1 Walsh 2016

^ Mayor Walsh does not look happy (photo Masslive)

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Two City of Boston officials, Ken Brissette and Tim Sullivan, now ind themselves in hot water for acts that neither man may have fully understood the consequences of. I suspect they now know. I suspect, too, that other officials in City Hall know that operating a government is not a license to browbeat those you are dealing with.

Si here we are ; the United states Attorney has charged Brissette, the City’;s director of tourism and special events, and Tim Sullivam, administrator for inter-governmental affairs, with violating a Federal statute 18 USC 1951, of which I quote the relevant language dealing with extortion :

“(a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by… extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or …threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

“(2) The term “extortion” means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”

The full statute can be read here :

If the facts alleged in the revised Federal indictment are true, the Statute is clearly violated. The two men are said to have told an entertainment company that they would not deliver it the entertainment license which said company had already obtained in full compliance with applicable Boston City ordinance, unless said company hired workers it did not need or wish to hire, at extra expense to itself.

The two men are said to have done what they did despite being informed, in writing, by two (2) officials, one from the State, one from their own boss, the City’s Director of Operations, that they could not withhold the license.

Defenders of Brissette an d Sullivan argue that they did not violate the statute because they sought no money r themselves, only for others. The argument is without merit. Sincve when is it not extortion for A to threaten B on behalf of C ? In the classic criminal case, a leg breaker tells a bookie to pay his debt to some sort of crime boss. The leg breaker isn’t seeking this payment or himself; yet he is surely an extortioner.

In the instant case, the funds that Brissette and Sullivan are accused of extorting were to be paid to certain persons whom they demanded the entertainment company to hire. In some respects this extortion is even more serious tha the leg breaker case. In that event, the money was at least in fact owed; here, the money was demanded gratuitously to individuals who had no idea, until informed, that it might be coming to them.

Clearly rissette and Sullivan, both good men who try to serve Mayor Walsh loyally, wated to help a Union, Local 11, get work. that is a laudavle mission. Workers should get work, and City officials certainly have a right to advocate for them. For a mayor whose core loyalty is to Labor, ad who served as a Labor leader prior to winning election, assisting union members to get work is a priority; and that is OK. Yet priority does not justify what Brissette and Sullivan are accused of attempting. Perhaps they meant well; but to have continued to withhold a permit fully complied with after being informed by the two officials that they could bot do so was an act foolish and more than foolish. It was intentional.

Defenders of the two men say that there is “no right” to a permit and so no extortion. Yet a look at the City’;s own language, in a recenta nnouncement (March 4, 2016), contains no hint that the issuance of an entertainment permit entails the applicant hiring union employees favored by City officials :

Click to access CAP%20Announcement_tcm3-53050.pdf

If City hall wishes to make hiring union employees favired by it a condition of obtaining an entertainment license, it needs to say so; and to pursue the home rule petition that would be need to legalize any such requirement. I doubt any such home rule petition would get far. Even the state’s prevailing wage law, for construction contracts, re quires only that a company pay the standard wage for union contracts. It does not order such contractor to hire specific employees preferred by it.

We have seen this sort of union organizing before. two years ago a City Councillor mobilized some of his constituents to protest a hotel project and demand that said hotel, once built, hire only union workers. The hotel developer withdrew his project, as well he should. (I have no problem at all with the hotel workers union, a well run union and smart; but it is not for a City official to demand Local 26 be hired as a condition of the project.) At the opposite end, we have seen alleged the Teamsters using violent acts to extort jobs from companies shooting movies in our City. These events are spoken of in the Brissette-Sullivan indictment, as a concurrent action, one which Brissette and Sillivan are not said to have decried even once.

The union local on whose behalf Brissette and Sullivan are accused of extorting is very lucky, I think, that it is not facing indictment as well. Though initially unaware of the moves being made on its behalf, the indictment alleges that said union became aware of what Brissette and Sullivan were doing and, so ar as the indictment tells us, uttered not one word of warning that Brissette and Sullivan were going too far. I suppose that the union is off the hook because it did not know precisely what was being done on its behalf.

Yet from comments being posted online by some union leaders and supporters, I wonder whether City Hall will not feel emboldened to attempt requiring that applicants for permits hire union workers favored by City hall as a condition of their applications being granted. If such a policy is being advanced, it will engender enormous backlash, and probably should. Government has no business taking sides in the bargaining and hiring process other than to ensure fairness.

Observers are saying that the Walsh administration needs to bring in wise hands who know what they can do and can’t do, who don’t translate good intentions into potential crimes. Yet the Walsh administration had a “wise old hand” on its team : the “director of operations” who informed Brissette and Sullivan that they could not do what they ended up doing. That person, a veteran of the Menino administration (in whose twenty years not one City official was ever charged with official crime) has since left the administration — reportedly after losing out to the City’s director of staff — and has not been taken back aboard.

That’s hardly a great precedent for the prospect of Walsh bringing aboard “wise old hands” who have the gravitas to temper Walsh’s passion and see that it does not get him in trouble. I can think of several such, who supported Walsh in his 2013 election, and one in particular, who knows what can and can’t be done. We’ll see if said person, or someone of equal reputation, is allowed into Walsh’s youngish inner circle.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Mike Contompasis

^ Mike Contompasis doesn’t look happy to be called back to duty…

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Yesterday Mayor Walsh announced that Michael Contompasis, former headmaster of Boston Latin School, would return, to serve as “interim” headmaster following the abrupt resignation of Lynne Mooney Teta.

Everybody seems pleased by this development. It is hard for me, graduate as I am of a different prep school, to dissent; after all, BLS is not my alma mater. I take full note of the applause given to Contompasis by the BLS family. I also know Contompasis from my years of activism in Boston school politics and in the West Roxbury-Roslindale-Jamaica Plain community. He is highly regarded, always has been. It wasn’t easy for him to succeed the legendary BLS headmaster Wilfr4ed O’Leary; but he did so, and alumni from his years atop BLS worship him. City Councillor Matt O’Malley seems to have played a significant role in convincing Contompasis to return to BLS. A BLS alumnus himself, he lauded Contompasis at the presser announcing the former headmaster’s return.

Almost certainly, Contompasis assuages the fears of BLS parents — and parents who hope to see their kids accepted in the future — that BLS might slack its rigor. And yet I wonder if they’re right.

First, Malcolm Flynn is evidently not coming back. Second, I am informed that Mooney-Teta was unwilling to come back. Thirdly, nothing said at the presser gave any assurance that BLS will not knuckle to critics.

How long will his “interim” last ? Will it be as consequential as John McDonough’s two years as Interim Superintendent ? Will Contompasis maneuver, as quietly but unsparingly as McDonough did, to assure reform of BLS without diluting its mission ? That is what we are being asked to accept; yet McDonough’s reforms, significant briefly, were not given time to harden; and today they are under attack from the forces (the teachers’ union and allied parents) that distrusted McDonough’s direction.I would be surprised if the same outcome did not overtake Boston Latin.

Hopefully the next permanent headmaster will not come from elsewhere than within the BLS administration, as McDonough’s successor Tommy Chang was brought in from far away. I do not trust the City’s administration to stand up effectively to street level demagogy. It has failed almost every confrontation with street protests so far.

That said, BLS is different. It is one school, not an entire school district. Its constituency is a powerful one, and focused. It is difficult, too, for the Mayor to talk — as he does — about assuring every kid a n excellent school while trying to finesse Boston Latin School. The willingness of Mike Contompasis to return to BLS probably removes this dispute from the Mayor’s 2017 re-election worries; but what then, come 2018 ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here anmd Sphere



purple and white

The Mayor has himself a big problem now. “Kicking that hornet’s nest,” as my friend Mary calls his conflict with Boston Latin School and its powerful community, accurately depicts what he has on his hands. Faculty, students, parents, administrators, alumni — and the City’s taxpayers : the Boston Latin School community is enormous; and is also a large part of the leadership of our City, in everything. For Mayor Walsh and his unhappy Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang to have refused BLS headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta their full confidence — to have refused to accept her resignation, and that of head of discipline Malcolm Flynn — was to slap the City’s leadership in its collective face.

Perhaps Mayor Walsh thinks the BLS community is just another “elite,” at a time when elites are under enormous political attack ? If so, he doesn’t know his City very well. Elites are under attack because they have forgotten that, in exchange for high position, they owe a huge debt to the communities they are elites in. That is NOT true of BLS and its people. BLS students are OUR elite. First, every parent in the city wants her kids to go to “Latin” and, if not lucky enough to get in, at least glad to have had an equal chance at the rigorous entrance exam. Second, you do not have to be an elite child to be admitted; BLS for a very long time has taken kids from all backgrounds and economic circumstances. Third, a major portion of BLS graduates stay in Boston to be the City’s leaders — and the leaders of almost every neighborhood in it.Which is why the outcry from BLS supporters has arisen in every neighborhood. BLS is indeed OUR elite, our precious treasure.

The two students who touched off the entire controversy by complaining of racial incidents may have seen how similar students, complaining of similar incidents, have been able entirely to overturn administrations at big colleges and install their own, students’ rules. If something like that outcome was what the BLS pair wanted, they badly misjudged. Well ? Young people make mistakes. I don’t find the two students’ misjudgment a big deal. I don’t fault them at. all. The Mayor and his Superintendent, however, should know better.

The Mayor, at least, should know that elites, when they acknowledge their debt to the community that has raised them high, and perform their obligation to be its voice, are the essential bulwark a community erects against arbitrary leadership. Time and time again, elites have stood fast against tyranny, blocked the path of demagogues, dispersed mob rule. Elites framed our Constitution, articulated our national purpose, fought and died for civil rights, led the nation politically; they’re the voice of civic reform, of betterment, of moral commitments between diverse peoples and ways. Perhaps the mayor does not grasp what a morally committed elite is. In the world of labor Union conflicts that made him who he is, it’s power versus power, force against force; moral obligation has little to do with it.

He is learning that lesson now. Unfortunately, his first move is a wrong one. reports that an “interim” headmaster will be appointed. (Read more at this link : ) Chang made the announcement. It is a mistake. No one in the BLs community is going to accept it.

I am not sure that Superintendent Chang can recover; on this and on the Mayor’s schools consolidation plan, he has looked like an afterthought and sounded like a human talking point. (The City’s REAL education chief is Rahn Dorsey, the Mayor’s personal education executive.) But the mayor CAN recover — if.

If he very quickly settles with Lynne Mooney Teta and Malcolm Flynn; if he commits support to BLS’s rules of operation; if he makes clear to student and parents that he wants BLS to go forward as is, to pursue its rigorous excellence as it sees fit; and if he stands with BLS’s leaders at a press conference at which he declares all of the above with the passion and solidity that i have seen him give to the Boston Building Boom, to Labor, and to Civil Rights.

He can do this. He needs to do it soon. Making an opponent of BLS is a very good way for him to put his upcoming re-election at serious risk.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Frederick  Barbarossa

^ the last political person to come close to achieving — peacefully — the political and economic unification of Europe : Frederick Barbarossa (and his wife Beatrice of Burgundy)

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You may be wondering why I have chosen Frederick Barbarossa, German emperor from 1154 to 1189, as my lead photograph for a 2016 story. I will explain it all, but later. First, the shocking news from yesterday :

About 2 AM, we knew the amazing result: a slim majority of United Kingdom voters chose the wrong path for their nation. Leaving the European Union would, were it actually to happen, benefit no one and harm almost everyone. Economic unity is only half the unity needed by advanced nations, but half is better than nothing.

Fortunately, the actual leaving is unlikely to happen. Scotland voted 60-40 against; were an “exit” to take place, Scotland would leave the United Kingdom and remain in the European Union (EU). Northern Ireland, too, voted not to separate from the EU. If an exit takes place, it will likely join the Irish Republic. Most seriously of all, however, is that London, the Kingdom’s capital city and by far its economic dynamo, voted strongly against leaving the EU. Londoners are now talking of separating from the rest of England. Were an exit to happen, without London exiting, the exit would be a fizzle as well as a failure.

We’ve seen this before. Twice, Quebec held referendums on leaving Canada. Each time, the vote failed (albeit narrowly) because Montreal voted almost two to one against and made clear that if Quebec were to “leave,’ Montreal would leave it.

The Quebec separatist vote was ugly tribal. Supporters of separation railed against the racial and nationality melting pot of Montreal, blaming “minorities:” for the failure of the province’s”native French” to secure their own state. Yesterday’s vote was tribal too. “Leave” spokespeople decried immigration, especially immigration into England by Muslims and other dark-skinned peoples. But for such immigration, aggravated by the swarms of refugees escaping the Middle East, there would probably have been no “Exit” referendum at all.

As we in America are seeing, the Western world is awash right now in anti-immigrant ugliness, a gutter fascism of hate, scapegoating, and tribal intoxicants in which all the old, long dissipated totem poles of identity have been resurrected and legitimized by demagogues. Anybody who has read the ravings of the “Leave” interest’s Nigel Farage has had to put up with ugliness scarcely less vulgar than that of Donald Trump, our own nation’s scourge of tribal venom.

It should be quite clear, in the 21st Century, that tribal politics is a false fantasm. There IS no “tribe.” The people who inhabit a nation are constantly a changing mix. This has always been true., As far back as we can record human history, the people of any area other than those in utter, extended isolation have been a mix of DNAs. Today’s “other”: is tomorrow’s family and the day after tomorrow’s ancestor. As for scapegoating the “other,” it is always a con by which con men fool us. Our troubles are not caused by scapegoats but by our own decisions. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, writing in the 2nd Century, noted that “first we blame others for our troubles; then we blame ourselves; then we do something about them.” We would be weak fools to stay fixed at the first pole.

There is weakness in the EU but not that which the “Leave” demagogues want British people to believe. The EU needs be stronger, not weaker. It has economic power but scant political power. In America, in 1787, our leaders realized that they could not have economic prosperity — nor political strength — without forming a union both political and economic. We forget, today, just how close run a thing Ratification of the Constitution was. Ceding political economic power to a central government was not popular. Yet once in place, the Constitution and its government began to forge its own, unified political and economic interest, a following that grew both economically and politically as did the nation, strong enough, and loyal enough that, 84 years later, it was able to absorb and defeat the shock of secession.

Secession among the EU nations hasn’t the same air of treason because it is not treasonous to leave a union purely economic, not political at all. The EU’s founders shrank from confronting the political question. Often, since, observers have remarked that the EU’s reluctance to embrace political union would damage it, even destroy it. Now, with yesterday’s “leave” vote, one of the EU’s political adherents has put the precise question.

Will the exit actually happen ? One wonders if and how. If Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Greater London (and its satellites, Oxford and Cambridge, which also spurned “Leave” by huge margins) plus Manchester (another city that voted “remain” by better than two to one) leave the leavers, who exactly will be doing the EU leaving ? I think the crisis will pass.

Still, the warning has ben sounded. Unless the EU’s component nations bite the bullet of political union, as we in America did in 1787, their economic sharing will henceforth suffer loss of confidence by businesses and investors; will be less and less able to impose economic rules on its components; will bit by bit fade away as nations decide it’s best to chance the economic tides alone than in company. Unfortunately, we know that story’s outcome only too well : conflict, distrust, nationalism, war. Ever since the break up of the Roman Empire, these were the larger story of Europe; not always, but always next. A major difficulty was the predominance of one European nation over all the others. Mostly, since about the year 925, that has been Germany. If not Germany, it has been France. Whichever nation ruled, however, its dominance always ended in tragedy for everybody.

The EU, like its smaller predecessor the Common market, has tamed the beast — but not snuffed it. Germany rules today, every bit as strongly as it did in 1870, 1910, and — yes — 925 to about 1200. Curiously, the converse argument can be sustained : that Germany even at its strongest was never quite strong enough. Germany under the Salian emperors, from about 925 to 1200, almost dominated Europe’s culture and trade : but not quite. France was outside, as was the Papacy (then a major economic and political power). Germany’s dominance was cracked in the 1070’s — the famous “investiture conflict” — and then broken for good, in the period 1220 to 1275, by a centralizing, well-led France and the newly powerful Papacy. Never since (except briefly during terrible wars) has any European nation come close to the political and economic unification of Europe that was lost then; and all of European history until today has been plagued by that failure.

Will the men and women of the EU, and of its various component nations, now take the only steps that can make the EU lasting and strong, a living political thing ? I do not know. I do think, however, that this is their chance. Maybe their last chance.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Boston Latin School (BLS) : anger and frustration lead to major confrontation

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UPDATE 2.10 PM 06/23/16: This morning we were shocked to rtead that Head of Discipline Matt Flynn has now resigned from Boston Latin School’s management. This makes two major resignations. Peter Kadzis of WGBH also reports a very heated confrontation between BLS leaders and Mayor Walsh. Clearly the operation of Boston’s top achievement school has reached a turning point.

We don’t know the details of the events that seem to have resulted in the resignation of both Flynn and Boston Latin School headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta, which means that we cannot opine about them. If the Boston Globe report is correct (follow this link to read it : ), her resignation was not requested by anyone. But she was evidently facing a civil rights violations investigation by the U.S. Att0rney, and discussions had taken place during the school year in which she felt obligated to allow others than her, as headmaster, to impose rules to govern the school.

There may well be good cause therefor. Much that happens in controversial events goes unreported, or is erroneously credited. All sorts of assertions have come my way via social media friends . The purpose of this article, however, is to set forth how I think an achievement school ought be mastered.

An achievement school like Boston Latin is no student’s right to attend. Students compete to be admitted. An achievement school must be challenging, academically and socially. I myself went to an achievement high school — Phillips Academy Andover — and I can assure you that it was a difficult place. As a kid there, I spent much time afraid : of my teachers, of my housemaster, of bullies. Almost every kid walked in fear of the “jocks” and big guys who ruled the campus Trump-like. They, like him, were crazy — unpredictable, secretive, noisy, arbitrary. One day they’d befriend you, the next day make merciless fun of you. And then ignore you. Or short sheet your bed.

Did our faculty step in to save us ? Never. You were on your own. I recall one time when I could not take the bullying by one particularly gross kid in my dorm and made complaint to my housemaster. His response ? He overturned my bed and laughed at me.

It was hard enough for the Jewish kids in my class; for the very few Black kids, life was never anything but one ambush after another by those who felt it smart to imitate the “jocks.” (Note : the “jocks” were far from the worst social offenders. It was the wanna-be’s who made campus life truly nuts.) As for the school administration : Catholic kids are supposed to not eat meat during Lent, but at my prep school they had to ask for a fish meal — it wasn’t supplied otherwise — and that meant outing themselves to the overwhelmingly Protestant majority.

In class, there was no escape, no mercy. If your attention happened to wander, in Mr. McClement’s math class you could expect a chalky eraser to come crashing against your suit coat shoulder as he screamed at you, “take one demerit !” (Five “demerits’ and you were on probation; seven and you were expelled.) Other teachers resisted the eraser caper but were, if anything, more ready to toss you a “demerit.” (I was an unusually lucky kid. I got only two during my entire three years at that school.)

There was a dress code. It made no sense. You had to wear suit coat, tie, and white shirt, but nothing was said about pants and shoes, so many kids got their licks by wearing dirty khakis and taped up loafers without socks. This was a great way of being “jock like” and helped gain you much cred with the Trump types.

But the rules were the rules. Once, when the junior class went on meals strike because we could no longer stand the cardboard and putty that went by the name of “food,” our Headmaster, one John M. Kemper — a former commandant of West Point — called us to assembly and told us that if we continued, he would expel the entire class. We knew that he meant exactly that.

We suddenly, all of us, decided that it was OK to eat putty and cardboard.

In my opinion, that is how an achievement school must be run. The Trustees set the rules, the Headmaster enforces them, no exceptions. And no talk back from the students. You are not at an achievement school to talk back. You are there to grind it out, to take what is thrown at you, just, or unjust, or egregiously unjust, and keep on keeping on: because life is difficult, and unfair, and unjust, and you had better learn pretty quickly that if you don’t learn how to reshape yourself accordingly you will be forever out of shape, and very quickly.

At an achievement school, you must learn that you can always do better; that, as my American History teacher put it to us, “no one will get an A because no one of you can master the subject well enough.” That course was the most demanding I ever took, in high school or in college. And F was never far from catching up to us.

Which leads me to this insight: perhaps the uneasiness that was evidently complained of by students at Boston Latin School gathered steam because school wasn’t difficult enough ? At Andover there was, for a senior taking American History, so much research and dorm room work to do that no one had time to worry about identity grievances. Plus : we were seniors and brutally aware that college admissio0n loomed immediately ahead and that if we didn’t “grind,’ we wouldn’t be admitted to an A list school, maybe not even a B school.

I do not know what possessed students to hurl identity grievances at Boston Latin School administrators, or what possessed those administrators to honor them; perhaps the problem is that BLS is not a boarding school. At a boarding school, kids have no escape, no safe place to hide in, no retreat to Mommy’s skirts and Daddy’s influence. (Let us keep in  mind that, back when I was at school  Daddy and Mommy not only did not sue schools on my behalf, they made it clear they would punish me worse than the school auth0rities.)

Boston Latin School may not be on the edge because its students go home to parents every night : but I do feel that the devolution of a school reputed to be the best in New England says that its academic demands aren’t nearly difficult enough, nor its college admissions demands scary enough. At an achievement school, you work almost all the time at courses which, if you do not work all the time, will bury you; and you do it because college admissions demands you do it. If Boston Latin School is failing to inundate its students in this level of challenge and scares, it probably does require new leadership.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut : a vote was taken, but no action…yet


“Gun Control” is back in the national conversation. As always happens after an horrific mass shooting, the 80 to 90 percent of us who want weapons regulated more strictly are raising our voices. So far, every time we have spoken up, nothing has been legislated. I think this time it will be different.

Yes, the four gun regulation bills voted in the Senate on Monday were all defeated. Few offered more than a token advance. But this was a first move in what I think will be a much more effective campaign to restore traditional regulation of weaponry and ammunition.

Before I explain why I think this, I’d like to examine the Second Amendment, whose words gun rights people think support their cause. They are mistaken, historically and legally. Their individualist view of the “2 A” is actually quite  new. Until about 40 years ago, few serious policy advocates argued for it.
What does the “2 A” mean ? Its ungrammatical syntax presents a challenge, but Federal Courts have analyzed it at length using both textual analysis and historical record. Justice Stevens, in particular, wrote an exhaustive op-ed about the “2 A” a few years ago; I post a link to it here :,d.dmo
I shall write my own analysis next, but first let me quote the “2 A” itself :  “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
What do these words mean ? First of all, they form part of the Constitution’s  Bill of Rights : Amendments whose purpose is to bar the Federal Government from doing certain things : in the case of the Second, creating a standing army of professionals or mercenaries — as most armies of the 1770-1790 period were — who were, for the most part, not drawn from the citizenry and who frequently were inimical to it. The “2 A” doesn’t even speak of a Federal armed force; it talks of the security of a free State. In 1789, there were thirteen free States.
As the armed forces thus sanctioned were to be STATE forces, so the STATE in which they were formed was charged with assuring they be “well regulated.” That the “2 A” gives its sanction to STATE regulation, and not to individuals, is made clear in that its wording is taken directly from a similar clause in the 1689 English Bill of Rights, in which an INDIVIDUAL right to keep and bear arms is granted to Protestant citizens to “have arms for…a right to own arms for individual use and to bear these same arms both for personal use and defense.” Those words were left out of our “2 A.”
They were left out, almost certainly, because the English Bill of Rights dealt with a government headed by a Catholic king who waged religious war against a mostly Protestant citizenry. Whereas our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights, were negotiated by the very citizens who would be entrusted with government. All that the “2 A” wanted to establish was that in the new arrangement of power, armed force would be a State matter rather than a Federal one. Of “individual” rights, there is no word. (That no “individual” right was contemplated, was shown when, in 1794, President Washington called out State militias to pout down the Whiskey Rebellion.)
You will note, also, that the “2 A” speaks of “the people”, collectively, not of individuals. It addresses the bearing of arms by battalions and regiments, not by isolated individual persons.
The Second Amendment’s purpose was ended by Federal conscription in our Civil War. Federal conscription was accompanied by Federal armories and troop barracks (the quartering of mercenary armies in private houses was a major grievance, addressed in the Third Amendment, which is complementary to the Second). And though the 1863 draft ended, wars with Western Indian tribes required that a Federal cavalry be kept in being (such a force, General Custer led to disaster at Little Big Horn.) By the time of the First World War, a Federal conscript army, with armories and barracks, was firmly and finally in place, to which the various State militias were auxiliary as a National Guard.
The “2 A” having been rendered moot by conscription and a standing army, Courts have labored to figure out what application it could possibly have left. That the keeping of weapons by citizens could be regulated and restricted was never in legal doubt; and many such Federal laws were adopted and upheld. As far as I can tell, however, the “2 A” retains a residual meaning that can guide the law of weapons regulation, and it is this :
As the Amendment’s purpose is to encourage each State to organize a citizen militia, and to see it well regulated, each state can make its own laws governing who may be admitted to the State militia, and under what conditions, and restrictions, and with what training. The only thing a State evidently can NOT do is to not organize a militia at all. And as the Amendment authorizes only an organized and regulated militia — expressly NOT individual decisions as to whether to bear arms or not — the State, and the Federal Courts, can restrict such individual arms bearing to such ever degree they deem wise, saving only that individuals can never, except under regulation, be absolutely barred from participating in the State militia.
Application of the “2 A” is complicated by the 14th Amendment. Because equal protection of the laws, State and Federal, is guaranteed to all who live within our nation’s jurisdiction, no state militia regulation or individual weapon bearing restriction can be arbitrary or whimsical. Weapons restrictions must apply equally to all persons.
An opposite view of the “2 A” has gained power during the 40 years since gun manufacturers and their supporters took control, of the NRA — an organization which had always been a supporter and enforcer of gun restriction legislation. This new view of the “2 A” grants individuals an un-infringeable right to keep and bear arms wherever and whenever, and arms of all kinds. This view was that of the English Protestants in 1689; it was most emphatically NOT the view of those who vted to ratify the Constitution.

There are excellent policy reasons why this view of the Second Amendment cannot be allowed. It sanctions vigilantism. It views law enforcement as the enemy. It implies sedition.

No government can permit the existence of armed individuals, claiming the right to own whatever weapons they want, and to use them whenever and upon whomever they deem the need. We have a criminal justice system to do that. We create law enforcement departments to do that. We encumber all such agencies with strict rules of conduct (much of it prescribed by the Bill of Rights !) and with being agents of, and answerable to, all the people. No person may on his or own hook claim for him or herself these powers. But that is precisely what the individualist view of the Second Amendment asserts.

So far, the small minority of Americans who advocate this view have had the political field to themselves. Backed by big money from the makers of weapons and ammunition, and fueled by activist passion, they have overwhelmed the efforts of those who support stricter weapons laws. This imbalance of power is shifting at last. Big, big money is coming into play on behalf of weapons restrictions, there are more regulations activists than ever, and in the context of a national election, the traditional view of “2 A” legislation is almost certain to win the day.

It can’t come soon enough.

Can greater diligence monitoring weapons usage stop assaults like that at Orlando ? Maybe, and maybe not — yet. There are some 320 million guns out there, an d the mindset that you are better off if you shoot first and not wait for the police.

But this view is immensely wrong. In a  real world shooting situation, “a good guy with a gun” will almost certainly not be able to (1) unholster (2) unlock the safety (3) identify the target (4) aim (5) hit the target (6) without hitting others and (7) when the responders come, and they see said “good guy” moving tactically with a gun, they are going to shoot him or her because they have no way to know who is the good guy and who isn’t.

Enforcing the peace is much, much better left to duly authorized, trained officers. Yes, it takes time for them to arrive; stalling tactics need to be trained for. Can officers rescue everybody ? No. No human institution can do that or promise it. There thus remains room for worry and for argument; but no such argument can use the Second Amendment, because its old words support the traditional view.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : The force bills forf which House Democrats demonstrated yesterday lead this issue into a dead end of debates about due process, probable cause, and reasonable cause as we debate the Patriot Act and its dangerous implications for personal freedoms. No such discussion can be decided, or should be had, because as I have shown above, there IS NO right for any private citizen to own or keep militia weapons except within restrictions which the “militia amendment” urges. The Federal Congress is quite free to restrict or regulate private ownership of such weapons as it sees fit.  -30-




mbta warehouse

^ the T’s parts warehouse. (photo : Boston Globe)

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Three recent MBTA reforms bring us to the devil details which should not be handled in the same way despite the public’s desire to sweep the old ways aside.

First is the T’s parts warehouse; second, bus maintenance; third, its “money room,” where employees count cash fares. MBTA management has suggested outsourcing all three operations, saying that ‘where we do not have expertise,” it would save money to do so.

I’m not sure that saving money is the only issue here,  nor the chiefest. I’m not opposed to outsourcing a T operation. Keolis operates the Commuter Rail (and does the job not always the best, by the way), and the T’s advertising is handled by ad agencies. So let’s look at the three operations that operating manager Brian Shortsleeve seeks to outsource :

1.The parts warehouse. Journalists covering this matter say that the TY’s warehouse operation has a much too long turn around time, and that warehouse staff don’t readily know what parts they have in stock nor how to find them. That seems to be a matter of technology. The T’s warehouse, so it is reported, uses 30 year old data programs.

I don’t see why that is the warehouse staff’s fault. I don’t see why the T can’t upgrade its warehouse data programs. T managers say that updating will cost several million dollars; maybe so, but it’s a one time fix , not an ongoing expense. No one can say that the T’s warehouse workers do not have the right expertise. They have it and more. Yes, they are members of the Carmen’s Union that has fought the T’s necessary reforms; so what ? Reforming the T cannot be a cover for breaking the union.

My decision : upgrade the T warehouse’s data program and do  NOT outsource its work.

2.Bus Maintenance. The T’s new Budget analyst, Pioneer Institute, highlights the T’s maintenance costs as a source of savings. By Pioneer’s standards, the T’s maintenance costs run almost double the national average for similar transit systems.

(Read the Pioneer paper here : )

Unfortunately, the statistics cited do not take into account labor bargains or cost of living. If the T’s maintenance workers earn an average of some 4 111,000 — and several earn quite a bit more, the cost of living in Boston is at least double that in Minneapolis, a city whose transit system Pioneer cites constantly. I would much prefer to see an analysis of the T’s maintenance costs compared on a regional cost of living basis.

The Pioneer analysis also cites overstaffing of the maintenance operation and, at the same time, a higher rate of maintenance failures than in comparable transit systems. The problem here is work rules established in the union contract bargained by the T’s maintenance workers. I find this part of the Pioneer paper persuasive : yet if we have collective bargaining — and we do, and should — then it is up to the T’s management to secure worker acceptance of more effective work rules on performance and staffing. Union contract bargaining can be strongly affected by public po0ressure — the recent Verizon contract is a classic case — and that public pressure can work in both directions. Let’s at it. I will be the first to recommend a revised maintenance worker contract bringing performance into line and cutting down overstaffing.

I do NOT see the need for outsourcing this operation.

3.The “Money room” T  management says that the fare counting and automated fare collection operations employee about 250 too many workers who could be better used as bus drivers (where a shortage often exists), and that a private company can better handle this work; the union responds that the T’s fare counters do the job that they’re supposed to do and also that the two operations, money room and automated fare machines, operate incompatible software. Why not change that, says the union’s chief, James O’Brien.\

He’s right. For example, machines exist that collect fares from riders before the board a subway car; yet in its Green Line expansion reconfiguration, the T, citing cost, has opted not to install these machines. Why not install those machines with software compatible to the T’s money room ? Again the T says that doing so costs money the T doesn’t have — it faces, so T management asserts, about an $ 80 millio0n shortfall.

I find the T’s position very short-sighted.

That said, clearly the union has to give; has to agree to revised work rules; has to allow reassignment of its members to operations where they are most needed. Unions are often stubborn about reform. With the T, reform is urgent on all fronts. Let the union rethink its work rules and thereby prevent outsourcing that almost certainly will bring its own problems much less easily solved than problems in-house. A new T union contract is at hand. I look forward to seeing major reform affecting its outcome.

Is outsourcing never preferable for the T ? Of course it can be useful. Operations like advertising, real estate management, website monitoring, social media, and data programming are not core MBTA operations. These can be outsourced to private companies and probably should be.l

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Governor Baker at yesterday’s #Vigil on Boston’s City Hall plaza spoke of solidarity with the LGBT community and the people of Orlando

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Thousands of us, we of Boston, gathered quietly at City Hall Plaza last night in #vigil for the 49 young LGBT people gunned down in Orlando, Florida. To the gunman’s act of hate we responded in an act of together love.

I was there; how could I not be ? But who am I but one heart of thousands of hearts, two arms to hug everyone near to me hugging me also and likewise.

Being there calmed my soul; I think it salved the souls of all of us. Our wounds may not be of the flesh or mortal, but they are hurts very deep nonetheless. It was good to express all of this in solemn communion.

Our leaders — Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh — spoke simply the phrases that needed saying, sentences of communion. As Baker spoke it and then tweeted it: “:Solidarity in the face of hate & terror. We stand as one w/ the LGBT community & the ppl of Orlando.” His tweet was RT’d 206 times and “liked” 356. The reactions continue.

Mayor Walsh spoke it too : “Tonight we saw the very best of Boston, standing together in solidarity w/ broken hearts & open arms for #Orlando.” 345 people so far have RT’d the Mayor’s tweet; 632 have “liked” it.

We of Boston have been here before. After the Marathon Bombing three years ago — an attack praised by the Orlando killer — we gathered in huge numbers proclaiming ourselves “Boston strong.” But then, our “strong” was laced with physical anger, some of it frighteningly brutal, even barbaric (protesting the funeral home doing one of the attackers’ burial, a replay of Euripides’s 2500 year old play Antigone !). This time there has been none of that. It wasn’t our city this time, and the dead, being LGBT (and mostly Hispanic), are controversial to some, unlike the three innocents nail-bombed dead at the Marathon.

Thus the viscerally angry, who all but savaged our grief three years ago, were not present at City hall and, so far, have not been heard from except, tangentially, in the venom of Trump. And so the #vigil at City hall was as close to pure as any crowd event I have seen, pure in the sense of united in love grieving without the box cutters of hate. No one swore vengeance. No one called out an enemy, pointed a scapegoat. No one spoke of getting a gun. Hate may kill, but it cannot kill us all and it will not deter us from living our lives in the fullness of respect.

And to those who hate did kill, and to their grieving families and friends, we dedicated our bodies present and accounted for in solemn solidarity. Like a tree that stands by the waters, we shall not be moved.

—- Mike Freedberg /  Here and Sphere





^ victims of the killer : LGBT, but also almost all Hispanic

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Once again, an horrific mass shooting forces us to discuss the regulation of guns and ammunition. The killings in Orlando, Florida seem a work of bigotry as well as terror, and of a kind — terror in the name, misguidedly, of Islam — made much of by folks on the right. I will discuss this point later. But first, a look at the law regarding guns and ammo: because the many mass shootings that have wounded our nation these past several years  were enabled by military grade weapons in the hands of civilians.

I see no justification whatsoever for individual civilians to possess military grade weapons and ammo. The very nature of such weapons demands their possession and use be strictly confined. Every argument to the contrary cannot stand.

It is said, “guns do not kill people, people kill people.: True; but people cannot kill people without weapons to do it.

It is said, “the only that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Yes, but that is why we hire police and sheriffs. We do NOT entrust the stopping of bad guys to roving vigilantes, and for very good reason: to do otherwise is to make them judged, jury and executioner. We have the criminal justice system to do that, because we are a nation of laws, not of anarchy.

It is said, “the Second Amendment gives individual people the right to own and use weapons.” No, it does not. The Second Amendment was enacted in order to prevent the Federal government from hiring a standing army of mercenaries, such as fought against us in the Revolution and were often quartered, ith guess what consequences, in private homes. Indeed,k the clause in the 1688 English Bill of Rights whence the language of the Amendment was taken included an individual right, words that were expressly NOT INCLUDED in the “2 A.”

The “2 A” addresses service in a militia, an army of civilians called to duty. Such armies have almost all become part, now, of the standing Armed Forces. The move from militias to standing, conscript armies became universal in Western Civilization during the period 180 to 1875, complete with barracks, so that no soldiers would be quartered in private homes. Today, therefore, the “2 A” is quite obsolete and either should be repealed or radically amended.

The Second Amendment was always understood as addressing service in a militia. Not until the 1980s did the notion arise that it contained a private right to keep and bear any kind of weapons without careful regulation. Civilian ownership of military-grade weapons and ammo is still controversial — t.hank goodness. We oppose it under any forseeable circumstances.

Private ownership of guns and ammo has become an established custom; I accept the fact. What I do call for is sensible regulation, to include the following :

1.successful completion of a municipally approved gun safety course

2.obtaining adequate liability insurance for weapon ownership and use

3.background checks at time that weapon purchase is sought, with no exceptions, said checks to be renewed every five years after purchase. Inclusion on a terrorist watch list to be an absolute (but appealable, because terrorist watch lists can err) bar to ownership of any gun-type weapon military grade weapons or ammunition under any current circumstances.

I recognize that guns in a rural setting, unlike in big cities and suburbs, serve useful purposes such as hunting and that rural communities are the first to insist on strict community control of weapon use.

At least 90 percent of Americans support some or all of these simple recommendations. All or most must eb adopted, and soon.

And now back to the Orlando massacre. The killer seems to have targeted gay (LGBT) men and women; thus his crime was one of hate as well as terror. No one has yet remarked something else: everyone of his victims, of the names so far released, was Latino. The killer’s hate thus spans two communities of Americans.

Much out=rage has emerged from the Trump camp, and from the radical right generally, accusing “Islamic terrorism” and calling for a ban on all Muslims coming to America. I see no such outrage from the radical right in cases where the killer is a white person and native. There the cry is “mental health issues.” The hypocrisy is infinite.

On the other hand, the radical left vents its outrage upon killings by native whose people and often downplays that by “others.” If we can’t even agree that all mass shootings are evil and must be stopped, without demonizing entire groups, how can we ever remedy the problems ?

Mass killings carry out two agendas that our society cannot tolerate. First is our allowing people to own military grade weapons. Second is tolerance for hate. Though the Orlando killer acted pervertedly in the name of Islam, radical perversions of Islam are hardly alone in calling for LBGT people to be killed. The same call arises from radical pastors claiming to be Christian. Is it not time for the entire nation to reject ANYONE who calls for killing this or that sort of person ?

America is a nation enhanced by its diversity. And, as Mitt Romney said at the beginning of this horrible political year, “every religion enhances the national character.” Those who seek — mostly from the radical right — to exclude any faith community or immigrant culture from our nation of all is an enemy of the American mission. We must be clear about who we are. We should be proud of what our nation is and ready to defend and promote it and to turn back those who would poison our pluralism in the name of nothing good.

And at the same time, and for the same purpose, we must enact common sense guns and ammo controls.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


BESTPIX - Hillary Clinton Holds Primary Night Event In Brooklyn, New York

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 7: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives onstage during a primary night rally  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) ***

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96 years ago, Americans wrote women’s right to vote into our Constitution. Last night, a woman finally won the Presidential nomination of a major political party.

It has taken that long. Perhaps no form of polity better preserves the customs of a people more effectively than universal suffrage democracy. We have it, and if you examine voting patterns, you quickly see that America’s political sentiments have barely changed at all since after the Civil War. The two parties have almost completely exchanged constituencies, but the divisions of 1896, for example, are the same divisions today. Thus it is that no Black candidate won the Presidency until 133 years after  the adoption of Civil Rights Amendments. Likewise, 96 years stand between women achieving the vote and staking a major Presidential nomination.

Yet the America that Hillary Clinton seeks to lead has more female voters than male : 52 percent, enough to claim victory, were gender the only factor. My own view is that the three women who now dominate American political discourse — Elizabeth warren, Michelle Obama, and Mrs. Clinton — would merit their dominance even if women were a minority of voters; leading the majority, however, their three voices command every voter’s attention.

So what do Clinton, Warren, and Obama want ? Because what they want, we are very likely to get :

First, all three are Democrats. There are significant women in the Republican party — Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina comes to mind — but none yet dominates the nation.

Second, all three women embrace the America of today and tomorrow : civil rights for gay people and transgender, reproductive rights for women, respect for languages and cultures (call it “e pluribus unum,” a phrase that ought to find its way into our coinage) and for the immigrants who come to us in many such guises; an America of pay equity in which every working person can spend into the discretionary economy and in which people living o9n the margins need not feel marginalized; an America where excellent education for all kids is a priority for the Federal government as well as local jurisdictions.

Third, a nation that refuses to tolerate health care denials; that values healthy lives in the workplace; that sees addiction as a health issue, not a criminal doing.

Fourth, the principles of motherhood and sisterhood : love before hate, caring before you’re-on-your-own, fierce defenses of home and community, a hatred of violence and weaponry, an understanding that togetherness is strength, not cowardice.

Lastly, the three women’s dominance represents on behalf of other constituencies in America who feel less than fully listened to : people of color, Hispanic voters, immigrants from all nations, low-wage workers, the uninsured; the homeless and the addict in recovery.

You may disagree with these positions and be skeptical of these values, but they cannot be denied or dismissed as not relevant. At last !

As the three women hold major values in common, so they voice them very differently. Senator Warren is the forensic accuser, a female Charles Sumner (whose Massachusetts Senate seat she holds) as single-minded about financial abuses as Sumner was about slavery. Michelle Obama avatars world-wide women’s rights, with eloquence and elegance, just as did her predecessor First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Clinton is the tough, resolute, manipulative politico, a female version of Richard Nixon (who, as most of us fo9rgfet,k was one of the most effective, liberal Republican presidents ever as well as a foreign policy innovator).

I can’t think of a single male politician right now, other than the outgoing President, Barack Obama, who thus dominates the nation’s political future, although I can think of one who seeks loudly to stop it from happening.

This is not to say that America does not have, or value, male politicians with much of the future in their hands. Several Senators and Governors come to mind, even a few mayors, and a couple dozen Congressmen. Yet for now, the future shape of America is being voiced, and thus molded, by a trio of outstanding political women. Of whom the Democratic nominee for President is the one we’re all now paying attention to.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere