Thursday, December 31, 2009

A few year-end words from the Scottish Bard


By Robert Burns

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

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

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

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

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

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

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

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

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Flying the unfriendly skies

Though I am a strong advocate of personal privacy rights, I don't have a problem with technologies being discussed for airport security in the wake of the failed terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day. I don't think anyone has an absolute right to fly, and it seems to me that with the level of threat that especially faces airplanes, the greater good of security for all outweighs the inconvenience of a small invasion of one's privacy.

The technology that is now the focus of ideas to tighten airport security are backscatter X-ray machines, which show analysts an image of the body beneath clothes. Theoretically, explosives and other weapons are much easier to see using these machines. That's not to say that equipping all US airports with such machines would prevent harm from people flying in elsewhere, as was the case with the most recent attack.

The real question, as with many issues that nation faces, is whether elected officials have the political will and the citizenry has the attention span to completely review the process and to do what actually makes sense. A Canadian newspaper published an interesting story today that discusses the steps that Israel takes to ensure security in its airports and on its planes. Think about it: Israel is the #1 target for Muslim extremist terrorists, yet there hasn't been an airport attack there in many years. Read the story and ask yourself why the US doesn't adopt a system like Israel's, which is clearly effective.

Gambling forces prepare to saddle up

The push to legalize slot machines and/or full-sized casinos in Massachusetts will begin in earnest after the holidays, and some early maneuvering has been going on among the state's political leaders. House Speaker Bob DeLeo is in favor of starting with slots, as approving, building and opening a casino would take several years, while bringing slots to the state's racetracks -- two of which, Suffolk Downs and Wonderland, are in DeLeo's district -- could happen in just a few months.

Gov. Patrick has said that he's against taking the "slots first" approach. "It’s just there is harm that is associated with gambling that has to be dealt with..." said the governor, advocating "extreme care" in the process. If he believes this, then it's legitimate to wonder why he's been such a strong advocate for legalized gaming from the start. Senate President Therese Murray, meanwhile, has said she's leaning against beginning with slots alone.

The governor recently suggested a “fresh, independent, and transparent analysis of the benefits and costs of expanded gaming," which those of us against legalized casino gambling in the state have always seen as an obvious first step. DeLeo disagreed, saying, “Because gaming has been extensively studied in recent years, I’m not sure a lengthy study in place of a bill is what we need right now.’’ Of course, he avoided mentioning that studies have had mixed conclusions on the consequences of legalized casinos.

It appears that casino gambling will come to Massachusetts in some form, barring any unforeseen events. The political leadership and the money (Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields and other out-of-state hotel and casino concerns) are behind the movement. Maybe, somewhere along the line, someone will ask the citizenry what they think.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Beware the cold

The temperature is supposed to bottom out around 8 degrees in Boston tonight, with wind chills below zero. Christmas Day, 1980, was the coldest day in the city during my lifetime. I remember distinctly the short walk from the house I grew up in to my aunt's house -- just a half block down Chelsea Street -- and feeling the cold as I'd never felt it before.

I remember, as a staff member at the Boys & Girls Club, playing tag football one night when it was minus-1 outside. I was able to galvanize a handful of brave souls to join the game, and after a while most of us shed our outer layers as we got used to the cold.

The coldest temperature I've ever experienced was one morning in central Massachusetts, when the temperature dropped to minus-14. I just had to go outside to feel it, and I bundled up and went into the frigid air. It was an experience.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Protests in Iran reach new level

Street protests throughout Iran have seemingly reached a new level, but in general the American mainstream media seems not to have noticed. Today was the Day of Ashura, a holy day for Muslims and a holiday in Islamic countries. Iranians demonstrating against their government have flooded the streets in a number of cities, marching and in some cases attacking the street police and setting their motorbikes afire.

These protests are a continuation of those that unfolded after the national election results last summer, which appeared to many people to have been tampered with to protect the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei backed Ahmadinejad and the protests were met with violence, arrests and show trials.

The determination and spirit of the Iranian people, however, seems to have not been broken, and they are making their voices heard, despite reports that 10 or more of the protesters have been killed. Atlantic Monthly blogger Andrew Sullivan, who followed the summer protests closely and provided an outlet for reports and video from the scene, is on top of the story again. Be advised that some of the images are graphic.

Photo from

Looking back at the Senate primary vote

Less than 20% of those registered to vote in East Boston turned out for the special US Senate primary on Dec. 8. According to the information online at, fewer than 3,000 of the neighborhood's nearly 15,000 registered voters bothered to go to the polls. My precinct, number 12, had the highest turnout in Eastie: just under 27%. That's almost double Precinct 7's turnout.

Rep. Mike Capuano -- who received a statewide total of 28% of the vote to winner Martha Coakley's 47% -- tallied 49% in Eastie, while Coakley got 30% of the neighborhood's vote. Alan Khazei and Steve Pagliuca brought up the rear.

In case you missed it, has a wonderful graphic that breaks down the vote by cities and towns. Capuano won Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, Chelsea -- communities he's represented as a Congressman or mayor of Somerville -- as well as a handful of towns in the western part of the state. Khazei, interestingly, won one town: Alford, which borders New York State.

Coakley meets Republican candidate Scott Brown and (as I was quickly and appropriately reminded) independent candidate Joseph L. Kennedy on Jan. 19.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Woman's body found on Princeton Street (Update: Body ID'd)

A sad Christmas Eve story at the body of a woman, her hands bound, was found last night in a blue plastic bag in an alley just off Princeton Street. Police said the woman appeared to be in her 30s with a tattoo of a dragon on her neck. Autopsy results are expected today.

Update (12/26): The body was identified by police as 39-year-old Julienne Corrao.

The forever war

Just a few hours after Melquisedet Angulo Cordova was buried with military honors Monday, his mother and three other relatives were executed by members of a drug cartel in the Mexican state of Tabasco. Cordova was a marine and he died taking part in a raid that killed a top drug lord. His family was gunned down in revenge, part of the more than 14,000 people killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon escalated his country's war on drugs in 2006, sending in federal troops. The latest violence, however, would seem to breach new levels of insidiousness.

Across the border, the American city of Phoenix has averaged one drug-related kidnapping a day for the past two years, as the battle in Mexico -- some have called it a civil war -- spills into the United States. Meanwhile, 350,000 Americans are imprisoned at the moment for drug offenses, while more than 22,000 overdosed using drugs last year. Federal and state governments will spend about $50 billion in our war on drugs this year.

Here in East Boston, most of us have a family member or friend who has struggled with addiction problems. People who passed through the Boys & Girls Club as kids or through my classroom as teens have died from using or been arrested on drug charges, including Johnny Forbes, recently all over the news. Of course, all of these cases are tragedies, and we feel for the families.

While people must be held accountable for their actions, I hope we all understand the precariousness of each of our lives. Addiction doesn't just happen to the ignorant or poor or damaged. We're all flawed individuals with our own shortcomings and weaknesses. We each have to live our own lives surrounded by a multitude of factors that no one else sees. I'm reminded of a verse from a song called "Courage" by a Canadian band, The Tragically Hip:
There's no simple explanation
for anything important any of us do
and yet the human tragedy
consists in the necessity
of living with the consequences
under pressure, under pressure.

While it would make sense to rethink public policy as it relates to drugs, with much more money spent on treatment, people aren't going to stop looking any time soon for ways to fight off the blues, to forget the past or to alleviate physical pain, and as long as Americans will seek out illegal narcotics there will be someone trying to make some money getting the stuff to market and others willing to kill or to go to jail in order to get a piece of the action.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alive with the sound of music

The Boston Phoenix has a story (and photo, at right) on the firehouse turned music space on Sumner Street that Zumix revamped and opened just recently. I drove past there today and from the outside the building looks fantastic.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Get yourself a cup of Jolt

The newest rendition of The Eastie Jolt is up, featuring lyrics from the young people of ZUMIX and a remembrance of the fabled East Boston Community News, which published its last issue 20 years ago.
You'll also find poetry, fiction, photography and an essay on why its important to stick together in tough economic times.

The Jolt is an outlet for creativity in East Boston. Those who live and work here are invited to contribute to the site. To submit material, send along an idea or offer feedback, email

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The revolution will be Eastie-vized

The Globe has a piece today on Gene Sharp, the writer and director of the Albert Einstein Institution -- the small clearinghouse of non-violent revolutionary ideas and publications that is located in Sharp's house here in East Boston.

The story focuses on the role that Sharp's ideas, and those of other American scholars, have played in the popular uprisings that have taken place in Iran in the wake of that country's stolen presidential election. Sharp, 81, has a PhD from Oxford and is a professor emeritus at UMass/Dartmouth. He also played a key role in some of the Eastern European revolutions in the early 2000s.

I've made reference to Sharp on this blog a couple of times, most notably with a small entry back in 2007.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow emergency tonight

I got my text message from the City of Boston announcing that a snow emergency and parking ban will begin at 10 p.m. tonight. May the parking scrum begin!

The latest forecast is calling for 8 to 14 inches in the Boston area, with more to hit the South Shore.

Update (12/20): The city's snow emergency ends at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Where is health care reform heading? (Updated 12/19 below)

I'd like to personally chastise the people of Connecticut for electing Joe Lieberman as their US senator, allowing him to gum up the works on health care reform and to generally be a gadfly to the Democrats he claims to be affiliated with. Lieberman is an dullard who seems to enjoy being swayed by both sides as the potential 60th Democratic vote on any issue. Some people are just idiots, but what can you say about a state that sends such a man to Congress?

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced an amendment yesterday that would extend Medicare benefits to all Americans, effectively bringing a single-payer system to the US, as the good people of Canada, the UK, Australia and elsewhere already have. This is the route that I would like reform to take. However, even though the amendment had no chance of passing, a Republican senator asked that the 787-page proposal be read aloud in its entirety, something rare in a house of Congress, where big bills are often considered. This was clearly a move to slow down the whole health care debate and Sanders eventually withdrew his amendment -- which presumably delighted the Senate clerks who otherwise would be reading it for some ten hours.

And now, in today's Washington Post, Howard Dean -- former DNC chairman and presidential candidate -- writes that the current Senate health care proposal, stripped of a public option and a Medicare buy-in, would "do more harm than good to the future of America." Oh boy. What is a committed liberal to make of all this?

Update (12/19): Paul Krugman, writing in yesterday's New York Times, advocates passage of the current health care bill before the Senate, no matter how flawed it might be.

At its core, the bill would do two things. First, it would prohibit discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of medical condition or history: Americans could no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or have their insurance canceled when they get sick. Second, the bill would provide substantial financial aid to those who don’t get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small employers that do provide insurance.

All of this would be paid for in large part with the first serious effort ever to rein in rising health care costs.

The result would be a huge increase in the availability and affordability of health insurance, with more than 30 million Americans gaining coverage, and premiums for lower-income and lower-middle-income Americans falling dramatically.
Krugman goes on to write: "Look, I understand the anger here: supporting this weakened bill feels like giving in to blackmail — because it is." But an imperfect bill is better than no bill, the Nobel Prize-winner reasons, noting that Democrats failed to compromise on the issue with President Nixon and that President Clinton wouldn't compromise with moderate Republicans in Congress and, on both occasions, the outcome was no reform at all.

The final peg of Krugman's rationale is that social programs have often started as imperfect bills that get fixed along the way, with Social Security a prime example. So, he says, let's get it done. And I agree.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Take it down

Tell them to take down the giant American flag that hangs in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Bankers and other corporate executives have shown in the last couple of years that they care nothing about the United States and its people. Their only motivation is the bottom line.

The president met with CEOs of some of the nation's biggest financial institutions yesterday and they all played nice; in the meantime, they are lobbying Congress to weaken proposed reforms that would increase regulation of the industry to prevent meltdowns of the entire economy, such as the recent "Great Recession," which required massive amounts of tax dollars to avoid a total collapse and an actual depression.

Obama asked the "fatcats" to lend more to small businesses and the bankers made some half-hearted rumblings. They only get spurred into action when there is a pot of gold awaiting them at the other end. Then the bankers are willing to take wild risks that jeopardize the entire economy. When the flimsiness of their complex financial machinations was revealed all of us had to chip in to buoy the banks up. The system is, as many described it, socialism for big banks and big corporations.

Do us a favor guys. Take the Stars and Stripes down and put up something that really represents who you are wand what you do. Maybe the pirates' skull and crossbones?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Politics bests truth again

The chairman of the British government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, Dr. David Nutt, was fired from his post in October for speaking the truth. Nutt referred to a paper published in a respected medical journal and suggested that the UK rethink its drug policy using the research and other objective facts.

As we all know, the truth has little sway in the halls of government. Remember Joycelyn Elders, President Clinton's surgeon general, who was cut loose after a little more than a year because she said that masturbation is part of human sexuality? In the US, and in Britain as well, we sometimes behave like little children. It's ludicrous.

The Globe story on Dr. Nutt is discusses the study to which he made reference. The paper was published more than two years ago, and it asked a wide range of professionals to rank drugs according to three criteria: "physical effects on the user, the likelihood of addiction, and its impact on society," according to, and the totals were tabulated. It's no surprise that heroin is, by a wide margin, first on the list -- meaning that it's most dangerous -- but alcohol is fifth and tobacco are ninth, both ahead of marijuana, LSD, ecstasy and more.

Dr. Nutt and the researchers weren't saying that we should make alcohol and tobacco illegal and legalize everything below them on the list, but they do believe that the UK should reexamine its policies on illegal drugs with facts in mind. This seems eminently obvious and applicable to America as well. Alas, politics would seem to reject even that simple step.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Over-medicating the poor

Rather than race, ethnicity or religion, class is the prism through which I see most issues that affect our society. I think our public discourse is pitifully short of serious discussion on the topic, as some -- those on top of the socioeconomic pecking order -- push the story that there are no classes in America or that individuals can navigate the caste system upward with just a little elbow grease.

But that is one of our national myths. Take this story, for example, from today's New York Times:

New federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.

Those findings, by a team from Rutgers and Columbia, are almost certain to add fuel to a long-running debate. Do too many children from poor families receive powerful psychiatric drugs not because they actually need them — but because it is deemed the most efficient and cost-effective way to control problems that may be handled much differently for middle-class children?

That's just one of many ways -- some of them out in the open and some, like this, in the shadows -- that working class and poor people are screwed by the system.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clinic news

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center is receiving a $12 million federal grant "for construction projects and technology upgrades," according to The money is part of $80 million in stimulus funds that are being awarded to eight community health centers in Massachusetts.

Also in the news, Dr. Peter Stringham, who worked as a pediatric and adolescent physician at the EBNHC for 32 years, will receive the Public Health Leadership Award in Brookline on Dec. 16. Stringham was an institution at what I grew up calling "the clinic," and when I was a teenager he was my doctor.

Holiday Fair today

I received an email today regarding this event:
The Harborside Community Center's Holiday Fair is today from 5 to 8 p.m. at 312 Border Street in East Boston. The event includes food, art, raffles, baked goods, sing-a-longs and kids' activities, and it supports the special Adult Education program at Harborside.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Today's vote

There's a good field of Democrats in today's special election for US Senate. They seem, for the most part, to be where I am on the issues, and the lack of broad differences has made for a fairly lackluster campaign. I am going to vote for Mike Capuano because I like his record in Congress and I think he's generally a straightforward guy.

Martha Coakley has led in all the polls I've seen, although her margin has probably shrunk since the summer. She's likely make a good senator as well, though until recently I thought her next big race would be for governor, and I can see her in that role. Alan Khazei would certainly make an interesting senator, and I was surprised by the Globe's endorsement of the City Year founder. Steve Pagliuca seems like a good guy, and it's true that wealthy elected officials are less likely to be susceptible to the effects of money on their votes.

As a Congressman, Capuano voted against both the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act, and those votes are key from my perspective. He stood up and did what was right in a time when many rushed to judgment out of fear and political considerations. I'm not sure what the others would have done -- and a previous statement indicates that Coakley would have supported the Patriot Act -- but I know what Capuano did. That's the kind of guts and brains I want in my senator.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Serving with spirit

Several hundred people are gathered at the Boys & Girls Club gym (formerly Savio Hall) in East Boston this morning for a volleyball tournament sponsored by Catholic churches in the Greater Boston area. About a dozen teams of women and girls are on hand for the event. In the photo, the Everett team celebrates after taking a set off a squad from Cambridge.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The tragedy at Bhopal

Another anniversary today: this one shameful. It was 25 years ago today that a Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India, released a cloud of toxic gas that killed immediately about 4,000 people and another 10,000 to 20,000 people over time.

There's an op-ed piece in today's New York Times about the tragedy: how Dow Chemical -- which bought Union Carbide in 2001 -- disclaims any responsibility from the event; and how the CEO of UC at the time has never been extradited from the US despite the international arrest warrant in his name.

Of course, the poor and powerless of the world don't stand a chance when it comes to multi-national corporations and their relentless pillaging of the world's resources. The water, the air, the soil, the food, the social fabric of society -- whatever sits in the way of profit doesn't stand a chance.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave'

John Brown -- terrorist to some, hero to others -- was hanged 150 years ago today not far from the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Va., that he and 21 others raided on Oct. 16, 1859. The siege lasted into the next day, but Marines under the command of Robert E. Lee -- then a colonel in the federal army -- stormed the building, killed several of the men and took Brown and others prisoner.

Brown was tried and found guilty within three weeks and hanged on Dec. 2. A 21-year-old John Wilkes Booth was among the crowd that assembled to watch. Before his death, Brown wrote:
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.
He was unfortunately correct.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In the red zone

East Boston High School football coach John Sousa will retire from the position after this season, which means his last game will either be this evening or on Saturday, depending on how the Jets fare in tonight's playoff game. The squad is 9-1 and meets Bristol-Plymouth (8-2) in Taunton at 5:15. A win puts them in Saturday's Division 4 Super Bowl against Whittier. Sousa has coached Eastie's gridiron gang for 17 years.

Update: Eastie advanced to Saturday's championship game with a 35-8 win last night.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Eastie company helps with energy decisions

Today's Boston Herald gives some ink to a small local business that is "getting national attention for its youthful take on clean energy," according to the story. Emergent Energy Group began with a few college students in 2007. They're still a small operation -- located at 61 Maverick Street -- but the company will bring in around a quarter-million dollars this year.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finding Unity in Maine has an interesting story about several Amish families moving into the small Maine town of Unity, which is 90 miles or so northeast of Portland. Central Maine is beautiful, rugged, generally undeveloped and often struggling economically. The Amish have been able to find some relatively inexpensive land and neighbors that admire their lifestyle.

I've been to Unity to attend the Common Ground Country Fair, an annual event that celebrates organic farming and rural living in general. It's an interesting event, with music and food and cool exhibits.

I'm also intrigued by the Amish. I'm not down with their hardcore religious beliefs and the strict patriarchy they usually observe, but there is a great deal to be said for living more simply and closer to the earth. (Disclaimer in advance of sneers: Yes, I own a car, PC, laptop, cell phone, etc.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tweeting locally

If you use Twitter you might want to add East_Boston to the list of those you follow (check it out at There's also the good folks at on Twitter at EBDotCom (

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Santarpio's North?

Until now, the legendary Santarpio's name has been safeguarded: no other locations and no retail products. It seems, however, that the family has purchased the site of the former Bennigan's on Route 1 in Peabody and they intend to call the new place Santarpio's. After renovations, the eatery is scheduled to open in March. It's unclear so far how similar the menu will be to the landmark East Boston restaurant.

'so that we might...rejoice together'

From A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimoth in New England (commonly known as Mourt's Relation) by Edward Winslow, published in London in 1622:
...our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The origin of Origin

Charles Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species, was published 150 years ago today and it has been a hugely important work ever since. Some news sites -- still under the impression that being fair means giving equal time to those whose viewpoints have no basis in fact -- are saying that the debate still rages on; however, there is no debate. Darwin was wrong about some things, but his theory of natural selection is still accepted and has become, according to Wikipedia, "the unifying theory of the life sciences."

Darwin, who was born 200 years ago this year, was a brilliant and courageous scientist. The small-minded among us who try to push evolution out of the classroom are stuck in the Middle Ages. Ye muste taketh the truthe & accepteth it.

That sinking feeling

Another model shows that East Boston -- at least the residential parts of the neighborhood -- will be underwater by the middle of this century due to global climate change. (Logan Airport looks like it'll be in decent shape.) Other parts of Boston, including much of the downtown area, will also be inundated, with the overall loss in assets worth nearly a half trillion dollars.

While I try to take several steps to be a more judicious consumer of energy and I support big steps the government should take, I fully expect that human beings will be unable to gather the will to stop the planet's warming. Even as the effects of our actions become more visible and more calamitous, people will still put profit and convenience ahead of our common interests and our species' long-term survival, like the dying smoker who keeps puffing away even while carrying around an oxygen tank. We're doomed.

On the other hand, East Boston was created by connecting islands with landfill, and soon enough she will return to the sea. The hands of man can only hold off the hand of nature for so long.

Map from

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Obama needs to rise to challenge

I know that Barack Obama is working on numerous fronts to bring forth policies that I believe in, but the ride is slow, bumpy and not at all guaranteed to succeed -- and it seems that the president hasn't been fighting enough to make these important changes come to fruition. I cannot help but pine for a leader like Franklin Roosevelt.

Now, Obama does not have FDR's disposition and the economic mess he inherited, while serious, is not the Great Depression (and therefore, drastic action is harder to implement). More than that, however, times have changed since the 1930s and 1940s, and maybe there's no bigger example than the breadth and scrutiny of the media, evidenced by disproved lies, like Obama not being a citizen, getting significant play while an actual fact, that FDR was confined to a wheelchair, was hushed by the press of his day.

Those who have grumbled about Obama being socialist and the most radical occupant ever of the White House are ignoring that the current president is nowhere near as far to the left as Roosevelt, who quickly and forcefully empowered the government to help the "third of the nation" that was "ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished," actions which had him labeled "a traitor to his class."

Today I watched a PBS documentary on the federal government program that sent photographers out to chronicle rural poor during the Depression, an undertaking that resulted in 160,000 images (the most famous of which, Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" is to the right) that are housed in the Library of Congress and considered a national treasure. The project was conceived by a member of FDR's inner circle, and the president not only gave the go-ahead, but fought battles with Congress, which sought to defund the program because members felt the realistic and sad images reflected badly on the US.

Today, most historians consider FDR in the company of Lincoln and Washington as America's greatest presidents, and back in 2000 Time magazine chose Roosevelt as runner-up (to Albert Einstein) as the most important person of the 20th century. Despite the consequences of his paralytic illness, FDR stood up against fascism abroad and economic injustice at home. He fought the good fight like few presidents before or since. Now, in the midst again of war and economic uncertainty, I'd like to see President Obama stand tall and forcefully against the short-sighted, narrow-minded and self-serving opponents to his agenda of change.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hubster praises Times -- with one complaint

First off, for those who say that I never have anything good to say about the East Boston Times, there's a photo on Page 11 of this week's paper that is shot from a low angle and shows some veterans from behind with the flag above them. There's some creativity to the shot, and I like it.

Also, on Page 10, there is a photo of two people talking at the opening of an artists' building -- a rare instance of people not posed in a Times photo. On Page 3 the photos at the Salesian Boys and Girls Club Spaghetti Supper don't include any of the usual suspects, which is nice to see.

I only have one criticism this week, but it's a serious factual error. The story of the Spaghetti Supper begins:
It’s no secret there was some animosity towards the Salesians after the religious order evicted Savio Prep High School from its property on Byron Street two years ago.
The Salesians did not, in fact, evict Savio Prep High School, and it is misleading to say so. The school's board of directors voted to shut down Savio in January or February of 2007. I know because I was on the faculty at the time. There was, I believe, one more year left on the school's lease.

Now, I'm not saying that there weren't issues between the Salesians and the school, but the reality is that Savio should not have even opened up for that last year. As it was, the place went bankrupt before it finished paying all of the salary obligations to employees (despite assurances I was personally given when I returned that fall that the school would be open for at least two years, I and others were screwed thousands of dollars) and the building was not in good shape.

Anyway, while it's true that there was animosity, it is incorrect to say that Savio was evicted.

Marking time in style

Local artists Ejay Khan and Chris Murray have put together a calendar featuring photographs taken all over East Boston, and many of the images are striking.

The calendar, along with many other cool items is available at their shop Images by Khan and Murray at 6 Bremen Street, just around the corner from Maverick Square.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Say no to popcorn

Next time you visit the cinema, you may want to pass on the giant barrel of popcorn. Even before you add the fake butter, a medium-size movie theater popcorn and a soda have as much fat and calories as three quarter-pounders. Great Caesar's ghost!

This story comes from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which releases reports a few times a year to tell us what we should pretty much have known anyway: the mall cinnamon rolls, the supermarket processed foods and the movie theater snacks -- among other things that Americans are consuming vast quantities of -- are all horrifically bad for us.

As food expert Michael Pollan says, "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rogue watching

Atlantic Monthly blogger Andrew Sullivan is following closely the moves and machinations of Sarah Palin, who is now on tour pushing her book. Like many on either side of the political divide, Sullivan was outraged that John McCain created this monster.

McCain, writes Sullivan, "perpetrated this nonsense and even now refuses to take an ounce of responsibility" for "the fact that a person of no credentials and no transparency and no knowledge came that close to being president of this country ...I want the truth about this farce fully exposed so it never, ever happens again."

Between the publication of her book, Going Rogue (cover, above, from Wikipedia) and appearances (Oprah and elsewhere) to support the book, Palin has worked herself again into the center of a media storm. Meanwhile, former future son-in-law Levi Johnston -- the father of Bristol Palin's child -- is posing for Playgirl magazine.

John McCain unleashed this plague upon us, and Andrew Sullivan is right to insist that he be held accountable.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Creative juices

The latest incarnation of The Eastie Jolt is up and it includes poetry from a local wordsmith, photographs of some of East Boston's natural beauty and an essay on turning to each other during difficult economic times.

In recent weeks The Jolt has published a story on the neighborhood's turn-of-the-century Jewish community and a piece on a local hip-hop record label, as well as fiction, art and more poetry, photographs and essays. All of it can be found on the site.

Submissions of writing and photography are accepted from any East Boston resident, as well as those who used to live in the neighborhood or work here. Send material or questions to

Comments policy changed

An infusion of "junk mail"-type comments, as well as a number of silly and inappropriate comments, has necessitated that readers must register in order to post from here on. The shift was delayed repeatedly, but it has become too time consuming to do otherwise.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dinner time

***The Salesian Boys & Girls Club is holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser tonight in the cafeteria of its current location, the old Savio Hall. The proceeds will help sustain the club's programming for young people from East Boston.

***State rep. Carlo Basile is again sponsoring a Thanksgiving Day dinner at the Sacred Heart Church. Transportation can be arranged by calling 617.913.3332. This community has a long tradition of such events, which speaks to the notion that we are each responsible for helping out our neighbors when we can.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Local business needs your help

Local entrepreneur Rob Pyles and his Audissey Guides are one of the finalists in Forbes Magazine's Boost Your Business Contest. Audissey offers downloadable podcasts of walking tours of cities, historic sites and more. Check out their web site here.

A group of 1,500 businesses has been whittled down to just five in the competition, with $100,000 going to the winner. The contest is partially decided by Internet voting, which can be done here. You can watch a video of Rob in New York City to pitch the idea to a panel of judges here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hyperbolic bollocks

I've never read an editorial quite like the screed in last week's East Boston Times. There's almost no attempt to make a logical case for the position that casino gambling should be brought to Suffolk Downs; instead there's a collection of ridiculous hyperbole and a bunch of straw-man arguments.

According to the Nov. 4 editorial, "Negative vibes," those against bringing a casino to East Boston:

-- "stand against progress in this litigious world" and "prefer economic inertia to sound development and job creation"
-- believe a casino at Suffolk Downs would be an "immoral Tower of Babel"
-- believe a casino would be "ruinous in every measure."
-- believe a casino would require "twin eight lane highways costing $500 million" and that traffic will be "so bad that life is going to stop"
-- believe that "East Boston ...will be ruined if Suffolk Downs is developed"
-- believe that "East Boston ... will be obliterated, the fabric of the community torn, the civil society shredded, tattered beyond recognition with East Boston itself taking on the persona of a homicide victim brutally stabbed to death and left to bleed."
-- believe that, "Small business will be ruined. Housing values will tumble. Prostitution will take over. Drugs will flow."
-- believe that "East Boston becomes Sodom and Gomorrah and people looking back at the neighborhood will run the risk of turning themselves into pillars of salt."

Are they serious? Was this supposed to be an actual attempt to say something intelligent on an important matter? Bringing casino gambling to Massachusetts and, specifically, to East Boston is an issue that has legitimate arguments on both sides. Reasonable people can discuss the subject and reach different conclusions. With this ridiculous polemic, the Times completely ignores rational discussion.

Meanwhile, the Times' front-page story about a State House hearing on casino gambling reads like a transcript of comments by an official from Suffolk Downs. The article is completely one-sided for two reasons: first, the remarks aren't evaluated, investigated, fact-checked, scrutinized or analyzed; and second, no one else is quoted in the story. You mean to tell me that nobody showed up who was on the other side of the issue? Or did those who write the Times' editorials instruct their reporter to ignore anyone at the hearing who is against casino gambling?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Potential buyers to look at Savio

Word is that representatives from North Cambridge Catholic High School will be looking at the former location of Savio High School in East Boston as a possible future site. NCC, currently located just off Mass. Ave. about a mile northwest of Porter Square, apparently needs to move and has been negotiating with the Archdiocese of Boston for a building that housed another school near Savin Hill in Dorchester. After eight months the two sides still seem far apart with regard to price, so the school's board wants to look elsewhere.

NCC is one of 24 schools that are part of the Cristo Rey Network, which educates urban teens using "a unique program that requires students to work one day a week with a corporate sponsor in order to subsidize their tuition," according to Time magazine, which called the program "an island of success in the Catholic ocean."

Savio shut down in June of 2007 due to financial difficulties. The school, run by the Salesian order of the Catholic Church, opened its doors in 1958 as St. Domenic Savio High School. After several decades of success (I graduated in 1981), the Salesians announced that they needed to close down the school, but the community expressed outrage and a number of accomplished alumni stepped forward and negotiated a deal. The doors opened in the fall of 1993 as Savio Preparatory High School, and though the institution wasn't shut for any school days, a significant number of faculty members and students had moved on. By the mid-2000s the school was in trouble again and nothing would save it.

While the gym building has been utilized as the Salesian Boys & Girls Club, the classroom building -- a brick structure at the corner of Horace and Byron streets (see photo) -- is older and needs quite a bit of work. Plaster is falling inside rooms and offices, tiles are chipped and broken, there's been some water damage and there's a musty smell throughout. It's been said that the building needs "hundreds of thousands of dollars" worth of work. The visit by NCC is only an initial step, and it remains to be seen whether this is simply a tactic by the school to spur on the negotiations with the archdiocese for the Dorchester site.

The irony here is that Savio was one of the places that Cristo Rey initially considered back when the program first came to scout sites in Boston at some point just as the organization was forming about a decade ago. I was on the faculty at the time, and Savio's leadership quickly squashed the idea. Cristo Rey kept looking and discovered that NCC was an ailing Catholic high school willing to embrace the innovative approach.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Remembering slain officer

Richard Halloran, a Boston Police sergeant who was shot and killed in the line of duty at the corner of Bremen Street and Neptune Road 34 years ago today, was honored this morning. With the mayor and others on hand and bagpipes playing, a bronze and granite memorial was unveiled.

Image from

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

The polls are open and the race for mayor will be decided today after the most contentious campaign for City Hall in years. The Boston City Council will also see some new faces, as well as some old familiars.

Any comments or observations? How does turnout look so far? What's the word on the street? This thread will be open all day for comments on the election (but let's keep it factual and civil, not biased and inflammatory).

Here is a look at the names on today's ballot. Here is where to find the location of your polling place. Here is the Globe's election coverage.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Whose cider you on?

We are deep into apple season and, as I've mentioned before, I am a cider guy -- an unpasteurized cider guy, to be specific. Each autumn I drive out to orchards that sell the delectable unprocessed libation, and yesterday I went to one of the best cider towns in the state: Stow.

I'd been out there Columbus Day weekend and picked up a couple gallons of cider at Honeypot Hill, which was packed with visitors looking at farm animals, navigating a maze, sampling cider donuts and purchasing farm products. Their cider is good -- I'd had some of it for the past few years -- and if I remember they're charging $5.50 a gallon.

In mid-October I went up to Russell Orchards in Ipswich, which is a nice place, but the cider -- at $6.25 a jug -- was just mediocre (unlike last year). They do sell a nice assortment of fruit wines, and on fall weekends Russell often has a bluegrass band playing and a fireplace going.

Yesterday I hit up a pair of places across the street from each other on Great Road (Route 117) in Stow. Derby Orchards, which I often frequent because their farm store is usually open late in the season, was selling cider for $4.25 a gallon! (Only Market Basket, at $4, sells cider less expensively, but it's pasteurized, which changes the flavor.) It's good stuff, but even better is One Stack Farm.

I'd never been to One Stack before, and it's almost hidden at the corner of Great Road and Packard Road. I purchased the cider for $5 a gallon from an older gentleman inside an open garage. The beverage is sweet and smooth. I've often found that the smaller the operation -- at Phil's Apples off I-495 in Harvard you'll find Phil pressing the apples in front of you -- the better the cider.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rolling on the river

I was at the Condor Street Urban Wilds today when an oil tanker, the Panagia Lady, passed beneath the raised Meridian Street Bridge and made its way up the Chelsea Creek. I took some photos, including the one above, which captures a gentleman at the bottom right who had a much better camera than I did. (Click on photo for a larger image.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Decision time for Afghanistan

Twin bombshells regarding Afghanistan in the past couple of days: Foreign Service Officer Matthew Hoh's resignation; and The New York Times story that Afghan president's brother, who was widely reported to be in control of that country's drug trade, has been on the CIA payroll for years. Throw in the obvious widespread fraud during Afghanistan's presidential election, and we have a toxic mix just as President Obama is in the final stages of making a decision on future US policy in that South Asian nation.

I think that American forces need to be pulled out of Afghanistan. I understand the post-9/11 invasion, but I don't see what we are accomplishing now -- eight years later. For those on the fence, I suggest that you read Hoh's resignation letter, which makes clear the complexities of the situation and, further, says that America's presence is only making things worse. In fact, I think everyone should read the letter.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cheap AND dry

I stopped at Market Basket in Chelsea today during the deluge and, when I came out, there were a couple of store employees with umbrellas in the parking lot to escort customers to their cars. I've never seen that at a store of any kind.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taking a pounding

In the wake of a University of Michigan study on the long-term health of retired pro football players, there is a rising chorus of concerned voices. The study, commissioned by the NFL, shows higher rates of dementia, Alzheimer's and other brain-related syndromes in those who suffered the repeated concussions associated with the sport.

I read the story in last week's New Yorker in which Malcolm Gladwell compared the physical damage done to NFL lineman to that done to the animals used in dogfighting -- very much in the news after the return to the field of Michael Vick. Gladwell's point wasn't, of course, that pro football players get ripped to shreds, but rather that they sacrifice their bodies for the enjoyment of others.

The New York Times has a story today about a former NFL executive trying to rally support for the retirees, who sometimes fall through the cracks of the league's support programs, and a Congressional committee has announced that hearings will be held on the matter.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I know a little bit about the issue, having written a story about concussions among high school athletes when I was a sports reporter in southern Maine. (I recently posted the award-winning story again at The Eastie Jolt.)

The medical professionals I spoke with at the time were quite concerned about the issue and felt that it needed to get more attention from everyone involved in youth and collegiate sports -- and not just with regards to football, but other sports where concussions sometimes occur.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


One of the two Zipcar locations in East Boston is looking for a new home. The car-sharing company won't be able to use the spots at Maverick Square and Henry Street after the end of this month, and Zipcar is looking for another suitable location that can fit two or three vehicles. If you have such a spot or know of one you can email

The second Eastie site, at the Gumball Factory condos on Orleans Street, is still in use.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For art's sake

Atlantic Works is hosting an exhibition of the work of Valentina Oppezzo, "a young Italian photographer now living in Cambridge." The subject of the photos include toys, food and Italian landscapes. The exhibit, sponsored by Italia Unita, runs through Oct. 31, with a cocktail reception next Thursday.

The gallery is also hosting "Phallic Confessions and Flaccid Truth" -- new work by Laura Torres and Samantha Marder -- through Oct. 24.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Police reports

The Boston Police are reporting (via Twitter) that someone was shot this evening in Maverick Square. Also, it says that there was a fire this morning at 117 Maverick Street.

Links to police web sites:

Boston Police Twitter site

BPD news

Police Station 7 web site

Monday, October 19, 2009

Debate feedback

What did you think about tonight's debate between Mayor Menino and Councilor Flaherty? Did you watch? Key moments? Was there a winner? Comment here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Globe poll shows Menino +20%; Flaherty's internals show half that

The Globe released the results of a new poll in the mayoral race that shows the gap between the incumbent and his challenger has closed somewhat. Mayor Thomas Menino, however, still has a 20-point advantage over City Councilor Michael Flaherty.

Flaherty has clearly gained some ground since the spring, when a similar poll showed a 38-point split, as voters have become more focused on the race, the field was narrowed by the preliminary election and some of the challengers allegations against the current administration -- most notably the missing email fiasco -- have failed to disappear.

Menino leads Flaherty in the two-man race, 52-32 percent, according to the poll. An incredible 69 percent of those surveyed have a favorable view of the mayor -- numbers that any politician would covet. Flaherty's favorability rating is at 50 percent.

Update (10/18): The Boston Phoenix reports that the Flaherty camp is questioning the Globe poll, as their internal numbers -- provided to the weekly paper -- show a much different picture. In that poll, Menino's lead among "likely voters" (which the Globe's poll did not exclusively include) shrinks to 10 percent -- and 7 just percent among "definite voters."

That seems more in keeping with a nervous City Hall, as I wrote about above. Thanks to the commenter who pointed me to the Phoenix on this.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

At-large candidates favor East Vegas

Universal Hub provides a summation of the opinions of several City Council at-large candidates on whether slots and/or a casino should be situated at Suffolk Downs. The general consensus among the group seems to be that they are in favor of some form of gambling at the racetrack, but that issues involving traffic and other matters much be worked out beforehand.

The candidates thoughts on other issues can also be found here at Universal Hub.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bitter sweet

This week's East Boston Times includes a story on a reporter's discovery that granulated sugar was first produced in this neighborhood at the Boston Sugar Refinery, which was started in 1834. The piece, entitled "A sweet story, indeed," starts on Page 5 and jumps to Page 10. It begins with a first-person account, but then becomes a story on the history of the sugar plant in Eastie.

William Sumner's 1858 book, A History of East Boston, is quoted and referenced appropriately. Then, unfortunately, there is a long chunk of the story that is right out of Wikipedia, which is rather disappointing. Except for a single flip-flop of two parts of a sentence, the next five paragraphs are taken verbatim from the entry on the Boston Sugar Refinery, interspersed with a Sumner quote on the smell of the sugar plant.

Maybe this was a legitimate error. I hope it is not standard operating procedure for the Times. I know that across America teachers are fighting a daily battle against students who frequently plagiarize from the Internet, as the convenience of simply cutting and pasting is difficult for teenagers to pass up. Certainly we demand more from our media.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What exactly was discovered?

On this day in October, some 517 years ago, ships captained by an Italian explorer who sailed for the Spanish crown caught sight of land after two months at sea. As they approached in boats the shore of what is now believed to be an island in the Bahamas, the native peoples -- Arawak Indians -- came out to greet their guests. A couple days later, Christopher Columbus wrote to the Spanish king:
They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language...I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.
Columbus and his men then set out to find gold, but there was almost none to be had. He did kidnap and bring 25 natives with him when he returned to Spain (though no more than eight survived the trip) and, quite likely, he and his men brought syphilis back to the Old World as well.

On his second trip to the Caribbean, Columbus spent time in Cuba, where he oversaw the murder and enslavement of the Taino people. Tens of thousands were apparently butchered and many of the rest sent back to Europe as slaves. Some committed suicide -- and killed their own children -- rather than get captured. European diseases, especially smallpox, eventually took the rest. Columbus later wrote:
From here one might send, in the name of the Holy Trinity, as many slaves as could be sold...
On his third voyage, Columbus took along a young priest named Bartolome de las Casas, who would write of what he witnessed: a short time this land which was so great, so powerful and fertile... was depopulated ... My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write...
Christopher Columbus, whom we laud today with a federal holiday, was a brilliant navigator and self-marketer. He was the first European to land in what became the Americas since Leif Ericson and other Icelanders settled in eastern Canada around 1000 AD, and Columbus is certainly an historical figure of great import.

However, he did bring with him -- and personally took part in -- a wave of violence, greed and genocide that swept over the New World. That part of the story should not be sanitized when we read, and teach, history. It may be unpleasant to acknowledge, but it is the truth.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Finding an exit strategy

I think Frank Rich nails it when he says in his latest New York Times column that the US needs to extract itself from Afghanistan. Rich points out that those who are most loudly advocating sending more troops to that country (namely, John McCain and his allies) were also the people who pushed the invasion of Iraq -- a diversion that forced Afghanistan onto the back-burner, which is why we are still there today.

"Afghanistan is not Iraq," Rich writes. "It is poorer, even larger and more populous, more fragmented and less historically susceptible to foreign intervention." And the oft-skipped over reality in Iraq is the much-touted "surge" only found some success because a) the sectarian killing had pretty much succeeded by then in purging the Sunni from Shia areas and vice-versa and b) the Sunni rose up in Anbar province because they'd had enough of the insurgents killing of Muslims.

President Obama needs to begin the withdrawal of American military personnel from Afghanistan. The US has been there long enough, the Afghan government is corrupt, our military needs a rest and our treasury cannot afford the price. The fallout will be severe from the the Right, but we are not going to win this conflict in the conventional sense. That already happened just weeks into the start of hostilities. I can see no goal that we can possibly achieve by staying. Let's declare victory and bring the troops home. The president needs to start securing the peace that his Nobel promises.

Fill your weekend with art

Local artists in East Boston open their doors to the public this weekend. Check here for the details.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Newest Logan runway hasn't lessened delays

In April of 2001 the East Boston Sun Transcript (owned by the group that currently owns the EB Times) published a column of mine in which I listed six reasons why I believed adding a sixth runway at Logan Airport was a mistake. I wrote:
First, let us address Massport's main argument. Their commercials and their literature assert that adding a runway would decrease airport delays and congestion, at the same time alleviating some of the problems that locals have with Logan: noise, pollution, and traffic.

The fact is that the FAA's own web site indicates that most airport delays -- 75% of those in February, for example -- are due to poor weather conditions. An additional runway would mean additional flights delayed or canceled when the weather is bad. Therefore, building Runway 14/32 would have the opposite effect outlined in Massport's propaganda.

Runway 14/32 was eventually built and became active in November of 2006. Today there is a report in the news that says Logan Airport (and the smaller regional airport in Manchester, NH) "ranked 78th out of 89 metropolitan areas in the nation" in on-time flights and, "This year’s performance is a 2 percent improvement from the same time period in 2008, but 4 percent worse than five years ago."

Massport, as usual, played fast and loose with the facts. I know virtually nothing about the logistics of air travel, yet I was able to deduce that their arguments didn't make sense. Then, as now, Massport cannot be trusted.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The plot thickens (Update below)

A second computer is suddenly found in a back room? Top city aide Michael Kineavy temporarily steps down? Secretary of State Bill Galvin says that City Hall has been unresponsive to his requests? Some wonder openly whether politics is slowing the response of Attorney General Martha Coakley? Councilor Mike Flaherty tossing out accusations on the campaign trail?

The Menino Administration's Emailgate is exploding big time, fueled by the race for mayor that is just weeks away.

Update (10/8): Meanwhile, the East Boston Times published a laughable little editorial in this week's paper, saying that this is a "big to-do" that "the Boston dailies are trying to trump up over a bunch of useless e-mails..." I'm not sure how the Times knows the content of the emails, since not all of them have been recovered AND since a second computer was discovered. Are these talking points directly from City Hall?

I don't understand how anyone would think it acceptable for emails to be erased in violation of state law and in violation of a subpoena in the Dianne Wilkerson/Chuck Turner corruption case -- especially a newspaper. If there's nothing to hide then why is the Menino Administration dragging its feet?

Well, at least the Times comments occur on the editorial page this time and not in a Page 1 "news story" as happened a few weeks ago. In fact, there is something poetic about this Times editorial, with its one-sentence paragraphs and vivid imagery:
It is a hurricane without winds or rain,
a tornado without a swirling funnel cloud,
and an earthquake without a tremor
Reminds me of a line from Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thinking inside the box

The Globe has a story today about the state cracking down on people who skip out on jury duty. Massachusetts apparently follows through on issuing summonses for people who don't show and then warrants for those who ignore a summons. The state seems to have a relatively low rate or juror delinquency: 6.4%.

As opposed to most of the people I've ever spoken with, I like jury duty. I've been called three times and served twice. The first was a handgun possession case; the second, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. It may surprise some to know that I voted "guilty" in both of those cases (and both defendants were found guilty).

The third time I was called I just missed getting on a jury because I knew both the victim and the defendant. They were from East Boston, and one can connect the dots if I reveal that the case involved a girl I knew from the Boys & Girls Club, where I worked for many years, and her stepfather.

I find jury duty interesting, and I've also felt reassured to see how serious everyone who served with me approached the task at hand. I hope to be called again soon.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tightening school security

The Boston Herald reports that metal detectors are being installed in five more of the city's schools, including East Boston High School. That will leave all but four of Boston's 39 high schools with the weapons-detection systems.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Eastie Chamber backs Suffolk casino

The East Boston Chamber of Commerce generated a "Breaking News" headline yesterday on the Boston Herald's web site when the group released a letter announcing that it "strongly supports expanded gaming at Suffolk Downs."

The rationale, according to the letter, is the job creation and the "ancillary economic benefits for East Boston businesses" generated by a local casino. Also, that a casino "would produce up to $500 million in annual revenue for the state," that Suffolk Downs has "expanded its community outreach and philanthropic efforts over the last few years," and that track owner Richard Fields has pledged to "buy goods and services locally."

It seems to me that the expected benefits will be outweighed by the negative consequences of situating such an operation so close to an urban residential neighborhood; that the state revenue number quoted is almost certainly overblown; that Suffolk's recent philanthropy is clearly part of a strategy to enlist local support (Why not spend thousands in order to make millions?); and that Fields' "pledge" will likely be discarded the first time he can save a penny per item on something that he needs in quantity.

I would hope that the Chamber isn't solely motivated by the fact that there is money to be made here. I would have expected that any support on this issue by a local civic organization would be tempered by a few words saying, "There may be some negative effects and we hope that these measures are in place to counteract them." The Chamber's letter, however, says in essence, "Full steam ahead!" One can't help but feel that people in and out of the state see a money spigot about to turn on and they're all lining up with cups in hand.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A pair of local deaths

An East Boston man died last night after being "pulled from the waters off of Winthrop Beach," according to the Boston Herald. The 39-year-old, who has yet to be identified, apparently drowned. Emergency personnel responded after "residents walking the shore heard 'screams for help,'" the story says. Jake Wark, press secretary for the Suffolk County DA's office, said, "The drowning is not being treated as a homicide investigation."

Also, a body was found in or near Piers Park on Sept. 18, according to Universal Hub on a tip from a tweet by photographer Rick Nohl. I apparently missed the original reports, but stumbled across the story yesterday.It appears that whatever happened was an accident, according to a comment on Universal Hub left by Wark:

Passersby discovered the body last night. The man, apparently homeless, was tangled up in a bicycle as if he had fallen while riding. There were no obvious signs of foul play, but an autopsy will be conducted today to determine cause and manner of death.