Sunday, August 29, 2010

The song remains the same

I didn't listen to anything Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck said yesterday. Their lying and idiocy make me angry, which is not good for my blood pressure. I did note the choice of day and venue and instead watched, again, video of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream..." speech. One can see why it was chosen by scholars as the greatest American speech of the 20th century. Both the writing and delivery are exceptional, with concepts and metaphors ground in and taken from the Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the power and rhythm of a Baptist sermon adding to the words' strength.

Well, back to yesterday. Those who claim that they "want their country back" are forgetting -- or ignoring -- a couple of things. First, Barack Obama was elected by clear margins whether using the Electoral College (+192), popular vote (+10 million) or percent (+7). This leads to point #2: The country struggled through eight years of leadership (?) by a man whose party stole the election right before our eyes and then he proceeded to drag the country into ruin. Where were these so-called "patriots" then?

Those who gravitate toward the Tea Party movement -- and what a misnomer...Samuel Adams is rolling in his grave -- don't seem to recognize how they are being played by the same old forces: the wealthy. The New Yorker has a piece on the billionaire Koch brothers, who have spent millions -- including backing the "anti-corporate" Tea Party -- fighting Obama's policies for the usual reasons: they want to be even richer. The outline of history never changes. The rich keep the rest of us fighting amongst ourselves so we don't unite against them. Same old song and dance, my friends.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A big rumble

Does anyone else hear the large piece of construction equipment (I assume) that rolls down Bennington Street seemingly every night around 1 a.m.? It's pretty damn loud and it passes my apartment, waking me if I am asleep and sometimes stopping at the nearby streetlight. Where is it going or coming from?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wet week

The rain appears to be coming to an end, but the Herald just posted a report that said parts of Routes 1A and 145 in East Boston are closed because of flooded roadways, with one woman trapped inside her car.

Update: Check out this photo of a flooded East Boston Greenway...or should I say, the Bremen River (via Universal Hub).

Update has corrected reference to the Greenway rather than Bremen Street Park.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's Eastie Pride Day

The 22nd Eastie Pride Day takes place today at Piers Park from 4 to 8 p.m. Entertainment and food will be part of the event, as well as a commemoration of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center's 40th anniversary.

On the subject of pride in our neighborhood, I received an email from a Scotsman and he pointed me to a blog post he wrote about a short recent visit to Eastie. He particularly has praise for the fields at East Boston Stadium and the locals he saw there each night. Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to see joy in what others view as mundane.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gumption at the Times

I saw this week's East Boston Times a short while ago and I need to give praise where it's due. In the Eastie Watch column there is a logically argued defense of the Lower Manhattan community center -- dubbed by the media as the Ground Zero Mosque. The piece took me by surprise, and I want to publicly laud the paper and the writer, which I believe to be John Lynds.

Not only is the thinking in the article open-minded and forward-thinking, but just the fact that the Times waded into this issue when it certainly didn't have to shows courage that is to be commended. I would think that a significant number of the paper's readers will be angered by the sentiments expressed, and the Times must have recognized that and went ahead with it anyway. That's the kind of gumption one desires in an journalistic endeavor.

Tracks struggle

The Globe reports today that Wonderland has shut down. The Revere greyhound track was hanging on in the hope that expanded gambling would save it after a voter-approved initiative outlawing dog racing went into effective Jan. 1. A few days ago the newspaper reported that Suffolk Downs is making cutbacks. The state egislature is scheduled to return to formal session in January, and it's likely that a gambling bill will emerge again.

Photo from

Monday, August 16, 2010

Suspicious vehicle prompts evacuations

The sirens you're hearing in East Boston this morning are vehicles racing toward the edge of Logan Airport, as an abandoned vehicle with a suspicious device inside was spotted on or just outside a rent-a-car company. Some reports say that some residents have been evacuated. There's a live video feed here on Fox News.

Update: No explosive devices were found in the abandoned vehicle. Residents have been allowed to return to their homes.

Update II (Aug. 17): Car belonged to college student.

Friday, August 13, 2010

More alike than you think

There's been much discussion about comments that President Obama's spokesman made about criticism that the administration has been getting from liberals. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, spoke dismissively of the "professional left," saying, "They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That's not reality." Gibbs (photo from NY Times) also said that, “I hear these people saying [Obama is] like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested.”

I am only part of the amateur left. I have been critical of Barack Obama, who I voted for in both the primary and the general, on a wide range of issues. Gibbs comments are off the mark for a couple of reasons. First, they call to mind the story, possibly apocryphal, about FDR, who told liberal reformers at one point, "I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it." As a citizen, it's my duty, I believe, to say what I think; it's not my job to worry about how my criticism plays out politically.

More deeply, however, what Gibbs' little rant ignores is that those of us on the left understand the political realities and the national climate; we are not unaware of how these factors can limit a president's legislative agenda. I wanted the stimulus package to be more sweeping; I wanted health-care reform to be more bold; I wanted financial regulation to be tougher. Each of these bills was watered down in Congress. I wish the president had been more forceful and had pushed harder, but I understand the obstacles. I wanted to see immigration reform and an energy bill, but I understand that there was no appetite for either. With majorities in both houses and control of the White House, I hoped the Democrats would be more aggressive, but there were some victories.

Much more troubling than these issues, however, is this administration's failings on foreign policy, civil rights, government transparency and national security. blogger Glenn Greenwald does a commendable job keeping up with these issues, and to be honest my level of disappointment with Obama in these areas is through the roof. The US military is still in Iraq and Afghanistan, people are still being held in American military prisons without being charged and tried, way too much information is still kept secret and Americans are still being spied on by their government. On these and other similar issues Obama is indeed "like George Bush." And implying that those of us who are willing to speak the truth are chemically impaired is an insult and a disgrace.

Art for kids on Common

There are free art projects for kids at the Boston Common's Frog Pond on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The activities are sponsored by ArtStreet, a group founded by local street artist Sidewalk Sam. Art student Allison Myers, an East Boston native, is involved in the program, and Sam himself will be there for chalk drawings on Aug. 28.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beep beep, toot toot

It took less than a week after buying my car for me to feel uncomfortable with the beeping noise it made when I clicked the key fob to lock the vehicle doors. What right did I have to unleash annoying sounds on my neighbors? It's inconsiderate, unnecessary and, I found, easy to undo. I checked the car's manual and found it was simple to disable the beeps. My doors still lock and my lights blink to tell me they're locked, but I am not creating noise pollution in the process.

Of course, most people -- my neighbors included -- seem to either accept the beeps as part of modern life or don't know that they can eliminate them without any threat to their vehicle's security. Therefore, I am subjected to the sounds whenever people get in or out of their cars all day every time I am at home. This, of course, is in addition to the several times each day -- and night -- that car alarms go off, which is another issue altogether.

It's a small matter, but it is quite annoying. How many times have you jumped in a parking lot when someone, standing many feet away, opens or locks a vehicle you are next to -- and some of the beeps can be quite loud. I just don't understand how car owners can hear that noise and believe it is OK to subject everyone else to the cacophony.

Parade fundraiser

The East Boston Columbus Day Parade Committee is hosting a fundraiser on Aug. 28 at the Madonna Queen Shrine Hall that will include music and comedy. For more details check out the press release at For tickets email

This year's Columbus Day parade is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 10, and it has its own Facebook page.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lights out in Eastie tonight

The power was out in various parts of East Boston this evening. It is back on for me, near the intersection of Bennington & Byron Streets, but I'm not sure if that is the case for everyone.

Earlier this evening, as I drove past the end of Lexington Street, near Day Square, I saw a firetruck, a police car and a small crowd. The power appeared to be out in that area, and I thought I saw a bit of smoke in the air. I'd guess there was a manhole fire, but I'm not sure.

My oven clock was blinking when I got home, so the power had been off, apparently briefly, and then it went off again from roughly 10 p.m. to 10:30. I found nothing about the outage on, but Universal Hub has made reference to it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Just when you thought it was safe...

It appears that gambling may not be dead after all. Like Jason in the Friday the 13th movies, the Globe is reporting that the bill could be brought back to life because the legislature may need to return to formal session for other business. Hopefully, wiser heads will prevail. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Not with a bang, but with a whimper?

Both sides are saying that any chance for a gambling bill to emerge from this legislative session is over. Gov. Patrick sent the bill back to the House and Senate with an amendment that strips out slot machines (and such an amended bill would, apparently, need a two-thirds majority, which I hadn't realized), and Speaker DeLeo is saying publicly that any such compromise is "doubtful." There is still time, but neither side looks like it's willing to budge.

While those of us against the idea are edging ever closer to victory, it seems like an unsatisfying win. Most of the state's elected officials were willing to dispense with even the simple step of commissioning an independent study of casino gambling and the benefits and negative consequences of bringing it to Massachusetts. Our own local officials were not interested in a real discussion of what slots or a casino at Suffolk Downs would mean to the people and business owners of East Boston.

Politicians are, too often, willing to go along with something because of the way it appears rather than because it is actually something good. The tax-free weekend (Aug 14-15) that the legislature recently passed is a case in point. It doesn't really help anyone. While consumers may save a few bucks here and there, those dollars are already spent in the state budget, so we're all going to have to fork them over sooner or later. As for businesses, studies show that almost all of the money spent on those weekends is for purchases that would have been made anyway. At best, it's a wash for businesses because they need to pay extra money to have more employees working during the busy weekend, but they are still paying for the regular shifts on other weekends when those customers aren't coming in.

Like the idea of bringing casinos and slot machines to this state, it's all glitter and no substance. Unfortunately, our legislators are like infants who get easily sidetracked by shiny things.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Squaring off over final bill

The Governor and the Speaker have squared off in a steel-cage match of sorts, with last night's legislative-session deadline of midnight passing and neither backing down. Both the House (120-37) and Senate (25-15) passed the final compromise bill -- which would allow for three casinos and two slot parlors in the state -- but Gov. Deval Patrick has said all along that he was leery of slots. He did grudgingly agree to accept one and only if there were a bidding process for the license.

What now? You have to believe that Patrick gamed this out with some plan for victory. He's been pushing expanded gambling -- and courting the blue-collar vote that goes with it -- for three years. He can't allow himself to be seen as the obstructionist when the goal is so close. So he sends back the bill with an amendment that strips one or both of the slot parlors from the proposal, tossing the proverbial ball back into the legislature's court.

House Speaker Bob DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray have both said they would not bring their bodies back in session, but neither of them wants to be the obstacle to passage. They'll make sure it gets done and still be able to say, "Hey, I fought for slots, but it wasn't in the cards." All three leaders will then claim victory.