Thursday, December 29, 2011

Life's Not Fair, Scotto

Let me get this right, Sen. Scott Brown actually has a highly developed, differentiating skill — whining!

He wants us to know:

  • It's unfair for Elizabeth Warren to raise campaign funds
  • It's unfair for reporters and columnists to praise her reasoned arguments

As Uncle Scar told young Simba in the Lion King, "Life's not fair now, is it?"

Here you have it. If you ever felt tempted to say all politicians are the same, think on Brown. The obvious difference across the left and right wings is plain enough. Modern right wingers act with FoxNews-level ethics. What's fair for them is forbidden for lefties.

At its most absurd, think of fund raising. A couple of months ago, when Elizabeth Warren was announcing that she'd run, she was rewarded with a quick $3 million plus set of contributions. Brown with over a year and a half in office had over $10 million in hand. Yet he cried foul.

Like Eddie Haskell in Leave It To Beaver or a current version, say Bill O'Reilly, Brown wants the edge only on his side. His campaign even tried to depict him as being bullied and ganged up on by out-of-state contributors and special interest funds. This came despite the huge support he got and gets from right-ring PACs and financial-industry big shots. He votes on regulating his major contributors, but how unfair if she gets support from any organized group or wealthy contributor.

Today in dueling vignettes, the Globe and Herald run variations on his puerile and illogical whining. Itty-boo, Scotty me lad.

In the Herald, it's a Palin-style screed that the media are all against him and all for her. He can't get an honest article and he gets all the tough questions. I guess he doesn't read or listen to the media.

Of course, all but the delusional and unread know the lies there. He got a free ride in his campaign and for over a year afterward. Even the allegedly left leaning (I snort at that winger distortion where non-GOP-worshiping neutral becomes biased) media gave him great latitude and lauded his promis endlessly. When he blew that through repeated duplicity, grandstanding, and overly plain efforts to hurt all but the wealthiest Americans, he began to get overdue criticism. Well, boo hoo, boo hoo.

Moreover, from the moment Warren began her exploratory meetings with voters, she'd gotten razzed, hassled and grilled non-stop from all media. Now many of us lefty bloggers respect her positions and like her personally, but she's gotten the hairy eyeball and pointy, probing fingers of examination far, far more than that Brown character.

Then at the Globe, he's even more absurd. He stands on top of his mountain and screams that he's the real underdog. Honest to Cornelius Vanderbilt, we'd have to be totally daft to believe that.

Brown has floods of wealthy GOP types eager to keep their thumb in the eye of Massachusetts and the memory of the Kennedys by electing Brown to a full term. He already has over $15 million now in the bank. There's no doubt that his side and those supporting it surreptitiously through super-PACs will outspend Warren's backers many, many times. Underdog, my double wings!

Alas for the self-declared victim Brown, he'll have to do with ideas and proposals in this race. Warren will bring it. Coupled with his disgraceful voting record and total lack of initiatives to help us out of our terrible times, his lie mechanisms will be spinning to the melting point.

No, wee Scotty, you are no underdog, you have not gotten roughed up by the media, and you deserve no one's sympathy. Unlike the clumsy campaigner Coakley who handed you an easy victory in the special election, Warren will make you earn this post in 2012.

Without an intellectual and ethical double transplant, you're in trouble.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Whose Voice Is That?

Using clogged traffic time on the way home Wednesday afternoon, I punched up WBUR for All Things Considered. I briefly heard myself bantering with Elizabeth Warren in a Tovia Smith segment, Mass. Senate Race a Battle Over Who's More Populist.

At the bottom here is an audio snippet (requires flash) of Smith taking an audio snippet from an October Left Ahead show with Elizabeth Warren. The now infamous elite-hick/hicks-for-Elizabeth banter occurred at the start of where she came into the 40 minute program. She made other remarks about populism, not only from her own upbringing, but in historic, economic and political American context.

An audio of Tovia Smith using an audio of Left Ahead using an audio of Elizabeth Warren on an audio of the show on BlogTalkRadio. How recursive can we get? Perhaps Left Ahead needs to introduce an edited audio of Smith using our edited audio. I'll settle on the snippet below to give context.

Indeed, that was what came to me as I listened to myself. When I worked newspapers and magazines and the few times I've been on TV or radio, I fell into my J-school training attribution. I'd say whom I was quoting or citing. If there were a book or other checkable reference, it went there too. Of course in modern times, I insert links as I do here. This takes negligible time and space, and mean a lot to the audience.

Some readers and listeners want to know more. Others are cynical or distrusting. Both types want to see for themselves. Even if a majority of your consumers are passive, be respectful to the group with curiosity, time and emotional or intellectual needs.

In my NPR experiences, they don't, at least with such bottom feeders as bloggers and podcasters. I am not sure whether they consider us some level of competition or merely unworthy of professionalism and respect.

Similarly, a few year ago, a BBC reporter did a brief phone interview with me on companies blocking blogging during work hours. She cited me by location and name, but not by my blog's URL. This time, Smith's coverage reduced me to "a fellow Oklahoman, who was interviewing her."

Setting aside vanity, I think as an NPR listener and as well as online and print newshound, I would have found it useful to know:
  • That the interviewer was local to Massachusetts, where the race is
  • The context and vehicle of the interview, in this case that it was an internet show, a podcast
  • The name of the show and URL, at least
  • The name of the interviewer
Amusingly enough, her disdain would not prevent the curious from ID'ing the site and interviewer. This two-month old story was widely covered in local and national news, online, cable and print. Most reports identified both Left Ahead and me, and many linked to the podcast.

Breeding is free

Including the omphaloskepsis, we at LA deserve the same courtesy we provide sources. I'm sure Tovia Smith, WBUR and NPR expect and likely demand citations for their work. As well as considerate of their readers, doing so would be professional as well-mannered. Breeding is free, but not spontaneous.

Come to pay closer attention though, the most recent WBUR quotes from me before this were only a little better cited. When Bianca Vázquez Toness used me to stir the pot under Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, she named me, but neither this blog nor LA. Of course she was highly selective in what she used; she had called me to extract one criticism I had already written. Having been a reporter, I understood that and won't even consider an out-of-context claim. She was hunting for a specific beast and brought it down with a clean shot.

Unlike Toness, Smith is not ahead of the news. She appears from a scan of her stories with their timing, to follow the elephants on the parade route, gathering up after them. While I prefer fresher reportage, I can see the drive to vary existing work. In that piece comparing Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren's plain-folk campaigning, She walked a very deep path. An internet search would show how rutted it is.

Oddly though, there seems to be bias against Warren. For example, she repeated the misinformation about "In his green pickup truck and worn-out barn coat, Brown stresses his hard-knocks upbringing raised by a single mom on and off welfare." She must have read or heard that elsewhere. At this stage in coverage of such an old story, here piece would have served readers better noting that Brown did not wear that expensive jacket until he wanted it as a campaign prop and that his truck was for carrying hay, tack and the sort for his daughter's horse. Neither is exactly behavior of plain folk.

Likewise, he slams the woman who worked her way from nothing to become a Harvard Law professor by saying he didn't go to Harvard. Smith could well note how much better off his family was come college time and that he went to Tufts, in the same price range and with a similar cachet to Harvard.

Instead, it was an old story, told with no new information or analysis. Yet, for those who hadn't paid attention, or read or heard it yet, it was OK.

When I realized that she had dissed us at LA, I did try newsjacking by thanking her on the NPR and BUR post. Of course, I included what she did not, a link to the whole 40-minute show, for listeners who might want to think for themselves. I logged in with a real name, likewise for those who like to vet.

BUR's post left the comment. NPR moderated it out, leaving instead a message saying it violated discussion rules. My comment was simply informative and not in the obscene, insulting or other classes. The only thing they could mean was the rule:
Feel free to share your ideas and experiences about religion, politics and relevant products or services you've discovered.But this is not a place for advertising, promotion, recruiting, campaigning, lobbying, soliciting or proselytizing. We understand that there can be a fine line between discussing and campaigning; please use your best judgment -- and we will use ours. 
So my whine is that it's one-way. They would expect, but not give, attribution. I didn't have a choice on this one, where Smith simply snatched my audio without asking, much less citing. Next time one of their reporters calls to use me though, I'll demand professional citation. It appears they need to be reminded.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

When News is Old

It's not easy being fresh. Newspaper columnists, reporters of all media, and of course, preachers have a rough time producing original material.

Some media sort gave up a long time ago. The agony aunts and uncles among them take leads from readers and chums on a sad personal tale. Talking heads on TV and radio have it easy — writers print out stuff they read off paper or prompters.

If you want to see and hear to good stuff, hot, fresh and innovative, head over to Chris Lovett's shop. He and his jolly gang of BU communications students and staff ID features, do real video reporting, and sit with singles and groups for terse, innovative interviews. Chris links to some on Facebook, to others on the NNN page, and others on his Vimeo area. This not only goes on day after day, but it is original and insightful.

If anything, Chris is overly fair. He often is the idea midwife, as in Socrates' maieutic method of questioning guests. He's so savvy and has such deep perspective that it must be tough for him to analyze without verbally smacking some guests around. He manages quite well.

That's rare to the point of being singular among news types. It seems at any given news cycle, they share and slightly vary maybe a dozen themes. They often draw on the same sources and stack their little reportage still life a little differently from what they have recently heard.

They are far from the only ones to do this. Hell, they're earning a living. Likewise, clerics, particularly Protestant preachers who have to write and deliver two to four sermons a month struggle with such fatigue and imitation.

From the pew, it may seem like 10 to 30 minutes of fresh material a week would be easy. Well, try that yourself, particularly if you are out visiting the ill, counseling the befuddled, conducting rituals, managing staff members, co-planning services including music and more.

For the unchurched and those have no cause to attend services in other churches, be aware that ministers habitually steal from one another. As with news themes, there seem to be a limited number to go around for those who have to deliver constantly. Fortunately for those with sermon block, ministers share sermons in many publications, and now in podcasts and on blogs. They give; they take.

The same topics spread around with very similar treatments. There's no foul here, unless you have reason to be in four different churches in a month hearing the same bit. Even some of those bear repeating. The seasonal revival of Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, continues to work. Likewise, so do the more recent Who Moved My Cheese and You Be Glad at that star!

Attach no shame to a preacher who delivers the classics well. Folk who are wellsprings of fresh ideas are rarer than oases in huge, dry deserts.

Oddly for me though, I don't have writer's block. I could easily write multiple posts on my various blogs daily should I choose and thing my followers or stumblers-upon could take it.

I have many shortcomings. I immediately think of my lack of musical ability. I can't keep a tune or hit a note on command or keep a good rhythm clapping or dancing or play any instrument other than toys, such jug band ones as jaw harp, nose flute and of course, jug.

It was in college that I became aware that most folk have serious problems writing, largely through lack of ideas for topics. I helped teammates, classmates, roommates, and girlfriends. On the three-times-a-week college paper, I could supply a column for each, write news stories, and one year help the often weeping editor-in-chief by ghosting her weekly editorial when she blanked a hour before press time.

Today's internet world is great for swapping and stealing ideas though. Reporters and clerics alike can develop good searching skills (also difficult for some folk), so they have a solid place to start. You'd expect and hope that they don't cut and paste though.

This musing had a trigger last evening as I heard my voice on an NPR segment on WBUR. The reporter was flogging other folks' ideas about Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown. So, in the traffic tie-up, I listened to her treatment. More on this in the next post.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Delicious GOP Self-Destruction

But that the latest, and only one of many, decisions by the House GOP will harm millions of us, their call to do a huge Christmas FU on payroll taxes and unemployment benefits would just be superb theater. Speaker John Boehner's calcified response — finger always on the NAY button — is guaranteeing Republican defeat in both the POTUS and Congressional results of 2012.

He astonishes on so many levels. Most obviously, to a nation that has screamed loudly and long that hampering, harming and hindering the middle-class and poor of us is in no longer acceptable, pulling such tricks again speaks only to political suicidal drives. Thank you, Boehner. Thank you, winger extremists. You have taken sure and easy victories and buried them under your dogmatic and doctrinaire tracts.

What's truly astonishing is not that the majority GOP in the House is hectoring Dems and the POTUS or beating up the majority of Americans (a.k.a. voters). Rather, they know from the history of the past decade plus and recent times that this backfires. Those of us who pay attention also know that the underlying economic ploys are God awful and plain stupid.

Instead, they seem to try using their catchphrases, like the big lies of greedy big shots being both job creators and magnanimously trickling down their huge tax breaks and profits to the plebes and workers. Sorry, kiddies, those have gone far beyond different interpretations of the same information and into the realm of fantasy and cruel disdain. Numbers alone show they are job destroyers who suck the wealth and even disposable income from the rest of us.

Now I'm left remembering that Lightnin' Hopkins saying, "I don't understand why people don't understand the way I do."

Consider though what Rachel Maddow so clearly presented last night about what Boehner's evil clowns are really doing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Alas, poor yuck. I knew them well.

What would this holy season be without a hate-based fund-raiser from an inaptly named pro-family group? The Mass Family Institute has you covered, or rather smothered.

Consider the following spurious email from them, ending with a big honking DONATE button:

That's right, kiddies. after twisting the public-accommodations core of this transgender civil-rights bill around, the MFI shows what's it's always been about.

In the real world, pitching public accommodations as being about little girls in public toilets is outrageous dishonesty and dishonor. What's at issue here is a definable class of citizens who can still be legally denied access to hotel rooms, tables at restaurants (and yes lunch counters), or any other for-pay or open facility the rest of us can use — exclusively by who they are on the caprice of people who run a facility. It isn't about bathrooms or locker rooms or any such hoo-ha.

The MFI is simply another winger bigot group that tricks its dumb donors with emotional calls. It's about making money on the stupidity and ignorance of others. It's about paying the salaries and expenses of MFI staff.

Sure, it's disgusting and dishonest and hateful. They've been doing it for many years. While their membership plunges or dies off, they keep at it. This time around, they lost big in terms of the bulk of transgender rights passing into law.

Some MFI members may even be aware that cities (like Boston) and states that have had transgender protections for many years do not have the dire problems MFI swears will happen. MFI is not about facts or truth.

In a year or two, the accommodations piece will naturally follow. Then the few B&B and restaurant owners who quiver into helplessness or rage when they are unsure at first glance whether a customer is a man or a woman will have to suck it up. They'll have to, well, do as all the major religions like Christianity mandate, treat others as they would like to be treated.

Then the MFI staff might have to find something honest to do for a living. I wonder if they'll remember how.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not a Generational Thing

While selective essayists like Tom Brokaw love to pretend about The Greatest Generation, most of us know more to the story.

Of course, as a boomer, I am prey to the cliché of each generation disdaining the obvious flaws of the preceding one. We aren't short of examples, such as our parents' delusion that a never-ending post-WWII growth spiral would pay for their corporate and governmental excesses, and that the Vietnam was was wise, right and winnable.

Yet it is annoying and shameful that now that the boomers are pretty much in charge, they, that is we, are doing many of the same stupid things that the WWII, greatest/greediest generation did.

The warmongering of the elected boomers is stunning. We're not as crazy and hateful about homosexuals, so there's that. Polls are solidly convincing that when the WWII generation dies off, marriage equality will occur. They hated equality for African Americans, for women and now for gays. That'll be better soon and the states can fix those inane and vicious one-man/one-woman laws and amendments.

On the other hand, George Bush the Lesser and Barack Obama are the same on stripping away our rights and accustomed liberties. They both are monsters of awful effect.

For a decade or so, we figured that the intrusive, unconstitutional, dictatorial spying, wiretapping, and secret-police tactics belonged to the days of J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon. We boomers grew up tittering about commies under the bed and Tricky Dick's paranoia. Those are not limited to previous generations. Not by a long shot!

Boomer Bush with his Igor Chaney implemented a terrible reign of the inaptly named Homeland Security. The ramifications include as bad a set of laws and secret policing as we have seen since the British occupation in the colonial period. To his permanent, ineffable disgrace, Bush was wont to say if you have nothing to hide, you can't object to the spying, police bullying, and wiping out the powers of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Who needs habeas corpus when arbitrary whispers of terrorism trump the protections millions of died for from even before we formally were a nation?

We boomers grew up with a deep sense of our citizens' rights. Our history and civics classes found reinforcement in books, comics, TV and movies with morals about our rich set of liberties. We did learn along the way that they hadn't always applied to Native Americans, black folk, women, Asians and many other groups, nor to interracial couples and on and on. Yet, we saw how in one area after another, we had fixed those oversights, shortcomings, and legal bigotries.

However, we as a nation have an ingrained habit of electing exactly the Presidents who most despise and abuse those liberties boomers assumed we'd have. Long before he was prez, Nixon was Joe McCarthy's chief investigator on the House Committee on Un-American Activities, a.k.a. HUAC. That alone should have disqualified him from higher office. George Bush the elder was head spook at the CIA, which likewise should have kept a professional liar and sneak from the Oval Office. That Reagan fellow likewise was the dishonorable, dishonest, anti-free-speech/anti-liberty black list guy in Hollywood. Yet, he also became POTUS.

Each of those Presidents spit at and stomped on U.S. citizens' freedoms. There was always an excuse of the Cold War, 9/11 or whatever. Give up what defined America to stay alive, they'd tell us.

Now that Obama guy has done it repeatedly. The latest is surelyt as reprehensible as it gets, apparently done to solidify the POTUS power at the expense of the rest of us.

Glenn Greenwald at Salon has a frightening series on this. Check this current post and click to his background ones. The Levin/McCain bill that Obama signed has to be found unconstitutional, I say, but until it is, it allows indefinite detention of anyone suspected by undefined police types of terrorism leanings against this country, either here or overseas. That's right, boys and girls, anyone anywhere can be picked up and incarcerated without proof or defense for as long as the formerly freedom supporting U.S. agents feel like.

Thinking of Tricky Dick, how un-American can you get, Barack?


Sunday, December 04, 2011

Another Decal Wife Pressed On Stage

Finally...from the Atlanta JC newspaper comes the analysis I've been wanting to read. Jim Galloway writes about the tiny Gloria Cain playing the giant on stage behind her failed hubby Herman.

Alas and to the embarrassment of pols of both major parties from local to POTUS level, we have seen this far too many times. The wife of the puffball taken down by accusations or even verdicts of lying, stealing, philandering and all manner of ethical sins stands by while he makes excuses or outright lies yet again.

We were there with Gloria. At last for the present, the whole 23-minute speech is at the NYT. Watch the wife.

I let the whole spectacle splat on the windshield of news, in no small part to gauge body language of both of them. She's been married to this gonif for 43 years. He's made piles of money, which she could certainly separate him from if she chose divorce. Honest to God, his defiant statements continue to be fantastic tales for every obvious misdeed and character flaw. Those include multiple payoffs for sexual harassment, as well as reasonable and credible claim of a 13-year mistress relationship. He would have us, and Gloria, believe that his employer paid off employees for no particular cause and that he gave a woman many thousands of dollars for more than a decade just because he is a giving sort of guy.

Perhaps most insulting to us, to his supporters and to Gloria Cain is his recent tack expressed by his staff that any mistress would be a consensual and private matter. Say no more, and they mean say no more. Unfortunately, many on the left and right have pointed out he set himself up as a minister and values model, so he opened himself to just such comment. This reeks with the redolence of Newt Gingrich leading the impeachment against Bill Clinton for covering up receiving adulterous fellatio at the same time Gingrich was sleeping around on this deathly ill wife.

Men have their needs, but honor and honest don't seem to be among them.

To Gloria on stage, she did not betray her betraying husband. Like a cliché photograph, she stood full five paces behind Herman as he propped up his facade for 22-plus minutes. She applauded casually when the audience of supporters did. At only one point, shown in the screen cap above, she showed any animation by seeming to gesture in thanks to the supporters as Herman thanked them, and even her, again.

For the rest of the time, she was implacable, inscrutable. She did show for the theater, but ad libbed nothing.  She did not wear a cartoon smile as so many wronged wives have next to their pol hubbies (generally shortly before filing for divorce). She did not make any false display of enthusiastic support. Hers was the face of acceptance.

I assume she has gotten used to accepting quite a bit in 43 years of marriage to the huge, honking ego that is the dishonorable Herman. I also suspect that his self-indulgence has exceeded even her capacity. This is to be continued.

Who Knows Newt?

Creepy crawly lizard man, a.k.a. Newt Gingrich, sits atop the Iowa rock. Punditry pounces and pronounces that dropout Herman Cain's 8% of GOP voters slithered to the more attractive of the reptiles available.

The corollary to chant of the predictive chorus is that Dems smirk and salivate that Gingrich's candidacy. Shift to stage right to hear, "Mighty, mighty orator Obama. Nasty, nasty goader Gingrich will lay him low!"

My take is a bit different. If the POTUS is the Prez race debate champ, it is by default. The deeply flawed GOP candidates open their mouths to let dull winds from empty minds rush out.

Newt is indeed a risible selection. It seems the same majority of Republican (as wingers insist on calling Democratic voters and the party, Democrat voters/party, should they be Republic voters/party?) voters have sudden amnesia on why they found his despicable and unacceptable as either a candidate or even dinner guest.

Another corollary to his judgment is a new meme of MSM and bloggers alike — that GOP voters will forgive his dreadful basket of sins because he admits failings and claims he has been redeemed by God. Let us pretend for the moment that wingers are not so dull-witted.

That Newt fellow not only had known affairs when each of his first two wives were dreadfully ill — MS for one and cancer for another — he traded in those wives for younger models like they were sputtering cars at the end of the lease periods. This anti-marriage stance might seem to be at odds with the professed, if you pardon the expression, pro-family values of the right. However, none of us can keep track of how many winger pols and preachers have been proven fornicators and adulterers. We know only that when caught, they and their apologists are wont to say, "Oh, it's just like Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy."

Odd too is that Gingrich bills himself as a professor and scholar, hence an authority on all subjects domestic and foreign. Of course, his high scholarship was low-brow. He joined a fourth-rate school as an assistant professor of history, transferring to geography, and quit when denied tenure. His credentials are written on water.That doesn't stop him from making Herman-Cain-level claims that he'll bring the big ideas that will save us all.

Odder still is how the GOP voters are trying mightily to forget his many non-stereotypical conservative positions, as on immigration and climate change. He wriggled himself up to House Speaker before facing 84 ethics charges, and then resigning after his leadership led to a disastrous midterm House election and majority loss. Even now as he calls for prosecution of House Dems involved in any way with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, he denies that while taking millions from them himself in what he somehow convinces no one that he was a lobbyist for them.

Any voter who supports this newt Newt can only be grotesquely ignorant or splendidly delusional.

This calls for a variation on the Star Wars line, let the Newt win. Only good can come of it for the Dems next year.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Cain Can't

So, boys and girls, the Hermanator terminated his shuddering run to top the GOP flops. I go for a long walk and Cain sneaks away.

An initial reaction is what wondrous spin, a.k.a. lies, will his former boosters make of it. Think of the dreadful Ann Coulter. It was only last week that she was spewing calumnies — aimed at the increasing set of women who said Cain had sexually harassed them and in that latest case had her as his mistress for 13 years. Coulter's masterpiece of spurious slander holds that:

  • Those who criticize Cain are racists
  • The women who accuse him must be lying because they don't have enough corroboration

The second angle is typical Coulter, typical winger and typical misogynist. Some claim Coulter's a woman, but that attitude is straight from when women were considered property. The attitude here used to be, as it still is in some countries, that rape isn't rape unless there were at least two witnesses to swear to it. Likewise,  it used to be and too often still is that sexual harassment, even physical advances, are not to be taken seriously without additional witnesses willing to testify.

Really, Ann? Herman is innocent if he was so clever as to cover his tracks, to make his worst moves in dark, parked cars, and make his sexual professions of desire or thanks in unrecorded phone calls? Really?

That's a common winger tactic, but particularly nasty here. We hear the lies nationwide on Fox and the likes of Malkin as well. Locally, we don't get much in Massachusetts beyond the state GOP and the RedMassGroup. They are prone to do the Pee-wee Herman I'm rubber/you're glue thing when their pols are guilty of adultery, bribery or corruption. They'll say that, well, Bill Clinton got fellatio from an intern and lied about it or that Jack or Ted Kennedy had affairs. These are not the droids you seek.

In contrast, I appreciated the folksy take last night on Politics Nation hosted by Al Sharpton. As we all waited the timing of Cain's quitting (sudden or a prolonged agony?), the Rev. Sharpton discussed the Rev. Cain without lies or hysterics.

The show's clearest and savviest response though was by guest Joe Madison (about 6:30 into this segment). Sharpton asked for his advice to Cain and heard, "Take a large piece of jewelry to y our wife and ask her for your forgiveness." He followed up immediately with "forget about the Presidential campaign" and try to salvage what's important, a 43-year marriage.

Whether Cain's wife dumps him is TBD. What we can be pretty sure of is that no winger commentators or pols will apology for anything, anytime, anywhere. They are as constant as the monsoon season.

Friday, December 02, 2011

No 2012 Ride on Marriage Horse

A few fools still try to ride the same-sex marriage horse. Nostalgia for the 2004 election alone may inspire this. Back in the Kerry/Bush-the-Lesser contest, fears of queers still played well nationally, and on the state level with the worst of them rushing anti-SSM laws and amendments.

The irrational, malicious and puerile do require much repetition over long periods to understand the obvious.

In this election cycle, splendid proof that we are finally catching up to the larger industrialized world includes how unimportant SSM is in debates and speeches. Out of the GOP clown car, only the craziest, that Bachmann person, is the atavism. While polls and election results show clearly that Americans have transcended this former issue, Michele alone clings to selective Old Testament justifications for discrimination.

As illustrated all to plainly in the news and via Huffington Post with video, Bachmann retreats to crazy talk even when quietly confronted by a high-school student Jane Schmidt.

Wake up, Michele! Kids struggle with and get same-and-different as well as fair-and-unfair early on. Repeating the big lie that we all have the same rights, so long as gay people marry folk of the opposite gender is dishonest and dishonorable on several levels.

Our disgraceful history has many blotches of crazy discrimination. Women couldn't vote or own property, white marriages to Chinese or black or other folk were prohibited, girls could be cheerleaders but not athletes, restaurant owners could refuse service by race or any other basis. We are finally approaching the enlightenment on homosexuals and their fundamental right to wed.

Yet elsewhere this time, SSM is a wee ripple in the pond. Previous loud haters like Rick Santorum seem to get it. If pressed, they'll say reflexively but quietly they're opposed to SSM or use some silly, disingenuous term like "traditional marriage," when they mean they want to appear anti-marriage, anti-family, and anti-adoption to those who would punish kids as well as adults to hurt, harm and hinder homosexuals.

Even our timid POTUS drags out his perhaps insincere statement of belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. Of course, he's run around this tree many times. As a lawyer, he clearly knows the differences between civil marriage and individual church ritual or doctrine. In the last election and his first term, he cowardly chose not to do the right thing, not to proclaim that SSM is a civil-rights issue. Assuming his reelection, will he finally show courage and leadership here? I bet yes.

Meanwhile, fortunately for nation and the larger political dialog, candidates have nothing to gain by Bachmann-style gay bashing. That is, if your pardon the expression, evolution.

Around the nation, slowly increasing numbers of states institute SSM. Sure, a large majority have those anti-gay/anti-SSM laws and amendments. Yet, it's likely California will join several populous Eastern states by re-instituting SSM within a year or so as court actions inch forward. That will fundamentally be the game, with the smaller, more primitive states either left to undo their discrimination blunders or perhaps a SCOTUS finding along the line of Loving v. Virginia, but for SSM.

Either way, it can't happen fast enough for me. Yet, I recognize that many people take a long time to come to terms with any change that first requires an emotional shift before they can hear reason. Meanwhile, we can be glad SSM is a non-issue this election cycle.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Barbed and frank Barney Frank

My immediate thoughts on reading that U.S. Rep. Barney Frank would not run for reelection were:
  • One fewer courageous progressives in Congress
  • The clarity of vision in the House will plunge
  • Some tiny minded winger in Sen. Scott Brown's mold may slither into the seat

Yet, the 71-year-old, 16 termer may well be doing the right thing for various other reasons. To the WaPo, he said candidly (his only mode) that his newly reconstructed district would be much more conservative and that at his age he thought he didn't have the energy level for that kind of prolonged contention.

There's one lesson. We see far too many in Congress tired of body, mind and emotion plugging along. We occasionally see the likes of a near dead, addlepated Sen. Strom Thurmond returning to office long after they can no longer serve any useful public duty. In contrast, Frank still has fire and wit and knowledge and, as needed, sense of outrage.

As soon as it became clear he'd announce today, the local winger papers and blogs piled on jealous vitriol. It was an early Christmas present and he should bear the responsibility for the economic collapse and recession. In reality, beyond such spite, he was a formidable force to gather the hate and fear of the right and the corporate lickspittles.

I should be so short-tempered. I am wont to Southern politeness and a UU wishy-washy desire to let people have their say before pointing out how wrong they are and why. He does not tolerate such inanity. He is quick to call B.S. on liars and frauds, be they committee witnesses or other Congressmen.

As such, there's lesson two for whoever follows him and to his peers. You frame the argument when you do not allow deceit and stupidity unchallenged into the debate. Although often funny, he may do that a bit too abruptly and with too intense a level of ridicule, but the end is the right one. Do not pretend that everyone's opinions are as right or as valuable as another's.

Frank has long been a bugbear to wingers. He is viper tongued, impatient, and of course, openly gay. He finds immorality and dishonor not in anyone's sexual orientation, rather in making many Americans go without so a few can play Scrooge McDuck.

We can at least hope that Frank has set the pattern for a few younger progressive pols...maybe even that one will step up in 2012.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time to Make the Marriage

Yes, yes, yes, I am Mike Ball, but I'm a.k.a. massmarrier. That is, this blog sprung coming up on eight years ago from a double marriage-per-Massachusetts catalyst. Long-term friends asked me to solemnize their coupling at the same time the commonwealth's highest court was deciding whether marriage equality was the law here.

Now I'm still about the business of marrying folk. That's a bit of a pun, as I am a long term monogamous guy. I'm no Newt or Big Dog Clinton. No one puts asunder in our house.

Next month will mark solemnization number four. A buddy from several years back asked me to do the theater and signature for his eldest daughter. That will happen right after Christmas.

Originally, I'd figured to go one a year. First it was Kay and Paul, she I'd known long and well, socially and in church service. She'd followed me immediately chairing first Personnel when it meant figurative heads on the ground, job descriptions, and battles over benefits and salaries and then the Prudential Committee (the board). We'd fought far too many skirmishes and major battles not to be friends. She was also the one who knew that ordinary, non-ordained folk could perform marriages here, so long as you petitioned the governor's office.

The next year, Jasper, a much longer term friend, yea, back from college days in South Carolina, asked whether I would marry him and his partner Jay. We attended their civil ceremony in New Hampshire the previous year, before same-sex marriage was in place here. Like so many long-partnered homosexual couples, they wanted, well, equality in the form of marriage.

Next was the long spell. I tried to lure sandbox buddy Charles from Florida. He and partner Karl have been together almost as long as Cindy and I. Of course, a Massachusetts marriage means nothing to the satraps of Florida, but they intend to come here and have me solemnize their union as well.

Forget the dreadful, hateful lies of the self-styled pro-marriage/pro-family wingers. We who actually are pro-marriage and pro-family believe in the legal union for those committed to each other. We thus have to believe in marriage equality.

In the middle, I figured I was out of the marriage business. That in itself is a funny term. Of course, I charge no one. In fact, I pay the $25 application fee for the one-day designation of solemnization myself. It is well worth it to me.

However, my almost-32-year-old firstborn surprised us by asking me to solemnize his marriage this June. Of course, that's a good surprise that a parent likes, officiating at Aaron and Jessica's wedding. In contrast, I know from others there are the surprises of "You ruined my life. I never want to hear from you again," or "It's a felony charge. They want $50,000 cash bail."

The fourth marriage will be next month and the fifth sometime next year. That's not exactly on track for even an avocation. However, a long-time friend who's a minister has more than once called my one-day solemnizations "poaching." He holds that doing weddings is an important income supplement for clerics. He doesn't like the MA law, recently copied by CA, that allows plain folk to pronounce the couple married and sign the license making it legal.

I do. I recommend it.

Performing the marriages of friends or even of friends' children is an emotional rush. I think it might be a wee version of what an OB feels delivering babies.

I was in on the birth of my three, catching all, and doing the final one solo as the nurses and midwives were across the room chatting, not realizing it was showtime. While I have to say I was more involved and fulfilled by delivering my sons, I was deeply moved by the three marriages I've already done. Those are over a lot faster than labor and they are a lot less physically messy, but they too are quite a bit of fun and make you feel a part of something important.


Monday, November 21, 2011

How Transgender Rights Finally Passed

Grouse, moan...I can complain about what is missing from the long-delayed transgender-rights bill that finally passed in MA. I have already carped about the big hole of public accommodation.

Yet, we need to keep in mind that that the plug uglies tried successfully for years to pretend this was the bathroom bill instead of an issue of civil rights and plain fairness. What the new law will do is huge — prevent discrimination on gender identity in housing, employment and credit.

They can circle back and do the missing piece...we would hope in the next legislative session.

For a fascinating look at who to bless and what kind of work they did, click over to this diary at BlueMassGroup.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Covert Despots

Unacknowledged in the Occupy Boston/Greenway battle is yet another manifestation of autonomous agencies. The Rose F. Kennedy Greenway is just one of many organizations given terrific power in a narrow scope by government, one whose folk consider themselves legislators and constabulary.

In this particular, peculiar case, the chair of the organization cites their manufactured rules as de facto laws. It wants the city to enforce these by whatever force necessary, while claiming to want a gentle resolution.

Who died and made them king? Well, we all did and it's the American way. From nuclear regulation to professional baseball to physicians' associations among who knows how many examples, we cede authority and often pay many hidden costs.

Lackaday, good-hearted and pretty smart City Councilor Matt O'Malley got caught in this web spun by Greenway Chair Georgia Murray. In her open letter to Mayor Tom Menino, she asked to throw the bums out. She cited their rules, as though these were laws. She points to rules allowing only "passive enjoyment" of Dewey Square Park, prohibition on "overnight sleeping," and a permit for  "Any use of the park that requires set ups (sic) and anticipates crowds." Her letter reads in part, "We believe that the current use by Occupy Boston is not compatible with our obligation to ensure that everyone may enjoy the Greenway..."

As a pseudo-lawmaker, she tries to bolster her case with odd, vague justifications, including:
  • The Conservancy abandoned plans to have a food festival on October 15 on Dewey Square Park (a permitted event) from public safety concerns.  We anticipated large crowds of attendees and there was inadequate space due to Occupy Boston.  Fifteen small businesses lost income they were counting on.  
  • On our Farmer’s Market days, the farmers are experiencing a real reduction in income due to the noise, odors, and interference by the members of Occupy Boston and other protest groups. 
  • Our neighbors are buffeted by noise and wary of aggressive confrontation when they are passing through the Dewey Square Park. 
  • There are disturbing incidents of drug dealing. 
  • Sanitary conditions are deteriorating significantly over time.  Although we do not currently have a rat infestation problem, it is only a matter of time given the current conditions. 
Or from other angles:
  • Greenway folk did not adapt to the well-known Occupy encampment, by moving its festival to one of the several huge, open plazas short distances down the park.
  • Unquantified hearsay about the markets is dubious, particularly the "noise, odors and interference" claim that reads like Thurston Howell III remarks. 
  • Likewise, there's more hearsay about inconvenience to unspecified "neighbors."
  • Assertions of drug dealing in a park well known from nighttime drug dealing long before Occupy.
  • Unsubstantiated claims of deteriorating sanitary conditions, replete with a future fantasy about maybe rats, in a camp with continuous programs for cleaning, rubbish removal and more.
This junior-high level rhetoric did suck in O'Malley. The Herald tried to stir up some trouble in its ongoing anti-hippie mode. It got him to say what he surely thought might be fairly neutral lingo, "The Conservancy makes a strong case. Small businesses are hurting from this. It may be time to move them off the Greenway." They did pick up on his addendum that any eviction "should be done 'peaceably.'"

Matt's a great guy and a lot more free-speech oriented than the typical Herald winger. I bet he figured he was threading this political needle instead of getting a bunch of snotty comments, including from me, on his Facebook page.

The imperiousness of the Greenway people is predictable. First, they are volunteer do-gooders. As is typical of that group, they act like others should do what they want because they are so splendid in character and deed.

Beyond the typical volunteer syndrome, they also show the inherent problem of the quasi-autonomous groups. These have nominal power in restricted areas. In that process, they too often act as though their privately promulgated rules have the standing and power of laws produced through representative legislation.

Let's be plain.The Greenway Conservancy folk are not lawmakers and neither cops nor prosecutors.Their rules are guidelines, which they at least obliquely acknowledge by asking the mayor to ask the cops to do something. The letter does read as though their rules are laws, at the very least publicly discussed and approved regulations that might emerge from City Council.

We've experienced this from many agencies. Some are scary and dangerous, like the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Nuclear Regulatory Agency). Some should be benign, like the American Medical Association, which grew into regulatory powers over physicians, but all too often does not discipline or remove those needing it.

In the current, very local case, the Greenway Conservancy folk apparently stifled their Brahmin impulse until they popped. They saw the courts refuse to clear Occupy's camp and the mayor deciding to hang back. At least Menino has the political savvy to understand the peril of smothering protest in the town that fomented the American Revolution.

In contrast, the Conservancy board has decided whom they will classify as public and what activities they will allow. Now they are stomping their feet.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pandora's Casino

All it takes now to open for once and forever the lid on casino and slot gambling here is Gov. Deval Patrick's signature on the disgraceful bill finalized yesterday. There's a tiny chance you can influence him with a call, email, visit or letter (go to the contacts page to pick your method[s]).

However, in a for-God's-sake-do-something economic panic, Patrick and the frequently sensible Senate President Therese Murray turned blind and stupid. Against all evidence, they are:
  • Pretending that commonwealth will get big revenue gains from gambling
  • Pretending that casino and slots money will come from out-of-state gamblers and from money our residents would spend elsewhere
  • Pretending that there will be substantial increases in employment here short and longer term
  • Pretending that huge increased costs for infrastructure and other state support will somehow not be huge
  • Pretending that we alone will break the pattern of Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Mississippi and the other casino/slot destinations that have destroyed economies, elevated unemployment, and zombie-like addicted gamblers
  • Pretending that the new joints won't destroy and cannibalize the existing lottery

Don't Rush

As it appears inevitable that we'll be starting the slide with the three casinos and the crack house slot parlor, those with any wits should do the best possible in that case. Just over a month ago, casino expert William Eadington was in town at a Rappaport Center session on this very subject. We are doing none, nada, zip of the best practices that minimize the damage and maximize the gains of gambling.

In the shortest form, what the few places that have managed this process well have done start with getting highly detailed proposals for any casino. Instead, we're doing the absolutely stupidest way of taking bids and looking for the one that promises the best return on only vague plans.

In contract, places like Singapore and Melbourne did it right, taking several years to evaluate full proposals and considering all the effects. They ended up with true destination resorts that attract tourists for a lot more than gambling and for a long longer stays (and more expenditure).

They also tightly control access by locals to minimize effects of addictive gambling. Known abusers are ID'ed and refused entry.

Even before this proposal stage, which should last several years, the government should be clear on what it expects. Then it can set up the operations to those aims. For example, Pennsylvania charges high taxes on winnings because its aim is increased tax revenue. Singapore charges very low taxes because it aims to create that destination resort, earning from non-gambling activities as well. In addition, its tax policy lures the highest rollers from far away.

We have not done that and apparently do not intend to do so. Instead, our legislators and the executive branch seem blindly digging into gambling mud, hoping to come up with some extra money.

The other key aspect Eadington noted gets snorts and guffaws from MA residents. The process for setting up and overseeing the casinos/slots has to be highly honorable and transparent (Pause to laugh loudly.)

We saw the opposite at its worst. As the cliché variously runs, Caesar's wife must be above reproach (or suspicion). Instead, we suspect dirty dealing by lawmakers even before the gambling passed. Instead of forbidding legislators' involvement in gambling ownership or operations forever, we dropped down to five years after leaving the General Court, then the already suspect lawmakers knocked that to a single year. Now even some of them are wailing about the onus of not being able to suckle on the gambling teats of this cow they have fed immediately.

This process has been dirty from the beginning and stinks more every time the legislature touches it.There's no way to shut the lid on this Pandora's box once Patrick makes the act into law with his signature.

He promised us long ago that if casinos came to MA, they would be only a small facet of his plan to develop various types of business. The model was economic development along the line of funding genetic engineering or other technologies.

Perhaps understandably, the deep and wide recession and its effects have washed away his resolve on this. That's no reason not to make it known to him that you don't want him to sign casinos/slots into law.

If that happens as it surely appears likely, the very least we should demand is first, clarification on what we expect from gambling income, and second, two to five years to receive detailed proposals on sites.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Halfway Up Transgender Rights Trail

Today, the MA Senate will certainly join the House in passing the Transgender Equal Rights act. Stripped of public-accommodation protections, H.502/S.764 still puts into law strong protections for transgenders in housing and employment. Yesterday, the House vote was 95 to 58 in favor.

Bay Windows went to the good guys for comment. The most salient recap may be:
"We support this bill," said Jennifer Levi, director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders’ (GLAD) Transgender Rights Project. "We want complete protections for transgender people -- including in public accommodations -- but also know that in order to get there, we cannot walk away from the legislature’s first step toward achieving those full protections."
Almost certainly, the plug uglies, including Massachusetts Family Institute got their Pyrrhic mini-victory though. Using disingenuous slogans and arguments, the public-accommodation aspect of the legislation will have to wait for another legislative session. It almost certainly will happen, but not this year.

Like other winger organizations, MFI has led the attack on equality with illogically reframing the issue and smearing the beneficiaries. In this case, this seminal bill to offer basic equality was plugged as special rights and the bathroom bill. Instead of admitting the overt discrimination faced by the estimated 33,000 transgender folk in the commonwealth, the opponents manufactured demons in the john. They trivialized the problems and pretended that this bill would mean men dressed as women would invade the women's room and girls' rooms everywhere.

The protect-your-daughters lie seemed to resonate with the confused and the anti-LGBT folk out and in the legislature. Of course, it's a red herring, but it did manage to delay full equality.

I'm betting the rest will happen next year, but meanwhile, yesterday was and today will be a good day for fairness and equal rights.

Morning Update: The MA Senate did approve the bill, by voice vote this morning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Senate Seekers Not Quitting

Last evening's U.S. Senate debate-like-object with two candidates was a splendid chance to chat with, then hear two of them, Tom Conroy and Herb Robinson. Rhetorically, physically and in policy, contrasts between them were wonderfully stark. In a time and place of sameness, I think the couple dozen of us left with clear senses of what they are about, more than we have seen before.

This one was at Pine Manor College and driven by public policy consultant Pamela Julian. She's also a League of Women Voters member and wants that group to help sponsor more of these for this race.

Neither candidate as been a guest on Left Ahead. Several others, including folk who have dropped out have been, including Elizabeth Warren. I was not disappointed by meeting and listening to two of what Robinson used to refer to himself as low man on the totem pole. "I am in the lowest candidate in this race," he said. "We all know that."

He noted in his remarks that he doesn't have a lot of money, campaigns part time as a full-time engineer, and isn't given much of a shot. In contrast, while he managed to stifle it for much of his time at the podium, Conroy called out the "pundits and prognosticators" who had already given the Democratic nomination to Warren.

The two were as different in presentation as physically. Both were good company, although Robinson likely would make a better dinner or bar companion, with good stories and amiability. In profile, Conroy is a raptor, all edges and sinew. He was alert, loud and emphatic. The rotund, furry cheeked Robinson was clearly bright and terribly sincere. He was soft-spoken, even sleepy, but had specific goals and several innovative proposals. He also was not afraid to preach some doom about the economy and nuclear power.

Conroy started with matches to Warren's about-me routines and even captured a bit of the POTUS' calling out of prototypical Americans. On the up-from-tough-roots bio, he included such anecdotes as his parents with no spare money. "My mother at one point didn't even have a quarter to buy a subway token to take me to the hospital when I was so sick I couldn't eat," he said. He got to run a business and become a state rep through education and his parents' example of "hard word, dedication, with discipline and some smarts and some prayer and some help from people in the community, and a sense of service to others in need." Then we went to Terry, Jen and Michael whom he met as he walked 650-plus miles around the commonwealth. Each was a prototypical resident struggling.

Whew, there's a full basket.

In contrast, Robinson spoke of three goals — fixing the economy first, making "America a better place for all of us," and "do it safely." He had specific proposals, such as tying capital gains taxes to unemployment. For example, if the jobless rate is 6.5% or above, the tax rises and rich folk would get a break if it falls to 2.5% or below. He wants capital gains taxes as regular income, adjusted for inflation.

He didn't present any sob or inspirational stories. He's been an engineer for 30 years and thinks things through in detail, depth and width.

He noted that incumbent Sen. Scott Brown had no real proposals to fix the economy even after a year and one half in office. "I have two," he said, "and I'm doing this part-time." He said he can make better decisions than Brown and do it safely. He added that unlike the incumbent he "knows the difference between hairspray and nuclear fallout."

Both candidates answered moderator Julian's questions about education saying they were for more fully funding schools and loan programs. Robinson added that with Prop. 2½ limiting municipalities' tax growth rates, "over the long term, every city in Massachusetts is going to be in the same situation as Lawrence." He also noted that the nation spends far too much on the military and that he opposed the Iraq war well before it started.

For a sample of part of Conroy's polished stumped speech, click below for two and a half minutes of him on his game.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Let Loose the Dogs of TV

Let's pace ourselves. The ads for the 2012 Senate from MA race are just kindling in competing bonfires being heaped.

State and national GOP and wingers accept the now obvious, that Elizabeth Warren will go for the seat against incumbent Scott Brown. Following the Citizens United/Super PAC/money-is-free-speech boner, this is the election where will find out how stupid and destructive that SCOTUS decision was.

Both Brown and Warren already have support from well funded and often hidden snipers. There are tons of coverage on the new, nasty reality. You can also find lots of examples, which I won't bother to embed any of here. Head to YouTube and search for strings like Scott Brown oil or Elizabeth Warren OWS to find current ones. Fresh dirt for him is here and for her here.

Disclaimer: We chatted with Warren over at Left Ahead last month and the three of us liked her both personally and for her ideas and solutions.

Let's now consider what's likely to happen with attack ads for these candidates.

First note that Brown has been in office over a year and one-half. Voters, should they bother, can look to his votes and statements, his record. Having never held elective office, Warren has the advantage/disadvantage of presenting what she would have done and would do.

The advantage here definitely looks to be hers. Brown has been a showboat from the beginning. He bragged about being in a pivotal spot, able to block or allow to pass any bill. During his tenure, legislation has been cumbersome, ineffective, and with negative effects on the economy and other big areas. Instead, he could have picked a couple key issues, as wise Senators are wont to, and led bipartisan efforts. Then he could have fairly claimed leadership and national interest — very good reasons for reelection.

She is left with his weakness and her forte, ideas. He speaks in political clichés and generalities. She likely has 20 or 30 IQ points on him, but is no Utopian or limited theoretician. She has the decided advantage of conceiving of and bringing to life the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is much needed, very appreciated, and in strong contrast to anything Brown ever did on state or national levels.

Her weakness is not that she can be aligned with some aims of OWS. Rather, she so far has spoken largely of rescuing and revivifying the American middle-class. Those folk not coincidentally are the majority of us and of voters. On the trail, she'll have to respond to other themes, such as foreign policy.

So far, the winger attacks have seemed desperate. Now there is her statement that she set the intellectual foundation that helped spawn OWS. Previously, they failed in trying to portray her banter with me on Left Ahead about being called a hick in MA as some insult to rural voters. Well, that backfired. Not only was that self-depreciating bit plain to the 10K-plus who heard the YouTube outtakes, it clearly was not what they wanted to trick people into thinking. They also drove over 1,000 so far to listen to the whole show with her, quite likely getting her new supporters. She could use more attack-ad enemies that politically clumsy.

Warren has powerful, detailed solutions to big problems. Her introduction into the race suddenly elevated the dialog beyond any ability to propose or debate that Brown so far has exhibited.

However, Brown has a predictable winger strength. He speaks in those clichés and generalities. Like Presidents Reagan and Bush the Lesser, he offers reassuring, if disingenuous, messages that don't require voters to think. For those who want guns-and-butter and everything-will-be-OK messages, Brown will be ready.

Let's also not overlook the gender factor. MA is at the bottom of states in terms of electing women to statewide office, much less sending them to the U.S. Senate.

Moreover, even here in the allegedly liberal land, STRONG + SMART + FEMALE = SCARY CANDIDATE. Her election would mean a breakthrough for the commonwealth.

As these attack ads proliferate, one factor to watch is the local v. out-of-state one. Voters here are largely provincial. As Southerners are wont to ask, "Who are your people?," Bay Staters favor those born and raised and still living in one MA town. Likewise, they are quick to ask of candidates, "How much of the campaign money is local?"

The latter is kablooey for the first time now. Following the unlimited-money thingummy, we'll see ads and cash flowing largely from out there. You can be sure the MA GOP and wingers will whinge about her support, while they will be even more guilty of the perceived sin of out-of-state funding.

Here, the slight majority of voters are unenrolled in any party. They feign independence and love being wooed. The ads will be for them.

Even flat-out lies by Warren defamers are not likely to benefit Brown with the unenrolled and undecided. The wingers, self-identified social conservatives, Republicans, and even those who demand a man in office made up their minds. If they are swayed at all, it will come from the likely outcome of debates where the empty barn coat creaks and flaps like a barn door.

What a great use of technology in a science-fiction sense if we could go about our lives while fast forwarding all the attack ads until next fall's election. At this time, I'm more delighted than ever that I watch almost no TV.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Same But Different Boston Councilors

No incumbent Boston Councilor lost yesterday, but several came close. The crowd favorites switched order. Southie's power comes into question. There was no revolution, yet the results have implications.

Right off, as someone who works the polls for the city, I was pleased that the turnout was just anemic and not the predicted terrible. At 18.1% of voters, you'd think it would mean keening and rending of garments by democracy advocates. However, our expectations have long lowered. Grumpy pundits thought this off-year election with no statewide, mayoral or congressional seats might mean as few as 6% of voters would do their do.

The polling place where I worked had over 28% turnout. Comparatively to expectations and the recent 13% in the last election makes that seem robust and involved. That written, as someone who never misses any election and as a poll warden who's invested, I don't see why we can't expect 60% or higher turnout. I can rant when anyone says, "I wasn't aware we had an election," or "I don't know anything about any of the candidates." Be warned.

Hub Shuffle

Here, Council results should provide sources for jokes among the winners, as well as offline planning for the next go in two years. The expected leaders trailed, and one at-large and one district councilor nearly got nipped. The pundit predictions going back at least six months were flat wrong in many cases.

The not-yet-certified-ergo-unofficial results for at-large run (informal names):

Ayanna PRESSLEY21.42%
Felix ARROYO20.26%
John CONNOLLY18.74%
Steve MURPHY15.26%
Michael FLAHERTY14.73%
Will DORCENA4.99%
Sean RYAN4.21%

This list has two big punchlines. Among the four winners, Connolly and Murphy had topped the ticket last time and Arroyo and Pressley scraped into office for their first terms. So, the order dramatically shifted in unpredicted ways. The other biggy is that former council president and five-term at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty missed the cut this time.

Oh, experts, where art thine expertise?

Many broadcast, print and blog observers figured Arroyo and particularly Presssley as likely to lose to Flaherty. After all, they were finishing single terms, he is very well known, a skilled fund-raiser and connected, and council elections have long been friendly to Irish American men. Plus, his home of South Boston had the only open district seat, and therefore, more reason for voters to participate.

Here the wise guys weren't so wise.

When I arrived home at 9 PM from closing my poll, the first results from the city showed Flaherty ahead of Murphy and down in District 2, Suzanne Lee ahead of two-term incumbent Bill Linehan. The almost-real-time reporting on election nights is a super feature. I watched as results shifted quickly over the next hour. In the end, we got the above results and a less than 1% apparent win by Linehan; whether Lee requests and gets a recount is TBD.


So, as I'm wont to ask, what can we learn from this? 

First, it's a positive statement about diversity in town. Voters pushed the only Latino and first black woman ever to the top of the at-large reelection results. In a city with a growing minority population and a sorry history of racism and sexism in politics, that's good stuff.

Neither Arroyo nor Pressley won sole because of their race or gender. Both have championed good causes,  as well as delivered the requisite constituent services. Moreover, as Pressley told me recently, she knows identity politics can work for any candidate. In her case, she looks to voters of color, of her gender, and from her neighborhood to support her, and then she expands from there for the whole electorate.

More surprising is that two Irish-American male councilors slipped to three and four in the results. Both are popular. Each has considerable expertise — Connolly running education and Murphy the budget processes. Also Connolly is the acknowledged campaign-contribution king. 

His organization seems to have anticipated a strong showing by Pressley, despite the gloomy forecasts. Last night, about the time the results gelled, his folk sent out a press release. They took a good share of the credit for her success in Connolly's West Roxbury, where he introduced and campaigned with her. And, oh by the way, he has over $100,000 left in this campaign coffers, the release noted.

Murphy is surely less sanguine. He has not yet posted on his campaign site or Facebook pages. 

Disclaimer: I know and like Steve. We're neighbors, living only a couple of blocks away. 

In his Left Ahead podcast leading up to the election, he did agree that his financial expertise is not as high in profile as some on council. It's my feeling that he's a bit humble and needs to make voters aware that when his peers want to know what this or that big or small matter means in money terms, he's the one they turn to for the judgment. This close vote may inspire him to brag a bit, even if that's not natural for him.

For his part, Flaherty has pledged to work with the council in any way he can. Dorcena and Ryan have not posted on their Facebook pages or websites. 

Flaherty remains popular, has positioned himself as an opposition voice to Mayor Tom Menino and surely will not disappear. I suddenly recall many years ago when I ran into President Thomas Jones of the University of South Carolina as we crossed the historic horseshoe of the antebellum campus in opposite directions. He and I (student newspaper type and general agitator) had clashed many times and he considered me a royal pain. Yet we had a begrudging respect for each other. I knew he was being ousted following the student riots there and I told him I was sorry. He said he was like a rabbit with many tunnels and holes. He would reemerge. I'm sure Flaherty will too, after some consideration.

Dorcena, I hope, will not be discouraged. He got in late, with little money and no history of holding office. He chatted with us at Left Ahead as well. He's smart, he's charming and he has a detailed, broad series of issues and proposals. There must be a good place to draw on that energy and those ideas.

Ryan, of course, runs for office. He has low-key, lightly funded campaigns, depending largely on ringing doorbells and speaking at every possible forum. He is one candidate who may change nothing after this election.

Monday, October 31, 2011

At-Large Incumbents? Yes Indeed.

For the good, Boston's at-large City Council race has a relative plethora of solid candidates. Of course, it's musical desks with four for the seven running.

I've held off endorsements 1) to be close to the election on 11/8, and 2) to stock up Left Ahead's podcasts with candidate shows. One or two shows for six are available (look over the site archives). Sean Ryan promised several times to let us know when he was ready and he apparently never was.

Because I'm late to the gate, I am embarrassed to write that I'm with the Globe and Phoenix and other thoughtful pundit types in endorsing the four incumbents. Each has shown expertise, passion and accomplishment in areas unique to him or her. The city will be best served by building on what may be the best crop of at-large Councilors ever.

Vote Steve Murphy, Felix Arroyo, John Connolly and Ayanna Pressley.

Begrudgingly, I admit that the often-wrong Globe editorial board is spot on in its endorsement of these four. Unfortunately, their new paywall may prevent many from reading this essential piece. Fear not, the Phoenix came in ahead of us all with its similar analysis and conclusions last week.

Most local media seem to grok this. Bay Windows/South End News looks pretty silly, replacing Murphy with former at-large Councilor and body President Michael Flaherty. They fess up that who marches in South Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade is a heavy factor.

The short of it is that Murphy is the finance/budget master and thus essential, Connolly has the vision and perseverance to deal with contentious school money and reform issues, Pressley has brought big issues and solutions to such ignored areas as protecting women and girls as well as teen pregnancy, and Arroyo is a champion of youth, labor and housing issues.

The endorsements tend not to say why you should not vote for someone else. They should. In two of the three cases, that is tough. Ryan stands alone as a libertarian sort whose issues as vaguely defined on his website (fine use of social media and video though) are largely broad strokes painted on broad issues. Coupled with his lack of experience in public office, he is not getting a lot of support of any type.

Flaherty and Will Dorcena are different matters. They are both super guys, both very bright, charming and accomplished. Dorcena is new to elective politics, but understands the problems facing Bostonians and sets out a strong platform. Its a very tired local cliché that you have to introduce a bill four or five times before it becomes law and you have to run for Council at least three times. I for one hope he finds a fit in Boston government and is not disheartened by this race.

Erstwhile Councilor Flaherty is still the wild card. He quit to run against Mayor Tom Menino two years ago and wants back in the chamber. He pretty much claims the whole Council is a pack of lapdogs and they need someone like him to give them some vision and courage. Cynics are sure he just wants a platform to run for Menino's spot again.

He offers a Halloween-scary platform of what's dreadfully wrong in each aspect of Boston life. Unfortunately, it's very short on vision and solution components.

This election though may come down to reinforcing older Boston or looking for continued improvement. Flaherty's path back in will surely rely on the strength of zip-code voting and identity politics. Will his traditional appeal in largely Irish-American areas like Southie and Westie get enough folk to the polls? This certain-to-be low turnout off-year election should be a true test for the mettle of the locals.

I do admit that there's a sliver of irony here. In her most recent Left Ahead show, Pressley was bluntly realistic in noting that identity politics is always important here. She hopes that in addition to progressives, her candidacy inspires women, Bostonians of color, and residents of her neighborhood to go to the polls.

The boon Flaherty gets is that the District Council race features the do-little one-of-us Southie resident and incumbent Bill Linehan against firebrand Suzanne Lee. That race doubles down on the neighborhood vs. city interest bet. It should translate into higher votes in District 2, which includes Southie, Chinatown and the South End.

I can't call either the District race or the four at-large winners. I just tell you how to vote — the four at-large incumbents and Lee.