Catch-22 <> Poor Organization, and City Council Endorsements

I was quoted in a recent Needham Times article regarding my complaints with the T:

But Adam Rosi-Kessel, a Roslindale resident who takes the Needham Line to his job in the financial district, said 15- to 20-minute delays have kept him from getting to work before 9 a.m. since May.

Now Rosi-Kessel, a lawyer who biked to work when he lived in Jamaica Plain, is thinking about trading in his Charlie Card again.

“It used to be, living here in Roslindale, the train was always the fastest way to get in,” he said. “Now, it’s slowed down to the point where it’s starting to get competitive with biking again.”

I’m glad they got my biking quote. Here’s the part I don’t understand (emphasis added):

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority spokeswoman Lydia Rivera said Needham Line delays have been caused by construction work and speed restrictions on tracks that don’t go anywhere near Needham.

In order to maximize train use, the T often transfers trains between tracks, rather than leaving underused trains empty in the MBTA yard. The method helps the T get trains where they’re needed most, but it also means a delay on one track can slow service on a seemingly unrelated track.

“It’s a Catch-22,” Rivera said.

I don’t think the T spokesperson knows what a “Catch-22” is. I refer those interested to the Wikipedia article on the subject, but it is nicely summarized there as “heads I win, tails you lose.” The T’s problem is not a logical paradox, but some combination of inadequate resources and poor organization. Can someone please help them out?

Also on Boston local topics: I’ve received several unattributed mailings lately related to the city council election that do not facially promote any particular candidate. Today’s mailing attacked Stephen Murphy for repeatedly trying (and failing) to win some other office or get some other job than City Councilor. The return address was 31 Milk Street, which is the address of many different businesses.

A few days ago, I received another unattributed mailing bemoaning how long it has been since an at-large city councilor came from the Parkway Area (my neighborhood), but not mentioning any candidate in particular.

My guess is these mailings are all meant to support John Connolly, a West Roxbury resident, attorney, and ostensibly good guy. I was feeling pretty happy about the possibility of Connolly replacing Murphy on the Council (I have to admit some unfair prejudice in that the only house in our neighborhood I’ve ever seen prominently posting a sign in support of Bush also features a Murphy billboard). But these questionable campaign tactics are giving me pause. Does anyone know anything more about this?

In any case, here are my endorsements for next week’s election, notwithstanding the concern outlined above: (1) Felix Arroyo, (2) John Connolly, and (3) Sam Yoon. I have no pick for a fourth candidate. I’ll also throw in a vote for Matt Geary. I really wouldn’t want the socialists running the City, but a broader spectrum of political opinion within the council wouldn’t hurt. Incidentally, it is remarkably hard to find any information summarizing all of the candidates’ positions and records. It’s almost as if the election isn’t even happening. (A commenter properly points me to Brighton Centered as a good resource.)

11/3/07 Update: More discussion here.

[Tags]Boston, City Council, Elections, Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, Sam Yoon, Stephen Murphy, Politics, MBTA, Transportation, Roslindale, Needham, Matt Geary[/Tags]

Minor Voting Irregularities

We are fortunate in Massachusetts to have fairly simple paper ballot voting machines (rather than electronic touch-screen voting machines, see, e.g. Ed Felten’s comprehensive critiques of electronic voting). When I voted this morning, however, the machines were not feeding the ballots. Instead, the poll workers were piling the ballots up on top of the machines, apparently to be fed into the machines when they figured out how to get them to work. When I left (about 90 minutes after the polls opened), they had gotten to the point of triple-checking whether the machine was plugged in.

I felt a bit uneasy leaving my secret ballot in a big open pile. It was somewhat reassuring that a police officer seemed to be in charge of watching the ballots, but I still will always have a slight reservation as to whether or not my vote was actually counted.

Don’t they get to work early to test the machines? Perhaps do a few dry runs, kick the tires, etc.? Other industries seem to have figured out most of these problems a long time ago — for example, I can’t remember a single instance in my entire life of encountering a paper jam (cash or receipt) with an ATM. (I’m sure it does happen, just rarely enough that it’s never effected me). If a system is mission critical, it should be possible to get the failure rate down to something more acceptable.

GOP Falls Deeper Into the Gutter

Gosh, I thought our own Republican gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey had hit rock bottom with deceptive, racist, scaremongering television ads — e.g., this one (“What kind of person defends a brutal rapist?”) and this one (“Here’s a question: have you ever heard a woman compliment a rapist?”) (commentary). Hopefully it will backfire.

But now, via the trademark blog, this in Tennessee.

Update: and now this.

Lawyer-Bashing and the Governor’s Race

The Massachusetts race for governor has turned very ugly. Even setting my personal partisanship (and professional bias) aside, I’m certain that the blame is not equally shared on both sides. Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly says it better than I could, and I reproduce the entire editorial here:

Deval Patrick for governor

During the 34-year history of Lawyers Weekly, the paper has never endorsed a candidate for elected office. This practice was borne out of the notion that the political, or societal, issues that dominate races typically outweigh issues that are of distinct interest to lawyers.

But the race for governor in Massachusetts in 2006 is suddenly very much about what it means to be a lawyer.

On the one hand, we have Democratic nominee Deval Patrick, whose stated policies on judicial independence and appointment of judges (among other issues) reflect a genuine understanding of the legal system.

Conversely, Republican nominee Kerry Healey has launched a chilling assault on the practice of law.

Healey is running a television ad that takes Patrick to task for his 1985 representation of a defendant accused of murdering a police officer — an ad that borders on the bizarre in its reasoning.

“While lawyers have a right to defend admitted cop killers, do we really want one as our governor?” the ad asks.

Last week Healey added an ad that references Patrick’s one-time support of convicted rapist Benjamin LaGuer.

“What kind of person defends a brutal rapist?” the ad asks.

With those misguided questions, Healey has insulted an entire profession. Here’s hoping she does not get away with it.

What is Healey’s message? That criminal-defense attorneys somehow should be associated with, or blamed for, the actions of their clients? That protecting important constitutional rights is somehow a seedy business?

Healey has resorted to the worst form of pandering, openly inviting voters to think of Patrick as someone who associates with criminals. Her finger-pointing has a flavor of McCarthyism, suggesting that anyone who has spent time in the criminal-defense arena should be identified, called out and avoided.

The lieutenant governor proclaims herself a criminal-justice candidate who is tough on crime. Yet nearly everyone associated with the criminal-justice system, be they defense attorneys, prosecutors, police officers or otherwise, understand that the Constitution guarantees the right-to-counsel, and the right to a zealous advocate. Healey no doubt understands this as well, but conveniently ignores it as she paints Patrick a villain.

Gov. Mitt Romney knows that diminishing the work of attorneys often makes for good politics. He rarely hesitates to criticize lawyers — or judges — if it suits his agenda. But even Romney has never sunk this low, to this crass sort of demagoguery. Healey has become the bully in the schoolyard, poking fun at the overweight children. Look, he’s a lawyer. He must be a second-class citizen.

Deval Patrick, meanwhile, has quietly made it known that he appreciates the key components of the legal system.

He favors giving judicial administrators more control over their budgets and pay increases for lawyers who do work for the state, including prosecutors.

Patrick says he would devote much attention to selecting judges, returning power to the Judicial Nominating Commission. And the former civil-rights attorney has suggested that he will be careful before criticizing a judge’s decision.

“Judges don’t go looking for hard decisions,” he has said.

As to the LaGuer matter, Patrick missed an opportunity with a clumsy, disjointed explanation of the matter.

Patrick could have simply stated that any efforts he made in helping LaGuer obtain a DNA test were in the pursuit of truth. As former Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph Martin so eloquently put it in an Oct. 8 Boston Globe op-ed article, “I never thought that serving the ideals of the Constitution made you soft or tough on crime. … Respecting the Constitution doesn’t make you soft or tough — it only makes you just and fair.”

One need not be defined by one’s profession, of course, and lawyers will have other important matters (i.e., education, taxes) on their minds when they go to the polls on Nov. 7.

But attorneys can rest assured that a vote for Deval Patrick guarantees an appreciation for many of the ideals that lawyers deem important — while a vote against Kerry Healey sends a message that lawyers won’t tolerate her unforgivable cheap shots.

Do we really want someone who defends accused criminals as our governor? President John Adams, author of the Constitution that Healey swore to uphold as lieutenant governor, defended the accused killers in the Boston Massacre trial. Do you think Adams would have been qualified to be our governor?

Which is more depressing

I’m not sure which possibility is more depressing: that Bush may have stolen the election again, or that he won without stealing the election. In either case, we’re in sorry shape. I’m not quite ready to join the “I’m moving to Canada” crowd, though—I don’t find that rhetorical tactic all that effective.

If nothing else, at least they won’t blame Ralph Nader this time.

P2P Politics

In case you haven’t heard about it elsewhere, check out p2p-politics, a collaborative website where anyone can post their election-related homemade advertisements. I particularly recommend the “If the Bush Administration Was Your Roommate” series.

Now there must be some Bush supporters out there with an ounce of creativity and a digital video camera who can upload some content. It’s a little embarrassing to have such an imbalance there. Does anyone understand why there are hundreds of grassroots pro-Kerry ads, but not a single pro-Bush one?

Portable Defribillator vs. Bush

My friend, fellow Boston resident and Princeton alum, Kerry-fundraiser extraordinaire, and non-blogger Jon Garfunkel·, suggests that the “mysterious lump” on Bush’s back in the first debate (as reported by Salon and later followed by the New York Times) is in fact a portable defibrillator·, just to be extra safe in these difficult times.

Jon has asked people to have spread the word to see if anyone can get their hands on one of these devices and find a 6-foot tall, 190 pound man, wearing a 44L jacket over it, and see how it looks.

Please let me know if you have any leads.

Express Yourself

The instant debate polls are already in (well, they’ve been in for hours now). I thought this snippet from the USA Today poll was kind of funny:

B. Expressed himself more clearly 

Kerry Bush Both equally (vol.) Neither (vol.) No opinion
2004 Oct 13 61 29 9 1 *
2004 Oct 8 54 37 9 * *
2004 Sep 30 60 32 7 1 *

Is it just me, or did the identity of change overnight? I checked it when Cheney mentioned the site during the debate last night, and it was just a “portal” banner ad type site. Cheney actually intended to refer to, the Annenberg Center Political Fact Checking site (which is now giving a Microsoft .NET “Server error in ‘/’ Application” error—too bad they didn’t use Apache!). But when visiting today, it redirects to, a message from billionaire and anti-Bush activist George Soros. Is it possible that he took over the site that quickly, or was the domain hijacked last night, or is there some other, more sinister explanation?

Cheney v. Edwards

This debate is fairly nasty, and I can only see it getting more aggressive. I’m not going to “liveblog” the whole thing, as are many others.

What’s remarkable is how sharp both of them are. They are also flatly contradicting each other. The question is whether people will go and research the facts, or go with the candidate who they “trust” more at a gut level.

Interesting that Cheney referred to “” on the Halliburton issue. He actually meant (I’m sure the ad site .com got a few extra hundreds of thousands of hits from that, though). Although is down right now, probably also due to server load, a glance at the google cache of the page reveals many articles critical of the Bush campaign’s claims. I wonder if Cheney is just counting on people not actually checking the site, and just figuring it refutes the Halliburton attacks.