^ Mem Fox, an Australian children’s book author recalls her treatment by customs agents recently :

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“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” Fox said.

“I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby, and I’m 70 years old.”

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Read the above caption again. I hope that it makes you as angry as it should make all of us.

Somehow, by some twist of history’s knife, America, the nation made by, of, and for immigrants, and by refugees, and even by travelers, has turned its back on itself.

This is the political regime we now live with. The hate is real; the cruelty, the spite, the vengeance; the scapegoats.

We have liked to think that America is humanity’s escape route from the earthquakes of history, and so, often, it has served us. But there IS no escape from the evil in human hearts, there never has been, there never will be. All that people of good will can do is to fight back; to fight and defeat the evils that take hold of some of us some of the time, even in the sanctuary we have called America.

Today the fight is urgent. Immigrants are being harassed at the border and within our communities; harassed and, for the unlucky among them, persecuted. Refugees, who have always had a claim upon our nation’s welcome, now find the welcome mat burned, the open door locked shut. Travelers to America, who have made our tourism industry a fount of prosperity and whose stories of American dynamism and genius, taken back to their homes, have made our nation admired all over the world, are being subjected to intimidation, profiling, condescension, and refusal.

No wonder that many are now cancelling plans to visit here or to apply for refugee status. Student groups have come to the border only to have one or more of their group refused entry. Who wants to risk that happening ? No one I know of.

If you’re Muslim, or of Arabic or Persian origin, expect even worse. Ask Ben Zand, a journalist from Liverpool who was born in England but has Persian ancestry. This is part of his recent tweetstorm:

“…he said they’re told to stop people who look Arabic or Persian, or have an Arabic or Persian sounding name.”

The reverse is happening as well. Green card holders –legal permanent residents — are afraid to leave for fear they won’t be allowed back. Citizens, too, face, when returning from travel broad, the prospect of having customs agents demanding their personal cell phones for searching. For all of us America is now a prison.

For all of the above there is no just reason. All of it has been imposed by the usurper in  Washington to satisfy his fears, his whims, his desire to intimidate and alienate everyone he can. The entire regime is unConstitutional, and no doubt it will eventually be forced out by our one remaining bulwark, the Federal Courts. In the meantime, however, all kinds of evil has sprouted : a thousand bigotries, a sea of hates, a cacophany of groundless grievances given voice by a leader who is a walking hulk of bigotries and hates.

Wor\st of all is the gloating cruelty of his mob. One reads it every day on twitter, the social media platform for journalism and news. One need only surf the comments on Chelsea Clinton’s tweets to see the vulgarity. Hundreds of raw verbal sewage pours into those threads, leaving, for anyone who reads it, shocking demonstration that a large mob of gratuitous evil — glorying in insult, proud of ignorance, sulfurous contempt — has sucked dry our nation’s soul.

Chelsea Clinton can take it. She’s heard versions of it for decades. Our immigrants, refugees, and travelers, however, have far fewer resources to fight the hate. They are the most defenseless among us. It’s hard for travelers to exercise Constitutional rights, harder still for immigrants, almost impossible for refugees. The regime in Washington can assail these almost with impunity, and it is doing so, aggressively, and seeming to glory in it.

Do not imagine that the harassments and persecutions will stop at travelers,. refugees, and immigrants. Be very sure that what is being done to these will soon enough be done to the rest of us if we do not fight back and win, if we do not stop the evil at its beachhead. Because immigrants, refugees, and travelers are us. They are what America is made of. If we value America, we must value them, cherish them, fight for them. They are the future of us.

—- Mike Freedbertg / Here and Sphere




^ the nine City Council districts proposed by Framingham’s charter commission. (there will also be two councillors elected at large.) Voting on whether to approve Framingham as a city takes place on April 4th.

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20 miles west of Boston, bisected by the traffic swarms on Route 9, lies the town of Framingham. The 2010 census found 68,318 people living within its 26.41 square miles. That’s a lot of people for a town government to handle, and Framingham leaders, understanding this, are moving to change it from town to city.

Will Framingham become a city ? Tuesday, April 4th is the day the voters decide. A “yes” vote is not a slam-dunk. Eight of the nine charter commission members voted “yes” to present a charter to the voters, but the lone “no” vote — Teri Banerjee — has presented a written dissent.

How does the town moderator feel ? In the town meeting system provided by Massachusetts law, town moderators have tremendous power. They run the annual town meeting; they set its agenda; they can move decisions on town meeting items. Teri Banerjee is the Framingham’s town moderator.

I will discuss the charter proposal next; but before I do, it will be helpful to read the commission’s full website information here : and here :

You should also read the final charter report here : as well as commission member Teri Banerjee’s Minority report here :

And now to my discussion of the decision to be made by Framingham voters:

I do not live in Framingham, but I know it well. I’ve worked Framingham political campaigns, have socialized in Framingham, shopped there, and — as have most of my readers — driven within and through Framingham quite often. A quick glance at a map of Massachusetts shows that Framingham isn’t just any large community. It is the very heart of “Metro West,” the halfway point between Boston and Worcester and connected economically to each. Yet today, Framingham hasn’t the degree of control over its centrality that it should have. It was once a thriving mill community, back when the road from Boston to Worcester was much smaller and distances much harder to negotiate; but those days are long gone; the Framingham we know today feels overpowered by through-way traffic, a community that still behaves like a suburb of commuters who sleep there, and maybe go to school there, but don’t do much else there.

This must change. It is already changing. As ambitious people move to the central parts of bustling commercial cities, Framingham’s service as a bedroom suburb lacks muscle. To cut to the chase: Framingham’s size and location demand that it become a central Downtown, like Boston and like Worcester; a community with a thriving, center core-based technology, an enterprise district. The town meeting form of government contravenes this purpose. Strong central cities need a strong central government. The charter’s strong Mayor and district council proposal meets that need.

Teri Banerjee’s Minority report complains that elections for the charter’s nine district council seats will be expensive; that the volunteer participation that fuels the town meeting system will give way to professional campaigns and big=ticket politicians. She complains even more about the proposed strong Mayor. She is right. That will happen. To me, it’s a good thing; it’s what is needed.

Entrepreneurs and developers shy away from dealing with cumbersome approval processes and their unpredictability. Who wants to spend millions of dollars and years of effort preparing a zoning change, or a large development, only to have it come before a 200 member town meeting peopled by extremely local particularisms ? The process is difficult even in a strong Mayor city. Far more efficient to have a zoning board and a City Council representing entire districts, or the entire city — the big picture gets a fair shot to make its case against 200 tiny snapshots.

The big picture is crucial. Neighborhoods aren’t limited only to their residents. People who work in a neighborhood,k who shop there, who visit there, and those who will do so when the neighborhood changes, are all just as much a part of a neighborhood as those who reside within it.

This, at least, is how city neighborhoods live, and it is WHY they prosper.

The proposed strong mayor and elected council system also has political consequences. People with serious political ambition will run for these larger, more singular offices. Their serious campaigns will draw serious media attention and thus serious political attention. Whoever becomes the Mayor of Framingham will instantly be a major figure of political influence. Inevitably his or her election will make the entire political and economic community take notice. At which point Framingham’s 68,318 people — probably many more by now — will maximize their political and economic clout.

One last consequence of Framingham being a city : its drawing power will extend the Boston economic boom west to Worcester and beyond. Bringing the “Boston miracle” to points west has been a pre-occupation of the Baker administration since he was first elected. It’s a vital goal for the city of Worcester too. Baker and Worcester’s Mayor Joe Petty have established non-stop Boston to Worcester train service; but it’s still a long way — economically and socially –from one city to the other. Creating a Framingham business city will shore up the distance and help to forge a continuous Boston – Framingham – Worcester business corridor. All the communities that border this corridor will perk up when that happens.

Framingham is not broken. Teri Banerjee is right to point that out. But it is far from being what it can be, should be, and will be, because change is coming, whether the community approves it or not. The campaign for change is hotting up. In  our next report we will let you know how things look for voting day.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ can Karyn Polito be a next Republican Governor, after Charlie Baker’s likely re-election ? Can anyone be a next GOP Governor of Massachjusetts ?

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There’s been talk about whether a devotee of Mr. Trump will try to “primary” our decidedly NON-Trump Governor, Charlie Baker. I’ve heard rumblings, but the Globe recently quoted a few of Baker’s Trump-ish opponents dismissive of the likelihood. Perhaps that’s the case. Perhaps they are right, and I was wrong. Their case is a strong one: ( 1 ) Mr. Trump needs all the support his fans can give him ( 2 ) Senator Warren, whom Trump fans despise, has her own re-election for them to do battle with and ( 3 ) Baker haters seem resigned to the prospect of his very likely re-election, given his polls and his voluminous campaign funds.

I agree that Baker is likely to win re-election comfortably. He has done the job he said he was going to do; his caution frustrates some but aggravates few; and he has put himself on the side of our vast majority of voters on every hot-button issue that has arisen. He has stood with Attorney General Maura Healey on her challenges to Mr. Trump’s immigration and travel ban orders. He stands with Planned Parenthood. He vigorously opposed the South Boston Veterans’ original vote to bar the OUT Vets from marching in next Sunday’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Baker and Boston Mayor Walsh have partnered on most Boston developments; they continue to do so.

Baker has targeted state funds to environmental matters and to municipal needs. His very numerous judicial nominations have faced little or no opposition. Where scandal has arisen in his administration, he has taken swift action to end it. He works with whoever needs to be worked with : legislators, business leaders, unions. It’s hard to think of any major interest that he has disappointed. Even immigrants’ rights advocates, who would like Baker to agree to grant driver licenses to undocumented people, and to declare Massachusetts a sanctuary state, acknowledge that he has made no moves at all in the direction of Mr. Trump’s war on those who actually reside here.

All of the above has led to baker winning big approval in every poll taken : 59 favorable, 19 unfavorable in the moist re cent sounding. His numbers come out better – much better — even than the supposedly beloved Senator Warren. Only 44 percent told the most recent pollster that Warren deserves re-election; 53 percent said the same of Baker. Warren will do quite better than 44 percent next year; she will probably approach 60 percent of voters,. But so will Baker.

And then what ? After Baker finishes his two terms, at age 66, will the next Governor also be a Republican ? Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito would, I am sure, love to succeed Baker, and she has everything it takes, including unmatched experience of our municipal governments, to be a successful election winner. (Disclosure : she and I are friends.) But things do not stay the same, and the platform whence her election launches — the Republican party — is not getting stronger; and whatever new strength it is acquiring from Trump fans actually disadvantages it in Massachusetts elections, as Mr. Trump won only 33 percent of our state’s vote, and his positions and persona are anathema to almost every voter who voted against him.

Massachusetts has elected Republican Governors ever since Bill Weld won in 1990, with only Deval Patrick as an exception, in large part because our Republican nominees have been good government, reformist, referee types : and Baker epitomizes the Governor as nonpartisan referee. The very smallness of the local GOP, only eleven percent of all voters, assures the state’s Democrats that no GOP Governor can ever implement a partisan, GOP agenda; while his not being a Democrat assures that he is free of the many fractures that split the state’s dominant political party. But this system has worked — this situation of electing Governors from a very small political group — only because the local GOP has chosen electability over ideology. I’m not bullish that this realism will continue.

The Trump interest is not a realist one. Baker’s caution offends their recklessness. They do not want to win elections, they want to change how elections are run. Trump’s fans prefer that only property owners vote. They reject the welfare state, including the social safety net;  they want less legal immigration (as well as no undocumented), they dislike inconvenient people; and they insist on saying all these things, loudly and with insult. None of this is calculated to win any Massachusetts election in our lifetimes.  As our state’s aging Republican cadres continue to age, and to die — go to almost any GOP committee event. the average age of those attending is easily 65, sometimes over 70 –the only young people you see showing up are the Trump fans, the very few, all of them aware of their man’s pariah status and proud of it.

How will a Karyn Polito, s progressive as any GOP office holder these past 25 years, win the support of these insurgents ? How will anybody else gain it, other than their insult confreres ? If the GOP of Massachusetts cannot somehow win large numbers of ordinary activists to its side — and remember, eleven percent of our voters is still a lot of people, about 450,000 of them — there will, by 2022, be few, if anyone,  in the Massachusetts GOP capable of winning a statewide election after winning a primary decided by Trumpians. For the rest of us are not fools. We know anathema when we hear it spoken. Our state has elected almost only Republican Governors thanks to a political understanding unique to Massachusetts, an understanding built upon the wise realism of our political classes bolstered by some and shrewd convenience on the part of a majority of voters. I doubt that such a delicate bipartisanship can long survive the reckless radicalism of Mr. Trump and his cadre of wreckers who will perforce be all that is left of local GOP activism once the warfare of Trump and his Mad Maxes against the regular party has bled itself dry.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ on the trail of an allegedly profitable finagle : mysteries surround the relationship of Mr. Putin to Mr. Trump — and vice-versa


The Art of the Deal is Real The art world is a strange one, in regards to art as investment. Many people pay very high prices for art work for the very simple reason of parking their money. This idea invariably drives the prices of art up…drastically. The more the better. Because the more it’s worth, the more they get to avoid paying taxes on their wealth.

Recent revelations that Trump bought a certain house in Florida in 2004 for 40 million dollars became notable lately — the subsequent sale of that home having netted him a substantial profit. This is the property that he sold to a certain Russian Oligarch for 95 millions, more than doubling his money.

Why would someone pay a price deemed to be way over market value? That’s the question. This kind of sale is not unknown; these kind of arrangements are a common tactic by which people sink their money into countries like the US, paying way above actual value to do it. How does over-paying for a property make business sense for the buyer? There are two reasons. Number one, the money may need to be laundered because it is not legit. The second reason has regard to the first. The person selling the property agrees to kick back the buyer some of that excessive profit after the sale.

So, did Trump do that in FL? In NYC? No one seems to have that info, because no one gets to see Trump’s tax returns.

The same recent story I have alluded to highlights how Deutsche Bank and Cyprus bank dealt with Russian Oligarchs to launder money, in what the story calls a major case of “follow the money”. What stood out most was the identity of one member of those transactions, a person the story claimed to have facilitated the laundering: a head of the Cyprus Bank, an American : Mr. Trump’s recently-appointed Commerce Secretary.

So why does that matter? Perhaps Trump is installing people already involved in international Russian money-laundering. If so, why ? Trump previously met with Russians to discuss his brand-name hotels/casinos in Russia: all of which is well-documented, but which now, viewed in this light matters more than had Mr. Trump not been elected President.

Before taking office, this was just Trump’s way of franchising his name- he doesn’t actually own buildings, he just rents his name on them. The name is a brand, perhaps one that Russian Oligarchs appear to have wanted use of for making their own money. But maybe there is more to it.

Where this became complicated was when he became the actual President of the United States. The conflicts of interest are obvious for him, but what of others involved whom might benefit from him as president? This is a major question. What is another major question is what if his name becomes a liability? What if he’s a disaster (he is)? Do all these people who’ve invested in his name lose? Maybe. But maybe not. Let me back up. He ran for president, successfully. But did he actually plan to be? The reason I raise that question is there is much evidence that he did not. His cabinet has been in disarray since inauguration, and key positions in the state department have yet to be filled. Another indicator he may not have planned to be president is how ill-conceived his agenda and how easily it’s falling apart. One reason he ran for president was to bolster his brand, that much is apparent. Actually being president…that’s another thing entirely. A man with such extensive conflicts of interest financially gets little to no discernible benefit from actually being President. In simple terms, it requires him to…well…be president. To do the work, which is extensive to put it mildly.

But what if that’s not what he actually wanted? The question would then be “Why is he accepting the presidency?” That may seem like a dumb question…if you’re not really looking at the evidence. He seems inclined to make money, even in association with Russian persons of questionable background. Running for president became an obvious money-maker as well.

Everybody, it seems, was making money on running for president in 2016, most knowing damn well they had slim to zero chance of ever actually becoming POTUS. The money-generating potential was huge. But he campaigned on the idea he was using his own money. Is that true? If so, what would be considered his “own money”? Profits from a certain house sale?

The idea he didn’t actually want to be president is a controversial one, but in this case I feel it matters. We know Russian hacking seems to have been targeting HRC and to benefit Trump, but why? How would they benefit? The sanctions, right? Yeah, but maybe that’s not the only angle. Maybe that’s the obvious one, but maybe there’s another angle, a wholly financial one, that isn’t receiving as much attention.

Based on Trump’s legal-but-questionable money-laundering of property purchased from him by Russian oligarchs in the United States, transactions which seem to cast a growing shadow over now-President Trump, is it possible these transactions indicate a wider financial deal, one that set something in motion that even Trump himself at the time did not grasp, but thought nothing of beyond a healthy sale to a generous foreign national ?

Something he thought, at the time, he could distance himself from and control ?

Something he never imagined was as widespread and profitable that it might motivate cyber-terrorist efforts to meddle in an election of the President of the United States. Now that he’s President, these financial deals he has ties to he not only has been trying to hide but literally now has to hide. Because they indicate something way beyond conflict of interest. Did Russia work to make him president even if he himself never expected to be? If so, this would indicate something remarkable: there is a Russian gun to his head. The gun may be an international entanglement beyond our wildest imagination. The true art of the deal is just that- art. And Russian money. Money they’re parking in America.

Oligarch. That word kind of says it all. Trump helped these Oligarchs park their money, and made lots of money doing so. He figured he’d come out shiny blonde…but he turned orange. In doing so, perhaps what he didn’t know, or didn’t wanna know, was the scope of this art deal. The deal that Putin was the main Oligarch worth some $85bil and needed somewhere to park his wealth. Maybe Trump knew, maybe he didn’t, but either way what’s done is done. Now he’s president and not only is he literally hoping this all just goes away (it won’t), but he has to run this country and he doesn’t know how to govern much less run a country. He’s in a very tough spot: he can’t help the Russians without drawing attention, like he was able to before. And he can’t sell them any more over-priced art. Which begs the question: was meddling in the election the second phase of the original money-laundering art-parking scheme? And if so, what can Russia now buy from the President of the United States? Something tells me this painting is a fake, and we’re finding out far too late.

—- Christopher Mugglebee / The Mugglebee Files for Here and Sphere


Mike Kelley

the money leader right now : Mike Kelley campaigns in “Southie” with our mutual friend Marcella Sliney (center)

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Money for the five-way contest to choose  a new Councillor for District 2 lines up like this as of March 1, 2017:

Michael Sean Kelley has 48,694.36, including big donations from several major Boston political and real estate names : John Affuso, Bob Beal, Harry Collings, Suzanne Iannella, Dennis Kanin, Henry Kara, Steve Kunian, Marc Savatsky, and Peter Welsh. The real estate community generally provided a very major percentage of Kelley’s money so far.

Ed Flynn has yet to file a new report. His last was from 2006, when he ran for this City Council seat in a race won by Bill Linehan.

Cory Dinopoulos reports 2,404.27, including a donation from former governor candidate Juliette Kayyem, who served on the Boston 2024 committee that Dinopoulos helped found. Cory had his campaign kickoff on March 2nd; we will soon see the money results thereof. It was very well attended.

Peter Lin-Marcus has formed a campaign committee but has yet to file a money report.

A fifth candidate, Frank Ulip, reports $ 25.00 as of March 1st.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere






^ in pink, upper right, District 2 : contains all of South Boston, the South End, Bay Village, Chinatown, and the Downtown area that today is vastly more populous than it was ten years ago, much less 30.

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For the first time since 2007, the City Council seat representing District 2 is open. The voters of South Boston, Chinatown, Bay Village, and the South End have only had two Councillors since district representation was established in 1981 : the notorious but charismatic Jimmy Kelly and the soft spoken Bill Linehan, Now, as Linehan is retiring, the area’s communities — much changed since Kelly first took office, with all of the Downtown core of high-rise condominiums now added — will elect a new face.

Well, maybe not a face all THAT new. Of the three leading candidates, one in particular bears a face known best of all to long term residents : Ed Flynn, son of former Mayor Ray Flynn.

Certainly Flynn starts the race as a favorite; but by no means is his election assured, any more than Billy Bulger, Junior’s election as South Boston state representative was assured, many elections ago, when a newcomer to politics, union activist Stephen Lynch, ran and defeated him. If Flynn hopes to win, he will have to earn it the hard way.

His task will not be easy. Among the likely candidates — OCPF lists a total of four so far — we find two who come to the race with substantial followings : Cory Dinopoulos, of 300 K Street in South Boston, one of the founders of the Boston 2024 Olympic idea, and Michael Sean Kelley, of 100 Arlington Street in the Bay Village region, a veteran of the late Mayor Tom Menino’s operation. Kelley knows his way politically, and his facebook page has 2,152 friends. Dinopoulos may be even more social media aware: he’s very active on twitter and  facebook, and his campaign kickoff, on March 2, 2017, at Capo Restaurant, drew a large crowd of not the usual suspects. (There’s also a fourth candidate, Peter Lin-Marcus, of Tyler Street in Chinatown. I have yet to meet him or talk with him.)

When this District was created — disclosure : I was a key advisor to the City Council Redistricting Committee that created the current nine-district map — the goal was to assure South Boston a seat. “Southie” was one of Boston’s most powerful political communities; it to anchor a District. The problem was, what precincts to add, because “Southie” had about 37,000 people, and Districts had to contain about 70,000. We understood that the “added precincts” would likely be “filler,” which made the decision a painful one : who would get screwed ? The South End was the easier choice — the other suggestion was Back Bay and Beacon Hill, and they had too much clout to accept being pawned off. The South End had scant political clout; we saw it, more or less, and maybe unfairly,as a hotch potch of vacant buildings,. underserved populations, and elderly life-long South Enders.

Today the South End is very high-end, as are the precincts north of it, and together they form a seriously powerful constituency of high income movers. To add to the mix, an entirely new neighborhood, the Seaport District, has filled two formerly empty precincts (Ward 6, Precinct 1 and — to a lesser extent — Ward 3 Precinct 8) with about 12,500 voters who weren’t there when Linehan was first elected.. Given this influx, there’s no guarantee at all that a highly respected, lifelong “Southie” candidate like Ed Flynn can carry the day. Bill Linehan himself barely survived a Chinatown challenger, Suzanne Lee, in 2013. How will Ed Flynn stave off Dinopoulos, who lives in South Boston and has widespread support in the upscale precincts, or Michael Kelley, who knows everyone and lives in Bay Village, a very populous singe precinct ?

Is it possible that Flynn won’t even “make the cut” in the primary by finishing in the top two ? I think it is entirely possible. South Boston used to turn out 7000 votes on primary day — you could count on it. Recently the number’s been more like 3700. How good is that, when the Downtown Precinct alone (Ward 3, Precinct 6) lists almost 7500 voters by itself ? Flynn’s people might answer that newcomer voters who live in a tower and have no neighborhood feeling at all aren’t likely to turn out 50 percent for a primary. I would agree. But if this precinct turns out just a quarter of its votes, 1875, that’s worth three or four of Southie’s 14 precincts by itself. Now add in the Seaport precinct’s 1500 votes, almost all of them new to Boston, much more attuned to Dinopoulos than to Flynn, and Flynn is already in big trouble.

Flynn of course knows all of this as well as I do. I trust he is working like crazy — has been working — to dig some serious roots in the non-South Boston precincts that whelm so large. Being the son of a Mayor surely helps; but when Ray Flynn was Mayor, 1983 to 1993, neither the Seaport or the Downtown high rises existed, and the South End had only partly become what it is today. There isn’t much that Ed Flynn’s Dad really can do, “across the channel” to break the ice for his son.

One other curious situation about this race : not one of the three “major’ candidates was an obvious  supporter of Mayor Walsh in his 2013 campaign. The Flynns supported John Connolly; so did Cory Dinopoulos. (So, too, did South Boston’s state representative, Nick Collins, and his Dad, who was himself a state representative, albeit from Charlestown.) Of Mike Kelley’s allegiance, I am uncertain. He is said to be a Walsh ally now. As Walsh is running for re-election, and as South Boston — but not at all the District’s non-Southie precincts — were a Walsh stronghold, having an alliance with Walsh might make  a difference, at least in South Boston, where alliances are valued as “being on the other side”is barely begrudged

The Connolly-Walsh battle has not been forgotten in South Boston, and the Connolly people may just be numerous enough to provide Ed Flynn a base, big enough, when added to his family’s supporters, to get him one of the two top spots in the primary.

I say “maybe.” Nothing about this race is etched in stone. There’s no obvious favorite, despite what old standards may suggest. Let’s see what the campaigns make of it.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



Yesterday the full Senate took up the nomination of Ben Carson to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Elizabeth Warren, our state’s senior Senator, voted No.

In doing so, she betrayed her identity — her hard-fought stance — as a voice of principle.

When the Carson nomination came before the Senate committee of which she is a member, Warren voted Yes. Here is what she posted on facebook, according to Masslive on January 26, 2017, about that vote :

“Dr. Carson’s answers weren’t perfect. But at his hearing, he committed to track and report on conflicts of interest at the agency. In his written responses to me, he made good, detailed promises on everything from protecting anti-homelessness programs to enforcing fair housing laws. Promises that – if they’re honored – would help a lot of working families,” she wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post. (emphasis added)

“Can we count on Dr. Carson to keep those promises? I don’t know,” the senator continued. “People are right to be skeptical; I am. But a man who makes written promises gives us a toehold on accountability … If Dr. Carson doesn’t follow through on his commitments, I will be the very first person he hears from – loudly and clearly and frequently.”

So ; what happened between January 26 and yesterday ? Did Carson not :follow through on his commitments” ? Hardly, as he was not yet in office. Did he break those written promises Warren cited ? No, not those either. So, again i ask, what happened, to justify Warren voting to confirm one day and to not confirm a month later ?

It is bad whenever a politician turns his or her support on and off. Loyalty — dependability — is the life blood of governmental good faith. Those who exhibit it can sway much; those who don’t, find themselves avoided.

It’s much, much worse for a politician whose entire persona is principle. An elected official whose signature is to stand unshakably on principle, hasn’t much left when that refusal to be shaken becomes shaken by her own shaking.

It is said, in Warren’s defence, that Carson is not qualified. Well ? Was he less unqualified on January 26th, a day when his measure of qualification did not cost him Warren’s vote ?

Senator Warren made a national name for herself as a fearless voice of principle. Today that name is spoiled. Who will ever trust her again to ride through the entire battle by their side ? Not many. It seems that Warren is all hot for principle when standing tall is easy to do, but when the going gets tough, she is as cold to the call of principle as a cruel New England north wind.

We like politicians who, when they make standing up for principle their calling card, stand strong no matter how hard the wind is blowing, or in what direction. Bem Carson may or may not turn out to be a fine Secretary of “HUD.” That is up to him. But he now knows that Senator Warren is someone to be leery of. Nothing good came come of that.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





Donald Trump Delivers Address To Joint Session Of Congress

^ last night Mr. Trump did the duty required of him by Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution. Did it work ? We will see.

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Last night the man who holds the office of President spoke to a joint session of Congress in accordance with Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution : “He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…”

This was a setting that augured much discomfort to a man who during the entirety of his campaign, as well as throughout the first six weeks of his occupying the Presidency, has spoken only to his adoring fans. But the Constitution left him no escape. To “give to Congress…” was a duty he took an oath to defend, and so it was : he had to speak to people at least half of whom despise him and all his works and to endure whatever less than enthusiastic response they threw his way. He is not a man who easily suffers opposition, and thus his speech did its best to not arouse it.

That was the first thing his speech was about. He had at all costs to earn applause lines, to look the hero he has boasted of being, to reassure his fans — who are not all fools and can read the “fake media” as well as anyone — that he is still their savior.

Doubtless he was so advised : speak as embracingly as you can, Sir. Whence said advice ? One wants to say his son in law Jared Kushner and Kushner’s wife, Ivanka. Reince Priebus, chief of staff, must also have played a major role. The advice was sound. Mr. Trump was often applauded — if only by half the room — and so reassured his fans that he can actually say nice things as well as harsh ones.

His nice things were the cliches of Presidential exhortation : unity, peace, our allies, prosperity, and the pursuit of big dreams — but as he had never said them, it had to be refreshing for his fans to hear him say them to the entire Congress.

Still, the ultimate purpose of his message was to reach the uncommitted independent voters who will decide his Presidential fate. Right now he has — to judge from a variety of polls published so far —  little support other than 80 to 85 percent of Republicans. Democrats oppose him and his policies by about eight to one; independents by 60 to 40. Losing independents, Mr. Trump finds himself opposed by about 56 to 40. In a recent Delaware state senate special election, a District that had elected a Democrat by two points elected one by 16 — a 14 point swing. A similar swing showed up in Saturday’s special elections in Connecticut and Minnesota. Mr. Trump won his own election by the slimmest of margins; nationally he lost the popular vote by two points. A 14 point swing, from his 48.5 to 46.2 percentage loss would have him losing by 56.5 to 38.2 — numbers which would cause his party to lose easily 50 to 80 seats in the House and several in thew Senate. Little wonder that he was likely advised to get real in a hurry.

Thus his objective was to win back independent voters, to move from from 60 to 40 opposition to 60-40 support. Did he accomplish it ? That depends on whether he maintains the tone of compromise in which he spoke and supports tone with deeds.

On that score, the jury is out. While he suggested a compromise immigration reform, he also asked to establish support for victims of crimes by “illegal immigrants” — but no such support for victims of home grown terrorists. He condemned — finally — the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the horrific recent shooting of two Indian-Americans in Kansas, but he offered no support group for the victims of these actions. He spoke of support for NATO, but meanwhile his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is almost nowhere to be found and never included in high level foreign policy discussions. He spoke of peace and unity, but his Department of Homeland Security and its agents continue to intimidate, disrespect, and violate the rights of travelers foreign and domestic. He honored Black History Month, but his Attorney General only two days ago dropped  opposition to a Texas vote suppression law. He claims to have done more in five weeks than any prior President, but most of what he has done has damaged the nation and coarsened our society. Tourists from abroad are cancelling vacations here;  university graduates from overseas no longer dare to work here. Has acted with pen strokes, not by legislation; such legislation as he has proposed has gone nowhere, and much of what he proposed last night has been proclaimed “dead on arrival” by key GOP Senators. He has neutered many Federal agencies whose purposes he opposes, but which are charged by law with overseeing those laws, thus shirking his Article 2, Section 8 Constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

His task was complicated by the Democratic response. Many observers found former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s speech bloodless, listless; but Beshear wasn’t speaking to the f9ire gods. He was speaking to a very specific target, white working class, mostly rural voters, most of ,them not college educated, who had until 2016 almost always voted Democratic for President. As every 2016 poll made clear, large numbers of these voters shifted to the Trump column — some such counties in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio saw a 30 to 40 point swing ! Even a minor swing back to the Democratic column would change the 2016 result in those states, and Beshear spoke that kind of talk to that sort of voter.

Look and see what he’s doing, not what he is saying, said Beshear, who addressed health care, jobs, and wages. Will the voters he was talking to see it his way, or Trump’s ? We will find out.

Will any of the long list of policy facts that Trump might have to choice but to act upon matter to those who he hopes to seduce with words ? We shall see. He has always been a word winner. That’s how he became a reality TV star. Shouting and yelling draws attention away from what he is actually doing. It’;s a kind of con game, as many have noted. We will see if the con works when wrapped in words required by Article 2, Section 3 of our nation’s “Book of Rules.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Hedre and Sphere