Friday, December 31, 2010

Wrong Judge, Chuck

Alas (a term that seems increasingly applicable to Chuck Turner), the latest and perhaps last gambit finds Mark Wolf as referee. Steered by winger lawyer Chester Darling, Turner's pleas in federal court to return to Boston City Council goes before the eminently sensible and no jive Chief Judge Wolf of the U.S. District Court.

Having seen and heard Wolf in action repeatedly, I feel a twinge for the benighted Turner. No matter how thick the smoke nor how many mirrors he and his lawyer use, Wolf has a clear head and sharp vision.

The Chief Judge will rule on this petition (tip of the toupee to UniversalHub). Irony abounds therein.

At the very least, Turner is doing his damnedest to delay his replacement by special election following his ouster by the City Council early this month. He not only calls to be reinstated pending his January 25th sentencing in federal court on four felony counts related to corruption, but wants to halt the February preliminary and March final for a replacement. His suit charges that the District 7 voters were disenfranchised and denied their representative, being now the only residents who have to go to an at-large Councilor for help.

Amusingly enough, the bizarre state law that tosses an elected official, does so not on conviction but only when the official receives prison time. I'll guarantee Turner gets prison time this month and will be not only ousted, but most sincerely ousted, as the Munchkins might say.

Thus, in trying to gum up the works, to put chocks under the wheels of the juggernaut, Turner is doing his best to deny his former constituents a Councilor. I bet Wolf won't buy it. As he did in the Mad Dad case, this Chief Judge goes for logic and law over drama and whining.

Many of us have hoped that Turner would go out with some dignity and grace. We also had hoped that he would not testify or testi-lie at his own federal trial; there he insisted and could only pathetically repeat he had no recollection of the bribe he was convicted of receiving.

Instead, he should have been and continued to be an advocate for questioning his snaring and sting in this case. He was in an excellent position to rally officials as well as the public against likely racist and certainly unjust targeting of low-level elected reps without a history of corruption. Instead, he has chosen the egocentric theater for his performance.

Instead, we now think of Walt Whitman with O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done. The trip is indeed done, but the prize is not won. Rather, he is overboard and the ship sails on.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

District 7 Reboot Chance

Horses to water, people to common sense...we can't make some things occur. Yet, the chances for good outcomes remain.

That came to mind this morning as I saw the DOT News coverage of the 16 who had filed papers to run for what was Chuck Turner's Boston City Council seat. Along with the cynical comments at the UniversalHub post on it, this gives us a whiff of what should be an important campaign.

First, the 16 each need to produce 191 verifiable signatures of registered voters in the district by the end of day Thursday, December 30th. Those who do that have six weeks, until February 15th to distinguish themselves for the preliminary. In turn, the survivors have another month, March 15th, to cinch the win.

I'm not in the district, but am interested. I'll find what I can about those who get on the preliminary ballot. At first glance, I still like Tito Jackson, erstwhile Council candidate and former campaign kingpin and cheerleader for Gov. Deval Patrick. I can easily disregard perennial candidates Althea Garrison (briefly held this seat a long time ago) and Bill Owens. They are the Japanese knotweed that always reappears.

I feel a bit Pollyanna-ish about this special election. Turner set the local standard for constituent services. Otherwise, the district could do with far better representation. Sure they elected him with a solid majority when he was under federal indictment for corruption, but that doesn't mean they won't pick the best, brightest and most honorable from their current choices.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Adieu to an Old Lefty Partner

Oh, pinko angst. I cancelled my Credo phone accounts today. Political and economic wisdom has it that we have competition in telecommunications — choice, price and other consumer options. We have liked Credo's politics though for many years. I grieve.

In case you are not as pink as I, know that Credo puts a lefty twist to cellphones. It is part of Working Assets, and some of its profits go to liberal causes, which you can specify. We have done that for many years, and with the Sprint network that Credo uses, before...a total of, I think 15 May Days and 15 Christmases.

Surely I make too big a deal of this. I have tried and tried. We suffered. We went to their support folk and more. Like the spring runoff with a narrowing river and maybe a whirlpool equivalents finally tipped me today.

My box of causes and catalysts contains:

  • No reception in our house.
  • Credo's rates have crept up from about 16% cheaper to penny-for-penny matches of the biggies.
  • One son lost his.
  • One son washed his.
  • We did not insure against loss or clumsiness.
  • Visitors with other networks can make and receive calls in our house.

Since August 2009, in our new house, we can't get or receive calls on our Credo cellphones. Yet visitors on other networks can. So, basically we have not been getting what we paid for on the family plan, maybe 33% of value since the move. We can use the phone when we are outside. It has reduced us to acting like working smokers in taking our cells out in the cold and wet and dark to use them or waiting like a college student of old for the dorm wall phone to be free.

I tried Credo once more and waded through their asinine voice support system (about five minutes to get to a human when even pressing 0 does nothing). After getting cut off during a hold the first time, I got an impatient sort the second. I complained and he said it was obvious that I should cancel the lines. He put me through in a few more minutes of hold to someone he said would do that. Instead, she tried to troubleshoot by switching a roaming setting from Home Only to Automatic, to have the phone use any network's towers. It barely boosted the bars (from zero to 1 inside) and would not allow calls.

On the money side, Credo also matches the other networks in oppressive contracts, where really the sensible choice has become a two-year contract. If you have a single phone, the no-contract deals are fine, but with a family, they aren't. So, I'm faced with buying out two contracts at about $150 each. Otherwise, replacing two pretty new phones would run at least that much, and more like $175 or $200 each with Credo.

Verizon was typical of the competing offers. I looked online and figured I'd trot to the closest (BJs in Dedham). That way, if I wanted, I could come home with phones the same day.

Sure enough, while Verizon doesn't have a current deal here to buy out a competitor's contract (amusingly enough, Credo does), I got:

  • Three free phones.
  • No activation fee.
  • On-the-spot cancellation of Credo.
  • Retention of the existing numbers.

I got 'em. They work. To the point, they work inside the house.

When the boys came home, we huddled. Each decided the $5 a month for the total insurance coverage was a good bet. I think I hid my surprise, as I've had the same feature phone for five years and it is still perking. I don't lose them, nor wash them, nor drop them, nor, well, act like a normal human. I confess I'm finicky or cautious or both.

After my research, online, by phone, in circulars and ads, I'm OK with the result. Yet, again, I do like Credo's politics. I did enjoy the monthly whiff of self-righteousness and do-gooder behavior. I went over a year huddled outside to use my phone and finally passed the point of diminishing...diminished...returns.

I wish Sprint's network was better around here. I wish Working Assets or someone like them would do the same thing on Verizon.

I'll have to atone by increasing my personal social action instead of my small contributions through Credo.

Cross-post note: This is personal and political. It runs at Harrumph! as well.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Be Glad At That Donation!

As tired as you might be of your public radio station's pledge drive, there's a pitch you might want to grab — one that goes for marriage equality and gay rights. One well known and one outrageously famous guy will double donations to GLAD and Freedom to Marry through this month.

Those matching fellows would be the couple Sean Eldridge and Chris Hughes. Eldridge is political director of Freedom to Marry. Hughes is co-founder of Facebook, former head of Barrack Obama's online 2006 campaign, and founder and executive director of Jumo. (The screen cap from GLAD's video clip shows Hughes left and Eldridge right.)

Through this month, they are matching donations to up to $50,000 total for GLAD and $100,000 for Freedom to Marry.

You may well wonder what, beyond sexual identity, would inspire them to cough it up for the cause. Specifically, what would what inspire the well heeled Hughes to bother with good works and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders?

You can grab the one-page GLAD newsletter piece on the pair. You can also go to the video on the site to hear Hughes give some background.

There he was, a Harvard student in 2002, when he volunteered to work for LGBT equality. He worked for GLAD's Legal InfoLine for two semesters. In other words, he didn't just talk about things then and doesn't now.

January 1 will be too late. This is a good time to chip in to one or both GLAD and Freedom to Marry. They're not handing out tote bags (you surely have enough of those), but these two good souls are doubling donations.

Head note: The post heading is a feeble play on a famous UU tale from Rev. Clarke Dewey Wells.

Only-Thinking-of-the-Voters Scam

They just won't stop. A bit West in Alaska, there's Joe Miller. Here we have Chuck Turner.

The former will not become a U.S. Senator and the latter is no longer a City Councilor. Yet, they won't stop. They won't accept the realities that are too plain to nearly everyone else.

Moreover, each from his own angle has fallen back to stating that their ego-driven battles are only about voter enfranchisement. They want to champion their people's fundamental American right.

The claim of each certainly deserves consideration. In the end, it does not stand though.

Not Chuck Norris

Miller has modeled his stubbly appearance after a certain action movie star. Yet, he is indecisive and has problems with that reality thing. Rather than bring his fight to a quick end with his wit and strength, he has done the annoying bleed-them-with-lawyers route.

What would Chuck Norris do? Certainly not waffle and backtrack on his promises (he said repeatedly, he'd quit his race when the math no longer works, for example.) Miller seemed to surprise all by taking the GOP primary from sitting Senator Lisa Murkowski. In turn, he was stunned when her write-in campaign in the general got her over 10,000 more votes than his on-ballot total. He was happy to take the first surprise, but not adult enough, man enough, Alaska enough for the second.

His minions challenged every ballot they could, even thousands that elections officials, reporters and other observers said here very clearly Murkowski's. They demanded that the slightest misspelling and even those with a single lower-case letter among the capitals be disqualified.

Miller himself took the position that the intent of voters did not matter. Alaska law read that write-ins must appear exactly as on the candidate's filing papers. Even though that matter has been adjudicated several times and clarified by the elections department to mean more plain-folk sense of voter intent, Miller's efforts put over 8,000 of those 10,000 on hold (not formally disqualified).

After all that, he still came up over 2,000 votes short. Game over, you say...quoting Miller to himself? Not bloody likely! This is where he comes in with the outrageous claim that all he wants is for his voter's ballots to count.

The state and federal courts have been very generous in letting him gum up the works. In each court though, they have ended up saying, "You lost." He now is at the point of the federal judge saying he can go ahead and keep filing actions, but the state needs to certify Murkowski as the winner.

Game over? Hah!

Of course, it doesn't take much to realize that what Miller is about is disenfranchising voters. He would like enough people who knew they were voting for Murkowski to lose their right that he can win. He wants to toss over 10,000 ballots, over 10,000 voter's sacred American fundamental exercise of democracy.

Another Chuck

Back to us, Turner also is contorting his effort to stay in office as a voter-enfranchisement issue. At least he won his last election. Unfortunately for him, his enfranchisement claim seems to be that his 60% showing then trumps all ensuing legal actions after his conviction on four felony counts.

That deserves discussion.

At the city level, the Council's rules let and even mandate that they rule on the fitness to serve of anyone convicted of a felony. At the state level, the law oddly enough does not trigger on indictment or even conviction; instead, an elected official sentenced to even one day of prison time must vacate office.

Turner's federal sentencing is 1/25/11. With federal guilty findings on one count of taking a $1,000 bribe and three of lying to the FBI about doing so, Turner will spend more than one day in prison.

Yet as recently as yesterday, through his attorney in a letter to Council, "The issue of disenfranchisement of the voters of District 7 . . . raises loss of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.’"

Out here in the real world, the voters made a powerful statement that their sitting Councilor should win re-election. He did. The voters had their say.

Alas for Turner, that does not mean he gets to keep his seat for the full two-year matter what. His voters were not disenfranchised. Removing him from office at the Council level or even next month by state law does not change that he was returned to office.

Moreover, his attorney seemed to want to bully the Council and city with threats of losing a lawsuit on this matter. I bet that neither he nor Turner will have the grace to back away next month when the latter heads off to serve that other kind of term. We can only wonder whether the attorney, one Chester Darling, will sue the state claiming that its law removing felons sentenced to prison likewise disenfranchises voters who were perfectly happy to send Turner back to City Hall.

Sticky Votes

The common rope binding Miller and Turner seems to be obfuscation. Each would have us believe that if his case does not end up going his way, it is the voters, not the egocentric pol, who is wronged.

I can believe that each has supporters, contributors and voters who buy into that. Each pol is eager to depict himself as a noble small d democrat striving to protect the great public privilege and right of voting.

Yet in the end it has been and surely will continue to be in law, in governing bodies and in courts that the response is to listen and disagree...with rejection.

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Turner's No Good Choice

Chuck Turner is famous for being mischievous and contrarian. He apparently remains determined to exit Boston politics as memorably and foolishly as possible.

This morning, a Globe piece made it plain at last what Councilor Charles Yancey has been getting at with his legal sword flourishes and shield flashes. Expelled Councilor Turner will get pro bono legal help from the ever despicable Chester Darling.

At the Council meeting that expelled Turner, Yancey repeatedly made childish threats of lawsuits and dire consequences to the whole Council if it dared even take up expulsion. It's hard to tell whether Yancey sees his role as friend of Turner, one of the few fellow Councilors of color, or some sort of crusader. Perhaps all...

Unfortunately, Yancey too has linked his star to this dung wagon. He can't help but carry the dirt and stink.

Let's not go into Darling's dreadful winger career. Suffice it to acknowledge the Globe's reportage that he and Turner have often been on totally opposite sides of political, racial, sexual and other issues.

Of course when Turner is sentenced by a federal judge next month, most of these legal issues will be moot. However, Darling could continue to claim in civil court that Turner was harmed and unfairly treated by being expelled. That reduces Turner to the nuisance suit class — not a good way to exit.

I've been to Council meetings going back to the era of the clown princelings, like Dapper O'Neil, Jim Kelley and Fred Langone. The body has a long history of bozos like those who lived for theater on the fifth floor. While he was not the weekly jerk those guys almost always were, Turner has clearly gone to the Dark Side.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Uncommon Commonweal

Whither the commonweal? This nation has lost the shared sense of what is beneficial for all.

Perhaps as a boomer, I was deluded by relatives and teachers into the belief that it was a fundamental American drive. Up there in our love of liberty, our nation was characterized by boons and misfortunes together.

Now more often, it's "I've got mine. I'm keeping it. Go away!"

Most obviously and most disgracefully, we see it as I type in Congressional action to add upwards of a trillion dollars to the shared national debt to give the richest fraction of one percent of us undeserved tax breaks. Yet, that is only the grossest symptom of this dysfunction.

Transferring tax money to the richest is so reprehensible because its proponents base it entirely on a lie. Despite nearly a century of experience, they would have it that letting the filthy rich pay no or tiny taxes, these billions of dollars will immediately find their way into company investments in infrastructure and expansion. Then we millions of minions who actually labor to create the wealth for the wealthy will find ourselves showered with their largess.

Back to this nation on this planet in this universe, we long ago learned that such trickle-down economics are a scam and a sham. That pretext for waste was the bulwark of President Ronald Reagan's guns-and-butter debacle. This mythology includes the one about small businesses keeping our economy healthy with job creation. Examples abound of how these are patently untrue, while so many of us cherish the fairy tales.

Instead, egoism more aptly defines us as nation in this Great Recession. These straining times should be the catalyst for pulling together (think Great Depression and WWII). We should share the pain and struggle for a renewed nation. We should be literally and figuratively writing new folk tunes of our resulting triumph from our common effort.

  • The richest families are on huge spending sprees — for personal property and goods — with their government windfalls
  • The richest corporations, including banks and their ilk, are hording cash, maximizing their interest returns with their windfalls
  • Most other companies, public and private, follow suit with the big guys and do not hire or expand
  • The remaining WWII and Korean War Era adults scream not to cut any of their hell with all the following generations who have supported them for decades
Listen in Congress, hark to AARP's PR campaigns, and if you can take it, try winger radio and TV. They are united in not having a united United States. Give the haves whatever they want and pretend that all will be well.

Share the pain? Not in this lifetime and certainly not in this country!

This is our huge national disgrace, our malaise. We are not rowing together. We are not willing to help our fellow Americans. We are more like wild animals, dragging our share of the kill to our burrows. The others should have been faster or stronger or more vicious.

If the clichés of character being what we are when no one's watching and when we face dangers are true, our national zeitgeist is ugly and nasty indeed. If we search about us and in the news very carefully, we can find inspiring tales of the goodhearted who watch out for their neighbors and larger community. Yet, those snippets wash away in the flood of selfishness and of disregard for the common good.

God help me, I do have some hopes. I recently cited George Price, who developed and expanded formulae supporting people acting for commonweal. Even more recently, I read the pop anthropology book, Sex at Dawn, in which the authors describe the evidence for and benefits to our hunter/gather ancestors of sharing and protecting each other.

I'm not enough delusional about this though. Our national tenor still leans heavily in favor of self-interest at the expense of others. Even the libertarian and Randist sorts tend to differentiate between watching out for what benefits you and intentionally harming others to get yours.

As a group, Congress and corporate America don't seem to get that.

This is precisely the time to work together, to do with less for the larger good. We do have those historic periods when we have done just this. We emerged from these as a stronger nation, with nearly all of us contributing to growth and common prosperity.

It is again time for the rich to share in the national discomfort. It is again time for corporations huge and wee to risk by hiring and expanding. It is again time for financial houses to invest in America.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Young, Catholic, and Open-Minded

Surprising hope and a bit of humor appear in a skewed survey of young Roman Catholics. A big punchline of the study is that this group is largely more liberal and, well, swinging than their non-Catholic peers as well as older folk.

Regular readers know that I am wont to ridicule worship of studies. If you pardon the expression, Lord knows that faddish doctors (nearly all of them) wave the latest medical journal as though a single study makes them smart. Yet with that background, I was surprised at what I saw in Columbia, the Knights of Columbus, maggy from April. It was in the freebie pile at the public library and one of the lead articles led me to track down the study of 18 to 29 year olds.

The joint survey cited was by the KofC and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it was thus tainted, but the science was as solid as most. They surveyed 2,243 Americans, including 1.006 millennials in from 12/23/09 through 1/4/10. We can quibble with the questions and their framing, but the results fascinate.

Click around searching for the survey and you'll find many news returns on the results. The vast majority are like they appear on the KofC site, featuring the most conservative and stereotypical wholesome answers. Where the survey PowerPoint appears, it only shows pages that reflect those good-kids results.

However, buried deep within the KofC main site and apparently not appearing in the Marist poll one are breakouts that show the surprising pattern. Judge for yourself in the long version here.

Amusingly at the top of everyone's alleged moral no-no list is Claiming someone else's work as your own. There is nearly no difference among Americans, Millennials, American Catholics and Catholic Millennials. All are either 91% or 92% saying it is morally wrong, with either 2 to 3% saying acceptable and 6 to 7% saying it is not a moral issue.

What is fascinating is that plagiarism and such top martial infidelity, business decisions motivated by greed, profiting from inferior goods or services, and abortion. Same-sex marriage is five more down the list, homosexual relations below that.

Moreover, fornication (Sex between an unmarried man and a woman in the survey) is near the bottom. This seems to be worth a chart.

For fornication, the survey reports:

AcceptableWrongNo Issue
RC Americans39%29%31%
RC Millennials38%20%42%

Then for same-sex marriage, the survey reports:

AcceptableWrongNo Issue
RC Americans23%48%29%
RC Millennials35%37%28%

Likewise, for homosexual relations, the survey reports:

AcceptableWrongNo Issue
RC Americans24%45%31%
RC Millennials37%35%28%

It may be fair to question an RC school arm and an RC fraternal order's poll, but this was a large group and is likely as meaningful as most surveys out there. In the main, it shows an openness to societal realities and a larger culture.

I have seen that before, as far back as the mid-1960s. National surveys of attitudes toward moral issues, race, and religion invariably had one such outlier — Jews. Christians of all sorts were never as liberal about matters of sex, their own or others. They were quick to claim strong moral standards they seemed to want all to follow. Inevitably, it was Jewish Americans who were more forgiving and cosmopolitan.

Odd indeed that the guts of this survey have RC Millennials as the most open-minded of all. They are very slightly (and not statistically significantly different) stronger in opposing adultery. You could make the judgment that they are stronger in their moral objection to abortion — they are more against it than any of the other three sets. Interestingly enough, their high of 66% finding abortion morally wrong, comes not from the morally acceptable column, which is in line with all three other groups. Rather only 13% of RC Millennials said abortion is not a moral issue, as opposed to 20% of Catholics and Millennials in general, and 25% of all Americans. RC Millennials were decidedly the least ambiguous on this one issue.

Otherwise, they are more accepting of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, babies out of wedlock, and on and on.

I rather doubt these are the results the Marist Poll or KofC folk wanted. They certainly don't report them as such. Instead, their obfuscating analyses suggest that RC Millennials are paragons of morality.

I looked at the results and differ. This group appears to be paragons of tolerance. It is a good thing.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Got Your Secrets Right Here

Do you want to know a secret?,
Do you promise not to tell?, whoa oh, oh.


Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, WikiLeaks, Unclassified, Declassified...what's in a name and category?

Surely we'll all be sick of this current mess, as well as each have one or more opinions of the meshugas. Ryan and I put out ours (all public, all the time) at Left Ahead! in our podcast. We had our disagreements as always, but we concurred that it is long past time for the executive and legislative branches to demand some sanity here.

The number and variety of government documents in the Secret category is absurd and asinine. Our big shots in D.C. need to stomp and shout. They need to order a major documentation effort. Evaluate every document classified as Confidential or Secret at the very least. Give American people and the larger world a break. Show some respect for the alleged freedoms and honesty we profess.

I could almost guarantee that eight or nine of ten classified documents should be public information. That would harm no one, would benefit some non-profits and businesses, and would go a long, long way to restoring the sense of the nation that their government had their interests in heart and mind.

The huge joke here is that an amazing percentage of classified docs have long been pubic. Many have been published in books and/or newspapers, others were on the internet long before the government decided to classify them, and others are commonly available in universities and public libraries. Get real!

The heavy SECRET and TOP SECRET stamp wielders are often thoughtless bureaucrats and military functionaries. Typical of those check-your-brains-at-the-door and rules-are-rules types, they err on the side of mindlessness. Like last century's cliché that no one ever got fired for buying IBM, the attitude is it's better to classify something, anything, than get called on it later for not doing it.

So, as with our plethora of local, statewide and national laws, we have far, far too much control and bureaucracy.

Moreover, who can see this stuff is something we should each ask. I've mused this on and off from college days. Then, a roomie brought Secret documents to our dorm. He was careful to keep them closed and ask me not to look at any. Yet, I had to wonder why a junior in a fluid-dynamics engineering program who was in ROTC had access to the middle range of classified docs.

It turns out that the need-to-know requirements are super-loose. As accused info conduit Private First Class Bradley Manning illustrates, a frighteningly wide range of people have free access to terrific amounts of classified and supposedly security-critical material.

I think of the years when I have been on the civilian side of secrecy. I've never had DOD or DOE clearances. Yet as an employee and contractor with various companies and agencies, I've signed non-disclosure agreements — during and after the fact secrecy contracts — maybe 100 times. AT&T, Microsoft, government agencies and others wield their huge secrecy sticks for technology, trade secrets, marketing plans and more. Penalties for violating the contracts don't include prosecution for treason or being shipped to clandestine military facilities without charges, but they are considerable.

I have never violated one of those agreements and never will. Then again, I'm kind of a permanent Boy Scout.

My sister is in the same mold. She has a spooky security clearance. She does something she'll never specify in Las Alamos. That's quite the point. I'm not so sure if it's how we were raised or just us, but she tells no one what she does or anything about her work. Hush.

There can be such compelling the personalities of those involved...that lead to effective secret keeping. On the other hand, if public or private folk know that docs become classified by rote and without thought, there is likely to be considerably less respect for the mandate.

I have no doubt that we would be much better off if we as a nation would have thinking people classifying and declassifying docs, with reasons rather than by reflex. There are several centuries of history at work here. Allegedly a key factor that differentiates our nation and people from nearly all others is our keep love, almost worship, of liberty.

The current trends toward the anti-democratic and anti-liberty should horrify us all. Frankly, all should be available except that which must be hidden. Hiding all and making us distrust and disbelieve government and military, and even defense contractors is no way to run a country, at least not this country.

I call on our President and Congress to show some wit here, along with some awareness of what makes America.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Crimes Wee and Huge

Rather than expand on what Chuck Turner and others said at his expulsion meeting this week, I'd muse on race and class and power.

Masochists' Pointers (for those who haven't had enough): My recaps are here and here. Plus, Chris Lovett has a meaty post on Turner's comparing himself to former Alderman/Mayor/Gov. James Michael Curley. At Commonwealth Magazine, Michael Jonas frets eloquently on what this will mean to the two young Councilors who testified so powerfully before voting for Turner's removal.

I would like to be able to point you to The Bulletin's editorial this week, If you're black, you're fast tracked. Those are still in the freebie racks on the street and at the exits of supermarkets. The staff over there seems to harbor some fantasy that they'll make lots of money making people pay for a subscription to read the wan little tabloid online. I don't think so.

Regardless, that piece explores the belief of many Turner observers and supporters — he became an FBI sting target because he was black. Now Turner also states strongly that he is such a powerful advocate for the rights of the poor that he had to go down. That's a lot harder set of dots to connect.

First, we have to note that the other black pol in the sting, ex-state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was a key catalyst here. With her long sordid previous record of financial sloppiness and illegality, she attracted the sting operation. Apparently she also told the FBI informant to pay off Turner as well to get a liquor license. With that attention, he became a target, one that U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan seemed gleefully eager to aim for in the string.

The Bulletin notes that over the years, higher up white pols have done worse without facing prison, as seems certain for both Wilkerson and Turner. The editorial states fairly, "The point however is that crime and punishment are not always equal when it comes to the skin color of elected officials. The wheels of justice certainly seem to be moving faster now that a black man is standing in front of them."

Many point out that white pols do get caught. Maybe, but let's consider what has happened to crooks in just one MA office, Speaker of the House.
Speaker TermCrimesPenalty
John Thompson1958-64 resignedConspiracy; briberyDied before case resolved
Charles Flaherty1991-96 resignedTax evasion for business expenses and conflict of interest for vacation housing from lobbyistsGuilty plea; 2 years probation and $25,000 fine
Thomas Finneran1996-2004 resignedObstruction of justice in redistrictingGuilty plea in exchange for dropping perjury charges; 18 months probation and $25,000 fine
Salvatore DiMasi2004-09 resignedRigging state contracts to his benefitTo stand trial

Well, Turner is not exactly Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family and getting prison time for it. Yet in contrast to the wealthy Speakers, he almost certainly will receive a highly disproportionate penalty for the magnitude of his corruption — $1,000 bribe and three counts of lying to the feds about it.

We just saw another black pol, Congressman Charlie Rangel get publicly scolded for many, many times worse at much higher amounts than Turner. Rangel's punishment was to stand in the well of the U.S. House and hear a list of his evil deeds. As my late mother might have exclaimed, "For crying out loud in a bucket!"

This clearly is class and power based. The influential say they're sorry and get probation and a fine.

That's not right. That's not moral. That's not the American ideal, at least not any populist version.

It brings to mind a trivial James Cagney movie of the late 1950s, Never Steal Anything Small. That was about a corrupt union official and played on a recurring theme. Supposedly the Greek proverb related to this is If you steal something small you are a petty thief, but if you steal millions you are a gentleman of society.

We really can't say that the disgraced Speakers were exalted after their crimes. However, none went to prison. Even the $25,000 fines to those rich guys likely caused as much hardship as a pro footballer paying for a nasty hit on another player.

Turner can be annoying and even obnoxious, but not because he's black. Given the same situation as the corrupt Speakers, he did not cut a plea deal nor show or even feign remorse. If that alone did not prevent him from getting just a fine and probation, his small bribe and low political status surely would.

It is difficult to believe in the justice of it all. At the very least, instead of thinking that Turner got hit too hard, how can we doubt that the big guys committing the big crimes got off too easy?

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Illinois Moves to Marriage Equality

A tip of the toupee to Jim Henderson in his Saint Kermit persona for posting this excellent video on the debate in the Illinois Senate on same-sex marriage. The speaker is Sen. Rickey Hendon.

By the bye, the body passed the bill yesterday 32 to 24; the House had already approved it. Gov. Pat Quinn will sign it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chuck Turner and Portents of Doom

Here a Louis. There a Louis.

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner explicitly compares himself to Rosa Parks, James Michael Curley (and generations of repressed Boston Irish Americans) and numerous martyrs. He implicitly invokes French King Louis XV.

Attributed to Le Roi was "Après moi, le déluge" — imprecisely, after I go, all hell will break loose.

For Turner and his supporters, the updated version is that any Councilor who voted to expel him from the body will at the very least lose the position in the next election. Moreover, his chum and sole Councilor who voted not to oust him, Charles Yancey, repeatedly warned President Mike Ross and Boston Corporate Attorney William Sinnott that they were acting illegally and would surely lose a certain-to-follow lawsuit.

That is a fascinating phenomenon. The most self-important and emotionally involved believe themselves to be both always right and absolutely essential.

It brings to mind the first meeting I attended as a new board member of a major downtown church. It was in terrific financial, membership and other trouble, which I knew when I ran for the position. I was not aware of how angry the very controlling and self-righteous church administrator was.

Rather than give her report at the meeting, she resigned...with great drama. The same person who required the sexton to come to her to unlock a closet containing toilet-paper rolls, came like a Disney-movie witch with portents of doom. The church would not be able to function without her. She regretted she had to leave and that the church would fold without her guidance and constant oversight, but she was out of there.

Well, as these things tend to happen, a bunch of us turned around that church, which has thrived. The administrator's egocentric passion for the position was at once admirable and pathetic. In the end, she was not holding the church together, was not essential, and was not larger than the whole works.

Doom Drama

That was a heavy fingered lead-in to another light on the historic occurrence yesterday on the fifth floor of Boston's City Hall, in the Council chamber. That would be the first expulsion of a Council member since the body replaced the Board of Alderman as the city's regulatory body in 1909.

When Councilor Chuck Turner was severed from the body by a vote of 11 to 1, he tripped and fell into history.

...and for history, he loves to cite and manipulate the past for present polemics. Turner often mentions that he has a BA from Harvard and uses that to vet the strangest and often highly questionable assertions.

Yesterday, he spoke twice from the floor of chamber and managed simultaneously to challenge and insult the whole body of 12 peers as well as the five Irish-American members. He recently compared himself in courage and victim status to numerous famous folk, including Rosa Parks. Yesterday, it was Irish Bostonians and their most famous pol, Alderman, Mayor and Governor James Michael Curley.

While irony is a much overused term, on a par with tragedy, we don't need to know much 20th Century Boston history to appreciate the Curley connection. Immediately, at Turner's request during a recess for Ross to confer with Sinnott and other lawyers, supporters got to go into the Curley Room a few dozen feet from the chamber. It had a TV with a feed from the meeting. While Ross requested quiet and respect for the proceedings, noting that Turner had asked that what would normally occur in private to be open, his fans of over 100 acted more like they were at a hockey game or at the least a tent meeting with an evangelical preacher.

Repeatedly, roars, boos and slurs carried over from the Curley room. When Councilors Yancey or Turner spoke, every claim or conclusion brought forth loud reaction. When the two Councilors, Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley, haltingly delivered their emotional apologies for voting for his expulsion, a half dozen or more in the chamber itself interrupted them with calls of "shame" and worse, and cries of "2011!" implying they would surely lose their seats in the next election.

There was high contrast to the feral and emotional Turner, Yancey and fans with the civility, seriousness and calmness of the rest of Council. Only Sinnott, the city's main lawyer, stumbled a bit when Yancey doggedly reiterated his charges of illegal actions and refused to admit that the rule the Council adopted unanimously (including he and Turner) permitted expelling a convicted felon. Sinnott clearly is not used to such personal challenges. He could take a chill short course from Ross.

Back to Curley, how odd that Turner picked him. As a local folk hero, particularly among Irish-Bostonians, Curley carries the picaresque shield and sword of the rascal warrior. In the last throes of power by the old-line Yankee Bostonians, he showed them how to play and win at politics.

Along the way though, he got sloppy. He was indicted first for felony influence peddling and then separately for mail fraud. He spent five months in federal prison before the MA Congressional delegation successfully pressured President Harry Truman for a pardon. Meanwhile, under indictment, he won reelection as mayor, although Boston defeated him after prison when he ran again.

Another obvious comparison is that both were seen to have taken money illegally, but not necessarily to enrich themselves. I think running for reelection biennially means constantly fund raising and thus being at risk for inappropriate contributions in amount or source. Yet there is no evidence that Turner was personally greedy.

So, Turner would have us equate him with Curley? Well, yes, but not for the obvious reasons. Both were found guilty of fast and loose money raising, handling and not reporting.

What Turner had in mind yesterday though was a class, culture and race-based analogy. He resurrected the Yankee Boston pols and aristocrats of the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries as villains, sort of political zombies, in modern parlance (mine, not Turner's). He called upon the five Councilors of Irish heritage to compare his case with the history of repression in Boston...of their kind.

Feeble Ploy

That tack led nowhere. Keeping an eye on the attentive but inexpressive Councilors, I saw neither sympathy nor outrage. To me, and apparently from their vote to them, Turner was stretching way too far to portray himself as the natural extension of Curley and the Boston Irish.

Pix note: I insert a couple of images from the proceedings. I apologize that the camera and particularly its weak flash was not up to the room and distance.

The Herald has never liked Turner and loves to stir the pot whenever race and culture are in the soup. This morning, they ran a piece quoting state Rep. Marty Walsh and South Boston's favorite hater, Wacko Hurley, as discrediting Turner's linking himself with Irish Americans.

It seems likely that even Turner fans would wonder why he went off the long-time approach of being prosecuted and persecuted because he was black and because he described the oppression of his constituents, particularly the black, Latino and poor. Somehow, I don't see his voters as likening him to the Irish.

Yet after Turner's expulsion, his claque followed him down the hallways and stairs to the front of the building, chanting their support. They still want retribution.

No Hiding

The true oddment here is that courageous and necessary actions by Ross are the catalyst here.

He could easily have finished his two-year term as Council President without dealing with Turner, leaving it for the likely successor, Steve Murphy, or simply the lapping tide of events. Turner's federal sentencing on his four felony counts is 1/25/11. He almost certainly will receive some prison time. As such, state law would require his removal from office, leaving a timorous Council membership free from having to discipline one of their own.

Ross strikes me very much in the Boy Scout mold, or perhaps a lead in a John Wayne Western. He's a do-what's-right kind of guy. He did as he as been doing.

Yesterday's session tok an hour and a half, largely because of Yancey's maneuvering and Turner's lectures and portents of doom. Then too was another chance for Ross to chicken out. He could have cowed to Yancey's attempted trick and pushed off the hearing, pending death by committee.

Instead, he precisely, fully and carefully explained Council rule 40A, which the whole body had created and voted unanimously over two years ago. When Turner was indicted, they discovered they had no enabling mechanism to deal with a felony conviction by a member and passed 40A to be able to have just such a decision as they reached yesterday.

Rule 40A. Pursuant to the city charter and in accordance with the open meeting law, the council president may refer a matter to the council upon his/her determination that any member has engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the Boston City Council or may be unqualified to sit on the body. A member may be unqualified by violating federal or state law, or any conditions imposed by the city’s charter, which includes violating any provisions of the three oaths of office.
The council president shall automatically refer a matter to the council upon a felony conviction of any member by any state or federal court.
Any action by the council taken in response to any referral shall require a two-thirds (2/3) majority roll call vote and will be in accordance with local, state and federal law.

In addition to his painstaking refutation of Yancey's parliamentary gambit, Ross strove to give the voting public some fresh proof that the Council and city government at large had a respect for rule of law.

In 13-page preparatory packet to inform the Councilors of the issues and options on Turner, Ross concluded one section with "We are not above the law and none of us is above the rules we have established as a body. If we act as if we are, this body loses its credibility, its integrity and the trust of the people we serve. Many are cynical of government as it is, we cannot add to their mistrust."

It is a pity that Yancey gave Turner's supporters fodder for feeding a beast of conspiracy and victimhood. The idea that Ross in particular and the Council more widely acted illegally is absurd and Yancey surely knows that.

That's irrelevant though. Yancey's arrow long left his bow. The question now is how accurate are the curses of Turner's opponents and his own allusions that voters will as a body rise up and punish the 11 of 12 Councilors to a man and woman come the next two elections?

I say chicken lips!

Turner will be a jailed felon shortly, as will state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, caught in the same odious federal sting operation. Nearly everyone I know joins me is disrespecting the type of sting operation of manufactured temptation that netted Turner. Yet whether through disregard of known laws, sloppy inattention and accounting or simple arrogance, Turner was nabbed and convicted. As his protégé Felix Arroyo said in his emotional remarks at the hearing, "In the end, we cannot escape our mistakes. We cannot escape our deeds."

Even before yesterday's meeting, Turner had grandiose descriptions of how he'd organize prisoners if he ended up in jail. It is unlikely that a short-timer in a federal prison would have any meaningful impact, but it's a good pre-mythology. Turn is forever editing the book of his life.

Instead, it is likely that another strong advocate of the poor and middle-class people of color who comprise most of District 7 will take over Turner's seat in a special election. My bet is for the charismatic Tito Jackson. He lacks Turner's capacity for B.S. but not his clarity of purpose or worthy goals.

Given those developments, there is little immediacy or even need to consider replacing any of the 11. The greatest impetus would be in Turner's district, where the voters will already have made their choice. The chance of driving out anyone else is slim indeed.

Turner's other dire prophesy goes to his often repeated claim that 90% of politicians, including fellow Councilors, are dirty and take money. He also claims to be the most honest and moral of the lot.

Yet so far, our Speakers of the House (three of the last four) are driven out and/or convicted of corruption, but not so Boston Councilors. Turner's fantasy that they all will earn and fail scrutiny was very unlikely before and given the infamy of his slow, endless fall over the past three years, any Councilor would be a total ass to take any risks.

In fact, his disgrace may be the greatest insurance we have had of political integrity. Don't be that guy.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Anguish and Necessity Over Chuck Turner

The punchline is that Charles A. Chuck Turner received a new distinction today — the first Boston City Councilor ever to be expelled from the body.

The process was intended to be dispassionate, but the peanut gallery of supporters would not allow that. From shortly after the pledge of allegiance, the call-and-response, catcalls and nasty insults tainted the already emotionally laden special meeting in Council chambers.

In the end, the numbers that counted were that more than the required eight Councilors voted for his expulsion following his four-count felony conviction of taking a $1,000 bribe and lying repeatedly to the FBI about doing so. Deemed by Council President Michael Ross on advice of Boston corporate counsel William Sinnott to have a vested interest in whether he kept his job and paycheck, Turner agreed he would speak but not otherwise act in the meeting. That meant he was disqualified from voting and the two-thirds majority to oust him would become eight of 12 instead of nine of 13. Also, he could not offer amendments to the order to leave the Council under consideration.

Visit from Don Quixote

The vote was 11 to one to expel Turner. Getting to the quick vote took about 100 minutes, largely thanks to Turner's speeches and as much to supporter Councilor Charles Yancey.

I found brief amusement when he first spoke right after Ross opened the proceedings. The humor came from Yancey playing Turner's frequent role of Don Quixote. This other Charles raced at the windmill of the expulsion order, using a limp parliamentary lance.

He did, in fact, sound much like Turner in threatening first Ross and subsequently the whole Council with legal liability, ignominy and, of course, likely loss in the next elections. He based these on two of the rules under which the Council operates — 33 and 47. The gist was that things the Council votes on can't be done the same day they first hear of the proposal.

To keep things kosher, this being the first day of Hanukkah after all, Ross ask lawyerly types, including Sinnott to confer in a brief recess to answer Yancey's drama. The response and subsequent expansion when Yancey iterated and reiterated his charges of bastardizing the laws, rules, Council's integrity, yadda, yadda, was that Council rule 40A had them well covered.

These developed when Turner was first under indictment, the Council realized they had no rule to deal with a felony conviction. As a body and unanimously, they developed 40A and approved it over two years ago. This rule calls for just the type of fitness/expulsion hearing held today and in effect enables what happened and was never needed before.

Yancey's windmill tilting will surely reappear and be repeated by Turner's supporters and conspiracy theorists. Yet repeating at increasing volume that the rules don't use the term "expel" anywhere doesn't change anything. In his expanded explanation, Sinnott was losing patience as he granted Yancey inclusion into the larger body of reasonable people who could understand that 40A covered the proceedings.

Sincerity v. Slander

Regardless, the most moving moments came from the two young Councilors who consider Turner a mentor. Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley each read from carefully prepared remarks, in often quavering deliveries. They independently developed very similar speeches. The thrust of each was that they respected and loved Turner, that he had taught them to do what they knew was right and never to hid or run from a conflict. Each than said the vote to expel him was wrenching but necessary.

Turner supporters were at their most obnoxious during these poignant speeches. The overflow who moved into the nearby Curley room (named for the Boston alderman [pre-Council Councilor equivalent] and mayor who served time for corruption) could be heard bellowing for Yancey and Turner's remarks.

Several times, the sincere and decorous Ross called for order and was reduced to threatening to clear the room and finish the proceedings without an audience despite Turner's request for openness. He responded to the most loutish of the audience screaming about racism, electoral retribution and such repeatedly.

Arroyo was greeted not with compassion as he bared his torment, but with calls from two elderly black women behind me of Uncle Tomás (racist as well as muddled Spanish). Pressley got multiple interruptions of "Shame" and "2011" referring to the next election. Cruelly, the worst came as she faced Turner in the adjacent chair and spoke of her feelings for him and the torment of her decision.

Meanwhile, for both speeches, Turner was rapt and seemingly moved. He's a do-gooder, but also quite an egotist. He seemed to relish hearing of his virtues, even from protégés who intended to vote for his ouster. His seated and standing mob did not pick up on his equanimity.

Earlier Yancey had finally accepted that his parliamentary ploy would fail. He suggested fellow Councilors abstain in the vote, robbing the proposal of the necessary eight votes.

No other Councilor spoke, which itself said volumes. They did not try to justify anything. They made no excuses. No one, even Yancey, offered any amendments. Also, when the roll-call came, it was quick, stark and unequivocal. They went by seniority, starting with 27-year vet Yancey. His was the only no vote. The 11 yes votes came quickly and without comment.

Tomorrow, I'll collect a few quotes and beef up the coverage. Unfortunately, Turner's lengthy statements were not the stuff of oratorical legend. He spoke in mangled metaphors, this time, comparing himself to the Boston Irish-Americans, repressed by Yankees who used laws immorally to crush those they considered inferior.

Alas, this meeting was not Turner's finest moment. Yancey tried a lawyer's trick, even though the closest he has gotten to being one is an honorary law degree from Mount Ida. Turner fell into logical fallacies with his own version of if-the-glove-don't-fit summation with a vote-against-expulsion-unless-you're-sure-you're-more-moral-than-I tack. Both approaches were sure losers and convinced no one.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Party Time at Boston City Hall

Bonhomie flavored the day in Boston's City Council chamber. Tomorrow will surely not be as jolly.

This morning though, Matt O'Malley formally replaced District Councilor John Tobin following this month's special election. After he took his oath from Mayor Tom Menino, perhaps he can drive a few details.

As Council President Michael Ross said when he welcomed O'Malley this morning, "You'll also notice we've spared no expense on your name plate." That would be Tobin's with a computer-generated name taped (crookedly) over it. The new Councilor laughed along with everyone else.

By the bye, don't go looking for him on the Council web page. You won't find a picture (Image to come) or bio (election date and More information to come). Yet, I suspect that after this clerically sputtering start, he's in for the long haul and he'll be as active a member as Tobin.

No one seems to doubt his ability to out-Tobin Tobin in pushing both the necessary and the innovative. He certainly is in the mold of the remaining Young Turks such as John Connolly and Rob Consalvo. Another relative youngster, Ayanna Pressley, may fit in the gang, although she's just beginning to show her stuff.

Today's gallery of upwards of 200 was not as numerous or quite as politically rich as his campaign kick-off, but many of the same players were there — like Treasurer-elect Steve Grossman, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Tobin, Rep. Liz Malia and so forth. In addition, he might have been able to fill one set of seats with his relatives, including parents, sisters, nephews and others. All were delighted, well, except for the youngest nephew (2 or 3 by looks) who briefly experienced a personal tragedy and inspired his mom to carry him out, hand him off (I think to Dad) and rush back to see her brother sworn into office.

The folksiness of our Council continues to delight. Ross tries to keep a pleasant spirit too. When it came time to, in effect, send a posse around a couple of corners to ask the Mayor to come do the deed, Ross called up three Councilors as an ad hoc committee, named Maureen Feeney as chair because she was quickest to the front of the chamber, and told them to "go across the hall and grab His Honor."

Oddly though, as we waited perhaps eight minutes, Ross ran out of time-killing announcements and banter. Many pols would have more than the needed anecdotes, self-praise and jokes to while away the minutes. In fact, when Menino introduced O'Malley before administering the oath, he showed how an old pro does it with mentions of the new Councilor as an intern for the body and particulars of his parents and siblings.

The rest of the Council seemed to enjoy the hour of ceremony. Before they got to business, Ross was happily glad-handing pols and others, Charles Yancey was grinning and chatting up other Councilors, Pressley was flashing that huge smile, and everyone seemed to be at a class reunion. The only cautions seemed to be in the form of superstition. As O'Malley told me several times during his campaign when I said I had no doubt he'd win, so did Steve Murphy when I spoke of him as the next Council president and John Connolly when I said it was obvious that he'd formally get the title of chair of the Education Committee (which he's de facto headed for two years) — they each and all said not to believe what you read in the papers and to wait and see.

At the beginning one Councilor was absent for the quorum call. That was Chuck Turner, who faces a meeting tomorrow on whether he remains fit to stay on Council following his conviction on four felony counts ($1,000 bribe and three lying to FBI agents) and before his 1/25 sentencing in federal court. It seemed obvious that Turner would engage in some display or protest. In reality, he was likely just talking to someone and ambled in about two minutes late.

When O'Malley appeared with Ross in the front, the crowd, as the sports cliché goes, went wild. He wasn't even in office, but he got a standing ovation, I guess for being Matt. The Mayor got his own big round of applause when the posse grabbed him, but this truly was O'Malley's morning.

Menino arrived looking and acting pretty fit. After several days in the hospital with an elbow infection, he had a swagger and swung his arms like nothing hurt. His wife Angela, another Matt O'Malley fan, showed too, unusual for her.

The Mayor did not provide any of his famous misspeaking takeaways this time. He did refer to same-sex marriage as "single-sex marriage" in praising O'Malley's work with MassEquality. Likewise, he said the job involved "servicing" instead of "serving" the public. Close enough on both, I say. Otherwise, he was very Boston, as in calling O'Malley's father George "Jahj".

He was chatty and philosophical at the same time. He said O'Malley understood the real nature of the job, one which Menino used to hold as well. That is simply "to help people every day." He urged the new Councilor to "do what you think is right. The best poll is the people you meet on the street."

For his part, O'Malley praised the Council and Mayor. He thanked his mentors and supporters, particularly Grossman and Cabral, saying those two made him a better elected official and better person.

He laid out a broad set of objectives in improving eduction, bettering the economy here, and ensuring the best city services. Then without deadlines or specifics, he promised, "I will not let you down."

If any pol can sustain the affection he has earned from voters as well as those who know him, it surely will be O'Malley. Now that everyone thinks he can fly at will, he may just have to do it.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Turner Still Claims Big Honking Integrity

Chuck Turner has the bluster and belly. Mike Ross has the other kind of guts.

Boston City Councilor Turner is already whipping out what he say is his super-sized integrity. In advance of his expulsion hearing Wednesday afternoon, he said, "I think it's funny when they say they are going to vote me off to protect the integrity of the Council. I think I have the best a record of moral and fiscal integrity on this council. For the council to vote me off because of integrity is absurd."

The Globe carries the tale of Council President Ross' letter to the body calling for Turner's Friday. Universal Hub serves up the 13-page document, replete with opinion from the city attorney that Turner can speak at the hearing but not vote.

Back in more mannered places and centuries, Turner would likely have resigned when he was charged with corruption in talking a bribe and lying to the FBI about it. He seemed buoyed by charges though, as he did when he was convicted, and now that he faces being voted out of office.

Ross lacks the noise, but is not entirely without quiet drama of his own. He is in the unenviable position of chairing a board at a tough time. He has been a solid leader during this entire prolonged episode. It is a bit of a shame that presidents there can serve only two years and he is finishing his second next month.

For the rules-are-rules crowd, several come into play. One is that the Council's unanimously agreed to rules require an expulsion hearing whenever a member receives a felony conviction. Another at the state level requires removal of any public official sentenced to jail or prison for a felony. For Wednesday's hearing, the Council requires a two-thirds vote to toss a member, which would be eight of 13 in this case, even without Turner voting.

Turner continues to negotiate and will likely try again in two days. His final ploy as been to ask for a postponement of action by the Council pending his January 25th sentencing in federal court. Just maybe, he reasons, he'll get probation, thus technically avoiding the mandatory loss of his seat under state law.

That seems highly unlikely, as it involves a guilty verdict of four counts — $1,000 bribe and three lying to the FBI. While summed, those could equal 35 years or so, the Globe quotes an ex-federal prosecutor as saying the guidelines are for 15 to 21 months.

This mess could have dribbled off into prolonged ignominy...had Ross not taken charge in City Hall. Turner had already repeatedly played racial victim. He noted that he and convicted State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson were the only two current officials charged by the feds and both are black. Another Councilor, the other Charles, Yancey, agreed with this judgment at a Turner rally.

Thus, Ross was in the spotlight, with a passive or hostile audience. Councilors were avoiding talking about Turner, like the situation might just vanish. Even before today's letter and packet, Ross had made it plain though they they had to have the hearing and had no reason to wait for the sentencing. It was Turner's conviction that triggered the trial-like meeting.

Even before he won this month's special election to replace Councilor John Tobin, who took a job at Northeastern, Matt O'Malley said that unless something really unexpected and convincing happened at the hearing, he'd have to vote for Turner's removal. Likewise, several other Councilors have mumbled that they may well do the same.

For his part, we may have a preview of Turner's script on Wednesday. He told the Herald that he was set up, as in, "The issue of my moral and fiscal integrity, I don’t think can be questioned. Obviously the FBI set up a situation to remove me from office."

Ross' package to his peers praised Turner mightily, but returned repeatedly to the rule of law, federal, state and city. He included, "We are not above he law and none of us is above the rules we have established as a body. If we act as if we are, t his body loses its credibility, its integrity and the trust of the people we serve. Many are cynical of government as it is, we cannot add to their mistrust."

He followed that with the motion he will put before the body on Wednesday:

Ordered: That under the authority vested in the City Council by St. 1951 c. 376 § 17 and pursuant to the procedures set forth in City Council Rule 40A, the City Council, in consideration of his qualification to serve as a member of the Boston City Council, now moves that Councilor Chuck Turner vacate the office of City Councilor effective Friday, December 3, 2010.

Note that this order makes no mention of any crimes or convictions. Unlike U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, Turner's punishment is not to include a public admonishment in front of the body. Rangel though will be unlikely to serve prison time despite seemingly much worse offenses. Turner may lose his pension, but not what he's paid into it, plus interest.

Turner could have made it easy for everyone. That has never been his style. In his role, Ross could have been cowardly and even acquiesced to Turner's call for no hearing until after sentencing. Yet the facts are now that Turner talks integrity and Ross lives it.

Cross-post note: This appears at Harrumph! also.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grateful for the Good Guys

Coming out of journalism school and newspapers, I'm prejudiced. I think we should be occasionally thankful for those with insight, drive, luck and courage to report and photograph people and events that become fixed in our minds.

I thought of this again in July when I read that my erstwhile chum Lee Lockwood had died at 78. He had all those virtues I listed. Even those born when he was older and those who don't recall his name remember his work, including:
  • In-depth interviews with the likes of Fidel Castro and Huey Newton
  • Coverage of Vietnam War brainwashed Navy flier Richard Stratton
  • Numerous articles, essays and photo essays in Playboy, Time, Life and elsewhere
  • Books on political figures, including Castro, Eldridge Cleaver and Daniel Berrigan
  • Countless photographs that documented his times
While he died in Florida, he live in Newton for many years. I recall picking him up at his house, which was rich with some of his pix on the walls.

Pic note: It's odd to illustrate anything on Lee without using his own stuff. However, this uncredited image from his Cuban visit when he wangled the Castro interview was in his NY Times obit.

I think of Lee as the good guy dedicated to his joint profession of writing and shooting. He was a real journalist. In fact, on that trip that I recall best, we headed off to UMASS/Amherst to try to inspire future Lee Lockwoods.

They had a little conference for journalism students, a dwindling species even in the 1990s. We showed up as representatives from the National Writers Union.

On the drive, we swapped more stories of the awesome and awful. His had far greater impact and mine were more typical of domestic newspaper types. For example, I had FBI agents following me and breaking into my apartments, a sheriff patted his gun and let me know, "You write lies 'bout me, boy, and you be in big trouble," and as white editor-in-chief of the black weekly in a Southern city, I confounded a governor and others.

In front of the students, Lee's dramatic recollections and my more mundane ones did seem to captivate the room. On the way back, we both said we wanted to believe that we inspired them a bit, at least enough to keep them from the Dark Side of PR and advertising, where the money is.

Lee loved his profession and was damned good at it. I'm thankful he did his do, from which we all benefited.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Joe Miller, American Weasel

Alaska wheedler Joe Miller may well become a verb and noun. Think, I got a bad case of Milleritis or I have to Joe you on that.

I should ignore the lout. Juneau, AK, is, after all, 4,013 miles from Boston as the buzzard flies. Yet, his obstreperousness and recalcitrance bring to mind a recently local election, as well as a common trait among wingers — both in my purview.
Familial note: My maternal grandmother, Mable Michael, reserved buzzard as her greatest insult and the closest to swearing she ever got. To her, a really immoral person was a buzzard.
Among the salient details are:
  • Miller beat incumbent senior U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for the GOP nomination for the office by 51% to 49%
  • She did not accept that as final and staged a write-in campaign against him and Dem. nominee Scott McAdams
  • Mirabile dictu! She won (in everyone's mind except Miller's)
  • Before starting her write-in campaign, she quickly conceded the primary
  • Miller has shown near total disregard for voters' rights, the numbers before him, and legal realities following his ego-tainting loss, and with the shameful artifact of his looking for housing and office furnishings in D.C. in advance
  • Despite his states-rights postures, he has filed suits in federal court and state ones, as well as challenging any ballot with the slightest misspelling or word order niggle on Lisa Murkowski, demanding a manual recount of all ballots cast, and a call for not certifying her as winner
The underlying significance is not that this pol waddles under the weight of his gigantic vanity. That is all too common among office seekers and holders. Instead, it is his extreme use of immoral or amoral tricks to try for what he failed at in the ballot booths of Alaska.

As the scruffy, Chuck Norris looking Tea Party sweetie, he bellowed the talk. In stump speeches, interviews and his website cant, he speaks of the will of the people, serving the voters, and the integrity of the vote. When it came to the actual election, he has appeared as a true American weasel.

The duplicity and hypocrisy is outrageous, even by Alaskan frontier standards. The worst is his refusal to concede after it became mathematically impossible for him to win with every trick he could try. She passed over 10,000 votes beyond him. Even if every single, seemingly arbitrarily challenged, vote he is fighting were to disappear, she still wins. Moreover, he promised repeatedly that he'd step back if it was clear she'd won. Weasel.

This is worthy of comment as it illustrates a phenomenon I have covered numerous times here and at Harrumph! We have a wide, perhaps unbridgeable divide in this country between those who turn to literalism over principle whenever it might be to their advantage. While not exclusively limited to right wingers, we see and hear it far more often from them, including winger talking heads, fundies, parents-rights sorts and anti-GLBT-rights types.

Consider what should have been Miller's last opportunity for an honorable exit — reliance on the letter of one phrase in Alaska Statute 15.15.360, Rules for Counting Ballots. He and his lawyer wave section (a)(11) and (b):
(11) A vote for a write-in candidate, other than a write-in vote for governor and lieutenant governor, shall be counted if the oval is filled in for that candidate and if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided.
(b) The rules set out in this section are mandatory and there are no exceptions to them. A ballot may not be counted unless marked in compliance with these rules.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, as the phrase for their logical fallacy goes, this supposedly proves that even slight variations on Lisa Murkowski or Murkowski would fail and should not count. That's ah ha! to the Miller camp and ho hum to the world.

Miller's claims have two insurmountable problems here though. First, even for all his literalism and victory fantasies, he has heard from the elections commission and courts that subsequent case law trumps the strictest interpretation of the statute. In at least two cases, the courts have made it clear the enfranchisement of voters (see Miller's own campaign) wins here. If the intent of the voter is apparent, the vote counts.

Second, even if all 8,000-plus votes he contested disappear, she still wins. (See Miller's promises to shut up and leave when the numbers declare his the squeaking loser.)

What can we learn from this? How about:
  • We still cannot expect even the most self-righteous and self-defined-constructionist candidates to keep their word
  • Weasel candidates will do anything possible to win
  • When they try tricks and deceit, they will try to twist that as either patriotism or respect for voters

East Coast Version

We saw variations on these themes, the same and different recently here in the Fifth District for the MA House race. In the low-turnout, heavily black and Latino, and immigrant oriented district, Carlos Henriquez won a narrow primary against Boston teacher Barry O. Lawton...or did he?

Let there be no suspense. Not only did the young populist top a four-way Democratic primary, he overwhelmed Lawton's write-in attempt in the general. Lawton refused to accept the results of the primary and apparently the final. His site and public statements do not acknowledge his drubbing, even in the form of spin. He is graceless in defeat.

A huge difference here is that the typical election action occurred. Lawton tried an end-run with a write-in and lost again. We should note that his district already has two much older perennial candidates, Roy Owens and Althea Garrison (who briefly held this seat a long time ago). They lost the primary and seemingly reflexively ran write-ins in the final. They always so and always lose badly, but hey, it seems to amuse them.

What Lawton seems to share with Miller are first a huge ego with overconfidence, next a refusal to admit the obvious to himself, and finally, a to-the-end-and-beyond competitive drive. Combined, these traits further lower the opinion of voters, party officials and others in their viability as candidates and their grip on reality.

To those who would say it's the American way to strive, I look at it another way. Most unfortunately, it is the American way for too many of us to sacrifice honor and reason for the slimmest chance at winning.

Think of criminals of all classes and ages. Even with the strongest evidence against them and facing certain loss in court, they take the low road. They plead not guilty and fairly shout that everyone is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. While that might be the most literal legal truth, honor would dictate that they take responsibility with "Yes, I stole the money," or "I did kill him." Remorse would also be appropriate, but admission of the obvious and provable should be sine qua non.

Instead, pols and crooks alike expect us each and all to admire their feisty, almost you'll-never-get-me-copper stance.

Sorry, Joe Miller and so many others, sneaking around, rattling every doorknob in the dark hall for an escape is not worthy of admiration.

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