Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gorka, right-wing extremist, to leave his White House post, reports say

CNN is reporting that Sebastian Gorka, Donald Trump's controversial national security deputy, will be leaving the White House soon, perhaps for a role in another federal agency. 

Known for his Islamophobia, Gorka won the disdain of national security experts for his extreme views and his lack of qualifications. Steven Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government told Business Insider, "He has never published any scholarship of significance and his views on Islam and US national security are extreme even by Washington standards. His only real 'qualification' was his prior association with Breitbart News, which would be a demerit in any other administration."

Gorka, who was born in Britain to Hungarian parents, became a U.S. citizen five years ago. He was outed earlier this year in an article in The Forward that tied him to the Hungarian far-right group Vitezi Rend, known for its Nazi affiliation during the Second World War. 

According to sources inside the White House, Gorka's presence generated too much controversy with few respecting his views.

Gorka is a reprehensible character and he will not be missed. His imminent departure is a positive step for the Trump administration and for the United States. He should not be relocated within the government. He should be expelled entirely. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday Grab Bag: Turning blue into green; Economy sours on Trump, but supporters do not

It's Friday, so it's Grab Bag time.

I live in Cambridge, MA, home to some of the bluest voters in the American electorate. We have a Peace Commission, we ride bicycles, we don't like Trump.

Over the past weeks, looking out the window, I've seen all of this blue turn to green. That's green as in environmental, not green as in cash. Here's what I'm talking about.

For starters, I've gotten a 2017 Chevy Volt. That means that I traded my trusted but slightly rusted old Subaru wagon for a 2017 car that drives on electrons. The Volt gets 53 miles on pure electricity and then can go a few hundred more miles on gasoline. 

It plugs in to a wall socket and charges overnight. 

The car handles very well. It's heavy but the weight is down low which gives it stability in the corners. One estimate I heard is that the total carbon cost for an electric vehicle -- factoring in all the carbon it takes to make the car as well as propel the car -- is about half that of a gas-powered car over the lifetime of the vehicle. In addition, because Massachusetts wants to promote a lower carbon future, I also will receive a $2,500 rebate from the state. I'm driving green and loving it.

Then yesterday, when I look across the street, I see that my neighbor has workers crawling all over his roof, installing solar panels.

So in the last two weeks I've seen a green car drive up in my driveway and I've watched my neighbor install solar panels to supply green electricity to their home. 

This little corner of Cambridge is turning blue into green. 

I should note that my other neighbor installed solar panels five years ago, so we're really trend followers, not trend setters.


As Donald Trump arrives at 100 days in office, the BBC reports today that the U.S. economy slowed sharply in the first quarter of 2017. While these numbers undermine Trump's claim on the campaign trail that he alone can fix what ails us, the BBC also reports that Trump voters in Pennsylvania are not disturbed by it. In their eyes, Trump is following through on his campaign promises, which they like to see in a politician, and economic activity in their part of the country has increased not decreased, so they are happy.

Monday, April 24, 2017

WaPo lists all of Trump's nominees who didn't make it to 100 days

My last post noted that Trump has an uncanny ability to destroy those people who orbit around him.

Since then, The Washington Post has come up with a very good list of all of those appointees who never made it to the 100 day mark in the Trump administration.

It's a long list and it can be read HERE.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Grab Bag: Republicans drowned in Donald Trump's wake; Bob Marshall remembered

It's Friday, so it's Grab Bag time.

Donald Trump has an uncanny ability to destroy his friends. It's one of his most notable traits. Imagine he is the captain of a power boat. He invites his friends on to his craft for a ride on a sunny Saturday. They all happily agree.

Once out on the open water, Trump decides in true tyrannical fashion to throw them overboard one by one. They protest but are powerless to stop him.

While each of them knows how to swim, they cannot survive the wake of his speeding boat, and they drown in the waves, lungs filled with water, courtesy of their leader. Here is a partial list.

  • Billy Bush
  • Steve Bannon
  • Bill O'Reilly
  • Devin Nunes
  • Chris Christie
  • Andrew Napolitano
  • Mike Flynn
  • Monica Crowley
  • Jason Chaffetz

Yesterday, in a somber but warm ceremony in historic Christ Church, Bob Marshall was remembered as the Mayor of Harvard Square. Everyone from the homeless to Harvard professors came out to tell stories about the guy who held court and helped people for generations in the Square. Sent off with a rifle salute on Cambridge Common and some pizza in front of the Coop after the service, the opinion was unanimous. Bob Marshall will be missed.

Denise Jillson of the Harvard Square Business Association deserves a great deal of credit for pulling yesterday's memorial service together. Thank you Denise.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cambridge's sanctuary city status

Last night at the Central Square Library on Pearl Street, the Cambridge Police Department discussed Cambridge's sanctuary city status at a meeting organized by Cambridge peace commissioner Brian Corr. 

Joined by Nancy Slachter, deputy superintendent Christine Elow and superintendent Joe Wilson of Cambridge police, Corr noted that Cambridge became a sanctuary city in 1985, largely in response to the influx of migrants fleeing the conflict in El Salvador. 

Cambridge Police deputy superintendent Christine Elow speaks about sanctuary cities

Defining sanctuary status as the refusal of local officials including the police department, to the extent legally possible, to aid the federal government in the administration of border control which is a federal responsibility, Corr remarked that Cambridge's status was controversial even at its onset.

In the intervening three decades, the city nevertheless has expanded the definition of those protected under sanctuary status first by including more countries of origin, and then more generically people seeking refuge.  

Deputy Elow underscored the main mission of the police department is to keep people safe. The recent efforts by the Trump administration to round up undocumented persons undermines the most valuable tool any department has: good two-way communication between the community and officers. "We need people to trust the police department," Elow said, adding "we can't arrest our way out of situations." She noted that this is not just about immigration. Over the past decade, Cambridge police have made great efforts to rethink old paradigms, which applies not just to refugees seeking safe haven, but also to Cambridge's youth and people grappling with substance abuse or homelessness. This holistic approach improves the chances that the police will succeed in reducing crime and keeping people from getting trapped in the criminal justice system.

For more information, contact Brian Corr at the Cambridge Peace Commission.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The 121st Boston Marathon

Monday was the 121st running of the Boston Marathon.

The stories from the storied day are too many to list fully. Here nevertheless are some of the big ones.

Big One #1 is the resurgence of American men's running, with six of the top 10 finishers wearing the red, white and blue, and Oregonian Galen Rupp coming in second overall.

Bigger One #2 is that Swiss wheelchair racers Marcel Hug and Manuela Schar both set new marathon records for men and women.

Even Bigger One #3 is Katherine Switzer's Marathon Monday in which she reran the 26.2 miles 50 years after her groundbreaking 1967 effort when she became the first female to officially enter and complete the race. Her run produced this amazing photo in which race official Jock Semple attempted to grab her and pull her off the course. Semple was body-blocked by her boyfriend and Switzer continued on to the finish line.

My biggest story, however, is just one of the many small moments when 30 plus thousand people decide to run too long and too far. It includes the guy I call Marathon Flag Man. I snapped this photo of him at Mile 21 near Boston College.

It turns out, he is Jose Luis Sanchez, a retired Marine staff sergeant who lost part of his leg in 2011 in Afghanistan. He decided to run with the American flag because in his words, "I wanted to fly the flag again in their honor, and for everyone's sacrifices."

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Restaurant review: Chelsea Station

Chelsea Station is a good restaurant with not very good food ... yet.

The atmosphere is immediately pleasant and professional wait staff are attentive. The interior is spacious without feeling cavernous. The decor has a touch of industrial chic with exposed brick and large windows hinting at its location in working-class Chelsea, Massachusetts. The menu aspires beyond pub food or its slightly more upscale cousin, bistro food. You won't find the simple roast chicken or seared salmon at Chelsea Station. Located across the Charles river, even the trip there adds adventure to the dining experience. This restaurant is perfectly placed to be a superstar in the Boston food scene.

Until you get to the food. While the menu reaches, the preparation doesn't deliver. The potato, prosciutto and lobster dish that kicked off the meal is a case in point. What might have been an interesting combination of textures and flavors ended up as something closer to a potato salad with touches of lobster, or a lobster salad with too much potato and mayonnaise. Again, the restaurant is trying for bigger things but not achieving.

Following that, the crab ravioli suffered a similar judgment, a good idea let down by poor execution. The portion size was too big, the pasta too thick and tough, and the crab too dry. Another dish on the table, scallops with pork belly, a combination that might really tantalize by good combinations, failed to achieve, with the pork belly looking more like chunks of pork chop, too big and again too dry.

The drinks from the bar were very good though.

The restaurant has so many good things going for it, its staff, its location, its decor and layout, its overall vibe.

Still, it needs some tweaking, starting with the chef. That's a tough challenge given that a good restaurant revolves around its kitchen.

So here's the recommendation: go to Chelsea Station. Enjoy the drive there and the adventure of getting off the beaten track. Enjoy the pleasant staff and good service. And tell the restaurant honestly and openly what worked and what didn't on the plate, so that they can improve and become the great restaurant they are poised to be.

Chelsea Station

105 Everett Avenue, Chelsea

Friday, April 14, 2017

Cambridge Doors

Here are some doors in Cambridge. Not profound, but interesting nonetheless ...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J. Geils and Bob Marshall

I never thought the J. Geils Band produced amazing music. Their biggest hits defined early '80s pop, sweet (or do I mean saccharine) but not deep. They were noise with very little tune, crafted for radio or the newly-invented MTV.

That criticism feels ungenerous given that John Geils was found dead yesterday in his home in Groton, Mass. Foul play is not suspected.

It turns out, Geils was also a car guy, and that hobby brought him to the auto show on Boston Common, the Boston Cup, in 2015. There I had the chance to meet him briefly and see his car, a very rare one indeed.

Geils owned a 1967 Fiat Dino Spider. That alone might give it street cred, but what made it so special was its badging. Look at the front of the car and note that it has a Fiat badge on the hood and a Ferrari badge on the grille. I believe the story goes that Ferrari actually designed and built the car, but decided they couldn't sell it as a Ferrari so got Fiat to sell it instead. Still, Ferrari didn't want to give up its pride of authorship and insisted that the prancing horse remain on the car, so instead of just one badge, it got two.

John Geils was 71.

Bob Marshall, a Man About Harvard Square, died recently. He was ever present in the Square, always perched on the brick tree well in the front of the Harvard Coop. He spoke often of his time on the Cambridge Auxiliary Police, something he obviously cared about deeply. He loved taking photographs too, and indeed took some photos of me when I was a candidate for City Council. Bob Marshall was one of those people who made the Square the Square and his departure makes Cambridge slightly less weird, which makes Cambridge slightly less good. He will be missed.

A memorial service will be held at 4pm on Thursday, April 20 at Christ Church, Zero Garden Street, Cambridge.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Follow the money

For Republicans who swear by the market as the best measure of a free society, these must be strange times.

Earlier today, Tesla surpassed General Motors as America's most valuable auto manufacturer. Although Tesla has yet to turn a profit, investors are nevertheless drawn to the California electric car company because they see it as the bellwether of the 21st century automobile and perhaps more broadly of consumer-based power as a whole.

That is the market at work in 2017.

Here is Republican ideology at work in 2017 ...

Donald Trump ran and won on the pledge to bring back coal and it's attendant jobs. He pledged to reduce fuel-efficiency standards on Detroit's big automakers, and he has restarted a pipeline to deliver Canadian fuel into the U.S.

The market says Tesla. Donald Trump says coal.

On this one, who are you going to trust? The market or the man in the orange wig?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

America, America

April 1st ain't no joke these days what with the Russians breathing down our collective neck and criminals lurking in the back hallways of the White House.

It's also raining like hell here in Massachusetts, so I thought a little church might cheer us up ....