Monday, March 30, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Kennedy Cult

"A monument to Kennedy and the power of the Senate" by Joshua Miller, Globe Staff  March 28, 2015

At a time when Congress is divided and disdained, President Obama and a host of other politicians are set to gather Monday to formally dedicate the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

The $78 million interactive museum is devoted to civic education and selling visitors on Kennedy’s belief in the positive power of public service and the idea that the legislative body he loved can actually get things done.

I think that was once true, but that was long, long ago now.

The kickoff inaugurates a new monument to a member of Massachusetts’ most famous political family, placed on Columbia Point in Dorchester, next to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Fine, although I must admit I'm getting tired of monumental myths and the cult and culture of personality and celebrity.

And it will create another link between Obama and Kennedy, a relationship etched in history — from Kennedy’s key 2008 presidential endorsement of Obama that helped vault him to the White House, to Obama’s 2009 eulogy for Kennedy, in which the president called the longtime Massachusetts senator “the soul of the Democratic Party.”

Well, $omeone purcha$ed that $oul the$e last six+ years if not long before (go back to the 1980s, folks. That's when corporate power began to exert itself).

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Governor Charlie Baker, the state’s US senators, and other top officials are scheduled to speak at Monday’s event at the institute, a shimmering, high-tech testament to the Senate, as well as Kennedy’s legacy. 

I'm sure you will get a NDU link, readers (yawn).

Then, on Tuesday morning, the institute, which is anchored by a life-size representation of the Senate chamber, will open to the public.

Jean F. MacCormack, president of the institute and a former chancellor of UMass Dartmouth, said the main goal is to increase civic education and participation, at a time when many are disengaged from politics and don’t like what they see in Washington.

Well, you can't mi$$ jwho $eems to control that town!! $orry!

A Gallup poll this month found only 18 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job, while 75 percent disapprove. Many analysts worry that the legislative branch has become more and more polarized and less and less productive.

Well, spending is all set for this year, and it looks like cuts in Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare, with bumped up defense spending for next year (the Democratic plan has no chance of being adopted but does draw a contrast!).

Institute officials hope to give visitors, many of whom will be students, more than just a textbook diagram of what the Senate is and how it works; instead, they want to give them a feel for how “the human process” plays into a bill becoming a law. 

The kids in New Hampshire already received a lesson in that.

As visitors enter the institute, they will be given a Google tablet that serves as a guide and interactive companion as they make their way through exhibits and learn about the issue being “debated” that day —immigration reform, for example.

The experience begins with a short introductory video that gives a précis of the institute’s mission, the sweep of Kennedy’s career, and the Senate’s creation. It includes snippets of Kennedy speeches as well as an upbeat message from the narrator.

“And when you leave here, remember that the founding principle of our government is that the people are the source of its power,” she intones. “To thrive, our country needs the participation of all of its citizens.”

Then why won't they listen to us?

Visitors then snap a selfie on their tablet, enter their initials, choose their state and party affiliation, and become “senators-in-training.” After learning more about the issue of the day, they can vote on it in the facsimile Senate chamber.

Like it's a game, and I gue$$ it is.

A separate Senate Immersion Module, mostly for students, works differently. Each student is assigned a state, party, information about what their constituents believe on the issue of the day, or a historic debate. And, after hearing testimony and crafting amendments, they try to wrangle passage of a bill, negotiating with their fellow “senators.”

MacCormack said the museum’s exhibits can teach visitors that senators can disagree on many issues, but still stay cordial and find enough common ground to move bills into laws.

“That’s part of the message,” said former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, who serves on the board of the institute. “There was a time in the House and the Senate when liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republican, Southerners and Northerners were able to work together and get things done.”

Still are for certain intere$ts.

Monday’s kickoff might also represent another type of comity.

The Globe reported in 2012 that there was deep discord over the creation of the institute between Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, and his sons, Edward M. Kennedy Jr. and Patrick J. Kennedy. But with the formal dedication, that discord could well be in the past: All three are scheduled to give remarks.

Oh, Kennedy family squabbles, snore.

The nonprofit institute’s building, which cost about $78 million, is owned by the institute and sits on UMass land, for which it has a 99-year lease.

I'm just wondering who paid for it.

UMass Building Authority bonds helped pay for the building, MacCormack said, but the institute will pay all of the debt service.

Okay, so bankers have benefited from the monument to Ted, and he never really stood in their way anyway.

The institute has raised more than $80 million in private donations, she said, but acknowledged that taxpayer money is a key funding source as well.


Can't pay us back?

“We got $38 million in federal funding and that came from the Department of Education, of course in support of civic education,” she said. “It’s an endowment, so we can spend the earnings, but not the principal.”

Yeah, I remember; John Kerry helped get the $$$ when he was senator. 

The institute also got $5 million in Massachusetts state funding to UMass for education infrastructure and programming, officials said.

Must be part of the 41.8 billion hole of which Baker is having to dig us out.

While the ticket price is $16 for adults ($14 for state residents, with other discounts including for seniors and veterans), entry is free for all Massachusetts children under 18.

“Why public money? Because you’re providing back to the taxpayers an opportunity to participate for free,” MacCormack said. “The children of the taxpayers.”

(Blog editor snorts at the fal$ity of free while throwing children at me again. So how many children were murdered in the wars today?)

The institute, which will host public debates, lectures, and private functions, has the equivalent of about 30 full-time staff members.

Another part of the museum is an almost exact replica of Kennedy’s Senate office in Washington.

Filled with decades of memorabilia, it gives a viewer a sense of the depth of his connection to family, to history, and to the ocean — from model ships to photos of him with family on a boat.

Selling the myth, 'eh? 

I wonder if there will be a Mary Jo Kopechne exhibit (even though evidence seems to show Ted was not in the car). 

I know, I know, bad taste.

Among the many framed items on the wall, some copies of the originals: a missive from Rose Kennedy to her youngest son, correcting his grammar in a speech (“Please say, ‘If I were president,’ not ‘If I was president.’ ”); a handwritten note from a school-age Edward M. Kennedy Jr. to his father about homework; a newspaper clipping (“The Kennedys, father and son, visit Pawtucket”) that includes a photo of the senator and former US representative Patrick J. Kennedy.

There are also reminders of older brothers lost: busts of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

Yeah, they kind of got forgotten until now.

And there is a window with a view similar to the one from the adjacent Kennedy Library: overlooking the rippling water off the shore of Dorchester.


"Ted Kennedy honored for labor efforts" by Sylvan Lane, Globe Correspondent  March 12, 2015

WASHINGTON — The late Senator Edward Kennedy was inducted Thursday afternoon into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor to celebrate his career spent fighting for a higher minimum wage, workplace safety, and employee protections.

More than 200 visitors from Massachusetts, government employees, and labor leaders — many of whom once worked for Kennedy — packed into a ceremony at the Department of Labor.

Speakers included Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, former Labor secretaries William Brock, Alexis Herman, and Elaine Chao, and Kennedy’s sons, Edward Jr., a Connecticut state senator, and Patrick, a former US representative from Rhode Island.

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Richard Durbin of Illinois, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota along with former representative John Tierney of Massachusetts also attended.

The ceremony felt like a family reunion of sorts. Almost half the attendees once worked for Kennedy.

Related: The Kennedy War Lobby 

So that is where they were in$pired to go work?

The speakers recalled how Kennedy fought aggressively in the Senate for labor protections and helped shepherd the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Pension Protection Act, and two minimum wage increases through Congress. He was praised for his advocacy for working families and ability to reach across the aisle.

Yes, we miss his thunder!

“There could be no more fitting place to honor Ted Kennedy than the Department of Labor,” said Brock, who was Labor secretary from 1985 to 1987 and a Republican senator from Tennessee from 1971 to 1977. “It was easy to work with a man like that: He listened, he cared, and I trusted him.”

Perez was an adviser to Kennedy from 1995-1998 and talked about the late senator’s influence beyond labor laws. He highlighted Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights through his work on immigration reform and vote against the Defense of Marriage Act.


Then I got to thinking:

Joe Biden recalls Ted Kennedy as mentor who made a difference
From health care to voting rights, Ted Kennedy’s legacy faces fire
Behind the Kennedy Institute experience with Edwin Schlossberg
The evolution of Columbia Point from calf pasture to UMass home and Kennedy capital
Ted Kennedy Jr. carries the family torch
Vicki Kennedy opens up about the Kennedy Institute
How many people know their senators?
Inside the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the US Senate
The US Senate’s darkest moment
Where did Senator Kennedy make the biggest impact?