Thursday, January 29, 2009
Obama signed his first bill into law today, and it was a no-brainer. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named for a woman who worked for two decades for Goodyear Tire & Rubber, but was paid less than the men in equivalent positions the entire time. Up until today, a ridiculous law -- supported by Republicans -- said that an employee could only go to court in such an instance within 180 days of the first unequal pay check. Since Ledbetter didn't know she was being slighted until she neared retirement, her case was tossed out by the Supreme Court, 5-4. The new law says that each paycheck is a violation of the law.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
In a 1990 interview with The Boston Globe, the prolific novelist, poet, essayist and critic said this about writers:
There's a kind of confessional impulse that not every literate, intelligent person has. A crazy belief that you have some exciting news about being alive, and I guess that more than talent is what separates those who do it from those who think they'd like to do it. That your witness to the universe can't be duplicated, that only you can provide it, and that it's worth providing.
Monday, January 26, 2009
The organization Stop the Pike Hike put out a press release late this afternoon that said its leader was verbally abused by a pair of elected officials from East Boston earlier today.
Members of the group were apparently invited to a meeting at the State House this morning by state Rep. Carlo Basile and state Sen. Anthony Petruccelli "to discuss a solution to the problem" of proposed toll increases on the Massachusetts Turnpike and the harbor tunnels. Then, the press release says:
Within a few minutes into the meeting, the two elected officials began to berate the founder of the group and their own constituent Michael Kelleher by cursing at him regarding his tone of voice.
There’s nothing more specific about the incident, but the statement says that because of the “lack of professionalism” shown by the elected officials, Stop the Pike Hike is “more determined than ever” to block toll increases. They are calling for a boycott of the Pike and tunnels beginning Feb. 2.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Though his candidacy has been seen as likely for months, the official word slipped out on an internet video apparently before the Flaherty camp intended, but the video is up now and in it the five-term councilor says clearly, "Today I am announcing my candidacy to become the next mayor of Boston."
Flaherty, who served as City Council president for five years, has more than a half-million dollars in his war chest, and he is likely to be the toughest challenger that Menino, who has a million dollars plus on hand, has seen in his record 16 years as mayor.
There has been speculation that Sam Yoon, another at-large councilor, will run for the mayor's seat as well, but so far he has not committed.
The Obama Administration promises to be more open and more technologically savvy than any previous government. For example, at the revamped WhiteHouse.gov citizens can look at proclamations, statements and executive orders from the new president, and over on YouTube the White House has its own page, where today's weekly radio/video address can be viewed.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
If DiMasi does go, look for casino gambling to return as an issue. The North End Democrat held the line against the proposal, but in his absence -- and with the state budget shortfall certain to impact people -- legislators and their constituents will, unfortunately, see casinos as a solution.
Update (1/26): The Globe is reporting that DiMasi has resigned as of tomorrow.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
We've reached a point, they say, where Citibank, for example, is actually insolvent, but is still afloat with the belief that the US government will and must step in because it is too big an entity to fail. As a result, the stock price has not collapsed; however, this means that Citibank will have to be propped up at some point by the Treasury because the other option -- that it falls off the cliff -- would be catastrophic.
One point I feel strongly about is that no business should be "too big to fail." The size and span of corporations should be limited so that their power to negatively impact our economy is greatly diluted. Greed has put us at the mercy of the conglomerate.
My second thought is that this is another death knell in the complete faith in unfettered free markets, a movement that returned under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. By 1980, the lessons of the Great Depression and its causes had been lost -- or conveniently forgotten by those looking for quick riches -- and so some of the checks and balances instituted by the New Deal were abolished, and then things accelerated under George W. Bush. And here we are, learning the same lessons again.
Finally, at what point do I pull my money out of the bank and stuff it in the mattress?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Barack Hussein Obama is now the President of the United States. His supporters are ecstatic; many of his detractors seem willing to give him a chance; and people around the world are cheering, crying, hoping. Is it possible for this single person to do all that is now expected of him?
We'll know those answers only in time. For now, let us offer a few comments on today's festivities:
***Chief Justice John Roberts screwed up the oath of office as he was administering it to the 44th president. How could that happen? I've known the presidential oath by heart since I was a teenager (OK...I am a geek like that), but Roberts muffed it when the whole world is watching. I find him in contempt!
***The inaugural speech, I thought, was good, though at moments like this, one hopes for better than good. It is doubtful that Lincoln's soaring and poignant rhetoric will ever be matched, but FDR and JFK are the high-water marks of the modern era and I don't think Obama delivered any lines as memorable as "...fear itself" or "Ask not..." He did, however, offer better remarks in his first 20 minutes on the job than his predecessor did in eight years.
***Obama specifically referenced atheists in his address ("We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers."), which is a small, but wonderful nod to the fact that a significant portion of the country's citizenry (10% to 15%) does not believe in a supreme being. That kind of inclusion and tolerance is not only nice to see, but appropriate and necessary.
***Controversial Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who delivered the invocation, said a few good things, but he ended with specific references to Jesus Christ and by reciting the "Our Father," two clearly Christian touchstones at a moment when non-denominational prayers are usually offered. He also mentioned the Obama girls' names in a creepy way.
***The inaugural poem, recited by Elizabeth Alexander, seemed unremarkable at first, but after reading it again I like it.
I hope to hear a memorable speech today, but expectations for the inaugural address -- like everything else about Obama -- are extremely high. As a correspondent joked on The Daily Show last night: "Obama's speech will make the Gettysburg Address look like a bunch of simian grunting."
Monday, January 19, 2009
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman weighs in similarly, but expands the notion to a widespread inquiry into a number of areas (going to war, warrantless wiretaps, politicizing the Justice Department, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the financial crisis) where incompetence and criminality may have taken place.
The desire to hold a mirror up to the past eight years and to punish this arrogant collection of rascals is strong, but doing so would undermine Barack Obama's attempts at shelving partisanship and could derail much of what he hopes to accomplish. The president-elect has said, “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law," but he's followed that with "...we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
Tomorrow, Obama will take an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution..." If he pushes aside a complete and just accounting of the Bush Administration in order to keep the mood in Washington, and around the country, positive, is he trampling on that oath? Is he allowing some people to get away with being above the law?
Krugman writes: "So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make."
Saturday, January 17, 2009
"People from Obama's transition have already contacted us," he said. "They wanted to know who we'd like to see in the top 35 positions in the Veterans Administration. We couldn't believe it."
Barack Obama has much to do and the issues and problems he and our country face are daunting, but the soon-to-be president is certainly inspiring many and even winning over some. He has, so far, lived up to his talk of a post-partisan administration. Of course, he hasn't spent a single second as chief executive yet; let's hope he continues to be the person that those of us who voted for him believe him to be.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
It's no surprise that local elected officials Carlo Basile and Anthony Petruccelli are pictured on the front page above the fold. In addition, there's another story about Basile inside and Petruccelli's photo with an editorial. I like both of these guys, but as I said before, I'd love to see stories and photos about people other than elected officials and Chamber of Commerce officers. Who are the other 40,000 people who live in this neighborhood?
Wait...there is a front-page story on someone else: Andrew Kenneally, an East Boston resident who is running for an at-large seat on the Boston City Council. The Times seems not to have contacted the former aide to Councilor Michael Flaherty for the article, instead listing information from a press release -- including the quotation.
More beefs: the Times' once decent sports coverage has shrunk down to half a page, with no photos; the story on the construction of the First Priority Credit Union makes no mention of the picketing workers who I saw out there a couple weeks ago; and, while it is nice to see a story on a fairly new local eatery, the piece on Scup's in the Harbor comes one week after the Globe spotlighted the place. Shouldn't the local paper get us there first?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I think that the T, the Pike, the roads and all of the transportation agencies in the state -- including Massport -- should be combined under the authority of the state transportation department. This makes state government completely accountable for it all. That's not to say that corruption or incompetence or tyranny will not surface, only that we will know who to blame when it does -- and they can be voted out of office.
Why is Massport being kept out of the proposed Massachusetts Surface Transportation Authority? Even the name seems to have been created with the goal of excluding the only agency of the bunch that makes a profit. Wouldn't it make some sense to use some of that cash to help run the MBTA, which has seen an increase in ridership? Or is Massport too powerful to touch?
Monday, January 12, 2009
If he had half a brain and any humility, Bush would have said that his decision to launch an invasion of Iraq -- based on intelligence that was shoddy and trumped up by his own administration -- ranks as a disappointing episode in his presidency, an eight-year reign that certainly has no shortage of disappointments, outrages and other low points.
One week from tomorrow Barack Obama will speak the words that usher out this regrettable and damaging era in American history. Looking through the litany of wrongheaded and failed policies -- as well as watching the evening news -- leaves me shaking my head. How could my countrymen (and women) have elected this guy? (Twice!)
Here is just some of what we witnessed during Bush's two terms:
*The 9/11 terrorist attacks (Say what you will, but the August 6, 2001, intelligence brief, if nothing else, should have inspired a more vigorous response.)
*The illegal and poorly conceived invasion and occupation of Iraq
*The woeful response to Hurricane Katrina
*Tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and bankrupt the treasury
*A denial of fact and science that negatively affected public policy from sex ed to climate change
*A complete politicization of the rank-and-file legal professionals at the Justice Department
*Weak and incompetent oversight and regulation in areas from imported toys to the financial industry
Who knows how Obama's presidency will turn out, but I am thankful that Americans rose to the occasion and chose the smarter, more forward-looking candidate. Still, I have a hard time forgiving those who voted for Bush in either 2000 or 2004 for what they did to my country.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Just yesterday the Globe reported that UBS, an international banking giant, may be demanding a $400 million payment on a loan from the Turnpike Authority.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Welch cites a number of issues raised by the project. The incoming transportation secretary, James Aloisi, is a son of East Boston, and he should immediately step up to instruct Massport to complete the appropriate health studies and to include the neighborhood in the planning process before the first shovel of dirt is removed from the ground.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
According to the Boston Herald, postcards were sent warning that those receiving the discount needed to renew their membership in the program, something we haven't had to do in the past. Those of us who received no postcard and therefore didn't know we needed to do anything are being charged $3 to go through the tunnels, though we were unaware of our sudden change of status. Happy new year from the Pike!
One can argue about the merits of the program, but to secretly revoke it from some of us is slimy and probably illegal. Shame on the Turnpike Authority.
Update: I went down to the Fast Lane office near the tunnel late this afternoon to make sure I was registered, and one of the gentleman behind the counter said that the eligibility of residents expires in the month that they originally signed up and that postcards are sent two months before expiration.
Maybe I read the Herald article too quickly, but this wasn't clear to me from the story. The implication was that we had all been bumped from the program at the start of the year. I wasn't due to renew until March, but it's close enough that I was able to take care of it today.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Located in the marina off of Marginal Street and only open for breakfast and lunch, the menu is inexpensive and the Globe's Ann Luisa Cortissoz concludes that eating there is "less like a restaurant than like a meal at a friend's."
Cortissoz also notes that Scup's has applied for a beer and wine license, with plans for a beer garden out back. Wow.
Update: I ate lunch here on Saturday -- a delicious ham sandwich. Sitting at the long communal table I recognized two young women who I'd known as kids when I worked at the Boys & Girls Club. We chatted for a bit, and I was happy to see that they are both doing well.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Rocket attacks by Hamas are dangerous, but their weapons are minuscule compared to the Israeli Defense Force. This response by Israel is extremely disproportionate, yet no American politicians (including Barack Obama) are stepping up to condemn Israel's actions -- actions with weapons purchased by US military aid. The American media is filled with officials telling us that Israel has a right to defend itself, but none with the courage and sanity to renounce what is going on right now.
I don't condone the actions of Hamas, but the Palestinians have had their land occupied for decades, have been treated like dogs by Israel, have had shortages of food and medicine in Gaza becuase of Israel's blockade in recent months, and now Israel is acting like a bully again, hoping to teach the Palestinians a lesson by kicking the crap out of them.
Glenn Greenwald is a blogger at Salon.com who I agree with on most issues. Recently he's weighed in on the attacks on Gaza.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
The latest study, from Johns Hopkins, of teens who took virginity pledges -- which is one way the government measured their policy as working -- "found absolutely no difference in their sexual behavior, or the age at which they began having sex, or the number of their partners." The only difference? Those who pledged abstinence were less likely to use birth control.
So what did we get for our money? More pregnant teens. That is what happens when, as Goodman says, we pay for "an ideology in search of a methodology." The good news is that the war on science, truth and reality that has been waged for eight years will end in 17 days. The bad news may be that the damage done is so great that it will take years to recover.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
According to an Associated Press article from earlier this week, there are an estimated 10,000 "forced laborers" in the US, many of them children purchased to do domestic work. That number is, sadly, just a tiny fraction of what goes on elsewhere in the world. Anti-Slavery International, which traces its roots back to 1787, estimates that there are at least 12 million people, half of them children, enslaved, and that the practice is going on in virtually every country.
In yesterday's New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about young girls used as sex slaves in Southeast Asia, an undertaking that is profitable because of the large number of men from the West who travel to those countries to pay for them. The girls are tortured in below-ground chambers if they don't smile, appear eager and get customers. There have also been recent stories about forcibly-held domestic servants in Saudi Arabia and child slaves in China.
We are sometimes tempted to ask, "Why should I care about this?" Of course, to think about all of the world's problems and about every human being who is suffering can be depressing and overwhelming, but as we begin a new year let us remember the words of the English poet John Donne:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.