The Marvelous mystery that is Human Nature

Dylan Mulvaney

^^ Dylan Muvaney, transgender / gender fluid pioneer recently attacked by those who think they know her better than she knows herself

— —- —- —- —-

We humans think we know what human nature is about but we don’t know it at all.

As the poet e e cummings wrote, almost 100 years ago, “when skies are hanged and oceans drowned, the single secret will still be man.”

Thus we come to transgender, or “gender fluidity” if you will, unprepared as always for new revelations, new aspects of the single secret. What are we to think about transgender people, assuming we think at all ?

I would suppose that we might start by asking a transgender person what he or she is about. Because a gender fluid person has had to think a lot about what he or she is or is not. It is just as much a surprise to a trans person to be “trans” as it is to us to merely observe. He or she the gender fluid human confronts his or her fluidity every minute in a society that assumes that gender is written in the DNA. So why not ask a gender fluid person what fluidity is about and how it is to be lived in ?

The responses might shock you.

Acceptance is not a snap, it is worked toward, as the gender fluid human samples, discards, then accepts all the explanations that culminate in the actual.

Gender fluidity, the gendered human will tell you, is NOT a choice. It is a revelation. It is in you whether you accept it or not. It comes to grips with you, not the other way around.

Is that hard for us to accept ? If hard, why ? Why would we reject what a person tells us about herself ? By what basis do we know a person better than the person knows herself ?

I read people – including legislators in “red” States – who insist that a multi-gendered person is wrong about himself, that “gender is” this and not that. I don’t see how such assertion differs from insisting that the Earth is flat. Or that it was created 6000 years ago, as my ancestors’ writings (book of Genesis) told my ancestors. It is well and good to make such assertions, but like most assertions, they are likely mistaken. Same is true about gender. Those who insist they know tell us that biological sex is gender. Yet it isn’t. This we see in the lives of gendered humans.

Biology is not the soul, the self. Biology is the mechanics of the body, but human beings are more than body and system. Human beings perceive; we have feelings, sentiments, insights; we learn stuff. Gender is one of the attributes that we learn more and more about. (There isw nothing new about gender fluidity. Gendered people have existed in all times and all societies.)

This is so no matter what gender learning we get to. For those who figure out that their gender is the same as their biology, no more than for those who perceive their gender to be different from their biology. It’s THE SAME PROCESS ! One figures out who one is.

No one can do it for you.

No one can tell you who you are or how to figure it out. Being a fully created human being, as we all are, each of us has direct, empirical knowledge of only our own self. All that anyone else can say about us is assumption.

Thus we see that some of us are not what we are, even as they are as human as we are.

Many who feel they have a right to impose their assumptions upon us cite my ancestors’ commandments and laws of Torah, as found in “the Bible,” all of which they assert are immutable words of God not vulnerable to emendation because what God declares is permanent. Thereby denying to us who live today equal status, as created beings, with my ancestors of 3000 years ago.

Somehow I do not accept that we today are confined like slaves to the orders of 3000 years old masters. Why are we not just as entitled to make discovery as were they of old ? And so we see that we are as entitled, because gendered people among us are making discovery even as I write.

Thus I embrace gender fluid humans. I welcome their witness, their testimony about their lives.

I welcome whaat they might teach us tomorrow as well.

I welcome revelation, new knowledge, new perception, just as I welcome my own readiness to perceive anew every day.

We learn that humans are discoverers in an infinity of the unknown, the as yet unnoticed. I say, cherish the discoverers and incorporate their discoveries into your book of learning.

Thank goodness for transgendered people. They are our vanguard, our pioneers exploring what e e cummings so well prophesied :

“…the single secret will still be man.”

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Heath St

^^ so many unused manufacturing buildings in a City now on the verge of bringing manufacturing back — thank goodness !

No one can know the future, but quite often it offers a few clues to what is coming.

In Boston as of today — late February 2023 — there are some: first, the bio-technology boom has ended. Fewer discoveries are in process. Second, more people are leaving Massachusetts than coming. Third, there is now significant, and growing, push back against the Boston envisioned by the City’s planners (and many nonprofit groups) these past several years. More about this later.

Perhaps the most impactful clue is that our grossly over-invested real estate market has turned its corner and is falling. Both rents and asking prices for sales are giving ground. There’s also much more apartment availability today than at this time last year.

This slide has enabled quite a few renters and buyers to qualify who last year were told “no dice.”

At the same time, the City is moving to purchase quite a chunk of traditional three-decker buildings in which people of modest incomes live until recently under threat of displacement. In East Bostonl, 144 tenancies will now be protected, by a land trust agreement, from investor eviction. (It’s another question engtirely what happens to those units when and if their current occupants move out, and this is an issue for another day.)

Mayor Wu is also moving to have the legislature approve her limited rent control measure, which would affect chiefly the sorts of obese-size, overpriced density boxes that have gone up all over Boston’s close-in neighbo0rhoods and which have made developers and their servants rich as Croesus. Any form of rent control leads to seriously negative consequences (we who lived through Boston’s rent control 1970s know them all), but the first consequence seems good : developers can no longer arbitrage our neighborhoods out of existence by converting them to profit cash.

Personally, I think Mayor Wu’s rent control move is unnecessry. I think the changed market will accomplish everything she hopes for and more. As acquisition and construction costs will not decrease, a 20 percent haircut in the rent price and sale price markets will make developer profits impossible or almost — most real estate ventures relly on 65 to 75 percent bank financing.. If a denveloper / speculator neds a ten percent profit margin to be sure of cashing out, a 75 percent loan in a 20 percent price cut market shaves him to the skin. Even a 65 percent financing cuts seriously close.

Yet a changed real estate market is hardly the only reversal at hand in Boston. Just as significant are (1l) changed sentiment about the bike lane movement that wants to limit access by moorists to major streets (2) serious — and justified — opposition to planned cut backs on available on street parking ( 3 ) folks who understand full well that they and their freedoms are the target of locked and loaded climate activists.

On twitter you find these motorists’ rights groups as well as “critical urbanists” who do NOT favor “skippable streets” (as one kooky no-cars City Councillor in another city put it); These groups make a very compelling argument. After all, we who drive cars are at least 80 percent, if not 90, of everybody who lives and/or works in Boston. It takes a lot of chutzpah for a planner, or an activist, to push us out of their plan picture. Yet until recently, articulate opposition was hard to find to the planners’ transit-uber-alles density vision. (I have supplied some here in this blog, but it’s been a lonely slog.) Not so today. Organized motorist groups have formulateed a counter much more comprehensive than my ad hoc complaints.

What they call for is a return to prioritizing highways and de-emphazing public transportation, citing the figures : far, far more of us drive than require public transportation. As I hav ebeen saying : publicly financed transit is our obligation as a society, to those who cannot drive or cannot afford to put a car legally on the road, BUT THAT IS ALL that our obligation is. The bulk of our transportation tax dollars must go to maintaining and even renewing our highways, bridges, and streets.

And at last, Federal policy is on our side. President Biden’s call for bringing back manufacturing (and manufacturing jobs) to America envisions an entirely different economy than the small shop, high tech beehives we have lived by these past twenty years or more. And the bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden helped shepherd to passage brings huge swaths of Federal dollars to renewing our bridges, streets, and highways and thus to the jobs that perform this work.

This is a significant change of direction in favor of the vast majority away from a very lucky very few.

Our economy since the late 1990s has been geared almost entirely to the very lucky very few : the financiers, real estate boomers, high tech shops, colleges, and investment managers who have drawn Midas level salaries and voluminous stock option windfalls in an economy in which basic manufacturing and skilled trades have seen jobs whisk away overseas. We in Boston have witnessed this transformation. A city which in 1980 was locally-born working class has become a city of incoming technology whizzes. (I have nothing aginst whizzes, but their whiz craft cannot be the only path to a neighborhood or city life.) Now that phase may be ending as Biden’s manufacturing and infrastructure economy digs deep.

The new Biden economy is also generating — finally — a serious push for revitalizing trades education and union membership. It was only ten years ago that a Tea party Republican assured me that unions were obsolete. Not now, they aren’t ! As for trades education, people have talked about it for decades, without denting the college ideal much. But people see, at last, that skilled trade folks earn a dam good paycheck, where college kids often find burdensome loan debt. Wherever you stand on forgiving student loans, it is clear that they are musts for many to avoid, especially when trades folks earn big pay without tapping a dollar of college finance.

The salaries of higher education administrators have ballooned just as illogically as those of fianciers. Some college adminitrators now take million dollar incomes. Why ? To what end ? If college is for many, a waste of time, what is the vast salary structure of it but insupportable institutional welfare ?

Look : I’m a Princeton grad and proud of my university. But when I went, in 1958 to 1962, tuition was $ 10,000. Today it is over $ 70,000, At some colleges it’s more than $ 100,000. Why ?

To sum up : big economic changes are coming to Boston — and to America as a whole. It’s long overdue. Whatever you may think of Trump voters, they are making one super loud protest against things as they are. Their social views may be anathema, but their economic arguments make much sense.

I am glad that President Biden is focused on bringing back jobs and production to our forgotten cities — and maybe even to Boston, which 50 years ago had a ton of manufacturing in place — you can see the boarded up or repurposed factory buildings all over Hyde Park, lower Roxbury, an d sea side Dorchester, Charlestown, and East Boston. It is way past time to give these factories new manufactures, new jobs — as well as the roadways that bring driver workers to work five days a week and the parking lots that host them.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^^ Meridian Street. Planners see too many cars and not enough bus lanes. I see a neighborhood that works and knows itself well.

— — — — — — —

Boston’s Planning and Development agency is currently publicizing its plan for future East Boston. The outreach has aroused anger from many — from more people of the neighborhood than I have seen step forward on any land use issue since the days of Logan Airport exspansion 40 years ago and longer.

Nor is the anger misplaced. The “plan” imposes ITS priorities on people of entirely opposite priorities. For a neighborhood already dense with dwellings, it wants even more density. To a neighborhood scarce of parking spaces it demands FEWER parking spaces. On a neighborhood of streets narrow to negotiate, it would carve out dedicated bus and bike laness, making car traffic a nightmare’s nightmare.

The plan is not merely a mistake. It is intended as a mistake. Or rather, should I say, it treats East Boston as a mistake.

So when 200 people gathered recenty, at Don Orione Home atop Orient Heights, to shout a very loud and long “NO !” to being run over by briefcased, cubicled managers who view the neighborhood as a mistake, those cubicle folks should have understood in advance that their “plan” is — to us — more COVID than vaccine.

A harsh simile, perhas, but not inapt.

The “plan” cannot work. Perhaps if East Boston were uninhabited, as it was in 1629, highly paid city-crats could conct a fantasy of density and bike lanes aand all would be just ducky. But East Boston IS inhabited. It is a neighborhood that works; that has worked for more than 150 years, as an immigrant destination with a working class economy.

The problem today is that Boston neither has a working class economy nor wants one. It wants biolabs and research boutiquess. It wants financial, educational, and health care institutions where imported employees work for $ 125,000 salaries and up.

It wants these because these folks can afford the “luxury condos” that the City’s developers demand to construct.

The City wants developers to build what they, the developers, want because it’s the developers — and their asssociated consultants, architects, lawyers, accountants, and building trades workers — whose $$$$ donations finance the City’s political campaigns. Even campaigns for City Councillor from our District cost $ 100,000. As for we the ordinary people, who work hard for $ 45,000 to $ 65,000 paychyecks, we cannot afford to donate even a little, which means that we literally DO NOT COUNT.

But I digress. My main point is that a plan which calls for wiping out the customs and structures of a neighborhood that works well, and has worked well for 150 years, is no plan at all, it is dictatorship.

Most of us dislike Donald Trump because he would be a dictator. I get that and I despise him for that, too. But how can we despise Trump dictator and not equally dislike Boston planning as dictator ?

Neighborhoods should be respected to work out THEIR OWN customs and structures, when those workouts accommodate what the neighbors who live in them adjust to. The East Boston of my youth was just such a place. Even today, with the neighborhood’s visage pockmarked with hives of luxury, for the most part the neighborhood carves its own ruts in the ground, plots its own paths through the clutter of traffic and the mazes of parking luck.

I do not see ANY reason why the neighborhood should not continue to whittle its own wood and grind its own stone.

Which means more parking, not less, and plenty of road space for the 80 percent of us who use cars — autonomous transporation, because personal freedom matters. It’s why our ancestors came here. For that and for jobs and a good enough life.

Yes, I digressed again…

As one neighborhood voice puts it, “we’ve done our share for the City’s housing goals. Let other neighborhoods contribute.”

we are told that the City’s Plan results, at least in part,, from neighborhood input gleaned from several meetings at which City planners hosted the public. Such meetings do take place. Neighbors speak up at them. From what. I can see, however, nothing that we speak up about changes at all.

Set aside the City’s “plan.” Let “Stand Up For Eastie’ and the new Orient Heights Neighborhood Council encourage and preserbe what we have.

We aren’t opposed to renovation, not even to new dwellings. But there are zoning laws in place, fir a reason — to safeguard neighborhood — and we can build lawfully if we want to. We just can’t buy a property on spec, pay tuday’s artificial prices, and gouge a profit.

There has to be more than biolabs and hi tech start ups There has, somehow and somewhere, to be manufacturing work that supports $ 45,000 to $ 65,000 wahes and thosw ho earn them. President Biden has worked hard to get his bipartisan Infrastructure bill enacted. He constantly touts the return of manufacturing jobs, jobs, jobs to America. I agree completrely.

Let’s do this. Which means, also, let’s do it right here in Boston and the cities to our north, where manufacturing once ruled. Give us the jobs that enable our neighborhood tgo be what it evolved to be. So that those of us who are not biolab whiz kids and institutional cubiclars can continue to have a life in our City.

— Mike Freedberg / Here nad Sphere



^^ Question 4 is the big controversial issue on tomorrow’s ballot

Tomorrow voters in our State will find four bllot questions requesting our yes or no.

Every voter has received the Secretary of State’s information sheet explaining these questions, plus arguments pro and con concerning each. I found this information made the matters more confusing, not less. Nonetheless, the questions are on the ballot. I now offer Here and Sphers’s take:

Question One would, if approved, increase the State tax on very high incomes. Fair Share is pushing this question. On many fronts I like Fair Share’s work. This time, however, it seems out of synch. The State is about to refund to taxpayers billions of dollars of EXCESS colleected revenue (pursuant to a 1986 law requir ing such refund). Why, with the State collecting much revenue MORE than budgeted, would we want, or need, to raise taxes further ? If anything, we should probably be cutting State taxes back.

Vote NO.

Question Two would change the State law on dental insurance charges to require that dentistry insurers apply to costs at least 83 percent of what they charge us — which, says the question, would put dental insurance on the same footing as other medical insurance. The State information does not explain why dental insurance allocations should be the same as other medical allocations. I am thus not convinced that dental insurance operates in the same cost lane as other medicals. Possibly the two insurance categories do incur the same cost but if so, the information does not show us that. I would like to vote yes, but without further information that seems necesary, the case here is “not proved.”

Vote NO

Question 3 would allow for more liquor licenses to be issued than are allowe euner current State and local regulations. i see no reason why not.

Vote YES.

Question 4 asks voters whether or not to approve the law passsed by the legislature, over Governor Baker’s veto, to allow undocumentd immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. Governor Baker’s objection is well founded : the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), he says, doesn’t have a means for verifying that an undocumented applicant is who they say they are. Yet there’s a solid respons to his objection : 17 States have already made undocumented people’s driver licenses legal. Why can’t our RMV adopt similar verification procedures to those already being utilized in these 17 States ? I fund no reason why the Governor’s office cannot require the RMV to implement these procedures — problem solved.

As for the law itself, I agree that it is in everybody’s interest to not have unlicensed, uninsured drvers on the road.

Vote YES.

What do I think will the voters do ? It would not surpris eme one bit to see all four questions fail. uestion 3 is the most likely to pass. The others have a harder road. Voters in our State have become skeptical of ballot questions, usually with solid reason.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^^ Kevin Hayden won election to a full term as Suffolk DA — but in a low-turnout race.

A mere 84,434 Boston voters participated in September 6th’s State primary. This totals about 19 percent of the City’s registered. That’s a bit higher than recent special elections in which about 12 to 15 percent of eligibles voted, but hardly encouraging. In 2018, 92,800 Boston people voted on primary day.

I suppose there’s at least some good news here. In the 2014 State primary, ony 58,832 Bostonians voted. In 2010, the number was 51,780.

There has been an even lower number: in 2016, only 34,424 voters cast a primary ballot. That total however, can be excused : there was no major contest being voted on. Contrarily, in 2020, when Joe Kennedy III and Ed Markey butted heads for one of our US Senate seats, 138,646 Bostonians voted — a total similar to the turnout for a hotly contested Mayor’s race.

Yet even the 138,646 number cannot be applauded. 40, 50, 60 years ago, Boston election turnouts numbered in the 250,000 range. Individual neighborhood numbers loom even larger. 50 years ago, South Boston could turn out 9000 votes in an election. Today, 3000 Southies seems an upper limit. In the 1983 Mayoral election, 21,000 votes were cast in Ward 20 — more there than in the 1980 Presidential election ! Today, on primary day, ward 20 voters number barely 9800 votes cast.

How about East Boston ? Once upon a time Ward One saw 7000 to even 10,000 votes cast. This year, 3209. In the 2018 State primary, the Ward One number was 3532. In the big 2020 primary, 3548. In the 2015 special election wherein Adrian Madaro won his State Rep seat, 3531 voted. That’s about a 15 percent turnout, well below the City’s low average. Maybe we should be grateful for the 3500 ? In the 2016 special elction for State Senator, with an East Boston candidate running along with four others, only 2751 votes were cast. The totals in this year’s two special elctions were even lower !

What then is going on here ? Why are fewer than one in every five registered voters bothering to participate in primaries and “specials” ? Why, in East Boston and South Boston, is that fraction an even lower one in six, or one in seven ? Murray Levin once wrote an entire book about what he called “the alienated voter,” but alienation is not what I see here. Alienation suggests a reaction, a purpose. What I see is utter indifference. Our local elections simply don’t matter any more, to anyone but the activists.

Perhaps the following observations tell us what has happened.

1. When we more or less eliminated patronage in favor of hiring meritocrats, we eliminated what had been ordinary voters’ number one motivation for getting involved.

2. Those who sought a City or Suffolk county job (or a job at Boston Edison, for those too were often patronage) had families — big families — who would ALL vote for their job-seeking family member. Those big families made Boston their permanent home.

3. Today there are almost no families in the City; transient singles dominate. (Statistic on point : enrollment in the Boston school system numbers about 48,000 — down from about 92,000 fifty years ago.) Hardly any of these often newly-arrived singles feel any connection to local elections nor have any reason to. They’re well paid, in bio medical or academia or similar institution shielded from day to day hassles (and often in charge of City agendas via their economic power), and they are as likely to be transferred to a similar job in another city as to stay in Boston for any length of time, much less start a family here and commit to raisng said family in the City. (In fact, often said new families move out when it’s time to enroll kids in school, the parents having scant confidence in the Boston schools performance.)

4. When patronage was eliminated, we left the political arena to ideologues who are absolutely certain they are right and everybody else is wrong  — which of course turns off ordinary voters who are just trying to get ahead 

5. Once basic campaign work stopped being done in person, a lot of it by patronage families, the only recourse was to $$$$ to hire campaign work & script the messaging. Result : moneyed interests now control the candidates and the agenda.

This is oligarchy, not democracy.

I do not know how we reverse course, and for sure no one is even trying to. Nor should we forget that it was Mayor Kevin White who, although the most machine-oriented of Mayors, inititiated the big money-real estate developer impetus that now controls and owns the City, with the active encouargement of City hall during the 27 years that Tom Menino and Marty Walsh occupied the Mayor’s office. (not that their decisions are in any way digfferent from the exact same strategies employed nationwide by almost every major office candidate.)

Ordinary voters see that City government isn’t being operated for their benefit. Heck, they aren’t sure if even our mostly diligently-operated State government is being operated with average voters in mind. Voters see what is being said by ideologues of various sorts, and they hear the platitudes of the moment being spoken by politicians who as a matter of course say the least that they can, or with the least meaning beyond shibboleths, slogans, and buzzwords which everybody knows have no meaning except to the activists who demand the right lip service. Ordinary voters see and hear and then go about their jobs and their chores, just trying to get by, to keep things in one piece, to have some fun now and then and to be left alone by politicians who come around only at election time.

Although what I have written so far is how I see things, I am sure it’s hardly the whole story. Voters do turn out increasingy, in big, national elections with existential import. This is good. But a democracy is healthiest when it works the most local elections first. If we see all power surging to the center and from the center — if we no longer see our local, city governments as the first line of our political aspirations, then where is our sense of community ? Of neighborhood ? Of determinng our own destiny on the streets where we live and work among people we know or soon get to know ?

Maybe my view is an old fashioned one. Maybe a vast, billion dollar, centralied politics is quite ok. Yet I’m not convinced by this maybe. When by far the most frequent response I get from voters when I door knock voters in a local campaign is “nobody listens to us,” something is badly wrong.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^^ a committed environmentalist and a Republican : Andrew J. Shepherd is our choice to be the new 1st Middlesex State Rep, a seat now held by Sheila C. Harrington.

— — — — — — —

Our preference with lawmakers is for moderate reformers, people who will exercise a trial juror’s judgement rather than for ideologues who are on a mission regardless of such facts as may not conform. That said, we also like Governor Baker’s great line, that “when there’s more than one opinion in a room, you might learn something.”

In that spirit, we make the following endorsements for the Massachusetts House and Senate :

State Representative, Democratic :



11th Hampden, BUD L. WILLIAMS

9th Middlesex THOMAS M. STANLEY

14th Middlesex, SIMON CATALDO

16th Middlesex District, RODNEY M. ELLIOTT

35th Middlesex District, PAUL J. DONATO


6th Suffolk, RUSSELL E. HOLMES

11th Suffolk, JUDITH GARCIA


State Representative, Republican :

1st Middlesex, ANDREW J. SHEPHERD

State Senator, Democratic :

3rd Essex : JOAN B. LOVELY


Norfolk, Bristol & Plymouth : WALTER F. TIMILTY

1st Worcester : JOSEPH M PETTY

State Senate, Republican :

1sst Plymouth & Norfolk, PATRICK O’CONNOR



Chris Doughty (Republican) and Maura Healey (Democratic) : our endorsees for Governor

— — — — — —

On Tuesday, September 6th, many of us — hopefully a great many — will vote for the nominees we wish to advance to November’s election ballot. We at Here and Sphere thus offer you our candidate endorsements, which we base on personal character, common sense gaenda, and preference over the alternatives.

GOVERNOR: Democratic primary — we support MAURA HEALEY, who is unopposed, with State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz having dropped her own candidacy. Healey’s diligent, comprehensive record over eight years as Attorney General, of support for women’s rights, immigrant rights, and against predatory lenders and oil companies support her case for governing the entirety of State administration. Will her supporters allow her, as Governor, to pursue a course independent of the Democratic-dominated legislature ? That’s a fair question to ask, but the answer is for November, not the primary.

GOVERNOR : Republican Primary — we endorse Wrentham businessman CHRIS DOUGHTY and his Lt Governor runnung mate KATE CAMPANALE. Doughty has two advantages : his opponent, GEOFF DIEHL, a former legislator, was Trump’s Massachusetts chairman, which, for us, is itelf a disqualification. Second, Doughty is pursuing a low tax, cautious reform agenda more or less reminiscent of Charlie Baker’s practices. Diehl’s LtGov, Leah Cole Allen, won a House seat in Peabody, was re-elected (narrowly), then quit — seat was then won by a Democrat — to retrn to her nursing job, from which she was later fired for refusing to be Covid vaccinated. Doughty’s second, Kate Campanale, served two estimable terms as a House member from the City of Worcester.

LT GOVERNOR, Democratic : easy to endorse four-term Salem Mayor KIM DRISCOLL over a Springfield-area State Senator, Eric Lesser, and Metro-west House member Tami Gouveia.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL, Democratic : easy agin to endorse, this time former Boston City Councillor ANDREA CAMPBELL, a pragamtic reformer who ran a superb 2021 campaign for Boston mayor, over ultra-progressive lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, whose prodigious spending of her own money doesn’t help matters. As a Mayor hopeful, Campbell drew support from every part of Boston but with four strong contenders in the battle, wasn’t the top pick of most neighborhoods — I am reminded of Larry diCara’s similar finish in the 1983 Mayor race. This time, Campbell is the better choice in a two-person contest.

SECRETARY OF STATE, Democratic : current Secretary Bill Galvin, who has held the office for decades, is being challenged by Tanisha Sullivan. Galvin has held the job long enough, but I see nothing in Sullivan’s corpprate attorney resume that suggests she’s ready to oversee the State’s elections. No endorsement.

AUDITOR, Democratic : easy again to endorse, this tume Merrimac Valley State Senatir DIANA DiZOGLIO, over Cris Dempsey, whose big accomplishment (if you can call it that) was leading the pack that in 2014 hounded to defeat Mayor Walsh’s 2020 Boston Olympics proposal.

SUFFOLK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY, Democratic : We support and endorse KEVIN HAYDEN, a 25-year former Assistant D. A., appointed by Governor Charlie Baker to fill the term of Rachael Rollins, who was named United States Attorney for Massachustts by President Biden. Hayden is opposed by Boton City Councillor Ricardo Arroyo.

SUFFOLK SHERIFF, Democratic ; We roudly endorse STEVEN TOMPKINS, the current Sheriff, who has innovated the entire role of Suffolk Sheriff, for re-election. He is opposed by Sandra Zamor Calixte.

ESSEX DISTRICT DISTRICT ATTORNEY : Easy to endorse PAUL TUCKER, Salem’s present State Rep and former Salem Police Chief, over private-practice attorney James O’Shea, a Middleton resident.

ESSEX DISTRICT SHERIFF : we endorse the current Sheriff, KEVIN COPPINGER a former City of Lynn police chief, over newcomer challenger Virgina Leigh.

Legislative endorsements to be posted next.

— Mike Freedberg, for the Editors, Here and Sphere


Congress’s leaders now take their case to the voters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talks with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD

In November the voters of all 50 States will go to the polls — or will vote by mail, and that’s fine — to elect their State’s members of the next Congress.

Some who do not like him want this citizen action to be a referendum on President Biden. It would be that, if Biden were a person like his predecessor, hogging the news, making crazy moves or insulting this or that beloved group, bullying and trashing like one of those “very fine people” whose gutter bigotries he succored. Were Biden like that, the 2022 election would HAVE to be about him.

But Biden is NOT like that. He is a decent, soft-spoken man who respects his fellows, who works his office as the Constitution sets it forth, who rarely captures the news cycle and, in my opinion, prefers not to except when his appointed task requires it. As a result, the media doesn’t cover him much. He isn’t news. People don’t talk about him every waking minute.

This frustrates his opponents, who want the President to dominate everything, as we have all become accustomed to by way of the nation being almost constantly at war since 1941: because the Constitution makes the President commander in chief, giving him war powers he doesn’t have when there isn’t war. During war, therefore, the President IS the news; his every act is an order. That is NOT the case otherwise. Congress has pride of place in our system — Article One of the Constitution is about Congress, which makes all the laws — and the President comes second. His job is to execute those laws. It’s a Sisyphean task that challenges every person who has held the office since at least FDR’s day and taken its obligations seriously (as Biden’s predecessor did not).

Doing the job, and understanding that Congress creates the work, and letting Congress do that, is not a newsworthy mission. As the French essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote, the thing he was proudest of about his term as Mayor of Bordeaux, was that there was no news ; because, as he wrote, such news is usually a record of pestilence, wars, corruption, and disaster. (He might have added tyranny.) But such dispassion, though a boon to public life, is, in the media arena, like a sober man at a drunk party: who wants him ? So Biden is seen by many, including some Democrats, as “weak,” and thus his low approval level.

How perverted our current default view of the Presidency is ! We WANT, many of us, a President who makes news, any kind of news, destructive news and worse, as long as it’s something that will turn our heads and set us remarking, screaming, cheering, hating.

In other words, a President who is not what our Framers wanted of a President.

But Joe Biden is exactly what our Framers wanted of a President; and because he is that, this election will be not about him but about the offices actually being elected to.

The current Congress, up for judgement by the voters, has much to boast of. This term has been the most comprehensively productive since the Civil Rights Congress of 1965-1966. We have a new, vast, bipartisan infrastructure bill; the equally vast Covid Relief Act; a first stab at gun and ammo control, not big but at least something; massive, continuing suppor for Ukraine at war; a “CHIPS” act, which will surge money into our domestic manufacture of computer chips, so that we aren’t at the mercy of foreign suppliers; very likely an act (the “Inflation Reduction Act”) requiring competitive pricing of drugs used in ACA health plans, setting a corporate minimum tax, and investing serious Federal dollars in non-fossil energy businesses. In addition, the Senate has confirmed more Federal judicial nominees, so far, than in any previous session, including a first-rate new Supreme Court Justice who may well, one day, become Chief. And all of it with some Republican support, in many cases, a lot of Republican support.

That’s a mighty good record for a sitting Congress ember to seek re-election on.

No, this Congress didn’t accomplish some vital basics. The politics of religion stymied any attempt to reverse, by law, the Supreme Court’s terrible decision wiping out one of women’s basic Constitutional privacy right, or even to safeguard women’s right to travel to States where abortion is still legal.

Fixing this radical reversal may be beyond the power of any Congress.

Meanwhile (I’m going back to the election now) Republican primary voters, dominated in many cases by the whims of Mr. Biden’s predecessor, seem to have, in several crucial States, nominated candidates utterly negative and, in some cases, radical or even kooky. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose shrewd handling of his Senate Republicans has contributed significantky to this Congress’s success, deserves better candidates, but it is what it is..

Partly for the above-cited reason (and yes, partly because of the Supreme Court’s savage erasure of women’s most basic privacy right), I think the Democrats will gain at least four Senate seats and may well hold their majority in the House and might even extend it.

Which four ? I’d say Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carlina. Nor is Utah’s Mike Lee sure of winning another term, seriously challenged as he is by independent Evan McMullin. But this is grist for a next Here and Sphere column.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



There will at last be serious gun and ammo control legislation adopted by Congress.

Well, at least I HOPE there will be.

And if there isn’t ? If nothing is done, yet again, or if only tiny tweaks are enacted, we are truly finished a a nation of laws. Maybe even personally dead.

In what kind of cockamamie society can an 18 year old kid go into a store and buy two military-grade weapons, ammo, and body armor, with no background check, and no waiting period — no nothing — and then go and shoot up a shopping mall, a school, a church ? Is this really real ? Why do we allow it ? Have we a death wish ?

I think we do have a death wish. After all, this is the same society in which about twenty percent of adults willingly, even defiantly, rejected masks and vaccination, risking death by Covid. What do you call 200,000 entirely preventable Covid deaths but a death wish ?

Death by gun is now the number one cause of death for American young people. Yet we do nothing. What other conclusion can I draw but that we as a nation prefer to see our young people shot dead than to stop the gun stuff ?

But maybe, just maybe, this time it will be different. Congress appears to want to enact at, least, some gun controls. Even some Republicans, hitherto owned by the gun extortionists, sound fed up. Perhaps the death wish isn’t working for them ?

But enough of what Congress might do. Let’s list the steps they SHOULD do :

( 1 ) require background checks for ALL purchases of guns or ammunition; establish and enforce a two week waiting period after purchase and before delivery

( 2 ) raise the minimum gun or ammo purchase ageb to 21.

( 3 ) require purchasers of guns or ammo to maintain $ 1 million of liability insurance

( 4 ) repeal the immunity from lawsuit presently enjoyed by manufacturers of guns or ammo

( 5 ) ban permanently the sale or private possession of military-style weapons and ammo; take by eminent domain, properly compensated, all such weapons currently in private possession

( 6 ) require all first time purchasers of a gun or ammo to undergo training by a licensed trainer of same, as a pre-condition of being licensed to own same

( 7 ) ban the carrying of any weapon by any person except under either militia regulation or strictly individual rules

( 8 ) enact a so-called “red flag” law;

( 9 ) guns or ammunition legally owned must be kept at all times under lock and key. None should ever, under any circumstances, be loaded in the presence of minors. Confirmed, repeated violation thereof must be grounds for revocation of such license to own as said violator may have

It should be national policy to advocate and advertise gun and ammunition safety rules and the responsibility of owners to self-enforce them. Ownership of even legally possessed guns and ammo should be discouraged and advertised as such.

As for the NRA position, that everybody should be allowed to own any sort of weapon and brandish them anywhere and whenever: Western civilization got past this state of anarchy in the 12th and 13th Centuries, when the kings took control of their realm’s peace. We are not going back to the “war of all against all,” no matter how fervently the gun and ammo manufacturers desire it. Nor are we going to exchange Constitutional law for gun anarchy ruled by King Trump.


The question arises, what about the Second Amendment to our Constitution ? To me, this is no issue at all. The meaning of the Amendment is clear : it seeks to establish the eligibiity of all citizens to serve in a public body of societal defense, subject tyo rigorous regulation, and granting to all such eligibles a collective, but not an individual, right to bear arms in said militia. That is all that the Amendment meant to the framers, who wnated to avoid having a professional body of troops such as the British employed aginst us in the Revolution. Which said, this intention went by the boards when, in 1917, we instituted a national draft, and during and after World War II, when we established and supported a standing army. Today the Amendment governs only service in a State’s national Guard.

It grants NO individual rights at all. The 1688 English Bill of Rights, from which writing was taken the language of our Amendment, specified an individual right. That language was left out of our Amendment. End of story.

Zealots for universal gun ownership by individuals speak of having to defend themselves. Against what ? What or who are they afraid of ? so afraid that they countenance the constant slaughter of children and others by gun crazies ? WHAT ARE THEY AFRAID OF ? Or better yet, ask, WHO are they afraid of ?

I think we all know the answer. It ain’t pretty. It violates every American principle most of us swear to. It is nasty and it is ripe bigotry.

It cannot go on.

—- Mike Freedbenrg / Here and Sphere



^^ Mayor Wu : lots of government activity, none of it of the least effect and some of it aggravating to the problem. What else is new ?

—- —- —-

This week a Commonwealth Magazine column proposed doubling the State’s transfer deed excise tax. The writers claimed this would raise $ 600 million, which — so they said — could be used, in part, to build “affordable” housing.

Who they kidding ? Themselves ?

I don’t care if you raise $ 60 billion. As long as Boston is the hub for bio-technology, and for the vastly over-priced educational behemoths that school the bio industry’s gluttonous salaries, housing in Boston will be way, way out of price reach for ordinary grunts — which comprises at least 80 percent of us. For us, there is no future except to leave.

As long as the bio boom goes on — and who would even think of wanting it to stop ? it brings to our City money so vast that even Long John Silver and his pirates would stop dancing on dead men’s chests and start buying leather yachts, $ 800 tomahawk steaks, $ 500 concert ticket goers, casino guests with unlimited credit, and buyers of grapefruit-colored designer sneakers — the cost of having a place to live will be veddy veddy pricey, mate.

That these instagram influencers and “content creators” of whom I speak — singles all, of course — might only stay here for a couple of years till they transfer to the next G start up, or to a trendy application shop of the moment, is no bar to $ 4000 to $ 8000 apartments: because as one class of glamor smarties leaves, another class comes to town. Call it the university-ization of Boston : move to town, earn barrels of money, live in dormitory-sized “units,” rent out another to air bnb, and then sail on — heck, even I, a local stiff who can barely pay my bills, know several lovelies who have done exactly this, or who will be doing it.

Perish forbid that our city might be governede by those who were born here, want to work here and stay here. that’s old fogey, man ! No one does that any more, only those biased old ethnics who micro-aggress people of color; who are glued to the old ways (such as honoring the murderer, Christopher Columbus); who are all racists anyway, right ? So why not price them out of the city they and their forbears came to, worked to exhaustion in, but could at least call home ? They’re obsolete, man ! So buy them out if you can, price them out if you can’t. See ya !

(Fun fact : it isn’t only the old ethnics who are being pushed or bought out. Most Bostonians of color also cannot afford the new prices. Many of these folks also have families, and the parents aren’t very happy, to say the least, with Boston’s schools. If they can’t get a kid into “Latin,” or a charter school, the suburban schools, with their better reputations, look most appealing; and so families of color — lots of them — are leaving Boston as well.)

But back to my main point:

As long as the university lifestyle– here for a couple, party and shop and live “off campus” : for what is a “unit” but an off-campus room, the “campus” being the app shop or bio lab in which the $ 250 k-a-year kids do their post-Ph.D researching ? — continues, real estate guys with banked money looking for action will buy up our old fashioned homes, and either renovate and condo them at vast profit, or else demolish them and erect “units” made of featureless crap. And as long as these real estate guys have impatient money — often using greed-sized lines of credit — to bet, sellers, being no fools, will demand insane prices — and get them. Wouldn’t you do the same ? I sure would.

So the land acquisition cost, which has quadruped since 2010, goes up more. likewise the cost of buying a working family’s house and demolishing it. And then ? Do you suppose that the developer will now build ordinary housing ? Hell no ! He’ll build for the most expensive audience he can afford to target. Heck, even in the suburbs, where actual families still live, the builders build elephant-size houses with twice the room space any ordinary family would ever want. You see them everywhere : vast piles with zero style devoid of grace but plump with gabled avoirdupois.

Meanwhile, the small homes — complete with lawn and driveway — built after World War II have passed into history. No one builds them any more. The only small houses that get built today are the micro-apartments favored by zoning reformers.

Climate zealots love the micro-apartments. They use little fossil fuel energy, and in keeping with the climate folks’ abhorrence of cars, they don’t have driveways.

Zoning codes ? No problemo, man ! Zoning rules were devised in the small home era, Not for us, right? We are PROGRESSIVE ! So city zoning boards dismiss zoning rules out of hand. Besides, how could you honor a zoning code that no builder will build to ?

But I digress.

What, then, could the $ 600 million excise tax revenue build ? The Commonwealth writers don’t explicitly say — though I can guess what they are thinking of — but it’s not hard to figure : they would channel that money through City and town governments to allot to builders via some sort of building permit covenant, such as what already are in place, where a builder would be required to offer a percentage of his “units” at ‘affordable” prices, whatever that night be. The current requirements range from 13 percent of units to 20 percent. I would imagine that the $ 600 million would push cities to require maybe 33 percent.

(Or we could hve “rent stabilization,” if Mayor Wu can fool enough legislators, who ought to know better.)

But back to my point.

Either that or cities would build entire quadrants of subsidized housing. Being subsidized, these units would be rentals only — or, if available for purchase, how would the City do so without bestowing upon the buyer a huge immediate value profit ? I have heard that some cities are offering buyers only a portion of the equity so as to negate the prospect of an immediate value profit at taxpayer expense. But how can such a device be legal ? And if it is legal, by what right does a city have the authority to own private, for sale housing and to withhold from a buyer value to which she is entitled ?

But let’s not go further down this guessing game road. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen, whether planners and reformers like it or not. The ordinary working stiffs of Boston — and cities as captured as ours — are going to do one of the following : ( 1 ) double and triple up in what’s left of wring class housing ( 2 ) move far far away, like to Fall River or Holyoke, where housing costs one-third to one-fifth of Boston prices or ( 3 ) demand much, much higher hourly wages for the exhausting, vital grunt work that they do and without which the university researchers and instagram dolls could not exist for more than 24 hours.

My own guess is that there’ll be a little of all three. And that the concerns and living arrangements of those of us who must decide between these three options will be of no account to the politicians who cannot fund their increasingly overpriced campaigns except from those who have it (and we now now who they are, don’t we ?); but what we WILL get from the politicians who want our votes is a blizzard of tipsy promises and contradictory devices.

It ain’t pretty, and it ain’t going away.

I’ll also make another prediction : rents and buy prices will continue to get MORE expensive. Why ? Because they can.

—- Mike Freedberg