Saturday, January 27, 2007

John Kerry's Remarkable Gut

John Kerry says his "gut" told him that '08 wasn't the time to run for President again. What remarkable instincts. Feh.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Intrinsic Value of a Neighbor

Like most folks these day, I find that I pay too little attention to my neighbors. I pass their houses several times a day. I wave to (some of) them when they are in their yards or if I see them at the supermarket I will say hello. One or two of them I have a drink (or three) with on occasion. There used to be a Christmas party in the neighborhood a few years back, but those folks moved away, and now there are only the lights on the homes to unite us in our common holiday.

We have in common an extraordinarily beautiful environment -- one long country lane that dips and winds across a rough terrain of one huge granite ledge, a tidal river and marsh to one side. Many of us share views of that river (some have better views than others -- but that's between my next door neighbor and me).

Recently, though, I received an email from a most interesting neighbor, and he has permitted me to share it with you. He asks to be known as "The Octogenarian," and if I play my cards right, we'll be seeing more of him here.

So here is the message I received from The Octogenarian (edited only to change names):

Dear Anna and Friend:

Tonight I am so glad I live where I do. My wonderful neighbors Hank's and Mary's house is up there on the hill shielding me from that nasty Nor'west wind. Down here in my little nook it is calm and peaceful. Cold? Yes, but nothing like Shaw's parking lot. I had visions of my Cambell's soup being blown over to my house when I set them down to get my keys out.

The marsh will be a block of ice in the AM my kayaking pals. Do you have ice skates? One winter years ago we (my wife and I) went out in the canoe on the ice with ski poles instead of paddles. We went skittering around laughing our foolish heads off - I'm not sure if I was still in my drinking days. Lots of fun though. Another time my wife and I ice-skated almost down to Supper Island (what's that, about 2 miles?), But fortunately, my wife heard cracking sounds and we turned back in time.

The ice does unusual things to the marsh grass making it look almost like a moon scape. Especially with the low winter sun reflecting off the ice. When the tides are very high, ice is occasionally lifted in thick blocks up onto the top of the grass. Sometimes these are very large and are fun to skate on because you're not going to fall though into the water.

Years ago, men used to come with chain saws, cut a hole in the ice here and there and stab for eels. The eels were about 18" long and bought BIG bucks in Japan as they were flown over there from here. By stabbing, I mean they had a long pole with a multi-barbed forked tip. When you stabbed an eel, he'd wiggle like crazy (I guess I would too) and you'd know you'd gotten one. Ayah!

The geese now come to it looking for open water to land in. I don't think I've ever seen them land on ice. I don't think they can, but it might be a whale of a show. They'd look like a bunch of commuters on a stretch of black ice on Route 128. The ice-boaters will be out on Mushquashicut Pond any day now. Flittin' back and forth like barn swallows do in the summer.

I had a feeling we'd pay for all those nice early winter days. On one day in my canoe years and years ago I came upon the man (his name was Hunt, I think) and he was the founder of our Gulf River Association. I remarked about the nice day and he said; "Don't get too excited about it; we'll pay for it soon enough." He always paddled his canoe from a kneeling position and every time I saw him, he'd say; "You're not paddling right." I'd try to explain about the job the Navy did on my knees, but he'd paddle off in a huff.

Speaking of pumpkins, do they hibernate? If they don't, they'd better damn well learn.

Love, [The Octogenarian]

I received this message because he and I are united in a common concern (along with others): the proposed development of a property nearby into 48 condominiums. Only because of that did we initiate an email community that led to his sending me this poignant picture. He lives two houses away, down the hill hard by the marsh, yet I hadn't seen him since another neighbor had had a Christmas party some eight years ago. Eight years.

I think that after this condo project has been resolved, I will still be hearing from him, and he from me.

If indeed he hasn't become a regular right in this page.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This is a compelling articulation of what is at stake in the immigration debate. Roy Beck's demonstration of the population consequences of current U.S. immigration policies has entertained and shocked audiences across the country. This video is packed with the facts and analysis that make moral and practical sense of a complex and highly contentious issue.

Playing a Tune for the Hard of Hearing

When the audience can't appreciate the complexity of your composition, play your heart out.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Sign of Trouble

This story tells us a lot about the fledgeling Patrick administration:

State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, appointed a few weeks ago to be Deval Patrick's new economic development adviser, has backed out in a dispute over the scope of his duties and his pay, according to two close colleagues.

Bosley, a Democrat from North Adams elected this fall to his 11th term in the House, had been promised a position overseeing all state agencies involved in economic development, but 10 days ago learned from Patrick that his role would be limited and his power diminished, the colleagues said.

Also, his pay had been adjusted from $150k to $130k, and his office had moved from the Governor's Suite to One Ashburton (that's like going from the Oval Office to the OEOB basement).


All of this happened while Patrick was on vacation in South Africa, so I suspect the "change of terms" was the impetus of Patrick's Chief of Staff, Joan Wallace Benjamin.

But the most striking piece of this story is this:

Patrick said he will take over the role of overseeing economic development agencies himself, revealing a hands-on style of governing that is a sharp departure from the way his Republican predecessors operated.

Republican predecessors? Is there any precedent anywhere, Republican, Democrat, Massachusetts -- the entire United States, where a newly elected Governor has opted to actually serves as an uber-cabinet secretary to himself? In the economic development role?

This move is strikingly odd. The economic affairs arena is vast, multi-faceted and highly dynamic. There are aspects that cause internal conflict and competition in any administration. It is critical to have someone with deep experience in the field who can prioritize, mediate and articulate a comprehensive and consistent vision. It is a full-time job in any administration. How is the Governor going to manage this task while running the rest of the state?

There is one more aspect to this that is going to cause problems for Patrick. An economic affairs secretariat is in the position of acting as a buffer between the Governor and business interests that are competing for attention or policy preferences. Somone asking the Governor for this or that can be told, "go see EOEA," and the mere fact of "getting a meeting" with the secretary is an effective tool for controlling expectations. Further, the secretariat is (or should be) staffed with policy experts who can cut through bullshit and play more effective hardball with those lobbying for a particular policy.

Patrick cannot play that role himself. It is politically reckless.

The same observation is true about competing policy preferences among the various economic affairs offices. How does the labor and workforce development office have its (union-influenced) positions on minimum wage and working conditions arbitraged against other offices advocating for more competitive market conditions? Is Patrick going to referee these policy conflicts himself?

With Patrick's broad thematic appeals during the campaign, he portrayed himself as a "Big Picture" guy. Already, he has had to back off of two of the broader themes, reducing property taxes, increasing police presence. I regard these as the usual garden variety broken campaign pledges (revealing to me thast Patrick isn't any different than the common campaigner), but of course, he wasn't paying attention to the details of his pledges when he made them -- they weren't made to actually be carried out.

Now, in this critical field of economic development, he needs someone with deep experience to be focussed on the details, or else he risks making further blunders on the policy front -- in addition to having already made his relationship with the key legislative leader in the field a little tougher.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Why Blog 101

Every once in a while I come upon something truly special that impresses upon me why I spent the time I do blogging.

Oh yes, we all learn something new every day -- bits of news or commentary that we don't get from traditional media sources. We may engage in substantive and meaningful intellectual dialogue or simply some some deeply snarky tete-a-tete with moonbats, perhaps. But there are some exceedingly eloquent and clever participants in the give and take of comment threads.

I ran across this early today and am compelled to share it.

From the facile-tongued "Rhod," regular commenter at New England Republican, in reducing his regard for the Baker Commission's report to Shakespearean verse:

What ho! Good Woodchuck! One such as I dream of James Baker, and the ISG

Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

Good work.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Fair Is Fair?

Bro's take is fair enough at first blush. Tit for tat and all that. It does nothing to haul the current congressional malaise out of the sewer, which is what real statesmanship is about. I have no illusions that it will happen, but any improvement will be better than none.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fleet Footed Democrats??

In light of Pelosi's promise to ram through a bunch of "reform" stuff while dispensing with the formality of "hearings," here is bro's alternative take:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Master of Cliche

The other day while engaging in an exchange with a commenter here,I found myself amused by the fellow's use of cliches to make his (rather obtuse) point. Did I "just fall off the turnip truck," he asked; and "there's a new Sheriff in town," he crowed, referring to Deval Patrick (although his use of this phrase might be considered untimely, since the Governor-elect had just advocated that the legislature engage in lawlessness).

It is with this person in mind that I offer the follow report:

Frank Lingua, president and CEO of Dissembling Associates, is the nation's leading purveyor of buzzwords, catch phrases and cliches for people too busy to speak in plain English. Business Finance contributing editor Dan Danbom interviewed Lingua in his New York City office.

Danbom: Is being a cliché expert a full-time job?

Lingua: Bottom line is I have a full plate 24/7.

D. Is it hard to keep up with the seemingly endless supply of clichés that spew from business?

L. Some days, I don't have the bandwidth. It's like drinking from a fire hydrant.

D. So it's difficult?

L. Harder than nailing Jell-O to the wall.

D. Where do most clichés come from?

L. Stakeholders push the envelope until it's outside the box.

D. How do you track them once they've been coined?

L. It's like herding cats.

D. Can you predict whether a phrase is going to become a cliché?

L. Yes. I skate to where the puck's going to be. Because if you aren't the lead dog, you're not providing a customer-centric proactive solution.

D. Give us a new buzzword that we'll be hearing ad nauseam.

L. "Enronitis" could be a next-generation player.

D. Do people understand your role as a cliché expert?

L. No, they can't get their arms around that. But they aren't incented to.

D. How do people know you're a cliché expert?

L. I walk the walk and talk the talk.

D. Did incomprehensibility come naturally to you?

L. I wasn't wired that way, but it became mission-critical as I strategically focused on my go-forward plan.

D. What did you do to develop this talent?

L. It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. When you drill down to the granular level, it's just basic blocking and tackling.

D. How do you know if you're successful in your work?

L. At the end of the day, it's all about robust, world-class language solutions.

D. How do you stay ahead of others in the buzzword industry?

L. Net-net, my value proposition is based on maximizing synergies and being first to market with a leveraged, value-added deliverable. That's the opportunity space on a level playing field.

D. Does everyone in business eventually devolve into the sort of mindless drivel you spout?

L. If you walk like a duck and talk like a duck, you're a duck. They all drink the Kool-Aid.

D. Do you read "Dilbert" in the newspaper?

L. My knowledge base is deselective of fiber media.

D. Does that mean "no"?

L. Negative.


L. Let's take your issues offline.


L. You have a result-driven mind-set that isn't a strategic fit with my game plan.


L. Your perspective on this topic is very important to me.

D. How can you live with yourself?

L. I eat my own dog food. My vision is to monetize scalable supply chains.

D. When are you going to quit this?

L. I may eventually exit the business to pursue other career opportunities.

D. I hate you.

L. Take it and run with it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Convenient Constitution

Well now we've got something to be outraged about.

Deval Patrick hasn't even been sworn in yet, and he's advocating that the Constitutional Convention violate the law.

Gov.-elect Deval Patrick urged legislators today to end debate on a ballot initiative seeking to ban gay marriage by whatever means they deem appropriate, saying the matter involves a question of minority rights that should not be put to a popular vote.

“It is a terrible precedent for us to use the ballot initiative petition to insert discrimination into the Constitution,” Patrick told reporters after a private meeting with House Speaker Sal DiMasi, a leading opponent of the proposed ban....

Patrick said he does not believe lawmakers must vote on the question directly, even after a Supreme Judicial Court ruled last week that they have a constitutional obligation to do so.

“I think there is more than one constitutional question before us,” he said. “There is a constitutional issue of whether under the equal protection clause the court gets final word about the rights and the equality of a minority.”

Wow. That's some stunning logic coming from such a smart guy.

There is only one constitutional question. Whether the legislators have a constitutional duty to vote. The SJC unanimously said they did. That was their "final word."

And the Court's "final word" on gay marriage was interpreting the language of the original state constituion, which is, by its terms, subject to change by the citizens. The SJC did not rule on the ultimate Big "C" constitutionality of a gay marriage ban.

So here is our very first indication that Patrick is no centrist but a committed liberal ideologue to whom the means justify the end.

Shame on him.

UPDATE: Well will wonders never cease. The conscience-wracked legislature appears to have ignored the entreaty of the Governor-elect and actually done their duty. Hats off to them.

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