Thursday, March 28, 2013

Da Mare Rides Off

We'll still stunned in Boston. Our longest-serving mayor, Tom Menino, won't run for a sixth four-year term. He's long diddled with potential opponents, waiting until just before the April filing date to announce that, sure enough, he was in again. Now he waited almost as long to say, at 70, 'nuff.

We'll all speculate on who jumps in with City Councilor John Connolly, long-announced Will Dorcena, as well as apparent vanity candidate, Charles Clemons. Neither of the latter has any money to write of. We can be sure other candidates will emerge very soon and probably as thick as black flies in Maine.

Rather than spout off here and now, I have been musing today about Da Mare's decision making on this. My money would be on his wife's influence.

In interviews, he claims he listened to may people, particularly family and made his own decision. I'm not so sure.

It seems like trips to Italy have been almost fatal to him several times. Angela is very, very supportive and always has been, but I'm betting she wants to make sure they get to enjoy their kids and grandkids, while he is out and about after his mayoralty doing good, shaking hands, and still meeting more Bostonians after all these years of doing those things professionally.

When I was at the September rally in Roslindale where he endorsed Elizabeth Warren for US Senate, I left convinced that the shorter Menino had been the catalyst. He had not endorsed anyone and was saying he wouldn't. His blessing was actively courted because his influence is huge.

At the rally, as he put it, he and Angela discussed it and he decided to dub Warren. To me that was his way of saying without saying that his wife made the curtain lecture.

Once he was on Warren's side, he was effusive. It was talk of she has our back and I have hers talk. He pledged his resources.

A word from Da Mare was key and I am sure a word from Angela was powerful to him. I'm surmising that the same was true for his decision this time as well.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Only-a-flesh-wound for Anti-Gay Forces

With the Supremes about to hear the closely linked Prop 8/DOMA arguments in the next two days, the machinations, lies and delusions of the anti-equality types fascinate more than ever. They call to mind the 2012 election night pathos of GOP bigs, like Karl Rove, guaranteeing Mitt Romney's victory as state after state tumbled into the President's bag.

A pathetic but more topical version was yesterday's comments by National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown on a very friendly to him Fox segment. (Screen snag segment of him here. I claim fair use for the altered pic.) He ostensibly debated Marc Solomon, national campaign director of Freedom to Marry. In reality the few minutes they had were Solomon detailing the new reality of public support for same-sex marriage, Brown hunkered down in an old anti-gay version, and the host giving him the "last word" that amounted to half the total time.

By the bye, a crisp, revealing piece on his obsession with keeping homosexuals from marriage rights just appeared in the New York Times.

Even with his temporal treat on Fox, Brown showed the sorry state of the anti forces. He represents the dwindling party that want to harm, hinder, hobble and hamper homosexuals. As so many polls show, Americans have come around quickly from not being able to imagine gay marriage to accepting and supporting it. Solomon cited a few of those, the data are everywhere, ranging from a plurality to a large majority in favor, and this happened so fast I have to admit I had predicted a much slower evolution many times. I'm delighted to have been wrong.

Brown's sorry statements are instructive for many reasons:

  1. Big proof. He falls back as seemingly all anti-equality types do to 31 states have laws or amendments or both limiting a marriage to a man and a woman. He never mentions that those were almost entirely passed in relatively bygone days of anti-gay panic after Hawaii considered equal marriage, Vermont instituted civil unions and the clincher, the MA Goodridge decision legalizing SSM coming up on a decade ago. That could not happen now, 10 states and DC have instituted SSM and more are headed that way.
  2. Mob rule. NOM's prime offense against equality is the same as other anti-gay groups'. Brown says that because CA voters overturned the legislature/governor legalization (a.k.a. representative democracy) with Prop 8, no court should have the right to deny them, even if their action violates state and perhaps US constitutions. 
  3. Don't stir the pot. Brown would have it in a meme the media seem to have promulgated that if the SCOTUS makes a big move — ruling to overturn Prop 8 and maybe even that state law against marriage equality are unconstitutional — this will create a culture war. He and other bozos who make this assertion cite Roe v. Wade. In reality, it is the anti-SSM side who turned this into a cultural battle and continue to do so. We have instead seen too many times that pleas to go slowly in granting fundamental rights and freedoms are just attempts to permanently squelch them.

Lackaday for Brown and his ilk, even if the Supremes do not invalidate state laws and amendments on SSM, more and more states, with considerable numbers of citizens will have the option of marriage equality. Those 31 states were the paranoid extreme. Now that the nation sees the benign and beneficial nature of SSM for the couples and children involved, fear recedes and compassion steps in.

NOM and their running dogs have long loved such verbal tricks as "redefining marriage" and "let the people vote." Of course, they were the ones changing the marriage definition to exclude gay couples. Sometimes that was with such straw-man arguments that SSM will necessarily mean all manner of sexual practices long prohibited by federal and state laws. Sometimes it was the bizarre assertion that only those who can and will have children through their married, heterosexual intercourse should marry, denying the elderly, otherwise infertile, and childless by choice. Also, what a huge insult to the millions of adoptive parents.

The ballot-initiative ploy had two vicious prongs. First, we long ago concluded as a nation that we should not vote on the rights of any minority. Second, it's just another fallback from failure. Where a state like MA had court-mandated equality, the anti forces wanted a vote to strip the right. Where a state like CA voted in the legislature for SSM, Prop 8 also wanted to take away an existing right. No matter how equality comes about, the NOM sorts will try every trick and scheme to destroy that new freedom. Even coming up to a decade of established law here, the MA anti-equality forces make noises of somehow mounting yet another plebiscite to follow other failed efforts.

The graceless Brian Browns of our world will not go away quickly or quietly. They will not accept defeat . They will not consider embracing the newer, fairer marital world. They simply want to hold back homosexual couples and deny they equal treatment.

The rest of the country is moving on.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fox with Barbed Tongue

To the literal, nil nisi bonum does not extend to the not-yet-dead. So perhaps former Mexican Prez Vincente Fox skips by wishing that Fidel Castro "joins Hugo soon as possible."

Click the arrow on the player to hear the short clip deriding both Castro brothers.

Fox was at Symphony Hall this week surely in coordination with promoting his autobiography but ostensibly as part of the Lesley University Boston Speakers Series. It was a good venue for him. The audience was late middle age and above and relatively conservative by Boston standards. He is tall, dark and handsome, to flog a cliché. Plus, he did grad work at Harvard — always a big hit with wealth gray hairs here.

By the bye, the pic is from a World Economic Forum image under Creative Commons.

The audience clearly responded to his dog whistles. They didn't object when he praised Cuba's education and health systems. But the applauded deafeningly to his calls for Fidel to die, for one example.

He busies himself after politics with his eponymous center to advance democracy. At the least, it's a presidential library.

His 90 minutes or so was fairly self-serving and a rehash of well-known material. For those of us expecting his usual inflammatory surprises, it was ho-hum.

However, he was at his most insightful when addressing border security and immigration conflicts. He did recount the ill timing of his visit to address a joint session of the US Congress a few days before the 9/11 attacks. He said he expected to convince our lawmakers to back off on the craziness (my word) of a many-hundred-mile wall along the Mexican border. The attacks in NYC and Virginia waylaid his proposals.

Still, he knows that "walls don't work" and are a terrific waste of money.

Instead, he said our hope for immigration control was economic parity. He noted that there is no Canadian/US problem, which he attributes to equal wages on both sides of that 3000-mile line. Not long ago, he added, the disparity with his country was over 10 to 1. It has reduced to 5 to 1 and he optimistically said that in five to 10 years, it may be equal.

I can't believe it will happen that fast, but his point is well taken. If Mexicans can make as much in their country, they won't sneak into this one. He concluded that the U.S. should do all it can within and beyond NAFTA to speed the process of income parity.

His comments on immigration alone were worth the evening.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wash, Reince, Repeat

Democrats are safe from RNC Chair Reince Preibus.

He released (or it escaped) the Growth & Opportunity Project report. The 100-pager is actually about 30 sheets of big, Mac-style sans serif type pages if you account for the repetition. It could accurately have the title Why We'll Never, Ever Fail Again or Click Your Heels Three Times.

I read the 100 pages, even the iterations and reiterations, verbatim, so you don't have to. Alas for bedraggled elephants, many sheets of, well, stuff don't make Priebus as smart, strategic or analytical as his predecessor Michael Steele. Facts include, Steele and his big candidates were winners, the GOP replaced him with loser Priebus, and the report G.O.P. or maybe GANDOP fails terribly at its two main purposes — 1) explicating how even in the worst of economic times with Republican Congressmen doing their damnedest to make sure our President could neither pass laws, nor appoint key officials, nor govern, the GOP lost the big race and seats in both houses, and 2) detailing corrections that will ensure big Republican wins in 2014 and the 2016 Presidential.

Instead GANDOP the gray:

  • Does not deal with such core problems as voter disdain for GOP policies and distrust of arrogant candidates
  • Pretends that changing voter demographics toward more people of color and a younger electorate are perfectly manageable if only they package their feces in a pretty box
  • Uses a one-strategy-fits-all groups (except women) approach of puppet spokesmodels
  • Deludes with gear-head fantasies such as if only they hire the right data collectors and analysts or the spiffiest new-media consultants they'll beat the Dems at their game

I can point to some telling pages in the report:

  • P2: Contacts shown here and mentioned sporadically suggest hand-clasping, going to favorable or mildly critical, red-state folk and missing meaningful criticisms
  • P4: "Republican governors are America's reformers in chief." if you equate regressive and reactionary policy with positive change. The question they should have asked is whether state-level regression contributed powerfully to the defeats in the last election.
  • P5: "At our core, Republicans have comfortably remained the Party of Reagan.." Yet his policies differ dramatically from the current GOP platform and pols. 
  • P5: However, this page has one of the keenest and most candid insights in the report — The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue. I suspect this key judgment will disappear in the morass of jive.
  • P5: There is a voter perception that the GOP does care about people, while Dems "tend to talk about people. Republicans tend to talk about policy." The report fails to note that Dem policy also tends to act to the benefit of the voters instead of moneyed classes.
  • P6: A key conceit is that Republican policies that favor the corporations and wealthy individuals creates a healthy, growing middle class. Very few are so delusional as to believe that. If the GOP wants the White House, it needs to drop this.
  • P8: The only mention of gay rights is that younger people favor them. Yet the report only calls "to make sure young people do not thee the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view." It's surely not like the GOP is out of step with the nation, eh?
  • P8: "If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to enrage them, and show our sincerity." Of course, every conclusion and recommendation in the report is insincere and manipulative. Saying sincere and being sincere are not the same.
  • P12: The dark people are coming, Latinos, Asians and others. The report concludes repeatedly that the canned GOP program is the best for everyone. Yet Barack Obama and the Dems convinced voters that Republicans did not have their economic interests at heart. That wasn't a hard sell.
  • P14: Iterates over many pages in recommendations. Just get coached surrogates who look like the target voter groups and the GOP wins. For one, "This new organization should design a surrogate program to train and prepare ethnic conservatives for media presentations nationally and locally. Surrogates would speak on behalf of the Republican Party on issues of the day." The report has similar findings for each major group Romney lost in the last election, except for women. The puppet strategy is simple-minded and insulting. You just train the various looks-like-you folk. 
  • P15: "It is imperative that the RNC changes how it engages with Hispanic communities to welcome in new members of our Party." This also repeats for each group it lost. It avoids personal responsibility for clumsy, insulting, mean policies by suggesting that if you only phrase the message properly, voters will buy in.
  • P16: For each lost group, starting with Latinos, key concepts are that you train the surrogates (puppets), hire a few, suddenly visible representative members as party functionaries, and repeat to them "The Republican Party is one of tolerance and respect..."
  • P17: For Asians and Pacific Islanders, no more fly-over campaigning. There is no mention to what party shock will ensue if the GOP actually asks what the various groups want and sees that none of it aligns with party policy.
  • P19-21: Women get a slightly different treatment from the cut-and-past recommendations for the ethnic groups. Here instead of policy changes, the report looks to theater, manipulation and tricks. It calls for framing the wooing and training of surrogates with "unique concerns that female voters may have..." and  using "language that addresses concerns that are on women's minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them." It's all fluff for women, fluff and messaging —"Women need to hear what our motive is — why it is that we want to create a better future for our families and how our policies will affect the lives of their loved ones." This is the most patronizing and insulting part of the report.
  • P21-22: Youth harks back to the Vietnam Era Young Americans For Freedom glory days. Somehow the RNC thinks it can get eager campus and young professional voters spontaneously organizing for them, all without changing their policies to be more inclusive for real.
  • P26: Many of us remember when Republican were first with the internet and savviest with emerging social media. They've lost hat Now they've become gear-heads, thinking if only they have better data collection, they'll best Dems at the game of voter connection. The report does not see that Dems have both delivery AND content.
  • P29-30: Dreams of monopolizing early and absentee voter ballots overlook a huge problem. Through gerrymandering and redistricting, they also thought that they had the Electoral College in hand. They overreached with voter suppression in many states. For sure last year and likely going forward, the GOP created new groups of angry, dedicated voters who won't forget the treachery and anti-democracy.
  • P31: "The RNC should recruit and hire a chief technology and digital officer for the RNC by May 1, 2013." More gear-head stuff does not admit the problem. It's like a teen thinking if only he had that glove and bat, he'd be a star or an adult fantasizing that his $5,000 bike would make him a champion cyclist.
  • P33: Calls for "recruiting the highest-quality candidates with the greatest potential for leadership" ignores the history of primaries that yield extreme and ultimately unelectable entries, chosen by the wingers who vote in these contests. It also avoids consideration of whether the RNC will try (surely unsuccessfully and maybe illegally) to dictate state parties' operations.
  • P52: "Our friends and allies (third party groups) should significantly invest in voter registration and grassroots efforts." This assumes a buy-in by voters that has not existed in a long time.
  • P54: Relying on ambush videos by "Well-funded conservative groups" tracking Dem candidates is a tactic, but one that many voters find both despicable and boring.
  • P54: "Our friends and allies must realize that the Party is at its best as the Party of ideas, and healthy debate of those ideas is fundamentally good for the Republican Party." This is the most unintentionally amusing recommendation in the report. Throughout, it is heavy-handedly paternalistic in not bringing up self-criticism, not admitting failures, and calling for RNC edicts to state parties and the puppets, a.k.a. surrogates.
  • P57: The report envies Obama's grassroots support there and here, and notably in "low-dollar fundraising." This follows a passing mention of the rich folk who bankroll the party. It avoids the obvious, that grassroots are millions of voters and million of contributors. Dems win them by offering platform planks that help them. The clear recommendation should be, but is not, to evaluate the party policies to see whether they help the target voters.
  • P65-67: Citizens United was not enough. The report wants a total freedom for the RNC and state campaign financial system to raise and spend as it sees fit. The report phrases such anarchy as "making political speech more robust at the state and local level."
  • P71: Cut the number of Presidential-candidate debates in half, with the aim of helping the GOP pick a single candidate and getting a head start on the national campaign. Forget that talk about robust speech.

The last third of the report cuts and pastes each section's already iterative recommendations. I suggest not just starting on page 74 for these. You'd miss the shameful and illogical rationalizations.

This report is a marvel of effete delusion. Academics will enjoy this for decades. Given the chance and lots of resources and what passes for brain power in the GOP, Priebus' pals could well have dealt with real causes and real solutions. Instead, it's the fantasy world again.

Yeah, the Dems did this or that better than us. All we need to do is buy the right staff and train some spokesmodels. All will be swell.

It is to laugh.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Benny to Frankie With Little to Show

The vile Benedict XVI is sort of gone, but his replacement Francis is only a little better. Neither is a new testament Christian.

For serious immediate journalism, the WaPo has two takes — his politics and theology, as well as his politics with economics. Instead, I'm here for LGBT and women's issues.

Fundamentally, Francis sucks, except for a big up on  social activism. The dude is down on women — no worship roles and forget about priesthood in Francis' lifetime, no right to choose or even discussion, no gay anything including marriage or adoption, and homosexuality is too gross to discuss. Mentioning marriage equality is the talk of Satan, so there.

When I first saw that a Jesuit, in fact the former head of the Society, was Pope, I had a flash and flush of hope. SJ folk are the most educated of the RC gang and many can discuss big topics without bringing down shades of infallibility and doctrine. Not so, Jorge, now Francis.

The new Pope is hard-line conservative.

His big exception is that he actually is New Testament in social action. You know, help the poor, mingle with plain folk, accept the range of human conditions. There's a little room to improve the billion Roman Catholics' lot there. It's a damned, very God damned shame, that he'll exclude women and homosexuals from human rights. Yes, shame on Frankie.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Business Princes

Not only does the emperor, or more aptly satraps, have no clothes. Those little folk with power and prestige and almost all weak of mind and devoid of accomplishment. The alleged best and brightest (BaBs, for derision) in the biz and finance worlds are the scammers who hold open their attache cases and see their boards overfill them with cash and options.

Over at the Financial Times today, Lucy Kellaway dared take another peak at the nude and ugly princelings. Her sideways look was an unscientific poll of overpaid shots. (The link may require registration, but you should be subscribing to the FT anyway, and The Nation as well.) A few admitted to her they were obscenely overcompensated. They had come to terms with that. More common was the dumb-as-a-post attitude that they create value, so they are underpaid if anything.

Chicken lips!

Best and Brightest?!

Go to a biz-school library or click around the net to see that most top execs and financial types are mediocre at best. The BaBs generally lead companies to underperform the Dow. The financial types are generally like pilots whose ships are carried along by strong currents. That lack of real value added doesn't stop their boards or partners from proclaiming they are wizards worth every penny of their multi-million-dollar annual packages.

In contrast to the big paydays, companies with these execs would be better off putting their cash in an index fund. Then they would not get a higher return, but they could take the millions they would otherwise pay the top dogs and actually invest it in meaningful R&D and expansion.

Of course the guys (almost entirely white men by coincidence) who hire these bozo BaBs have a real stake in the scam. Their fiduciary duty includes ensuring competent top management. That in theory carries both criminal and civil costs of they goof up doing so.

Most top business executives share some major flaws. For example, among the worst is short-term thinking. They and their direct reports typically develop and market to pump up profits for one or two quarters. Such tactics almost invariably rob the company and its shareholders of longer term, bigger profits and market share. They simply aren't putting resources where they will pay off biggest. Come evaluation and bonus time, the princelngs claim great benefit to the company.

Oddly enough, in many companies, even if exec plans blow up and returns are awful, the bigs still get bonuses on top of huge salaries. Increasingly shareholders switch into WTF? mode at annual or quarterly meetings, but the klutzes on the thrones remain there.

Another typical mediocre to awful boner is plumping margins by such moves as moving most production offshore, by underpaying workers, or by downsizing to starvation staffing levels. Yet, it's been over a century since Henry Ford showed the wisdom of a different approach. He'd pay is workers enough so that they could afford the cars they built — a large base of loyal, local, repeat customers. Building for a healthy and growing middle class and above is not counterintuitive. It too is a long-term survival plan, and one that gives you a much higher level of control than chasing third-world and developing-nation purchases.

Fantasy Worlds

My conclusions after long exposure to the constant stupid decisions by the shots is that they tend to be very ordinary people who develop the level of self-delusional ego typical of surgeons and ministers. So many above and below pour praise all over them. They begin to believe it all and then come think it is both absolutely true and natural.

It's likely that in a few big companies, shareholders will force some change, although not as likely that these will be deep, systemic improvements in executive selection, hiring, evaluation and compensation. It is even less likely that boards will admit they didn't hire BaBs, rather just connected buffoons who aren't particularly competent. Board members have a huge stake in appearing to have met their fiduciary requirements.

Occasionally,. reporters, biz school academics and some influential bloggers draw attention to the grossest failings of top managers and the absurd levels of reward for ordinary or inferior performance. Therein may lie the catalyst for change. Coming from such an oblique angle will surely take a long, long time.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Big Dog's Duh on DOMA

Maybe it's as simple as Hillary Clinton's stratospheric public approval and acclaim for her Secretary of State role. Meanwhile hubby William J. Clinton kind of labors much more obscurely. As front man for his humbly named William J. Clinton Foundation, he smiles a lot and aims to do big things in world health and such. The man is still competitive and still polishes brass plaques for his legacy trophies.

There's no shine yet on his biggest disgrace, DOMA. Yesterday, he buffed it again with an apology, in the classical not vernacular sense, for the Defense of Marriage Act. His short opinion piece in the WaPo smacks of lawyerly speciousness. It calls to mind his Lewinsky-related testimony about depending on what the meaning of is is.

He writes that DOMA is wrong now, but he can't, simply can't, admit he was wrong about it back in 1996 when he pushed it and signed the bill into law. It was his and he brought Congress and the nation along with him.

Instead, he lawyers up again and again. Oh, it was bipartisan. Oh, a bunch of people figured it would "defuse" the drive to flat outlaw same-sex marriage nationwide (and remove the right to control marriage from states). Oh, only 81 Senators and Reps opposed DOMA. Oh, oh, oh.

For a man who dearly loves himself, he shied away from write I in this piece. He could have written, "I took a gamble, led a compromise, let the chips fall every which way, and buried the issue. I let the anti-gay types think they won something by guaranteeing no federal tax or other benefits for homosexuals. I wanted the pro-equality types to think they could hold shreds and threads of hope if they were willing to fight for one, two or more decades."

That would have been both analytic and candid.

Instead, in his WaPo It's time to overturn DOMA piece, the former President linked to his weasel-worded signing statement that accompanied the bill. Therein, he writes in the first person, opening with "Throughout my life I have strenuously opposed discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans." He concludes the brief statement with DOMA does not "provide an excuse for discrimination, violence or intimidation against any person on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination, violence and intimidation for that reason, as well as others, violate the principle of equal protection under the law and have no place in American society."

Chicken lips!

DOMA is discrimination legalized and codified. It has led directly to cases before state, federal and now the SCOTUS. It has punished millions with unequal treatment, a.k.a. discrimination. It was and is a vicious, mean-spirited betrayal of LGBT Americans. It was Bill Clinton's easy way out that has not been at all easy for homosexual couples nationwide ever since.

It's positive that he eventually reversed his one-man/one-woman thinking. He got there before VP Biden and Prez Obama, but not by much. His current call too may help a little. I have to believe it would be a lot more effective if he started with the truth, the whole truth.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Quixotic or Prophetic Candidates?

My version of an elephant graveyard is a leaning heap of political yard signs. Many are from dramatic winners, like Obama and Warren.

One that still bothers me though reads:


Jim is a friend. Moreover, he is a crusader and reformer. We don't like them much around here.

He ran in 2010 and got about 1 vote for every 23 that incumbent Bill Galvin did.

We have our own Deval Patrick. Much like President Barack Obama, our first black governor strode into office as a reformer, when the time and all conditions were right. Recently Sen. Elizabeth Warren did much the same.

Those are decided anomalies. We here in Boston, Massachusetts and New England are like much of this fairly conservative nation. We like our change in creeps not leaps...most of the time.

I definitely thought of the discarded reformers figuratively buried here when we spoke with John Connolly yesterday on Left Ahead. His show is here. This at-large Boston city councilor announced he would not run again for that post, rather for mayor, regardless of whether the longest-serving ever, wildly popular incumbent Tom Menino goes for a sixth term.

Da Mare loves to make councilors and other wait to see whether he's in for another run until well into spring  This year, candidates can wait until May 13th to pull nomination papers. Folks are understandably afraid to run against Menino, with his hoard of campaign funds, political organization, incumbency, and other powers. Those who don't have Connolly's guts are left scrambling for money, endorsements and ground troops on a truncated schedule.

Connolly says he has no plan B if he doesn't win. He says he can beat the mayor or any other councilor or outsider...and that's that.

He figures to get there with his reformer/transformer campaign. While citing his great respect for Menino personally and for his accomplishments over 20 years, Connolly says one way or another, time is up. He is impatient for big advances in public schools, not "tweaking around the edges."

While he has policies and plans for public safety, employment and more, schools are the heart of his plan to become mayor. Listen to his show to hear how he specifies the problems and solutions.

Mayor Menino may well run again. As he has told me and so many other, "What else am I going to do? This is all I know." Plus he clearly loves the job. On the other hand, he's coming up on 70, has been ill intermittently for years, and can be chauffeured away leaving a deep and wide legacy of accomplishments.

Clearly, Connolly has a greater shot at the office if Menino does not run. He has a strong message of reform, as well as teaching credentials, kids coming into public schools, a dedicate to public education, and years of experience running the council's education committee, leading numerous improvement efforts. Plus, he has very understandable and detailed proposals for revamping the city's schools.

Smothered Dreams

Our history here in not electing reformers came to mind recently as I watched the PBS series The Abolitionists. There were many tough times and even death threats and violence aimed at the likes of Angelina Grimke, Theodore Weld, William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. Boston has more than its share of slave-ship owners, fugitive-slave catchers, and many who just didn't want change or moralism.

We still like to think of ourselves in the main as lefties, liberals, progressives and such. Yet, really in the main we often share social conservatism as well as fiscal conservatism. We either need to ease into change or in those rare cases of an Obama or Warren be swept along in the excitement of reform.

I think again of Jim Henderson. His Left Ahead show where he advances his considerable reforms is here. Likewise, in 2009, City Councilor Sam Yoon ran on a reformer's platform for mayor. His Left Ahead show is here. Yoon lost in the preliminary (but not by much), had his candidacy folded into an unofficial vice-mayor slot with leading contender Councilor Michael Flaherty. Menino won 57% to 42%.

I've often held that Yoon was the smartest person in city hall. Many local observers are quick to agree and simultaneously point out that he lacked the political smarts and instincts of Menino. Almost invariably, those who win public office or become the wealthiest are not the brightest. They often don't have the best plans, but they hit sweet spots of timing and presentation.

Yoon was fine by me. I loved his intensity, his problem/solution analyses, and particularly his reformer conclusions. I too am an impatient sort.

To many though, Sam was overly wonky. He could be casual and personable, as I recall him at a big table at Flash's on Stuart Street. A bunch of us bloggy sorts joined him over ale to discuss his campaign. Sure, as always, he had the data and conclusions in his brain at the ready, but he delivered it with humor and excitement.

To most voters though, he may have been  too serious. He wanted us to take a flight on his reformation express. The voters liked Menino, saw that the city was gradually getting better with him in office, and found the call for reform too abrupt and uncertain. Instead of Boston mayor, Yoon is president of the Council or Korean Americans outside of D.C.

Another would-be reformer, Henderson, is a successful lawyer in Stow and principal of a video marketing firm. He's doing fine. He just has never gotten the chance to transform the secretary of the commonwealth's office.

End Game

Reformers tend to be resilient and relentless. Sometimes they prevail.

I recommend The Abolitionists, particularly the last episode. During four decades to eliminate slavery, Garrison specifically faced mobs, public shunning and disdain, financial catastrophe, threats of arrest and death and more. Eventually with the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, Garrison and his like-minded reformers won. Even the change-averse public praised and supported them in the end.

The visionaries generally struggle. It's almost unheard of that they propose their reforms and receive acclaim and support...without the angst, defeat and rising from the muck.

In Connolly's case, working to ensure that tens of thousands of youth receive high-quality education and the lifelong opportunities that accompany it is noble. It surely is less so than freeing millions of slaves, but noble and worthy none the less.

Whether Menino runs, is it John's time? Can he market himself and his ideas strongly and clearly enough to overcome to inertia of a change averse Boston?

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Dutch Boys 12 Years On

In the weekend Financial Times, Simon Kuper writes about what same-sex marriage has meant for his native Netherlands. Among his conclusions:

  • "(I)t doesn't change much."
  • Following legalization in 2001, political squabbles turned to other matters.
  • Despite crazy claims otherwise, it does not affect straight marriages.
  • SSM does "slap the churches in the face," in the sense they have the scramble to show their relevance.
  • Stereotypical, traditional gay scenes are disappearing as more homosexuals integrate in the larger community.