanted to make the issues experience."
Dishonest? Delusional? It's your call.

Follow-up: P0liticker is still at City Hall and got the city chair of the board of election commissioners to provide a post-recount tally. Geraldine Cuddyer reported that it was a victory of 213, with 17 missing ballots. They'll nose around for those ballots and maybe find them Monday. That would give a range of victory of 196 to 230, depending on a) whether they find some or all the ballots and b) which candidate if either or another is on those 17.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Where the Other 1% Live

It's not really politics and certainly not marriage-equality or GLBT news, so I plugged a house piece over at Harrumph.

Literally back to back in a section of its weekend edition, the Financial Times has first what kind of house John McCain and Barack Obama have. What the houses suggest about their ideologies is not shocking, but well done.

On the next page, The Secret Agent (as in real estate for super-fat cats) takes us to speculators' hell. Our financial crisis has gotten almost to the top.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The No on Question 1 Side

Cross-posted from Left Ahead!

Home of an early, famous tax revolt, a.k.a. the Boston Tea Party, Massachusetts is at it again. Voters will go to their battle stations again in November. This time, it’s ballot question 1.

This would cut the 5.3% personal income tax in half in January 2009 and eliminate it entirely the next year. Taxpayers would appreciate over $3,000 more cash. The commonwealth would lose up to 39% of its revenue.

The yes-on-1 people say the government would find ways to slash waste and make up the difference. Our guest Tuesday (9/30), Michael J. Widmer, says otherwise.

Listen in live at 2:30 p.m. or catch it at Left Ahead! later.

Widmer is president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. He frames the much more complex reasons and arguments against the ballot measure.

We may be able to get a small-government/yes-on-1 person on before the election.

Knock Off That Racist Stuff!

The not-so-coded code words the Dianne Wilkerson folk are using have no place in 21st Century Boston. We have buried or bid bye-bye to most of our racist politicians. The schools are nominally racially integrated. People of various colors and cultures are pretty free to share neighborhoods and workplaces without conflict.

To someone who lived much of his childhood in a still segregated South (I'm old), the racial nastiness oozing from her post-loss/pre-write-in campaign is a shocking atavism. I don't want it. We don't need it.

Perhaps most amazing is that Wilkerson disses Latinos, including but not at all limited to the Democratic primary winner, Sonia Chang-Díaz. Wilkerson claims to represent the interest of black, Latino and Chinese-American constituents. She's long spoken of increasing the numbers of legislators of color. Except now in the race for the write-in reversal, of color no longer includes the Latina winner.

Colorism is still far too common. It doesn't infect everyone, but it exists in many people's daily lives. There's a great piece on that in the Howard University student paper. Since her September 12th loss, we are seeing the true colors, so to speak, of the many colorists in her camp.

Flush with Embarrassment: Coulda, shoulda, woulda... I don't often get beaten by the Globe's columnists, but Adrian Walker got me this morning. I didn't post this yesterday when I drafted it and he must have been clicking out his column covering much of the same. I guess the moral is something about striking while the iron, or at lest idea, is hot.
Latinos haven't gotten a free ride in America just because many of them are lighter than many African-Americans. It will surely come as a surprise to many Massachusetts Latinos to hear that they suddenly are no longer of color, regardless of what discrimination they have endured or conquered.

What's particularly noisome is the Wilkerson camp's use of code words. Those are the pathetic shields of bigots everywhere and have been for centuries. When Wilkerson says that Chang-Díaz doesn't come from and therefore can't represent the district's "core," she's devolved into base racism.

Suddenly turning on Latinos after wooing them in elections and claiming to represent them, Wilkerson claims that she, but not Chang-Díaz, is of color. Like a magical anthropologist, Wilkerson instantly tries to transform Chang-Díaz by moving her metaphorically into the white/non-black/not-of-color camps. Now, it suits anything-to-win Wilkerson's purpose to portray Chang-Díaz as the not-one-of-us candidate.

Very unfortunately, were Wilkerson to pull out a sticker win in November, the damage would surely be irreparable. As a group, Latinos, Asian-Americans and others who identify as of color are not so stupid. To Wilkerson, they clearly are not good enough or maybe just not dark enough to represent the district. That says tons about her sincerity when she claims to represent the whole district in all its diversity.

Emotionally, Wilkerson may need this election badly. The rest of us don't need her camp's race baiting and divisiveness.

The coverage of post-defeat remarks by Chris Lovett illustrate many of these issues. Consider for one example:
"This is much bigger than Dianne," said political activist Bob Marshall. "This is about the community’s ability to choose who its leaders are. The district is split along race and class lines. Dianne won the majority of blacks, Latinos and Asians. Sonia won the wine-and-brie crowd."
Imagine the justifiable uproar if a supporter of another candidate referred to voters in a predominately black ward as the chitterlings and 40 crowd.

Wilkerson is clearly highly competitive. What's not reasonable about that is 1) she considers Second Suffolk Senate her seat, 2) the Senator there must be black, and 3) that black politicians own that seat, even to the exclusion of Latinos and others.

Sure, speak up for your candidate of choice, but leave the racism out of it. Consider some of the spew from Wilkerson and her chums:
  • Stomach Turning. At her primary-night rally, Wilkerson said, "This proves you can become a representative of this district without representing its core, and that makes me feel sick. We have to renew our efforts to maintain the diversity we’ve been building in the City Council and the State House." So, diversity, so long as that means black and of course, Wilkerson.
  • Disguised editorial. In the same piece, Bay State Banner reporter Yawu Miller wrote, "Although Chang-Diaz claims white and Latino ancestry, Wilkerson’s black and Latino supporters seemed to view her loss as a setback to candidates of color — a theme Wilkerson echoed in the concession speech she delivered late Tuesday. " That's not only racist/colorist, but it's his opinion and should have been set off as such.
  • Not Yours: Boston City Councillor Chuck Turner said at the rally announcing her sticker run, "That seat Dianne sits on was created by this community." It may be unfair to quote him. As the Phoenix' Adam Reilly has written, "But after five years on the council, Turner is best known for his ability to antagonize his colleagues." Yes, this is the same guy who has used "institutional racism" numerous times in various context and said that Condoleezza Rice being in the cabinet of President Bush is "similar in my mind to a Jewish person working for Hitler in the 1930s." Turner, who likely has the most entertaining beard in the commonwealth, also possesses an analogy impuse that can be divisive. He likely does not represent the most common Wilkerson supporter.
  • More Sudden Whiteness: Also at the sticker rally, METCO Executive Director Jean McGuire said, "This will be the first time we don’t have a person of color in the State House. If we don’t get Dianne back in the State House, then Obama can’t help you."
It seems we can't have a Boston political story without some hint of irony. Several sources have journeyed way back to 1992 when Wilkerson challenged Sen. Bill Owens (black and of the previous generation). She ran as a reformer and said she knew we could do better.

Many black Bostonians have understandable concerns as they see the growing numbers — and by implication political clout — of Latinos, as the black voters' percentage dwindles. Thus, for well-established and newer citizens of color, Team Unity and other coalition efforts are solid politics. Yes, we need many more black and Latino lawmakers. To reflect out population, we could use legislators from other underrepresented minorities as well.

We don't need to send back a legislator who virtually ensured her defeat and ineffectiveness, certainly not to vote for her because of her race alone. Instead, we need more sponsorship, mentoring and development at the legislative, party and community level.

The deeper, long-term solutions are those we lefties return to so often. We'll have fuller representation when minority citizens have full equal rights. If they come from backgrounds with good education and comparable work opportunities, poof (although not instantaneous), we'll have more involved and electable politicians.

None of that happens quickly and we have quite a ways to go. Meanwhile, patching can be done by identifying and grooming more minority candidates. As a society and particularly as existing legislators, that's the least we can expect.

It's possible that Chang-Díaz will become as jaded as Wilkerson after 16 years in office. I think it's much less likely though, as she's starting from higher ground.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Somebody Stop Her

Just maybe Massachusetts voters aren't finished with Dianne Wilkerson. Instead of transcending her setback in the recent primary loss for her state senate seat, she seems intent on ruining her electability forever.

Isn't there a single trusted adviser to sway her? Can't someone witness to her about the possible, likely and right?

In a comment on another post here, Laurel nailed it with, "It's so sad to see a well-liked public servant send themselves down in flame. She's been a friend to everyone but herself." I don't know anyone who's asking Dianne to slink away and paint a big loser's L on her forehead. Apparently there's also no one coaching her on how to salvage herself from this single loss.

I may not be the most competitive person, but I was a jock in high school and college. I learned when you lose for sure, you can plan your next race or game. You want to keep playing, so you extend your hand and congratulate the winner even if you are disappointed, angry and feeling cheated.

Surely the shock Wilkerson feels in her primary loss has much to do with those who surround her, voters and advisers alike. I only met one of the latter. For the former, I've spoken with and read or heard quotes from many.

Dianne has a bucket, maybe two or three, of goodwill. She is about spilling the contents as fast as she can. The recurrent phrases include "a friend to us," "looks out for her people," "stands up for the poor," and "works hard for Roxbury and Dorchester." Over the past 15+plus years, a lot of voters talk about the bacon she's brought to her district and a handful of key legislation she helped pass.

All of that suggests a renewed political chance and role...if only she could let the senate chapter end.

Instead, Dianne seemed to realize — at the last minute, as has been her style from the beginning — at the end of this primary campaign that she had a good chance of losing. All of the major daily and community papers, except the Bay State Banner, endorsed her opponent. They were joined by a number of us bloggers, likewise exhausted by repeated scandals and particularly the unapologetic defiance to them.

Dianne did her best kick at the end. She expanded her endorsements from top government officials to robo-calls from Boston's mayor and Massachusetts' governor. She rallied her supporters and even had vehicles to take her voters to polls.

Her kick was not quite strong enough. Even with the awesome club of incumbency, she could not cudgel Sonia. This was not Dianne's year.

It's only a flesh wound.

Unlike the wistful Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront, she was a contender, she was somebody. She could be again, but not the way she's going about it.

Laurel's comment made me drift into my classical training. Dianne inspires thoughts of a tragic flaw, just fab except for one essential problem. In light of her buckets of goodwill, we have to apply the perspective that she had not one but numerous character flaws. She also hasn't come to the terrible end of an Oedipus.

I think too of Morse Peckham's Beyond the Tragic Vision. While he uses the arts to bolster his contention that, from the French Revolution, the larger culture has gone beyond the old melodrama and didacticism of tragedy, lessons apply. Intransigence and unwillingness to accept reality are not the stuff of great moral tales.

Of course, Wilkerson has a gigantic ego. Even if you didn't get into office with that defect, the true believers and toadies around you would push you that way. Most politicians seem to be like that.

Yet from this distance, it looks like her prime thoughts would not be how to try to scrape a fetid win out of a plain loss in any way possible. Instead, shouldn't she be figuring out how to emerge as the warrior/heroine, defeated once, but returning to a whole new battle. There's the mayoralty of Boston, for example.

Let's consider:
  • Recount confirmation (1). Sonia's victory holds up and is perhaps expanded Saturday. Dianne says, "I concede this race, but will be back. I can't put voters and the party through turmoil." In this case, she enhances her goodwill while taking the loss. She's in a good position to regroup and run for something else, maybe better.
  • Recount confirmation (2). Sonia's victory holds up. Dianne says, "This reality stinks. I'll see you in November! Eat my stickers, suckers!" This is divisive to the point of self-destruction, likely spelling the end of her political chances here.
  • Sticker loss. Despite Dianne's claims that she can win a sticker campaign against the primary victor on the ballot, that's extremely unlikely. Her thinly concealed racial calls — the black voters will be coming to vote for the black Presidential candidate and will therefore return the black Senator to office — are also divisive for the whole district. Neither the party nor the majority of Dem voters will respond favorably. This would make her toxic for a long time.
  • Sticker win. Blue moon time, not at all likely... This ultimate enabling of dysfunction would at best cut her off from other legislators as well as the party. She's never been great at building coalitions, but would be much less effective as a result. The sore loser winning at all costs is not smart.
As a parent of three, I think Dianne needs a serious time-out. In adult terms, she could do with a lot of meditation and self-evaluation. For that to work, she'd need people she trusted to be honest and candid with her, as she has not been with her constituents.

With no intended racial overtones, this situation recalls Monty Python's Black Knight. Reduced to stubs from limbs, he continues to call out defiance with, "It's only a flesh wound." Can't someone nearby stop her bleeding and get her headed back to useful public service?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Dianne Jumps the Shark

According to the Globe, the Herald, and PolitckerMA, Sen. Dianne Wilkerson plans to run a sticker/write-in campaign as an (ahem) Democrat in November. She anticipates not getting 228 votes in a Saturday recount to reverse her loss to Sonia Chang-Díaz.

Meeting last night in Dorchester with 300 fans, she heard what she wanted to hear from an audience that apparently is as unrealistic and graceless as she. Meanwhile, she's lost Gov. Deval Patrick's backing; he's moved on.

If she goes all sticker on the voters, she'd face a challenger on the ballot, which is comparable to being an incumbent in voting. Moreover, she would likely put herself in an unfortunate class of undermining her party in a general election.

She seems determined to destroy her political career. It's good she could have a day job as a lawyer.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dianne Deny Deny Deny

Was it only yesterday that Sen. Dianne Wilkerson's campaign lackey stated they were looking for closure and resolution? The eight-term (16-year) lawmaker/lawbreaker still found lots of supporters who said the least she deserved was a recount in her 228-vote out of nearly 18,000 ballots loss to Sonia Chang-Díaz.

According to Herald this evening, she got enough sigs in three wards — 8, 9 and 12 — to force recounts there. Those were among her strongest voter sets. She had hoped to have her five biggest wards in count, but apparently fell short in 10 and 11. That's more like what we'd expect.

Hearing Wilkerson would not accept the vote, Chang-Díaz scrambled to get her strongest ward, 19, in the recount and did so.

The four wards' ballots will get a recount Saturday in City Hall room 241, an Election Department space. As this was not a sticker campaign like the one two years ago, there's not much chance of reversing the victory. Wilkerson seems not to want closure, but more like a fantasy victory manifested.

The Herald also reports that Wilkerson will meet in Dorchester this evening with supporters to decide whether to go totally Don Quixote on Second Suffolk and try a November 4th write-in campaign.

She's nearly completed her descent into the pathetic. In confusing spirited fighting and obstinate stupidity, she continues to marginalize herself and hamper what I can only see as her brand.

As voters showed this time, even with the huge power of incumbency, all the endorsements she wangled near the end of the primary and the last-days spending and robo-calls, she lost. She overplayed her abuse of laws and regulations, overstayed her welcome with the public, and frayed the credibility of voters with unsupported claims of out-of-state funding, a small subset of voters in a few precincts being unable to find new polling places, and the repeated call that the district had to keep the sole black senator. The black v. Hispanic racism may simply have been too much.

I don't know whether she's had ill counsel or whether her obvious blunders are from her core (not as she loves to say in code, the district's core). I've contended repeatedly that with her enormous campaign advantages, publicly admitting her repeated errors and apologizing would still have delivered the election. She seems incapable of saying, "I'm sorry."

Meanwhile though, her surely diminishing set of supporters has to be dismayed. Fewer and fewer can claim she has any grace or realism about the campaign, her loss, and her behavior over the past several terms.

You'd like your candidate to show more than blind resoluteness.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Deval: Vignette of a Charmer

In my time, I have known quite a few charming and some charismatic people. Gov. Deval Patrick is up there. Only the criminals and pathological liars can be more engaging.

I saw him at his best — isn't he always in the groove? — this morning while he toured the Roxbury Technology Corp. in mid-JP. He spent his time in the company of President and CEO Beth Williams (left, with him).

If Patrick experienced the slightest boredom at learning every stage of laser printer cartridge rebuilding, we didn't get a hint of that. In fact, over the years, I've been in numerous plants or warehouses when a big shot tours. Workers typically are either cowed or annoyed by the interruption. Today, the men and women on the floor were charmed.

Disclaimer: In a previous life, I wrote for Cahner's Publishing's original magazine, Modern Materials Handling. I was a staff editor, a title trade and management mags give in lieu of bigger salaries to writers. I know more about manufacturing, inventory, warehousing and distribution than anyone not in these fields should have to. I'll spare you here, but a couple of concepts pop in because of Patrick's interactions.

Watching Patrick in action was fascinating and much more revealing than attending his addresses or press conferences, both of which I've done.

First to note is that he listens. Most of us are simple to please. We want our names pronounced and spelled right even if they are unusual or unique. We want people to pay attention when we speak and remember what we say.

Patrick visited a dozen or more stations in the plant. All except the initial receiving area for cartridges ready to start the recycling process had one or more workers. At every one of those, he was fully engaged. He seemed to give as much attention to an hourly laborer telling him how she diagnosed and replaced defective gears as he might to an economist briefing him on a policy issue.

That kind of basic respect was not lost on the employees there.

Moreover, this engagement included asking relevant questions and discussing the implications of each operation. He ratcheted it up when he and Williams were discussing process and business instead of a single operation.

For example, at one point she was discussing her major customer, Staples. The office-supply giant provides accurate order forecasts. She then uses a just-in-time system to minimize her inventory. She likes to keep two weeks' or fewer worth of components on hand. This moment was the closest Patrick got to pandering to his audience. He used the moot point about Staples using her company as a bank for interest-free loans of the materials. As lean as Roxbury Technology runs, that's pushing the empathy. Williams appreciated the view though. Business owners certainly like to optimize cash flow.

At the end of the tour, Patrick tied it all together. The company had a table of goodies — fruit and fruit juices, coffee and Canto 6 pastries (from a block away). Employees could come for the treats. They chose to stand and greet the governor as he went down what turned out to be long receiving line. Those he had met already joined with the others. They hadn't had enough Deval yet.

He didn't disappoint and called them by name, show again that he had paid attention. He even amused and charmed the line when one of men said he looked taller in person. Most workers looked Latino and were medium height or short themselves. Patrick milked the remark well. He smiled, stretched up on the balls of his feet and said that really, he was tall...big laughs all around.

He worked on me too. I stood against a wall out of the way, but he crossed over from the line. He said he recognized me but did not recall my name (honesty goes far with me). I reminded him of Left Ahead! and Marry in Massachusetts. I said his chief of staff, Doug Rubin, had promised to set up a podcast. He iterated that Doug was the right guy, as well as that he'd like to do one with us.

He didn't stop quite there. Rather, he said he'd like to blog more himself but didn't want to blog and run, that is not keep up with comments and answer them. He said his schedule, long periods away from computers, and his low typing speed were limits. I suggested that such follow-up was what he had lackeys for. He flashed that contagious grin, backhanded my nearest triceps and said, "I don't have lackeys. I have staff."

Delightful, simple but delightful.

P.M. Follow-Up: In an amusing footnote, I see that Deval posted on the proposed financial bailout, leading with "I apologize for 'blogging and running,' but here we go . . ."
Tags: , , , ,

Monday, September 22, 2008

One-Two-Three Senate Recount

The Globe and Herald both report that Second Suffolk Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and Dem primary winner for the seat Sonia Chang-Díaz are going for a recount. Apparently when Wilkerson moved, Chang-Díaz also took out the papers.

The deal is that candidates can request the recount for any Ward they want. There are 10 in the Second Suffolk. The recount requires 50 voter signatures per Ward to kick in for that Ward. Not all need to be involved in the recount.

It's safe to assume that each candidate will make sure their strongest Wards are in the recount mix. That's a bit more work for Chang-Díaz. She topped in Back Bay, Chinatown, JP and South End areas. Wilkerson had her best returns in Dorchester and Roxbury. The neighborhoods don't map directly to Wards though. Chang-Díaz' are just a more geographically spread.

Normally, the margin of victory for the winner increases slightly. Out of almost 18,000 votes, Chang-Díaz won by 228 (9, 051 to 8,823). The first time these two faced off two years ago, she lost to Wilkerson in an all-sticker campaign by 767 votes short out of 12,933 after the recount.

In the likely outcome the recount not reversing the victory, supposition is already in the air that Wilkerson would try a write-in, sticker or independent run. Doh.

Wilkerson's gracelessness is no longer fascinating. From here, she seems to be doing her best to dilute and pollute her brand. Consider:
  • The recount shows her a sore loser and unrealistic. She's extremely unlikely to pick up about a percentage and one-half of all votes to win.
  • With all the help she got at the end, this election was hers...if only she had admitted and apologized for all her legal and financial troubles.
  • She blamed her convictions, fines and plea bargain on everyone but herself. Whoever was advising her did her no favors with a not-my-fault strategy.
  • She blames her election loss on moved polling locations and rumors that voters heard about her troubles.
Voters, would you buy a used Wilkerson from this politician?

Tuesday Update: When the papers went in, Wilkerson had sought recounts in five Boston Wards in Roxbury and Central Dorchester. The Herald reports those are 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Her campaign cited voter complaints of uncounted ballots. Chang-Díaz filed for a recount in a single JP Ward.

The Globe quotes Wilkerson spokesman Jeff Ross as saying the recount should bring "closure and resolution." (He left out finality.)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Money Crisis Paves Health-Care Road

As we tremble and fret, consider what the unrelenting money storm foretells for universal health care. First, free markets are a joke and a lie. Second, the incredible panic for even saying socialized medicine shrinks to nothing among the bailouts and trillion-dollar subsidies for incompetent capitalists.

There was fudging, hemming and hawing when we gave Chrysler $1.5 billion in 1979 to keep it solvent. That wasn't socialism, rather good business to keep its workers employed.

Now particularly in the administration of George Bush the Lesser, we have seen one deal after another using government guarantees, loans and now ownership to keep huge companies and financial institutions from folding. Of course, the first big joke is how this plays with fiscal conservatives' free-market beliefs and doctrines. In the Reagan era and the encompassing and ensuing spell of Randist Alan Greenspan, the free-market meme recurred with hypnotic effect.

In particular, Republican Presidents and legislators rode this swaybacked workhorse round and round the public ring. America was great because we believed in the free market and let capitalism have its way. Markets reward the smart and punish the incompetent (and slow).

Americans as a whole are a trusting lot and they want to believe. They bought the Reagan trickle-down and guns-and-butter fantasies. Those, of course, have proven total lies and impossibilities. Then George the Lesser sold a more insidious economic and political dogma. We have seen a balanced budget disappear and morph into a great-grandchild enslaving deficit of vast size.

I would like to be able walk onto my front steps, extend my arms and fly. That is as likely to occur as any of the Republic failed economic pronouncements.

The fact is that at least from when I worked at American Management Association in the late 1970s, American CEOs have had an exemption from the free market. Their companies falter, investors lose value, and the bosses and boards get big bonuses.

Now increasingly, the huge corporations get their own GET-OUT-OF-FREE-MARKET cards. If you become a mythical too-big-to-fail critter — bigger than Lehman Brothers, but smaller than AIG — you get a card and a U.S. buyout. There is no free-market reward/punishment system.

Truth be told, the public is terrified, as are the regulators, legislators, bureaucrats and the Bush Administration. What if...what if...what if? Moreover, what if the Republicans and other self-identified fiscal conservatives are seen to be totally scamming the public on their free-market views? What if the invisible hand of capitalism no longer exists?

The facts say that's so. Congress and Bush have mandated that we own 79.9% of AIG, the world's biggest insurer, and via Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, we own the majority of the nation's mortgages. The smarmy politicians can call it this, that or a purple cow. It's socialism.

We've nationalized the gigantic financial institutions and assumed the tainted, failed examples of capitalism. Don't let anyone in Washington or anyone running for President pretend it is anything other than socialism.

Since the Soviet Revolution, we have ridiculed socialism. We have contrasted our free-market capitalism with the U.K. and European models. We have recently condemned perhaps 100 million Americans to substandard health care or none at all to run from socialized medicine, as Congress likes to call any form of universal health care.

Let's look at what a serious right winger has to say about these recent gests. Weekly Standard Senior Editor Christopher Caldwell, writing in the Financial Times, has a spot of history for those who would say it is only housing:
The significance for socialism of the first big British nationalisations after the second world war is that they involved the engine of the domestic economy (coal) and the repository of the country's wealth (the Bank of England). What is the engine of the US economy? Financial services. What is the main repository of Americans' wealth? Housing.
The terrifying facts include that few inside or outside financial markets understood or understand how the derivative markets that failed were supposed to work. When the financial giants bet wrong (for a decade or more), they were not the ones punished. The home-"owners" and voters took and will take the bath. The free-market has been out of play for so long that there is no downside to the gambling mentality of the ignorant and incompetent mangers masquerading as capitalists. Again, think too big to fail.

Caldwell notes that "Republicans may suffer damage not because their remedies are worse but because a lot of their ideology about how markets work has been belied by events." They have been and still are rewarding the bozos for their clowning around.

For months now, analysts have noted that the Republican and fiscally conservative philosophy socializes and subsidizes the risks. Like a nuclear power plant, the bulk of ordinary folks pay for the construction, dismantling and other costs, the bond holders simply reap the profits and walk away.

Caldwell further calls out Bush, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson on "their preference for the free market solutions." That is more of the same illusions and lies. As Caldwell writes, "The financial era that started a quarter-century ago is drawing to a close. Since the instruments that permitted an extraordinary leveraging of assets have been discredited without really being understood."

The games that the marginally competent and worse have played with our lives and the economy are over.

Bill Clinton's administration was able to reverse the dreadful economic stupidity of the first Bush's era. Caldwell doubts there'll be enough free money to do the same this time.

However, while it may be a long, long while before our economy can thrive again, this period should stop for all time the fantasy that we are averse to socialism. For decades, we have paid billions, now a trillion to the failed capitalists, both as executives and as employees and as corporations.

When it comes time to re-examine providing basic health care for all, what pretenses will there be left to shield the lawmakers?

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Minor Official's Guilt Shocker

I can't blame anybody but myself.

Surprising and refreshing describe Kelly Timilty's unqualified statement. She is so out of touch with the M.O. in politics and these times in particular that we must stop and admire it.

Her campaign put out a mailer with a signed endorsement from Gov. Deval Patrick. Except, he never signed it and someone put a copy of his sig on it.

Even though she grew up in a family of politicians, she somehow survived well into adulthood with a sense of morality and personal responsibility. Perhaps she was a Girl Scout.

The office she seeks re-election to is important in that Governor's Council members choose the judiciary. Yet, as I saw plainly in the candidates running for two seats who spoke at the Wards 11 and 19 forum, there is little flash or controversy. Each seat had one law-and-order candidate (an ex-cop) and an incumbent who claimed to be fair to everyone.

Timilty was no dynamo on stage. She stammered and mumbled. Of the four, she was the lowest key.

Yet who could know the pure heart that thumped within. By accepting full blame, she seems to have staved off prosecution (up to $1,000 fine and six months time) for promoting her candidacy without express consent of alleged endorsers. She should have done this immediately but there wasn't much of a lag.

How many pols in a similar spot blame handlers, aides or external forces? She might have even blamed the firm that created the mailer she or her staff approved. She didn't.

I think a lot higher of her this morning.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dealing More Race Cards

Sonia has extra work to do, even before she takes a chair up on Beacon Street. State Senate primary winner, and thus certain general-election choice, Sonia Chang-Díaz will need to put in a lot more face time in Roxbury.

She'll be campaigning for the Nov. 4th vote. Socialist Worker candidate William T. Leonard has next to no shot. Nonetheless, it's a great opportunity for Sonia to continue her conversations and introductions where Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was princess for the past 16 years.

How many times in political stories do we find ourselves thinking what should or shouldn't be so. I fall back on that great Lenny Bruce statement, "Reality is what is. What should be is a dirty lie."

What is at the moment in Boston is a lot of confusion and grieving. In predominately black wards and precincts, reality is setting in that there'll be no black senator. For the moment, we can set aside how absurd it is that there is only one. The other side of that truth is that Wilkerson's seat was seen by many as the black one. There is a real sense of ownership.

Wilkerson has long been confident to the point of being full of herself. A couple of weeks ago at the Wards 11 and 19 forum, she even said, "What we desperately need in this district is for you to elect more people to support me in what I do." She doesn't need any self-esteem training.

As it became clear on primary night that she was being edged out, she told her supporters, "This proves you can become a representative of this district without representing its core, and that makes me feel sick." Such plain racism is as divisive as it is illogical.

As a Latina, Chang-Díaz is not black enough to suit Wilkerson and may not initially present enough racial and cultural identity for some of the voters who have long supported Wilkerson. Yet, it's certainly as absurd to say that Chang-Díaz can't understand or achieve the goals of black voters than it would have been to say that Wilkerson couldn't do that for her many non-black constituents.

The question came up two days ago at the NNN show where I joined Wilkerson friend and fan, political strategist Joyce Ferriabough. Host Chris Lovett asked whether
Chang-Díaz' victory would further polarize the district's Wilkerson supporters. I figured that it would short term, but that as the worried constituents found Sonia was in sync with them, they'd relax. Meanwhile, she has some visiting and listening to do.

(Caution: The link is to my self-absorbed musings. If you are truly in need of something to do, you can catch a clip of it here.)

Reality is what is. What should be is a dirty lie.

Back to Bruce's observation, whether they're black, from Irish or Italian stock, Asian-American or Latino, voters shouldn't think that only someone who looks like them can think like them and work to solve their problems. Shouldn't...

In that ham-fisted article on Wilkerson's loss, Bay State Banner reporter Yawu Miller included a lot of race-based editorializing, including:

Chang-Diaz, who was born to a Latino father, seemed to focus more narrowly on a base of support in predominantly white precincts in Jamaica Plain, Back Bay and the South End.

Chang-Diaz’s victory brought an end to Wilkerson’s 15-year career in the Senate. It will be the first time in more than 25 years that a candidate of color has not prevailed in the Second Suffolk District.

Although Chang-Diaz claims white and Latino ancestry, Wilkerson’s black and Latino supporters seemed to view her loss as a setback to candidates of color — a theme Wilkerson echoed in the concession speech she delivered late Tuesday.

That would come as quite a surprise to Sonia to find that suddenly she was no longer of color. The article is certainly accurate in noting that Wilkerson drew the blacker-than-thou distinction. It was not only in her quasi-concession (she may yet do something dumb like a write-in campaign) speech.

At NNN, Ferriabough said several times that she had heard (as in hearsay) that some Chang-Díaz campaign workers played dirty pool. Specifically, she claimed that they claimed that Wilkerson was a convicted criminal, had not paid her taxes, and a list of insults. That each of her examples was accurate didn't seem to affect the argument, nor did her admission that she had only heard this from other Wilkerson supporters who had heard it from others.

Meanwhile, it seems okay to some that Wilkerson was comfortable playing race politics throughout the campaign. The idea that constituents won't have vigorous and attentive representation unless the Second Suffolk Senator is black is crazy talk.

In full answer to Lovett's question, we need to consider that Wilkerson has done her best to create divisions in the district. Had she won, I have no doubt that she would do nothing to heal those divides. For 16 years, division has been to her advantage.

Another dishonest campaign strategy has been to claim that Chang-Díaz has not made her positions known and has not been in the district's precincts, particularly the predominately black ones. At NNN, Ferriabough made the unsupported and unsupportable claim repeatedly that Chang-Díaz was "a blank slate." In reality, she has widely publicized and described both her fully fleshed-out platform and her background as teacher, legislative and and so forth. Wilkerson's camp kept pushing the idea that voters don't know anything about her.

Likewise, in the Banner endorsement of Wilkerson, there was, "Two years ago, she faced a challenger who came close to scoring an upset victory, but since that time her opponent has essentially disappeared. She only emerges when it’s time to ask for the public’s vote. " In reality, leading up to the 2006 vote and in the two years since, Chang-Díaz has been ubiquitous in the district. She in effect campaigned for the office for three years. Claims that she parachuted in for the current race are at best uninformed.

Unfortunately, the Wilkerson camp continues to live in an odd world. They apparently figured that the almost invincible power of incumbency to ensure re-election would hold, that endorsements from most of the commonwealth's top elected officials would wow voters, and that the huge campaign organization would deliver the voters like in the old ward-healer days. They were almost right.

It is a bit pathetic now to hear only blaming. Unfortunately, Wilkerson herself has the hallmark of failure to accept personal responsibility. Likewise, her apologists read from the identical script after the loss. Oh, if only polling places had stayed in the same location. Oh, if only the other side hadn't said anything about Wilkerson's misdeeds. Oh this...oh that.

Yet in the end, the worst is continuing to try to divide constituents and make them fearful through racial politics. Boston has had centuries of racial divides. It doesn't need retooled ones now. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that Chang-Díaz cannot do at least as good a job at listening to, understanding and attacking the big issues that affect Wilkerson's strongest supporters.

I contend that had Wilkerson both cleaned up her act and apologized for her violations of laws and regulations, she would have won re-election despite her scandals. Her repeated unwillingness to show that kind of honor and honesty was surely worth much more than the 228-vote margin of victory.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

12 Minutes of Discreet Fame

Lord love a duck, as my mom used to exclaim. It's been three years since I Was a One-Minute Slut for the BBC. It's been two since I was on Worcester public-access TV and the same since we had the lieutenant-governor debate in Lowell. I just don't devote the energy to self-promotion. An artist friend and I commiserate from time to time on this shared failing.

Yesterday, the serving was an even thinner slice of the notoriety pie. I got an invite for 9/17 from News Director Chris Lovett of Neighborhood Network News (Comcast 9 and 24 and RCN 83, I think). He was hosting his weekday half hour, with 10 or so minute of that on the Chang-Díaz/Wilkerson primary race. There was a Wilkerson proponent and I represented an overt Chang-Díaz reporter/supporter.

The clip appears here.

At the studio, the BU staffers lamented in passing that the viewership was small for the cable show. After hearing the sharp questions, I have to agree that it deserves better. The show itself is professional, as you might expect from a daily news broadcast. Chris is low-key but charming, with almost a Southern graciousness we rarely see in Boston.

I accepted even after momentarily flashing back to being the sole non-right-winger at a Young Americans for Freedom conference at the University of South Carolina during the Vietnam War era. This show was the same in that my writings (then newspaper columns and now blog posts) caught the attention of some scheduling person. Bless Lovett's heart, he and his apparently BU student staff churn out a news show five days a week. I'm impressed.

The YAF scene ranged into the absurd. My debate was on the war. I was very much opposed and the other hundreds wanted victory and blood, in the auditorium if not in Saigon. They'd take either.

Yesterday, I complemented an unabashed Wilkerson apologist, Joyce Ferriabough. On that day and subject, she seemed angry, bitter and accusatory. Beyond the loss, she says she was the person responsible for getting Wilkerson to run the first time in 1992.

She kept running down Chang-Díaz and following up with comments about wanting to be fair to everyone. Huh? She ended up with a stream of hearsay about Sonia's campaign (most of the money was not local, but out of state; a single fund-raiser and contributor was responsible for her victory; their campaign workers were spreading dirty lies about the innocent Wilkerson; no one knows anything about Sonia [she's a blank slate]; and on and on).

Coalition building is huge, hard work.

The only other person who has been so disingenuous about Wilkerson is Wilkerson. The 12 minutes with Ferriabough made me wonder whether Wilkerson was surrounded with more self-deceiving sorts. If anyone tells you that a problem is someone else's fault, any internal pressure to fix it or prevent it next time disappears.

It's also a fascinating migration from Joyce's comment to the Dorchester Reporter near the end of last year. She said:
People need to go back to the drawing board and work on getting some candidates out there that can break some barriers and connect to people on a citywide basis. There are some people in the Hispanic community who have the potential to cross a lot of lines, and I think that needs to happen. Ditto with the black community.
One wrinkle though...that was about Boston City Council after Felix Arroyo lost his seat. I'm sure for some reason the same logic and dynamics shouldn't apply to Wilkerson's Senate seat. Or should it?

As a strategist, Ferriabough's forte is not solid honesty nor consistency. She's about getting people elected, about being an advocate, about promoting one over another, about framing and presentation. The same can be said for some bloggers. I certainly have endorsed Chang-Díaz twice and put forth reasons to vote for her over Wilkerson. I am not impartial either. I have to wonder how getting paid by a candidate for my opinions on a race would affect my electrons' spin.

Wilkerson and her strongest believers supporters have hada shock and are stuck in the early stages of grief — Shock or Disbelief, Denial, Bargaining, Guilt, Anger, Depression, Acceptance and Hope. It looks like the Guilt stage may remain transferred to others. They may run the rack of stages for the results, but the causes are on a whole separate table.

With all of Dianne's advantages and all the levers she pulled near the end, her loss is the more surprising. To pretend that Sonia's win is anything other than voter dissatisfaction sounds like denial to me.

While I have watched Wilkerson's work for years, I can believe that most of her constituents think she is a concerned, hard-working and effective senator. My evaluation includes that she falls into that large group of legislators who are only so-so working with others and building coalitions. Her comments at the Wards 11 and 19 forum included that bills that have wandered the General Court desert for years unenacted is that the House is totally to blame. Once the Senate tosses the bill over the wall, its members have done their work. I am sure in her heart of hearts, even Wilkerson knows better. Yet, that sentiment was distressing coming from a long-tenured lawmaker.

Coalition building is huge, hard work. It is the skill and hallmark of the rare leader. It is unusual enough that it is unfair to demand it of any given legislator. When it exists though, it is powerful and beautiful. It is what advances big ideas and creates movements that can carry us with them.

Ferriabough in our brief exchange sounds a lot like Wilkerson. There are some standard answers there and they almost all damn others. They both have a litany of externalities, including:
  • Some polling places moved before this primary (Wilkerson informed voters before, as did the state, and there had long been signs at the polling places old and new; moreover, she had vans and cars to shuttle people as needed; this is a smelly red herring)
  • Someone else in Dianne's hire should have made sure bills were paid, taxes were filed and state accounting was accurate and legit (the idea being that Dianne's writing checks to herself from her campaign funds was someone else's fault)
  • A single local donor (Barbara Lee) was the major reason Chang-Díaz had so much cash (the allegation includes that this was really from outsiders, out-of-staters who for some reason had targeted the innocent Wilkerson)
  • A dirty tricks calumny campaign swayed some voters (the criticisms were the things Wilkerson was found guilty of by a judge or in a plea bargain)
I, instead, am a sincere man from the land of the maple trees. I figure morality had everything to do with it. Wilkerson had the advantages of incumbency, a huge list of political, union and organizational endorsements, incumbency, a large political organization and even robo-calls from the governor and Boston's mayor.

Wilkerson put it all out, raised every shield, fired every arrow and still lost by a small margin. We simple minded types continue to suspect that morality had a great deal to do with the outcome.

We can't know that if she had won whether she'd consider it vindication and license to keep on doing what has gotten her into so much trouble so often. I do suspect that even knowing that the commonwealth will pore over her next campaign finance filings as part of her plea bargain, those reports should be well worth examining.

Dianne's only shortcoming was in working too hard, we hear. That is, according to Ferriabough, she did too much herself. Someone else should have made sure she hired people to make sure that this that or the other happened. Oh, if only she had had better help. Lackaday, the problem was that she didn't delegate.

While voter after voter for Sonia said the string of convictions, sentences, suspended law license, house arrest, violation of house arrest, unfiled taxes, bounced checks, unjustified expenses billed to the campaign account and such determined their votes, it truly was other factors, according to Ferriabough. "The question of morality...didn't figure into it," she said.

In fact, Ferriabough reserved her strongest condemnation in her list of hearsay accusations against the Chang-Díaz for unfair accusations, saying things are what they aren't, as she put it. She alleges that there was name-calling, but only by the other side. The names included convicted felon, income-tax evader, criminal and such. Assuming that her unsupported accusations were 100% accurate, where the devil (was it from the Devil?) could they get such absurd ideas? The brutal unfairness and inaccuracy are shocking!

I let that chant go on the news show. Not only was it hearsay, but anyone who is not an apologist for Wilkerson would raise both eyebrows and wonder whether Ferriabough was kidding. She wasn't.

Ferriabough's twists on Chang-Díaz seem well practiced and I suspect we'll hear them again from the Wilkerson camp. Consider primarily that Sonia "is a blank slate" that "no one knows anything about her." The fact is that she has been presenting and fine-tuning her message for three years. In truth, in 2006, the Chang-Díaz platform was weak on specifics in places, but the denigration of her being unknown and insubstantial is groundless. It is applicable only to those who not listened or read the papers or attended small or large meetings or fora since early 2006.

Ferreirabough also liked to run down Chang-Díaz by casting her as an echo of Barack Obama' messages. She said Sonia "rode change" because she figured it would "resonate." Díaz' use of "change" became "kind of a mantra." That's certainly a lot easier for Wilkerson's camp to accept than saying she was the reformer and Dianne was the one who needed reform.

The strategist and quite possibly Wilkerson refused to accept that Chang-Díaz presented fully formed ideas and platform planks. Yet, it seems most voters knew better.

On top of it all, word today is that Wilkerson's camp may grasp at every possibility of denial. We'll know by Monday whether they want a recount and have gathered 50 sigs in each ward to do so. Experience shows that this almost always nudges up the winner's total slightly. There's even talk they are considering a write-in or sticker protest campaign for November, which is a certain loss and further diminution of Wilkerson's brand. (Another of my mother's expressions was an entreaty — let me age gracefully!)

Overall, this 12 minutes was fun, like playful arm wrestling during high-school lunch. Lovett maintained a good pace and I suspect that if either of us had lagged, he would have goaded us or switched among speakers. His questions were also pointed and catalytic, but not domineering. He's a pro. I'll be watching more of his shows.

As we all imagine we have a novel in us, undoubtedly each us has short news segments we can fill. Of course, the poor Chris Lovetts of the cable world would have to become aware of, identify, locate and match us without areas of opinion and expertise.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Magic Sonia at Alchemist

Yes, there were cheers and tears. Yes, JP's Alchemist was loud with love and liberalism.

When hints that Sonia Chang-Díaz might appear circulated, the hundred plus supporters chanted SONIA and clapped deafeningly. I remember seeing the well tattooed, many pierced barkeep with her garish nail polish leaning over a register with her fingers covering both ears. It was that loud.

Oscar and Grammy winners could learn quite a bit from Sonia's cavalcade and parade of praise. She named, specified, pointed out and cheered dozens of workers, including her secret weapon, her mom. Her ex-astronaut dad was also there, but her indefatigable mother almost surely brought in far more than the 228 votes for victory.

Sonia fairly sang the thank-yous without dragging down her victory party at all. In a jaded political town with lowered expectations for politicians, the young woman with the huge smile and immense sincerity is at least starting off with her idealism intact and on display.

The crowd was loving it even before she arrived. Like puffs or snorts of drugs, the iPhone-fueled hordes were monitoring election results and didn't even droop as the margin of victory narrowed relatively quickly from 16% to under 2%. I saw over a dozen 20-somethings each bent over the silly tiny phone screen like the elder voters I had helped during the day. Technology can be so controlling.

By coincidence, as a poll worker, I discovered Sonia's mother behind our table as an observer. I had not met her previously and waited until she went out to follow her and introduce myself. (We're not allowed to talk politics in the polling location.)

At the Alchemist, I may have been the oldest person in the room. I did run into Michael Forbes Wilcox, who apparently rolled in from Western Mass to take part. He's of my boomer generation. Most were like my co-podcaster Ryan Adams and were my oldest son's age. Both of Sonia's parents were there, but it was an early 20s crowd (actually typical of that restaurant/bar).

The energy didn't stop. I suspect that had the results gone 2 points the other way, there may have been different kinds of tears. The affection and anticipation and idealism in the two rooms would have remained. Sonia is both what we want now and is the future.

We have a lot of tired politicians around here. The fantasy that because registered Dems so dominate public office, particularly the legislature, that we're a bunch of social liberals, even progressives. We don't have to look very far to understand how wrong that is. The grief and roadblocks Gov. Deval Patrick has gotten in trying to upgrade the General Court to Progressive 1.1 have been wide and high.

Sonia won't make all the difference solo, but I predict a huge impact. There are a lot of tired lefties who accept it's-the-way-politics-work-here. She doesn't, isn't about to, and is likely to catalyze reform beyond the Second Suffolk. In a nod to her dad, she said how he taught her she could do the impossible. I rather doubt she'll accept self-placed limits by other legislators.

Last night, after her initial blessing of her adorers, she said she's spoke with Senate President Therese Murry and the governor — both incumbent Sen. Dianne Wilkerson endorsers. She said she told them despite such differences, she was eager to begin working with them in advancing progressive changes.I say Patrick could use the help and encouragement, and Murry could use a jump-start.

That was the tone for her half hour remarks. She didn't rub it into Wilkerson. Instead, she noted the strong overlap in aims and concerns they shared and praised her for paving the way for women of color in politics here.

Sonia promised:
  • To "go to the mat" for the shared issues
  • To build the coalitions necessary to get stalled and new legislation enacted
  • To have "dogged" resolution to get the funding for the goals
  • To always be a senator who shows the high standards voters should expect from their leaders
No one in the room was old enough to remember the progressive movement and politicians from the WWI era, but anyone with some background on them may see some flashes. Sonia expressed the uneroded, untainted hope and idealism we hear only every few generations.

Typically, progressive movements "fail" in the eyes of many historians and other observers. They have partially fulfilled goals and their leading politicians fade or withdraw from office. Yet meanwhile, the successes are long lived and sometimes pervasive. These movements jolt politics and public opinion forward. We all end up with new, higher expectations, even when many of the goals go unrealized. The net is a gain for the public.

This election seems part of the shifts that brought Deval Patrick into office on progressive promises and have propelled Barack Obama as far as he's gotten so far. The sense of the possible is widespread.

Also: The Chang-Díaz results and how other progressives fared.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Progressives Flash or Crash Yesterday

In Massachusetts, progressives had mixed results in yesterday's primary. Yet even the losses and unresolved elections are promising. Briefly, we have better choices than voters in most places in the nation.

The best was Sonia Chang-Díaz elbowing eight-term incumbent state Senator Dianne Wilkerson. That was the race that befuddled the most lefties here. Wilkerson had a great record of voting progressively, particularly on marriage equality and GLBT issues. She had a terrible record of obeying financial laws and regulations. Moreover, behind the affection for her voting record, she was not a leader in the sense that she created bills and created coalitions to enact them.

Elsewhere, two progressives went for U.S. Sen. John Kerry's seat. The incumbent crushed Gloucester lawyer Ed O'Reilly with nearly 70% of the vote. Yet being challenged in the Dem primary for the first time in his 24 years in office seemed to have been the hormone shot Kerry has needed for some time. He has been churning out bills and putting his name on funding, government and private, like a young legislator. O'Reilly challenge looks like a great boon to the voters here.

A few are unsolved as of this morning, like 29th Middlesex (Watertown and a snip of Cambridge), where Jon Hecht is one of several after the vacant seat. (Word from Steve Owens this morning is that Hecht, the race's progressive won by over 800 votes [55%], excluding a runoff campaigns.)

The progressives failed in 35th Middlesex. DINO Paul Donato skunked two lefties there — James Caralis and Patrick McCabe. (Links here are to their podcasts on Left Ahead! last month.) It seems Medford-area folk complain a lot about their rep, but are not ready to toss him.

There's no indication of any huge trend to left and progressive newcomers this season nationwide. Assuming some Congressional pickup by Dems, we should end up with a more humane and rational House and Senate. We would be damned lucky if we end up with the 60-vote Senate margin necessary to override the Republican dam on good legislation.

Locally though, we can revel in having choices among candidates with good positions. We should be aware of how fortunate we are.

Also: The Chang-Díaz results and her victory celebration.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Idealism Trumps in Second Suffolk

It was nudge the rascal out yesterday. The one-plus percent victory by Sonia Chang-Díaz over state Senator Dianne Wilkerson might well have been 40%. Shielded with eight terms of incumbency and voter memories of pork, Wilkerson still couldn't protect herself.

Early returns had reformer Chang-Díaz up 58% to 42%, but with 100% of precincts in, Second Suffolk results were 9, 051 to 8,823 — a Sonia-trim win by 228 votes.

In pretty pathetic, but typical Wilkerson, style, the defeated incumbent immediately attributed the loss to nine polling places that had changed since the last election. She seems to have forgotten that she had vehicles at each to truck voters to the new spots. (Amusingly, she also blamed a single activist Chang-Díaz donor, Barbara Lee, according to PolitickerMA. Personal responsibility be damned again!)

She lost because she exceeded what seemed impossible to exceed. Wilkerson managed to overplay Bostonians' love of rascals. She was involved in too much financial misdealing too many times over too many years.

Even as a true Queen of Earmarks in a legislature that lives by bringing home bacon for voters, she seems incapable or unwilling to behave.

Wilkerson managed to overplay Bostonians' love of rascals.

Chang-Díaz has some therapy to perform, particularly in Roxbury. Assuming an almost certain victory in six weeks over Socialist Workers candidate William T. Leonard, she faces uneasy black voters. In news articles and radio reports, it was apparently not hard to find black voters who said they now had no one to represent them. Chang-Díaz first needs to show up as she did during the campaign. Then longer term, the voters need to see that you don't have to be black to share the same concerns and goals. That it-takes-time part won't be hard for Chang-Díaz.

The Wilkerson loss must be tough in the Roxbury/Mattapan areas she sees as her base. In various elections, they went 90% or more for her. Many said she delivered for them and that they identified for her as the only black and only black woman in the Sentate. While Chang-Díaz accurately identifies herself as of color, the identity with her is not yet strong as it was with Wilkerson.

At what turned out to be her victory party at JP's Alchemist last night, Chang-Díaz remained the highly competent and terrifically believable idealist. We haven't seen one of those win anything in far too long. It was a welcome contrast to the candidates' forum a few weeks before at Boston English. There, incumbents Wilkerson and beloved Rep. Willie Mae Allen fell back on the unfortunate perceived political wisdom several times. They described pork-barrel politics as just the way the system works. Moreover, Wilkerson said she'd try her best not to violate campaign-finance laws yet again, but wouldn't go any farther. In Allen's race, she romped over her indecisive and positionally vague opponent, Kathy Gabriel.

Wilkerson has overdrawn her account of unthinking acceptance and forgiveness.

There are many reasons I write about politics rather than do them. I certainly would have behaved differently had I been either senatorial candidate. For example:
  • Had I been Wilkerson, I would have apologized early and clearly for crimes rather than continually feigning "accounting errors."
  • Over my nearly 16 years in office, I would have researched and developed as key sponsor a lot more bills.
  • I also would have worked in both houses to build coalitions to pass key legislation rather than playing the standard, low-risk game of waiting until the stars align to get bills passed.
  • For legislation in general, I would have put my neck out for more solo bills under my name that set up programs and got funding on principle, rather than tucking pork for projects in big funding bills, where they were just swept along.
  • As Chang-Díaz campaigning, I would not have been so prissy gentle about calling Wilkerson on her ethics and legal violations this time. In her public statements and appearances, Chang-Díaz made the contrast plain only to the minority of voters who really paid attention to detail.
  • I would have asked repeatedly why CORI reform and other legislation so key to Second Suffolk have languished for years, while Wilkerson dismissively says the fault is in the House's not moving on it. Isn't it a leader's job to create the coalition to make these laws?
Initially Wilkerson apparently doesn't intend to go through yet another tedious recount, as occured two years ago. Nor does she intend to run as an independent. She's so volatile that she wouldn't amaze anyone if she tried either, although there'd be small likelihood of success with either. Wilkerson has overdrawn her account of unthinking acceptance and forgiveness.

Also: The Chang-Díaz victory do and other progressives' results.

Follow-Up: Over at BMG, howardjp has a great breakdown of the vote by ward/precinct.

Follow-Up 2: PolitickerMA has breaking news on Wilkerson's current and just announced campaign-finance problems. It seems she has violated her July 28th plea agreement with the AG two ways — missing a fine payment and not providing an compliance memorandum.

Tags: , , , , , ,