Saturday, July 27, 2013

You Bet Tom Menino Still Draws a Crowd

Lame-duck jokes aren't apt for Tom Menino. Boston's longest-serving, well loved Mayor is not running this fall, but no one seems to forget he's still The Man around here.

I walked down to the bottom of my hill this morning for what was ostensibly just the ribbon cutting for The Fairmount Grill restaurant and bar. Da Mare showed for the cutting and filled the joint at 11 AM.

Fox25 was all over him before he could even get out of his big honking black SUV. Local papers and stations surrounded him outside then inside.

They had to squat or kneel by his table, because pols took the chairs around him. Current and would-be office holders include Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, Councilor Rob Consalvo (running for Mayor), Council President and at-large member Steve Murphy (running for re-election), several running for Consalvo's district 5 seat (including Patrice Gattozzi and Mimi E. Turchinetz of Hyde Park), and on and on.

It was no nice-to-see-you-bye-bye counting coup with the Mayor. Many of the pols were loath to vacate their proximate seats. They had much to say and hear from someone still perceived as powerful. Murphy though did hang back at the bar (club soda only even though they were handing out bloodies) and let the others fawn.

Most of the chats I had were off the record comments, although Murphy noted that two running this fall had decent shots — Consalvo has a path to victory, he said, if executed properly, and Michael Flaherty, one of running for at-large Council seats along with Murphy, in no small part because many of the 19 in the race are unknown and Flaherty was a Councilor, is a familiar name and ran an unsuccessful race for the mayoralty.

With that in mind, as usual Menino had the best quip of the day. As he was walking from his SUV into the Grille with a cane, he overheard me joking with Murphy about Flaherty canvassing Fairmount Hill, where Murphy and I live, yesterday evening. Without even looking up, Da Mare said, "Yeah, he knocked on two doors."

I think we know who's not likely to forget who wanted to usurp him.

Pic left includes Menino, Murphy, Consalvo, and Grille owner Christopher Rassias.

As he walked, Menino honestly did look fitter and trimmer than I'd seen him in quite awhile. I said that to him and he agreed, saying his leg was better and he felt good.

So, he's personally not lame, just limping a bit, and politically he is still powerful. He's sure not a lame duck even though he's in his last half year of his last term.

If today's gathering is any indication, particularly if Hyde-Park based Consalvo wins the mayoralty, the Grille is likely to take over as a must-attend political meeting place as its 81 Fairmount predecessor Townsend's was.

Pix note: Images as usual here are Creative Commons. You're welcome to them so long as you credit Mike Ball once.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Overturn stand-and-kill laws

As many have noted elsewhere, the George Zimmerman trial jury actually followed Florida law. In this case and many others, the law, to modify the cliché, is not only an ass. It is an immoral murderer.

Until the stand-your-ground variations on your-home-is-your-castle laws are replaced, such arbitrary and often vigilante murders will occur as they did with Trayvon Martin. These laws can give each of us the right to kill another person because we have a bad feeling.

That's crap.

At the least the states (see Wikipedia's compilation of over 30) need to imitate the mild MA version. At least it insists someone must be in your dwelling unlawfully and you have to fear great bodily harm to act.

In the clip below, first US AG Eric Holder and then civil-rights lawyer and former DOJ official Sam Bagenstos discuss why these laws must change. Start around 7:12.

Yet the consensus seems to be that these laws are states-rights issues and no place for the feds. The conclusion is that Holder's use of the bully pulpit is the extent of it.

Is it really?

I recognize that a majority of states have some form of legalized murder with such laws. The other states require someone to walk or run away from a confrontation if possible before it becomes physical or deadly. How rational, moral and humane that is.

So, changing this in nearly three dozen states would be as big a deal as, for example, desegregating schools or overturning miscegenation laws. We should get to it.

I suggest starting with the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. Among its protections is that "No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."

While this is the double-jeopardy and fair trial amendment, it could not present a more apt federal basis for overturning stand-your-ground laws. Someone who wants to play at cop, prosecutor, court or executioner should play video games or write fan fiction instead. The laws should never give the power to kill another person on the authority of fleeting thought or feeling.

I think if the Obama Administration found a little of its missing courage, it should confront these blood-soaked travesties in law. They give crackpot as well as reasoned folk the authority to murder arbitrarily.

Ideally, the SCOTUS would have already ruled these laws unconstitutional. I can't see that happening in its present 5-4 arch-conservative composition. Meanwhile, Holder was spot on in defining the issue but lacked vision and guts in defining the solution.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Evil Doers Everywhere

Ryan and I had to good time today talking crime on the Left Ahead podcast. Regulars know we are shamelessly political, but we do take a break occasionally.

We got what passes for philosophical about crime in prime time. We wondered whether the public go anything beyond salacious, vicarious jollies from media coverage of crimes and trials.

What follows is the post on LA and a player to hear the half-hour show. I'm sure you'll want to.

Crime and courtroom pimps all…the media are rife with show trials and more so now than in recent years. We asked what the public gains from all this melodrama, exposed lives and blood lust.

Right now, the Zimmerman trial is on live. In Boston, the Whitey Bulger one smothers the local media. The Aaron Hernandez arrests and murder charges are just ramping up. There are many more.

Ryan contended that the prime factor in coverage is the simplest, ratings. He explained the cable news attitudes and positive results. However, he was also surprised that the Bulger coverage is more localized despite his decades of alleged involvement in many murders and organized crime.

Listen as as we talk possible positives. We don’t see any deterrent factor here, as violent crimes tend to be heat-of-passion ones not subject to reason and self-control. Instead though, in a case like the Bulger one, exposing complicity and misdoing by police and FBI agents could well lead to investigations and house cleaning that could be good far beyond Massachusetts.

Likewise but far less likely, in a case like the Zimmerman one, the stand-your-ground laws used to justify murder could be seen for the failures of justice and reason they are. As Ryan noted, the last person standing can win under such laws, being able to claim a perceived threat as justification for killing another person. He’s betting Zimmerman will fail using this defense here.

Listen in as we kick around what all the coverage means and whether the public gets anything worthwhile out of it.

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