The MBTA union head threatened shutdown over fishy ads

You couldn’t blame Roger Berkowitz, chief executive of Legal Seafoods, if he wanted his money back following an advertising campaign earlier this year. The restaurant chain purchased ads on the tops of Boston’s taxicabs that were emblazoned with mock insults such as THIS DRIVER HAS A FACE LIKE A HALIBUT. No one noticed.

But earlier this month Berkowitz hit the jackpot. He bought similar ads that ran on the sides of the MBTA’s Green Line trolleys, with messages such as HEY LADY, I’VE SEEN SMALLER NOSES ON A SWORDFISH and THIS TROLLEY GETS AROUND MORE THAN YOUR SISTER. The halibut ad was recycled, too, this time aimed at T drivers. And Stephan MacDougall, president of the Boston Carmen’s Union, threatened to shut down the system if the ads weren’t removed.

“To say they [the drivers] are angered and offended is to put it lightly,” MacDougall said, specifically citing the “halibut” ad. “I will tell you this: if they don’t come down, we will not drive those trains.” T general manager Daniel Grabauskas folded like a cheap suit. The ads were removed. And Berkowitz was the toast of the town, his story featured on the front page of the Boston Globe and on local television stations. As they say, you can’t buy that kind of publicity.

When it comes to free speech and personal liberties, the MBTA has been the scene of numerous offenses.

In 2001, Paul Cellucci, the just-departed governor, won his third Muzzle Award — thus earning a place in our Hall of Shame — for ordering the T not to accept advertising that favored the decriminalization of marijuana.

In 2005, the T received a Dishonorable Mention for trying to enforce that ban even after a federal court ruled the agency had engaged in “viewpoint discrimination.”

And in 2006, the T received a full-fledged Muzzle of its very own, this time for a so-called anti-terrorism policy that forbade people from taking photographs without permission.

Given that a Green Line driver, Terrese Edmonds, recently died in an accident, you’d think MacDougall would have more important things to worry about than Legal Seafoods’ gently mocking ads. Instead, he is actually calling for MBTA employees to boycott Legal, saying Berkowitz is “misguided and misdirected. He is suffering from elitism and needs to do some self-examination.”

Anti-abortion vigilante removed sex-ed books from public libraries
We here at Muzzle Central know what you’re thinking. “All this stuff is fine,” you’re saying. “But it’s all so . . . substantive. Where is this year’s anti-sex crusader? Where is the entertainment?”

We aim to please. So let us introduce you to JoAn Karkos, a sixty-something anti-abortion-rights activist from Lewiston, Maine, whose claim to Muzzle fame is removing copies of a sex-education book aimed at middle-school students from the public libraries in Lewiston and Auburn and refusing to return them.

In a letter to the Sun Journal of Lewiston this past August, Karkos wrote that the book — It’s Perfectly Normal — “promotes promiscuous sex by illustrations and written content specifically intended to distort, undermine, and destroy wholesome traditional family values.”

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