The bare facts

The country is an economic basket case and Washington is in political gridlock, but media coverage of the race for US Senate in Massachusetts is focused on a couple of jokes about nudity.

Elizabeth Warren started the ball rolling. At Tuesday night’s debate in Lowell, a questioner asked how she put herself through college, noting Sen. Scott Brown did it by posing nude for Cosmo. “Well, I kept my clothes on,” she quipped, drawing laughter from the audience.

Yesterday, Brown was asked during a WZLX radio interview to respond to Warren’s comment about how she didn’t take off her clothes. “Thank God,” Brown quipped, drawing laughter from the radio host.

Once a spokesman for the state Democratic Party complained that Brown’s joke was the sort of comment you’d expect to hear in a frat house and not a US Senate race, a media frenzy ensued. The Boston Herald couldn’t resist, splashing the story across its front page with the headline: “She’s no me…Brown exposes self to criticism for body shot at Warren.” The Globe ran its more neutral story on the bottom of the metro front, including some interesting reaction from Senate President Therese Murray.

Amy Sullivan, writing in Time, called Brown’s remark a “mean-girl snark” under the headline: “Senator Scott Brown (R-Jerksville).” GOP analyst Todd Domke and Democrat Jesse Mermell gave their take on the bare-all banter. NECN jumped into the clothes off. Two of Brown’s Republican female colleagues said no one should judge his removal of clothes for money unless they’ve walked in his shoes (or should that be in his barefoot steps?). Joe Battenfeld says the quip shows that Warren has caught Brown’s attention, and the senator needs to get his campaign, and not his abs, in shape. And Michael Graham, in the Herald, blamed Warren for starting the fight and said the story plays to the Republican’s strengths. “He is a regular guy running against a Harvard Yard, handpicked-by-Washington opponent,” Graham wrote.

Brown’s comments at the radio station seemed to reinforce that message. “I went to the school of hard knocks,” he said. “And I did whatever I had to do to pay for school….But for not having that opportunity [in Cosmo] I never would have been able to pay for school, and never would have gone to school, and I wouldn’t probably be talking to you.”

This incident will pass quickly, but the media firestorm shows just how eager reporters are to dispense with the primary and get on to a Warren-Brown head-to-head match-up.

                                                                                                                                                                             –BRUCE MOHL


On Greater Boston, Gov. Deval Patrick touches on a range of subjects including the challenge to him by Republican sheriffs to get on board the federal Secure Communities program and the Occupy Boston camp out.

State Sen. Michael Rodrigues has filed a bill that would limit the powers of the Massachusetts Historical Commission after a ruling from the panel on archeological preservation forced a medical software company to abandon plans to build its headquarters, which would employee 800 people, in Freetown. Secretary of State William Galvin, whose office oversees the commission, is opposed to the legislation.

A Boston Herald editorial lambastes House Speaker Robert DeLeo and his leadership team for refusing to advance a GOP-sponsored ethics bill from committee. The editorial calls the notion of an ethics bill “a lay-up for leadership,” and says DeLeo has chosen to “pretend that the House is all stocked up on ethics.”

The Senate rejects an amendment to strip a slots parlor from the pending casino gambling legislation. Ed Glaeser says the state is inviting trouble with the way pending casino legislation proposes to award licenses.

Howie Carr hands former secretary of state Michael Connolly his 2011 Nobel Prize. Connolly recently filed to collect $500 per month in unemployment, on top of his public pension, after not being reappointed to the Boston Licensing Board.

Richard Vitale, who was acquitted as a codefendant in Sal DiMasi’s federal corruption trial, will enter a plea today to three state charges without admitting guilt. The unusual “Alford plea” will allow him to “maintain his innocence while conceding that if the case went to trial prosecutors would probably convict him,” the Globe reports. Vitale is charged with violations of campaign finance and lobbying laws.


Former Lawrence School Department worker Charles Birchall was fined $8,500 by the state Ethics Commission for accepting a bribe in connection with a school purchase order. Birchall says he doesn’t agree but can’t talk more because he is a witness in the fraud and embezzlement trial of former Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The state’s supplemental budget provides $2 million for new water lines along Route 1, the Lynn Item reports.

The scandal-plagued Essex Regional Retirement Board, after more than a year of being overseen by a state team of monitors, is ready to run itself again, the Salem News reports.

Marion officials will ask voters to approve a plan to use Community Preservation funds purchase land from a developer that cuts a 40B project in half and preserves about 12 acres of open space.


Proposed cuts to tax deductions could cost charities at least $2.9 billion and as much as $5.6 billion, according to a study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation set to be released at a conference in Washington today.

Time’s Massimo Calabresi says the Democratic Party may be on to something with its tax-the-millionaires pitch.

WBUR asks: Is Occupy Boston what democracy sounds like? Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal look at the potential benefits and pitfalls to be had when politicians latch onto the movement. Democratic leaders have not figured out if they want to embrace or run away from the Occupy Wall Street protests. Paul Krugman says that, unlike the Tea Party, the Occupy movement is “angry at the right people.” The Atlantic compares the movement, unfavorably, to the last one to occupy Wall Street — the anti-AIDS coalition ACT UP.  

The Weekly Standard says Hollywood is doing President Obama’s bidding by avoiding making movies about the crushing economic times. The story doesn’t mention that maybe people don’t want to pay the money to be reminded of it.

Congressional Democrats want to oust the acting head of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s federal regulator, complaining that he’s not doing enough to turn around a struggling real estate market.

Nearly half of all American households benefit from a piece of the federal safety net.


The Washington Post looks at the rise and rise of Herman Cain.  The Christian Science Monitor also explores” the Herminator”  phenomenon.

Mitt Romney consolidates support among heavyweight donors who had been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for something better to come along.

Leveraging the Romney connection.

Michele Bachmann throws a Hail Mary to the religious right.

Now that Sarah Palin is officially gone, we can start deconstructing her legacy.


Gordon van Welie, the head of ISO New England, told the Associated Press that the region needs to think quickly about whether it is going to upgrade its aging electricity-generating infrastructure.

Steven Syre writes of a mid-1980s Cambridge meeting of two iconic innovator minds, Edwin Land and Steve Jobs.

The debate over the establishment of municipal electric utilities intensifies.

The country added more jobs in September than had been forecast, but the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.1 percent.

Inspector General Gregory Sullivan has expressed concerns about financial controls at OpenCape, a nonprofit broadband company that has received federal and state funds.

The FBI signs a lease on its new Chelsea headquarters.


The Gloucester Community Arts Charter School cut spending by $200,00 and laid off an administrator after 60 fewer students enrolled this year than expected, the Gloucester Times reports.

A presidential shout-out for Jamaica Plain school teacher Robert Baroz.


Partners HealthCare CEO Gary Gottlieb sits down with WBUR to discuss the hospital’s deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Paul Levy is not impressed with the deal.

Steward Health Care drops a planned deal to acquire Saints Medical Center in Lowell, but now Lowell General is in the hunt, the Lowell Sun reports.


Deroy Murdock in the National Review lumps Evergreen Solar in with Solyndra and a list of other “green energy” projects to make a case for Solargate as a brewing national scandal.

Area advocates say if President Obama’s proposal to cut funding in half for the home heating assistance program is enacted, it will have a “catastrophic” effect on the poor in the frigid Northeast.

The EPA softens proposed caps on emissions for 10 states.


The US District Court of Massachusetts is participating in a pilot program that will allow cameras in some federal court rooms.

The families of two alleged victims of mobster Whitey Bulger were dealt a crushing blow by a federal appeals court that ruled against their $8.5 million wrongful death award, concluding that the claim was filed too late.

A Brookline doctor arraigned yesterday for nearly $4 million in Medicaid fraud allegedly placed the managers of sober houses on his payroll to hide the fact he was bribing him to use his lab for urine testing, according to prosecution documents.  

Criminologists are beginning to believe that the election of President Obama has had an effect on reducing crime.


Dan Kennedy posts a video on Media Nation from an MIT panel discussion he moderated about local news in the digital age. If you don’t have two hours to spend in front of your monitor, he also has a link to an MP3 download. It’s worth a listen.

Italian Wikipedia goes dark voluntarily in a protest over a provision in a wiretapping law that requires a blogger to post a correction or pay a fine if the subject of an alleged defamation says it’s defamatory, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.