Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pre-Halloween Miscellany - of Occupation, Election Year Candy, and Justified Political Paranoia

I think probably the best thing the "Occupiers" have going for them is the fact that even people like me - people who know that the only way to get these people to go home is to stop paying attention to them - just can't stop paying attention to them.  For me they are something of a morbid fascination, but a fascination nonetheless.  Anyhow, that's why such a large percentage of these random thoughts touch in some way on the urban campers.

Sign of the Apocalypse? Last night on my commute home, WBZ radio reported (as though it were actual news) that "OccupyBoston" (as though it were an actual entity) has dismissed "two members of its finance team."  How short a straw does an "Occupier" have to draw to be appointed to the "finance team"?  Isn't that kind of like being stuck on the Temperance Society's party planning committee?  And who is next to get the boot?  The camp haberdasher?

Elections Have Consequences.  Read this blog post from NRO.  When the President essentially federalized the student loan industry earlier in his term there was some protest from conservatives, but the broader public barely noticed.  Now, he is using his new, total control over student lending to hand out big fistfuls of election-year largesse to an element of his base that he desperately needs to get fired up in time for November 2012.  Pretty crass stuff.  Elections have consequences - often for future elections.

Just one difference... The Lowell Sun compares Elizabeth Warren's recent claim to intellectual parentage of the Occupy Wall Street movement with Al Gore's infamous claim to have invented the internet. I've seen that comparison a few other places too, and it's fine so far as it goes. Both are significant political gaffes revealing a certain inflated sense of self-importance.  One difference: Al Gore didn't actually invent the internet.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I just. Don't. Know. What to make. Of this.



I mean, it's a parody right?  It has to be.  But a parody of what?  What does it mean (or what does it mean to parody)?  Is there any possibility it is NOT a parody?  Did someone - someone paid to do such things - come up with this "concept," and convince both the candidate and his family that it was a good idea to put it out into the world?  Could that be?


If anyone needs me I'll be curled up in a fetal position in the corner while my brain recovers from the stress of trying to understand this video.

UPDATE: Okay, it IS a parody.  But having now seen the Herman Cain ad that the above Jon Huntsman ad is tweaking, my disorienting sense of unease is only deeper.



This cycle is already so weird. So, so weird.

Top 10 Reads of the Week – October 28, 2011

A bit video-heavy this week… saw a lot of good stuff.

The Ugliness Started With Bork – Joe Nocera [New York Times]
The Bork fight, in some ways, was the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics. For years afterward, conservatives seethed at the “systematic demonization” of Bork, recalls Clint Bolick, a longtime conservative legal activist. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution coined the angry verb “to bork,” which meant to destroy a nominee by whatever means necessary. When Republicans borked the Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright less than two years later, there wasn’t a trace of remorse, not after what the Democrats had done to Bork. The anger between Democrats and Republicans, the unwillingness to work together, the profound mistrust — the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.

It is, to be sure, completely understandable that the Democrats wanted to keep Bork off the court. Lewis Powell, the great moderate, was stepping down, which would be leaving the court evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. There was tremendous fear that if Bork were confirmed, he would swing the court to the conservatives and important liberal victories would be overturned — starting with Roe v. Wade.

But liberals couldn’t just come out and say that. “If this were carried out as an internal Senate debate,” Ann Lewis, the Democratic activist, would later acknowledge, “we would have deep and thoughtful discussions about the Constitution, and then we would lose.” So, instead, the Democrats sought to portray Bork as “a right-wing loony,” to use a phrase in a memo written by the Advocacy Institute, a liberal lobby group… Read the Rest

Should have supported voter ID law – Artur Davis [Montgomery Advertiser] 

Ed Note: The writer is an African American former Congressman, major Obama ally and gubernatorial candidate.
I've changed my mind on voter ID laws -- I think Alabama did the right thing in passing one -- and I wish I had gotten it right when I was in political office.
When I was a congressman, I took the path of least resistance on this subject for an African American politician. Without any evidence to back it up, I lapsed into the rhetoric of various partisans and activists who contend that requiring photo identification to vote is a suppression tactic aimed at thwarting black voter participation.
The truth is that the most aggressive contemporary voter suppression in the African American community, at least in Alabama, is the wholesale manufacture of ballots, at the polls and absentee, in parts of the Black Belt… Read the Rest
Losing the Economic Battle (The global debt apocalypse approaches) – David Smick [Weekly Standard]
On the issue of public debt, Washington is experiencing what psychologists call “learned helplessness.” The financial news is so relentlessly terrible that people have become numb to it and assume nothing can be done to regain control over our fate.
Today the world’s public and private debt exceeds an incredible 300 percent of GDP. We are at risk of succumbing to an ugly, downward, global mark-to-market in asset prices. Yet the discussion in Washington fails to reflect the immensity of the threat… Read the Rest
Gutsy Dude of the Week


  
Sharia law to be main source of legislation in Libya – Kim Gamel [Christian Science Monitor]
After giving a speech that emphasized the Islamization of Libya, the head of the transitional government on Monday tried to reassure the Western powers who helped topple Moammar Gadhafi that the country's new leaders are moderate Muslims.
Just as in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, Islamists have emerged from yet another Arab Spring uprising as the most powerful group in the country. How far they will go will be decided at the ballot box — in Tunisia this week, in Egypt in November and in Libya within eight months.
National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil said Sunday that Islamic Sharia law would be the main source of legislation, that lawscontradicting its tenets would be nullified, and that polygamy would be legalized… Read the Rest

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The American Dream has always been "up for grabs"

Governor Patrick sat down today in the WTTK studios for his semi-regular gabathon with fellow liberal talk show hosts Jim Braude and Margery Egan.  Toward the end of a discussion about Occupy Boston, the Governor pulled out a favorite rhetorical chestnut from last year's campaign:
Grab it!
I met folks who are students, middle-aged single parents with kids. A two-term Iraq veteran I met down there who was working, a whole lot of people from different perspectives sharing what I sense was their worry about the country. At a time when in many ways the American Dream feels like it’s up for grabs, we ought to pay attention to that. The American Dream distinguishes us from every nation on Earth.
"At a time when the American Dream feels like it's up for grabs..."  I've heard it from Patrick a dozen times, but not until today - when a friend emailed me - did I think about what it means (or doesn't).  "The American Dream is up for grabs." And that is a bad thing? 

I'm thinking about childhood usage of the term.  "Five Twinkies, up for grabs!" meant 'beat feet over here and grab a Twinkie.'  Twinkies were available for the taking - potentially accessible to all, though only obtainable by the first five to make some effort to get them (hence, the "grabbing" part).

Hasn't the American Dream always been "up for grabs" - there for the taking, if only one is willing to reach up, to stretch and work and strive, to snatch it?  Isn't that very notion a pretty essential part of what makes it the American Dream, as opposed to - I don't know - the American Entitlement Program?

Governor Patrick is the undisputed master - the Yoda, the Miyagi, the pre-2010 Tiger - of the art of using many pretty-sounding words to little concrete meaning.  Sometimes, though, his amorphous little catch-phrases reveal more than I think he realizes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

He wasn't talkin' about Warren. Riiiight. That's the ticket.

In his 'Political Intelligence' blog on Boston.com this morning, Glen Johnson takes a gentle poke at Elizabeth Warren's top campaign strategist, former Deval Patrick CoS-turned-lobbyist Doug Rubin.  Noting that Rubin was a part-time Herald political columnist for a brief period between paid political gigs, Johnson quotes then-impartial third party observer Rubin from a column he wrote back in June, criticizing the national Democratic establishment's open dissatisfaction with the Democratic field as it existed at the time:
[Rubin] tapped that network and expertise in June to issue a pointed warning: Democratic officials in Washington should cease carping about the lack of a high-profile candidate to challenge US Senator Scott Brown as the Republican seeks reelection next year.

“This might make for nice D.C. cocktail party chatter, but it’s not helpful on the ground in Massachusetts,” Rubin wrote.

He added: “The speculation from D.C. hurts the existing (Democratic) field, which is already filled with strong, talented candidates. It keeps donors who are loyal to the party on the sidelines, and forces some very important grass-roots organizers to hold off from making a commitment to a candidate. It also creates media stories about the supposed weakness of the field, which is a disservice to those candidates who have chosen to run.”
Having now signed on to steer the Warren campaign, Rubin is understandably at pains to 'clarify' away his earlier criticism of the Draft Elizabeth effort. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Gov Patrick's "wacky" comment explains a lot

Every once in a while some pol lets slip an apparent throw-away line that on further consideration turns out to say a whole lot.

Read this (from the State House News, via the Boston Herald):
Gov. Deval Patrick is urging federal officials to change a “wacky rule” he says could cost Massachusetts $15 million in transportation funding, and last week he took his case to the nation’s top transportation official.

Patrick told the News Service that he met last Thursday with the Obama administration’s transportation chief, Secretary Ray LaHood, and urged him to support a change in the rules governing the spending of federal stimulus dollars on transportation projects.

Those rules require states to return unspent funds to the federal treasury if construction projects come in under budget, rather than allowing states to retain those funds and spend them on other projects.
Apparently during the mad rush a couple of years ago to turn on the federal spending fire hose and saturate the country with "stimulus," some blessed, subversive soul managed to sneak into the enabling legislation just a tiny bit of discipline-inducing common sense.  A simple provision requiring that when a project deemed (after some sort of evaluation) worthy of "stimulus" funds manages to come in under budget, the overage goes back into the till.

"Wacky!" proclaims our affronted Governor.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Top 10 Reads of the Week – October 21, 2011

The Austerity Myth: Federal Spending Up 5% This Year – John Merline [Investor’s Business Daily]

When Republicans took control of the House in January, they pledged to make deep cuts in federal spending, and in April they succeeded in passing a bill advertised as cutting $38 billion from fiscal 2011's budget. Then in August, they pushed for a deal to cut an additional $2.4 trillion over the next decade.

Some analysts have blamed these spending cuts for this year's economic slowdown.

But data released by the Treasury Department on Friday show that, so far, there haven't been any spending cuts at all… Read the Rest

Young ‘Occupiers’ share grandparents’ assumptions – Mark Steyn [Orange County Register]

Many protesters have told sympathetic reporters that "it's our Arab Spring." Put aside the differences between brutal totalitarian dictatorships and a republic of biennial elections, and simply consider it in economic terms: At the "Occupy" demonstrations, not-so-young college students are demanding that their tuition debt be forgiven. In Egypt, half the population lives in poverty; the country imports more wheat than any other nation on the planet, and the funds to do that will dry up in a couple months' time. They're worrying about starvation, not how to fund half a decade of Whatever Studies at Complacency U.

One sympathizes. When college tuition is $50,000 a year, you can't "work your way through college" – because, after all, an 18-year-old who can earn 50-grand a year wouldn't need to go to college, would he? Nevertheless, his situation is not the same as some guy halfway up the Nile living on $2 a day: One is a crisis of the economy, the other is a crisis of decadence. And, generally, the former are far easier to solve… Read the Rest

Polling the Wall Street Crowd – Douglas Schoen [Wall Street Journal]

President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement—and it may cost them the 2012 election.

Last week, senior White House adviser David Plouffe said that "the protests you're seeing are the same conversations people are having in living rooms and kitchens all across America. . . . People are frustrated by an economy that does not reward hard work and responsibility, where Wall Street and Main Street don't seem to play by the same set of rules." Nancy Pelosi and others have echoed the message.

Yet the Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people—and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform… Read the Rest

John Kasich vs. Public Unions – Robert Costa [National Review Online]

With its Greek-style protests, Wisconsin figures prominently in the war between Republicans and public-sector unions. But another Rust Belt battle is brewing in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich’s collective-bargaining reforms are being challenged at the polls.

Senate Bill 5, the sweeping legislation Kasich spearheaded, faces an uncertain future. A year-long referendum effort by Democrats and labor forces has put the issue on the ballot. On November 8, voters will have final say. “It’s just important for us to win, period,” says Kasich, a first-term Republican… Read the Rest

The Quiet Health-Care Revolution – Tom Main and Adrian Slywotzky [The Atlantic]

Ellen, an 82-year-old widow, lives in Anaheim, California. One Wednesday morning last year, she got on her scale, as she does every morning. One hundred and forty-six pounds—wasn’t that a little high? Ellen felt vaguely troubled as she poured herself a bowl of oat bran.

Half an hour later, the phone rang. It was Sandra at the clinic. She too was concerned about Ellen’s weight, which had jumped three pounds since the previous day. Sandra knew this because Ellen’s scale had transmitted its reading to the clinic over a wireless connection… Read the Rest

Obama = Reagan?  Larry Kudlow [National Review Online]

A week after Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday celebration, comparisons between presidents Obama and Reagan continue.

The conversation began when Obama praised Reagan in a USA Today op-ed. He commended Reagan’s leadership, his confidence in and optimism for America, and his great ability to communicate his vision for the country. Reaganites like myself appreciate these sentiments… Read the Rest

Euro, Meant to Unite Europe, Seems to Rend It – Steven Erlanger [New York Times]

The euro was a political project meant to unite Europe after the Soviet collapse in a sphere of collective prosperity that would lead to greater federalism. Instead, the euro seems to be pulling Europe apart. [Ed note: just like critics at its inception predicted it would].

As European leaders scramble to present a united front for this weekend’s critical meeting in Brussels, anxiety in Europe is growing, and not just about the euro. The assumptions of 60 years suddenly seem hollow, and the road ahead is unclear, as if the GPS system has gone out of whack… Read the Rest

A New Spending Record – Editors [Wall Street Journal]

Maybe it's a sign of the tumultuous times, but the federal government recently wrapped up its biggest spending year, and its second biggest annual budget deficit, and almost nobody noticed. Is it rude to mention this?

The Congressional Budget Office recently finished tallying the revenue and spending figures for fiscal 2011, which ended September 30, and no wonder no one in Washington is crowing. The political class might have its political pretense blown. This is said to be a new age of fiscal austerity, yet the government had its best year ever, spending a cool $3.6 trillion. That beat the $3.52 trillion posted in 2009, when the feds famously began their attempt to spend America back to prosperity… Read the Rest

The Biden Crime Wave – David Harsanyi [The Blaze]

Don’t screw around with Joe or he will smother you in twaddle.

Nothing says classy like vice president Joe Biden, a man who is on the campaign trail trying to scare parents, single women and others into believing that high crime rates will ravage the nation if Republicans do not pass President Barack Obama’s union bailout package… Read the Rest

Steve Jobs Biography Reveals He Told Obama, ‘You’re Headed For A One-Term Presidency [Huffington Post]

Jobs, who was known for his prickly, stubborn personality, almost missed meeting President Obama in the fall of 2010 because he insisted that the president personally ask him for a meeting. Though his wife told him that Obama "was really psyched to meet with you," Jobs insisted on the personal invitation, and the standoff lasted for five days. When he finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.

"You're headed for a one-term presidency," he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where "regulations and unnecessary costs" make it difficult for them… Read the Rest

The Funniest Things I Saw This Week

[Ed note: These Bad Lip Reading vids just might be the Jib-Jab of this cycle.  Hilarious.]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breaking News on unemployment in Massachusetts

Red "BREAKING NEWS" banner on Boston.com earlier this morning, linked to an 'article' that is essentially an uncritical summary of this release from the Patrick/Murray Administration's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  The first paragraph of said release tells the whole story:
The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported today that the September total unemployment rate decreased from 7.4 percent in August to 7.3 percent, remaining well below the national rate of 9.1 percent, and the state's lowest monthly rate since January of 2009. Preliminary September job estimates show a decrease of 2,300 jobs for a total of 3,231,700 jobs in Massachusetts.
The Boston.com  headline tells only half the story - as it happens the half that the Administration wants told.  "Mass. Unemployment rate drops to 7.3 percent".  That sounds like great news, no?  And nobody can blame the Patrick/Murray Administration for playing it up (never mind that monthly jobs figures are always always always significantly revised based on subsequent, better data, rendering a 0.10 shift essentially meaningless).  One might expect just a tiny bit of critical analysis from the press, however.  Ha.  Just kidding.

Here, such analysis would not have to proceed beyond that first paragraph excerpted above to suss out the downside of today's announcement.  The unemployment rate is down... but so are total jobs.  All of these numbers are moving targets, and the unemployment rate and total jobs figures are determined separately, based on different analyses.  So it's an inexact science.  But with only the information provided it is a fair assumption that our unemployment rate is dropping in part because our state continues to lose jobs. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Profiles in the Opposite of Leadership - LG Tim Murray

Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray emerged this morning from wherever he's been hiding for the past six weeks or so to address the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce at one of that group's periodic Government Affairs breakfasts.  The unstated theme of his speech: "The Opposite of Leadership."

The stated subject was "transportation infrastructure" - which is, by the way, "the enabling system of our economy."  I know this because the LG said so three times in the first thirty seconds.  He began with an exhortation to the audience to raise our hands if we "drove to work today."  Or "took the T."  Or the commuter rail.  Or a commuter ferry.  Having thereby established beyond all possible challenge that yes, most people in the room require transportation of one variety of another to move themselves across non-walkable distances, the Lieutenant Governor was off and running.

It is obligatory at these things for an office-holding keynote speaker to announce at least one major new spending initiative - kind of the government equivalent of those swag bags the celebrities all get at the Oscars.  So Murray "announced" $50M in "infrastructure investment" at Boston's Fan Pier.  (Deep in the bowels of City Hall, some Menino acolyte makes a slight downward adjustment to the declining balance sheet established on November 2, 2010).  Like all good government "investments" of the Patrick/Obama era, this one is fully expected to "pay for itself."  And who knows?  Maybe it will.  On thing is for sure: it will "create or maintain" some jobs.  "Create or maintain (sometimes preserve)" is the new "create or save," in case you didn't get the memo.

That task out of the way, the LG launched into a familiar litany of transportation-related woes.  Crumbling bridges.  An old and aging subway system.  So on.  Nobody ever asks why, if our existing and crucial infrastructure is in fact on the verge of collapse, the Administration is continually announcing tens of millions of dollars toward new infrastructure projects.  South Coast railT expansions.  $50M for Fan Pier.  Nobody asks because the answer is obvious: there's no political pop in routine maintenance.  There's barely any more in major refurbishing.  Pols routinely let "essential" spending drop down the priority list in favor of a new project (and a ribbon cutting).  "Our subway system is the oldest in the nation, desperately in need of routine maint- OOOOH!  SHINY!!"  Which isn't to say that any specific new infrastructure project isn't sometimes worthwhile in the abstract - it's just another example of how our elected officials talk about making tough choices but tend to make the easy ones.

As he wound down, the LG (who in fact was the G today, with Governor Patrick once again down in DC playing national Obama surrogate) slipped into Patrick-speak.  After lauding the Chamber for its leadership on un-specified but very important issues, Murray invited the group to participate in - and to take a stand on - "a serious conversation about how to create a sustainable transportation revenue stream."  Ah, the conversation.

The end.  Polite applause.  And then some questions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My BostonGlobe.com free trial access is over

I just received the email.  As of tomorrow, online access to the Boston Globe will no longer be free.  Readers wishing to get the complete Boston Globe experience on their computers (and PDAs, and tablets!) will pay for the privilege.  $3.99 a week, to be exact, or just shy of $16 a month.  Oh, and I can take advantage of a Special Introductory Offer to enjoy the experience for the first month at a low, low rate of $0.99 per week, just in case the extended free trial period that is ending today hasn't yet convinced me that I cannot live without the full Globe in my e-life.

The trouble is, I don't think it has convinced me.  And I'm a total news junkie.

Here's the thing: Like a lot of people I used to have the Globe delivered to my house.  Then in 2003, a few days before the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Globe announced (and explained at excruciating length) its editorial decision to limit its use of the word "terrorist."  Specifically its decision not to use the term when describing Hamas, even though - I'm quoting here - it acknowledged that Hamas is a group "whose suicide bombers maim and kill Israeli citizens."

I'm not ordinarily one for politically motivated boycotts.  I openly enjoy movies that star Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.  Fine actors all, if blithering idiots in their too-frequent political pronouncements.  I didn't care for the Dixie Chicks before their own bout of political nincompoopery, but neither did I care for them any less after it.  I shop at Whole Foods sometimes.  When I avoid it, the decision is motivated by price, not the fact that to walk in the story is to invite a beating with a sanctimonious PC stick.  Lots of people out there disagree with me, and some do so loudly.  I'm fine with that.

Of course ever since I've been old enough to have an ideological identity the Globe's editorial page has bugged me.  But until that morning in 2003 I'd never considered foregoing the paper entirely.  That was a big, heavy final straw though, and the decision was instantaneous and simple - I'd keep reading their stuff, but henceforth I wasn't going to pay a dime to support an editorial culture that saw fit to charitably distinguish Hamas from less "complex" mass murderers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tone matters too

A few weeks ago when my Facebook wall was papered by my many liberal friends with Elizabeth Warren's "pay forward" exegesis on perceived inequities in the tax code, it didn't occur to me to wonder why the preferred method of disseminating the quote was via written transcription rather than a link or embed of the actual video.  The nearby graphic is the version I saw most frequently - on Facebook and elsewhere.  It is drawn from this MoveOn.org page, captioned "the Elizabeth Warren quote every American needs to see."

Look at that accompanying photo. Professor Warren is smiling amiably, eyes bright, forehead pleasantly un-furrowed.  Her hand is open in a non-aggressive, 'come and reason with me' gesture.  She looks friendly and reasonable. 

Despite all of the reading and thinking I did about that extended quote last month, it didn't occur to me until very recently that I'd never bothered to seek out and view the widely-available YouTube video of the Professor's actual delivery of those telling words.  Like many people, I suspect, I subconsciously imposed on the speech a calm and rational tone lifted from the accompanying photograph.

The reality is quite different.  If, like me, you hadn't previous bothered, take a moment to watch for yourself:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

#OccupyHypocrisy - Governor Patrick visits Occupy Boston

I am hardly the first to point out the hypocrisy on display in connection with Governor Patrick's visit yesterday to the "Occupy Boston" campground.  But how about a little flesh on those bones?

It is no exaggeration to say that there is no elected official in Massachusetts who is more closely, personally connected than Governor Patrick to the predatory lending that most economists blame for the 2008 economic melt-down that triggered the on-going recession.

Most voters who pay attention are vaguely aware that Patrick sat on the board of directors of Ameriquest - a subprime mortgage lending company that was oft-accused of predatory lending.  Patrick actually used that association as a plus in his first run on 2006, claiming he had been brought in to help clean up a troubled company.  By 2010 that story was completely debunked - not that the Boston political media cared to pay much of any attention to it.

Patrick wasn't just on the board of Ameriquest.  He has a long, strange relationship with the company that is chronicled in a book that came out at the tail end of the 2010 election campaign (too late to get any attention).  Here's a bit from the Herald's review at the time:
For the Occupation's reading list
“The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America - And Spawned a Global Crisis,” by reporter Michael Hudson, chronicles how former Ameriquest owner Roland Arnall led a cocaine-fueled boiler room culture of predatory lenders who helped create the subprime mortgage crisis that caused the Great Recession.As a Justice Department lawyer, Patrick first met Arnall while investigating his company. The book said the $4 million penalty that Patrick exacted allowed Arnall to use $1 million of the money to pay off interest groups and, according to author Hudson, Arnall and his company “came out smelling pretty well.”The future Bay State governor was quickly won over by the cunning billionaire, according to the book. Patrick eventually landed a very lucrative spot on the board of Ameriquest’s parent company and later backed Arnall for an ambassadorship.

I'm not sure anyone has ever written at length about just how extraordinary it was for a guy who prosecuted a company to end up a compensated member of that company's board a few years later.

Friday, October 14, 2011

MA Casinos: "He's a man of honor."

Okay, call me a starry-eyed optimist. (No,seriously. Call me one. Nobody has ever called me that.  It might be nice just once).

I know that with the Senate's closer-than-expected vote to approve a version of the casino bill yesterday, everyone and his slots-loving mother assumes the gaming fight in Massachusetts is over.   Sure now the House and Senate bills have to go to a "conference committee" to iron out their relatively-minor difference (meaning the bills will go to a closed-door session of the Democratic members of the conference committee, where they will horse trade).  But everyone expects that process to be over and done with in time for the Governor to sign a compromise bill by Turkey Day.

I cannot help but note, however, that at this stage in the process the last time around everyone assumed it was a done deal too.  And then it all fell apart in an unholy tangled mess of political ego and Schwartz-measuring.

This time of course the fix has been in since day one.  The process started, after all, with an announcement by Beacon Hill's "big three" - Patrick, DeLeo, and Murray (Therese, not Tim) - that they had reached agreement on a bill that theretofore virtually no part of the public knew they had been working on.

So I may be grasping at vapors here, but I find just a tiny bit of cause for hope in a strange comment that Senator Stanley Rosenberg (D-Gaming) made last night to the State House News, just after passage of the Senate version:

It's not a profile in Vanity Fair...

Actually, in a lot of ways it's pretty much the opposite of a profile in Vanity Fair.  But this video from the Scott Brown campaign gives a pretty good sense of the man, and the Senator, that he is - pictures being worth a whole lot of words and all.  Even when those words are printed in a high society glossy.


Top 10 Reads of the Week – October 14, 2011

Eyewitness to History! – Matt Labash [Weekly Standard]

It is Day 18 when I arrive at the Occupy Wall Street protests. When dealing with antiestablishment types, I like to let them get established. It seems only sporting, since the early moments of any order-changing upheaval can look like utter chaos. But being slow off the mark might have cost me. For by the time I get to lower Manhattan, The Revolution has been going on so long that the revolutionaries have already started selling out. 

When I arrive at Occupy Wall Street (OWS) ground zero at Zuccotti Park, only a few blocks over from the World Trade Center ground zero, the first revolutionaries I encounter are two masked-up anarchists named Spooky and Newport. They wear studded leather jackets which bear hand-painted inscriptions like “Fight War, Not Wars” and are clad in black from head to toe. Except Newport additionally sports a chartreuse fright wig and sunglasses with reflecting marijuana leaves on the lenses. They seem to know they’re a spectacle, since they stand in front of a cardboard sign that reads “Pictures for change or a dollar.” Meaning the passing fanny-packing tourist hordes or smirking financial sector barbarians can get their snaps taken with Spooky and Newport as if they were mascots at Disney’s new Protester World Experience… Read the Rest

Eric Holder, Obama’s Albatross – Marc A. Thiessen [Washington Post]

President Obama says that he has “complete confidence” in Attorney General Eric Holder. That’s good news for Republicans. Pick almost any unnecessary, losing battle in Obama’s first term, and his hapless attorney general is at the center of it.

If not for the fact that so many of Holder’s decisions harm national security, he would be a political dream come true for the GOP – delivering up reliably disastrous controversies for the president every few months… Read the Rest

Obama Team Split on How to Rally Unruly Coalition – Michael Barone [Real Clear Politics]

President Barack Obama obviously is scrambling in his attempt to win re-election. He has proclaimed himself the underdog and has given up his pretense of being a pragmatic centrist compromiser in favor of harsh class warfare rhetoric.

But it's worth taking note of what he has squandered. In 2008, Obama won 53 percent of the popular vote. That may not sound like a landslide, but it's more than any other Democratic presidential nominee in history except Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson… Read the Rest

Best Black and White Animated Video I Saw This Week

America’s Worst Wind-Energy Project – Robert Bryce [National Review Online]

The more people know about the wind-energy business, the less they like it. And when it comes to lousy wind deals, General Electric’s Shepherds Flat project in northern Oregon is a real stinker.

I’ll come back to the GE project momentarily. Before getting to that, please ponder that first sentence. It sounds like a claim made by an anti-renewable-energy campaigner. It’s not. Instead, that rather astounding admission was made by a communications strategist during a March 23 webinar sponsored by the American Council on Renewable Energy called “Speaking Out on Renewable Energy: Communications Strategies for the Renewable Energy Industry.”.. Read the Rest

A Voice, Still Vibrant, Reflects on Mortality – Charles McGrath [New York Times]

Christopher Hitchens, probably the country’s most famous unbeliever, received the Freethinker of the Year Award at the annual convention of the Atheist Alliance of America here on Saturday. Mr. Hitchens was flattered by the honor, he said a few days beforehand, but also a little abashed. “I think being an atheist is something you are, not something you do,” he explained, adding: “I’m not sure we need to be honored. We don’t need positive reinforcement. On the other hand, we do need to stick up for ourselves, especially in a place like Texas, where they have laws, I think, that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ you can’t run for sheriff.”

Mr. Hitchens, a prolific essayist and the author of “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” discovered in June 2010 that he had Stage 4 esophageal cancer. He has lately curtailed his once busy schedule of public appearances, but he made an exception for the Atheist Alliance — or “the Triple A,” as he called it — partly because the occasion coincided almost to the day with his move 30 years ago from his native England to the United States. He was already in Houston, as it happened, because he had come here for treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he has turned his 12th-floor room into a temporary library and headquarters… Read the Rest

Wall Street’s Gullible Occupiers – Peter J. Wallison [Wall Street Journal]

There is no mystery where the Occupy Wall Street movement came from: It is an offspring of the same false narrative about the causes of the financial crisis that exculpated the government and brought us the Dodd-Frank Act. According to this story, the financial crisis and ensuing deep recession was caused by a reckless private sector driven by greed and insufficiently regulated. It is no wonder that people who hear this tale repeated endlessly in the media turn on Wall Street to express their frustration with the current conditions in the economy.

Their anger should be directed at those who developed and supported the federal government's housing policies that were responsible for the financial crisis… Read the Rest

The Medicare Monster – Yuval Levin [Weekly Standard]

It is gradually dawning on Washington that a meaningful reform of the Medicare program will be unavoidable in the coming years. Medicare is at the center of both our health care dilemma and our fiscal crunch, and it will be very difficult to avoid a calamitous debt crisis without making changes to the program’s basic structure. 

Medicare’s problem is not just overspending. In a sense, the program’s travails mirror (and severely exacerbate) those of our economy and welfare state more generally: The stifling of competition and innovation creates a crushing inefficiency that makes the system unsustainable​—​giving off a strong whiff of institutional decline, and intimations of a terrible crash to come. Yet correcting the problem, in Medicare’s case as with our broader predicament, presents an enormous political challenge, because recipients of benefits are powerfully resistant to change… Read the Rest

We’ve Been Warned – Cliff May [National Review Online]

Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, had a saying: “The Americans cannot do a damned thing.” Tehran has tested that proposition time and again — conspiring, over three decades, to kill Americans in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Now we have learned of an audacious plot to launch terrorist attacks on American soil. One hesitates to imagine the consequences if, after this, we allow Khomeini’s heirs to acquire nuclear weapons. No one will be able to say we were not warned… Read the Rest

New Obama Metric: “Jobs Supported” – Ed Morrissey [Hot Air]

Old and busted: Jobs “saved or created.”  New hotness: Jobs “supported.”  In attempting to advance the argument for Barack Obama’s new jobs stimulus plan, the White House has decided to create a new term that has, er, even less meaning than their previous measure:

“The American Jobs Act Will Support Nearly 400,000 Education Jobs—Preventing Layoffs and Allowing Thousands More to Be Hired or Rehired: The President’s plan will more than offset projected layoffs, providing support for nearly 400,000 education jobs—enough for states to avoid harmful layoffs and rehire tens of thousands of teachers who lost their jobs over the past three years.”

How exactly did the White House come up with its new metric?  Chuck Blahous gives us a detailed analysis of exactly how they crafted this measure to be, well, unmeasurable:.. Read the Rest

The scapegoat strategy – Charles Krauthammer [Washington Post]

What do you do if you can’t run on your record — on 9 percent unemployment, stagnant growth and ruinous deficits as far as the eye can see? How to run when you are asked whether Americans are better off than they were four years ago and you are compelled to answer no?

Play the outsider. Declare yourself the underdog. Denounce Washington as if the electorate hasn’t noticed that you’ve been in charge of it for nearly three years… Read the Rest

The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week

 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

#occupyJellystone


Have some fun Occupation Parody material?  Send it in - I'll put it up.  PG-13 only, please. Or maybe soft R.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Casinos: Happy Hour for Hypocrites

In my periodic screeds opposing the (probably inevitable) legalization of casino gaming in Massachusetts I try insofar as possible to stay away from the purely moralistic/nanny state argument.  Yes, I think casinos prey on human weakness, depend for profitability on the assumption that individuals (and by extension, families) will be destroyed financially on a regular basis, and are a losing proposition for the vast majority of the people who walk through their doors.  But whatever.  People make their own decisions, and sometimes society doesn't even have to absorb a share of the consequences.

I just don't think the state should be putting its eggs in that basket and calling it "economic development."  I am absolutely convinced that the predictions and promises being tossed around by supporters - both as to jobs and revenues - are complete nonsense.  Utterly bogus, and very obviously so. Oh, and I don't want one anywhere near my house.

But it is hard to evaluate the latest bit of casino non-debate news without getting into the moral angle at least a little bit.  In case you missed it, here's the Globe article today discussing an amendment passed yesterday by the Senate to allow casinos to give out free alcoholic beverages to patrons.  An additional amendment was tacked on - a bone to the restaurant and bar lobby - that will resurrect "Happy Hour" in Massachusetts for the first time since 1984, allowing those establishments to offer free and discounted drinks as well. It's only fair.

Now don't get me wrong here.  I'm not going to lie: I expect I will enjoy a Happy Hour from time to time.  But do you see how quickly the race to the bottom has started here, before so much as a single spade hits the dirt on a casino site?

And look at the paired acknowledgements implied in the Happy Hour move:

(1) Casinos are going to suck the life out of existing bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues in their respective geographic areas.  Some of these will undoubtedly close, cutting further into the casino initiative's already inflated net jobs numbers.  And

(2) The ability to offer "Happy Hour" incentives is a boon to restaurants and bars, a way to help them grow (or, as to the ones unlucky enough to find a Flamingo Northeast going up down the block, a flimsy lifeline offering at least the fragile hope of survival).  If this is true, then presumably it was equally true in 1984, when that ability was stripped from our hospitality industry; and equally true in each of the years between then and now.  But until now state government didn't care.  Only when it can be used to smooth over one of the few significant speed bumps on the road to casinoville does the legislature suddenly take note of the economic upside to Happy Hour.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Random thoughts on the Occupation

I spend more time than I'd like thinking about the urban campers.  Some random thoughts, in no particular order:

A lot of whining about "name-calling" from the urban-camping set and their political/media allies.  Seems they mistake the First Amendment right to free speech with some sort of expanded "right" to behave like loony-birds without fear of mockery.

#OccupyTheLandfill

Seems to me that in the bad old days it was the privileged children of the super-rich who expected all good things to be handed to them for "free" and spent all their time whining about the injustice of it all.

Is Hollywood going to stop making movies about poor people working hard and ultimately getting ahead?  Has it already?

My daughter's class sometimes does this call-and-response thing.  She's almost four.

I have heard a lot of pundits (the haters) ask a variation on the same question: where are these people going to the bathroom?  The question "Does a bear sh*t in the woods?" is a rhetorical one.  I fear "do the #occupiers sh*t on the Greenway?" is too. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Top 10 Reads of the Week – October 7, 2011

The President of Contempt – Bret Stephens [Wall Street Journal]

Nixon was tricky. Ford was clumsy. Carter was dour. Reagan was sunny. Bush 41 was prudent. Clinton felt your pain. Bush 43 was stubborn. And Barack Obama is . . .

Early in America's acquaintance with the man who would become the 44th president, the word that typically sprang from media lips to describe him was "cool.".. Read the Rest

Crime, Punishment, and Rehabilitation – Mitch Pearlstein [Center of the American Experiment]

People on the right tend to be enthusiastic about yoking men and women in marriage and about locking bad guys up in prison. To what extent, however, does the latter practice undermine the former?

Research verifies common sense by showing that married men are less likely than single men to break the law. Getting married is thus a good way for a man to help himself avoid getting locked up. But what about single men who have already been charged with committing crimes? They are less attractive marriage partners, not just because they may be incarcerated, but because rap sheets are not conducive to good-paying, family-supporting jobs. By not marrying, they lose a major source of support in straightening out their lives. How can they escape this trap?… Read the Rest

 Obama’s Strategy at Odds With His Message – Josh Kraushaar [National Journal]

President Obama’s reelection is in trouble because of the nation’s troubled economy, but he’s been exacerbating his problems by running a populist campaign at odds with the electoral strategy his advisers have laid out. Not only is his new rhetoric chastising the wealthy to pay their fair share at odds with the president’s well-crafted image of being a post-partisan uniter, but it risks alienating the white-collar professionals that have become an increasingly important part of a winning Democratic coalition.

The president’s team has been arguing that their path to reelection lies in winning battleground states like Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina—diverse, more affluent white-collar states with growing numbers of independents. But the president’s emphasis on pitting the affluent against the middle-class threatens to push away the very independents he’s seeking to win back. It’s the type of populist message that’s better geared toward blue-collar voters in the Rust Belt, which the campaign sees as close to a lost cause… Read the Rest

Elizabeth Warren and liberalism, twisting the social contract – George Will [Washington Post]

Elizabeth Warren, Harvard law professor and former Obama administration regulator (for consumer protection), is modern liberalism incarnate. As she seeks the Senate seat Democrats held for 57 years before 2010, when Republican Scott Brown impertinently won it, she clarifies the liberal project and the stakes of contemporary politics.

The project is to dilute the concept of individualism, thereby refuting respect for the individual’s zone of sovereignty. The regulatory state, liberalism’s instrument, constantly tries to contract that zone — for the individual’s own good, it says… Read the Rest

A Top 10 Read of the Year

The End of the Future – Peter Thiel [National Review]

Modern Western civilization stands on the twin plinths of science and technology. Taken together, these two interrelated domains reassure us that the 19th-century story of never-ending progress remains intact. Without them, the arguments that we are undergoing cultural decay — ranging from the collapse of art and literature after 1945 to the soft totalitarianism of political correctness in media and academia to the sordid worlds of reality television and popular entertainment — would gather far more force. Liberals often assert that science and technology remain essentially healthy; conservatives sometimes counter that these are false utopias; but the two sides of the culture wars silently agree that the accelerating development and application of the natural sciences continues apace.

Yet during the Great Recession, which began in 2008 and has no end in sight, these great expectations have been supplemented by a desperate necessity. We need high-paying jobs to avoid thinking about how to compete with China and India for low-paying jobs. We need rapid growth to meet the wishful expectations of our retirement plans and our runaway welfare states. We need science and technology to dig us out of our deep economic and financial hole, even though most of us cannot separate science from superstition or technology from magic. In our hearts and minds, we know that desperate optimism will not save us. Progress is neither automatic nor mechanistic; it is rare. Indeed, the unique history of the West proves the exception to the rule that most human beings through the millennia have existed in a naturally brutal, unchanging, and impoverished state. But there is no law that the exceptional rise of the West must continue. So we could do worse than to inquire into the widely held opinion that America is on the wrong track (and has been for some time), to wonder whether Progress is not doing as well as advertised, and perhaps to take exceptional measures to arrest and reverse any decline… Read the Rest

Steve Jobs on education in America – Jim Stergios [Boston.com’s Rock the Schoolhouse Blog]

SJ: I'm a very big believer in equal opportunity as opposed to equal outcome. I don't believe in equal outcome because unfortunately life's not like that. It would be a pretty boring place if it was. But I really believe in equal opportunity. Equal opportunity to me more than anything means a great education. Maybe even more important than a great family life, but I don't know how to do that. Nobody knows how to do that.

But it pains me because we do know how to provide a great education. We really do. We could make sure that every young child in this country got a great education. We fall far short of that. I know from my own education that if I hadn't encountered two or three individuals that spent extra time with me, I'm sure I would have been in jail. I'm 100% sure that if it hadn't been for Mrs. Hill in fourth grade and a few others, I would have absolutely have ended up in jail.

…The problem there of course is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it's not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can't teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It's terrible… Read the Rest

Obama Is No Leader – Michael Barone [National Review Online]

Leadership, said New Jersey governor Chris Christie in his press conference Tuesday announcing he would not reverse his decision not to run for president, is something you can’t be taught or learn. “Leadership today in America has to be about doing the big things and being courageous.”
No one doubts that Christie has shown this kind of leadership in New Jersey. Call him loudmouthed, call him confrontational, but don’t call him wobbly. He leads, and even with a Democratic-majority legislature, the state is moving in his direction.

Things are different on the national level. On the day before Christie spoke in Trenton, the Obama White House officially delivered the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama to Congress for approval. That was the 986th day that Barack Obama has been president… Read the Rest

Did Congress Kill the Debit Card? – Daniel Indiviglio [The Atlantic]

Some Americans are outraged that Bank of America intends to charge its customers a $5 fee for using their debit card. And simply switching banks might not help: others are expected to follow. While frustration over yet another bank fee is understandable, this one should surprise no one. Congress acted to cap the debit fees that banks could charge retailers last year, and banks are reacting by directly charging their customers a portion of these lost fees to make up the difference. The move could mean the end of the debit card.

Bank of America is actually being quite straightforward about its rationale for instituting this new fee: it blames the government. A provision from last summer's financial regulation bill promoted by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) capped the fees that banks can charge retailers when customers pay with debit cards. The new rule goes into effect on Saturday… Read the Rest

Sorting out the ‘Extremists’ – Jonah Goldberg [National Review Online]

Brian Phillips is the head of communications for the NYC General Assembly, the group primarily responsible for occupying Wall Street. I learned about him while listening to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. According to NPR, Phillips is “an ex-Marine with a bachelor’s in computer science. Today he is wearing a sock on his head.”

“My political goal,” Phillips says, “is to overthrow the government.”… Read the Rest

Wall Street Protesters Have Met the Enemy and It Is They – David P. Goldman [Pajamas Media]

America is the land of opportunity, and never before the great housing bubble has a Ponzi scheme drawn such a wide base of support and benefited so many people. This was the most democratic scam in history, and if you got in on the first half of it, you’re still better off. The big losers were not homeowners, but the bankers. A quick look at the numbers shows how misinformed are the protesters running around Wall Street. Instead of picketing the bankers, they should pair off and picket each other. I ran through the numbers recently in an Asia Times Online essay. Here’s the story of the People’s Ponzi scheme in a nutshell:

Household real estate assets rose nearly two-and-a-half times from around $9 trillion in 1998 to $23 trillion at the peak of the bubble in 2006. Bank stocks (a pretty good proxy for bankers’ net worth, as most of compensation for management is in stock) had a smaller bounce, from around 80 on the KBW index to a 2006 peak of 117, a gain of less than 50%… Read the Rest

The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week (also The Most Disturbing Thing I Saw This Week)

Need an explanation of that?  Yeah.  Me too.  It’s here.  And Mark Steyn takes a pretty good stab at explaining the collective lunacy that allows grown adults to participate in self-parody like this, here.

The Funniest Non-Disturbing Thing I Saw This Week


Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Clearest sign yet that the casino fix is in

Last week I was talking casinos with Tom and Todd on WRKO, and I could not quite bring myself to disclaim all hope that the casino train might derail one more time this year, as it did last time at the 11th hour. 

Alas, a gag-inducing metaphorical make-out session between the Governor and the Speaker of the House today swings a brickbat through any such hopes.  State House News:
If there were any questions remaining about an icy relationship between Speaker Robert DeLeo and Gov. Deval Patrick in the aftermath of last year's acrimonious collapse of expanded gambling talks, the two took pains Thursday to let everyone know that the ice has fully thawed. "He's the greatest governor we've ever had," DeLeo boomed from a podium during a celebration of Hispanic heritage in the State House, drawing loud applause. DeLeo's comment, which Patrick aides quickly ensured was accurately transcribed by reporters on hand, followed remarks by the governor in which he praised DeLeo warmly. The two embraced as DeLeo made his way to the podium.
Blergh.

There will be no last-minute test of political egos this time.  The House and the Senate will work out whatever minor differences emerge in their two bills, and the Governor (he's the GREATEST!) will sign what they send him.  Doubtless there will be more hugging.  There is no different conclusion to be drawn from such an embarrassing display of political PDA between two erstwhile antagonists (side note: maybe we don't want to know what goes on behind those closed doors).

Of course, this is the same Speaker who had this to say last year about then-Rep/ now scandal-machine Mayor Willy Lantigua, so it isn't like he's particularly discriminating in the doling out of his political affections.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pay this forward...

... to a Dem who you love.

The Forbes Fallacy

Elizabeth Warren has been getting a lot of play today for one of her lines from last night’s debate between the potential Democratic challengers to Senator Scott Brown.  In her opening remarks, she said, “Forbes Magazine named Scott Brown Wall Street’s favorite senator, and I was thinking that’s probably not an award I’m going to get.”

Trouble is, it’s just not true.  Forbes Magazine has never named Scott Brown “Wall Street’s favorite senator.”  Hasn’t happened.  That is factually incorrect.  Erroneous.  David Bernstein at the Boston Phoenix explained it perfectly (more than a month ago, I might add):
The "Wall Street's favorite Senator" claim, incidentally, is absolutely bogus; Brown was the 6th (not 1st) Senator on that Forbes list of congressmen having received the most in Wall Street contributions from January 2009 through June 2010. Brown's special election was in January 2010; almost nobody else in Congress had an election during that stretch. During that period, I'd bet Brown was in the top 10 for contributions by people whose names begin with S, too, and people with a '7' in their ZIP Code.
I would also note that 6 of the 10 congressmen on that list are Democrats, including Harry Reid, who Warren hopes to be taking orders from come 2013.

And it’s not just Warren who is spreading this Forbes Fallacy – it is a favorite talking point of Democrats and progressives.  Thankfully for all of them, it appears that news organizations are repeating this assertion with no concern for whether it is true or not.

This would be par for the course if Democrats in Massachusetts hadn’t just engaged in some serious hand-wringing over Scott Brown’s use of an incorrect piece of information.

Last week, a Democratic blogger and activist took Brown to task for what he called “the muffin myth.”  Chris Matthews – not the tingling leg Chris Matthews – reports that in a recent speech, Senator Brown cited that DOJ $16 muffin story as an example of government waste.  Matthews (@chrismatth on Twitter) points out that this story has been debunked by DOJ and went “from scandal to myth very quickly.”  This prompts some typical partisan outrage from Matthews about Brown’s “speaking without checking facts first” and being “loose with the facts” and he rounds it out with “it really makes me wonder how much thought and research goes into his votes. Not much, I’m guessing.”

For the record, I consider Matthews a sort of Twitter frenemy.  Our political opinions differ, but he tends to be a polite partisan, which we could use more of on both sides of the aisle.  And I don’t blame him for trying to ding Senator Brown on his comment – all elected officials and candidates should be held accountable for what they say and the facts they present.

Unfortunately for Matthews (and the Democratic Party, which was quick to jump on this criticism), all of the outrage Matthews directs at Brown could just as easily be directed at Warren.  Speaking without checking facts first?  Check.  Loose with the facts?  Check.  Makes you wonder how much thought and research will go into her votes?  Aand check.

I would even argue that Warren’s error is greater than Brown’s.  Brown asserted that DOJ spent $16 on muffins in order to make a larger point about government waste.  While DOJ did not spend $16 on muffins, I think we would all agree that there is still government waste.  Warren stated that “Forbes Magazine named Scott Brown Wall Street’s favorite senator” in order to assert that… Scott Brown is Wall Street’s favorite senator.  But he’s not. 

All she had to do was add “one of” to her statement and it would be considered factual (although there’s still the issue of the time period covered by Forbes).  But that packs less of a punch.  If I may borrow some of Matthews’ outrage, it really makes me wonder whether she knows this isn’t true and is saying it anyway, or if she is just that uninformed about the central premise of her campaign.

What "Occupy" is really all about - more government jobs

This morning I caught the back half of an interview on WRKO's Tom and Todd show (sans Todd today) with Faiz Shakir of the liberal activist group Think Progress.  The topic generally was the "Occupy" protests going on across the country, and the question 'what are they protesting about?'

Hopefully "this thing" doesn't = the Greenway [Herald Photo]
Anyone who has scanned a photo slide show of Boston's "occupiers" knows that 'what are they protesting about?' is truly an unanswerable question.  Even they don't know!  Corporations, definitely.  The rich, check.  Banks, check.  But the list goes on and on and on.  Some are protesting a lack of jobs.  Some our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both.  Some are there to protest the Jamaica Plains Whole Foods (seriously!). Different versions of their "demands" are circulating online, ranging from the predictable (Repeal the Patriot Act!) to the deranged (Total debt forgiveness for ALL - NOW!!).  It's a big, teeming pile o' grievance.  And zombie make-up. And, increasingly, dirty laundry.  (I know, I know.  It is cheap and easy to look at a bunch of hippie wanna-bes and make cracks about dirty laundry.  I am ashamed.  But if the unwashed, strategically torn designer jeans fit...).

By and large I was impressed by Mr. Shakir.  I agreed with virtually nothing he said, but it struck me more than once during the segment that the progressive movement would do well to find itself more spokespeople like him: calm, good-natured, articulate, and well versed enough in policy and history to answer questions with substance rather than liberal cliches and militant vitriol.  (I do think it was a shame he visited on Todd's day off.  Todd would have had fun with Mr. Shakir).

Then came the end of the interview, and it all came crashing down.  Asked  by a caller where the "jobs" that Mr. Shakir claimed the 'occupiers' are demanding should come from, Mr. Shakir tipped his hand and revealed an underlying truth about the progressive movement that surely his compatriots would prefer to leave unspoken.  The audio is linked here, and the response begins at 22:40:
Mr. Shakir: Where are the jobs going to come from?  I think that, you know one is, uh, we need a new sector... I think that... we have various different sectors that I think that, uh, America....
So that's one.  We'll have a new sector to add to the various different sectors that, uh, America.  Got it.  On behalf of Dirty Rotten Capitalists (DRC) everywhere, I feel comfortable promising that we'll get right on that.  In truth, though, that bit of gibberish was just audio coverage for the time Mr. Shakir's brain needed to decide whether he was really going to say this next bit:
And the second, uh, this is controversial but I believe that, uh, we've started to feel that, uh, that government jobs are the enemy.  That if you're a teacher, that that's not sufficient enough.  That the only good jobs come from the private econ- the private sector...
 Straw Man Alert!  Who is calling government workers "the enemy?"  We love and appreciate our teachers (and our first responders, and even that one-in-a-million kind and helpful clerk down at the DMV).  But they provide government services.  They don't generate the economic growth needed to pull the country out of recession.  Anyhow,  you see where he's going already, right?
If you're a teacher, if you're a snowblower, if you're a policeman, if you're a fireman, if you work for the government, if you work for city parks, those are good jobs too, and those are the jobs that have been taking massive hits across the nation as we've lost revenue coming in to states and municipalities and those are the ones that I'd like to restore.
The notion that public employees have taken "massive hits across the nation" is a fallacy that sits at the core of the liberal narrative these days.  Governor Patrick uses a variation of it all of the time, despite the fact that the Pioneer Institute blew it up convincingly last month in its report showing that the state payroll has actually increased here in Massachusetts over the course of the recession.  Billions upon billions in "stimulus" dollars have been funneled to state and local governments, specifically to protect government workers from those "massive hits."  As a result, government jobs have been largely protected from the effects of the recession, at least as compared to the private sector - and have even increased in some cases (as here in the Commonwealth).  The "massive hits" have come out there in the real world, where jobs generate not only a paycheck but also goods, innovation, growth

But these are not the jobs that interest Mr. Shakir and his compatriots.  New revenue to fund government jobs, extracted forcibly from the steadily shrinking, productive segments of the economy - that's their goal.  He should be commended for saying so explicitly.

In the meantime, if these "occupy ____" protests continue maybe that "new sector" Mr. Shakir referred to generally could be built around production of poster board and magic markers.  The protesters go through an awful lot of those, churning out those semi-coherent-but-always-entertaining signs.

Destroy the Clock??

Ice Cream Apocalypse

UPDATE: And now it is done. G'bye, Friendly's.  

ORIGINAL POST (9/30/11):

First Boston-born Brigham's went down in 2009.

Then last spring Breyers packed up its Framingham plant, canned nearly 200 workers, and moved its operations south to Tennessee.

Now comes news that Wilbraham-based Friendly's is following Brigham's into bankruptcy.

We at CriticalMASS have never been big believers in the Patrick/Murray Administration's "on the mend and on the move" / "faster and stronger" meme.  But one thing is becoming abundantly clear: whenever we do manage finally to pull out of the economic doldrums, we're going to have to look out of state to get ice cream for the party.






Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A must-read on education from Pioneer's Jim Stergios

Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute has an excellent post up today on his Boston.com-hosted "Rock the Schoolhouse" blog.  I cannot hope to add anything worthwhile to the substance, so I'm providing an excerpt and a link in the hope that you'll click through and read the whole thing...
What’s clear to anybody who has watched the education space for the past two decades is that the 1993 reform saw the board set clear policy and clearly measurable goals, and put into place an accountability system to make sure the goals were met by local professionals. The rest was providing funding to local professionals to get the job done.

Over the last few years, we have witnessed the resurrection of the pre-1993 mindset: Reform is to be driven by the central office experts. Lots of hand-waving and big announcements from the center. No pressure on the locals to show progress. It is huge effort signifying I can't say nothing but certainly nothing urgent.
Read the rest here.

And if you have not done so in a while, check in on Pioneer's excellent work here.

Cape Wind shake down continues, and the gloves come off

Back in July I speculated that the Patrick Administration's decision to stomp down on the proposed merger of NSTAR and Northeast Utilities had less to do with a new-found concern for ratepayers than a leveraging of the regulatory process to force NSTAR to purchase the remaining 50% of Cape Wind's over-priced power.  Then in August I noted that NSTAR had cleverly found a way to fulfill a significant portion of its renewable energy quota by purchasing power from three land-based wind farms at a fraction of the cost of Cape Wind's juice.  Click on those links and skim over those posts if you have a moment - there is a lot of context that is important to fully understand the latest development in this sordid Green drama. 

BUY CAPE WIND POWER - The Green God commands it.
No time (lazy!)?  Here's the upshot: Last year National Grid (NSTAR's primary competitor in MA) agreed to purchase 50% of Cape Wind's projected output.  Much celebration ensued in the Patrick Administration, where questions of cost (Cape Wind power will cost consumers roughly twice what power generated using natural gas runs) take a distant back seat to such ephemeral benefits as "winning the future" and so-forth. 

Months later and the Patrick/Murray smiles have turned upside down, as National Grid's competitors have stubbornly refused to saddle their own customers with a huge price premium to appease the Green Gods of Massachusetts Politics.  That remaining 50% sits there despondent, with neither a purchaser nor any un-coerced prospects in sight.  Hence that regulatory foot on the throat of the NSTAR/Northeast Utilities merger.  

Hence now this from today's Globe:
Cape Wind Associates, the company behind the 130-turbine wind farm to be built in Nantucket Sound, are urging Massachusetts regulators to require that a merger between NStar and Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities include a condition to buy 50 percent of the power generated by the offshore wind project.
“Think big,’’ said Dennis Duffy, vice president of Cape Wind Associates, who last week filed a letter to the state Department of Public Utilities asking officials to make NStar and Northeast Utilities purchase “the remaining output of the CWA project.’’

Other groups watching the case, including the state Department of Energy Resources and the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation, made similar entreaties, asking regulators to compel the utility companies to enter a long-term contract to buy electricity from a wind farm.

Cape Wind has been on the hunt for more customers since National Grid, one of the state’s largest utilities, agreed more than a year ago to purchase half of Cape Wind’s power. Securing another customer would cement Cape Wind’s viability, and help attract investors who can finance the wind farm’s construction. Many have long viewed NStar as the most likely candidate.
 It's that precious?  "The most likely candidate."  Most likely mark they mean..

See what is going on here?  Back in the summer when the Patrick Administration first announced its intention to muck about in the NSTAR merger it smirkingly denied any connection to Cape Wind's unwanted output ("smirkingly" because even at the time the Administration's energy spokesman could not help mentioning that the Governor  "considers Cape Wind an important project in terms of clean energy and jobs for the commonwealth...").

Now that a few more months have gone by and NSTAR remains infuriatingly unwilling to impose that price premium on its customers when it has perfectly viable alternatives to doing so, the Governor and his allies are done fooling around.
Private talks earlier this year between the state and utility executives involved in the NStar and Northeast merger apparently focused on restrictions prohibiting the companies from seeking new rate increases for a number of years, and a commitment to buy a significant percentage of the power Cape Wind expects to generate.

“We have had discussions with officials of NStar regarding the possible purchase of Cape Wind power by the utility,’’ said Mark Sylvia, commissioner of the state Department of Energy Resources. “To the extent that purchasing power from Cape Wind would have a positive impact on the state’s clean energy development and greenhouse gas reduction goals, it would be a welcome step.’’
Notice anything missing from that last part?  Hint: it is the same thing that is missing from the entire Globe article: any mention of the fact that Cape Wind energy is going to cost consumers significantly more than either power generated by natural gas (the majority of our juice these days) or power purchased by NSTAR from other wind projects.  Presumably that first condition - the "restrictions prohibiting the companies from seeking new rate increases for a number of years" will kick in only after the initial increase necessitated by the coerced purchase of Cape Wind's over-priced power.

'You wanna be cute, NSTAR?  You wanna go buying your green power from other sources.  Fine.  Gloves off.  We'll require you to buy from Cape Wind.  How you like them Green apples?'

In a way this is good.  Rarely is political abuse of regulatory authority so nakedly obvious.  If NSTAR continues to stand up to this bullying it is going to be hard for the Administration to step back and again claim that its actions with respect to the NSTAR merger are motivated by anything other than rank, radical environmental politics.