Thursday, March 31, 2005

He's Got a Point Posted by Hello


Boston's version of a conservative daily newspaper, The Herald, editorializes that the congressional Republicans might have started something they can't finish:

"In his effort to pander to right-to-life groups, the
ethically challenged House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has set in motion a chain
of events that Democratic liberals are only too happy to exploit for their own
purposes. There used to be a philosophical base to Republican congressional
thinking - and action - that left to the states issues properly within their
purview. ..

......Now Frank, who to his credit opposed the special interest bill
passed for Terri Schiavo's parents, thinks it's just fine for Congress to
address the broader issue. Frank said on ABC Sunday, ``I think Congress needs to
do more. Because I've spoken with a lot of disability groups who are concerned
that, even where a choice is made to terminate life, it might be coerced by

...Just want we need - the federal government poking into every hospital room in America, into every painful family decision. And, thanks, Tom DeLay, for 'elevating' the

Now let's see....where have I read something like this before. Hmmmmmm....

"And if the U. S. Congress makes a practice of statutorily granting individual people standing in such 'special circumstances,' I for one can think of plenty of horrific implications." [See Monday's Post]

Like Barney Frank instigating federal intervention on this issue. Does that qualify as horrific?

Man Who Read Own Obit Dies

I have to confess, I don't know if it is just that the obit writers at the Globe are this good, that so many cool people happen to have died at once, or that I am conflicted by another prominent death of this day, but I feel the need to provide some humor on the issue.

In a classic example of "life imitates art," a man who read his own
obituary year ago (finally) died. Here's writer Tom Long's opening:

"Milton Green, a former world-record hurdler who boycotted the
1936 Olympics in Berlin, has died.


Isn't that great?

It goes on:

Mr. Green, 91, whose obituary was mistakenly published in the Globe and many
other newspapers last August because the Associated Press mistook him for
another man with the same name, died Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla...

...Mr. Green was more amused than upset when the obituary was published. He joined
the short list of those able to read about their own demise, including Mark
Twain, who famously reported that the rumors of his death had been greatly

...''He thought it was absolutely hysterical. He couldn't stop laughing,' said Mr.
Green's daughter Patricia Dunn of Needham."

Man laughed at his own obituary, then lived to be 91.

A Virtuoso Dies Too Soon

From the Boston Globe:

Mindy Jostyn was not content with just one musical instrument. Whether she was jamming with a pop star in a packed arena or playing solo in a small club, she played everything from the violin and harmonica to the mandolin and accordion.
For her many fans, however, it was the clarity of her voice and the directness of her words that made the strongest impression.
''When she played, she glowed," said singer-songwriter Kate Taylor, a friend and collaborator. ''Audiences absolutely loved her."
Ms. Jostyn died March 10 in Hudson, N.Y., following a brief illness. She was 48.
Ms. Jostyn once lived in Wellesley and attended schools in the Boston area. At 11, she organized an all-girl band called The Tigers. After playing with a few other groups, she helped form The Cyclone Rangers, a New York-based electric country and cover band. She got her big break in 1989 when ''Saturday Night Live" bandleader G.E. Smith hired her to play harmonica in a sketch with host Dolly Parton.
Big gigs followed.
Smith brought her back to ''SNL" to play with musical guest Billy Joel, and her career as a ''sideman" began in earnest. Ms. Jostyn stayed on with Joel's band during their 1989 ''Storm Front" world tour. In the 1990s, she played and sang on tour with Joe Jackson, John Mellencamp, Cindy Lauper, and Carly Simon. She also played at various points with Pat Benatar, Shania Twain, Jon Bon Jovi, and John Waite.
In a radio interview in 1998, Ms. Jostyn recalled the sudden jump in her career. ''I had gone straight from playing in bars to suddenly stepping out on stage the first time at the Centrum in Worcester, Mass., to a crowd of 20,000 roaring people, and it was frightening," she said. ''And as exciting as it is to perform that way, there's really nothing quite like playing to a small crowd, because that way you're making contact with individuals and you can feel more personal rapport."
After a decade of playing backup, Ms. Jostyn launched her solo career. In addition to playing folk clubs and festivals even when she was 81⁄2 months pregnant, she released four albums: ''Five Miles from Hope," ''Cedar Lane," ''in His eyes," and ''Blue Stories."

She was nominated for top New Contemporary Folk Act for Boston Music Awards in 1997.
Her solo albums featured artists, including musical legends Carly Simon and Donald Fagen, she worked with during her years as a backup singer and musician.
Influenced by blues, folk, and other music, Ms. Jostyn was an original, said Scott Alarik, a musician who has performed with Ms. Jostyn and writes about folk music for the Globe. ''Mindy was the genuine article," he said. ''She was a superb musician, true virtuoso with a great sense of groove melody."
Ms. Jostyn, who was ''preternaturally hip," used her musical talents to forge a bond with her audience, Alarik said. ''She was very funny, often in a satirical way," he said. ''But she never picked out anyone or any group for ridicule. She had a way of making you laugh and think and care, all at the same time."
Ms. Jostyn's humor ranged from the socially conscious to the confessional. In ''Too Easy," she reflected ironically on how abnormally well her love relationship seemed to be going: ''By now, we should've had a least one good fight / And I should've run into your evil twin brother / By now, the future shouldn't be looking so bright / And you shouldn't be such a hit with my mother."
Taylor recalled her ''tenderness on the piano, the sighing of her violin, how she could rock the entire block with her fiddle."
Ms. Jostyn, said Taylor, ''was the embodiment of joy."

Born in Long Island City to a showbiz-inclined family, Ms. Jostyn split her childhood between Wellesley and San Jose, Calif. She attended four colleges in four years: the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Berklee School of Music, California Institute of the Arts, and Principia College, but never received a degree.
Ms. Jostyn's brother, Jay of Cambridge, said her family was her passion. Ms. Jostyn was a spiritual person, and her lyrics often reflected a transcendent perspective. In ''Common Ground" she sang: ''Our souls search on forever / For heavenward they're bound / Our bodies find their home at last / In common ground."

As a (amateur) musician, I revere anyone who can play 5 instruments. But "preturnaturally hip" too. Whew.

No Monopoly on Budget Blowing

Lest those unfamiliar with Massachusetts come to believe that the Big Dig is in some way an anomaly here in Massachusetts, this should provide you with some perspective.

"The state plans to investigate billions worth of school
building construction across the state for budgets far beyond the amounts the
state originally approved and extravagant spending on routine

The state plans to audit more than 600 school projects that have been
in line for money since 1989. State officials don't have a dollar amount for the
construction projects, but said those audited will be from a list of nearly
1,200 projects in the state worth at least $9.2 billion. [ed.: remember,
total cost of Big Dig, $15.2B?]

A new state authority on school construction, which met yesterday,
highlighted several projects it wanted to examine, including an Arlington middle
school that nearly doubled in price since the state approved its construction.
The state has been conducting preliminary audits of a handful of

Among some of the whoppers that we'll be reading about soon (perhaps in the court report section) is --- how surprising!!! -- Lawrence High School.

Lawrence is planning to break down a 2,600-student school into six
high schools on one campus, with enclosed walkways, a performing arts center,
and fewer than 500 students each, so that teachers and students would better
know one another. School officials said the costs are reasonable, given the
scope of the project.

Better know one another. How nice and friendly.

This really shouldn't come as a surprise. Remember, Lawrence is where the Superintendent of Schools needed four attempts to pass a literacy exam. Want to hear what Wilfred had to say about this boondoggle? Of course you do:

''When I started the project five years ago, people laughed at me. They called it the Laboy Taj Mahal. Now there are not too many people calling it that any more."

No, they're calling it outrageous (or will be soon enough). Shall we start a pool, a little wager?

Projected cost is $104.5 M --- so shall we set the Over-Under at, say, $180 M? Who's in?

Good Old Fashion Turf Battle

Gee, guy runs for President, and comes back with a case of swollen head. Wait, he had that twenty years ago. And the other guy, well, everything of his is swollen.

The Embodiment of Love and Honor

Here is a must read for everyone who's reflecting on the end of the Schiavo ordeal:

MIDDLEBOROUGH -- It's Saturday night, but State Police Sergeant Ric Teves and Trooper Ellen Engelhardt are not going out to dinner. They're not snuggling in their Marion home to watch ''Law & Order," and he's not giving her one of the foot massages she loves.

Instead, he parks his 1990 Volvo with 288,000 miles on it, and he walks through the frigid night air and into the lobby of Middleborough Skilled Care Center, past the receptionist and past the bubbling fish tank. As he makes his way down the hall, the knot tightens again in his stomach, as it does every day when he visits the woman he calls his best friend.

''Hey, honey," he says, walking into Room 206, where the television is tuned to ''Everybody Loves Raymond," and there she is, sitting in a wheelchair, paralyzed, her head tilted back, her eyes to the ceiling, her mouth agape, her hands and feet encased in plastic to control spasms.
This is the prison to which Engelhardt and Teves have been sentenced as the result of one horrific moment shortly after 6 on the morning of Saturday, July 26, 2003. While Engelhardt was parked in the breakdown lane of Route 25 in Wareham, her cruiser was rear-ended by a car driven by a drunk teenager that was traveling in excess of 90 miles per hour. The impact thrust her vehicle forward at a speed of 50 miles per hour, and it thrust Engelhardt back, into a catatonic state in which she can no longer walk, talk, eat, or communicate in any way.
The crash fractured a cervical vertebra, her larynx, and her jaw. She required two craniotomies and one lobectomy. She lost part of her skull and part of her brain.

Can you see where this story is going?

Read it. You will come away with an awe and respect for Rick Teves, and the love of his life, that will make you cry.

And I am not going to contemplate where the story might head in the years to come. Not now. Not today. Hopefully, not ever.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Alchemist Holds Forth

My mixologist pal at Social Alchemist responds to my five questions in a most amusing way. Go check him out!

Funk Dat!!!

This post is not about golf. It is about heart and emotion. It is about personality and guts. It is about one of those characters on the PGA Tour who everybody loves, because he elicits from them what he wears on his sleeve every time he tees the ball up in a tournament: the love of the game.

In the late afternoon yesterday, Fred Funk, a 48 year old PGA tour veteran, withstood sustained 25 mile per hour winds over the course of thirty-two holes (in one day) to out-duel players half his age (and the equally road-weary Tom Lehman) and win th4e PGA Championship by a single shot.

Fred Funk is an anomaly in professional golf.

The pressure of professional stroke play compels players to maintain their emotions, to control their fear; and therefore, to maintain stoicism in the face of adversity. Watch Ernie Els' or Reteif Goosen's face after a missed putt, and you can't tell if they are reading a death notice or a winning lottery ticket. Sure, Phil Mickelson wears that perpetually silly grin; and Tiger Woods will be prone to flashing his anger when he hits an ordinary shot. If you look carefully at any of the perfectly fit, perfectly groomed, perfectly well-behaved tour players under 40, you'll find some hint of inward emotion.

But Fred Funk!! Why, his entire body is an advertisement for eternal ebullience. His face is a road map of his soul. His body language shouts at you. You just know how utterly thrilled he is to be playing golf for a living -- no matter where he is on the leader board. He misses a shot, slaps his knee, "aww shucks." Stiff's one from 197 across water? High fives the crowd along the ropes. The man is infectious and loveable. He knows that part of his job is entertainment, and he delivers.

And he has crows feet.

And since I am fifty on Saturday, just a mere two years older than Fred Funk, that's why I am so happy to see him win.

Monday, March 28, 2005

On Morality and Hard Cases

The Schiavo case has exposed a rift between social conservatives and "federalist" conservatives. Religious conservatives express unqualified support for the Right to Life, laud Congress' unprecedented move to intervene in a state court matter, and regard the entire judicial system's refusal to do so as "judicial tyrrany." Federalist conservatives criticize Congress' intervention in a case involving only state law, and support the exclusive jurisdiction of the State of Florida to resolve the legal issues of the case.

While some fear this is a potentially crippling rift between these two important Republican constituencies, I believe that once tempers have cooled, the future of the party will not be significantly affected by these disagreements. However, to the extent that social conservatives feel compelled to exert a sustained, organized campaign against the judiciary for its role in the case, I believe they risk damaging the Republican Party's ability to continue to attract a winning national consensus.

Infused in the plethora of comments social conservatives have offered in bellweather conservative blogs offering a forum for them is a deep and abiding suspicion (if not contempt) for the Rule of Law, and its (multiple, consistent) applications in this instance. The trial judge (Greer) was (a) biased against the parents, (b) a liberal choice advocate, (c) incompetent, (d) arrogantly ignoring the clear will of Congress. They have taken every opportunity to try and retry the case, offering their own findings of fact on everything from Michael Schiavo's marital infidelity (hence absence of credibility) and murderous intentions, the truth or falsity of the factual evidence offered at trial, even the competence of the lawyers.

These individuals apparently have a great deal of difficulty understanding or accepting the resiliency, and necessity, of a judicial process under which the facts are found and the law is applied with finality.

Regardless of political perspective of the viewer, any attempt to "second guess" a trier of fact is really beside the point. The procedural rules provide an opportunity for all "interested parties" to present all of the facts they feel are relevant to the issue at hand, and argue the application of the law to those facts. The standards by which appellate courts review the findings of fact and conclusions of law applied by a trial judge are well established, of necessity rather rigorous, and have stood the test of time.

In the Schiavo case, these rather fundamental principles are under attack because a committed and devoutly pro-life constituency does not believe that the Rule of Law should be used to permit a person to die unnecessarily. Life is of paramount importance, so regardless of the law or the facts, this person should not be put to death, and any means possible should be employed to thwart the legal outcome. Absent a change in statutory law to support their position, such action would constitute an act of anarchy.

If we are to thrive as a society, we must base our conduct on both moral judgment and the Rule of Law. In many cases these principles are mutually supportive. In rare instances they may be perceived as contradictory. In this case, the principle of morality is enigmatic, because the definition of "life" varies substantially among people of moral being. The Rule of Law is not, and that is what allows our society to have disagreements such as this without (frequently) rioting in the streets.

The only question that is relevant, morally and legally, in this (or any other) case is: Did Terri Schiavo receive a full, fair, and constitutional process by which her interests were represented and determined?

She did. We might abhor the outcome (in candor, I am not opposed to it), it is possible even that the Judge was mistaken -- make up whatever factual diabolism you care to invent --- but that too does not matter --- legally or Constitutionally. There was a thorough process. Facts were found, law was applied. Appellate reviews were made. No reversible error was found to have occurred.

Even assuming the worst -- there is a difference between a moral travesty and a violation of an individual's legal rights.

I found Congress'es meddling in this case to be a travesty -- particularly the outrageous statements accusing Judge Whittemore of being in contempt of Congress. From my perspective, Judge Whittemore applied the letter of the law, as the rules of statutory construction required (insofar as those rules were necessary to interpret a law that was clear on its face). The law did not compel him to order reinsertion of the feeding tube, as some members of Congress protested. The law directed him to render such injunctive relief as would be necessary to insure that her rights were not violated. It did not order the judge to ignore the federal rule that requires a showing a likelihood of success on the merits for an injunction to be issued. Perhaps it could have (if not in obviously violation of the Seperation of Powers clause), but it didn't -- and it didn't because the Republicans in Congress understood that such a bill would not have sufficient political support. They got what they could, and had to hope that it was good enough for the result they wanted. But the Democrats would not have permitted (much less voted for) a law that directed a federal judge to issue an injunction to preserve Terri's life while a full trial on the merits was held. We can scream all we want on that part -- but it is politics, not law.

It is politics -- legislative politics!! -- that are the start and end to this social dispute. Not judicial tyrrany. To conclude otherwise would require a conclusion that dozens of judges, state and federal -- including the conservative federal 4th circuit and the Supreme Court --- were acting, independently or in collusion, tyrranously. That's just paranoid nonsense.

There will be a (hopefully healthy) debate, anew, on the legal issue of "substituted judgment," and that may be a good thing. It should take place in legislatures, and if social conservatives are successful in some places, they will have won the opportunity for another judge, in another tragic circumstance, to have a difference set of rules to apply.

In the meantime, social conservatives and "process" conservatives will figure out how to live with one another. But the Republican Party might have a tiger by the tail if it allows the social conservatives to occupy too much of its limelight on matters as deeply personal as this one.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Logarythmic Phuffle

(sorry folks, I'm posting this from an old iMac, so I am unable to create links for appropriate attribution/reference)

Ah well, this second tier of The Knowledge Pyramid begun by the Great Pharoahs at NGD is directed toward a living, breathing, real-life Woody Harrelson (Sorry Os, but I dunno if you actually, uhhh.. play baseball). In light of his expertise, the questions are designed to provide him an opportunity to impart his wisdom upon us.

Oswald, post your answers to these five questions at Social Alchemist, with an alert and link at comments here; and extend an invite and five new questions to five others.

1. Please explain the difference in character profile between drinkers of dark liquor and drinkers of lite beer.

2. An Analogy: Barstool is to Booth AS Closing Time is to ______________.

3. In the context of your milieu, should men really make passes at women who wear glasses?

4. What is the effect of male weeping on the female psyche?

5. If the last patron to leave a bar falls flat on the floor, does he make a sound?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Would You Hire This Man?

Just visited my sitemeter. I got a visit from this site. Huh?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cleaning Up Brain Droppings

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Pursuant to an initiative launched by my gun-toting friend at
North Georgia Dogma, this exercise, designed (apparently) to drive traffic to the far reaches of the blogosphere, involves concocting epigrammatic replies to five whimsical questions, and then soliciting five additional bloggers to follow suit -- constructing (one hopes) a logarythmic growth which, if sustained, will unite the entire world of bloggers in one frivolous waste of time.

(One month of blogging and I've got to exercise my wit -- and I thought this was going to be an edifying experience.)


NGD asked:

1. What movie would they have to pry your eyes open á la “A Clockwork Orange” to get you to watch start-to-finish?

Wavemaker says:

Any movie that shows any portion of the scrawny and vapid Kevin Bacon, or any movie with a
Bacon Factor of 1. William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (1996) was also seriously bad.

But I'd watch all of 'em at once to watch
Blue Velvet one more time.

NGD asked:

2. Kerry Healey. She’s a hottie, isn’t she?

Wavemaker says:

Considering that this blog may some time be read by someone that matters, let me say that I have been deliriously married for 21 years to one of the hottest women on the planet, against whom no woman can be measured. But since
Ms. Healey (the Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth, for those who are not inured to the local scene) bears a slight resemblance to my wife, I am compelled to say, emphatically, yes.

NGD asked:

3. More snow’s coming tomorrow. Global Warming’s a bitch, isn’t it?

Wavemaker says:

Sure is! I bought an outdoor recreation business two years ago in reliance upon the assurances of "Amanda" at the Sierra Club and "Thaddeus" (pseudonyms, to protect them from a public blogging) at the Audubon Society that the average winter temperature would be 52 degrees -- so I figured I'd make a bundle on Christmas Eve go-cart rides. Now the mini-golf is gonna cost $22.50 this summer. That's the last time I trust those folks. God help the MassPIRG dude that comes to my door this summer.

NGD asked:

4. Been up I-95 recently? Like into New Hampshire? Have they stopped all pretense of maintaining the roads, or what?

Wavemaker says:

Hey! Not one dime of highway maintenance money has been diverted to pay for the Big Dig! I know, cuz Matt Amorello told me so.

The way I look at it, the treacherous road conditions over the last five miles of I 95 N are a legitimate attempt to make any potential Massachusetts-to-New Hampshire expatriate pay for a couple of new tires for the privilege of living free.

Wait'll they put in the southbound toll booth. We'll all go north and never come back.

NGD asked:

5. Deathmatch: Al Franken vs. Ann Coulter. Who’s your money on?

Wavemaker says:

OOOOOOOOooooooo not even close. Comparing Coulter's fangs to Franken's "Splutter" move, I put every penny on Coulter. Her elbows can puncture the thickest skull, and Franken's so fat he can't reach his own dingleberries. An extra $100 says he asphyxiates himself on his own vomit when she brandishes a (obviously doctored) photo of Wonkette and Gary Bauer in flagrante delicto.

There you have it, Bubba.

Now, which five of you fritterers of time are going to step forward for your own opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this dubious pyramid scheme?

Pat O'Brien Watch

Wizbang has some links up to some hilarious blogs, none better than Stuck In Rehab With Pat O'Brien. It's Must See T.V.!

Bonfire of the Inanities

Desperate for some temporary relief from the global Schiavo angst, I've come up with a random list of items from today's newspaper that just made me laugh -- okay, a lot of it is gallows humor, but I am just in that mood, and this is my blog, so deal with it.

And to my friends on the right, I say this -- Nooooooooooooooo, I am too a conservative. Do not misinterpret what is being said here. Hypocrisy and inanity are equal opportunity afflictions -- if you want to be credible, you have to recognize that your friends say stupid things (once in a while). So swallow your sanctimony, lighten up, and take stock.

Rights Groups for Disabled Join in Fight

Disability rights advocates have joined together with Christian conservatives to push for broad legislation restricting the ability of families to remove life-sustaining treatments from patients unable to communicate their wishes.

The name of the group? Not Dead Yet (named for the refrain in Monty Python and the Holy Grail).


Tom Delay at His Worst

After leading his Republican colleagues on an unprecedented mission to insert itself into the fray by passing a law that was as clear and simple as the day is long, Congressman Delay suggested that Judge James Whittemore's decision violated the law passed by Congress on Monday.

That law states that the federal district court "shall issue such declaratory and injunctive relief as may be necessary to protect the rights of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution and laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life."

''This decision is at odds with both the clear intent of Congress and the constitutional rights of a helpless young woman," DeLay said, implying that Congress intended to order a federal judge to order the feeding tube reinserted (as obvious a violation of the Seperation of Powers clause as one could dream up). That would come as quite a surprise to the Democrats on the other side of this "bi-partisan effort."


Reverend Mahoney's Little White Lie

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition and an occasional spokesman for the Schindler family, accused Whittemore of ''arrogance" for waiting a full day after the case was filed to come to a decision. He needs to get on the same page as everyone else on Terri's side, who were complaining that Judge Whittemore didn't spend enough time reviewing the voluminous 30,000 pages of lititigative history.

''He has robbed Terri's legal team of literally a day and a half of the appeals process," Mahoney said.


The Ghost of Mike Dukakis, Caught in Chicago

This is almost too much to believe, but when you recall those old days with that card, Mike Dukakis, you realize it is way too true.

NormanPorter, murderer of two in seperate incidents during the 1960's, who escaped from a minimum-security prison 19 years ago to become one of Massachusetts' most-wanted fugitives , was captured yesterday in Chicago.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections rap sheet on Porter, in 1960 he shot a store clerk in the back of the head "execution style" with a shotgun, fled to New York, was extradicted back to Massachusetts, where, while awaiting trial at the Middlesex County jail, he escaped from the jail and in the process physically assaulted the Master and Keeper of the Middlesex Jail while an accomplice shot him to death; he was apprehended days later while in the process of robbing a store, and eventually pled guilty to two counts of second degree murder and sentenced to two concurrent life terms.

In 1975, Governor Dukakis attempted to commute both life sentences, but was blocked in one of the attempts. But in 1985, while serving in a minimum security, pre-release center, Porter escaped simply by "walking away from the facility."

I swear, I am not making this up.

Laugh with me now: Second degree murders, life sentence commuted, minimum security pre-release center, walk away.


But he's an award-winning poet, you know.

On the lighter side:

She's Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack

The ever-fading former Charlie's Angel Farrah Fawcett is back with her own --- you guessed it -- reality t.v. show called "Chasing Farrah." Now I admit, I thought she was very good looking back then, and for 58, she looks quite good now (original material or not). But that's all she was ever good at, her looks. She was (is?) a terrible actress, and an utterly vapid character with no intrigue, mystery, humor, wit -- anything -- about her. Remember her appearance on David Letterman in 1997? Of course you don't. It was just a few minutes of giggling, hair-twirling and "ummmmmmmmmmmm's."

So she says, in the pilot eposide tonight, "'Maybe this whole show is a Letterman moment."

She must mean the first (and only) episode.


The 17th at TPC

All non-golfers, you can quit reading now. Thanks for coming today!

This is the week that the PGA Tour is playing the Tournament Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. This is the home of the infamous and diabolical 17th "island green" hole, the most evil short par three in all of golf. Hard to figure how guys that can hit a three wood 285 off a downhill lie over water to a small green to set up an eagle putt can be so obsessed about this little 130 yard wedge shot, but they are.

Yesterday, during a rain delay in the practice rounds, last year's champion, Adam Scott, was told that most players say that when they are playing the 16th hole, which plays along the other side of the water guarding the 17th and affords a direct look at the green, they do not glance to their right.

"That's a lie," he said.


And that, folks, is the only good natured, harmless lie of the day!

Monday, March 21, 2005

An Activist Congress, a Winning Issue, and Federalism??

While the entire blogosphere burns up millions of miles of fiber optic cables going looney over the latest developments in the Terry Schiavo case, I have to do my part to demonstrate my contrarian nature.

This case is not about "the right to life." Oh yes, I know, that's the real reason that the Congressional Republicans and the President are darting about in feverish activity, passing and signing emergency legislation in the middle of the night.

But all that does is point out just what is going on here that makes me, well...It makes me ill.

This is, plain and simple, an exercise in utilizing a (presumably) legitimate end to justify an atrocious means.

Here is the (excerpted) text of the law signed by President Bush this morning:

"For the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo. . . . The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida shall have jurisdiction to hear, determine, and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution or laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life. Any parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo shall have standing to bring a suit under this Act. . . . The District Court shall entertain and determine the suit without any delay or abstention in favor of State court proceedings, and regardless of whether remedies available in the State courts have been exhausted. After a determination of the merits of a suit brought under this Act, the District Court shall issue such declaratory and injunctive relief as may be necessary to protect the rights of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution and laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life. Notwithstanding any other time limitation, any suit or claim under this Act shall be timely if filed within 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act."

Since the statute does not grant Terry Schiavo any rights that she doesn't already have under the U. S. Constitution, the sole purpose of the statute is to grant Ms. Schiavo's parents standing that they do not have because they are not her legal guardian (not for lack of trying -- for an exhaustive appendix of all court documents, see this)

So then, what Congress has done is, in this special circumstance, passed a federal law that grants two people standing who, under Florida law (and probably every other state law in the country) do not have that right.

This is a classic "means - end" analysis. Those who ardently support the end -- the protection of Terry Schiavo's status as a living being -- support the means being utliized to (attempt to) do that.

I do not, because I am not one to justify the means being used.

If Florida law does not provide the parents of a mentally disabled emancipated adult with standing to seek emergency judicial relief that is contrary to the wishes of the adult's court-appointed guardian, then the Florida legislature has all the power necessary to pass its own statute.

And if the U. S. Congress makes a practice of statutorily granting individual people standing in such "special circumstances," I for one can think of plenty of horrific implications.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Landscaping Adventures

[this was the first piece I posted, and it's stuck in archives where nobody will ever see it. Since some people actually read this blog now --no many, but some -- I thought I'd re-post it today. Chiefly because I really like it, and I think it will make readers laugh out loud. If it doesn't make you laugh out loud, keep it to yourself!)

All of my neighbors have landscaping contractors.

For a few years I did my own yard work, purely for the exercise and sense of personal accomplishment. But last Spring I decided to move up. This decision was prompted by the breakdown of my lawnmower and the concerted refusal of all landscaping companies to do my spring clean-up without a "season long commitment." I considered filing a complaint with the Justice Department's Anti-trust Division, but calculated that paying a class action lawyer would be more expensive than getting my lawn mowed.

So, after many days of leaving repeated messages on telephone messages machines, I found a landscape company willing to do my "spring clean-up" and season-long maintenance.

As I soon despairingly discovered, the spring clean-up amounted to two guys raking and blowing everything into my woods for $450.

Then in mid-April, two guys in their 20's (my new "landscape contractors") showed up to mow my lawn. The problem was that, being April in New England, the grass hadn't begun to grow yet. I told them to go away and come back when they weren't wasting gas.

The next day the owner called. He explained that his clients (not customers, clients) must accept a weekly mowing schedule throughout the growing season, which runs from April 15th to October 15th, so he can "afford to keep a full staff busy" throughout the year. If I could not agree to this, he would have to "decline to service me." He assured me that, just as with the spring clean-up conspiracy, all of his competitors do the same.


Well, I said, how about he spread the cost of the next three weeks (at $55 each) over the growing season on top of the quoted price, because I was not confident that I could stand the sight and sound of his landscape associates riding around on my property for no useful reason.

That would be "a book keeping issue," he said.

So I asked him to charge me for the visits, but not to show up for three weeks.

He could do that, he said.

Soon enough the grass grew and my two expensive consultants arrived. One guy on a Big Riding Machine went so fast that he tore up turf at every sharp turn, and the weed whacker guy did his trimming like he was a contestant in Amazing Race. I tried once to get his attention so I could explain that I did not want the carefully cultivated moss adorning my rock outcroppings to be destroyed. These, I patiently hollered to my ear-muffed friend, were not "WEEDS TO BE WHACKED!!!!"

I think I hurt his feelings. Or maybe he just didn't hear me. Anyway, he seemed to frown, adjusted his headphones, gave me a "thumbs up" and moved on.

The job was done in fifteen minutes. One-half man-hour, fifty-five dollars.

I did some math. and decided to get a new self-propelling, mulching mower of my own. Each weekend, I dutifully mowed my lawn in a nice neat geometric pattern, while listening to the Red Sox game on these new headphones I got for the occasion ($43.75 from Sharper Image). And my houseguests told me the moss looked great.

In the fall, I found that the conspiracy against fall clean-up was for real. So, for $22 a day, I rented this mondo 2 cycle engine blower with shoulder straps that blows the leaves just as far into the woods as my expensive landscaper's model. It was kind of loud, so I had to go with the professional grade industrial ear mufflers with AM/FM bands ($122.99 from Dominic's Supply) so I could make out the Patriots football games. Also, it blew most of the rock moss into the next town.

That's okay, because I think the rocks look better without the moss. And all my new tools fit beautifully into the new utility shed that I got on special for $1399. Sure, it took me a weekend to assemble, so I missed a mowing. I'm saving so much money, I'm going to buy a snow blower.

(c) Peter B. Morin, all rights reserved.

On Foot Washing

I am not going to wade into an issue so rife with religious, cultural and political implications. I simply want to encourage an exercise in linguistics, and make an observation.

Remove all historical, biblical, cultural and political references from your brain, and read this portion of the opening sentence in the Globe article of this morning:

"Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley ... has decided that this year he will wash the feet of women and men."

I have never had my feet washed by another person, and I have to say that if I were to do so, I'd probably prefer that it be done by someone other than a Catholic priest. But now, undestanding a bit more what the meaning and nature of this profound ritual is all about, I'm not sure I should ever be worthy of washing my own feet, ever again.

And I am reminded how easy it is to be frivolous with language.


Well I am certain other keyboards are smoking this morning in the wake of the latest BIG DIG REVELATION --- the second expert hired by the Turnpike to help them fix the tunnel leaks was fired before he could quit, amid his (eerily familiar) claims that he has been STONEWALLED in his efforts to be informed about the construction problems.


He has no credibility. None. Zippo. Nothing that he or any of his people say can be believed.

Nothing but a clean sweep of all Amorello people will begin to restore the public's trust in how these problems will be dealt with.

And I'm not talking about a negotiated buy-out of his remaining contract term. Fired. Canned. Axed. Anathemized.

And in the meantime, ask yourself this: How was the situation allowed to exist that it is such a challenge to fire a public sector transportation manager? Why is it that the Governor has to ask the Supreme Judicial Court if he has the power to remove him? Who exercised the judgment that permitted one individual to have such unchecked power over such a gargantuan project? (I think I know the answers to these questions, anyone else wanna guess?)

Find them. Line them up in the public square. And throw whatever you want at them.

Electioneering 101

I hesitate to butt into the Blue Party's business, but there is an interesting dust-up occurring as a result of one legislative candidate's bogus allegations about illegal voting, alleged intimidation of voters, and a resulting call for his censure (on Mac this morning, so unable to link, but click the headline).

The controversy centers around the issue of registering Boston-area university students who hail from another state. One candidate claimed the effort of his opponent to register Boston University students was illegal, etc. He make the monumentally stupid move of sending an "open letter" to the media in which his cavalcade of factual ignorances were laid bare. As a result, there is a call to his local City Committee to censure him for voter intimidation.

I'll leave the internal politics up to them. But I do want to make this observation: Anyone who organizes voter registrations on college campuses is just doing the smart thing. Anyone who challenges it is just dumb. That includes the Republicans at UNH mentioned in the Blue Mass piece --

N.B. -- Wanna bet college student registrations would aid Republican candidates more than Dems in most states?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Bartender's Perspective

OK, there's this guy in a bar.......

His name is Oswald.

He's a bartender. And today being St. Paddy's Day, he's off, which means he has seniority, because --- well.... read him with a click above.

You will note that his website is the same design as mine. I attribute this to one of three reasons: (1) He has extraordinarily good graphic design sense, (2) One of his "nieces" is a graphic artist, or (3) Blogger has only so many choices, and this is the one he clicked in a post-holiday stupor.

Whatever, Oswald has the "Bartender's Perspective," which any bar patron needs to appreciate, if s/he is to thrive in that environment.

On Bullshit

It occurred to me at 3:30 a.m., as I reflected on my most recent posts regardiing The Big Dig, Senatorial Filibuster and Harvard Political Correctness, that we all need to make a stand against bullshit. We need to stop pussyfooting around with bullshitters, interrupt them and just say "BULLSHIT!"

Matt Amorello -- BULLSHIT!

Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer -- BULLSHIT!!

Susan Estrich -- BULLSHIT!!

Anyway, I finally got back to sleep, but when I came to work this morning, I typed "bullshit" into Google, and made a revelatory discovery:

"One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves." -- Harry Frankfurt, Princeton University

Finally, a (contemporary) philosopher I can relate to!

Dr. Frankfurt's brilliant exposition on a subject near and dear to all of our hearts is now available in a book of the same title, at the incredible bargain price of $8.94. Shows you what people at Amazon think bullshit is worth these days.

Princeton University Press says this:

"...bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner's capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

John Kerry, are you listening?

One of Frankfurt's colleagues comments thus:

"The most audacious of the ancient alchemists desired to transmute lead into gold. They never succeeded. Who would have known that they should have started not with a base metal, but with bullshit? Harry Frankfurt offers a philosophical analysis of bullshit that is golden. The prose by turns employs irony, broad humor, and tongue-in-cheek high seriousness while at the same time manages to have a rigorous logical coherence that is always impressive. One leaves the essay not merely thinking it was a delight. One leaves it realizing that one has engaged the accomplishment of a great analyst and thinker."--William Chester Jordan, Professor of History, Princeton University

Now I don't know if Princeton University Press is bullshitting us or not, but they...

"... highly recommend this poignant piece to those intelligent enough to understand its import to the current time — and no doubt for centuries to come. Especially if one reads newspapers (or newsgroups), watches television "news" (or talk-shows), or listens to "experts" (or politicians) with that pernicious tendency to press the "Mute" button on the Critical Faculty ..."

Well I'm reflexively suspicious of anything coming out of an Ivy Leaguel Liberal elite institution such as this, but I can't wait to read Professor Frankfurt's work.

If you're on the fence and not quite prepared to make such a donation to an ILLEI, you will surely appreciate the ten minute interview with Prof. Frankfurt, absolutely free of charge! In it you will hear Prof. Frankfurt provide an example of what he considers a paradigm example of bullshit: John Kerry's war hero claims!

So people, go right to Amazon, buy ten copies, and send them to your favorite bullshitters. Maybe they'll take the hint.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Big Mess, Dig?

OK, I'm beginning to get paranoid, but that doesn't mean I'm not being followed.

Just an expression, of course, but I have a story, I've told it many times before, and with the latest news, I can't help but wonder if someone should have listened better.

Over a decade ago, I was General Counsel of the MBTA. At the time, Jim Kerasiotes was the Chairman of the MBTA Board and the Secretary of Transportation. At the time, EOTC was in charge of the Big Dig. Shortly after I left, Kerasiotes would become the head of the Turnpike Authority and would preside over his own boiling controversy over the accuracy of factual representations made in bond prospectuses --- but that is another (albeit related) story.

During 1994, I had the occasion to advertise for a position in the law department for an attorney experienced in construction contract law. I received many resumes, one of the better ones coming from an individual who was working as one of the construction contract staff attorneys for the Central Artery project. I invited him in for an interview. During the interview, I asked him a rather mundane, and obvious, question, and a strange conversation ensued. As best I can recollect, it went somthing like this:

"So," I said, "tell me what it is that you do down there at CA/T."

He looked at me queerly, and said "Can I be frank?"

"I certainly hope so, in fact, I expect it," I assured him.

"I don't do anything," he said. He looked at me, embarrassed, and almost apologetic. "That's why I'm here. I'm going crazy down there, playing solitaire all day long." He shrugged.

Now that was frank, wasn't it!

"What are you supposed to be doing," I asked him.

"Reviewing change orders against the contract documents, making sure contractor claims for extra work are legit, handling claims that aren't through the dispute resolution process."

We sat in silence for a moment. I had to consider whether or not to ask the question on the tip of my tongue.

"Can I ask why you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing," I asked.

A few more seconds of silence.

"We were told not to."

"By whom?"

"By our boss."

"How many of there are you down there, doing nothing?"

"About a dozen," he said.

"Nobody doing anything, all day long?"

"That's right. I can't live with myself, taking that check home. I gotta work for my money," he said.

Well I didn't end up hiring this man, as much as I wanted to, because the "boss" hired someone else for me (a great lawyer and superb human being).

But I reflected on what I had been told. At the time, design was complete and construction of the project had begun in earnest. The word had come down (from Secretary Kerasiotes) that the project would be completed on time, and on budget, no excuses. No excuses. That was one of Jim K's mantras. He had a sign on his desk that said "Do not confuse effort with results." Everybody knew he meant it.

There are two things, principally, that delay construction projects beyond their schedules. One is changed conditions, the other is claims disputes. To a certain extent, changed conditions changes can't be avoided on a project of such magnitude (certainly not if the original designs have so many mistakes in them). Claims disputes, however, can drag out for months and months, and can frequently interfere with the critical path of a project.

It is then possible (and I have no evidence to indicate my suspicion is correct -- none) that a decision was made, in the interest of keeping the project on schedule and not spending millions on contract litigation during the project, to eliminate the usual practice of change order reviews.

After my meeting, I passed on the substance of my conversation to the higher-ups. Years later, when Andrew Natsios was Secretary of Administration and Finance, he became personally involved in reviewing the financial mess that was burgeoning at CA/T. I told him my story. He was incredulous, but I never heard anything further about it. He then took over the project for a short period, after Jim K left and before the current Chairman, Matt Amorello.

I don't know what the explanation is for either the story that was tlod to me or the fact that nothing (apparently) ever came of it.

But today, I can't help but wonder how the project might have turned out if a dozen lawyers at the Central Artery were allowed to do their jobs.

Partisan Politics and the Filibuster

In one more stark and dramatic demonstration of just how bad the partisan bickering in Washington has become, the Republican majority in the Senate is about to turn to ((gasp)) a rules change to prevent a minority of Democratic Senators from being able to block a vote on ten Bush nominees to the federal courts. You'd think they were proposing to outlaw the American Flag, the way the Democrats are hollering. The "nuclear option," it is now called.

Originally calling for a 2/3 vote for "cloture," the Rule was changed once before in 1975 to 3/5. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D. Montana) proclaimed, "We cannot allow a minority" of the senators "to grab the Senate by the throat and hold it there." Voting for the Rule change at the time were Senators Leahy, Kennedy, Byrd, and Biden.

Nearly a decade ago, Lloyd Cutler, the former White House Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton, concluded that the Senate Rule requiring a super-majority vote to change the rule is "plainly unconstitutional."

Plenty has been written on the subject already. There seems to be no serious quarreling with the notion that the rule change only requires a majority vote, and that requiring anything more than that would be
unconstitutional. Professor Ronald Rotunda of George Mason University Law School points out that even Lloyd Cutler, the former White House Counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton, concluded that the Senate Rule requiring a super-majority vote to change the rule is "plainly unconstitutional."

But it is important to understand that the rule change from 67 to 60 was made as a political
compromise, and one that has lasted for a generation at that.

I think Majority Leader Bill Frist's own words put the gravity of this situation into perspective:

Frist said in a speech to the Federalist Society recently:

"This is unprecedented in over 200 years of Senate history. Never before has a minority blocked a judicial nominee that has majority support for an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Never.

Now, the minority says the filibuster is their only choice, because the majority controls both the White House and the Senate. But that fails the test of history. The same party controlled the White House and the Senate for 70 percent of the 20th century. No minority filibustered judicial nominees then.

Howard Baker's Republican minority didn't filibuster Democrat Jimmy Carter's nominees. Robert Byrd's Democrat minority didn't filibuster Republican Ronald Reagan's nominees. Bob Dole's Republican minority didn't filibuster Democrat Bill Clinton's nominees. There's nothing specific in the formal rules of the Senate that restrained those minorities from filibustering. They simply used self-restraint. Those senators didn't filibuster, because it wasn't something senators did. They understood the Senate's role in the appointments process. And they heeded the intent and deferred to the greater wisdom of the framers of the Constitution."


So why do the Democrats not want to restrain themselves in these cases?

Because, for the most part, they object to the nominee's political views or affiliations.

Not qualifications, not temperament, not any of the other aspect of a federal judicial nominee you might otherwise care about. But these are "lifetime appointments" ((gasp))!!!

Well my friends, examine the complete body of federal case law over the last several generations, and I think you find that these "lifetime appointments" are not a foreboding of certain doom.

The majority party in Congress is certain to change (eventually), the White House will not be held by the current party forever, and all in all, things seem to work themselves out -- provided that members of Congress cooperate, and do their job.

If the Republicans exercise their "nuclear option," what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The Senate has a resilient institutional memory. "People remember." And if the body of federal case law precedent is so radically shifted to the right by these so-called radical right activist judges, then it will be the privilege of the controlling Democrats at the time to shove a bunch of radical liberals down the throats of their opponents.

But we're talking about ten judges here in a system of thousands. They're well qualified, experienced, and in some cases even supported by Democratic members themselves.

But the majority must remember the same history that Frist recalled to the Federalist Society. The previous rule change was a compromise.

I know that's not in vogue this season, but it had better gain some traction or "nuclear option" is going to become the catch phrase for a lot of other issues.

(Thanks to Outside the Beltway for pointing me to some good source material)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

More Dirty Laundry at Harvard

I swear to you I have nothing against Harvard University --- it's just kismet that so many ridiculous stories seem to be coming out of the campus at once. This has been covered in other blogs last week, but I can't help myself:

The latest dust-up on the "too sensitive for your own good" campus has to do with the new room cleaning service called Dormaid. Apparently, some students are concerned that the offering of a service designed to provide students with habitable quarters is offensive because some cannot afford it:

"After recent approval by Associate Dean of the College Thomas A. Dingman ’67, other members of the Dean’s office, and all 12 House Masters, a new student service is sweeping onto campus. Dormaid, founded by Michael E. Kopko ’07, is a cleaning service that allows students to avoid the perennial problem of dingy, smutty, questionably-habitable rooms. But as appealing as the thought of a perpetually tidy room may be, (independent of family visits), Dormaid could potentially mess up as many rooms as it cleans. By creating yet another differential between the haves and have-nots on campus, Dormaid threatens our student unity....

Although Harvard has given its approval, students don’t have to. We urge the student body to boycott Dormaid. Everyone’s certainly busy, but Harvard students shouldn’t choose convenience over healthy relationships with their blockmates. It’s up to each one of us to ensure that our peers feel comfortable on campus, and if that means plugging in a vacuum every two weeks, then so be it."

An enterprising student (a sophomore!) observes the three elements of a successful business (a need, a solution, and an ability to pay) and offers his schoolmates a convenience, and the Harvard Crimson promotes a boycott because some who can't afford it may feel uncomfortable.

I have always viewed the university experience as a microcosm of the real world. Living in a university environment provides us with the opportunity (and responsibility) to learn how to survive, and thrive, in the world beyond. This includes the responsibility to understand and appreciate the differences among us, and to incorporate that understanding into the way we treat one another.

Apparently, some at Harvard have a different point of view ---that the differences among people should be disguised, lest someone be made to feel uncomfortable.

There's that word: comfortable. Looks like they Harvard Crimson editorial writers are getting a good head start on becoming faculty members!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Plucky Nick Ciarelli, Apple Fan

The Boston Globe's Hiawatha Bray has this take on the tribulations of Nick Ciarelli, teen internet journalist and operator of Think Secret, one of several Apple rumor sites.

Enough has already been said about this dispute. What I like is Nick Ciarelli's pluck. Faced with what Bray describes as Apple's "high-handed bullying," Nick says "The next computer I buy will be a Mac."

"Harvard, Home of the Perpetually Offended"

Cathy Young points out that Larry Summers is not the only person capable of offending women on the Harvard campus. Now the gay and lesbian community is up in arms over the "heteronormative" comments made by Jada Pinkett Smith, the singer-actress, in her motivation speech to the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.

The offending comments:

''Women, you can have it all -- a loving man, devoted husband, loving children, a fabulous career. We are a new generation of women. We got to set a new standard of rules around here. To my men, open your mind, open your eyes to new ideas. Be open."

Apparently, some members of the Harvard Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance had been offended by the speech and were calling for an apology. From Pinkett Smith? No, from the foundation.

Young properly recognizes this incident as another example of politically correct extremism, and concludes with this: "Why throw red meat to those who caricature the gay rights movement as hostile to both heterosexual marriage and free speech?"

Because it is?

Blogging Toward Democracy!!!

The Monday morning Boston Globe is usually so bland. But today, there was plenty of good red meat to savor:

Hampton Stevens, former managing editor of Inside the Airforce, argues in Uncle Sam's Blog that "US policy makers should recognize blogging as a perfect tool to promote the proliferation of independent democratic voices:"

"Michael Waller, professor of international communication at The Institute of World Politics, says, 'While some in the State Department recognize the power of the Internet for public diplomacy, they are years behind the technology and show little sign of advancing soon.' He proposes that the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs US-sponsored broadcasting, 'quickly integrate its radio and TV programming with Internet media to facilitate global, interactive networks of independent bloggers in English, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and other languages, united against Islamist extremism....' "

"The advantage of a public diplomacy that seeks to build indigenous communities of reform-minded bloggers is that no American bureaucrat needs to develop the correct tone for communicating American ideals. Instead, the message of liberty and democracy can be encouraged to spread from the very communities that public diplomacy campaigns are designed to reach in the first place."

How exciting! No more dropping clumsily-translated leaflets from airplanes, and Bill Gates can sell a few million laptops through USIA.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Idiotic Utterances from Tax Dodgers

I could have sworn I had déjà vu when I read paper this morning.

Almost like a Rite of Spring (if it ever gets here this year), more Massachusetts legislators have been recalcitrant in their obligations to file tax returns:

“It's all spend but no tax these days for six state lawmakers who revenue officials say failed to file income tax returns while voting to spend billions of dollars paid by others.”

[I know reporting is losing its luster, but I can’t help but point out the grammatical error in that sentence --- I hardly think the tax officials commented on the legislators voting to spend billions of dollars paid by others. But I digress.]

Let’s take a closer look at what these paragons of public service had to say about their oversights:

“The DOR list, obtained under a public records request by the Herald, also included freshman Rep. Patrick M. Natale (D-Woburn). But Natale said he wasn't working at the time and didn't have to file.”

He wasn’t working so he didn’t have to file? Okay, that could be true if he made less than $8,000 for the year, but for God’s sake, who was running against this unemployed loser? Don’t the people of Woburn have a better choice?

Rep. David Linsky from Natick:

“’I take full responsibility for this error. I am working with my accountant to rectify this mistake,'’ Linsky said. ‘I expect that I will receive a refund for over-paid taxes and the matter will be put to rest.’ The rep wouldn't say why he missed two consecutive deadlines.”

Well I should hope he would take responsibility for these errors! He hasn’t anyone else to blame. But two years running, and a lawyer? You know the old saying, “fool me once…”

Rep. Linsky is reported to be considering a run for District Attorney. I have some advice for him. Don’t.

Rep. Colleen Garry from Dracut:

“Garry said she didn't file because she cannot find paperwork involving the sale of a home the lawmaker jointly owned with her parents. She said she opted to delay rather than file an incorrect return.

The lawmaker said she's never owed the state money anyway.

‘I never had to pay taxes (when filing), I always had the most deductions taken,’ she said. ‘I don't mind loaning the Commonwealth money in tough times.’ Filing is mandatory for all taxpayers except those who earn less than $8,000, or work and live out of state.”

Do these idiots think before they open their mouths? There’s so many stupid statements there, parsing is necessary:

She cannot find the paperwork on the sale of a residence. Probably the dog ate it. Did she call the bank lawyer? The buyer?

She opted to delay instead of filing an incorrect return? Did she ever hear of an extension? Oh, that’s right, if you file an extension, you have to pay the tax due. But wait, she never owes any tax. But she sold a piece of real estate co-owned with her mother. But wait --- she didn’t file for two years! My my my, that’s one looooong closing.

She’s never owed the state money because she always has the most deductions taken? Boy she’s going to have to backpedal on that one.

And the piece de resistance:

In a paradigm of arrogance, she "doesn’t mind loaning the Commonwealth money in tough times."

I have a prediction: Ms. Garry is going to be facing tough times as a result of that statement. I will pass on to her a piece of advice I received long ago from my mother:

When you are caught with your hand in the cookie jar, never stick your tongue out at the baker.

Finally, Rep. Byron Rushing, from Boston:

“’It just doesn't make sense - I'm sure I did file,’ he said. Asked if there was a tax professional who could confirm that he filed, Rushing said, ‘That's the problem, I do my own taxes. I've got to stop that.’ “

Now remember, “this isn't the first time Rushing made the DOR non-filer list. He apologized in 1997 for failing to file returns for the six prior years.”

Truer words were never said. He’s got to stop that.

I look forward to following the further developments, especially as they relate to the generous Ms. Garry.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

When Sorry Isn't Enough

From the Boston Globe story about an unfortunate incident in which a dog was electrocuted by a short circuited lamp post:

"The family of Cassius, the dog killed by leaking electricity from an old NStar Electric lamppost site, said last night it had turned down an unspecified offer of "comfort money" from NStar and is demanding $740,000 from the utility or it will sue. The family said it picked the dollar figure because it equals NStar chief executive Thomas J. May's annual salary. Paul and Dee Dee DeVito of Allston, whose 13-year-old son Kyle was walking Cassius on Western Avenue when the dog was electrocuted last Tuesday, said they had initially demanded $1.4 million, the size of May's most recent annual bonus. The DeVitos agreed to seek the lower figure after NStar balked. 'We didn't want the DeVito family to appear greedy,' their lawyer, John G. Swomley, said at a packed press conference last evening where the family disclosed its $740,000 demand."

Noooooo, we certainly don't want them to appear greedy!

The just wanted to "send a message," as plaintiff trial lawyers (including Attorney Swomley) are always imploring juries to do -- in t.v. movies and real courtrooms.

Send a message. They picked a figure because it was equal to the CEO's annual pay. Nothing to do with the value of their beloved pet, or compensating them for their grief. A nice "poetic" figure, as Swomley further explained.

Now I like poetry, but this doesn't even rise to the level of an obscene limerick.

Here's what I think:

Life isn't always fair. Bad things happen. Sometimes they're the result of someone's "fault." Not always, but sometimes. But NStar has, oh, a couple thousand miles of power lines to maintain, and I don't think we can hold them to the impossible standard of ensuring that no accident will ever occur. If we do, I'm going to end up using candle light, because electric rates are not going to be hospitable to my budget.

People have to stop blaming every unfortunate event on someone -- even the Big Bad Utility. Get up off the ground, dust yourself off, thank God you're okay, and move on.

There's too many Attorney Swomleys in this world.

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