Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Transportation notes

*The construction of the new Chelsea Street Bridge begins the next stage tomorrow "with demolition of the existing bridge and construction of the remaining portions of the new lift structure," according to the state's Department of Transportation blog. This necessitates the closing of the bridge for six months, beginning tomorrow. The site says that, "The project is scheduled to be completed in spring 2012."

*City Hall is reminding cab drivers that people headed into East Boston, with the exception of those getting off at the airport, cannot be charged the tunnel fair. I rarely use taxis in Boston, but the last time I took one to come home, the driver attempted to tack on a few bucks for the toll. He didn't argue with me when I told him that doing so was illegal, but he would have got me if I didn't know better. The City asks that people report if cabbies attempt to charge the extra fee.

Photo of Chelsea Street Bridge courtesy Massachusetts DOT blog.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Glory and remembrance

On Memorial Day in 1897, a work of art was unveiled to the public at the edge of the Boston Common, across from the State House. It was a bronze bas-relief by the American master Augustus Saint-Gaudens commemorating the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and its leader, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. The 54th was one of the first units composed of black soldiers to fight in the Civil War, and Shaw was from a Boston abolitionist family.

Considered by many to be the finest piece of public art in Boston, as well as one of Saint-Gaudens' masterpieces, the work depicts the 54th on May 28, 1863, marching down Beacon Street and off to war, with Shaw on horseback and an angel floating above. Shaw and 29 of his men died in South Carolina less than two months later, but throughout the war, the 54th fought with distinction. The regiment was portrayed in the Oscar-winning 1989 film Glory.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Choosing our own future

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Good riddance. Don't believe Joe Scarborough or other moronic pundits who claim that President Obama went against his supporters on the left by taking out the head of Al-Qaeda. None of us are shedding a tear for Bin Laden. He got what he deserved.

Bin Laden was evil -- but he wasn't stupid. A realistic assessment of his actions suggest that he accomplished some of what he set out to do. The goal was to entice the US into a protracted ground war in Afghanistan in order to bankrupt America and to radicalize the Muslim world against the West. And the result? The US military is approaching a decade in Afghanistan, plus eight years in Iraq, and together those campaigns have cost two or three trillion dollars. Meanwhile, there has been some radicalization of small groups of Muslims.

We're still here, of course, and we can ensure that Bin Laden's goals are not fully accomplished if we wrap things up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if we use our military a bit more sparingly in the future. This is not a call for demilitarization or isolationism, but only for wisdom and foresight. America cannot go on spending as much as all other countries combined on the military, and America cannot go on deploying its forces all over the world.

Let us regroup at home and lead by example so that the US once again occupies the moral high ground. If America had invaded Afghanistan after 9/11 with a smart plan and an exit strategy and if the country hadn't taken its eye off the ball by getting wrapped up in Iraq, then thousands of lives and trillions of dollars might have been saved. We might have had to wait for a small team of soldiers to take out Bin Laden 10 years after the fact, but that is what happened any way.