Monthly Archives: February 2016

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 [email protected] 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%