Curt Schilling Is A Basement Buffoon

Curt Schilling says that he intends to run for U.S. Senate in 2018, because he is so dismayed with Elizabeth Warren. Putting aside his controversial statements and entrepreneurial failure, the hurler wants us to view him as a person who understands public policy and can present his opinions as a legitimate contrast to Warren’s. So, is that the case, or is he an ignorant, puffed-ego imbecile who fancies himself a Suuuper-Genius?

Spoiler alert: it’s the latter.

After first declaring his interest in running back in August, which triggered a public poll of his chances in September, Schilling decided to demonstrate his policy chops on his blog:

Apparently someone decided to run a poll covering a hypothetical race between Senator Warren and I. I got 29%, which is a lot more than I expected considering I’ve never stated a public position on legislation except to state my opinions as a Christian, Conservative, Constitutionalist and American.

I’ll play along.

Elizabeth Warren wants free education at public universities in the United States.

In Massachusetts alone there are 29 public colleges and 191k students (numbers from ’14 and ’15 or last census data).

Remember as we go through this, every single dollar mentioned in this argument is a NEW TAX DOLLAR that does not exist today.

The average in state tuition (using a national average) we will put at $23,000.

So in 2017 this state alone needs to come up with 4.393 BILLION dollars for free college PER YEAR.

Better yet, 17,572 BILLION every 4 years for a college student. That’s 17.572 BILLION tax dollars we currently DO NOT PAY. Now that’s if the state alone could afford it, which is the ONLY way I’d be for something like this.

Nationally? Because that is what her and her colleagues want.

Research states that by 2018 there will be 15.6 million students enrolled at the 1700 or so 2-4 year public colleges.

That amounts to 358 BILLION dollars annually, in taxes that DO NOT CURRENTLY EXIST….

It goes on a bit, but that’s the basic argument: A) Elizabeth Warren advocates for free public university education for everybody; B) the math on that suggests a $358 billion price tag above what state and federal governments currently spend (“every single dollar mentioned in this argument is a NEW TAX DOLLAR”).

I don’t think it’s unfair to judge Schilling on this; it isn’t some offhand comment from his past, or gotcha question on a topic he was unprepared for. He chose this playing field, to present as his first substantive policy critique as a self-announced political figure.

So, in formulating this argument, did he consult subject-matter experts? Review Warren’s proposals? Read analyses of her bills? Maybe at least listen to a podcast?

Or did he sit in a basement and figure it all out with his own Suuuper-Genius brain?

Well, starting with part A of his argument, we find that… well, we find that his entire critique collapses into a fetid dungheap, because Senator Warren has never proposed or advocated free education at public universities.

Warren has been a leading proponent of plans for debt-free higher education — specifically, that every student should have at least one available option for getting a college education without accumulating personal debt to pay for it. That, as any reasonably sentient being can understand, is quite different from a plan to have all public college offered free of tuition.

Warren’s actual position on this topic is not difficult to ascertain. She has introduced legislation for it, she speaks publicly on it quite often, and it’s been much noted that her position is a sharp break from that of Bernie Sanders, who does call for free public college.

Warren has also taken lots of other very public, quite controversial, and easy-to-criticize positions on a variety of issues. So, it’s really quite remarkable that as Schilling, a self-professed great critic of hers, sat down to select a first position to criticize as a prospective opponent, he chose one that doesn’t exist.

So basically, Curt Schilling is the political equivalent of the dunderhead Sawx fan who calls into talk radio insisting that Curt Schilling’s problem is that he throws so many knuckleballs.

Part B of the argument is thus pretty much moot, but on the off-chance that Warren outs herself as a closet free-public-college advocate, let’s see if the Suuuper-Genius checked his math with anybody.

Unfortunately, he did not. Average in-state tuition for public college is not around $23,000 a year; it’s around $9,400 a year. There is not a single public college in the country, in fact, that charges as much as what Schilling claims is the national average. He may have accidentally used a recent figure for out-of-state tuition; or, he may have used a recent figure for average total cost (including room, board, supplies, transportation, and so forth) at four-year public colleges. Who knows?

Even had he snared the correct number, that would still be the wrong figure to use. Much of that $9,400 is already paid for by various types of grants; the relevant figure is estimated average net tuition. That has risen sharply in recent years, and is now just under $4,000 for in-state four-year public college. (Notably, Warren concentrates much of her policy work in this area on driving this figure down, but that’s another conversation.) For two-year public colleges, the estimated average net tuition is effectively zero, a result of aid being determined by total cost.

Schilling, tapping away at Google, did come up with a legitimate estimate for the number of public college students in 2018. However, in doing the math it’s important to break down the four-year from the two-year institutions; and to separate out the out-of-state students, who Schilling seems to imply would not be eligible for Warren’s non-existent “free tuition” plan.

Anyway, just doing the straightforward math as Schilling does, but with correct numbers, you get a cost of somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion nationally, or about one-ninth of what he came up with.

Or, you could look at actual data, which says that public colleges collect roughly $70 billion in tuition and fees, including from out-of-state students.

Or, you could look at Sanders’s proposal, which estimates a $75 billion annual price tag. And, you could look at analyses of that plan for discussions of that figure, including cost effects from changed behavior due to the policy change.

Or, of course, you can sit alone with your great big Suuuper-Genius brain and figure it out for yourself.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Blank

So, now I get to say to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and other anti-Trump Republicans what I’ve been saying to disgruntled lefties for years:

You’re doing democracy wrong.

The impulse to blank a ballot, or to effectively do so by tossing a protest vote to an unelectable candidate, is not hard to grasp: “I have two options before me, neither of whom come close to representing my idea of who should fill the office, so rather than affirmatively select the less-bad option I’d rather opt out of that Sophie’s choice.”

Well, I hate to break it to you, but representative democracy is not about getting what you want. In fact, it’s specifically about not getting what you want.

There are systems of governance where you get to have things run the way you want. Or, rather, where someone does; one of the significant downsides of those systems is that it’s actually not very likely that you get to be the monarch.

And while it’s quite possible that the monarch will run things in a way you like, it’s not worth the risk of being stuck with a bad monarch. Or, at least, so thought the people who brought you America.

The alternative — resting national sovereignty with the actual citizenry of the vast, sprawling, diverse country — has always been a pretty dubious experiment. Seriously: you, and me, and everyone you run into in the mall, and the Real Housewives Of New Jersey, and those people you block on Twitter, and Eric Church fans, and a couple hundred million other people are supposed to decide on something, anything, let alone something as important and consequential as who will be President for the next four years. Who the hell thought that was a workable idea?

And yet, I think we all agree, a couple centuries into the experiment, that this idea really is the heart of what makes this the greatest nation ever devised.

So, it seems to me it’s all wrong to opt out because the selection of candidates isn’t good enough for you. Your participation is just as much about choosing the lesser of evils — or, put another way, preventing your fellow citizens from doing too much harm — as it is about forming a more perfect union.

Plus, you really shouldn’t be allowed to wear the “I Voted” sticker if you blank the top race.

[Note: I’m specifically talking about blanking because you find neither candidate acceptable; blanking a down-ballot race due to lack of information is a different matter, and in my opinion sometimes justifiable.]

Failing The Chatman Test

Well, on the plus side, Demond Chatman now has a legal standard in Massachusetts courts named for him.

Unfortunately, he failed it, and as a result will continue to serve out a life sentence in prison, for a crime I believe he almost certainly did not commit.

Hey, you win some you lose some. Chatman was convicted in 2002 of murdering his mother; after three years of reporting I laid out what I could about the problems with the case in the Boston Phoenix. I have been willing to discuss any aspect of my reporting on the case with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office or Boston Police Department ever since, but they have never shown any interest in addressing any of the issues raised. Nor have they actually disputed any of my reporting, or given any explanation about the problems I pointed out.

The most I have ever gotten from any of them has been the dismissive retort of prosecutor Mark Lee, that if Chatman is innocent then why isn’t he appealing based on innocence?

The answer to that, from my perspective, is pretty much the same as my attitude about why Chatman’s trial attorney didn’t pursue or discover the things I did: our criminal justice system is pretty fucked up.

In the case of the original trial, Chatman’s court-appointed attorney was hampered by at least three things. First, as is typically the case, by the time he received the case it had been completely screwed up by decisions of detectives (and others) who from the first hours were interested only in building a case against the guy they thought did it. Second, with very limited time and resources available to him, he had to pick and choose which elements of the case to look into, based on what he thought might be the most fruitful defense strategy.

And third, Chatman’s trial attorney was hampered, in my opinion, by the fact that Chatman is a paranoid schizophrenic with borderline retardation, who could not fully grasp why things were happening, and occasionally believed that his own attorney was conspiring with the prosecutor against him, in part by reading his thoughts.

This brings me back to the appellate attorney’s strategy.

Defense attorney Ed Hayden (who, as he is the first to admit, has very little appellate experience, but hey bad luck being a poor defendant in the Commonwealth) has, for close to 15 years, pursued one reasonable strategy: arguing that Chatman was not competent to stand trial in 2002, on account of his mental illness.

It’s important to point out here that in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, if you happen to be convicted of murder in Suffolk Superior Court, your appeals are handled by the same judge who oversaw your trial. In other words, you are asking the judge to rule that she fucked up your case.

There are, to be fair, some rational and understandable reasons to proceed this way. At least, in theory. In practice I have seen it not work out so well. It seems to work better with some judges than with others.

Chatman’s trial judge was Barbara Rouse. She has a reputation, among some defense attorneys I know, of being not very reasonable or empathetic toward defendants. The actual terms they use are nastier, but we don’t need to get into any of that.

Of course, that judge doesn’t get to be the final word. In murder cases, the next step after her is also the final authority: the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). And that group — about to undergo considerable reconstitution due to three retirements — has often shown itself more willing than you might think to rule that their lower-court colleague screwed up. But, that’s not to say there isn’t institutional resistance — and, indeed, legal resistance, as there is quite a bit of deference to the trial judge built in legally, as we shall return to below.

Rouse, for these many years, has treated Hayden’s theory of Chatman’s incompetence to stand trial with utter disdain. I don’t think she would mind that characterization; she has made no secret of it. Her attitude, spoken and written plainly in so many words, is that Chatman looked fine to me during the trial, so who cares what your so-called experts say.

That has also been the attitude of Mark Lee and the DA’s office — it is worth noting that, as with the judge, in the appeal process the state is represented by the same office that prosecuted the case, and usually, as in this instance, by the same person. So, there is a great professional and psychological resistance to accepting error on that side as well.

The only player in the original trial who changes is the defendant’s attorney, because the defense bar is the only one who sees the conflict of interest and removes it. A new attorney, the thinking goes, might be somewhat more able and willing to question whether the trial attorney screwed up, than the trial attorney himself would be.

Anyway, long story short — though please bear in mind that it was a ridiculously long story during which Chatman rotted away in prison for more than a decade — Rouse, and Lee, and even at times the original trial attorney, blocked and tackled while Hayden tried to show that Chatman’s ability to assist in his own defense was impaired by the well-documented mental illness which he concealed from his trial attorney because that’s what people with affective schizoid disorder do.

Finally Hayden was able to put a big stack of material in front of Judge Rouse, asking for a hearing on the competency issue to determine whether the trial should be tossed. And Rouse, naturally, ruled that there was no need for a hearing because it was all nonsense, and thus the appeal for new trial is denied.

But on appeal of her decision, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ordered Rouse to have a hearing on it, because hey you know there actually should be some way for a guy to show that he was incompetent to stand trial, if that wasn’t caught at the time of the trial.

I wrote a little something about it a couple of years ago, when we were at that stage of things.

Rouse, openly annoyed about the SJC’s ruling, held the hearing. Then she ruled that she was right in the first place. So, back to the SJC, to see if they would actually overrule her finding on incompetence.

That decision came down this week, and the answer is no. Justice Cordy, writing for the court, referred to its previous ruling in the case as having established “the Chatman test.” This is worth noting for convicted individuals in Massachusetts:

Therein, we articulated a new framework appropriate for evaluating a defendant’s competency postverdict where the issue had not been raised at trial. Like the traditional competency test, the hallmark of a postverdict competency inquiry is the defendant’s “functional abilities,” as opposed to “the presence or absence of any particular psychiatric diagnosis.” To determine if a criminal defendant is competent, we look to (1) whether the defendant has “sufficient present ability to consult with his [or her counsel] with a reasonable degree of rational understanding,” and (2) whether he or she has “a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings”.

The newly articulated test differs from the traditional competency proceeding not in substance but in burden of proof. If the issue is raised at trial, the Commonwealth would bear the burden of establishing competence by a preponderance of the evidence. The postverdict test, on the other hand, requires that the defendant establish “by a preponderance of the evidence that the Commonwealth would not have prevailed had the issue been raised at trial,” meaning that the defendant bears the burden of establishing that, had the issue been raised before or during trial, the Commonwealth could not have proved either the first or the second prong of the competency test.

Now, remember how I said earlier that there can be considerable deference to the lower court judges built into the system?

In the Chatman test, Cordy writes, that is particularly true:

Because a postverdict motion requires a retrospective determination of the defendant’s competency, “the weighing process must necessarily place greater emphasis on evidence derived from knowledge contemporaneous with the trial.” For that reason, when the postverdict motion is heard by the same judge as presided over the trial, the “judge’s determination of competency is entitled to substantial deference ‘because the judge had the opportunity to . . . evaluate the defendant personally.'”

What he is saying here is that the trial judge, since she was there at the time, has a better grasp on Chatman’s competency than an actual psychiatric expert in determining competency, who comes around later. And, since the appellate judge is the trial judge, she should naturally want to rely first and foremost on the observations of, well, herself, from 14 years ago. So, if the appellate judge asks herself, the trial judge, whether she feels pretty confident that Chatman was competent, and if the appellate judge tells the SJC that she, the trial judge, was pretty convincing in her opinion, then really who is the SJC to second-guess that?

I’m over-snarking this, of course, but, you know, that’s how I deal with the end of the appeals process for a guy I’m convinced almost certainly committed no crime at all.

We might now actually get the chance to find out if he did. The failure for Chatman to win a new trial might, paradoxically, open the door to find out whether he’s actually innocent.

The New England Innocence Project officially accepted Chatman’s case several years ago. But, as they told me at the time, they generally don’t start actively working on a case while it is still in the regular appeal process. Understandable, for triage reasons, if a tad frustrating.

With that appeal now denied, NEIP can start working on Chatman’s case, if and when they have the time and resources available to turn attention to it.

Who knows how long that process might take, or if it’s even possible to prove anything at this point. Chatman will be waiting, in his prison cell, to find out.

An Open Letter To Mark Wahlberg

Mr. Wahlberg:

Some years ago, a veteran of the Boston Police Department swore to me that, back in the day, everybody in the department believed that Danny Keeler had staged the heroic Charles River rescue that earned him fame and top honors in August, 1980.

I have no reason to believe that it’s true. It’s one of many unconfirmed or unconfirmable tales I’ve heard about Keeler over the years, in addition to the definitely true stories I have reported. But the fact that a colleague would believe such a remarkable thing surely suggests something about Keeler’s self-aggrandizing and manipulative tendencies.

So, I find myself a bit concerned to read that you will be portraying Keeler in your upcoming movie about the Boston Marathon bombing, and that you have been spending time with him in preparation for the role.

I earlier had some concerns, upon realizing that Keeler was featured in the book Boston Strong by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge, which is one of your source materials. But, I was relieved by the treatment of Keller in that book (which, by the way, I recommend). Sherman and Wedge portrayed Keeler as one of many people pulled into the events, whose collective experiences paint a tapestry of the city’s experience.

The book made no attempt to show Keeler actually doing much of anything significant that day, or in the subsequent investigation and pursuit of the Tsarnaevs. This fits with what was reported in the Boston Globe and elsewhere.

I might wonder whether Keeler’s self-reported thoughts were quite as cliched as reported in that book. But I don’t generally doubt his bravery, ability to take charge, and compassion for victims, all of which he has shown elsewhere in his policing career.

Sherman and Wedge even go out of their way to recount some of Keeler’s past lowlights, in their brief overview of his back story. So does the excellent columnist Kevin Cullen, in his generally flattering Boston Globe article about Keeler today.

Although, there is a lot they don’t include; you may want to read, for example, my 2006 dive into his troubling record.

If you have time, you might want to also read my award-winning feature dubbing his unit “The Worst Homicide Squad In The Country.” Or my investigation documenting how Keeler and other homicide detectives routinely came forward with “significant, previously undisclosed evidence [that] came to light often just days before trial.” Or this shorter piece where I showed that “Keeler’s Poison Spreads To Federal Court.” Or this article in which I revealed that the work of Keeler and others had created “Reasonable Bias” among Bostonians against the Boston Police Department. Or my expose of “The Overtime Game” his homicide unit was using to rack up bogus overtime pay.

There was no need for Sherman and Wedge to get into all that. But if your movie is going to star you as Keeler, I have to suspect that you will expand his role in the events around the bombing, making it significantly greater than it actually was. That seems to be confirmed in Cullen’s article, which says that your “Keeler” character will be “a composite of other police officers who worked on various parts of the bombing case.”

I have no issue with movies creating composite characters, and fictionalizing events. I get that. I can even accept it as part of the process of making a movie about something as important to Boston as the bombing.

But turning Keeler into a hero of those events would be a great mistake. It would, in fact, be one more in his long, inglorious career of spinning his own heroic story to cover his actual grave failings.

Consider this: by spinning a tale of his Patriots Day heroism and leadership, Keeler has effectively forestalled questions about why he was placed in charge of the Boylston Street security detail, which was specifically tasked with watching the crowds for potential harm-makers — and how that team completely failed in that task. (None were able to recall anything useful about the suspiciously acting young men after the fact.)

It wouldn’t be the first time Keeler has used self-created public glorification to cover for his own inadequacies. He has a long history of headline-grabbing, to overshadow his long trail of wrongful convictions, poor investigations, untruthfulness, and other misdeeds.

Indeed, that’s why the crazy story of staging a fake suicide rescue seems just a little bit plausible: that front-page heroism effectively saved Keeler from very nearly washing out of the department in his first year, on the heels of a four-day suspension and other troubles.

So, Mr. Wahlberg, please be wary of believing anything Keeler tells you, or of turning him into a Boston hero on-screen. There are others far more worthy of your attention and portrayal.

 

The Sandoval Ploy

WaPo Report: The White House is vetting Republican Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval as a potential Supreme Court nominee.
Brian_Sandoval_2010Red Sox  at Orioles 04/24/15

 
I want to lay out the political chess game here, but first let me say: with both Pablo and Brian Sandoval in the news these days, please be on the lookout for fun Sandoval headlines.
 
Anyway, here’s what I assume is happening. White House leaks Sandoval for SCOTUS. Media will rush to every Republican Senator who has said they won’t even consider a SCOTUS nominee this year, and ask if they would consider Sandoval.
 
If some of them say yes they would, then they expose themselves as blocking the nomination not out of principle regarding the lame-duck President, but because they will only consider a Republican nominee. That ramps up the political pressure, just as Obama announces his real nominee.
 
If (more likely), the Republican Senators are smart enough to see through this, they will all say no, I would not consider Sandoval, because it’s the principle of the thing. Democrats will then use this as proof that Republicans are so impossible to work with they won’t even consider the most compromise-type nominee. Then, after Obama announces his real nominee, any criticism about that person’s liberalism or other faults can be dismissed — because obviously the Republicans have already shown that they had decided not to consider any nominee regardless of their views.
 
Oh, plus the move probably plays to the Democrat’s advantage, and against the Republicans, among moderate Republicans and Hispanics in Sandoval’s home state of Nevada, where he’s extremely popular, and which is not only a key Presidential swing state but also has an open and highly contested US Senate race this year.
 
Not a bad play, politically.

U.S. Political Divide Is Largest In A Century!*

(* = by one arbitrary measure I just came up with)

After this year’s elections, the country could have fewer states with split partisan representation in the Senate since 1910. If my somewhat cursory research is correct.

Today, 14 of the 50 states have one Democratic and one Republican Senator. (I’m counting Independents Bernie Sanders and Angus King as Democrats, since they caucus that way.) The others each have two Senators from the same party: 16 have two Democrats, and 20 have two Republicans.

Fourteen split states is not unusual–at least, since the direct election of Senators began roughly 100 years ago.

However, that number was inflated by the extraordinary 2010 midterm elections, which saw Republicans win seats in usually blue-leaning states. Those states have, arguably, grown more blue in the past six years; plus, Democrats have a likely advantage because of turnout in a Presidential election.

The result: 11 of the 14 split states have a Senator up for re-election this year, including nine Republicans. Six of those Republican seats (Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin), and both Democratic ones (Colorado, Nevada), seem to stand a fair chance of flipping to the other party. In all of those cases, the state would no longer be split, but would have two Senators from the same party.

Of course, that could be countered by Senate seats flipping in other states–the states with two of the same party. But, only one seems like a close call at the moment: North Carolina, where incumbent Republican Richard Burr is considered more likely than not to win another term. Upsets are possible in Alaska, and Arizona, but those would indeed be upsets.

The bottom line: it’s fairly likely that the number of states with split Senate representation will drop to single digits–and possibly as low as six.

I did some scrolling through Senates, and I’m pretty sure the number hasn’t dropped below 10 since 1956–when, incidentally, there were two fewer states. (Alaska and Hawaii were admitted in 1959.) And that was just a brief stint at nine, in between Oregon Independent Wayne Morse’s decision to caucus with the Democrats in 1955, and the election of Kentucky Republican John Sherman Cooper in late 1956, to fill the vacancy caused by Democrat  Alben Barkley’s death. (The more you know!)

The number might have briefly dipped to nine at some point earlier in the 1950s; it doesn’t look like it to me, but I can’t say I gave it a real scholarly level of review or anything.

And before that, you have to go back, I believe, to the 61st Congress, which met in 1909 and 1910. There were only 46 states; the state legislatures appointed Senators, and the country was still pretty cleanly split between the solid Democratic South, and the solid Republican everywhere-else. Only six states–Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, and Oregon–had split Senate representation.

And here’s the kicker: the number could actually get even lower after the 2018 elections.

Obviously a lot could change, but right now the six seats that look most likely to flip parties in 2018 are all in split states–mostly products of Democrats winning red state seats in 2012, that will be hard to defend in a mid-term election. Those include Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia; Nevada’s Republican-held seat is the other question mark.

All of this is to say that we might–might–be on the cusp of moving to an essentially unprecedented divide between solid-red and solid-blue states, in Senate representation.

NH Primary Prediction Contest

I’ll step up and say it plainly: I have no idea what the results of tomorrow’s NH primary will be.

But here’s your chance to show that you know better than me. Simply predict the order of finish and vote percentage that each of the major candidates (8 in GOP, 2 Dems) will receive, in both parties.

You get 10 points for each candidate in the correct finishing position. You lose 1 point for each percentage point off in either direction, for each candidate. Highest point total wins.

What do you win? Winning is its own reward, bub. But I will sing your praises here and on social media.

Plus, my picks are below, so you can at least brag about doing better than me.

Post your picks here in comments, along with your name, or email your picks to me at contest@DavidSBernstein.com by 6:00am Tuesday February 9.

Remember to include all 10 candidates (8 GOP, 2 Dem), and both their order of finish and vote share.

Good luck!

 

My picks:

1. Trump 26%

2. Rubio 19%

3. Kasich 17%

4. Cruz 13%

5. Bush 12%

6. Christie 7%

7. Fiorina 4%

8. Carson 2%

 

1. Sanders 53%

2. Clinton 47%

Getting Used To The Idea Of Trump?

My weekly Dateline DC column at WGBH News takes a look at the upcoming Iowa caucuses; please take a look at what I think you should watch for there.

As I was writing it, something interesting may have been happening: Republican voters might have started getting accustomed to the idea of Donald Trump as a serious Presidential candidate.

Skeptics like me have thought it likely that the party’s flirtation with Trump would thaw as voting begins — and it still might. The theory was that Trump’s unique qualities as the anti-establishment candidate were being aided by the relatively indistinguishable large field of other candidates, which was full of very qualified but not star-quality people. And, in turn, Trump’s unique star power was delaying the emergence of any of those candidates. But eventually that has to happen; eventually the field will narrow enough that a Rubio or Bush or whoever will have everyone’s attention.

And, of course, eventually GOP voters would pay attention enough to realize that Trump does not actually believe in the things that they believe in — just as in the 2008 cycle, Republicans holding a hagiographic idea of Rudy Giuliani as leadership incarnate eventually learned his past views on guns, immigrants, abortion, and homosexuals.

And meanwhile, Trump was not gaining any traction at all, particularly in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he was stuck in the mid- to high-20s for many months. That suggested a significant resistance among the bulk of the GOP electorate.

But just in the past week or so a flurry of polls have collectively shown that Trump has climbed to the low- to mid-30s in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

That might just be a short-term bump, as some of the other candidates have been beating up on each other in ads, as they vie for survival in the anti-Trump sweepstakes.

But I suspect that it indicates that GOP voters, having seen him treated as the frontrunner for so long, are becoming significantly more accustomed to him in that role. That seems to be reflected in the rising numbers who view him as likely to win the nomination, and as capable of winning in the general election.

We’ll see how that survives the attacks that have finally begun against him — including a strong ad showing him boasting of his pro-choice positions — and the still-likely emergence of a single so-called “establishment lane” candidate from among Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich.

But for now, consider me less skeptical about Trump’s chances to win the nomination.

John Henry, Annotated

I have taken the liberty of annotating Boston Globe publisher John Henry’s apology with my thoughts. Bolding is added by me. I will issue an apology to the Globe later for reproducing the text in full.

The Globe’s responsibility to this community is to bring it the news. I would like to share some news now about why we have failed to meet this objective for many readers over the past 10 days, how we are working to fix the problems, and a bit about the root causes.

First, I want to personally apologize to every Boston Globe subscriber who has been inconvenienced.

An op-ed is not a personal apology. A personal apology is done to, you know, one person. Directly. To an individual. Personalized.

We recognize that you depend on us, and that we’ve let you down. We’re working around the clock on a variety of fronts to solve this. To that end, I also want to thank everyone at the Globe who pitched in to get some 20,000 Sunday papers delivered last weekend.

First of all, the admirable devotion of the newsroom employees was not something that Globe management did “to that end” of solving anything. More importantly, how about thanking the actual delivery people who delivered the other 150,000 or so on Sunday, and 100,000 or so every other day, struggling through the botched routes they were given? Or the customer service people who tried to deal with the complaints? Why just the newsroom staff?

Getting a daily newspaper to your front door is a complicated exercise in logistics — this is something the Globe has been innovating in for more than 150 years.

Gosh, 150 years sounds like an awful lot of institutional experience. It would be awfully surprising if a company that’s been doing this exact task for so long would end up underestimating how difficult that task is.

Our region is full of old houses, curvy roads, and hidden cul-de-sacs. It takes resources, people, and technology to bring a paper from our presses to you every day. That last mile relies on a team of dedicated delivery professionals who know just the spot where you like your paper placed, what your house looks like, the name of your dog.

Yes, yes, that was the problem, people are cancelling their subscriptions because the delivery person wasn’t calling out their dog’s name. Listen Johnny, we know that getting a newspaper to subscribers is difficult; it didn’t become way more difficult last Monday. Please get to the point.

I don’t think any of us who receive our daily newspapers think enough about what servicing such a route entails. One single person generally takes responsibility to see that our papers — even amid record snowfall — are delivered (frequently in the dark) 365 days a year. 365 nights really. Your carrier is, in fact, often the public face of our company.

I think the last bit goes too far, but this and the preceding paragraph certainly do suggest that the billionaire owner of the Boston Globe believes that the performance and continuity of the individual carriers are very, very important to the customers’ experience with his company’s core product. This has not, however, led Mr. Henry to consider improving the wages, terms, or conditions for those critical individuals.

The importance of this role is why, since joining the Globe, we have been determined to improve our delivery systems and customer service.

Who is this “we,” Johnny-boy? Is this the royal first-person plural, or do you mean you and CEO Mike Sheehan, the unnamed co-conspirator in this essay, who you hired despite concerns that, as a newbie publisher, you might want a top guy with some daily newspaper experience?

When I purchased the Globe two years ago, more than half the subscribers who were not renewing their subscriptions told us it was due to delivery service issues. Week after week, I reiterated that fixing this had to be one of our highest priorities.

It sounds to me like the publisher/owner and the CEO were demanding an improvement in delivery services, but did not themselves have any experience or knowledge in that part of the business. It remains unclear who they relied on, or what process they used, to determine a proper course. Sheehan has acknowledged that he did not get involved in the delivery portion of the business. In recent media appearances he declined to say who was involved. Henry likewise makes no mention of anyone herein. I have to say, I am quite curious to know whether they availed themselves of any of the company’s 150 years of institutional knowledge of the delivery operation, as they set to the task of mucking it up.

Before I arrived, the Globe had moved away from operating its own delivery service. That was a mistake.

Aha! Blame the New York Times, who outsourced delivery right after the last of the Taylors left, in 2001. Well played. Also: Yankees suck.

Instead, the Globe instituted a somewhat expensive plan to try to remedy the reported problems. By the beginning of my second year it was apparent the service was not improving. So we began to look for an alternative delivery service.

So outsourcing was a mistake, but we didn’t consider bringing it back in-house.

We settled on ACI Media Group, generally recognized as the best in the business. The firm’s first bid not only contained the service improvements we were looking for but was substantially cheaper — more in line with other regions in the United States.

I’m more willing than some I’ve seen to cut the Globe some slack on the vendor selection. Problems ACI had with the Orange County Register, for example, were a special circumstance. I also believe that it is often possible — especially in a logistics-heavy operating center like delivery — to both improve service and cut costs. What sends up a warning flag for me, however, is the implication that Globe management expected the delivery of a vast regional newspaper, in one of the country’s most expensive metropolitan areas, with the inherent difficulties of Boston’s weather and road structures, to be in line with costs of delivering newspapers elsewhere.

We thought we’d found what we were looking for, but this overnight transition was much harder than anyone anticipated. Until Globe staffers embarked on an effort to save more than 20,000 subscribers from missing their Sunday paper, we had underestimated what it would take to make this change….

This entire two-sentence passage is mind-blowing to me, and suggests a level of utter incompetence that should truly frighten anybody who, like me, dearly hopes that the Globe survives the denouement of the great age of newspapers. Globe management embarked upon a huge reboot of one of its central operating functions — not just a new contractor, but new routing software, new distribution nodes, new carriers, and new routes. They planned it as a one-time full switch-over, directly affecting all of the print paper’s paying customers. When the time came for the switch, the operation was reportedly without carriers for some 150 routes, and the routes were so badly drawn it was, from what I hear, one of the reasons carriers cited for staying with PCF. That much should have been known even before the first of thousands of customers began overwhelming the customer-service lines with complaints; carriers began quitting over the insane routes (as Henry notes below); and the carriers and their supervisors began reporting the late or incomplete routes. The idea that management was still unaware of the scope of the problem five days into it, with the critical Sunday edition already rolling off the presses, is just a stunning admission of mismanagement. The implication that they might have remained oblivious had the newsroom staff not experienced it first-hand is jaw-dropping.

…. People want their paper every day in a particular place at a particular time. It might be 6 inches to the right of the first step.

Wait wait wait wait wait — this is what Henry thinks they underestimated??? Holy sweet Yeezus. I mean, what the serious everloving fuck. First of all: yes, Mr. Newspaper Owner/Publisher, the people who have paid to have your product delivered to their house before they leave for work in fact want your product delivered to their house before they leave for work, the crazy bastards. (I would have thought somebody at the Globe would have made a note about this bizarre expectation at some point in the past 150 years.) Secondly: I am fairly confident that the people who sat on hold trying to get through to your customer service line were not waiting to tell you how many inches the paper was from their step.

One thing we did not underestimate, however, is the importance of routing. The new company initially used software that simply could not do the job. The routes that software plotted were so circuitous and inefficient that newly hired drivers quit after only one or two days — our staff ultimately volunteered to jump in to help. ACI has already begun the process to replace that software.

If the Globe’s management did not underestimate the importance of routing, then how did they not know by December 28 that the software could not do the job? Vendor management at Boston Globe Media Partners sounds stellar. “Routing is very important!” “Shall we test the new routing software before implementation?” “No thanks.” Boy, I’m sure the staff must be feeling mighty confident that next January’s move of the entire newspaper operation will go without a hitch. (Speaking of the staff, this is the third mention of their pitching in. Meaning no disrespect to the very skilled and dedicated people over there, A) I’m tired of hearing about it, and B) I hope Henry’s giving them bonuses along with all this acclamation.)

So where do we stand at this point? We have worked with both ACI and our former distributor to reestablish service in the fastest possible way by dividing the entire region between them. The firms are at this moment working together to manage routes and will have a roughly equivalent number of newspapers to deliver over the next three years.

So, not a full retreat, but a half-retreat, to the inadequate previous vendor.

While it has been very painful to have daily service interrupted, I do believe this hurdle will ultimately reward everyone because there will be two newspaper distribution firms in the region.

With only one service provider in any industry, often services and costs are far from ideal for customers. In this case the customers are The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers. These papers will now have competitive services to choose from that will decrease costs and improve service.

I think what’s more accurate is that when there was one major service provider, that provider could hold down carrier costs; when there were suddenly two carriers, some areas lacked a sufficient number of drivers willing to work at the crappy low wage structure to staff both; the competition to fix the shortage of carriers would have driven up costs. Instead, we’ve gone back to a carrier monopoly in the regions where that shortage manifested.

Subscription revenue is going to be the primary source of revenue in the future for newspapers. It will make or break journalism in this country as we know it. That’s what makes this past week so frustrating.

I’m not going to get into a debate over the future of newspapers here. But I have seen an awful lot of frustration, from customers and from those precious newsroom staffers you keep mentioning, and for them it had nothing whatsoeverto do with the future source of newspaper revenue. It was frustrating because people couldn’t read the damn newspaper. So if, for you personally John-John, it was frustrating for a different, monetary reason, that’s something you might want to keep to yourself in the text of your apology to those people.

Many of the people who support journalism in this region have been slapped in the face simply trying to get their daily newspaper. Some will give up on us a result.

I’ve also seen, however, a New England spirit here in the past 15 years of steely resolve no matter the wait. I hope you will have the patience now to bear with us as we iron out this integral part of our business.

Look, I doubt the Globe is going to lose a huge number of subscribers over this, but it’s not because of some great New England steely resolve; it’s because the Globe is all they’ve got. The Globe is it. Some of the small locals and regionals are doing good work, but they’ve been killed by market forces. The Herald is a joke; its newsroom staff should pitch in to go door-to-door preventing their paper from getting delivered. If you want a decent local newspaper — and especially if you want one in print — you have to get the Globe delivered. And, by the way, people absolutely should: my many and frequent critiques notwithstanding, it’s a very, very good newspaper, staffed with a really impressive batch of writers and editors. It is also incredibly vital to the region’s civic health — which is why so many of us worry and fret about whether its current management is capable of steering the Globe through a very tenuous-looking future. I have said many, many times that I am convinced that even total mismanagement will not be able to actually kill the Globe. I am suddenly a little less certain of that assessment, and this apology doesn’t exactly help.

 

 

My Top Five Best Bostonians

Last year I had a stroke of genius, as I often do. There should be a web site, I thought, where everybody can collectively rank the greatest Bostonians of all time, by voting on a battle-generator web site like the Boston Phoenix used to use.

I thought, and still think, that this is just a brilliant, fantastic idea — which does not mean that I thought anybody else in the world would enjoy it. I just thought that I would.

Fortunately for me, the person who most frequently supports my brilliant ideas, even when they might not actually appeal to anybody else, had become editor of Boston Magazine. Thanks to the fantastic Carly Carioli, who I cannot thank enough, and the efforts of many others at BoMag, that site was eventually brought forth into existence.

And now, the official Boston Magazine ranking of the 100 Best Bostonians of all time is out, in print and online. 

I’m pretty damn pleased with the whole thing.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the official list matches my own personal opinions. So, below is my own Top 5 (which will probably also be posted at BoMag).

Feel free to comment or question!

Oh, and go spend some time voting at the site — it’s still up and running, and a lot of fun. At least, it is for me

MY TOP FIVE BEST BOSTONIANS

1. Louis Brandeis
Boston’s greatest have always been about the active pursuit of community justice, and the Kentucky-bred Brandeis exemplified this — against considerable odds, as a Jew.

2. Josiah Quincy III
Boston’s Great Mayor laid the groundwork for the city to become not only highly functional, but tight-knit and intermingling. That has been the basis for much of what has emerged from the city since.

3. Lewis Hayden
If you believe, as I do, that William Lloyd Garrison is a no-brainer Top 10, then what about the black abolitionists who risked far more and received far less recognition? Hayden — another Kentuckian by birth who thrived in Boston — stands out to me as the greatest of a remarkable generation of reformers.

4. Elizabeth Peabody
Advances in education have been among Boston’s greatest contributions to the world — and also one of the foremost reasons that the city has produced so much greatness. With all due respect to her mentor Horace Mann and so many others, Peabody shines brightest of Boston’s education pioneers.

5. James Otis
Of all the revolutionaries, Otis stands out both for the esteem in which he was held by his contemporaries in the movement, and how impressive his beliefs and actions look from our 21st century vantage point. (He declared the inalienable rights of blacks in 1764.) His sanity, unfortunately, did not last to the actual revolution, but it might never have happened without him.