WASHINGTON – Amid contentious debate over a proposal to impose sales taxes on online purchases, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, took to the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to deliver his maiden speech — a tradition in which new senators typically outline their hopes for their legislative careers, as well as a vision for the country.
During the address – King’s first major speech since being sworn in as a senator in early January — he focused on the historic conflict between citizens and government over the struggle for power.
“What I think is amazing is that the arguments — the words themselves, the rhetoric — always seem to be the same,” said King, a former two-term independent governor who is now one of two party independents in the 100-member Senate.
King, who caucuses with the Democrats, won the seat in November after a campaign in which he decried the current gridlock on Capitol Hill – and vowed to play a role in fixing it.
During the speech, King quoted at length from historical figures ranging from James Madison – writing in the Federalist Papers – to Mark Twain as he highlighted how conflict between government and the rank-and-file has been a recurring theme throughout U.S. history.
He emphasized, however, that the key to overcoming the tension between rival factions is compromise.
“The great accomplishments of this government have rarely been victories for one side or the other,” King said. “They were based on hard-fought battles and grudging compromise…I hope in a small way to contribute to this.”
King explained that often a balance must be struck between the federal government and the states in order to obtain the best outcome, and cited recent events in the wake of the Boston bombings as an example of the two sides coming together in the best interests of the citizenry.
As he offered advice on what he and his Senate colleagues must do to deal with the issues facing them today, King reached back at the end of his speech for a quote from President Abraham Lincoln – delivered in an address to Congress during the Civil War.
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion,” King quoted Lincoln as saying. “As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
Thousands gathered on Thursday’s remembrance of the three killed in the Marathon bombing on Patriot’s day. President Barack Obama addressed the commonwealth at the interfaith service organized by Governor Patrick. BU News Service reporter Taylor Walker had attendees including one of the first medical responders, a owner of a Sporting good store, a MGH nurse speak on the tragedy.
A historic New England industry is in jeopardy, as local cod fisherman fight to have draconian new catch quotas rescinded. Environmentalists claim their research proves serious species depletion. However, just how consistent is the science behind the new legislation? Victoria Price reports.
BOSTON — Drivers in Massachusetts and all across the nation are feeling the pain of the pump as gas price continue to rise. What’s the reason behind the rising gas price? BUTV10’s reporter Karla Torres took the question to a expert and asked commuters’ feelings about the climbing price.
SOMERVILLE _ Worried about residents’ civil liberties, some aldermen are questioning the Somerville Police Department’s use of new video cameras which mount to light posts or police cars within minutes.
At the Feb. 14 Board of Aldermen meeting, the police chief was expected to present guidelines that the board requested for use of the cameras, and the board would then decide whether to approve them.
“I think we have to be really conscientious here about people’s First Amendment rights to protest, to express their point of view,” said Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz during the last full Board of Aldermen meeting a few weeks ago. The board during that meeting decided to ask police to write guidelines.
“I think if a member of the police department were to set up a quick-deploy camera at a protest, for example, I think that could make people shy away, feel uncomfortable,” Gewirtz said.
No citizens have raised complaints about the cameras, but they also may not be aware of their existence, according to aldermen. The use of similar cameras by the Boston Police Department stirred controversy in recent years.
The cameras first came to the aldermen’s attention at a Jan. 10 meeting when they were told about a letter from Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone asking the board to accept the cameras. The aldermen are required to accept or deny all grants and gifts.
The Somerville Police had received two of the cameras, known as quick-deploy video cameras, as a gift from the Boston Office of Emergency Management. The cameras are similar to the permanent ones in Davis Square, but can be easily mounted to buildings and light posts to monitor large outdoor city events, public gatherings or a place where a crime might take place.
Although many police forces use surveillance cameras to stop crime, these cameras raise special concerns because they could be positioned in places residents might not be expecting a camera, such as a concert or protest in a public green space, one alderman said.
During a board subcommittee meeting on public safety (Feb. 6), Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello reassured aldermen that the new cameras would not be used for spying or other intelligence purposes that heighten concerns about citizens’ civil liberties. The recordings would only be kept 14 days, as is custom with all police department security cameras, the chief said.
In 2011, because of concerns about surveillance, the ACLU of Massachusetts sued the Boston Police Department to obtain files on peaceful protesters. They won and were handed documents and video surveillance tapes.
In October 2012, after reviewing the material, the ACLU then asked Boston police to stop monitoring peaceful demonstrations. In its October report, the ACLU said the Boston Police Department has used the Boston Homeland Security’s quick-deploy cameras in the past to monitor anti-war groups’ peaceful demonstrations and to spy on lawful activity to create what they called intelligence reports to gather information. However, in an October Boston Globe article, Boston Police said they do not monitor demonstrations and events without specific information on suspected criminal activity.
Using cameras for monitoring peaceful demonstrations is problematic, says Kade Crockford, director of technology for the Liberty Project with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
“I would encourage the Somerville (aldermen) to ask the chief of police to put in writing that the cameras will not be used for any spying on political activity,” Crockford said.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that people have no objective expectation to privacy on public streets, Crockford added. But there is a difference between stomping on civil liberties and using surveillance lawfully to stop crime, she said.
Despite some concerns, Somerville aldermen said they believed that once the city had clearer policies, the cameras could be vital crime-fighting tools.
The cameras, for example, could have aided police at the Somerville Holiday Inn last month, said Alderman at Large Bruce Desmond. The mayor requested that the police take a close look at the hotel after a fight involving a dozen women broke out in December.
“There’s probably 13 situations they could be used for, but it will be all according to the policy,” said Alderman at Large John Connolly.
The cameras could provide added security at events and aid in hostage situations or in monitoring traffic during large storms, Connolly said.
Gewirtz said although the aldermen trust the police department it would be best for the aldermen to “cover all their bases” and create rules for the cameras’ usage, especially if a new chief were to take over.
“The concern I have is that once we accept the cameras, we don’t have control over what happens next,” she said.
“Live radio is like heroin,” Tom Ashbrook, the host of WBUR’s nationally syndicated radio talk show, “On Point,” told a room full of students at BU’s College of Communicationrecently. He offered an array of advice ranging from how to treat a radio guest and callers, to the importance of seizing opportunities.
Ashbrook spent much of the 90-minute talk detailing the path that he took from growing up on a farm in Illinois to hosting his own nationally syndicated daily radio show. Along the way, he made stops as a reporter for the South China Morning Post, and a reporter and editor for the Boston Globe.
An unconventional track to be sure, he told the story of how he went from relative disenchantment with the world of journalism, to launching an Internet start-up, to seizing an opportunity to host a show on WBUR reacting to the 9/11 attacks. What began as a temporary stint, has turned into more than a decade on the air, and what he calls “the most rewarding job I could imagine.”
“What I took away from his talk was that you need to be ready to grab an opportunity when it comes, comfort and experience be damned,” said Alexander Hyacinthe, a journalism graduate student. “If you dedicate yourself to working at your craft, time will smooth the rough spots,” said Hyacinthe.
Dedication was an overriding theme of Ashbrook’s talk. He detailed the amount of work and preparation that goes into producing each morning’s show, starting with a post-show meeting that he and his producers hold every day.
They begin with a frame for the next day’s show, including topics, guests and what research needs to be done. Once they decide on a topic, the producers head off to book guests and compile relevant music and audio clips. Ashbrook is sent home with a stack of reading, or as he calls it, “homework.”
“When I come in the next day, I have all my homework marked up, with important details highlighted and underlined,” said Ashbrook. “You have to study your ass off, then coming up with questions is easy.”
His description of his approach to interviewing was pretty basic. He doesn’t write any questions before hand, and he often doesn’t even know what he is going to ask next during an interview. He described his way of interviewing as “dancing.” He likes to lead the interview and feel how the interviewee is responding.
As the two are “dancing” through the segment, he uses verbal cues to figure out what to ask next. For Ashbrook, the most important aspects of an interview are curiosity and preparation. Aside from that, he claimed to be winging it.
As the talk wound down into a question and answer session, Noelle Graves, a second semester journalism graduate student, asked Ashbrook what the transition from being a print journalist to being a broadcaster was like.
What’s different, he said, is the immediacy: “The act of being in the moment. If I am going to suck, I am going to suck right now. If the show is going to be great, we are going to be great right now.”
What stood out to Graves wasn’t the direct description of what being on the air is like, but how he described a successful show as a product of “we” and a bad show as a product of “I”.
“I think that speaks volumes to his character,” said Graves. “When the show is bad, he takes ownership. When the show is great, it’s a team effort. That’s what I took most from his talk.”
“I have never actually been convinced that I can be myself while still doing what I love, but I left Tom Ashbrook’s talk knowing absolutely that I could,” said Natalie Lessman, a journalism graduate student.
“When he told us not to underestimate what we are actually good at,” said Lessman, “it was just such good advice that I had never heard anyone say.”
Ashbrook’s program, “On Point” can be heard live every weekday morning from 10am to noon on 90.9 WBUR. The program is repeated every evening from 7-9pm, and it can always be found at WBUR.org.
WASHINGTON–As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to vote on gun control legislation in the coming weeks, one of Capitol Hill’s key players on the issue – Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. – already has staked out some positions in the debate. But he is awaiting more information before he makes up his mind on several key questions.
For instance, Leahy has filed legislation to make so-called “straw purchases” illegal, and to provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to prosecute these transactions. A straw purchase involves one individual buying a gun on behalf of a second individual who otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain it due to legal restrictions.
“I hope we can pull these straw purchases back, where somebody comes in and buys 100 weapons or so and it goes to a drug cartel or it goes to a crime gang,” Leahy said in an interview Thursday.
However, the senator is holding off on passing judgment on some of the more controversial ideas that have been discussed, such as a ban on assault weapons. “…I’m trying not to pre-judge anything that might be introduced, because all of it will come to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Leahy said.
As last fall’s killings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school has moved gun control front-and-center on Congress’ agenda, Leahy predicted that some type of legislation would be enacted this year. But he acknowledged that the specific provisions to be included in such a measure remain unclear.
“Something can be passed, but it all depends on what is in the thing,” he said. “And, of course, we have to work within the context of the Second Amendment and also the Heller case that came out of the District of Columbia,” he added, referring to a 2008 Supreme Court case in which the high court struck down a D.C. ban on handguns as unconstitutional.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., recently introduced legislation that would ban assault weapons, but the Senate Judiciary Committee is still in the early stages of discussing the topic. It has scheduled a hearing on Feinstein’s bill for Feb. 27, after Congress returns from a weeklong President’s Day recess.
While Congress previously enacted an assault weapons ban in 1994 – it expired 10 years later and was not renewed – Leahy noted that there are currently a half-dozen definitions of an assault weapon currently being floated.
But he did say that the Judiciary Committee will bring the matter to a vote once such issues have been resolved, and added that he was in accord with the sentiments expressed in President Obama’s State of the Union speech last week. During the speech, the president declared that the victims of gun violence and the communities affected by it “deserve a vote” on stricter gun control measures.
When asked what he thought of Obama’s speech, Leahy said that he agreed with it.
“Either vote yes or vote no,” said Leahy. “Have the courage to vote.”
He added, “We’ll also vote on a real effort to close the so-called gun show loophole, so that anybody who buys a weapon has to have a background check, and it will be a real background check with real teeth if you lie.”
Last month, when the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing of the year on gun control, Leahy observed that he agreed with gun store owners he knows in Vermont – who, he said, don’t understand why gun show sellers are not forced to follow the same background check rules that they must comply with.
During that hearing and others that followed, Leahy said he has been trying to listen to individuals from across the spectrum on the gun control issue.
Asked in the interview Thursday what he has taken away from the hearing so far, he responded: “I think the fact that many feel very, very strongly that something should be done. We heard that when Gabby Giffords and her husband testified.”
He was referring to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who suffered a severe head wound when a gunman opened fire on her and others as she met with constituents in a Tucson supermarket in January 2011.
Leahy said similar sentiments have been expressed to him by police officers who have struggled to combat the firepower they encounter from criminal elements.
“Police officers feel more and more that they’re in situations where they’re being gravely outgunned and that in itself makes all of us less safe when our law enforcement [is] at a disadvantage,” Leahy said.