Joseph Lieberman is no friend to advocates of free speech. Plus, Providence
police get out of line, and a new plan for Fenway Park.
With the selection of Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman as his running mate,
Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore has assembled a ticket even more
moderate than the one he created in 1992 with Bill Clinton.
It goes almost without saying that the conservative Democratic ticket is a far
better choice for Americans than the reactionary one assembled by the
Republicans. After all, who do you want picking the next four Supreme Court
justices -- Al Gore or George W. Bush? But Lieberman's conservative values
should give even the most practical liberals pause. This past May, for example,
Lieberman teamed up with Republican senator John McCain to file a bill that
called for video games to be banned from the marketplace unless the game
industry started using a ratings system to warn consumers of violent content.
Also in May, he joined McCain, Republican Sam Brownback, and Democrat Robert
Byrd in another moral crusade: the four senators sent a strongly worded letter
to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking whether broadcasters were
meeting their obligation to provide beneficial programming for the nation. They
also called on the FCC to revisit the way broadcast licenses are renewed --
which could be read as a thinly veiled threat to the industry -- and study
whether guidelines about sexual and violent content could be imposed on
Last year, Lieberman even allied himself with Bill Bennett, the self-appointed
arbiter of cultural taste, in giving out a "Silver Sewer" award to media mogul
Rupert Murdoch for Murdoch's raunchy Fox TV shows Get Real and
Action. Lieberman is no reactionary -- he's pro-gay, and in 1999 he
voted with the liberal Americans for Democratic Action 95 percent of the
time and with the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League
100 percent of the time. But his impulse to speak out against cultural
elements that offend his sensibilities -- even to use his position in the
United States Senate to threaten censorship, however subtly -- should worry
civil libertarians of every political stripe.
Playing the faith card
and Some tough questions might dent Lieberman's halo
Relations between the media and the police are usually strained. It's not hard
to see why: one side feels it's never getting the full story, while the other
feels it's constantly being misrepresented. In Providence this past weekend,
the police department violated its relationship with that city's media in a way
that will take years to recover from.
In a move that can only be described as breathtakingly stupid, officers roughed
up a news photographer who had snapped photos of the man who shot four people
during a Puerto Rican festival on Sunday. This photographer, mind you, had
sought out an officer immediately after the commotion died down to tell him
that she thought she had a photo of the suspect, and had asked him to meet her
at the paper's offices so she could give him copies.
According to a report published Tuesday in the Providence Journal, the
officer radioed his supervisor for guidance as he drove to the newspaper's
offices. The supervisor ordered him to seize the camera and film as evidence.
When the photographer, Rachel Ritchie, arrived at the Journal with the
officer, the officer said he wanted the film. Ritchie tried to enter the
building but was restrained by the officer, who used his shoulder radio to call
his supervisor. About half a dozen police cars answered the call. As the
argument heated up, someone twisted Ritchie's arm behind her back and pushed
her to the ground. Officers then walked her over to a patrol car, where they
took her cameras and film and drove her to the police station -- though she had
done nothing wrong and was not under arrest.
At the police station, another supervisor showed the second sign of common
sense that day (the first, of course, being Ritchie's offer to share her photos
with the police) and ordered Ritchie's gear returned to her. In the end,
Ritchie did what she originally agreed to do: give the police the photographs
The disturbing episode was a gross exercise of police power that displayed an
institutional mean streak and an insensitivity toward the Constitution. At
minimum, the Providence Police Department should educate its employees about
the law: you can't take what isn't yours -- even if you're a cop.
This week, the Fenway Community Development Corporation unveiled designs for a
new Fenway Park that would sit in the footprint of the old park (see "Field of
Dreams," This Just In). Designed primarily by architect Philip Bess,
who is working with the Florida Marlins on their new park, each plan is well
thought out, creative, and workable. The models, which will be on display for
the public tonight and tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. at Simmons College (300
The Fenway, Room L308), show just how forced and artificial the process of
moving toward a new Fenway Park has been.
At the same time, CDC advocates have proposed turning the park into a national
landmark district. This would still allow for development of the park, but
would make it eligible for federal tax subsidies -- possibly as much as 20
percent. Surely this is one of the more creative financing schemes we've heard
to date. So how come it took a community organization to coordinate these
ideas? How come the political "leaders" who pushed through financing for the
Sox' plan never demanded to see alternative ideas? The designs currently on
display in the Fenway expose the process by which the Sox gained approval for
their plan for what it was: a diabolical sham orchestrated by politicos
operating outside the public's best interests.
What do you think? Send an e-mail to letters[a]phx.com.