Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year

Enormous thanks to all those who took the time to read our blog posts this year and, on occasion, joust with us over the finer points of what we write.

Looking back, 2011 was quite a year. From Occupy Boston to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, from corruption on Beacon Hill to the brewing race to replace President Obama, a lot happened over the last 12 months.

Yet, as we stand here on the precipice of a new year, we see an America that is largely unchanged from the one we saw at the beginning of 2011.

Many of the problems that have plagued our nation remain unresolved -- high unemployment, staggering national debt, and foreign policy challenges just to name a few.

Although we fill these pages talking about these troubling issues most days, we also try to look toward the future and foresee what's coming. Politics always has been, and always will be, a process of trying to create a better tomorrow, and we love having discussions with you here about what that tomorrow should look like.

So, here's to that tomorrow. Here's to 2012.

See you next year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Meredith Warren on NECN "Year in Review" Show

Meredith Warren joined the roundtable panel on NECN's Broadside with Jim Braude again last night for the second half of a two-show discussion of noteworthy political events in 2011.

In this second part, Warren and her fellow panelists State Senator Robert Hedlund, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, and Professor George Bachrach discussed significant happenings on the statewide level in Massachusetts, including the race for U.S. Senate, the passage of legislation to license casinos, and corruption on Beacon Hill.

Please click on the links below to watch clips from the show on

Race for the U.S. Senate


Corruption on Beacon Hill

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Meredith Warren on NECN "Year in Review"

Last night, Lyric's Meredith Warren appeared on NECN's Broadside with host Jim Braude for a special 2011 Year in Review program. Joining her to discuss highlights from national politics were State Senator Robert Hedlund, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, and Professor George Bachrach.

Among the topics discussed were an assessment of President Obama's third year in office and the current status of the Tea Party and the Occupy movement.

To watch the video on (posted in segments), please click here or on the image below.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Occupy ______________

We praise Boston Mayor Tom Menino for advising "Occupy Boston" protesters they have until midnight tonight to vacate Dewey Square. Their protest is protected by the First Amendment, but their occupation clearly is not and it needs to end.

All of this begs the obvious question for Occupy Boston -- what next? Or, where next?

Well, assuming that Occupy Boston wants to continue its vigil against... whatever it is they're protesting... we suggest the following list of the top ten places around Boston where they could relocate their protest.


10. The State House - after all, nobody else hangs around here this time of year, anyway.

9. The Paul Revere House - with all of those new taxpayer-funded public bathrooms on the way, what better spot?

8. The Cambridge Courthouse - huge, vacant and ready for visitors. Also includes a jail in case things get out-of-hand.

7. Stage an Enchanted Village Occupation at the old Filene's Basement location in Downtown Crossing. This site could be vacant for years.

6. The Hynes Convention Center - plenty of room and tons of parking.

5. One of the Harbor Islands. We hear it's beautiful out there in mid-winter.

4. Protest big banks by squeezing everyone inside one ATM machine kiosk.

3. Kelly's Roast Beef in Allston - going out of business on Sunday, they could use the business.

2. Line up at the nearest WalMart and claim you're just preparing early for Black Friday 2012.

1. Return to headquarters and camp out on the front yard of Elizabeth Warren, the self-proclaimed inspiration for the movement.

OK, obviously we're just kidding. Don't relocate there, or anywhere else for that matter.

Actually, we think the best thing for Occupy Boston to do would be to fold-up tent and look for something constructive to do. Believe it or not, we actually think the Occupy movement raises some legitimate points, even though we disagree with a lot of it. But, we also think there are few more pointless ways for them to achieve any meaningful change than by trespassing on public property and staging sit-ins all over the place. Mayor Menino made a good point the other day in telling protesters they need to pick and choose an issue to focus on and take their message to Washington.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Van Magness on NECN

Fred Van Magness was a guest on NECN's Morning Show today, talking about the news in politics: the race between Gingrich and Romney, the upcoming debate with Donald Trump, and the latest polls.

Click on the image below to watch the full video on

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Ten Questions for "Occupy Boston"

To promote a spirit of open dialogue, we publicly post the following ten questions to the Occupy Boston movement and we invite their response by way of the comment section of our blog (please note and abide by our policies regarding comments, listed on the sidebar):

  1. What are the names of the leaders of your organization, what are their responsibilities, and are they receiving financial compensation?
  2. What are the specific goals of your organization and what, specifically, are you protesting?
  3. Have you identified one or more circumstances under which you would consider your objectives to have been met and therefore end your occupation? If so, what are they?
  4. Do you claim your organization is intended to promote a political purpose? If so, have you registered with the Federal Election Commission or the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance to report monetary and in-kind contributions to your organization, as required by state and federal law? If not, will you concede publicly that your movement does not serve a political purpose?
  5. Do you claim that donations to Occupy Boston are tax-exempt? If so, on what basis? If not, on what basis will taxes be paid?
  6. According to your Declaration of Occupation, adopted by your General Assembly on November 29, 2011, one of the three goals of your organization is "planning for the American Spring." Can you please specifically define what you refer to as the "American Spring" and when will it occur?
  7. According to the same Declaration of Occupation, you claim to "peacefully exercise our first amendment rights." What is your organization's policy regarding those who do not exercise their rights peacefully? Do you have a zero-tolerance policy?
  8. Can you please list the names of any political organizations with which your group coordinates its activities?
  9. What is the policy of your organization regarding the use and enjoyment of Dewey Square by other individuals or organizations seeking to exercise their free speech rights during the term of your occupation, whether or not they agree with the goals of your organization?
  10. Do the members of your organization consider Dewey Square to be their current domicile? If so, are they registered to vote there? If not, when is it there intent to leave their current location in Dewey Square, and where do they plan to vote in the 2012 elections?

Meredith Warren on NECN

Meredith Warren was a guest on NECN's Morning Show this morning, where she spoke about the latest news in the GOP Presidential race -- Gingrich, Romney, the latest polls, and what it all means going forward.

Click on the image below to watch the video on NECN's Web site.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Occupy Boston tramples on the rights of a true American hero

Hey, Boston Mayor Tom Menino. Good news!

We think we just might have come up with a solution for getting rid of all those Occupy Boston protestors on the Greenway. In fact, it's a way to be patriotic and kick them out at the same time.

The solution: Occupy Boston needs to pick up their tents and leave so the city can honor Admiral George Dewey.

Here's the background.

Occupy Boston's tent city is located in Dewey Square, a piece of land owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (formerly the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority) and subject to a lease for control by the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Inc.

Dewey Square, it so happens, was named in honor of George Dewey in 1898. Dewey was a highly-decorated officer in the U.S. Navy. In 1898, Dewey had gained fame for his military success commanding U.S. Naval forces in the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines (commencing with his now-famous order, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley."). He was the only person ever to be named Admiral of the Navy for the United States by special act of Congress on March 24, 1903. He even served as a presidential candidate for a brief time back in 1900. (On the Democratic side, we might add.)

Who knew? We sure didn't until we looked it up online. But he sounds very interesting. And, we think that such an esteemed person deserves to have his life and professional achievements honored so that more can appreciate his history. Possibilities would be to commemorate the anniversary of his birth (December 26, 1837) or the date of his death (January 16, 1917). And, what better way than to sponsor a public ceremony in the very park named in his honor? In fact, Mayor Menino and his staff ought to head over to Boston Public Library right now to start researching how we could honor Admiral Dewey.

Of course, all of this would mean that Dewey Square would have to be free for such a purpose. Completely free. In other words, members of Occupy Boston would have to vacate Dewey Square and take all of their tents and kitchen sinks and other implements of insurgency with them so the square could be cleaned up and made ready. We would, of course, expect throngs of people who are not currently calling for the end to capitalism as we know it to turn out to honor Admiral Dewey, a great American.

After all, as the members of Occupy Boston say, it's all about the ability to exercise free speech, right? And, by asserting exclusive full-time possession and control over the Greenway, Occupy Boston is effectively squelching the right of everyone else to use, enjoy, and exercise their free speech rights in Dewey Square.

Exercises like holding a ceremony to honor the memory of a distinguished American, Admiral George Dewey, on December 26, the 174th anniversary of his birth.

Mark your calendars – it's just three weeks from today. By the way, anyone know where to go to pull a permit?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Meredith Warren on NECN

Check out Meredith Warren's latest interview with NECN today, where she talks about Mitt Romney's campaign for President and upcoming coverage of the candidate's family life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When history repeats itself

Fred here...

When I was a student, I remember a history professor giving our class a very educational project. Our assignment was to write a paper detailing local and national events on the day, month, year, and decade in which we were born.

Looking back at the paper, it’s ironic how similar those times were to the times in which we’re living right now.

The 1970’s was a difficult decade. Notably, it was a time when people had very little confidence in government following Watergate.

Toward the end of the decade, things were particularly bad. I recall several things from the history paper that stand out in my mind. In terms of foreign affairs, the world was a mess, particularly in the Middle East. The focus then was on Iran, the hostage crisis, and Desert One. Events in that corner of the planet were having a ripple effect worldwide, causing gas prices to skyrocket as supplies dwindled. Unemployment crept upwards. People waited in long lines to get gas, if there was any to be had. They also started to insulate and put storm windows and weather stripping on their houses to keep heating costs low. And, during the summer, there was a resurgence of a “Victory Garden” practice started during World War II, where average people planted gardens in their backyards to grow food.

Fast forward to today. Public confidence in government is abysmal. Iran continues to be a menace, this time as it vies to become a nuclear power. Gas prices are at historically-high prices, choking many consumers and having profound effects on the economy. Unemployment is high. And, in recent months, the government has heralded two important policy initiatives: tax credits for people to weatherize their homes, and the First Lady’s initiative for people to grow their own food.

Interesting. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

There is reason for hope. The turmoil of the 1970’s led to the incredible progress of the 1980’s and the 1990’s. If there had never been a Jimmy Carter, there never would have been a Reagan Revolution, and a moderate Democrat like Bill Clinton would have had more trouble getting elected.

Will the same sort of thing happen this time around? We sincerely hope so.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Meredith Warren on NECN talks about Sen. Ayotte's endorsement of Romney for President

Meredith Warren was interviewed by NECN today regarding N.H. Senator Ayotte's endorsement of Mitt Romney for President.

According to Warren, Ayotte's endorsement gives Romney additional credibility with conservative voters, and it will help primary voters in the Granite State make up their mind about which candidate to support.

To watch the full video, please click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Since the beginning, Occupy Boston’s occupation of Dewey Square has been viewed through the prism of fundamental rights of free speech and free assembly.

As well it should. Of course, the anti-capitalist protesters forming up this movement are exercising some of the most sacred rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

However, Occupy Boston is an example of how constitutional rights can conflict with one another, as well as how legislative imprecision can lead to trouble.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Occupy Boston’s tent city is situated on Boston’s Dewey Square, a half-acre parcel which is part of the 16-acre Rose Kennedy Greenway (“Greenway”). The land that makes up the Greenway is actually owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (which makes sense given the fact that it overspreads the Big Dig Tunnel system) and operated by the The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Inc. (the “Conservancy”), a private, charitable, non-profit corporation.

In Section 2 of Chapter 306 of the Acts of 2008, the Massachusetts Legislature charged the Conservancy with certain duties, including the “authority to operate, preserve, maintain, program and manage the greenway and the other open space parcels as a first class public space” in accordance with the terms of a lease between the Conservancy and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (now the Department of Transportation).

Herein lies the conflict.

On the one hand, Chapter 306 requires the Conservancy to operate the Greenway “as a public park and a traditional open public forum without limiting free speech.” Obviously, this is language friendly to Occupy Boston and supportive of its activity.

However, at the same time, the same law states that the Greenway shall be “entitled in all respects to protections afforded to public parkland under article XCVII of the amendments to the Massachusetts constitution.”

Article XCVII is not designed to accommodate free speech and assembly rights. Instead, it is meant for the protection of public parklands. It reads in relevant part as follows:

Article XCVII. Article XLIX of the Amendments to the Constitution is hereby annulled and the following is adopted in place thereof: - The people shall have the right to clean air and water, freedom from excessive and unnecessary noise, and the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic qualities of their environment; and the protection of the people in their right to the conservation, development and utilization of the agricultural, mineral, forest, water, air and other natural resources is hereby declared to be a public purpose.

This creates a dilemma: Occupy Boston would seem to have a constitutional right to protest on the Greenway, but it would seem to be constitutionally blocked from impeding the rights of other inhabitants of the Commonwealth to use and enjoy the beauty of the Greenway, namely by erecting a tent city and occupying the space as a temporary residence to the exclusion of others. (The Conservancy itself put out a statement on October 12, 2011 acknowledging that Occupy Boston's use of the area is "full-time.")

We say: all of this mitigates in favor of a resolution being pushed in other areas; namely, that Occupy Boston ought to be able to launch peaceful protests and rallies just like any other group, basically wherever they want, but that their full-time occupation of the Greenway needs to end.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

1000 watts of sex and support for Occupy Wall Street - from Boston College Radio?

It started as a normal Wednesday early-morning, traffic-laden drive into Boston.

There we were on Route 93, scanning the FM dial for something to listen to.

Music? Yeah, OK. Talk radio? Yeah, for a while. Sports talk? Eh, too early.

Then, we happened upon something so shocking and appalling, we couldn't believe what we were listening to.

It was a morning drive-time DJ in the middle of an incredible, monotonous, nonsensical rant.

It progressed to a highly-detailed description of a very specific sexual act, mentioning several specific body parts along the way.

Then, as if to signal the, dare we say, climax of that segment, the Westminster Chime played.


Then, it was on to the real topic of the day: Occupy Wall Street.

In between playing several highly-political songs, the host launched into another lengthy, monotonous, train-of-thought political tirade. It was less of a rant than it was a long run-on sentence, full of big random words stitched together in nearly incoherent form. Mention was made of the Fukushima Prefecture disaster and its release of gas into the "strontium stratosphere." Then, talk of how "banksters who broke capitalism" contributed to the "de-Beatle-ization of America" amidst an "Aryan autocracy." Mention of how "Brother Barack" is "blind to the change of climate" brought about by capitalism. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was called a "sharia". Occupy Wall Street was praised repeatedly for its seemingly-heroic efforts to right all of these apparent wrongs.

Then, back to the sexual act. And another chime. And birds chirping with a waterfall.

Then, what we had waited for to determine the source of this incredibly abhorrent rant. And that is what shocked us most.

"You're listening to WZBC, Newton, 90.3, the News at Dawn." The name of the host himself was not identified.

In other words, this was the official radio station of Boston College, student-run but owned by the Board of Trustees of the college.

We're all for free speech, even political speech we don't agree with. Heck, we practice free political speech! But, we were astounded that anyone would let this sort of smut onto the commercial airwaves, much less a well-respected Jesuit school. And dare we also say how extremely disappointed we were to hear the Occupy Wall Street movement being fueled by rants emanating from the heights of this sort of revered institution.

Shocking. Appalling. And, apparently, happening right in our own back yard.

Don't believe us? Well, check it out for yourself. Here's the link (scroll down to "Listen" to the 6:00 a.m. "News at Dawn").

Don't listen if you have children in the room. We take no responsibility for the content, which is obscene. But Boston College absolutely should.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

If Only There Were A Button For That

This afternoon, the federal government will conduct a first-ever nationwide emergency notification drill by sending a single EAS Activation message directly from the White House to every television and radio in the country at the same time.

The purpose of the test is to assess the President’s ability to communicate with the entire nation during a time of national emergency and to thereby lead us out of crisis.

We think it’s very reassuring to know that there’s essentially a button in the White House that the President could push if things ever get really, really bad.

But, cynically, we wonder why there isn’t a similar button in the White House for times when things are… well… just pretty bad.

For example, shouldn’t there have been some sort of alarm sounded when we learned in October, 2009 that one in ten Americans was unemployed -- the highest that rate has been in a long time? All we heard was radio silence.

Wasn’t it a crisis when our national debt hit $12 trillion… or $13 trillion… or $14 trillion? We didn’t see any response.

Didn’t anyone want to hit some sort of button when the bottom fell out of the housing market? How about when foreclosures and bankruptcies skyrocketed? No one stopped it.

Sure, we know it’s apples and oranges. It’s not like the President lives in some Staples commercial where he has a magic button to press which magically fixes problems.

Yet, at some level, this is what the 2012 elections are all about.

Basically, America sent Barack Obama to the White House back in 2008 to fix things, most notably the economy. Now, in the present day, Americans are disappointed because President Obama failed. The nature of the failure is important: President Obama didn’t just fail to fix problems, the problems actually got a lot worse during his term while he made no perceivable effort to remedy them.

America sent Barack Obama to the White House to hit the button for them. He didn’t.

In 2012, Barack Obama is accountable for all of these problems as the incumbent. As Harry Truman said, when it comes to the presidency, “The buck stops here.” Even if people believe that a previous administration, or Congress, or greedy corporate robber barons, or just an unfortunate turn of events worldwide are to blame for our ills, as Americans we typically hold our president chiefly accountable for problems we face as a nation.

So, when he hits that emergency button later today, maybe President Obama should stop and think about how quickly he needs to get his act together and figure out what button he needs to press to start fixing things. After all, in less than 60 days, Americans are going to start pushing buttons and pulling levers of their own -- at the voting booth -- in an effort to find someone to replace him. Someone who really knows what button to press when things go wrong.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meredith Warren on NECN

Meredith Warren was a guest on NECN's Morning Show this morning to wrap up last night's GOP debate in Nevada.

Meredith talked about the back-and-forth between some of the top candidates during the debate, and she also gave her impressions of who won and who came up short.

Click here or on the image below to watch the video:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Van Magness on NECN Morning Show

Fred Van Magness was a guest on this morning's NECN Morning Show, talking politics and discussing the upcoming Presidential debate in Las Vegas.

You can view the video here or by clicking on the image below:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Meredith Warren on NECN

Congratulations to Meredith Warren, who was a guest on the NECN Morning Show not once -- but twice -- today to discuss GOP politics.

Meredith and Democratic analyst George Bachrach presented a full wrap-up of last night's GOP presidential debate with their analysis of winners and losers and what it all means for the upcoming primary season.

You can see the full video (two segments) at these links:

Video Clip 1 of 2            Video Clip 2 of 2

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Van Magness on NECN

Fred Van Magness was a guest on NECN's Morning Show this morning to discuss GOP presidential politics.

In particular, the interview featured discussion of tonight's GOP debate in New Hampshire, and a recent poll showing Mitt Romney to be in the lead among likely New Hampshire primary voters.

You can see the full video here or by clicking the image below.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Van Magness on NECN

Fred Van Magness went on NECN's Morning Show today to discuss Sarah Palin's decision not to seek the 2012 GOP nomination for President.

Click below for the video of the full interview:

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Meredith Warren talks politics on NECN

Meredith Warren appeared on NECN's Morning Show today to discuss politics with Democratic analyst George Bachrach and host Steve Aveson.

Among the topics discussed were: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's decision not to run for President in 2012 and where it leaves the GOP field; Elizabeth Warren's performance in last night's debate between Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate; and, the possibility that other candidates could emerge in the race for President.

If you're a fan of politics, you won't want to miss this interview. Click here or on the image below to see the video.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Van Magness appears on NECN

Fred Van Magness appeared as a guest on NECN's Morning Show today to discuss political issues along with Democratic analyst George Bachrach.

Topics of discussion included the race for President, including the recent success of Herman Cain and the possible candidacy of Gov. Chris Christie, as well as tonight's debate between candidates for the Democratic nomination for United States Senate.

Click on the image below to watch the full video:

Barack Obama strikes out on messaging

Can someone please explain to us what's happening with Barack Obama these days?

The outlook just seems to be getting worse and worse for the sitting President as he looks forward to a tough challenge in 2012.

Take this series of recent events, for example.

First, Obama was forced to back off demands that Congress pass his "jobs plan" (a.k.a. $2 trillion tax increase plan) immediately. Faced with growing inability to convince even those within his own party of the bill's merits, Obama changed his tune to call instead for Congress to pass the bill "this month." See this story in Politico.

Mr. President, forget about what Republicans are saying about the bill for a moment. Stop looking so weak. Strike one.

Second, Obama made a series of comments about America's economy to an Orlando television station. His explanation for our current malaise, as quoted by ABC News: "The way I think about it is, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades."

Oh, so we "lost our edge," huh? Blame it on the American worker? Bad career move. Strike two.

Third and most surprisingly, the president proclaimed himself to be an "underdog" in the 2012 contest, and he admitted that Americans are not better off than they were when he was elected, according to The Hill.

Well, duh. Strike three.

So let's put it all together. In three years of Barack Obama, we appear to have gone from the slogan "Yes, We Can!" to "Odds Are, We Can't." Americans are no better off than when Obama took office, and the President is unable to do anything to fix the situation. But, of course, it's not his fault. It's because Americans got a little soft.

What a stunning story line from someone seeking another four years on the job. That's certainly not something we'd ever say on a job interview.

Friday, September 30, 2011

FBPAC: Something not to "like" about Facebook

The debate about Internet privacy has been swirling around for a long time.

For example, most people know that search engines like Google and Yahoo track what Web sites you visit when you're surfing online. And, people know these companies use this information to serve up context-based online advertising provided by them, which earns them money.

This all has led some people to be uncomfortable with the amount of diverse information these companies amass about people (which is even greater if you also use these sites for things like your email, contacts and document cloud storage).

But this week, the Internet privacy issue took a new turn when social media giant Facebook announced that it is forming a political action committee called "FBPAC."

According to The Hill, sources at Facebook confirm that the purpose of FBPAC will be to support political candidates who promote economic innovation and information sharing.

On the one hand, this announcement probably isn't that surprising. After all, Facebook already politicized itself earlier this year by hosting a town hall meeting for President Obama at its corporate headquarters in California. The company also has been aggressively pursuing high-profile Obama administration officials for jobs at Facebook.

But, on the other hand, we have to stop and wonder if there isn't something bigger going on here.

Facebook is the largest social networking site in the world with more than 800 million active users worldwide. Facebook knows boundless information about each of these people that would be of priceless value to political campaigns: their age, their likes and dislikes, and most importantly, their network of friends and associates. Let's face it, people basically post their life on Facebook.

Until now, Facebook has marketed itself as somewhat of a public service. People always understood that Facebook was a private company, but there has never been any suggestion of a political undercurrent. In fact, Facebook itself has very strict rules about its users using the site to promote their own personal business activities. If you use Facebook too aggressively to promote yourself, expect your account to be deactivated.

Now, however, it's Facebook itself that is at issue. Information is Facebook's currency, and campaigns pay limitless dollars to other to cultivate their own databases with this information so they can spread their message. But, if FBPAC so chooses, they could presumably benefit from all of this information for free, not to mention the possibility that FBPAC could promote candidates on Facebook.

We're sure Facebook would say they have no intention of mining and using data to promote its PAC activities. But, with recent revelations about Facebook's aggressive tracking of its users, can Facebook really be trusted?

More to the point, FBPAC would seemingly have access to an enormous cache of information about Facebook users which is being collected outside the governance of federal campaign finance law. Even if there is no personally-identifiable information involved and the information is related solely to trends and demographics, this information would be tremendously valuable to FBPAC and its supported candidates. However, Facebook would not be responsible for reporting on the collection and aggregation of this data through Facebook, only FBPAC would be responsible for reporting activities related to the use of such data for political activity.

In one word, all of this can be summed up as follows: scary.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Warren discusses GOP politics on NECN

Meredith Warren joined NECN's Steve Aveson and Democratic political analyst George Bachrach to talk politics on today's edition of The Morning Show.

Warren discussed last night's GOP presidential candidate debate in Florida, which she says Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won being confident and talking about what he would do as president.

The segment also featured discussion of U.S. Senator Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Click here or on the link above to watch the video on

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Vote in our latest poll!

OK, now it's your turn. We want to know what you have to say.

There's a burning question on our minds. If you're a Democrat or an Independent voter, do you think someone should run against President Obama in 2012 - as a DEMOCRAT in the DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES?

Everywhere we go we run into people who are talking about the 2012 race for President. Of course, there's lots of discussion about which of the potential GOP field of challengers would be the best person to run against the President in 2012. But, at the same time, we're hearing from lots of Democrats who are disillusioned with President Obama and who think he is no longer the best representative of Democratic ideals.

So, what say you? Should there be a primary?

Cast your vote in the poll on the right. Voting will remain open through this Sunday night, and we'll post results (along with our thoughts) next week.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Talk is cheap: Observations from a going-out-of-business sale

On my way to the office this morning, I decided to make a quick stop at Borders in Methuen.

I’ve been getting the bookstore’s e-mails for weeks now, warning that they are going out of business, that their books are now up to 90% off the original price, and that they are “Going…Going…GONE.”

Although good deals make me happy, I felt anything but as a Borders employee unlocked the doors at 9 a.m.

“I’m so sad you guys are closing,” I told her, which was probably a dumb and insensitive thing to say to someone working all day to close their own place of employment.

“So am I,” she said. “The discounts are going up another 10 percent today, just so you know.”

More than half the store was empty bookshelves. The magazines were gone and so were most of the new releases and latest bestsellers. Biographies, Politics and Government, and Business and Management still had a pretty good selection.

Books filled with observations about how to fix our country and its politics penned by Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, George W. Bush, David Plouffe, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Jimmy Carter, Keith Olbermann, Thomas Friedman and even Meghan McCain still lined the shelves and Borders was practically giving them away at 90 percent off.

As I stood there in the cavernous store full of “going out of business” signs, employees disassembling fixtures, and fellow customers grumbling about the poor economy, three words came to me: “Talk is cheap.”

Last night, the Republican presidential candidates spent two hours talking about how they would tackle the poor economy and turn things around for struggling, out-of-work Americans.

Tonight, when President Obama delivers his jobs speech, we will witness his best attempt to convince those who once supported him that he can get us out of this mess if given another four years in the Oval Office.

Americans are watching and listening, but they are tired of the rhetoric, the semantics and the assurances. They want action. They want their jobs back. They want their businesses to work. They want leaders they can put their faith in to pull this off.

Before my Borders experience this morning, I ran into a neighbor as I was getting into my car. From previous conversations, I know he owns a small software consulting business in Lawrence.

This morning, he was carrying a brand new computer to his car.

“How’s business?” I asked.

“Actually, pretty good. I just hired a new employee,” he answered.

This guy did what our government and its leaders couldn’t last month. He actually created a job. Our leaders should take a lesson from him and give us what we really need right now: a little less talk, and a lot more action.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Worried about your wallet? Why this week is important for you.

Imagine you are a single person, out living on your own. Your annual salary is $44,000. Yet, all told, you spend about $74,000 a year, putting the $30,000 difference on a credit card. You've been spending money like this for a long time, and over the years, you've racked up about $294,000 in personal debt. You keep telling your skeptical creditors you're trying to cut back... but you recently negotiated a deal whereby your debt is projected to rise to about $400,000 over the next ten years.

Now, imagine yourself as one of ten people who live in a small apartment building. You're still working, but the guy down the hall lost his job and is struggling to make ends meet as he looks for work. Another person is fortunate enough to have a job after having been laid off, but they're making less than a few years ago because they're "underemployed."

If you all met in the hallway to discuss politics, seven out of ten of you would say the country is on the wrong track. Looking back at the past year, four of you would likely say that things have gotten worse for you economically over the past year, and five of you would say things are no better or worse; only one of you would say your lot has improved. And seven of you would say we still have a ways to go before we hit the bottom of the current recession; half of you think there will be another recession over the next few months.

Does all this sound too imaginary to be true, or does it seem like just another set of meaningless statistics? Well, it's very real. The numbers in the first paragraph are proportionately accurate representations of America's financial position given how much we spend each year as a nation and where our national debt stands. The second paragraph is based on current national unemployment figures. And, the statistics in the third paragraph are based on a recent MSNBC/Wall Street Journal national poll (click here for poll).

This is the context in which the GOP candidates will speak tonight as they vie to replace President Obama and seek to fix these problems. And, it's the same context in which President Obama will give his jobs speech to a joint session of Congress tomorrow night.

The question on the mind of many Americans will be which side has the most credibility to solve the problems we face. After all, one thing is for sure -- whether it's the Democrats or the Republicans or someone else, American needs someone to do something for fix things, fast. Because, if things don't turn around, America itself is in danger of being just another statistic.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Van Magness talks presidential politics on NECN

Fred Van Magness was a guest on The Morning Show on NECN this morning to discuss presidential politics.

In particular, Van Magness discussed declining poll numbers for President Obama and what it all means for Republican candidates in 2012.

You can view the full video here or by clicking on the image below.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Zip? Zilch? Nada?

We were expecting today's report on unemployment during the month of August to be sluggish. It doesn't take an economist to know that America is still deep in the grip of an economic crisis and that people all across the country still need jobs.

But we were surprised when we saw that there was no change in employment numbers in August.

None. None at all.

And, according to FoxNews, that's the first time that's happened in any month since February, 1945.

We wonder what the political fallout will be.

Ironically, we actually think this is the perfect news for President Obama as he awaits to unveil his new jobs plan to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday -- oops, strike that -- next Thursday. A report of no net job change is the best evidence the President could use to base his case that federal action is needed to kick-start job creation and to convince employers to add workers to their payrolls.

Well... almost perfect, that is. Because, at the same time that news of stagnant unemployment helps the President to make his case for a jobs plan, it also highlights the obvious fact that he has been in charge of the economy during these bleak times. In fact, things actually got worse while he was President. (Unemployment was at only 7.8 percent when Obama took office -- it's now 9.1 percent.) No matter how much the President wants to blame prior inhabitants of the Oval Office, or Congress, or greedy corporate executives for the economy, he is still the one and only President here and now. That gives the President a huge credibility problem heading into his speech next week. And, while the fact that there was no increase in unemployment is a good thing, the lack of an increase in jobs means that 14 million Americans are still standing in the unemployment line - truly depressing news for job seekers all over.

The political question is: to what extent can the President's Republican opponents convert this into an opportunity to expose the President's poor performance and credibility gap on job growth? (After all, unemployment is hardly a recent phenomenon, but President Obama is just now announcing a jobs plan, almost three full years into his presidency...) To succeed, Republicans need to make a convincing case why the President's purported action on jobs is too expensive and too late -- and, if the President really knew how to create jobs, wouldn't he have tried to do it already? Indeed, they need to do an even better job at this than they did at exposing the President's lack of credibility in wanting to cut the national debt after increasing it by several trillion dollars over the first portion of his term. Republicans also need to come up with a plan of their own for improving the economy. Even if Republicans disagree with what the President says next Thursday, they need to match his specific proposals with specific actions of their own, whatever those might be.

Because, at the end of the day, it all boils down to simple facts: Americans want -- and need -- their jobs back. They're tired of business-as-usual in Washington, D.C. They're tired of a stagnant economy.

Or, to paraphrase the President, Americans want change they can really believe in.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Political sweeps week starting early

According to several news media outlets, President Obama has requested a joint session of Congress to be called on September 7 for the purpose of announcing a new jobs plan.

We have mixed reactions to this news.

As to the fact that the President is purporting to do something about the fact that there are about 14 million Americans out of work: good.

As to the fact that the plan will undoubtedly do little to address the real problems underlying unemployment, while possibly adding to the national debt: bad, but in fairness we'll keep an open mind until we hear the speech.

As to the fact that it will have taken him about 960 days into his presidency to take action on the most pressing domestic issue: pathetic.

As to the fact that the President is looking to make the announcement on the same day as a planned nationally-televised debate between candidates for the Republican nomination to replace him: curious. Objectively, we admit it would be difficult for the President to schedule anything these days without claim that there is at least a tinge of politics to what he's doing. On the other hand, are we seriously supposed to believe this was the only time in four years that the President was available to announce a jobs plan?

As to the opportunity facing Republican candidates in the face of this news: enormous. Basically, President Obama is giving them fodder to use against him in the debate. He's teeing it up perfectly. The candidate best able to make the case against the President and his plan will replace him in January, 2013.

We can't imagine that this news is sitting very well with the people over at NBC (the network hosting the GOP debate) or with Speaker Boehner. Here's hoping that NBC proceeds with the debate as planned, and that Speaker Boehner says a majority of the House is planning to be busy that night listening to other people who may actually have credible ideas to grow jobs (but that the President is, of course, welcome to use the room).

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weatherproof Politicians Get The Best of 'Irene'

As Hurricane Irene blasted the East Coast this weekend, Newark Mayor Cory Booker took to Twitter:

"CoryBooker Stopping at Barringer High shelter now with pizza, soda & water. Forgive me Michelle Obama, not the healthiest late night snack."

"CoryBooker If u have problems finding diapers please DM me your # so we can talk. @darkangel1321"

"CoryBooker Incredible. My chief of staff just went 2 get a woman from Court St out in storm selling papers. I told him 2 buy her out &get her 2 shelter"

He masterfully used the social media network to reassure and inform residents about shelter locations, street closings and the dangers of driving during the storm.

He even mixed in some storm humor to keep spirits high:

"CoryBooker JFK Rec Center shelter is pet friendly. I met a nice dog there earlier. He wasnt that talkative but I could tell he liked his accommodations"

His Tweets were so personal and so around-the-clock — and with the occasional typo — that he received more than one Tweet asking if it really was him at the keyboard.

His response:

"CoryBooker I got bout 2hrs sleep & its really me wet and wired on caffeine RT @LizaTulip Have u been up all night? Is this truly you, Mayor?"

But Booker wasn’t just Tweeting from some waterproof command center. He was out and about during the height of the storm, going door-to-door to talk to city dwellers about evacuating, delivering pizzas to shelters and first-responders and talking to the media.

His response to Hurricane Irene was impressive and just-right, and it was just one example of the real leadership we witnessed this weekend from state and local officials who seemed to know just what to say to keep people safe and prepared while minimizing panic.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie started early and declared a state of emergency on Thursday before the storm, mobilizing the National Guard and now-famously directing people to “get the hell off the beach.” His I’m-not-fooling-around stance had to have made residents think twice before sticking around to check out the waves.

In New York City, Mayor Mike Bloomberg presided over the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of New York City residents and a shutdown of the city’s subway. It was a risky move, and there will always be Monday morning quarterbacks who say it was an over-reaction. But it was the right thing to do.

As we learned from Hurricane Katrina, there’s no way to predict exactly what Mother Nature has planned. If Irene had been just a smidge more intense, the residents of New York City would have been in grave danger had they stuck around.

When the storm passed, Bloomberg Tweeted that "#Irene has brought out the best in NY’ers. Our city took it seriously and rose to the occasion."

We think the same could be said about many of our East Coast mayors and governors, including some of our own officials here in Massachusetts, including Governor Deval Patrick and New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang.

Whether you believe in big or small government, most everyone wants to feel that their public officials are looking out for them when disaster strikes, or threatens to strike. We want to know that they are in the trenches with us.

Most of the time, it’s easy to criticize political figures for not rising to the occasion. But in this case, they did exactly what they are elected to do.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Barack's Buffett Bathtub Bailout

Warren Buffett has been a political supporter of President Barack Obama for a long time.

Buffett endorsed Obama's 2008 candidacy early on. He's advised the President on economic policy and ways to promote investment in the American economy, reportedly as recently as this past Monday while the President was on vacation in Martha's Vineyard.

And, Buffett reportedly plans to hold a $10,000-a-ticket fundraiser for Obama's reelection campaign next month. (Read more here...)

Buffett's support for Obama is certainly not unique. But today, Buffett did what virtually no other American could do to support Obama's chances for reelection in 2012 - he personally stimulated the economy by making a $5 billion personal investment in Bank of America.

Is this an Obama bailout straight from Buffett's bathtub?

The motive is clear. Recently, Buffett wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which he lamented Washington's "coddling of the rich." It was plainly in support of oft-used Obama talking points about the need for the wealthy and large corporations to "pay their fair share." Now, it seems, Buffett is literally putting his money where his mouth is, and he's doing it at a time when Obama most needs support.

Not that there's anything at all wrong or improper with that, of course. There isn't. Like every other American, Warren Buffett is free to invest his money where and as he pleases.

We just think it's curious that one of America's wealthiest citizens would choose to make this investment in Obama's political future now. History shows it's a bad bet to bet against Warren Buffett, and we have no doubt he will reap a hefty profit from Bank of America. But, when it comes to backing Obama in 2012 - a president with high disapproval ratings, high unemployment and skyrocketing national debt - we think this might just be one investment where Buffett takes a bath.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Warren appears on NECN to discuss GOP presidential race

Meredith Warren made several recent appearances on New England Cable News (NECN) to discuss Republican presidential politics.

On Thursday, Warren was interviewed by NECN reporter Alison King regarding the upcoming Ames, Iowa straw poll.

And, on Friday, Warren appeared as a guest commentator on NECN's Morning Show opposite host Bridget Blythe. The topic was Thursday night's Iowa GOP presidential debate.

Warren's comments on the debate also appear in today's Concord, NH Patch.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The debt ceiling debate - it's all about "me"

Wanting to watch the debt ceiling vote live last night without too much commentary from the talking heads, we tuned in to C-SPAN’s streaming online video about 10 minutes before votes were cast.

If you are familiar with C-SPAN’s coverage, you know that they fill time before major votes and press conferences taking calls from average voters from around the country.

These days, there are three different lines available – Democrat, Republican and Independent.

Sadly, based on what we heard, C-SPAN really only needed one line – Entitled.

A majority of callers – from all three lines – stated that their main concern about the debt ceiling debacle was that they wanted to make sure they received their “check,” whether it was Social Security or disability or something else. Very few called to say they were concerned about our country as a whole, or the future generations who would be paying the bill for those checks and all of the other debt that is continuing to grow by the second.

We get that there are many Americans who need government assistance – especially in today’s world. We don’t begrudge them that help.

What bothers us – and what the debt ceiling debate has laid bare to – is the way so many in America feel they are “entitled” to be taken care of by someone else. For some, it’s their government check. For others, it’s a re-election unmarred by a second debt ceiling debate (we’re looking at you, President Obama) and a way to go on summer vacation without having a thorny issue hanging over their heads.

The debt ceiling debate should have been about the fact that our nation finds itself drowning in debt and with a population of unemployed workers that's greater than the population of many states. The generation that comes after Generation Y and Generation Z is poised to be Generation IOU. However, these concerns ultimately got drowned out by a prevailing attitude of, "I want what's mine, right now, and let the chips fall where they may after that."

This sense of entitlement is exactly what the Democrats preyed on to win support for raising the debt ceiling. Congressional Democrats scored points emphasizing the danger of default as a way to force a deal, and they made appeals to their base that things like entitlement spending should not fall victim to suspension by way of default or to long-term budget cuts. These factors ultimately forced a deal, showing that people are susceptible to scare tactics and class warfare. In the aftermath, to those outside their base, Democrats look like they are unwilling to make the serious cuts needed to balance the budget and reduce the debt long-term, and that one of their main goals is to raise taxes to support gluttonous federal spending. And, to those inside the Democratic base who want entitlement spending preserved, there are concerns that the final compromise gave up too much.

Congressional Republicans emphasized the broader context of the budget, the danger of out-of-control entitlement spending, and the threat of tax increases. They pleased their base by making the issue about America borrowing too much money overall instead of about America not being able to borrow enough money under the current debt ceiling. They pushed their "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan forward despite Senate disapproval. However, in the aftermath and to those outside their base, Republicans look uncompromising and willing to sacrifice the stability of the economy for their own conservative principles. And, portions of the Republican base (particularly the Tea Party) are disappointed that the party ultimately relented too easily to an increase in the debt ceiling (to over $16 trillion) that far eclipses spending cuts (worth only $20 billion or so in 2012).

Ultimately, the final resolution of the current debate happened because neither side wanted the blame for a default pinned to them going in to the 2012 election cycle. After weeks of each side holding out for what they said they were unwilling to compromise, the one thing they were most unwilling to give up was their own political future. Almost universally, members of Congress are complaining about the bill that is being passed and lamenting how difficult it was to vote for or against it. Again, the issue is all about them and not the greater good of the country. If they were actually concerned about the state of our finances, would they be leaving today for a five-week break?

Digging deeper into the "all about me" file, we come to President Obama. We think he exhibited a profound lack of leadership and overwhelming selfishness on the issue. Throughout the debate, the President's public message was one of encouraging "compromise." But, it's apparent that he had one mission in mind: to secure a deal to raise the debt ceiling past his own reelection campaign. He offered few plans or suggestions of his own, choosing instead to act as some sort of "Broker-in-Chief" to bring Congressional leaders together in time. His failure to do so across weeks of time leaves him looking as if he is incapable of deal-making with Washington's real power brokers and that he has few ideas of his own. And, his progressive base appears as if it's starting to abandon him. The President seems to have accomplished no real victory in the debate except for having it go away for awhile and being able to peacefully celebrate his birthday in Chicago tomorrow.

As the President signs the debt ceiling bill into law later today, America will still find itself with an unemployment level over nine percent, a debt of $14 trillion skyrocketing to $16 trillion soon, and with a more than $1 trillion year-to-year budget deficit. Our collective "me, me, me" attitude remains intact and survives as the prism through which we approach political problems these days. Members of Congress and the President are slapping each other on the back, congratulating each other for saving the world, while we're now two steps away from falling off the cliff instead of one. Meanwhile, the only thing future generations will be "entitled" to is a big fat bill.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Meredith Warren goes on NECN to talk about the debt ceiling debate

Meredith Warren took to the airwaves earlier today to discuss the ongoing debate over raising the nation's debt ceiling. Her interview with NECN's Scot Yount aired on the station's nightly news broadcasts.

During her interview, Warren said, in part, "Hundreds of thousands of voters sent Tea Party candidates and conservative Republicans to serve in Congress with a mandate to stop spending so much and stop having so much debt. And so now this is what's happening. There's pressure from those voters saying, this is what we sent you to Washington for, now do it."

You can see the full video here or by clicking on the link below (external link to

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Van Magness talks about debt ceiling on NECN's Morning Show

Fred Van Magness appeared on NECN's Morning Show this morning to discuss ongoing negotiations to raise the nation's debt ceiling and what it all means politically.

Please click here or on the image below to view the full video (external link to

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sizing up the national debt

Most of the political news these days is centered around talk of the national debt and raising the debt ceiling.

But, rarely is there much talk about exactly how big a problem this is given the enormous size of our national debt.

According to the U.S. Treasury, the official size of the Total Public Debt Outstanding as of July 11, 2011 was $14,342,977,065,892.73.

That obviously looks like a big number, but just how much money is that?

  • Using current gas prices, you could buy enough gas to drive a Toyota Prius to the planet Saturn and back 124,000 times – if there were a highway there. (And you'd still have enough money left over for snacks, tolls and souvenirs.)
  • Using 2010 attendance figures and average ticket prices, you could buy every ticket to every major league baseball game (all 30 MLB clubs), plus a hot dog, bottled water, peanuts and cracker jack at each game, for about the next 5,000 seasons.
  • If Mark Zuckerberg were to thank President Obama for using Facebook as a campaign medium by offering to pay off the national debt, he'd have to charge each of Facebook's reported 750 million users about $19,000 apiece for the privilege of having a page. (But, don't expect them to 'like' it.)
  • The state budget recently signed into law here in Massachusetts is worth $30.6 billion. If we had the national debt as a funding source, we could run Massachusetts tax-free until the year 2479 or so.
  • According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the equalized valuation of all taxable property in Massachusetts is about $1.024 trillion. So, basically, you could use the national debt to buy Massachusetts and you'd still have a cool $13 trillion or so left over to start buying up other states.

You can find more staggering figures in this recent article from the Daily Mail.

American needs to get immediate control over its burgeoning national debt, with all sides participating in solving the problem long-term.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Why Beacon Hill is broken

We never thought we'd say it, but...

If you want to know why Beacon Hill is broken, read the Boston Globe today. Reporter Noah Bierman has a great story about the closed-door process that routinely keeps information from public view.

Legislators’ vital work veiled from public’s eye

We could go on and on about this, but suffice it to say the article basically speaks for itself and says it all.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A culture of violence

(A true story from earlier today. - Fred Van Magness)

It was early, very early this morning.

I was about halfway done with my morning walk when I saw her. A nice older lady, out watering her lawn and enjoying her morning cup of coffee.

"Good morning," we both said at almost the same time.

"Nice day today," I offered.

"Yeah, gonna be a hot one," she answered politely. Bad day for the lawn.

"Yeah, really," I said.

And thus, like most such encounters, this one appeared to be over. I continued on my walk, never breaking stride. She turned her gaze back to the grass, as if to silently reflect on the blazing heat that lay in store for the lawn.

Then, something unexpected happened.

"Hey," I heard her call out suddenly, looking up excitedly and gesturing toward me. "What do you think of that murder?"

In a moment of bleary-eyed naivety, all I could come up with to say was, "Which one?"

I guess it actually wasn't that naive. She could have been referring to the brutal murder of an 18-year-old girl in Wayland, or one of the four murders in Boston over the July Fourth holiday weekend. (And, that's not even counting the 15 shootings in Boston over that period, or the recent shooting of a four-year-old boy, etc.)

The news is full of murders. But, of course, these weren't the crimes on her mind.

"That one in Florida," she said, turning my attention back to the obvious, the trial of Casey Anthony that resulted in a 'not guilty' verdict yesterday. "Unbelievable," she said, shaking her head in disbelief. "I can't stop thinking about it! Those people [the jurors, I understood her to say], they must be crazy. Who do they think killed that kid? I can't believe it."

And so it went on for a few more minutes, both of us volleying back and forth about how amazing it was that a two-year-old child could die under suspicious circumstances and that no one would be brought to justice.

The sad part is, this sort of thing is happening all across America these days, and it is actually becoming less surprising each day.

An entire generation is under siege. Young people across the country are dying in acts of violence, many of them perpetrated by other young people, and it only seems to get worse.

America needs to get its act together and stop the violence. It's a problem that starts in each household across America, the places where young people must be taught by family that it is unacceptable to tolerate, much less perpetuate, the culture of violence that awaits them when they leave their house each day. It's also a problem that must be addressed by government. Our criminal justice system needs better resources and more oversight to get its job done. And, our elected officials need to get tougher on crime and the criminals that commit violent acts. It's a burden shared equally by all of us, no matter what our party, our background or our station in life.

We might never know what really happened in the case surrounding Casey Anthony and her daughter. We have our own opinions, but that is a question of legal intrigue likely to be bantered about by experts on television for weeks and months to come. But what we do know is this: a two year old girl named Caylee Anthony isn't here to see it. She is a victim. And, she is unlikely to be the last victim of such a crime unless we act as a society to call for an end to the senseless violence.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lack of budget constitutes epic failure when put into perspective

It amazes us that the Commonwealth still does not have a FY2012 budget in place even though the new fiscal year starts tomorrow, July 1.

Just how amazing is it? Well, we thought it might be useful to put it into perspective by looking at what else has happened in the world while state lawmakers have been working slavishly to finish work on the budget.

First, a quick recap: The House released its budget plan to the public on April 13, 2011. This marked the beginning of formal legislative consideration of the budget. The House passed its version on April 28, and the Senate followed suit on May 26.

April 13, the night the House released its budget, was the same night the 2011 NHL Playoffs started. Since then, the Bruins competed in all playoff rounds and eventually won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972.

On April 28, when the House passed its budget version, Prince William and the former Ms. Kate Middleton were still single. The royal wedding took place the next day (and it was supposedly being watched on live television by Representative Mark Cusack and others reveling in the House Speaker's Office/Chamber). That same day, jury selection in the corruption trial of former House Speaker Sal DiMasi was just beginning. That trial would last several weeks, until DiMasi would be found guilty of 7 out of 9 charges on June 15 (the same night the Bruins won the Stanley Cup).

The House budget was already passed and sent to the Senate days before the United States found and killed Osama bin Laden (May 1), which ended a manhunt ongoing since 2001, and weeks before the FBI captured fugitive Whitey Bulger (June 22), who had been on the lam since 1995. And both the House and Senate budgets were done deals before tornadoes struck western Massachusetts (June 1) and Sarah Palin visited Boston (June 2).

Yet, despite the fact that the House and Senate budgets were originally heralded upon passage for their frugality and austerity (translation - they didn't really do anything), there is no agreement on their terms many weeks later.

We're sure lawmakers are working tirelessly to complete work on the budget as soon as possible in advance of the upcoming long holiday weekend. Yeah, right. Could a last-minute deal still be reached so lawmakers could called in on the Friday before a long weekend to pass the budget? Oh, the humanity...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The tale of the tape

We could say a lot about what we think of President Obama. But we don't have to. Check out this video we found on YouTube, which pretty much says it all.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Time for Lantigua to step aside

Will somebody please tell Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua that it's time to leave?

Lantigua is under fire on several different fronts.

Things started off poorly for Lantigua, as he initially tried to hold (and get paid) for dual posts as Lawrence's mayor and state representative.

Thankfully, that's over now. But wait, there's much more.

There's an ongoing investigation by state campaign finance officials regarding Lantigua's fundraising.

Then, there's is an ongoing state and federal investigation supposedly looking into towing contracts, nightclub licenses and hackney licenses.

Meanwhile, back at City Hall, there are allegations that several Lantigua family members and romantic interests are on city payroll - and that they might have also improperly accepted fuel assistance.

And, to cap it all off, there's news in the Boston Globe that Lantigua has been sending surplus vehicles to his native Dominican Republic, basically as a thank-you for supporting him in his candidacy for mayor back here in the USA.

All of this, in a city north of Boston that has sky-high unemployment, benefitted from a recent $35 million state loan (bail-out) and receives enormous sums of local aid. Sadly, Lawrence is also a city with a proud industrial heritage and with lots of promise, so it's really tragic to see this happening to the city and its people today.

We're all for innocent until proven guilty, but the allegations against Lantigua are serious, growing, and starting to sound an awful lot like a pattern of corruption.

Will this be the last straw for Lantigua? We certainly hope so. Lawrence needs an extreme makeover, and it should start at the top. Lantigua needs to leave.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Where's the pork?

It's interesting that Massachusetts legislators have not approved a final budget for Fiscal Year 2012 yet, despite the fact the fiscal year starts just days away on July 1.

The House and Senate adopted differing versions of the budget weeks ago. Since then, negotiators from both branches have been trying to resolve differences in a conference committee.

But, setting aside questions about the fiscal condition of the Commonwealth and value judgments about how state leaders are choosing to deal with them... the differences between House and Senate budget plans don't seem to be that controversial or substantial. Plus, in recent times, most of the interesting spending has been made mid-year in supplemental appropriation bills, not in the budget itself.

So, what's the hold up?

We're not sure. But, we can guess at several possible reasons.

It's possible that the House and Senate aren't really rushing to reach agreement. That could be out of laziness, or a deliberate attempt to stall and deprive Governor Patrick of a full ten-day window to review the budget before he issues vetoes. Or, perhaps a series of bad stories about the Legislature (Cusack, DiMasi, and now a Bulger in the news) has been distracting.

It's also possible that there is a lot of negotiation going on behind the scenes, but that it's not really about the budget at all. For example, it's possible that budget concessions are being used as chits to negotiate future deals on issues like casino gaming, which has been rumored to be waiting in the wings for later this session.

What's the real reason and when will be get a budget in place? Only time will tell.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Amidst good news, the hidden danger of the “Obama Doctrine”

President Obama addressed the nation on Wednesday night to formally announce his plans to withdraw 33,000 service personnel from Afghanistan by next September, reducing America’s presence in that country by about one-third to 68,000 troops.

Before we say anything else about the President’s speech, we want to make several points very clear. We have the utmost respect and gratitude for America’s military. We honor their commitment, their sacrifice and their accomplishment without qualification. And, we welcome these 33,000 soldiers home with open arms. We also give President Obama credit for honoring a commitment he made at West Point months ago to start drawing down America’s forces from Afghanistan this summer. Absent a compelling reason to continue commitment, America’s presence in Afghanistan needs to end and our troops need to come home so Afghanistan can resolve its own future for itself.

Thus, we support the basic announcement made in President Obama's speech.

However, in an attempt to make the case for bringing US troops home earlier than his top military brass wanted, President Obama made comments that relate more to future American military involvement than to the present decision regarding Afghanistan. We think these comments were unnecessary to sell the President's decision to an American public already predisposed to a reduction of force. And, more importantly, we think the President's comments are harmful to broader US foreign policy in the future. Here's why.

President Obama did not justify America’s troop withdrawal upon a claim that the mission in Afghanistan has been accomplished. He said only that we are "meeting our goals." We think this was a deliberate choice based on three factors. First, it is impossible to claim definitive victory because the mission at stake has not been clearly articulated (by Presidents Bush or Obama) in recent years, particularly as the hunt for Al Qaeda and Usama Bin Laden shifted to Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula. Second, claiming satisfaction of the mission would implicitly require the President to claim that America’s involvement in Afghanistan has rendered America safe, which is a risky proposition even after the killing of Usama Bin Laden and the apparent disruption of Al Qaeda’s network worldwide. Third, politically, President Obama did not want risk a Bush-style "Mission Accomplished" speech in the shadow of what he predicted still would be some future "dark days" in Afghanistan.

This left the President in the unenviable position of risking the perception of a military defeat or a retreat in the absence of a claim of victory. To avoid this conclusion, President Obama deftly attempted to pivot the message in his speech. He claimed that the withdrawal of troops is the result of waning public support for the war and a popular desire to refocus national attention on domestic matters (something President Obama called “nation building at home”). In other words, the President’s speech was not about victory or defeat, it was about shifting priorities. (It also was about building his political base and satisfying concerns expressed by his supporters going into 2012. Check out this link and this link of the President's Communications Director being booed by progressive activists at a recent conference.)

However, this argument alone is not enough to avoid the appearance of a retreat. To convincingly sell the case that America can simply leave Afghanistan because it is growing tired of war, President Obama had to downplay the original justification for America’s involvement in Afghanistan. To make a long story short, Obama told us that America can pull 33,000 troops out of Afghanistan at will because having them in Afghanistan is less important than solving other problems we face as a nation. And, to make this argument, the President was ultimately forced to put America's involvement in Afghanistan into context, which made him extrapolate his view of the Afghanistan conflict to a broader statement of foreign policy.

Thus, for the first time in his presidency, Obama articulated a doctrine for American military involvement overseas.

The Obama Doctrine calls for greater investment to solve domestic problems with a more limited military commitment overseas, employing a responsible investment of resources on a more targeted basis, and acting in concert with other nations.

"Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America's engagement around the world. Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face. Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course. Like generations before, we must embrace America's singular role in the course of human events. But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute. When threatened, we must respond with force -- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas. When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don't have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own. Instead, we must rally international action, which we're doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny."

Transcript of the President's Address to the Nation, June 22, 2011

This, we believe, is the hidden future danger of Obama’s speech.

We can all agree on certain things. America is a peaceful nation. We seek a peaceful world where people live in harmony sharing a commitment to certain shared values; namely, a respect for human rights, freedom, democratic self-governance, and an open economy with free trade between nations. America has no desire to pick fights across the world. However, there must be a constant realization that our basic world view is not shared universally by all people. Scattered between America’s friends are people across the world who seek to inflict harm on Americans and on the American way of life. With regard to those people, our enemies, the message from America must be powerful, clear and consistent: we claim a unilateral right to act to protect ourselves from all threats, and we will employ whatever means are necessary to combat them.

President Obama undermined both parts of this fundamental foreign policy principle in his speech by calling for targeted involvement as a weapon of choice and by implying that America’s foreign policy is subject to buy-in by a coalition of willing allies. America’s strength and perception as a leader are based on its ability to reserve the right to act – as broadly and forcefully as possible, and alone if necessary – to protect its self-interest. America doesn’t need to ask permission to protect itself, and we don’t need to hold back. Despite the admitted problems we confront today, there is no domestic problem important enough for us to sacrifice these important tenets of our foreign policy.

If we want America to be safe and secure, then it's never a good idea to tell the "bad guys" that we're going to go after them in the future by charting a "more centered course." It would have been far better to simply tell the American people what the President has said before -- that the troop surge worked, so we don't need as many troops in Afghanistan, and some can come home. Period.

Ultimately, we think President Obama needs to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time, and his inability to do so is embarrassing to America. America’s greatest leaders are known for their ability to promote powerful foreign and domestic policies. There can and should be no trade-off between the two, as the future of our nation depends on the strength of both. By admitting that America needs to limit its foreign policy in order to resolve its domestic problems, President Obama has severely compromised America’s place of leadership across the world. He also overplays the success of the daring but small-scale raid that captured Usama Bin Laden and the NATO air campaign in Libya, overestimating their ability to serve as models for future military policy.

Obama's Doctrine is a dangerous message to send to America’s enemies across the world, one which was unnecessary to state in his speech in order to sell the American public on his plan to withdraw troops, and one which simply cannot be ignored amidst the justifiable relief felt by us all as our soldiers come home from Afghanistan this year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Still no budget

Recent weeks have been chock full of stories about Beacon Hill.

First, there were the stories of Representative Mark Cusack and his alleged late-night State House escapades with colleagues. Then, there was news that former House Speaker Sal DiMasi was found guilty on several federal felony charges.

Here's one thing that hasn't been getting much attention until today: the House and Senate have not yet passed a budget for next fiscal year. And, the clock's ticking -- the state's fiscal year starts on July 1.

Chief on the list of people who should be disappointed by this lack of accomplishment is Governor Deval Patrick. Patrick has a constitutional right to take 10 days to review the budget that will eventually reach his desk and to consider reasons to veto parts of the bill. But, after today, that power erodes as a practical matter as the deadline for a signed budget gets closer with each passing day.

Most of all, though, it's the people of Massachusetts who should be appalled at the lack of meaningful work on Beacon Hill. By our count, there have been only 44 bills signed into law with this year almost half over, and most of those bills are so-called "special acts" like liquor licenses and sick leave banks.

Here's another way to put it into perspective: The House Budget was released on April 13, the same day the Bruins started their postseason drive toward the Stanley Cup. In the intervening weeks, the Bruins did the seemingly impossible, winning several postseason series matchups. On the other hand, the House, well... not so much.

We can only think that recent headlines -- brought upon legislators by themselves -- have been a distraction impeding actual work from getting done. That's just sad.

In the past, many have observed that it's not always a bad thing when the Legislature fails to pass bills. It's a fair point. But, on the other hand, if that's the case, then why do we have a full-time Legislature in the first place?