Thursday, January 9, 2003

Speaking of Cuomo ...
Marie Cocco of Newsday thinks the Democrats need him:,0,7579215.column

Save 'Donahue'
For those of you who did not see my New Year's column published in The Winchester Star on Dec. 26, I opined my hope that 2003 would bring "good things." One of those things was an audience for the "Donahue" currently airing on the cable news channel MSNBC. Here is what I wrote then:

… I truly hope “Donahue,” the new show hosted by maverick Phil Donahue, will find some kind of audience on MSNBC. Rumors have been all over the Internet that the fledging news network is going to sack the show. This would be a real shame because the show is just about the only news program that features politically populist and progressive guests. The format, the standard Donahue roaming the audience with a microphone, is also the only program where normal people who show up can actually speak. As well, the producers of the show are covering important issues ignored by all the media. While other shows are blaming “communists” for the ever-growing peace movement, Donahue had a myriad of guests – from all political perspectives – to talk about the issues of war and peace. It makes an amazing difference to see an issue debated with intelligence instead of name-calling nonsense.

I bring the show up again to make a point about certain topics covered in the media, and this ridiculous nonsense about the media being "liberal," instead of "corporate," which is the problem.
Last week, "Donahue" had the topic of liberal vs. conservative media. I happened to miss the show but luckily Bill Berkowitz, a columnist with, didn’t and published this great article on the show: ["Down goes Goldberg! Down goes Goldberg!"]. The show’s guests were ex-CBS News reporter and author of "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News" Bernard Goldberg, former Democratic Governor of New York and public radio talk host Mario Cuomo, comedian and author of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" Al Franken, and a conservative radio talk show host. And it seems as though they all had a pretty healthy discussion of the issues, with Franken, who apparently came well prepared for the show, nailing Goldberg on some references in his book that he could not substantiate and did not know about. You can read some of the transcript text in Berkowitz’s article.
According to the latest Drudge Report, Donahue’s talk show is earning a 0.4 share – tied for dead last – with Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” show in the cable news ratings war [And I am sure that Drudge just loves rubbing Phil’s face in it].
Now, I admit, I don’t always watch the "Donahue" show, although I try to. Sometimes, the topics don’t interest me. Sometimes, I am just too busy to watch any television. However, we are always complaining about the lack of good programming airing on television. This is a good show. So, maybe we should all make a concerted effort to try and watch the program before MSNBC pulls the plug.

Garvey: Why can’t we have a gutsy candidate for president?
Here is a pretty good column from the Wisconsin candidate for governor in 1998 also published on].
In the column, Garvey laments the fact that almost all the Democrats running for president look and sound alike. He then points to newly elected Brazilian president Luiz Lula da Silva who cancelled a $760 million fighter jet contract to pay for health care for the poor. Garvey says:
Imagine a Democratic candidate for president saying, "I will cancel all military contracts until every American has comprehensive health coverage."
We can only imagine Mr. Garvey.

Mitt’s first steps follow same old path
[My latest column published today in The Winchester Star]

Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.
This sentiment is probably hitting Gov. Mitt Romney right about now as he realizes just how difficult the job of being governor is going to be for the next four years.
After the rigorous campaign, it is obvious to all that major changes need to occur in how our state government runs. "Cleaning up the mess on Beacon Hill" was Romney’s major slogan, and he smartly targeted patronage jobs.
But right out of the box, Romney has fallen into the same patronage trap as past administrations. Take the recent salary waiver slipped into the news on New Year’s Eve.
Both Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey announced that they would forgo their salaries for the next four years. Since both are multi-millionaires and don’t need the money, it was a nice gesture, especially during rough economic times.
However, the next day, the true purpose of the waiver was revealed: They relinquished their salaries not to save the state money, but to give pay raises to their staffers. This, at a time when most people in the state are working harder and longer for less — if they are even working at all.
Romney told the media in a statement, "We face huge challenges in the coming year that require sacrifices of us all," adding that "This is a symbolic move that we hope sets the appropriate tone and which demonstrates our strong commitment to public service."
Sacrifice? Setting an appropriate tone? You’re kidding, right?
Take Eric Fehrnstrom, the former spokesman for disgraced Treasurer Joe Malone.
Fehrnstrom enters the New Year as the governor’s Communications Director, a newly created press position. The previous press secretary, James Borghesani, who worked for Gov. Jane Swift, received a pretty decent salary of $110,000. However, Romney felt Fehrnstrom deserved more — and will boost his media rep’s salary to $150,000 annually. At this price, Fehrnstrom will not only earn more than Swift was paid last year but almost five times what the average private sector worker takes home.
How is this sacrificing?
When he worked for Malone, Fehrnstrom was paid $95,000. During the campaign, Romney paid him about $6,700 a month. So, we know he can live comfortably on $110,000. Now, Fehrnstrom did do a pretty good job of guiding the secretive Romney through the media minefield, earning a press position in Romney’s administration. But does that warrant a pay raise — never mind, salary — which is more then most people in the state earn? Will Fehrnstrom do a better job for the taxpayers with $40,000 more than the previous press liaison made?
On top of raising Fehrnstrom’s salary, Romney is also keeping a separate press secretary position, which will be filled by Shawn Feddeman, a former Swift staffer who worked on Romney’s campaign. She will earn a salary of $85,000.
Many other secretaries’ salaries were increased and given to politically connected Republicans according to press reports. Romney even created two new positions, although one of them, Robert Pozen, the new Chief of Commerce & Labor, will not be paid a salary, only benefits.
So essentially, Romney has expanded the amount of patronage positions in the governor’s office, increased many of their salaries, and rewarded positions to campaign staffers and Republican supporters. Weren’t these kinds of political handouts the same thing Romney criticized Treasurer Shannon O’Brien for doing during the campaign?
Everyone knows the dilemmas with the state government are systematic. The problems are about waste, fraud, abuse, and patronage — something Romney obviously doesn’t take too seriously right out of the box.
As well, everyone knows that the way to good citizenship — whether through sacrifice or public service — is to do good deeds without expectation of reward. Plenty of people in our state perform "public service" while never receiving a dime.
In the end, Romney’s plan to run the state like a business might pay off and we shouldn’t be so critical, so early in his tenure. But his first steps — paying already overpaid staffers and cabinet heads like bloated CEOs — are not changing the mentality on Beacon Hill. It is following the path of the past.