BOSTON MAYOR : SOMETHING TO HIDE

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^ nothing to hide here. So why the “OneBoston” fakery ? Read the story and see

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Thanks to the Boston Globe’s Wesley Lowery, who scooped the story, we now know who “OneBoston” was and where its mysterious, last-week-of-the-race $ 480,000 ad buy came from. The AFT did it. As in American Federation of Teachers.”

My purpose is not to retell Lowery’s story, which you can read in the link below this paragraph. My intention, rather, is to confront the hiding of it. By steering their $ 480,000 into the Boston Mayor race via a New Jersey PAC, in which state disclosure of donors is not required, the AFT kept hidden what it felt it needed to hide. The same was true of the Boston Teachers’ Union, which didn’t issue an endorsement of Marty Walsh until the morning of election day, too late for news media to make the voting public aware.

Link to Wesley Lowery’s scoop : http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/12/28/american-federation-teachers-revealed-funder-behind-mysterious-pro-walsh-pac-during-mayoral-campaign/g58NRCxjp3OMZLtoBQE0yN/story.html

Why the hiding ? Clearly these teachers’ unions felt that if their active involvement in a Boston mayor’s race were known , Boston’s 57,000 public school parents — and surely others — would not like it. These unions know that there’s scant public support for their agenda. Yet they were willing to hide in the shadows for the sake of electing as Mayor a man who sits on a charter school board — which teachers’ unions profess to hate — but who is known to be a friend of unions and a go-slow collaborator who would likely not shake too many peaches off the peachtrees, in preference to a committed “school transformer” who actually sends his kids to a public school and who wanted much better than the status quo.

All year long the teachers unions have demonstrated their unwillingness to accord any school reform measures but their own. For them it has been “our way or the highway.” Thus the hiding; because school parents, curriculum developers, and Massachusetts’s state government have other ideas about how to improve schools than the teachers unions do and have more than sufficient public support to override the inflexibility of the teachers’ unions; and these unions know it, and thus the subterfuge, to evade the spotlight.

It was pitiable example to set for the students whose citizenship learning we entrust to teachers. Don’t discuss, insist. Don’t make your moves known, deceive. Don’t confront unpleasant truths, send anonymous poison letters. (Privatization of schools, corporate intruders, child of privilege, “working families,” etc.)

Bad enough when political campaigns do it. Despicable when done by people to whom we entrust the education of our children.

To circle the wagons around their own agenda, teachers’ organizations were ready to see a Mayor elected whose prospects are incremental at best, a mayor who is too deecnt a guy and too collaborative to force the hard decisions, instead of pursuing real reform by a Mayor candidate who understood that the future will not be like the past and who had solid ideas — and the intelligent fortitude and talented support group — on how to get his city there. To circle the wagons and do it under the table, like a worker trying to avoid paying taxes. I call it dishonorable.

John Connolly, the loser in this ambush, told Lowery “as a candidate I’ve moved past the race. As a BPS parent, I am really angry.”

There was a time when teachers were reformers; embraced experiment; proposed new curricula and new school arrangements. Most teachers still understand very clearly that it is NOT about THEM, it’s about educating children. Unfortunately, the teachers’ organization that invaded the Mayor’s race unannounded “because they are fighting for working families,” no less, failed to get that message. For these groups, it was indeed all about them.

The Boston Teachers Union (BTU) had an opportunity, early in the race, to embrace the candidacy of John Connolly, which had made education the number one issue, and to discuss with him how to best reshape the public schools to be beneficial to the future economy and society. That would have been a superb exercise in reform that the voting public would surely have welcomed. Instead, the BTU chose to retrench, to demonize Connolly, to support a man they didn’t want to support, and to do so by last-minute ambush. But I do not blame the BTU as profoundly as I do the AFT. The BTU’s resistance to reforms not advocated by it was well publicized even if their election-morning endorsement wasn’t. The AFT chose to hide behind the curtain, like Polonius, and to lob a $ 480,000 bomb into the arena. It shouldn’t be surprised if it now finds itself poignarded by a host of Boston School Parents who have other ideas about school reform and who resent being ambushed by refuseniks.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Reporter’s note l all of this confirms my appraisal that it was Marty Walsh’s weakness, electorally, that allowed him to b e the recipient of so many allies and to win . The groups and politicians who lent Marty their support applied the “city Council presidency” rule : always vote for the weakest. That’s fine when used for a rather powerless Council Presidency. Not so fine when misapplied to an office as powerful as mayor. By applying the “vote the weakest” principle to Walsh, the groups and politicians who backed him basically wanted to retain power in their own hands — a kind of back-door Recall. The last thing these groups and politicians wanted was a strong Mayor who didn’t need them at every turn in the policy road. Walsh can still break free and grab the power that Boston ‘s charter accords the Mayor; but to do he will have to betray and push aside many of his supporters. (It can be done. See the papacy of Pope Stephen V, 885-891 AD, for an example of how to do it.) I see nothing in Walsh’s a career or temperament that supports this outcome. I;m not even sure that Walsh wants it.   — MF

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MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THE HOBBIT – PART 2 : THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG ( 3 stars )

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^ Ian Mckellen, Orlando Bloom, and Richard Armitage do their do in Part 2 of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” Trilogy

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Is Peter Jackson a man obsessed with trilogies and inequities ? Out of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, he fairly spun three sweeping epics–one per book. Now circling back to Tolkien’s seminal “The Hobbit,” he’s gone and protracted that single volume into a three-part movie miniseries. As a chronological preamble to the LOTR films, there’s something inherently anticlimactic about backstory served up after such heft, but Jackson, and his team of writers, including “Pacific Rim” director Guillermo del Toro and Jackson’s wife, Fran Walsh, seem to have a grand scheme for nuanced mayhem. It slowly took root in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and now, in “The Desolation of Smaug,” the drudgery of plot masonry firmly in place, the scripters have loosened the strings and opened up the throttle. Jackson, behind the camera and at the cutting-board, seems more assured and free with hand. The result, bolstered by some enthralling thrills and timely whimsy, is a strong step up from “An Unexpected Journey.”

“Smaug” wisely doesn’t start where “An Unexpected Journey” ends, nor does it incessantly rehash what went on in chapter one. We begin even before that, in a rain-soaked town square as a cloaked Thorin (Richard Armitage, the most human-featured of the dwarf posse in “An Unexpected Journey”) slips into a tavern playfully named, The Prancing Pony. Inside, there are no other dwarves, just a battery of disfigured men (Middle-earth’s finest!) who hungrily eye Thorin as if he were the featured performer at an adult nightclub. Something foul is clearly afoot, but before a blade can be drawn, the gaunt and game Gandalf (Ian McKellen, who’s been Jackson’s backbone through eight films and counting) pulls up a seat and the edgy atmosphere quells. In the brief respite, the grey-bearded wizard briskly informs the dwarf that he is now the de facto king of the dislocated dwarf kingdom and that the forces of evil have put out a contract on his head.

Flashing forward to the quest at hand, the cadre of stout dwarves, with the furry-footed hobbit of title (Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins) in tow for his stealth capabilities, still needs to get to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their subterranean kingdom from the usurper dragon, Smaug, who killed off nearly the entire race and captured its endless bounty of hand-forged riches. Right off the bat, the dwarves encounter an ambiguous were-bear known as Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) in human form; after which they’re assailed by giant spiders before being imprisoned by wood elves. All this goes on while they’re being hunted by a pack of orcs–and they haven’t even reached the floating shanty town (Lake-town) at the foot of the mountain.

Each bend reveals a similar moral conundrum. Beorum despises dwarves because they’re greedy, but hates orcs more because they enslaved and killed most of his kind. Then there’s the elven king (a cynically foppish Lee Pace), interested in throwing in with the dwarves for a share of the loot. When they reject the offer, he incarcerates them; and later, as the rise of the evil sorcerer Sauron and his orc forces becomes evident, he decides the best policy for his kin is to close the gates and sit out the looming bloodbath. The most inert character, however, is the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) who, like the pampered oligarchy in “The Hunger Games,” feeds himself glutinously while the commoners under his magistracy starve on suet.

In the funnest (and freest) part of the film, the dwarves flee the elven holding block in oaken kegs and shoot whitewater rapids through a gauntlet of orcs. They’re aided by pair of elves, one reluctant (Orlando Bloom’s Legolas) and one smitten with one of the dwarves (a full lipped Evangeline Lilly looking eerily like Liv Tyler from the LOTR series), who effortlessly dance over branch and boulder while piercing orc eyes with arrows as if it were a breathing reflex. There’s also a bit of “Three Stooges” zaniness too : one dwarf, wedged in his barrel, becomes an inadvertent projectile and ultimately transforms into a bladed (and blinded) whirling dervish of death.

It helps too that there’s more than just transmogrified hobgoblins to contend with. Smaug, when arisen, is a sight to behold and a Chatty Cathy (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) to boot. His diatribe about greed and destiny to an invisible Bilbo, employing the notorious ring of power, might be the most riveting sequence in the film.

There’s also some great tells. Bilbo can’t bring himself to tell Gandalf about the ring because he’s beholden to it, and the dwarves, it turns out, do have gold lust in their veins ; but the biggest revelation of all is that the desolation attributed to Smaug, isn’t really the aftermath of fire breathing raids but economic despair brought on by hoarding.

The evolution of “The Hobbit” series, while less smooth than the LOTR, boasts stunning hyper HD technology and 3D viewing options. Team Jackson has added some new facets (and groan-worthy lines) to the yarn to make it go the nine-hour distance. The upswing is there, but to know for sure, we’ll have to wait another year — and three more hours — to find out if the pot of gold is truly there to be had.
— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies