Four takes on the human condition

Today’s Boston Globe includes several random articles that illuminate some of the ways we interact — or fail to interact — with each other in these troubled times.

Story No. 1 — Columnist Kevin Cullen reports how people on social media attacked Tricia Vinchesi, the town administrator in Scituate, for taking a day off to help her hometown of Conway deal with the aftermath of a tornado. “Small town politics can be vicious because the stakes are so low,” writes Cullen. “But the vilification of Tricia Vinchesi says something bigger about our culture, about how regularly unverified information flies around on the wings of social media, creating false narratives, about how easily people’s reputations can be cruelly and unfairly tarnished.”

Story No. 2 — We’ve all seen the reports about how Middlebury College students wouldn’t allow conservative social scientist Charles Murray to speak at a school-sponsored event and how Murray and Middlebury political economist Allison Stanger, who was scheduled to appear with him, were attacked. In the letters column, Dr. Jacob Appel of New York is appalled. “Allowing one  controversial speaker, no matter how offensive to some, is unlikely to undermine our values or damage our society. Allowing no controversial speakers threatens us all,” he wrote. Ora Grodsky and Jonathan Rosenthal, the Watertown parents of a Middlebury student, take a different view. They condemned the violence but applauded campus opposition to Murray. “We are angry that Middlebury invited a speaker whose views deny the full humanity of many of its students and staff,” they wrote.

Story No. 3 — What do you do when a neighbor hangs a Confederate flag outside his home? In Boxborough, neighbors first left a note asking to talk. When the note generated no response, two of the neighbors knocked on the door. A man answered. He didn’t invite them in, but he talked to them for about 45 minutes. There was no shouting or angry words. The neighbors left and the flag came down about a week later. It wasn’t clear why the flag was taken down, but the neighbors sent a thank you note anyway.

Story No. 4 — Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University, examines the emotional tribute to Ryan Owens, a Navy SEAL killed during a raid in Yemen, during President Trump’s recent address to Congress. Bacevich contrasts the great respect shown for Owens’s wife, who received a nearly two-minute standing ovation, and the disrespect shown to Owens’s father, who failed to get an explanation for why his son was on the “stupid mission”  in the first place. Bacevich found the contrast telling. “Stupid missions and stupid wars continue without serious examination and almost without notice,” he wrote. “And so, accompanied by ostentatious displays of spurious emotion, presidents get away with what in other contexts would qualify as murder.”

–BRUCE MOHL


 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker is unlikely to push for an extension of the suspension of the Pacheco Law at the MBTA even though officials at the transit agency say the suspension has been critical to cutting costs and improving service. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Fall River city councilor says a real estate consultant hired by Mayor Jasiel Correia violated state regulations by marketing city property without being licensed and wants Correia to recoup the contract fee. (Herald News)

The Worcester Regional Research Bureau says the city’s funding system for retiree health benefits is unsustainable. (Telegram & Gazette)

Nantucket police have a stockpile of drugs building in their basement because of a state law that says only State Police can handle drug disposal in an EPA-approved incinerator, forcing the department to spend time and money transporting the drugs to the mainland. (Cape Cod Times)

A Herald editorial applauds an effort by Mayor Marty Walsh and City Councilor Ayanna Pressley to pry loose more liquor licenses from the state and earmark them for underserved neighborhoods of Boston.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

White House officials roll out President Trump’s new six-nation travel ban. (Time) US Rep. Seth Moulton’s opinion of Trump’s travel ban hasn’t changed. (Salem News)

Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman suggests that President Trump’s claim that former president Barack Obama had his phones tapped is, if not true, a potentially impeachable offense. If it were true, he says, Obama would have committed a crime for which he could have been subject to impeachment. (Bloomberg View)

House Republicans unveiled their replacement for Obamacare and it includes replacing the individual mandate with tax credits and a change allowing insurance providers to charge older adults five times the premium as younger adults for the same coverage. (New York Times) Vox’s Sarah Kliff says the new law would likely cover fewer people than the Affordable Care Act and be advantageous to healthier, higher earners while making care costlier for older and sicker people who had coverage under Obamacare. Globe data guy Evan Horowitz says the Republican bill would be better for middle-class families, but worse for poor ones.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

While many companies are trying to stay out of the political fray, Eastern Bank is rolling out a new ad campaign that embraces a decidedly liberal slant on gay rights and immigration issues. (Boston Globe)

Restaurants, hotels and other businesses that rely on foreign workers to staff the busy summer New England tourist season are worried that Trump administration immigration policies could leave them short-handed. (Boston Globe)

A lawsuit against an online donation site operated by PayPal reveals third-party digital fundraising is a “Wild West” with little regulation or oversight. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

The billionaire Japanese banker who pledged a $50 billion investment and a promise of 50,000 jobs after a meeting with then-President-elect Trump is actually a front for Saudi Arabia and possibly other Middle East investors. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Frank McLaughlin, president of the Lawrence teachers union, has harsh words for the state takeover of the city’s schools. “Teachers lost lots of things, but we gained the right to work an extended school day at minimum wage,” he said. “And we got new health insurance that’s terrific if you’re not sick.” (Eagle-Tribune)

UMass president Marty Meehan criticizes federal immigration policy during his first State of the University address. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The GOP wants to give states more control over Medicaid. Governing looks at what states might do with that power.

The world’s richest doctor donated $12 million to the University of Utah — but $10 million of it was earmarked to come back to one his companies in a scheme tax experts call “suspicious.” (STAT News)

TRANSPORTATION

Keolis plans to put up fare gates at South, North, and Back Bay Stations as part of a collaborative effort with the T to reduce fare evasion. (CommonWealth)

Boston officials will today unveil a long-term plan for the city’s transportation future that emphasizes public transit over cars. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Four new wind turbines in Plymouth at the Bourne town line are causing residents on both sides to complain about noise and residual health problems from the constant motion of the blades. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A federal jury in Worcester awards $1.5 million to Scott Heagney, who alleged he was defamed by former Fitchburg mayor Lisa Wong when she withdrew his nomination for police chief. (Telegram & Gazette)

The judge in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial hit the pause button yesterday, saying he wants to consider three surprise defense motions to the dismiss the charges based on the contention that a street sweeper may have cleared potentially exculpatory evidence from the crime scene. (Boston Herald)

The former wife of a major Worcester Polytechnic Institute benefactor is suing the university for $4.5 million, claiming her ex-husband concealed money during their divorce proceeding and then donated the funds to the school. (Telegram & Gazette)

A former office manager for GateHouse Media will likely avoid jail time and be ordered to perform community service after pleading guilty to stealing more than $271,000 from collection envelopes for newspaper subscriptions sent to the publisher’s Quincy office. (Patriot Ledger)

A homeless mother from New Bedford is being held on $25,000 bail after being charged with child abandonment when she allegedly kicked one of her two children out of the stolen Lexus she was driving and left him not the side of the road in Mattapoisett at night in the frigid weather over the weekend. (Standard-Times)

MEDIA

Mother Jones sees a surge in reader support. (San Francisco Chronicle) President Trump’s attacks on the “dishonest media” are having an effect, just not the one he wants: Cable news viewership and online and print subscriptions as well as media stocks are on the rise since the inauguration, in some cases in record numbers. (U.S. News & World Report).

PASSINGS

Ken Guscott, noted Roxbury developer and leader in the city’s black community, died at age 91 in a fire in his Milton home that also claimed the life of his 87-year-old father-in-law. (Boston Globe) Joyce Ferriabough Bolling offers a tribute to a man she calls a “beloved community icon and Boston treasure.” (Boston Herald)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    The Eagle Tribune article stated “six years ago” the state took over the Lawrence public schools…so, exactly how is the state takeover doing? According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website…not very well. The Lawrence Public School District is a “Level 5 – Chronically underperforming district – Needs Substantial Intervention.” Hasn’t that public school district had six years of “intervention?” The MCAS 5th grade Science results showed 39% of students rated “Warning/Failing” and 45% “Needs Improvement”…that’s 84% of students attending public schools under state receivership for the past six years from Kindergarten to 5th grade scored so low it’s absurd. In fact, those are the exact MCAS scores students had in 2011 before the state takeover. What’s the point of a state takeover when the students’ achievement is unchanged? Where’s the gain? How about the state legislature and the governor fully fund the Foundation Budget…the mechanism distributing state aid to local public education? It has been underfunded by the state for years and years and no less than two reports came to that conclusion. In 2010 the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education released a report, “School Funding Reality: A Bargain Not Kept How is the Foundation Budget Working?” finding “Over the 17 years since the Education Reform Act passed, there has been virtually no equalization in spending or state aid between rich districts and poor.” Then in 2015, the “Foundation Budget Review Commission Final Report” was released finding the Foundation Budget is underfunded by more than one billion dollars in areas including English language learning, low income, and special education students as well as health insurance costs. What’s been done to fix this well-known state failure to fully fund public education? NOTHING! In the meantime, the state ineffectively intervenes in underfunded public school districts and state legislators voted themselves an undeserved raise. That’s how things work in Massachusetts.