Friday, January 30, 2009

Chastened Flaherty Flies

Wowzers, boys and girls! Boston mayoral hopeful Michael Flaherty has all the web savvy $10,000 can buy.

His new campaign site buries the old one like a cat kicking in the kitty litter. Tip of the toupee to Edward Mason at the Herald for the alert.

Just yesterday, I ridiculed his clumsy, techno-feeble site. I was impatient or he rushed opening his site or both. He personally may well be someone who can't work that KitchenAid mixer in his drab video. Yet, he doesn't have too.

I think of fellow Boston City Councilor (disclaimer, my district guy and I know and like him) John Tobin. He admits freely that he doesn't know squat about blogging, videos and such. Yet, he was savvy enough to hire a real pro, Steve Garfield, to churn out a very respectable site.

Likewise, Flaherty apparently paid EchoDitto (HQ in D.C., but office in Harvard Square) to bring him into the 21st Century. It's web-savvy by association.

This is a store-bought site, but a good one. There are many shortcomings, but none serious enough to hurt him.

For example, the top button on his list is for donations. The heading on that page — Donation Form: Join me in our campaign to build a better Boston — doesn't exactly inspire parting with money. Moreover, in a small nit to pick, it takes cards, but not web-common PayPal.

Big up, though, to the facade of modernity. The front page also offers:
  • A page to suck friends into the campaign (if it accepts multiple emails instead of duplicating effort, it should say that)
  • A page to enter rants — critical to local voters — wisely listed as Your idea for a better Boston
  • His texting address (I assume a human will respond quickly here or at least an automaton will give an ACK)
  • A button linking to his Facebook page (no music or edgy art, at least not yet), a pretty naked page, but it's there
  • The mandatory pic of him with his wholesome looking kids and shampoo-commercial class wife
The upper tier pull-down menus have some of the same choices, but also:
  • About — standard background, with fluff on the campaign and self-serving PR on him
  • The Issues — This is mostly over-general, although it covers the right topics (see below)
  • Newsroom — Current newspaper articles; needs range of papers, plus blogs
  • Kitchen Table — Effectively homey way to encourage those vote and money productive house meetings
  • Get Involved — Nice volunteer form, reminiscent of Sonia Chang-Díaz' site
The site is a one-stop shop. Some of the shelves are bare, but you won't leave hungry.

Consider the issues area in particular. He pushes the buttons with A Plan for Boston, Fighting Family Flight, Reinvesting in Our Neighborhoods, Resident-Driven Government, Reconnecting People to Opportunity and creating Economic Justice, Investing in Education, and Protecting our Neighborhoods and Families.

There's not yet enough machinery behind most buttons. Still, this was gutsy and puts Flaherty right up with Councilor Sam Yoon as a man with a plan. This raises the stakes considerably.

Nearly all the issues suffer at both extremes of detail. Some aren't fleshed out. Others pair sweeping generalities with WTF specifics. For example, we're supposed to keep family in Boston with clean green spaces and "sound housing policy that places affordable housing units in areas of vast opportunities for advancement, whether it’s in employment, education, financial wealth, or family self-sufficiency." That's vague to the point of meaningless.

The education one is similar, but shows the rushed content addition that several issues do. There's general talk about investing and some drivel about involving parents, including consulting them when considering school closures. That reads like feel-good junk. However, he jumps to a very specific return to a feature of the Boston Miracle for school safety by returning street workers in school to defuse and prevent violence. Smart in co-opting a Menino success.

Raises the stakes considerably

At first look, a made-up issue may be his best. His resident-driven government seems to be the essence of his campaign and something we'll hear a lot more about.

Much more than the grumbling about secret meetings that he, Kevin McCrea and Yoon have been going on and on about, this looks like the cudgel to attack Mayor Tom Menino with in the coming months. He has a zippy slogan, A Contract with Community, too. On angles like the biolab and moving City Hall, he promises communication with and respect for residents (a.k.a. voters).

Forget sunshine laws, this is what many Bostonians get wired about. Da Mare has a reputation for doing what he wants, apparently because he knows better than you what you want and need, and what is possible. Menino may be right, but in his 16 years, he has irritated many.

I'll watch and listen for this to morph and grow. Promising folk you'll listen to them and then doing it, even if just on the website for now, is more powerful than a nice kitchen appliance in getting people's attention.

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

Inside UH Podcast

Listen in next Tuesday for Adam Gaffin, founder and dynamo behind Universal Hub. All of us want to know how the devil he manages a full-time job, being hubby and dad, writing books, and running this complex, value-added aggregator.

Adam joins us at Left Ahead! for our weekly. You can listen live on Blog Talk Radio February 3rd at 2:30 p.m. Thereafter, you can hear or download the cast at either site.

UH has long been a must-read site for Boston area snoops and busybodies. More important, it has links to or reports on everything from breaking political news, complaints about bad neighbors, personal vignettes and photos, crime and fires... In short, events or commentary of solid interest to somebody is there. Much of it won't appear in the contracting and understaffed local dailies or weeklies.

While he's known to run what amuses him, Adam has a keen filter. He knows what's worthy of UH.

UH covers all the neighborhoods in and near Boston, with occasional nods to the North or South Shore flashes. Many of us depend on Adam to point us to the right places for information, insight or inanity. Local publications and particularly bloggers know that a snippet with a link on UH means a lot of hits are sure to follow.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Yo, Blago. Go!

Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois has the opportunity to spend more time with his family. Thanks to a fifty-nine to aught vote by the Senate today in his trial on the House's impeachment, he'll be free to do whatever it is that he can do and get away with.
Pic note: One of those fellows to the left is Blagojevich and the other is 1950s actor Fess Parker. One is wearing a coonskin cap.
In no small part because corruption is long-running news here in Boston and Massachusetts, the vortex of the Senate trial in Springfield sucked me into live legislative TV. That took quite a bit. The production value and the largely self-serving posturing of the Senators are similar out there.

Today included:
  • House Prosecutor David Ellis gave his closing remarks
  • Blagojevich swept in for a non-defense defense set of remarks
  • The two party caucuses met for an hour
  • Ellis made a brief rebuttal
  • The two party caucuses met again for an hour
  • Senators had up to five minutes each to fill pages in their verbal scrapbooks for the folks at home
  • They voted
It was plain by the second speech that the then-governor's pathetic attempt at persuading anyone of his innocence failed. He unfortunately neither presented any credible denials to the 60 investigators' tapes nor made any sort of argument to avoid removal. In fact, the closest he'd get to a legal argument was claiming as he did on a dozen or so talk shows that he was being denied his rights to a full judicial proceeding. Even he knows that a Senate trial after a House impeachment does not follow a court's rules of evidence and process. It is a political, not a judicial, event.

Also unfortunately for him, the Senate trial was based on his own words and actions, not those of others. There could be no accused others to bolster his tissue-thin claims of innocence. He was, in effect, faced with refuting himself and his own recorded words.

What kept me listening today — at least while doing other low-demand tasks — was thinking of our local pols. We have resigned Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and I'm-not-going-no-place Boston Councilor Chuck Turner, plus the fleeing House Speaker Sal DiMasi. Wilkerson will either go to trial or cut yet another of her famous plea bargains. Turner doesn't have the sense his 68 years should have provided and will almost certainly end up in an extortion and conspiracy trial. DiMasi may be able to pull an ex-Boston-Mayor Kevin White and get away with not enough evidence to prove anything personally on him. All three will end their careers with asterisks to footnotes of shame.

Those stinking systemic problems were similarly lamented in Springfield, Illinois, over the past four days and particular this day. To remedy and prevent them here, we are about to pass some version of ethics reform. In as much as the proposed improvements largely only double money and jail penalties, none of us expects it to have a dramatic prophylactic effect.

In Illinois, they wail and rail about the same conditions. Today's five-minute blusters included regular intervals of that. It is not surprising that the Senators called for reform. The Chicago Sun-Times gives us some perspective on this with its gallery of recent corrupt Illinois governors. Either they are just clumsy or even by Massachusetts standards, the Land of Lincoln has a big problem.

Before the trial vote today, about four of five speeches were bluenose types. Perhaps they were more like the Claude Raines' Capt. Renault character in Casablanca, being shocked, shocked at corruption. Those lawmakers were talking for their reelections and to their constituents. They came to serve the public and would definitely vote out this bad, bad man.

However, there were a surprising number who might well be able to speak for our General Court's tainted culture here. Several judged that Blagojevich could not have swapped favors for campaign contributions, offered the U.S. Senate seat for bids or done any of the other corrupt acts exposed on the tapes without the knowledge and cooperation of officials and legislators. There were several calls of increasing volume and palpable sincerity urging major reforms.

It may really be that this scandal will shift attitudes in Chicago and Springfield. Even more than Boston for our city and state, corruption had been a way of doing business for a long time in Illinois. It had become part of folklore as well, almost a source of pride.

The consistency and vigor with which 59 Senators pushed away Blagojevich was a bit startling. No one would be the contrarian vote. Yet, if some of those speakers were right, not all of those self-righteous Senators are so clean themselves.

We can be damned sure that if Blagojevich goes on trial for corruption, he won't play the hero and stay quiet.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Prop 8 Status Analysis

With the fate of 8 in the strait of California's high court, I have been hanging around for some rulings. Fortunately for the curious, Edge's San Francisco editor, Roger Brigham, has been busy.

(Tip of the toupee to Bay Window for the link.)

He has looked at more than 60 amicus briefs in the challenge to overturn the ballot initiative to overrule same-sex marriage there. His analysis has such surprises as:
  • 11 of the 60 want to keep the initiative's constitutional amendment
  • AG Jerry Brown came down heavy on the constitutionality of stripping rights by vote
  • Likewise, San Francisco's brief extrapolated a future where any small group could thus wrest rights from any other group it didn't like
Brigham doesn't make any forecast. Yet, he hints at the preponderance of constitutionally based arguments to overturn the amendment.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shootin' for Mayor, 2 of 2

Who would even want to be mayor Boston? Well, lots of folk, maybe every single City Councilor.

The job is high profile and sort of powerful, largely because the rest of city government is so weak by law and regulation. Yet, it is also fairly powerless. The archaic and childish home-rule process gives the commonwealth legislature and governor absurd power, legally and financially over the city. Boston can't do squat without begging up on Beacon Street.

Moreover, mayor tends to be the end of the line, and not a ramp to higher office. True, James Michael Curley managed to get into the governor's office, but he also spent time in jail. Our mayors are more likely to become law partners or college professors.

Yet, there seems to be an egalitarian tenor to the office. You too can be mayor.

This is part 2. See the intro here.

Three for the Road

We may be in for a good race this year. Already the two announced candidates are slapping each other around. They are starting out with a central theme and not showing their cards yet. The initial issue is clearly a stalking horse. If Menino announces a run for a fifth term, they'll bring out their big marbles.

The first two announced candidates are South End businessman and gadfly Kevin McCrea and Councilor Michael Flaherty. Lurking right outside the circle and soon to announce intentions is Council Sam Yoon.

Shooter 1Shooter 2Shooter 3
Kevin McCreaMichael FlahertySam Yoon

McCrea's only really political card is that he sued the city successfully to get its pols to start obeying the open-meetings laws. Boston is not the only commonwealth municipality that likes its closed-door decisions, but he has a horse to ride into the contest.

Flaherty likes that too and tried to hitch a ride. He talks the talk, but he has an unfortunate history here of being one of those backroom pols. Even though his initial video says he is the guy to provide open government.

Amusingly enough, he got laughs for 1) the Kitchen Aid mixer over his shoulder, 2) his bungled release of his announcement, and 3) having to backtrack and admit he was a huge, regular offender on this very subject. McCrea jumped right on this.

Meanwhile, Yoon has been on open and transparent government for a long time. If he announces for the race, he can easily dismiss the two of them. I bet this issue will not resonate with voters regardless and none of these guys can win the election on this plank.

Yoon is surely the smartest guy on Council and perhaps in City Hall. He's a bit low-key, but who could be more so than Menino?

No Place to Stand

From the looks of their websites, neither announced candidate is Web 2.0 savvy. Flaherty not only blew his online announcement, his website is junior-high class, with no real content beyond the announcement. His metatags don't even put a title up on the bar. His Spanish version of the site has a good text translation, but the video is neither dubbed nor does he speak in Spanish. Latinos aren't going to be impressed. He won't offer a web-based threat.

McCrea is better, but he really just has a look-at-me blog. There's no platform and no compelling reason to go with him.

Oddly enough, Yoon is the only one with a set of issues and solutions online. I would expect that if he decides in a week or so to run that his site and literature will set the tone with the others, including Menino, reacting. He'd have a headstart.
Note to Yoon: Don't run, at least not this time. You don't have the money, you don't have the machine, and you don't have enough union and other interest groups to make the difference. Hope that Menino is in and that he wins. You'd have four years to get support and cash.

Show Us the Money

Yoon set and met very modest goals for fund-raising. He said he'd consider a run if he could collect $100,000 by the end of 2008. He did that.

However, if you look at just the cash on hand, this is all Menino. In state campaign filings for the end of the year, cash was:
  • McCrea: $744
  • Yoon: $137,762
  • Flaherty: $590,102
  • Menino: $1,408,184
Among the notes are that:
  • McCrea has lent his campaign at least $33,500 and repaid himself $10,000 at the end of the year; his total is deceptively low
  • Yoon just put on a push in the fall and has collected for a short period
  • Flaherty has been working at this for a year and has his friends
  • Menino carries forward a war chest as well as he hasn't turned on the turbo yet
You have to wonder how serious McCrea really is and whether he has the political and business connections to bring in the necessary capital. Likewise, Yoon would need four to 10 times that to make a run, which is possible but difficult in a short time.

Meanwhile, Kevin seems devilish and prickly. He's likely to poke Flaherty repeatedly. Flaherty needs more issues and a real platform. If he's holding back, he needs to play some cards. If he doesn't have compelling reasons for voters to choose him, he'd better rethink this whole thing.

This is a very promising start. I'm not sure these three guys or any subset of them can make a solid run. Here's hoping that Menino and Yoon make their intentions clear this month and turn up the heat.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Shootin' for Mayor

Game is on, boys and girls. With our fall scandals, we were a center of politics (bad politics, but still...). Then my friends in Minneapolis and Illinois twitted me because they were the news makers. One in Minnesota was eager to take full credit for the elevation of excitement there.

Then, it looked like our third consecutive speaker of the house would head to indictment and maybe jail. He mitigated that a bit by sneaking out and Nixon-like declaring victory in the midst of sound defeat.

Our race to disgrace seems over. We are left with three lessened characters, ex-Speaker Sal DiMasi, ex-Senator Dianne Wilkerson, and hanging-on City Councilor Chuck play-the-race-card Turner. Together, they're a fair sitcom, but they don't have 13 episodes among them.

Despair not, the little shooters are already lining up against the playground king. Four-term (plus a running start of four months) Mayor Tom Menino already has two announced and more possible shooters for his ring.

With shame, I admit this pleases me mightily. This could be a fun campaign, more so four years ago when Maura this-is-my-time Hennigan took a run. She had lots of energy and a singularly nasty ad campaign, but, lackaday, no platform.

Search in the box at the top left to see some coverage of the Hennigan battle.

Giant by Default

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus.

Cassius in Julius Cæsar, i. 2.

Cassius' statement is not quite accurate for our longest-serving mayor, Menino. He's more like the bear in the cave. If you want what's he's got and aim for the warmth of inside, you have to go in there and take it.

I can also let you in on a little secret, he's longest serving by a trick. When then Mayor Ray Flynn jetted off to play diplomat to the Pope, he gave Councilor Menino the last four months of his term. Thus, the acting mayor has an unelected differential over Kevin White, who also won four terms in a row.

While Menino says dryly that he may well run again — It's all he knows how to do, he says. We have to wonder whether he simply wants a fifth term to be the longest-serving mayor, with no asterisk.

I should make it plain that I don't think Menino should run again. He is still beloved and if he takes a four-year term at the height of economic panic and rising crime and angry unions, he won't leave that way.

His mayoralty brings a question mark as well as an asterisk. Why?

To those who work with him, he has quite a reputation of being overly sensitive, particularly to criticism. We voters don't see that and generally perceive him as charming.

Yet he doesn't cross over to the star quality there. He is infamous for his beyond-Boston-accent slurred speech. He is no powerful orator. He is not charismatic. His personal life is as dull as mine — long-term faithful husband and father, who doesn't race F1 cars or climb cliffs or keep mistresses.

He's been a good mayor, without brilliant or innovative programs. He can point to big successes in crime reduction and then reversals, education improvements and setbacks, business growth and so on throughout the big items. Boston won't circle the drain if he leaves or if he stays.

Look to part 2 for who wants the job, how badly and what the bring to the circle.

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, January 26, 2009

Salvatore Imperfetto

Our fleeing speaker of the house, Salvatore F. DiMasi, is imperfect. In fairness, I confess only to readers here that so am I.

That leads to a conundrum for partisans on all the edges. While not as delusional or dishonest as say a Coulter or Limbaugh, lefties too want surrogates who are political Mini-Me characters. We'd like legislators and other leaders who would act and vote just as we would in those positions.

As we willingly broom Sal out onto Beacon Street tomorrow, the worthiness of our expectations is low. How reasonable, we should ask ourselves, am I to expect him or Barack Obama or anyone to act out all that I think and feel?

Of course, on the face of it, that's absurd. Cue clichés about each human being unique, life being filled with compromises, and the necessity of contacting our officials. Blah, blah, but not much more.

That may be true, but not convincing for so many of us, left, right or focused on a single issue. We surely are disappointed and sometimes bitterly when a President or other politician votes our goals here but with the forces of evil there.

Sal's a quintessential pol for Massachusetts and particularly for me. He leaves with the praise and fond memories of Bay Windows editors, GLAD attorneys and many active in the LGBT communities. For an Italian Catholic who came from a North End cold-water flat, he showed some real guts and humanism on gay rights, including same-sex marriage. Leave it to other reps and senators to clutch the hem of the local archbishops' hems over the years or to court anti-gay groups for support. Here, DiMasi unquestionably did the right things, long before they were accepted or popular.

Likewise, his sponsorship of universal health care here was brave and pioneering. It was yet another of instance of equity and a willingness to lead.

Now, the 63-year-old is sneaking out of the state house after 30 years. A grand-jury investigation and legal clouds move with him like Al Capp's Joe Btfsplk. That's not unusual for our legislators or those of numerous other states where heads of a chamber leave in disgrace or even head to jail.

Long before any serious allegations that he swapped influence, DiMasi was on my bad side. Most damningly, I found that the speaker derailed progressive goals and stymied financial stability in favor of corporations. Had he not stopped new Gov. Deval Patrick's sweeping reforms, we would be a more just and certainly financially sound state.

So, back to the original question. Is a Sal DiMasi a good guy or a devil?

He favored and advanced major and minor goals I wanted. Yet, he was a huge impediment to others and to the progressive governor's programs.

I fear the answer includes:
  • You have to work to cultivate the best possible candidates and get them to run
  • You support and vote for the best of those
  • You work with the resulting administration and legislators for what you want
  • You praise the good deeds
  • You go back again to change their minds where they do not align with what you want
So that would put Sal in the middle in lefty terms. That's where Mass Scorecard put him in how well he aligned with the Democratic Party platform. They gave him a gentleman's C, in the 70% range. My personal report card for him is similar.

That's almost certain better than the next speaker will do. We don't have any progressive champions rushing for DiMasi's job. Moreover, the severe economic constraints may prevent much of substance from happening for a couple of years. With little chance that the Republicans and DINOs will gain much more power, that puts us in a holding pattern.

Put another way, that's time to return to working on that list above.

Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wilkerson Claims No Tit for Tat

The Boston Globe actually has value today above the comics and the flier coupons. Disgraced, resigned ex-Sen. Diane Wilkerson may try the old the-state-told-me-I-could-take-thousands-legally ploy, according to a piece bylined Donovan Slack.

While not-resigned Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner was figuratively hip bumping (sorry for the image) with Lyndon LaRouche's people yesterday, Wilkerson was spinning her legal cloth exceedingly fine. She has experience cutting deals at both the state and federal levels for money and records offenses. I had figured she'd go the same way here.

In what was apparently an exclusive with the daily, and an attempt to control the coverage, she said that:
"...she took individual financial contributions of up to $10,000 to help pay off mortgage and federal tax debts. The contributions, she said, were approved by the state Ethics Commission, vetted by lawyers, and within state and federal laws...While she declined to discuss anything about the criminal charges, her description of the highly unusual personal fundraising effort provides a possible window into her planned defense."
She claims to have a letter from the State Ethics Committee that okayed taking tens of thousands for such things as mortgage payments. "The only caveat from the Ethics Commission, Wilkerson said, was that she not take any actions on Beacon Hill that benefited contributors."

Of course, that's true for all legislators. It's a reverse way of looking at the tit for tat that she and Turner have been accused of by the FBI and U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan.

It's a whole other matter for a jury and judge to believe that what she admitted was over $70,000 bought nothing but one of her expansive smiles and gratitude. That's a harder sell if hundreds here and thousands there form a clear pattern of unreported gifts or contributions.

I call magical thinking on her.

Tags: , , , ,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chuck, Lyndon and the Long-Faced Chorus

The dour angels of the local LaRouche Youth Movement opened today's meeting with classical praise to God. It was neither to Lyndon LaRouche nor to Chuck Turner.

At the ballroom of the Radisson in Park Square, they sang a cappella in Latin and lacked only emotion. Not aware that the youthful political cadre routinely belted 'em out, I wondered what else they could do beyond haranguing passersby like Scientologists or soliciting contributions. In this case, they didn't seem to have any fun producing fine music. Two young women were unable to stifle smiles leaving the front, but otherwise, it was as though Vulcans were preforming.

Without even the excuse of desperation, Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner was sharing lollipops with strange kids. Except for the occasional blunder such as porn confused with news, Turner's personal theatrics have been more entertaining than destructive. What has he to do with LaRouche sorts?

After his arrest and indictment for allegedly extorting a bribe to facilitate a liquor license, Turner has been on a tear. His often florid and always loosely reasoned claims went out there.

At the Radisson before the meeting, it was clear that this was a mandated event for the LaRouche youth. They knew each other and outnumbered the rest of us considerably. Under 100 attended and the 20-somethings dominated. Each was obviously trained to engage, gathering names and contact info on the way in, offering dozens of tracts as stapled magazines or perfect-bound booklets.

I now own:
  • A DVD that will apparently explain why Barack Obama had better act like Franklin Roosevelt in a big hurry
  • A nearly 300-page Children of Satan, anti-Dick Cheney screed
  • The current Executive Intelligence Review
  • A Your Enemy George Soros LaRoche PAC dossier
  • The Program for World Economic Recovery
  • Tantamount to Treason on the economic bailout bills
  • Last fall's The Tasks Before Us in the Post-Cheney Era
  • Is the Devil in Your Laptop?
Together, those have a suggested contribution value of about $100. I would gladly share so all could enjoy and learn. However, parting with Is the Devil in Your Laptop might be tough for me. In that, Lyndon himself comes heavy on "...Cyberspace looney-bins such as MySpace, Facebook, and killer modes in computer games." A few pages later a Matthew Ogden decries that "Globalization is the thermodynamic 'heat death' of human culture, denegration towards an undifferentiated world 'blah' (what some have dubbed the blogosphere, better named the blah-gosphere)."

If you don't know LaRouche beyond the blinking sidewalk solicitors, you can do worse that start with his Wikipedia entry. There are plenty of links to his documents, as well comments from detractors and champions. I won't touch him here, except where Chuck Turner and the LaRouche folk overlap.

The 86-year-old LaRouche remains fundamentally an economist. His people claim virtually Cassandra-class prognostication there — infallible but ignored. With that eye, he seems to see a kindred mind and spirit in Turner. Speaking at the Radisson for the LaRouche PAC, Western States Spokesman Harley Schlanger said that the group would support Turner because such fighters for the right are rare. makes you sick to your stomach

Turner, Schlanger and LaRouche PAC's literature have some clear overlap in this way. In his remarks, Turner iterated some of he LaRouche argot. A recurrent term in his address, as well as Schlanger's and the lit, was the British Empire.

Woe to us who are so ignorant as to think first of King George III and later the Raj. Instead, this appears to be a shorthand for the larger evils of the cartels that secretly control the world. Schlanger twice expanded the term, first to Anglo-Dutch Empire and then to Anglo-Dutch-Saudi Empire.

Several times, Turner used British Empire á la LaRouche when he meant the old white oppressor class. Fundamentally, Turner was on solid ground when he said this country's economic system has never been fair to all, particularly to those of color, to women and to working whites. How odd though for his to parrot the code phrase.

Turner had another good point in his hit-and-miss criticism of his own prosecution. He fairly questions how U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan had the chutzpah to try to forbid Turner from talking about the case publicly when Sullivan himself has released a still shot off video before the indictment claiming that it showed Turner accepting a $1,000 bribe. Even in playground terms, that's not fair. If Sullivan can trash talk, why not Turner?

At the podium, Turner was much less substantial and much more conspiratorial when he branched from his case. In his lingo, "prosecutors will collude with the media." That seems less likely and yet harder to prove than Sullivan's challenge to show that Turner offered a tit for tat with the liquor license. In the latter case, Sullivan either has the taped evidence and witness testimony or loses his case. For his part, Turner also surmised that Sullivan wanted higher office, like commonwealth governor, which would be his motivation for pegging Turner.

The Council may have been overthinking the media angle in other ways as well. He said that after he ignored his lawyer's instructions to shut up about the case, "my campaign worked — the media backed off." He apparently did not consider Occam's razor possibility — the media got bored with him and the case, and won't report again until there's news not just noise from Turner.

Yet, to me Turner remains deliciously vivid. At 68, he is still activist frisky. He spoke of himself as a crusader, poking the bear. He expected to get poked back. In this case, he and the LaRouche folk claim that the sting that got Turner indicted followed shortly after the Councilor railed against foreclosures on property of poor people.

He continues to play the drama queen well and use fitting language. He said, "When you get in a fight, you don't think about what would happen if you lose. You think about how to win!"

On the one hand, for this case, he claims total innocence. He says he has no recollection of meeting the businessman and moreover, he's not sure that the very distinctive beard on the video is his beard on the video. Not only does he not seem to be shopping for a plea bargain, he is looking beyond his victory. He calls for prosecuting Sullivan. He added that the International Action Center would circulate a petition in his behalf to prosecute the prosecutors.

As Turner not so subtly puts it, "This country is so immoral, it makes you sick to your stomach."

This is sumo at its best. The salt has been thrown. The ring has been purified. Turner or Sullivan will end up tossed out of the ring by his loin cloth.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama: He Words Us

The President and the preachers promised, pontificated and prepared us. The many words of the past few days limn past, present and future.

Lynne, Ryan and Mike will deliver our jabber at its most intense on tomorrow's Left Ahead! podcast. We'll dig into Barack Obama, Rick Warren, Gene Robinson, Joseph Lowery and even some Roger Wilkins.

A frightened and weary nation listened intensely. We'll give you our take. Listen live on BlogTalkRadio Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. here. Check back on Left Ahead! any time after for on-demand download or listening.

We're back next week on our usual Tuesday.

Bishop's Prayer Here and There

The elves have ensured that Bishop Gene Robinson's prayer for and to President Elect Barack Obama was heard publicly. It follows below in video and text. Moreover, he's tomorrow's guest on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart will have him by satellite connection.

Many had surmised
about why the prayer was not on the HBO We Are One special. Also the Obama team's clumsiness in including a frequently anti-gay inauguration minister while not ensuring Robinson's prayer coverage and placement will hang around for a long time.

Don't fret:
  • Robinson's New Hampshire diocese has made the text available here
  • The prayer is on YouTube here
  • Much of the coverage seems to have sprouted from Christianity Today here
  • Numerous GLBT and lefty blogs have comments
Pic note: From Affirmation for gay Mormons.

The prayer was verbally powerful, but not overly rhetorical nor confrontational. It could have been delivered in a typical UU church. It's good stuff. Even though much of the nation did not hear it, the new President did. There's much to chew on here and much act as a conscience spur.

Bishop Robinson said:

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 19, 2009

Post Racial? Try in 50 Years

The wrinkly guy with the crinkly smile was inspiring on the Harbor this afternoon. We rolled down to the JFK Library for the forum featuring Roger Wilkins, hosted by Callie Crossley.

Wilkins — Pulitzer winning journalist, civil-rights dissident within the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, author, professor and keen observer — looked rather glum, but burst with insight, wit and excellent mimicry. At 77, he's still not ready to give up or give in.

For many in generations after his, Wilkins' repeated admission that he remains a patriot can seem odd. He grew up in a segregated South. Yet, with a father who replied to his statement that his dream of being a train engineer was reserved for whites with saying that yes, it was unfair, "and you must fight against that your whole life." Then he was active in the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s, even risking his life in the 1967 riots to analyze who was shooting at whom in Detroit. Then he was the sole high-ranking black person acting as the conscience and scold to Presidents and his Attorney General boss.

He has taught college and says he tells his students how lucky they are. When a black student questions that, he has them imagine being born in poor and static areas of Africa or Asia. While he never expected to live to see a black President, man or women or of any color other than white, he looks for the continued advancements. He is not one who thinks that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous dream is manifest in Barack Obama.

From his sprightly stride onto the stage, Wilkins seemed dolorous, perhaps filled with the unpleasantness of the past. His long face seems to bear wrinkles like tree rings, immutable and showing the weight of nature. His mouth was down in the corners, making a sad mask.

The trappings accentuated the sober tone. In what must have been bow to the Kennedy 1960s, the stage had three Danish modern pieces, two arm chairs and a low table, all of blond wood. Two cobalt goblets completed the serious scene as the only objects in sight.

Crossley too seemed all too dour. She is famous for her appearances of WGBH's Greater Boston Beat the Press, as well as her Eyes on the Prize background. She is sort and round, holding her papers with written questions close like a hedgehog ready to lead the discussion. This looked like very serious business.

Wilkins' appearance is a mask though. He can be quicker, more clever and jollier than other scholars or writers. One flash of recognition was how his sudden, full smile looks like Jimmy Carter's, from the delighted grin to the climbing cheek bones to the squinting eyes. He's someone who likes to laugh and make others do the same.

While I am just young enough to be his son, I share with Wilkins some history. I too grew up in a segregated South. While white, I worked and protested for justice and equality. He held important positions, I was just a student, then journalist, and the editor of a weekly black newspaper in a Southern state capital. I also lived in one of the New Jersey cities that exploded in riots and troop occupation in 1967, and worked bringing in food and other supplies to the riot area. He's a hero and macher and I a bit player, but I recognized some of his experiences and have a real sense of the times.

When it came to the pending Obama inauguration, Crossley and the audience of perhaps 200 wanted to hear his sense of what it all may mean. Quickly and first, he tried to dispel the notion that a mixed-race President equals a post-racial America. "I don't think the United States is going to be post-racial for another half a century. It's too deep in the culture."

It's a relay, a long distance relay.

Yet, he did note that during the campaign and after the election, he found many white people had some positive relief and personal change. He had long seen that many people of all races were unhappy with race relations in the country. Obama's campaign and victory have given "them a place to plug in" to making changes, personally and more broadly. Looking further ahead, he added that many white people "after the Obama thing is over, will feel more at ease with African Americans.

He shared the increasingly common trepidation that we have become so disheartened by the enormous problems from the past eight years. The danger that he too sees is that people may think that Obama is magic and can affect massive changes instantly, in war, in the economy and in other conditions that took eight years or decades to create.

Yet, Wilkins said that Obama "has all the tools to be a successful President. " Wilkins hopes that we recognize how huge the problems are and that as Obama says, some will take years to correct or reverse.

Crossley referred to Wilkins' efforts in the 1960s, as well as those of his famous uncle Roy, of Dr. King and others. She asked how true the cliché that Jesse Jackson's two unsuccessful runs for President enabled the Obama victory. Here, Wilkins showed refreshing humility, saying he was proud of the 1960s spirit and accomplishments. Yet, he noted that he had finally realized that what at the time he thought was a sprint to equality and fairness was really "a relay, a long distance relay."

His generation played its role and had breakthroughs, but those where just stages. Likewise, alluding to Jackson, he said he was really glad he had run for the highest public office. Yet, "When the butterfly is on the wing, the caterpillar is no longer needed."

Wilkins was also a charming clown with a keen ability to mimic. He did a fine Jack Kennedy, inspiring the young administration leaders, as well as an angry Bobby berating Wilkins for daring to criticize the slowness of civil-rights legislation. His best was surely a Detroit black radical who had been a basketball-court chum. When Television as they called the motormouth scolded him at a huge public meeting for not favoring guns for black self-protection, the confrontation from over 40 years ago was apparently fresh enough for Wilkins to imitate the tirade down to the inflection of "Brotha Wil-keeeeens..."

More seriously, he spoke of his personal drive for public service and personal integrity. He said that he was unsure whether he believed in an afterlife. However, he is descended from generations of slaves. He has long tried to keep his perspective of not only what his father taught him about fighting for what's right, but what those ancestors who did not know freedom would think if he every met them elsewhere. He imagines them asking, "What did you do with your freedom, boy? I have to defend what I did with their hopes and aspirations."

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ted Sounding Windy

Wowsers, nearly three years since writing about Cape Wind and that overdue, specks-on-the-horizon wind farm off Cape Cod. Now Sen. Ted Kennedy remains determined to smear around that slight stain on his considerable reputation.

In a real way, it is wonderful that he'd be such a jerk about this.

Voters, MSM and bloggers tend to go lightly with Ted. He has an great résumé, with seemingly countless accomplishments for Massachusetts and the nation. Moreover, since his malignant brain tumor diagnosis and treatment, most are very gentle with our imperiled Lion of the Senate, as his epithet aptly is.
Winger Note: Right-wing commentators and bloggers deserve some sort of doggedness award for their recurring attacks on Ted for the 40-year-old Chappaquiddick wreck that caused the death of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne. As the driver, he did escape prosecution. This almost certainly cost him the likelihood of nomination and victory in 1980, when he contested with Jimmy Carter for President.
We can't know what kind of President Ted would have been, but his political corking has paid off in spades for us for decades. Throughout the nastiest and most regressive conservative fantasies and policies, he has stood loud and rational and firm for progressive and liberal values and specifics. I have no doubt that Barack Obama and many liberal members of Congress were able to make their cases for election in part because Ted has kept the important goals well defined and before the public.

So, what are we Ted adorers to make of his NIMBY efforts to queer a wind farm at a time when green, cheap and non-polluting energy has never been more important or possible? His statements this week were in line with previous ones...and just as dumb. The project has gotten one okay after another, with the current report from the Minerals Management Service saying it would cause no serious environmental problems.

Caution: The PDF report is 800 pages. You can nibble on pieces of it here.

Acting more like the skunk in the garden than the lion in the Senate, Ted blew off, if you pardon, the series of agency okays. He looks now to the Federal Aviation Administration's review for some thread to tie down this worthy demonstration of wind power. He said, "I do not believe that this action by the Interior Department will be sustained. By taking this action, the Interior Department has virtually assured years of continued public conflict and contentious litigation."

Of course, that's true only if he and other reactionaries to this project make it so. He clearly doesn't intend to let reason trump his emotion on this. He may lose all appeals, or just perhaps, Obama may take the initiative and help him let go of this earlier.

The good result is that this silly and illogical crusade helps humanize Ted.

With all of his accomplishment, Ted slips far too comfortably into the Super-Lawmaker cape. Seeing him on the side of the imps and reactionaries seems to make him more approachable. He can be a jerk with a blind spot, just as I and likely you can.

Yet, were Ted to die today or in a year or ten years, the wind-farm opposition will not be his hallmark, any more than any other mistake, misjudgment or misstatement. As much as wingers try to smear and discredit him, he remains a hero with a long, deep and wide history of doing well for us since 1962.

He will lose this one. He really already has, although he's not ready to accept that and probably won't until he has no more appeals. This remains one of his few foibles and follies. How very human.

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Anti-SSM Mainers Loading

One endearing quality of Maine folk is their candor. In the Portland Press-Herald, for example, coverage of yesterday's announcement of a bill enabling same-sex marriage had the opposition talking strategy.

I'm predicting more than one go before this passes. A couple of anti-marriage equality types are planning their ballot appeal assuming it eventually will. I confess this is more civilized when all the cards are on the table.

The former Christian Civic League of Maine, now one of the scullery maids for Focus on the Family, and short on funds, wants an automatic rollover into a plebiscite. The Maine Family Policy Council's executive director, Mike Heath, said he wants the bill to include a provision of an public vote after the legislative approval. That's a kind of double jeopardy befitting the trials of Hercules, but he adds, ""If there is no referendum provision attached, I fully expect that won't be the end of it. I'm not prepared at this point to say what would happen, but we've more than once proven we can get the issue to the ballot if we need to."

The no-longer-CCL site doesn't comment yet. More than maple sap runs slowly in Maine. Yet, we should note that they have a long history of huffing and puffing, getting regressive measures on the ballot, and after much evil saying and waste of effort and money, losing in the end anyway. It had been a fair fund-raising system for a long time. After the last loss on gay-rights though, their fortunes have diminished considerably.

Just as candid, but stated in an unintentionally self-parody, the head of the Maine Marriage Alliance, Rev. Bob Emrich demands kneeling instead of healing. His group has proposed an unworkable DOMA-style amendment that would seem to void the state's domestic partnerships in their heavy-booted effort to prevent SSM there.

The Portland paper quotes him as hoping for a respectful debate on the SSM bill. Then he proceeds to say it is "really bad for society. It's changing the very foundation of our society. It's going to have a major impact on children. It says something about the importance, or lack of importance, of fathers and mothers."

There you are. He has your respect right there and is certainly open to fair debate, eh?

He likely has no awareness how absurd his statements and extreme positions are. Yet, he likely reflects one side of what we'll see and hear in the next few months or longer. No doubt the CCLers and Emrich's bunch are still smarting from getting anti-discrimination wording in housing and employment regulations.

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chuck Turner Coasts for a Bit

Boston City Council's new president, Michael Ross, turned down the flame on Chuck Turner today. He stopped the independent investigation the council started, citing the cost and a recent motion by prosecutors in the case.

The previous president, Maureen Feeney, had started the investigation. The council had no mechanism in place to deal with a member under indictment but not convicted of a crime. Turner likened this, in his kindest phrasing, as a trial and witch hunt, instead of an inquiry into process and possibility.

Feeney had also stripped Turner of his committee chairmanship. Ross said he'd continue that suspension, but allow Turner to keep participating in council and committee business otherwise.

Striking fear into the hearts of evil doers, Going all spongy, Ross also said he would introduce a new rule. When a councilor receives a felony conviction, the council would then vote on whether the councilor was still fit to serve. So, only the worst felons may be expelled, eh, Mikey?

Tags: , , , , , ,

Marry in Maine, Too?

The moment the Maine meanies dreaded was today. A state senator has introduced a same-sex marriage bill.

The reactionaries are not losing a step though. Over in the house, there's a move afoot (maybe stuck to the bottom of the shoe) to turn the state's current definition of marriage as between a man and a woman to a DOMA-style constitutional amendment.

It looks like Augusta will be plenty warm for the rest of the winter.

Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock) sponsored An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom. Who could argue with such a noble bill, you ask? Well, for one, that would be Rep. Josh Tardy, house Republican leader.

Maine has domestic partnerships and finally passed a gay-rights bill (defeating efforts to reverse it at the ballot). In addition, Gov. John Baldacci is open to the SSM idea. However, he's not driving the bill. As he put it, "Unfortunately, there is no question that gay and lesbian people and their families still face discrimination...I’m not prepared to say I support gay marriage today, but I will consider what I hear as the Legislature works to find the best way to address discrimination."

Maine has indeed covered a lot of ground is a short time.

P.M. Update: Turn Maine Blue has both the text of the bill and comments from principals here. I would note that this follows the Massachusetts model in that marriage remains a civil contract and any couple entitled to a license can marry. The change, of course, is the gender neutrality, as in equal rights by gender. Good on 'em.

Back to speculation, I bet that neither measure goes very far. Tardy is just pandering to the wingers. That amendment process can't go forward until the next general election — 2010 at the earliest, assuming that his amendment proposal that flies in the face of current equal-rights law and regulations passes by two-thirds or better simultaneously in both houses. As for Damon's alignment of marriage procedure with equal-rights, the state is still a bit shell shocked over being fair to homosexuals in housing and employment. Moreover the lukewarm neutrality of the government does nothing to spark this little engine.

I think Tardy's will die the death of the rabid animal in the wilderness and that Damon's will take two or three years to get perking. Though in the end, this may be a race between New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine for the next marriage equality state in New England.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Barack Through Deval Filter

Theoretical comparisons of President-elect Barack Obama and President Abraham Lincoln abound. In fact, this has become a cliché so quickly that a few sites like The Root already have backlash posts.

Meanwhile, MSM and blogs nationwide are aware that Obama and our Gov. Deval Patrick are buddies, politically, philosophically and personally. With that comes a series of apt or inept comparisons and contrasts. Below, I'll rerun my view on this from last fall. Those who would be quick to bless our Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi or assume good intentions by Congress beware.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Deval Preview for Barack

Chums Deval Patrick and Barack Obama have so many parallels the similarities are not even worth cataloging. Perhaps the President Elect has had the spare moments to reflect on — and plan on avoiding — Patrick's obstructions.

Locally, the Deval version of a progressive river has trickled instead of swept us along. In addition to their sharing considerable politics and philosophy, Barack can like look to the same sort of roadblocks.

Deval has and Barack will face the same, but differing, what sales types call opportunities.

The Money. The progressive agenda each campaigned on takes cash from all its sources — continuing government income from taxes and elsewhere, enabling legislation, bonds and so forth. Neither chief executive can appropriate funds solo. At best, he'll get what he asks for. At second best, he can use or alter the use of existing appropriations. Otherwise, it's game playing with the legislators to deal.

One key difference here is that Deval entered a game underway in which a primary rule is we won't raise taxes. That has proven wildly imprudent as the General Court, often in concert with the previous Republican governors deferred essential expenses repeatedly. Each time increased the cost and didn't make the need vanish. Now infrastructure improvements and maintenance have become absurdly high as a result.

Barack's version will be turning the great ocean liner of expenses. It has been sailing along since in an unbelievable borrow-and-spend party for eight years. Even when Bill Clinton showed how to balance a budget, the current President has seen no need to and Congress went along. Couple this with the two-front war expenses and cap it with the recent ongoing financial chaos.

Barack has to lead us toward financial stability before anyone will support progressive goals. The exceptions may be the twofers — a New Deal-style investment in jobs that helps the economy at the same time. All but the stupidest of us must have learned that the trickle-down fantasy of giving rich people more money does not create jobs or help the broad economy.

Deval has a bit of an easier set of demands. He can't do anything meaningful for the national or world economies. The closest he can come is fostering high-tech and green companies and industries here that help with energy independence and licensing like the early software and computer industries. On the other hand, he was already in a money pinch before this fall's international and national crises.

The Pols. Deval certainly got the worst gang to rumble with. The General Court is a snake pit with entrenched vipers. Everything he promised and then proposed has been a fight, battles he has lost more often than won.

A complicating factor is that despite a nominal huge Democratic majority, Patrick struggles constantly with the real second party — not Republicans, rather the Democrats in Name Only (DINOs). They are often anti-progressives and socially conservative. They typically represent small cities, suburbs and exurbs. Each of these either opposes progressive goals on principle or wants some bacon to bring home for a vote.

The real roadblock has been with the leadership, particularly the local satrap, a.k.a. Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi. He repeatedly held up enabling legislation for progressive programs, programs that could have had financing in place and even been totally in motion before the current money crisis. He has been the worst of those who promise no new taxes, while letting necessary expenses soar.

Barack will need all his Democrats, plus a few Republicans, in each chamber to redirect expenses. Getting us out of Iraq will save many billions, perhaps one or two trillion, mid- to long-term. Yet, he has already made it plain in his debates and speeches that he wants bold strokes as well. He wants Congress to accept deficit spending, but only as investments. Big projects, like FDR-style jobs programs, should put money in workers' pockets and provide paychecks for those presently without. This flows back into the economy. Unlike the fantasy of giving the biggest companies and wealthiest individuals huge tax cuts and subsidies, and then believing they'll create new American jobs and companies, Barack's style of investment has a proven record here and elsewhere.

He and Deval face the same problem and promises they made running for office. Each claims to have a great record of bipartisanship and getting differing sides to work together. So far, Deval really hasn't proven that ability in the harsh Massachusetts political environment. Barack has a similarly demanding set of legislators. However, he also has ground-level pressure from a fearful public and wants and demands action on financials and on his progressive pledges.

Back in Massachusetts, it appears as thought DiMasi may be on his way out soon. A new speaker may play nicer, but again, that will fall to Deval to prove he can work with difficult people here. In Washington, it remains first things first for Barack.

The Vultures. Many want both Deval and Barack to fail. Even before Deval was in office, conservatives and regressives fairly drooled in predicting failure. Some didn't want change. Some wanted to keep or get power. Some wanted to see the Democrats do no better than the Republicans. A few were just ideologues who wanted anything progressive to tank.

Barack can expect the same as Deval here. They'll sit like tukey vultures in the field, eager for any stumble. They'll conveniently forget how long the previous "management" took to screw things up and go ah-ha! when correction and reversal are not immediate.

This schadenfreude vulture group may actively hinder Barack or some of it may be content to gloat and point fingers. I think Barack will likely be as calm about these characters as Deval has been.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Another Pol Flush with Failure

Ex-U.S. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) belatedly gave it all up today. One day before his deadline to appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, he bugged out.
Pun-Relief Note: I am one of those guilty of toilet jokes related to Craig's 2007 disorderly conduct arrest and his clumsy attempts to avoid anyone finding out. I'll do my best to step back a bit and resist today (except for the evocative illustration and headline).
His pathetic posturing of innocence, entrapment and victimization have ensured his own niche in halls of infamy everywhere. Yet, he has done us a favor in helping highlight issues of government and law enforcement, and even journalism.

For today's action, this seems to mean he's headed back to exurban Idaho. He could do well to look to the likes of Jimmy Carter to see how a humble and saintly politician takes retirement, devoting himself to the good of others. He could start with that $4,600 plus defense fund he gathered by October when he pledged he'd fight unceasingly to clear his name.

However, that so far has not been Craig's temperament. He exhibits the arrogance of the long-term privileged, the wheedling dissemblance of a typical attorney, and the behavior of the personally stifled.

What Can We Learn?

I forever ask my sons when something bad happens, particularly if one of us causes it, "What can we learn from this?" Apparently Craig didn't grow up being asked that, which implies in part taking responsibility.

He is just one of many politicians who refuse to admit their errors, do what is necessary to prevent it from happening again, and take their lumps. We've had several recently here, a state Senator, a city councilor and the speaker of the House. Each has stonewalled, denied or played various tricks to stay in power and out of jail.

Craig's arrest was on a trivial matter, but it too revealed how the privileged are regularly astonished that anyone might think the laws and rules might apply to them as well. His matter has the further complication of possible sexual unmasking though.

It seems virtually everyone in Idaho and Minnesota is white (97% and 87%). So, Craig didn't get to play the race card, as a couple of our local politicians did. On the other hand, he was quick with the entrapment one, so beloved here.

Not What It Looks Like

I grew up in a simpler America. Honesty was a virtue.

In contrast, Craig took cues from the impeachable President Bill Clinton. What can I get by with? Aren't I clever enough to get out of this mess?

The answers for both of them, as it is for many politicians doing this nasty or that, are nothing and no. They could have learned from my mother who told me not to lie — I'd have to remember exactly what I said, be consistent from that point on, and likely get tripped up somewhere. Plus I wouldn't like myself.

In Craig's case, his disorderly conduct was two forms of cruising for sex, according to the arresting officer. He peered into the officer's stall for several minutes, with the fellow in that genitally exposed dishabille on the toilet seat. Then, so the records say, he entered the abutting stall, tapped his foot repeatedly and for a long time in a common gay cruising signal, before running his hand under the stall wall, also repeatedly.

Risibily, Craig contended that there were other ways of viewing his actions than considering them solicitation. No one, including the judges who have heard the evidence, buys that.

Yet this is a teaching opportunity beyond the obvious lesson of the risks of seeking sex in very public places. How meaningful and worthwhile was this sting operation that brought in Craig and 40 others over four months?

There's a good argument that this is a waste of policing for victimless crimes. Another view is that this is primarily directed at gay men, and as such is unfair legally.

On the other hand, the court in Craig's case noted that if there's a place where we have a reasonable expectation of being left alone is on the toilet in a closed stall with our pants and underwear around our ankles. Craig's peering into the stall initially was one egregious violation of that privacy.

Instead Craig and our own politicians under arrest love that innocent-until-proven-guilty chant. They fustigate the media, including bloggers, for covering their cases. Even publishing available evidence and comments in the most obvious failings is somehow un-American. We are to pretend that not found guilty in court and then sentenced means they are above reproach or even accusation. That's not what the law demands of the press, not how humans think, and not reasonable.

Prosecutors have burdens of proof for cases that go to court. Meanwhile, claiming that any mention of their accusations or evidence against them prevents the arrested and indicted from getting a fair shake is absurd. It becomes the job of judges and, where they come into pla,y juries to hear, see and consider evidence.

How refreshing it is on those rare cases when an accused criminal admits blame. As a former newspaper reporter, I recall more than one convicted felon in prison saying, "Yeah, I'm innocent. We're all innocent in here," and laughing.

Who You Callin' Gay?

Word in Boise has long been that Craig is and has always been gay. It's even made Wikipedia, with references to the articles published by the state's largest newspaper, The Idaho Stateman.

He would not be the only homosexual man in the state and may not have even suffered politically if he were publicly recognized as such. Yet, it appears as though his decision was to deny the perception, as well as to marry a woman with children. While there is common slang for both those, the bigger point is that when arrested in the Minneapolis airport toilet, he pleaded guilty after thinking about it for a month and paid the fine, hoping that no one would notice.

As awful as sexually based sting operations are, it must be terrible also to feel compelled to plead to a petty crime and accept the fine, all the time just hoping that it remains private even while being on the public record. Certainly if he was comfortable with himself, he instead could have made noise and brought a defense that the entrapment was unfair and illegal.

Simple Virtues

I also grew up, as Craig surely did, on books, movies and TV dramas with Western and crime plots and players. The simple virtues that found public presence so clearly in and after the two world wars could speak as clearly today.

Typically in a crime story, the bad guy would say something at the end like, "Okay, copper, you caught me fair and square." He'd put out his wrists for the cuffs and things would be right. Over in Perry Mason, there'd be an almost weekly courtroom confession by the evildoer.

Insidiously, the question has become, "How much justice can your afford?" In autocratic and deferential societies, the aristocrats and wealthy have always fared better under accusation. Now it seems almost like a contest to see what politicians and others can get away with after they are caught in the act.

At the most extreme, it brings to mind Senator Joe McCarthy, who was not accused of crimes himself. Rather, he seemed to live to destroy others in his Red baiting fits. That stopped after U.S. Army attorney Joseph Welch demanded of him in a public hearing, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

Well, I think we can and should expect decency and honor from our politicians.

Tags: , , , , , ,