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The Download: Grave dancing

Posted in: Current Affairs   Massachusetts Legislature   Elections   Crime and safety
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“We don’t need to spike the football,” President Obama said in his decision to not release photographs of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. “That’s not who we are.”

But who we are seems to be a matter of interpretation and the answer is certainly not monolithic. In the aftermath of what can best be described as a cathartic moment in the war on terrorism, there’s an increasingly tense debate over how much is too much in rejoicing in the death of one man, even if that man is one of the most heinous mass murderers in history.

On Sunday night, when Obama announced the culmination of the 10-year mission to hunt down bin Laden, there were a number of spontaneous celebrations around the country, including the massing of college students in Kenmore Square toasting the killing as if it was yet another World Series win. Even the normally right-leaning Jon Keller says the dancing on the grave is over the top.

Less than 12 hours after the president announced the success of SEAL Team 6, a quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. about taking no solace in the death of even one evil man made its way onto a number of Facebook user’ status. That was followed by a Mark Twain quote by others about never wishing a man dead but he had “read a few obituaries with great pleasure.” The problem is, neither man said what was attributed to him.

Bin Laden’s death is even putting a strain on friendships, with one woman telling the Associated Press when she posted on Facebook about her sadness that her fellow Americans were jubilantly celebrating bin Laden’s death, one friend was angry about being judged while another “defriended” her.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall had to issue an apology after he blogged and tweeted, “What kind of person celebrates death?” The Steelers, who are owned by the Rooney family whose patriarch is the ambassador to Ireland appointed by Obama, sent out its own statement repudiating Mendenhall and praising the mission and American troops.

The controversy over the pictures appears to be the same argument. Despite a number of polls showing the overwhelming majority of people here and abroad believe bin Laden is dead, there’s a growing clamor for the photos to be released for any number of reasons, either to prove the US isn’t lying or as validation to families who lost loved ones on 9-11 or in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Herald editorial urges the release of the bin Laden death and burial photos, arguing that the world needs to see “bin Laden on a plank, ready to be turned into fish food.” Herald columnist Michael Graham says if we can’t drag the body through the streets, we should at least see the photos from the mission our tax dollars paid for. Even the Globe, after acknowledging all the arguments against releasing them such as the gruesomeness, the threat to American safety, and the voyeurism inherent in such an act, says they should be released anyway in the name of openness.

When the Globe and Herald take the same side on an issue as contentious as this, it is a legitimate question to ask: Just who are we?

                                                                                                                                                       --JACK SULLIVAN  




BEACON HILL

The Globe pulls back the curtain on the strained relations that have developed between Gov. Deval Patrick and Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland as Ireland, who only months ago was elevated to the chief justice post by Patrick, has repeatedly sided with legislative leaders in their tussle with the governor over control of the scandal-plagued Probation Department.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo is co-sponsoring a fundraiser for Thomas Petrolati. DeLeo ousted the embattled legislator from his inner circle in January.

The Salem News, in an editorial, calls for an end to item pricing, which the paper describes as a perfect example of the “nanny mentality” afflicting the Commonwealth.

Joan Vennochi isn’t so sure defense plans to call liberal activists like Judy Meredith to explain the honorable work lobbyists do will necessarily be helpful to former House speaker Sal DiMasi’s defense.   

The Cape Cod Times says it’s time to abolish the Governor’s Council after councilor Charles Cipollini’s embarrassing remarks at deliberations on elevating Barbara Lenk to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Attorney General Martha Coakley talks about the law enforcement costs of gambling, likely redistricting challenges, and human trafficking in a speech to the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. The Lynn Item reports she also delivered a funny line: “The voters twice said in 2010 they wanted me to be AG.”

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Plymouth businesses have gussied up the area and added several new attractions such as pedicabs for waterfront and downtown rides and Wampanoag-led tours for the Native American view of history to attract more tourists.

Former Lawrence School Committee member Priscilla Baez admits to participating in a staged automobile accident in 2002, according to a story in the Eagle-Tribune.

There’s a tug-of-war going on in Taunton over the Cohannet School with city officials wanting to use the former elementary school, which now serves as the temporary home for the Taunton District Court, for a new police station or city hall while the old building is renovated and the School  Committee is eyeing it for an alternative high school and a satellite Bristol Community College program.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Scott Brown says he got duped by fake photos purported to show a gunned down Osama bin Laden. He hasn’t explained, however, why he suggested yesterday that he had seen them as part of an official briefing when that briefing included no photo presentation.  He wasn’t the only senator to fall for the scam.

The White House and Republican leaders are close to a deficit deal that would defer tough decisions on health care and taxes until after the 2012 election.

The Bay State Banner examines African Amercians’ reactions to the birther controversy. Via Associated Press.

Harvard economist Martin Feldstein says Congress should raise revenues by limiting tax exemptions, not by raising tax rates.

Harry Reid pulls a Bob DeLeo.

ELECTION 2012

A poll shows Mitt Romney has a big lead among likely New Hampshire Republican presidential primary voters, WBUR reports. The Atlantic’s Joshua Green examines the strategy behind Romney’s do-nothing campaign.

A Newton Tab reporter tries to connect the dots to determine if Mayor Setti Warren’s decision to rent  an American Legion hall next Tuesday means that he plans to make a formal announcement of his run for the US Senate. It’s the same place where he announced his run for mayor in 2008. Meanwhile, the paper worries that Warren’s opposition to a municipal health care bill designed to cut costs for cities and towns is somehow connected to his need to seek union support to for a possible Senate campaign.

Republicans hold their first presidential debate tonight, and many of the party’s big-name would-be hopefuls won’t be in attendance. That’s partly because the entry requirement for getting into the debate would open up campaigns to FEC scrutiny. The Washington Post says the event is more like a “distress call” rather than a “starting gun” to kick off the primary season. The Herald talks to New Hampshire GOP operatives who are grumbling about the presidential field’s makeup.

Karl Rove does his Rove-y thing with the Electoral College map, and declares a sunny outlook for his team.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Varian Semiconductor, Gloucester’s biggest business with nearly 2,000 employees, is bought by a Silicon Valley company for $5 billion, the Gloucester Times reports.

EMC Corp. of Hopkinton is planning to hire as many as 5,000 new workers worldwide, the Worcester Telegram reports.

Dunkin’ Donuts, in documents it filed to sell stock to the public, says it has one store for every 9,700 people in its core markets of New England and New York, WBUR reports. NECN reports that Dunkin’ is seeking to raise $400 million.

EDUCATION

A National Assessment of Educational Progress survey finds that one third of high school seniors don’t know much about how the US government works.

The Sandwich school superintendent has been barred from school buildings in the wake of clashes with a school administrative staff member and the school committee.

PUBLIC PENSIONS

Ed Glaeser writes on the Globe op-ed page that a new study shows public pension funds tend to be disproportionately invested in local firms, with a hit to the funds’ return as a result. The local investment bias is particularly strong for Bay State public pensions accounts.

TRANSPORTATION

Critics of the proposed $1.4 billion South Coast rail project turned out in force at an Army Corps of Engineers hearing in Mansfield last night calling the project a “$2 billion boondoggle” and saying there are better alternatives for the money such as improved bus services and spurring business growth in the region.

The Globe details the T’s 5 percent bump in ridership along with the various theories offered to explain it.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The mother of Phoebe Prince offers a heart-wrenching impact statement in court as her late daughter’s tormentors receive probation sentences. Jim Braude discusses the bullying plea deals in the Prince case with attorney Ed Ryan.

A probation officer at Lowell Superior Court is charged with pocketing thousands of dollars worth of fees paid by probationers, the Lowell Sun reports.

Springfield police plan to step up enforcement of traffic laws in hopes of curbing outbreaks of violence in high crime neighborhoods.


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