You Knew I Had to Say Something About This

I slacked off on my usual end-of-the-week blog roundup on Friday, but I’ve been meaning to write about how much this column meant to me.  One of my grandfathers served in an Allied (not American) navy during the second world war; the other grandfather tried to enlist in the American armed forces more than once, but had such poor eyesight that he was not able to serve.

Albert Southwick’s column on the boredom of war, and the flukes that saved his life, reminded me of the stories my grandfather (who served) used to tell.  He had a friend who relieved him so that he could have a short smoking break; during that break, his friend was killed.  The boredom of war was also related to me by a former coworker who served in World War II.  So the column was a nice reminder of two gentlemen I knew and admired.

So, this.

Specifically, this:

…overly nostalgic looks by Southwick of a city that really never existed. A city that wasn’t racist, classist – or even dirty.

Let’s look at some of what Albert Southwick has written in the past two months:

This is, of course, contrary to someone’s idea that Southwick is discussing an ideal society that never existed.  (In fairness, though, one might argue that his column on Jeffery Amherst could have been more sympathetic to the Indians who contracted smallpox via infected blankets, and that Southwick’s dismissal on the “war is hell” grounds is not convincing.  But, on the whole, Southwick is more sympathetic to non-Wasp males than the Canal District Chick would have her readership believe.)

Southwick has written and continues to write about the unvarnished history of our city in an interesting way.  His columns are usually as relevant to the issues facing the city as anything the two local columnists write.  And he can spell.

My love for Albert Southwick is a bit excessive, but it may not be as irrational as once I thought.  Southwick is a continual reminder that there is at least one person in the greater Worcester area who is literate, intelligent, well-read, and well-spoken.  Should there be younger writers on the Opinion page?  Without a doubt.  But let’s take advantage of hearing from a local gem as long as we have the opportunity.

A post that shows why I’m better at Metaphysics than Ethics

A week ago, the city manager said that arrangements to see the CSX facility in Atlanta (paid for by CSX) are in the works.  If they are, I hope part of the process with be a discussion with the State Ethics Commission.

According to this PDF from the Ethics Commission’s website, a public official could accept travel related to a speaking engagement or a “legitimate public purpose”; I suppose the trip might be considered the latter.

According to this PDF, “you may not ask for or accept anything worth $50 or more from anyone with whom you have official dealings. Examples of regulated ‘gifts’ include: sports tickets, costs of drinks and meals, travel expenses, conference fees, gifts of appreciation, entertainment expenses, free use of vacation homes and complimentary tickets to charitable events.”  (emphasis added)

Now, according to this (section 5.05 on Free or Discounted Travel and Admissions), there’s an exemption for trips related to a speaking engagement or legitimate public purpose:

“An elected state or county employee, prior to any travel, shall file a full disclosure as required by 930 CMR 5.05(l)(a) with the Commission. An elected municipal employee, prior to any travel, shall file a full disclosure as required by 930 CMR 5.05(l)(a) with the city or town clerk in the respective municipality. Such disclosure shall state that the speech serves a legitimate public purpose and that the benefit to the government of the elected public employee’s participation in the travel or event outweighs any non-work related benefit to the employee or the private sponsor taking into account the extent to which such free or discounted travel may convey an appearance of special benefit for the elected public employee.”

You can find out more about what constitutes a “legitimate public purpose” on page 2 of this PDF.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, and it’s obvious that I have no ethics, but I would suggest that any trip paid for by CSX be fully vetted by the State Ethics Commission before it happens.  As I’m sure it will.