May 2005
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Month May 2005

Association of ombudspeople smacks down Tomlinson

The NYT reports that the Organization of News Ombudsmen (everybody has an organization these days!), or ONO, has refused to admit the Corporation for Public Broadcasting‘s team of one "liberal" and one "conservative" ombudsman to full membership.  The Corporation’s chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson, has been on something of a mission to combat the supposed liberal bias of the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, and part of his strategy is to name these two "ombudsmen" at the Corporation (not itself a news-gathering organization) to monitor whether PBS and NPR are slanting their coverage.  A curious use of the term "ombudsman," to be sure – the usual meaning of a news ombudsman is someone who represents, and responds to, the readers, listeners, or viewers of a news outlet, not the hack who happens to be serving as one of the news outlet’s major funders. ONO, apparently of the view that the Corporation’s two ombudsguys weren’t really "ombudsmen," wouldn’t let them in.  One must add, however, that the person behind this action appears to have been Jeffrey Dvorkin, the ombudsman for – you guessed it – NPR.  Oops.  Of course, we’re certain that the decision to bar the Corporation’s ombudsfolks from full […]

Bubble bubble toil and trouble: Babies R not us

Young parents are not sticking around MA, maybe because they can get a backyard elsewhere. Here’s a Globe column from Charles Stein (thanks to Democrants): Specifically, [demographer Peter Francese] doesn’t see enough young people in our future –especially young adults with children. We drive them away, saidFrancese, with our high housing prices, which are high, in part,because we refuse to build affordable housing suitable for youngfamilies. ”Our wounds are self-inflicted," he said. … New England home prices go up, but relatively little new housing getsbuilt to satisfy the demand. Francese puts the blame for that lack ofproduction squarely on the shoulders of a cherished New Englandinstitution — the fiercely independent town. Towns don’t want to build houses because houses contain children whowill have to go to school, which will cost taxpayers in the town money.”The last thing anyone wants is school kids," said Francese. That last one hurts, doesn’t it? If your town doesn’t want to build your kid’s family a house, and is stingy with your grandkids’ education, why would your kids come back to raise them near you? This may sound rather laissez-faire for a dyed-in-the-wool lib, but I really think we’ve got to revisit some zoning laws […]

Rep. Lynch is thinking about it …

The Globe reports that US Rep. Stephen Lynch is kinda sorta thinking about running for Governor, maybe. Lynch would be the most conservative Dem in the field.  I can respectfully disagree with his anti-choice views, but his vote in favor of the Terri Schiavo bill pretty much rules him out for me.  Anyone who thought the federal government belonged in that situation has a very different understanding of the role of government than I do.

More on the Wellesley override

As we noted earlier this week, the town of Wellesley’s recent failure (by 17 votes) to pass a $3.6 million Proposition 2-1/2 override resulted in the cancellation of a Spanish immersion program in the Wellesley public schools (the town did pass a smaller override), whereupon some concerned parents took it upon themselves to raise $380,000 to try to save the program.  The school board, however, rejected the offer, and will cancel the program instead.  We wondered aloud whether this was the right call, and got some interesting comments.

In today’s Globe, columnist Eileen McNamara continues the discussion by delivering a lecture to the Wellesley parents, who in her view are "confused" about "the definition of public education" and require a lesson on "the concept of collective responsibility."

I was mightily put off by McNamara’s pious, high-and-mighty tone, which seems to me completely inappropriate in a situation where the parents (and the kids, who were also involved in the fundraising effort) were simply trying to preserve an educational program that they found to be beneficial.  And, in thinking about it, I don’t find much of what McNamara says to be very persuasive.  Read on…

“We’ve got to do this!”

So here’s the long-awaited GBIO action recap. (I’m getting up at 4am tomorrow for a flight, so I won’t be revising — sorry for the typos and syntax.) I arrived a little later than I wanted to, about 6:40. Temple Israel was already swarming with people — a very positive vibe, sort of an organized chaos. There were check-in tables, a table for press, a table for the post-action collection for Darfur, you name it, and traffic bubbled merrily into the sanctuary, which, I’m told, 40 years earlier hosted one Martin Luther King Jr. Later one of the speakers remarked on the similar atmosphere last night. A GBIO "action" is not merely a rally, where people get pepped up and then go home. Something actually happens, a moment of mutual recognition between people in power (in this case the elected representatives who were invited) and those who represented their congregations. And there is also a commitment made by the congregants there: In this case, GBIO committed itself to getting 40,000 of the 65,000+ signatures necessary to put the Health Care Access and Affordability Act on the ballot in 2006. To give you an idea of the tone of GBIO, the […]

Another indication that Chief Justice Rehnquist is retiring

Virtually every Supreme Court observer is assuming that Chief Justice Rehnquist’s ongoing and apparently quite serious bout with thyroid cancer will result in his retirement at the end of the current Supreme Court term next month.  But, of course, there has been no word on this from Rehnquist himself, or from anyone else at the Court. However, the unofficial federal judiciary gossip site, Underneath Their Robes, reports that Justice O’Connor has to this point only hired three law clerks for next year (she is entitled to hire four).  This is highly unusual – Justice O’Connor ordinarily completes her hiring quite early in the process, and as far as I know she has always hired four clerks. What’s the connection?  The site’s mysterious author, "Article III Groupie" (or "A3G") speculates that O’Connor is holding a spot open so that she can offer a job to one of the Chief’s three already-hired clerks (the Chief and Justice Stevens generally only hire three clerks).  The Chief, as a retired Justice, would be entitled to only one law clerk (the other two presumably wouldn’t have trouble landing a nice job elsewhere, but a Supreme Court clerkship is a unique gig).  And, as A3G notes, […]

So it DOES make you go blind!

The NYT reports: The Food and Drug Administration said today that it had asked Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drug maker, to amend its warnings on Viagra in response to scattered reports of vision loss by people taking the drug. Some blindness was reported by 38 men taking Viagra – a tiny fraction of the 23 million people who have used the drug – and among four men taking Cialis, a newer competitor. I have nothing to add.  You, however, are invited to snark away to your heart’s content.

Romney vetoes stem cell bill; SJC rejects last-ditch effort to undo gay marriage ruling

Two utterly unsurprising developments in today’s news.  First, Governor Romney delivered on his promise to veto the stem cell research bill.  As we’ve noted, the bill passed the legislature by veto-proof margins in both houses, and veto overrides are expected as early as next week. Second, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected what everyone expected would be a futile attempt by Catholic Action League executive director C.J. Doyle to halt gay marriage until …. well, we’re not actually sure exactly what Doyle wanted.  In any case, he didn’t get it.  This was a pointless court proceeding – there was no way the Court was going to undo what it has done in this area (and today’s opinion, unlike Goodridge and the subsequent Opinion of the Justices, was unanimous). So gay marriage and stem cell research will both go forward in this Commonwealth.  Keep your eye on whether the sky falls….

A twist on the usual override story

I find the Wellesley override story, as told in today’s Globe, to be fascinating.  There were two possible Proposition 2-1/2 overrides on the May 10 ballot.  The first, for $3.6 million (average $329/year per taxpayer), failed by 17 votes.  The second, for $2.6 million ($240/year), passed.  Both measures would save about 60 teachers’ jobs.  A big part of the difference, apparently, was a Spanish language immersion program and the seven teachers associated with that program. Here’s where it gets interesting: some Wellesley parents, unhappy with the results, decided to raise the money on their own in an effort to save the Spanish program.  They organized a fundraising effort, picked up a $7,000 check from a foundation, and ultimately went to the school board with $380,000 in hand to save the program. But the board said "no"!  It declined the money, and will cancel the program.  Various school board types explained the decision in various terms: it’d be a bad precedent for wealthy parents to raise money to save their favored programs while letting others be cancelled; it’d mean that no one will ever vote "yes" on an override again because they figure the parents will just cough up the money […]

Wind Power: Beyond Nantucket Sound

Well, Wired News shows a report with the incredible, unbelieveable, counter-intuitive, weirdo finding that wind power is just like, all around us, and just there for the taking. At the risk of repeating myself: the candidate that enumerates a comprehensive, innovative wind power strategy for the Commonwealth will be much closer to getting my support. This is a big one. (Hat tip: Carpundit.) In other wind farm news… a group of folks from the Cape just left for Denmark for a tour of the wind farms there. The Wind Farm blog’s Jack Coleman is on the trip, and reporting on it for Cape Cod Today. And here’s extra-special full disclosure from me: leading the trip are William and Dorte Griswold of Centerville, who happen to be my cousins, and a big reason I got interested in the issue to begin with.