December 2005
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Nov   Jan »

Month December 2005

The T: Shrink to greatness?

A week ago, <a href=””>Charles Chieppo had an op-ed in the Globe criticizing plans for MBTA rail expansion to Medford, Newburyport, Worcester, Plymouth, and Scituate. It’s actually a swipe at Doug Foy, who is cited as the architect of such expansion, which was designed as an environmental counterweight to the Big Dig’s expansion of, well, driving. I’m not an expert on how public transit is funded vis-a-vis the state’s budget. (Eisenthal, you out there?) But even I could sense that the op-ed seemed to be chock-a-block with shabby arguments and false choices — in particular the needless ad-hominem of calling out a person (i.e. Foy), and not his ideas. (Yes, we’re sloppy, and indulge in that on this blog — in any event, that kind of thing should be a warning that someone doesn’t really want to talk facts.) So here’s what concerned me: Chieppo cites <a href=””>research that says transit doesn’t really prevent that much pollution: “One study concluded that it cost over 100 times more to remove VOCs [smoggy chemicals] from the air via transit investments than by requiring vapor control systems on gas pumps.” How is this anything but an apples-and-oranges comparison? Ever tried to ride a […]

Health Care hilarity

Ezra Klein points us to this take on our crap American health care system from a Canadian; it’s damn funny — honest… …which then links to this, which is also damn funny: “Panexa — ask your doctor for a reason to take it.”

Illegal wiretap forum on Jan 4

Rep. Ed Markey has just annnounced an “Emergency Town Meeting on the Bush Administration’s Program on Domestic Surveillance,” otherwise known as “Bush’s Illegal Spying program.” The forum will be held In Lexington on Wednesday night, Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. at The National Heritage Museum, 33 Marrett Road, Lexington. Markey’s website has more details (, including mention of at least two guests, to include Carol Ross of the Mass ACLU and Marc Rotenberg of the DC-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. This should be a nice Mass-based warmup to January’s feature events in Washington: Alito’s explanation of his view on warrantless surveillance during his nomination hearings, to be followed by hearings on the NSA program itself.

A tale of two leaks

(Got a new verse, or an improvement on what’s here?  Drop it in the comments.) There once was an agent named Plame who Karl Rove considered “fair game.” So Bob Novak, our hero, showed integrity zero by shamelessly outing her name. Once public, she had to quit spying; one hopes her associates aren’t dying. Scooter Libby said, “hey, I said nothing, OK?” But Fitzgerald said Scooter was lying. Meanwhile, over at NSA, secret wiretaps by night and by day. Bush said “Article II lets me do what I do.” What’s become of the U. S. of A.? ‘Bout those wiretaps, no one ever’d have known, had a leaker not picked up the phone. There ensued a delay, but at last, light of day, and the whole program’s cover was blown. Now Bush tells us the leak’s a big crime! And Gonzales says, “who dropped that dime?” But it cannot be doubted that when Plame was outed Bush said “no big deal. Take your time.”

Simon Schama Looks Back at the Noughties

Columbia University historian, and Brit, Simon Schama has offered a provocative early history of the 00s for The Guardian. He writes in part: “But if, for the hell of it, we can imagine an oracular, though fully digitised, historian a century hence – let’s call her Sibyl – looking back at the first five years of the millennium, and marvelling at the the obtuseness of the generation that failed to see The Writing On The Wall, what would it be about the noughties that she would single out as glaringly ominous? “Well, Sibyl would say, there was the teeny matter of the beginning of the end; of planet Earth, that is, the last chance of reversing the irreversible damage that has been done to the ecosystem, beside which all the rest of its problems were small potatoes. Short of taking the current president of the United States by the scruff of the neck and dunking his head deep into the rapidly melting Arctic ice cap, what more did the Earth need to do to make someone listen to its cry for help? But this was the decayed decade, when everything that urgently needed to be done to reverse carbon emissions […]

Brain drain pain (with poll)

Well, since I was a little kid I wanted to live in Massachusetts. And a few years ago my dream came true. This state feels like home, and always has. But I can’t expect everyone to feel like that; many other folks are taking off, and frankly, because of the current cost of living vis-a-vis the strength of our economy, it’s understandable. And it seems to be high-earners who are leaving, and immigrants who are still coming. Unfortunately we need both. That imbalance can’t possibly be good for the local economy, short- or long-term. Local blogger reaction is mixed: <a href=””>Bostonist is pretty flip, <a href=””>Chris isn’t worried, and <a href=””>John Keith does a good job of putting the issue in perspective, and finding a real culprit: the economic woes of 2001-03. sco has a <a href=””>terrific post, wide-ranging but especially strong regarding real estate prices: MA has always been one of the more expensive places to live, but now it’s pretty depressing what $300,000 won’t get you, especially compared to other places. All of these factors will provide the backdrop of this year’s gubernatorial race: The basic issue is quality of life in relation to the cost of living. […]

Why Alito? Here’s an interesting theory

Professor Sandy Levinson has a very interesting, and possibly quite accurate, post up on Balkinization as to why Bush chose to nominate Samuel Alito, rather than other equally qualified jurists who probably would have been easier to confirm (emphasis mine): So one has to explain Alito’s nomination against the background fact that by any plausible account [10th Circuit Judge Michael] McConnell would have been a more distinguished nominee with easier prospects of confirmation. Key to any answer, I suggest, is the belief by insiders in the Bush Administration that he would be better on the one issue they REALLY care about, which is the aggrandizement of Executive power. The events of the past two weeks, following the disclosures about literally unwarranted wiretapping and data-mining by the National Security Agency, bring into sharp focus the intent by the Administration, led by Dick Cheney, to assert almost unlimited executive powers linked to the “Commander-in-Chief” Clause of Article II of the Constitution. This makes a lot of sense to me.  Roe v. Wade, and even gay marriage, while important to many liberals and to cultural conservatives, have never struck me as things that Bush or Cheney really gave a crap about – they […]

Don’t forget to register!

If you want to be eligible to be a delegate at the Democratic convention in June, you MUST be registered as a Democrat in your city or town by the end of December.  It’s really easy – you just trot down to your city or town hall and fill out a half-page form. The convention is important – among other things, it will determine who is on the primary ballot next September.  So go register, and then go get yourself elected!

Open Document Insert Foot V: MA CTO Quinn resigns

If you’ll remember, MA Chief Technology Officer Peter Quinn was the <a href=”″>driving force behind moving Massachusetts to an Open Document format standard, in which the documents that the state produced would be in a format completely open to software not made by a single company, namely Microsoft. He was 1. <a href=”″>hit by a bogus investigation into his travel activities, which was aided by 2. <a href=””>a smear report by the Globe, and 3. eventually <a href=”″>completely cleared. Well, now he’s <a href=””>resigned:<a href=””> Peter J. Quinn, who has headed the Informational Technology division since 2002, said in an e-mail to his staff that he was resigning to avoid undercutting the drive to adopt the initiative by 2007. ”It is also readily apparent that I have become a lightning rod with regard to any IT initiative. Even the smallest initiatives are being mitigated or stopped by some of the most unlikely and often uninformed parties,” Quinn wrote. ”I view these circumstances as quite troubling because the good work laid out by the IT Commission is slowly being strangled and brought to a halt. And the last thing I can let happen is my presence be the major contributing factor […]

Joe Klein Summarizes Health Care Alternatives

Time columnist Joe Klein provided a useful summary of Romney’s health care proposal, and criticisms of it from left and right, in a recent issue. He wrote, “Here is how it would work. Massachusetts now spends about $1 billion a year to provide emergency health care for at least 500,000 uninsured citizens. About 200,000 of those are young people, predominantly male, who are making enough money to buy health insurance but figure they don’t need it. They would be required to buy a relatively inexpensive health insurance policy, with higher deductibles and co-pays—that’s where the “mandate” comes in. Another 100,000 are extremely poor people who are eligible for Medicaid; a concerted effort would be made to bring them into the system. The remaining 200,000 are the people who have been most neglected by the system in the past: the working poor, people who have low-end service jobs or work part time for employers who don’t offer health coverage.” He added, “Romney’s gamble is that Massachusetts can take the $1 billion it spends on the uninsured and use it to subsidize coverage for the working poor. The Bush Administration will kick in another $1 billion, over three years, to make the […]