A couple days ago, I received the following e-mail from Matt Cameron, who identifies himself as General Counsel to the No Eastie Casino group.

In it Mr Cameron makes clear that my speculation was wrong; that the No Casino group was not, as I had opined, at least partly funded by Steve Wynn, whose Everett casino project moves in direct competition to the proposed Suffolk Downs casino. I made the mistake of ascribing some sensible economic motives to a group that moved to stop 4500 local jobs and $ 52 million in Boston mitigation money. It appears that instead, the No Eastie Casino group — or various of its people — acted not just to disapprove an East Boston casino out of a moral objection to casinos in general.

They are certainly entitled to their view. And so is the rest of the City of Boston entitled to its views; and i to mine : I could not dissent more from their view that casinos are BAD. That said, I am reprinting the e-mail that i received albeit leaving out portions that do not speak to the letter’s point. And now to the relevant portions of the e-mail, noting the excisions with the usual … punctuation mark :

“This completely unsupported (and unsupportable) conclusion is deeply offensive to myself, the other members of No Eastie Casino’s core team, and the hundreds of volunteers who sacrificed so much to make this victory possible. We all did this work for exactly the reasons you outlined in your analysis of the “front-line activists” who make up the “NURM” you identified within the same piece–most especially . Quite a few of us went part-time, stopped paying our mortgages and student loans, gave up other opportunities, and spent long nights away from our families to make this happen. No one has promised any of us jobs, money, or any other benefits for what we have done–and continue to do–to keep a casino out of Suffolk County despite being outspent nearly 50 to 1…

“As a registered ballot question committee, No Eastie Casino is required to file a campaign finance report like any other political campaign. Our reports are readily available here:

These reports account for every dollar of our campaign. There were no giant briefcases full of cash or midnight meetings with Steve Wynn in Groucho Marx glasses at Santarpio’s. East Boston did it, and we are fiercely proud of our work.

These reports account for every dollar of our campaign. There were no giant briefcases full of cash or midnight meetings with Steve Wynn in Groucho Marx glasses at Santarpio’s. East Boston did it, and we are fiercely proud of our work.

In a way, I suppose it is a compliment that people like you and Mayor Menino continue to insist that there must have been some other outside money or influence over such a successful campaign, and that those half-wits and illegals over in East Boston couldn’t have possibly gotten out of bed before noon–let alone managed to convince 4281 of their neighbors to vote against one of the most predatory industries in the United States. But it’s getting old.

Your “analysis” of a group of 750 people you have no personal knowledge of and did not take the time to so much as Google reads as an open admission to a reckless disregard for the truth and a cynical slap in the face to the NURMers you have gone out of your way to identify and praise…I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hold you to something approaching basic journalistic ethics. Correct it.

Matt Cameron
General Counsel, No Eastie Casino



^ Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nelisse in Brian Percival’s World war Ii pot-boiler “The Book Thief”

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Call me a curmudgeon, but it seems today that all the haute, wild-fire books that are flimsy quick reads, hitting on one or two hot issues and built around a slightly-more-than two-dimensional hero or heroine, have become sure-fire template fodder for profitable spins into film. “Twilight” maybe the most egregious example and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” itself notoriously birthed from the “Twilight” franchise, is one in the making. Then there’s the “Hunger Games.”

What a book about the Holocaust might have to do with this phenomenon may seem far flung or troubling, but Markus Zusak’s novel, which the movie “The Book Thief” is based upon, is little more than a safe PG watering down of the horrific events that took place in Germany leading up to, and during, World War II. It’s more young adult than dramatic literature or historical record. As a matter of fact, it’s not history at all, but historical fiction, another genre, along with YA, rapidly budding and laying fertile ground for studios execs who see a ready and willing-to-pay audience lined up en masse for a cinematic translation of their beloved book.
It’s a lazy and vacant process, but also good business.

That said, the film adaptation of “Thief,” has much in its corner. Brian Percival, the hand behind the hit PBS series “Downton Abbey,” directs ; Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush and Academy Award nominee Emily Watson head the cast. Unfortunately, the material, while earnest, is beneath them. Percival at times seems a bit befuddled by the bombast going on in the bigger world, and it doesn’t help that his ability to string together tight cloistered moments of intimacy, which worked so well in the smaller medium, gets compromised in the grander, more urgent framework.

For all purposes, Western Europe could be Middle Earth and the Nazis orcs, as all are essentially grotesque minions performing their bloody tasks sans remorse and often with a trace of glee. The imperiled heroine driving the plot comes in the pint-sized form of Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), a young curly-locked waif embossed with wide wondrous eyes who, on the run with her mother (who’s an accused communist under scrutiny), is turned over to the tart tongued Rosa (Watson) and her reserved husband, Hans (Rush) for foster rearing.

Much of what we learn about Liesel is told to us in ominous voice-overs by Death, who admits he is smitten with the girl as he pays a visit to the fleeing family, aboard a train, to claim her younger brother. Why Death is so infatuated with Liesel is unclear, but our notorious and unseen narrator speaks with avuncular charm as if this were a Christmas tale (voiced by Roger Allam) and calmly assures us with his sagacious omniscience that all is as he says it is; and it’s easily and wholly believable despite the troubling the nature of the source.

The meaning of the film’s title stems from Liesel’s penchant for pinching bound tomes; something ironic initially, because she can’t read and is routinely chided at school for her developmental inadequacy. Early on she nips a gravedigger’s manual, and later pilfers books from the library of a Nazi commandant, whose wife has taken a liking to Liesel. Hans catches onto Liesel’s activity and the pair forge a palpable bond during covert candlelight reading sessions. Rosa too begins to soften from her austere facade, but then the nascent familial unit is challenged when they take in Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jewish refugee whose father saved Hans’s life during the first world war.

Nélisse, who looks something like Emma Watson from her Harry Potter years, handles the burden of the focus well. She’s solidified by (Emily) Watson and Rush who go a long way to cement over the maudlin air-brushing. The film does well to give Liesel complex affections for the older Max and her towheaded classmate, Rudy (Nico Liersch).

In the fantastical distillation of events and atrocities, much of the outside pressure comes from basement sweeps (for Jews) by friends and neighbors now serving the Fuehrer and Brown Shirts who bully the fleet-footed Rudy for idolizing Jesse Owens. The cinematography by Florian Ballhaus (“Devil Wears Prada”) is artistic and opulent, especially the stunningly stark opening sequence as a black train (and later, a black limousine) travels through the snow covered countryside, endlessly pristine and crystalline. The metaphor for innocence and darkness is conspicuously there, but rapturous to behold no matter what.

For what it is — a foot in the door of Ann Frank’s world– “Thief” may pay dividends if it channels young viewers to Wikipedia to review history and fact. Other films that have played loose with the record, “Life is Beautiful” and “Inglorious Basterds,” have done well by deepening the understanding of the horror and inhumanity. “Thief” unfortunately is a heart-string pulling yarn ostensibly spun for the marketplace that employs the world-changing war as a plot driving backdrop. It’s shameless artifice and in that, true meaning is lost.

— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies



^ Walt Michalik of Roslindale : a question that went right to the heart of economic matters

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Last night, at Hyde Park Main Streets’s tribute to City Councillor Rob Consalvo — retiring after 12 years service — I ran into an old friend, Walt Michalik, who lives in Roslindale and supported me the one time that I put aside political work for others to become a candidate myself. That was 1986. I had known Walt, and, very early on, as I visited “people of influence” in my “Rozzie” neighborhood seeking support, before I actually made a decision to run, I knocked on his door. (He was, in fact, my first such visit.) Walt was a Democratic activist. He knew that I was a Republican. So he asked me : “what is your opinion of the prevailing wage law ?”

For those who don’t know, the Prevailing Wage law, also known as the Pacheco Law, requires that on all State-funded contracts, the contractor pay his workers, whether they are union members or not, the same hourly amount that prevails in union-labor contracts. It wasn’t a law that I had thought much about and wasn’t something that I had planned to base my candidacy upon. So I didn’t answer Walter right away. But I knew a lot of ironworkers well, and I knew that they spent their big paychecks and thus brought a lot of prosperity to a lot of businesses. So an answer came to me :

“You know what, Walter ? I don’t see how taking money out of the pockets of workers helps the economy.”

Walter shook my hand, a handshake of solidarity.

Well, that was then. A generation has passed; and the answer that I came up with that afternoon opened the door for me to understanding how a democratic economy works — and should work ; it begins with the customer.

1.The less customers a business has, the less it prospers.

2.The less that a person earns (or receives by way of public assistance if that he needs), the less of a customer he can be.

3.An economic policy that impedes worthwhile money from accruing to most people defeats itself.  This axiom is one big reason why I support the welcoming immigration policy that until the past 90 years or so was America’s boon. Every immigrant is a potential customer and this grows the economy. This same axiom is why I support Massachusetts’s impending minimum wage hike. The more that workers earn, the more they can spend.

Quite frankly, the above is my ENTIRE economic policy. All else is commentary and implementation.

One hears the political Right talk about businesses being “job creators.” But businesses CANNOT create ANY jobs unless there are customers for its products or services. The more customers, the more jobs. Angel investors for start-up businesses want to know, first of all, who and how large will be the “market” — i.e., the customers — for that start-up’s offerings. No “angel investor” I have ever presented to requires the business plan to pay workers so little that they need public assistance to make ends met. Just the opposite ; angel investors want the start-up’s workers paid enough that they will stay, not leave, and thus (1) see the venture through to success and (2) avoid the huge costs, in money and time, of hiring and training replacements. I also know no “angel” investor who doesn’t want a start-up’s workers to not have paid sick time. Angel investors know that life is hard enough; a start-up shouldn’t make things harder for its workers than they already are.

Just who, then, does the political right speak for as it pursues “job creator” corporate tax breaks and opposes both workers’ wage hikes and the social safety net ? It doesn’t speak for workers, obviously, and it doesn’t speak for venture capitalists or the management of smart businesses. So who then ?

Speculators figure prominently among those who push this destructive agenda. Stock market funds often push publicly owned companies to cut back everything and anything in search of maximum immediate buy and sell gains. For the sake of purely paper windfalls these money poolers would trouble every other interest in our society. Unhappily, these money pools have drawn to them more and more money that, instead of investing in economic innovation, which bears vast risk and takes long time to accrue, seek sharp-fingered quickie hits; arbitrage — the most economically useless item in the entire money picture.

Even the money-lender has his place in an economy. Yes, he seeks interest on his money and does no work to earn it other than to have it to lend. But the money lender knows that if the borrower doesn’t prosper, he won’t get paid back. Yes, the lender may, if not paid back, claim the borrower’s assets as security; but no money lender wants those assets; he wants his interest and he wants his principal repaid.

For the stock trader, however — the arbitrageur — it;s just the opposoite,. He DOEs wnat that asset. He buys it at current value and dumps it at whatever higher value he can squeeze out of it by whatever means and as soon as possible, even if it means destroying the business and laying off its workers. This is what Bain Capital did, famously, during Mitt Romney’s partnership there and was a major reason why his candidacy for senator in 1994 earned the enmity of a majority of voters.

Not all stock buyers and hedge funders pursue a strategy of profit by desruction. Many investors buy in or the long term — and the huge success of a long term investment, wisely chosen, says all that needs be said : look at Warren Buffett, who has become a multi- billionaire by buying and holding, forever it seems, well chosen businesses whose management he supports and whose growth — in the classic economic manner I have outlined — he encourages. But for every dollar invested with the Warren Buffett sort of investor, 1000 dollars are invested these days with swift destroyers.

It is difficult to conceive legislation that will curb the economics of profit through destruction, that will not also limit the free movement of capital to positive purposes. But we are not helpless as a society to limit the impact of arbitrage money. We can impose a strong societal disapproval upon those who would profit by hurting all who stand in profit’s way. We can continue to angel-fund innovation businesses and support their entrepreneurs — and approve them socially too, social approval being one of a society’s strongest ways of policing good works and bads. At the same time, we can make it quite clear that he who would take money out of the pockets of workers lies beyond the pale of approval.

You don’t have to be a Wal-mart. You can be a Costco. It is an outrage that we allow low-wage employers to leave their staff no choice but to need taxpayer dollars in order to make ends meet. It’s also a no-growth policy, maybe even a recession policy. It is stupid. And immoral.

So how do we fight this stupidity ? Simple. It really does start with the question that Walt Michalik asked of me on a February afternoon 27 years ago.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ working with Democrats when that’s what gets the job done : Chris Christie with New Jersey’s new senator, Cory Booker

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Right now, watching Governor Chris Christie rise to the top in New Jersey, winning re-election with 60 % of the vote, I have to pinch myself to remember that he is a Republican. By which I mean, a Republican of now. 30, 50, 60 years ago there were many Republicans with an agenda like Christie’s. His entire stance is that of an insurgent; an optimist; “getting the job done for people.” Yes, his rhetoric sometimes sounds like recent GOP talk, and he’s a bit of a social conservative — but so are many ethnic city Democrats — yet on the ground he is a man who works with whoever he needs to work with to get progress done.

Christie’s talk, stance, and method are those of Fiorello LaGuardia — a fellow Sicilian and northeastern Republican — who, coincidentally, looked a lot like Christie. Stubby, chubby, full-faced. The GOP hasn’t seen someone who looks and talks like Christie in maybe that many decades.

Like LaGuardia and his fellow Progressives, Christie doesn’t suffer fools. He calls out the House GOP and Ted Cruz nonsense in Washington — as it needs to be called out. At times he sounds as though he were running AGAINST the Republican party rather than with it. Of course the Tea folks are running against the Republican party as well; but they are running against it for trying to govern; Christie runs against the party for REFUSING to govern. A huge difference.

You might expect that a man so out of phase with what we have come to think of as the modern GOP would be a fringe character in its 2016 Presidential nomination, but you would be wrong. Christie currently leads the field in almost every poll, and he polls significantly better against potential Democratic nominees than any of his rivals. No, he is not the candidate of GOP think tanks, of planners of principle, of testers of litmus. He does not think the Democratic party treasonous, socialist, or contemptible. The right wing charlatans of entertainment demagoguery hate him — a hate which he sees, rightly, as an asset for him. He’s about as unlike a pastor of bigotry as it’s possible to be. He has no patience for those who would tell people how to live their lives. He doesn’t think poor people are lazy, homeless people useless, gay people damned. He doesn’t think that you need an ID to vote and if you don’t have one, you’re committing vote fraud. He doesn’t sling the word “patriot” around like a vomit grenade, doesn’t fart about 1776, doesn’t throw shoes at undocumented immigrants.

Yet he is a Republican. Of now. And not JUST a Republican; maybe, just maybe, he is THE Republican. His surge to the top of most polls tells me that the Republican electorate, if not yet its crowd-fund queen bees, has moved on from bitterness, contempt, ignorance; from vileness of all sorts; that the Republican electorate actually wants its leader to be ABOUT something; to want to “get the job done for people.”

There are signs aplenty that such is the case. Tea folk are losing primaries : in Alabama and in Louisiana, no less. Anti-Tea money is coming into the picture big-time. The GOP national committee is moving to make primaries the method of choosing an ominee, not caucuses. So far the change hasn’t nicked the House GOP much at all; but in the Senate the push back to normality has been huge, and lasting. Today the Senate’s Republiacn caucus can often be counted on to “get things done for the people.” (And let us give credit here to John McCain, who has had maybe his best and certainly most influential Senate year in his long career there.)

In New Jersey, Christie has formed alliances with whichever Democratic legislators and interests he needed to ally with in order to move his State’s agendas forward. He has done so even in preference, at times, to members of his own party Famously, this week he decided not to support Tom Kean, Jr., an influential Republican state senator and son of New Jersey’s revered former Governor Thomas Kean, Sr., as Senate President: because that was what the state senate’s Democratic leader, Steve Sweeney, insisted upon. Sweeney and Christie have frequently worked together on New Jersey legislation. the combination continues.

It would surprise me if this “get the job done for people” mantra did not pretty soon become the top theme for a party that has all but abased itself to the point of no return. In politics, the great thing about points of no return is that, return is then the ONLY option. Thus the move to Chris Christie, the man who embraced President Obama when it made a huge point and who still embraces him, with respect to the rocky rollout of Obamacare. Why ? Because he sees a President who is trying to “get the job done for the American people.”

Just as he, chris Christie, promises to do. Not a bad promise at all for ANY serious politician to make to the American people.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ collecting signatures : in huge amounts, too, to do the right thing

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Yesterday, a group of activists known as RaiseUpMass announced that they had gathered 275,828 (!) signatures on petitions to place on Massachusetts’s 2014 ballot a referendum hiking our state’s minimum wage to $ 11.00 an hour. The pay rise would take place in stages, achieving the $ 11.00 level by 2016.

We strongly support the proposal. We will advocate a Yes vote all the way until election day. RaiseUpMass says that more voter signatures than the already awesome total are arriving at its headquarters. We like this.

For far too long, workers in low-skill and service jobs have seen their take home pay stand pat, or increase by measly amounts and then only after years of service. So low is the pay of many thousands of workers that they and their families need EBT, section 8 housing certificates, food stamps and the like in order simply to survive. These aids paid for by taxpayers — who thus find their tax dollars subsidizing the low-wage policies of low-pay businesses. Why should taxpayers have to do this ? And, given the current climate in which some Massachusetts legislators seek votes by demonizing the poor, why should low-wage workers have to beg taxpayers for survival money ? Life is hard enough for low-wage workers without having to worry which vital assistance program upon which they depend will be cut next week.

Let us say it clearly : no full-time worker should ever have to need public assistance just to make basic ends meet.

The rise to $ 11.00 is not enough. That it will take three years to reach that figure is not good. Still, passage of this pay hike law gives low-wage workers assurance that their continued hard work will we rewarded somewhat. We can hope that the Legislature enact legislation filed by State Rep. Denise Provost of Somerville : it calls for a rise to $12.50 an hour by 2016. At that figure, a full-time low-wage worker would earn $ 500 a week, $ 26,000.00 a year. A family with two such workers would then earn enough to enter the discretionary spending market. Consumers’ discretionary spending is what really boosts the economy. Survival spending — for food, rent, utilities, and clothes — matters, but discretionary spending — for cell phones, cable television, a car, summer camp for the kids, day care, maybe even a movie or a restaurant — pumps the economy much more. Getting as many people as possible into the growth economy should be a vital policy goal. Enacting a $ 12.50 wage will get us there.

The American economy faces no threat graver than huge income inequality. How can an economy grow best if less and less people can participate in it except on the margins ? The top one percent of earners have taken lots of lumps lately for the gross hugeness of their pay checks, but they seldom get nailed for the worst consequence thereof : that multi-million-dollar incomes simply CANNOT be spent. Even the most expensive food, homes, cars, and vacations only cost so much. All the rest of these multi-million pay checks gets shoveled into hedge and private equity funds, where the money simply rolls over from one paper investment vehicle to the next in search of arbitrage. It is money TAKEN OUT OF the real economy. It stunts economic growth.

Investment money that invests only in paper self-defeats. Investment money should invest in businesses; innovation; real people doing real things. A lot of investment money does do that, but nowhere near enough.

Because investment multi-millions, left to themselves, simply attract to them more and more of the money that should be funding the economy, legislation must set at least a bottom limit on how much of the economy’s money excess earnings can take. A reasonably capitalist economy cannot, and should not, legislate pay equality. But we can, and should, legislate a minimum pay sufficient to free full-time workers from needing taxpayer dollars.

So be it.

Lastly, we reject the arguments of those who oppose minimum wage legislation. They adduce that raising the minimum wage will stifle employment of teens. Well ? We like teenagers as much as anyone. we approve of their wanting to work. but the first obligation of our society’s economy is to families — to adult, full-time wage earners. Scant wages earned by teenagers won’t do anybody any good if they come at the expense of mothers, fathers, uncles and aunts who can’t make ends meet without public assistance that can be cut any time “welfare reform” politicians decide to throw poison darts at it.

As for businesses that complain that higher work pay will force them to close or lay off workers, we repeat what Boston mayor candidate John Barros said at a Forum : “If you can’t afford to pay your workers fairly you can’t afford to open a business.” Another way of saying this is, “you don’t like unions ? You don’t fancy the intimidation and violence that often accompany job actions ? Then don’t force workers to go that route in order to get decently paid !”

We’ll say it again: vote “yes” on this referendum !

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

PS : while we’re at it, yes : we also support paid sick leave.


photo (7)

^ Mel King : says that his endorsement was prompted by the “young adults” of Right to the City,” whom he “encouraged to do this analysis” of “its questionnaire to both candidates.”

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A letter from Mel King in today’s Boston Globe prompts me to write a column about Marty Walsh’s impending Mayoralty that I was already thinking about. In his letter, King — the Grand Old man of street-theater activism, decades before Occupy — says :

“A group called Right To the City, composed of various organizations working on access to affordable housing, good jobs, quality education, and sustainable community development, seeks to enable a cross section of racial, ethic, and income groups to remain and participate in all aspects of Boston.’

The letter continues : “The group’s members, a new rainbow coalition, are in the forefront of such issues as foreclosure blockades to protect people’s homes, stopping no-fault tenant evictions, and fighting alongside unions for construction jobs.”

This letter fascinates me. It raises all sorts of questions :

1.The second quote sums up the organization City Life/Vida Urbana, of which Steve Meacham, a man very close to both Felix Arroyo’s, is the justly respected spokesperson. Vida Urbana does all but one (that, see below) of the things cited in that quote. Yet in the Primary, when it most mattered, King did not back Felix G. Arroyo. He was closest to Charles Clemons, a man of almost Republican economic views, and to Clemons’s major supporters — all of whom ended up supporting John Connolly.

2.The first quote mentions affordable housing initiatives as one of Right To the City’s priorities. Did King not know — does he not YET know ? — that one of John Connolly’s primary endorsers, State Representative Jay Livingstone, filed and shepherded a $ 1.4 billion affordable housing bond bill that Governor Patrick signed into law just last week ? Later in his letter King says that “the group felt that Walsh was more responsive to its concerns.” Not true of the affordable housing issue.

3.King then says, “Having encouraged these young adults to do this analysis, I joined with them.” King then talks about watching Walsh, at several rallies : “I saw evidence of ways Walsh’s campaign included people.” True enough; but did King not manage to see a few of John Connolly’s rallies ? If not, why not ? It would be fascinating to know what inclusion King did NOT see at the Connolly rallies.

These questions merit answering. Can I start with the one thing, in King’s quote, that City Life does NOT do :  “…fighting alongside unions for construction jobs” ?

These seven words express the reason why King finally joined a group comprised chiefly of Felix G. Arroyo people, to endorse a man about whom this most original of Boston citizens had nothing original to say…

Construction jobs and unions were Walsh’s cliche. The Construction Chief’s campaign piled forty stories of Mayor-initiative atop that cliche, space well built and beautifully appointed by 600 architects of policy hired for the job. The cliche is what King clings to.

Time is coming soon now when that policy building will have to be built. Will it be ? CAN it be ?

Walsh is hemmed in by his union support even more than he is empowered by it. If he favors his unions supporters too obviously, he will hand a perfect “See ? we told you so” issue to a 2017 opponent. If he cracks at the next City union contract crunch time… or, if he pushes back against the City unions, as he did against the school bus drivers… If he proceeds with the infamous House Bill 2467…or if that bill is never heard from again : whichever way Walsh chooses, either the opposition will gain or his supporters will complain. Which is it to be ?

Implementing even a fraction of the 40 policy initiatives that his campaign crafted and published will require intricate management. Compromise and collaboration won’t suffice. Every one of Walsh’s policy proposals shifts the job descriptions of those who will have to carry them out. City employees, like union workers, resist work rule changes. gho will assure that the city employees tasked to carry out Walsh’s initiatives will comply ? Will feel enthusiastic about it ?

Enter, perhaps, some of those business, university, and Union partnerships that Walsh talked of during the campaign.

And then comes the Boston Public Schools, which, according to State evaluation, appear able to educate properly barely half their students.

Easier for Walsh will be what he is already masterful at, with long partnerships in place : continuing the Boston building boom. And ramping it up. The Building trades people and the developers who accord them a living can expect to work the BRA a lot more invitingly than they did under Mayor Menino. City hall plaza — a good idea, if rather impracticable — and hotels galore, new school buildings, Downtown Crossing, Dudley Square, Jackson Square — and more. The next few years will surely be a field day for Boston construction. Probably, also, for workers from the City’s communities of color, whose entry into the Building trades Walsh has long sought, with less success than he would like.

This is one deal that Walsh can definitely close.

It seems, however, that Walsh and his team want to say and do everything they can to distract the voters’ attention from this deal. The Walsh Mayoralty, in their talk and print, puts on an ear-ful of masquerade. Is there a reason why the Walsh team so gilds their developer-deal lily ? Certainly it’s not that building trades jobs are a bad thing. They’re very much a good thing. Then what IS it that they are cos-playing about ? Do I sense a price tag dressed in domino in the background ? (Yes, I am thinking Venice here — an echo only, since we won’t be getting a Venetian casino, sigh.) Perhaps when we find out who the “One Boston PAC” is — the half-million bucks that Joce Hutt is harlequin-ing for — we’ll find out who is carnivalling in Walsh’s political pasquinade.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ full tilt train trip into the mystic : Victor Calderone at Bijou last night

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There were two distinct parts to Victor Calderone’s masterful set dropped on a full dance floor at Bijou last night : the absolute certainty of classic train-trip R & B, and the limitless fantastical of an escapist movie soundtrack. Calderone laid down the law of train trip sure enough to carry an entire matrix of escapist sounds. Everybody got on board — his train-trip beats sounded huge, magnetic, commanding — and once on board, found all their imaginables piqued, tickled, salivated, gravy-ed.

Rarely have I seen a DJ dominate a mix board as relentlessly as Calderone last night. Deploying one channel or two, even three at a time, he left hardly any bars of sound as-is. He whittled, blended, jumped, stuttered, progressed all of his tracks — including such feasts of abstraction as “into the Void,” “Shame Cube,’ “Break It,’ and the ultimate “The Journey Begins,” inviting the dancers to conceive all manner of spirit-physical selfies. Bottom rhythms purred gigantically; streak-ies of all sorts arose; tickle percussion — his signature — made a few appearances; and echo effects painted it all in a  glow and a shimmer that made one want to sing.

The music delivered all of it to the dancers, clothed their bodies from head to toe in space beckoning dream-scapes, with such force and conviction that every person in the room delivered body and soul to Calderone, to whatever chug, choogle, boom, and bomp, prickle and whimsy he had ready. And he had plenty.

We do not live in a vacuum but in heavy air — the gas of history afoot — and that Calderone’s mix-board work and sound progressions balanced freedom and control — opposites in the world we move in — mirrored what is going on, politically, in the arena of events. There, freedom bitterly fights against control freaks, and control robots push back against freedoms. Only if the center holds does it meld rather than fracture as anarchy. In the policy ring that center is our government; at Bijou it was the DJ. Few dancers may have noticed the analogy between government and Calderone, but by consenting to his DJ rigor and dominance, they reaped the fruits of emotional and, dare I say, spiritual liberty.

Calderone’s sound this time was quite different from the sexy-sensual, magic carpet rides of vroom and tickle, reverb and murmur that were his signature for many years. I found myself surprised — but not disappointed at all. If no longer the “Superflyin’,” “Boarding Pass”  love maker, Calderone was yet a very effective suitor. It proved impossible to resist his consensual imagination inviting a room full of digital people to a feast of danced innovation.


^ opening the door : Brunno Santos

The opening two-hour set was delivered by one of Boston’s most accomplished DJs, Brunno Santos, himself an avatar of sonic abstraction riding prerequisite train tracks. His set had all the hugeness and blue funk of Calderone’s, graciously leading to the Master’s huge up-steps.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music



^ Pressing the flesh and speaking : Charlie Baker at the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast this morning

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How quickly things change in politics ! Two weeks ago, as the GOP-induced government shut down ended, Charlie Baker, as the Republican candidate for Governor, looked poisoned. Today, as the President finds that his managerial failings have tanked the people’s trust and imperiled his signature legislation, the ACA, Baker as the Republican looks almost anointed. It’s Baker’s hour. All that he has to do now is not flub the moment.

So what do I, Coach Michael, suggest of his star receiver ? Just this :

1.Baker made his all-pro status as an excellent manager. precisely what President Obama is not.. Almost as exactly what Governor Patrick also has not been. The contrast shouts itself.

2.In a state like Massachusetts, heavy with institutions and even weightier with institutional government collaboration, being an excellent manager matters tremendously.

3.None of the Democratic candidates for Governor except Steve Grossman comes even close to Baker’s mastery of institutional management.

4.Managerial competence may be a dry theme, a calorie-free kind of Diet Coke, but with managerial failing so luridly splayed across the Washington wide screen, the story achieves epic dimensions. Being competent, we see, does matter — Odysseus, not Achilles.

Charlie Baker must run as the Manager in Chief.

It makes sense within the Republican context too. The GOP even in “forward” Massachusetts has been flayed by theorists, whipped by negativity, bent to the purposes of anti-tax mind block, extorted by gun zealots, roasted by social-issue regressives. to the point that we have almost forgotten that in Massachusetts for the past 60 years at least, “Republican” meant civil rights, social justice, big projects, and benefits for all. The record, in that context, from John Volpe and Frank Sargent to Bill Weld, Paul Cellucci and, yes, even Mitt Romney stands ; but has been obscured, if not overwritten, by recent GOP “party of no.” But the GOP is a palimpsest, not an eraser board; and the Republican past is there, in full cry, once we scrape away the negative overlay. As the Master Manager, Baker scrapes away the “no” and substitutes a “yes.”

And there is, in Massachusetts state governance, much to be managed. i cite the following challenges :

1.the vast transportation improvements for which money was approved, contentiously, this year.

2.the 1.4 billion affordable housing bond that St. Rep. Jay Livingstone shepherded through to passage this week.

3.public school transformation, which became almost a defining issue in the Boston Mayor election

4.establishing innovation Districts, in Roxbury, Hyde Park, and probably Central Massachusetts, similar to Boston’ Innovation District already working.

5.assuring immigrants in Massachusetts that they’ll be welcomed into the community — and thus the economy — rather than harrassed out of it.

So the question is, “will Charlie Baker run as the Master Manager ?” Or, “Has Baker sufficient rigor to steer clear of recent Republican apoplexies ? The discipline to not get deflected, even once, throughout an entire campaign ?” The personality to stray positive, to be Mr. good Guy always ? If so, he will very likely be Massachusetts’s next Governor.

That said, Baker’s potential Democratic opponents are not sitting on their duffs. Juliette Kayyem is barnstorming the entire state, talking to Democratic activists — and drawing significant numbers of them to hear her pitch. Donald Berwick is doing the same : drawing less numbers, but making a distinctive, and very moving case, for the Governor as moral leader, the voice of “do the right thing.” In contrast Steve Grossman is proceeding more matter-of-factly, but raising the most money; and Martha Coakley — the common wisdom’s front runner — is presenting herself on big stages, the candidate of institutional presence. (This seems to me not at all a wise strategy. Voters even in institutional Massachusetts don’t readily cozy up to candidates garbed luxuriously in ceremony.) Then there’s Joseph Avellone, an affable and intelligent guy, successful in medicine and business, but very underfunded and quite — so far — the underdog even among underdogs.

The Democrats will choose their candidate at a party convention, whence a candidate must draw 15 % of the delegates’ votes in order to have his or her name appear on the Primary ballot. (A candidate can also get to that ballot by submitting 10,000 valid voter signatures.) My guess is that none of the five has anything close to a majority, and that at least three and possibly four, will make it to that ballot. All the more reason for Baker to run as the master manager and not get squeezed into this or that policy crevasse.

Baker’s easiest opponent to beat ? Martha Coakley.
His toughest to beat ? Probably Juliette Kayyem
His most down-to-the-wire closest fight ? Steve Grossman.

But wouldn’t be fun were the voters of Massachusetts to have the choice of Charlie Baker and Don Berwick ? So far, as I see it, that’s the best outcome for voters who put high-minded state reform first on their civic agenda.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere