Sacred Cods and Holy Mackerals

The Carmela Soprano paradox
January 27, 2009, 2:04 pm
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Just a couple of quick posts…

First, Scot Lehigh pulls no punches in calling Sal DiMasi a bold-faced liar undeserving of any bon farewells.

Second, and perhaps more important, is Marjorie Eagan’s takedown of local lefties who excuse their lack of good-government cajones on the fact that DiMasi was the best friend Bay State liberals ever had. And I agree with Marjorie. And so should everyone over at BlueMassGroup.  

Health care, green energy, gay marriage rights are great accomplishments. But they shouldn’t require turning a blind eye to good government principles so many lefties supposedly hold so dearly. Is it really so different than the Carmela Soprano paradox, where the wife gets anything she wants but has to ignore the criminal and ethical transgressions?

Jay Kaufman, Byron Rushing et al has made their choice.


Palace intrigue
January 26, 2009, 9:33 am
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As Sal DiMasi’s spokesman once said on national TV while in a former life: It is what it is.

DiMasi is done as of tomorrow night. So the next question (aside from whether the outcome of the criminal investigation) is who will succeed him. As of now, it appears Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo has it locked up. But that doesn’t mean John Rogers is going down fighting.

First, a group of Rogers’ supporters signed a letter questioning DeLeo’s role in the issuance of the Cognos contract. It’s a clever move, trying to taint DeLeo with DiMasi’s problems. Rogers obviously is hoping that if this ploy scares off just 3 legislators, particularly FRESHMAN legislators who are going to be most vulnerable in November ’10, then he has a shot.

However time is Rogers’  biggest enemy at this point, which is why he’s looking for a one month delay in the vote. Who knows what will happen by then, Rogers is thinking. There may be another Boston Globe story in the queue outlining how Vitale wallpapered DeLeo’s living room and then built him a deck two weeks before the Cognos contract was passed.

So will the media take the bait that Rogers’ supporters are dangling out there? Will DeLeo’s involvement, even as a tertiary figure in all this, become a headline in the next 24 hours? And if it does, will we see Rogers’ own recent campaign finance problems resurface?

If you like palace intrigue, there’s no better time to be at the State House.

DiMasi out?
January 23, 2009, 5:09 pm
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Yikes! Forget Groundhog Day, it looks like Speaker DiMasi may not even last until Monday!

Verizon is going to make a pretty penny this weekend with all the phone calls and tex messages that are going to be flying around between the DeLeo/Rogers camps and the undecided reps.

(By the way, if you’re a Rogers supporter and want to steal my Bob DeLeo/Tom Hagen comparison during one of your desparation phone calls this weekend, feel free.)

He wants what caught in a ringer?
January 23, 2009, 12:18 pm
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There was a point during the early days of the Watergate investigation where it became clear that the break-in wasn’t just the work of some over-zealous campaign staffers — rather it was indicative of a more wide-spread and far more nefarious strategy endorsed by the President of the United States.

Even with the advantage of 36 years of hindsight it’s still hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened. Woodward and Bernstein knew something major was up when a $25,000 campaign check ended up in the bank account of one of the burglars. For the public, opinions really started to change at the revelation that the President kept an enemies list and wasn’t afraid to use the IRS to “screw” those he felt were subversive to his goals.

I hesitate to equate Sal DiMasi with Richard Nixon. After all, I don’t think anyone has ever described Sal DiMasi as “utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency.” My point – my hypothesis, if you will – is that yesterday’s Boston Globe blockbuster on Richard Vitale paying off legal bills owed by DiMasi’s in-laws may be the “enemies list” tipping point.  Not a “smoking gun” moment where DiMasi’s guilt becomes inescapably apparant, rather one of those moments when you stop being able to rationalize away previous evidence, and start realizing that there is a real and serious problem. 

Maybe one can write off  DiMasi receiving a $250,000 third mortgage from Vitale as just friends helping friends out. Maybe one can see the plausibility of Vitale banking bigtime off being a Friend of Sal’s without Sal actually doing anything wrong. Maybe one can even understand why DiMasi would fight to keep private records that he is legally entitled to keep private in defiance of an investigative subpoena.

But for Vitale to pay off legal bills owed by DiMasi’s in laws smack in the middle of Vitale “lobbying” on behalf of ticket scalpers and Cognos — well let’s just say that the seesaw is starting to get a bit heavy on the side with the wolves waiting underneath.

State House insiders have been trading odds both on when DiMasi would resign along with whether he would be the third consecutive speaker to be indicted.  In the fall, the odds were that DiMasi would be gone by July. Now it’s even money that he won’t be here come Groundhog Day. (I took the trifecta of an April departure, no indictment, and neither DeLeo nor Rogers as the next Speaker. Short money for long odds, I know. But that’s how I roll.)

The landslide vote that put DiMasi back at the rostrum should not be interpreted to mean that he continues to hold a mandate. About one-third of his votes came from legislators who looked over at Robert DeLeo before casting their vote. Another third looked over at John Rogers. Split loyalties may be OK on Swearing-In Day, but it makes things more difficult when it comes time to write a budget. Ask George Kevarian how easy it is to balance a multi-billion budget deficit when there’s open warfare on the floor. 

I can see the State House News Service story now. It will contain an anonymous quote from a frustrated lawmaker comparing Bob DeLeo to Tom Hagen. “Everybody likes Bobby but he’s not a war-time consigliere. Don’t forget, it was John Rogers who saw us through the last recession.”

Love them scruples
January 20, 2009, 4:28 pm
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This is a pretty nice scam that the owners of AIM Parking Mgmt. are trying to pull.

The company, which manages a number of MBTA commuter stations, is suing for breach on contract following the MBTA’s decision to raise parking lot fees.  The company says it needs an additional $267,000 just so it can count all the additional money.

Seriously, WTF. We hear all the time up here how government should run more like the private business. Well imagine if a public agency tried to pull a stunt like this… Howie and Michael Graham and everyone else would be in a froth over how absurd it is, and how the people proposing it are a bunch of fat hyenas feeding off the bones of taxpayers, etc.

At least the MBTA had the cojones to say no to AIM Parking. I suspect that if they had demanded this money a couple years ago when the MBTA wasn’t about to go bankrupt, they may have succeeded in their scam.

Transportation reform and poker talk
January 14, 2009, 6:16 pm
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So the Senate wants to merge the Turnpike Authority and MBTA and MassHighway into one big super-mega-transit authority. Interesting. Here’s how it may play out:

1) This results in tens of millions of dollars in annual savings, make it easier to run the state’s transportation system, and restore the faith of the public,

2) Combining the Turnpike and MBTA will result in a swirling vortex of suckitude so great that not even the sound of children’s laughter will be able to escape,

3) Or something in between.

You have to give the Senate some props (do the kids still say ‘props’ anymore?) for basically telling Gov. Patrick, “You’ve had your chance, pal, and you blew it.” The governor bet big with his hiring of Jim Aloisi, hoping that that passage of a major transportation reform package would give him enough chips to retain the Corner Office.

Well, Sen. Baddour and Senate President Murray got tired of waiting around for a plan. So today they did the political version of  call-raising him. And if they wind up with the better hand, and the Legislature passes the Senate’s reform plan, and not the governor, consider this the move that effectively knocked Gov. Patrick out of the game.

Enough of the poker talk. Ultimately, the devil will be in the details. Will the Senate’s plan essentially wind up being little more than a flow-chart reorganization? Or will it actually have teeth and contain the reform the public is demanding?

It will also be interesting to see if the House takes the bait and includes a gas tax hike during its debate. Again, a gas tax hike is coming. The questions are when, how much, and accompanied with what for reforms?

Winds of change are blowing
January 14, 2009, 8:08 am
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A gas tax hike is coming. make no mistake about it. Deval Patrick is not slowly warming to the idea, as some news stories will have you believe. Everybody beneath the Golden Dome, Sacred Cods and Holy Mackerals alike, knows that the only way to responsibly prop up the transportation system is with a gas tax hike. There’s only two questions left unanswered at this time:

1) How big will the hike be?

2) What reforms will accompany it?

Make no mistake about the second question either: there are going to be some momentous reforms announced over the next couple of weeks. It actually began yesterday with new Trans. Sec. Jim Aloisi picking up Christy Mihos’ idea of selling surplus Turnpike land and service plazas. (I only pray that Christy does indeed successfully buy one of the plazas. Boy, that could be fun. ) And later on today the Senate is supposedly going to unveil a MAJOR transportation reform package that BBQs some of the most sacred cows.

The answer to the two above questions is largely going to be determined by the response of voters over the next couple months. As sad as it may seem, legislators, especially those living the closest to Boston, are going to need grassroots support from the average taxpayer in their district. If the MBTA and Turnpike unions, and other special interest groups are the only ones sending Emails, mailing letters, and making phone calls, don’t be surprised if the reform package emerges a bit watered down, and maybe the tax hike a bit higher.