Friday, January 28, 2005


I love ideas. They don't have to be big or grand schemes. Even the small ideas can be interesting. And I admire people who try to think about things differently - or come up with unique ways of fixing problems.

Self-proclaimed right wing extremist and former talk show host Chuck Morse has a new blog called "Morse's Code" and has posted this referring to a column by Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe's token conservative: ["A bigger Congress would be more democratic"]. Jacoby wrote a similar column about five or six years ago. I recall saving the text of it but when I went to look for it I couldn't find it. Both Jacoby and Morse are also correct in their assertions that Congress should be expanded to a larger body. They also are right to question whether our nation is as democratic as it possibly could be. It should also be noted that Morse ran for Congress in 2004 against Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., as an independent - after getting caught in a registration snafu, unable to run as a Republican - and received 22 percent of the vote, just more than 62,000 votes - or about what other Republicans have received against Frank in the past. Other, more liberal columnists have made similar points - that if Bush wanted to promote "democracy," he should start right here, in the United States: ["A Fantasy of Freedom"].

The Globe has an Ideas section and other Special Reports it occasionally publishes in its Sunday edition. It tends to take one subject and expand it into a more thorough presentation of concepts. Here is a recent one about a report commissioned by the Boston Foundation: ["A Better Boston"]. What is so interesting about this piece is that most of the folks who give money to foundations like the Boston Foundation are some of the same folks who are wrecking the city. Of course, the editors who put these sections together never think outside of the box about who they allow to participate in the concept-sharing. But, they aren't bad sections. I would love to see a New Hampshire paper undertake a similar idea. Sure, these special sections cost money to produce, but it can be a very influential public policy tool.

While most Americans are not thinking about the 2008 presidential campaign, some out there in the political junkie world are. Here is one guy who is on to something: ["Draft Russ Feingold"]. Sen. Feingold is a fair trader, he voted against the invasion, he voted against the PATRIOT Act, he's a populist ... do I need to go on? Sure, he is too liberal on the social issues for much of America. And yeah, McCain/Feingold isn't working out as well as some had hoped. But it is better than what we had before. With the likes of Hilary, Long Jawn, and Big Al being floated for 2008, please, bring on Russ! Also, while Kerry was barely beating back Bush - by a mere 11,800 votes - Feingold beat his GOP opponent by 12 percent or 331,000 votes! If Kerry ran that strong there, the resources for Wisconsin could have been spent in other states, like Iowa, New Mexico, or Ohio. Just more proof that if you stand for something, you can get the votes. The guy who created the site also has a blog of Russisms: ["DraftRuss2008 blog"]. Another blogger has set up one for Sen. Barbara Boxer: ["President Boxer blog"].

One of the last great classic columnists died this week.
David Nyhan, formerly of the Globe and later of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune newspaper chain, died while shoveling snow in Brookline. He was a great one, as noted in this column by bow-tied cocktail crowder Thomas Oliphant here: ["Remembering a gentle giant"] and here, in his obit: ["Retired Globe columnist David Nyhan, 64, collapses and dies"]. Nyhan wasn't held back by anything and didn't judge a book by its cover. He wrote about all kinds of people and never seemed to let the status quo guide his principles or his writing. In that, he was sort of a dying breed, like other columnists such as Jack Germond, Mike Royko, Peter Lucas, who wrote for the Herald, or author Thomas H. O'Connor, the definitive Boston scholar. Nyhan's books, while not bestsellers, clued readers in to the mechanizations of Massachusetts politics. In particular, I enjoyed his book about Michael Dukakis, called "The Duke," which I found in used paperback form a bunch of years ago.
While I didn't always agree with his take on things, I gained a fondness in my heart for him after he highlighted my appearance at a Brighton housing forum on May 29, 1998 during my independent run for Congress in the storied 8th Congressional District. In "Gang of 12 take a bow," Nyhan stated:
The candidates' night began hitting on all 11 cylinders when Anthony Schinella, the independent, announced: "Both parties are corrupt and have abandoned their core constituencies." He made the first pitch for the renter vote by lamenting his trouble finding an apartment while paid $8.40 an hour. His solution? "A 100 percent renters' tax deduction."
I was shocked after seeing the column since it was one of the first times the campaign received any press from the two Boston dailies. In fact, it was one of the only nice things ever published about me in the Globe, which later went on to take numerous cheap shots and publish inaccuracies which never were corrected, a serious flaw in any media organization. As everyone knows, when someone makes a mistake, a correction is published ... unless its the Boston Globe. Interestingly, it was one of the only columns he wrote about the 8th race. I've always wondered why he didn't write more. After all, he was their top political reporter. He could have written a whole book about that race.
Nyhan also wrote positive things about one of my favorite politicians, former California governor Jerry Brown, including a great column when he ran for president in 1992 that the campaign used as a lit drop, "The perfect non-politician," which was syndicated nationally.
Earlier tonight, "Greater Boston" had a segment on Nyhan's death, including film from his funeral ceremony where his kids gave passionate speeches about their dad. They were extremely impressive. Sen. Ted Kennedy also gave the eulogy. Thank you David and may you rest in peace.

Lastly, I spent a good chunk of this last week covering hearings in the NH Legislature for WKXL News. Most of the hearings have been out of the Elections Committee. Some of the bills included eliminating straight ticket voting and making it easier for independents to vote in primaries, among other bills. There was also an interesting bill from the State and Federal Relations Committee about urging the Congress to get the United States out of the United Nations. Another bill, from the same committee, promoted the creation of an international trade committee to watchdog over the negative effects of NAFTA and the WTO. I only caught the tailend of the hearing but I am hoping to interview the sponsor at a later date.
The hearings have been extremely interesting, with both sides of the political aisle promoting interesting ideas and holding respectful question and answer sessions. It is amazing that these folks are participating for the sheer love of participating or trying to make their state a better place. Sure, not all of the ideas are good - or passable. But at least people seem to be trying. Even the grandstanders and long-winded really have their hearts in the right place.
It is so much different than the Massachusetts Legislature - a bastion of do-nothing know-it-alls, who always seem to be on the take and accomplish little that benefits the average person. Part of this could be the fact that New Hampshire legislators earn $200 a year - compared to the $68,000 a year earned by reps in Massachusetts. However, I have noticed one thing about the state Legislature here that is a bit disconcerting: Most of the representatives are very old. I think three of the 60 reps I have seen so far in hearings were under the age of thirty; with maybe a handful of others under the age of forty. This tilts the makeup of the Legislature. Again, it comes back to the money issue. If you have to work a real job, in the real world, you can't play legislator for $200 a year. Some folks who own their own businesses or might have loose school schedules can attend hearings and votes. But how many people is that?
Thankfully, I have a job where I can cover these meetings and then relay what happens via a newscast that people can choose to listen to. And I am grateful for that. :-) But the fact is that this "citizen" Legislature is only attainable - and represented - by certain citizens. That doesn't mean that they aren't doing a good job. But it does mean that if you have to work 9-to-5 to survive - and that is most of us - you are going to have very little influence over what the state does. The Legislature doesn't hold its hearings at 7 p.m. like a Town Meeting or a City Council public hearing. But since the working class is the bulk of the people, it should have the ability to participate as much as possible, shouldn't it? Otherwise, the small minority of people who can attend the hearings - or spend hours and hours as a representative, basically for free - have the greatest access to power. And that is a shame and a major flaw no matter how great and honorable.

1 comment:

Mad Kane said...

Thanks so much for linking to the President Boxer blog!
Mad Kane (Notables Blog) (President Boxer)