'The Uncertain Year(s)'
In an email slugged 'The Uncertain Year(s),' Reader No. 1 writes in:
Amity Shlaes has written a number of good columns, plus a book I haven't read, delving into how the New Deal actually did and didn't work. Today's entry makes FDR sound very much the precursor to modern-day Big Government Democrats and Republicans - guided by a bit of principle and a lot of "pragmatism".
Meanwhile, stupendous Patriot talk this week on WEEI from fill-in Mike Felger, digging into previously undiscussable topics like the failures of the post-Super Bowl drafts and the change in Tom Brady's perspective. Amidst all the Cassell talk, when will we get some good Kevin O'Connell chatter?
'Peter-principled beyond his ability'
Blago's pick of Roland Burris
is brilliantly banal. Carol Marin
explains the brilliant part. Mark Brown
explains the banal part. ... Here's the definition
of the Peter Principle. It fits Burris perfectly. It fits Blago perfectly. Now they're combining their Peter-Principled forces to create one of the most surreal moments in Chicago machine-politics history -- and not even the hacks can control them now. ...
'Recession resulting in crappiest presents ever'
After you buy your crappy last-minute presents
, remember to wrap them in a crappy box to remember.
... Personally, I've sunk to a new Yankee Swap low this year. I wish I could blame the recession. But I can't. It's been a downward spiral since about 2001. ... I thought this
was going to be the most depressing Christmas post of the day:
I'd rather hurt my son's feelings about Santa Claus but tell him the truth because I want him to trust me later and tell me when the other kids in school are trying to ply him with crystal meth.
He opted for the crystal meth. ... Merry Christmas!
'Trying to create a Christmas tree out of this'
Here's why I think Obama's $1 trillion economic stimulus bill will probably fail: It's not an economic stimulus bill.
It's becoming a classic Congressional Christmas tree. It's exactly what Tom Friedman
is warning about: "If we allow this money to be spent on pork, it will be the end of us." ... It's also why I fear we're about to enter a 'lost decade,'
similar to what Japan went through in the '90s. ... One of the more fascinating aspects of the current financial crisis has been the return of Keynesian economics. Keynes went out of fashion partly because his adherents took his spending ideas too far, not unlike supply-side adherents taking tax-cut ideas too far. There's often a hidden agenda behind such abuses -- socialism (for big spenders), laissez-faire (for tax cutters), hackerama (for the Ted Stevens) and save the world (for environmentalists), etc. It's what Obama should be guarding against. But if there's already infighting within his inner circle about how to spend the money, imagine what it's going to look like after Congress gets its hands on $1 trillion.
'Lobbying, coercion and distracting information'
Has Caroline Kennedy overplayed her hand?
Please don't tell me it's her advisers, uncle and the mayor. She's a grown-up woman. She's speed-dialing contacts. She's hired a wired political consultant. She's practically campaigning in upper-state New York. She and her allies are applying enough pressure on Paterson to make him feel like an overwhelmed Blago.
'Am I hearing that right?'
You heard it right, Barbara: Lawmakers get a larger pension for losing.
... And you wonder why lawmakers always find a way to avoid reforming the state's pension system. ... Here’s another example
of a ‘troubling culture of coziness.'Update
-- Outraged Liberal
: "Mark the date of this historic moment: Barbara Anderson and I agree on something." ... It's taken this long to agree with Barbara on something? But I get his point.Update II
: "Reform in Massachusetts has to start with the pension system." ... It does start with pensions. It's the prime motivator for most of the recent abuses we've seen. But it's probably going to take application of the RICO Act to force change. Lawmakers ain't going to do it. ... Now watch the governor's reform task-force come back with grand recommendations for lobbying and campaign-finance reforms etc. They'll miss the mark by a mile.
Teixeira to the Yanks
At least the Sox bid up the price for him. Update
-- I guess Sons of Simmons
are going to have to work on their sourcing. Via Soxaholix
("Ok, so I've been thinking … Oh sweet Jesus …"). ... Why don't I care about Teixeira going to the Yanks? Partly because of his no-trade demand. Partly because he strikes me as a cross between Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez.
'Driven into direct competition by a shared crisis'
Reader A on the GateHouse-Globe clash as mentioned in "0.0450 vs. 6.66" below:
We're looking, it seems to me, at two historical newspaper business models driven into direct competition by a shared crisis. Community newspapers survived because they covered local news, which attracted circulation and local display advertising. Certain metropolitan papers, including the Globe as well as the LA Times and its offspring, built their franchises to a considerable extent on classified ads, which again drove circulation and display ads.
The Globe catapulted itself to leadership in its market by sacrificing the news hole to classifieds during WWII and after, capturing the expanding suburbs. The community papers and the Globe shared the same geography without much conflict for decades (and the Globe gradually became less dependent on classifieds); but now the Internet is destroying both models.
The classified piece has been diffusing for years, beginning with publications like the Want Advertiser, then the free "shoppers," now Craigslist -- these should not be left out of any discussion of the fate of newspapers. Meanwhile, the community papers really are being displaced by bloggers and other Internet sources.
The trouble with the community papers is that they provide very little journalistic value added compared to blogs -- mostly amateurish reporting, and very little editorial control, plus a lot of reprinted press releases. The trouble with the big papers is that they're very expensive to run.
The trouble with the web sites is that nobody has figured out how to make money out of them. I think it's plausible (though far from certain) that whoever owns "the" site for a given community will be able to make it profitable, so the stakes may be bigger than you suggest. What I don't understand is how the Globe can expect to win out. Is it possible that this is a ploy (like that stupid direct-mail advertising section, last time) to boost the Globe's perceived value in anticipation of a sale?
'The views expressed on Matt’s blog are …'
Tufts' Dan Drezner has a good summary
of the Matt Yglesias/Jennifer Palmieri
affair. I agree with Dan:
Way too many bloggers are giving Yglesias a pass on this. He is the one who chose to move from the Atlantic to CAP, and he did so because he wanted to advance a political agenda rather than continue to be an observer on the sidelines.
0.0450 vs. 6.66
vs. NYT lawsuit
is not exactly an intergalactic battle between titans. They both seem to be fighting over scraps. ...
One thing seems clearer this morning: GateHouse sure looks nervous about the viability of its 'local' business model. It should be nervous. It ain't working as designed.
The same doomsday machine
that's devoured every large- and medium-size newspaper in its path is now headed straight for small dailies and weeklies. ... My money is on sites like Adam's
, Boston Blogs
and, by extension, yours truly. If all else fails, there's always porn.
'They want to go outside and make snowballs'
One of the nicer things to happen during the weekend storm: Seeing two bundled-up kids crunching along the snow-covered street, shovels in hand as snow fell hard all around. Initially, I thought the duo were, admirably, looking for a few bucks the old-fashioned New England way: shoveling out neighbors' cars, walkways, etc. But nope. They were exchange students from Vietnam -- and they offered to help shovel the fluffy stuff for free. They had never seen or felt snow before. They just wanted to experience it. They helped shovel out the car, declined payment, and went on their awe-struck way afterward. I tried to imagine how they'd describe the winter wonderland to their friends and relatives back in Vietnam. I concluded it was almost impossible to convey. ... Paul Pierce, who rightly won the Globe's Bostonian of the Year
award, has had similar experiences
with friends arriving from the West Coast.
Are the Pats peaking?
They sure looked like it yesterday
-- and normally that's great news heading into the playoffs. The Giants proved last year that end-of-the-season momentum is more important in the playoffs than end-of-the-year records. But momentum doesn't matter if you don't make the playoffs. Next Sunday is going to be exciting. ...
'In an arrangement that is extremely rare ...'
Next time Gov. Patrick or James Aloisi start babbling about their transportation 'reforms,' keep in mind the opaque independent agency
that they want to roll the Mass Pike into. ... Cashing in vacation time each year? Counting it towards salaries and pensions? Hell, private-sector companies are now experimenting with unpaid vacation weeks.
... Notice how Massport is hauling out the pathetic we-need-to-compete-with-the-private-sector argument for its vacation policies. What mindset decade are they in? The 1950s? What planet are they on? ...
'Another one of those weekends,' Part V
about how government housing policies helped create today's financial crisis isn't as good as previous articles I've flagged on the subject. But it's still good. Some items that jumped out at me: 1.) President Bush admirably believed in home ownership for Americans -- and really pushed "ownership society" programs. 2.) Hank Paulson got a hell of a lot of things wrong. 3.) Conservatives are going to have to rethink their "Barney Frank's to blame!" meme after reading this pup. 4.) Critics like yours truly are going to have to rethink just how much government is to blame for the current crisis. 5.) The article unfairly doesn't examine prior administrations' roles in promoting home ownership. ... Don't get me wrong: I believe Wall Street's problems were caused by Wall Street. Financial titans like Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns etc. weren't even covered by the CRA, anti-redlining laws, debt-to-capital ratios etc. They resisted regulation -- and the laissez-faire wing of the administration was all too accomodating towards them (though that subject is not covered here). No one pushed or required Wall Street to jump into the subprime market. But there's no doubt government met them halfway on the housing front. ...
'Another one of those weekends,' Part IV
Yet another weekend with another great piece on the financial crisis: A primer on the Madoff scandal.
It's about how the scam was launched and then spread across the globe. ... One thing jumped out at me: The role of hedge funds in the scandal. They're exposed as nothing more than glorified middlemen, not the ''pollinating bees of Wall Street,''
as Alan Greenspan once infamously described them. Tufts University
got nailed by one of them, Ascot Partners, which took Tufts' money and forked it over to Madoff, charging a standard 1.5 percent "management" fee for the transaction, one assumes, of course. ... Paul Krugman
is on fire these days. ... Seth
is warning of a possible outbreak of anti-Semitism. He're right to do. No matter that the Madoff scandal is a classic example of 'affinity fraud'
or that the initial victims were overwhelmingly Jewish-Americans. Some will just note Madoff's religion -- and they're off. ...
Found this FT article
while trolling around. Its conservativism-has-crashed theme is similar to what Tom Friedman
and Krugman have been hammering away at:
The market for ideas – like the market for shares – always overshoots. Ideas become fashionable and get pushed to their logical conclusion and beyond, as their backers succumb to “irrational exuberance”. Then comes the crash.
But I don't agree at all with lumping Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher into today's bad-guys mix. The welfare excesses of the Great Society don't discredit FDR's earlier creation of Social Security -- and Wall Street's excesses of the 1990s/2000s don't discredit earlier efforts to deregulate and rejuvenate free markets. It's the excesses that cause harm. ...
Deval's Rubicon, Part II
He crossed it
'Blago - Gift Keeps on Giving'
From Reader No. 1:
Realize you may be on snow news duty, but hope you get a chance soon to see the Blago press conference from this afternoon - it's a keeper.
I actually feel honored to have covered the Illinois Statehouse. The cast of characters there had to be seen to be believed.
'The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird'
Harvard's Alvin Powell has a new book out, 'The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird: The Discovery and Death of the Po'ouli.'
Al's wife, Jen, a colleague
at the Herald, was telling me about it yesterday. I'm not that interested in science matters. But her account of how the last Po'ouli was captured and later died in captivity -- and the reaction of workers to its death -- had me hooked. She's guerrilla marketing the book. Consider this an enthusiastic plug based on her enthusiastic description of the book.
'Take Back Barack'
From Reader BK, with the note 'Just For You, Dear Hub Blog': 'Take Back Barack.'
... Some local 'progressives' clearly aren't happy with Barack's appointments of late. I'm not thrilled by the Hillary selection either. But I'm impressed with many of his other choices. ... Another reason to be displeased with the Hillary appointment: 'Bubba of Arabia.'
The only thing to be nervous about is nervousness itself
Recent snow-storm mini-panics, if you can call them that, are driven by nervousness that nervousness itself will prevail. I've gotten caught up in it. My plans today are partly based on the assumption that others will get nervous. Therefore ... I've already stocked up on Edy's Swiss Orange Sherbet
, not French Toast items
, because it could be a long weekend and I have Prime Suspect DVDs
to watch during these times that try men's souls. ...Update
-- Someone's asked me whether A.) Edy's Swiss Orange Sherbet is truly good and B.) I really stocked up on it. Answer to both: yes. Seriously, I was driving home last night and thought, "What if someone else stocks up on Edy's Swiss Orange Sherbet this weekend? What if none are left?" I know. It's pathetic. But I mentally changed my emergency snow-storm plan from going to the local convenience store to instead the local supermarket. There were two Edy's Swiss Orange Sherbets left. I was tempted to buy both. But I knew I had another half-full one at home. So I only purchased one. I'm not sure others would have done the same.Update II
-- Adam lists
what others are hoarding during this crisis.Update III
-- Outraged Liberal
went for Harpoon IPA.
Reading BK's email comments below, I initially thought I had sent him over the sarcastic anti-Obama edge with my defense of Obama re Blago
. But it turns out he's been liking my economic posts
of late. But BK's now predicting an Obama-induced anxiety attack:
Hub Blog has been damn cracklin' great of late! Reader BK loves it when Hub Blog "OWNS IT." Especially when Hub Blog owns it with passion, with bravura, and with the increasing anxiety -- make that ulcerating angina -- that comes with the recognition that Obama may never even get close to being any better than a C-minus presidency, and that Deval . . . well let's just say that Deval is the gift that will keep on giving (taking? tormenting!) to the detriment of the Commonwealth and to the aggravation of Hub Blog's digestive system.
From September 30, 2008, and to make Hub Blog's day.
Sorry Hub Blog, the Democrats from Obama's Liberal Voting Record Wing of the party have baked so much corruption/failure into Obama's cake, that even his Team of Rivals (Hub Blogism to appear soon enough: Team of Drivel) won't be able to keep the soufflé of his presidency from falling. But I still say: Go big on Hub Blog!
Full Disclosure: Reader BK voted for Obama in the Democratic Primary, but voted for McCain/Palin in the General. Reader BK likes his Before-Jeremiah Wright primary vote, and can more than live with his Pro-Sarah/Pre-Mumbai general election vote.
I'm not quite sure why BK, a long-time Hub Blog reader, sent me the link above blaming the Wall Street meltdown on Jimmy Carter, CRA, Fannie Mae, Barney Frank, etc. I couldn't disagree with it more. I though I had made that clear in prior posts. But I'll take the apparent compliment.
'To change our culture as we know it,' Part II
has an excellent post on James 'The Ghost of Big Dig Past' Aloisi:
If it happens, the appointment of Aloisi as Transportation secretary will be seen, in my view, as little more than Boston's version of "pay to play." Since 2002, Aloisi has donated more than $42,000 to Bay State politicians, including several thousands of dollars to top legislative leaders.
Remember: It's about 'reform redefined.'
... Bob via BMG
, which is chipping in on what's turning out to be a bi-partisan effort to save Deval from himself.
'To change our culture as we know it'
The governor is proposing cuts in public-sector pensions -- in New York.
... But the last time I praised a New York governor's reform rhetoric
, his career ended with one too many paid sessions with a 'sex worker.'
isn't buying into the dubious argument that it takes a hack's hack to reform the vast transportation-system hackerama. Besides, Deval isn't really asking for 'reforms.' He's throwing out reform bones in order to obtain his real objective: More money. ... NY link via email from Bert
I didn’t get the memo
: Prostitutes are now ‘sex workers.’ …
'So, just how corrupt is America?' Part II
The topic of Wall Street bonuses is old news. But read down into the article and behold the billions in cash Merrill Lynch alone paid out to hundreds of lowly analysts and managers. Not in ML stocks. Not in the subprime securities they peddled. But cold hard cash. ... Gee, you'd think they almost knew something was amiss. ...
'So, just how corrupt is America?'
Tom Friedman parks one
. ... This is why I fear the current economic downturn will be long and deep: An entire generation of Americans have lost faith in Wall Street. It took decades for Americans to get over the '29 crash. Remember the fear our Greatest Generation grandparents and/or parents had towards investing in the stock market? It's repeating itself today. ...
I also liked Friedman's observation about America's post-Cold War attitude towards capitalism. I never thought I'd say this, but I think liberals have recently been more honest and realistic when it comes to economics. During the early 1980s, it was impossible to look at West Germany vs. East Germany or South Korea vs. North Korea or Taiwan vs. Red China and not conclude that free-market systems were superior to planned-economy socialism. France's Francois Mitterand made one last stab at state-run socialism in the early '80s -- and it was such a monumental disaster that he had to abandon his plans pronto. Britain's Margaret Thatcher, meanwhile, was dismantling her country's state-run socialism -- and it was such a monumental success that it was embraced by future Labor leaders. As the economic evidence piled up, I distinctly recall 'socialists' like Barney Frank openly admitting in the 1980s that free-market systems were simply better at creating wealth and prosperity -- and that members of the democratic left had to accept that fact. By and large, they did. But something happened after the Cold War: The idea of free-market economics became an ideology on the right. People such as Alan Greenspan, Christopher Cox, Phil Graham etc. embraced an almost utopian vision of laissez-faire capitalism. There was no genuine competition or opposition to stop them. They embarked on something well beyond what Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan strove for in the '80s: 'Self-regulated capitalism.' That was their nirvana, their utopia, their dream world, and their delusion. Now it's all crashed down. As we rebuild the economy and its common-sense regulatory system, let's hope the pendulum doesn't swing back to state-run socialism. But it probably will. It already is. That's another reason why I think the current economic downturn will be long and deep.
Read the last paragraph of this story
and see if you're not sickened by the prospect of James A. Aloisi Jr. becoming transportation chief. ... Here's a look
at how Jimmy 'navigates' the 'Beacon Hill culture.' Note the reference to Joe Wagner and then toggle back to the first link to reread his quote about Aloisi's knack for 'blending policy and politics.' ... 'Reform redefined' indeed. ... Deval is burning from Duke I right through Duke II to Duke III.
No stops in between. This is the essence of the Hack-Progressive Alliance: Two sides within a one-party state finding political accomodation. Right before our eyes. It's happening. The King-Duke wings of the party finding common ground. The Hack-Progressive Alliance. It exists. ...Update
-- Not that Sal is a true reformer, but his instinctive opposition to Deval's grander ideas could be missed
. ... If Aloisi doesn't get the transportation post, maybe he can negotiate an outgoing deal for another insider of the 'Beacon Hill culture.'
'Before the consummation of an illegal act,' Part II
hauls out the flimsy guilt-by-association argument against Obama, partly contrasting his handling of Blago with John F. Kennedy's handling of former Massachusetts Gov. Foster Furcolo and another Massachusetts pol. Here's what seems to be the key graf:
Still, the Blagojevich scandal is a reminder that for all his inspirational talk, Obama, like Blagojevich, is a product of Chicago Democratic politics, which produces leaders both sublime and sordid. Obama has not always avoided the latter.
Well, yeah, but John Kennedy was the product
of Massachusetts Democratic politics and didn't always avoid the latter
either. So the point is? ... The Sun-Times' Mark Brown
makes good points on the 'politics as usual'
debate regarding Blago:
This wasn't a matter of promising political support to a candidate running for election. There was to be no election.Update
The office was to be filled by direct appointment of the governor. That made it one of Rod Blagojevich's official duties, not just another political decision to be horse-traded at will.
You can't seek campaign donations in exchange for the performance of an official action. That's a quid pro quo, and it crosses the line between legal and illegal.
is calling a new GOP ad attacking Obama a "destructive distraction."
The Big Dig Culture: The Sequel
Is Gov. Patrick seriously thinking
James A. Aloisi Jr. as head of transportation? If so, it would prove Deval is more of a big-spender progressive than a reformer. He really
wants that extra toll money. ... The official explanation, or theory, is that Deval wants someone more experienced to sell his transportation plan, i.e. Deval is moving from Duke I (idealist) to Duke II (pragmatist)
. But Duke II ultimately transformed into Duke III (unacknowledged cynic), creating the foundation of the current Hack-Progressive Alliance. I can see striving for a balance between Duke I and Duke II, or a Duke 1.5. But bringing back a key figure from the Big Dig Culture is an anti-reform disaster. ... Once again Sal
is getting out in front of Deval. He did it on gambling. He's doing it again on transportation. Thank goodness. ... Two observations about Sal's op-ed: Notice the reference to reforming the MBTA's 'out of control' pension system (yeah!) and the future of tolls (ugh). How much you want to bet we'll get some of the latter and none of the former?
'Charles Ponzi wouldn't have ...'
The incredible Madoff scam
is generating inevitable comparisons
to Boston's very own Charles Ponzi. But Boston University's Mitchell Zuckoff
, who wrote a book about Ponzi, says at least Ponzi once thought his scheme was legitimate. The same can't be said of Made-Off Madoff. ... In my limited experience covering con artists, I've noticed a rough pattern: 1.) They're psychopaths (i.e., they ultimately don't care about the feelings of, and harm done to, other human beings). 2.) They tend to prey on those close to them (i.e., relatives and friends, members of the same ethinic or fraternal group). Boston's Brad Bleidt went after his own mother, friends and fellow Masons. Madoff went after his fellow Jewish-Americans. It's something to keep in mind the next time a relative or friend recommends a seemingly too-good-to-be-true money manager whose clients include a lot of familiar faces. Con artists prey on trust.
'Our own version of the Nike swoosh,' Part II
has a more simple and logical explanation than yours truly
for the Sox's new uniforms: money. Kevin
, in an email, agrees:
It's not attention the Sox owners are desperate for, it's ca$h. New logo = new revenue stream. Hard to blame them with the Yankees throwing enough cash around to make Hank Paulson blush. I'm already priced out of the park, relegated to my couch and NESN. So long as they put a competitive, Manny-free team on the field, I don't care if they have 'Chico's Bail Bonds' on their uniforms.
and Andrew Sullivan
are trading blows again over the war and torture issues. I may often disagree with Glenn, but Andrew's self-righteous attacks on others are becoming legendary within the larger blogosphere. He'll never live down his initial passionate support for Bush and the Iraq war -- and then his passionate flip-flop on Bush and the Iraq war. Allowing one's passions to consistently get carried away isn't an admirable trait. ... I point this out as a mostly Boston-focused blogger only because someone has to act as a referee.
'But bloggers from competing hotbeds of wrongdoing ...'
I partook in the our-state-is-corrupt-too parlor game
. But at least I didn't get sentimental by insisting Massachusetts was the worst. I strove for balance, fairness and objectivity. ... Glad to see the article points out the flaws in standard corruption-by-states comparisons. Massachusetts lost a good decade and a half of data because our corruption corrupted the feds before they could uncover corruption. Massachusetts and similar states also have honed institutional corruption to an immeasurable legal art form, the result of years of experimentation. The Big Dig Culture didn't arise from a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Culture. ... Ignore the corruption rankings by journalists. They're just as perversely vain about the corruption they cover as bloggers, though their gut-instinct hat tip to Rhode Island is impressive. ... One last point: Illinois wouldn't have been at the top of everyone's list last week if Blago hadn't been so crude and amateurish. He didn't play the game well. See 'Before the consummation of an illegal act' post below.
'Danger's Hour,' Part II
Maxwell Taylor Kennedy gets back to Jules
about his before-he-even-read-it concerns
about Kennedy's new book 'Danger's Hour: The Story of the USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her.'
... Jules notes Howie Carr read the book, loved it and recently interviewed
Kennedy on WRKO. The interview and subject matter are fascinating. Listen to it. I wasn't aware the USS Bunker Hill was built in Quincy and nearly half its crew hailed from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Yet another book lands on my ever-growing reading list. ... Talking to Jules yesterday at work
, he was kind of astounded that Howie and Kennedy got along so well during the interview. "It was a Howie-Kennedy lovefest. Who would have thought?" ...
'Before the consummation of an illegal act'
Serious questions are starting to be raised here
whether Blago was really selling a senate seat or engaging in politics as usual. I touched on the issue here
regarding Jesse Jackson Jr. and Obama raising funds to retire Hillary's debts. Did Blago really cross the line? Did other pols cross the line by talking to him about the seat in return for favors? From the WaPo in the first link:
Fundraising and campaign-donation cases can present challenges, since the expectation of a favor is not enough to meet high legal burdens.
But I'm pretty sure Blago crossed a line when he started babbling about relieving the "financial stress" on his family, landing a high-paying job with a union and nabbing his wife corporate-board appointments. Note the reference to the FBI contacting the public-union boss. ... P.S. -- The other charges against Blago -- shaking down a charitity and the Trib etc. -- are different legal matters.
Hold the presses: Rahm talked to Blago's office!
This should send conspiracy theorists and gotcha journalists into orbit: Rahm talked to Blago's office about Obama’s senate seat
, the Chicago Tribune is reporting. ... A couple days ago, I would have responded, "So what? Didn't we already know that Blago didn't appreciate the motherf***er's appreciation?" But Obama made a tactical mistake: Perhaps to protect his saintly image, he implied no one on his staff talked to Blago's staff. It was a silly assertion. But it was enough to set off the hounds in search of a scrawny fox, i.e., Can Obama's assertion be disproved? Never mind that it's normal for an outgoing senator to try to pick and/or influence his or her successor. Never mind there's no evidence Obama's office agreed to a pay-to-play deal. It's now about the thrill-of-the-chase game of tripping up Obama with his own words. That's the scrawny little fox now being hunted into the ground. Dan rightly has been pounding into this non-story 'story' here
As I noted to someone yesterday, the outline of Obama critics' attacks is now coming into focus. I initially thought it was a two-pronged attack. It's now a three-pronged attack (or soon will be): 1.) The simplistic guilt-by-association
argument 2.) The Obama-misspoke argument and 3.) The He-didn't-inform-the-prosecutors argument (to be deployed after the second point is thoroughly exhausted). ... Reader BK writes in about my 'Mr. Obama's reticence'
Re: 'Mr. Obama's reticence' Questions for Hub Blog: Who is Obama? SNL's Mr. Cool? Or is he a diffident dancer -- always gliding just above or away from past associations and/or issue positions when they become inconvenient for him to stand by them?
Gee, do I get any other choices? Guess not. I'll pass on the quiz. ... BK also calls in an armchair psychiatrist
to bolster the case that Obama's exhibited an "odd emotional reaction" to the auto-industry/Blago affairs and that its "vagueness perpetuates the moral equivalence that dominates his thinking and suggests that bad actors are really just misunderstood," thus he's probably unfit to deal with the North Koreans and Hamas. ... Okaaaaaay ... The Chicago Tribune's John Kass
has been on a roll. He's looking into Rahm's connection to Chicago pol Jimmy DeLeo:
Jimmy didn't return my call to his office, so we checked other joints. "DeLeo?" said Glenn, the manager at Carmine's. "I've never heard of the name. Who?"
At Tavern on Rush, a hostess said, "I haven't seen him today." A woman at Cafe Bionda simply said, "No, he's not here."
So I phoned the Excelsior Casino in Aruba, where Jimmy takes politicians to gamble, including Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. I figured Jimmy might be there.
"Who's calling please?" asked a secretary in the office of Michael Posner, the casino boss who has Chicago connections.
Tell him John from Chicago is calling, I said. Posner picked up and was quite chirpy, for about three seconds, until he realized I was a newspaper guy.
"If you want to find him, call him yourself,” Posner said. Click.
Good stuff. ... Doesn't it seem that every Legislature has to have a member named DeLeo in order to make life interesting and complete? It's almost a prerequisite for hard-ball politics: Sen. DeLeo or Rep. DeLeo, whatever etc.
'Our own version of the Nike swoosh'
Exactly: It sucks.
... More on the new Sox uniform here
. It's really the new cap logo that bugs me, not the shirts. At least they didn't bring back the multi-colored, elastic-band waist straps that I mentally associate with Bernie Carbo and the '70s. ... One gets the impression Sox owners are close to jumping the shark -- or something. They seem too desperate for publicity. Maybe it's simply a function of Fenway Sports Group looking for something to do.
Where's my bailout?
Hub Blog is shedding no tears over the demise of the auto-industry bailout bill.
The package had morphed from a "save the industry" into a "save the world and interest-group jobs" bill. ... Tom Friedman
has similar sentiments. ... I'm still in favor of helping out the industry. But not with government micro-managing strings attached. The Wall Street bailout bill was made a little better (at least on paper) after an initial defeat. Let's hope both Democrats (in particular) and Republicans (in general) ease up on some of their demands. The most important thing I want to see: A quick in-and-out strategy. Lend the money -- and then let them sink or swim. ... Reader No. 1 has sent in follow-up
thoughts on the issue:
The usual common sense from Mickey. ... So will Obama quietly let a bailout go through before he becomes President (not unlike voting "present") so that he can disavow it when he's actually in office? Follow the precedents. To quote the NPR blog, "Sometimes maybe can be a pretty strategic vote." ... An even better elaboration from Holman Jenkins on his earlier assertions as to the problem with regulation.
The elaboration by Jenkins is indeed better, especially his observation that CAFE rules won't work without higher gas prices and (surprise -- for him to say so) gas taxes. His first piece had that all too familiar 'It's the government's fault' ring to it, sort of like when the right blamed the Wall Street meltdown on Jimmy Carter, CRA, Fannie Mae, Barney Frank etc. The car companies and unions ultimately made their own disastrous mistakes too. Not everything can be blamed on the government. ... Speaking of the auto-industry and subprime-mortgage messes, Christopher Cox lectures
us on 'freedom' and government regulations, blah, blah, blah. This from the guy who has admitted his grand 'self-regulation' experiment of the financial system failed, tragically and spectacularly. Seven-trillion dollars into the taxpayer bailout of the banking system, he's the last person to lecture people on these matters.Update
-- From Bert:
One last plea for union workers in Detroit. Is the key to the success of American automakers really reducing their costs? Or is the “brand” just too far gone in terms of quality, safety and efficiency in relation to “imports.” It’s easy to say cost, but this makes me wonder
”The Big Three already often sell their cars for about $2,500 less than equivalent cars from Japanese companies, analysts at the International Motor Vehicle Program say. Even so, many Americans no longer want to own the cars being made by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.”
is worried that Maxwell Taylor Kennedy might fall over the "cultural relativism cliff" in his new book, 'Danger's Hour: The Story of the USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her.'
Jules acknowledges he might be jumping to conclusions and will report back later whether Kennedy has gone soft on Kamikaze pilots. I haven't read the book. But I'll give the benefit of the doubt to anyone named after Maxwell Taylor, the famous World War II general. (Kennedy got his first and middles names from his father, RFK, a big admirer of war heroes and Taylor in particular.) I also don't mind comparisons between Kamikaze and al-Qaeda suicide bombers, a point apparently running through Kennedy's book. It's important to understand how normal human beings can turn into fanatical killers. ... Here
are some short favorable reviews of 'Danger's Hour.' ... Jules, a colleague at the Herald, and I got into a conversation the other day
about another new Pacific War book, 'Retribution,'
by Max Hastings. Hastings is no relativist. But he also doesn't pull punches about the savagery on both sides during the last two years of the war, thus the title 'Retribution.'
'Mr. Obama's reticence'
throws out some Illinois dots and then tries to connect them. But if Obama's past 'reticence' on Blagojevich is the worst critics can pin on him, then Obama and his supporters don't have much to worry about. ... Don't get me wrong: Obama's land-deal connections to Rezko are concerning. But guilt-by-association arguments
are generally the last refuge of lame critics. ... Jon
thinks Massachusetts is as corrupt as Illinois. I disagree.
But he makes good points about the corrupting stranglehold public unions have over our government. See public employees' latest scare-tactic ploy below. ...Update
-- Rezko is singing.
It's the land deal -- not Obama's non-surprising associations with fellow Illinois pols -- that bears close watching.
'Barring a market recovery or increased aid from the state ...'
One question after reading this story
: Will state government bail out private-sector employees who lost a bundle on their 401(k)s? The answer: No. They'll have to suck it up. But notice how the public-sector types are already framing the debate over public-pension losses: Fork over more money or we'll have to cut police, firefighters, teachers etc. No mention of pension reforms etc. ... See Jon link in post above about corruption in Massachusetts. It's not as blatant as in Illinois. But the whole system here is still rigged and rotten. ... P.S. -- Two words on the MBTA's Silver Line tunnel proposal
: Kill it. ... Outraged Liberal
has more on that public-sector-debacle front. ...Update
-- Reader No. 1 sends in this newsflash: 'U.S. Says It Will Bail Out Christmas.'Update II
-- Bert writes in:
"Scare tactic” or financial reality? It seems these public pensions have been taking the budget back seat to “other priorities” a little too long: “Next year, the city is supposed to make a contribution of more than $34 million to its plan. If it had been fully funding the plan all along, the city would owe only $3.9 million.”
A deal is made, one side puts off fulfilling their end of the bargain so long that it becomes an Albatross and then they are the victim?
Renegotiation of retirement plans seems reasonable on a going forward basis. But to allow the commitments to be dissolved would be criminal. Those promises were made and taken into consideration as people planned their retirement. I don’t see how you can pull the rug out from under them. ... Were (the original contracts) bad deals? Maybe. Take management to task for negotiating them and then neglecting their responsibility. A lot of the complaints about government have more to do with lack of courage at the top of the food chain and lack of interest by the public than they do with public employees or their unions. ... More on unions here.
Answer to Bert's opening question: It's a blatant scare tactic. Why is it always 'financial reality' when asking for more money? Why are reforms always put off 'on a going forward basis'? Are we really talking about allowing 'commitments to be dissolved' and pulling the 'rug out from under' retired grandmas? C'mon. That's the type of extreme scare-tactic assertion I'm talking about -- and don't get me going on why our politicians sign these exorbitant contracts in the first place.
'Insanity defense wouldn't be his craziest idea'
Note the sign on the telephone pole as Blago emerged from his home this morning. ... It could get worse: "Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is 'Senate Candidate 5.'"
Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with a pol promising another pol to help raise funds. Didn't Obama all but agree to do that for Hillary? Maybe that's what Junior intended. But if it's a 'pay-to-play' scheme, with money going right into Hot Rod's pocket, then Junior could be in a heap of trouble. ... Mark Brown
on Blago: 'Insanity defense wouldn't be his craziest idea.' ... Photo via/copyright of Sun-Times
'And how about the quality of the venality?'
The inevitable parlor game has begun: Is Massachusetts as corrupt as Illinois? Cynthia emailed a link to this piece
saying Massachusetts has more than two House Speakers in a row to be ashamed/proud of over the years. But Howie's right
: "We in Boston take such great pride in our municipal corruption, but we are mere pikers compared to this 'crime spree' (in Illinois)." ... There's no comparison in my book, literally
(curiously, the price of the used tomes hasn't tripled yet): Illinois is more corrupt. Massachusetts is still stuck in a sort of petty time warp -- with hacks still scrambling for patronage jobs, pensions, and plum career-ending court and academic appointments. Illinois has graduated to a completely different level -- with hacks going for multimillion-dollar contracts, senate-seat auctions and plum fortune-making corporate appointments with stock options. But Brighton Reader raises an interesting point about comparisons:
A contest - how will we decide? Number of indictments? Convictions? ... And how about the quality of the venality? Shouldn't the Bulgers be contenders, given the involvement of state politicians, organized crime and the FBI? Or would Illinois make the big-budget grab at the Oscars, and Boston be the artsy favorite at Sundance?
Now we're getting closer. Chicago has a kind of lovable quality to its loser Cubs and rogue politicians. But there's a nasty, non-lovable quality to our attitude toward sports, politics, driving, you name it. As Chicago's Roger Ebert once put it in a review
Boston seems like the most forbidding city in crime movies. There are lots of movies about criminals in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and points between, but somehow in Boston the wounds cut deeper, the characters are angrier, their resentments bleed, their grudges never die, and they all know everybody else's business.
Add in some pedophilia scandals and you have the makings for nasty scripts that 'gritty' movie directors can't get enough of. ... Of course that's not to say Illinios isn't nasty. Check out this from the Blago complaint
Rod Blagojevich said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to "suck it up" for two years and do nothing and give this "motherf***er [the President-elect] his senator. F*** him. For nothing? F*** him." Rod Blagojevich states that he will put "[Senate Candidate 4]" in the Senate "before I just give F***ing [Senate Candidate 1] a F***ing Senate seat and I don't get anything." (Senate Candidate 4 is a Deputy Governor of the State of Illinois). Rod Blagojevich stated that he needs to find a way to take the "financial stress" off of his family and that his wife is as qualified or more qualified than another specifically named individual to sit on corporate boards.
Corporate-board appointments. Who else does that remind me of? Hmmm. Can't think of the name. ... Moving to other matters, Bert
is still intrigued about what Obama's staff knew during the probe and whether staff members tipped off investigators. ... I have no idea. But they're definitely putting distance between themselves and Blago. Check out the 2002 gubernatorial-election part in this entry
. They're already rewriting history. ... I have a hunch Obama's going to be playing up his Hawaii roots more often in coming days, weeks and months.
-- Adam R
makes a good point: a complaint was filed against Blago, not an indictment. I fixed it above. My mistake. ...Update II
-- Outraged Liberal
also thinks there's no comparison between Illinois and Massachusetts.
Senator Caroline? Part II
goes beyond my sentimental reasons
for not wanting Caroline in the Senate. He's right about the royalty and competence concerns. Add them to the list of negatives. ...Update
-- Justinian at BMG
: 'Royalty and democracy don't mix well.'
'Illinois Gov. Blagojevich arrested,' Part II
I'm creating a new post to accommodate additional updates. See post immediately below for more. Brighton Reader on Obama, Illinois and Massachusetts politics:
From the indictment:
"In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but 'they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.' ”
Good for Obama, and no wonder he wants to get the hell out of Chicago. It makes our bra-stuffing state senator seem so quaint and provincial.
Obama is indeed lucky to have escaped from Illinois
with a minimal amount of slime on him. ... As for the Illinois-Massachusetts comparisons, more on that later. But here's a hint: Two House Speakers in a row, on lesser charges, is not two Governors in a row, on more serious charges. Yet it's still two House Speakers in a row. ...Update I
Who dropped the dime on Blago? How about this for a far out theory:
Blago’s people contacted Obama’s people indicating that the Gov wanted something in exchange for the appointment of Obama’s choice. It went up the chain of command and got shot down big-time. Indignation over the inquiry and the potential damage the Govs actions could have on the President-elect are such that they immediately flip the whole thing over to the FBI.
Would Republicans then have to spin Obama as a “rat”?
There wasn't a recent single dime dropped on Blago per se. The feds have been investigating him for a while now. But re the Obama senate-seat scenario: It's a possibility. I thought the same thing myself. I would hope they turned to the feds if he indeed tried to shake them down. ... P.S. - No allegations against Obama.
He also said he didn't know about the senate talks. I believe him. He's not the type to lower himself to Blago's level. Perhaps one of his underlings was involved (in a positive sense). But that's just speculation.Update II
- The Sun-Times
has put out a special edition with the excited pitch, "Get a copy on your way home today!"Update III
-- Two good pieces on the Illinois mess: The first
on replacing Obama in the Senate (they'll probably have to impeach the governor) and the second
on the Trib blackmail (the paper appears to have acted honorably - even though editors didn't even know of the threats).
'Illinois Gov. Blagojevich arrested'
, he tried to sell Obama's senate seat and blackmail the Chicago Tribune.
Nothing major. ... Bert
alerted me to the holy-fucking-shit drama in Chicago with an email message: "Awaiting your post. Isn’t Illinois politics one of your hobbies?" Damn right. I'm about to become rich.
Sales are going to soar! ...Update
-- Worst-timed headline of the day: 'Plenty of Illinois spirit in Barack Obama's inauguration parade'
. ... More to come.Update II
-- I'm kicking myself for not posting this yesterday when it first broke: 'Nothing but sunshine hanging over me.'
... The Trib reported last week that the feds had taped Blagojevich, who responded with the following yesterday (and I'm not making this up):
I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it. I appreciate anybody who wants to tape me openly and notoriously, and those who feel like they want to sneakily and wear taping devices, I would remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon and Watergate. ...
But I don't care whether you tape me privately or publicly, I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful and the things I'm interested in are always lawful and if there are any things out there like that, what you'll hear is a governor who tirelessly and endlessly figures out ways to help average, ordinary working people. ...
You might hear a couple of words that you might not hear publicly, but those are only adjectives to describe maybe some of you ... There are probably a lot of discussions about the Cubs and some of my ideas on what they ought to do in the off season, but you know, this is America, you know, and I appreciate if you want to tape my conversations, give me a heads up and let me know.
Read on for his 'sunshine' remark. ... As you've probably guessed, Blago ain't the brighest guy on the planet. ...Update III
-- Bert is convinced I'm on the road to riches:
You’ll need an agent, a publicist, greater server capacity for the blog. Go forth and merchandise this, young man!
Nationalizing an industry, Part III
So we're back to where we were in mid-September: Talking about nationalization.
I'll repeat what I said then
: A little regulation at the outset could have prevented all of this. The car industry resisted, for example, basic fuel-efficiency standards -- and now the taxpayers are poised to bail them out for their blunders. ... I dislike this nationalization even more than the Wall Street nationalization for a number of reasons: 1.) This isn't an unexpected emergency with the entire economy suddenly put at risk. The car industry's problems have been festering for decades. 2.) The Wall Street bailout was partly about looking back and telling firms what they could no longer do. The auto-industry bailout is mostly about looking into the future and telling firms what they should do -- as if bureaucrats or a 'car czar' know the market better than others. 3.) The Wall Street shakeout at least allowed some bankruptcies and failures. 4.) Democrats unmistakably look like they're balking at cracking down on one of their own interest groups: auto-worker unions. Management is part of the problem. But so are the unions. 5.) The auto-bailout plan is linked to a lot of tangential issues dear to non-industry types out to save the world, not just an industry, i.e., environmentalists. The inherent tensions between market and political forces will inevitably hobble any recovery. ...
BTW: I'm not against a bailout of some sort. The industry's immediate woes can be linked to an historic credit crunch and recession caused by a cabal of Wall Street types competing for the grandest homes in the Hamptons and on Nantucket. At this point, an auto-industry collapse could turn a recession into a depression. But a bailout should be tied to a short-term plan -- not a long-term plan. The goal should be to get in and out as soon as possible. Possible long-term failure must be accepted as part of the risks.
BTW II: Hub Blog has been looking for that early gays-in-the-military issue that could trip up Obama -- and this looks like it's it. Only much, much bigger. If I was Obama, I'd back away from this mess right away and demand to see the old, more modest Chrysler bailout plan. I'd also think of tricking Mitt, in a sort of Team of Rivals ploy, into implementing a variation of his 'managed bankruptcy' idea. I doubt Obama will go for it. I doubt Mitt would fall for it. But it'd be reassuring to watch Mitt go into one of his 'rescue' modes. He's good at it.Update
-- From Reader No. 1:
I agree with most of your analysis except the first note that regulation could've helped Detroit. In fact, an argument can and has been made that regulation has been part of the problem. But your points 1-5 are well-taken.
P.S. - A couple weeks old but an important and non-obvious observation by Forbes' Rich Karlgaard on one of the many mistakes along the way that brought the Big 3 to where they are today. If anything, 'nationalizing' the auto industry seems more likely to make this kind of mistake more likely/pervasive...
I assumed Mitt was running for president again after his staff tangled with Palin hours after the election. This merely confirms it.
… Outraged Liberal
Could we be witnessing yet another metamorphosis, with Romney blooming as new (pretty) face and voice of the "pragmatic" wing that is expected to emerge?
Of course there'll be another metamorphosis -- and another and another. When Mitt finally develops a consistent message, we'll know he's not running anymore.
'This is definitely a crazy situation'
: It was a fun, hard-fought game -- and it's been a fun, hard-fought season. I suspected
it would be after Brady was hurt. Just don't get me going on the Cassel-Brady comparisons. ... Loved this exchange
"Talking to Junior in the middle of the third quarter, I said, ‘Junior, what were you doing a week ago?’ He said he was in Fiji. I was in Missouri City. Now we’re playing a professional football game. It’s crazy. This is definitely a crazy situation, but I’m having a good time.”Update
- 12.9.08 -- Speaking of crazy, it wasn't until this morning that I realized I spelled 'fought' wrong. All corrected. ...
Whenever I hear of a new government initiative
that involves a 'czar,' I assume failure is not far behind. ... Chris Dodd talking about the need for 'new leadership'? ... I actually like President Bush's plan
if it does involve forcing "car companies into bankruptcy unless their executives, their workers and their creditors make concessions." But the administration's approach usually ends up concentrating too much power in one man's hands -- Brenner, Paulson etc. -- that increases the odds of failure if that one man gets it wrong.
'Beware of the doghouse'
Every man's nightmare.
... I won't relate my ultimate doghouse comment. All these years later I'm still embarrassed by the stupidity of it. ... Doghouse, via Jules
From Harvard MBA to Harvard Law
One side of the campus screws up -- so Obama turns to the other side of the campus to try to fix it.
It's technically 'change,' I suppose. ... William F. Buckley must be turning over in his grave.
... Friends of another Harvard grad are trying to downplay his Cambridge connections: "Now, who talks about Harvard?”
... I've generally admired Obama's appointees so far. But this heavy reliance on a specific type of professional from a specific school from a specific class is not good. It's form of cocooning -- and it always invites trouble. ... I'm also not impressed with his massive infrastructure plan
. Not from an anti-Keynesian viewpoint. But from an anti-Bridges To Nowhere/Newton North High School standpoint. It's going to be ugly after Congress gets involved. ... Thanks to BK for the first link.Update
- 12.08.08 -- Dan
At some point this week the meme about the incoming Obama administration switched from a discussion of the pitfalls of a “Team of Rivals” to a discussion of the pitfalls of “The Best and the Brightest.”
I'd add that the meme has further subtly switched to the pitfalls of "The Paper Chase."
I hope it doesn't happen.
I admire her just the way she is. She'd probably make a good senator. She has a dignified charisma. She has a politician's shrewd sense of timing. She displayed a moderate's wisdom during the vice presidential selection process. But sometimes a person's power resides in a mystique protected by privacy. She'd lose that privacy if she became senator -- and therefore might lose the power and mystique that's won her admiration. ...Update
12.08.08 -- Seth
compiles some advice for Caroline if she becomes senator.Update II
- 12.08.8 -- Jane Hamsher (via Mickey): Let her earn it first.
‘The Real Bill Ayers’
This should get the wingnuts howling at the moon: Bill Ayers speaks.
... To me, he's just a dime-a-dozen rich kid who indulged in a sophomoric lefty ideology infused with annoying moral certainty not unlike what's seen on the alleged moral-majority right (see his thoughts on politics and moralism here
). His Weather Underground background of violence is repugnant. His 'regrets' are ambiguous and, as have been repeatedly shown, intellectually dishonest. His real problem is the damage he and his like have done to America's education system. ... With that said, he was and is irrelevant. He didn't use Obama. Obama used him. Politicians can't avoid rubbing shoulders with an array of wingnuts on both the left and right. Republicans have to shill for votes at Bob Jones University. Democrats have to shill for votes among the cerebral-challenged still trying to distinguish the differences between Lenin, Stalin and Bukharin. It's discouraging they have to engage in this ritual. But there it is. ... Now howl away, all you righties. Defend away, all you lefties.Update
isn't impressed with Ayers's op-ed.
Memories and happiness
Two articles that caught my attention this morning: A story on the death of 'H.M.'
, a man who couldn't form new memories, and a study on the ripple effects of happiness.
As corny as it sounds, both leave you shaking your head at how close and yet how far we are from understanding the miracles of everyday life. ...
'Is this a recipe for stealth socialism, or what!'
You gotta read this gem of connect-the-dots paranoia
about Obama that made its way from New Zealand to the Spectator in Britain
and, somehow, into my inbox via a conservative acquaintance who, I think, is seriously concerned. ... Come to think of it, the first link is so off the charts, maybe I'm the one who's taking it too seriously. ... You see, the remnants of the Students for a Democratic Society and Weather Underground Organization know that Obama's centrist appointments are just a ruse and ... read it for yourself. ... Mona Charen is such a fool!
P.S. -- The Herald is probably involved.
I just know it.
P.S.P.S. -- Ed Morrissey
wishes another conspiracy theory would just go away. ... BTW - Before anyone asks, the reason I even bothered to link to the first conspiracy theory above -- besides admiring it for its brilliant zaniness -- is because I've been getting a lot of conspiracy-theory links lately. It's not an isolated incident. ... Ed via Andrew
'He's bored with being a senator,' Part III
And probably bitter as well.
Joan explains why. … But he sounds a bit chipper over at HuffingtonPost.com.
No mention of global counterinsurgencies, though he does suggest he'll use his new post as the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to help usher in a 'new bold era of environmental diplomacy,' making me doubly glad he didn't get the SoS job.
'Not really addressed by the recent ethics controversies'
I'm with Charley
: I'm frustrated with all the talk of ethics reform, etc. It's missing the point. Sure we need more transparency in government. Sure we need tighter campaign-finance and lobbyist laws. But the problems of Massachusetts go much deeper into the government bureaucracy. We literally have laws and rules on the books that encourage abuses by hacks -- double-dipping pensioners, personal-injury scammers, do-nothing public watchdog entities, independent agencies and judicial branches, unsupervised workers stealing bridges and toll money, etc., etc. Then there are the laws and rules that aren't on the books but should be -- anti-patronage policies that comply with constitutional rulings, independent budget appropriations to the auditor and Inspector general, etc., etc. If the task force comes back without specific recommendations on how to reshape the bureaucracy, then it will have failed. ...
Glad to know ex-FBI agent John Connolly
would have undergone an 'agonizing reappraisal' of his informant deal with Whitey Bulger had he known Whitey et gang were running around killing 19 or so people. What would have pricked his conscience and made a decision less agonizing? Forty murders? Two hundred? ... Kevin
discovers a satisfying irony to the cozy Connolly-Bulger tale. Read to the end.Update
-- A reader notes that the 'agonizing reappraisal' quote can be read the opposite way too: 'How many murders did Zip consider acceptable before the agonizing kicked in?' I don't know. Five? Probably too low considering his threshold.
How to clean vomit from T seats
Simply remove the seats.
... OK, the cattle-car idea isn't so bad. It's done elsewhere. But considering what riders routinely find
on Red Line seats, the seats won't be missed. ... 'Not-so-fresh crusted vomit' via Adam
-- Outraged Liberal
isn't impressed with the cattle-car plan. Think 'sardine cans.' ...
'For once...' Part II
Possibly a major toll/gas tax development
from Gov. Patrick:
If it's a gas tax where we're talking about taking all the tolls down, now we're getting somewhere.
The governor may finally be getting out front on this issue. I agree with Bob and disagree with Sean about the governor's apparent shift. This is pretty big -- and welcome.
'For once ...'
Now that lawmakers are talking about privatizing the Turnpike
, public unions are finally calling tolls what they really are: taxes. … Everyone knows why public unions want to keep the status quo: their cushy public-sector jobs and pensions are at stake. But I oppose ‘privatization’ for a different reason: It’s not true privatization. It’s merely a transfer of taxation powers. Massachusetts would raise billions of dollars upfront – and Metrowest motorists would get stuck paying it off via toll taxes with inevitable toll-hike clauses built in to pay for inflation and profit-margins. The financial mechanism for this ‘privatization’ is nearly identical to a public bond issuance. Except under this the-saps-were-born-yesterday plan, Pike motorists would not only pay off the Big Dig debt, they'd also pay for other road and bridge projects funded with the upfront money. ... Christy Mihos
has some proposals for the Pike. They sound a little too rosy to me. But I liked this line: “For once, the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick should consider a solution that brings fairness and equity to its overburdened taxpayers.”
'He's bored with being a senator, Part II
Glad Kerry didn't get the SoS job. Read the following two paragraphs
and see if you don't think, 'Huh?' Here they are:
On foreign policy, Kerry also said that the country's mindset towards fighting terrorism and its causes must change. The "War on Terror," a term created by the Bush administration, "is just a misnomer," Kerry said.
"This is a global counter insurgency and until you understand that it is a counter insurgency and not a way, you can't begin to have a strategy," he added.
First sentence I agree with. Everything else is a mess. Is the terrorism that we've seen in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, London, Madrid and Mumbai really part of an insurgency? Does he mean we're facing a counterinsurgency or does he mean we're fighting back with counterinsurgency? Does he still believe we should view the fight more as a 'police action'? What does 'not a way' mean? That terrorists and/or insurgents don't have a 'way' of thinking? That terrorism and/or insurgencies pop up out of nowhere? That there's some sort of global revolt going on? Maybe he just misspoke. He's had a rough week. ... P.S. -- Agree with his sentiments on the financial crisis and its causes.Upate
- 12.03.08 -- From Bert:
I thought there was a typo and it should have read “This is a global counter insurgency and until you understand that it is a counter insurgency and not a waR, you can't begin to have a strategy.”
I thought it was clear he was saying the events were part of an insurgency and we were fighting back with a counter insurgency. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know the different tactics required for a counter insurgency operation rather than a war. But I’ll give Kerry the benefit of the doubt that there are significant differences.
On another level, I’m not sure it makes much of a difference to the average guy in the street whether you label it a “war” or a “counter insurgency.” Our Junior Senator has not often understood the value of being more understood than technically correct.
But at the level of SoS and the White House it is probably very important to know and understand the differences. And to talk about them using the proper terminology. On that note, I do wonder if the Bush administration marks the distinctions. Their slogans are simple, that’s good. But their thinking has been accused of being simple, too, and that’s not good.
I'll concede the 'way' vs. 'war' point. It makes more sense. But there's a huge difference between acts of terrorism, an insurgency and a full-fledged war. The Bush administration made the same mistakes. They reacted to a terrorist attack by going to war, then recongized almost too late they were facing insurgencies both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kerry's remarks make no sense.Update II
- 12.03.08 -- Reader A adds more to both of yesterday's posts:
And to my point, he's chairman, and he's launching an investigation of offshore banking. This is a classic Kerry move. It's not useless, but it's more something a subcommittee might do. It's certainly true that he is not a nuts-and-bolts politician, but he's also not a real establishment guy -- there's an anti-establishment, prosecutorial attitude there that's at odds with his image, and perhaps his aspirations.
As for the "war on terror," isn't this like piracy? Not in technical legal terms, but in nature. Everyone talks as if it's an unprecedented dilemma to be using military force against non-state actors in a sort of law enforcement role, but the US has a 200-year history of such engagement with the Muslim world; and look at Somalia.
Maybe he'll start babbling how piracy is part of an insurgency?
'He’s bored with being a senator'
I can't vouch
for the Track's Someone Who Knows source. But the quote above rings true about Kerry. He's run for president. He lobbied for secretary of state. I think Peter Porcupine's idea is brilliant: 'Give him the job he was born for - ambassador to France.'
... P.S. - Note that Ted didn't want Hillary anywhere near his own health-care team. Her selection as SoS may turn out to be inspired. But ...Update
-- David Corn
thinks the most important appointment yesterday was Gen. James Jones as national security adviser. Seth
wonders if Jones and Clinton will soon be clashing over Israel. But that assumes Secretary of State Clinton still holds the same views as Senator Clinton, who was under electoral pressure in New York to be as pro-Israel as possible.Update II
-- From Reader A:
John Kerry is just not cut out to be a senior senator/committee chair. His best moments have been investigations (such as BCCI) in which he has shown enterprise and courage. But he has no apparent aptitude for handling complex, long-term issues -- in part because he's not good at putting a staff together. (This was the best argument against electing him President, although considering the alternative....) Ambassador to France isn't a bad idea. I imagine that he's under some pressure to stay in the Senate, where Massachusetts might otherwise be represented by the two very junior members pretty soon (but does he care?).
'The corrupt bipartisan Combine that runs this state'
that demolition of our one-party state won’t necessarily lead to bi-partisan bliss. … Picture a vibrant Republican party run by Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift facing off against a Democratic party led by Sal DiMasi and Dianne Wilkerson, multiply the hackerama and grand-jury intensity by a factor of about five, and you have a rough idea about how the bi-partisan dynamics work in Illinois. … How Obama got out of the local swamp with minimal slime on him, I don’t know. As I’ve said before
, Gov. Patrick’s whining of late perhaps can be tied to a belief that we have nothing to whine about compared to Illinois. Just a psychological guess, mind you. … First link via Glenn
- 12.02.08 -- Mark Brown
weighs in on the call to pardon former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. ... Just pointing it out. I love Illinois politics.
'Patriots let Boston down'
How quickly we turn on our heroes
. ... Bob says 'things aren't really all that dire.'
... I'm not as pessimistic as Steve and I'm not as optimistic as Bob. Let's put things in perspective: Finishing with a winning record (as it now seems likely) and making a strong run at the playoffs (as what's unfolding now) wasn't supposed to happen after Tom Brady got hurt in the first game. Recall how some pundits thought the Pats would be lucky to have a winning season after Tom went down. I'll take what we've got -- and hope against the odds they actually make the playoffs. ... More on the disappointing (but not surprising) loss at Patriots Gab
'Replaced by some horrible simulacrum'
has an update on the conservatives-vs.-science debate
. It’s good to know some conservatives still believe in gravity
(see bottom of 12th paragraph). …Update
-- Needless to say, the loony left has its own science problems