Archive for October, 2007

Things Boston Podcast

Ryan and Mike checked in on our metropolis. We had to mention that baseball team, but mostly it was politics.

We have a hobbled, but still budgetary powerful, City Council. An off-year election with no big draws puts the four non-white (two Black, one Latino, one Asian-American) Councilors at risk.

Then there’s a suddenly energized mayor. No longer content with being popular and jovial, Tom Menino suddenly wants to bring bikes and wi fi, new green spaces, and more to town.

Home Rule Stuff

Home Rule may sound empowering, but the form that Boston got over 40 years ago is intentionally limiting. The General Court keeps Beantown in a small exercise yard.

As state capital, the city is as much a pet as peer to lawmakers. It can’t tax state property, it can’t start or raise any taxes without specific legislative approval, it can’t run its airport, it can’t do much of anything without lawmakers’ say-so. Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed, and gotten considerable legislative push-back on, letting all cities and towns add their own meals taxes and such.

A podcast from a WBUR piece on this (under four minutes in RealAudio) is here. The Rappaport Foundation analysis of Home Rule’s failure and comparison of Boston with six other cities is here. The long and detailed 1966 law (Chapter 43B) that covers Home Rule is here.

Posts of the Week

Mike chose a reactionary regional post from Hello Fitchburg. There, the ever-ranting Abraham Lincoln host held forth — this time on the meme of baby boomers. He hates ’em (us, from Mike’s viewpoint).

It’s good to deal with, because it is certainly a cliché and a bandwagon that can’t seem to get big enough for 20-somethings and 30-somethings to fit onto. Those blood sucking, me-generation, self-serving bastards are taking our jobs and stealing our social security!

It is to laugh a boomer laugh. Consider that what sociologists call The Entitlement Generation. The Koren-War-era folk (at least the white ones) are those who didn’t fight the big one, who may have lived through the Depression, but did not have to feed their families, double and triple dipped on post-WWII pensions, padded management levels, subsidized housing and education by G.I. Bills and the like, and never once have agreed to share the economic burdens of increased taxes and lessened benefits that the rest of us have. Moreover, the boomers paid ever increasing tax rates for the previous generations, paid to raise and educate the 20 and 30-somethings who now diss them, and now are sandwiched with aging parents and kids to be paid for and cared for.

This post makes amusing reading. Even though it uses a trope of 60s/70s music, it is one shriek among many that we’ll continue hearing for a long time. Those nasty old boomers. Let’s pig pile!

Ryan’s Post of the Week is again from the venerable David over at Blue Mass Group. Senator and POTUS-seeker Chris Dodd is again leading the pack where it matters, this time in resisting the ‘I don’t know if waterboarding is torture’ Attorney General pick from the Bush administration. What’s really interesting is, again, Barrack Obama finds himself the follower in a race where he very much needs to lead if he wants to succeed. Sadly, I wonder if it’s time for the young man to go – and allow the big boys a chance to offer resistence to Camp Hill.

Making matters worse is the fallout over Obama’s homophobic friend that Barrack has decided should be one of his leading advocates. It appears as if Barrack Obama’s campaign is completely out of touch with the progressive primary voters he’s been trying to lure since he entered the race. At this point, I’d rather a Hill Presidency than Obama in office – which is scary stuff. As my hopes begin to fade for a real candidate for change to enter the race late, such as Al Gore, I cling to the fact that all my gut instincts could be wrong and someone could save us from this mess.

icon for podpress  Things Boston [53:45m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Paying Old Debts in Massachusetts

The kids are in bed and it’s time for adults to talk. We in Massachusetts lived a fantasy for the previous 18 years B.D. (before Deval).

The huge shift that came with the Deval Patrick administration relates to the maturity he demands of us, including of the General Court. The delusional practice of Republican administrations and Democratic legislatures has been to hum blissfully while delaying all. Bragging about never raising taxes, we allowed essentials from education to roads to stagger and fall before us.

Note: This went up on BlueMassGroup earlier. Hey, we’re progressives here, so it belongs on Left Ahead! too. — Mike

I have every reason to believe that Deval grew up the way I and many of us did. Pay your bills. Admit your errors. Take personal responsibility. Don’t leave your mess for someone else to clean up when you’re gone.

Only now do many of us seem to realize the problems of treating government like we were little kids hiding from our troubles. There’s no more room under the bed and things need resolution.

When Deval came in as governor, there was a collective nod about his promises and vision. Together he and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray plan fundamental and widespread changes, plus playing catch-up for the B.D. fantasies.

Tim Murray’s campaign contained some key progressive visions of his own. Specifically, he sees mass transit and vastly upgraded trains for people and freight. We can use these to enliven our economy in numerous ways. Linking our second-tier cities, such as Worcester and Lowell, and the other few manufacturing area, is an essential – but slow and costly – step.

Obvious benefits include increasing the wealth and employment in these areas outside of the Boston Standard Metropolitan Area. It also can put people where they want to and can afford to live. In the mid and long term, it would reduce their commutes and their reliance on cars, better for them and their families as well as the environment.

The Hard Road

This is not the place to make the arguments and lists of benefits. The concept would be that we would return to being a leader in modern transit and industrialization. Our economy certainly needs that.

To return to the Deval/Tim vision, such things look hard, as is the nature of most things progressive. They require underlying changes on many levels. Whether it is integrating our public schools (still in the works) or making mass transit so great people stop driving to work, such fundamental changes are complex and demanding.

That is a central reason why the Republican Party did so well nationally in Ronald Reagan’s time and that of the Bushes, elder and younger. They didn’t ask for long-term commitments, for personal sacrifices, for visions that required thought and courage. They did repeat that they would not raise taxes, although the god-awful deficit and national debt are absolutely taxes that we and the next generation must pay.

Source Note: I confess to seldom citing the Boston Herald because of its often short and sparse articles. However on funding, its writers, particularly, Casey Ross, can be spot on.

Consider two ramifications recently:

  • A key commonwealth funding source, the lottery, is down again, this time $120 under budget projections. As Ross notes, “Legislative leaders are still searching for ways to close that gap.”
  • Senate President Therese Murray is examining leasing or selling bridges and roads to private firms to move maintenance costs. Here Ross cites the scramble to finance the $19 billion or more needed to make up for the delayed maintenance from the no-taxes strategy of the past two decades.

Reckoning Now

Of course, in our heart of hearts, we know that it is puerile to delay the necessary. It can be dangerous too; think pretending that skin cancer will just go away. Likewise, trimming pork for folks at home or the small tax hike 18 years ago could have meant that we wouldn’t be looking at those billions in overdue, constantly increasing costs now.

The legislature finds itself in an icy lake of duty. There’s much to do and none of it is simple, but they can’t stand still any longer. By laying out the essential problems, Deval is not letting us hide any longer.

We can understand by the legislature initially hid from the various funding options and proposals. They represent a level of responsibility that they haven’t faced in a long time. They’ll have to explain and sell the realities to constituents who are used to hearing that we can delay and that and that.

Well, we had our no-taxes, no hard-choices meal. The bill is here. As my mother was so fond of saying, “We’re all adults here.”

Progressive goals can be much harder to reach, but we end up in a much, much better place.


The New, Devolved Free Speech

Our full house of regulars welcomed Mike Benedetti of Pie and Coffee and Worcester’s WCCA-TV. He attended the entire Larry Cirignano trial and came loaded with insights.

We kicked around the implications of the right-wing activist getting off both civil-rights and assault-and-battery charges, plus what it might mean in Worcester and beyond for protesters of all stripes. Is it possible that what happened in Worcester – a woman beating tossed to the ground by the crowd, who said they had the right to do so because of their permit – is a taste of what’s to come in this new day and age of free speech rights – and the zones we’re allowed to have them in?

We got around to trends in casino gambling proposals here. That’s meaningful in Worcester as well. It is one of three areas that could get a destination resort for gambling/entertainment/partying. Benedetti senses that the Worcester community – and even their relatively conservative mayor – don’t fully trust all the flowery promises coming out of casinos in Massachusetts (nor should they).

Posts of the Week

Mike got fired up by Atrios in Fading Issue. After a tracing of the reasons for and history of impeachment movement for the current President, the conclusion is:

Impeachment faded because Democrats ran from it instead of running on it. There were literally no mainstream voices reflecting what most of the country thought about the issue.

Iraq is strangely similar. A huge majority wants out, and the Villagers to stay in. The disconnect between what the people want and what the Villagers know is what’s best for them is stark, as it was during the great blow job crisis.

Iraq the issue won’t fade, but Iraq the political issue might because the Villagers will do their best to make it fade.

Ryan’s Blog of the Week comes from Blue Mass Group, where editor Bob tackled Jon Keller’s new book, “The Bluest State.” Sadly, Keller’s got himself caught in a case of textbook plagiarism, where he wripped quotes directly from Boston Globe and Herald articles without any attribution, whatsoever – leaving readers with the distinct impression that he did all the leg work. Yeah, right.

icon for podpress  Free Speech and Bullies [56:24m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Podcast on Cirignano with Mike Benedetti

We’ll kick the free speech can up and down the hall with Mike Benedetti, of Pie and Coffee and WCAA-TV. He attended all five days of the Larry Cirignano trial.

The trial started like it would be a seminal one, covering public protest, free speech, and charges of civil rights violations as well as common assault and battery. It dribbled off as the civil rights part got jettisoned. Yet, the underlying issues were ominous for political activists here, and perhaps beyond.

I’m sure we’ll get to gambling too. The casino proposals are hot and hotter, and now Republicans want to lease the lottery to the highest bidder. That should end well, eh?


LeftAhead Live From…

Today marks a special occasion for LeftAhead! Not only do we have one live report coming from Mike at Larry Cirignano’s trial, but we have Lynne ready and willing to cover Niki Tsongas’s victory lap the Fifth Congressional District election. Double-whammy!

Mike hopes to be on as early as 2:30, but 3pm is probably more likely. Lynne should be on from the get go to tell us how the race is turning.

And the game was afoot…Mike did call in from the 524 train to Boston. The opening of the civil-rights/assault trial of Larry Cirignano started in Worcester. We’ll have to depend on Bay Windows to provide detailed coverage, because Mike is only able to attend the first day, motions and jury selection. The trial should go into Friday.

There’s more detailed coverage of the defense strategy here and self-indulgent, artiste color here.

5th Update

5th Update
The unsurprisingly tight fight in the 5th Congressional District had the expected result. Nike Tsongas defeated all comers (really the main player, Jim Ogonowski) 51% to 45%. That’s close enough that the Og might consider running again next year in the regular election. It also proves again that Democratic registration is not all it takes to forecast in our more conservative areas. That’s a pastel blue.

icon for podpress  5th CD Results and ENDA [63:40m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


MassEquality’s Future

Not too long ago we invited Marc Solomon on to discuss MassEquality’s future, among other things. Well, now, the civil rights organization issued a survey for its readers on where the organization should go. If readers think MassEquality has more work left to be done, make sure to tell them that – because now’s the chance to make a difference.



ENDA — All or Nothing?

Civil rights, transgender, inclusion, half a loaf…ENDA has to be the most loaded legislation around, and will continue to be so. We start on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with this week’s podcast. The guest was Laurel, a civil-rights activist and frequent commenter on left-wing blogs.

Many lefties and some righties are split on whether to include the T in GLBT. Even original ENDA sponsor U.S. Rep. Barney Frank has come to favor this moment to get most folk covered in employment protection. That may mean revisiting the issue of transgender in a year or two or 10.

Posts of the Week

Mike was educated by Monica Roberts posting Why the Transgender Community Hates HRC on TransGriot. She traces the tensions and their effects at least back to 1971. Moreover, on legislation, she notes:

So far the only states in which the gay and lesbian community has ‘come back’ for transgender people are Rhode Island (2001), California (2003), New Jersey (2006) and Vermont (2007). In New York they are still having a difficult time passing GENDA after transgender people were cut out of SONDA (N.Y.’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act) by gay rights advocating the same ‘we’ll come back for you’ incremental rights spin.

The first gay only rights bill, passed in Wisconsin in 1982 has been that way for 25 years now. There’s no indication by the GLB leadership in that state if they’ll move to rectify the omission of their transgender brothers and sisters or if they’ll assign it a priority as high as the one they place on marriage equality.

Ryan’s Blog of the Week comes from John Avarosis at Americablog, who kickstarted the idea of focusing on this subject for the podcast. He wonders how strongly most glb people think of transgenders as part of the same struggle or people who they sympathize with. At base, the differences mean a lot – including whether or not something like ENDA should be split. While Avarosis doesn’t have the best record on transgender rights, he does make a good point that people have to come to some kind of an understanding before we can work as a fully functioning, diverse community fighting together as opposed to apart. What I take from that is we need to have a meeting of the minds, get to know each other and learn how to work together. It also seems that the endo f Bush’s reign is as good a time to learn that process as ever, given that progress could be much faster with a Democratic president and larger majorities in the House and Senate – unless we become our own worst enemies, working against each other. There’s definately lots of food for thought there, so keep an open mind and eat up.

icon for podpress  ENDA Conumdrum [64:29m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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5th CD and More Podcast

In today’s podcast, the 5th CD, Romney’s breakfast and casinos dominated our dicussion. Casino polls show that a tiny majority of Massachusetts would support a resort casino, just not in their backyards (there’s a NIMBY I can understand). The Governor supports it, so where does that Massachusetts? House Speaker Sal DiMasi says nothing will happen on it this year. Ryan figures that longer discussion will work against approval. Mike notes that Gov. Patrick is playing it cleverly by saying gambling is just another industry and not his main economic priority. Both agree that any such revenue flow will be too slow to make a fast difference, as well as not bringing enough dough Massachusetts needs after nearly two decades of pushing off necessary expenditures. We don’t like casinos. We do like that Patrick has faced the realities of our fiscal problems.

The Governor does have three years to get thing moving and he’ll have to scramble to show we can head in the right direction. We continue to think that he needs to present this honestly. He has offered closing business tax loopholes, community funding, gas taxes, and other revenue proposals — all rejected by a legislature that overrode his pork vetoes of their budget addenda.

We have a lot to do, can’t do it without new cash, and shouldn’t count on a couple of future casinos to bail us out.

For the 5th CD, we see Niki Tsongas beating Jim Ogonowski, but by 10% to 15%, not a landslide. This would be similar to Marty Meehan’s first victory in the job, but is shockingly close for the assumptions for her candidacy.

The Daily Show was all over the Republican Presidential candidate quasi-debate, in which the four leaders did not show. It was at the historically Black Morgan State University in Baltimore. Our ex-local candidate Willard Romney thought it was more important to visit an iHOP instead. We suspect that he’ll be eating that regret instead of the breakfast special. See the recap of the event here.

Posts of the Week

Thinking about UAW — the mini-strike and the union being a quarter of its previous size — Mike found the state of the art of union busting telling and anachronistically shocking. Art Levine snuck into a lawyers-for-CEOs seminar on how to do it. He reports on it a little in his own blog. See more at the AFL-CIO Weblog. He details the current techniques for skirting and breaking the law to keep unions out. Fuller coverage appears in his In These Times piece.

Ryan’s Blog of the Week was on the game of Bay State Hold ‘Em. Written by Outraged Liberal, at the blog Massachusetts Liberal, with the URL BayStateLiberal.blogspot, it’s needless to say that this writer has passion. Luckily, he’s right on the money, too: the fact that Speaker DiMasi and Governor Patrick are having a gigantically long stairing contest isn’t going to solve any of our problems in this state. Something’s gotta give. It’s just that casinos won’t be the “something” that will deliver real, long-lasting solutions.

icon for podpress  5th CD, Casinos and Taxes [35:57m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download