Thursday, April 18, 2013


This week, the US Senate voted 54-46 to strengthen gun safety laws in America. It failed. That’s right. 54%--a solid majority of the US Senate--voted in favor of universal background checks, and the bill still lost. Because the filibuster rule requires a 60% vote for anything to pass.
Which made me think about Elizabeth Warren.
You will recall that Ms. Warren carried her reform message together with everybody’s highest hopes into the halls of congress. Shortly after her election--I received an email from her. This is what she said:
“You know what I want to do. You know what I care about. But here's the honest truth: Any senator can make a phone call to register an objection to a bill, then business comes to a screeching halt. On the first day of the new session in January, the Senate will have a unique opportunity to change the filibuster rule with a simple majority vote. I’ve joined Senator Jeff Merkle and four other senators to fight for this reform on day one. No more bringing the work of this country to a dead stop.”
The only problem is that on the first day of the session she fought for nothing of the sort. Neither did Jeff Merkle, nor any other senator—Democrat or Republican. And by fight, I mean rise to their feet on the floor of the Senate and use the filibuster to change the filibuster. Bring that shameful institution to a screeching halt on behalf of majority rule. Stop everything. Force a national conversation on why—in the “world’s greatest deliberative body”--a simple majority isn’t enough?
Why--after 20 kids got their heads blown off—doesn't 54% of Senators voting in favor of gun safety legislation advance that bill to the next step? I’d like Ms. Warren, and Mr. Reid, and the Democratic majority in the United States Senate to explain to the parents of those twenty dead six year olds, why protecting the filibuster is so much more important than protecting our children?
Oh and one more thing. Please stop sending out stupid petitions. Do your job. You promised to fix the filibuster. Fix it. Because your failure to fix it--not Ted Cruz, not Rand Paul, not Mitch McConnell—your failure to fix the filibuster will absolutely cost the lives of more innocent kids.
On the first day of this new session, the Democratic majority in the US Senate had a golden opportunity to restore the principle of majority rule and they chose instead to punt. Make no mistake about it, every major policy failure since can be traced directly back to that breathtakingly irresponsible choice.
If universal background checks—or any other sensible, national policy—can’t muster a majority in the US Senate, I suppose I can live with that. I wouldn’t be happy about it. But I’d accept it.
What’s unacceptable is when that same policy earns a majority of votes and still doesn’t pass. Any Senator who can live with that outcome doesn’t deserve to be there.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013




Thursday, April 11, 2013

For Dad...

Arthur Paleologos (1924-2013)

NBC Nightly News’ legendary anchor, Tom Brokaw dubbed them “The Greatest Generation.” Arthur Paleologos, one of that generation’s few remaining members, died quietly on Tuesday of this week. He was eighty-eight.

During his 1980 swearing-in ceremony as Chief Magistrate of the Woburn District Court, Paleologos began his brief remarks by stating the simple principle that guided every aspect of his remarkable journey from the hardscrabble streets of Lowell, Massachusetts to accepting Governor Edward King’s nomination that day in the historic chamber of Boston’s storied State House.

“In the course of a lifetime, with working people,” he said, “you don’t accumulate very much money, or material things. But I’ve been blessed with riches beyond description, and they are all deposited in the balcony to my left—my family.“

Born of Greek immigrant parents who settled among the textile mills in Depression-ravaged Lowell, Paleologos—like many of his contemporaries—arrived at elementary school speaking only Greek. “It never ceases to amaze me,” he once joked, “how we ever got out of the first grade.” Nevertheless, he not only “got out” of first grade, but was double-promoted. “Believe it or not,” he recalled, “I never even saw the second and fourth grades.”

When he arrived at Lowell High School, Paleologos became an avid participant in the Lowell Brigade (a 1940’s version of Junior ROTC). By his senior year he rose from the rank of private to captain. In a local television interview after becoming Chief Magistrate, Paleologos fondly remembered the drill competitions which took place each Memorial Day on Lowell’s South Common.

He also recalled the hardship.

“In those days, a lot of people were out of work. It was very, very difficult to get along. When I was a junior in high school, in order to help my family, I got a job in the mill. I used my older brother’s name. I was 15 years old then and I got a job as a weaver. The only job they had was the late night shift--10pm to 6am—so I took it.”

He then recounted the routine.

“I’d go to work at ten o’clock at night. I’d come home at six. I’d wash up, have some breakfast, and then I’d go to school…I was delighted to do it—to help my father and mother. I wasn’t alone…working and trying to get an education. It was a little difficult, but we took it in stride.”

Paleologos was a decorated World War II navy veteran having served on a PT Boat in the Pacific between 1943 and 1945. After his honorable discharge from active duty, he attended Northeastern University and Suffolk Law School on the GI Bill.

During that time he met Janet Paicopolos, a Fisher Business School graduate and the daughter of another Greek immigrant family with a similar background that had settled in the nearby tanning town of Woburn, Massachusetts. They married in 1952. The newlyweds made their home in Woburn and had three children (Nicholas, Jonathan & David). 

After getting married, Paleologos worked at the VA hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts while attending Suffolk Law School at night. He graduated in 1956 in the same class as his friend, the late Congressman Joe Moakley.

Upon passing the bar, Paleologos decided to quit his job at the VA Hospital and practice law full time. But his first year was a real struggle. “Nobody seemed to want a new lawyer,” he recounted. With three young children to care for and a struggling law practice, he sought a job with New York Life--selling insurance. Because the position required a car, Paleologos paid a visit to the Woburn Credit Union seeking a loan. The president at the time, was Attorney Jack Moss. That meeting changed the course of his life.

“I didn’t know he was a lawyer.” Paleologos remembered. “I wasn’t dressed very well and I needed a shave.” But Moss was so impressed with the young veteran and freshly minted lawyer that he offered Paleologos a job on the spot. Attorney Moss became an important mentor to Paleologos, affording him valuable courtroom experience that would have been otherwise impossible for him to attain.

For the next several years Paleologos tried hundreds of cases in the Woburn District Court. In 1970, he was offered the position of Assistant Magistrate there, and served in that capacity until Governor King appointed him Chief Magistrate in 1980. For the better part of three decades, the Woburn District Court became the center of Paleologos’ professional life. He often cautioned his fellow magistrates that “the power to give a policeman a piece of paper making it legal for him to break down somebody’s door and search their home…is an awesome responsibility.”

Paleologos retired as Chief Magistrate in 1993, and spent most of his remaining years traveling to Florida in the winters with his beloved wife Janet. As he told Bill Carpenter in that local television interview, “She is the love of my life, my friend, my partner, and my inspiration.”

He loved family cookouts sitting by the pool or holding court in his favorite kitchen chair.

In addition, Paleologos took great interest and pride in the careers of his three sons--who were at the center of his life, as well as in the education and accomplishments of his five grandchildren.

Most of all, he brought his strong family values, solid work ethic, amazing life experience, boundless humility and a genuine common touch to every aspect of his public and personal life.

As he told the audience at his 1980 swearing-in ceremony: 

“The district courts are the peoples’ courts. Our primary responsibility is to protect the public… I’m not going to stand here and tell you that I’m the most knowledgeable clerk in the system, because if I did, it wouldn’t be true…but I can promise you this: that I shall conduct myself with a profound sense of integrity, and with compassion and a sense of fair play for those people that come before our court seeking equity and justice.”