Monthly Archives: July 2010

FBI Releases File On BU Professor Howard Zinn

Published July 31, 2010

The FBI file on BU professor Howard Zinn reveals that someone within the upper ranks of the university was "highly disturbed" by Zinn's anti-police statements in 1970.

The FBI file on BU professor Howard Zinn reveals that someone within the upper ranks of the university was "highly disturbed" by Zinn's anti-police statements in 1970.

In 1970, an FBI informant in the upper ranks of Boston University tried to oust Howard Zinn, the late political science professor and rabble-rouser.

The FBI on Friday released its 423-page file on Zinn, a sort of time capsule of BU’s tumultuous political past. The news blog TPMMuckraker has done a great job combing through the file and reporting on the interesting bits.

The FBI file was released in three parts, but I combined them into one document. You can read through the file on Scribd.

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Your Boston Weekend: July 30-August 1

Published July 30, 2010

David Rawlings and Gillian Welch belt it out at last year's Newport Folk Festival. (DarwinsPlatypus/Flickr)

David Rawlings and Gillian Welch belt it out at last year's Newport Folk Festival. (DarwinsPlatypus/Flickr)

We’re making the leap into August, otherwise known as The Last Month Of Summer, but don’t pack away your beach towels and and coolers just yet. Folk music has its big moment, Woods Hole and Roxbury make big use of their big screens, and Nantucket welcomes some side-splitting entertainers. So go ahead and laugh in the face of fall — summer is still very much on.

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NPR, Fox News Vie For Helen Thomas' Seat

Published July 30, 2010

I won’t call it a battle of good versus evil. No, I’ll leave that up to pundits. But I will call it a battle of fair-and-balanced news versus entertainment news.

"You there, the fair and balanced one!" (AP)

"You there, the fair and balanced one..." (AP)

It appears NPR is up against Fox (and Bloomberg) for a front-row seat in the White House press room. You know, the seat vacated rather dishonorably by Helen Thomas, who sat there for, like, 60 years.

I won’t tell you who I’m rooting for.

Dylan Stableford, a columnist for a Hollywood news site called The Wrap, reports the White House Correspondents Association will take a vote on Sunday. The mere possibility of a seat for Fox has caused a small outcry on the Web.

One group called CREDO Action has petitioned the association to give it to NPR – and not, under any circumstances, Fox.

“FOX News is not a legitimate news organization,” CREDO political director Becky Bond wrote in a letter sent to WHCA board members. “It produces conservative propaganda under the guise of news, and has been instrumental in the organization of the Tea Party movement. If we look at recent weeks alone, FOX has been involved in race-baiting smear campaigns targeting Shirley Sherrod and the Department of Justice that were planted by right-wing operatives. This is not the work of a news organization. This is right-wing propaganda.”

She continued: “NPR has been providing public interest coverage of the presidency and the White House for almost four decades. NPR clearly deserves to sit in the front row of the White House press briefing room. FOX does not.”

Does it matter who gets the front row, though? Is it just symbolic, or does a reporter’s location in the press room afford some kind of advantage? Update: Twitter Kevin Gilnack (@kgilnack) says:

According to @AAUW, it does “…Gibbs only occasionally farms out questions as deep as the fourth row”


This Week's 5 Most Popular Stories

Published July 30, 2010

Slippery sidewalks, veterans, girls on a boat and Catholics round out the list of the week’s most popular stories on

  1. A pedestrian slips on an icy sidewalk in Montpelier, Vt., in this December 2009 file photo. (Toby Talbot/AP) Icy Sidewalks Ruling Could Be A Slippery Slope
    There could be quite an increase in slip-and-fall lawsuits in Massachusetts, come winter. The state Supreme Judicial Court has reversed a centuries-old understanding about when property owners can be held liable for someone getting hurt on ice or snow.
  2. Brown’s Mixed Attendance Record Disappoints Some Vets
    Sen. Scott Brown’s voting behavior has been scrutinized as he’s become a critical vote for both parties. But how has he done on one of the issues he cares most about — veterans? Not all vets are happy with his performance.
  3. Looking Out: Pre-Teens Set Sail In Outward Bound
    Boston Harbor is many things to many people, but to a group of pre-teen girls, sailing the harbor is a way to develop leadership, team-building skills and a strong sense of self.
  4. What Do You Call A Lapsed, Er, Former Catholic?
    What do you call a Catholic who stops going to church? The Catholic church calls them “lapsed Catholics,” a term that offends some of our readers.
  5. Veterans Groups Struggle To Attract Young Soldiers
    What comes to mind when you think of a VFW post or an American Legion hall? Perhaps an old-fashioned basement bar, smelling of cigarettes and filled with aging white men. With thousands of young men and women returning home to Massachusetts from Iraq and Afghanistan, we looked at these long-standing veterans groups and how they work — or don’t — for the newest generation of soldiers.

This list includes only WBUR (not NPR) news stories, Radio Boston shows and Hubbub posts published since Friday, July 23. WBUR’s other programs and blogs are not included because they are not (yet) part of

Kerry's Weird Story

Published July 30, 2010

Google autosuggest speaks truth.

Google autosuggest speaks truth.

Sen. John Kerry does not have a history of explaining things well.

Kerry probably did nothing wrong when he bought a yacht, tax-free, in Rhode Island, but he allowed the story to spiral out of control. The Boston Herald led with the “sails tax” story for five days.

Kerry sat down with the Globe for 45 minutes to set the record straight. But still his story makes no sense to me. Here’s the (condensed) timeline as I understand it:

  1. Kerry buys a boat and moors her in Rhode Island, avoiding taxes.
  2. The Herald breaks the story.
  3. Kerry flees reporters. “Can I get out of here?” Oops.
  4. Kerry’s office makes a non-statement: “He will absolutely pay any and all taxes that he is found to owe.”
  5. Kerry voluntarily cuts a check to the the commonwealth for about $500,000, “whether owed or not.”
  6. Kerry says he’d planned to pay taxes all along, once he took possession of the boat.

As Media Nation blogger Dan Kennedy (@dankennedy_nu) noted earlier this week: “The Herald broke the story last Friday, but give Kerry credit: it is he who has figured out how to keep it alive.”

Today on Morning Edition, Tufts poli sci professor Jeff Berry said the damage is done.

“He seems to have gone out of his way to prove that his reputation of being aloof and disconnected from ordinary citizens is actually true, and emphatically so. It’s not just the tax. … but that he bought a yacht worth $7 million at a time when Massachusetts residents are really suffering.”

Lapsed, Lazy, Recovering Catholics Respond (What You Said)

Published July 29, 2010

Statue of St. Denis, Paris (Dan Zelazo/Flickr)

Statue of St. Denis, Paris (Dan Zelazo/Flickr)

Last week, after Radio Boston host Meghna Chakrabarti offended some listeners with the phrase “lapsed Catholics,” I asked Hubbub readers to offer alternatives.

Turns out a lot of you used to be Catholic. Here is a sample of your thoughtful (and occasionally very funny) responses:

  • Jack B: “Lapsed” sounds as if I dozed off. “Fallen-away” sounds like accidentally stumbling down the steps. I prefer to say I’m alienated after noticing long ago that the two very most important matters to the institution were (and are) sex and money.
  • Gary Hills: The correct terms are either apostate, if you belong to another religion, or non-believer, or possibly lazy.
  • Joanne Archibald: For many years, I used to say I was “a recovering Catholic.” Now I usually refer to myself as “culturally Catholic.”
  • John: “Lapsed” was probably an accurate way to describe the targets of this advertising campaign. People who left the Church due to a desire to sleep late on Sunday or those with busy lives are more likely to “come home” than those of us who left due to disagreeing with the Church’s bigoted policies regarding women and gays, their disgraceful coverup of child rape, or realizing that there is not a god.
  • Jim: To progress from belief in received wisdom to rationality is hardly a “lapse”. Escape might be more like it.
  • Joe The Plummer: I prefer the term “Recovering Catholic” as in recovering alcoholic. As an alcoholic can never get rid of his alcoholism but can control its harmful effects by staying away from alcohol, a cradle Catholic can never get rid of the Catholic upbringing, he can control its harmful effects by staying away from the church!
  • Paul: You can call me, “No Longer Guilt Ridden.”
  • Steve Louis: I’d like to proffer the nomenclature “Non-Observant Catholic” for consideration. Some of my Jewish friends refer to themselves as “Non-Observant Jews”, and it seems to work for them.
  • chris: I consider myself a “fallen Catholic” who has no intention of getting up. I also say I stopped practicing Catholicism because I wasn’t getting better at it.
  • ivoted: Around my town, we call former Catholics “Unitarians” ;-)

My favorite response is from commenter JKHJ:

“Inactive” or “Not an Active Member” is how I describe my relationship to the Church, when called to do so.

To me, “Former” implies bitterness or alienation. I was treated well in the Church and I have deep respect for the Sisters of Loretto who run the best schools in the world. I believe a person can truly develop spiritually (mentally and emotionally also if “spiritually” is too ethereal a word for you) through the sacraments, in a Catholic community. This may sound a little arrogant but I feel that I have outgrown the church, therefore am not a member. No hard feelings though, and many fond memories, and much respect for my parents who have always been active participant even when they were in disagreement.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love our readers?

In Honor Of The Herald's New Editor

Published July 29, 2010

OK, the ascension of Joe Sciacca to editor in chief of the Boston Herald is not even remotely controversial. From what I can tell he’s a stand-up guy who deserves the gig. We talked with Joe yesterday on Radio Boston.

In his honor, I submit this fake Herald cover for your review:

Because the Herald does such a good job making non-controversial things controversial. (Illustration by Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

Because the Herald does such a good job making non-controversial things controversial. (Illustration by Andrew Phelps/WBUR)

Good luck, Joe.

If you want a laugh, you can browse through some the Herald’s (actual) recent covers — they’re instant classics. What’s your favorite?

Update: Twitterer David Guarino () replies: “Shoulda gone with a hat. As Joe knows, you haven’t made it until Herald puts a hat on you on page 1.” Hilarious.

The End Is Near: Red Sox And Ratings Fall

Published July 28, 2010

Empty seats at Fenway Park (Eric Kilby/Flickr)

Empty seats at Fenway Park (Eric Kilby/Flickr)

Dustin Pedroia, NESN, Jacoby Ellsbury, WEEI…

The Red Sox have suffered devastating injuries this year. And now, with the team stuck in third place in the division, can we add Sox broadcasts to the injured list?

After six straight years as the top local baseball broadcast, Sox games on NESN are ranked fifth this season. According to analysis of Nielsen Media Research data by the SportsBusiness journal, NESN’s Sox ratings fell 35.8 percent since last season.  Radio isn’t immune to the drop either: WEEI’s Sox broadcast ratings are down 16.5 percent.

Do Bostonians not care anymore? Are we — gasp — fair-weather fans?

Most of Boston media seems to think so: NECN proclaims the “death of a ratings dynasty.” WBZ asks, “Have the Boston Red Sox jumped the shark in New England?” trumpets, “Red Sox Nation appears to be tuning out…”

Could it be the Sox’s early-season ratings were hurt by long postseason runs by the Celtics and Bruins? Or maybe we were consumed by the World Cup? Or maybe it’s just that the Sox have lost marquee stars to injury?

Just as teams can’t win World Series titles in July, the rankings battle isn’t over until the playoffs start. If the Sox make a strong run toward the postseason, rest assured they’ll be the No. 1 topic in the Dunkin’ Donuts line and that WEEI’s and NESN’s advertising coffers will be overflowing.

Hey! The Patriots open training camp tomorrow! Football is back, baby!

How Mass. Voted: Delegation Rejects War Funding

Published July 28, 2010

The Massachusetts House delegation does not stand with most of Congress on funding the Afghan war.

Late Tuesday, the House comfortably passed HR 474, 308 to 114, a $59 billion package that funds President Obama’s troop build-up. All but one congressman from the all-Democratic Massachusetts delegation, Rep. Stephen Lynch, voted against the bill.

Here’s the breakdown.

We’re digging now to find out how the Massachusetts House delegation voted on war funding in years past.

Shark Map Update: Sightings Off Chatham

Published July 28, 2010

Map: Summer '10 Shark Sightings In Mass.

With as many as five more shark sightings off Chatham — including a Great White that was caught, tagged and released on Tuesday — I’ve updated Hubbub’s summer 2010 shark map.

I have a question for all you fishermen and women out there: Why does the reported length of sharks vary?

I understand that a spotter in a plane has to make an estimate. But in three cases this summer, a shark was actually caught and measured. The Gloucester crew nabbed a Great White of six to seven feet. The Rockport fisherman caught a Thresher shark of seven to eight feet. The catch in Chatham yesterday was 12 to 14 feet. That’s a margin of error of two feet!