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.


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


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.