Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Here's to privacy in government

It's not often that David D'Alessandro steps out of the shadows these days. The former John Hancock CEO is comfortable in his semi-retirement - owning Toscano on Charles Street and dabbling here and there in matters public and private.

But the guy is nothing short of genius and, when he puts pen to paper, I read. Today's tour de force in the Globe was worth it for me and everyone who cares about Boston and it's future should take a look.

It's a difficult sell at first - this idea that a search for a new superintendent of Boston schools should be at least semi-private, cutting out the do-gooder neighborhood and school groups that help drive any success the schools have. But when you look at the unmitigated disaster that has so-far unfolded in trying to replace Tom Payzant, it starts to make a hell of a lot of sense.

As a former reporter, I do believe in transparency in government. But I have seen in my two years in government that there are times when a story - even a straight story - can upend government's over-arching goal, which is to do its best for the people.

In this case, if Boston gets a better superintendent because the process is a bit more shrouded, who's really hurt? Plus, look at D'Alesandro's track record in searches - he was smart enough to pull Eddie Davis down from Lowell to run the Boston Police Department. He gets it.

D'Alesandro is right - the people of Boston hired Mayor Menino, he has taken ownership of the schools, let him do his job.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Brad Pitt Can't Act

So I took myself to see Babel the other day. I wanted to see it when it came out but, well, life interrupted. And, I'll admit it, the Oscar buzz got to me. So I picked Babel over 'Letters from Iwo Jima,' and I was fine with my choice. It was a good movie, a bit stressful, but well done.

Still, I left with that odd sort of feeling like I got duped. And I realized, that's because Brad Pitt just can't act.

The guy is literally just a pretty face who brings nothing to the screen. I'll admit that when George Clooney is on screen, he has skills, he commands the scene. Same with Leonardo DiCaprio. But Pitt? Name two roles the guy actually should get nominated for, I dare you.

Here's the list if you want a refresher.

I loved him in "Ocean's 11" but mostly because Soderbergh had him eating in every scene. Hilarious. But the guy needs nachos to be funny when Clooney walks out of jail in a tux?

"Se7en" was another great movie. But that was more David Fincher and Kevin Spacey than Pitt. Hell, even boring Gwenyth found a way to outshine Brad in that one.

Pitt for me will always be the loser he sort of started off in film as - the hick in "Thelma and Louise." Sure, he's done well - and doing good -with Angelina. But see Babel and tell me, honestly, that the Academy didn't know what they were doing when they "snubbed" Brad.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Not Spreading the Word

Typically, I've found, when people create blogs, they shout it from the rooftops - for good reason. It's exciting, you want the attention, you want the hits. I decided to take a different path, and I'm taking a beating in the process.

I told no one when I put this blog up last week. Well, almost no one. I told the wife. I told Lisa Davis, who inspired me to finally take the plunge after she created hers. And I told one friend almost in passing before it hit me that it might be a fun experiment to tell no one.

The Experiment has been fun, and continues to be.

Seth Gitell was first to find me - no doubt notified that I linked to his great blog. A ton of people found me through there and my parents learned when Seth's post showed up on the Google alert they created for my name (a truly hilarious topic for another time). Adam Hurtubise was next and opened me up to some of his friends and fellow bloggers. Then Adam Reilly posted and one person found me that way. Now the trickle continues as I get various mentions in various quarters. All this is fun, for me.

But some friends are not so amused at The Experiment. Maybe they are ashamed that others clearly knew first - cutting, perhaps, into their blog-egos. Maybe they are surprised that an egoist like me didn't take out an ad to announce it. Maybe they've got a point. Who knows.

But The Experiment remains in effect and I'm telling no one. Most of my former Reilly cohorts haven't a clue - can't wait for the crap I'll take from them if this stretches into a matter of weeks.

Either way, I'm having fun which, really, isn't that what it's all about?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Times/Globe Page 1 - Separated at Birth, United in Barack

At first, I thought my hangover might have been worse that I thought. I did have a long night with some of Heidi's work crew (a fabulous dinner at the Grapevine in Salem, by the way, check it out).

I realized that, while my eyes were bleary, I wasn't seeing double - this Sunday morning's Boston Globe and New York Times do both have front page features on Barack Obama's days at Harvard Law School. Here's the Globe story. Here's the Times' take.

Coincidence? Something tells me it's not. Collusion? Doubt that too.

My guess - the Globe picked up that the Times was in town doing a Harvard Law scrub on Obama and quickly dispatched two of their better and faster-working reporters to bang something out. Both features are well-done and strikingly similar. But I'm sure that has more to do with the fact that they talked to a lot of the same people and are probably both pretty close to what really happened to Obama at Harvard Law. No mystery there.

But I'm sure some will jump to oddball conclusions that this means the Globe and Times are sharing more than profits. It's silly to think this means the Globe and Times are fronting Barack together. Chalk this one up more to hometown pride by the Globe not wanting to be scooped on a presidential campaign feature in their backyard than any kind of grand scheming.

Of course, the Globe did beat the Times to the single best bit of info in either story - that Obama still owes excise tax and parking tickets in Cambridge. Why this wasn't pulled out into an amusing sidebar, I don't know. Could have been great opposition research turned on it's head story - here's a candidate for the presidency who has already admitted in an autobiography to doing cocaine but ... shock of shocks, he doesn't pay his parking tickets!

Or maybe that's the hangover kicking back in....

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Reluctant Mrs. Obama

Newsweek has a great story this week on Michelle Obama, the seemingly reluctant wife of Barack-star Obama. Apparently this Mrs. O is a bit hesitant on stage, though she certainly has an impressive background and an inspiring life story of her own.

It's always an interesting sideshow to watch, this dance the media does with spouces of candidates.

So far, Mrs. O seems to be inching a bit more toward the path set last time by the outright reserved spouce of Howard Dean - Dr. Judith Steinberg. Steinberg really shunned the media and didn't campaign at all with her husband. When Maureen Dowd took a whack, it created quite a stir and, suddenly behind Sen. John Kerry in New Hampshire after Kerry's suprise in Iowa, guess what Dean did? Well, he trotted out the wife. I was there that day in a cramped New Hampshire schoolhouse, it was pretty sad.

Lord knows we saw a ton of Teresa Heinz and Elizabeth Edwards - proof the out-front spouce can cut both ways, I think. Edwards thinks his wife is such an asset, she's now written a book, gone on Oprah and has her own blog.

And then we've got Mr. Hillary Clinton to deal with this time - the ultimate quandry of spousal impact on a presidential campaign. What's Bill doing? What's Bill not doing? Why is/isn't Bill doing it?

That, of course, isn't even getting to the kids. Dick Cheney almost took out Wolf Blitzer with his hunting rifle for having the gall to ask about Cheney's daughter - this being after said daughter campaigned publicly for her dad, wrote a book and even went on Wolf's show to promote it.

Time will tell whether the public fascination with Mr. Obama extends to Mrs. Obama.

My unsolicited advice - if she doesn't want on the campaign trail, keep her off and have her do a couple very high profile interviews (Oprah, 60 Minutes, Times Magazine, Washington Post Style Section) and then minor profiles in key primary state papers and TV (Iowa, N.H., S.C., and Arizona should do it). That will fend off most of the criticism, will keep her largely out of harm's way (and away from chili-feeds) and help her keep some measure of sanity for the kids.

But she's already got a problem - she's interesting. And that, my friends, will draw the media like white on rice. Heck, I can't stop thinking of the commitment it takes to get up every morning at 430 a.m to work out. I've got two kids too and I thought my 5:30 a.m. wakeup call from Jake was impressive.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bring on the Reunion

A Canadian rock radio station this morning brings us a step closer to a reunion of, next to U2 of course, one of rock's greats - The Police.

The Vancouver classic rock station reported the trio have booked Lions Gate Studios there to rehearse for their upcoming tour. And rumors are stronger still that Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland will open the Grammy's in Los Angeles on Feb. 11.

(By the way, my bet for surprise opener from them if they do the show ... "Roxanne" - though I'd personally rather see "So Lonely" or a deep track like "Born in the '50s." What's your pick?)

I've been a fan since the early 80s when my brother Mike brought home Ghost in the Machine but it was 1983's Synchronicity that hit at the perfect time for my young music-loving ears. At 13, I was the perfect age to fall deeply into songs like "King of Pain" and "Tea in the Sahara." Of course, the young ladies loved to fast-forward the tape on my boombox to "Every Breath You Take" - apparently they didn't get that it was pretty much a stalker song. And back when the industry was trying to shy us away from LPs and toward cassette tapes, the courageous buyer could find the great bonus track - "Murder by Numbers." Good stuff all.

I was never able to see The Police that last full tour. The closest they came to upstate New York was Shea Stadium that August and my folks wouldn't let Mike and I treck down to the big city. I was crushed, particularly since Joan Jett was opening.

We did catch them on the Conspiracy of Hope tour in 1986 (the great Amnesty International benefit tour with U2, Peter Gabriel, Bryan Adams and others). They played a pretty quick set but blew the doors down - especially when Bono joined for a great version of "Invisible Sun"

I know, I know, reunion tours always suck. That's true, often. But not always. They are particularly fun for folks like me who never had a true chance to catch the band in their prime but still love the music and are just looking for a good trip down memory lane for a night.

And, while I might also go hit Van Halen's reunion with David Lee Roth - the urge isn't that great since I did catch them in their prime, 1984 in the Meadowlands. And, well, everything they've done since the 1984 album is god awful.

All hail the return of The Police - let's just hope they break out Sally the inflatable girlfriend for the visit. Next up on my reunion wishlist - The Alarm, The Smiths and Genesis (with Gabriel, naturally).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Win for Danvers, Win for Patrick

I was driving through Danversport today, as I often do - typically on the way to the mall or Chuck-E-Cheese or something with The Boys. Each time, I pass the part of town that was pretty well destroyed by the Nov. 22 chemical explosion.

As usual, the TV and still photos, don't do the scene justice. Homes and businesses along that stretch are still shuttered. People are living in them, yes. But most every window is boarded up. Imagine having your Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years with boarded windows. Residents can't do the construction or, worse, can't afford to, as they fight with insurance companies.

So Gov. Patrick made it his business to join the voices from the North Shore calling for aid for the victims. A full-on relief package is pending but Patrick filed his first bill as governor allowing residents and businesses to receive a tax credit. It won't cost the state anything and clearly the people of Danvers were thrilled.

In the end, it might cut about a third of people's tax bills but help is help and it's a start.

And, of course, it's good politics for Deval - just ask Janet Lettich.

Don't Cry for me, Bogota

Conventional wisdom is the Globe made itself a smaller paper by closing its three remaining foreign bureaus as part of its continued downsizing. I say well done. I may be the only media maven not fretting over the shuttering of the Globe's international outposts but I'd be willing to bet I'm in the majority of avid Globe readers who couldn't care less.

The Globe's international reporting has been steller over the years, no doubt. John Donnelly has done great work from Africa, Elizabeth Neuffer was courageous in Iraq.

But my personal high water mark was Colin Nickerson in Sarajevo at the height of the Bosnian conflict. His stories about the animals trapped starving in the zoo while snipers took out people trying to feed them were nothing short of brilliant. I was a college intern on the Globe foreign desk then and gave him dispatches on local news and sports as he filed his copy each night. We hung his used Kevlar body armor on the newsroom wall after he'd pulled out. His writing, his heroism and his commitment helped convince me to stay in journalism for more than a decade.

But each of those examples, and most others that are being used by the Kleenex crowd mourning the loss of their father's Globe have a stunning pattern - they weren't reporters actually based in the city or even the region they were covering. They shuttled in and out of conflicts, tragedies and triumphs the way great journalists have done for decades. And I see nothing in Marty Baron's memo that says the Globe won't keep doing that - and keep doing that well.

The happy side result is that there's a chance the Globe will rededicate those resources to covering Boston. And not just the latest murder on Blue Hill, Governor Patrick's lastest podcast or where to find the best burger in the city. I mean covering Boston and Massachusetts the way only a dominant daily can. By breaking news before the developers tell them they can break it, by telegraphing what our government is doing with our money before they do it and by telling the kind of simple, heart-wrenching stories a city like ours strives for but too often doesn't see because of simple journalistic laziness.

What do I mean by this? Check Steve Bailey's Downtown column most days - just in the last few weeks he upended the debate over tolls and taxes and went on to artfully lampoon those bemoaning the loss of prescious Lottery revenues. Read Kevin Cullen's amazing tale of the Iraqi boy named Rakan who was shot in Iraq and "put back together" by a team of Boston doctors. And pick up Brian McGrory - the man has truly grown into the heartbeat of Boston.

I'm not fully in the Jack Welch camp that all large regional dailies like the Globe need to exclusively refocus their energies on local news alone. As my former Herald colleague Michael Gee pointed out on his blog, our alma mater tried that.

But they need to focus on what they can and should do best. Sure, all newspapers need to figure out a new way to make money on the Internet and to give their seemingly dying product life. But we all know the one thing bloggers, TV news, radio and citizen journalists can't do as well as a strong daily newspaper - actually cover their region. To that end, the Globe has taken a strong step in the right direction.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

She's 'In' And Coming North

Fresh off the creation of her exploratory committee, Hillary Clinton has announced her first trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state next weekend.

The Concord Monitor's great Primary Monitor Blog quotes Clinton field director, former Howard Dean hand Karen Hicks, saying the junior senator from New York will be in the Granite State Feb. 3 and 4. No info yet but expect this visit to be bigger than the Obama-palooza we endured on the Illinois senator's first trip a month ago.

You have to pity the batch of other real candidates who are going barely noticed there these days. But, remember Hill and Obama, what's up always must fall down - it's the New Hampshire primary way.

Stranger than Fiction, Volume one

I decided early on that one thing I'd try to do every day here is promote stories that, while true, really belong in the world of fiction.

I figured I'd be pulling typically from worldwide sources. Who knew the perfect example would be on Page One of the Globe this morning. Boston City Councilor John Tobin has decided that Boston needs ... drum roll please, a poet laureate. Setting aside the fact that Matt Viser tried to be poetic in his lede - never a good idea unless you can really nail it, the story is nothing short of amazing.

Third-term councilor and anxious mayoral wannabe Tobin has, to this point, proved himself pretty adept at getting good press on common sense problems the city faces. He was on the right side of the beer/wine in convenience stores fight, has taken on out-dated city residency rules and, in a true breath of fresh air, admits to his mayoral aspirations.

But a poet laureate? First off, he's not even saying yet whether the position will be paid. In some cities, there is a stipend. Look, I've known some councilors who shouldn't be paid - but a poet on the city dime? Get real.

The idea is to have someone pen poetry in honor of the big annual Boston events, like the State of the City. Leaving our current mayor out of it, what State of the City is ever going to feel significant enough for a poetry slam?

I'm not even going to go for the simple layup of arguing that kids are dying in the street, councilor, so focus on something real (just see yesterday's well-done McGrory column for that). Let's talk about schools, trash, noise, traffic, housing, parking, snow removal, T service, potholes, sidewalks, park maintenance, and on and on and on.

A city councilor once told me the trick to success on the council is to bide your time, come up with three good ideas a year and hope the mayor, your district rep or senator leaves at the perfect time for you.

For this year, Tobin's still looking for his three ideas.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Shout-out from Seth

Thanks to Seth Gitell, first to officially notice Guarino-Blog with a nice post titled, Guarino Joins the Fray.

Seth is proving on the blogosphere what he did on the 5th floor of City Hall and at The Boston Phoenix - that good people always do well. Both organizations could use a little bit of Seth right now.

Keep an eye on Seth's blog, particularly the restaurant commentary - a must read.

Bush SOTU: Is it hot in here?

So the president speaks tonight and the nation, those who aren't instead watching "Lindsay Lohan's Shocking Moments" on VHI, will listen. Iraq being, well, Iraq, Bush will want to change the subject slightly and, according to reports, has some ideas about global warming.

This, of course, is a laugh riot because the guy has been fighting states like Massachusetts for the better part of six years on efforts to enforce something as simple as the Clean Air Act. I was there in November when Massachusetts and a dozen other states had to take their fight to the United States Suprme Court because Bush's EPA won't do it's job. The Supremes are still thinking it over (though I think we won over Justice Kennedy and even got the respect of, but not the vote of, Justice Scalia and we'll end up winning 5-4).

So now Bush apparently watched "An Inconvenient Truth" in the White House screening room and wants to take on this global warming thing. Letterman joked the other night that his policy will be called "No Ice Cap Left Behind." Funny, kinda.

In truth, I say bully for Bush. Late to the party but, hey, let's welcome him in and try anew to get something done. Yesterday in the Times, Jim Rutenberg and Robert Pear wrote that that the president was pushing a domestic agenda because he's still failing in the polls. Makes sense - people actually like when their presidents and the Congress deal with issues that mean something to them like health care and the environment.

Sure Iraq is important and, no doubt, Senator Jim Webb will give em hell in the Democrats' response. But let's not forget that the people are saying over and over in the polls that they are sick of the Red State/Blue State dramas.

Let Bush have his moment, see what he has to say on global warming and, maybe, just maybe, we'll get something done.


I'm back. Can't say for sure if I'm better than ever, but I'm back.

Today starts my blogging anew. More than two years ago, I started the first ever blog at The Boston Herald. We were gearing up for a presidential campaign then and our senator, John Kerry, was jumping in. We called it "The Road to 1600."

I had fun with it while the campaign lasted but decided to hang up my journalism spurs the next year, ending a 12-year run covering local, state and national politics. I love journalism, particularly print journalism, but I needed a new challenge. I signed on with Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly as his communications director. It was a blast. I got to see the amazing work of the Attorney General's Office up close, served as a senior staffer to our too-brief run for governor and worked on the front lines of truly trying to make our state a better place.

Now I'm looking for a new challenge, taking some time and hoping to find the right fit. Whether it's in government, the corporate boardroom or somewhere inbetween, I know the one thing I do miss about journalism is the writing. So here I am.

I intend to tackle issues from the important (like global, national, state and local politics) to the mundane (like when is someone in the city of Salem going to figure out that one road in and one road out just isn't a good idea?) and absurd (like the truly inspiring shrieking match my two young sons had on the drive to school this morning).

Hope you enjoy it and, more importantly, join in. Thanks for reading.