^^ Chuck Berry gave us “Promised Land” 60 years ago.

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Ronald Reagan, forty years ago, as President, told Americans that our best days lie ahead. I heard him say it. I was inspired. We all were. We believed him when he told us that it was “morning in America.”

We were wrong. It should have occurred to us — or to me, at least — that if the sentiment needed saying, that it wasn’t something assumed — that there was no assurance at all; that perhaps our best days did NOT lie ahead; indeed, that they were very likely behind us,

America the world’s great democracy, the unique experiment in self-government, has lost its mojo. The nation that conquered the Depression, won the World War, was the “arsenal of democracy,” won the heroic civil rights struggle, defeated the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War — that America, the hope and savior of all humankind, has used up its energy and is today a kind of collapsing, crumbling colloseum.

Stay with me awhile as I demonstrate…

Let us start with the January 6th, 2021 terrorist attack by Trump hordes on the US capitol. A nation is not in its best days when a mob of its citizens violently attack it.

We’ve all seen the videos, heard the shouting, listened to the police officers who were assaulted on that horrible day. It was NOT our best day, and best days are not coming soon because the violence of January 6, 2021 is out there being touted and praised by the supporters thereof.

It is not morning in a nation where roaming mobs of miseducated brats deface statues of our heroes, as happened last summer. Below is a photograph of an ignoramus attacking the statue of Mathhias Baldwin, a Philadelphia Quaker and Abolitionist who paid from his own money to set up a school for Black children 30 years ahead of its time.


So much for what Chuck Berry in 1961 called the “Promised Land,” his song and ours, done back when we all understood that America was the new Canaan, the land of our hopes and struggles to which we all, and our ancestors all, had risked everything to get to.

Destroyed by our own hands, attacked by our own neighbors, insulted and broken by those who hate the nation that not so long ago all had loved.

The music, too, has turned on itself. The music of 1961 — as that, of 1951, 1941, 1931, and also that of 1971 — was enthusiasm, exuberant,  straight-ahead beat, a fast-forward rhythm, a voice of confidence, triumph, joy. It was the sound of victory. It was a battle hymn of the Greatest Generation. Think Count Basie, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, James Brown, the Kingsmen, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, Gary U.S. Bonds. But now ? The hit music of today — hip hop and its variants — has a chunk beat, a square rhythm that encloses the self within it. It’s the sound of a locked door to a very small quarters within which one hides from the world and shrinks from challenge. It is pent-up and sometimes murderous (for real) and always it is sad; its sex is a lot of talk, no action. Even when dancing, it is “dancing in the dark,” as Bruce Springsteen wrote in 1985 and as house music and techno do it.

The America of 1962 to 1969 sent men to the moon. Today we send house prices sky high.

Civil rights activists of 60 years ago dressed in their Sunday best, protested in the daytime., steeled their courage to nonviolence no matter what. Result ? They won the support of almost the entire nation. Today ? Don’t get me started….

The Civil Rights heroes of 1950-65 believed in the dream of America. What do protestors of today believe in ? 

Wage workers in 1961 America had strong unions and got ahead. They could buy a house. What can wage workers do today ? Even when they have a union, house prices have long since lifted way beyond. In 1968 I paid $ 35 a month to rent a two bedroom apartment in Roxbury. Today a two bedroom apartment in East Boston costs $ 2100 to $ 3200 per month. Has my salary increased 80-fold to accommodate this price surge ? Hardly. Has yours ? 

So no; it is NOT “morning in America.” as for our days that lie ahead, they are not our best, not even average. They are sick and getting sicker. I’m not talking the pandemic. We can still conquer viruses, at least those in nature. Computer viruses, it seems — cyber attacks — are beyond us.

We used to be the victor in war. Then came Viet Nam and failure. Ever since, except for the first Gulf War (1190-1991), it has been failure, extended failure followed by ignominious withdrawal, abandonment of allies. We have “the greatest military in  the world'” but no will to use it greatly.

Our democracy — our Constitution and the ideals vowed in the Declaration  — used to be our treasure, our lodestar to which we would all rush. Today we are told — by our educators, and enforced by the corporate elite — that our Constitution is nothing but racism and our Declaration an hypocrisy. is it anyt wonder that 30 percent of the nation feels betrayed and wants nothing but to stab us dead and set up a crooked noisy fascism, or that another large percent want to wipe out our history and equal protection of the laws and all that it implies in favor of “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “equity” ?

As for the Ogre, he is still out there, honking his immodest horn. He has his wanna-be’s as well, screeching to seduce our attention like the selfie whores they are.

I fear that I am tempting your patience, dedar reader. Fear not. What more can I add to examples from music, money, the law, the nation, and our courage at home and in war ? We all have our own anecdotes to add here. They add up, however,m to the same thikng : our best days DO NOT lie ahead. Far from it.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Americans in 1961 had strong labor unions, could earn fair wages and fight for more. Today ? Unis stNo, it is NOT ‘morning in America.”
No, it is NOT “morning in America.”

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Boston is changing drastically. The Boston we came to be in, back 40, 50, 60, 70 years ago, is all but gone. It is becoming a city of highly educated, skills-minded incomers from elsewhere in America. No longer is it the destination of immigrants impoverished and abused, escaping lives barely livable in search of the opportunity and freedom that America offers. That Boston has had its time, served its purpose, just as America, from its beginning served its purpose to immigrants from everywhere.

America is immigrant nation : but as we have seen these past ten years or so, immigrants are no longer the ideal, no longer welcome in the nation their predecessors built.

It isn’t just Boston; it is everywhere in the United States. We see it in assaults against Asian-Americans. We feel it in travel bans. We hear it in the rants of fascist politicians.

The consensus among us, sadly, is that we are full up; that immigration has become a burden, not an opportunity. I happen to disagree completely with this view — to me, immigration is and always will be America — but I recognize that my view is losing custom.

So it is with Boston.

I take you back now to Rome.

Come with me to the ancient city as it changed from the capital of a vast imperial bureaucracy, economy, and learning to the headquarters of an ascendant Christianity. The Rome of 700 A.D. was an entirely different city from Rome in 400 A.D.: different population, different ideals, different elites. Gone were the Senatorial families; gone the libraries; gone the palaces, the marketplaces, the baths, the city prefects. In their place, immigrants from, Greece, pilgrims from the north, refugees from German invaders. Rome in 700 AD was hardly a city at all. it was a last retreat, a Helm’s Deep (to recall The Lord of the Rings movie). It had almost no economy other than what pilgrims visiting Saints’ shrines left as a devotion. The Papal bureaucracy — staffed almost entirely by newcomer families from Greece and beyond — was its only link to a literate, sophisticated past.

It wasn’t really Rome at all.

So it is now with Boston. A city becoming as unlike the Boston we knew as Rome in 700 wasn’t the Rome of 400. Yes, THAT big a change.

What we call the “traditional Bostonian” –working class voters of Irish, Italian, Polish and Jewish origins; many of them city workers; families whose sons became policemen, politicians, and priests — has shrunk in number to less than 20 percent of all voters. For the first time since the 1860s, there is no candidate for Mayor of Irish descent. This should not surprise. The people most confident of tomorrow’s Boston are its recent arrivals : Black citizens, mostly of Caribbean origin; Hispanic voters, the sons and grandsons of immigrants and refugees; highly educated transplants from elsewhere in America, lured here by our educational masterworks, our finance firms, and our hospital employments.

All over Boston these three streams of people have taken command of homes, apartments, turf, shopping tastes, the arts and talk. And of our politics. The politics of the Boston I grew up in were personal and factional. Ideology had very little to do with what we campaigned for. City jobs were a big deal. When I first worked at the School Committee in 15 Beacon Street, the City had 30,000 employees; elections for City of Boston Credit Union board were major campaign efforts. City employees and their extended families made up a good 30 percent of all voters in most city elections. The tradition was that strong. City firemen handed down their jobs to their sons and grandsons; same with the police force. Fire and police were like medieval European guilds.

The descendants of Irish, Italian, Jewish and Polish immigrants dominated every neighborhood except Beacon Hill, Back Bay and the South End and Lower Roxbury, which were the home of Boston’s then smallish African-American citizens. Today, that is all changed. Descendants of Irish immigrants dominate only seaside Dorchester, Charlestown, part of South Boston, and a few portions of West Roxbury and Brighton. The Brahmins who dominated Beacon Hill and Back Bay are almost all gone now. Boston’s African-Americans have mostly moved to the suburbs.

With them have gone the Kennedys. In 2020 a Kennedy lost a Democratic primary race — in Massachusetts !! — for US Senator — lost it by ten points. Unthinkable. I still can’t believe it happened. Well, it di happen. So there’s that.

With the immigrants and the Kennedys have gone incredibly affordable house prices. it is hard to accept that merely 50 years ago, homes in Boston could be bought for $ 20,000 if not less — a whole lot less, in many cases. I was talking to a voter in Roslindale yesterday who recalled 65 years ago paying $ 14,000 for his Garrison-style home, now worth $ 700,000.

With those long-gone house prices has vanished any pretense to a world-class public school system. In 1960, a Boston school teacher earned about $ 5000 a year or less. They were mostly young women pre-marriage or older women after motherhood years. Many were unmarried for life; school kids were their children. Yet these women, underpaid, taught vigorously. They brooked no misbehavior in class; and in this they were firmly backed by their school principal and by the superintendent.

Their students were almost all the children or grandchildren of immigrants. M y Mother and her six siblings — born to an immigrant couple from Ireland and Eastern Europe — were among them. They and their teachers were “the greatest generation.” We should, I hope, remember, as we go about the new Boston, what that greatness was like, even as we tear all of it down to serve the vastly different new.

Today, and probably far into the future, Boston will be something utterly else. it will be a City of transplants from elsewhere in America — and a few from overseas — the highly prosperous and workaholic motivated, skilled to the uttermost, and of managers managing managers who manage the managers of vast pools of money and medical research, of technology labs and glittery retail shops. Supporting this economic meritocracy will be the schools and the politics, the media and the restaurants, the health clinics and the bike repair shops, the sports activists and the arborists, all of whom seek to recreate the environmental idylls they grew up with out there in America’s fly-over country even as they replace my immigrant city with a surfeit of feel good requirements which, if you don’t share them, will cast you as out as the elites of 1950 cast out their black sheep.

TellI hope you, dear reader, are ready for the next Boston. Maybe you will tell us, we who by then will be partying in heaven or getting wasted in hell, what the city of influencer pronouns and climate-justice bicycle veggies is like. Tell us of its music, its movies, its art, if these still exist in a form we can recognize (which I doubt). Myself, I look forward to earing about it even as I worry about my grandkids having to actually live in it.

Please be kind to my grandkids. They were brought up the old ways and will have to undergo loads of mentoring to adjust to your expensively buttered, liberally pronoun’d, smokeless, artificially intelligent version of “Boston.”

Of course it is true that life belongs to the living. Its their environ, not ours. They have to live in it, endure it, spurn it, escape from it, profit in it. I am hoping they will profit and not be profited on. But that we will have to see about.

—- Mi Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^^^ the five faces of Mayor : can you be persuaded or is it all about the default spin ?

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Another way of stating the headline is to ask “do candidates matter ?” Maybe yes, maybe no.

We are living in an age of ideology, where for a critical bloc of voters, the issue is the important thing and never mind, these voters seem to say, the character or qualifications of he or she who advocates that issue. Mr. Trump epitomized this sort of voter mindset. “Yes,” said his supporters, “he’s a bastard, but he is a bastard for us.” Meanwhile, Mr. Biden, for all that nearly everyone recognizes his impeccable character, earns no points thereby among those who backed Mr. Trump.

Myself, I said last year, and still say it : “I’d rather spend four years disagreeing with President Biden than tolerate ten more minutes of Trump.” For me, character matters A LOT.

That’s because as I see it, issues come and go, but the quality of a man is what it is; and quality deals finer with every issue than lack of character with any. A politician sets an example for the nation by who he is, not by what he thinks on this or that issue.

Thus for me, character matters a lot, and whatever I may think on this or that issue, I can be persuaded to change my position by a candidate who makes herself a solid case for a position I did not hold until we discussed.

In other words, I am a persuadable voter. Am I the only one ? I doubt it. I think there are a lot of persuadable voters. The problem is that it takes time to persuade a voter, and most campaigns find themselves unwilling to invest time in doing so. In a Citywide Boston election, there’s likely to be up to 152,000 voters voting. It’s far easier to find the 77,000 (hopefully) who agree with a candidate’s position than the 15,200 or so — rule of thumb says that ten percent of voters can be persuaded — who can be persuaded.

Lesson : Few candidates really care about you or me or our neighbors. They care about majority mathematics.

Ideally, a candidate will work to win a vote one vote at a time — because that is how votes are actually cast : one at a time — but rare indeed is the local campaign in which a candidate actually makes the effort to do that. It’s so much easier, and more efficient, to find out what a polling majority thinks on an issue and go around voicing the majority position in such language as her spin doctors decide the majority will trust. I s it any wonder that voters feel that politicians don’t listen to us ? They don’t.

The individual voter for the most part doesn’t exist and is never campaigned to. That’s especially the case for voters who aren’t selected by a “voter file’ company which selects out voters who aren’t ‘super voters’ or such like. If you’re not a “super voter,” you might as well be deported or dead; the campaign will never mail to you, never phone bank you, never knock on your door.

It’s a vicious circle. You don’t get campaigned to if you aren’t a “super voter,” and not being campaigned to, you are likely to not vote and so become even less “super’ than you were before.

One would like to think that those who run for office actually LIKE people. After all, you’re going to represent people and to work for the betterment of people. Doesn’t it make sense that you should then LIKE people ? Sadly, I have known plenty of candidates who either did NOT like people or did not like campaigning to them. (Worse still are the candidates I have known who didn’t like SOME people, but they are a different case altogether. Let’s leave them aside, which is where they should be.)

Yesterday i chatted with a neighbor, very politically active, who told me of how a candidate he supported was at his house all the time during the campaign, but after the candidate won ? Not a word, not even recognition — a “hi, how are you ?” — when he and the now elected person met at events.

I’d like to think that this is rare, but it isn’t.

Endorsements can be just as worthless. Two days ago an elected in Boston endorsed a Council candidate in language so obviously boiler-plated to him by that candidate’s spin doctors that I belly-laughed — “hey there, ______, you CAN’T be serious !”

Word : if you are going to endorse a candidate, do it in words YOUR OWN, words that can be believed rather than guffawed at.

But of course such default endorsements aren’t intended to persuade. they’re intended to pat the endorser on the back for being “with it.”

This year, the “pat myself on the back” endorsement spin is “equity and inclusion justice.” Or some combination of those trending words. Equity, inclusion, justice. As far as I’m concerned,. when you default to these words you debase them to the level of predictable sand salad. These words used to mean something. Not any more. All they mean now is “hey look at me ! I’m your guy ! See ? I got the lingo, don’t primary me, I’m on your side !”

As for persuasion, you know what gets persuaded by these sorts of campaigns ? That the politicians don’t give two shits about you and don’t even try to pretend that they do.

Guess what a voter who realizes these truths is gonna do ?

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



It’s not easy to discern who will be Boston’s next Mayor — at least four appear poised to get there — but whoever wins out should strongly consider the agenda I am about to set forth.

There is, first of all, a great deal of bad policy consequences to undo, mistakes that have festered for as long as 50 years and compounded to the point of absurdity. I address these in my list.

There is also a serious call to change direction. The City has, for the past 28 years, since the election of Tom Menino, opened the floodgates of land speculation and luxury housing and has also done away with an elected school committee. Both these decisions must terminate NOW.

And now to my agenda :

Housing — the most mal-administered factor in all of current City government — ( a ) there must be an end to zoning variances except in case of true hardship. Apply the law. No other exceptions. ( b ) prioritize and subsidize the construction of single-family and two-family houses, especially along waterfronts ( c ) admit three-family dwellings where feasible ( d ) plant trees on all residential streets and encourage trees and foliage generally in as much open space as is available and isn’t a ball field or marsh ( e ) no more huge-box apartment blocks (f ) rigorously enforce building codes so that builders cannot cut corners on quality of materials. (Note : These reforms would render moot all of the so-called “affordability” ordinances and regulations that have rendered Boston houses LESS affordable ! )

Public Safety — the very foundation of our having a City at all — : ( 1 ) clear the “methadone mile” and keep it cleared ( 2 ) expand the police force’s gang unit ( 3 ) increase police presence in Downtown, especially late night ( 4 ) appoint Nora Baston the next Commissioner ( 5 ) accept the State’s $ 850,000 crime-fighting grant ( 6 ) expand the youth worker force ( 7 ) support neighborhood crime watch groups ( 8 ) curb the use of so-called “dirt bikes” on City streets by enforcing laws against public nuisance and disturbing the peace; create a specific task force to police these regulations. ( 9 ) support our police men and women — and show it !

Schools : which are crucial to the City retaining families who now move to the suburbs because they have no coinfidence in the school system — ( 1 ) eliminate busing, thereby saving $ 100,000,000 annually ( 2 ) re-establish neighborhood schools and set up parent-teacher associations, which before 1974 were so important to school morale and quality ( 3 ) change the City charter to give us a school committee elected in part — 13 members plus two appointed by the Mayor ( 4 ) toughen the examinations required for students to gain admission to the “exam schools” and allow no dilution thereof [yes, neighborhood the student lives in can be a discretionary factor in admission, as it is for most boarding schools] ( 5 ) do a comprehensive, on-site appraisal of all facility maintenance and upgrade need, including air conditioning an d heating systems, some of which has been undone for 40 years, and allocate the monies to repair all such over a budget cycle of no ore than four years, with deadlines written into the order ( 6 ) consolidate school facilities to account for reduction in student numbers from 92,000 [present capacity ! ] to 54,000, which is the current enrollment; sell off excess buildings and apply the proceeds to the Capital Fund ( 7 ) allow principals to hire (and fire) their entire pedagogic staff ( 8 ) appoint a Superintendent from within the system only

Roads : are for cars and buses. Any other vehicles use the City’s public roadways at their own risk.

City hiring : bring back ;patronage to a degree. A mayor must be able to have her own close people in house to assist her work and to promote her politically.; merit is essential, of course, to technically skilled positions, but much City work isn’t that hard to master. There should never be any stigma attached to one’s acquiring a City job because one worked on a Mayor’s election campaign. If anything, work on the campaign teaches the campaigner a lot about City government that can’t be readily learned any other way. Lastly, patronage hires relieve the present concentration upon ideology, which, since the elimination of patronage, has all but monopolized the political sphere and not in a healthy way.

Fifty years ago Boston had over 30,000 public employees. They and their families, living almost all in one, two and three family houses, constituted a permanent community of interest and neighborhood connection that made the City stable and vibrant. Today much of the Boston voter list is singles living in apartment or condo blocks and high rises barely knowing each other, working in 10,000 different jobs and having no community except the social media-generated ideology of the moment. It is of course their free choice, but I don’t think the current custom is in any way preferable to what was our City.

This is hardly a complete list, but it will do for a start.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere