Sunday, March 28, 2010

Taking a look at Winthrop

The Globe today points out the "unexpected treat" that is Winthrop -- a "small town dangling off Eastie into the harbor." One business mentioned is the Moonstruck Cafe in Winthrop Center, a cute spot that I visited not too long ago.

Photo from

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My fellow Americans?

Results of a Harris poll just released:

*67% of Republicans polled believe that Barack Obama is a socialist.
*57% of Republicans polled believe that Barack Obama is Muslim.
*45% of Republicans polled believe that Barack Obama "was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president.
*38% of Republicans polled believe that Barack Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did."
*24% of Republicans polled believe that Barack Obama "may be the Antichrist."

How does one react to such ignorance?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The ayes have it

The House of Representatives appears poised to pass health care reform tonight, effectively ending a yearlong melodrama and bringing to fruition a dream of progressives for eons. I am sure there will be many kinks in this legislation -- the old sausage-making analogy comes to mind -- but the status quo would be worse and that is unacceptable. Give President Obama credit for sticking with something he's been advocating since the campaign, despite the likely high political cost.

And remember, the bill that the Democrats "rammed through" (after a year of attempts to bring in some Republican votes) is less ambitious that what President Nixon proposed during his second term -- but that was when there were some in the GOP who were not completely insane. Ezra Klein, blogging on The Washington Post site, wrote:
If I'd told you that the Obama administration was going to release a health-care bill that would attract every Senate Democrat -- from Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer to Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman -- and either endorsements or neutrality from the American Medical Association, the hospital industry, the pharmaceutical industry, AARP, labor, and much of the insurance industry (though they're press releases have become more oppositional recently), you'd have thought that was a pretty moderate, consensus-oriented bill. Which it is! But most Americans don't think that because the Republicans decided to treat it as the second coming of fascism.
Meanwhile, Paul Krugman at The New York Times offers a reminder as to why the health insurance industry needs to be reformed:
Right now, we have a system that creates huge incentives for bad, one might say demonic, behavior [by health insurance providers]. We can end all of that — not in some indefinite future, but with a single vote right now.
Count the votes!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Two reasonable requests

While I am opposed to bringing casino gambling to Suffolk Downs, I would ask those elected officials who are leading the charge to legalize casinos in Massachusetts and to site one such establishment at the local racetrack that two steps be taken before they throw their lot in with the casino-developing millionaires instead of with the citizenry.

First, I'd like to see an objective study of the issue. A serious and comprehensive look into what it will mean for the future of the state and its residents is certainly in order before anyone makes a decision on this matter. So far we've seen a mish-mash of statistics and anecdotes. Let's get hard facts so that we can debate and decide from a position of strength, not guesswork.

Secondly, I like the idea that state Sen. Anthony Petruccelli is advocating: a referendum by the people of East Boston and Revere (and, I'd add, any other city or town that will be asked to host a casino). Petruccelli raises the idea in a good article in this week's Revere Journal. In the story, the senator called the proposed casino "the most significant land use change in Revere and East Boston since the development of the airport in the 1960s."

He's right, and therefore there should be a vote -- but not until we can all review a complete and unbiased assessment of the casino issue. I think that if Gov. Patrick, House Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Murray and Mayor Menino are about to ruin my neighborhood, this is the least they can do.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eastie in the news

***The Boston Redevelopment Authority Board approved the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center's proposal to put a new $20 million building in Maverick Square. The city's zoning board votes in a week. If all goes well, the project is expected to break ground in June.

***An East Boston man, described as a "drug kingpin," was arrested yesterday as part of an operation that arrested a number of people in Eastie, Revere and Chelsea.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Taking aim at no-brainers

When John Patrick Bedell walked up to a security checkpoint at the Pentagon subway stop on March 4, he carried with him a pair of semi-automatic pistols. He possessed these weapons, which he used to shoot and injure two police officers, despite "a history of mental health problems" that resulted in his being institutionalized several times.

One of the guns, a 9 mm Ruger, was seized from a felon at a traffic stop by the Memphis Police five years ago. Amazingly, an Associated Press story today recounts how the pistol was later sold by the department and passed among gun dealers until Bedell bought it at a gun show in Nevada a little more than a month before using it in the Pentagon attack.

The fact that he was legally prohibited from purchasing such a weapon made no difference because of the ludicrous "gun show loophole," whereby no background check of any kind is required when purchasing from an unlicensed individual. Astoundingly, the shotgun used in the early January shooting at a Las Vegas courthouse that killed one police officer was also sold by the Memphis Police. Apparently a number of police departments around the country follow this practice, putting more weapons out on the street.

We've all seen the horrific numbers on gun violence in the US -- 30,000 deaths a year from firearms and another 200,000 injuries -- but again our elected officials lack the political will to stand up and do something substantive on the issue. At the least, laws should be changed to make it more difficult to procure deadly weapons at gun shows and to stop the return of confiscated firearms to the streets.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New cafe on Meridian Street?

Universal Hub reports that an East Boston resident plans on opening a cafe at 102 Meridian Street -- and wants to serve some alcohol as well as coffee and tea. Gina Guerraro is asking the city to license her proposed 35-seat Cafe GiGu to serve beer and wine. No word yet on when the eatery would open.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Joy to the Globe

Under the heading of "One Cook's Best Dish," there's a story at about Joy Cagno and her recipe for roasted-pepper frittata. Joy is from East Boston and we were in the same class together at East Boston Central Catholic back in the late 1970s.

She was Joy Zirpolo then -- sweet, adorable and a social butterfly. (Yeah, I had a crush on her, but so did everyone else.) Years later I saw her routinely when she was a waitress on weekends at the old Caffe Italia on Meridian Street.

Now a mother of three teens, Joy lives in Malden, but her parents are still here in Eastie, and according to the story, she's here every week for Sunday dinner.

Photo from

Monday, March 8, 2010

Class struggle

Recent research in the field of education has coalesced around the idea that the value of a good teacher trumps most everything else -- class size, the socioeconomic status of a particular child, the location of a given school, etc. It's also now accepted that the college degrees and educator certificates that a teacher has are virtually no factor in determining his or her success in the classroom. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell -- writing in The New Yorker in December of 2008 -- concluded that it is almost impossible to predict beforehand who will find that success.

We can, however, look at data in retrospect to determine how far teachers are moving their students forward over the course of a year. The best teachers can advance their charges 1.5 or more grade levels in one school year, while the worse sometimes clock in at 0.5. After several years of mediocre teachers, a child is left with quite a disadvantage.

Now, the holy grail has become the search for specific factors that make a teacher "good." If those qualities and techniques can be identified, the thinking goes, then they can be taught to others so that they, too, can become effective educators. The New York Times had a long story on the topic in yesterday's magazine section. In addition, there are a few video clips that show what researchers feel are some excellent teachers at work.

Some feel that President Obama's Race to the Top, an education initiative with a component designed to improve teachers, will end up being the most important legacy of his administration.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bad language

It appears that The East Boston Times is not the only newspaper owned by the Independent Newspaper Group that cuts and pastes information from other sources into its stories without proper attribution. A front-page article in this week's issue of The Chelsea Record includes more than half of its material from a year-old press release, though the source is never cited.

The story, titled "Night-time closures have begun on Chelsea Bridge" (and, by the way, "nighttime" takes no hyphen and "bridge" should be lowercase in this instance) starts out well enough with comments from local traffic guru John Vitagliano, but the copied information begins in the eighth paragraph. Then, after the line, "The Chelsea Street Bridge was one of these projects," the rest of the piece is lifted right from a March 16, 2009 press release from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which can be found here.

More than half of the 604-word story was not written by the newspaper's reporters, yet there is no indication that the material is the work of someone else. As I've written before, this is not a hazy area. Cutting and pasting without proper attribution is unacceptable by any and all journalistic standards. Why do ING newspapers allow it?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Those for and against gambling stake out ground

House Speaker Bob DeLeo restarted the push for legalized gaming in Massachusetts today with a speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that outlined his proposal: two resort casinos and slot machines at the state's four racetracks.

According to the story, both the governor and Senate President Therese Murray expressed reservations about slot machines, saying that they wouldn't bring the thousands of jobs that full-scale casinos would bring. I have to believe, however, that the trio will get themselves lined up behind the same plan before legislative action moved forward in earnest.

Meanwhile, there are groups out there who are preparing to fight back. Check out their web sites at United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts and

Monday, March 1, 2010

Placing their bets

The moneyed interests are pouring dollars into the campaign bank accounts of Massachusetts politicians as the latest push to legalize casinos is about to ramp up. The Associated Press reports that, "The amount spent by firms, unions and interest groups hoping to influence the gambling debate has grown from just more than $800,000 in 2006 to more than $2 million in 2009..."

The story says that Suffolk Downs spent $336,000 on lobbyists last year, and Las Vegas casino owners Sands ($122,500) and Harrah's ($60,000) also greased the wheels of democracy with fistfuls of cash. All of these out-of-state interests (Suffolk Downs is owned by developer Richard Fields) stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars if they can get their hands on a piece of the casino pie. That is cash taken out of circulation here and spent on yachts, mansions, and caviar by those already at the top of the heap.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo has indicated that he will introduce legislation on legalizing casino gambling within the next two weeks.