Thursday, July 27, 2006

Menino Hall??????

Business as usual at city hall.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

Had Tommy Menino been on board the Titanic as the bow slipped slowly into the icy waters of the North Atlantic, I suspect he would have approached one of the frantic stewards dispensing life jackets and innocently inquired, with quite the straight face, "so what's for brunch tomorrow?"

If Matt Amorello is detached from the realities of the final days of the Massachusetts Empire, then His Honor the Mayor is absolutely politically catatonic, as exhibited by his deafening silence to the sycophantic proposal being bandied about by his praetorian guard at city hall that Boston's new convention center in Southie be named in honor of His Honor.

Let's ponder this together. At the exact moment in time when Pandora's Box, which is Bay State politics, is being exposed for every journalist's delight from here to Hong Kong, and just as an internal debate brews regarding the Tamney Hall-like politics which promulgated this political and engineering Chernobyl called the Big Dig, and just as Americans arrive at the logical conclusion that Boston politics is a sewer, the Menino clique considers it perfect timing to float an idea that millions in naming rights for the South Boston Convention Center be tossed like a salad so that instead we name the giant edifice - embroiled in it's own mountain of lawsuits - in Honor of the city's most powerful political chieftain.

Now I know we're not in Kansas anymore.

We clearly need to rush the city's czar back to Beth Israel, but on this occasion it won't be for gastrointestinal agony triggered by those nasty Red Sox cracker jack; but instead for desperately severe ear wax build up, which is keeping the lame duck mayor (God, that sound's sweet!) from hearing the clarion call for change in how we govern.

Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

The Hub we love is facing a future more bleak than anything we could have imagined. Census data proves the population is declining. The middle class is bolting quicker than the Big Dig bolts are snapping. Most commuters say their rosary before attempting inner city travel of late; and only a CEO who was recently lobotomized would locate his company here given the recent headlines.

And amidst this locust of problems the big worry at that concrete bunker of a brain trust downtown is doing something nice for the Prince of the City.

I proudly disclose my bias, having been a media consultant to the convention center authority's past executive director, Fran Joyce. A Billy Bulger lieutenant, Joyce was gradually harassed away by a beefed-up Republican board of directors largely controlled by the Republican governor's office. One of Joyce's relentless critics was Menino. But were he still the man in charge, I can guarantee you that Joyce would be raising Holy Perdition at the thought of sacrificing millions in naming rights for the sake of glorifying a contemptible municipal ego.

Unfortunately, Menino has taken control of the convention center authority. His former chief of staff now fills Joyce's job as executive director and seems intent on violating his professional duty to seek out a corporate customer for the naming rights, in lieu of pleasing his master, Menino. As one convention center authority board member told me off the record, "We're kissing away millions here so that we can give a big kiss to the mayor. The idea stinks but I'm beginning to think they'll get away with it."

To steal a line from a favorite movie of mine, these are serious times, and we need serious leadership. You won't find that at City Hall Plaza unless there happens to be a visiting dignitary from out of town. The naming rights controversy only highlights what we already know - the city we love is sinking under the weight of corruption more quickly than those poorly engineered tunnels are also sinking.

I'll make a deal with the Prince of the City. If everyone is so insistent on denying the public coffers the money we can use from the naming rights, and, instead, committed to naming the new $800 million convention center after a person, I'll agree to the following - let's name it after all the people who've been gunned down since the Prince was reelected.

The are much more deserving the honor than His Honor.

Kevin John Sowyrda is a political writer and can be reached at

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

WRKO AM Hate 680

R.I.P. John Depetro.

Yes my friends, there is a God after-all. WRKO talk show host John DePetro was suspended from his morning gig this week after using a historic slur word for a Gay man while referencing Big Dig Chief Matthew Amorello. I suppose it was an obvious spin off on afternoon gabber Howie Carr's favorite nomenclature for the Big Dig Chief, which for exhausting years has been "Fat Matt." DePetro, whose anti-Gay diatribe led us to urge a relatively successful boycott of the WRKO radio station last spring, called the man at the center of attention since last week's tragedy in the Ted Williams Tunnel, "Fag Mat."

Ah yes, nothing like intelligent and stimulating dialogue at WRKO, whose airwaves are owned by you, according to federal law. reported on Tuesday evening that DePetro, who lives in Rhode Island, was suspended for two days, meaning he could be back on the air for his usual 9:00 a.m. slot this Friday.

DePetro's foot in mouth syndrome garnered him national headlines, which he appeared to relish like a child at Christmas, when he appeared to be less than sensitive to the murder of John Jay College student Imette St. Guillen, cruelly slain in New York City on February 25. St. Guillen came from Greater Boston and her ugly homicide captivated the nation's attention for many weeks. DePetro, quick to capitalize on the tragedy like the cheap used car sales man he is, implied that any female out at late hours was only asking for trouble, an idiotic philosophy most of us hoped had been conquered by the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

It was later revealed by New York City Police that Guillen was targeted by a night club bouncer, Daryl Littlejohn; who was working at the bar St. Guillen had been patronizing with her friends. Littlejohn has pled not guilty and the bar has since been closed.

The world according to DePetro also revolves around a philosophy that all Gay men must be pedophiles. Why, of course. In fact, when a state trooper was recently captured by authorities for allegedly soliciting sex from an underage male (who was in reality an undercover federal agent), DePetro said the Gay Community should be held accountable. I'm still trying to figure out that twisted brand of logic, but to get into the head of DePetro is like getting into a "head full of mush," as Professor Kingsfield would likely say.

In a statement to the Boston Globe, WRKO program director Jason Wolfe said his organization had "zero tolerance for racial intolerance." Apparently the station's parent company, Entercom, enforces the "zero tolerance" policy with all-too-brief periods of dress keeping suspensions for the sake of public relations. In 2003 the company briefly suspended sports commentators John Dennis and Gerry Callahan following their racial slur directed at an African American, when they clearly compared students of color to Gorillas. The duet is back on the air, as DePetro was expected to be last week. Meanwhile, Howie Carr continually utters some of the more in-the-gutter diatribe at RKO without any apparent consequences.

Ironically, and I think most sadly, the Boston Red Sox, ever conscious of their image, will broadcast their games on the station next season.

Our boycott of RKO had it's fair share of success and should be considered ongoing. Following our column on the subject of RKO hate speak, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of Boston, a key WRKO advertiser, said for the record that they had launched a protest with the station's manager, expressing their concern with RKO's format regarding Gay issues.

Should you care to invest about two minutes of your precious time this week, give the station a call at 617-779-3400 and tell them to do the Hub and their own business a favor - make DePetro's suspension a permanent affair and hire someone whose actually all right in the head and who has something to say. As for the Red Sox decision to give WRKO a contract reported by the Globe to be worth as much as $14 million a year, you can let them know what you think by calling 617-267-9440.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

It all comes down to bolt-and-epoxy fasteners

Thank God for bolt-and-epoxy fasteners.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

A highly placed source in the Romney Administration has told me that early next week the Republican governor will announce his plans to suspend his underdog bid for president in lieu of assuming a new leadership role in the ongoing Big Dig investigation and repair efforts.

My source tells me that Romney's communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom, is working in concert with nationally known Republican political consultant Mike Murphy to draft a planned-to-be-televised speech that will "definitely use the word suspend," the source told me. Murphy, a Republican whiz kid with a batch of victories under his belt from years of running stunning national media campaigns, left the Romney headquarters months ago citing some potential political conflicts of interest. Apparently he's back; just as Romney's back is against the slurry walls of the Big Dig tunnels.

Romney's announcement is not prolific and does not nail the coffin in his presidential aspiration, necessarily. Most potential candidates are foregoing their campaign announcements until '07, and Romney inevitably leaves the governor's office, and the Big Dig mess, to his successor on January first of that year; allowing him to jump back into the national political waters with ease, he hopes. But for now, the man so often criticized for his out of state sojourns to the cornfields of Iowa and the industrial heartland of his late father's home state of Michigan, is home bound in a political wheelchair. He's handicapped by the biggest construction scandal in global history, and that is no exaggeration.

Clapping his hands and yelling, "Help, I can't get up," won't help the governor. Instead, he'll have to self-morph into the world's greatest engineer, and he's got just five months to accomplish his goal of fixing a royal mess; if he's to be worth anything tangible to G.O.P. operatives next year.

As one Republican National Committee member told me this week, "Of all the political characters here, the one with the most to lose or gain is Romney."

Indeed, the stakes are high, but that national committee member is accurate - they are high for just one of the many political players in this drama. I mean, do you really think Ted Kennedy is going to lose his reelection bid this November because of this? Do you think state Senate President Travaglini or House Speaker Di Masi are sweating bullets, or screws? Their seats of power are as secure and comfortable as ever. Do you think John Kerry will cancel his Vineyard getaway? All this lot of pols has to worry about is wearing additional sun screen because the state house is filled with more klieg lights than usual.

But Romney was the guy trying hard to get out of Dodge. Having served a rather uneventful term - and I'm being extraordinarily generous here - Romney is dead set on national ambitions which could garner him some federal prize of significance. The presidency is probably beyond his reach. But his campaign is about gamesmanship; making a good enough showing here or there to guarantee him a cabinet posting or better in a Republican administration, if that is the nation's fate in January of '09.

So now we know what it took to get Romney to stop obsessing about Gay Marriage - bolt-and-epoxy fasteners. As humiliating as it may be for the perfectly groomed governor, His Excellency's life is now that of a "hard hat," a glorified repairman whose new obsession is screwing; I mean screwing things back together so mega tons of concrete don't fall on our Puritan heads.

For my money, Romney's damaged by this beyond the extent his inner circle is willing or intellectually able to understand. My mole in the governor's office tells me that Romney's political confidants, including chief of staff Beth Myers and Republican operative Charles Manning, see this is a "golden opportunity for Romney to do here what he did in Salt Lake City," my source said. The source was referencing the Olympic games of 2002 in Salt Lake City Utah and an infamous bidding scandal there, where high ranking figures were accused of bribing members of the International Olympic Committee to bring the coveted games to Salt Lake. Romney, having high political clout in the western state, was brought in as the fix it guy and earned high, bipartisan praise for his efforts.

Unfortunately for the governor, and Massachusetts, comparing the Salt Lake mess to the Big Dig meltdown is like comparing a summer brush fire to Chernobyl. Our broken, multi-billion dollar project is a national joke and no matter how hard Romney re-screws the screws into all those ceilings, his likely opponents are already piling the clippings and evidence which will be damning to his presidential ambitions.

Don't think for one moment that senate majority leader Bill First doesn't have at least a dozen staffers researching what Romney didn't do but could have done over the last four years. Bet serious cash that legionnaires working for folks like Rudy Guilliani, Senator John McCain, Senator George Allen of Virginia and God knows who else are watching the Bay State and preparing the text for the first Republican presidential scene.

It will go something like this. Romney will boast that when the sky fell during his watch he took command and all was well. Just when you think he's scored big, Frist, with a grin on his Tennessee face, puts a simple question to the Massachusetts governor - what were you doing all the years before that woman was killed to keep it from happening?

We call that a slam dunk in politics, and not for Romney.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Two Bishops
by Kevin John Sowyrda

When Beacon Hill starts to resemble an episode from Monty Python's Flying Circus you know that all is not well in the province which gave birth to America. But there he was, His Excellency The Part Time Governor Mitt Romney joining hands with the Catholic Church Cardinal Sean O'Malley on June 28th, in an effort to promulgate a populist movement of support defending marriage against what must be the inevitable perils of Gay marriage. I'll say this from the start; beware of any pair of bishops whose proposals are hypocritical and laughable.

Let's gently place on our back burner the oh-so-obvious points of logic; that divorce rates haven't skyrocketed since the Marshall Court ruling and that they could hardly be higher anyway; and that bigotry shrewdly shrouded by moralistic hyperbole is nonetheless bigotry, even when the hyperbole emanates from a Church of Mormon bishop and a poorly dressed one of Catholic ilk as well. What was striking about this television event, which had a John Stewart comedic quotient to it, was the pure irony - the Roman Catholic church, through it's local potentate, lecturing anyone on a moral issue of any measure. This is the institution that sanctioned the rape of literally thousands of children, and I say this as a beleaguered member of the institution; who knows, just as anyone who can read, that endless court documents prove that Cardinal Bernard Law "punished" pedophile priests by nonchalantly transferring them to other parishes, rich with naive and unaware victims to be. It was obstruction of justice at the very least and my primary reason for urging friends to boycott Attorney General Tom Reilly in his increasingly ridiculous pursuit for governor is the fact that he let the cardinal take a walk on this cardinal sin, something history will not pardon him for. Much more on that in weeks to come.

You'd think public relations 101, or for that matter decency 101, would motivate the Boston Catholic Archdiocese to keep a low profile on high profile issues; atleast for a few years as the dust settles around their scandal plagued glass house. They are sadly not so motivated and the utter arrogance of this institution was so transparent last week that I'm convinced the state-wide belly laugh could be heard in Iowa, which is where Romney basically resides these days anyway.

But the story behind the story here is the utter fallacy of two sanctimonious bishops engaging in the art of political persuasion when they are so ignorant as to the actual pulse of Massachusetts politics. They are therefore destined, thank the Mormon and Catholic God, to fail miserably in their cause celebrant.

Here's what Massachusetts voters care about right now - jobs and the price of bread. What they don't care about, what does not blip on their radar screen, is what occurs in the bedroom between consenting adults.........just as the Catholic Church never cared about what occurred in the bedrooms and confessional booths between priests and minors.

So, viewing Cardinal O'Malley deliver his homily last week with Bishop Romney faithfully by his side like a loyal cocker spaniel - for a moment I thought it would turn into a Broke Back Mountain moment - reminded me of what it would be like to observe other such absurd ironies, for example;

O.J. Simpson writing a book on the epidemic of domestic violence, or,
Mayor Menino teaching English at Harvard, or,
Tom Cruise giving a lecture on the country's need to embrace those who seek help for mental illness, or,
Mike Barnicle preaching the evils of plagiarism, or,
Diane Wilkerson filing legislation for tougher campaign finance laws, or,
Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole telling other cities how to cut down their murder rates, or,
Bill Clinton talking up the virtues of celibacy, or,
George Bush giving his weekly radio address on the importance of respecting freedom of the press.

I think you sense not my outrage, but my intellectual inability to take this big press event of last week at Beacon Hill with any level of seriousness beyond that which I would subscribe to Monty's Circus.

Finally, a few important thoughts on the politics here and how this plays out in a critical state election year. Massachusetts voters, for that matter Americans in general, tend not to embrace the lobbying efforts of religious leaders. There's something that simply goes against our national grain when we see church leaders telling our elected ombudsmen how to vote and, therefore, the rest of us how to behave. I suppose one could call it the spirit of Henry VIII inside us; a natural disdain for both spiritual and temporal authoritarianism, but an inclination to prefer the temporal authority should we have to chose between which dimension governs our daily lives and patterns of behavior.

For my money, the Romney press conference was a political anomaly the likes of which I've never witnessed in many years of covering Massachusetts state politics. Governor Romney is quite literally the only one of fifty governor's in the country who simultaneously serves as a bishop of a significant religious organization. To my knowledge we haven't seen anything like this in domestic politics since the days of Congressman Drinan, who was also an ordained priest while serving as a Democrat in the House. He was compelled to sacrifice his congressional powers at the behest of his Pontiff. That's probably the last time we witnessed such a visual example of spiritual and temporal offices so obviously overlapping; and truth be told, Americans find it distasteful in any case, whether thought to be malevolent or benevolent.

Do I hear separation of church and state, anyone?

But the anomaly is this. Here's Bishop and Governor Romney creating a political alliance with the embattled Catholic hierarchy on an issue that was always polarizing and is increasingly dissipating in interest to moderate Americans. Romney should know that if he's to be a national player he can't be perceived to be the Pat Robertson of the 2008 primary. His out-of-touch demeanor helps to explain national polling numbers showing Romney to be gaining little traction as an aspiring presidential contender. The political reality is this; despite what a few charlatans political advisors may be whispering into Romney's ears in the corner office, the issue of Gay marriage is not political manifest destiny for the majority of voters. People are looking for more gravitas than just cheap attacks on a given minority.

But From what I'm told and from what I see it doesn't matter what those advisors say, because Romney just honestly thinks and feels this way regarding Gay couples. I suppose that's the saddest commentary anyone can offer on the man himself.

As for O'Malley, I would simply ask him precisely what Joe Denucci, now state auditor, once asked his colleagues in the Massachusetts House when they considered the first legislation protecting the rights of Gay citizens; "Why should I hate these people?"

Kevin John Sowyrda is a political writer and commentator.