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The cause endures

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With the entry of Joe Kennedy III into the race for an open US House seat, the political chatter has returned for the umpteenth time to the question of whether the “Kennedy brand” has still has any sway.

Don’t look to the local legion of Kennedy worshippers for an answer. Take it from Scott Brown.

Brown’s complicated treatment of the Kennedy legacy became the focus over the weekend of a joust between the state’s junior US senator and the son of the Kennedy whose Senate seat he captured two years ago. In defending his support for a Senate measure that would grant religious institutions the right to deny coverage under their health plans for services they have moral objection to, Brown has been running radio ads suggesting he is merely following in Ted Kennedy’s footsteps on the issue.  “Like Ted Kennedy before me, I support a conscience exemption in health care for Catholics and other people of faith,’’ Brown says in the ad.

Patrick Kennedy sent Brown a letter asking him to stop invoking his Dad’s name, insisting that his late father, who called ensuring health coverage for all Americans the “cause of my life,”  would never have supported the measure Brown has endorsed, which could lead an employer to drop coverage for contraception or other services in their employee health plan. NECN has a statement from a long-time Kennedy staffer who also takes issue with Brown’s claim that he is just doing what Kennedy did.

Brown’s campaign responded by saying it has no intentions of pulling the ad.

Globe columnist Adrian Walker rips into Brown this morning, saying “falsely invoking a deceased political icon is sleazy.” The idea that Kennedy would have supported the amendment Brown has signed on to seems improbable. On the other hand, the source of the debate -- a 2009 letter that a dying Kennedy asked President Obama to deliver to Pope Benedict XVI -- underscores the awkwardness and ambiguity with which issues related to sex and reproductive health are often discussed (especially in correspondence to the Pope). “I believe in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health care field,” the letter said. Walker writes that Kennedy “was referring primarily to abortion; the issue of insurance coverage for contraception wasn’t on the radar at the time.” How Walker knows exactly what Kennedy was referring to is unclear. If he was referring “primarily to abortion,” but not exclusively to it, what else did Kennedy have in mind? As with so much of the language attending this debate (“pro-choice,” “pro-life,” “women’s health,” etc.) , Kennedy resorted to euphemism rather than clear wording.

Walker says the ad is part of Brown’s history of trying to “annoy Democrats” by “tweaking” Kennedy fans who can’t get over his election to what Brown said in his campaign was not the “Kennedy seat” but “the people’s seat.” In fact, what’s going is much more than just an effort to annoy Democrats.

There would be no reason for Brown to run such an ad if he didn’t believe the Kennedy legacy still has a hold on voters in the state, including those working-class Catholics who may hold the key to his race this fall, the same voters whose parents had side-by-side pictures of the Pope and JFK above the mantel.

                                                                                                                                        --MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Brockton City Councilor Robert Sullivan has announced his candidacy for the legislative seat being vacated by Rep. Geraldine Creedon.

Banker & Tradesman columnist Scott Van Voorhis argues that Beacon Hill engaged in “casino-style gerrymandering,” to the detriment of the state’s gambling business.

The Globe says the salary ($112,500) for members of the new state gambling commission may be a deterrent for some top-flight prospects in financial services and other fields.

One-time gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos could be facing domestic abuse charges.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

With the presumed perpetrator dead, the Essex County DA says he plans to close the case involving a Beverly police officer who was shot and wounded on Friday by a Hamilton police sergeant who then killed himself. The circumstances surrounding the shooting remain unclear.

A Lynn group gathers signatures in a bid to reopen the search for a new school superintendent, the Item reports.

The MetroWest Daily News suggests that local officials need to educate themselves about the open meeting law to avoid the simple mistakes that result in violations.

Advocates of urban farming in Boston are clucking over the support they have from Mayor Tom Menino after successfully egging him on to back zoning changes to allow people to keep chickens in the city.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

WikiLeaks begins publishing more than 5 million emails from a Texas-based global intelligence company called Stratfor, which provides confidential intelligence services to large companies such as Raytheon and the US government. Reuters calls the company a “shadow CIA.”

Much like Mark Twain, the reports of the demise of the Tea Party are greatly exaggerated, according to Stephen F. Hayes at the Weekly Standard. Except, of course, Twain is dead.

ELECTION 2012

A look at Belmont and Fishtown, the communities that shaped -- and represent -- Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney advisers grouse to Slate about the media’s fascination with the sight of Romney speaking to an empty Ford Field.

Rick Santorum says JFK’s call for the separation of religion and politics “makes me throw up.”

Republican governors have yet to show any full-throated support for Romney.

The Lowell Sun recaps the battle between US Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren over birth control. The paper quotes a political science professor as saying Brown’s stance seems designed to shore up support among his Tea Party base.

Gov. Deval Patrick was on TV yesterday, thanking Mitt Romney for universal health care.

Sean Bielat, who moved back to Massachusetts for another run at Barney Frank’s seat, had a sit-down with Keller@Large to discuss a variety of issues ranging from a casino in Foxborough (“That’s a local issue”) to potential opponent Joseph P. Kennedy III (“I don’t know enough about him”).

New York magazine runs with a doomsaying GOP primary double feature it has dubbed the GOPOCALYPSE. John Heilmann argues that the party’s bizarre primary reveals a party that’s tearing itself apart, while Jonathan Chait says that the party is fighting a losing race against demographic shifts. In Sunday’s Times, Maureen Dowd goes to a veteran GOP operative for her money quote on the imploding Republican Party: “‘Republicans being against sex is not good,’ the GOP strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. ‘Sex is popular.’”

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Drones are going mainstream here in the US, the AP reports (via WBUR). A Lawrence business called Camera in the Sky offers companies the chance to get shots of the companies from overhead without hiring a camera man and a helicopter, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

EDUCATION

Census data indicate more than 30 percent of Americans 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree, Governing reports.

Jeffrey Riley, the state-appointed receiver of the Lawrence public schools, is considering adding time to the school day to help some schools close the achievement gap, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

HEALTH CARE

At GoLocalWorcester.com, Paul Levy says dentists need to get on the reform train and drop their opposition to allowing dental assistants to perform low-level procedures such as crown replacement, filling cavities and pulling teeth to lower costs and provide care in underserved areas of the state.

Researchers at Mass. General Hospital say they’ve discovered a rare stem cell in women’s ovaries that might one day be able to be used to make eggs.

TRANSPORTATION

Air bags? Another mandate from the nanny government that costs everyone unnecessarily, according to the American Spectator.

The Republican looks at the economic impact of small airports in western Mass. and hammers home the argument that military airfields and other facilities like Westover are vital cogs in the regional and state economies.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Governing examines how the drop in natural gas prices is hurting producing states, helping consumers, and making it harder for green technologies to gain traction.

House Speaker John Boehner’s office has created a chart showing the rise in gas prices and has a simple explanation for each spike: It’s Obama’s fault.

With the winter snowfall so far about six feet below last year, last week’s school vacation created some dilemmas for families chasing winter. And triggered yet another story about who’s hurting from the lack of the white stuff. But take note: Universal Hub has set the French Toast Alert to blue, with a guarded prediction of snow midweek.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Framingham Police Department talks up the newest rookie on the force.

MEDIA

The nonprofit Chicago News Cooperative bites the dust when a foundation grant doesn’t come through and it fails to get 501(c)(3) status, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports. Dan Sinker, who heads up the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership, says the Cooperative failed because it treated the internet as an afterthought.

Story headlines matter. Blogger Nick O’Neill explains how Forbes stole a New York Times article and got all the traffic.

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