Friday, March 9, 2007

Michael Dukakis and Me

Pictured above is Michael Dukakis, who was Governor of Massachusetts on two occasions and the losing candidate in the 1988 presidential election.

He seems like a nice man, and his riding of the Boston subway to work is no urban legend. I lived in his town, Brookline, the year before his presidential run and saw him on the train many times.

1988 was the first presidential election I was eligible to vote in. I was a lot more left-leaning then than I am now, probably due to a lingering adolescent rebellion against my Republican grandfather and my immersion in punk and hardcore music. In spite of this I could not bring myself to vote for my affable, train-riding neighbor when November came around.

Dukakis, as a Governor, represented the least admirable impulses of liberalism; the points I always had to concede when my grandfather and I would have our spirited debates.

One of his first acts in office was commuting the sentences of 21 first degree murderers. He remained a friend of the criminal throughout his career, supporting a prison furlough program that was used against him by both Al Gore in the Democratic primary and George H.W. Bush in the general election. One of the beneficiaries of this affront to common sense was Willie Horton, who commited rape and assault in Maryland when on furlough. Gore was the first to point out this inconvenient truth but it was Bush's people who effectively made Horton Dukakis' running mate.

Dukakis' cowardly response was to sign on to the "war on drugs" and sponsor draconian legislation indicating mandatory three year sentences for coke dealers in Massachusetts. This was meant to shore-up his reputation of being "tough on crime". Luckily he was able to do this without betraying his beloved violent offenders.

I often wonder how I would have reacted if the Democrats had shown some backbone and opposed the drug witch hunt of the 80s the same way they opposed the red witch hunt of the 50s. I wonder also how much more support I'd have for them if the left hadn't embraced the censorship it once stood against.

But in a way I came of age politically in 1988. Michael Dukakis was a man who was unfit to be President and George H.W. Bush was a continuation of the Reagan legacy.

I voted for Ron Paul.

Irish Pubs Part 7

Pete's Pub closed earlier this year.

Luckily I found time to bid farewell to the venerable Haymarket tavern, which had been a "dead bar serving" for quite some time. We knew for about a year that an Irish makeover was on the horizon.

Pete's opened bright and early at 8:00am each morning, welcoming a largely Italian American clientele from the nearby North and West Ends. Sammy from the Penalty Box was a regular.

Aside from the Italians there were other locals, dockworkers, the occasional punk rocker, people who worked at fancier bars in the area sneaking a drink and even a guy from the halal market next door who flouted Islamic law with a Tom Collins or two.

It was a friendly, welcoming establishment where you wouldn't feel out of place hiding from God* at 10:30 in the morning over a few boilermakers. The morning sun refracted nicely through the glassware and ancient bottles of schnapps.

But Pete's is gone now, and in it's place will be yet another Somers Irish Pub called "Durty Nellie's".

An oak bar is being shipped in all the way from Dublin and contracts have been signed with Sysco. The quaint story of how Somers' grandmother came to be known as "Durty Nellie" will no doubt find its way to the back page of the menu at Boston's latest Stepford Bar.

*Thanks to Tommy Somerville for the use of this phrase.

There are now fewer than ten dive bars remaining in Boston proper. This spring I will be leading a pub crawl devoted to appreciating them while we stil can.

The Perils of Hyperactive Government

Some day I hope to own a guitar just like Woody Guthrie's only mine will be emblazoned with the slogan "This Machine Kills Public Health Workers". Nervous nelly anxieties over public health and safety issues have in the past few years have harmed "The American Way" beyond the wildest dreams of Tailgunner Joe's communist spies or our current President's cave-dwelling boogeymen.

Personal friends of mine have been plunged into poverty by the Boston and Massachusetts smoking bans, which emptied the drinking establishments they worked at in the name of "protecting the workers from second hand smoke". The sad irony of this is that they were all smokers themselves, and beyond that adults who accepted the occupational hazards of working in a bar.

You'd think the NYC public health community would have been content with their own smoking ban but with the support of Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg they opened up a bold new front:an assault on trans fats. Restauranteurs and chefs are no longer allowed to cook with trans fats in the five boroughs of New York City.

The food police of Chicago have a radical, animal rights activist informed motivation for their city-wide ban on Foie Gras. It's just ducky as far as they are concerned.

Over in California there is less sympathy for animals as a breed ban on pitbull terriers is being considered. That's right, adults who own property and pay hefty taxes may soon have to choose between their pets and living in California.

The legislation being proposed is a knee-jerk reaction to some admittedly gruesome pit bull attacks. The problem of course isn't the dogs themselves, but the lowlifes who are drawn to the breed as a sort of inner-city status symbol. They tend to abuse the animals to 'toughen them up' and even stage dogfights in makeshift basement arenas.

This is a common problem with liberalism; a tendency to favor taking tools, such as dogs or guns, away from criminals by taking them away from the general public. I'm more interested in removing violent offenders from society and allowing honest citizens to make their own decisions about firearms or which breed of dog they wish to own.