Friday, June 25, 2010

Menino Takes a Knee

Well, if not hot gossip, it's at least warm. Sure enough, Boston Mayor Tom Menino won't be street cycling short-term.

I get to say that two city officials have told me that his knee rework has not healed as fast as he wants. Despite his promise last month at the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Avenue bike lanes, he may not be back on the saddle for weeks or months.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally met neighbor Daniel Linskey. (That is another good tale — more on it later.) He used to be Menino's driver and is still a good friend. He also happens to be the number one police officer, the chief superintendent.

I mentioned to him that I had been trying to get eminence gris et bleu to ride into his/our city hall from Hyde Park. Now that I've moved here, I figure I can inspire him to do more than tool around Readville. I ask him every time we meet.

However, Linskey said that he doesn't think Menino will be riding soon. In fact, his knee is still troublesome and the mayor and Police Commissioner Ed Davis swim instead. That apparently is part of Menino's therapy.

Then today at Bike Friday, Boston Bicycle Coordinator Nicole Freedman (shown in red to his blue) confirmed the delay. She said he has been limping around the fifth floor. However, she also said that he tells her he misses biking and will be back on two wheels as soon as he can.

There you have it, cycling fans, confirmation from two sources. That's about as good as hearsay gets.

I for one look forward to Da Mare's return to cycling. He is certainly a cycling champion in the sense of advocacy. My invitation to ride into town from our shared neighborhood remains.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Polito Sets Off Wee IED

Plus and minus for MA treasurer candidate Karyn Polito. She tweeted today a teaser about the lousy state budget process. Then the link to her full piece on her website wasn't full at all.

On the plus side, she's willing to kick up some dust (even if there's only dust and no hard stuff). On the minus one, there's posturing and no content to her vague accusations. Today's bomb-ette looks like her flack wrote it and doesn't add to a LITE website. However, this is a key race with deep implications. If such shenanigans bring demands that she explain her vague, inflammatory rhetoric, maybe we'll get a debate going.

As it is, the two Dem candidates, the Steves Grossman and Murphy, and are too little known to voters. With one, Grossman, promising to remake the office into an activist one creating thousands of MA jobs, one, Murphy, saying he's the only one with adequate financial background to make key decisions, and one, Polito, saying she's the only fiscal conservative who can safeguard our billions, voters should know the candidates and office.

By the bye, you can hear the three say this and more on:

I'm sure Chris Lovett will get to Polito very soon and complete is treasurer book shelf from his side.

We really need these three on stage and also in a studio with cameras whirring. Their positions are distinctive. The treasurer slot doesn't open often. We have that chance to restructure the office a little...or a lot.

Meanwhile, on the stump and at his site, Grossman has maintained his rabbit position. He started first and has considerable content in platform and intent. In terms of newish media, Murphy somehow got screwed out of a web presence with a still bare and barely functioning site. He does, however, make a sincere and substantial pitch in person.

To Polito's spongy attack, read it. The entire one-paragraph thingummy is:


"The budget is held together with baling wire and bubble gum. Instead of dealing honestly with our fiscal problems, this budget puts off the hard and necessary decisions that confront us until after the next election. The truth is the spending cuts aren't big enough and there's too many one-time gimmicks and accounting tricks. The majority party is obviously backing themselves into another major tax increase next year by not cutting far enough. We need deeper, across-the-board spending cuts, and we need them now or we risk a much larger debt burden, higher taxes and even bigger cuts down the road."
Again, I appreciate any effort to draw attention to this crucial race. There's no content here other than the winger wheeze that Dems never make enough cuts. In fact, I'm surprised that she didn't plug in wasteful spending somewhere. Perhaps she figures that is implicit when she mentioned the majority party.

There's nothing of substance, but at least it opens up the right to ask, "What exactly, what specifically do you mean?" That's a start.

Let the debates begin!

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baker Barking Badly

Let us watch to see how Charlie Baker's disingenuousness plays. Today's WRKO debate-like hour with him, Gov. Patrick, and Tim Cahill was more of the interviews he's been giving. In those, he plays plutocrat, sanitizing his professional history and claiming that if he thought of something, it's the world's fault they didn't make it happen.

A pivot for this race for governor will certainly be how well Baker's routine plays with voters. I don't buy it and as regular readers know, of the three I'm for Patrick.

I was thinking though that the first trio tussle would be where Baker rose above his recent act. He may be too gelled for that.

He came by his flat and aristocratic manner predictably. The first born of wealthy parents and Harvard grad, he seemed to have grown up with class trappings. Coming with that background is similarly expecting deference and the general crassness of speaking over people and shouting them down — as substitutes for superior reasoning.

That's the way the RKO show went and I tuned in and completed it wondering who'll buy into this. Perhaps that would include:
  • MA Republicans, who are beyond eager to expand the Scott Brown victory as vindication of their politics. While not socially conservative enough for many in the GOP, Baker sure talks the fiscally conservative clichés well enough.
  • Change for its own sake types, the tea party and similar types have not gotten enough blood from incumbents yet.
  • The most gullible, who would take Baker literally when he brags on turning around a health-care corporation but skips over doing it with government subsidies and by jacking up premiums and accelerating costs to the public. Likewise, his plan to finance the Big Dig is the cause of present and future financial grief here, while he feigns distance.
Unfortunately for him, Baker also delivers his half-truths in a terrifically flat tone. He is neither charismatic nor particularly believable. Cahill has a bit more passion in his voice, but he is in the situation we have seen in the past gubernatorial and most recent U.S. Senate race, that of agreeing repeatedly with one or more opponents, seeming to have no ideas of his own. Patrick is pretty good and among the three comes off as by far the best and most credible speaker.

Cut Me a Thin Slice

The key aspect may be whether the possible Baker supporters can buy into his my-idea fantasy. He frequently returns to what he thought or said or proposed to unspecified people. If only they (as in the legislature or governor or someone else) had realized the brilliance of this ideas and then made them happen, all would be well. We'd be debt free and our health costs would be much lower, among other benefits.

That sort of aristocratic pretense is all too much. He thinks or whispers and it is to his inferiors to run to battle with these flairs of brilliance. Cut me a very thin slice of that baloney, please, Lord Baker.

I suppose we each have our own Cassandra moments, thinking "I knew better all along." The fact that Baker would have the crust to use this openly in his campaign is another matter. In the RKO show, he got a bit of the obvious — if he said these things, he didn't believe them enough to work at them or try to make them happen. Moreover, his roles under two governors and as head of Harvard Pilgrim belie what he claims he wanted.

This sell becomes between hard and impossible. He'd better hope that the gullible contingent is huge this November.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Warm to SSM in Iceland

Scale can mean speed in same-sex marriage. That is, smaller is often faster and more efficient.

Consider that volcanic place, Iceland. This weekend, the Althingi (parliament) enacted nationwide SSM. The vote was 49 to 0 (14 absent but not protesting).

There are a couple of contrasts and lessons for us. First, we can contrast size; Iceland has just over 0.1% of our population at about 320,000 to about 309 million. That can mean quick action, agility and even tolerance. Second, the head of state is openly gay — Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. Her nomination and election may say more about the openness of the country than the SSM vote.

More to our issues here, religion was a consideration. That nation has a state church, Lutheran The National Church of Iceland. As here and elsewhere, clerics can solemnize same-sex marriages or pass on them. The sillies who swear that accommodating gay couples means the end of freedom of religion can't even claim that in Iceland.

Throughout Iceland, marriage can now be between two individuals instead of a man and a woman. No humans were harmed in the making of these unions.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

MA Primary Game Afoot

Drove me crazy, this constipated Dem convention today, though friends might say that would be a short trip. When pols and their surrogates orate, skeds shred...and they did. Finally, we know that we'll have primaries and debates for several offices.

That is very positive. The undercard of this year's MA election will give us that manifested cliché — the government we deserve. In particular, the treasurer, auditor and secretary can make powerful differences in how we conduct business and politics, as well as our economic health. We've been on cruise control in these offices for a long time. We finally get a chance to choose the same old or to demand newer and maybe better.

On the Dem side, today's convention decided that we'd have two primaries. For auditor (incumbent not running):
For treasurer (incumbent not running, rather fantasies of governorship):
For secretary of the commonwealth, unfortunately, the opposition to incumbent Bill Galvin can't force a primary and debates because he is independent Jim Henderson. That means there'll be no primary and the final will be a three way with Henderson, Dem Galvin, and GOP Bill Campbell. This certainly deserves a series of debates, but Galvin may play caveman here. We'll try to get him solo on Left Ahead! to mix it up a bit.

The GOP has candidates to face off on the winners of the auditor and treasurer contests too. That would be Karyn Polito for treasurer and either Mary Connaughton or Kamal Jain for auditor, depending on who wins that spot in September.

So, we're not likely to to see or hear much on the final Dem v. GOP candidate for those two offices until six weeks before the November general.

The treasurer and secretary races in particular have the opportunity to make huge improvements...or not.

Talking Candidates

For some background, check out our Left Ahead! shows with Grossman, Murphy and Polito for treasurer and Henderson for secretary. When we get intraparty and interparty debates for treasurer, voters will have unusually clear distinctions and choices. My word, they'll have to think before smearing an oval! Listen to the trio's positions, but come in and come away with the concepts that Grossman has an activist and policy influencing plan for the office, Polito wants to play it fiscally and politically very conservative and Murphy comes in with a middle position. There's strategy and tactics everywhere in this race.

I hope that the secretary's race gets an elevated profile, particularly as there's a Republican to push Galvin from another side. The incumbent's campaign site looks like he isn't running at all, just expecting to continue in the role. On the other hand, Henderson wants to overhaul the processes of the office, making public info easily available to hoi polloi. He'd like to use 21st century technology to let us find out what we need. Those would be huge changes and well worthy of debates.

Here's to primaries, debates, and the truths and ideas revealed in the undercard races.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Wilkerson's Justice Crawl

Alas for the lovers of drama and those who attended civics classes, the Dianne Wilkerson case doesn't satisfy. Accustomed as we are to novels and movie and TV scripts, we hear that justice is supposed to be swift and sure. A peek into her world show the more typical white-collar version.

The former MA state senator had already been a low-level felon. She had not bothered paying taxes and she didn't seem to think her probation rules were worth following. However, yesterday she finally did what I and others had predicted long ago, pleaded guilty to soliciting and taking bribes.

The attitude of the local dailies' editorial boards varied. The Herald scolded her, although thinking it might shame her is absurd as she doesn't seem to have that gene. The Globe wanted more and more flesh, hers and Chuck Turner's.

I did get a chuckle seeing that the tabloid used a line I had heard before...from a Wilkerson friend and supporter. "Wilkerson was her own worst enemy," wrote the Herald's board. On a BNN segment where I spoke in favor of senate candidate Sonya Chang-Diaz, Joyce Ferriabough used the same line about Wilkerson. Her implication was that her friend was fine, except for disastrous lack of attention to details big and small.

The Globe on the other hand wanted prolonged public humiliation in the form of a trial. They couched that in terms of such a display revealing other corruption and the licensing process, which surely does need reform.

Of course, what this whole process already reveals is how white-collar justice, or lack of it works. We Americans dearly cling to the concepts related to swift and sure justice. We immediately say innocent until proven guilty when someone is charged and likely add that everyone deserves that day in court.

The Globe board seems to overlook another part of that — while people have the right to trial (set aside Gitmo), they also have the right to bypass trial with plea bargains and guilty pleas. Unlike a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing, they aren't testifying for a career reward and aren't compelled to undergo grilling.

This blog has had numerous comments on Wilkerson and these charges. Maybe the last will be when the judge sentences her in September. Then, we can expect a maximum of what the prosecutor recommends for the eight guilty pleas, four years in prison. That will probably end up being less than half that served. Then, even though her worst enemy has ruined her political career, she performed worthy deeds also and she'll find ways to earn a living.

We can leave it to others to lament how she destroyed the self she had built. It's shades of Terry Malloy in On the WaterfrontI coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am...

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