State House Roundup: Milkbone Underwear

Remember when Sal DiMasi was going down and everyone thought the State House was bugged all over, which it may have been?

Well, if the capitol is now, or has ever been, lousy with listening devices, the folks on the other end were mightily disappointed this week. A lot of echoes and folks either reminiscing about their recent vacations, waxing for their imminent vacations, or actually on vacations.

Which are permanent for 85 former Wonderland workers, pink-slipped Thursday as the dog track ended 75 years of operations, less than a day after Wonderland president Richard Dalton professed "guarded optimism" about the track's future. Imagine what Dick's unguarded pessimism is like.

Little known fact about Massachusetts gambling and the echelons of national politics: Charlie Sarkis, the Wonderland owner and Boston restaurateur who once roused a dying waiter from his hospital bed with gruff instructions to pick up a shift, was college sweethearts with Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi. She was at Trinity College in Washington while Sarkis was at Georgetown. Her dad was mayor of Baltimore, his was, allegedly, a terrific bookie. It was the Sixties.

But even Madame Speaker, even with her signoff on $450 million that could have been a foot in the door for racino aspirants to muscle their bill through this year, did not stop the shuttering of Wonderland Thursday. House Democrats, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker, and Independent treasurer and third-place Corner Office hopeful Tim Cahill pinned the job losses on Patrick, who went promptly to his ace in the hole and said, hey, I've got a three-casino bill in the House. Just sitting there. All cute and job-creating.

This is why the choreography of the final days of formal sessions were important and why the days immediately after July 31 bore watching for the tactics utilized by the principals. When it became apparent that their Best Alternative To No Agreement was figuring out how to stick the other side with the political tab. That whole "cost of inaction" thing.

And even with all that, the optics, as it were, turned out lousy, old ladies outside Wonderland telling TV viewers they wanted to tell the governor, "Thank you for helping me lose my job." And House floor leader and former Wonderland employee Kathi-Anne Reinstein, who was just an absolute quote machine this week, went off the top rope, describing herself as "disgusted," saying, "Thank you for that, Governor Patrick. You can't say you didn't see it coming.''

Here's another little known fact, and a big reason behind why legislative Democrats are smiling in the face of the national anti-incumbent tide, although another one is the GOP's bench sadness: if you were a Massachusetts state senator over the last 16 years, you were three times more likely to be indicted than you were to lose a reelection bid.

Let that one sit for a second.

The Commonwealth, despite deep misgivings fueled by an inchoate suspicion that it's getting screwed and royally, likes and protects its incumbents, which is part of why the last governor to lose a reelection bid was Ed King (1982) and the last members of Congress bounced were Peter Torkildsen and Peter Blute (1996), Republicans swept under in the Clinton/Kerry wave.

So Baker and Cahill and Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein are battling history as well as the governor as well as the gentleman currently vacationing on the Vineyard.

The vista from Edgartown does not include a range of wind farms, but it could soon, and Patrick's support for that project was the insertion point for daggers from all three. Baker and Cahill said ratepayers shouldn't have to pay the higher electricity costs associated with the project, while Stein hit the governor for pocketing campaign contributions from utilities, energy companies and Cape Wind officials.

Differing interpretations extended also to the jobs report from July, which showed the state netted more than 13,000 jobs, its heftiest monthly gain in 20 years, good news for Patrick, but couldn't shave the unemployment rate below 9 percent, bad for Patrick. His political inoculation effort continued, ripping Baker's critiques of his fiscal and economic policies as, essentially, cheers for failure, what Patrick on Friday called "a strategy that, you know the worse off all of us are the better off it is for him politically."

"The governor can say what he wants, but the bottom line is most small businesses I talk to don't feel any recovery, and many of them are just hanging on," Baker shot back on "Tom and Todd," featuring New Hampshire native Joe Battenfeld. "And they're well aware of the fact that Massachusetts has been raising taxes for the past four years. They're well aware of the fact that the state faces huge fiscal problems this year and next year. And they're also very tuned into the fact that the governor's basically said he won't rule out raising taxes to solve the budget deficit next year."

Making sense of the panoply of data on the state's economic condition is not easy. Every time there appears to be an unalloyed helping of terrific news - 13,000 jobs! Hiring activity in the private sector! Capitalism at work! The pick-axes and torches are turning around! - along comes a dose of downbeat intelligence, such as Thursday's report that new jobless claims nationally had hit 500,000. While the state in key metrics is outperforming the country as a whole, since nationwide trends can be a tell for coming local developments, you don't want to go getting all "mission accomplished" on the economy.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Gambling, long hailed by reporters as "the new gay marriage" for its ability to affix the spotlight on itself and endlessly churn out new angles, continued its generosity during the dog days.

TCM, BACK IN PINSTRIPES: Roger Clemens, 192-111 in a Red Sox uniform and memorably tagged "Texas Con Man" by the late Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough, has been indicted for perjury after allegedly lying to Congress that he didn't take steroids when he played for the Blue Jays and Yankees. Unknown is whether he'll face charges for mailing it in his last four years in Boston, punking out on the team and blowing up like a Macy's float.

This program aired on August 20, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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