^ Marty Walsh ; big money raised, big voter support

—- —- —-

A candidate can begin his fund-raising by asking friends and colleagues. But in the Boston Mayor campaign, once the August 15th to August 30th reporting period arrives, that go-to reserve has long been tapped, and the money raised comes almost all from people and entities making a hard assessment of the candidate’s chances of winning.

Donors’ assessments of a candidate’s chances aren’t votes, but they’re a pretty good indication of what people who know a thing or two about the campaign think is happening. So let’s look at the money as reported to the State’s Office of campaign Finance  (not including David Wyatt, who has raised less than 100.00.) :

From the beginning of 2013 through August 15th —

Arroyo — raised 219,578.09

Barros — raised 137,977.48

Clemons — raised 8,673.65

Conley —- raised 736,057.35

Connolly —- raised 925,985.96

Consalvo — raised 496,340.72

Golar-Richie —- raised 217,625.14

Ross —- raised 649,014.94

Walczak — raised 260,122.95

Walsh — raised 961,748.51

Yancey — raised 28,092.16

From August 16th through August 30th, this is what has been so far reported (caution : there may be more reports filed next week) —-

Arroyo — raised 13,962.63

Barros — raised 19,523.28

Conley — raised 71,425.80

Connolly — raided 65,674.00

Consalvo — raised  31,089.59

Golar-Richie — raised 32,979.54

Ross —- raised 79,533.12

Walczak — raised 17,053.00

Walsh — raised 213,287.04

(Yancey and Clemons filed no reports for this period that we could find.)

The message in the money is fairly clear:

First, Marty Walsh has dramatically increased his money intake, while Felix Arroyo’s fundraising shows a significant fall-off.

These two seem connected and no coincidence. The endorsement of Marty Walsh by the Hotel and hospitality Workers’ Union was given during this two-week period. It was an endorsement that Arroyo was counting on; a Union most of whose members are people of color, many of these Hispanic.


^ Felix Arroyo ; an inspiring message, delivered with empathy and command; but a Union endorsement lost has taken its toll.

Second, as Arroyo’s money tree has shed leaves, that of Golar-Richie has blossomed quite a bit. Only Walsh, Connolly, Conley, and Ross raised more than her 32,979.94 intake. Perhaps this is why her headquarters are always open, people actively working in them, and why at Forums her discussion of the issues has become much more authoritative and convincing.


^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : benefitting big-time from fall-offs by several rival candidates and by her own stronger performance on the stump

Third, Rob Consalvo, who during the first summer months of the campaign looked strong both in his Hyde park base and across much of the city, has lost both his money mojo and his persuasiveness at Forums.


^ Rob Consalvo ; what has gone wrong here ? And why ?

Fourth, Dan Conley, despite rumors of being difficult to get along with or work for, remains a strong contender who understands the details of City administration and how to correct its deficiencies. he polls a strong third place, and his 71,425.80 raised says that his supporters feel that he can make up the gap between where he polls and the top two. He might indeed do that.

Fifth, Mike Ross continues to draw big money, much bigger than his standing — tied for 4th place — would seem to justify. His performance at Forums is almost always dominant; but his range of interests seems limited to the lifestyle of Downtown. Perhaps his donations increased because of the impact — however brief — of the Stand Up For Children (SFC) “outside money” flap upon John Connolly’s campaign; because Ross, although no friend of the SFC agenda, stands even more pointedly for the apple-store, zipcar, bicycles world envisioned by Connolly than Connolly does. Indeed, Ross personifies it. Interesting to note that Connolly reported only 65,674.00 in donations for this period. Could it have been that some Connolly supporters were looking for a fall-back candidate just in case ?


^ Mike Ross : big money and a chance now to be taken very seriously


^ John Connolly : none of the other candidates has been as buffeted as he. that’s what happens when you poll in first place.

Meanwhile, Marty Walsh, with the Hotel and Hospitality Workers endorsement in hand, and no missteps on the issues, and with strong performances at his “Mondays With Marty” rallies, saw his fundraising increase beyond all expectations.

Walsh and Golar-Richie look well positioned to gain the votes of the one-third of likely voters who, in recent polls, remain undecided whom to back. But Connolly has recovered strongly from the SFC affair, and Felix Arroyo has a message of hope and friendship that he is delivering in person — and at Forums — to the City’s citizens stuck in low income lives.

Our conclusion ? Walsh first; Connolly second, but perhaps shaky. Conley third, but with the chance that Golar-Richie will overtake him and maybe Connolly too. then Arroyo and Ross, with Consalvo fading to 5th and maybe farther down than that.

There’s not much time left to alter these trajectories once the voters — and most of the candidates — return from a well-deserved weekend on the Cape.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE 09.01.13 at 10.30 AM : this morning’s Boston Globe reports that Felix G. Arroyo raised 101,324.00 in August. (The report appears on a back page, easy to miss.) The impression the brief article wants to create is that Arroyo increased his fundraising. Indeed, for all of August, that is true, OUR article, however, focuses on what was raised in the period August 15 to 30. It tells a much different story — and not only for Arroyo.

In the first weeks of August, Arroyo looked like the rising star of the campaign; union endorsements from unions heavy with people of color looked likely. Then came the Hotel and hospitality Workers’ decision to go with Marty Walsh despite, a Union spokesman Brian Lang put it, the union’s admiration for Arroyo.

THIS is the sort of movement that our focus on August’s last two weeks was meant to catch. Using the total August figures would, we thought, miss “the action.” — MF / HnS

An Early Taste of Victory: Here and Sphere chats with Councillor Frank Baker


^ Frank Baker at the Bowdoin/Geneva seafood Throwdown and looking pleased. (photo by Dave Morrison for Here and Sphere)

—- —- —

You’ve seen them all around the streets of Boston. Urban Farms and the subsequent Neighborhood Farmers Markets have brought healthy food back to certain areas that have normally seen historically high levels of both poverty and obesity. 

At the Bowdoin/Geneva Farmers Market this past Thursday afternoon, Boston City Councilor Frank Baker was on hand,  not only to judge the best fish cuisine at the Market’s Seafood Throwdown, but also to celebrate the healthy actions that the Geneva/Four Corners Neighborhood has taken to assure its food arises locally, and fresh.

Baker was in a festive mood, as well he might. He’s currently running opposed. That’s quite a change from 2011, when he came out the winner of a hard battle against an opponent from the “fat” end of the District. Baker, on the other hand, comes from the 3rd Council District’s “thin” end : precincts of Ward 13 converging on both sides of “Dot Ave” between the Little House and Savin Hill Avenue. His roots there go deep politically; he’s one of many children of Little House activists Jack and Eileen Baker – the elder Baker weighed in on his own surfeit of political contact sport back in the day.

But gtoday it’s not Jack baker but frank baker who gets the spotlight. Here and Sphere caught up with him at the Throwdown and chatted with him about the goals he is looking to accomplish as the City prepares to usher in a new Mayor and, probably, a new play of Boston politics.

As the big issue this campaign has been the state of Boston Public Schools, we could not pass on asking Baker about it all: are the schools doing OK ?  Are the lunches in Boston  public schools (BPS) healthy ?  And what does he, as a Councilor, plan for making the BPS a first class school system in the Commonwealth ? Thus we spoke – briefly, yes; but there will be more as the campaign climaxes.

HnS: How has the Throwdown gone so far?

Baker :  “So, when we have the Throwdown, we’re going to have a pan sear for the two cuisines. They’re both dogfish, and the cooks are showing people how to cook dogfish. We’re out promoting it, as opposed to just cod and haddock.”

HnS: About the state of the BPS. What do you feel is the best long-term solution for the BPS?

Baker :  “There has to be some way to first, look at the schools that are working and then there are those who will just beat up on PBS and go for the Charter Schools. I do think that Charter Schools have a useful place in the whole discussion, but I don’t think that they’re the end all be all.

“With that being said, I think that we have to go into the schools that are working, like the Murphy in Dorchester (Popes Hill) or the Roosevelt in Hyde Park (Fairmount). We have to see what’s happening in those schools. The long of it comes down to Parent Councils and Site Councils. Every school should have a Parent Council and Site Council.”

HnS: Do you support lifting the Charter Cap? And you also mentioned the idea of a “Hybrid” School Committee a while back. What do you mean by “Hybrid” School Committee?

Baker: “I’m not in favor of lifting the cap because what makes the Charter system special is that there aren’t so many of them. 

“With the Hybrid School Committee, my thought was that the majority of the Mayor’s Office (who is ultimately responsible for the decisions in the School Committee), but as a City Councilor, when it comes to constituent service cases where you have someone who might want to transfer, we felt that people in the City should know who the School Committee is.”

HnS: We’re here at the Bowdoin/Geneva Farmers Market tasting all of this healthy food. Recently Mayor candidate John Connolly ran an ad touting how he uncovered rotten food that was being served in the BPS. If that is true, what will you do to help make sure that something like that doesn’t happen again?

Baker: “That’s something that you have to deal with the contractor about. I just toured a rooftop garden in Montreal. It’s a business that wants to come to Boston, and they’re looking for rooftops. We should be looking at our schools, and putting that on top of our schools. We’re serving frozen products to our kids when they could be getting a salad !”

— Dave Morrison / Here and Sphere correspondent.

 Michael Freedberg contributed some Frank Baker background information to this article.



^ Chris Conroy ; Dorchester kid, Elmore Street candidate

—- —- —-

Chris Conroy is running for one of the four at-Large (city wide) Council seats to be chosen in November. He has a classic City Councilor candidate background : born on Dorchester’s Tuttle Street, near the Kit Clark House, and grew up a mile or two south, on on King Street in the Fields Corner part of Dorchester — Ward 16, Precinct 2, for those who know. He comes from a large family with extensive connections to Boston Public Schools and is related to the well-known Hughes family, also of Dorchester, and still politically active. One might expect to meet him at the Ledge or the Harp and Bard. That is the type.

The type would get it wrong, however. we meet Conroy at the Red Fez in the South End. He has arrived on foot, no less — walking. After our chat he walks again, with a backpack slung over his khaki-colored gabardine suit, across the park to the South End Business Alliance’s Mayor Forum at Calderwood Center. And he lives not in Dorchester but in Roxbury; until a year ago, on Fort Hill, whence he and his family moved to Elmore Street in Ward 11. Not today an address one sees on most city-wide Council abllots; but, as I point out to Conroy, it’s the street where John Collins, the legendary Mayor (1959 to 1967) who instituted the BRA and urban neighborhood clearance — controversial, but so was everything Collins was and did — lived as well. Controy says that he knew this — impressive; because Collins lived on Elmore Street several ages ago in Boston’s political saga.

Conroy is “new Boston” all the way. Soft spoken, an easy smile, walks to places, offers detailed answers — enormously detailed, thoughtful and often quite original — to the pressing questions of now. If a deeply pensive school reformer is wanted on the Council — a Horace Mann for this decade, and yes, Mann was a Boston politician too — Conroy may well be it.

We were first introduced to Conroy as a city council candidate with charter school experience; correct we were, but misled. Conroy does not favor “lifting the cap” in State law that limits the number of charters. “I don’t think there should be a greater concentreation on charter school,” he says.

“I don’t support lifting the cap, and any new charter school should go through a strict evaluation ptrocess. (Such) new application should have to be approved by refrerendum. Any charter school should work closely with the school district. (Yes,) ity’s a high bar for charter school creation.”

So how about his charter school experience ? Says Conroy: “I originally taught at the Gavin School (in South Boston) as part of an after school program : helping to monitor school performance. (that was all.)

The above discussion answered our usual Question 5. With that in mind, we now proceed to the other six questions that Here and Sphere (HnS) poses to Council candidates.

1. HnS : “what in your life makes you uniqurly or especially qualified to be an effective councillor ?

Conroy : “I’m relentless. When the City takes on complex issues, I insist on everyone who has a stake in that discussion (joining the discussion).”

2. HnS : What are your two top priorities to work on if you’re elected ?

Conroy : “We should have a City Council that is activist in fighting for home rule petitions ! For example, I support 100 per cent Councillor Pressley’s petition to allow the City to determine its own liquor license policy. (I want) A Council that is willing to bring all part8ies to the table. (with an0 emphasis on people process, morer than policy.”

3. HnS : Casino vote : citywide or East Boston only ?

Conroy : (the) casino vote should be city-wide because the issue affects the whole city. I want people to (use this issue to) think about Boston as a whole city, not as one neighborhood or another.”

“That said, a casino may provide stability for familyes in the area, ecept for restaurants, (but) a casino gives us public safety concerbns. Granted that the (Suffolk Downs) casino project has addressed the security issue in detail, there is also a public health concern that costs (the casino) money cut out of the (project’s) taxability. (But the) Union jobs (that it will provide) is my big plus.”

4.HnS ; School reform ? Longer school day — yes or no ? Do you favor any of the other reforms in John Connolly’s agenda ?

Conroy : (I’d talk about the economy.) “we have a different economy than we had in 1985. A volatile environment in which low-skill jobs can’t be kept, and that crerates instability in families and (in) neighborhoods.

“People need meaningful work, particularly youbg adyults. They leave — that bdcomees prpblematic .

“we need to provide pathways from schooln bto work. Not necessagoly four-year college. For eample, my grandfather had a deep knowledge from real life, which he was able to use for his career. Today we do not have that pathway to skilled jobs directly out of school. (so that’s the school reforms that we need.)

6.HnS : BRA ? Replace ? Reform — and if so, in what ways ? Should there be a separate board fior planning ?

Conroy : “No separate planning commission. (I) am for reform in the community input process, to stop projects that don’t have neighborhood input. You often see plans created by the developer privately without any community input.

“We need more modrrate housing badly. We don’t have that input with the BRA. We don’t have the power to sue a developer who doesn’t follow the rules.

“There is a difference between an affordable city and affordable neighborhoods. We should reverse that tend. We cannot afford to lose the ladder of social bettering, climbing higher. So, if the BRA can’t be forced to give neighborhood input — and we need to assure that, at the City Council — we can’t have the economic development process that includes the neighborhoods.

(Let me add this 🙂 we should have a local minimum wage ! I support Rep. Provost’ bill to raise it to S 11.00 to S 12.50.”

7.HnS : Marty Walsh says “there’s a heroin epidemic in the city now.” Do you agree ?

Conroy : “Drugs are a problem. Epidemic ? not sure. But they are a problem and one that we can’t arrest our way out of. It’s a costly way to fight. It’s costing us in a moral and c ommunity sense.

“We need basic city services available to families to fight this. Supportive families can pull people out of crisis. Interven(ing) very early (and) connected with (the) schools. police shouldn’t be just arresting, they should be directing.

“the life that addicts live : we need to figure it out. It is a disease, in common with mental health. Teaching (that it’s) to do with stress. We need to be attaching the best medical services, and we have them in this city, so that the very young have slomething to do and soemthing to look forward to.

“A major call to expand mentoring, both personally and professionally. (It’s) a really easy connection to create; it’s a natural fit. (I have to) credit Councillor Pressley on (her work to) creating healthy relationships (here). Unhrealhy relationships can create a mental health crisis and thus a public health crisis.”

Can such a thoughtful candidate, living in one of the City’s least politically potent Wards, make the November top four ? Can he make the “cut of eight” on Primary Day ? To do so, he will need all of the relentlessness he talks about, all of his long family history in the Boston Public Schools, and then some. But he speaks the language of new Boston, and has the look of new Boston; and today, new Boston is the city’s voting majority.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Charles Clemons, John Connolly, and felix Arroyo at SEBA Forum

—- —- —

Last night’s Mayoral Forum at the Calderwood Center on Tremont Street asked the most pointed questions and addressed more topics than at any Forum we’ve observed so far. It being the South End, heart and stomach — excellent hors d’oeuvres were served in the foyer — of the “new Boston,” comprehensiveness was to be expected. Basic just won’t do for a locus of million-dollar condos.

Hosted by the South End Business Alliance — SEBA — the Forum gathered an audience of about 200. it was a well informed group, with definite preferences: favorable answers from the candidates drew approving cheers and applause; unfavorable ones were given the silent treatment. There was plenty of each.

That said, this Forum made clear what has portended for some time now : that the leading candidates, according to polls, are leading for good reason. They have greatest command of the issues — big and not so big — and of how to address them. Connolly, Walsh, and Arroyo made their points with specificity, each man inputting his own expertise and vision, each speaking his own language — and doing so with persuasive conviction. For Connolly, that meant the most modern of cities : zipcar, apple store, user-friendly, bicycles, lifestyle diversity — and biolab 4. For Arroyo, it meant a city in which pathways out of poverty are a priority. Marty Walsh saw a partnership city, between business and labor, the Mayor working in team with the City Council and with the Boston delegation to the state Legislature.


^ an audience informed and knowing what they want

The other candidates on stage — Charlotte Golar-Richie worked the foyer but did not sit in; Consalvo and Wyatt made no appearance at all — answered less strongly. Mike Ross, who has spoken eloquently at earlier Forums, seemed less in command here — perhaps it was the questions, which did not fit his vision of fun city — restaurants, liquor licenses, and neighborhood nightlife. His best answer fitted that slot : “Yes I am a supporter of food trucks (which SEBA’s restaurant members don’t like), but keep in mind that some good food trucks have stepped up to be bricks-and-mortar restaurants.”


^ Mike Ross : food trucks to restaurants


^ John Barros : seeing City hall from his neighborhood (Mike Ross to his right)

John Barros and Bill Walczak spoke from the viewpoint of their particular experience ; schools for Barros, the Codman square Health Center for Walczak. The tactic made their answers sound provincial. a Mayor should see the neighborhoods from City hall. Barros and Walczak did the reverse : looked at City hall from a neighborhood. And Walczak, as always, offered his “no casino” mantra.

Dan Conley stayed at the Forum only long enough to respond to a twenty-question round robin of “yes, no, or thinking about it” quickie answers to this or that one-word issue : casinos, liquor licenses, South Boston parade, audit the city, change the BRA, and such like. As for Charles Yancey and Charles Clemons, each made a couple of notable points — specific to their personal resumes — but both lacked preparation, and it showed.

Each candidate was asked what was his proudest moments, in public life and in his work. Marty Walsh answered thus : “protecting jobs. We passed legislation which has allowed technology companies to bring in new jobs that for he most part were in California. But hey, it wasn’t just about me. (It’s) working with a team. It’s not just you, it’s going to be working collaboratively.”

Then Felix Arroyo : “my proudest moment on the Council ? There was an attempt to close our city’s libraries. I was instrumental in stopping that. Before that, the work that I did in organizing janitors. They were making eight dollars an hour,. now they’re making fifteen.”

Connolly : “most important council work ? getting a strict energy efficient city code passed. as an attorney, my proudest moment wa represennting a client, pro bono, two guys here in the South End (who were victims) in a gay-bashing case.”

Another not so typical Forum question was then posed ; ‘have you started thinking about who you would include in your administration — in your cabinet — as Mayor ?” The strongest candidates gave the most intriguing and thoughtful answers.

Walsh : “a new superintendent of schools first…the hierarchy of the Police department should be revamped. Look at the Fire department too. Include all the city in my discussions and decisions.”


^ Marty Walsh : vows big changes at the Police department

Connolly : “new generation, new leadership. Superintendant of schools — how about one who is non-traditional ? A city-wide summit on public health. Begin overhauling city hall to be user-friendly.”

Arroyo : “A diverse cabinet that shares my values. A superintendant of schools who knows that you have to work with everyone.”


^ john Connolly and Felix Arroyo : will they work with the Council ? So they say…

Next came a question guaranteed to elicit an unreal answer: “how will you as Mayor work with the City Council ?”

Connolly : “We are better when we disagree. I want a council that is bold and independent. Disagreement makes us better.” (to which I comment : “sounds good, but that’s not how it plays out. The Mayor may let the council gripe, but he has the power and the Council doesn’t.”)

Arroyo — “The Council is there because the voters put them there. But more importantly” — and here he pointed to the Forum audience — “I want to work with YOU !” (to which I comment : “a slick way of ducking the question !”)

Walsh : “The city council is a partner. I would also include the Boston legislative delegation and also legislators from around the state. The mayor can’t do it alone, he’s not a dictator.” (to which I comment “no, but the Mayor often thinks he is.”)

By this time the Forum had shredded badly. Conley first, but then Ross, Barros, Clemons, even Connolly, one after the other, had to leave to attend other events. Only Arroyo and Walsh said they were here for the duration.

They all apologized, of course. But as the race is now well into crunch time, every candidate with any chance at all has more events on his or her daily schedule than could be attended in three days. And so it goes. rush, greet, rush, talk, rush, talk, greet, talk, rush. You want to keep up ? You will have to rush, rush too.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

“SECRET LETTERS To Home One Stop-Loss Soldiers story Letter#3


“SECRET LETTERS” to home one stop-loss soldiers story LETTER # 3

According to Wikipedia, the Stop-loss definition is:

“Stop-loss is a term primarily used in the United States military. In the U.S. military, it is the involuntary extension of a service member’s active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service (ETS) date and up to their contractually agreed end of obligated service (EOS). It also applies to the cessation of a permanent change of station (PCS) move for a member still in military service. Stop-loss was used immediately before and during the first Persian Gulf War. Since then, it has been used during deployments to SomaliaHaitiBosniaKosovo and after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent War on Terror.”

The policy has been legally challenged several times. However, Federal courts have consistently found that military service members contractually agree that their term of service may be involuntarily extended until the end of their obligated service.

However, in real life it is much more than that. The term and its definition are minimal at best. Truth be told, even a cynic can not sit back and agree that such an act by OUR government is that of a free country — let alone a “free-man / soldier, who has served his country — and his term.

Through the years stop-loss has become much more “in our faces”, as undeclared “wars” have called many a soldier back to a place to which they barely survived — once, never-mind a forceful twice-go-round. In a 2004 Campaign speech by the then presidential candidate John Kerry — stop-loss was described accurately as a “back-door draft”. At that time, both politicians and war activists insisted and proclaimed its use an abuse of the law. Since Congress had not officially declared a war — the basis for using stop-loss was to them as well as those affected just that : “abuse”……

Much controversy, political agenda, hype, and inaccurate depictions of this “injustice” surround the topic whenever it is brought to our attention in any form. So how do we as Americans differentiate between fact and fiction — media agenda, propaganda, misguided citizens, and hoaxes — and how do we get the real stories, the guts and grit of the truth without literally being in that situation ourselves ?

In a weekly editorial, Here and Sphere will cautiously report one brave, wounded, forgotten, scared for his life, stop-loss soldier’s story. Though we can not completely vouch for it’s full accuracy — we will deliver this soldier’s encrypted letters, each with all its content — and let you, our readers, decide for yourselves. Our job is to report the news, and bring you the stories that matter to you. In “TOP SECRET” Letter to Home — One stop-loss soldier’s story — we will do just that.

Letter #3

Today was a good day all things considered. Normally that would bring about a smile or sigh of relief — but a good day here is a nightmare at best, back on American soil.

Today my team lead by a “new guy”. The sapling of a superior was freshly dropped here in the middle of yet another cold sand-swept night. Meeting him first thing this morning — all gung-ho, and clueless as to what he would soon become a part of — was almost stomach turning. Much like a doe eyed child full of innocence about to learn something horrific and life-altering. Today our mission was “simple” — cut off water supplies and all aid to the “local threats” one town over.

When I say the word simple, I mean only that it should if carried out correctly be a mission easily achieved — without casualties, and senseless violence. Though we were lucky enough to not lose one of our own — the casualty-less mission I hoped and prayed for — did not play out as I had wished.

Before the desert sun even peaked at us,we geared up and were on our way. All orders had been given — subject to change upon arrival, if our calculations were off even the slightest — and of course they were. I took my post at the highest point of the village, finding my spot was easy — I gained access without harm to myself or anyone else. Once our team was fully in place, orders previously given — went into effect. For the sake of those that watch movies and T.V. I will use familiar lingo — as to paint a picture that may be relatable — but here it is somewhat, okay very different.

Alpha team we will call that me and my 4 watchman — steady handed and sighted on targets pre-assigned we sit and wait. Bravo team began their slow and careful descent into the village as not to awaken the chaos. Delta team came from their angles to help surround the main water source and medical tent — therein began our problem.

Previous recon missions of the medical tent had shown no guard during this particular time — on 4 separate missions, not once had one been spotted. With the main valves off — and “our equipment” that once supplied this village back in our possession — they would have no way once sealed to re-establish a water supply. Bravo team had done their job and were regrouping back at the predetermined zone before hitting target 2. Delta stayed positioned waiting patiently to assist in retrieving, or destroying the medic tent — once Bravo gave the order.

As I looked at the tent I realized that this time WE WERE WRONG… A heavily armed guard paced by the hindquarters of the medic tent — searching for any sign of attack, or threat. Intently I watched as he paced in an almost eerie nazi reminiscent fashion — 4-5 steps one way — full turn — 4-5 steps back in the previous direction. Then it happened — SPOTTED –the last of our Bravo members to get close enough was seen. The foot soldier raised his weapon and aimed as steady as he could, getting ready to summons help…………..THEN ( shot fired ) one single perfectly aimed silent bullet — a few more minutes, enough time to be ghosts, and a fire that took down a whole tent and all its supplies erupted in seconds. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!! (Disgusting)

Back on base Alpha team leader newbie sat crying like a baby — AND JUSTLY SO. I felt connected to him, I knew his disbelief and pain, anger and more. But just like he came to us — HE WAS GONE…

Why him? I am broken too, why can’t I disappear into the night and sand and cold? Why can’t I come home? — Perhaps I’ll never know, PLEASE PRAY THAT I WILL.

Signed: One stop-loss missing home soldier.

As told by:Heather Cornell


arrest phot amanda

 Born ,wrapped in a bag right out of the restroom garbage can, then carelessly discarded in the tank of a sports-bar bathroom — and left to die! That was the quick and atrocious beginning of life — right to the tragic death — for this Pennsylvania newborn boy.

screenshots of the bathroom

26-year-old Allentown Pennsylvania resident, Amanda Catherine Hein — went out with friends on August 18th to watch a pay-per-view wrestling match, at Starters Pub in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. While sitting with her party at a booth in the bar, she began experiencing severe back pain and excused herself. According to witnesses including her friend “Rivera” — she was gone for a lengthy period of time, possibly 40 minutes or longer — before returning, grabbing her purse and heading outside. Hein smoked a cigarette before returning to the group to finish watching the rest of the wrestling match. Say’s District Attorney: John Morganelli.  At some point “Rivera” noticing a fairly large amount of blood on the seat asked Hein “if she needed to go to the hospital?” — to which she replied ” I have no insurance”, at that point Hein was dropped off at home.

starterspub side view

Starters Pub a sports bar on Route 378 in Bethlehem Pennsylvania — an estimated 30 miles from Philadelphia — is now the admitted crime scene of the baby boy’s disconcerting death.Bar owner Dave Rank was still in disbelief, and clearly still in shock as he explained that — A cleaning crew for the pub found the baby boy the following morning August 18th, in the tank of the woman’s bathroom toilet, after attempting to flush it repeatedly with no result — they lifted the tank’s top to find a hellish scene.

starters pub route 378 back door

When D.A. Morganelli was asked his thoughts on what Hein was thinking he answered — ” I have no idea what goes on in her head”– noticeably unnerved, he said ” I have no clue.”‘

starters pub heins

According to the Northampton County coroner, the newborn was at least 33 to 36 weeks gestational age — meaning he was fully viable, able to survive outside the womb . Court records also indicate that the baby was born alive and healthy.

survival rate

After learning the gruesome details — Amanda’s stepmother Louiseanne Hein clearly heartbroken and appalled told reporters that she had no idea Amanda was even pregnant. She said that looking back a planned parenthood letter addressed to Amanda now makes sense. Through teary eyes and honest transparent expression — grief-stricken Louiseanne exclaimed through sobbing sentences: “We told her she always had a home here” and that ” we would have worked something out!”

Via Amanda Hein's Facebook
Via Amanda Hein’s Facebook

Even neighbor Victor Rosario reinforced the theorized “Secret Pregnancy” by stating — “I didn’t even know she was pregnant, she didn’t look pregnant!”

On August 20th Amanda Hein was interviewed by authorities. She admitted giving birth to the baby boy in the bathroom, and disposing of him.  This gut wrenching confession, has earned Hein the rightful charge of Criminal Homicide. In Pennsylvania, “intentional murder of a child under the age of 12 is a Capital Offense — punishable by way of the death penalty. On Monday Hein was charged with one count of Criminal Homicide — thus the possibility of imposing the death penalty looms, if Hein is proven guilty.

Hein is being held without bail — as of last week no representation had been officially listed. The  authorities are still searching for the father of the baby.

Educate others safe haven

This incident has resurfaced the topic of SAFE HAVEN’S — as New Jersey and Pennsylvania both have “Anonymous drop off laws.” The Safe Haven laws, and places are now pushing harder to educate people about the State’s laws regarding Safe Haven’s.

safe haven sign

Established in 2002 after an infant girl they called “baby Mary” was discovered in a Sunbury Pennsylvania trash compactor.  EVERY hospital in P.A. are Safe Haven’s only needing to meet minimal criteria.

  • The child must be a non-injured, non-emergent newborn.
  • The newborn must be under the age of 28 days in Pennsylvania.
  • The newborn must be under the age of 30 days in New Jersey

If those criteria are met — the newborn will be accepted and taken in — NO QUESTIONS ASKED — and completely anonymous if the person dropping off the child so chooses.

safe haven incubator

With help in place like Safe Haven’s and a multitude of other resources — there is NO NEED for the senseless and horrifying deaths of any healthy newborn. Educate yourselves, and those around you — IT MAY SAVE A BABY’S LIFE.

Written By: Heather Cornell





The President is mulling things. He says he has made no decision yet on Syria. We fully understand his predicament.

It arises because the government of Bashir Assad in Syria has crossed the “red line.” They used chemical weapons to kill almost 400 Syrian civilians — women and children too. The results have been posted online, gone viral.

So what do we do about it ? Do we do anything about it ?

Ask around, and you get just about every opinion possible. Our view is that no option we may choose is a good one. We are screwed if we do nothing. We are stuck if we send troops into the battle. We look like jelly if we hit Assad with an airstrike or two. Even if we inflict a continuous air war upon him but send no troops — the option most likely — we may succeed only in adding to Syria’s misery. Can a prolonged air war by itself oust Assad and his men ? It didn’t work in World War II, in Viet Nam, or in the first iraq War. Boots on the ground were needed to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Air attack succeeded in Kosovo in the 1990s, but that was a much lower-intensity conflict and one in which distinct foes faced off. In Syria, there are at least four separate forces, maybe more, all interlocking, almost impossible to separate out. Let us look :

1.Syria’s Sunni muslim majority — is itself divided into three parts :

( a ) secular and moderately obervant, Arab Sunnis are the basic core of those who have opposed Assad from the first, two yreasrs ago when the war began.
( b ) Kurds living in the Northeast of Syria don’t really oppose Assad, but they do want to join their abutting Kurdish fellows in Turkey and Iraq in an autonomous Kurdistan
( c ) zealous Al Qaida-affiliated Sunnis joined the fight against Assad about a year ago and provide the rebels some their fiercest fighters.

2.Syria’s Christians : the oldest Christian congregation in the world, reaching back almost to Jesus’s time, total about 15 % of Syria’s population. They have been protected by Assad and his regime and do not want to oppose him, because the Arabic Sunni rebels already have it in for the Christians, whose neutrality in the civil war they see as giving Assad some legitimacy.

3.Syria’s Alawites : less than 10 % of the nation, the Alawites — an odd mixture, partly Islam and partly Syrian Christianity — are Assad’s tribe and the bulwark of his support. Unlike Syria’s other tribes, the Alawites live almost all in the coastal region — tobacco-producing mountain towns and seaside resorts. It has been guessed that Assad’s plan of last resort is to retreat into this beautiful, once highly touristed region and set up a separate state there.

6.Hezbollah-backed Shi’ites : Syria has few Shi’ites, but Lebanon has a lot, and they have aligned with the Assad regime and recently joined its fight.

For the United states, protection of Syria’s Christians of course ranks a top priority. But how to do this, without also aiding Assad ?

For our nation, removing Assad the torturer — in 27 “torture centers,” no less — and killer of at least 100,000 Syrians is a moral imperative. But how to do it without endangering Syria’s Christians ?

For America, punishing a warrior who uses chemical weapons on his own nation is something we have promised to do — this time. But why now, when during the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s we aided Saddam Hussein against the mullahs who had kidnapped our diplomats even though he was using chemo weapons ? Explanation doesn’t come easy.

Once into the Syria war, how to we resist calls to get into it even deeper ? every minute a humanitarian tragedy occurs there. Which humanitarian horrors do we punish, and which do we duck ?

These are the questions that we think matter. Among those that do notl in our view, bear on our ddcision are those involving our going into battle on the same side as Al Qaida. we can fight Al Qaida just fine elsewhere and another day. If they and we happen to concur in wanting Assad gone, why is that a problem ? It is said, though, that if we go into Syria on the rebel side, some Al Qaida militias will acquire American weapons. Maybe so; but those weapons eventually become obsolete.

None of the above gives any answer at all to the unhappy options the President is now dealing with. We hope he does not decide to go all-in. We won'[t be thrilled if he opts for a few air strikes. We will not look very tough if he decides to do nothing. As for increasing our arms ales to the revels, that aggravates the Al Qaida acquisition issue, helps fuel battles already occurring among the various rebel factions, and doesn’t do much to punish Assad.

The only option that makes any sense is a protracted air campiagn — and no boots on the ground. It probably won’t work. But it might. It’s more worth trying than any of the other options we’ve heard.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



On August 28, 1963, speaking to half a million of his fellow Americans and more, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke words that every American since that day has known by heart. “I have a dream,” King said, “that my children one day will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Every phrase in it counts; but today, perhaps, the phrase most poignant is that first part : “I have a dream.” A dream : in other words, a vision, a hope, not yet present but still to come.

America’s very existence arises from the dreams of men and women, for a life better than the one handed to them. America never gets to the finish line. we always have more work to do, progress to bring, as we move always forward toward social justice and civil rights and dignity for all. We may never get all the way there ? Perhaps; but every generation of Americans must keep on keeping on. We live in the future, and it is ours to make.

That is what America is. And we are all in it, all of us.

And yet ….. the progress forward is not unbroken. Often we as a nation stop moving forward; sometimes we even step backwards. Because there are some of us who do NOT believe in the dream. Oh the fine words, yes; the reality, not so much.

And so we struggle. Today we struggle. 50 years after Dr. king spoke calling us to move forward boldly, many parts of America are moving resolutely backward.

If there was any civil right that Dr. King cared for most of all, first of all, it was the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was as much his doing as it was President Johnson’s. Yet today, 48 years after the VRA was enacted, there are several states that have legislated — or are trying to legislate — making it much more difficult for many of us to vote. Especially the poor and the isolated among us. Those who need the right to vote most of all — because it is the one thing that people disadvantaged can do as well as people with all advantages — are to have a “voted ID” — often next to impossible to get, and costly, or they will not be registered to vote. Those who live far from a polling place, or who work two or three jobs all day long and so cannot vote on polling day, will have early voting hours cut down. Anything to keep those who most need the vote from voting.

Nothing legislative could be more immoral, not to mention un-American, than efforts to impede any American from voting. Yet that is what we see going on in NC, in TX, in KS and, to a less rigorous extent, in several other states. We abhor the “vote suppression” movement.

The Department of justice is moving to block Texas’s vote-suppression laws. It has signaled that it will soon sue to block North Carolina’s even more onerous vote-suppression laws. his we thoroughly applaud. Nonetheless, it is a shame that it has come to this, 50 years after Dr. King spoke his dream, 48 years after our Congress and President enacted the most all-encompassing Voting Rights act ever adopted by our nation.

We cannot turn back. We dare not allow the nation to turn back. We must not stand by and watch any state turn us back. Our destiny as a nation demands we move forward, always forward, until every one of us has the civil rights, the respect, and the protection that our nation has always, on its truest days, promised to all.

—- The Editors / Here and Sphere




^ Suffolk Downs casino resort : looking likelier now

The deal is in place now. An agreement has been reached, between Mayor Menino and the Boston casino developers, a partnership between Suffolk downs race track and Caesars Entertainment of Nevada. The terms of this deal include $ 33.4 million for East Boston development and a promise of 4,000 full time jobs. All that is now needed is a favorable vote in a referendum, as provided in the State legislation that enacted three casino zones offering one casino license per zone.

As the City of Boston / Suffolk Downs deal is now in place, why do we write about under fhe “Boston Mayor Race’ rubric ? After all, the new mayor won’t take office until well after said refendum must, be state law, be held.

The answer is simple : that such a significant deal could be made, basically, by one man, and announced in the climax month of a campaign to choose his successor, makes oh-so-crystal-clear just how powerful a Mayor of Boston really is and how huge the election campaign portends to be, even if many Boston voters don’t realize it. The Mayor of Boston runs the City, decides its future, commands its shape, tone, life style, parameters. The Seaport District, the Downtown waterfront, the Greenway, city workers’ union contracts, the taxi scandal, and, yes, the mega-million-dollar casino, all owe their coming to one Mayor — and to the voters who have returned him to office four additional times.

The next Mayor will have no less dominace than Tom Menino has put forth for everyone to see.

That will be true unless the City’s charter is amended. No one is proposing to try this. The last charter change was done in 1981, and it changed only the method of electing the City Counjcil and of choosing the City’s school committee. The mayor’s power was not diminished; indeed, it increased. The school committee moved from being elected to being appointed by the Mayor.

The Suffolk Downs / Boston casino now heads to a referendum in which all signs point toward approval. It’s a big deal. And an emotional one. Casino gambling is opposed by many on -principle. Locating a resort casino in this or that community generates “NIMBY” opposition — we recall only too well the town of Foxboro repulsing a proposal by billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn partnering with New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft. Still, it would run contrary to the power of Boston’s Mayor to bet against his seeing the East Boston casino referendum generate a favorable vote.

At that point, the new mayor takes over. And will be faced with the ultimate casino question : Boston or Everett ? We seem to forget that the Suffolk Downs deal is not the end of this saga. It isn’t.

The next Mayor of Boston will have to decide : shall Boston go to war with the competing, Everett casino plan, already approved by Everett voters and powerfully advocated their Mayor, Carlo diMaria, on behalf of Steve Wynn and his billions ? Because Boston’s next mayor can overpower Wynn — at the gaming Commission, which will decide who gets the one zonal license — if he or she really insists.  

Or does the next Mayor decide to let Everett and Wynn go first –and East Boston settle, instead, for the “innovation district” that Mayoral hopeful Bill Walczak — alone of all those running — has proposed ?

Maybe someone will ask this question of the twelve Mayoral candidates in one of the many Mayoral Forums coming up.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ jobs, $ 33.4 million, and gambling.



^ Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall in James Crowley’s “Closed Circuit”

—- —- —-

A deft thinking man’s thriller from the team of producers behind “Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy.” Clearly, they know intrigue, though “Closed Circuit” is less of a brain boggle than the 2011 Cold War chess game based on the John Le Clair novel. It’s never a street brawl either, though plenty of blood is spilt (but mostly off screen). Based on real events, London is rocked by a massive terrorist attack that kills over 100 innocents. The means of mayhem is nothing special: a truck full of explosives is parked in front of an open market and triggered suicide style. What is special, is that the mastermind is so easily caught.

The rub comes during the staging of the trial. The Crown, for security reasons, wants a closed hearing due to sensitive ‘secret evidence’ that could put the public safety at risk–or so that’s the line being towed by the Attorney General, played by a slimmed down James Broadbent as an avuncular and creepy puppet master. As the trial gears up, a nosey defense attorney (James Lowe) commits suicide by jumping from a tall building. His replacements don’t buy the unhappy gay story circulating in the rumor mill and begin to poke around too, but they have other challenges to contend with : Martin (Eric Bana) and Claudia (Rebecca Hall) have been romantically involved. It wrecked his marriage, and if a trace of their involvement is evident, they will be booted from the trial. To complicate matters further, the two can’t communicate during the closed session segment of the trial, and only Claudia, as the Special Advocate with classified clearance, can look at the secret evidence.

It sounds more convoluted on paper than it does on screen. Director James Crowley (“Boy A”), artfully imbues tension and peril into every scene. When Claudia is presented the secret evidence by Nazrul (Riz Ahmed), a boyish agent with dangerously dark features, she questions how he got into her sealed office. He calmly tells her the door was open when he got there, but she knows that’s not true, and from that moment on, both she and Martin know that MI5 is likely involved and that a cover up or conspiracy could be in play.

Bana and Hall play off each other well, effusively selling the integrity of their government attorneys as well as their contemplative introspect and resolve when on the lam. You’re so ingrained to their thinking and plight, there are times, especially with Bana’s Martin, that you begin to question whether he’s gone over the top and his acumen has slipped a gear and fallen into pure paranoia. As with the Bourne films, there’s constant surveillance everywhere (Crowley uses the security cam POV a lot and its one many layered meanings within the film’s title), and the busy streets forever provide a mecca for unassuming pedestrians and loiterers to leap out as would-be assassins.

Much to Crowley’s credit, he handles the many twists and turns sharply and clearly even as the film clicks along, agile and spritely under the menacing pall. The editing is tightc– and key, as are the bit players like Broadbent — and Ahmed, who with artful ease sells both sides of his loyal foot soldier willing to do anything to protect the Crown. Also quite good is Anne-Marie Duff as a transportation secretary; not so Julia Stiles, though, in the flimsy role of a New York Times reporter working the London desk. She further underscores the Bourne-like essence, though “Closed Circuit” stands up on its own and rightfully so.

Crowley has toiled at his craft for some time in relative obscurity; “Closed Circuit” is about to change all that. Let’s just hope Hollywood doesn’t change him.

—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies