Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lots on my mind ...

Today's one of those days where you don't know where to begin. There's lots on my mind and I guess I just need to vent about some of the things I've read on the various newspaper websites this morning.

Leading off ... Last night, a hit-and-run driver ran down a woman in a wheelchair who was crossing a street in Hyannis, MA (Cape Cod). She died early this morning.

What kind of jerk would do that? Not that any hit-and-run drivers should ever be spared our eternal wrath for being both careless and cowardly. But a woman in a wheelchair? There's a special place in hell for someone who would just keep driving. Let's hope the police catch this creep, and that he/she gets everything he/she deserves.


The Tea Party people scored a victory in Kentucky yesterday when Rand Paul won the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate race.

I am a big fan of the Democratic process and can certainly accept the ebb and flow of who gets the upper hand in the eternal tug-of-war between conservatives and liberals. Even though I consider myself a liberal (barely, sometimes), I'm OK with conservatives.

I'm not OK with the Tea Party ... just as I'm not OK with any self-appointed group of people that seeks to jam its own agenda down our collective throats even if -- in the long run -- it may prove detrimental to the overall public good.

I also distrust zealotry ... on either side. And it makes me nervous when zealots end up with too much control over the process. The idea of Sarah Palin running around the country talking about President Obama "taking away our guns," to me, is just as scary as anything these people claim Obama is actually doing (which, last time I checked, didn't include "taking away our guns").

So, having the Tea Party people sinking its teeth this squarely into a potential U.S. senator is a bit unsettling to me. So would the idea of having too much control over a Democrat.

To me, politicians have a duty to keep groups like this at arm's length. Listen to them, sure. But they should never be anywhere else but at the end of the banquet table of life. Seating them too close to the head of the table is a bad thing.

All I know is this: Scott Brown (and I'm not a fan) won the 2010 special election for Ted Kennedy's seat (yeah, I know, it's the people's seat ... he just sat in it for 47 years) for a number of reasons. But to listen to the Tea Partiers squawk when he does something they don't like (and to his credit, he's bucked them a few times already), you'd think they owned him.

Dangerous. It's dangerous when any group of lobbyists (or de facto lobbyists) lays too much of a claim to the electoral process. That goes for the Tea Party and it goes for ACORN, and it goes for anyone else.

These groups have their roles. But being at the head of table isn't, and should not be, one of them.


In a roundabout way, the aforementioned leads me to this: The Massachusetts gubernatorial race is turning nasty. First, Democrat Tim Cahill, the state treasurer, broke off from the party two years ago and announced his intentions of running for governor as an independent. This happened at a particularly vulnerable time for incumbent Deval Patrick ... a Democrat.

Last year, Republican Charlie Baker, who was the CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, threw his hat in the ring.

Now, the national Republican Governors Association has bankrolled a series of extremely negative ads designed to eliminate Cahill as a serious candidate.

It should be noted that the association has no connection to the Baker campaign. OK. That's just to put it on the record. Similarly, the Swift Boat Veterans had no connection to George W. Bush's campaign ... and MoveOn has no connection to the Democrats.

If you believe any of this, you're hopeless.

All Charlie Baker has to do, if he's serious about denouncing the cancer of negative political campaigning, is to call the association and tell them to stop ... and that he doesn't need their help if he's going to beat back an independent who has no real political base, or an incumbent whose first term has inspired no one.

But Baker won't do it. He was even asked, point blank, in an interview last night by local TV pundit Andy Hiller, why he couldn't just pick up the phone, call these people, and say, "thanks, but no thanks ... just leave things alone. I don't need your help."

Baker said he wouldn't do that. Which, to me, means that he's OK with this stuff.

Sorry, Charlie. I'm not.

As I said before, I'm a liberal, perhaps more socially than economically, and Charlie Baker's stance on a lot of social issues mirror mine. Charlie Baker, before all this negative stuff started happening, was looking pretty good to me. I don't really care for Patrick. Although I voted for him in 2006, he's been, to me, a major disappointment.

He's caved in on some pretty major things, and shown a lack of leadership on others. On balance, he hasn't done all that well (though, like a lot of first-termers, he seems to be getting the hang of what the job is about just at the time he has to run for re-election; time will tell whether it's too late, or whether the public will forgive him his learning curve).

But if I liked Charlie Baker before, I can't say I do now. I understand negative campaigning is as American as apple pie, but, these days, the whole process just seems to have an overwhelming stench to it. And I'm tired of politicians who keep telling me how bad the other guy is without giving me any indication as to why I should vote for them, as opposed to against their opponents.

I have a feeling I'm not the only one who's tired of this.

The sad thing is that Charlie Baker didn't need to do this. He was in a pretty good spot. Last month, a poll came out that had Patrick only slightly ahead of him -- a pretty good indication that he had a real shot at winning the election without prostituting himself to the far right.

As disappointing as Patrick has been, so has Baker's acquiescence to the National Republican Governors' Association. He should know that if I was giving him a serious look (and again, I'm sure I'm not alone) all he needed to do was reassure me, and people like me, that he wasn't Mitt Romney ... the very definition of a fraud ... and that we could trust him not to violate every moderate promise he makes once he's elected (the way Romney did).

Instead, he can't get up off his ass to repudiate attack ads that -- all by themselves -- belie his his claims to be a moderate.

Your loss, Charlie. Deval may not be the best governor we've ever had. But you're going to see that, like Obama, when it comes to campaigning, the guy has what it takes. You've blown a big chance here.


Memo to Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox hierarchy: Do something with Mike Lowell, and do it now. And while you're at it, give Tim Wakefield a little dignity too.

These are two men who have never done anything except conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism and class. If there's no role for Lowell, or if you think he's all done, then release him and let him hook on with a team that might disagree with you.

Maybe he can even learn to play first base, too, so he can be on the field a little bit more. Whatever, he doesn't deserve to be left twisting in the wind.

The same thing goes for Wakefield. He's been with the team since 1995, and in all that time he has been the ultimate loyal soldier. He's done whatever the Red Sox have asked him to do, and -- save for a couple of brief comments voicing displeasure over being jerked around -- he hasn't complained very much.

Yet, once again, the Red Sox are jerking him around. They've banished him to mop-up while letting that absolute waste of a signing named Daisuke Matsuzaka stink up the joint (with rare exceptions) every fifth day. Not only is this not right ... it's simply wrong.

I suppose Epstein is going to stick with Dice-K forever to validate him wasting over $100 million of John Henry's dough on Mr. Gyro Ball. But to anyone who doesn't have a personal stake in Matsuzaka, Theo looks more stubborn than a mule.

Meanwhile, Wakefield, a loyal guy who has, in many ways, been one of the most positive faces the franchise has ever had, gets the short shrift.

And I'm sure it didn't help Wakefield's disposition the other night when he was finally in line for a win, against the Yankees no less, and the Red Sox bullpen coughed it up.

As the late, great Ned Martin used to say ... "Mercy!"


Finally, what's with coaches and GMs who have no feel for the pulse of their fans?

Last January, the Patriots staged one of the great no-shows in the history of the NFL playoffs -- and, considering their protracted string of excellence during the just-completed decade, totally uncharacteristic of them. Bill Belichick treated it as if it were just another day at the office.

His post-game comments were terse, surly and gave no indication, to anyone, that he sympathized with fans who might pay good money, and invest honest emotion, into rooting for the team.

Yesterday, the Bruins had their breakup news conference and GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien acted totally oblivious to the fact that fans who had to watch their team blow a 3-0 lead, both in the Eastern Conference semifinals and in Game 7, were left stunned and speechless by the scope of the collapse.

Chiarelli, in particular, was exasperating in his comments. As with Belichick, there was no indication that he got it ... that he understood that being the general manager of the Boston Bruins isn't like being the president of Spacely Sprockets.

In professional sports, you are only as viable as your fans perceive you to be. If you stink the joint out, they won't come. Next year, if the Bruins take a lead in a playoff series (provided the get into one), Chiarelli might not find the enthusiasm level to his liking. And judging from his total lack of introspection about this choke, he'll be scratching his head, wondering why.

It just makes you wonder whether this organization will ever get it right. It hasn't for 37 years -- which is how long it's been since the Bruins last won the Stanley Cup.

And do you know what the worst part of it is? There isn't even a one person you can name a curse after. They've watched athlete after athlete leave for greener pastures because they won't pay for talent. Their best player since Bobby Orr -- Ray Bourque -- fled to Colorado because the Bruins wouldn't pay to build a team around him.

Just this year, they found a way to alienate one of the best pure scorers they've had in many years -- Phil Kessel -- so that it became necessary to peddle him to Toronto for draft choices.

And while that move might pay off (the Leafs were awful this year, and the B's have the No. 2 draft choice as a result), it'll be a happy accident if it does. When all is said and done, I'd have rather had a happy Kessel on the ice, and believe that his presence would have prevented this historic choke.

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