^ celebration, shine, and optimism : Veronica Robles and friends at El Planeta newspaper’s Power Meter 100 party last night

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Nothing in today’s cascade of negativity repels me more than the assault on immigrants. So strong is this assault that it has generated an entire Presidential campaign: that of Donald Trump, whose candidacy would not even exist, much less arrive at the GOP nomination, were it not for hatred of immigrants. Like Trump votes, the assault on immigrants rears almost everywhere. I see it even in East Boston, our city’s premier immigrant neighborhood. But it has always lurked, and often erupted, inexplicably in the nation whose very meaning is “immigrants.”

Why assaults upon immigrants and immigration occur, I can not answer. There seem to be dozens of reasons. Which of them — jobs, language, “they don’t look like us,” religion, etc., or the latest outcry, :”they’re illegal !” — weighs most heavily, I have scant idea. Yet I hear them all. I always respond to posts of immigration hate. I feel a duty to do it : my own ancestors were immigrants, as were yours. An attack on immigration is an attack on YOU.

I first responded, years ago, by quoting Emma Lazarus’s poem engraved on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal : the one that talks about “send me your poor, your hungry, your tired, etc., yearning to be free.” Today, every supporter of immigration quotes that poem. We should quote it. Is not the Statue of Liberty an icon of patriotism ? As much so as the flag that people drape their facebook profile photos in ? As much as The Constitution which is so often pictured, especially by people who haven’t the vaguest idea of what the Constitution is about and who, in most of their politics, oppose much of it ? I say the Statue of Liberty is the FIRST of American icons, because for over 120 years it has been the first image that most arriving people have had of the nation they have come to be part of.

True it is, that today, more people come to join us by way of the Rio Grande River valley, and the southwest’s desert, than by the Statue on Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Yet I venture that most of these, too, have the Statue’s image in their minds and hearts even if they do not the actual sculpture as they arrive. And this, they should have, because everyone who arrives in America of good will arrives to seek the better life the Statue of Liberty symbolizes.

Those who come here — who leave everything behind and, often, risk their lives to come to America do so because they believe the future will be better. They are optimists. America always was an optimistic nation; most of it still is. That optimism is the sum total of immigrants’ souls and hearts. It is the immigrant spirit in action. When Ronald Reagan, the greatest optimist of all, spoke of “America’s best days lie ahead” or “It is morning in America,” he spoke what immigrants say and so spoke for almost all of us.

To rail against immigrants, as Donald Trump does, is to rail against the nation itself. The negativity of it turns American optimism inside out : is our nation headed for disaster ? For the dustbin ? That is what opponents of immigration tell us. Some of them say it explicitly; all believe it. I have no idea why they believe it. In immigrant communities I see dynamism, invention, enterprise; I see celebration; I hear music; I feel excitement. How else can a man or woman get up at four in the morning and take a 4:45 AM bus to work, to clean toilets and empty dirty laundry hampers, in office buildings and hospitals ? To work in restaurant kitchens and as busboys; to stand outdoors on a winter day waiting to be hired for day labor ? To clean airplanes at Logan Airport ?

The immigrants who I see and hear go to these dirty, messy, sloppy jobs, or stand in the cold for hours on end, seemingly without complaint. Yet I hear anti-immigrant people say that immigration was all right 100 years ago, because there was no welfare state, but now immigration is not OK because … welfare. Where does that notion come from ? I hear it despite the unavailability of any form of welfare to people without papers or a state-issued ID. As for immigrants who have documents, if they work for $ 10/hour in a city where apartment rents run at least $ 1,600 per month, why shouldn’t they receive public assistance in order to survive ?

Those who decry welfare assistance for low-wage earning immigrants miss the point. Today’s struggling immigrant is tomorrow’s successful skilled worker and is the parent of an entrepreneur. (Immigrants start more — many more — businesses than native-borns.) We should invest some of our dollars in them !

Immigrants renew our communities and, with their languages and cultures, broaden the national menu of choices for how to live. Innovation is peculiarly an American practice ? If it is, it is so because we are immigrants.

Too many of us who were born in America, to American-born parents, have lost our way or become tired, or disillusioned, because the struggle to get ahead is to difficult in an unforgiving economy. This is real, and it exists, and we exist in it. But to give up — to turn on one another, as the Trump voters have, is no answer. You can’t give up. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going:” is a cliche, perhaps, but cliches are usually true. You can’t give up, and you can’t view your neighbor as an enemy. He or she is much more likely a friend. Especially so if he or she is an immigrant, documented or not.

We who were born here, of ancestors born here, should learn to be more like our immigrant neighbors than they should become like us. Our community, city, state and nation would be much the better for it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Today - Season 62

^ ^ con game on the intreret : Sarah Palin has a ride she wants to sell you. Don’t get aboard.

As anyone reading this article surely knows, the creation of an online world of voices and noises has brought all manner of personal illusions and gripes to the fore. Whereas before the internet most of said noises were edited out, so that they never reached beyond the personal space of those who harbored them, today “personal space” ha s become public space. Thus we find ourselves invaded by locusts and wasps, cockroaches of absurdity, rodents of the false. It would be nice to9 hire a kind of cleaning lady, to dust away online’s dirt, but none is coming to your kitchen or to mine. We have to live with smells foul, sights ugly.

Which does not mean we have to stand for it. In particular, we cannot abide cockroach politics. The Republican nominee for President uses cockroach politics to turn people’s heads : we should turn his head away. He insults everyone; we should refuse to hear it. On facebook, when putridity is posted, hide it; block it; report it. When supporters of the cockroach post kaka, block them. You don’t need to read insult, look at accusation, listen to snot.

The very few — very, very few — who insist on placing toilet bowls on your brain can seem many times more numerous than they are when seen in online code print. Do not fall for it. It is true that when one person takes a dump, 1o0 people can smell it. But that does not mean that 100 people are dumping. Do not be fooled by the foul.

In the real world, where everyone has one vote and one vote only; where every life has equal life in it; where each of us decides what to do and how and when to do it — in this,. the real world, not the online facsimile of it, all of us determine what will happen : the noisy and the quiet; the stink bomb and the essence of lilac. Each of us, we all count.

One person may arrogate to himself, by kidnapping your attention, temporarily the lives of many; but it is kidnapping nonetheless. D o not let it happen to you. The rise of talk show entertainment, in which talk hosts say the most outrageous things they can, to get attention and this advertising dollars, have made exaggeration commonplace. They lie because it sells. They are hucksters merely, and so are the new bred of fake politicians who use the talk show shtick to yank your attention out of your control and into theirs. Do not let them do it.

This year’s election will not be decided by scoundrels and kidnappers. Stink will not win it, nor dumps. Most of us want to do the right thing. Most voters want to vote for the best candidate. There are at least 150,000,000 voters; how many of them are online on any day ? Any week ? Any month ? Maybe a third of them, likely less. The published polls make clear that even the most interruptive loudness barely affects most voters. As it should be.

If I may, I want to assure all of you, dear readers, that the candidate who best represents, voices, and details progress for our nation will win our votes. I fully expect her to be Hillary Clinton, who is so reviled in the talk universe because she is so accomplished and so feared by those who feel threatened by change, by progress. Mrs. Clinton is far from a perfect human being — but are we any more perfect, in our lives of stuff-happens ? We do the best we can with what we have to do it. So, for the most part, has she. Those who find Mrs. Clinton “unacceptable” need to ask : who, then, Is acceptable ? Surely not the vulgarian, her branding iron opponent.

Soon enough we will understand that what is said online tends to hyperbole, away from fact. Hyberbole is exciting, fact is boring. That’s why insult and vilification turn our heads while facts feed us a sleeping pill. What of it ? Let government be boring as it does the jobs we ask of it. Loud noise is but a grown up’s temper tantrum,. a cry from the sandbox : “I WANT MY MARBLES !” Sorry — democracy is not established to serve the whims of crybabies. Someday those of us who have fallen for cry-baby politics will realize that we’ve been cheapened, cheated, chowdered.

Do not fall for the hot pot. Lukewarm is far healthier. In politics as in pot roast.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Governor Baker : no vote for Donald Trump, no vote for Hillary Clinton

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Three days ago, Governor Baker made his election 2016 decision : he will not vote for Donald Trump nor for Hillary Clinton. We think this the right decision for him to make.

Baker was elected to set Massachusetts state administration right and to chart a new course, of fiscal discipline and effective service. At least 78 percent of his winning 48.5 came fro m voters who are not Republican. These voters did not elect Baker to be a Republican ideologue. They elected him to do the job he is now doing, a job that serves everybody. Injecting himself into a contentious national election can serve no good purpose for him or for us.

Trump partisans don’t like it at all. The comments on facebook run from angry to downright nasty. But a new WBUR/WNEU poll makes clear that Trump partisans are few in Massachusetts. Trump’s favorable-unfavorable numbers stand at 18 / 75 — the exact opposite of Baker’s — and are, says the pollsters, the worst they have ever polled for anyone. Trump rates unfavorable even to Massachusetts Republicans : 51 percent don’t like him. Why should the hugely popular Baker step into this disaster ?

As for Hillary Clinton, what has a Baker vote to offer her ? She will carry Massachusetts by 30 to 38 points, according to recent polls. Baker’s not voting for Clinton costs her nothing, but it does carry out the old political saying, “if you can’t be with me, be neutral.”

Along with his decision to stay neutral in the presidential race, Baker is being critiqued, a bit, because so few GOP candidates are seeking legislative seats this time. Of course Republican activists want to see legislative races contested; but if Trump does in fact lose Massachusetts by 30 points or more, the party will have its hands full trying to avoid losing many of the 34 House and five Senate seats it now holds. Better by far to “hold fire” and go all in next time, when the popular Baker will be up for re-election.

That said, the GOP in Massachusetts simply is not attuned to winning legislative elections except in very Republican-voting areas, which in our state are few. For at least 26 years the Massachusetts GOP has been a “Governor GOP,” great at electing Governors only. The structural and political reasons why this exists are many, and i have written about them at length in these pages. Suffice this time to remind readers that ( 1 ) a Governor has to work with our powerful, overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. He can’t very well work with them while at the same time working to defeat them and ( 2 ) the voters of Massachusetts — 53 percent belong to NO party — don’t care much whether their legislature is Democratic or Republican; they care that it get good things done.

These are the facts. Our state has a politics very different from the politics of every other state. The federal structure of our nation gives Massachusetts full power to go our own way thus. Let us be glad of it. Partisanship has damaged the civic life of many states; partisan agendas have injured many of their citizens. Be glad that our Massachusetts steers very clear of that tempest.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere






^ for the all the Republican-destroying drama of Donald Trump, the Democratic party is the glue that binds the nation’s politics; and it is holding on almost quite well

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Many will want to disagree with our headline. To most GOP leaders, and to many other activist Americans, the conquest of the Republican party by a storm of angry, blatant people who detest our government wreaks cataclysm on one of our two great parties. And they are right : for the GOP, the certain nomination of Donald Trump — John Kasich having quit his campaign just now — means the end of 160 years of well-intentioned reform. The Democratic party, however, remains more or less intact; and for the most part, since 1933, it, not the GOP,m has been the political glue holding the nation together.

The Republican party has almost always been smaller than its opponent. Only the Democrats’ fatal split allowed the GOP to win in 1860; only the secession of eleven states allowed his re-election. As soon as Reconstruction ended, the Democrats became competitive and often won national elections. By 1933 they began a streak of dominance broken only by Dwight Eisenhower and then Ronald Reagan and two Bush presidencies.Even now, with the entire South inside the Republican party, the Democrats control the Electoral college and the demographics; and their control will almost certainly increase. As a result, the collapse of GOP ideology and candidates these past few months has poignancy but not portent. A different opponent than before faces 2016’s Democratic party, but it is hardly a party at all (more a tribe), much less with larger reach.

Trump’s assault upon the GOP’s apparatus, principles, and leaders was not pretty. War never is. He meant to destroy, and he was able to because he had 100 percent name recognition at the outset and an identifiable identity as a heartless taskmaster; and because his vulgar bigotry and insecure bluster matches the traits of a whole host of voters who have, for many years now, felt themselves ignored, disrespected, shafted by those they had expected to lead them. It has always been true that there are far more American voters with small incomes, few prospects, and tainted manners than the opposite; anyone who campaigns a lot sees this. America is not a nation of sophisticates, of smooth professionals and educated reformers. These exist, and wield plenty of influence when they can; but they are way outnumbered by the “most people,” who, 110  years ago, Henry Thoreau said “lead lives of quiet desperation.”

To our politics, Trump is far from unique. In the 1930s vulgar demagogues abounded : think Huey Long, Gerald L. K. Smith, Charles Coughlin. Joe MCCarthy dirtied reputations in the early 1950s. Left wing demagogues helped lose us the war in Vietnam; George Wallace growled segregation and more segregation. Yet these — except for McCarthy at the end of his run –had to deal with a Democratic President, whose party power overtopped theirs. It is different with Trump;. He has savaged the GOP, but the GOP has been, since 2006 at the latest, a fragile party pillared by researchers, tycoons, and theorists : hardly a representative cross section of all America.

The party that Trump has sharked hasn’t much meat on it to sate his hunger. It is home to almost no Blacks, not many Hispanics, few LGBT people, not many Asians. Most Republicans are 50 years old — many much older than that — and overwhelmingly male.  This is not an amazing find. Every observer sees it. The point is that GOP voters exclude almost everyone not compliant to their self-identification. The Republican party is one of dog whistles in every sentence spoken : we are white, we are straight, we are traditionalists, we are Bible readers, etc. This, at least, is what they say.

The GOP has always been a top down, hierarchical party : bosses and workers, ever since the Civil War days. It worked, because America followed its bosses back when Americans believed in the future. Now America despises its bosses : whatever the leaders want must perforce be bad, or a con, or both. Enter Trump, a boss who talks like a worker and has a worker’s gross manners and his ugly resentments, a boss not afraid to toss shade at whomever, where and whenever.

Fortunately for America’s peace, the bottom-up vengeance sought by Trump voters seem vastly outnumbered by those who still follow the Democratic party, still have faith in the future because it is essential Democratic practice to involve its average voters in the mechanism. The current insurgency of Bernie sanders, even at its most abrasive, stops short of excommunicating Hillary voters as some sort of evil turncoat.

The failure of the GOP portends an almost complete makeover, to which end, it needs a big time-out from this election. There will be terrifying ugliness from Trump and his bitter supporters, but the collapse of America is not coming to a shopping mall near you any time soon. The transition from President Obama to Hillary Clinton may not run as smooth as idealists might like; for the two have large style and policy differences; but these irritations mean very little in the long term or to the direction of policy. The drama and noise on the Republican side is distressing to its activists, no doubt, as it should be; we oursewlves would have liked to see John Kasich have a go at the Presidency. But our disappointment is not the end of things. The Democratic party, swayed somewhat by Senator Sanders, maintains its balance and keeps its eye on the sparrow. The nation will go on, as we know it, holding course with a Democratic helmsman locked onto the future.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ again, our City fails its test : IndyCar is going to Providence instead

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For the second time in less than a year, a big entertainment has been ki-boshed in Boston. We will now not have the IndyCar race that was, we thought, all set for labor Day weekend — and which this writer’s grand-kids were excited about seeing, just as they were almost giddy about seeing the 2024 Olympic games.

Today there’s sadness on my three grand-kids’ faces. As well there should be. Because of the opposition of a very few, who took full advantage of Boston’s clumsy decision making habits, they and thousands of grand-kids like them will now have to travel elsewhere to see shows that we of Boston deserve — more than deserve — to have.

When will the people who govern Boston learn that they cannot submit grand entertainments to the sharks who lurk in the waters of so-called “community,” arrogating to themselves the desires and interests of thousands who did not elect them or appoint them to speak ?

Did not City officials learn from the amateurism of catastrophe that squashed the prospects of “Boston 2024” ? Did they not see that to invite “public comment:” on grand plans is to assemble into a poisonous swarm a host of wasp-sized NIMBYs who, singly, couldn’t sting their way out of a plastic bag ?

Evidently City officials did not learn. Will they learn now ? And take steps to assure that future entertainments will sweep onto the scene before the wasps can swarm, before the stings can get their arsenal, of poisons into place ?

There was some reason, actually, to look skeptically upon Boston 2o24 : its plans were far from worked out when submitted, prematurely, to a public whose doubts the 2024 committee had no idea existed. Perhaps those justified doubts allowed City officials to conclude that no such could possibly attach to IndyCar, which did not include a plan to rebuild an entire neighborhood (Widett Circle). Unfortunately, City officials were wrong.

A year ago I wrote, in these pages, that the long standing BRA process of public comment on proposed developments has lost its usefulness; that it has become a vehicle for opposition to stop stuff, nothing more. Proponents must spend major time and effort gathering support and bringing it to the public comment hearings; if they do not do that, they’re finished : because the opposition always shows up, whereas supporters usually don’t see the need to surrender an evening’s quality time for the sake of a decision they see no problem with.  So it was with IndyCar, magnified many times by the many land-use jurisdictions involved.

I wrote then that the BRA’s development approval process needs radically to be changed; that the online, all-entry system used by imagineBoston2030 was the correct way to solicit and secure public approval. Online, the wasps of opposition get swamped by the vast numbers of people who like development and entertainment. As it should be. Opponents of change talk a lot about “residents”; but neighborhoods serve many interests, not just those of residents. Neighborhoods also serve businesses, customers, visitors, commuters. Why are these interests any less vital than that of such residents as spurn them ? In a big City, you takes your chances; you live in it knowing that you share it with all manner of stuff. If you don’t get that, maybe you shouldn’t reside in a big city at all ?

So what do I recommend to City officials ? So that the next IndyCar that comes along, happens ? Perhaps these steps :

1.Gather all the jursidictional approvals before any public unveiling is attempted.

2.Use eminent domain, if need be, to take proprietary 9albeit temporary) command of the land upon which such entertainments are to play.

3.Use the power of the Mayor’s office to push ordinances through the City Council establishing such entertainments, their location and dates and the parameters of each.

Mayor Walsh has said that he admires Montreal and sees its festivals — which almost always take place in the heart of Downtown and adjacents — as a model for future Boston. I agree; but Montreal City government has the full support of major corporations, Quebec’s province government and that of Canada, financially as well, as it schedules and hosts dozens of festivals set right in the middle of Downtown and everywhere adjacent. The people of Montreal take in millions of tourist and visitor dollars happily spent by millions of festival-goers, who crowd Downtown to the walls, diverting traffic and jamming up the city. I don’t have space enough here to list all the fsestivals that Montreal hosts every year,nor can I count the system that Montrealers seem very happy to take full advantage of.

Unfortunately, Boston people have no clue what it means to be Montreal. The worst failing of America is its isolation from what is going on in other nations and places. Isolation has been our savior in wars; but in the economic world of now, innovating every life aspect, isolation leaves us rather clueless. We will not become Montreal any time soon; it will be difficult even to begin moving Boston in that direction, and impossible to do so unless Mayor Walsh take steps to collapse the toe-jam barriers of “no” that pip and pop to stop us.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere