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April 7, 2008

Librarians: Checked out from reality

Boston's professional librarians and the city are at a bargaining impasse. Until recently, the librarians were pushing for a salary hike of 27 percent over four years. They must have been spending too much time in the fantasy section. Boston now receives about $67 million less in state aid than it did in 2002. Salary hikes of 11 to 14 percent over four years for other city employees reflect that economic reality. The city's librarians provide sound, even inspired service to their patrons, and lately they and the city have drawn closer to a realistic wage package. Still, no deal has been inked yet, and the Menino administration needs to explain, chapter and verse, that big raises are not in their futures.

Immigration: A bad policy gets worse

The southern border fence intended to keep out illegal immigrants is no longer just wasteful and stupid. Now it is harmful as well. Last week Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said he was waiving over 30 environmental regulations in his haste to finish a 670-mile section of the fence by the end of this (election) year. Several sensitive conservation areas are in the path of the fence, including the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona and the Sabal Palm Audubon Center in Texas, which said it would have to close. But that is no matter to Chertoff. "We're demonstrating the willpower to get the job done, as we promised to do," he said. If only Washington had the willpower to find a real solution.

XM and Sirius: Competing with everyone but each other?

The Bush Justice Department offered some strange reasoning when it approved the proposed merger of the nation's two satellite radio companies. The department concluded that XM and Sirius do not compete with each other, because the company's receivers do not pick up each other's signals. Yet Justice also bought the companies' claim that they do compete with everything from AM/FM to iPods. Which is it? The Federal Communications Commission shouldn't lie down so easily. When it auctioned off spectrum for satellite radio a decade ago, the goal was to foster two competing services. So why allow monopoly control over that portion of the airwaves now?

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