Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Latest Pathetic Winger Hero


SuperRancher (in his sad, strange little mind) Cliven Bundy is n the midst of his moment. Wingers throughout the country are proclaiming him at once martyr and warrior.

He'll plunge to earth all too soon. Perhaps when he does, a few of the FTW, make-up-rules righies will have passing thoughts on personal responsibility.

You can get tons of background, at least right now. Search the net to find conspiracy-minded crazies making up stuff and conflating others, like here. If you'd rather deal with reality and the provable, you'd be better off with the actual laws he's been violating for two decades, like here. If you'd like to read how the courts view his baseless claims in their rulings, go here and here.

The punchline is that Bundy has been stealing from the US government by not paying it for grazing rights on land he has never owned nor even had easements to. He owes over $1 million to us, a.k.a. U.S. His response has been that he wrote small checks to a Nevada County, which has no power to let his herds graze on federal land, and that he recognizes some of Nevada's authority, but none of the federal government.

His loony raps take two tacks:

  1. Minimize any fees he should pay, and all the other ranchers do already pay
  2. Assert his power to legislate and enforce laws, of which of course he has no such powers

I figure since he has lost all court appeals through the federal level and owes us over $1 million, he's looking at liens and foreclosure because his debts. He likely has more than enough money to pay back fees plus penalties and interest. If he chooses not to, the feds will likely take the legal and financial tracks, instead of seizing his cattle on federal lands. I'm sure his fellow ranchers would buy his land and herds if it comes to that. Then the tax resisters can shoot their guns in air, spit on the dry dirt, and moan about not being able to make up their own rules.

Winger media have been talking and screeching over each other to proclaim Bundy super. Some compare him to Henry David Thoreau and his actions that led to tax resistance in the mid-19th Century. You can refresh yourself with Resistance to Civil Government, which has become known as On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.

There's scant concurrence though. Young Hnnk T engaged in an act of conscience, not paying poll tax that he thought would go to support the Mexican-American War as well as slavery. He was willing to go to jail for his statement and in fact spent a day and night there (before someone, likely an aunt, paid his poll tax, largess he accepted).

Bundy on the other hand is clearly motivated by greed. He is a wealthy cattle rancher, doing all he can to keep his costs down and profits up. Coupled with his fantasy that he can make up any laws that suit those goals, he is as irresponsible, dishonorable and dishonest as they come.Thoreau snuck away from jail knowing that money in his name went for purposes he disapproved of, but Bundy seems to have no principles at all.

This is a pattern we have seen often from the American right. They want things to be the way that benefits them, but they are not willing to take their lumps in protesting. In short, by Thoreau's standards, they are not American, they aren't noble, and certainly not super.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Colbert has this


I'm certainly not an entertainment writer, unless you consider political blathering theater. Yet, I've heard and seen myriad Colbert Reports segments since he started nearly nine years ago.

Let's pretend experiential  observation equals insight and justifies commentary.

In the day since CBS announced Stephen Colbert as David Letterman's replacement on The Late Show, I was alternately not at all surprised then very surprised by the prophecies of doom.

I won't bother you with linking to the winger loonies taking this trivial announcement as an evil omen worthy of addition into the Book of Revelation. The usual buffoons like Limbaugh spoke of leftwing conspiracies and a future of propaganda, like,  like, well, I guess an apt analogy would be Bill O'Reilly and other Fox lying heads.

The surprises came when I read in several left-leaning sites and papers that S.C. from SC wasn't ready, couldn't handle it, and would definitely fail.

Many of the jeremiads came with such dire predictions. These bozos are sitting in corners squeezing their honkers. I apologize for including one link, from Wired where Peter Rubin writes, "this is not going to go well." Likewise, numerous blowhards conclude that because Colbert will do his stint as himself and not the O'Reilly parody mirror on this current show, he'll confuse us stupid Americans. Others claim that Kimmel and Fallon, the jumping Jimmies, have divvied up the youth viewers and Letterman's oldsters won't watch a lefty.

I am sure you have seen as well as I that BS commentators bluster immediately and then never, ever correct and apologize. They'll have to whistle loudly and look far away to avoid this one.

I'll write it here and be willing to take my lumps if I'm wrong. Colbert will do a great job, far surpassing the million nightly viewers he's gotten on basic cable, and will get his share of viewers across a wider spectrum of ages than Letterman.

Colbert is surely ready, more than ready, to leave his caricature of a winger behind. He is a terrific actor, comic, singer, dancer and more. The bigger virtues are that he is at once smarter than other late-night hosts and more clever, as in quick witted, than they.

He'll be several steps ahead of those on left, right and the incestuous entertainment industry media. They apparently can't imagine how he'll be able to amuse without terrifying pre-bed audiences with thought-provoking dialog with guests. They seem to envision every monologue as a political tirade.

Sorry guys and gals, Colbert is smarter than you. Just watch, listen and learn. We should be damned sure by the time Letterman steps down and Colbert steps up that he'll funny, very funny, very original and not at all repetitive.

I further predict as he gets his audiences comfortable, he'll turn Socratic. Look for his guest interviews to use that ancient maieutic method that upset the Athenian fogies down at the agora. Better than Jon Stewart and certainly more than the predictable other late-night hosts, Colbert and elicit the key ideas behind guests books, campaigns and lives. Count on his being the midwife for such oh-ho moments several times a week. That will be worth staying awake for.


Friday, March 28, 2014

MA GOP niggling and wiggling


You'd think from experience the utter disingenuous John Boehner or R.M. Nixon or even hearing the testimony of a sneaky what-your-definition-of-is-is W.J. Clinton that even arrogant New Englanders would sense their limits. Instead the MA GOP spits in the faces of one of their candidates, their convention delegates, the larger party and voters.

The self-created disgrace continues. For the latest on the filthy deals at the convention, see today's Globe piece. I've also been one of many who's covered this, like here.

The point is this is not going away. The GOP functionaries can continue to wave their hands, but that changes nothing. This actually is simple.

  • Certain GOP gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker didn't blow out the convention.
  • Also-ran Mark Fisher, the proud Tea Party, full-platform Republican, squeaked out a little over 15% of the convention delegate vote, as required to force a primary. 
  • Done and done? Big no. See the Globe piece for details on how the party snuck behind everyone to deny reality. 

The punchline is my standard from my favorite philosopher/comic/junkie Lenny Bruce — There is only what is and that's it. What should be is a dirty lie.

The local GOPpers instead try the same crap you can hear at a country club bar or a Dorchester pub. Lie loudly and repeatedly, daring more honest and honorable folk to challenge you.

The Party doesn't want their party inconvenienced. They appear to have it in mind that an uncontested primary is their best bet for winning a statewide office in who can remember how long. To make that happen, they have fudged and cheated and scammed. Honk. Wrong!

Regular readers here know that Fisher and I differ vastly politically. I like him and trust him though. He's a straight-ahead, Boy Scout kind of guy, as am I. Understandably, he's suing to get what he earned — a shot at losing to Baker in a party primary...fair and square.

I remain to be convinced that uncontested primaries are an absolute good. A lot of research questions that as well. Moreover, it's wrong, really immoral, to clear the field against the party procedures and rules, just because. Some of the party insiders, notably Executive Director Rob Cunningham, are even denigrating Fisher's call to obey their own counting rules as irrelevant.

The MA GOP has long specialized in patronizing and insulting the majority of our voters, a.k.a. the unenrolled. This year, they seem intent on telling their own to buzz off. If enough party members are as delusional, that may well work. I'm betting though that Fisher's suit calling for obeying the rules will make that moot.

Alas, this was so simple. I think of the non-stop lunacy of the national GOP on the Affordable Care Act. All that was necessary was honesty; say thank God that the Dems came around to the Republican plan for health-care and implemented it; we win! Instead, they appear to be what they are, obstreperous asses.

Likewise, in Boston, the MA GOP need only have praised themselves for their open democracy and model convention. Instead, they reveal they are liars, sneaks and frauds.  How simple victory could have been.

By the bye, if you ever need confirmation of how sneaky they are, go to the party site. They don't cover anything meaningful. They never have controversial issues. They are months behind the times. They don't even post the approved party platform. They lack both courage and wisdom. You can thrive with only one of those but not without at least one.




Sunday, March 23, 2014

Baker's Free Ride or Free Fall


It wasn't a clean and definitive win for Charlie Baker. Yet as far as the MA GOP bigs are concerned, he cleared the field of his single primary opponent, Mark Fisher.

A few more days may pass until we're positive that, unlike the Dems, the GOP'ers will have an uncontested race at the very top of the ticket. The debate includes how real the 14.765% of yesterday's convention ballot was. Fisher needs 15% to get on the primary ballot.

Complicating it is that the rules say blank ballots don't count. The party tabulators did instead tally 64 blanks, knocking Fisher down below 15% (as in Baker at 2,095 to Fisher at 394 and Fisher at 15.829 without blanks).

Fisher and I had a good chat at Left Ahead last week. I'll stick in his half-hour show below. He also graciously called me before the convention to thank me for being reasonable and respectful to him, as he was to me despite our political disparities. I can't run a Baker show; neither his campaign manager nor his communications director has responded to numerous requests.

Today, Fisher's FB feed includes:
Dear Friends,Thank you for your support over the last 5 months. I am currently speaking with lawyers about being jobbed out by Kirsten Hughes at the Massachusetts Republican Party "Kangaroo Convention". There were improprieties in the counting of the 'blank' vote that occurred which were not allowed to be challenged and no re-count was allowed. I will let you know our plans in the coming days.
He certainly has every right to feel cheated and to fight.

I don't know anyone who thinks Fisher would win a primary election against Baker. Yet we simple folk who took civics classes cling stubbornly to rudimentary concepts of democracy and fairness.

Conventional wisdom on this is that an uncontested primary is far better for the candidate than spending money and energy before a general election, all the while getting prodded and exposed by another party member.

Today's Globe has a pretty good piece on the convention results. They include a contrarian of moment, former Gov. Bill Weld, among the several saying how great it will be for Baker if he goes unprimaried. Weld says a Fisher challenge would help Baker interest unenrolled voters. As we all note here in MA, with 53% of voters unenrolled, that is where elections are won.

For analysis of uncontested MA primaries, you can try your own tabulation. Instead, look at the stats compiled and analyzed over at the Mass. Numbers blog. Over there in Nov. 2012, Bret Benson admitted the samples are small and Dems rarely have top seats without primaries. However, he concludes that most times, it works solidly in the GOP's advantage to clear the field for governor.

I note and admire the relentless optimism of the MA GOP leaders. I've heard the shouts of the party chairs from the carousel that seems to spin them off so quickly. This election will be different, like Weld or Mitt Romney and such. This is the right candidate at the right time. Then again, they insisted that when Baker went against Deval Patrick.

They would be foolish to turn down real or perceived advantages. Moreover, we have a long if irrational history here of the unenrolled claiming that voting for Republican governors to keep a check on the monolithic Dems. The wide disparity from one Dem legislator to another is plenty of restraint, more than a single chief executive could impose.

So it comes down to Baker. He's trimmed down and comes across a lot more human than in his last run. It may be long enough from his slash-and-burn at Harvard Pilgrim and his Big Dig associations that he can run pretty clean.

We in MA also are quite forgiving and don't burn an L for loser in the foreheads of unsuccessful politicians. Two or three goes at a high office are OK around here. Baker too has the plus of two full terms of a Dem governor. Those many voters who like that fairy tale of the magic of balance only a GOP can bring will certainly want a change on that alone.

Instead, I like the agon, when a governorship or presidency is the prize. Surprisingly, I find myself on Weld's side here. Whoever ends up as the Dem candidate will emerge well defined and with clear positions and personality traits for voters to see. For the other side, wouldn't it be swell to have the same?

Monday Followup: The Globe reports that Fisher remains unhappy at the appearance of a fix being in on the count and rules. MA GOP bigs deny both. I call with Baker the sure winner of a primary, the party should have let Fisher have a go, pretended they were honest and honorable, and not alienated unenrolled and GOP voters.


Update: Autoplay on Blogger started this regardless of settings. That's annoying. I removed the embedded player. Instead, click here to listen.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Falchuk pitches himself as smart, brave reformer



Ready for a new political party in MA? Well, Evan Falchuk is.

Ancillary stuff: He secured Political Designation status for the United Independent Party (UIP). The link on the Secretary of the Commonwealth's site goes to Falchuck's campaign one. By the bye, a designation requires signatures from 50 registered voters, does not require any number or percentage of votes cast to continue, and its members may not vote in a primary. However,  in theory, if a candidate for governor met the stringent requirements, public-financing matching funds would be available.

We at Left Ahead are dickering with his folk for a chat. Meanwhile, he appeared at Suffolk Law's Rappaport Center roundtable and has a campaign site.

At Suffolk, he stood out for several obvious reasons. He has a great shock of dark hair, perhaps suitable for one of the Hong Kong Cavaliers in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. More meaningful though, he is a personable campaigner. Unlike the typical of these roundtable guests, he did not arrive just at the 12:15 PM showtime. Instead, he worked the room, introducing himself, shaking hands and encouraging interaction.

Smart, brave reform

Placing himself in a netherworld — below the support and primary risk of a party, and separate from an independent candidate per se — Falchuk stands out with a good theme. I enjoy a sharp slogan and he delivers with smart, brave reform.

His platform on the campaign site details all that comprises. That theme lets him weave all related topics back to it. He also showed his one true routine of snark at the roundtable after starting with saying he was like other voters in being tired of having to choose the lesser of two evils. For motivation, he said, "When I go and I see candidates say why they are running for governor say, 'I'm ready' or 'I want to prove that I an redeem myself from some prior failure,' I say, 'That's interesting for you, but what does that have to do with any of  us?'"

His reform refrain goes to three key areas — politics, economy, and government. He gets to play the populism card in each area.

For example, in campaign finance, he definitely is in the money-is-not-speech clique. That includes a Constitutional amendment, in effect voiding Citizens United. For this commonwealth, he cited what he says is a built-in 15:1 advantage for big-party candidates. That is, the laws and regulations allow $15,000 per year per candidate for party folk and $1,000 for others, including him and his UIP. He calls this "a corrupt system."

For taxes, we are one of seven states with a flat tax. In our case, it is in our constitution (Article XLIV). He calls it "inherently regressive when it comes to the disposable money people have." He'd like to see an amendment changing that, plus a tax-modernization commission to update MA to a 21st Century tax code.

Refreshingly, he did not push the stereotypical fraud-waste-and-abuse buttons on spending. Instead, he said much of MA's money was misallocated. He cited such areas as funding for the homeless, and pledged a line-by-line examination of where money went.

On transportation, he had a couple of strong statements. For one, the train tracks in the Pioneer Valley were now straightened out and good enough for Amtrak. He'd like to see commuter trains moved there as the MBTA replaces them, to be used for local transit out there. For another, he's big on the South Coast rail project. He said it "has become a political hot button issue. It ought not be. We should go ahead and build it."

Health-care costs were as big an issue with him as with other gubernatorial candidates. He had a different view of the root of the problem — the continuing consolidation of hospitals into big systems, which then set prices as suits them. He took AG Martha Coakley and the whole Democratic administration to task for watching this happen and doing nothing. He pointed to the current effort of Partners to take over South Shore Hospital. He would like to stop that and decrease the geographic monopolies here.

He also noted that then Gov. William Weld and Charlie Baker (current candidate for governor and Weld's Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Administration and Finance) deregulated the health-care industry. That, Falchuk, says has led to 72% of market being controlled by a few health-care systems.

Not coincidentally, among his credentials is the past 13 years in executive positions at Best Doctors, Inc.

In education, he was the same and different as other candidates. He sees too much emphasis on teaching to standardized testing. He thinks government has a role in making sure kids get the skills they'll need from school. Where he diverges is in what he thinks students should come out of schools with, including:

  • independence
  • resilience
  • critical thinking skills
  • grit
  • knowledge that they can overcome obstacles

Those of course are much harder to measure than math proficiency. Those goals like so many he cited would require presenting them to a smart group of advisers, legislators and officials to ask the best way to get to them.

Getting there

Falchuk is relentlessly optimistic and enthusiastic. He definitely counts on his populist message to suck in voters. He noted that America from the beginning was "an experiment in government." He listed the problems and possible solutions, concluding "There is not a king or queen who's going to come down and do it for us. We have to do it."

To the obvious question of where he expects to find victory, he quipped that he only had "to get more votes" than the other candidates. He said he expected to go out and earn them, to convince voters in all his appearances that he could achieve what they all want.

For the two major parties, he added, "I never think of it as taking votes from anyone. I have to earn every single vote."

From my distance, I surmise that the future of the UIP and whether it will exist apart of Evan Falchuk depends entirely on how he pulls in November.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Indy McCormick Goes for MA Gov.



Cross-post note: This first appeared at BlueMassGroup.

Following a recent post here linking to chats with three Dem candidates for MA governor, a comment asked about the independents. The first Left Ahead did was today with Jeff McCormick.

Click at the player on the bottom to hear the half hour with him. In addition, he recently appeared at Suffolk Law's Rappaport Center roundtable. His 13-minute self-intro there appears as a video on Suffolk's site here.

My diary draws on both his chat today and on the roundtable.

Not Mitt

First, there are bound to be the obvious comparisons with Willard Mitt Romney. McCormick too has been very successful in MA as a venture capitalist (21 years with his Saturn Partners). 

Very much unlike Romney, he grew up blue-collar in upstate NY, to college on scholarships, and did not have a rich, politically and corporate connected father. He claims to have arrived in Boston with $800 to make his fortune, which he did. Unlike Romney, there is no delusion when he says he's self-made.

Superficially, McCormick was a lacrosse champion in HS and at Syracuse. He has a chin that could be a weapon and a great jawline. Those are important only in that they serve to reinforce his self-confidence and well-thought-out positions. I never for a moment felt he was jiving me.

Voters and donors have not been kind to independent gubernatorial candidates here. The few original governors came to office before parties, but maybe only Henry Gardner in 1855 fit the category. Although, as part of the Know-Nothing Movement, he was sort of in a party and managed to beat a popular Whig by a landside.

At the moment, McCormick figures he can appeal to enough voters, particularly the 53% of unenrolled ones. He seems to think it might not be as hard as some of his professional accomplishments. When asked about whether he's hitting the public meetings and diners, he's in his element. "I'm really comfortable in diners, much more than in ballrooms," he said. "I can relate to just about anyone."

Jobs and Jobs

His stump speech starts with asking voters to associate his campaign with Jeff for Jobs. As background, he cites such VC successes as Boston Duck Tours, Twin Rivers Technologies, and Constant Contact. 

He honesty figures he can make a culture change on Beacon Hill to bring some of that mindset. He thinks he can do a reset there. "We need to teach people to get out of their comfort zone," he stated with great confidence in his ability to do so.

He claims to be part of team in his VC career and said, "No one is voting for a CEO." Instead, he wants the legislators and administration to do the kind of problem solving he favors. He cites ME's US Sen. Angus King as saying when people see you are solving problems, they want to join you and that’s an easier way to govern. 

He offers a familiar and well articulated outline for job growth. He does rely on some accepted but un-implemented ideas, such as no dumb taxes on technology when you want that sector to grow, having an easy flow from high school into voc-tech or community colleges or four-year schools making sure people are learning for jobs that will be there when they finish. Listen in and check is campaign site for specifics.

He needs to be a little careful in his frequent use of business clich├ęs. At Suffolk, for one example, he spoke of opening the kimono for sharing proprietary information. On the other hand, he is on solid ground, particularly in a sports-loving area alluding to Wayne Gretzky's comment on his icy success as being able to skate not to where the puck is but rather where it will be. McCormick sees his jobs proposals as doing that for workers and future workers here.

Why and How

We did deal today as he did last week at Suffolk with some of the very obvious areas. For one, why walk away from his highly profitable VC biz? Another is how to deal with a long boat of Dems, plus several Republicans and likely more independents.

For the why, I don't know how many millions he has, but I'm sure he could coast on that forever; likewise I'm sure that is not in his nature to coast at all. Instead, he readily agrees he'd take a huge economic hit to be governor, but that the challenges would be likely more than he has faced and he'd look forward to them.

He is confident enough in his approach and ideas that he thinks they can hold sway in the campaign. He figures there will be a shakeout (my term) as the campaign progresses. Then, "when everyone knows us equally well," he'll stand out as the right choice.

Update: Autoplay on Blogger started this regardless of settings. That's annoying. I removed the embedded player. Instead, click here to listen.  

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Baker Sticks With Familiar Tunes


Suffolk Law's lunch series with gubernatorial candidates is at once inconvenient and worth the trip. Yesterday's showcased almost-certain GOP nominee-to-be Charles Duane Baker Jr., known to all here as Charlie.

Check 'im out: Suffolk's Rappaport Center is very efficient about posting vids of these sessions. Yesterday's with Baker is here.

Pic note: Any photos I run in this blog are Creative Commons. You are welcome to them, just make one mention of Mike Ball if you use one.

I won't recap his show in detail. Use the like above to hear it all.

At these luncheon thingummies, some of the usual suspects are inevitable. The moderator will invariably call on the special-interest types to get their predictable questions in the air. The candidate format is 10 minutes to pitch and self-intro, then about an hour for Q&A (no speeches, thank you very much).

We who attend regularly know there'll be a tobacco tax/smoking cessation one from an anti-cancer advocate. Almost always, a land-conservation guy will tunnel down to an obscure law that needs enforcement or tweaking. Former AG Scott Harshbarger will try to get a commitment to hold a vote to overturn casino approval. These brief hazing incidents don't seem to bother the candidates, whom I suspect have been warned beforehand.

By the bye, Baker would be happy to have a plebiscite on repealing the casino approval. He doesn't see such gambling on top of the lottery as a wise or viable economic-development strategy.

The overwhelming impression Baker left yesterday is that he's not making promises of big changes. He's not giving other contenders targets. Likewise, his campaign site is sparse, asking for money and not providing any platform yet.

He returned repeatedly at lunch to the same few, neither controversial nor innovative, concepts. For example, his biggie, which he iterated three or four times, is that:
  • He has visited many MA towns
  • In each, everyone agrees on which public schools wew best
  • Therefore, good education is not limited to a few wealthy communities
  • Further, the conclusion is to analyze what a good school does and replicate in lesser schools
That's old and obvious stuff, but he loves it. He is clearly proud of his insight and you'll hear that repeatedly during his campaign.

Likewise, you'll hear repeatedly that his parents were on opposite political poles. He and siblings grew up hearing Dem/GOP debates at meals. He uses that as a metaphor suggesting he learned how to get workable compromise across political divides.

As close as he got to controversies or strong positions were:

  1. The recent state budget should not have touched the rainy-day fund
  2. Local municipalities need to streamline permitting and otherwise make starting or expanding businesses easier
  3. A three-year college degree would lower costs
  4. We somehow need to align health-procedure costs so the range is not huge among facilities
  5. He doesn't want recreational pot
  6. MA cities need to each stand on its own and not see itself as a satellite of another city, particularly Boston

Again, he offered no sweeping, inspiringly named program or set of planks. In this second go at governor, he still pushes himself as a pragmatist who rises above party affiliation to get stuff done. He admits to being in the Weld/Cellucci model, a social liberal and fiscal conservative. (Hey, that sounds like most MA Dem pols.)

In a shallower, yet obvious, note, he has been in training. He used to look too much like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. As a fellow pasty-faced white guy, I empathize.

He's toned and trimmed. He looks healthy and pretty for 57. He has an unfortunate taste in shirts and ties (lose the pastels, which accent your sallowness, Chuck), but seems vital enough.

In 2010, Gov. Deval Patrick beat Baker, but only by six points. The new, improved contender seems to figure it's his time. Failing in a race for a major office never stamps LOSER on your forehead here.

I'll be intrigued to see whether he clings to his pragmatism/collaboration ideal. If the Dem candidate has big ideas and big promises, he may have to be less spongy.


Scotland Joins the Equality Party


Are you happy to see me or is your sporran just full?

Scotland becomes the 17 nation to legalize marriage equality yesterday. By a vote of 105 to 18, its parliament approved same-sex marriage, to begin in October.

While there are a few Muslims there, the two major churches — the majority Church of Scotland (the Kirk) and the minority Scottish Catholic Church — made the usual weak and unsupportable arguments. In the debate though, the prevailing argument was that there were plenty of protections for religious sorts and no church or cleric would have to host or officiate in SSM. Anti-gay types know that's a red herring, but they can't seem to stop themselves from emotional indulgence.

Those unhappy types put forth a variety of unnecessary amendments, which failed. This law ended up slightly differing from many others in countries and U.S. states. It requires religious organizations who want to let their clergy perform SS ceremonies to first opt in to doing that.

England and Wales had previously approved SSM. Their citizens can marry under that as of March 29th.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Christie, Never an Ex-Jock


Online big, braying heads from left and right, from pretending to be real news (Fox) to pretending to be pretend news (Stewart), one phrase in NJ Gov. Christ Christie's saga of a news conference got chuckles and guffaws all around. In his pretense that he knew nothing of the GW Bridge mess before it happened, he started with, "I was done with my workout yesterday morning and got a call from my communications director at about 8:50, 8:55, informing me of this story that had just broken on the Bergen Record website."
[If you're nitpicky or masochistic enough, you can get the transcript at the WaPo here. ]
The risibility trigger was the single word workout. The underlying justification is that because is visually is such a porker, he can't really work out, can't be anything like a jock.
I have no doubt that in his Christie brain, he remains as much an athlete as he was in school. He may weigh twice as much and jiggle like a twerker (except on top) when he moves, but his mind and body remember. He'll always be a jock to himself.
In fact, he reinforced that in answering a question in the conference about his HS chum David Wildstein, who seems to have done the bridge dirty deed. In trying to distance himself from his until-that-day great buddy, Christie said he didn't know him much in school, that they ran in different circles, that "You know, I was the class president and athlete."
Here again, he surely was the only person in the room who considered himself an athlete, but he thinks, says and acts it.
christorsoWe can get into how he might be strong and even quick, despite his rotundity. In his gymnasium (don't think of the origin of that word as running naked), he could well lift more and run longer at a faster pace on a treadmill than younger, scrawnier sorts. Fat does not preclude fit. 
The important aspect is that his being still is that of a jock. His pubescent identity remains and defines him. He has the poise and confidence of a competitor who has been successful an strutted his stuff in front of thousands, in his case as varsity catcher on the baseball team — not bad training for being a politician, confidence, arrogance, accomplishment, control of the situation. 
As a disclaimer, I was also an athlete in high school and into college (until a gruesome auto wreck cut that short in the sophomore year). I identify with the benefits of team sports and understand how you don't outgrow that anymore than you would if you were a cheerleader or even a U.S. Marine. 
To worry the cheer leader example a bit (and putting aside that G.W. Bush was one), cheerleaders keep key attributes they had or picked up in the process. The former cheerleaders I know are, well, cheery. They have that people-person persona. They push those around them to succeed...with them. In other words, they make good real-estate agents, PR or marketing types, and other best-food-forward optimists. They smile a lot and many have kept their version of blonde hair. They are still cheerleaders at 40, 50 and beyond.
We all supposed are who our parents were, what we eat, what we wear, and many other nature and nurture background factors. I remain convince though that what we've done, particularly in high school and college push its way out of our insides our whole lives. 
Much is made of the nerds in high school, the bookworm introverts and such who stay that way. That is even more true for the jocks and cheerleaders. In Gov. Christie's case, I suspect his crouched glories as catcher have defined him immutably. 
As this bridge scandal inevitably expands and splatters him, let' s see how many times he alludes to athleticism and his former glories. Jon Stewart may snort, but there is a jock inside the massive pol who won't be denied.
Cross-post: Because this is personal as well as political, it appears in Harrumph! as well. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

MA Dems for Gov. Already a Good Crop


MA Gov. Deval Patrick has to step down after this second, four-year term. One of the usual buffoons, Charlie Baker, is certain to be the GOP nominee. On the Dem side though, there are some really good people running.
Disclaimer: I am well aware MA has elected numerous Republican governors. The prevailing, if you pardon, wisdom by polled voters is that there are so many Democrats in the State House that somehow it's only fair to elect a Republican to counterbalance them. Picking by party rather than policies and performance is pretty dumb and self-destructive. Yet, that mythology gives Baker a chance.
That aside, progressive sorts have a wealth of options this campaign. We'll invite many of them to chat with us at Left Ahead. We just had Steve Grossman; you can catch his show here. Next up will be Juliette Kayyem; you can hear her live at 2:30 PM Eastern on Tuesday, 1/28, here, or afterward at Left Ahead.

As I can, I'll also trot down to Suffolk Law for their Rappaport Center's lunchtime shows of candidates. This week was Don Berwick. He'll be on Left Ahead's show Tuesday, 2/11 at 2:30 here.

Kayyem has a solutions-to-big-problems platform and bills herself as a proven progressive. Well, so do Grossman and Berwick.

Grossman is someone Stephen Colbert would call a friend of the show. He's come on Left Ahead numerous times and we like him. He's very straight-ahead and presents well thought out progressive positions — replete with his solutions to problems.

Berwick has been new to me. I was impressed yesterday at Suffolk. If you drill into his issues, you'll find he offers detailed definitions of problem areas and presents how he'd better the condition, and even how he'd pay for doing that.

I wondered how he would cover his platform. Each plank could have taken the whole hour he had.

He spent about eight or ten minutes introducing himself and took questions from all comers. There was only one that stumped him, an arcane legal point about land frontage. He admitted he didn't know about the topic and asked the questioner to educate him after the session. He'll know next time.

If you see him in action, be prepared to be charmed. He is the son of a rural Connecticut (Moodus, population about 1400) GP. He likewise became a physician. He has that avuncular manner. He can also sling metaphors effectively.

One that I suspect will characterize his campaign referred to his upbringing. He drew the image of a small town where when a car is pulled over beside the road, the locals don't drive by. Rather they stop to ask whether they can help.

He riffed on that to say that government should be in the helping...together...business. He went into his favorite Hubert Humphrey quote to tie the car into his philosophy. That would be:
It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.
By the bye, the Rappaport Center has made the video of Berwick's appearance available. They were as good as their word yesterday. You can see and hear it here.

He is the sort of very bright, extremely accomplished fellow who could be a jerk but isn't. He goes far beyond health care into such areas as a very detailed transportation-infrastructure plan (specified on his site). without bragging or condescension.

I left the session aware that he'll be a player in this election.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Elephant Dump on Henriquez


Can it be a pig pile if Republicans are jumping on? They were quick to the task today after MA State Rep. Carlos Henriquez was convicted and immediately sentenced. He will go to jail for six months of a two and one-half year term for two counts of assault and battery on a woman.

The jury found him not guilty on another A&B, on witness intimidation and on larceny under $250. He may even have been fortunate that the original charges could have included kidnapping.

The judge though did not like his attitude, did not find him remorseful, and did not seem to approve of his slapping his erstwhile female companion around then driving her against her will until she was able to hop out and away. As the Globe quoted Judge Michele Hogan,"When a woman tells you she doesn’t want to have sex, she doesn’t want to have sex."

We chatted with him in late 2010 when he was running for the 5th Suffolk seat. You can hear his show on Left Ahead here.

MA politics don't offer too many chance for glee or schadenfreude. The Globe article linked above does list other state Dems who have been charged with crimes. Today's sentencing hearing seemed to release pent vulture behavior.

As the article puts it:
After Henriquez’s sentencing, Republican Representative Elizabeth Poirier and the state Republican party called for Henriquez to resign.
“Now that Representative Henriquez has had his day in court, it is time for him to leave this institution which should in no way condone violence against women,” Poirier, who represents North Attleborough, said in a statement.
MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes also issued a statement.
“The MassGOP calls on the state’s leading Democrat, Governor Deval Patrick to immediately demand the resignation of Representative Carlos Henriquez,” the statement said. “If the resignation is not tendered right away, there may not be adequate time for a special election and thus robbing the good people of Dorchester representation on Beacon Hill.”
Not surprisingly, Dem legislators called for a little compassion and for the process of his removal from office to take its course. Sure, he's out of there, but kicking him and jumping up and down on the supine body doesn't seem very civil. The Dems figure they can wait a day or two.

Then again...Republicans.

PM Update: The responses were not as reflexive and visceral, but Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Roberty DeLeo and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh have also asked Henriquez to make this easy for everyone and resign. DeLeo said he'd act to expel Henriquez (supposedly through the House Ethics Committee) if he had to.



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