Saturday, May 31, 2008

'And yet it moves'

In June of 1633 the Catholic Church forced one of the most brilliant men of his, or any, age to deny what he knew to be the truth. Galileo Galilei recanted his belief that the Earth revolved around the sun, though his research and experiments indicated that this was the case. He had no choice if he wished to live, and as it was, the Church put him under house arrest and banned his writings for the rest of his life.

Some 375 years have passed since then, and the Vatican is no less afraid of the truth. Geoffrey Robinson, a 70-year-old retired Australian bishop, has written a book that suggests "the Catholic Church examine the roles that power and sex played in the clergy abuse crisis," according to a story in today's Boston Globe. The book, and Robinson's speaking tour, has Church leaders up in arms. Here are the outrageous actions that have some American bishops banning him from speaking at their churches:
[Robinson] called for the pope to commission a study of ways in which church teachings, including mandatory celibacy, may have contributed to the abuse, and for an investigation of institutional factors that contributed to the moving of abusive priests from one parish to another by bishops.
Imagine! Suggesting a closer look at the factors that contributed to this traumatic and costly -- in terms of the trust of parishioners as well as dollars -- episode, one that has likely changed permanently the Catholic Church in the US. Robinson did speak locally at a parish in Dedham and at the Paulist Center in Boston. Cardinal Sean O'Malley finally got a decision right, apparently realizing the backlash he might have faced if he forced Robinson to move off diocesan property, being that the scandal started in Boston.

In 1990, years before he would become the current pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave a speech in which he said that, though Galileo had been right, the Church of the time knew better because the idea that the Earth was not at the center of the universe would have upset the social and ethical balance of the time. Then and now, the leadership of the Catholic Church believes that its members cannot be trusted with the truth.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Former Bush spokesman tells truth...finally

It's good to see that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan is accepting some responsibility for an administration that "veered terribly off course" and used "propaganda" against its own citizens to sell a war.

In "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," a memoir to be published next week, McClellan admits that he was part of the stream of falsehoods and half-truths that emanated from an administration that took "a permanent campaign" approach to governing. McClellan writes:
"What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

While his honesty is appreciated, it's a bit late. What we need are people who have the guts to stand up and tell us the truth when they are still part of the government or the military or big corporations and can influence policy. It's easy to come clean when feeling guilt after the fact.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Clinton's real crime

Some pundits believe that Hillary Clinton was intentionally invoking the security issues of a black man running for president when she mentioned the Robert Kennedy assassination during an editorial board interview last week. I don't think that she was, but still her comments were disingenuous and yet another example of her less-than-honest approach to politicking.

The RFK remark came in the context of Clinton ruminating on why so many were demanding that she leave the race for the Democratic nomination, which she effectively lost weeks ago. She said that Kennedy was shot in June, which was meant to strengthen her argument that other nomination races had gone that deep into the calendar. She also said that her husband didn't secure his nomination in 1992 until June.

In the furor over the perceived offensiveness of her comments, I have heard only a couple of media sources mention that, when RFK was running in 1968, the primary season began in May. Therefore, Bobby Kennedy and the other Democrats running for president were two months into their primaries. This year the elongated process began in January, which puts us five months down that road. Meanwhile, in 1992 her husband had his party's nomination effectively sewn up in March.

Maybe I am a bit offended of the crassness of injecting the RFK metaphor into the race at a time when Ted Kennedy is battling brain cancer, but the real issue is Clinton's manipulation of the facts, which she tried to pass off as bolstering her argument when the truth is that all of the evidence makes clear that she should step aside while there is still a tiny bit of gracefulness to be had.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Local lobster one of the best

Today's Globe names Belle Isle Seafood as purveyors of one of the three best lobster rolls in the Boston area and easily the best bargain ($17) among the winners.

Belle Isle Seafood is located at 1267 Saratoga Street, just before the bridge into Winthrop.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Meeting Wednesday on OxyContin abuse

The OxyContin & Prescription Drug Abuse Commission will hold a hearing in East Boston next week to provide "an opportunity for the members of the community, service providers and health officials to update the commission on abuse, treatment and recovery issues."

Eastie State Rep. Carlo Basile will host the meeting, which will be held Wednesday at East Boston High School beginning at 10 a.m., along with Rep. Peter Koutoujian, chairman of the commission. For more information, contact Basile's office at 617.722.2080. The OxyContin Commission's 2005 report can be read online here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Legacy of 'Liberal Lion' unmatched

Ted Kennedy has often been a punching bag for national Republicans -- a symbol of bloated government and tax-and-spend liberalism -- but there are many, myself included, who revere him as a dedicated public servant and a stalwart defender of progressive values.

News coverage of the Massachusetts senator's legacy has been widespread since word of his diagnosis with brain cancer became public. Some of the themes often-repeated are: the huge amount of legislation that Kennedy has his fingerprints on; the reputation among GOP senators that Kennedy has as a deal maker; and the multitude of average citizens who have seen their individual problems solved and their particular causes taken up by Kennedy.

No one is sure right now what the senator's illness means in terms of his getting back to work in Washington, but the outlook for more than the immediate future is not good, and the void that would remain in his absence may be forever unfillable.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ain't that America

The Boston Globe today has a pair of stories that highlight the different worlds that many in the United States live in.

First, there is a piece on the falling life expectancy of women in eastern Maine. While Americans extended their average lifespan in the past few decades to around 80, there was a significant decrease in 3% of counties nationwide. Only one of those -- Washington County, Maine -- is in the northeast. Here is one woman's story:
Dolly Jordan matter-of-factly described a lifetime of poverty -- swiping her former husband's pocket change to buy food for her five children; making macaroni-and-ketchup suppers when tomato sauce cost too much. These days, the 61-year-old is obese, with high blood pressure and diabetes. Badly hurt when her car was hit by a drunk driver 16 years ago, she said, she is dependent on a wheelchair and in chronic pain.

Jordan sees her doctor less often than she should, because it's hard for her to get out, she said, and she doesn't exercise because she can barely stand. With $97 in monthly food stamps, she stocks up on hot dogs, hamburger, and chicken, hunting through the freezers for the cheapest packages.

Meanwhile, another article in the Globe tells us that Red Sox owner John Henry is going to tear down a mansion that he just bought for $16 million, even after the previous owner renovated the structure in the 1990s. The problem with the existing building?

The larger house, a red brick Colonial revival with ivy-covered walls, contains seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, and two half-bathrooms. A separate wing houses the pool, a media room, a playroom, and staff quarters...

It made more sense to build a new house rather than to try to add one to the site of either of the existing houses, both of which sit on either side of a ridge. Henry wanted his house atop the hillside.
Henry, who I'm sure owns other houses as well, seems like a nice enough guy, but it is depressing -- even vulgar -- that he gets to play with houses as though it's a game of Monopoly while so many others struggle to get through each day. Our system of capitalism is unjust to the point of criminality.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Councilor Flaherty at 303 Cafe

City Councilor Michael Flaherty is meeting with East Boston residents who stop by this evening at 303 Cafe from 5 pm to 7:30. Flaherty is a councilor-at-large from South Boston who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the mayor's office in 2009.

303 is usually closed Mondays, but they are putting out light food for the event. They are located at 303 Sumner Street, not far from the Maverick T stop.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A warm greeting

Eastie recently hosted five Inuit -- who used to be called Eskimo -- high school students as part of an exchange program. In March five teens from East Boston High School spent a week in the Great White North of Nunavut, Canada, where they found out what it really means to be cold.

One stop on the tour of Eastie was, of course, pizza at Santarpio's, though I'm sure the visitors were disappointed to find out that seal meat was not one of the available toppings.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Suffolk Downs dumps into local creek

Suffolk Downs is in violation of the Clean Water Act, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The track has apparently been dumping polluted water into a small tributary called Sales Creek -- a discharge that has included animal waste and other contaminated runoff.

Looking at the map, I believe that Sales is the tidal creek that forms part of the border between East Boston and Revere (at Bennington Street) as well as Eastie and Winthrop (at Saratoga Street). The small waterway also appears to run through culverts on the racetrack's infield.

When Sales Creek exits Suffolk -- carrying its animal manure and other waste -- it runs into the Belle Isle salt marsh, protected state reservation land, and then the creek turns and dumps out into the small harbor inlet that separates Logan Airport from Constitution Beach. Does this mean that Suffolk Downs has been polluting the water we've been swimming in for decades?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Choosing profit over human rights

Far be it for some to allow the distractions of genocide to get in the way of making money. Shareholders for several mutual funds managed by Boston-based Fidelity Investments voted down proposals that would have prohibited investment in companies linked to genocide or human rights violations.

Fidelity's rationale is that the company is "obligated to achieve the best returns for shareholders." Wait a second -- How about your obligations as human beings?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Car crime down across the city

A small area of East Boston is the second most dangerous place in the city to park your car, according to the Boston Herald. The area starts at the intersection of Meridian and Maverick Streets at Maverick Square and then moves toward the waterfront and up Meridian through Shore Plaza. In the past few years, the story says, 116 incidents of car theft and vandalism have been reported.

The big picture shows, according to police figures, that car crimes dropped 38% citywide between 2004 and 2007, though you'd never be able to tell that by scanning the Herald's excited headlines. Overall Eastie is not in the top three of neighborhoods with the most car crime, but the story doesn't have a comprehensive list. Roxbury is first, then the area comprising the Back Bay, the Fenway and the South End, with Dorchester rounding out the leaderboard.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Star struck

Some of your tax dollars, you may have heard, have been spent on a secret domestic propaganda program with the goal of convincing you that the tax dollars you are spending in Iraq -- and the blood that our soldiers are sacrificing -- is a good idea.

A columnist for writes about the Pentagon documents that outline the program that has retired generals who appear on TV and radio spouting the Bush Administration's official line, or in the words of military memos, "carry our water...because we are their bread and butter." Some of that "bread and butter" is in the form of military contracts awarded to giant corporations, many of which have those same generals on their boards of directors. Oh, and guess whose tax dollars are paying those corporations?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pike tightens up discount program

The Globe reports that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is cracking down on scofflaws who illegally use discounted transponders to get through the Sumner Tunnel, paying 40 cents instead of $3.50, despite not living in East Boston or other sectors of the city that qualify for the discount.

In addition, A&M Limousine of East Boston reached a settlement with the Pike after it was discovered that employees were using personal transponders while driving limos for the company. A&M has to pony up $65,000.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The unfriendly skies

Several area residents are suing the FAA over increased noise levels from aircraft since Runway 14/32 went into operation at Logan Airport in 2006.

The suit, filed by residents from Chelsea, East Boston, Medford and Charlestown, contends that "the increased activity constitutes a change in runway use that warrants a public environmental review process that the FAA failed to initiate," according to the story in today's Globe.

Congressman Mike Capuano indicates that we won't get a more responsive FAA until we get a Democrat in the White House.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Missing dog returned

The Boston Herald was all over the story of a pug dognapped from an East Boston home and reunited with its owner yesterday.

Bennington Street resident Debbie Fitzgerald came home from work Thursday to find her TV, laptop and dog missing. She went to the Herald and offered $1,000 for the return of the missing canine, named Frankie.

The tabloid jumped on the case and Revere resident Lisa Goodman saw the story and realized that the dog she'd purchased from a pair of strangers at Maverick Station on Friday -- she handed over $100 because the men were mistreating the pooch -- was indeed Frankie.

Pug and owner were reunited yesterday, while Goodman -- showing that she is, in fact, a good woman -- declined to accept the reward.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Opening day

An exhibit called "Chingasos" opens today, on this Cinco de Mayo, at the New England Gallery of Latin American Art. The NEGLAA, located at 184 Cottage Street in East Boston, opened recently and seeks to promote Latin American art and artists.

Meanwhile, Friday saw the opening of a new exhibit at Atlantic Works. Pieces by painters Karen Kemp and Maureen O'Connor are on display throughout the month. Atlantic Works is located on the top floor at 80 Border Street.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Zipping around

A reader who lives in the Gumball Factory Condominiums tells me that Zipcar now has two vehicles available from the parking lot adjacent to that building, which is at the intersection of Orleans and Gove streets.

Zipcar, which was founded in Cambridge eight years ago and now offers car rentals for periods as brief as one hour in cities around the country, was courted by the condo's board for a few months and the company agreed to a six-month trial period in East Boston. If there is a decent amount of business the vehicles will remain available in the neighborhood after that, so residents who have been taking the T to pick up Zipcars, as well as those who have never used the service, are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eastie's best

The verdict is in: The Globe agrees with most Eastie residents, naming Betty Ann's jelly donuts as the best. We used to have a dozen in the teacher's room every Friday at Savio back in the late 1990s, but by then I had given up donuts, so I've never actually had one.

I've never even been in the Betty Ann Food Shop, as it has been closed every time I've ever walked by it. I will, however, have to make a point of stopping by one day when it is open.