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.