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Tom "Red" Martin: From Cape Cod To California, A Talent Of Olympic Proportions

By Greg O’Brien, Boston Irish Reporter

Tom Martin took to ice as a young boy as cod takes to the sea. It was his lifeblood. In high school, he used to run home backwards from Harvard Square, practicing the art of a pivot so he could perform the difficult maneuver without hesitation on ice.

“I was just a dog,” he says of his workouts that led to star status at Boston College and on the 1964 Olympic Team at Innsbruck.

The 71-year-old founder of the award-winning Cramer Productions in Norwood, a second generation Irish American, who at a lean six foot one, 205 pounds is just ten pounds off his college playing weight, still has that canine drive—a focus on the moment and the verve to succeed at every level in the face of challenge.

“As a kid, I worked my ass off,” he says. “While others were at the beach, I needed to be at the gym. I had God given talents, and wanted to make the most of it.”

No doubt, the Almighty is pleased with the result. A three-sport standout at the old Cambridge High and Latin (hockey, baseball and football), Martin, “Red” to his friends, went on to Boston College where he played defensemen on the BC hockey team that won the Beanpot in 1959 and 1961—a year he was team captain and named Beanpot MVP. Martin also was named to the 1960 and ’61 college hockey All America teams, and was the ’61 recipient of the Walter Brown Award as the nation’s outstanding college hockey player. In addition, he was a steady left-handed first baseman on the BC baseball team that played in the College World Series of 1960 and ’61, was named to BC’s Hall of Fame in ’68, represented the United States in the 1962 World Ice Hockey Championship, and was Assistant Captain on the ’64 U.S. Hockey Olympic Team where he roomed with the legendary Herb Brooks, coach of the Miracle-On-Ice ‘80 team that defeated the Soviets in the thick of the Cold War. Martin was later drafted by the Boston Bruins, and offered a $6,800 contract that he rejected because an accounting job paid more. His retired BC hockey jersey hangs from the rafter at Conte Forum.

But this is just the beginning of Tom Martin’s story. To pigeonhole him in the vernacular as a Man for All Seasons, is to say that Tudor writer and statesman Sir Thomas Moore was a jock. With the discipline of athletics as a foundation stone, Martin has succeeded in all areas of life—as a businessman, a renowned creative force, and most importantly to him, as a husband and father.

The early years were difficult for Martin and his younger sister, Anne Marie; their father, Tom Considine, died shortly before her birth. A devout, hard-working Irish Catholic, Considine had close family ties to Galway where his parents were born. Martin and his sister, both of whom later assumed their stepfather’s surname, were initially raised in Somerville, then Cambridge by a dutiful mother, Anne (Norton), whose family came from the south of Ireland. She remarried when Martin was 12.  His stepfather, Bill Martin, then a custodian in the Cambridge school system, adopted the children, and they lived in church housing in St. Peter’s Parish in Cambridge. He was a caring surrogate father.

“It was a humble beginning,” Martin recalls in an interview at his state-of-the-art, 70,000 square foot design and production facility. It is headquarters for a full-service, integrated marketing communications company offering services worldwide in event and video and digital production, interactive media, webcasting, and print and direct marketing. With $35 million in annual sales, the company today employees 180 people, including six of his seven children, and has a client list that includes: Bayer Diagnostics, Boston College, CVS Pharmacy, EMC, Fidelity Investments, Gillette, Jordan’s Furniture (for which Cramer Productions has produced the trademark “Barry and Eliot” Tatelman television commercials), Coviden, General Electric, Reebok, Raytheon, Ocean Spray, Serono, Michelin, Motorola, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Boston Red Sox. Cramer Productions also has produced critically acclaimed sports videos and documentaries.

Martin built the company creative brick by creative brick with the benefit of a Boston College Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration, a CPA certificate secured during his five-year tenure of analyzing balance sheets and income statements with the Boston office of Arthur Anderson & Co, and just plain old pond ice smarts.

“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I had confidence in myself,” he says, sitting his office appointed with sports memorabilia and sounding like an able defensemen. “If it didn’t work out, I knew that I’d bounce back.”

Martin has been resilient throughout his life, learning at a young age to cope with the ups and downs and the sure direction of a disciplinarian mother, who worked as a waitress and collected “Mothers’ Aid,” now called Welfare, at Cambridge City Hall. “I had to mop the floors on my hands and knees before I could go out on a Saturday morning,” he recalls. “My mom was terrific, and had an incredible work ethic that was instilled in us.” 

Sunday church attendance in the Martin family was as mandatory as school, and after Mass—from the third grade to his senior year in high school—Martin sold newspapers—The Boston Globe, The Herald, Boston Post and New York Times. He learned the worth at a young age of walking around money.

Always on the run, Martin after college joined the Arthur Anderson staff, then played in the Olympics, returned to the Big Five accounting firm, then was hired in 1966 by Cramer Electronics in the Boston area as a corporate controller, shifting gears later to become national sales manager in the multi-national company—a move that sparked a career change. When the company was acquired in 1979, Martin on a hunch purchased the firm’s budding video production division and retained the Cramer name, calling the new venture Cramer Productions, a cutting-edge marketing medium.

“I thought this new technology had great promise as a marketing and communications supplement,” he says. “I saw an opportunity and went with it.”

But not without the support of his wife of 47 years, June, whom he met many years ago on a blind date. “ We went through some struggling years as any start-up does,” he recalls. “It was in the early ‘80s when interest rates were close to 20 percent. That almost choked companies like ours that were capital intensive. My financial background allowed me to weather the storm and calm the bankers down. It all worked out in the end.”

Today, six of the couple’s children help run the business: Thomas, as sales manager; Timothy as internal operations manager; Christopher as external operations manager overseeing large events around the world; Gregory as chief financial officer; Patrick in a training program; and daughter Julie as major accounts manager. Son Shawn is a partner with the hedge fund Convexity Capital Management. Larger than life in so many ways, Martin has 20 grandchildren.

In his spare time, he is an avid golfer, pushing a four handicap, and notes that all but one of his children are single handicap golfers. “God has been good to me; I can still compete with them,” he says with competitive vigor. A member of the Charles River Golf Club, Martin has won the Senior Division of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament and was twice runner up in the Massachusetts State Seniors Championship. In 2003, he won the New England Senior Amateur Golf Championship.

One simply wonders if Martin was born on Krypton. 

Back to earth in Norwood, there is plenty to do at Cramer Productions in the   collective coordination of scores of marketing strategists, creative directors, production managers, producers, account managers, designers, developers and support personnel. In addition to corporate marketing, branding and events, Cramer has built an impressive reputation in sports producing, notes a company profile. The company produced the comprehensive Boston Red Sox: 100 Years of Baseball History, a three-hour video documentary that covers the entire history of the Red Sox organization and became one of the fastest- and best-selling New England sports documentaries. Cramer won acclaim, including a prestigious Emmy Award, for its documentary, Story of Golf, that documented more than 700 years of the venerable game, aired on PBS nationally and was featured on CBS during the broadcast of the 2000 Masters Tournament. Cramer Productions also has produced such documentaries as the Banner Years (a Boston Garden retrospective), Home Run Heroes (a tribute to legendary Red Sox hitters) and Ray Bourque: The First 20 Years, which was produced for a Symphony Hall performance and subsequent television broadcast.

Not one to forsake his roots, Martin and his company are generous contributors to non-profit and charitable causes. There is a framed quote in his office from Danny Thomas, the late television personality and humanitarian that underscores Martin’s compassion for others. It reads: “All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why. Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”

Martin is a major contributor and advisor to the Mass Hospital School, Caritas Christi Hospital, Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) and the Francis Ouimet Foundation. Cramer Productions serves a wide variety of charitable organizations by staging events and producing videos and other communication programs that assist with fundraising. In the past few years, the company profile notes, Cramer has contributed time and talent to such organizations as American Kidney Foundation, Big Brother/Big Sister, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Carney Hospital, Easter Seals, Franciscan Children’s Hospital, Greater Boston Food Bank, Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, March of Dimes, Mother Caroline Academy, Rosie’s Place, Second Helping, South Boston Community Health Center, The Cardinal’s Appeal and The Jimmy Fund. 

Martin is quick to note that Cramer’s success is the result of the dedication and creative talents of key longtime associates like Executive Vice President and Creative Director Rich Sturchio, who will be become President this month, and Ann Cave, Senior Vice President, Strategic Services & Marketing.

Consummately camera shy, Martin is always acknowledging the notable contributions of others, but he has received numerous awards and honors for his community service.  He was the 2007 recipient of the Richard F. Connolly, Jr. Distinguished Service Award from the Ouimet Fund, and three years ago, the New England Chapter of the National Television Academy inducted him into its Silver Circle, which honors individuals who have made significant contributions to television in the last 25 years. He also has been honored by the National MS Society, Mass Hospital School and Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) for his faithful patronage.

So is Tom “Red” Martin really faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive? We know, at least, that he can leap tall challenges with a single bound. Look, flying high in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s just Tom. And that’s the way Martin likes it. Understated.

As the years count down, Martin is sanguine about the future. “I have a strong faith and that keeps me going,” he says in a moment of reflection at the end of yet another long day. “My kids,” he jokes, “are always rehearsing what they are going to say at my funeral. We have some laughs about it.”

The key to a long, productive life, he insists, is an exceptional attitude and a great work ethic. “You never pout,” he says. “There’s always another day.”

(Greg O’Brien is president of Stony Brook Group, a publishing and political/communications strategy company based in Brewster on Cape Cod. The author/editor of several books, he contributes to various regional and national publications.)

Coakley Fiddles While Massachusetts Burns

Time is money, particularly when it’s the public’s money. And so why is Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley wasting time?
 

Coakley launched an investigation a year ago into whether the state’s largest health insurance company and its biggest healthcare provider may have illegally colluded to hike the price of health insurance statewide, over the last nine years, noted a Boston Globe report on January 23, 2009.
 
Still no public word. Why the delay, Christy Mihos, Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate, is asking?
 
Attorney General Coakley last year  “sent formal demands for information to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Partners HealthCare…calling for a detailed account of their contract negotiations,” the Globe reported, citing several sources.
 
Since 2000, the Globe stated, “Blue Cross has boosted the rate it pays for medical care by Partners doctors and hospitals by 75 percent, dramatically more than the increases given to most other Massachusetts hospitals. Blue Cross now pays $2 billion a year to Partners, parent company of Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's hospitals.”
 
Coakley's announced investigation last year came just weeks after the Globe Spotlight Team reported that “the leaders of Partners and Blue Cross made a private agreement in 2000 under which Blue Cross would give Partners a significant increase in payments as long as Partners obtained similarly big pay increases from Blue Cross's competitors. The deal—never written down because Partners lawyers feared that the agreement was legally risky—required Blue Cross and its competitors to raise insurance premiums to pay Partners, ushering in a decade of rapidly escalating healthcare costs.”
 
Partners and Blue Cross officials have insisted they have done nothing wrong. But State Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan had called the attorney general's probe "historically significant."
 
Significant, it now appears, for its lack of timely results.
 
“Even the Big Dig is small potatoes to the cost increases that our HMOs have put upon their customers over the past ten years,” said Mihos.   “Double Digit increases each and every year for ten straight years, and these firms are all non-profit or not for profit.”
 
“The base salaries of their Chief Executive Officers rose at over 20 percent each year,” Christy adds.  “Last Year the Boston Globe summed up the conspiracy between the large HMOs and Partners Healthcare to raise prices. It’s all there on the record. If this were a tobacco firm, or a lender, Attorney General Coakley would be all over this. This rip-off is right under her nose. It’s easy to understand why we have the highest healthcare costs in the nation!”

Lenahan O'Connell: An Irishman For All Seasons

By Greg O'Brien

From the Boston Irish Reporter

If the map of Ireland could assume a face, it would be the mug of John T. Lenahan O'Connell, patriarch of a most prominent Boston Irish Catholic family with ties to the Cape that has boasted among its ranks of an extended kin a score of attorneys and jurists, three U.S. Congressmen, esteemed entrepreneurs and notable physicians. "Lenahan" to all, O'Connell at 95-who still practices law four days a week at the family's celebrated 108-year-old Milk Street law firm, O'Connell & O'Connell-holds court over a clan with historic roots to County Cork, County Mayo and the Irish War of Independence.

As Democrat and independent-minded as Thomas Jefferson, the O'Connells over the years have crossed political swords with such political icons as James Michael Curley, John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, Martin "The Mahatma" Lomasney, one of Boston's toughest ward bosses, and the crafty politico "Billy" Galvin. "On national and international scenes, the family had encounters with presidents and prime ministers, generals and admirals, prosecutors and criminals, Irish rebels and Nazi leaders," as noted in the published family history written by O'Connell, The O'Connell Family of Massachusetts. "Justly so, the history of the O'Connell family...serves as a microcosm of the Irish people, who, denied their basic rights and liberties for centuries, chose exile and undertook perilous ocean passages to come to America. Those exiles who survived, prevailed, and carved out their niche in the United States serve as a continuous living testament to the determination of the Irish people to endure and succeed."

And so welcome to the O'Connell family and its prelate, Lenahan O'Connell.

On the lip of St. Patrick's Day, O'Connell-a close associate of Boston mayors and dignitaries of the day, and who attended Sunday School in Brookline for a spell with John F. Kennedy-stretches out in a comfortable living room sofa chair in his Jamaica Plain home where he has lived since 1952. He is consuming yet another book, one of about five a month he reads, Irish/Charles G. Halpine In Civil War America. All business and all Boston, he inquires of a visitor in a tone that could cut through concrete, "You from around here?"

Satisfied, at least, that an interloper from the United Kingdom hasn't gained access, O'Connell opens up with a roar. "No one has any perspective any more," says O'Connell, raised during the Great Depression. "People generally are not interested in saving, serving, or until recently, living within their means. They expect the government to step in and do everything to bail us out. We've lost something in our culture; the old values are gone. There's a hole and it needs filling. And no stimulus package will patch that."

One way to fill the gap, he says, is through reading. "It's sad, people don't read anymore," he adds, noting that he has a personal library of about 1,000 books. "Reading teaches one about the history of our own existence-who we are, where we are and how we got there."

The nonagenarian, one of two surviving sons of 12 children, looks to his late parents for perspective-his mother Marisita Lenahan O'Connell, the daughter of John T. Lenahan IV, who was a distinguished attorney and congressman from Pennsylvania; and his Harvard-educated father, Joseph F. O'Connell, founder of the family law firm and a two-term Congressman who lost to Curley. Both were prodigious readers, who inspired their children in writing and oratory.

O'Connell, named for his Lenahan grandfather, recalls in a book he wrote about the law firm on its 100th anniversary that his father constantly insisted that his children "always write the words down." The senior O'Connell believed that the spoken word is all too soon forgotten, "no matter how powerful and eloquent."

"You must always write them down to keep them from being lost and to ensure they will be preserved for future generations," the father urged his nine sons and three daughters-Joseph F. Jr., Lenahan, Frederick P, Finbarr, Marisita, Kevin, Brendan, Meta, Lelia, Conleth, Diarmuid, and Aidan. O'Connell's surviving brother Diarmuid lives in Cohasset.

The elder O'Connell, the cornerstone of Lenahan's life and whose reflection is always in sharp focus within him, also taught his children about passion. "To succeed in life, you must have enthusiasm," he told them. "Next, energy, then a thorough training in some business or profession. I strongly believe in training. Life is not altogether chance, and the best training attainable is none too good...I don't believe in chance. A man largely makes his own chances. The opportunities are always there. The thing to do is grasp them."

His father's grounding transcends generations to hardworking farmers who tilled the soil in County Cork and his mother's grounding traces back to County Mayo. Education and intellectual enlightenment became the plowshare here. His mother was raised in a privileged and highly educated Wilkes-Barre, Pa. family. His father, the oldest of seven children of Irish immigrants, James and Elizabeth O'Connell, grew up in Dorchester, attended Boston College where he graduated in 1893, founded and was captain of the school's first football team there, graduated from law school in 1896 and a year later opened his own firm for general law practice-a year that President William McKinley negotiated the annexation of Hawaii and Boston opened the nation's first subway. The firm's first office was in Fields Corner. Irish in those days need not apply for rents downtown. The doors eventually opened on Milk Street.

Lenahan's political and professional instincts were learned at his father's knee. The senior O'Connell, self-reliant like his son, never mixed well with the political and business elite, both Brahman and Irish-from Curley to "Honey Fitz," although he walked the same paths, his more directed, theirs more serpentine.

"My father was never one of them," he writes of his dad. "He was never accepted by them. He wasn't looking for a job or to getting into an election every year. They understood that he was basically a lawyer and idealist and really didn't want anything from the machine. No matter, they ganged up on him at every chance...It was the old bit about, ‘don't get mad, get even."

While his father loyally and assiduously supported the Democratic party at the local, state and national level, even remarking once that "the salvation of the nation depends upon proper use of political power by those of the Democratic faith," the party establishment never appreciated the effort. "He'd break his back for them, but they treated him very badly," O'Connell says.

But his father never got mad; he was one of the most successful lawyers in the country and won election to Congress from the 10th District for two terms in 1907, the first Boston College graduate to be elected to the House of Representatives. In his initial primary, he defeated Democratic State Senator Edward Logan (for whom Logan International Airport was named), but in 1910, he lost to Curley, a Galway man, who ran a smear campaign in Galway-dominated South Boston that promoted O'Connell "as a nice man who couldn't win." A baseball player of note, who once had a tryout with John McGraw's New York Giants, O'Connell persevered in politics until the late innings, running unsuccessfully for mayor of Boston and for the U.S. Senate. He then grew his law practice, and continued his involvement in Irish causes.

Nice guys don't always finish last. At a White House reception, O'Connell met his wife-to-be Marisita, just months from the end of his second term. After a dance with her, President Theodore Roosevelt took him aside and urged him, "O'Connell, if you let that lovely young lady get away, you'll regret it for the rest of your life!"

No regrets for either, and for a dozen sibilings. Lenahan was raised in Brookline for a year, then Brighton near Cleveland Circle where the family attended St. Ignatius of Loyola parish, and contributed generously to the church. More of a scholar and a thinker than an athlete (a brief tenure in football as a center), Lenahan attended Boston Latin, English High and Boston College-living at home, packing potatoes when he was younger at the local A&P, then working summers in his dad's law firm. After graduating from BC in 1934, he attended Harvard Law for a year, then was asked to leave. "They didn't want me back," he says, noting he fell two grade points short. "I wanted to drop out and go into business, but dad insisted otherwise."

O'Connell then attended Boston University School of Law, graduating in 1938 and joining his father's firm. In 1942, he married Priscilla Halloran of Boston. The couple met at her father's Summer Street fish market and restaurant, called Litchfield's. The couple had three sons: Lenahan Louis, who teaches sociology at the University of Kentucky; Donn, who works in Boston in real estate; and Brendan Halloran, who is active in the Right-To-Live Movement and principal host of the television show, "Life Matters." He lives with his father in Jamaica Plain, surrounded by other family members. His wife died in 1995.

A graduate of the Massachusetts Military Academy where he received a lieutenant's commission, O'Connell was called to active duty in 1942. He then studied at the army's Judge Advocate School at the University of Michigan, and served as an artillery officer with the 79th and 86th Divisions. Detailed to the Judge Advocate General Division, he served in New Guinea, the Philippines and Occupied Japan after the bomb had been dropped, and later served in the army reserve as a lieutenant colonel.

Like his father, active in public and community service, O'Connell was a state assistant attorney general from 1948 to 1952, was appointed in 1962 by Boston Mayor John F. Collins as a trustee of the Boston Public Library, serving on its board for ten years, overseeing the library's historic expansion as president. O'Connell also has been a trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and has been active in the American Ireland Fund, the Eire Society of Boston, the American Irish Historical Society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Charitable Irish Society.

At the end of a long interview, O'Connell, still stretched out in his sofa chair, shows no signs of fatigue. Asked about retirement, he snaps, "What would I do with myself?"

Until recently, he walked a mile and a half, four days a week to take a subway to work from Forest Hills to work closely with his nephew in the practice, Joseph F. O'Connell, III. What keeps Lenahan going? Sounding like his father, he on cue, "Passion, energy and the will to learn." Dum calidum sentis farcinem mande bidentis, as they would say at BC.

There is no doubt that John T. Lenahan O'Connell, weeks from his 96th birthday, will keep on learning as far as his remarkable intellect will take him, and there is equal promise that those close to him in the process will learn far more from him.

(Greg O'Brien is editor and president of Stony Brook Group, a publishing and political/communications consulting company based in Brewster. The author/editor of several books, he is a contributor to numerous regional and national publications.)

Whale-rescue program in trouble

Whale-rescue program in trouble

by Greg O'Brien

This article originally appeared in the Providence Journal on Sunday, August 31, 2008

It is 5:30 P.M. on a stunning lateAugust day here, and the sun is low on the horizon, presaging the endof summer with an inky blue sky and a golden reflection on the water.Not far from MacMillan Wharf, just down from Town Hall in a statelyclapboard home on Bradford Street once owned by renowned industrialistand art collector Walter B. Chrysler Jr., Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies Executive Director Rich Delaney sits at his desk, pondering the futureof this world-class scientific research and public-education center andits expanding vision. Its vision, he notes, has morphed beyond thecenter’s foundational study and preservation of endangered right whalesand humpback whales. But today, he’s all about whales.

“We’re a nexus between good science and proper management,” declaresDelaney, no stranger to either, given his previous tenures as formerMassachusetts assistant secretary of environmental affairs and formerdirector of the Massachusetts Coastal Zone program. “It’s science witha deadline!”

The deadline that most concerns Delaney, named last year as head of thecoastal-studies center founded 32 years ago, is the pending depletionin December of $450,000 in federal grants for the center’sdistinguished Whale Disentanglement Program. This program covers a wideswath of ocean, from the Bay of Fundy, in Canada, to Key West, Fla.

The deadline that most concerns Delaney, named last year as head ofthe coastal-studies center founded 32 years ago, is the pendingdepletion in December of $450,000 in federal grants for the center’sdistinguished Whale Disentanglement Program. This program covers a wideswath of ocean, from the Bay of Fundy, in Canada, to Key West, Fla.

In partnership with the National Marine Fisheries Service, under thedomain of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),the center oversees a network of more than 800 scientists andvolunteers called the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network(ALWDN), which responds to whales caught in debris and fishing gear —the mammals’ prime cause of death, along with ship strikes. Since 1984,when the highly publicized effort began, the not-for-profitProvincetown Center for Coastal Studies has freed more than 97 largewhales from life-threatening entanglements, as it has such other marineanimals as dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea turtles. It is the onlyorganization federally authorized to disentangle large, free-swimmingwhales.

“Without an infusion of additional monies now being sought, theprogram is in jeopardy,” says Delaney, noting that most, if not all, ofthe surviving 350 North Atlantic right whales, up to 56 feet long, willhave migrated to Cape Cod Bay by January, and will remain in localwaters until May, when migrating humpback whales, up to 50 feet long,arrive and stay through October.

“On their migration up from Florida in the fall, the right whaleswill run thorough an obstacle course of entangling fishing nets anddebris, ” says Delaney, noting that coastal-center teams disentangledeight right whales last year, most from January through April. Theright whale was so named in 18th Century days because it was the “rightwhale” to catch — “slow, right for the picking, plenty of whale oil andthey floated after being harpooned,” says Delaney, noting that thespecies is now closely monitored under the coastal center’s Right WhaleHabitat Studies program.

“The principle disentanglementtechnique,” adds Delaney in a reference to the center’s Web site (www.coastalstudies.org), “is a modification of an old whaling practicecalled kegging, involves attaching large floats, or kegs, to the gearentangling the animal. The floats add buoyancy and drag to the animal,making it difficult for it to dive, eventually tiring it out. Thedesired result is a relatively immobile animal that is safer to cutfree.” The kegging system, he adds, is designed for swift releaseshould the rescue attempt fail; in those cases, a transponder or smallbuoy is attached to track the whale for a more appropriate time todisentangle.

In early July, for example, a Provincetown Center for CoastalStudies team responded to a nine-year-old female humpback whale thatwas reported severely entangled with one-inch line. After seven hoursof fighting strong southwest winds, the rescue team succeeded inremoving much of the life-threatening entangled rope, but the whale’slong-term health will not be known for months. The young humpback,known to researchers as Estuary, had been identified earlier as part ofthe center’s Aerial Photo Identification Program and catalogued in aresearch consortium with Boston’s New England Aquarium.

Such rescue efforts — often splashed on front pages of newspapersacross America or on the evening news — are in as much peril as thewhales themselves, if additional funding is not obtained by December.

The pending funding cut in the whale-disentanglement program,representing close to 25 percent of PCCS’s annual operating budget andhalf of its federal grants, would deeply damage the program. Additionalprivate funding and/or an emergency federal supplement are beingurgently sought.

“Hopefully with our congressional delegation’s help, money will beallocated in the ’09 budget, but with a new administration and a newCongress, next year’s budget won’t take affect for least three months,and perhaps six to nine months,” says Delaney, noting that CongressmanWilliam Delahunt, of the 10th Congressional District, and MassachusettsSenators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy were working diligently torestore the funding. “At the moment, no money is available for thisprogram in January, and we don’t want to be in the position of havingto dismantle it, even temporarily.”

Concedes Delahunt’s chief of staff, Mark Forest, “We’re facing acrisis for the disentanglement program. Congress has significantly cutfunding while demands have grown.” Forest, however, is hopeful that thefunds ultimately will be restored. Delahunt, he said, has won initialapproval for a $500,000 disentanglement-fund earmark in the HouseAppropriations Committee’s draft of the fiscal ’09 budget. But earmarks— appropriation requests outside the line-item federal budget — can bepolitically contentious, particularly in an election year when thedivisive topic of such earmarks is sure to be debated again. Meanwhile,Delahunt is also speaking with top NOAA officials about “reprogramming”funds for whale-disentanglement efforts while the federal budget isbeing vetted, Forest said

Acknowledging the uncertainty of politics and a new presidency,Forest noted, “The coastal center’s disentanglement program is highlyregarded, and we are confident that in the long term we will resolvethe problem. Unfortunately, the budget will not get resolved until sometime next year. Meanwhile, we need to throw out a lifeline to keep thisprogram alive.” Let’s hope they get it.

George K. Regan: A Man Of The City With A Heart For The Cape

PR Pro looks like an Irish Boy Scout

By Greg O'Brien, Boston Irish Reporter

George K. Regan, who looks more like a Boy Scout leader than he does one of the most successful, hard-charging public relations and crisis communications connoisseurs in the country, is the essence of Irish in so many ways: bright, passionate, reflective, an artist in his trade with superior political and media instincts. But looks are deceiving.

While some critics even suggest that a caricature of Regan might bear resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman, the fictional mascot of Mad Magazine, Regan’s “what me worry” persona is more imagined than real.“He’s a real character,” Bob Sheridan, SBLI president, CEO, a friend and client of Regan’s, and a “no-nonsense” guy himself, writes in an e-mail. “People either love him or hate him.

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I’ve been stabbed in the back so many times, I’m like a porcupine.”   -Regan

I fall in the former category.”

No doubt, Regan’s public relations maneuverings over the years have gotten people’s dander up and have been the subject of columns and industry babble, his triumphs at the Boston-based Regan Communications Group and his notable contributions to charitable organizations are celebrated.

"I’ve been stabbed in the back so many times, I’m like a porcupine,” Regan concedes in a wide-ranging interview with the Boston Irish Reporter.Does it bother you?“Of course it does,” he says, “but it’s part of the business and part of life. You have friends, you got enemies and you have people waiting for you to fall or fail. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether people like you or not, so long as they respect what you do. That needs to be the focus of our efforts.”Regan is sustained by the sage advice of his late father, George, who labored in the Charlestown shipyards. “You grow up fast,” his dad once told him. “But you come down faster.” It was counsel reinforced later in life by then Boston Mayor Kevin White, a surrogate father type to Regan, who instilled an unrelenting work ethic, problem solving and zeal for politics during his tenure as White’s Director of Communications and most trusted advisor.

The namesake or his company—New England’s largest privately-held public relations firm and the ninth largest privately-owned public relations firm in the country with branch offices and associations in Florida, New York Connecticut and Cape Cod and a killer client base the likes of the New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, Dunkin’ Donuts, Bank of America, New Balance, Boston Herald, Boston Magazine, Mohegan Sun and Suffolk University, to note a few of the more than 200 clients—isn’t coming down any time soon, and you can be certain of that.So why is Regan subdued on this bright day in early December with all the promise of Christmas, surrounded in his office at 106 Union Wharf, overlooking a world class city that his mentor built, with testimonies of his accomplishments—photos with the business and political elite, citations, news clips and other memorabilia?“It’s the eighth anniversary of my father’s death,” he explains. “I was up thinking about it all last night. He was my best friend, and a man of great virtue.” Particularly reflective this morning, Regan adds in candor and humility, “My father was everything that I am not: patient, sensitive and compassionate. He believed in me, and I have never forgotten that. He taught me that there are things more deeper and critical in life” than the day-to-day striving for secular achievement.

Clearly, it wasn’t a natural segue from Regan’s working class roots in the Wollaston section to Quincy to the privileged board rooms of Boston and New York. Nonetheless, Regan’s father, born in South Boston, and his mother, Ann (Kowalski), who was raised in the South End and still lives in Quincy, made sure that their son and his two sisters (Marianne and Patti, now deceased, who helped jumpstart Regan Communications in 1984) were primed for the real world. A third-generation Irish American, Regan’s paternal grandfather was born in Cork, then immigrated to Boston—“a man,” Regan says, “who worked hard with his hands’ and fortified through his father fundamental Irish Catholic principles.

“The bond between my dad and me was tight,” he notes, offering that he frequently took his father as his guest to key sporting events and through connections with Suffolk University President David Sargent had the university’s gymnasium named after his dad. “(Patriots owner) Bob Kraft and (Boston Herald) owner Pat Purcell spoke at the dedication,” says Regan, acknowledging that it’s nice to have friends in high places when it comes to honoring family.

Regan’s feminine side is equally dominant. “I’m more like my Mom,” he says of his mother, who worked part-time in the airline business, recruiting stewardesses. “She was the disciplinarian of the family and much more aggressive.”A forceful young Regan was a good kid, as neighborhood kids go, no lingering embarrassments. He attended Wollaston Elementary School and North Quincy High School where he played soccer and baseball. “I wasn’t a bad catcher,” he proclaims. Asked if could hit, the spinmeister adds, “I want to say ‘yes,’ but I think my coach would say ‘no.’” He insists, though, that he could hit a good fastball—an assertion borne out by a rough-and-tumble career in the media, politics and business. After high school, Regan attended Sufffolk, majoring in journalism, and upon graduation earned a masters degree in communication from Boston University.

During and just after his university years, he had a brief career at The Boston Globe, working for a day as a runner for the ad department, then as a copy boy in the editorial department and as a correspondent who earned his first front page byline at the age of 18. His ad work at the Globe was unremarkable by his own account. “I was dropped off at the Downtown Crossing to pick up ads at the various agencies and banks. In those days, there were no faxes or cellphones. I didn’t realize I had to get the ads back to the paper for deadline. When I returned at 8 pm, I was hastily informed there was a search party out for me, and was diplomatically told that I probably belonged over in the editorial department. They showed me the door.”

Following a stint in the newsroom, Regan tried his hand briefly again in the ad world, then responded in his early 20s through a well-connected friend to an opening for a deputy press secretary position in the Kevin White Administration. “My interview with Kevin was the worst of my life,” recalls Regan. “It was awful. I was paranoid. I was awestruck. Here was this guy of national stature, the mayor of a prominent big city, and I whiffed at the interview.” White, he says, didn’t suffer fools gladly. “You had to be passionate, hard working and smart. He couldn’t stand stupidity.”

But Regan is no fool, as White could see, and soon he was traveling the country as an advance man for the mayor’s foot-in-the-water political outreach, then became the city’s spokesman on the bruising issue of busing. In an ironic case of mistaken identity, Regan says his father took heat from his South Boston buddies, who assumed “that the George Regan quoted in the paper defending busing was him.”Regan’s White years have been well documented in the press as his admiration for the mayor, now struggling with Alzheimer’s. “The night before Kevin left office, I had dinner with him and his wife Katherine at Pier 4,” says Regan. “I was honored to be with him at his moment, after an inspiring 16-year-term, the longest consecutive term of any major in America.” He recalls that White was “very reflective” that night. “He felt there were things he could have done better, and gave himself a B plus for performance. He’s like the Bill Belichick of politics. Whatever you accomplish, it’s never good enough.”

Regan remains in awe of White and recently had dinner with him and Katherine at Toscano on Charles Street. just before Thanksgiving. “I still learn from him,” he says in the deepest respect. “It has helped me tremendously in my business.”In starting up a new venture, the exit from city hall and the limelight of a celebrity mayor can be jarring, as Regan found the day after White left office. No one had prepared him for the abrupt landing. “We had an inauspicious start,” he says with understatement. “I hadn’t realized that ATT and New England Telephone had actually broken up at this point. So when I went to my new office at 75 Fulton Street, all I had were wires hanging out of the walls. We didn’t have phones for about a week.”

The staff at first included Regan’s sister Patti, his redeeming Aunt Mary (now deceased) who emptied her personal bank account to make payroll when checks were late or revenues were lax, Earl “The Pearl” Marchand, a former Boston Herald American reporter who wrote like a dream and had worked in Regan’s city hall press office, Dennis Sullivan, another city hall recruit, and Regan’s secretary. “The early days were very discouraging,” says Regan, noting that many of his old Boston connections were missing in action. “I thought I had all these friends.”But taking a cue from advisors and falling back on the Tip O’Neill axiom that “all politics are local,” and recognizing that this then applies to marketing and media strategies, Regan was off and running with a mission: “The right message delivered in the right way,” as his firm’s website declares.

A baseball player at heart, like his father, and confident in the Field of Dreams claim that “if you build it, they will come, “ Regan and his new firm were soon stretching singles into triples and building an extraordinary list of clients looking for services that range from messaging, to marketing and collateral pieces, to crisis communications, to cutting-edge websites and new or rich media.“We call ourselves a full service, non-traditional public relations company. We have some clients who couldn’t care less if their name was ever in a newspaper. They are more interested in what is the best message for their product.”Regan is quick to credit a young, talented staff for the firm’s growth—a recruiting technique he learned from White. “I’m not a good manager,” he admits. “I’m a visionary.”

Regan’s admirers would add that he has an excellent skill set for problem solving and clearly understands the bridge between the media and politics. And that’s gold in the PR business.Days later in a follow-up interview, Regan, who was engaged twice but still is single, is asked if he has any regrets about life. “There are a lot of things I wish I did differently. I’m trying to get more balance in my life. I think that I—and we as a company—sometimes have been a little too harsh, that we might have overdone it, probably been a little to tough.”

Is this a kinder, gentler George?Yes, if his on-going contributions to charities are any indication, including The Arc of Greater Boston, The American Liver Foundation, Carroll Center for the Blind, Beth Israel Hospital and the Franciscan Children’s Hospital.His father, indeed, would be pleased. “We all have thrown sharp elbows in life, and many of us are trying to make up for past sins,” he says as he darts from meeting to meeting. “I’m a very lucky man. I’ve been blessed in life, and I don’t ever want to take that for granted.”

No chance of that, if his father and Kevin White have any say, and they do. In spite of a frenzied, eclectic schedule, George K. Regan has found religion in the direction of his mentors.

Eulogy to Virginia Brown O?Brien: A life of Giving

 

(Note: Virginia Brown O’Brien, the mother of ten children andgrandmother to 21,was buried Thursday in North Eastham on Outer Cape Cod—barely four months after her husband of 60 years, Francis Xavier O'Brien passed away after a long, painful illness. A selfless caregiver in every way, Virginia died after an assault of advanced Alzheimer's that she had kept at bay while caring for her husband, letting go in complete exhaustion only near the end of his life. A eulogy delivered by her son, Greg, on May 29. 2008 at Our Lady of the Cape Catholic Church in Brewster is posted here in honor of Virginia, and for extended family and friends, from Cape Cod to California, and others, to know of her bountiful love, faith and devotion. Her life in all ways underscores the devotion of the Greatest Generation of women in recent memory ever to serve their families.) 

By Greg O’Brien

 

We have to stop meeting like this!

God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, it is said.

But I think the Lord has us O’Briens mixed up with someoneelse.

Two lives. Two deaths. Two funerals. Four months.

Rips one apart at the seams. My parents were individuals ofgreat timing. Dad died on my brother Tim’s birthday. Mom today is buried on mysister Lauren’s.

Today I, too, want to talkbriefly about the superglue that has held us all together. It is an appropriateword indeed.

Two days before my Mom’sdeath, I sat with her at the nursing home. She had pneumonia and an oxygen tubein her nose. She was scared. I told her not to worry, that we’d all stick byher side.

She turned to me in heradvanced Alzheimer’s state, looked me in the eye, and said, “Like glue!”

Virginia Brown O’Brien defined motherhood, and in an agetoday when worldly accomplishment is all too often the mark of achievement, herselfless devotion to her late husband, Francis Xavier O’Brien, and her tenchildren are testimony to a higher standard.

Awoman of considerable artistic talent and achievement as a schoolteacher, sheforever put her family first—whether it was a sacrifice of her time, herresources or her considerable emotion. She was dutiful beyond all measure, andin an era when we honor the Greatest Generation, as we should, Virginia O’Brienstands out among the Greatest Generation of women of her day—mothers who helpedshape and define their spouses and children in diverse ways, both in what theywere in life and are today in our memories.

Surviving O’Brien family members—her children and a score ofgrandchildren—will live in her shadow, a wide swath of grace that comfortsextended family households from Cape Cod to California.

My mother, Virginia, was forever Irish, as stunning as thefields of Tipperary, and an artist in every way—was the bond of the O’Brien household—theself-sacrificing link, as my sister Maureen describes, that stitched us alltogether and made us whole. She gave her life to give us life. The caregiver.To my father—a devotion in her “golden years” that would sap the energy of atitan and test the patience of an angel. To her children—a Christ-like completesurrender that sought nothing in return. She gave us the strength to ask formore, never asking of herself. She was a Rock, as my brother Andy calls her.Always in the moment, as Paul would say.

Barely five feet tall and ahundred pounds, Mom could bowl us over—knock us right off our feet—with thelargesse of her great intellect, wisdom and ceaseless love. Good love and toughlove. Always justified and in abundant measure. For she could burn your corneaswith a cold stare when you were wrong, one that penetrated deep into the soul.There were times around her that I felt like Saul on the road to Damascus. Butredemption is a wonderful thing. You have to give it to get it, and my motherhad infinite capacity to forgive.

Mom, “Ginny,” as my dad and friends called her, was a womanof great faith—in parochial terms a Catholic and a Christian by every test ofscripture. And she would often talk freely about her faith, and the peace ofknowing that her spirit would always live on. She prayed in dutiful spirit forus everyday. I believe up until the moment she died.

One of three siblings, all now deceased; Mom was the end ofthe line. She was born and raised in privilege on Manhattan’s West Side, in theshadows of the Museum of Natural History where she played hopscotch on thesidewalk and where milk was delivered in a horsed-drawn carriage. Her father,George, was successful in Manhattan in real estate and insurance. He ownedseveral Brownstones, and during the Great Depression forgave the rent defaultsof his tenants, to the point it greatly diminished his resources. Her motherLoretta, was a kind and caring mother, and a loving grandmother to us.

Mom was educated in a French convent school and excelled atthe College of New Rochelle, then worked briefly at Bankers Trust in New YorkCity before marrying a young, handsome Navy Lieutenant. The rest is familyhistory. All in Rye, New York. For almost 20 years, she taught second grade atthe parochial Most Holy Trinity in nearby Mamaroneck and St. Gregory the Greatin Harrison, before retiring to the Cape with my Dad many years ago.

But all this hardly tells the story. It is as impossible tocapture the spirit of this woman, as it is to command the wind, or order thetides. Mom’s spirit is with us today. You can feel it.  It is in this church. It is in thehomes of her children. It is on the beach at Coast Guard and Nauset Light inEastham where she loved to bodysurf. Her spirit is in our hearts. Forever. Andnothing can take that from us.

When Alzheimer’s made its numbing assault in the last year,Mom was captivated by yellow trucks and cars as we drove her around. “See thatyellow car,” she would say. “Look, there’s another one. I can’t believe this!”We, too, began seeing them. My brother Tim and I now drive yellow cars. Yellowis the color of angels.

Say what you want, think what you must, but I believe theLord sent his angels to cover Mom in her final days after she had poured herspirit out on our father. On the day, not long ago, when my brother Tim and Itook Mom to Epoch nursing home in Brewster, perhaps the hardest day of ourlives, I noticed as we pulled out onto Route 6 in Eastham that there were twoyellow cars in front of us. And two yellow cars behind us. I called my wife onthe cellphone to tell her about it. As we drove along Route 6 and one yellowcar peeled off, another took its place. It happened several times, all the wayto Brewster. “There’s another one! I can’t believe it!” Mom said.

What we can all believe about Mom today is that she is apeace—with Dad, her sons Martin and Gerard, her parents, and with her God.Perhaps all surrounded by yellow cars.

In her final moments, we told her it was Ok to go. We gaveher our blessing. We told her we’d stick together. She took us at our word. Shelived in the moment.

Rest in peace, Mom. You deserve it.

A final brief postscript: Mom knew how I hated flyingbecause the airlines always lost one of my bags. We’d talk about it all thetime. When I flew back from North Carolina yesterday after attending mydaughter Colleen’s graduation from Elon, sure enough one of my bags was missingat Green Airport in Providence. After a computer check, US Airways determinedthat the bag, under another name, had been sent to Akron, Ohio. Someone at thecounter had put the wrong sticker on it. The airline checked the passenger nameon the misplaced sticker: It was Brown. My mother’s maiden name.

Even in death, Mom. You’re still the boss; you’re callingthe shots. You knew I liked a good ending to a story, and you gave me one. Nowwipe that smile off your face, and please find my bag!

 

 

Last Words From A Son: Virginia B. O?Brien Defined Motherhood

Virginia Brown O’Brien defined motherhood, and in an age today when worldly accomplishment is all too often the mark of achievement, her selfless devotion to her late husband, Francis Xavier O’Brien, and her ten children are testimony to a higher standard.

virginia_obrien_429She died last Wednesday at Epoch Senior Health Care of Brewster. She was 84, and had lived in retirement in North Eastham for many years after raising her family in Westchester County, New York.

A woman of considerable artistic talent and achievement as a schoolteacher, she forever put her family first—whether it was a sacrifice of her time, her resources or her considerable emotion. She was dutiful beyond all measure, and in an era when we honor the Greatest Generation, as we should, Virginia O’Brien stands out among the Greatest Generation of women of her day—mothers who helped shape and define their spouses and children in diverse ways, both in what they were in life and are today in our memories.

Surviving O’Brien family members—her children and a score of grandchildren—will live in her shadow, a wide swath of grace that comforts extended family households from Cape Cod to California. 

Born in New York City in 1923, Mrs. O’Brien was the daughter of the late George and Loretta Brown, and was the sister of the late Donald Brown and Gertrude Brown. She grew up in Manhattan on the West Side where she played hopscotch on the sidewalks and attended a private French convent school. She was graduated from the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, N.Y., and worked briefly at Bankers Trust in New York City.

Raising her family in Rye, N.Y., she was an active parishioner at Resurrection Church in Rye and was active in church and civic activities. For almost 20 years, she taught second grade at the parochial Most Holy Trinity in Mamaroneck. N.Y. and St. Gregory the Great in nearby Harrison.

In retirement on Cape Cod, she was a member of St. Joan of Arc parish in Orleans and volunteered at the church’s thrift shop.

Mrs. O’Brien is survived by eight children: Maureen Maresca of Mt. Kisco, NY; Greg O’Brien of Brewster, MA; Lauren Anderson of Bradford, MA; Justine O’Brien-Holmes of Loveland, OH; Paul O’Brien of Pleasanton, CA; Bernadette Thompson of South Burlington, VT; Tim O’Brien of Guilford, CT; and Andy O’Brien of Rye, NY; and 21 grandchildren. Two of her sons, Gerard and Martin O’Brien predeceased her at an early age.

A wake will be held 6 pm to 8 pm Wednesday at the Nickerson Funeral Home in Orleans. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 11 am Thursday at Our Lady of the Cape on Stony Brook Road in Brewster. 

In lieu of flowers, pleases send donations in memory of Mrs. O’Brien to the VNA at www.vnacapecod.org and click donations, or mail a contribution to Lower Cape Outreach Council, P.O. 665, Orleans, Ma. 02653.

From Cape Cod To San Juan Capistrano: There's Nothing Super About Superdelegates

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

And you thought your vote counted. Hey, wake up and smell the superdelegates!

By any current measure of Democratic politics, the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee could be chosen by party insiders—about 20 percent of the delegates to the party’s national convention in Denver this August who can vote as they see fit. That’s 796 privileged “superdelegates” out of 2,025 needed to win—mostly a bunch of middle-aged white guys who comprise the party’s congressional members, governors, mayors of large cities and towns and state party leaders. Hanging chads have nothing on these boyos. So much for the Democratic process and the party of inclusion that adopted the superdelegate rule 1982 to shore up the power of party leaders during the freewheeling primary and caucus season, and to prevent the nomination of an unelectable rube from outside the mainstream. Loosely translated: give us your tired, your poor, your hungry and disenfranchised, but don’t expect them to run our party. No way!

And don't be misled by front page New York Times headlines that the lunch pail masses have spoken: “Obama’s Support Grows Broader: A Surge Past Clinton.”

Braying Hilary Clinton—a superdelegate herself with an Associated Press delegate projection of 1,262—is hoping the superdelegate structure will break her freefall of 11 primary loses to Barack Obama, who has a slight AP delegate projection lead with 1,351 delegates. Quoting Clinton’s communications director Howard Wolfson, the Boston Globe reported that “Clinton will not concede the race to Obama if he wins a greater number of pledged delegates by the end of the primary season, and will count on the 796 elected officials and party bigwigs to put her over the top, if necessary.”

Said Wolfson, “I want to be clear that neither campaign is in a position to win this nomination without the support of the votes of the superdelegates.” Clinton now has a projected 241-to-181 edge over Obama in declared superdelegates.

Not to be outdone when it comes to manipulating party politics, Republicans have a patrician system of their own with 463 unbound delegates, all elite elected officials and party leaders in a primary system that requires 1,191 delegates to secure a presidential nomination—irrelevant with John McCain’s AP projected 957 delegates to Mike Huckabee’s weedy 254, which gives the former Arkansas governor about as much chance of winning the White House as Gomer Pyle had of going to Harvard. Shazam!

Of late, there have been repeated calls from the middle of the political spectrum and some from the left and right to eliminate superdelgates and unbound delegates, permitting presidential nominations to more precisely reflect the popular vote. A primary ballot in Roxbury or the Bronx ought to count as much as a vote cast in abounding Westchester, Fairfield and Middlesex counties without added weight from party leaders in the heat of a convention fight.

Our Founding Fathers certainly didn’t have superdelegates in mind when they fashioned the republic. The thought of such would have revolted them.

 

 

Bush Taking Aim On A Spy Satellite: Shoot To Kill!

By Greg O'Brien, Codfish Press

Tom Clancy couldn’t make this stuff up; even Buck Rogers would be hard pressed to deliver on it: take out a spherical toxic fuel tank–about 36 inches wide in a failing 5,000-pound spy satellite the size of a school bus hurtling toward earth about 150 miles up–with a single shot from a Standard Missile 3 that was initially designed to intercept a ballistic projectile in flight, not a spacecraft. And if you miss, 1,000 pounds of deadly hydrazine, a lethal fuel used to maneuver the errant satellite launched in December, 2006, will be spread out over “an area the size of two football fields, and anyone caught in it could suffer lung damage and possibly die, warns Graham Candler, a University of Minnesota aerospace engineering professor, in a USA Today report.

You won’t have to wait for the DVD. The Pentagon, in spite of international protests and second-guessing in the homeland, plans to fire the intercept this week from a navy cruiser in the North Pacific. Sounding like roughneck Harry Stamper (the indefatigable Bruce Willis), who “never, never missed a depth that I have aimed for, and by God, I am not going to miss this one,” President Bush gave the order Thursday.

“This is all about trying to reduce danger to human beings,” asserted James Jeffrey, deputy national security advisor. 

Well, not exactly, say critics, borrowing a line from the movie Independence Day when it was determined the government had lied about an alien presence at Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico. Detractors and some foreign governments insist the U.S. is just showing off—an excuse to test an emergent anti-satellite weapon, rather than saving innocent lives or shielding classified information, a show of American muscle that could set back disarmament talks the U.S. seems to be resisting. “Similar spacecraft re-enter the atmosphere regularly and break up into pieces,” reports the Associated Press, quoting Ivan Oelrich, vice president for strategic security programs at the Federation of American Scientists.

Perhaps Bush is trying to prove he’s a better shot than Dick Cheney. Be that as it may, there is enough intrigue in this plot over the demise of spy satellite US 193 to spin off sequels in the way of more space junk. While most of the debris, if lightening strikes its mark, is expected to burn up in the atmosphere, some is sure to add to the collateral damage floating in space–estimated at more than a million bits of wreckage with more than 10,000 assorted pieces of junk of all sizes in low orbit whizzing around at average speeds up about 22,000 miles-an-hour. Fast-forward to the next generation of communication and spy satellites and the earth begins to resemble an asteroid belt.

So next time you gaze up at the sky on a starry night, realize you’re looking into the landfill and shooting gallery of the future. Aim straight, George, and you’ll win a stuffed doll.

Wither Males: Are We Headed The Way Of The Dinosaur?

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

In some circles, the question of men universally asked is: If a man speaks in a forest with no woman to hear him, is he still wrong? Today, the query has a new twist: If a man is not needed to reproduce, will he be missed in the bedroom?

Thanks to the British, of all people, the answer may be a resounding: no!

British scientists at the University of Newcastle announced recently the creation of sperm cells from a female human embryo. “British scientists who had already coaxed male bone marrow cells to develop into primitive sperm cells have now repeated the feat with female embryonic stem cells,” science editor Roger Highfield writes in the Telegraph. “It raises the possibility of lesbian couples one day having children who share both their genes as sperm created from the bone marrow of one woman could be used to fertilize an egg from her partner.”

Consider also the potential opportunities for all women who at times have no use for us men, and we’re suddenly flirting with “Homo erectus extinctus,” as The Sunday Times ponders. “Senior scientists believe that woman may evolve as humanity’s sole representatives—and social and political trends are lending weight to their theories,” the paper suggests.

“A world without men,” contemplates About.com. “The story is a familiar one…No men are needed, even in the creation of children. While once relegated to the world of fiction, the possibility of an all-female society may soon become a reality.”

Yikes, say it ain’t so! It’s enough to keep males up at night watching reruns of “Father Knows Best.”

The biology books tell us that men and women differ over sex chromosomes—men and women both have an “X” chromosome, but only males have the “Y,” carrying the required codes, scientists have long suspected, to create sperm. Perhaps us men have been spending too much time wandering aimless about life without asking for directions that we’ve taken our collective eye off the “Y.”  Are we now on the verge of irrelevancy?

“The Y chromosome has scant function other than the production of sperm, and in many men it is not performing well,” The Times reports. “Male infertility is already surprisingly common.”

Back to the gym, boys! Parthenogenesis (virgin birth), an asexual form of reproduction in certain plant and animal life, is also on the rise, and occurs now in water fleas, aphids, some bees and scorpion species, parasite wasps, certain fish, birds and sharks. Expect the list to grow.

Moral and family issues aside, before men toss in the towel on self-worth, consider the following: Who’s going to take out the trash, who’s going to rent the shoot-‘em-up movies, who’s going to buy the beer, who's going to overreact? and who’s going to be wrong all the time?

Relax. There is still a place for us! For now.

 

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