Sometimes It's Good to Unpack the Random Contents of an Under-Capacitated Brain

Friday, April 6, 2012

Some random info and thoughts that may (or may not) go well with this brisk Good Friday…

A Positive Campaign at Last. How good it was to hear that Bishop Richard Malone, who heads the Diocese of Portland, Maine, will not campaign against a statewide referendum this November that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Pine Tree State.

Instead, His Eminence will make a special effort in the coming months to teach the members of his flock about the Roman Catholic belief in the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman, and to gently engage non-Catholics on the subject as well.

A native of Salem, Massachusetts, and a graduate of St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts, Malone served as a priest and bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston for decades before assuming the Portland post in 2004. Mindful of the same-sex referendum, but not in direct response to it, he recently wrote a pastoral letter on the topic titled, “Marriage: Yesterday…Today…Always.” This forms the basis of his new teaching effort.

In that letter, Malone reflects upon what he calls the “greatness and the beauty of marriage” as an “original gift of God’s creation, as a vocation, and as the foundational institution of family and society.”

You can disagree with the bishop and still appreciate his taking a positive approach to the tenets of his own faith, as opposed to going negative on the sincerely held beliefs of others. There are advocates for same-sex marriage in Maine who certainly feel that way.

Said David Farmer, a spokesman for the Freedom to Marry Coalition, “What they (the Portland diocese) are doing is appropriate. That’s what they should do.”

Maybe Malone is establishing a template that will be used in other dioceses when similar situations arise, whether on gay marriage or other hot-button issues?

PHD (Parrot Held Dearly). It’s always good to see Jonathan Gruber, Ph.D., of Lexington, Massachusetts, a distinguished M.I.T. professor, getting ink on the subject he knows better than anyone else: the financial and economic underpinnings of the legal requirement that everyone purchase health insurance. Professor Gruber was featured in a recent New York Times article, (“Academic Built Case for Mandate in Health Care Law,” March 28, 2012), which explored how the “individual mandate,” as it is commonly referred to, came to be the centerpiece of national health care reform legislation in 2010, and also explained why President Obama has so much riding on the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the law.

“Mr. Gruber has spent decades modeling the intricacies of the health care ecosystem, which involves making predictions about how new laws will play out based on past experience and economic theory,” the article said. “It is his research that convinced the Obama administration that health care reform could not work without requiring everyone to buy insurance.”

As Massachusetts legislators who worked with Gruber in 2006 on our state’s universal health coverage law knew, and Obama soon learned, Gruber is a very persuasive gentleman.

In his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Obama opposed the individual mandate during debates and voter forums, and so had to reverse himself when he decided to push for the enactment of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, (“Obamacare”).

While some may have viewed the NYT piece as a positive for the Democrats and Obama, my guess is the Romney team was not troubled by it and is actually cackling over the stroke of luck that had Gruber posing with a large white parrot in both photos accompanying the article. Nothing says this guy is for the birds like a four-column, color photo of a parrot perched chummily on his right shoulder.

Time to dial up an image doctor, Doctor!

To find the Gruber article, go to:

McCourt Cries All the Way to the Bank. Speaking of media portraits, is there anyone from Massachusetts whose image took a worse beating over the past couple of years than Frank McCourt as he battled with his estranged wife over the ownership of the Dodgers baseball team, of Brooklyn and Los Angeles fame?

Things got so bad that McCourt had to put the team into court-supervised bankruptcy to prevent major league bosses from taking over the team and running it in “the best interests of baseball,” as the frequently invoked, legal-ish term has it.

It turns out that the privilege of laughing last goes to McCourt, a familiar figure here before heading west to run the Dodgers -- and a political player of sorts in Boston as he tried to devise the best new use of the parking lots his family then owned on the redevelopment-ready South Boston Waterfront.

McCourt sold the Dodgers last week to a group headed by Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the retired Los Angeles Lakers basketball superstar, for the vertiginous sum of $2.15 billion, the highest price ever paid for a professional sports team. The Wall Street Journal reports that McCourt, after paying off his debts, will walk away with something like $1 billion!

That’s enough to salve anyone’s wounded pride.

Dorothy Wouldn’t Like That Kind of Talk. In a lengthy Kansas City Star article on Mitt Romney’s tenure as Massachusetts governor, (“How Mitt Romney wielded power as Massachusetts’ governor,” March 30, 2012), a number of folks from the Bay State who served with Romney were quoted.

The author of the piece, Lesley Clark, made much of how Romney apparently did not bother to learn the names of most members of the Massachusetts House and Senate. Dan Winslow, now a Republican state rep and formerly Romney’s chief legal counsel, wryly observed, “He (Romney) knew who he needed to know. Everyone else is just a munchkin.”

True enough. But you can see Romney’s brain trust wincing as they read that.

The image of the Republican frontrunner dividing the world into two halves does not help him connect with average voters:

On one side, people of power and influence, the movers and shakers whose names he memorizes to advance his own agenda; on the other side, the rest of humanity, all the little people who won’t stop yapping and who merit nothing so much as a good stepping over.

Winslow is a good man. I’ll bet he wishes he hadn’t yielded, however light-heartedly, to that flip impulse.

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