The world has been challenged this past year by a virus, a zombie organism that attacks parts of the human body, fatally in some cases, others delibilitating. So far, about 4,550,000 humans have died as a result of Covid-19.

Rapidly three effective vaccines have been developed using “mRNA” chemistry which reverses the processes by which the novel coronavirus attaches itself to human cells — respiratory cells chiefly. The vaccines have proven to be — so the data have shown — 90 to 95 percent effective against the virus and over 99 percent effective against hospitalization. Few if any vaccines have ever mounted such a success rate. A big win for humans.

The world is vaccinating rapidly, as it should. Yet in the United States, and almost only in the United States, a significant number of people reject, even oppose, being vaccinated. Why ? I really have no idea; the reasons given make no sense, are mostly irrelevant, are pure willfulness, stubborn, deadly. I have nothing further to say to those who profess such death vibes and whose pig-headed morbidity endangers the rest of us who have the misfortune to be their neighbors.

Instead, I want merely to talk of my own vaccination.

On February 8th I received my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, by most accounts the most effective. My second dose arrived in my shoulder on March 5th. I will be getting a booster shot as soon as I am allowed. These shots were not my first. I’m vaccinated against measles, the flu, pneumonia, chicken pox, mumps.

My Dad was a Doctor, a “G P” or house doctor. I saw him diagnose and treat patients every day. I listened to him describe to me the way the human body works — muscles, glands, blood vessels, nerves, the brain. He described to me the symptoms of several diseases and what these symptoms entail. I watched as he sewed up wounded patients in the emergency room. I read his anatomy book, his treatise of endocrinology (endocrine glands are those which secrete a serum; the testicles are endocrines, as is the pancreas, etc.), his books on nervous disorders like multiple sclerosis, ALS, and dystrophy, appendicitis, gastroenterological diseases (ulcers, hernia, etc.), urinary infections. He loved to remind me that the human body is like my car (I was a hot rod car nut as a kid): it is made up of parts, and you must maintain those parts diligently or they will break down.

These were not Dad’s speculations. They were physical facts that I could see, feel, touch, observe. I am told, by vaccine deniers, that science is speculative and really, who knows ? But the human body is not a matter of speculation. it is not quantum mechanics, gravity, subatomic particle physics, archaeology, or evolution. You can see it being itself.

Why and for what possible reason would a person refuse to protect his bodily parts against a viral invader ? What sense does it make to die, or be incapacitated, by a virus which is so readily disabled by a chemical remedy administered to the shoulder the way oil is inserted into a car’s engine or brake fluid into into an hydraulic pump ? Yet we see people dying, or becoming seriously sick, by exactly such a refusal to care for their bodily car. They would more surely change their car’s oil, or check out its radiator, or make sure of its brakes, than they will do of their own body, the car of their life. Why ?

We can’t all be lucky enough to have a Doctor a sour Dad or Mom, but we can darn well act as if our Doctor were our parent and thus LISTEN to him or her and WATCH him or her as he or she treats the bodies of our fellow humans. Maybe if we were to do that, we’d get vaccinated and thereby save our bodies and thus our lives and protect the bodies of our fellows.

—- Mike Freedberg / here and Sphere



^^^ seeking a fourth term : Mayor Kim Driscoll, as commanding a figure as any Mayor in America

The present tack that the City of Salem is on cannot continue. No City in America should ever be remade as an emporium of junky quality, box-unit, elephant-big apartment buildings. Yet that is what Salem is fast becoming, with much more of it on offer if present policy continues.

Salem, of all cities, deserves differently. Here, history oozes from the bricks of sidewalks, screams from, the clapboarding of ancient houses. The bodies of falsely accused persons — hanged as witches — lie in Salem cemeteries. Nat Hawthorne and his Custom, House, in which he wrote The Scarlet Letter, are commemorated there ad all around the City. 15 houses from the First Period remain in old Salem, some of them still lived in. THESE are what plans for Salem’s future should imitate and bolster. Instead, the big plan is to create a city of featureless residential warehouses, overpriced as well — more Amazon, airport hangar, and Walmart than Nat Hawthorne, 1692, and sea captains.

Mayor Driscoll talks of “affordable” housing and the necessity for it. The opposite is happening. The junk being built, or planned, is and will all be overpriced, way overpriced. Affordability in it, there is none. Instead, the more junk boxes get built, the higher that rents and sale prices go. Why that is the case would require a lengthy economic analysis not useful in this endorsement article. Suffice for now to assert the illogical fact of it.

So the question arises : how do Salem voters turn back this wave of price-gouging junk ? Some say, “replace Mayor Driscoll, whose plans these are.” I disagree.

Driscoll does want one change which we enthusiastically endorse : making Salem’s long waterfront overwhelmingly residential rather than industrial, as most of it has been for 125 years and more.

Most of Driscoll’s other building plans deplore : but she is also a stalwart of what we now call “inclusion”, a very thorough administrator (some would say “too thorough”) and has the confidence of Governor Baker. These are not attributes and advantages Salem should just cast aside. How about, instead, voting to keep Driscoll’s diligence, her savvy, her civil rights idealism, and the State respect which she so clearly has, and instead, give her a City Council whose majority will require her to change direction ? This is what our endorsements intend.

For Mayor : we endorse Kim Driscoll for a fourth term for the reasons given.

For City Council : there are many, many great and independent candidates, although one of the most independent, Arthur Sargent, is not running for re-election. That saddens us, yet there are other candidates who will do Salem proud. Voters will elect FOUR. We offer five recommendations to choose from, some of whom support Driscoll’s plans, which we justify because the Mayor is entitled to a voice even in an independent Council :

Our five at Large recommendations are Domingo Dominguez, seeking re-election to a third term; Conrad Prosniewski, former Police Department community engagement officer, seeking a second term; Alice Merkl, a supporter of Mayor Driscoll, who ran last time and missed election by only 100 votes; Melissa Faulkner, who also ran last time; and Juana Fernandez, a promising newcomer.

Salem also elects seven Ward Councillors, one from each of the City’s wards. Our recommendations :

Ward One : Belle Steadman, who ran citywide last time. Definitely an independent voice.

Ward Three : David Freni, who is challenging a Mayor Driscoll loyalist in a ward deeply impacted by junk-unit box ruination.

Ward Four : Stepanie Rodriguez is not only independent, she is also this year’s most engaged outreach campaigner with a confident and affable personality to match., We enthusiastically endorse her.

Ward Five : Steve Kapantais seeks the seat being vacated by Josh Turiel. Steve has long been a leader of those who seek an independent Council.

Ward Seven : Francis Riggieri seeks the Council position being vacated by Steve Dibble, who is challenging mayor Driscoll. he faces a strong supporter of Mayor Driscoll making a second run at this Council seat.

Were all of our recommendations to win election, Salem would have a Council with four votes Mayor Driscoll can count on and seven which she would have to try to convince. We like such an outcome. It would be a Council of persuasion and debate, upon issues which will decide if Salem becomes a livable City of history and residable waterfront or a dense hive of featureless, junk-constructed, overpriced “units.” As we see it, the matter is absolutely existential.

— Mike Freedberg, for the editors of Here and Sphere



The above person may be known to you. By name, anyway. By reputation, not so much. Once upon a time, he was a giant of our elected democracy, an elected Mayor entrusted with governing a major City, which duty he mostly exemplified.

But that was 20 years ago.

On his watch, terrorists steered hijacked aircraft into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon and were prevented from further destruction only by the heroic self-sacrifice of Flight 93’s heroes.

Rudy Giuliani was younger then, and so was our nation. We still lived by the founding ideals and fulfilled our oaths to the Constitution so exhaustingly forged and won then some 212 years prior. Even those who did not like our national politics did not contemplate subverting it. we were mindful of our nation’s victories in war and in peace, of our immigrant character, of our certainty that — as President Reagan put it — “our best days lie ahead.”

But that was then.

In the twenty years since that awful day in September, 2001, our nation has lived in fear — of another such attack ? Of our vulnerabilities ? Of the world beyond our shores ? Of ourselves ? maybe all four.

Not all of us live in such fear. Maybe half of all Americans still believe in the future.Maybe even more than half ? Yet the half, or almost half, who do not believe in the future have since 2001 spread their fears across the lives of all of us. Some of us feel that blanket of black more directly than others, yet all of us can smell its wool, its mildew, a blanket from the crypt of the crazed.

There is poison in it all. Poison to the soul, strychnine to the mind. Rudy Giuliani epitomizes its effects. We often blame Trump for unleashing these cyanides upon us, but there would have been no Trump but for the effects of 9/11, 2001. How else to explain the reduction of Giuliani ? A friend of Trump, he was already within Trump’s range of contagion. He could have left that circle of defeat. He could have said, as most of us would have, that no, I will not go down your road, your avenue of lies, of hate, of subversion of all we hold dear and which I once held dear.

He could have said all that. He did not.

He once knew better. On 9/11 he had been a hero, a front line, hands on Mayor of 8,000,000 people, citizens and visitors, immigrants and commuters. Why did he not continue to walk that path ? Why have so many millions of us also not walked it ?

The United States of America was founded by immigrants, created a nation by educated men who believed in the rights of all men, the equality of all, of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. President Washington invited immigrants of all stations of life. The Federal government enabled our infrastructure, our land grants, our public colleges, the Federal highway system, public electricity, the Federal Reserve System, a social safety net. It regulated our commerce, as empowered by the Constitution. Harder to win, the civil frights of all, yet by 1965 those legal rights were won for good and always.

It was a history worth celebrating, of ideals and purposes many of us gave our lives to advance. Most of my own life has been lived thereunder. I know the drill, and I celebrate it. I grew up proud to be an American. Grandson of immigrants who risked their all to come here nad be whatever they could strive to be.

The confidence of those founders, and of our immigrants : where is it ? Why have we misplaced it ?

Yet to all things there is, as the prophet has written, a season; and the life of nations is no exception to seasonality. It is clear now that, a mere 20 years after 9/11, America is fracturing. One half of us wants to advance into the future according to our ideals and in furtherance thereof. The other half wants to abolish all that we have lived these past 232 years.

That this other half pursues an entirely different future from the American mission is its right — I may be saddened by their mission, even angered by it, but it is their right to have. I get that they despise immigration; hate Jews and many other sorts of scapegoat-able people; demand to control women’s health care and bodies; eliminate the social safety net; and many other abolitions of all that we, of the other half, cherish. I get that they want these things., What I do not get — what I WILL NEVER accept — is their readiness to destroy our Constitutional democracy on the way to getting their way of things, or their readiness top consort with our national enemies — all manner of tyrants and charlatans around the world — as a mans of subverting and sabotaging the nation.

Rudy Giuliani has done all of the above.

He did all that in service to his friend Trump, or so we are told; yet as I see it, he did all that he did because he wanted to do them. He did them to satisfy himself — turned his back on all that he was and had been and on his reputation. Can anyone really believe that he did that because he was pushed to do it ? No. He did what he did because he has no self, no honor to which he is sworn, no commitment to any duty. To be a man one must live beyond the mere moment and outside the aroma of aladdin lamps. To be a man one must have principles for which one will say “no” to those who would abuse them.

Rudy has failed that test.

He is far from the only one to fail it.

The nation itself is failing it. In my opinion, no matter how hard the others of us struggle, there is no going back. We will have only a half future.

In the life of nations, half a loaf is not better than no loaf at all.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere