Job Quality

^ many jobs are being added, but most jobs are barely worth having. Not a good economy at all.

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Supporters of President Trump are praising the new official jobs report. In it, we find 266,000 new jobs for November 2019. Wages also rose by 3.1 percent, higher than expected. You can read the report here :

Unfortunately, the official report doesn’t represent facts on the ground. First, and so reported, a lot of the official growth results from the big GM strike ending. More significantly, the quality of jobs in the current economy subverts the impression left by their increase number. A far more accurate picture is displayed in the following Forbes magazine article :

Our economy is that of a highly stratified work force, one that resembles all too well the hardcase economy of imperial Rome in its best century : at the top, a small circle of the very rich; who are served technologically by a substantial force of well trained “comfortables” ; all of whom are serviced, every day, by an enormous army of helots (slaves in imperial Rome). (And of course underneath all these, a swarm of unemployed who exist on doled out bread and entertainments.)

Rome’s viciously stratified economy broke at the first shock — in the 250s — and wasn’t restored even to modest working until 40 years later, only to collapse completely in the 5th Century. It is not an edifying story — told remorselessly in many books on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — and we should worry a lot about its recurrence today.

Do I exaggerate ? I don’t think so. As the graph heading this column makes clear, job quality has fallen a lot in the past thirty years and resides at very low levels. Service work and retail jobs – which are a kind of servicing too — abound: food workers of all sorts, retail clerks, home health aides, janitors, hotel room cleaners, pot shop cashiers, delivery drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, airplane clean-up crews — and many more, you name it — make life bearable for the “comfortable” and comfortable for the rich. Neither class, the Comfortables and the Rich, could for one day live their lifestyles without the low-paid help of our economy’s helots.

After the Depression, almost 90 years ago, families began to learn how to live without dependency on helots. Family servants all but disappeared; doing one’s own chores became almost the norm even among the rich. In those decades, it was relatively easy for a worker to rise, or at least to accumulate substantial savings, enough to buy a home, maybe two homes. The typical house cost about two times annual household income; rents took maybe one-sixth of family earnings. Taxes were high, but the economy was expanding rapidly even as those working in it took home a major share of the entire national earnings. These were good times for workers.

Then came the securitization of mortgages — banks, which were almost the only mortgage lenders, could now sell their loan portfolio — and house prices began to rise rapidly. Easily fungible mortgages continue, and house prices continue to climb, even as the family earnings for most workers have refused to rise much. House prices in “hot spots” have risen 2000 to 10,000 percent since 1977, yet family incomes have risen only about ten times. What is the result ? Home ownership, once a universal national priority, now eludes most, and in hot markets eludes nearly everyone who is not at least a Comfortable. Only by having families double up, or triple — eight to sixteen people to a home — can low wage workers find a way to buy.

So much for the home ownership situation. The effects of low-quality, low-wage work impact well beyond the real estate markets. The millions of workers who earn from $ 10 to $ 16 an hour, at 30 hour jobs that carry no benefits, live lives encumbered almost completely by work, bill paying, and doing crucial family errands. They can’t take vacations, they can barely pay for a night out once a month. They can’t buy quality clothing, or, in many cases, afford to keep a car legally on the road (many are forced to drive without insurance, or even with suspended licenses because they can’t pay traffic tickets) or pay for day care for the kids. Yes, their lives are better than for the entirely work-less — the low wage worker at least has work to give him or her some sense of purpose and maybe a good credit rating. But by no means is his or her life anything anyone would choose who sees how the Comfortable live (much less the Rich).

There is no reason why government tax policy and wage laws cannot ameliorate this situation. Work should never be compensated at a less rate than is needed for the worker to prosper; to feel good about her life; to not feel inferior to those he meets at a socializing. This is why I am an all-in supporter of strong unions, which work to increase wage earners’ pay and benefits.

Union activity is, however, not enough. Companies must begin to treat their employees as assets, not as cost items. That means major GAAP reform. Government can chip in : the minimum national wage should be $ 12 an hour, $ 21 an hour in “hot markets.” Frankly, even that is not enough. To belong to the Comfortables, you need an income of at least $ 80,00 in the “hot spots.” Add kids, and you can make that figure $ 125,000.

Rome had one economic bonus : it was easy to move from the slave class into the Comfortables if you had a skill or could acquire a patron. It is far less easy to move in our economy from helot to Comfortable. Low wage workers tend to lack the technological dexterities that are prerequisite to obtaining Comfortable-class jobs. As for becoming rich, maybe a lucky few, who have a great idea, or extraordinary skill at something, and receive some breaks along the way, can rise to the Rich class, but hardly anyone else will do that. Yet once so ensconced, tax breaks now in law enable Rich persons to build enormous, unusable wealth (even if most of that worth is a paper figure dependent on a healthy stock market). This concentration of unusable wealth in the hands of a very few is economic absurdity, by the way. What economic good is gained by amassing dollars that can only be parked ? Capitalists at least invest their funds. They take the risk. What does a billionaire with his money parked in a money market account do except to hinder the economy by keeping his vast sums out of service ?

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ time to get the maps out again

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The decennial census being tabulated this year will make clear that big changes will affect how Massachusetts’s legislative seats — as well as Boston’s city Council Districts — are to be apportioned. All signs indicate that Boston has added at least 125,000 new residents since the 2010 census, and that Massachusetts as a whole has gained about 250,000. If so, the 160 State Representative districts will require about 44,000 people — up from 42,000 — and that Boston’s nine Districts will encompass 78,000 people each.

The big State change will occur in Boston. 125,000 new residents suggests at least two additional House seats, if not three. This means that two or three seats will be lost elsewhere in the state — almost certainly in the regions beyond Route 495.

I am quite sure that political junkies are already drawing their district maps. Likely it is that the Speaker’s office is also crafting maps. I see no reason, then, why I should not offer a map of my own. I’ve done this before; I think I understand considerations of incumbency, community and compactness.  So here goes:

Suffolk County legislative seats : there’s 19 currently. Expect twenty one in the new redistrcting :

1st Suffolk (Adrian Madaro) : Ward 1 of Boston, precincts 2, 4 through 14

2nd Suffolk (Daniel Ryan) : Ward 2 of Boston and wards 1, 2, 3 of Chelsea

3rd Suffolk (Aaron Michlewitz) Ward 1 of Boston, precincts 1 and 3; Ward 3 of Boston, precincts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

4th Suffolk ( new seat ) : Ward 3 of Boston, precincts 6, 7, 8 ; Ward 6 of Boston, precinct 1

5th Suffolk (Jay Livingstone) : Ward 5 Precincts 1, 3 through 10

6th Suffolk : (David Biele) : Ward 6 of Boston, Precincts 2 through 9; Ward 7 of Boston, precincts 1 through 9; Ward 13, Precinct 7

7th Suffolk : (Jon Santiago) : Ward 4 of Boston, Precincts 1 through 8; Ward 9 of Boston, precincts 1, 2, 3; Ward 8 of Boston, Precincts 1. 2, 3

8th Suffolk : ( Nika Elugardo ) : Ward 10 of Boston; Ward 4 Precincts 9, 10; Ward 5 of Boston, Precincts 2, 2A, 11; Ward 21 of Boston, Precincts 1, 2 ; Ward 19, Precinct 1

9th Suffolk : (Chynah Tyler) : Ward 9 of Boston, Precincts 4 and 5; Ward 11 of Boston, Precincts 1 through 3; Ward 12 of Boston

10th Suffolk : ( Liz Malia) : Ward 11 of Boston, Precincts 4 through 10; Ward 19 of Boston, Precincts 2 through 6, 8, 9

11th Suffolk : ( new seat) : Ward 19 of Boston, Precincts 7, 10 through 13; Ward 18 of Boston, Precincts 7, 9, 10; Ward 20 of Boston, Precincts 1, 2, 4, 6,7

12th Suffolk : ( Ed Coppinger ) : Ward 20 of Boston, Precincts 5, 10 through 14, 16 through 20; Brookline precincts 13, 14, 15, 16

13th Suffolk : ( Angelo Scaccia ) : Ward 20 of Boston, Precincts 3, 8, 9, 15; Ward 18 of Boston, Precincts 8, 11 through 20, 22, 23; one precinct of Milton

14th Suffolk : ( Dan Cullinane ) : Ward 17 of Boston, Precincts 4, 12, 13, 14; Ward 16 of Boston, Precincts 8 and 11; Ward 18 of Boston, precincts 1. 4 through 6, 21; precincts of Milton

15th Suffolk : ( Dan Hunt ) : Ward 16 of Boston, precincts 1 through 7, 9, 10, 12; Ward 13 of Boston, precincts 6, 8, 9, 10, 3 ; Ward 15 of Boston, Precinct 6; Ward 17 of Boston, Precincts 6 and 9; one precinct of Quincy

16th Suffolk : (Russell Holmes) : Ward 14 of Boston; Ward 18 of Boston, Precincts 2 and 3; Ward 17 of Boston, Precincts 7, 8, 10, 11

17th Suffolk : (Liz Miranda) : Ward 17 of Boston, Precincts 1 ,2, 3; Ward 15 of Boston, Precincts 1 through 5, 7 through 9; Ward 13 of Boston, Precincts 1, 2, 4, 5; Ward 8 of Boston, Precincts 4 through 7

18th Suffolk : ( Mike Moran ) : Ward 22 of Boston

19th Suffolk : ( Kevin Honan ) : Ward 21 of Boston, precincts 3 through 16

20th Suffolk : ( Robert DeLeo ) : Winthrop; Wards 2 and 5 of Revere

21st Suffolk : ( Rose Lee Vincent ) : Revere, Wards 3, 4, 1, 6; Chelsea, Ward 4; Saugus, two precincts

The city’s State Senate seats will change accordingly. I shall work out that map in my next column.

Note : for the new 4th Suffolk, an entirely in-Town District, there is no obvious candidate. This should be fun.

The new 11th District is an all-Roslindale seat. There are many worthy candidates. I can think of several : Conor Freeley, Robert Orthman,Travis Marshall, Emily Anesta, Chris Lang, Sean Berte, Andrew Cousino, Peter Pappas, Scott Hoffman, Elizabeth Sherva, Carol Downs, Adriana Cillo.

Let the games begin.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ signing ceremony at Boston English High School, the state’s first public school (1635)

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More than a year after the so-called “Promise Act” was proposed, for the future funding of public schools in Massachusetts, the much-amended version of that proposal is now law. Governor Baker signed the “Student Opportunity Act” at the beginning of this week.

The legislature voted unanimously to enact the version signed by Governor Baker.

So the big first question : what is in this massive spending bill ? And can it do the trick — close the so-called achievement gap” between students of color and students Caucasian and Asian ? Masslive’s report lists the main points :

And the second question : how did we get to unanimity ? We arrived there by incorporating into the bill ( a ) performance standards and monitoring of them ( b ) school districts have three years to come up with their plan for using the funds wisely and ( c ) full implementation must occur by year 2026. The original bill insisted on a five-year implementation.

Can this law work ? Despite the performance standards imposed, the gist of the bill is still money. The first object of that money is to close funding shortfalls between local school budgets and local school needs. The problem is that no matter how much money is accorded, school bureaucracies always find more budget needs to fund. The Student Opportunity Act revises the State’s school funding reimbursement formula, yes: all charter schools funding consequences will now be funded, special needs students’ transportation costs will be covered, and in general, poor-performing school districts will receive disproportionate funding help. If money alone can improve the performance of students in poor-performing districts, this bill will do the trick.

I am not so sure, however. The achievement gap is not merely a matter of money, maybe not even mostly. Students who don’t speak English at home need language immersion schooling at school. Homeless students need beds, meals, and security. Students who live in dysfunctional family situations need focus and repose, confidence and mentoring. In school, discipline needs to be rigorous : school cannot be a place for fooling around or “being oneself.” In my view, too much of today’s public school management emphasizes identity rather than rigor and diversity rather than uniformity. All students must master basic reading, arithmetic, and language use skills before they can graduate to specialization. Lots of money, by itself, will do nothing to change classroom facts.

That said, our political situation admits only of euphemism and easy ways out when public education is the topic. Powerful vested interests guard every gateway into how schools are actually managed and operated. Being a unanimous law, the Student Opportunity Act has the approval of every such vested interest, which means that nothing fundamental is likely to change. Unless the elimination of money worries, for the time being, can somehow induce stronger classroom morale. We will see if that happens.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere







All of you now beginning to read this column know, after last week’s Impeachment hearings, that the individual now occupying the White House is a lawless, entirely self–seeking criminal who operates in service of the Russian gangsters to whom he owes hundreds of millions of dollars — and maybe other stuff — and that he must be impeached and removed from office.

I’m very confident that he will be impeached, probably on a party-line vote or very close to it. The prospect that Republican members of the House would vote to impeach was always slim; we now know that in almost every case the chance is nil. Yet that cannot deter the rest of us, and it will not. The man will be impeached, and there will be a full trial in the Senate.

We pretty much know what that trial will sound like. The impeachment managers will present the facts as we now know them, about the infamous July 25th phone call with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine and about the entire build-up to it, including the illegal hold-back of $ 490 million in military aid to that nation. Then will come the defenders of the impeached man, who will present a hurricane of disinformation, forgeries, and outright lies, all of them in line with — and probably in furtherance of — the Russian forgers who disseminated them and continue to disseminate them.

The factual news media will report the facts, and the disinformation media will propagate the disinformation. What will it all amount to ? In my opinion, it amounts to the beginning of the 2020 Presidential election. Facts versus fakery, all of it televised to everybody who cares to watch it and breathe it in.

There will be no conviction in the Senate. The criminal in the White House can defecate on the Constitution all he wants, and his party will allow its faces to be swathed in shit; and those who for some reason believe the disinformation will lick the shit and call it barbecue. And so it will go right up to election day in November of next year: the shit faced versus the fact tellers. We will see how have the larger numbers, in sufficient electoral vote states, to decide the winner.

The only questions that remain are these :

( 1 ) why are the many very capable Republican members of Congress who know that shit is shit willing to let themselves be shit-faced ?

( 2 ) why are those voters who actively support the shitter willing, even eager, to say that shit is barbecue?

To the second question I have no answer. The voters who adore shit have their reasons, I am sure, but I am unable to fathom one.

The first question is more troubling. When we elect Congress people, we elect them to bear “true faith and allegiance” to the Constitution; yet the shitter in the White House could care less about the Constitution, violates it every day, and engages in conduct criminal and almost treasonous, in service of his personal money schemes, almost without giving one damn what anyone thinks or does. It stuns me that there is even one elected Congress person who tolerates such conduct for even one day.

Perhaps the answer is that Republican Congress members are wholly dependent on big donors and that these big donors don’t give a damn what the White House shitter does as long as he nominates bigoted and lawless judges and demonizes immigrants and LGBT people, betrays our allies, and endangers the climate. I don’t know what these donors think the outcome of their destructive radicalisms will be, upon the world’s condition or the lives of those whom the shitter endangers, but clearly these donors are hell bent on destroying whatever and whoever they have to in order to achieve their dark, ice cold nuclear nightmare. The Congress members whose campaign budgets they fund have no other choice. Dependence on big donor devils almost guarantees that small donations, from actual people, will shun them. Yet they take it.

To quote the great Fiona Hill, who testified yesterday : “This will all blow up. And here we are.”

To sum up : we must impeach and we must remove from office the individual who currently lives in the White House. After that, we can clean up the mess, no matter how long it takes. The good of our nation and its Constitution demands it.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



The shape of Boston’s recent City Council election allows us to configure the upcoming Mayor election– which campaign has already begun. Unless miracles drop, Councillor Michelle Wu will run. So might others, but Wu has the challenger’s pole position. She received more than 41,616 votes (tally is still unofficial) from 66,884 voters — well over 60 percent. (No one was close. Annissa Essaibi George and Michael Flaherty fell 7000 and 8000 votes short, respectively.) Wu was the Council’s President and, you might say, was and still is its most outspoken policy proposer. At the end of October she reported $ 344,157 cash on hand — a massive sum for a City Councillor.

Mayor Walsh reported $ 3,930,051 — more than times as much as Wu has, but that’s to be expected. He has the power. There’s plenty of room for that funds imbalance to change drastically. Let Wu actually announce, and there’ll be plenty of funds coming her way.

Can Wu win ? She certainly can. Let’s look at the state of things :

( 1 ) In the Council election just held, non-union “progressives” — Wu’s chosen constituency — outvoted labor-endorsed candidates across the board, both city-wide and in the District 5 race. Wu endorsed the District Five winner and also Alejandra St. Guillen, who lost to independent “progressive” Julia Mejia by one ( 1 ) vote, 22,792 to 22,791, for the fourth Council at-Large seat. Meanwhile, Walsh endorsed only a safe choice, Annissa Essaiabi George, and St. Guillen, whose campaign seemed to stall the day after Walsh decided to endorse her.

( 2 ) Wu’s policy proposals have certainly electrified “progressives.” She called for the MBTA to be fare-free. She proposed a $ 25 annual fee for resident parking stickers. She whole-heartedly supports burdening car owners sufficiently to force as many as possible into using public transportation. She may very well support attempts to bring back rent control to Boston (as of today, State law bars it), and it would not surprise were she to propose some sort of voting rights for 16 and 17 year olds. If there’s a priority initiative on the organized progressives’ agenda that Wu does not champion, I have not seen it.

( 3 ) Plenty of voters who might not like this or that Wu proposal — or any of them — still give her credit for trying to bringing change to a City government that, to many, seems resistant to change of any kind and determined to go its own way no matter who doesn’t like it. First to mind is the Mayor’s attitude toward development : he wants lots of it and seems willing to bend every zoning rule in order to get as much of it as possible built. The more aggressively Wu’s proposals unsettle the Mayor, the better she is liked by the many, many voters who are fed up with seeing their neighborhood bullied by developers. Lastly, an enormous number of voters lack confidence in the Boston School Department — for many very good reasons. Those who can move to towns with better-run schools, often do so. The rest stay — and are unhappy. Mayor Walsh cannot count on their votes, no matter how many Schools policies are voted unanimously by his appointed School Committee.

( 4 ) the most recent citywide, major election, for Governor in 2018, saw Governor Baker take 49.3 percent of the City’s vote to Jay Gonzalez’s 50.7 percent. It would not surprise me if the 2021 Mayor election were similarly close. Baker assembled his 108,000 votes by winning ( a )  the new-breed, Downtown and adjacent areas populated mostly by tech and institutional voters ( b ) the “old Boston” voters of Charlestown, Southie, Bayside Dorchester, Hyde Park, upper East Boston, and West Roxbury and ( c ) 36 to 46 percent of Black and Latino voters. Against him were ( a ) the “progressives” Of Jamaica plain and parts of Roslindale ( b ) Brighton-Allston and ( c ) 54 to 64 percent of Black and Latino voters — 112,000 votes in all.

I doubt that Mayor Walsh can build a win via this coalition. Michelle Wu won a very large percentage of the Downtown and adjacent vote, and Walsh has never been strong in Charlestown and East Boston. Baker is himself an institutional, Downtown-ish man; Walsh is anything but. His background is in labor, and a labor guy he still acts the part. Unions form a significant part of Baker’s support, but for Walsh they are more than that, they are identity. Which is a problem, given the weak showing by labor candidates in the recent Council election. That said, Walsh has no choice : labor will be his bedrock, and the neighborhoods of his traditional base : South Boston and Dorchester, some of Hyde Park, and about one third of West Roxbury. This is far, far from enough, but Mayor Walsh has one huge advantage : he can go to events everywhere in the City, as Mayor, bring City funds for this project and to that organization, and just flat-out meet everyone he can, as Tom Menino did. Michelle Wu can’t come close to matching Walsh’s ubiquitous star power, nor his money grants. He can cobble together votes ten or twenty at a time from almost every part of the City, from business people who need City licenses, from those who use the City’s libraries, parks, youth activities, and Main Streets, or just from people who can tell their kids “I met the Mayor !”

Will this, then, be enough? Against it I see Wu’s aggressive change agenda, her status as a non-Caucasian, and the momentum that “progressive” organizations and pointedly non-White campaigns have built up ever since Ayanna Pressley’s 7th Congressional defeat of defeat of Mike Capauno. More than that, Wu has the look of today — of social media — as the extremely local, Dorchester-guy Marty Walsh does not. There’s a bit of a social class thing going on here, though no one will say it, but appearances matter in the Age of Instagram. Here, Governor Baker held a huge advantage. At six foot six, with the sleek build of a pro athlete and a gentle and well-spoken affability, the non-ethnic Baker dominates every room that he enters without being in the least bit domineering. Walsh is of ordinary height and not an easy conversationalist; he does not dominate unless accompanied by several aides who, crowding around him, convey importance by implication.

Will that be enough, along with all the money and licensing power that a Boston Mayor has ? I’m not sure. You can’t win an election by implication.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ the new Boston politics of blood votes : this campaign was where it took over

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After Boston’s primary election I wrote an article in which I cited lessons to be drawn from the results. I saw that a new movement, of business-office morality, in team with most voters of color, was outvoting the old labor and big government partnership that had dominated the City since at least Depression times.

This result prevailed on November 5th as well, as candidates of the old labor-and-government type were outvoted, even defeated, by their business-office opponents. Yet there was another factor in play in the “final,” a movement quite more radical in policy and more explicitly tribal than the preachy business-office voices heard in the primary.

If I am correct in my assessment of Tuesday’s winners — one race remains much too close to call, between Julia Mejia and Alejandra St. Guillen for fourth place in the Councillor at-large field — we now may have a Council majority dedicated to extreme measures relative to housing, transportation, and voting, policies which, if adopted, would set City administration into serious confusion, not to mention conflict with state law. Mayor Walsh will certainly veto any such proposals, and there aren’t enough radicals to override his veto; yet that’s small comfort for voters who expect the Council to propose reforms that improve the City, not disrupt it.

More ominous than the radicalism of November 5th is its tribalism. Candidates who won, and the two candidates involved in the recount, were extolled not only because of their policies but because they are Latino. Facebook was  flush with posts heralding “all three” — Mejia, St. Guillen, and District Five winner Ric Arroyo as a team : not a team on policy grounds but on ancestry.

Other facebook comments seen during the election’s  final days and after trek a similar path :

“Black people have been voting against their interests for years,” said one commenter on the Hyde Park neighbors facebook page — a wild generalization and a purely speculative assumption. Who gave her authority to speak for all Black people ? My 50 years of conversing with voters has shown me that voters know their interests very well and don’t need to be preached to by others about it.

On my own facebook page, a very serious activist baldly asserted that, as women number more than 50 percent of voters they should hold more than 50 percent of elected offices — so, in other words, we’re not to elect people freely but to apportion them ?

A columnist for the Dorchester Reporter dismissed Maria Esdale Farrell, candidate in District Five, as racist because she said she would address all people equally. Are some people, then, to be favored ? Really ?

A City-wide candidate said that her campaign was about lifting up the City’s immigrants — as if immigrants, who are rising faster than fast, needed her help to get to success, a thing that immigrants — legal or not — are much better at than the native-born.

These examples of “Tuesday wisdom” are, of course, precisely the M/O of Mr. Trump, although in reverse. As he loudly proclaims white people this, white people that, so his most triggered opponents proclaim every sort of other identity, all the identities that Trump’s racial message casts aside.

There has to be a better way; but at present I don’t see a better way coming.

The “blood and votes” message that drives much of Mr. Trump’s opponents was not restricted to November 5th’s radicals. It was very much a part — though stated in moral terms — of the business-office “diversity” voters who won more votes than the radicals. In the contest that I worked in, the District Five race, after an edited 12 seconds of old video of Tim McCarthy calling candidate Ric Arroyo’s endorsees “nonsense people” was posted on the Roslindale and Hyde Park facebook pages eleven days before election, an avalanche of condemnation and outright bigotry was thrown at Councillor McCarthy along with all manner of instruction — not to mention some condescension — as to how no white person (well, maybe one or two) can likely understand what it’s like to be a person of color and therefore a white candidate shouldn’t be elected in a District that has a majority population of color. (Obviously the late attack on McCarthy was made in order to ping back upon Farrell, who as the Roslindale post asserted, was “McCarthy’s hand picked candidate”).

Most voters who I talked to expressed an entirely different view of the campaign.

As Farrell’s Roslindale co ordinator, I knocked on about 3500 doors — six entire precincts, two of them  twice — and conversed with over 1000 people. The lesson that I learned ? That all voters want the same things : better schools, more responsive basic City services, and trees planted. And many voters said that they had no issues at all with City government, that things were OK as they saw it. I heard no difference about these matters between voters of whatever origin, gender or skin color.

Yet some factions of activists were willing to gin up every sort of identity grievance, and the voters were thereby not allowed to make a nuts and bolts assessment of the candidates.  Organized “progressives” in the District had a tested, long-time progressive candidate to support — Mimi Turchinetz — but from the outset she was bypassed by most such activists in favor of Ric Arroyo, who is much younger and new to politics. Why ? Turchinetz had, and maintained, substantial Roslindale support. What was there about her that “progressive” organizations did not like ?

This is not to say that the successful campaign of Ric Arroyo was illegitimate. He would likely have won had the entire apparatus of identity tribalism stayed silent. He is brother to a well-regarded former city Councillor Felix G. Arroyo and son of Felix D. Arroyo, who was a City Councillor as well and is now Suffolk Register of Probate. He was first into the field, two months before Turchinetz (and before Maria Esdale Farrell). He held a large money advantage right up to September. He had widespread name recognition, where Turchinetz and Farrell had much less of it. And he was campaigning a District that voted overwhelmingly for Ayanna Pressley’s identity campaign (“the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power”) against Congressman Mike Capuano. (Pressley eventually endorsed Ric and held a huge rally with him two days before November 5th.) All of that would have happened had the identity warriors said nothing. Ric Arroyo deserved better than to win an election dented by tactics that spawned a great deal of entirely unnecessary division.

That said, the identity message DID happen; and not only in District Five; and it has now cast Caucasian voters, other than the business-moralistic, as racists.

Candidates endorsed by craft unions and many other labor groups were also outvoted, as in the primary.

I can also examine the District Five result on other grounds :

In 2018 Governor Baker won 46 percent of the District’s vote, Jay Gonzalez 54 percent. The Farrell – Arroyo contest finished almost identically : Farrell about 45, Arroyo about 55. Farrell won every precinct that Baker won, plus two more. Arroyo won every precinct that Gonzalez won except two. It isn’t too far wrong to say that Baker’s voters were Farrell’ s voters, and Arroyo’s voters were Gonzlaez’s. (There were some differences. Farrell did less well than Baker in the Haitian-majority precincts, better than Baker in the Hyde Park ones, and about the same as Baker in Roslindale.) And why should the two results not have been like ? In both cases, a centrist (Farrell and Baker) lost to a “progressive” (Gonzalez and Arroyo). Voters know their minds very well. In the two elections they appear to have responded quite rationally.

Still, it’s not the result that I focus on but the manner in which the results were accomplished. The majority message on Tuesday, as last year in the Pressley and Capuano contest, is that all people are NOT equal, that some are to be accorded extra advantage because of their ancestry, or skin color, and others, less.

A sitting City Councillor yesterday opined, on facebook, that candidates of color should win, and candidates who are white should not,because people of color are “oppressed.” Really, in Boston? Our Police Commissioner and his deputy are both Black. So are our District Attorney, one of our Congress people, three of our City Councillors, our Sheriff, three of our State Representatives; and an additional three legislators are Latino as well as the Councillor-elect, the BPS Superintendant, and several high City officials. Add to this number several former legislators who now hold influential positions in business and lobbying.

There are also numerous potential candidates of color, of very worthy quality, who may well run for office and will have significant support if they do. Here I should mention Leon David, Ruth Georges, Sean Gauthier, Michel Denis, and Crystal Davis. (Add Stephanie Everett, Rufus Faulk, and Mary-dith Tuitt, who have run and might run again.)

Is there any difference in principle between these favoritism messages and Mr. Trump’s assertion that he is above the law and is treated unfairly by it ? If in fact to be white is to be a racist — as the morality message argues — then all bets American are off .

Which is what is happening in America.

Other writers than me have long noted that Americans have lost faith in public institutions. Now they’re losing faith in American ideal, in equality, in the Constitution, in the rule of law itself. Is it any wonder that blood and votes politics is replacing these lost ideals ?

But perhaps I overreact.

Most Americans, and most voters in Massachusetts and in Boston, still hold American ideals of equality dear. All over Massachusetts, outside of Boston, traditionally idealistic candidates backed by Governor Baker won their elections. In Framingham, Taunton, Chelsea, Revere, Brockton, Easthampton, and Randolph, candidates of the equality type won; and other candidates supported by Baker made strong showings elsewhere. If, in Boston, the world of Mr. Trump has set off a nasty politics of blood and ancestry, elsewhere there is much to be hopeful about.

The only worry is that almost all the successful candidates of classic idealism are white. They and the identity politicians of Boston and its surroundings live in two different Americas.

For the time being.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ targeted by the Mayor : Council dean Arthur Sargent III, whom we endorse

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Because Mayor Kim Driscoll is one of the most powerful Mayors in Massachusetts, and because she has harnassed the “progressive” activists without necessarily being one herself, she holds all the aces in the City Council election that happens next Tuesday. She has demonstrated time and again that, when her bets are on the line, she can turn out a two to one a majority on election day. Add city employees and their families to the “progressive” voters, and you’ve amassed serious vote totals. Include a majority of Salem’s business community and there you are. Two to one.

All of which means that most of the Councillors who voted “No” on the Mayor’s small-adjacent-unit zoning ordinance face defeat. Driscoll has called for voters to oust the five : at-Large Councillors Domingo Dominguez, Arthur Sargent and Elaine Milo, and Ward Councillors Steve Dibble and Tim Flynn. Nor is her demand vain. The at-Large Councillors face four very strong challengers : Conrad Prosniewski, newly retired from the Salem Police, who took top spot in the primary; Alice Merkl, Ty Hapworth, and Jeff Cohen, all of whom are rock-solid “Yes” votes on the adjacent-unit ordinance as well as — most likely — on anything else the Mayor wants. Hapworth and Merkl took third and fourth in the primary, and Cohen wasn’t far behind albeit in sixth spot. (Sargent came in fifth, Elaine Milo seventh.) As for the two threatened Ward Councillors, they’re in less difficulty. Steve Dibble from Ward Seven, looks likely to win — but not by a lot. And Tim Flynn, from Ward Four, almost certainly wins. His ward is the Mayor’s weakest in the city.

Can the Mayor defeat her three at-Large marks ? I think she can definitely defeat one, maybe two. Only Domingo Dominguez, who finished second in the primary, looks in good shape — but not safe. The difference between his vote and Cohen’s, in sixth, is only 300. Arthur Sargent may also have the advantage. In the primary, few voters voted in his Ward Seven, but the contest between  Dibble and his challenger will likely increase turnout by a lot. Which leaves Elaine Milo, a council veteran who has a lot of ground to make up. (Also running is George McCabe, the son of a former Councillor and a former Councillor himself. McCabe finished eighth and while not  target of Mayor Driscoll’s wrath, is not on the “progressive” team either.

All this by way of analysis and history. Now to our endorsements :

Domingo Dominguez : he’s the hardest working Councillor, an all-around nice guy who campaigns ceaselessly, does favors for people, and votes carefully. His Community Conversations are a model for future Councillors. He voted “No” on the small-unit zoning ordinance and explained his reasons publicly and at length. He;s also the City;s only Hispanic Councillor, which gives him the kind of ethnic base that used to be the identifying feature of Massachusetts City elections. There’s no other Councillor anything like him, nor any challenger. He brings distinction and personality to City governance.

Arthur Sargent : some call him silent, others discreet. With his deep roots in the City, its school activities and the old power plant where he worked for decades, if re-elected, “Sarge” will be the Council’s dean; he’s already its and encyclopedia. He’s also most knowledgeable on all Salem goings on and issues, and he’s often the voice of long-time Salemites who don’t see the benefit in the grand, bold, huge developments going up all over Downtown and up Highland Avenue. Right now that sort of skepticism is badly, badly needed on the City Council. Sargent has it.

Elaine Berard Milo : In a City still almost 45 percent of Quebecois origin, Milo is the only Councillor of that origin on the present group and will be the only one still if she is re-elected. Heritage, however, is not the reason for our endorsement,. Milo gets our nod because she represents the many, many Salem voters who think the vast development of Downtown, which has remade the City’s business district these past 16 years, badly needs a time-out so that the City can assimilate all that newness.

Alice Merkl : The Mayor is entitled to a voice in Council affairs, and Merkl will be a good one — always upbeat, a master of community outreach, Merkl is a true believer that the future of Salem is assured as long as it seeks diversity and a kind of unstoppable party atmosphere both at play and at work. Probably not: but if personality can make it happen, Merkl’s the one.

Ward Councillor endorsements : 

Ward One : James Willis

Ward Two : Christine Madore

Ward Three : Bob Camire

Ward Four : Tim Flynn

Ward Five : Josh Turiel

Ward Six : Jerry Ryan

Ward Seven : Steve Dibble

It’s a diverse group, which is as City government should be. Mayor Driscoll will have to compromise with this sort of Council : a thing she has always been loath to do. She should try it sometime.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Bron Latimer

^ Possibly a bronze of William, 4th Baron Latimer, impeached by the “Good Parliament” in 1376 — the earliest known impeachment process in our inherited political practices and precedents

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Quite soon now, President Trump will be impeached, and a trial of the articles of that impeachment will take place in the Senate, with Chief Justice Roberts presiding. Conviction and removal seems a definite possibility.

In this column I will talk about impeachment’s steps, but first, a little history : what is impeachment, and how did it get into our political system ?

The verb “impeach” comes to us from French, in which language the verb “empecher” (pronounced omm-pesh-ay)  means ” to prevent.” Thus the objective of impeachment is to prevent the impeached person from continuing in the office he or she occupies.

Our legal and political arrangements are taken directly from British law and government as these were arranged in the 1770-1780s. Impeachment is much older than that, however. To quote wikipedia :

Parliament has held the power of impeachment since medieval times. Originally, the House of Lords held that impeachment could apply only to members of the peerage, as the nobility (the Lords) would try their own peers, while commoners ought to try their peers (other commoners) in a jury. However, in 1681, the Commons declared that they had the right to impeach anyone, and the Lords have respected this resolution. Offices held “during good behaviour” are terminable by the writ of either quo warranto[2] or scire facias, which has even been employed by and against well-placed judges.[3]

After the reign of Edward IV, impeachment fell into disuse, the bill of attainder becoming the preferred form of dealing with undesirable subjects of the Crown. However, during the reign of James I and thereafter, impeachments became more popular, as they did not require the assent of the Crown, while bills of attainder did, thus allowing parliament to resist royal attempts to dominate parliament.

Bills of attainder are expressly forbidden in our Constitution. Impeachment is that document’s instrument of sanction against “high crimes and Misdemeanors” it accuses executive officers and judges of committing. (Congress members cannot be impeached. The process for disciplining them — censure or expulsion — is set by House and Senate rules.) It might be interesting to compare our modern impeachment process with that of the first recorded impeachment : When Parliament was called in April 1376, known as the Good Parliament and led by Peter de la Mare, the members wanted to remove corrupt advisers from court. Latimer, Neville, London merchant Richard Lyons and Alice Perrers were accused, and the charges against Latimer were that he had been guilty of oppression in Brittany; had sold the castle of Saint-Sauveur to the enemy, and impeded the relief of Bécherel in 1375; that he had taken bribes for the release of captured ships, and retained fines paid to the king, notably by Sir Robert Knolles, and the city of Bristol; and finally, that in association with Robert Lyons he had obtained money from the crown by the repayment of fictitious loans. Seconded by William of Wykeham, de la Mare sought to have Latimer immediately convicted, with the Commons acting on behalf of the king. They were unsuccessful and a trial took place.[4] The charges were proven and he was removed from his positions in the royal household and on the council, fined and imprisoned.

The record does not tell us stuff we might really like to know : ( 1 ) who devised the procedure by which this action was carried out ? Who gave this action the name “impeachment,” and why ? How come the King allowed it to proceed — at a stage in British history when Kings held almost all power, other than that of taxation and such accords as were guaranteed to peers in Magna Carta ? In any case, a much later action by parliament, the trial of Charles I, in 1649, provides our own impeachment with a direct antecedent.  This was a treason trial — treason is one of two specific crimes cited in the Constitution’s impeachment clause — judged by a Court set up ad hoc by act of Parliament : Charles was accused of treason against England by using his power to pursue his personal interest rather than the good of England.[8] The charge against Charles I stated that the king, “for accomplishment of such his designs, and for the protecting of himself and his adherents in his and their wicked practices, to the same ends hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented”, that the “wicked designs, wars, and evil practices of him, the said Charles Stuart, have been, and are carried on for the advancement and upholding of a personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation”.[8] The indictment held him “guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to this nation, acted and committed in the said wars, or occasioned thereby”.[8]

Although the House of Lords refused to pass the bill and the Royal Assent naturally was lacking, the Rump Parliament referred to the ordinance as an “Act” and pressed on with the trial anyway. The intention to place the King on trial was re-affirmed on 6 January by a vote of 29 to 26 with An Act of the Commons Assembled in Parliament.

Our own impeachment follows the same design. The House — equivalent to Britain’s Commons — files the impeachment accusations, and the Senate — our House of Lords — tries them. British impeachments were tried before a bench of royal justices; ours are heard by only the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court — a presidential appointment (equivalent to Royal nomination), but very likely not appointed by the president being impeached (if the trial is of a president; any Federal executive officer or Federal judge can be impeached, and some are convicted.) And now to the enabling language of our impeachments :

first, the Text of  Article 1, Section 2, clause 5 : The House of Representatives… shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

second, language from Article 1, Section 3, clauses 6 and 7 : The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

third, the text of Article 2, Section 4: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

As impeachment is brought solely by elected politicians, and the articles judged by elected persons, impeachment in the Constitution is a political act only. It is NOT a legal trial. To what extent the basic legal rules apply, of due process and of evidence, is not prescribed. The House in  the current case has chosen to act like a grand jury, taking testimony in secret, for good and sufficient reasons given by Chairs of the Congressional Committees conducting the inquiry. Articles on impeachment, when finally presented, will read very like a bill of indictment, and such they are: but NOT a legal indictment, only a political one, as the sole punishment, if there’s a conviction, is removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor.

Note also this language from Article 2, Section 2 : [The President] … shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

If President Trump is convicted in the impeachment trial, he cannot pardon himself.  If any of his executive officers are impeached and convicted, before he is convicted, he cannot pardon them. If Mike Pence becomes President upon a conviction of Mr. Trump, he cannot remove the impeachment by pardon either.

I would not bet against a conviction in the Senate. By his utter betrayal of the Kurds, and the weak and surrendering follow-up that has now taken place, Mr. Trump has alienated all but his stubbornest defenders. His incompetence has been shown, and his personal priorities. The articles of impeachment could be very, very many, if the House is of a mind to tally them all up.

Mr. Trump calls the impeachment of him a “lynching” — gross word so absolutely not true of the impeachment process, which as we have seen, is diligently enumerated in the Constitution to which he swore an oath of office ! Mr. Trump and his defenders call the impeachment ridiculous and a “coup” and refuse to co-operate with the House’s investigators. is he for real ? Again : he swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Including its impeachment clauses.

He seems either not to understand what the Constitution says or to not give  a damn. Yet ignorance of the laws is indeed no excuse. He has plenty of advisers to advise him what is illegal for him to do and what isn’t. It is a Federal crime to solicit foreign interference in our elections, yet Mr,. Trump not only demanded that the P:resident of Ukraine investigate a potential Democratic 2020 opponent (Joe Biden), he extorted Ukraine’s president — yet another crime.

Mr. Trump doesn’t understand the law or his role in it. Congress appropriated $ 491 million in military aid to Ukraine. Mr,. Trump has no authority to withhold that aid, he is, in fact, duty bound to get it delivered expeditiously. that is the plain meaning of the “take Care” clause of Article 2 of the Constitution, in which the executive’s duties are enumerated.

If impeachment were not available to Congress, how would our elected representatives ever hold the executive — the President and his staffs — accountable ?

If impeachment is not the necessary remedy for behavior such as Mr. Trump’s, it isn’t available at all.

If convicted by the Senate — by a two-thirds vote of Senators PRESENT AND VOTING (please note) — Mr. Trump is immediately removed from office, and the Oath of Office is given to Vice President Pence , whom the Constitution states his the first successor.

Thus the only question remaining is this : what exactly is meant by “an office of profit or honor” that a convicted Mr. Trump, once removed from office, cannot again hold ? Judgeships, certainly, any office with a salary, and any office requiring taking an oath. Perhaps that’s it.

Impeachment is coming, and, in my opinion, more than deserved. Conviction is not at all out of the question — again, in my opinion, warmly deserved. Of course my opinion is hardly the governing one. 20 Republican Senators hold Mr. Trump’s fate in their hands. We will see soon enough ho wit all turns out.

Until then, read up on your Constitution and about the history of impeachment in our common law and what it inherits from Great Britain.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Joe Kennedy III goes to East Boston, where his ancestor first landed in Americva, to announce his Senate candidacy

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Almost certainly Joe Kennedy III, currently the 8th District’s Congress,an, will win his primary fight against Senator Ed Markey. Polls show him way ahead — show Markey shockingly unknown among Democratic primary likelies –and they could easily favor him more and more. Yet Kennedy is running a campaign — from the Left — quite foreign to who he actually is. Why is he doing this ? The hard-core left isn’t going to support him; many are hitting him with the dreaded “entitled” epithet — and to be fair, he is, as a Kennedy, most definitely entitled in the eyes of most of our voters — and are flocking to the side of the ancient-looking, career politician Ed Markey, the very embodiment of what the Left recently has salivated to run against.

Why is the Left doing this ? Especially when Joe K has done everything but change his name to Bernie in assuring the Left that he supports its entire wish list, from medicare for all to “environmental justice,” whatever that is,  to the so-called Green New Deal, a double shot of  layer cake of “climate Crisis” and “public transportation whether you like it or not.”

But maybe the Left has a point. Do you believe Joe K actually supports these things ? I don’t. The Kennedys have never adopted wish-list positions. It was Ted who, explaining why he was never unwilling to compromise with opponents,  famously quoted Voltaire’s dictum that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Before Ted there was John, a centrist Democrat who often politicked more like a Yankee Republican than the Irish Democrat he was. And of course there was Robert, who in his tragic 1968 campaign pushed aside the Vietnam protest candidacy of Eugene McCarthy in favor of his own nuts and bolts, labor union and civil rights priorities.

Like Ted, Joe, if elected to the Senate, may well espouse the Left’s wish list;but if he does that, can anyone doubt that he will seek compromise, not conquest ? I suspect that the ultras now embracing the ancient Ed Markey rather than the candidate of their generation — in contrast t,o what many did during the Ayanna Pressley and Mike Capuano fight — see the same vision that I see : Kennedy won’t “die on their desired hills,” as one of the currently trendy political phrases has it.

I feel very confident that the Left has it right : that Kennedy is not their champion, albeit he likely shares their desire for reforms — just not as many reforms, nor as drastic. Kennedy’s campaign apparatus and vote base, no matter what he says, will almost certainly be private industry labor unions and centrist primary voters generally as well as the Kennedy family’s still huge personal following. As such, I’m inclined to support him rather than Markey, who has embraced the Left’s grossly expensive public programs, not to mention how those programs will accrue to Washington yet more of our money and yet more authority over our daily lives.  Personally, I think Markey’s effectiveness as a leader of the climate-crisis Left is overrated. Others are the actual leaders, and Markey’s move into the climate world feels like catch-up. Sincere, his move surely is; it gives him a mission that suffices beautifully because it will never be achieved, not if he were to live to be 100 and serve six terms until age 98. Politicians love to advocate issues popular with their base but that can never be achieved, because the advocacy, not the accomplishment, is the thing. Accomplish your mission, and you’ve done your work — NEXT ! Much better to pursue unfinished — unfinish-able — business.

But then, if you’re unlucky, along comes a young Kennedy….

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Columbus Monument In Genoa Hdr

in Genoa, statue honoring Cristoforo Colombo, whose birth day we honor — for fundamental reasons of inheritence and example

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My Mom was born on October 12 in Dr Morrison’s patient care room at 80 Princeton Street in East Boston.

So even though I am not of Italian heritage by family, I am so by inheritance & location.

I have visited Genoa, Cristoforo Colombo’s home city (some say he was from an outlying area, not in the City prtoper, and definitely of humble merchant descent) , and it is beautiful & of a noble and combative history. Genoese seamanship and daring had a long history already behind it when Colombo made his mark.

He commanded a voyage of exploration on behalf of the king of Spain, but his boldness was Genoese. 500 years before him, Genoese seamen in their spunky little galleys, in alliance with seamen from Amalfi and Pisa, beat back the Saracen pirates who had all but closed the Medierranean Sea to commercial traffic. 300 years later a Genoese Grimaldi took possession of the Rock of Monaco — and his descendants still govern it today.

In that tradition sailed Cristoforo Colombo and his intrepid followers in their three tiny galleons. His and their discoveries changed the world, and we are here as a result. Columbus Day is America’s gestation day, and I honor it and him and the magnificent spirit of imagination, commerce, artisanship, municipal freedom and governance, and adventure that defined Italian civilization — and Genoa in particular — of the 11th through 16th Centuries.

We too are a commercial nation and, like medieval Genoa, governed, mostly, by a commercial and hard-working, often artisan citizenry. Our very national name — America — honors another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci of Florence, yet another city led by commercial men, artisans, adventurers and — Florence’s special obsession — lovers of art and literature. These, too, have come down to us here in Amerigo Vespucci’s nation as an inalienable part of our national character and inspiration.

Perfect, Columbus was not, nor were any of the Genoese and Florentines whose civilization we are the inheritors of. Columbus was cruel; the most dominant Genoese leaders were hard-headed, artless bean counters; and the Florentine big shots nursed indelible family feuds even as they funded immortal art.  But no human endeavor is free of the bad genes within it — within us all. We must be governed by our better natures despite all, and despite all, Columbus and his fellow Italians of the discovery era founded the world in which we as Americans do our best, most of the time, to live up to the heritage of those bygone cities of invention and opportunities seized.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere