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High-Fives and Dope Slaps: 2011 in review

Posted by Alex Pearlman  December 27, 2011 09:30 AM

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dianne wilkerson.jpgBy Jeff Fish

2011 is almost over, and we’ll soon be headed into a whole new year of political blunders, state and local issues, and other surprises we don’t know about yet. So I figured that this week, instead of focusing on just the last seven days, I’d take a look at the whole year.

Ladies and gentlemen, the following are my picks for the year's best and worst stories in Massachusetts politics.

High-Five: The crooks are going to jail. As we’ve found out in the past couple of years, there has been a lot of corruption in the Massachusetts government, which of course is a Dope Slap. The fact that state legislators are taking bribes breeds even more distrust among citizens in a time where people are already skeptical (at best) about their government. But seeing these crooks punished for their crimes has been satisfying.

Former State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Jan. 6; she was charged with corruption, after being caught on videotape stuffing bribe money in her bra. Later that month, on Jan. 25, former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner was sentenced to three years in prison for taking $1,000 in bribe money from an undercover FBI agent. Despite outcries from his constituents and Turner’s insistence that it was only a “preacher’s handshake,” he (and Wilkerson) both got what they deserved.

Dope Slap: Scott Brown gaffes after bin Laden’s death. Scott Brown has definitely made ripples in the state's political climate since he won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in 2010. He remains a popular figure in Massachusetts but faces an uncertain reelection campaign in this blue state and faces a worthy competitor in Elizabeth Warren. Of course, Sen. Brown tries to boost his credentials and make himself seem important whenever he can -- which backfired in May after Osama bin Laden’s death, when he claimed to have seen pictures of the dead body, which turned out to be fake.

According to The Boston Globe, the junior senator said in a number of interviews that he saw the pictures as part of his briefings and that they were too gruesome to show the public. Later on, he revealed that the photos he saw were fakes. These statements raised a few questions: Who showed him the pictures? How would they have been part of an official report? In the grand scheme of things, the whole incident isn’t very damaging, but it doesn’t exactly make Brown look good.

i believe in occupy.jpgHigh-Five: Occupy Boston. Although I've talked about it at length, I couldn’t write a year-end recap without mentioning Occupy Boston. Without a doubt, the Occupy movement is the protest movement of our generation. While many don't understand it, and while I think it could use a clearer message and stated goals, Occupy has brought up vital issues and showcased the frustrations that we as Americans feel.

I would argue that Boston had the most successful occupation; it lasted the longest, and when the tents came down in Dewey Square, they did so peacefully and with dignity. And just because the crowd isn’t camped out anymore doesn’t mean the movement is dead. I’m looking forward to seeing how they evolve in 2012.

Dope Slap: Gov. Deval Patrick’s response to a drunken driving death involving an illegal immigrant. In October, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador allegedly killed a motorcyclist while driving drunk in Milford, prompting a debate over immigration reform in the state, something Gov. Patrick has refused to acknowledge. Earlier in the year, he decided that Massachusetts would not participate in the Secure Communities Program, which would check the immigration status of those arrested and target illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes. He also dismissed the alleged drunken driving death as an issue of drinking and driving, not of immigration.

Obviously, if an illegal immigrant is driving drunk without a license and kills someone, that is an immigration issue. It’s not practical to try to deport all illegal immigrants, and there should be some kind of reform that realistically deals with illegal aliens, but to ignore a case like this makes no sense whatsoever. What, exactly, is wrong with enforcing immigration laws on those who commit violent crimes? This case is another example that makes me wonder just how Patrick hoodwinked the state into voting for him in 2011.

james whitey bulger.jpgHigh-Five: Whitey Bulger finally got caught! This story has to be the biggest thing to come out of the Bay State all year. After 16 years, James “Whitey” Bulger was finally arrested and brought home to Massachusetts to stand trial. It was an undoubtedly big news event, and as someone who grew up in Massachusetts, it seemed like the day would never come. There were sightings of him all around the world, so it was pretty shocking to find out that he had been living in California in plain sight. Bulger's arrest was a huge victory to the F.B.I. and a sense of closure for those 19 families (that we know of) who lost loved ones at his hands.

Before I sign off for the year, I have one more Dope Slap for 2011 -- Mitt Romney’s candidacy. I’ve talked about him often, so I’m not going into detail, but the fact that a former governor is the front runner to become a presidential nominee is significant for the state, even if he is an awful candidate.

On that note, Happy (early) New Year, and I’ll see you in 2012!

What do you think the state's biggest news story was in 2011? Check out more of our year-end "Best of Boston 2011" coverage here.

‘High-Fives and Dope Slaps’ is TNGG Boston’s weekly Tuesday politics column, written by Jeff Fish.

Photo of Dianne Wilkerson (top) and Whitey Bulger (bottom) by WBUR (Flickr); photo of Occupy Boston (middle) by Courtney Sacco

About Jeff -- I'm a senior at Suffolk University, majoring in journalism and political science. I'm the editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, The Suffolk Journal, and I did a six-month co-op at The Boston Globe. I love politics, reading, movies, TV, and anything pop culture. My mind is a font of useless knowledge.

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This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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