Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Drink up

It's ridiculous that we would even be worrying about this in the 21st Century, but the state legislature passed a law today that protects breastfeeding mothers from being arrested for indecent exposure. The governor is expected to sign it. Theoretically, up to now, women could be forced to register as sex offenders for feeding their children (if arrested and found guilty).

American society is still prudish in many ways, with language or nudity controlled to various degrees on TV, radio and at the cinema. We should have long ago shaken off our silly mores.

Also, breast milk is what babies are supposed to be nourished on, though unfortunately the market economy has created products that even take the place of that.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Heights notes

***The sign is up today that indicates that street cleaning starts on my block in the spring. Actually, the street cleaner has been coming by regularly during the warmer months, but up here on Bennington Street we didn't have to move our cars at a certain day and time, which worked out fine because most of the street was empty with people off at work. I know I am whining about an insignificant matter, but now I have to worry about where I park the night before, which is annoying.

***I've seen some men recently picketing the bank construction sight at the intersection of Bennington, Saratoga and Swift streets. Their placards, I believe, said something about non-union labor at that job. Anyone have any details?

***One block from there, at the corner of Bennington and Harmony, is a one story building with brown paper covering all the windows and the door. A couple months ago I saw a sign in one of the windows that said a convenience store was coming soon, but that sign is gone and I haven't seen any activity there.

***Finally, there is a nice-looking storefront one block over at the corner of Saratoga and Curtis. Someone did some work there to make the building attractive, but the "For rent" signs have been sitting in the windows for a while. I'm not sure what kind of business would succeed there.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Attacks on Gaza intensify

Israel's attack on Gaza has now killed 300 Palestinians, with two Israelis killed in return rocket fire, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appears to be readying the IDF for a ground invasion. The UN, the EU and others around the world are calling for a halt to the violence, while the Bush Administration says that Israel's overwhelming force is necessary and that Hamas is to blame.

There was a ceasefire recently, but Hamas has increased the number of rockets launched toward Israel in the days leading up to the unleashing of air strikes. However, this action from Israel is disproportionate and in as densely-populated a place as Gaza -- about 1.5 million people in 140 square miles -- civilians are going to be killed and injured.

The simplistic viewpoint offered by our government is in keeping with how George W. Bush and his minions have seen the world for eight years: good guys vs. bad guys, as if everything can be synthesized down to the sophistication of professional wrestling. The West created the underlying problem by carving Israel out of land occupied by others, and now we are still living with the inequity and injustice of the past 50 years.

I'm not defending those who've been launching rockets or causing other mayhem on the Palestinian side, but Hamas does things like provide education, police and medical care for a people otherwise left behind by the world. Is it any wonder that the residents of Gaza support the organization?

Isreal is also a month away from elections, which might have to do with the timing of the current attacks. As we've seen in the country, politics often plays a large role in the formation of military policy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's always darkest just before the dawn

As if there isn't enough turmoil in the world, two of the most dangerous places are heating up even more. Israel today killed more than 200 Palestinians in air attacks aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Gaza. Meanwhile, Pakistan is moving troops to its border with India in the wake of raised tensions between the two nations following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai.

Both of these locations have teetered back and forth between violence and tenuous peace for decades, and both claim the self-determination of Muslim peoples as their root cause. The Palestinians want Israel's occupation to end, and the Pakistanis want control of Kashmir from India.

In the former, Israel's superior fire power and backing of the US has staved off their being overrun by the surrounding Muslim states. In the latter, both countries are nuclear powers and are seemingly the most likely initiators of an exchange of such weapons.

The president-elect, it seems, will get a complete panoply of issues to deal with when he takes over in 24 days. Financial catastrophe, global warming, Iraq and Afghanistan, Somalian pirates, a nightmare in Zimbabwe -- the fates have decided that these and more aren't enough for Barack Obama to deal with.

I hope he's enjoying his time in Hawaii -- uh oh...wait...this just in...the power is out on Oahu, where Obama is vacationing with his family.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fish feast

Years ago Christmas Eve included a visit to my father's mother, who lived first on Meridian Street, not far from the bridge, and then on Eutaw Street. I didn't see that side of the family as often as my mother's side -- even though everyone lived in East Boston -- so it was a chance to catch up with some relatives, and my grandmother treated me like a king, being that I was the only male among her seven grandchildren.

Grandma and her second husband put out traditional southern Italian fish dishes (including calamari, baccala, lobster and quahogs) on Christmas Eve -- known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes -- though at the time I didn't eat much fish, confining myself to shrimp and my step-grandfather's pizza. My dad and grandmother passed away years ago, but I have fond memories of the holidays (we sometimes went there for Easter as well) spent at her house, and I wish that my family carried on the fish tradition. I would happily try every one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Local calendar available

George Cumming, who runs the wonderful OrientSee blog, has created a 2009 calendar using some of the photos he's taken at Belle Isle Marsh. (That great blue heron landing at the marsh is a sample of his work.)

It is always surprising and awe inspiring to see the birds and other animals that live and frolic in our neighborhood and within Boston's city limits at the marsh. Take a look here at the calendar and consider ordering one.

Shrinking influence

Though the state's population has continued to reverse an earlier trend by growing slightly in each of the past three years, it looks like Massachusetts may lose another Congressional seat after the 2010 census, part of a continuing slide of population and power from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West.

In 1813, the Bay State sent 20 people to the House of Representatives, a body of 182 at that time. We haven't had that much national influence since. In the early part of the 20th Century the size of the House was stabilized at 435 -- 16 of those from Massachusetts; from there the state's delegation has been slowly shedding members.

Currently we have 10: Barney Frank, William Delahunt, Edward Markey, Michael Capuano, James McGovern, Richard Neal, John Tierney, Stephen Lynch, John Olver and Niki Tsongas. If we do, indeed, need to shrink the delegation, two of the current House members will be lumped into the same district and forced to run against one another. Reapportionment -- the process of redrawing the Congressional districts -- is unfortunately fraught with politics, and it is likely that the jockeying will begin soon, if it hasn't already.

Early projections have seats also being lost by Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, while seats may be gained in Arizona (possibly two), Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Utah. The regional trends are clear in that list (and the exception, Louisiana, is due to the population decrease after Hurricane Katrina).

Apportionment also effects presidential politics, as the number of electoral votes a state has is determined by the number of House and Senate seats combined. Massachusetts had 12 in this year's election, but may have one less in 2012.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Celebrating the season

With snowflakes falling outside my window and George Winston's CD December playing in the background, I want to mention a few things of interest:

***This is the shortest day of the year, with the longest night ahead. The actual winter solstice occurred at 7:04 a.m. EST today. For thousands of years people all over the world have marked and celebrated this day -- Saturnalia, Yule, Dongzhi, Mean Geimhridh and Midvinterblot are some of the names used to mark the occasion at various times by different cultures, and the observance of Christmas comes out of these traditions. While today marks the beginning of winter for us, in many parts of the world this is the season's midpoint.

***The Globe has a story today on Christmas caroling, which seems to be making a comeback. I think that's pretty cool. Can you imagine a group of carolers making their way down the sidewalks of East Boston? Anyone want to run with that idea?

***I've long been a fan of the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life, and a recent piece in The New York Times discusses some of the charms of the Frank Capra film. Despite the feel-good conclusion, much of the movie is a rather bleak depiction of the modern world and of a decent man's complete unspooling. Look closely at Jimmy Stewart's face as his character's world crumbles and then as the course his small town would have taken without George Bailey becomes apparent -- the scene at Martini's bar where George prays before getting punched out; the scene where he grabs his son and desperately holds him close; the scene where he sits across from the delighfully amoral Henry Potter and realizes that the old man is right: George Bailey is worth more dead than alive; the few seconds before he jumps off the bridge to end his life in what he thinks is the most honorable way out; and, most of all, the scene where, in the alternative, George-less universe, he is rejected by his cold, impatient mother, and Stewart, unshaven and haggard, runs confused and frightened right up to the camera and stares out at the horrific world around him with crazy eyes. Though the opening is sappy, there is lots of wonderful stuff in It's a Wonderful Life.

***I was recently in a bit of traffic coming off Route 1 in Saugus at the Lynn Fells Parkway exit when I realized the source of the slowdown was people checking out the elaborate holiday displays at a pair of houses just off the highway. While a few lights can be nice, the over-the-top gaudy spectacles strike me as cheesy and wasteful. A Boston.com piece indicates that some other people agree.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama so far

One month from tomorrow, at high noon, Barack Obama will repeat the 35-word oath of office, which is prescribed specifically in the Constitution, on the steps of the US Capitol. He will likely tack on the postscript of "So help me God," as has been the practice of all recent presidents. In the weeks since Election Day, the president-elect has overseen an extremely orderly transition, taking the podium almost daily to name top appointments and to take questions from the media. It is all somewhat reassuring. Meanwhile, the nation's economic condition slides into even deeper distress and the current chief executive's only newsworthy action in the past six months was to duck from a flying piece of footwear flung furiously in his direction.

Obama's picks have disappointed some on the left, and I do long for a dream team of progressives taking over the controls of our government's mammoth bureaucracies. I am, however, inclined at this stage to sit back and give wide berth to the incoming president. He is, as most have acknowledged, a pretty bright guy, and he does operate -- as evidenced by the campaign and the transition -- in a smartly-conceived and well-executed manner. He gets to select who surrounds him, and by all accounts he's selected an exceptionally qualified and able group. If they aren't liberal enough on face, then I expect that they will be carrying out the policies of this president, and therefore will generally do the right thing.

But, of course, it has been clear all along that Obama does have many centrist, bridge-building tendencies. Those of us on the left will, I suspect, find ourselves in disagreement with the new administration from time to time. There will be attempts to find common ground rather than ramming through Democratic party ideas just because our party's nominee won the top spot. It's a bit frustrating because the Republicans, especially under George W. Bush, have done (and are still doing in last-minute executive orders) exactly that. Again and again, they talk bipartisanship and then lunge to the right. I take Obama at his word when he says he wants to change that culture.

The most extreme example may be the revelation that Rick Warren will be delivering the invocation at the inauguration. The minister of America's most well-known megachurch (Saddleback in Orange County, Calif.) and the author of the bestselling book"The Purpose-Driven Life," Warren is the new face of evangelical Christianity. Less outwardly prim and proper, he has been a key part of a movement that has focused on some good things in recent years, like working against poverty and hunger in Africa or embracing environmentalism. Still, in many ways, the new boss is the same as the old boss: homosexuality is seen as sinful; atheists are evil; etc.

Warren is a maddening choice for many who voted Democratic in November, and still it may be a brilliant selection in other ways. Obama has made the usual claim of being president of all Americans, not just those who voted for him; maybe this is one way to demonstrate that. He is also showing quite clearly that he will not hesitate to anger his base when he wants to. He is repaying Warren for inviting him to the Saddleback Forum, the pre-election interviews that Warren did with Obama and John McCain at the church in August (where McCain gave brief talking-point answers that he knew the crowd would applaud and Obama gave longer, more intelligent, nuanced responses that sometimes flew in the face of what the audience wanted to hear).

Finally, there is the "Team of Rivals" strategy, as discussed in the Doris Kearns Goodwin book as it relates to Abraham Lincoln. In other settings, with slight tweaks, it might be understood as the "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" strategy. Obama wants to accomplish important things, and after the first 100 days -- maybe more, maybe less -- the novelty, the honeymoon and the perception of a mandate will all wear off and the broad support of the public will be necessary to overcome the usual gridlock, partisanship and the lack of a filibuster-proof Senate.

A year down the road the 44th president might turn to the two Republicans in his cabinet (Robert Gates and Ray LaHood) or to the senator whose committee chairmanship he saved (Joe Lieberman) or to his former Democratic opponent turned cabinet member (Hillary Clinton) or, even, to the leader of one of the largest evangelical congregations in the country. Each of them, to varying degrees, will feel some obligation to jump on board with the president.

Is Obama thinking that far ahead? Is he really that smart? I think he is.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Transportation changes

Bernard Cohen, the state's secretary of transportation, is out, and word is that Jim Aloisi is Deval Patrick's top choice for the spot. Aloisi (in photo), an East Boston native, has been involved in transportation issues at the state level for years.

How will all this affect the proposed toll increases?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The wrong stuff

President Bush is in Iraq right now, his fourth visit there. It's a farewell to the site of the signature event of his presidency -- the illegal, unnecessary and botched invasion and occupation of that country. Bush may actually be holding onto the idea that history will exonerate his decision; if so, he is delusional.

A government report, which hasn't been released yet but has been leaked, condemns the entire Iraq rebuilding effort as "crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners" and then "molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence, and gaps in knowledge," according to today's Globe.

The reports is called "Hard Lessons" and was put together by the federal Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Among other incompetence and dishonesty, the report quotes no less than Colin Powell, backed up by two other high-ranking sources, saying that the reported numbers of Iraqi troops trained by US forces were made up. The Pentagon just kept increasing the amount each week.

Also in the news recently is the indictment of five Blackwater guards, employed by the US government to do security work in Iraq. They are charged with firing their machine guns and grenade launchers into a Baghdad crowd in September of 2007 and killing 17 civilians. The use of private security forces is an underreported story in this conflict. These guys were totally out of control.

One of the biggest factors that I think motivated Americans on Nov. 4 was the incompetence of the current administration. At least, the citizenry collectively said, we want people in charge who know what they are doing. Nowhere has the lack of foresight, ideological blindness, intellectual cowardice and outright stupidity of George W. Bush and his minions been more apparent and costly than in Iraq.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Senate Republicans to Big 3: Drop Dead

Last night the US Senate gave up trying to pass a bill that would funnel cash to the Big Three auto makers, which are apparently on the brink of bankruptcy. There was not enough support from Republicans in the upper house -- specifically those senators whose states have auto plants from companies headquartered overseas.

The Honda, Toyota and other factories in Alabama, Tennessee and other southern and western states use non-union labor, and the GOP wants to bust the United Auto Workers, whose members work for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Senate Republicans circulated an email with instructions to "stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor."

Republicans in the Senate insisted that the UAW would offer concessions or there would be no deal. The average union auto worker, as we've noted, makes $28 an hour, not an exorbitant amount for skilled, monotonous labor, yet Republican leaders begrudge them this salary. I don't recall anyone asking that banks and other financial giants pay their brokers, accountants and lawyers less as a condition for receiving their $700 billion bailout.

Amazingly, it is the White House that seems to be on the more responsible, less ideological side of this issue.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The spirit of giving


The Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association and 303 Cafe are running a Toys for Tots drive "to help needy children throughout the Boston area experience the joy of Christmas." The cafe, located at 303 Sumner Street in East Boston, will be accepting toys through this weekend, so get into the spirit of giving by helping some less fortunate youngsters. In the photo, Hayes Morrison, Lynnette and Ruth Weening take part in the toy drive.

Eastie residents fight toll 'embargo'

The first of four hearings on toll increases was held last night at the state transportation building. City Councilor Sal LaMattina called the proposed hike "an embargo on East Boston" and said that any attempt to lift the residential discount program would be "war on our neighborhood."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fire in Eastie

A fire this morning at the Heritage Apartments on Jacobbe Road, behind Maverick Square, injured several elderly residents, at least one critically.

Update: Boston Herald story and the latest from Boston.com.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The truth on auto workers

Last evening during a story on the proposed auto industry bailout, CBS reported that workers for the Big Three make more than $70 an hour. Having read a story two days earlier that explained that this figure is not true, I started shouting at the TV. (I do that sometimes.)

This morning I tried to remember where I saw the story that actually broke down what auto workers get paid, and I searched on Google. There are many web sites that are running the story, including the CBS web site! Are these people morons?

The average salary for a worker at GM, Ford and Chrysler is $28 an hour, and the benefits they receive work out to less than $10. The $70 figure is taken from including all medical and retirements benefits that those companies pay to all former employees as well as current ones and then diving them by the number of current employees. That isn't fair and it isn't truthful.

I'm not quite sure what to do with the auto industry, but vilifying blue-collar workers is certainly not a solution.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Anti-hike movement mobilizes

There will be a Stop the Pike Hike rally Wednesday at Ecco Restaurant on Porter Street in East Boston from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Following the rally there will be a hearing hosted by City Councilor Sal LaMattina on the matter starting at 6 p.m. at East Boston High School.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A glimpse of Eastie's past





I came across these on an Internet site about old postcards. These four are of East Boston about one hundred years ago.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm buying nothing today

While some have been out since before sunrise to scoop up bargains and begin their holiday shopping, I am going to adhere to a small but growing movement that has taken Black Friday and turned it into something smarter and less stressful: Buy Nothing Day.

In the Western World, especially in the Unites States, we consume and throw away an obscene amount of stuff. The Internet video called "The Story of Stuff" does a nice job demonstrating how unsustainable our current path is. Buy Nothing Day attempts to ween us from our corporate-marketing driven impulse to collect more stuff -- of at least the day symbolically highlights the issue at a time when Americans are hitting the malls and commercial sites online.

One of the problems that is currently facing our financial system is that many people in this country are in debt. With our SUVs, plasma TVs, iPods, cell phones and all kinds of other gadgets, we are eating up the planet's resources, poisoning our environment and burying ourselves in debt. On top of that, some people went out and bought houses that they couldn't afford.

As I said, today is symbolic -- so don't shoot me if you see me out getting an espresso (I will not, however, be at any mall, big-box retailer, chain store, etc., for now or the foreseeable future) -- but it's what we do day-to-day and throughout the year that matters. I personally have a number of things I do to live a less throwaway life, but I will let today serve as motivation to do even more.

Update: On Long Island a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death by the savage crowd that entered the store at 5 a.m. Meanwhile, in Southern California, two men killed each other when a gun battle broke out in a Toys R Us. Looks like the holiday spirit is upon us.

I saw a woman who had been waiting outside a store since Thursday afternoon the Newshour last night, and she said that her family was angry with her for missing Thanksgiving dinner, but she felt that shopping for bargains was more important. Consumerism has robbed many of us of our humanity.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is the most New England of the major American holidays. It is the holiday where the meal is the central event, not the gifts or the fireworks or anything else. As such, it is my favorite holiday, and as I did last year, I am hosting the family today.

Here's hoping that everyone has an enjoyable day, and that those of us who are lucky enough to be surrounded by family and friends, and who are, relatively, healthy and happy, and who have a job and food and a home -- that we spend a moment thinking of those who aren't as lucky and let us go forth trying to make the world a happier and more just place.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eight weeks to go

Salon.com writes about the virtual absence of President Bush from the national scene since...well, it seems like months now. Barack Obama is, to some degree, filling the void of leadership that's been left.

The president-elect introduced another member of his economic team today and has another press conference scheduled for tomorrow. Salon's Mike Madden writes that, "For 30 minutes every day, [Obama is] the virtual president."

Bush's approval rating is so low that it's better for the country that he stays out of sight. Whenever he's popped out from his hole to reassure us about the financial crisis the market tanked. (And has anyone seen Cheney? Is he even alive any more?)

It almost seems like Bush & Co. have realized that the clock struck midnight long ago on their fantasies of a new world order, deregulation, tax cuts, etc. The whole lot turned to rotted pumpkins, and even they want to get away from the stink.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eastie in the news

Today's Globe has several stories referencing our neighborhood:

**Giordana Mecagni and Peter Chipman moved to East Boston three years ago, and they make hard cider from apples they find locally. A couple after my own heart! They've found fruit trees around the beach, Piers Park and Belle Isle Marsh, crushed them and made homemade alcoholic brew. I've been fermenting cider for six years now, but I use unpasteurized cider that I get at orchards, which means a drive and a few bucks. I've thought about crushing my own apples, but as a renter I'm not sure how feasible that is space and mess-wise. I'm jealous of these guys, who -- like me -- also make mead (fermented honey and the beverage of choice for Vikings).

**Eastie resident and freelance writer Elizabeth Gehrman starts off her piece on the nightmares that sometimes come with home ownership with a story about a house on Sumner Street that was purchased by a pair of brothers and, not long after, condemned when a work crew busted a water main just outside. (Gehrman also has a nice piece on a New Hampshire couple who built a beautiful off-the-grid home.)

**Transportation beat reporter Noah Bierman writes, in the "Stops & Starts" column, about the proposal to increase tolls for the harbor tunnels and how that would affect East Boston. He mentions a pair of Internet sites that have popped up in protest: Stop the Hike and Stop the Pike Hike.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Heavy toll' on Eastie

The Globe's Noah Bierman writes in today's paper about the impact that increased tunnel tolls could have on East Boston's businesses and residents. He touches on the taxi issue: as it is now, cab drivers don't want to take you back to this neighborhood, and when they do they attempt to illegally tack on the toll to your fare. This, of course, will get much worse.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dumb as a ... Post-Gazette

The insipid, homely, narrow-minded weekly fishwrap known as the Post-Gazette claims to be "The Italian-American Voice of Massachusetts," yet a number of recent issues have had front pages dominated with anti-Obama screeds written by a Lebanese-American syndicated columnist who lives near Washington, DC.

My first beef is that the columns by Paul Ibrahim are full of fabricated issues, misrepresentations and out-and-out lies. His piece titled "Fifty Reasons to Vote Against Obama" -- available here at his syndicator's web site -- takes the same few topics and pummels the reader with senseless drivel. Ignorant loudmouth Rush Limbaugh has said good things about Ibrahim, which affirms that he's a moron.

The second problem is that this front-page space should be given over to articles about Italian-Americans in Massachusetts. Isn't that the publication's mission? Are there no stories to be told about the lives, accomplishments and culture of those who share my ethnic background that the Post-Gazette can give us? The current manifestation of the paper is a joke -- a bunch of cranks grumbling about the same stuff each week.

If they insist on publishing right-wing rants, the Post-Gazette should at least toss it on the inside and label it as commentary. And do us another favor: try varying the layout a little bit. I've seen junior-high newspapers that look more interesting. The front page is a travesty. Give us an Italian-American voice that we can be proud of.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ready for your close-up, Eastie?

According to a Globe story, South Boston is looking a bit too spiffy to play the rundown neighborhood it once was, and so film and TV productions that need the hardscrabble look have to shoot elsewhere -- including East Boston.
"They said Eastie looks like Southie," said state Representative Brian P. Wallace, a South Boston Democrat. "I cracked up. Eastie's always been 15 years behind us, so that's no problem."
Ouch. There are some spots in this neighborhood that haven't physically changed much since Bill Clinton first took office, but there are plenty of pricey condos and renovated properties in East Boston. Maybe Rep. Wallace doesn't get here often, but we'll take his comment as a harmless poke and laugh it off.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Crime surge

***There is a brief story on the WCVB web site about two people being stabbed in East Boston this morning.

***Sacred Heart Church was robbed earlier this week, thieves making off with items valued at $50,000.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

He might have been their only shot

Close to two years ago, on this blog, I predicted that Chuck Hagel would be the next president. Of course, I was wrong -- and I couldn't be happier about the actual outcome.

But Hagel, a two-term US Senator from Nebraska who is stepping down when his term expires in January, is an honest, intelligent and decent fellow. He is a Republican that Democrats almost universally respect, if not agree with.

Recently The New Yorker magazine ran a profile on Hagel, an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration's shortcomings in Iraq and elsewhere. Because of widespread disagreement with Senate colleague John McCain's approach to foreign policy, Hagel would not endore his friend and fellow Vietnam veteran for the presidency. In fact, Hagel accompanied Barack Obama on his trip to Iraq during the campaign and has been mentioned in discussions of the new president's cabinet.

In the magazine article, by staff writer Connie Bruck, Hagel tells a story that, I think, reinforces the view that many people have of George Bush's presidency:
During the Clinton Administration, [Hagel] began writing letters to the President on foreign-policy issues of signal importance. “Clinton used to call me and we’d discuss it, or he’d ask me to come talk with him,” Hagel recalled. In the past eight years, he has written to Bush a number of times, including, most recently, letters about Russia and Iran. But he said that he has never received a response from the President.
From day one, Bush & Co. knew it all. Why would they seek advice or listen to the opinions of others?

Bruck writes, "In some ways, Hagel is far more of a maverick than McCain has ever been..." It's true, and it is why I thought that the winner of two Purple Hearts from rural Nebraska who spoke the truth about America's occupation of Iraq would have been a logical choice as the GOP nominee, and he might have been the only shot they had in the general election. Hagel decided not to run because he knew he'd never get his party's nomination. Honesty and reality are not valued among the modern Republican Party.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Babbling fool

Intellectually challenged Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin was fond of repeating the phrase "city upon a hill" during the recent presidential campaign, in reference to America's place in the world. Although she attributed it to Ronald Reagan, those of us she would likely not consider "real Americans" know that it comes from a sermon by John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (and he was paraphrasing the Bible).

The real irony is that during the same campaign stops Palin would criticize Barack Obama's plan to cut taxes for working and middle-class Americans and to raise them on those making more than $250,000 a year. Meanwhile, Winthrop -- in the same 1630 sermon, entitled "A Model of Christian Charity" -- said, "We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities."

Sounds like spreading the wealth to me, no?

Transportation shake-up

For years I thought eliminating the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority was a good idea. In fact, I believe it was supposed to be dissolved after paying off its initial bonds, years ago, but we know how state government tends to work toward self preservation.

While the Pike and MBTA have been in debt for years, Massport makes money, so my idea was to bring them all together under the umbrella of the state's Executive Office of Transportation, which includes the Mass. Highway Department and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The other reason I consider this a good idea is that having Massport under the direct control of elected officials would make the authority more sensitive to public opinion.

Boston.com is reporting that Gov. Patrick has a plan to dismember the Pike, turning everything west of Route 128 over to the state highway department, while Massport would take over the roadway from 128 to the airport. The Port Authority, which already controls the Tobin Bridge, would gain all three harbor tunnels.

I guess this is an improvement on the current state of things, though I'd like to see the entire plan and to hear feedback. The first concern that I see is that I don't trust Massport and this proposal gives the agency more power. Quasi-government authorities can be monsters, and through the years this particular one has been monstrous.

This reshuffle seems to do little to help the MBTA, which provides valuable services to many people. At a time when more residents are turning to public transportation, the state should shore up and help out that agency. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see a lot of cushy white-collar jobs associated with the T. It's here to serve, at a reasonable price, people who don't have vehicles or who are leaving those vehicles at home. Shouldn't we support that mission more aggressively?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Heights mess highlighted

The Globe shines a light on a couple of eyesore properties in East Boston today. The GlobeWatch column reports that the lots on either side of 111 Boardman Street are "strewn with old cars and debris or have been used as an illegal parking lot and storage site for construction materials with no intervention from city officials, despite numerous complaints."

Mike Cintolo, a friend of mine who works in the city's Inspectional Services Department, is mentioned in the story. He has apparently spoken with the property owners, who've been warned to clean the mess up or get fined by the city.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Transition issues

An article about the transition in Washington yesterday on Boston.com's Political Intelligence blog elicited a comment that said, "Looks like Bush is going to leave the WH with a lot more class than the Clintons did. Doubt we'll see reports of juvenile pranks and outright thefts like we did when the hicks vacated the WH."

As one of the later comments pointed out -- OK, it was me -- all of those stories were later found to be untrue. They'd been spread by incoming Bush staffers, who were immediately proving that they were the juveniles here. Of course, the truism about news is that the second story -- the correction or the explanation -- never quite gets the traction of the first one. So the rumors remain stuck in some people's minds as the truth.

Another comment below the story reminded me of something I'd heard back then. Many Bush staffers were uncooperative with the Clinton staff's attempt to brief them and help them with the transition. In their arrogance they believed, like their boss, that they knew it all. Think they should have listened a bit closer?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A food 'find' in Eastie

East Boston's Oran Cafe has a nice review in the Boston Phoenix. The small eatery at the corner of Marion and Bennington streets is owned by a Moroccan and Algerian couple, and it offers good food from that region of the world and a decent espresso as well. The Phoenix says that "Oran might be 2008’s find of the year."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's morning in America

I wasn't sure that I'd ever get to see a (fairly) liberal Democrat elected as president in my lifetime -- certainly not after the way the electorate disappointed me in 2000 and 2004. Now, however, my faith has been renewed. The nation chose the better candidate and the better ideas yesterday, and it's one of the proudest moments I've had as an American.

Back when I was deciding who to support as the primaries and caucuses were approaching I found Barack Obama to be the most to my liking. Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich are both closer to me politically, but I knew that each had no chance. As for Hillary -- there were some things I liked about her, but she voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. I couldn't get beyond that. Declining to give President Bush that power should have been a no-brainer. I also felt that Obama would be more likely to win in November.

Along the way I've been impressed by Obama's intellect, calmness and integrity. No other candidate at any level has ever inspired me to the degree that he has, and I believe that he can be an excellent president. We need a change, and we need a leader. In 10 weeks we will have both.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

YES!

Happy days are here again!

E-Day!

***The latest compilation of national polls at Real Clear Politics shows Obama up 7.3%. Their latest electoral map shows him up by 138 electoral votes.

***Obama leads early NH voting, 32-16.

***Want to make calls for Obama? There is an election day phone bank in East Boston beginning at 10 a.m. at Air Transport Workers Local 1726, located at 830 Saratoga Street.



Monday, November 3, 2008

Making my case, part 3: candidates

The polls are singing a happy tune, but I'm nervous. Between Republican dirty tricks and all this talk of "the Bradley effect," I won't be reassured at least until hard numbers start coming in tomorrow night.

Of course, from my point of view I cannot understand how a rational person could choose John McCain tomorrow. Whether the Arizona senator was a "maverick" back in 2000 is debatable, but he most surely is nothing of the sort now. He's frittered away whatever integrity he had in this campaign by bringing some of George W. Bush's mudslingers on board -- despite the hatchet job they did on him eight years ago. The entire tenor of McCain's campaign -- questioning patriotism, implying guilt by association, misrepresenting facts, and outright lying -- is a disgrace and falls directly on McCain's character.

While some like to talk of the media going easy on Barack Obama, we should be asking this: What if Obama graduated 894 of 899 in his class (as McCain did)? What if Obama has displayed an ugly temper in public toward those around him, including his wife (as McCain has)? What if Obama was materially involved in a scandal like the Keating Five (as McCain was)? The reality is that McCain has been treated with kid gloves.

The word that has been used lately to describe the Republican nominee is "erratic." It's an apt description of the 72-year-old, and nowhere is this more obvious than in his choice of a running mate. Selecting Sarah Palin did fire up the GOP base, but probably isolated a significant number of independent voters. Much more important than the political consequences are the ramifications of placing such an ignorant lunatic in the number-two spot of our government -- and possibly setting her up to be president. As I've written, this was an irresponsible choice and one that clearly put the welfare of the country second, behind political ambition.

Obama is not perfect. He is not some savior, and few of us who support him ever believed that. He is, however, not a socialist and not a Muslim and not the Antichrist. He's an extremely bright guy, a thinking man and an eloquent speaker. He graduated from Columbia and Harvard Law School, served on the boards of several non-profits, wrote two books, and worked with poor and working-class people as an organizer.

Despite GOP tactics, Obama has refused to lie down with dogs. His campaign has been brilliantly conceived and nearly-flawlessly executed, and it has been focused mostly on the issues that are important to America at this moment. He represents a new voice and a different approach to national politics. At this crucial time it is almost insane to again select the party that has governed abysmally for eight years. It is time for a change.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Making my case, part 2: issues

Two days ago I made my second donation to the campaign of Barack Obama. Both of my contributions have been small, but I do feel that it is my duty to step up with whatever resources I have to try to save my country. This election is that important.

This post represents the resource that I have more of than money, and so I am putting words to use to describe why I see Obama’s candidacy as the clear choice. He is, on the issues, the logical selection.

*An American commander-in-chief should never send our military into a battle as carelessly as was done in Iraq. The cost –- in lives, injuries, atrocities, resources and money –- is far too great. John McCain has supported this illegal invasion and occupation from the start. Obama opposed it and, though it won’t be quick or easy, he will get US troops out.

*Unfettered capitalism, as we’ve seen recently, is a threat to the stability of our nation. McCain has supported less regulation his entire career. Obama will strengthen regulation where it is needed.

*Millions of Americans have gone without health insurance for far too long. Most industrialized nations have universal systems that are far less expensive than ours, with citizens who are pleased with the way those systems work. Obama will give us the best chance of having a healthcare system that works better.

* The wealthiest Americans didn’t need a tax break, but they got one under George W. Bush and how well has that played out? It’s time to repeal those cuts, as Obama proposes. McCain wants to extend them. His talk of socialism is ridiculous. The top tax bracket was 94% during World War II and the Depression, and it was 70% into the 1980s. Now it’s 35%. Wealthy people benefit tremendously from a stable social order, a public education system that works and solid infrastructure. They need to kick in more to make sure America has those things.

*The US needs to lead the green revolution, which will create jobs and help the planet. Obama will be far ahead of McCain on this issue.

*America needs to rebuild ties with allies and to try new strategies with enemies. Obama will bring different ideas and fresh leadership to world affairs.

On these and many other issues, Barack Obama brings vigor, brains and optimism. With America in need of leadership, John McCain rehashes allegations that are tired, silly and an insult to the intelligence of the electorate. I believe that voting for Obama will make America stronger.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Making my case, part 1: parties

For nearly eight years America has been led by a Republican president, and for most of that time there was a Republican Congress as well. The GOP implemented policies that are at the core of its catechism: a government bureaucracy less intrusive toward big business; a tough-guy, go-it-alone stance around the world; and a consolidation of power in the executive branch. Disaster followed.


Today, few would argue that the nation is better off now than it was before noon on Jan. 20, 2001. It’s difficult to understand how anyone would decide to respond to this calamitous period – one that has done severe damage to the country – by rewarding the party in power with another four years at the helm.


An incomplete list of what the presidency of George W. Bush has wrought:

1. At best, Bush distorted the truth to bring the nation to war in Iraq, and once there almost every aspect of the occupation was botched, our allies were ignored, the Geneva Convention was violated, Iran was strengthened, and America was made less safe.

2. The Bush tax cuts inflated the national debt while mostly benefiting the wealthy, and under this president the dollar plummeted, the price of oil skyrocketed, and unregulated greed took over on Wall Street, which is now being rescued with taxpayer dollars.

3. Government agencies were filled with incompetents whose only qualification was loyalty to the president, resulting in politics infiltrating the realm of career civil servants and agencies being unprepared to respond to events like Hurricane Katrina; action was also taken to weaken government programs like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

4. The Constitution has been considered an impediment by the current administration and therefore has been ignored, and as a result Americans are being spied upon, habeas corpus has been suspended, and Bush has exerted the right to ignore more than 750 laws using presidential signing statements, which are clearly illegal.


It’s hard to think of much good that has been done during the two terms of George W. Bush. The latest poll shows that a record-high 89% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. Isn’t it time for a change?


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Christians should vote blue

Just after the disappointing presidential election of 2004, I had a piece published on the op-ed page of the Portland Press Herald, the daily paper of Maine's largest city, where I had just moved. I argued that citizens with Christian values were going against those principles if they voted Republican. I believe that the same is true today, so here is a link to that column.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wilkerson and her enablers

The Globe fills in some of the pieces on the arrest of state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson. She's been clearly out of control for so long it's a wonder that anyone in state or city government was willing to work with her, but apparently she pulled quite a few strings.

UPDATE: The probe widens. Thursday's Globe reports that "federal authorities blanketed the State House and City Hall with subpoenas yesterday."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Incredibly stupid

An 8-year-old was killed yesterday in western Massachusetts when he lost control of the Uzi he was firing. That's right, a little boy accidentally shot himself...with a machine gun. It was the Great New England Pumpkin Shoot at the Westfield Sportsman's Club, and apparently an Uzi is the preferred weapon for putting down large stationary gourds.

Diva-in-chief?

Sarah Palin is "going rogue" and acting like "a diva," according to widely reported off the record comments from McCain staffers. You have to think that the folksy Alaska governor, who numerous accounts portray as ambitious and cutthroat, will attempt to distance herself from the loss that appears imminent and to emerge with a political future of some sort. Will she run in 2012? Will her party support her?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

So far, so good

The price of crude oil keeps dropping -- closing at about $66 a barrel yesterday -- but not all of that decline has, or will, translate to lower prices for home heating oil this winter. After a July high of $4.71 a gallon, according to the Mass. Department of Energy Resources, it's now selling for an average of $3.14, just 31 cents higher than last year at this time.

Regardless, I'm still trying to keep my oil consumption as low as possible, which is good for the planet and my wallet. This morning the temperature bottomed out at 35 degrees F outside and the thermometer in my kitchen reads 65, but I have yet to turn up the thermostat from its summer resting place of all the way to the dial's left.

I am not about to stand around shivering, but so far -- with a sweatshirt or an LL Bean double-layered undershirt, which I wear around the house every winter -- I haven't felt the need to turn on the heat at all. I did make sure that my storm windows were all down as of last weekend, but I've taken no other precautions. I've read and heard from friends that many are trying to get to Nov. 1 without cranking the heat, but I have no benchmark. I'm just trying to be smart.

Stay warm.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New bridge on tap

State and city officials are about to sign a deal for the construction of a new bridge that links Chelsea Street and the city of Chelsea. The project, long talked about, is scheduled to take about three years, which would seem to mean that the current Chelsea Street Bridge would be closed during that period.

Currently the large oil tankers that move up and down the Chelsea Creek can barely fit through the span between East Boston and Chelsea. The new bridge will be more than twice as wide.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Joe's mistake

Joe Wurzelbacher, like many other Americans, believes in policies that work against him and the vast majority of citizens. The ersatz plumber and Ohio resident has been used by John McCain as an example of a working guy who would take a hit financially under Barack Obama’s tax proposals. In reality, Joe the Plumber – and millions of other working people – would benefit from a plan that raises taxes just a bit for anyone making more than $250,000 a year and lowers them for most everyone else.


US Census Bureau statistics for 2005 showed that 1.5% of US households earned more than a quarter-million dollars and, yes, I do believe in higher taxes for those at the top. The wealthy have, without exception, benefited from public resources and a stable nation and, therefore, it is justifiable to have them kick in a larger share of the money that is necessary to keep the social contract functioning. Many have raked in cash in the real-estate boom and the soaring stock market of the past decade or two and should now bear a larger responsibility in cleaning up the resulting mess.


Let us not forget that, historically, the highest tax bracket is currently at one of its lowest levels since before the Great Depression. To finance World War I, the uppermost bracket was raised to 67%. During the Depression and then World War II it was increased to as much as 94% and stayed above 70% through the post-war economic boom and into 1981.Under Ronald Reagan the top bracket was lowered first to 50% and then into the mid-30s, where it’s mostly stayed. Currently the tax code tops out at 35%.


Since the 1980s, income disparity has widened drastically in the United States. I believe in spreading out the resources rather than having a small group horde the wealth, allowing them to live in excess while others lose their jobs, live on the streets, suffer from illness, receive subpar educations or go to sleep hungry. There is no justification for this in the richest country in the world. Yes, our status as the economic superpower is now threatened, and this is all the more reason why those who can afford to should be asked to step up and to sacrifice for the good of the country, just as was done in every other difficult period in American history.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hub of the Hub

Did you know that one of the world's leading political activists works out of his home here in East Boston? Or that a foreign country has its local consulate in this neighborhood? I recently started taking note of some of the regional, national and even international organizations located in Eastie and here is what I found:

*The Albert Einstein Institution, led by Dr. Gene Sharp, advises political movements around the world from his office in Eastie. The mailing address for the organization is AEI, P.O. Box 455, East Boston, MA, 02128.

*The El Salvadoran Consulate for New England is located at 143 Border Street.

*Project Bread, the group that organizes the annual Walk for Hunger, has its headquarters at 145 Border Street.

*Hip hop record label Amalgam Digital operates out of 2 Neptune Road.

*The New England Gallery of Latin American Art opened last year at 184 Cottage Street.

*The Militant Labor Forum Hall hosts speakers and films on workers' issues and human rights on the second floor at 13 Bennington Street.

Those of us who live here, of course, have always known that Eastie is the center of the world.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dailies endorse opponents

The Boston Globe has endorsed Barack Obama for president and, in an unusual step, the newspaper's editorial board has concluded that John McCain is unfit to take over the Oval Office. As is noted, the Globe endorsed McCain in the Republican primary in December, but now the paper finds that the Arizona senator "has been a profound disappointment."

Back on Oct. 1, The Boston Herald endorsed McCain.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Local killing

A 19-year-old Hispanic male was murdered just before midnight last night in East Boston. The victim was stabbed to death near Liberty Plaza, and police are searching for "a black, four-door car, possibly a Honda or Toyota, in connection with the incident." Anyone with information should call the Boston Police at 1.617.343.4470.

No rain on today's parade


The annual Columbus Day parade is in East Boston this year and starts from Orient Heights at 1 p.m., following a course from Bennington Street to Chelsea Street to Meridian Street and ending in Central Square. Beware of parking restrictions on those streets from mid-morning to late afternoon.

The forecast is for sunny skies with a high temperature of 66 degrees.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting ugly

John McCain is apparently losing control of the tenor of his campaign. An Associated Press story reports that angry crowds at Republican events are asking their candidate to get tougher and some supporters are shouting "terrorist" and "off with his head" in reference to Barack Obama. At one point when McCain tried to reel in the crowd he was booed. The article goes on to say that the mood of the crowd is angrier at events that Sarah Palin appears at. She apparently brings out the real lunatic fringe of the GOP.

By choosing Palin and airing ads that are all negative, McCain has planted these seeds. He shouldn't be surprised at the results.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Table-banging time

The latest national polls all have Barack Obama with leads larger than the margins of error, and the Democrat has opened up a lead in almost every toss-up state as well. With less than a month remaining until Election Day, the campaign of John McCain now understands that their ideas are not going to convince the citizenry to chose the GOP nominee, and therefore there is only one route remaining: all negative, all the time.

William Ayers, a 60s radical who is now a civically-active college professor in Chicago, has been resurrected by attack-dog Sarah Palin. Can Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko be far behind? That's all they've got: guilt by rather weak association. Oh, and race. The McCain campaign has been subtly injecting that into the mix all along -- with their talk implying that Obama is unlike the rest of us (hint, hint white America) -- and now this area will be mined for all it's worth.

The Obama camp struck back with an Internet video yesterday that reminds voters that McCain was part of the Keating Five and that Charles Keating was part of the problem that led to the Savings and Loan Crisis, another instance where the taxpayer had to bail out banks and millionaires after they'd run wild in the face of lax regulation. I heard Obama quoted as saying that, in the realm of negative ads, he will not punch first, but that he will punch last. Clearly many believe that the lessons of Gore and Kerry are that attacks cannot be unchallenged.

One surprise is that lack of 527s -- groups unaffiliated with the campaigns that air attack ads. The GOP has used these to their advantage in the past: remember the so-called Swift Boat Veterans? Don't be surprised if they surface now with some outrageous allegations. The Republicans are desperate, and like the old saying about lawyers, when neither the truth nor the law are on your side, you've got to bang the table and scream as loudly as you can.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What if it's a tie?

The Globe ran a Reuters story today about what should happen if John McCain and Barack Obama tie with 269 electoral votes each. Though Obama is opening up a small lead in some key states, there's still a month and circumstances could change.

There was a similar situation once before in an American presidential election. In 1824 none of the four candidates received a majority of the electoral votes. What happens? The House of Representatives chooses, and that year they elected John Quincy Adams.

There are some twists, however. In a vote of the House to decide an election, each state casts one vote. So, the Democratic margin in the House is smaller than the current 31. According to the story, the Democrats lead in the make-up of state delegations, 27-21. The other two are tied. (There is some disagreement over whether this Congress or the newly-elected one gets to choose.)

The other monkey wrench is that the Senate chooses the VP on a straight up or down vote. Theoretically, the president and vice president could be from different parties. Though technically the two major parties each have 49 senators, the two independents (Bernie Sanders and the turncoat Joe Lieberman) caucus with the Democrats, giving them a two-vote majority. One could easily see Lieberman choosing the GOP candidate, who is part of the ticket he is currently endorsing. This would mean a tie, which current VP Dick Cheney would presumably break with a vote for the lunatic Sarah Palin.

Of course, a tied electoral field could quickly evaporate if just one elector is persuaded to change his or her vote, which seems to be legal in most states.

Doesn't all of this make a good case for abolishing the often-misunderstood and always-cumbersome Electoral College?

Friday, October 3, 2008

RIP

Winthrop and East Boston lost a couple of long-time civic-minded sons this week. Alan Lupo, who chronicled the lives of average Joes and never held his tongue when confronting abuse of power, died Monday at age 70, while Tony Marmo, widely active among non-profits and youth sports organizations, passed away Tuesday at age 90.

Both communities are lesser places in their absence.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Shameful GOP tactics

One part of current presidential elections that is disturbing is the degree to which the Republican Party attempts to disenfranchise voters they believe will choose their opponents. It's probably one of the most overlooked stories of national elections in 2000 and 2004: the GOP using misinformation and lawyers to get tens of thousands of votes thrown out.

And they are at it again. I've heard and read a number of stories about dirty tricks against traditionally Democratic groups. Here are two, for example: first in Virginia, where the GOP is trying to convince college students, incorrectly, that they would forfeit scholarships or lose the ability to be claimed by their parents on tax returns if they register to vote; then in Florida, where a confusing mailing went out to registered Democrats, apparently to convince them that their voter registrations are messed up.

What could be less democratic -- with a small d -- than confusing or scaring people into not voting? It is, however, part of the Republican playbook. They will do whatever it takes to win.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailing out the rich

It's difficult to know what to think about the so-called "bailout bill" that Congress has struggled with for the past 10 days and will likely vote on today. Plenty of people on the left and right (Newt Gingrich and Michael Moore, for example) are saying that such an allocation of the treasury is unnecessary, while many others whose opinions I take into account (George F. Will, Paul Krugman, Barack Obama) are saying that, despite the odiousness of this proposal, something has to be done.

Many in Congress -- including the Democratic leadership in both houses -- apparently feel they cannot sit by and not be part of a remedy when there is a chance of economic disaster on the horizon -- and that is the way that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke have described the future without the $700 billion bailout.

This roundtable on This Week with George Stephanopoulos was particularly interesting yesterday, with Will, Gingrich, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein, and several of them talked about Americans living above their means for the past decade or so. Pearlstein said that the rest of the world is tired of lending us money to do so.

Another truism here is that unfettered capitalism always leads to a feeding of swine at the trough. The deregulation pushed by the Republican Party beginning with Ronald Regan and escalating under George W. Bush -- always with the support of John McCain -- is partly to blame here, and whether we need to rescue Wall Street to save Main Street or not, it should be clear that the greed of the ruling class is much more of a threat to our way of life than earmarks, welfare or any of the culture war issues that the GOP routinely distracts Americans with around election time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Facts again take back seat

The East Boston Times is dead wrong when it says, in a front page story in the Sept. 24 issue, that the Salesian religious order "evicted Savio Prep High School from its property on Byron Street two years ago." In fact, Savio's board of directors voted to close the school. I know because I was there.

The school actually had another year on its lease with the order, but decided to pull the plug at the end of the 2006-07 school year. The Salesian Society did make clear that they would not be renewing the lease with Savio after June of 2008 -- for reasons that do make sense -- and at least one priest was not very civil to the school down the stretch, but there was no eviction.

The whole sordid story of the demise of Savio is something I've avoided wading too deeply into here, as it's a complex web of mismanagement at several levels -- possibly including the misappropriation of funds. Suffice to say that when I returned to the Savio faculty in the fall of 2006 the school was on life support and more than one person said to me that the place should have been shut down the previous June.

Having worked for both the Salesian (note to Times: there is no "s" at the end) Boys and Girls Club, as well as Savio -- and after having passed through both institutions as a youngster and teenager -- I am not predisposed to take the side of one or the other, and recognizing Fr. John Nazzaro with a story is commendable. He is a good guy who I've known for years.

However, on an issue as emotional and recent as the closing of Savio, I'm not sure how a key fact was bungled so badly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quality pet products

Dog and cat owners might want to check out Lucky Dog Organics, a locally-owned Internet business that sells quality pet foods, toys and other items. My favorite toy on the site? The big, spooky eye -- stuffed with catnip!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Something wicked this way comes"

Consider, for a moment, a noble warrior who becomes consumed with ambition to the point that he casts aside the values he once believed in; when he senses that he is in reach of the seat of power he abandons all restraint and does whatever it will take to eliminate his enemies and to solidify his control. Consider, also, a scheming, amoral woman at his side.

Who is it that you see? William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth just over 400 years ago, and it is arguably his most frightening work. The Scottish general who lusts after the throne becomes ever-more consumed with naked ambition as his wife encourages his terrible deeds.

It occurs to me that there are clear parallels between the play and the actions of John McCain. Of course, there are no blood-filled scenes, but "the Thane of Arizona" has clearly sacrificed principles that he seemed to embody back when George W. Bush was doing the smearing and lying. One can imagine a rendezvous with three witches who told McCain that they've seen the future and he can be president -- but only if he is willing to do whatever it takes.

Meanwhile, central casting appears to have been a bit unsatisfied with Lady McCain in her role, so they sent us Sarah Palin, who we can easily imagine grabbing a bloody dagger to finish what her partner began -- just as though she were gutting a moose. In Shakespeare's work, however, guilt consumes Lady Macbeth. Palin does not seem to possess a conscience, and therefore will likely never feel remorse.

Ecco opens

I was unable to make it to Ecco's complimentary-meal soft opening last week, but the doors opened for real last night. Does anyone have feedback on East Boston's newest hot spot?

Today's Globe has a piece on Ecco that isn't a restaurant review, but rather an examination of how a "martini-tapas bar" like this reflects the influx of young professionals in the neighborhood.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Grover Norquist should be drowned in a bathtub

Republican ideology calls for shrinking government and loosening regulation. George W. Bush came into office and followed through on some of that. Nearly eight years later, what are the results?

*When Hurricane Katrina struck, federal agencies tasked with responding to such events were unprepared and badly managed.

*When toxic food and dangerous toys flooded American stores from overseas, there few inspectors to stop these products from entering the country.

*When financial services giants stuffed their pockets while exposing the nation's economy to great risk, there were no regulators to rein them in.

Ronald Reagan, now the second-worst president of all-time, famously said, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." I say that a Republican-run government is not the solution to our problem; Republican-run government is the problem.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Incoming choppers!

A reader emailed me and expressed anger at Mayor Menino's recent comments that he's considering locating a heliport at Logan Airport instead of Marine Industrial Park in South Boston, where it was originally planned to be.

On a recent talk radio program Menino mentioned that a Southie legislator was against the plan and the mayor wanted to work with him, though business leaders wanted the heliport closer to downtown.

This raises a pair of questions: Will the mayor be equally deferential to the wishes of East Boston's elected officials? And does the will of "business leaders" trump the will of the local citizenry?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Privatized gains; socialized losses

In America, poor mothers with children are sometimes vilified as "welfare queens," while the executives of our largest financial firms emerge unscathed after nearly running the economy into the ground and forcing taxpayers to pick up the pieces. The punishment for these CEOs and other top management? Millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other compensation.

For all of the right's talk of free markets, the reality is that Uncle Sam is there to put the house in order and pay off the bills whenever the boys get drunk on the profits of some extremely precarious investments, putting the world economy at risk. Meanwhile, the GOP shows no mercy for many poor and working class citizens, such as families in colder climes who need to decide between paying soaring prices for home heating oil and buying food.

John McCain is blah-blahing about putting Wall Street's house in order, but the truth is that he and his political allies are part of the reason for the disorder. McCain's top economic adviser, former Sen. Phil Gramm, was the architect of legislation that deregulated the financial services industry in 1999, and the GOP nominee voted for those laws. Another top McCain adviser, Carly Fiorina, has been privy to the kind of compensation that the Republican ticket now claims as reprehensible.

Voting for McCain is keeping the foxes in charge of the henhouse even after they've been feasting on the occupants.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sox regain first place

With a dozen games left in the regular season, the Red Sox have fought their way back to first place, albeit in a tie with the not-so-devilish Rays. Boston pounded their Florida rivals 13-5 on the road this evening, regaining a share of the top spot that they relinquished just after the all-star break.

The Sox could win their second consecutive AL East title by outplaying Tampa Bay over the next two weeks, but Boston would have to crash and burn to lose out on at least the wild-card spot.

Manny who?

Update: Spoke too soon?