Saturday, January 30, 2016

Good and dead: one bullying loudmouth politician down

[Editors' Note: Longtime readers of the Spy will recall that one of its most beloved features was its moving obituary page, devoted as it was to those whose shuffling off of this mortal coil constituted a public service.]

By Luke Reschuss
Obituary Editor

The media obsequies agreed: you won't see his type again.  It's true – no one combined bullshit, corruption, and psychopathic violence in quite the same combustible mix as the late felon and Mayor of Providence (two ways of saying the same thing), Vincent “Buddy” Cianci.

For decades, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah on Narragansett Bay couldn't get enough of the act.  According to the once-proud local rag, the Providence Journal, he reigned as one of “Rhode Island's leading celebrities.”  One thing is clear: the Ocean State desperately needs new celebrities.

Goodbye Buddy
In any event, it was easy to see how he achieved such a exalted status: whether he was running his mouth, running for office, running from the grand jury, or running over to his house to stamp out a cigarette butt in the face of his ex-wife's new boyfriend while the local cops looked on, Cianci knew how to make news.  Only in Rhode Island, though, would a violent felon be not only lionized, but beloved.

Although the state and city he stole from remain an island of poverty and want despite its proximity to the Boston metropolitan economic boom, Cianci somehow gets credit for whatever rising economic tide did flow south from the Hub.  To be fair, during his reign, the city did excavate a long-buried river and saw the construction of a big shopping mall and a few other adornments such as a downtown skating rink, but the culture of corruption he did so much to foster still sucks the life out of poor old Providence.

Despite his relentless posturing as a thug of the people, Cianci was in fact born in affluence to a respected local doctor.  After law school, Cianci became a prosecutor.  There he learned that a shot of crime could pay pretty well, especially when dropped in a mug of politics, a concoction then known as a Pawtucket Boilermaker.

When not serving as Mayor or time in federal stir, Cianci enjoyed local success in the natural home for sadistic bullying loudmouths: talk radio.  He also sold spaghetti sauce.  Now he's dead.

But before we drop Buddy down the memory hole, let us give thanks that his day has passed.   Can you imagine anyone achieving political success today through a combination of cheap insult comedy, braggadocio, and bad hair?  Neither can we.

Friday, January 29, 2016

SPONSORED CONTENT: Here's [Surely, there's? - Ad Mgr.] nothing like a good job opportunity

The Massachusetts Spy is made possible by a generous grant from Royal Ahole [Surely, Ahold? — Ad Mgr.] Nederland Antilles Holdings, N.V.

We're hiring scabs!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

T's Green Line extension to crawl ahead

By Bill Callahan
Transportation Editor

Recovering from the shock, shock of learning that the MBTA had low-balled the estimated construction cost of the Green Line extension through Somerville by around a billion dollars give or take, state officials have come up with radical design changes intended to reduce the cost of the project.

Unveiling the revised project plan at a gala ceremony held at 6 a.m. today at the Dunkin' Donuts located inside the chronically closed Government Center T station, T general manager James T. Burke expressed confidence that the public would accept a scaled-down project.

The new Green Line stations won't look like this
“As the public knows, we have had to reduce the cost of the Green Line extension project to ensure that we have the resources both to operate the system and allow T employees to retire with full pensions in their mid-forties," Burke said.

“This revised project plan will allow the extension to proceed without some of the costly and ultimately unnecessary amenities that drove up the price tag," he said.

Among what he termed the difficult decisions was choosing to drop the seven high-quality handicapped-accessible stations that had been planned: “In fact, we think that we can save significant amounts by not building stations at all.  Instead, riders can get on off wherever and whenever they want.  We expect the public to appreciate the increased flexibility of what we call the continuous-station approach."

To both save on equipment acquisition costs and facilitate boarding, the trolley cars, which will be purchased used from the transit authority in Bratislava, Slovakia, will operate without doors.  “This will make it easier for passengers to get on or off without having to wait for the train to stop," Burke said.

The revised doorless design will facilitate boarding in the
absence of stations
He predicted that the fitness benefits of running after moving trains to board will be appreciated by regular riders.  He also said that the absence of doors made heating and air-conditioning systems unnecessary, further reducing capital costs.

Asked if money could be better be saved by reforming the T's bloated and underfunded pension system, Burke said that the T could not break its promises to its employees.  When a reporter asked if it was OK for the T to break the promises contained in the settlement agreement that allowed the Big Dig to proceed, Burke said he had to go pick up Brian Joyce's dry cleaning.

The scaled-down project may be controversial.  When reporters asked Gov. Charlie Baker '79 what he thought of the revised plan, he said:  “We've got to press at both ends of the court and put bodies on the boards, and that's what I'm going to focus on the days and weeks to come.  Also no new taxes."  [That's about all I want to read about the T between now and Pesach – Ed.]

Spy told you so

"State Sen. Brian A. Joyce will pay nearly $5,000 for tapping campaign funds to pay for his son’s 2014 high school graduation party under an agreement made public by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance Wednesday.

In a press release, campaign finance officials said Joyce used campaign funds for personal expenses and failed to disclose campaign finance activity or keep detailed records. But regulators did not require Joyce to admit any wrongdoing as part of the deal.

. . . .

In a prepared statement, Joyce said the investigation included “no finding of wrongdoing on my part.”

. . . .

Joyce was required to use his own money, not campaign funds, to pay the total -- $3,367, which was the amount of campaign funds he spent on the graduation party and an additional $1,250. The payments will go to the Massachusetts Hospital School and other local charities, according to the agreement. If he fails to comply with the agreement in the future, he will be required to pay another $1,250.

“The results of this investigation, along with the numerous reports of Brian Joyce’s ethical problems, only confirm that the Democrats’ culture of corruption is alive and well on Beacon Hill,” said Terry McCormack, a spokesman for Massachusetts Republicans.

The Boston Globe,  January 21, 2016

The Massachusetts Spy,  January 13, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

MBTA back on track

By A. Lawrence Lowell
State House Bureau Chief

Despite a few interruptions caused by winter weather and newspaper exposés, MBTA officials say that the T is on track to deliver the kind of service that residents of Greater Boston have come to expect.

In his annual report, MBTA General Manager James T. Burke said that he was confident that in 2016, the T could continue to provide paralyzing service breakdowns, fare increases, mismanaged capital projects, and lavish pay and benefits to its employees. “Thanks to the lack of effort we have put in, we expect that the next snowstorm, bout of cold weather, rain, or fog will cripple our system as in the past.   Just because St. Petersburg and Stockholm can maintain reliable electric train service through cold winters doesn't mean that we can," he said.

Happy MBT workers
In 2016, T employees will continue to collect overtime
while on sick leave, T officials promise

Burke also promised to impose another round of fare increases on T customers following the usual charade of public hearings over the next few months.  “We can't afford to pay overtime to employees already out on paid sick leave without more revenue," he explained.

Burke promised, with the assistance of the Legislature, to continue to stonewall any effort to bring the T's bloated labor contracts into line with national averages or reality: “The T exists to provide a free ride to its employees.  We don't see any reason to change that in 2016."

In fact, Burke said the T was considering bribing employees with even lusher early-retirement deals and then replacing them with new employees.  “This will cost us money, but it will give the impression we are taking the compensation issue seriously," he explained.

The T has been criticized for the old-
fashioned construction techniques used in
building the extension to Somerville
Finally, Burke committed to continuing the T's unblemished record of disastrous capital projects by mismanaging the already-over budget Green Line extension to Somerville.  “I know a lot of people thought that this project would be impossible to screw up because the right of way and tracks were already in place, but we have come through again with a $1 billion cost overrun and no effective oversight of a welter of contractors."

Asked for comment while scouting helipad locations for General Electric, Governor Charlie Baker '79 said, “We have got to get the ball up the floor and into the hoop.  That's the name of the game."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Breaking news: the price of progress

By Samuel Insull
Financial Editor

The lucky Boston Globe subscribers who received their newspapers this morning were greeted by the story that General Electric was going to move its headquarters to Boston.  Even better, GE was doing so solely because it was motivated by the inherent wonderfulness of the region, which is especially evident today with a wind chill of 14, or so said GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt:

A forward-looking ecosystem?  That's us.  Also lobsters.

Even though GE said it wasn't looking for any special deals, readers of the online Globe today learned:
Imagine how much GE could have gotten if it had wanted a special deal.

By total coincidence, also today the Globe told us where that money isn't going:

Because after all in Boston progress is our most important product.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Spy's political pundit, David Bloviator, surveys the Presidential races

[Editor's’ Note: Longtime devotees of the Spy will recall that its seasoned political reporter, David Bloviator, from time to time graciously consents to share his wisdom with you, the humble reader. Directly from his listening post — the bar at America’s Best Value Inn in Hooksett, NH — Mr. Bloviator agreed to slake our readers’ thirst for information.]

TMS: Based upon your decades of experience tell us where the Presidential nominating races stand.  

DB: Based upon the Spy’s expense account, I’m telling you to get me another Chivas rocks.

TMS:  Let’s start with the Republicans.  What do you make of the Trump phenomenon?

DB: He will fade.  Republican primary voters will want a serious candidate.

TMS: What makes the other candidates more serious?  They all want to borrow trillions to cut taxes for the rich, make women bear their rapists’ children, and repeal universal health care and they all deny global warming.

DB:  The voters will demand expertise in national security.

TMS: Which Republican candidate has any national security expertise?  What ideas do they have other than bombs away and giving Putin a wedgie?

DB: They are playing on voters’ concerns on terror after San Bernardino and Paris.

The Spy's famed pundit David Bloviator handicaps
the Presidential race for the great unwashed

TMS: How about voters’ concerns about 30,000 gun deaths a year?

DB: Oh no they’re not concerned about that.

TMS: The voters or the Republicans?  Let’s go back to Trump.  What is his appeal?

DB: He speaks to the concerns of average Americans.

TMS:  Are average Americans concerned about whether billionaires can pass on their loot to their children tax-free?

DB:  They worry that they are losing their country.

TMS:  The country where black people couldn’t vote and we could turn our back on refugees because of their religion?

DB:  Yes, that’s the one.  Now get me another Chivas rocks so I can slime Hillary without dying of thirst.

TMS:  How would you describe Hillary Clinton’s position?

DB: Unassailable. Or commanding.  You can choose either one.  But she has problems.

TMS: What problems?

DB: Do people love Hillary?  Do they trust her after the e-mail scandal?

TMS: There was no scandal.

DB:  So you say.  But the accusations go to her credibility.

TMS:  Given that her use of a personal e-mail address for unclassified communication was neither a crime nor a civil violation, how is it relevant?

DB: It goes to the perception of her credibility.  You hear it everywhere.

TMS:  Like where?

DB:  In influential circles.

TMS:  Which influential circles?  Republican columnists?  Maureen Dowd, who’s still pissed off about her husband?

DB: Bill’s past misdeeds are fair game.

TMS: What’s fair about it?  He’s not running; she’s is.

DB: It raises questions about her.

TMS: What questions?  He lied to her.  

DB:  It feeds into the concerns people have about the Clintons.

TMS: Which concerns?  The same smears from 20 years ago?

DB:  We still don’t know who killed Vince Foster.  And what about the White House drapes?

TMS: Maybe we’d better talk about Bernie Sanders.  He’s leading in New Hampshire and close in Iowa.

DB: His chances can be described in two words.

TMS:  Which are?

DB:  Slim and none.  His views are too extreme.

TMS:  Which views?  The need to regulate Wall Street and reduce inequality?

DB:   The man is a card carrying socialist.  He says so.  America will never elect a far-left candidate.

TMS:  But they will elect a far-right Republican?

DB:  What choice do they have?  Speaking of choice, make this one a double.

TMS:  Thank you Mr. Bloviator.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Boston Mayor, City Council won't bow to political pressure

By Hacky Carp
City Editor

Vowing not to bow to political pressure, Mayor Marty Walsh and the Boston City Council today announced that they would consider carefully whether to approve a 29% retroactive pay increase for detectives that would cost the city $23 million on day one and an additional $9 million a year thereafter or instead to use that money to fund universal pre-kindergarten for poor Boston children.

The arbitrators' award also threatens a cascade of expensive labor contracts for other unionized city workers that could cost tens of millions more a year.

"We're not going to cave to political pressure from highly organized pressure groups like poor three-year-olds and their parents.  Instead, we're going to do what's best for the City, regardless of the political cost," Walsh said.

The Mayor's comments were intended to deflect concern that the detectives' undoubtedly well-deserved pay increase might be sacrificed to satisfy the demands of small children who need pre-kindergarten, both to prepare them for school and to allow their parents to seek gainful employment.

Boston pols promise they won't be swayed by armies of poverty-
stricken children trying to hijack the detectives' pay increase
for their own purposes

"I don't care how often little children and their mommies threaten to picket City Hall or my other events.  You can't buy or pressure me.  That's not how I roll," the Mayor added.

Newly-elected City Council President Michelle Wu said that she agreed this was a time for city political leaders to show courage.  She said that her professors at the prestigious Harvard Law School had prepared her to make these kinds of difficult choices based on their own extensive real-world experience.

Detectives' Union President James T. Burke told his members that their modest pay increase could be jeopardized by the pressure generated by politically-connected toddlers and poor single parents.  He said that he was confident that city leaders would ignore the unjustified demands of deprived children for a head start in life and that justice would prevail.  He remarked, "It always has."

Monday, January 4, 2016

News from Zontar: Newspaper publisher admits error

[Editors' Note: Longtime readers of the Spy will recall that every so often, we get dispatches from the distant planet Zontar, in the Remulac galaxy.  Although there appear to be intelligent life forms on Zontar, their obvious differences from us Earthlings make their experiences almost incomprehensible to us.  Nonetheless we sometimes use their dispatches if only to show how strange alien life can be.]

By A.Z. Ziebling
Media Correspondent

BOZTON, Sector M – Confronting a backlash from loyal readers, the owner of the region's leading newspaper has now admitted that his decision to save a few bucks by destroying his home delivery operation was a mistake and has vowed to restore the system and the employees which had worked so well for decades.

The owner, former commodities finagler Zhon Henry, had greeted the new year by booting out his efficient home delivery system and replacing it and its employees with a cut-rate outsourcing outfit which promptly bollixed up the whole thing.  As a result, tens of thousands of loyal subscribers have awakened to empty doorsteps and delivery tubes, with many threatening to drop their lucrative paper subscriptions entirely..

The new arrangement was designed to save a few bucks by relying on lower-cost labor overseen by an ill-managed outsourcing venture, while keeping the billionaire owner/publisher free from any responsibility for home delivery problems.  Instead, he has found himself in the cross-hairs of withering criticism from disappointed readers and laid-off deliverers.  One loyal reader,  Jimmy Burke of Old Sludgebury, said: “I'm paying six hundred bucks a year and they can't even find my house.  That's f***** up."

After thousands of similar complaints flooded in, Zhon Henry told his readers: “We made a mistake.  We're going back to the old system and rehiring our loyal and knowledgeable home delivery team."  To bridge the gap, Henry and the other suits are picking up papers every night at 2 a.m. and delivering them one by one in communities where the outsourced home delivery system, believed to be controlled by Ben Cherrington, has collapsed.

“It's cold, hard work, but it's worth it to keep the faith with our loyal subscribers.  I can't ask our ill paid reporters to work an entire second shift and still put out a first-rate product during the day.  What kind of manager would pursue a ridiculous strategy like that?"  Henry said.

Although the exact cause of the home delivery debacle is not known, sources close to the shadowy outsourcing firm point to its reliance on free agents who are not up to the task.  “Justin Masterson couldn't even throw the paper out the window, so he has to stop the car at every house and walk up the steps.  It takes him 10 times as long," one source said.  Other new deliverers, like Grady Sizemore, are simply too old and too slow to get the job done.

Henry, who left his Boca Raton mansion to return North, said he will do whatever it takes to fix the damage.  He added that his wife Zinda wanted to join him but that she had a conflicting Shiatsu massage appointment.