and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
March #1

Ports controversy,
Bulger book add to feeling of insecurity
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, March 2, 2006

I'll tell you up front, I am not in a good mood.

I can match my self-confidence with anyone's, but it's been one of those weeks when I keep facing the things I don't know.

For instance, I didn't know that the Olympics were a disappointment, as most commentators insist. I thought they were amazing: Athletes flying, leaping, spinning, and performing through injury and personal loss. And Bode Miller self-destructing was simply a lesson for other aspiring champions.

Someone asked me: How can diet soda have no calories, no carbohydrates, no caffeine, no fat, and still exist? I don't know.

Then someone else asked me what I think of letting the United Arab Emirates run our ports. This seemed more important than the soft-drink thing, so I spent the weekend reading, watching and listening to "experts" on both sides of the controversial issue, and I still don't know. Nothing anyone is saying makes sense, or gets me past that gut instinct shared by many Americans that this is not a good idea.

I get the global economy thing, but I also recognize when politicians and pundits are dancing the hummahumma all over the stage while singing off-key, "Yes, the UAE is 96-percent Muslim, and we seem to be in a holy war with some Muslims, but these ones are our allies, and besides they are a state-run business, not a religion, and their workers aren't Muslim, but Americans, and besides they only rent part of the ports, like you rent one apartment in a building, though in some places they actually run the whole thing, hummahumma, but don't worry, the U.S. Coast Guard is in charge of security."

That last is reassuring, since I recall the Coast Guard as the most effective entity in New Orleans last year. But I just read about policemen who sometimes don't impound the cars of unlicensed drivers because they'd have to confront the illegal immigrant problem, which the Bush administration won't address. So can we be blamed for not trusting the same "What borders?" administration on the port issue? Then throw in the hypocritical Democrats who suddenly want to profile Muslims at seaports the same ones who can't be profiled at airports and an ordinary citizen just wants to duck and seek cover.

What really has shaken my usual confidence, however, is reading Howie Carr's "The Brothers Bulger." I knew bits and pieces of what was going on all around me, but until I found it in this cohesive, 332-page format, I didn't really see the big picture of the giant outrage that was Massachusetts for 25 years.

I am not in the book, but I can see myself there, along with other activists, more naive than we thought, working on issues that were never on the level, with politicians who were rarely what they seemed. The cynicism I thought I had painfully acquired was simply not adequate for the reality of Massachusetts. If you too want to "get it," read this book.

Never had a major problem with Bill Bulger myself; he was good on education choice, and Proposition 2 wasn't attacked by him as it occasionally was by Dukakis and the House. I defended him publicly on occasion, and though we had some bitter public battles on legislative reform, I never was threatened by his brother as Howie says some opponents were.

Howie writes that "the budgetary constraints imposed by Proposition 2 gave Billy an opportunity to run the Senate with an iron hand." I'm not sure I see his point. Bulger seemed able to turn almost anything to his advantage, and certainly higher property taxes wouldn't have slowed down the patronage but it's a startling thought nevertheless. The scariest part of the book, however, is not the Bulgers but the then-corrupt Boston FBI. Reading it won't make anyone feel more secure about the federal government's ability to deal with terrorism.

But the Bulger era is behind us now. This week we are dealing with normal politics as we await Christy Mihos' decision on whether to run as a Republican or an Independent. I met with him and his charming wife, discussed the subject with Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and several Republican leaders, and thanked Matt and Aaron Margolis for their efforts, on their Web site,, to get pledges from delegates to reassure Christy that he will get his chance at the Republican convention.

Mihos will be making his decision after my deadline, but I predict that he will run as a Republican rather than split the taxpayer vote and turn Massachusetts over to all Democrats, all the time. I hope he is reading Howie's book. Though Republican administrations aren't its heroes, they didn't create the problems they didn't address, and things can always get worse.

I may not know for sure about the port issue, or see corruption without some help from my more cynical friends; I can only wonder what problems the remaining ingredients in diet soda could cause. But I do know we can't afford another Democratic governor in a state that is already sliding down the hill, in a country that is feeling generally insecure.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.