BOSTON MAYOR RACE : DAN CONLEY FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL ?

 

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^ Dan Conley : more a law officer than a Mayor ?

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Question : has any Suffolk County District Attorney ever been elected Boston’s mayor ? This writer can’t think of one.

Perhaps this is why rumors abound that Dan Conley, the current “DA,” will leave the Mayor race to seek the office of Massachusetts Attorney General instead. Supposedly all that Conley is waiting for is current “AG” Martha Coakley announcing her candidacy for Governor – a decision that all observers expect.

If true, the move by Conley makes sense. He has amassed barrels of money – at last report his account had well over $ 1,000,000 on hand – and proposed a bold agenda, yet still lags in recent polls that show him running third to Marty Walsh and John Connolly. It is Connolly and Walsh who have won the past week’s major endorsements; Conley was passed by.

The murder of Amy Lord and the pending indictments of Aaron Hernandez have brought enormous publicity to Dan Conley. Yet none of it has helped his Mayoral hopes. If anything, the publicity has actually hurt Conley. Crime and prosecution are certainly big matters to voters; but they are not matters that people identify with being Mayor.

The issues that voters ascribe to their Mayor are these : zoning; schools;  development;  civil rights; and, most sweeping of all, quality of life – in the neighborhoods, with street cleaning and snow removal as well as road repair, and Downtown, moving it to a closing hour more progressive than the current 2 A.M. absurdity. Conley, as District Attorney, deals with hardly any of this.

Were Conley to leave the mayor race, who would benefit most of the 9 % of voters that current polls give him ? Nine percent of the likely Primary vote totals about 14,000 votes. Obviously the 14,000 will not go only to one Mayoral contender. That said, as we see it, the largest block of this 14,000 will go to the remaining “traditional” candidates. And not just any of them; the most significant benefits will surely go to Councillor-at-Large John Connolly and State Representative Marty Walsh, and not to District 5’s City Councillor, Rob Consalvo.

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^ Rob Consalvo : being squeezed out ?

Here’s why we see Conley’s support going chiefly to Connolly and Walsh:

Conley lives in Ward 20. So does John Connolly. Connolly is polling in first p[lace. As voters like to pick winners rather than give up a vote on someone who won’t likely win, Connolly is sure to pick up most of the “local guy” vote that Conley is now drawing. Consalvo, too, has strong support in Ward 20; but he has failed to win recent endorsements, indeed was passed on by St. Rep. Carlo Basile of East Boston. If Consalvo can’tr win  the support of an Italian-name legislator, who can he win that he does not already have ? He will pick up some Conley votes, yes; but not nearly enough.

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^ John Connolly : will benefit if Conley leaves Mayor race

But that’s not the whole story. Conley has paid much attention for months now to South Boston. He campaigned there on April lst, when that neighborhood (and Dorchester) chose a new State Senator. (Here and Sphere photographed him that day campaigning among voters at Gate of Heaven parish hall, where two South Boston precincts voted.) South Boston  is still home to large numbers of city and county employees; and Conley’s Irish name surely still draws many votes in the City’s archetypal Irish-name neighborhood (though that is changing, as we all know).

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^ Dan Conley campaigning at Gate of Heaven parish hall on April lst.

In Southie, the winner of most Conley votes would likely be Marty Walsh, not John Connolly. Walsh lives in Savin Hill, the Dorchester neighborhood closest to “Southie” culturally and proximately. Like Connolly, Walsh, looks a winner. He polls a close second to Connolly and has significant support from Labor Unions both public and private – groups strongly represented in the South Boston’s vote.

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^ Marty Walsh : major support from the City;’s Unions – strong in South Boston

For some time now, the September primary for this year’s Mayor race has looked like a Walsh and Connolly “final.” Dan Conley leaving it to run for Attorney General makes this Primary result almost a certainty. It WILL Be a certainty if the many “new Boston” candidates now dividing about 25 % of the likely Primary vote don’t stop chasing their own individual dreams, none of which can come true if all keep on chasing. The “new Boston” vote can command the Primary and win the “final.” But it can’t do anything if it continues on its current eight-candidate course.

Dan Conley’s momentous decision awaits.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

OBAMA-CARE IS HERE TO STAY, AND IT’S GOOD FOR THE ECONOMY

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^ The President argued thus for the ACA

Obama-care – the Affordable Health Care Act enacted into law in 2009 – is here to stay. It should be. It is going to be a huge benefit to the economy, not to mention to the 50,000,000 Americans for whom it will provide basic health insurance.

The 50 million who the ACA will insure will now enjoy better heath, fewer sick days out from work, and far less expensive medical care. Currently the 50 million have only one choice : use an emergency room at a hosp[ital, at which, thanks to legislation enacted 30 years ago, all care is fully paid for by the Federal government. That care is hugely expensive. Under the ACA, people who had only the emergency room option will now have insurance. That insurance will be purchased through exchanges, on which competition between insurance companies will drive down costs – indeed, is already driving them down.

New York State is only the first to announce, recently, that health care costs for its residents have dropped almost 50 per cent. The same will be true in every other state.

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^ Governor Cuomo, announcing that the ACA has given NY an almost 50 % decrease in the state’s health care costs

Or, should we say, the same will be true IF the other states fully implement the ACA and its purchase exchanges. Many Republican-governed states are refusing to do so. Others are implementing the ACA only in part. In many such states, purchase costs are rising, not dropping. This seems to be policy in some Republican states. They want the law repealed, and by squeezing the law so as to make insurance more expensive they hope to turn public opinion against the ACA. It’s cynical, and it’s quite immoral.

Why would even Republicans not want every resident to have health insurance, when such insurance provides such palpable benefits to the economy ? Fewer sick days taken by workers, better health for workers generally, and lower insurance costs ? With lower insurance costs and fatter pay checks, more income available for consumer discretionary spending ? Remember that two-thirds of the ENTIRE economy is consumer spending. Any economy-conscious politician would want as much consumer spending as feasible.

It’s a fascinating question. Since voters all vote – assuming they aren’t kept from voting by various GOP “vote suppression” laws – one would think that the GOP would want to win these votes, not throw them away. Why are they doing this ?

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 ^ 40 times, the GOP-controlled House has voted to repeal the ACA.

The GOP is well funded by huge corporations who view employees as a burden, not an asset; who don’t want to promote employee loyalty, or job satisfaction, and who don’t understand, or give a damn about, the economic impact of stress and poor health. These same companies are – or say they are – delaying to hire new workers because they can’t yet process the ACA’s impact on their health insurance contributions.

We at Here and Sphere do not believe it. What company would delay hiring workers needed to service expanded demand for product or service ? What company would deliberately retard its revenue that way ?

Other companies that fund the GOP are refusing the ACA because, so they claim, their religious values forbid them from insuring women’s reproductive health. This is outrageous. What right does an employer have to impose its religion on employees’ health ? Then there’s the employers that are hiring but only for part time work covering less hours than would require health insurance. Surely this is an unfair labor practice that the NLRB needs to challenge.

It is these corporations which, by huge donations directly to the GOP or by way of ALEC, the legislative drafting arm of America’s anti-ACA, anti-women, anti-civil rights interest groups, are buying the non-compliance of GOP office holders and thereby grievously impacting the course of ACA implementation. Grievous delay is, not, however, going to stand. It will not last long. The Act will be implemented, insurance costs will go down, and eventually the nation might even work its way toward the real health care solution: enrolling all Americans in Medicare.

That would be simple. Unhappily, in politics, simple is never liked by those who profit of complication.

— the Editors / Here and Sphere

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : FRUITVALE STATION ( 3 stars )

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^ Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant in “Fruitvale Station”

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With the George Zimmerman trial and cries of justice for Trayvon fresh in our minds, “Fruitvale Station” could not come at a more appropriate time. It won’t ease the current emotional swell, but it will help further the conversation.

At 2 AM on New Year’s Day, 2009, Oscar Grant, a twenty two year-old Black man, was shot and killed by a transit cop as he lay face down and partially restrained on the platform of the subway stop of the title; a tragic end to a buoyant and hopeful evening as Grant and his friends tried to make their way back to Oakland from a sojourn across the Bay to see the fireworks.

Much of the inexplicable act was caught on cellphone video. The cop later said he meant to draw his Taser and was sentenced for manslaughter, but that’s not what drives this movie. The shooting may be what ultimately defines it; still, Ryan Coogler’s explorative lens is more concerned with the odyssey of a young man struggling to go right in a world stacked against him—a world that he had a hand in skewing, and yes, it’s about race too.
Coogler begins with some of that fateful cellphone video. Then he fades out and rewinds to earlier in the day, following the events that lead up to the tragic moment, in the process absorbing the essence of the person Oscar Grant. “Fruitvale,” while it uses a smattering of real footage, isn’t a documentary per se but a dramatic recreation. Smart casting employs Michael B. Jordan to breathe soul into the memory of Oscar with Academy Award nominee Octavia Spencer as the loving, but stern mother.

Jordan, whom you might recognize from TV’s “The Wire,” has a long sad face with sleepy kind eyes; a bit like our old Celtic hero, Paul Pierce. For most of the film the camera hangs tight on that mug as Oscar drives around in his car or lingers in his kitchen, wondering, contemplating, torn and wanting to do the right thing. What confronts Oscar is his past — also his present situation. He’s just surrendered his run-around girlfriend and committed to Sophina (Melonie Diaz), with whom he has a young daughter; but then there’s the revelation that Oscar’s somewhat recently out of jail and he’s just lost his job as a butcher for being tardy too often. He desires to succeed in a straight up fashion and doesn’t want to go back to dealing dope, but how to make ends meet? It doesn’t help either that he keeps Sophina and his mother in the dark about his recently changed employment status.

“Fruitvale” bears the tag of “based on true events,” but Coogler, who was a USC film student at the time the project began (Forest Whitaker is one of the producers) and is approximately the same age as Grant and Black as well, never takes liberties with the license afforded him. If there’s any heavy-handedness it’s the rather contrived Black and White interaction : for example, the white-bread blonde who’s initially apprehensive when Oscar approaches her in a hoodie in a supermarket offering her tips on “fish fry” (she later happens to be on the train that night when the altercation goes down that triggers the unnecessary shooting). There’s the racist inmate who, during visiting hours between Oscar and his mother, drops a few F-bomb and N-word couplings and worse—moments that feel forced and unnatural, though they ultimately help fill the bigger canvas.

The true power of “Fruitvale” permeated through its quiet, reflective moments, as introspective players grapple with their own failures and with the outside influences that have negatively impacted their lives. John Singleton applied the same nuanced approach to “Boyz n the Hood.” Not bad company (and a fellow Trojan as well). The concluding frames of “Fruitvale,” as Oscar’s family and friends cling to slim hope, wrench the conscience. Loss of life is universal, no matter what color you are. Coogler knows this and articulates the moment with profound affect.

—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies

150 PIMPS ARRESTED 105 RESCUED VICTIMS IN LARGEST CHILD TRAFFICKING STING TO DATE

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OPERATION CROSS COUNTRY VII

       A task force made up of forty-seven FBI divisions, more than 3,900 law enforcement officers, from local, state, and federal, to agents representing 230 separate agencies teamed up with the (NCMEC) National Center for Missing and Exploited Children — as part of the Bureau’s ( Innocence Lost National Initiative).

       This three-day nationwide enforcement action targeted the people responsible for the trafficking , forced prostitution, abuse, and in some cases even torture of under-age victims.

       This united effort spanning 76 cities nation-wide concluded with an astounding 150 arrests of both pimps and other persons of interest — and most importantly  the rescue of 105 teenagers, being used as prostitutes — the youngest being only 13 years old. This has now been the largest and most successful  enforcement action to date.

        Human trafficking is not new news; however the actual numbers are heinous and appalling.

        There are at least 27 million slaves in the US today, more than any other time period in history — including  pre-abolition. Annually 800,000 people trafficked onto US territory via it’s borders. Of those 800,000 — 90% are women and young female children — with 70% of those woman and children being trafficked for the sole purpose of being forced into the ( commercial sex-slave industry ). If that stomach turning data wasn’t enough — how about the realization that according to the (NCMEC) — 50% of that 70% are children.

 One such victim was not only rescued in this past sting, but was also a key component to the success of it. With her help and cooperation, agents posing as johns, and websites used for the advertising of prostitution — this impressive three-day action served it’s purpose and then some.

“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America” said Ron Hosko, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. He also stated that ” this operation serves as a  reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen ANYWHERE — and that the FBI are committed to stopping this cycle of victimization, and holding the criminals that profit from this exploitation accountable.”

 Since it’s 2003 beginnings, The Innocence Lost National Initiative has resulted in, the identification and recovery of more than 2,700 children — who have been sexually exploited.

  Ron Hosko also explained that most runaways turn to prostitution for money… “With no way to survive on their own, they are trapped into a life of being trafficked — trapped into this cycle, that involves drugs, it involves physical abuse, and may even involve torture — so that they are tied to the pimp.”

       One such victim is Alexandria a.k.a. Alex, a runaway — who at first stayed with family and friends — eventually finding herself on the street and desperate. Alex then turned to prostitution as a way to supply her basic needs — just for survival. Soon she was at the mercy of a pimp. In an interview Alex bravely admits what her experience was like. She tells the interviewer that ” At first it was terrifying, and then…..You just become numb to it” — “You put on a whole different attitude” — like a different person. “It wasn’t me.”

Two years into her painful ordeal, Alex contacted the FBI, and became a very important asset in helping to bring down two pimps, while also helping to facilitate  the rescue of several under-age victims.

Even through all the bad, inconceivable, and life altering things she endured — Alex is now on her own and thriving — with a positive attitude and outlook on life, as well as her future. Since her rescue she has received her high school diploma, and plans on attending college. Her future goals include becoming an advocate for victims of sexual exploitation.

Watch her interview here:

“They had my past but not my future” – Alex

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aOQhf5zV18M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Nc6J6MdoBog

The sex industry is a multi-million dollar business — no matter what state the economy is in, struggling or not — SEX-STILL-SELLS…. But this is not a case of to each his own, The phrase “what happens behind closed doors, is none of OUR business.” — does NOT apply! What are your opinions on this topic? Here and Sphere would love to hear from you………

Written By: Heather Cornell / Here and Sphere

here and sphere photo me

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : INTO THE FAR TURN NOW

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^ a John Connolly – Marty Walsh final ?

August will arrive this week, leaving only seven weeks until Primary day, at which the two Boston Mayoral Finalists will be chosen. At this point the preliminaries are over; the race is taking on a distinct shape; and those on the wrong side of the taking are beginning to get shelved. It’s the beginning of crunch time. Where does the race stand as the crunch starts ?

Polls have been taken and published. These show that John Connolly, Marty Walsh, Dan Conley, and Rob Consalvo occupy a “top tier” — grabbing from 8 % to 12 % of the assured primary vote — and that Felix Arroyo, Charlotte Golar Richie, and Mike Ross make a “second tier,” each at 5 % of the assumed vote. Four other candidates, Charles Yancey, John Barros, Bill Walczak, and Charles Clemons, also draw a measurable vote.

No surprises in any of this — nor is it a surprise that the “new Boston” candidates are splitting among themselves a vote that, if unified, would assure such candidate making it to the Final.

Arroyo, Ross, and Golar-Richie, their support totaled, easily top the “traditional” field. Indeed, their potential vote should be larger than polled: because the polls taken have tended to concentrate on the most assured voters — namely, the “traditional” voters. Surely, if one or other of the “new Boston” candidates is seen as having a solid chance of winning, “new Boston” voters will turn out in larger than polled numbers. Being seen as a solid potential winner is the major indicator, in almost every election, of a candidate’s ability to turn out voters.

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^ Felix G. Arroyo : solid contender if the “new Boston’ vote unifies

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : a sure winner in November If she can get to the Final

Unhappily for “new Boston,” this Primary  offers no fewer than six viable “new city” candidates. None has made a move to drop out. The six probably draw about 20 % of the polled sample, and on Primary day might garner measurably more. It will do no good, however, if all six continue in the race. All six will lose. This is a disappointing prospect and one that we at Here and Sphere decry. We feel that it is time for Boston to elect a “new Boston” Mayor, “new” voters representing at least two-thirds — probably more — of the entire city vote.

If no “new Boston” candidate withdraws soon, before the ballot is printed, the chances are strong that the Final will choose between two “traditionalists.” Currently the top two candidates in polls are City Councillor at Large John Connolly, at 12 %, and state Representative Marty Walsh, at 11 %. We feel that’s an accurate picture. Walsh, a four term Representative, has a solid Dorchester base extending strongly now into South Boston and, somewhat less strongly, into Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and Roslindale. He has won the backing of Local 18, the Boston firefighters’ Union. As for John Connolly, son of former Secretary of State Michael J. Connolly, he lives in Ward 20 — which will likely cast ten to 12 % of the entire Primary vote — and has shown broad city-wide support besides. Connolly is waging an active house party and issues campaign, focusing on Boston Schools parents. He can also count on much trust from city workers and their families gained during his terms on the Council.

Dan Conley, the Suffolk County District attorney, has by far the most money, but his city wide support seems surface at most; huge publicity for him, thanks to the many murder investigations under way, does not seem to have added anything to his image as a possible Mayor. Crime, after all, is a huge issue, but not a big Mayoral issue. Schools, development, zoning, and culture seem the issues most germane to the mayor’s office. (NOTE : a report in today’s Herald opines that Conley might switch to run for Massachusetts Attorney Geerral if Martha Coakley, as expected, declares for Governor, Conley has not responded yet.)

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^ superb campaign but not enough ? Rob Consalvo

Then there’s Rob Consalvo, who holds the district Council seat that Mayor Menino held from which he won election as Mayor. Consalvo has the problem of bringing together a widely dispersed — and much less ethnic than it used to be — “Italian” vote, from East Boston, the North End, and Hyde Park, and of lacking much city-wide familiarity. That he has nonetheless managed to poll close to the top vote-getters is a credit to the detail and mastery of his very professionally directed campaign. Can Consalvo, thus well directed, perhaps make it into the final ? Probably not.

Which leaves Boston to choose between two men as different as similarly backgrounded people can be. it will, actually, somewhat resemble the 1983 race between David Finnegan and Ray Flynn to choose who would face “new Boston” candidate Mel King. Finnegan lived in West Roxbury, Flynn in South Boston, and as one shrewd observer said, it was a race between “discount store cashiers” and “Boston Latin School.” The same class gulf may well apply to a Walsh versus Connolly Final. The Flynn and Finnegan fight was heated and often bitter — the two men seemed to despise one another. Expect nothing less if a Walsh versus Connolly Final imposes itself on a City that can use some drama not arising, thank goodness, from murder indictments and trials.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

TRIAL OF WHITEY BULGER — POLL : WILL WHITEY BULGER TESTIFY ?

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It is now the defense’s turn.

All eyes are on James Bulger, alias The White Man, nickname Whitey.

Will Whitey Bulger testify ? you tell us. Yes or No ?

STOMP OF BOOT AND SMOOVE IT OVER : RAMON TAPIA AND ANTHONY ATTALLA @ BIJOU 07.26.13

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Two track-making DJs of very dissimilar voice, Ramon Tapia and Anthony Attalla, dropped 75 minute sets each at Boston’s Bijou NightClub on Friday night. It was Tapia’s first local performance since 2010, when he rocked the now-shuttered Therapy in Providence; many scenesters and house music connoisseurs came to see Tapia reshape his well-regarded hits — “Intense Idea,” “Y Not,” “Wonderland,” and “Freedom,” his number one download at Beatport.com. As for Attalla, he has played frequently in various Boston dance-music clubs; and though he too has a large repertoire of produced tracks, it is his live mix work, not the tracks, that people come to see.

It played out exactly thus at Bijou. Attalla played many of his tracks — rough, racy, abrasive and energetic things — in loud big, boot stomp mode. He shoved his entire body into his mixes, almost as if he were doing push-ups. He leaned into the board’s knobs, bobbed his head, clenched fists at them, like a boxer in the ring. Using no PC — nor did Tapia — Attalla spliced two CDs into Bijou’s fully-arrayed mixer, set the boom, clang, and bamm going, let it ride; pushed the pitch now and then. At first that was all that he did, but before long he cranked the soundboard hard, and from that point on dropped big, scary truck beats onto the dance floor, one upon another with voice grins tooled atop — and in and out, like dancers stepping and jumping from spotlight to dark mists.

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Attalla put his stomp noise into full locomotive shape and kept it there with some of dance music’s current talk drops — “there’s whores in this house” made its second appearance in as many Fridays — normalizing what was a very loud sound, an almost solid brick of it. Waving his arms in the air, punching at the music, Attalla was his own go-go dancer. But one with enough grace to feature, toward the end of his set, a Ramon Tapia track, “Intense Idea,’ which might well have been written with Attalla in mind.

Then it was Tapia’s turn. In no time at all his soft, smoove sound put melody into service, and an interplay of beat and percussion that changed Attalla’s single-minded music of rant into a music of conversation, of two people or more than two. Tapia stood supple at the mix board, fingering the knobs but not attacking them. Into the mix he ran “Wonderland” and tracks similar, and then his own version of “Intense Idea,” more complicated than Attalla’s single-minded streak. This was followed by a soulful, uprising, melodic track onto which came a vocal climax. It was the entire evening’s sublimest song.

Attalla’s set featured very few pauses or bridges made of mix twists. Tapia, however, filtered many such twist bridges into his set, and all felt just right as he sculpted them. For the first two-thirds of his 75 minutes, Tapia had Bijou’s dancers swaying and swooning.

Curiously, though, Tapia had not played “Y Not,” perhaps his most soulful track, and, as he began the last third of his set, he missed a beat cue, flubbed a segue, and lost the handle of his tuneful smoothing. Inexplicable were the next ten minutes of his performance; but, as the end point of his time grew near, he recovered himself. The sound now was purely house music, and blues that seemed to apologize to itself. Tapia ended strongly, playing his top hit “Freedom” almost as a sigh of relief that he had escaped his own misstep. The Bijou dancers cheered, and many ran to get their pictures taken embracing a sweat-browed Tapia.

Wil Trahan opened in his usually commanding manner. Like the DJs of old, Trahan chases down tracks that no one knows but which, once heard, everybody wants to have. With tracks like that in hand — best was FCL’s “It’s You” — it’s easy to dominate a statement. Trahan stated; and dominated.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music

THE TRIAL OF WHITEY BULGER : THE HORROR AND THE HATE

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^ the many years of James “Whitey” Bulger

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Watching the long parade of thugs, pugs, and lugs walking up to and planting themselves in the witness chair at Federal Court these past three weeks has put this writer into the paranormal. i lived and did political work in the city these fellows dented. Though my center of gravity lay several fenders to the southwest — in Roslindale, west Roxbury, and Hyde park — I had begun my roadwork in Dorchester — Upham’s Corner to be exact — and spent many hours, days, and weeks working Dorchester campaigns and activities. The South Boston these fellows destructo’d lay only a mile or two to the north, and at many many Dorchester events the vinegar of South Boston was often tasted. And occasionally I ventured into Southie itself.

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^ Southie : corner of Broadway and Dorchester Street

We knew what that meant. We were not fools or naive. It was always there, the under-rumble of hard nose. Later, as William Bulger began his political rise, we could feel the Bulger shoulder, hear its footstep, see its shock wave. There were stories, too, about both brothers — each different yet both of one brick. Of those stories I am not sure that i should write even now, decades after; suffice it to say that one very powerful politician from “Southie” had his life crunched pretty good by the Bulgers, according to what we heard.

It started way back, in 1972, when a certain associate of Whitey Bulger’s brother Billy, one Joe Toomey, was a Democratic state Committeeman from the then still intact South Boston Senate District. Joseph Moakley, who was then the senator, had already announced that he was challenging Louise Day Hicks for the “South Boston Congress” seat — he went on to win it that Fall. Anyway, in the 1972 Presidential Primary — which is when State Committee people are elected — in march, an associate of my political sponsor — who has long since passed — decided to run against Toomey. He lived in “Southie,” of course, and had become best pals with my sponsor: they had served in the Legislature together.

As it turned out, my sponsor’s friend lost to Toomey by only a handful of votes. Never will I forget the faces we saw when we went to Toomey’s headquarters that night to congratulate hi,m. the faces were hard as longshore piers, the bodies stocky as cinder block walls. The air was so angry you could almost see it froth at the mouth. Hate was here, and we knew it, and very quickly left.

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If only we had known the whole story ? HaHa, only I did not. My sponsor’s associate knew it well; but his ordeal was just beginning. Two years later, during the crisis and riots brought on by Federal Judge Arthur Garrity’s order that Boston schools be integrated — including the schools of “Southie” — my sponsor’s friend did hos best to calm the situation, to bring people together, to have conversations, not confrontation. The Bulgers were having none of it. Billy, now a State Senator, made the Globe and Herald his enemies; accused them of bias against “Southie”; opposed all efforts at compromise.

As for Whitey ? Nothing can be proved, but we all heard the stories : of how my sponsor’s Southie friend had been run off the road, how he had been forced to flee his South Boston home — he and his wife and kids — and live for a time in Quincy or somewhere. We heard these stories, and we believed them.

Later on both my friend’s friend and Whitey Bulger — and now Bill Bulger too — became much more powerful; more caustic still the brothers’ hate for the man i am thinking of. How palpable was this ? I will never forget one of Bill Bulger’s Saint Patrick’s Morning breakfasts, political as politics can politic — he started the affair, now a Southie must-be-at, for pols and soon-to-be pols, hosted by whoever is South Boston’s State Senator . So there I was, standing in the crowd of “repS’ and City Councillors, campaigners and election junkies, and they and I were watching Bill Bulger do his do on the front stage. Behind him stood a row of the respectful. Prominent among them stood my sponsor’s buddy. Bluntly Bulger ignored his presence on the podium. Passed him by, did Bulger; and he sort of grinned it off, as if to say, “what do you hot-shots out there expect ? This is how it is over here.”

Bill Bulger puts on a time, he run s the time. And so he proceeded to  recognize everyone else on the podium by name. But not the man we were all looking at.

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^ State senator Bill Bulger : being paid respect to. at Breakfast.

It was said, when both Whitey the man snubbed by Billy were at the peak of their power, that Whitey warned him, after a particularly nasty exchange — with my sponsor’s friend now in a position to make daily life very difficult for Whitey and even more difficult for Whitey’s guys — that Whitey said to him, “I can’t kill you, but i can kill your friends.” And my sponsor’s friend’s close associates knew that Whitey meant it. It must have been hard for them. They enjoyed the strong protection of closeness to my sponsor’s friend, and still they had no protection at all — almost: for, after all, Whitey did not, despite the threat, kill any of them. But the man whose protection they should have enjoyed did just what Whitey had implied he should do. He went his way, paying no attention to Whitey, and not much to Billy, as he did his thing in Boston and for Boston — all of it, with honor and openness to all. As for Whitey — and for his Senate President brother Billy — they just kept on — amassing power : Billy collected political clout the ways some people collect stamps. As Senate President he controlled the State Budget, and he used that control to control, in part, the administration of the state’s courts. It was said that when Judge Ed Daher, then of the Boston Housing Court, objected to some job moves by Bill Bulger, he found the budget for his Court slashed. Was this so ? We sure thought it was.

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^ crossing State senate President Bill Bulger was no joke. And he knew who you were, believe me.

With Whitey, we know what the 1980s brought him. we know it now, that is. The murders and betrayals, extortions and beatings, the guns in mouths, the informing and being informed on. We learned the names and traits of John Martorano — feared relentless killer’; Kevin weeks, tough and snarly; Steve Flemmi — kill or watch a killing; the Winter Hill Gang — not in Southie but in the “‘Ville,” oddly enough;  and John Connolly — the FBI man among men (ya right) and his colleagues at what should have been called the Muff-BI. We hear the names of the killed, the extorted, the beaten, the deceived, the betrayed — and the innocent who happened to be in the line of — ping ! — a bullet or three.

We see the families of the killed, their brains stuck on vengeance — and who can blame them ? They lived, feared, ,loathed, and bled it.

Once I left the Dorchester offices where my roadwork started, I avoided South Boston entirely.  I had friends there, yes, and cherished them. They know who they are.

Some owned taverns that were riotous good fun to have a “frosty” in. Some worked the Lithuanian Club — always a good time on a night. Some ran funeral homes; others played Park League hockey, or baseball for the South Boston Chippewas. So,me worked at the South Boston District Court House on Broadway — a fun place to be on South Boston Parade day in March. Some were gorgeous, spunky gals one met at “happy hours” on Cape Cod — Clawson’s on a Sunday night was a favorite lawn to hit on — or at “Dot So Cha” reunions — big social mixers — featuring folks from Southie, Dorchester, and Charlestown: the Irish heartland of Boston, often held at the Victory Road Armory in Fields Corner.

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^ gals of Southie : jst as gorgeous spunky as in the 1970os-1980s

And some went on to political fortune : Ray Flynn, Jack Hart, Brian Wallace, Mike Flaherty, Steve Lynch — he by beating Bill Bulger’s son, no less, to win the State Rep seat left open when Jack Hart succeeded Bill Bulger as State Senator.

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^ Kevin O’Neil of Triple O’s — today, after the groove has gone.

I never did meet Kevin Weeks, though I did know — unforgettably — his brother Jack. Nor did I ever meet Kevin O’Neil,. or Pat Nee, or Billy Shea, or any of the other biggies of Whitey’s close circle. But watching them now, greying and aging, as they testify to what they did, saw, heard, and planned back when, I know that I easily could have known all of the, stood at a bar with them drinking “a frosty” or two, worked campaigns with them — and felt a touch of fear at what they might well have been like in a less celebratory or energetic corner of life. Almost all of us who lived in Boston then knew these guys or guys much like them. We knew the city that they helped scratch, the way a vandal would key a brand new Mercedes, only meaner — and dirtier — yet also, as is a vandal, occasionally fun to be around. In a cynical groove in a then inward-angled city that fortunately no longer exists, for me or for them. Or for the rest of us.

It is over now.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

CRIME AND ITS FASCINATIONS : THOUGHTS ABOUT CURRENT MASSACHUSETTS MURDER CASES

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PART VI : VERDICT

When we first started writing this Series — Crime and Its Fascinations — Massachusetts Murder Cases — all attention was on a Big Three : James “Whitey” Bulger; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; and Aaron Hernandez (who has yet to be formally indicted). Much has happened since. First, along came the Zimmerman verdict — in Florida, but of major impact here in Massaachusetts too. And now we have to add the murder of Amy Lord, right here in Boston, to the list of local crime. So be it.

There will be plenty for Here and Sphere to say about all three of our major cases — still under way — and surely a whole lot to say, and learn, about the Any Lord murder, an event that reminds us all too mournfully of several similar local killings ; that of Molly Bish, for example, or that of Alexandra Zapp, back in 2002, in a women’s bathroom at a rest stop on Route 24; or of Christa Worthington a few years ago on Cape Cod. One wants, needs to ask “why ?” We at Here and Sphere ask ‘why” as well.

Still, our Crime and its Fascinations series has focused on trials: the preparation for trial, the trial itself, and now the verdict. The murders are very different, but the process is the same — more or less. It must be. It is that sameness upon which society bases its taming the barbarity of murder.

So then : what Is a verdict ?

We think of a verdict as the jury’s finding. It need not be so. In some criminal trials the defendant chooses to be tried by a judge. In such case, the judge makes the finding. He or she applies the law and decides upon the evidence of fact.

There’s one other trial situation in which the judge, not a jury, makes the decision : directed verdict.  After the prosecution rests its case, the defense may move the court to direct a verdict of acquittal. If the judge finds that the prosecution’;s evidence, taken in its most favorable light, cannot reasonably support a verdict of guilty, he or she will “direct a verdict” — because there is nothing that needs a jury to consider — and the trial ends.

The defense can also moves for a directed verdict after it finishes ITS case. In the recent Zimmerman case, some observers felt the prosecution’s work so iffy that directed verdict should have granted. It wasn’t; but sometimes a motion for verdict-directed is granted. Very embarrassing for a prosecutor…

These exceptions aside, almost all murder trials are heard by a jury, and such is the common notion, So let’s ask again : what is a verdict ?

A verdict is the jury’s assessment of whether the facts as evidenced at trial support the charge. Do the facts determine the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, or do they not ? Most jurors are not lawyers, and they are asked not to think as such but as ordinarily diligent citizens applying common sense and maybe some street smarts as well. The applicable law of the charge is read to them by the judge, in his or her instructions (and these, as we know, can influence the jury correctly or not, as the case may be), and the judge must take great care to instruct his or her jury in a way that does not prejudice the jury’s thinking. Juries give the judge’s instructions great respect — how can they not ? — and that respect almost inevitably sets the jury’s deliberations on a course.

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However, make no mistake : most jurors do form their own opinion of the evidence — credibility of witnesses, conclusiveness or not of the forensic evidence, etc. — and go into the deliberation remarkably well prepared to argue for their opinion of it all. In most major cases, much deliberation ensues, because almost all jurors take their duty very seriously and really do defend the house of their opinion vigorously. We tend to think that in a case such as the Zimmerman, in which the jury began its discussions split 3 to 3, that one side or another simply “caves.” Almost certainly that does not happen at all. Jurors do not easily surrender their opinion of a case. Argument becomes intensely detailed, back and forth, and unanimity — which our criminal law requires of a jury — gets reached only when those changing their opinion really do decide that it merits changing. Juries understand that in a murder trial they have the fate of the defendant in their hands — and the concerns of the victim’s family. They care deeply about both. Nobody should ever conclude that a jury makes its finding lightly even when it is unanimous to begin with, much less when it starts its deliberation split.

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The argument and the opinions at hand, the jury then — hopefully — reaches a unanimous conclusion. It makes what we call a “finding.” It finds that the facts as presented at trial either support the charge beyond a reasonable doubt or not. So, what is meant by “beyond a reasonable doubt” ? It’s a term in law — not fact — and a key part of any trial judge’s instructions is to set forth the law’s definition of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Our definition is as simple as we can make it. In order for there to be reasonable doubt about the evidence, it must support an alternative view of the facts — an alternative that is not merely speculation but has identifiable basis in the evidence itself — to the one put forth by the prosecution. One can suspect, or have a feeling, that the evidence presented may lead to a different conclusion, but suspicion or feeling, though species of doubt, are not reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt must have a reason.

Whether or not the evidence meets the beyond a reasonable doubt standard is the ONLY finding that a jury is asked to make. It is not asked to question the applicable law, or to follow a hunch, or to import a charge different from the charge(s) made by the prosecution. And the jury that makes this finding must be composed of persons who have not, prior to trial, formed an opinion as to the defendant’s guilt or not. (This was not always so at all. In our law’s early centuries, juries were called from those who had personal knowledge of the matter and were asked to give their narrative of what they knew of it. The idea being that only those most knowledgeable about the circumstances could best get at the truth or falsity of the charge.) We require this more difficult standard because our society holds criminal charges to be so serious that only the most rigorous removal of bias of any kind can render a trial and verdict that gets it right. Almost none of us wants a person falsely accused to have to endure trial, much less be found guilty.

Thus a jury verdict is a finding in which the strictest proof test in all of our law is applied to facts presented. Free as possible of hunch, or inclination, speculation or mistake, a jury verdict almost always disappoints, even outrages, m any who stand outside the trial and do not bear any responsibility to the law or the facts, persons who make their own conclusions as to what happened or did not happen and who think that said conclusion should command the law. These people’s feelings are understandable, because murder is, and must be, an emotional thing, a horrifying thing calling for punishment. But understandable is not the same as responsible. The jury is responsible.

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All that stands between the public’s emotions and potential injustice are the jury and its verdict. They are the safeguard of our civilization’s civility.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

NOTE : this story was updated at 1.30 PM on 07.27.13

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THE WOLVERINE ( 2.5 STARS )

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^ Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine in film of same name

—– —–

The Wolverine onscreen always was the more intriguing of the X-Men lot. As an enigmatic outsider with a tortured past and tacit persona, he had character and depth, something few of the skimpily sketched circus anomalies in Dr. Xavier’s menagerie could offer. If you draped a poncho across his back and put a six shooter in his hand he’d not be unlike a young Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s ‘Man with No Name’ trilogy. And now that I come to think of it, the man who plays Logan, (a.k.a the Wolverine), Hugh Jackman, and Eastwood, if of a similar age, look and sound somewhat alike. I’m not sure if their politics or tastes in furniture are akin, but that’s beside the point.

Given the “cool” factor, it’s no surprise that the immortal mutant with a metal reinforced skeleton and rapier sharp retractable blades in his wrists got his own franchise. The first installment, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” didn’t exactly wow, but back-story, up til “last we left off,” tends to do that. Here we find ourselves in time after the last X-Men chapter (“X-Men: The Last Stand”); Logan is living (and looking) like a vagrant in the Yukon and depressed about the death of his beloved Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, who continually comes to him in dream sequences). He’s got a grizzly bear as neighbor; but before we get to all that, there’s the important rewind back to Nagasaki during World War II when Logan saves one of his captors from “the bomb.” That benefactor went on to become a wealthy industrialist and now, on his death bed, would like Logan to pay him one final visit.

What’s the best way to get the Wolverine to come see you ? Send a school girl with ninja capabilities and a sea full of sass. And that’s exactly what happens. No one, and it’s all grizzled men in the near-arctic township, seems to take exception to the pixie-ish Yukio (Rila Fukushima), lithe and red mopped with popping cheekbones, until, in a seedy bar, she unsheathes her samurai sword and lets them all know she’s no cute plaything. That’s enough to get Logan to Tokyo, where Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) has ulterior plans for the feral mutant. In the simmering kettle of arcane machinations, there’s a plot afoot to assassinate Yashida’s daughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto); his oncologist (Svetlana Khodchenkova) freakishly looks like a Victoria Secret model ; and there’s always some guy running along the rooftops with a bow and arrow in hand.

Yes there are other mutants in the game. Yukio, it seems (and fuzzily so) has the power to foresee, and there’s the Viper, who has a nasty tongue and then some. But mostly this is a lovers-perhaps-to-be on-the-run movie, as Logan and Mariko take flight to the now tranquil harbor of Nagasaki. Double dealings come at them from all sides and to make things interesting, Logan loses half of his powers.

James Mangold, who has done everything from “Walk the Line” to “Copland” and “Knight and Day,” smartly delves deep into the human element. Jackman’s given more to work with since the last busy outing (loss and love) and the two women, while sleek and elegant eye candy, harbor both vulnerable and intrepid pistons behind their reserved exterior. Mangold, going back to “Heavy,” has always had an eye for full bodied female characters; and while Khodchenkova’s bedside floozy is razor thin, the sisterly pair are complex and compelling. But this is a summer movie, and a blockbuster franchise at that, so there must be the crash-crash, bang-bang — and plenty of that comes and sometimes confusingly so. Logan’s final challenge inside a Yashida corporate stronghold is noisy, long and predictable, but thankfully after that, there is a quieter, more revealing moment. One that reveal and charms. To be continued, I’m sure.

— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies