and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation


Barbara's Column
May 2002 #1

Emperor Tom throws down the gauntlet

by Barbara Anderson

The Salem Evening News
Friday, May 24, 2002

This coming weekend Republicans meet in Lowell and Libertarians in Woburn to nominate candidates for statewide office. Democrats will gather June 1 in Worcester to choose their nominees. The actual party standard-bearers, in cases where more than one is nominated, won't be known until after September's primary election.

You may find it odd that after not seeing my column for over a month -- because I almost died from a fall and corresponding head injury -- the first words you read from me are my announcement that I am running simultaneously this fall for state representative, state senator, governor and the U.S. Congress.

You may think I am overdoing things. Or, you may have the same question that my neurosurgeon had when I was being tested last week on my reassuringly improving motor skills.

Instead of marching confidently across his office, I did an imitation of Marty Feldman in "Young Frankenstein" -- remember the "walk this way" scene? -- by hunching my back, drooping my eye, and dragging my left foot.

The doctor asked Chip to tell him if I was "funny" like this before he operated on my brain. I was tempted to insist that I used to be a person of substance, but all I can do now is act scenes from Mel Brookes films.

Actually, it wasn't the brain surgery that changed me. It was reclining on my hospital bed watching every word of the House debate on taxes and various interviews with pro-tax Big Business-types. It all reminded me that the only possible theme for life in Massachusetts is the Sabatini quote: "Born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad."

Which brings me to the reason for my sudden multiple political ambitions. On May 18, Speaker Tom "You're all so lucky to have a genius like me in charge" Finneran responded to a question from the Associated Press about his critics by insisting that "if critics don't like the process, they should run for election."

Since I never like the process in the House, and sometimes not in the Senate, the governor's office, or in Washington D.C., the only way I can continue my beloved career as occasionally critical columnist and pundit apparently is to run for office myself so I deserve to have an opinion.

Of course the fields will be crowded; you too must all run if you want to exercise your First Amendment right -- if in fact you have one, having never personally written a constitution or Bill of Rights.

I'm just grateful that I have no complaints about my rescue by the Marblehead emergency response teams and care at Salem and Brigham and Women's hospitals. The doctors, nurses, and everyone involved were skilled and wonderful, so I don't have to go to medical or nursing school in order to express a criticism.

But what if my surgical team had made a terrible error and replaced my common sense with Mass. Taxpayer Foundation hysteria? ("The sky is falling! Quick, tax working people before someone thinks of removing special tax breaks from Fat-Cat Boston Big Business!").

Or, worse, what if they replaced my brain with cheerleader Gloria Larson's, she of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. Appearing on Jon Keller's Channel 56 show, Larson sought to defend that exciting example of essential, publicly funded projects -- the ugly, white-elephant Boston Convention Center that will add value to Fat-Cat Boston Big Business waterfront investments at taxpayer expense.

Guess which side of the tax hike debate the Fat-Cats are on. And do you really suppose it's because they care about services for the poor and disabled, and local aid?

Don't answer that. If you are not a Boston Fat-Cat, you have to get rich, powerful and connected before you dare have an opinion about them either.

Don't dare challenge the Genius Speaker's proclamation about your right to criticize. Though why does he get to criticize the Supreme Judicial Court when he isn't a judge?

Should he be allowed to criticize citizen activists when he's never been one? How can he attack initiative petitions like the income tax rollback and Clean Elections when he's never collected signatures or won a citizens' ballot campaign?

Well, why should he? The rules don't apply to him. He just plays the role of supreme ruler and kills what he doesn't like.

Just be grateful that we live in 21st-century Massachusetts instead of a couple hundred years ago a few thousand miles to the east, where King Tommy would have had the real power he craves; and you, the SJC, and probably the Massachusetts Senate, would be sharing quarters in the Tower of London.

As for me, I'd no longer have to worry about a head injury, having lost my head to the guillotine the moment he became Emperor Speaker and I pointed out the lack of clothing on his royal body.

My friend and occasional adversary, Jim Braude, visited me in the hospital, wanting to know if a near-death experience had mellowed me, as it did with Lee Atwater. Well, you've just read my first back-to-life column. If you think I suddenly have more tolerance for egomaniacal politicians, Fat-Cats who want to make me pay more for their benefits and air-head voters who think this is all for real, please let me know so I can find out which surgeon stole my brain. But if you have criticism of anything I've said, follow the Finneran Directive: Keep your opinion to yourself until you get your own column, or own your own newspaper.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem Evening News and the Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in other newspapers.

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