Monday, December 31, 2007

Year one: Success!

One year ago today I started this blog as a vehicle for me to express opinions without sending friends a constant stream of emails. I've attempted to post at least once a day and for most months that worked out, though more recently I've slowed down a bit. Still, this will be my 379th entry, so I've succeeded over all.

I had just a handful of readers until East Boston's special election for state rep brought attention and hundreds of comments over the summer. The number of comments has slowed significantly since then, but I think the site still gets viewed by more people than I originally imagined, which is a good thing.

There are only hours remaining in 2007, as time rolls ceaselessly onward, never pausing to allow us to catch our collective breath. In these final moments of the current year let me offer wishes for a joy-filled 2008 to everyone, and let us end with the words of Scottish poet Robert Burns:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cutting in line

People who don't like elected officials frequently indicate that they don't trust them, and today's Boston Globe has a story that gives us an example of why trust is such an issue for many citizens. The Boston City Council and the state legislature sneaked through laws so that one guy, William Hayhurst III of Dorchester, was bumped from 623rd to first on the Boston Fire Department's hiring list.

What infuriates me in situations like this is when the officials refuse to explain themselves. If they choose to do something because they think it's the right thing to do, then they should step up and explain to people why they did it. Instead, Senate president Therese Murray -- who, according to the story, spearheaded the effort because the Hayhursts are family friends -- "declined to discuss what steps she took to help" William Hayhurst, according to the Globe.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ignoring the realities of capitalism

Late in the film Michael Clayton, when the title character, played by George Clooney, casts off his role of defending wealthy screw-ups and the giant corporations they work for and gives uNorth -- the mythical agrochemical multinational that's been knowingly poisoning groundwater for years -- what they deserve, the small crowd at the Capitol Theater in Arlington gave out a cheer. Like other films of this genre, the audience is on the side of the renegade lawyer/whistle blower/victim, and that is both the way the director and writer have set things up as well as the way it should be.

However, what occurred to me as I sat there the other night was this: Why doesn't the same emotion expressed in the dark of the cinema follow us out when the film is over so that we may call corporations to task for what they are doing in the real world and how they are affecting our actual lives?

Instead, we shrug and allow this to continue all around us. Maybe corporations are so skilled at diverting our attention and obfuscating the truth that we don't know exactly what is going on; or maybe we look at the problems and just feel like they are too overwhelming to deal with; or maybe, sadly, we are so used to our comfortable and convenient lives that we choose not to look behind the curtain or to avert our eyes even when the curtain is pulled back by someone else.

It is sad and disheartening. Chemical companies continue to pollute the air, the water and the soil; agribusiness corporations and fast-food chains sell us processed food products that wreak havoc on our health; the energy and mining industries rape and pollute the planet; pharmaceutical companies convince us we need to be constantly medicated; retail stores screw workers from the US and abroad by demanding cheaper products to fatten their profit margins; insurance companies go to great lengths to avoid paying benefits to those who deserve them; financial services corporations keep us all in debt with outlandish interest rates; and the beat goes on.

This is not a few rogue elements operating in the system; this IS the system. Capitalism ensures that all decisions made by corporations use the bottom line as the only criteria. As a result, any concerns about public health, the environment or justice take a back seat. Meanwhile, the majority of us sit here and watch, saving our outbursts for darkened movie theaters.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"I will not be intimidated"

Benazir Bhutto was a much more courageous person than I'll ever be. The former prime minister of Pakistan returned to that country knowing there would be attempts on her life, yet she went anyway. In a Boston Globe op-ed piece in October, she wrote:
I will not be intimidated. I will step out on the tarmac in Karachi not to complete a journey, but to begin one. Despite threats of death, I will not acquiesce to tyranny, but rather lead the fight against it.
Those violently opposed to her vision of a modern, democratic Pakistan failed in their attempt to kill her when she first returned, but others succeeded today.

Snow follies

Both daily papers have stories today on the practice of saving parking spots after snowstorms. The Globe and Herald point out that the last snowfall was days ago and that the streets in some neighborhoods are littered with junk. Meanwhile, the city say that garbage trucks will pick up whatever is found on the streets.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Local Asian eats

A story today at mentions a Cambodian restaurant in Revere called Floating Rock, so I Googled the place and found some excellent reviews.

"The dining room is drab, with only a few pictures on the walls. The exterior is equally bland. But the food is anything but," said a Globe article from a few years ago. The Harvard Crimson wrote, "
The food is so alive, so bursting with flavor, that all else is forgiven. Eating at Floating Rock is a strange and wonderful journey..."

I will have to check the place out, and speaking of Southeast Asian hole-in-the-wall gems in the vicinity, this seems like a good place to mention Saigon Hut. I've been eating at this little Vietnamese restaurant for more than a decade. Located at the corner of Meridian and Lexington streets in East Boston, Saigon Hut is genuine, tasty and inexpensive. The menu includes pho, Vietnamese noodle soup, as well as a number of rice, noodle, vegetable, chicken, beef and seafood dishes. I always start off with the fresh spring rolls.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Something new, something blue says that new Blue Line cars will start hitting the rails in the new year. Though they are apparently three years late, the MBTA is finally happy with them. A total of 94 cars will be pressed into service by the summer, replacing the old fleet, which is about 28 years old.

In the third paragraph the story says that the Blue Line is "among the busiest in the MBTA system," which is completely false. Not only is this an easily-verifiable statistic, but it's not even close (Red: 213,700; Green: 202,400; Orange: 161,350: Blue: 60,950) and anyone familiar with the T -- least of all a reporter covering that beat -- should know that.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Poll workers needed

The city is looking for poll workers to take shifts during the Feb. 5 presidential primaries. If you are interested, check out this notice posted by our friends at

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Kids are movin' in Eastie

Today's Globe reports that a local program is trying to fight childhood obesity. Let's Get Movin' is "an after-school program that provides sports, cardio activities, and nutrition classes to middle and elementary school students" and is sponsored by the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and Northeastern University's Urban Youth Sports program.

Let's Get Movin' receives some national publicity as part of a Discovery Health Channel (Comcast cable channel 226) show called "Healthy Steps to Treat Childhood Obesity," which airs today at 9 a.m. (as well as Dec. 29 at 9 a.m., Jan. 6 at 8 a.m. and Jan. 20 at 8 a.m.).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Two-armed bandits

The big story yesterday was Gov. Deval Patrick's testimony -- in front of a legislative committee -- that casino gambling is good for Massachusetts. However, before rushing down a course we will be unable to reverse, everyone should be clear on what is going to happen here: A few rich people are going to get even richer.

Check out the story in Sunday's Globe about the profits at Mohegan Sun, one of Connecticut's two gaming destinations. A pair of investors has made off with $369 million, while this year each member of the Mohegan tribe collects $38,000. That is not what was intended by the Indian Gaming Act.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tire slashed over parking spot

Channel 7 reports that an East Boston woman had her tire slashed after she parked in a spot that someone had "reserved" after shoveling out. If you've lived in this neighborhood long, you've probably heard and seen stories like this -- though I thought in recent years we'd gone away from such behavior.

The story says that, "It is considered an unwritten law in East Boston and South Boston that if someone digs out a space in the snow, they (sic) own it," and then goes on to explain that Mayor Menino tried to change this three years ago, but eventually back down.

"We live in the United States of America. I don't think this is the way it should be," said Nicole (whose last name and street are not provided in the story, most likely out of fear of retribution), and she is right. People shouldn't save their spots with cones or furniture, and if they do, then damaging someone else's property for some misguided sense of injustice is wrong.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Arts boom in Eastie

There is a Boston Globe story today on the growing arts scene in our little neighborhood. There is "a burgeoning group of visual and performing artists, writers, and musicians" in East Boston, the article says, with one individual interviewed for the piece adding, "It's kind of a perfect place for artists to be."

Atlantic Works -- once an old industrial building near Maverick Square -- has been home to a number of artists for nearly a decade (photo is of recent reception there), and now, in the same building, the 80 Border Street Cultural Exchange Center will provide interactive space for arts and culture, as well as classes for children. The neighborhood is also home to the newly-opened New England Gallery for Latin American Art.

There's no secret to the lure of Eastie. Artists are drawn to places where they can work, exchange ideas with other artists, find stimulation in their surroundings, and show their work to the public -- affordable, multi-cultural, easily-accessible urban neighborhoods. Eventually places become cool and everyone else moves in. That's what happened in the South End, JP, the Fort Point area, Davis Square in Somerville and dozens of other places.

I am looking forward to checking out and possibly reading at the 80 Border open mic poetry night on Thursday. I hope we can develop a writers' enclave in East Boston as well.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Snow park

I lived, for two years, in Portland, Maine, and I was at first confused regarding the city's policies on snow removal -- but now I think that Boston should adopt at least one of them.

The law that stunned me during the first storm in the winter of 2004-05 is that there is no street parking in the area in which I lived -- the peninsula -- during snow emergencies. None at all.

Of course, I shook my head and said, "What am I supposed to do with my car?" and when I found out that certain places -- lots attached to schools and other city-owned properties -- were available to park I said, "That's crazy. They must fill up right away."

What I found was that I never had trouble getting a spot in the lot closest to my apartment, and though the walk -- about a quarter-mile and usually in the midst of falling snow -- was a bit of a chore, the up-side easily offset it: The streets were plowed to the curb, and when the storm ended and the emergency was lifted, everybody could park as normal on the street.

Now this, I'm sure, would be impossible for Boston to execute because we are a city of nearly 600,000 and Portland's population is 64,000. There would not be enough places to park cars during storms to make this feasible. Also, Portland's regulation only applied to the central neighborhoods, not the outlying areas.

However, there was another city policy that I think should be implemented in Boston. In Portland street-cleaning parking regulations are in place year-round. When there is snow on the ground the sweepers are left in the garages and city workers remove the snow with plows, backhoes and pick-up trucks. In one week's time all of the streets are cleared of snow so parking is back to normal. We could do the same here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reform up in flames

Police and fire unions -- at least locally -- are much too powerful. Police unions in the state will never relent on the regulation that officers must work construction details, which means that we all end up paying higher costs for road work or utility repairs. In addition, Boston firefighters will never allow reform of their department to take place.

The Globe reports that Ed Kelly, president of the firefighters union, resigned from a committee set up to implement recommended changes in the department in the wake of the death of two BFD personnel at a restaurant fire in West Roxbury. More than half of the 82 recommendations that were developed as a result of three previous department audits have not been put in place because the union will not cooperate.

Two days after the committee was announced, Kelly walked out when the proposal to randomly test firefighters for levels of drugs and alcohol was discussed. It was probably clear from the start that the union is not going for this one, though the two firefighters killed at the restaurant were both found to be impaired.

These unions should be more willing to negotiate, listen, compromise and give a little on issues like this, which in the long run would be a good thing for the firefighters and the citizens of Boston.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Romney's gain is everyone's loss

Mitt Romney probably did himself good with a speech last week that was meant to quell the concerns of evangelical Christians when it comes to voting for a Mormon. Romney tried to place his church squarely among the nation's dominant religion and said, as John F. Kennedy did in 1960, that leaders of his faith would not have undue influence over his decisions as president.

So the speech was probably good for Romney. However, it was bad for America.

Kennedy spoke to Protestant ministers who were leery of putting a Catholic in the White House. They openly speculated that JFK would be taking orders from the pope. The Democratic nominee said that this would not happen. "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," Kennedy said to a room full of preachers. Though Romney attempted to style himself as one walking in the shoes of the eventual 35th president, in truth he believes in a very different America. Romney said that, "in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning," and that, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom."

The Christian right in America, while probably not as powerful at the polls as many assume, has exerted its influence over our elected officials in recent years. Karl Rove's strategy of pandering to that sector has tainted the government for years to come, and the current occupant of the Oval Office calls himself "The Believer-in-Chief." Romney wants to convince Christians that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a mainstream Christian denomination, like other Protestant branches that he mentioned in his speech: Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Lutherans and Presbyterians.

Many, however, point out the lurid history of the Mormon church. Commentator Lawrence O'Donnell, on the PBS political analysis show The McLaughlin Group, was rather passionate in his condemnation of the LDS church, saying that Romney needed to fess up on whether he held certain Mormon beliefs, such as the Garden of Eden being in Missouri, Jesus Christ living on another planet and, until the late 1970s, that black people had darker skin as a punishment from god.

Other critiques of Romney's remarks have been made by some newspaper columnists, for example at the Hartford Courant and the Salt Lake Tribune. As one of them points out, Romney used the word "Mormon" once in his remarks and "god" 15 times. Contrast that with the fact that Kennedy used the word "Catholic" 20 times in his remarks. Romney, it's clear, is trying to evade a tougher scrutiny of the church that has been called a cult by some.

In the end, I think, the hardcore evangelicals are not going to vote for a Mormon, but I think that some mainstream Christians who were on the fence were reassured to hear Romney say, "Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind." That is probably the litmus test that they have.

Of course, there shouldn't be any litmus test with regard to religious beliefs. Romney dismissed "secularists" and nonbelievers, but there are increasing numbers of such people in the United States, and their rights and beliefs should be respected as well. The separation of church and state was intended to be absolute and it should remain so. Any attempt to intertwine religion with government should be frowned upon and avoided. That is what Kennedy said, but the opposite of what Romney said. Just as George W. Bush's contention that god is telling him what to do and one of the things he was told was to invade Iraq, Romney is a believer who is dangerous. We should all be vigilant against putting anyone with apocalyptic beliefs and demented religious fervor in control of levers of power and buttons that launch nuclear missiles.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A dangerous man

The United States "cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions," Dick Cheney said recently. It sounds a lot like what he was saying in the weeks before the invasion of Iraq, but this time he was talking about Iran.

The problem is: He was wrong before and he's wrong again. Yesterday, parts of a government report were released and it says that Iran hasn't been working on developing a nuclear weapon for four years. The National Intelligence Estimate, which is the consensus of all the nation's intelligence agencies, says that Iran "is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005."

There is no rogue power with "aggressive ambitions" more dangerous than Dick Cheney.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Overnight assault

The city's police blog outlines a disturbing attack on an off-duty firefighter overnight in East Boston. The victim, who is not identified, suffered "non-life threatening injuries" after being harassed by "a group of Hispanic males" when he went to Chivas Restaurant at the corner of Saratoga and Prescott streets and was then attacked in front of the firehouse at 360 Saratoga Street. Read the entry at for details.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Facts instead of innuendo

The Spanish-language newspaper El Mundo had more of an even-handed take on the Tequila's situation, thanks to information provided to them by Joe Mason. Click on the title of this blog entry or below on "Comments" to read a translation of their story, sent to me by Mr. Mason.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

EB Main Streets annual meeting today

East Boston Main Streets will hold its annual meeting today from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Maverick Landing Community Room, 31 Liverpool Street. Board members will be on hand to answer questions.

The organization is a non-profit corporation whose mission is "to create a more vibrant business district by initiating private and public improvements, promoting commerce, and supporting efforts to improve the quality of life for all who live, work and do business in East Boston."

Click here to see some of the improvements that the group has funded.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unwilling to part with booty

The East Boston Yacht Club is one of eight local yacht clubs that still owes the state outstanding rent money, according to the Channel 5 web site,

A couple of weeks ago the TV station reported that 16 private yacht clubs were holding out on paying rent on the publicly-owned land they occupy because they wanted to negotiate with the state, but Richard Sullivan, the commissioner of conservation and recreation, said there would be no negotiating. The clubs owed a total of $400,000 in back rent, but since the story first aired about half of that has been paid.

The state also wants the yacht clubs to sign agreements allowing public access.

You go, Martha

Thankfully, Attorney General Martha Coakley is paying attention to auto insurance companies in the wake of the state's deregulation of the industry.

Massachusetts insurance commissioner Nonnie Burnes assured us that rates wouldn't go up after announcing her system of "managed competition," but Coakley pointed out that the average driver's cost would've gone down 11% under the previous system of regulation and will now drop 6% (not, as Burnes had recently said, 7.7%) under the current framework.

Coakley said the difference means $200 million more in the pockets of insurance companies and their agents. She is pressing the insurers to review and reset their prices, and she is clear that, "At this stage, it is too early to make a determination about whether managed competition will advantage or disadvantage consumers."

Jets fly to title game

East Boston High School's football squad is now 11-0 after a come-from-behind playoff victory last night against Blue Hills Regional HS, 38-34, at Stonehill College in Easton. The Jets erased a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit on their way to the Division 3A semifinal win.

Eastie will play Saturday against greater Lawrence for the D-3A title.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Poem for a gray day

My November Guest
by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She's glad the birds are gone away,
She's glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

An autumn feast

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Ten people came by my place Thursday for dinner -- the first time I'd ever hosted a family holiday of any sort.

I attempted to create the traditional dishes of the meal from scratch as much as I could. I made mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, and, of course, there was the turkey, which I brined and roasted. My guests brought additional dishes, including some traditional Italian fare, like eggplant parmigiana, calzone and macaroni pie.

We also had several types of apple cider -- heated and mulled; hard; pasteurized and unpasteurized -- as well as some wine, limoncello and other beverages. Desserts included apple pie, pastry, cookies, a rum bundt cake, a limoncello-inspired Italian cake and the aforementioned pumpkin pie.

All in all, the meal and the day were a big success. Now everyone wants me to host Christmas.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Finally coming home

It was 57 years ago this week that an East Boston family received a telegram from the US Army that said Sgt. Agostino DiRienzo was missing in action while fighting in Korea. Later, the status of the 33-year-old was amended to "presumed killed in action," as his unit had been attacked by Chinese forces along the Nammyon River on Nov. 1, 1950.

The Boston Herald reports that a joint North Korean-US operation and forensic investigation has revealed that DiRienzo's remains have been found, and his nephew, East Boston resident Richard Faiella, remembers his uncle in the story.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Could go either way

The Hubster is hosting Thanksgiving this year -- noble effort, or catastrophic mess? We shall see.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gambling away culture

Today's Boston Globe has a story that looks at how states have jumped into the casino-gambling game in the past 15 years. With the Supreme Court's 1987 ruling that Native American tribes could legally operate gaming enterprises, state governments realized that hundreds of millions of dollars were changing hands within their borders and the states weren't getting a slice of it.

Governors and legislatures around the country passed laws and negotiated with tribes for a part of the action. The Globe story specifically looks at Florida, where the Seminole tribe has run casinos for the past few years. The Sunshine State recently reached an agreement with the tribe for a cut. Gov. Patrick, the article says, has jumped out ahead of the issue and embraced the idea of casinos because he wants Massachusetts to reap some benefits from the start.

Aside from that, there were a few things in the story that I think are a sad commentary on modern American culture. One member of the Seminole Tribal Council said:
"We used to be able to live on the game from the land. Now we're living on the gaming on the land. It's a different commodity that we now have to manage. We used to hunt deer. Now we're hunting deals."
If the Indian in the old commercial shed a tear when trash was tossed from the window of a passing car, imagine his reaction to hearing that? What a depressing and pathetic state of affairs.

Then there are these words, from a 63-year-old woman who lost $100 and then won $400 in the span of a few minutes in a Florida casino:
"I've done Disney for like nine years - I get bored. The older generation doesn't have a lot to do. It's here, it's tempting."
Where do I begin? There was a time when the wisdom of a culture's elders meant everything, and parents and grandparents lived in extended families. Old age was a time of great respect and pride. Now we abandon the elderly and dismiss our cultural history. With so much time on their hands and no role in our society, senior citizens look for any diversion possible. I'm not sure if it's more disturbing to see the rows of elderly women lined up at slot machines or the fact that this particular person visited Disney World nine times before getting bored.

And then there is another issue. A recent study concluded that there are 35 million people who are hungry in America -- that's right now, and in this country. How we casually gamble money away or buy unnecessary consumer goods and still manage to sleep at night is beyond me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Report critical of St. Mary's sale

Two reports that the Archdiocese of Boston commissioned to review the closing and sale of parishes are sharply critical of many of the transactions, including the sale of St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church in East Boston.

Today's Boston Globe quotes retired judge Kevin M. Herlihy, who looked into the St. Mary's affair, as saying the diocese actions "arguably constituted malfeasance, a dereliction of duty." The church, at the corner of Saratoga and Moore streets, was sold for $800,000 to a local photographer last November and then "flipped," or resold, three weeks later to an evangelical congregation for $2.65 million.

The diocese response -- "there were mistakes" in the handling of the East Boston sale but said "no one here benefited from those mistakes" -- translates as, "We were not underhanded, just stupid."

The story on the web site includes links to copies of that report, as well as one on the handling of church closings throughout the diocese.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

EBSB going public

East Boston Savings Bank got the OK from the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday to make an initial public offering of stock worth about 44% of the bank's value.

A Boston Business Journal article quotes bank chairman Richard J. Gavegnano as saying that "the move will increase the bank's capital, 'enhance earnings' and support its growth in commercial and construction lending."

A majority of the bank will still be in the hands of its parent company, Meridian Interstate Bankcorp, Inc.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An ugly charge

An ad and a story in the Spanish-language newspaper La Semana seem to claim that racism is behind neighborhood attempts to deal with Tequila's Bar & Grill.

Joe Mason forwarded me clippings from the newspaper and, from what I could make out in the article and in an ad, Tequila's owner Luis Vasco is blaming his establishment's troubles on people in Orient Heights who are not happy that the business is owned by a Latino.

He appears to ask supporters to show up to the Boston Licensing Board public hearing about Tequila's that is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at the church hall at St. Lazarus on Ashley Street. On the agenda are proposals to roll back the bar's closing time from 2 a.m. to midnight and to suspend the liquor license for a period of time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Making us proud

I called this one, and Bobby Casaletto can back me up.

It might say that Tyronne Pruitt's home town is Brockton on his Boston College football team bio page, but he spent most of his childhood in East Boston and was a member at the Salesian Boys & Girls Club. I worked at the Club for 13 years, leaving in the fall of 1997, and I knew Tyronne, as well as his three brothers.

Tyronne was at the Club virtually every day, and he was a great kid. Unlike older brother Gary -- who was just about the most outgoing and funniest person you ever want to meet -- Tyronne, the youngest of the foursome, was reserved and deliberate. He was an excellent athlete, but I'd seen a dozens of excellent athletes in my time as a member and staffer at the Club. Tyronne was unique in the attention he gave to his studies.

In the time after the Club opened at 2:30 and before we started running events, I distinctly remember Tyronne -- then in the 5th, 6th and 7th grades -- grabbing a table, pulling out his homework and getting it done, patiently and neatly. Other kids did homework at the Club, but I have no memory of any particular youngster doing it most every day -- except Tyronne. He cared about his grades, and he was an A student.

He was a smart athlete, too ... good at most everything he tried. It was football, however, that I saw as the perfect match for Tyronne. We only played tag football on the cracked asphalt outside the building, and I never heard Tyronne indicate that he loved the game above any other sport, but the combination of brains, build and ability led me to say aloud that I thought he would be an exceptional football player someday -- probably a running back. I know I said this to my friend and co-worker Bobby Casaletto.

Tyronne is now a senior at Boston College. He's not a running back now, but he was in Brockton, where the family moved not long after I left the Club. He was all-scholastic in his junior and senior years at Brockton High, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each. He was also team captain those two years, which speaks to his character.

A defensive standout at linebacker in high school, BC put him in that spot and he started every game (except yesterday: sprained ankle) over the past two seasons for the nationally-ranked program. Tyronne is a political science major, and I'm going to guess that he invests some time in his studies as well.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tequila's gets around new sprinkler law

On Thursday local fire officials throughout Massachusetts are empowered to shut down bars and nightclubs that haven't installed sprinklers, which are required by a state law passed after the Station nightclub tragedy in Rhode Island. Establishments with a capacity of 100 or more were given three years to comply, and now the time is up.

The Globe reports that more than half of the bars and nightclubs in Boston have not complied, though some have waivers because they are in the process of doing so. Several dozen businesses could be shut down in a few days.

Interestingly, the article points out that a few places, "including Tequila's Mexican Bar & Grill in East Boston ... were allowed to split their spaces, so that the legal capacity of each half is below 100, exempting them from the sprinkler requirement."

Tequila's is the subject of a Licensing Board public hearing to review recent troubles there and possibly roll back the 2 a.m. closing time. The hearing is on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the church hall at St. Lazarus on Ashley Street.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Another battle in the taxi wars

Cab drivers in Boston are lobbying for the right to refuse passengers who "make them feel unsafe." Beyond the evident discrimination problems that this proposal brings up, District 1 City Councilor Sal LaMattina believes that such a rule would be an out for taxis to avoid taking fares to East Boston.

Council President Maureen Feeney sounds more sympathetic to the cabbies in today's Herald, and she intends to schedule a hearing on the proposal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Library renovation or relocation?

An article in today's Globe on the future of the Boston Public Library and its branches had this line: "Library officials ... are looking into consolidating two small East Boston libraries into one larger building."

My understanding is that a renovation is planned of the Meridian Street branch, the older and bigger of the two, but the article seems to imply that both branches would relocate to a new building. However, maybe the expansion of the building is what is referred to here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Connolly takes City Council spot

Though little fanfare preceded it, there was an election today. All 13 spots on the Boston City Council were on the ballot, and one incumbent was dumped.

Felix Arroyo, an at-large councilor since 2003 and a long-time community activist, was knocked out by John Connolly. a lawyer and former teacher who lives in West Roxbury.

Incumbents have won easily in all of the district seats, except in Allston-Brighton, where Jerry McDermott isn't running for re-election. In that race, Mark Ciommo topped Gregory Glennon.

Tyranny at home

One may disagree with the function of a panel like the US Commission on Civil Rights, but the Bush Administration's complete disregard for the agency's mission -- which is to prevent discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin -- and the way the commission was set up to operate -- an equal split between members of both parties -- is more evidence of this president's tyranny of our government.

A story in today's Globe outlines how two of the commissioners switched their party affiliation from Republican to independent so that Bush could appoint two more members of the GOP without going against the letter of the law, which holds than no more than four of the eight members can belong to one party. The president effectively spit at the spirit of the law.

Time and again, the inner workings of federal agencies have been tinkered with in order to politicize the infrastructure and tip the balance toward conservative ideology. These actions are beyond the scope of any previous administration. Amazingly, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recently told Congress that the agency was not interested in receiving increased funding to help it do a better job. This in the wake of recall after recall of dangerous products from China!

The Bush Administration has proven again and again to be clearly and unabashedly on the side of big business in every facet of government. The president's behavior and that of his minions is tyrannous and we, the people, should have ousted him from power long ago.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Goliath comes to town

Friends of mine have often wondered when Starbucks would come to East Boston, debating the meaning of the ubiquitous coffee chain's arrival in our decidedly blue-collar neighborhood. Well, it seems as though the wait is over.

The international java giant is in the process of opening a site at the Honey Dew Donut shop on McClellan Highway, a spot that would include a drive-through window. True, this location wouldn't be typical for Starbucks, which often positions itself in high-foot traffic areas, but I don't see Meridian or Bennington streets as optimal locations for the company. Plus, where in Eastie could they set up shop and not be 20 feet from a Dunkin' Donuts? It seems that out on the highway, with most patrons remaining in their vehicles, makes the most sense.

According to a notice forwarded to me by Joe Mason, there is a Zoning Board of Appeal hearing on Starbucks (in tandem with the Logan Chautaqua Corp., which is apparently a group in a licensing agreement with the coffee chain) at 9:30 a.m. on November 27 at City Hall.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A chance to speak up

The City of Boston Licensing Board has scheduled a hearing to discuss problems with Tequila's Mexican Bar & Grill, which a number of people have written negative comments about in recent months on this blog. Located at 964 Bennington Street -- at the site of what used to be the Kailua Hawaiian Restaurant -- Tequila's seems to be a late-night trouble spot. One web site also notes that the food and service are pretty bad as well.

The hearing will be held on Nov. 15 at 6:15 p.m. at the St. Lazarus Church hall on Ashley Street. On the agenda will be proposals to roll back Tequila's closing time to midnight rather than 2 a.m., to confine the service of alcohol to those customers who are dining, and to suspend the restaurant's liquor license for a period of time.

Also of interest, the Cosmopolitan Lounge in Day Square -- formerly Logan's Lounge -- is applying to extend its license to include live entertainment seven nights a week. The city's Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the request at City Hall on Nov. 13 at 11:30 a.m.

Finally, word is that Cafe 303 on Sumner Street is applying for a liquor license.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Eastie company poses risk to local environment

A company with facilities in East Boston has been fined for failure to comply with hazardous waste management laws, posing "a significant risk to human health and the environment."

The Environmental Protection Agency levied a $116,331 fine against Amex Inc., which operates sandblasting facilities at 256 Marginal Street, along Eastie's waterfront and right next to Piers Park.

According to an EPA press release, Amex "failed to determine whether the wastes it generated were hazardous, conduct inspections of its hazardous waste storage area, have satisfactory emergency preparedness planning and properly label hazardous waste containers. The company also lacked adequate training for handlers of hazardous waste, had an incomplete hazardous waste training plan and improperly diluted sandblast grit containing hazardous concentrations of lead as a substitute for appropriate treatment of the waste."

The company's failure to train its personnel properly "created the potential for mismanagement of hazardous waste, which could have resulted in the release or improper disposal of hazardous waste," according to the EPA.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Basile takes office today

Carlo Basile, the newly elected state rep. from East Boston, is scheduled to be sworn in today at noon at the State House. Basile topped a field of four candidates in the Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the general election.

Basile was selected by 1022 of the 1079 people who turned out for the Oct. 23 election, while 51 voters wrote in candidates and six left blank ballots, according to the city's web site. He takes the seat that was occupied by Anthony Petruccelli, who won election to the state senate after Robert Travaglini resigned from that office in the spring.

In Theo we trust

Mike Lowell is an excellent third baseman, and I'd love to see him back in that spot for the Red Sox next year. He was our most consistent hitter this season and led the team in RBIs, while in the field he makes every play, looking smooth and confident. He was our World Series MVP and is universally regarded as a class act.

However, those who are leaning on Theo Epstein and Sox management to re-sign Lowell, now a free agent, seem to be ignoring some facts. The team's current ownership took over in 2002 and has moved forward since then with strategies that have resulted in two championships, ending an 86-year drought that many New Englanders considered a birthright.

It's clear that principal owner John Henry is willing to shell out cash to sign key players. What should also be recognized is that management is willing to move people whenever they feel it's what is best for the long-term health of the franchise -- a policy that includes not signing older players for too many years. They were right on Johnny Damon, who batted .316 in 2005 with the Sox and then fell to .285 last year with the Yankees and .270 this season. They were right on Pedro Martinez, who has won a total of 27 games with the Mets since leaving here.

It appears that the Sox want to offer Lowell a two-year contract, probably with a nice raise, but some believe that he will look around the league for a three- or four-year deal. Lowell will turn 34 in the off-season. It's quite unlikely that he will ever again have a year as good as this one and for the 2010 season will we want a 36-year-old with deteriorating skills to be eating up a big chunk of payroll?

I'm a big fan of Mike Lowell, and I hope he stays around, but it is somewhat hypocritical to cheer this year's World Series win at the same time that one is demanding that the Sox go against the strategy that brought them to victory.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Body found in Eastie dumpster

The body of a man was found yesterday afternoon in a dumpster on Border Street in East Boston, according to The story says that the police are offering few details except that foul play is not suspected. That seems to imply that the deceased, whose name has not been released, made his way into the dumpster himself.


Nothing can ever top the Red Sox embarrassing the Yankees, breaking the curse and sweeping the Series in 2004, but this year's team had the nicest balance of hitting, pitching and defense of any Boston squad I can remember. They were fun to watch and -- except for a three-game stretch against Cleveland -- they obliterated their opponents in the post-season.

The Sox finished sweeping Colorado aside a short while ago, and the TV cameras showed a small crowd gathering not far from Fenway. Police in riot gear seemed to have things under control. In East Boston, I heard a few car horns beep after the last out and then there were a half-dozen teenage boys walking down Bennington Street screaming. Hopefully, they avoid doing anything really stupid.

One reason I'm happy that the Series only lasted four games is that I don't have to watch the Fox telecasts any more. In particular, Jeanne Zelasko was loud and obnoxious, forcing me to avoid the pre-game show. Some people don't like Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, but after the imbeciles in the booth for the ALDS on TBS, the Fox duo was a breath of fresh air. Seeing the same commercials for the past week is rather annoying, too.

One down side to the baseball season coming to a close is that the focus will now completely shift to the Patriots, who are tearing up the NFL. They are admittedly an impressive team and have been a powerhouse for several years, but I'm not a fan of Bill Belicheck. While he is certainly an excellent coach, he appears to lack personality, charm, warmth, friendliness, sense of humor, etc. He is no Terry Francona.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"You talkin' to me?"

The Globe reports today on the difficulties that East Boston residents sometimes encounter when trying to take a cab home from other parts of the city. As the anecdotes in the article point out, taxi drivers don't want to come here because they have to pay the $4.50 tunnel toll going back, even though they're not allowed to tack it on to the fare.

Eastie's city councilor, Sal LaMattina, has been on top of this issue for a while, and on Tuesday there was a hearing at City Hall on a proposal to codify in a "rider's bill of rights" some of the regulations governing cabs, including "printed receipts; clean passenger and trunk areas; air-conditioning, heat, and window control; and smoke-free, radio-free, cellphone-free rides," says the story.

Taxi drivers are required by law to take passengers where they want to go, but they sometimes tell those who are Eastie-bound to get out of the vehicle. On other occasions, drivers will attempt to add on all or half of the toll, which violates regulations. I don't take cabs that often, but the one time I did in recent months the driver was planning to charge me half the toll until I explained that he couldn't. He was nice about it, and said he didn't know any better, which may or may not have been true.

Sox on brink

It wasn't too long ago that the historic heartbreak of being a Red Sox fan continued in the modern era. Remember the Aaron Boone home run that KO'd the hometown team from reaching the World Series in 2003? And then the following year the hated Yanks went up 3-0 against the Sox in a repeat match-up of the ALCS, and it looked like our woes would continue.

Everything changed that October. Dave Roberts stole second and the Olde Towne Team began a successful and unforgettable comeback against the Bronx Bombers, following that up with a sweep of the Cardinals for Boston's first World Series win in 86 years.

Now, just three years later, the Sox are in position to sweep Colorado and win another title. Even if the Rockies come back to take Game 4, it seems assured that Boston is going to win it all. Almost no one can come back from 3-0.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Community info

Two e-mails came to me this afternoon asking that information be passed along:

***There was an armed robbery at about 9 p.m. last night "on Orleans Street near the Greenway." According to a Boston Police press release, a 5-foot-5 Spanish-speaking man with a thin mustache and heavy build approached a woman who was entering her home and showed her a gun, demanding money.

***The city's Licensing Board has officially denied the application to open a Burger King in Maverick Square.

Thanks to those active in the community for keeping the rest of us informed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

City policy needs to change

We'd all like to see cleaner streets, but the city's practice -- instituted this year -- of towing cars that aren't moved for street cleaning is ridiculous. The City Council will hold a public hearing on the policy at City Hall on Monday at 6 p.m.

More than 20,000 vehicles have been towed from Boston streets since the summer street-cleaning season began in mid-April, resulting in a windfall of more than $2 million for local towing companies.

I wrote about this back in July, noting that Dennis Royer, who runs the city's public works department, said in a Boston Globe story, "I don't want to tow a car. But we're still towing, because there always seems to be people who forget or don't know what's going on."

Should we really be penalizing people this much because they forget or don't know about street cleaning? Towing should be reserved for people who block hydrants, driveways, handicap ramps or who double park and leave the car. The hassle of retrieving one's car and paying $130 for the fine and the tow are exorbitant compared to the infraction. Raise the price of the ticket, but don't tow the car.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Election Tuesday

Though it is anticlimactic, the special election for East Boston's open state rep seat will take place on Tuesday. Carlo Basile, of course, won the Democratic primary on Sept. 25 and is running unopposed.

In the campaign finance statement that was filed with the state last week, the Basile campaign indicated that it raised $11,000 from Sept. 8 to Oct. 5. The campaign spent almost $23,000 in that period. Candidate Gloribell Mota took in $9,500 and spent more than $14,000. Mary Berninger raised $700 and spent less than $3,000. There is no report by Jeff Drago for the time period.

There's also a regularly-scheduled election on Nov. 6 to choose Boston's city councilors. Be sure to vote.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Getting around getting more confusing

I just received, courtesy of Joe Mason, an announcement from the MBTA:

Effective the weekend of October 20-22, all MBTA bus service at Maverick Station will relocate across Sumner Street. Bus schedules will remain the same only the location for customer drop-off and pick-up will change.

On Monday, Oct. 22 customers will be directed to a new Maverick Station entrance on Lewis Mall located directly across Sumner Street from the existing station. MBTA staff will be available to assist customers during the transition.

Also, there is a flashing sign on the way to the Chelsea Street Bridge that indicates that the bridge will be closed beginning Sunday, Oct. 21. Does anyone know when it will re-open?

This just in: Bremen Street from Day Square to Porter Street will be closed Saturday for paving.

This and that

A few tidbits concerning Eastie:

***A ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow morning at the corner of Maverick and Havre streets to honor Ezekiel Hodsdon, the first member of Boston's police force to be killed in the line of duty. A memorial will be dedicated to Hodsdon, who was shot and killed by a burglar named William McNaulty on October 18, 1857.

***Joanne Ciccarello, the assistant photo editor at The Christian Science Monitor, relates how a quick photo assignment turned into reminiscing about her childhood in East Boston.

***The Herald has a story today on Eddie Palladino, a self-described "East Boston kid" who is also the public-address announcer for the Boston Celtics.

***The Weekly Dig
-- a small hip Boston weekly -- had someone at the Umana last week for the public hearing on turnpike and tunnel toll increases. Only seven people spoke, according to the reporter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gone baby gone

In sports, momentum is a fickle mistress. Midway through Game 2 of the ALCS, the Red Sox looked like they could not be beaten. They took the lead back from Cleveland on a pair of home runs after waltzing past the Angels in the opening series and then smacking around the Indians in Game 1.

Cleveland did tie Game 2, but Boston look like they would take the contest with a ninth-inning rally. The would-be winning hit, a liner off the bat of Kevin Youkilis with pinch runner Jacoby Ellsbury ready to score from second, stayed up a bit too long. The ball -- and seemingly, the momentum that the Sox had been courting -- disappeared in Grady Sizemore's glove. Two innings later the Indians pounded the host team's bullpen, and that tailspin has continued through Games 3 and 4.

Thursday night is a must-win game, and we've got presumptive AL Cy Young winner Josh Beckett on the mound for us, which is a big plus. However, Lady Momentum is the ally we really need right now. Wooing her back is the key to winning the next game and the series.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Of the people, by the people, for the people

This week marks the third anniversary of the occupation of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church by local parishioners in defiance of Sean O'Malley's order to shut it down. Mount Carmel served since 1905 as a focal point for the Italian-American community in East Boston, and was built with the money and hard work of immigrant families.

The question raised here is this: Is a church the people who worship there or is it the hierarchy issuing orders from elsewhere?

Today, in honor of those occupying the church in which I was baptized, I wrote a Wikipedia entry on Mount Carmel.

Mudville joy on hold

The 10-3 blowout victory in Game 1 of the ALCS was nice, but it means little now to the Red Sox in the face of last night's 13-6 drubbing at the hands of the Cleveland Indians. By self-destructing in the 11th inning of Game 2, Boston gave away the home-field advantage. Now it's a best-of-five series with the next three games in Cleveland.

This is reminiscent of the 1985 NBA Finals, when the Celtics embarrassed the Lakers, 148-114, in Game 1 at the Garden. There was, of course, talk of how Boston would breeze through that series -- maybe even sweep it. Los Angeles came back and won Game 2, which happened to be the only NBA playoff game I've ever been to, and the Lakers went on to take the title in six games.

The Sox still appear to have the better team -- perhaps the best in baseball. They certainly have the hottest one-two offensive punch in David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The game, however, is pitching, and we will see whether Daisuke Matsuzaka -- Boston's Game 3 starter -- is worth the $100 million that it took to get him.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What are we doing?

Is there anybody, besides George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who still believes that invading Iraq was a good idea?

Recently a former top general was publicly critical of America's strategy in Iraq, while a Globe columnist writes about the moral deficiencies of this nation's current position in the world.

Retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, the former US commander in Iraq, said that the Bush Administration's war plan was "catastrophically flawed" and "unrealistically optimistic" and added that the so-called surge is a "desperate" move.

Writer James Carroll detailed how America has frequently risen up to face the moral challenges at hand, but that today "we are paralyzed by a war that no one wants."

Meanwhile, in a recent issue of The New Yorker, famed investigative journalist Seymour Hersch consults his deep sources in the military and intelligence communities to uncover the latest plans that Bush and Cheney have instructed their underlings to assemble: bombing raids on Iran.

Will we continue to allow these colossally arrogant and stupendously foolish people to commit American blood and treasure to their outrageous schemes?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hero or villain?

Around two in the morning on October 12, 1492 -- 515 years ago today -- Rodrigo de Triana, a sailor on the Pinta, sighted land in the distance. The three ships that left Spain about 70 days earlier arrived in what is now the Bahamas, and the name of the voyage's leader -- Cristoforo Colombo in Italian -- became engraved in history.

Italian-Americans have long held Christopher Columbus to be a hero, and Americans celebrate Columbus Day -- though now on a Monday to preserve the three-day weekend -- but should we celebrate it at all? The arrival of the famous navigator in the "New World" led to the subjugation of the indigenous peoples, to the spread of deadly diseases, and to the violent conquest of many advanced cultures.

Glenn Spagnuolo, the director of a group called Progressive Italians Transforming the Columbus Day Holiday, has said, "The Italians ... didn't want it to be used as a tool to bring tourism to [Genoa, Italy -- Columbus's birthplace], so they shut down the town. So, in Italy, he's viewed as the scoundrel that he is. And then, being raised as a Catholic and looking at Christian ethics, there's nothing that Columbus did when he came here that supported any kind of Christian moral background. I mean, he stole. He murdered. He was greedy; he raped people. I mean, it was ridiculous. So, to see them now say that this is a celebration of Italian pride or of Christian ethics, it's a false assertion, and it's really used to support, like I said, colonialism, the exploitation of this country from its indigenous population, and to continue the view of white privilege that exists here in the United States."

Columbus himself wrote of the Taino people, who were in the Bahamas when he arrived: "It appears to me that the people are ingenious and would be good servants, and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion." He also noted: "I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Northern fights

For hundreds of years explorers have been trying to find the Northwest Passage -- a sea route through the Arctic that could connect Europe and Asia. Such a course would save time and money for ships that would otherwise need to travel around Africa's Cape of Good Hope or South America's Cape Horn (or, since 1914, through the Panama Canal).

Eventually it was determined that the Arctic route was impassable due to the polar ice cap, but that doesn't seem to be the case any more. Global climate change has melted the pack ice, opening up an east-west waterway. However, Canada has long claimed that such a course violates that nation's sovereignty because it cuts through internal Canadian waters. The US and many European countries disagree.

Just two months ago a Russian submarine at the North Pole dropped a capsule with that nation's flag inside, symbolically claiming the ocean floor as part of its territory. Canada, the US and other bordering nations objected. All parties are interested in getting access to whatever resources, including oil, might lie below the Arctic, and each wants to stake a claim as our warming planet makes those resources easier to access and exploit.

Stay tuned, as these conflicts -- currently in the war of words stage -- will likely move to the international judicial circuit, and possibly push nations to military conflict, in the coming decades.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hearing on tolls tonight

A public hearing is scheduled tonight for East Boston residents to comment on proposed toll increases at the harbor tunnels and on the Mass Pike. The forum will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Umana Harborside School.

To see the official announcement on the hearing at the Turnpike Authority's web site, click here. To see a short Globe story on the subject, click here. Meetings will also be held in the next couple of weeks in Newton, Framingham and Worcester.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Eastie's field of dreams

Joanna Alfano lives in Melrose, but grew up in East Boston in the 1950s, where she knew a boy named Anthony Conigliaro. In a sweet, sad column published today in the newspapers of the GateHouse Media, Alfano looks back at a moment in time when she was "one of the giggly little girls" who watched Little League games at Noyes Park. A young Tony C. -- who went on to Red Sox fame and then, just as quickly, tragedy -- even hit a homer for her and her friends one night.

I don't know who J.H.L. Noyes is -- maybe a war hero or some other deserving person -- so I am hesitant to suggest changing the name of the park, but can we name the diamond there Conigliaro Field? (Unless we already have and I am unaware ... maybe someone can educate me on this.)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Local art on display

A new exhibit entitled "Off the Wall" just opened at the Atlantic Works gallery on Border Street. "In this exhibition, the artists playfully respond to contemporary constructs and conventions at the social, political, and economic levels," says the gallery's web site.

To find our more about Atlantic Works, which displays the work of the East Boston Artist Group, visit

Friday, October 5, 2007

Maverick food

The Cactus Grill in Maverick Square is apparently open. Has anyone had the chance to check it out? Any feedback on it would be appreciated.

Speaking of Maverick eateries, can anyone report on the recent hearing to discuss the proposed Burger King in the square?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

In the news reports this evening that the toxicology report on two Boston firefighters who were killed in an August restaurant fire revealed some surprises: one of the men had enough alcohol in his bloodstream to be legally intoxicated, while the other had traces of cocaine in his system.

While there is no reason to think that the condition the firefighters were in was responsible for their deaths, it is still a shocking finding and one that will need to be investigated and addressed. A state Superior Court judge has "barred Channel 7 from reporting on findings," according to the Boston Globe's web site. Such an exercise of prior restraint is virtually unheard of in the US, and Channel 7 is appealing today to the Supreme Judicial Court.

In another story with loose ends, a 17-year-old was arraigned yesterday for his involvement in the death of a Revere police officer over the weekend. It's still unclear what the cop and fellow officers were doing behind the city's high school and how a shootout broke out between them and the defendant and some of his friends.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Coming to America

Though some like to portray the issue of immigration as a clear-cut matter of pushing out the undesirables and sealing up the border, it is a much more complex situation than that. Two stories I read today at highlight this.

First, the Vermont ski industry is trying to get Congress to change the law so that the 2,000 to 3,000 foreign workers that the sector employs can return to the US to work this winter. Without legislative action several seasonal industries would be affected. More than 120,000 people enter the country each year under the H-2B program alone, which provides foreign labor for summer or winter work.

Second, David Arias lives in East Boston and attends Latin Academy, but the 16-year-old said goodbye to his classmates last week because his parents are being deported to Colombia after 17 years in the US, where David and his younger brother were born. David is, of course, an American citizen. He attends an exam school, has already passed the MCAS and was on the path to college. His parents paid taxes and worked hard enough to buy their apartment, but they've been given the heave-ho.

Maybe some see simple solutions in all of this, but I don't. Like nearly every other unwieldy and far-reaching issue, there are many parts to it and just as many consequences.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Perfect transportation storm hits Eastie

Was it necessary for a large section of Bremen Street to be closed to traffic this weekend while the Sumner Tunnel was shut down and the MBTA was running buses instead of trains between Maverick and Airport stations?

The result was, at times, a transportation nightmare. The center of East Boston was filled with slow-moving traffic for much of the day yesterday.

Does the right hand have any idea what the left hand is doing?

An Enlightened nation

The New York Daily News reports that John McCain said recently that he doesn't want a follower of Islam to be elected president. That's fine. The Arizona senator, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the presidency, is entitled to vote for whomever he wants -- though he did backtrack later, saying that he would vote for a Muslim if he or she were the best candidate.

What ticks me off is that in the same interview, which took place on, McCain said, "[T]his nation was founded primarily on Christian principles." While often stated as if it were fact, this is an ignorant reading of history -- or worse, an intentional obfuscation of the truth.

The Founding Fathers were children of the Enlightenment, an 18th century European movement that embraced reason above revelation as a basis for truth. The scientific method, Classical thought and the human mind replaced superstition, tradition and blind fealty as the routes to knowledge and progress. Maybe the greatest application of such thinking was in the realm of political philosophy, where the radical idea that people should govern themselves moved from the conceptual to the concrete when Thomas Jefferson wrote, "All men are created equal," in the Declaration of Independence and Gouverneur Morris began the preamble to the Constitution with, "We the people..."

Most of the Founding Fathers -- among them, Jefferson, Morris, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Paine -- were deists. They believed, as I understand it, that there is a Creator, but not the miraculous, revelatory being of any of the accepted holy books. Jefferson, in fact, cut up a copy of the New Testament, took out all of the supernatural episodes, and reassembled the text so that it was the story of a wise preacher. In a letter he asked, "Would not Society be better without Such religions?"

There's no denying that these men came from cultures where Christianity was the dominant religion, but to extrapolate that into a bedrock platform that America was founded as a Christian nation is not only untrue, but twists the thoughts and beliefs of men whose actions and words paved the way for us to live here in freedom today.

Worth the gamble?

Today's Globe offers up a recent survey that we're told shows that people in Massachusetts are strongly in favor of casino gambling in the Bay State. "There is no strong opposition to the plan," says the director of University of New Hampshire center that conducted the poll.

However, just 29% of those who were queried said that they "strongly favor" bringing casinos to the state. Another 24% "favor somewhat," which sounds to me like they have some reservations. A total of 34% oppose casinos, either somewhat or strongly, while 12% are neutral on the issue. I don't see that as an overwhelming mandate. Nearly half the respondents agreed that we need more time to study the issue, and one-quarter said efforts to bring casino gambling to the Commonwealth should be stopped immediately.

With the governor's recent waffling on whether casinos belong in urban areas, his smackdown of Suffolk Downs plan to build a temporary casino as soon as it is legal to do so, House Speaker Sal DiMasi's general opposition to casinos, and inter-tribe squabbles among the Wampanoag in Middleborough -- it looks like it could be quite some time before the slot machines are ringing and beeping. In the interim we need a reasoned and deliberate discussion of the pros and cons on the matter, as well as more of a consensus about whether this is a good idea at all.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Local boy makes...dinner

Eastie native and old friend Pino Maffeo gets some good press for his new Back Bay restaurant in today's Herald. Boston Public, located at 234 Berkeley Street, is "an Asian-influenced steakhouse," the review says, and "the food is quintessential Maffeo, deft and delicious..."

Maffeo was named as one of Food and Wine magazine's Best New Chefs for 2006. In that story he names his mother as his biggest influence: "She's the best cook in the world. When I used to come home from clubbing at 2 a.m., first she'd yell, then she'd start cooking. I never came home from school when there wasn't something on the stove wrapped in foil—stuffed peppers, polenta pie."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tunnel discount debated again

An audit by the Mass. Turnpike Authority found a significant amount of fraud in the tunnel discount program, according to today's Boston Herald. More than 17% of the people paying 40 cents instead of the $3 toll to go through the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels had either moved from East Boston, South Boston and the North End or used false addresses to claim residence in those neighborhoods.

"The abuse of the program is heightening calls to reduce the discount or eliminate it altogether," the story says. This is a call we've heard frequently in the past couple of years, especially from Turnpike board member Mary Connaughton. However, eliminating the program would require legislative approval, and such a move would be tough to get by House Speaker Sal DiMasi of the North End.