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Eleven years ago this morning I was in the Dunham Road newsroom of The Salem News watching smoke and flames spew from one of the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan.
Colleague Jimmy Carlson, the paper’s IT guru, was the only other person in the vicinity, and as we watched he observed, “I wonder if it was a terrorist attack?”
“No way,” I responded, just as the other plane came into view on our screen and plowed into the second tower.
A couple of months ago as I prepared to take my leave of the paper for the move to Arizona, I stopped in Jim’s office. “I’ll think of you every Sept. 11,” he said recalling the shared experience.
Tragically, a few weeks after arriving in the Phoenix area I learned Jim had been diagnosed with cancer. He died shortly afterwards, not living to see another 9/11 anniversary.
He’s missed by many including his family, the current newsroom staff, and this reporter who will think of Jim every year on this date.

“So here we are, in a country with more wheat, and more corn, and more money in the bank, more cotton, more everything in the world; there’s not a product that you can name that we haven’t got more of than any other country ever had on the face of the earth, and yet we’ve got people starving. We’ll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poor house in an automobile. …

Will Rogers


“These people that you are asked to aid, why they are not asking for charity, they are naturally asking for a job, but if you can’t give them a job why the next best thing you can do is see that they have food and the necessities of life. You know, there’s not a one of us has anything that these people that are without it now haven’t contributed to what we’ve got. I don’t suppose there is the most unemployed or the hungriest man in America that hasn’t contributed in some way to the wealth of every millionaire in America. It was the big boys themselves who thought that this financial drunk we were going through was going to last forever. They over-merged, and over-capitalized, and over-everything else. That’s the fix that we’re in now. …”
No, that’s not a Barack Obama stump speech, but a few lines from a speech American humorist Will Rogers delivered on behalf of Republican President Herbert Hoover on the eve of the Great Depression. His remarks are part of the script for “The Will Rogers Follies” being performed this month at the Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria.
Interestingly you could hear a pin drop as actor Jarret Mallon in the role of Rogers delivered them the other night before an audience comprised mostly of seniors who might be presumed to be firmly ensconced in the Romney camp.
With his selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as the GOP vice-presidential candidate, Romney offers Americans a stark contrast of visions: One that sees an important role for government in not only defending the nation, but helping those in need (the Democratic view); and one that advocates a minimalist role for the feds, leaving all citizens to sink or swim on their own.
It’s something everyone needs to think about before they cast their ballot in November.

Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous.
For past 30 years this reporter’s state senator was Fred Berry of Peabody, one of the most respected members of the MA legislature, currently Senate majority leader, who will be retiring after his current term ends in January.
Current state senator is Tea Party favorite Judy Burges who just made AZ Republic columnist Laurie Roberts’ list of top 10 kooks in the Arizona Statehouse.
Here’s what Roberts had to say about her in today’s paper:
“Sen. Judy Burges, of Sun City West, is often on the front lines, battling both national and global conspiracies. The four-term House member slid over to the Senate in January upon the departure of everybody’s favorite freeway fighter, Scott Bundgaard. She has led the way in the pursuit of Obama’s birth certificate and in efforts to foil the United Nations’ plot to interfere with our God-given right to pollute any darned corner of this country that we so desire. She was a big supporter of allowing guns onto college campuses, reasoning that young men and women who are old enough to serve in the military are old enough to responsibly pack heat on the way to class. The fact that actual firearms training comes with military service didn’t seem to factor into her thinking – nor did the fact that every police agency opposed the bill.”
Sadder still: Burges is running unopposed this year.

Reason for Democrats in New Hampshire and elsewhere to take heart. From today’s Eagle-Tribune:

Former New Hampshire House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt’s attempt to lie and cheat his way to a law degree was disgraceful, an insult to his constituents, colleagues and all citizens of the Granite State.
Similarly insulting and disgraceful was the behavior of House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, who was quite willing to go along with Bettencourt’s planned cover story — until it all blew up in their faces over Memorial Day weekend.
Bettencourt, the once-promising Salem Republican, has resigned from the Legislature — and rightly so.
The bigger problem now is O’Brien, whose willingness to lie to the people of New Hampshire has been exposed for all to see. O’Brien’s duplicity raises serious doubts about his fitness to remain as speaker of the New Hampshire House.
For those lucky enough to have had better things to do over the Memorial Day weekend than follow New Hampshire politics, here’s what happened:
Late Friday, Bettencourt announced that he would resign from the

D.J. Bettencourt

House and as majority leader effective June 6. Bettencourt told our reporter and others that he was leaving the House for personal and career reasons.
“While it has been an honor to serve in the Legislature representing the citizens of Salem and Windham and to serve as majority leader, it is time for me to move on to the next exciting phase of my life,” he said.
Bettencourt told reporter Doug Ireland that he graduated from the University of New Hampshire School of Law last week and Saturday will wed Shannon Shutts, spokeswoman for the House GOP office.
Bettencourt said he also recently began a job that would conflict with his duties as a lawmaker. Bettencourt was to become the executive director of the New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation, a conservative nonprofit organization whose founder and vice chairman is O’Brien.
But on Saturday, state Rep. Brandon Giuda, R-Chichester, revealed that none of this was true.
Giuda, a lawyer, said that Bettencourt had approached him this spring saying he needed an internship to complete the requirements for his degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Giuda provided the internship but Bettencourt showed up only one day.
When Giuda saw Bettencourt’s recent Facebook page celebrating his graduation, he said he contacted the law school and learned that Bettencourt had filed a report on his internship claiming to have worked for nine to 11 weeks and providing details of meetings with clients and court dates. Giuda says the report was a complete fabrication.
Giuda said he met with O’Brien and Bettencourt Friday and the three agreed that Bettencourt would resign citing personal problems. Giuda went public because he felt Bettencourt did not live up to his side of the bargain.
Bettencourt admitted that he has not yet completed his law degree and that the internship report was a fabrication. He then resigned effective immediately. It is doubtful now that the University of New Hampshire will ever award Bettencourt a degree or that he will ever be admitted to the bar.
The foundation has also severed its ties with Bettencourt.
O’Brien likes to deflect any criticism of his leadership by pointing to his budget cutting and regulation trimming efforts. But these achievements are not worth their price — the culture of deception that O’Brien has created and fosters.
The return of a Republican majority in the Legislature was greeted with much hope by Granite State conservatives. It is a pity to have seen that promise frittered away by such inept and bumbling leadership.

Efforts by Democratic incumbent John Tierney to link him with GOP effort to limit women’s access to birth control drew a quick rebuke from Republican challenger Richard Tisei today.
Here’s the text of Tisei’s comments regarding an item that appeared in my Friday political column (read column at http://preview.tinyurl.com/7ubxzze):

Congressional candidate Richard Tisei today challenged his opponent, John Tierney, to lead a civil and truthful campaign in the coming months.  Tierney’s official spokesperson, Kathryn Prael, began the misrepresentations and poisonous rhetoric in a statement yesterday to the Salem News.
‘The voters in the middle have been unrepresented by both parties for far too long.  The voters are sick to death of the name calling and poisonous rhetoric,’ said Tisei.  ‘They want an end to the name calling and invective from the political class.  John Tierney ought to use his official office in better ways than to have his taxpayer-funded spokesperson calling me names and misrepresenting my record and his own.’
On Thursday, the Salem News quoted Tierney’s official spokesperson,  Kathryn Prael, as saying that Tisei was a “foot soldier of the far right wing of the Republican Party” who favored an “extremist” agenda to restrict access to contraceptives. 
‘Long before John Tierney ever ran for Congress, I was standing up for women’s rights and access to health care in the legislature and I’ve got the record to prove it.  I’ve led the charge on the rights of gay men and women and take a back seat to no one in standing for equal rights for every American,’ said Tisei.  ‘I also question the propriety of John Tierney paying an official staff person to be directly engaged in the kind of reprehensible talk his spokesperson is now using.  If she’s talking like that and remains on the official payroll, it’s well beneath the role of a Congressman’s official staff.’
‘As a matter of fact, in 1997, John Tierney was a co-sponsor of H.R. 820 (Health Insurance Bill of Rights Act of 1997),’ noted Tisei.  ‘That bill did include an exemption for businesses and religious entities based on moral or religious convictions.  John Tierney didn’t just support that bill:  he sponsored it.1
As recently as 2002, Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift signed into law S.B. 2139, which mandated that employers offering insurance ‘must’ include contraceptive services.  Richard Tisei was among the supporters of the senate measure, which became law. 
‘John Tierney may want to check out his own record – and mine – before he starts throwing stones in glass houses and using his spokesperson to distort the record and call names,’ said Tisei.  “The voters deserve a real discussion of the issues and of our records.  Distortion and smears are things that I’d hope John Tierney would oppose.  Regrettably, it’s becoming obvious that he’ll use any means to try to save his job.’

And here’s the statement released this morning from Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman John Walsh:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Richard Tisei’s sister and his family today. While we hope she gets the help she needs, her personal struggles do not impact the choice facing voters in the sixth congressional district. It is Tisei’s plan to go to Washington to reinforce Republican Speaker John Boehner and the Republican agenda of raising taxes on the middle class, slashing Social Security and cutting funding for student loans that should worry North Shore voters, not his sister’s troubles. I hope all candidates can get back to discussing the issues that matter most to the people of the sixth district.”

Republican congressional candidate Richard Tisei’s campaign committee issued the following statement shortly before 9 Tuesday night:

(Lynnfield, MA) – Responding to reports carried by news media this evening that his sister, Donna McHale, age 48 of North Reading, had been arrested for possession of cocaine, Republican Congressional candidate Richard Tisei issued the following statement:
 “Until today, I had no idea that my sister had been arrested for cocaine possession last August.  It was very upsetting news to both my mother and me, to put it mildly.  I’m not familiar with the circumstances, but spoke with Donna and urged her to be honest and forthcoming and to resolve this situation.  If she needs help, I want her to get it.  I haven’t lived with my sister since 1981, but want the best for her and for her family.”
 Campaign Manager Paul Moore commented that “like anyone, Richard loves and supports his mother and sisters.  He was devastated to hear this sad news today from a reporter,” said Moore, a former federal prosecutor.  “Richard last lived with his sister 30 years ago and he has strongly urged her to honestly and forthrightly deal with this matter and he’s done it as a loving brother.  I think that’s pretty admirable.”

Fred Berry’s decision to retire at the end of his current term represents a major setback for the North Shore. The Peabody Democrat is a close confidante of Senate President Therese Murray which gives him substantial clout on Beacon Hill.
But no doubt there was speculation about a possible successor even before Berry made his decision public at a charity event at the Peabody Marriott Thursday night.
Whenever a state senator step down, those state representatives within the district are always on the list of potential candidates for the higher office. Berry’s 2nd Essex encompasses the House districts of John Keenan, D-Salem; Jerry Parisella, D-Beverly, Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, and Joyce Spiliotis, D-Peabody.
It’s unlikely the latter could get elected outside her current Peabody district, and Parisalla is in the first year of his first term, much of which was spent serving his country in Iraq.
But both Keenan and Speliotis are veteran legislators who chair influential committees. Speliotis also has the advantage of representing two communities within the 2nd Essex — Danvers and part of Peabody. (He also represents Topsfield, but that’s been redistricted out of the 2nd Essex as of the 2012 election.)
It’s hard to think of a Republican who might contend, other than Beverly’s Kerry Healey who has been out of the picture for a number of years now.
But other Democrats who might take a look are Beverly City Council President Mike Cahill, a former state representative who narrowly lost in the race for mayor earlier this month, and Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti who’s been looking for something to do after he steps down in January.

Though somewhat taken aback by the breaking news that Florida legislators are thinking of moving the Sunshine State primary to Jan. 31, and acknowledging Obama has, at least statistically, a 50-50 chance of being reelected, Mitt Romney sounded plenty confident as he met with this reporter and colleagues from the Eagle-Tribune in Derry, N.H. this morning.

Romney greets VFW members at Aug. 30 convention in San Antonio


“When’s New Hampshire going to vote, Christmas?” Romney wondered when told about the latest developments in Florida.
The Granite State, where polls show him with a comfortable lead now, is extremely important to Romney, though he claims to have good support in other regions of the country as well.
Indeed, with tea party favorites like Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann starting to fade, Romney’s chances of capturing the GOP nomination are looking better every day. Which may be why he focused most of his attention during the one-hour interview on President Obama.
“He’s been a disappointment,” both in terms of economic policy and foreign affairs, Romney said.
Regarding the latter, the former Massachusetts governor said Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy has been a disaster, making Israel more vulnerable than ever as the Arab Spring “is looking more like the Arab wildfire.”
But Romney’s convinced the 2012 election will be decided by how voters answers that single question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” If that’s true and things don’t turn around fast, Obama may indeed find himself out of a job.

Press wasn’t invited when Harvard prof Elizabeth Warren — the instant establishment favorite — visited Ipswich recently for event at Bill Wasserman’s home. But this reporter was among those present at Hawthorne Hotel luncheon last Thursday for Newton Mayor Setti Warren.
Both Warrens are vying for Democratic nod to take on Sen. Scott Brown in 2012. And Setti Warren, a former John Kerry aide, obviously has no problem speaking on the record.
Speaking hours before prez’ jobs speech, Warren said he’s “110%” behind Obama. But rest of largely Democratic group not so sure. (Former congressman Mike Harrington termed Obama’s caving to GOP on extension of Bush tax cuts “sordid.”
Event hosted by well-known Salem atty. Bill Tinti.

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