From The Secret Files of the Massachusetts Patronage Department (Formerly Known as the Mass Probation Dept.), Part 2.

April 27, 2007

To: John J. O’Brien, Commissioner

From: William H. Burke III, Deputy Commissioner

Re: Scouting “Talent” at Joe’s Bar

Dear JJ:

I’m writing this, admittedly in high spirits, after meeting at Joe’s Bar with two great prospects for Chief Probation Officer: Christopher Hoffman and Frank M. Glenowicz, both highly trained mixology Joe's Pizzaspecialists as well as all-around good guys.

I’ve known Frank and Chris for many years, both congenial bartenders and trusted employees at Joe’s Pizza in Northampton, where I more than occasionally drop in to conduct Patronage Department business with politically-connected types from the Central and Western regions of the Commonwealth.

You might ask why we would willingly give up two juicy plum positions that might be reserved for a state senator or a judge, and I would answer that these guys are absolutely fabulous at listening to hard luck stories and offering sage advice. They’ve been doing it for years across the dark oak of Joe’s bar, and I would expect them to easily translate their bartender’s insights and home-grown wisdom into valuable tools for a Chief Probation Officer. Haven’t we often wished that our CPO’s could listen to thugs, felons and thieves like a bartender without judging like a priest? Well, Frank and Chris are just the guys to take in the darkest of our clients’ stories without once copping an attitude.

I assure you these men will bring honor and tireless energy to our department, and credit to both of us at Patronage Department parties where they’ll be happy to mix up any drink you can find in the Bartender’s Bible.

Also, in keeping with Patronage Department policy, both men have serious political connections.

Sincerely,

Bill

William H. Burke III

Deputy Commissioner and ACDJ (Assistant Chief Dispenser of Jobs)

Massachusetts Patronage Department

Update:

Christopher Hoffman, former Acting Chief Probation Officer, Hampshire Superior Court (salary $58,041) was the first conviction in the federal corruption probe of the Mass Probation Department, receiving a sentence of 2 years probation for intimidating a witness. When last heard from, he was working as a manager on a potato farm.

Frank M. Glenowicz, Acting Chief Probation Officer, Franklin Superior Court (salary $92,038) testified under a grant of immunity that his father grew up in the same town as Burke and worked on a farm with Burke’s brother. He was handed his probation officer’s badge by Burke one evening in Joe’s Bar.

 Author’s quote: You can’t make this stuff up! 

To see “Dear Whitey,” FromThe Secret Files Of the Mass Patronage Department, Part 1, click here.

 

 

 

 

“Bowling Boys” Scored For Insider Trading

Dorchester, MA—Being accused of insider trading apparently doesn’t do much for your bowling game. Just ask Sal Papsi and Lenny Michaels, both amateur bowlers, and both recently charged in the federal indictment now known as Bowling Gate.bowlers

Papsi, who ordinarily scores over 225 a game bowled an average 137 per game in last Sunday’s “Massachusetts Bowl-A-Thon and Hot Dog Dinner,” while his co-conspirator and teammate Lenny Michaels was even further off his game.

“It was all those f#@king reporters with their f#@king flash cameras and f#@king questions,” Michaels angrily explained. “I aint racked up a f#@king score like that in a f#@king tournament, for God’s sake, since I first f#@king peed on my shoes!”

Fresh off the heels of their widely publicized indictment of a group of amateur golfing buddies for insider trading, Federal Prosecutors predicted Bowling Gate would prove once and for all the U.S. government treats all criminals alike, banker or deadbeat, champagne-drinker or beer-guzzler, privileged class or working stooge. Prosecutors indicated they would next be investigating inner city pick up basketball games and a North End bocce league.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutor’s office said that six men, all of whom are members of the Holes-In-The-Ball-Gang bowling team, conspired to trade inside information and tips concerning the Brunswick Bowling Company. Investigators quoted a subpoenaed email from Mr. Papsi, reputed bowling team leader, as cryptically advising his friends to hurriedly buy up Brunswick stock when he wrote, “You boys better stock up on big blue if you want to score this weekend, know what I mean, wink, wink!”

Reacting angrily to the charges, Papsi declared, “Holy shitake mushrooms, I was telling the guys to buy some egg-sucking Viagra, for heaven’s sakes! We had a damn-blasted three day weekend coming up and most of those flatliners aint good for waking the dead more than one day out of three, if you know what I mean, Jayzuz H. Crisis!”

Further evidence allegedly has Papsi, part-owner of Happy Valley Bowling Lanes, criminally informing his Holes-In-The–Ball-Gang about a recent uptick in business at Happy Valley Lanes due to recent shifts in Brunswick’s marketing strategy. Pressed to answer this charge, Papsi said, “Sure, Brunswick was offering two balls for the price of one; called it their two-in-hand program. Mother Mary, it was a really hot deal, so of course I advised my guys to stock up, long as they didn’t already have the balls.”

Prosecutors said the alleged stock information trading ring was led by Papsi and Michaels who were allegedly paid off by the rest of the gang with rounds of drinks, $2 lottery tickets and satin bowling jackets. Lawyers for Papsi and Michaels would offer no further comment until their clients returned from a beer run.

 

 

WHO BUT! (The Birth of an Iconic New England Brand)

 A Dream Or A TV Commercial?

 fenwayI dreamt last night I was at Fenway Park. The Red Sox were on one of their customary losing streaks but, with the bases loaded in the bottom half of the ninth inning, they were poised to rally back from a one-run deficit against the Yankees. There were two outs on the scoreboard, so the next batter would either be the game’s hero or its final out. Then, as if the dream were one of my cornball W.B. Mason TV commercials, the man of the moment stepped up to the plate and it was none other than W.B. Mason.

Yes, here was the personification of the W.B. Mason Company—‘W.B. Himself’ as I used to call him on the nameplate beneath his official portrait—the man I had fashioned from my imagination into dozens of heroic roles in print and TV advertisements: W.B. Mason as Prizefighter, as Hercules, Atlas, Genie of the Lamp, Broadway Star, G.I. Joe, Doo Wop Singer, Low Price Assurance Detective. And now, walking to the plate with a murderous gleam in his eye, W.B. Mason, Red Sox Slugger.

mason logoStanding at home plate, W.B. tugged at his famous mustache, surveying the scene on the field before him. Red Sox runners were waiting anxiously at every base. The Yankee infield was playing him close to prevent a bunt. And there, most conspicuously splashed across Fenway Park’s left field wall, a sign proclaimed, as if in silent encouragement, “Who But W.B. Mason!”

 Since 1898 Or 1986?

“Since 1898,” the sign declared, and that much was historically true. The W.B. Mason Company has been in existence since 1898, starting out as a print shop. But the company whose distinctive “Who But!” brand is blazoned across the Green Monster in Fenway Park has only truly existed in its present persona since 1986. I know because I am godfather to their now ubiquitous brand, the man whose fertile imagination originally spawned “Who But W.B.Mason!” If we can leave my dream baseball game briefly, even at such a melodramatic moment, I’d like to share with you the true story of the birth of W.B. Mason’s iconic brand.

A Brand Born Out Of Torture And Pain

It’s axiomatic in this ever-changing world that chaos and destruction usually precede rebirth and creative inspiration. So it was with the creation of my most famous, recognizable and singular brand identity.

Surely, these days, “Who But W.B. Mason!” is highly familiar and understandable to most people in W.B Mason’s sales territory—today when its’ wavy-type logo can be found on outfield walls in baseball parks throughout the northeast, and on trucks that crisscross city streets from San Francisco to Miami Beach, but there was a time when we would get stares and looks of disbelief as our ads first appeared in newspapers around Boston’s South Shore.Mason truck

“What the hell is that all about?” sums up the gist of most of the remarks I would hear in response to the half-page newspaper ads we created for the introductory phase of our branding campaign.

The ads, curiously resembling circus posters, were half page illustrations depicting W.B. Mason in heroic metaphorical guise. W.B. Mason as a prizefighter boxing a Boston furniture dealer; as a balloonist flying a hot air balloon across Brockton skies, as a Mason truck driver flouting speed limits to deliver a much-needed conference table. All with headlines grandly declaring, “Who But W.B. Mason Would Battle Heavyweights To Furnish Your Office!” or “Who But W.B. Mason Would Leap A City Block To Furnish Your Office!” or “Who But W.B. Mason Would Break The Law…” Well, you get the idea.

Mason prizefighter

And that’s our brand in a nutshell: W.B. Mason as hero, as daredevil adventurer and, yes, as earnest and upright businessman. W.B. Mason, the quintessential purveyor of old-time American values. A man, a company and a brand one can believe in.

Who But, indeed!

You’ll notice from these headline constructions that back in 1986, a mere 28 years ago, office furniture was W.B. Mason’s principal line of business. Office supplies were merely a sideline, while all their other product lines—coffee, school, snack room and janitorial supplies—were years away from earning a place in the Mason catalog.

A Phoenix Rising From The Ashes At Arnold & Co.

But let’s return to the chaos and destruction I mentioned earlier. Back in 1986, before anyone outside of Brockton ever heard of W.B. Mason, I was working at Arnold & Company, one of Boston’s largest advertising agencies. Arnold was going through its own form of chaos and destruction, reeling from the loss of two of its largest accounts, Fayva Shoes and John Hancock Insurance. In those days, Arnold was one of the area’s largest agencies, but it was not highly regarded for its creative punch or ingenuity. In award show competition after competition, Arnold would lose out to Hill-Holiday or Mullen or to smaller-sized, but mammothly-creative Leonard Monahan from Providence. So, by the time Arnold went through the pain of losing both Fayva Shoes and John Hancock in the same year, the agency was already suffering from a massive and deeply cutting creative inferiority complex.Mason Hercules

For a painful period, six months at least, the creative department at Arnold was in a shambles. Our creative director, a likable fellow who came from J. Walter Thompson in New York, was allowed to retain his title but almost none of his authority. Outside advertising pros were brought in to supervise the agency’s creative underlings, to show us what “real creative advertising” looked like. Those interventionist supervisors, none of whom had any actual management experience or interpersonal skills, would block all our ads and commercials from leaving the agency until they themselves had a chance to come up with ideas that were better or more creative. If an ad wasn’t ‘hot’ according to their inner creative thermostats, it would never get served to a client.

You can imagine how demoralizing it was to walk by the office of one of these creative “supervisors” and see, through the glass door, one of your ads being dissected, belittled and used as a jumping off point as they struggled to create something they deemed sufficiently more creative.

For six torturous months, I could not get a single advertisement or commercial out of the agency and presented to a client. By the time my work was sufficiently massaged and tweaked by our supervisors it was hardly recognizable and usually not measurably more creative than my original concept.

My Escape From Arnold

So, you can easily understand why I decided to leave Arnold for an advertising agency that was just starting up down in Hingham, on Boston’s South Shore. A highly risky career move, to say the least, leaving a big Boston agency to work for an unknown and unformed entity out in the burbs. But aside from escaping the craziness of an ad agency disintegrating under the crushing weight of its own identity crisis, I was also reaching for a chance to create something new, something special for myself, working with nothing but raw ingredients and simmering ambition. As creative director I would not only have the opportunity to help create a new advertising agency, but to re-launch a seemingly stagnant advertising career.Mason's Cat100years

Or so I assured myself.

Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire

My new agency, TJ Clark, was located in a recently constructed office condo. A condo so new, in fact, I had never seen it before, having interviewed for the job in an office the agency owner borrowed for the interview. Which is why I was totally surprised—shocked, actually—when I came in that first morning to discover the agency didn’t have a single stick of real office furniture to its name. Long rectangular tables from Taylor Rental were set up everywhere, reminding me more of a runaway Bar Mitzvah than a professional advertising agency.

My first thought as I stood there surveying this fledgling, wannabe advertising agency was, “Could this be the end of my advertising career?” Then, after a day filled with mounting evidence to support the reality and threat of that question—an art director who didn’t know how to spec type (a function later made obsolete by the advent of desktop publishing), a paucity of clients, an agency owner whose only real advertising experience was as ad manager at a supermarket chain—I went home to confront my demons in a sleepless night that saw me write down a list of Ten Commandments: 10 actions my new employer needed to undertake for me to stay at his agency.

Number One on the list: buy real office furniture!

Mason soldier First thing next morning, the second day on my new job, I presented my list. I can’t recall if I issued an ultimatum with the list, but I’m certain my new employer understood he and I were at a crossroads. To his credit, he accepted my list of action steps with grave silence, afterwards spending most of the morning phoning Boston office furniture dealers, attempting to get just one to come out to Hingham and meet with him.

Around noon, my new boss left the office without a word as to where he was headed. Two hours later—and this is one of those indelible mental images one holds onto for the length of one’s days—he returned with an entire crew from W.B. Mason in Brockton hauling loaner office furniture—desks, chairs, tables—into our office.

Mason AtlasThat of course was my first glimpse of W.B. Mason and their aggressive, climb-any-mountain, swim-any-sea commitment to winning a client’s business. A business attitude that stood in bold contrast to the arrogance of Boston’s big-shot furniture dealers who thought TJ Clark too small and insignificant to merit a sales call. That hungry sales stance of Mason’s was made indelible in our first Mason newspaper ad depicting W.B. Mason as a prizefighter punching out the lights of one of those Boston dealers: “Who But W.B. Mason Would Battle Heavyweights To Furnish Your Office!”

A Relationship Grows In Hingham

I realize I’m getting a little ahead of myself, and my story. Before we arrive at the period where I would conceptualize a branding personality and advertising campaign for W.B. Mason, there were weeks, perhaps months, where two consecutive lines of communication were being developed and nurtured between TJ Clark and W.B. Mason. On one side, Mason was providing both office supplies and furniture to our small but growing agency, at one point even supplying the trucks and manpower to move us to larger digs. On the other side, I was developing a friendship with Mason’s VP of sales (today, CEO and President), Leo Meehan, whose strong interest in marketing and advertising led him to drop by for an early morning visit almost daily on his way to Mason’s in Brockton. During those visits we would smoke a lot of cigarettes, drink a lot of coffee and talk about Leo’s growing vision for Mason juxtaposed with my understanding, crude at the time, about advertising and marketing.

My understanding about marketing and advertising may have been crude at the time, but it was definitely informed and enlivened by the six months I had just spent in creative Siberia at Arnold & Company. Having to defend one’s creative ideas everyday, having to watch others slap down your work on a consistent basis, having to live under a constant state of creative storm warnings and alarms, had fashioned me into a ferocious creative animal and a surprisingly adept branding philosopher. Once I was able to hire Bill Dahlgren, a talented art director I had known at Arnold, TJ Clark unleashed a reign of creative advertising upon the South Shore’s business community unlike anything ever seen before.

We Don’t Do Ads!

“We don’t do ads!” I would proclaim to prospective clients at TJ Clark, my way of saying I didn’t believe in creating individual ads for a client if there wasn’t an underlying brand personality to give them direction and a unique voice. And so we refused to create ads on a one-shot, brand-less basis. Somewhat arrogant for a young man of 40, but I was empowered and inspired by the crucible of fire I had survived at Arnold. And so, rather than creating an advertisement for a W.B. Mason sale or to help sell their Lite Price line of furniture, Bill and I created an entire branding and advertising campaign that displayed the “Who But!” brand in all its circus finery and “fun-ery” emblazoned on everything from business stationery to newspaper ads to trucks.

Mason balloonist

And maybe because the folks at Mason didn’t know enough to realize how weird and different this campaign was— or perhaps because it was obviously a branding concept with great potential—or maybe they were just desperate for any advertising that might set them apart from the pack…for whatever reason, they bought into “Who But W.B. Mason!” and bought into it big. So big, in fact, that within months at the most they, the company, “became the brand.” By that I mean Mason took on the personality of the campaign at all levels within the company, rising to a level of service, value and friendliness promised by their brand’s unique expression of old-fashioned American values and cornball entertainment.

Two Men Playing With Toys!

So, how the hell did I ever come up with something as distinctive and bold as the “Who But! W.B. Mason!”campaign? Looking back withMason matador the hindsight of history there were three principle ingredients I can credit:           1. My burning drive to prove myself as a creative powerhouse after my humiliating experience at Arnold; I would try anything in those days to stand out or create excitement, break down any doors to prove my worth;    2. Leo Meehan’s burning desire to create a company that was different, better and more memorable than everyone else’s and 3. The remarkable, enjoyable and wholly fortuitous chemistry Leo and I experienced working together. We were kids with keys to the toy store and, at some level, we knew it. For the first few years after the Mason brand was launched, we would occasionally spend a few laugh-filled moments (usually with drinks in hand) reliving the high spots of this most enjoyable collaboration. Together, as the saying goes, we were unstoppable.

The Circus Coming To Town

One other element should not go unmentioned: old-fashioned American circus artwork. Before Bill Dahlgren and I started developing the Mason brand, I went to the Hingham library and borrowed a book of circus posters, most of them from the late 19th century. As mentioned earlier, I had had the idea that Mason because of its aggressive posture and its commitment to providing superior service and value was the embodiment of old-time American values, which—no surprise—was essentially our branding strategy.Mason rainbow

What better way to convey old-time American values than by using materials that reminded everyone of 1890’s America? 19th Century America was a much simpler time in people’s minds, a time when advertising language sounded corny and stilted, and the public expected a dollar’s value for a dollar spent. ‘Who But’ must have come directly off one of those old posters, describing some feat of dare-devil artistry or unexplainable legerdemain.

Who But The Amazing Houdini could escape alive from the Sealed Box of Doom! 

Match that against Who But W.B. Mason would leap a city block to furnish your office!

A Headline, Logo and Call To Arms

As for how I came to actually create the line “Who But W.B. Mason,” there’s no way for me to accurately reconstruct it. The creative process is more often a chain of linked impulses, one leading to another, than a singular Eureka moment. As I mentioned earlier, I had the impulse—quickly acted upon—to borrow a book of circus posters from the library. Did I know I’d be creating a campaign fashioned in that distinct look? I doubt it. More likely I was looking for inspiration. Even once the campaign was fully formed, it was always subject to the litmus tests of “Does it Work?” and “Is it great?” As happens so often with the creative process in developing ads or campaigns, you go down many avenues before you decide which road will go the distance.

Most likely, Bill Dahlgren and I designed the look of the introductory ads first. I just usually work that way; probably because one can say more (and learn more) in an ad than in a logo or a billboard. After the ads we would have tackled everything else. As for the line, “Who But W.B. Mason!” it was never intended to be a logo. We wanted headlines in our ads whose look mimicked circus poster headlines. But once we had created Mason’s distinctive wavy type headline, we realized we had a great looking logo on our hands as well as a circus poster-like headline.

Mason Gotta-HaftaThe only aspect of the process I can testify to with certainty goes back to how I usually work. At the very beginning of a creative process, I usually play all sorts of games to get the juices flowing. Sometimes I’ll just free associate, typing up words that come to mind in response to the client’s business or their stated mission. Other times I’ll take the initial letters of a client’s name and see whatever word constructions they would lead me to. For instance, Monroe Community College (MCC) ultimately became “My College of Choice” in a branding campaign. After almost 40 years as a copywriter and creative director, I know myself well enough to be certain I would have started off the W.B. Mason creative process playing with the W.B. “W.B.” would have quickly taken me to “Who But,” given the way my quicksilver mind generally works. And the rest, after many hours of additional sweat and inspiration, is history.

Our old-time circus artwork is why—according to my theory— everyone notices our Mason trucks. When you see one of our trucks with its “Who But W.B. Mason!” logo and with W.B.’s giant portrait framed by American flags, you almost naturally feel the way children feel when they see the circus coming to town. It’s an almost primal childhood experience. Back in the beginning, when Mason had only four trucks, people would tell us “I see your trucks everywhere.” Now that Mason has over 400 trucks, people actually do see them everywhere. Another case of the company catching up to the brand.

mason logoAs godfather and keeper of the Mason brand, I periodically have to remind people what the W.B. Mason brand stands for—what its soul is all about. Whenever someone in the company or on the creative team starts to take W.B. Mason too seriously, I remind them W.B. Mason is the circus coming to town. Repeat: the circus coming to town, and nothing more. Doesn’t matter that Mason is now $1.4 billion in sales, or that they now employ a few thousand people, rather than the 30-40 who worked there when we first created the brand. W.B. Mason was, is and always will be (I hope) the circus coming to town. Our ads, our TV commercials, our catalog covers were all meant to be as corny as the circus and as American as apple pie.

Start up the calliope, pop the popcorn, put on the clown makeup, W.B. Mason is coming to your office or your town. And don’t mind if he dresses up as a cinema noir detective, Hercules or Jack Dempsey.

And by the way, going back to that dream ballgame we interrupted with bases loaded in the 9th inning, turns out W.B. Mason walloped the ball out of the ballpark to score four runs and win the game against the Yankees. No surprise there. Just another magical feat in the heroic life of W.B. Mason Brand Personality.

A grand slam home run against the Yankees! Now, who could do that?

Who else?

Who But W.B. Mason!

 ———————————–

I realize that one person’s history may not exactly jibe with other people’s memories. To see how the folks at W.B. Mason recalled the beginning of our relationship and my creation of their brand, check out “Who But Paul Steven Stone, A Tribute.” And, for additional insights into my work as a creative writer, brand developer and advertising consultant, check out my web site at PaulStevenStone.com.

You can also view the almost 80 TV commercials I wrote and produced for Mason since they first began advertising on TV in 1997. You’ll find them on the W.B. Mason web site. All the commercials produced up through 2012 are mine.

Lastly, if your business could use a little creative boost, whether through brand development, freelance creative direction or copyrighting, you can contact me via my web site. I would only hasten to add…these days I do indeed do ads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alan Ladd in Cambridge, Part 1

Alan Ladd lights his cigarette. The smoke rises up in a lazy curl, lending a softness to his already soft and extremely handsome features.

“You understand?” he asks in that deep voice I’ve heard countless times nailing dozens of bad guys alan laddin dozens of movies. “Do I make myself clear or do I have to write it out for you?”

“I hear you,” I answer. “You want me to stand up for the little guy, the poor folks, the middle class families—those who’ll get run out of Cambridge once the developers get their way.”

“Yeah, just like I stood up for the homesteaders in ‘Shane’ when the wealthy cattle men wanted to push them out of the valley. If you don’t take a stand, I’ll come back to talk with you,” he threatens with that disarming softness that always presaged iron fists flashing or six-shooters firing. “And I don’t think you’ll enjoy that, Paul Steven,” he adds with a knowing nod. “You hear me, son?”

I’m sixty-seven years old and Alan Ladd calls me “son!”

“Yessir,” I answer, slightly cowed but inwardly rejoicing that Alan Ladd would take time out from his spiritual journey, wherever that might have taken him, to channel himself into my head and threaten me. Me!

Alan Ladd is threatening me!

“And don’t forget it!” he thinly smiles, looking up from under the brim of the black Stetson perched on the back of his head. That’s the way Alan liked to wear his hats. The way he looked best. And always that famous blond pompadour would rise in a handsome wave before disappearing into the darkness of the hat. “Otherwise I’ll have to express my displeasure like I did to Edward G. Robinson in ‘Hell Over Frisco Bay.’ Though, to be fair, I had the advantage then of a physical body and physical fists.”

Forget the fact that ‘Hell On Frisco Bay’ was filmed years after ‘Shane’, or that by then Alan Ladd had lost his matinee idol looks to the ravages of time and whiskey. Forget the fact I’m just a little guy in Cambridge, a writer with a small blog and a big mouth, trying to be the good guy who stands up for what’s right; attempting with my writer’s voice to battle 21st Century forces of unlimited wealth, unchecked greed, uncaring governments, and developers who believe their desires and insatiable hunger for profits should supersede the rights and well-being of others.

And forget the fact that Alan Ladd, whom I’ve idolized since he first outdrew Jack Palance in ‘Shane’ back in 1953, has been dead for fifty years.

Forget all that and concentrate on the fact Alan Ladd is turning on the heat in his softest, most threatening ‘Whispering Smith’ manner and focusing it on me.Alan W.S.

In a voice that comes out of his throat, Alan Ladd advises me to, “Stand up and speak straight. If you think those mugs from A Better Cambridge are talking through their hats, then say so.”

“It’s not that simple,” I protest. “I’m sure some of them actually believe they’re trying to create a better city by fighting for increased density.”

“Sure they are” he says softly, “but at what cost? If their goal were a better Cambridge, like their name says, they’d be angrily demanding the very master plan they keep pooh-poohing. They’d be demanding the city look at its traffic mess, its rate of accelerated development and then plan for what’s coming. They’d be fighting the courthouse, not cheering it on.

“That’s how you make a better Cambridge!” he concludes emphatically.

I feel the need to defend these adversaries. “They say they want to alleviate the housing crisis,” I explain, but Alan Ladd waves it off in a swirl of cigarette smoke; he’d heard that line before.

“Good try,” he quips. “But their goal is to make hay while the sun shines, Paul Steven, to get as much development approved while the city sleeps and before your Cambridge Residents Alliance starts blowing its trumpet too loudly to be ignored.”

“But some of them must mean well,” I argue, hoping to avoid being pushed into a confrontational stance by the one man I idolized since my youth because he never backed down from a fight.

“Look, they never mention the word ‘affordable,’” he continues, flicking his cigarette ash and giving me a sidelong glance, “It’s the ‘housing’ crisis to these guys, not the ‘affordable housing’ crisis. Big difference! They never saw a developer they didn’t like or a development they couldn’t support.”

“But what can we do?” I ask him. “Where are we headed?”

Grimly, Alan Ladd turns to me, murmuring under his breath as he straps on his six-guns, “For a showdown!”

TO BE CONTINUED.

My Declaration of Interdependence

WE THE PEOPLE of the free and independent United States herby declare our interconnectedness and responsibility for one another. Recognizing that we were originally formed as a political unit to throw off the cruelties and deprivations of a despotic ruler, we re-commit ourselves to those flagprinciples which set us apart from nations whose inhumanity and enrichment of their ruling classes have repressed and inflicted undue harm upon their general populations from time immemorial.

In light of recent activities and political maneuverings by the moneyed classes of our society, we feel the need to once again state those values we believe are embodied or implied in both our nation’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence, namely that…

• All citizens are entitled to unhindered access to those essentials necessary in a modern society to foster Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, including (but not limited to) a healthy diet, safe and affordable housing, an advanced education, an unbiased political system, freedom from fear or repression, and a government committed as an overriding philosophy to the avoidance of war and the pursuit of peace.

• To secure such essentials, it is necessary to immediately develop and institute such rules of behavior and political jurisprudence that acknowledge and reestablish the equality of all individuals in our society; those actions to include…

- Removing the power and influence of money from all democratic institutions and political activities, understanding that, far from engendering free speech, the unfettered flow of money will allow moneyed interests to drown out the voices of those with lesser wealth or influence;

- Restoring a fair and equitable tax system that recognizes all individuals benefit equally from systems, protections and services provided by our national and local governments, and that more should be expected from those who because of circumstance or dint of effort have a preponderance of a nation’s wealth, while less should be taken from those who have little enough for themselves;

- Restoring equal justice and punishment to those at all levels of our society, so that those who caused economic chaos and destruction in pursuit of their own selfish outcomes, as well as those who unleashed the dogs of war for no good cause, and those who authorized or committed acts of torture, are given a fair and impartial trial before the eyes of the world, as a lesson to others and a clear indicator of our commitment to the rule of law, even for the most powerful among us;

- Gradually reducing the country’s dependence on, and thrall to, the military industrial complex. Recognizing that, as we’ve recently seen, weak-minded or short-sighted leaders can make unfortunate military decisions that often result in unnecessary death, destruction and wasteful expenditure of national wealth. Also recognizing that the maintenance of a large global military footprint not only increases the likelihood of a country being drawn into war, but significantly reduces those assets available for keeping commitments to its citizens at all levels of the socio-economic ladder.

We offer the above Declaration of Interdependence as a road map for our country to begin returning to its rightful path, to once again become a beacon on a hill to other nations, a paragon of virtue among world powers, driven equally by principle and compassion, and untroubled by the internal strife that rules public debate when blind self-interest and self-righteousness hold sway.

So offered for consideration on this Fourth of July, 2014.

Paul Steven Stone

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Forgive me for sharing this once again. I fervently believe we have lost sight of our basic American ideals, which have been mostly drowned by the money and influence of the 1% richest and most powerful in our land, and that we need to periodically remind ourselves we are all traveling in the same boat together; that we have been given arms to reach out to help others or, if necessary, to receive what is being offered. It is time to re-establish our priorities so that people come before corporations, and equality of opportunity and justice are truly shared by all.