November 2008
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Month November 2008

The future of power: Small, dumb, everywhere

This really is a pretty cool story in the Globe magazine on small-time wind power, now growing in Massachusetts one turbine at a time. The state is indeed subsidizing the heck out of the industry, but at least it seems to be making the investment in turbines a bit more attractive, and is getting some results. But it's this passage that struck me: [E]xperts like Nick D'Arbeloff, executive director of the New England Clean Energy Council, say there's no doubt where the market is headed. Forget about Cape Wind for a moment. Shelve the debate about that 130-turbine wind farm somewhere in Nantucket Sound. The future of wind power may be a lot smaller than you think, and the nearest windmill may be right around the corner. The landscape, many believe, is going to be dotted with them. Before electricity and gasoline, nuclear power or coal, the peoples of Egypt, Phoenicia, and Persia set their minds on harnessing the wind. Powered by sails made of animal skins or woven reeds, and later flax and cotton, explorers traveled the world. And before the dawn of the second century, people realized that using sails on land — in the form of a […]

How much cash does Obama still have?

Given the criticism Senator Kerry received for not spending all of the money in his 2004 kitty, it will be interesting to see how much cash on hand Obama for America reports at the end of this month. According to ABC News, as of 4 November Obama had raised $659.1 million and spent $593.1 million: a $66 million differential. On 14 November the campaign announced a one-month bonus for all staff members, which probably cost it about $3 million. Meanwhile, our putative Secretary of State is believed still to be about $21 million in debt: $13 million in personal loans the Daily News, at least, says she will never get back, and $8 million in campaign debts. Maybe some of you have more updated or accurate information and-or speculations. As to criticism, well, Obama won, which makes all the difference: I doubt anyone will say he spent too little, except perhaps some Democrats in Minnesota and Georgia. I am sure there are excellent arguements, however, for what he should do with any money he has going forward.  

How would you move Massachusetts forward?

Crossposted at ONE Massachusetts At ONE Massachusetts we are trying to determine: * What kind of government do we want? * How are we going to pay for it? As residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we all want – and deserve – healthy lives, healthy families, quality education, safe, vibrant communities, and prosperity in a thriving state. The survey is focused on determining what people across Massachusetts rely on and value. Please add your voice in this effort, and feel free to pass this invitation on to your friends and neighbors, so that we can better work with you to build a stronger Commonwealth! ONE Massachusetts members will have access to results once they are compiled, so be sure to sign up if you haven’t done so already! There is an optional sign-up at the end of the survey. Sincerely, The ONE Massachusetts Team

Helping the middle class by spending wisely.

I would ask the BMG editors for some leeway on this post as it has little to do with politics. We all know the middle class (and poor) are being squeezed and the real squeeze may not have even started yet. SO… I am making some people aware of a few ways to save money eating (mainly concerning kids). Moe’s Southwest Grille- (Worcester, Shrewsbury, Plymouth, Hanover) has “Kids eat free on Tuesday”. And the adult meals are reasonable priced too (and good). 2 adults and 2 kids (no drinks) costs $18.00 Burker King – For fast food fans BK has a “Value” menu featuring $1.00 items. I get my kids these sometimes (Chicken Tenders – $1.00, small Fries – $1.00). We skip the drink and the foolish throw away toy and it totals $2.00. The BK kids meal equvalent (add drink and toy) is $4.00. Feed 4 kids for $8.00 and buy a 2 liter bottle of soda at Stop and Shop. 99 Restaurants (all over MA) – They have a $5.40 Steak kids meal (JUNIOR TOP SIRLOIN STEAK) which is fantastic. A good sized piece of quality steak and 2 sides (fries and a veggie). I get them “to […]

For Thanksgiving weekend… what will our great-grandchildren give thanks for?

Local environmentalist Wig Zamore blast-emailed out one reason to be thankful — a success story of activists who worked a generation ago:

What happened to the right, latest edition

Hoover Institution historian Victor Davis Hanson — a thinker much beloved by Bush and Cheney — offers his answer in the National Review Online. First, he identifies three prevalent post-election hypotheses:

(1) “It was a sort of fluke … almost everything conspired this year against the conservative brand: two wars; the sinking economy; eight years of presidential incumbency; a biased, unethical media; Bush’s low ratings; the absence of an incumbent president or VP candidate on the ticket; more exposed Republican congressional seats than Democratic ones; a charismatic path-breaking opposition candidate, etc. The stars were wrong, rather than the ideas. … [J]ust make McCain appear a little younger, Obama sound a little bit more like John Kerry, and take away the mid-September financial meltdown, and – presto! – a Republican would now be in the White House. [S]omeone like Jindal, Palin, and other fresh new faces will save the party in 2012, especially as hope and change soon proves neither hopeful nor different.”

(2) “It was too narrow a base, too exclusionary a message. This second theory – favored by New York and D.C. columnists, Schwarzenegger Republicans, and “helpful” Democrats of the “we miss the old good McCain of 2000″ school – posits that all these new young, minority, and independent voters can’t break through the anti-gay marriage, anti-illegal immigration, anti-affirmative action, anti-abortion firewall, and so are diverted from the low-taxes, small-government, and strong-national defense message that they otherwise might welcome. Remedy? Junk the social agenda. Become more libertarian. Try to make existing Great Society programs run more efficiently, rather than shrilly barking at what you couldn’t cut, even if you wanted to. Be a little more neo-isolationist abroad, a little more laid back at home. Turn off talk radio, and read more of the Wall Street Journal.”

(3) “It was the namby-pamby, con-lite sell-out that did us in. In this view, conservatives and evangelicals didn’t turn out as in the past, because the ticket and its short coat-tails abandoned a conservative message. … Remedy? Run as a true conservative, energize the base, and out-debate and outthink your liberal opponents.”

Next, he makes a fundamental error, which explains why he is a regressive rather than a progressive. “[M]y sense is that most people – who, after all, get a job, eventually buy a house and have to maintain it, have children, and respect the traditions of their families’ past – end up by necessity more conservative than liberal.” Hey, it’s a center-right country, didn’t you know! But I digress.

Finally, he offers his suggestions for how to engineer a Republican comeback. This is where it gets interesting …

Weekly Joke Revue

Check out Daniel Kurtzman’s top 25 funny political gift ideas. Here is his run-down of the week’s best late-night political jokes:

“Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama announced his new economic team. You know what he should do? Hire those people who were in charge of his fundraising campaign. We can pay this thing off in like a week.” –Jay Leno

“Earlier today, John McCain was in the news. John McCain gave his first press conference since the election. And he said, ‘For a lot of people, Sarah Palin was an energizing factor during the campaign.’ Unfortunately for McCain, those people are called Democrats.” –Conan O’Brien

“Well, it doesn’t look as if the U.S. automakers are going to get their bailout money. Congress said yesterday they were concerned about giving the Big Three automakers money just to keep making the same stupid mistakes. And, believe me, when it comes to making the same stupid mistakes, Congress knows what it’s talking about.” –Jay Leno

“I guess Sarah Palin is back in Alaska, where she pardoned some turkeys for Thanksgiving. So she pardons them and then right behind her, someone kills some turkeys, and it was gruesome. I honestly haven’t seen a slaughter like that since November 4.” –David Letterman

“Alaska Governor Sarah Palin pardoned a turkey, though she said she was amazed to find out that, besides being a bird, Turkey is also a country. Did you see that all over the internet today? While Sarah Palin was pardoning a turkey, right behind her was a guy slaughtering turkeys. … But, see, like most internet stories, a little half-true. Turns out that, after a couple of minutes listening to Sarah Palin’s voice, the turkeys said ‘Kill us now.’” –Jay Leno

“You folks feeling the economic pinch? Are you a little fed up with the economic news? It’s bad. The department stores, this holiday season, no Santa Claus. They’re laying off department-store Santa Clauses. So more bad news for John McCain.” –David Letterman

Ben Alper notes, “Wilkerson has purchased Victoria Secret specialty bras in three sizes: fives, tens, and twenties.”

Ethics reform 101 – all Freedom of Information and Open Meetings laws must apply to the Legislature

Massachusetts ranks 42nd of the 50 states in its open records laws.  But our legislature voted long ago to exempt itself from our state’s open meeting and public records laws, according to today’s Boston Globe:

…the Legislature exempted itself decades ago from the state’s open meeting laws, lawmakers often deliberate in private and keep key documents hidden from public view.

Thus Committee “votes” may legally be taken by legislative committees via e-mail, or even by blackberry.  ”Notice” of a Committee meeting must be “posted”, but at times the “post” is no more than a single sheet of paper taped to a wall anywhere in the State House.  I recall one issue that I was following with real passion – and the only “public notice” of a Commission meeting was a typed sheet on the wall near the Fourth Floor Senate members-only male bathroom.   I was fortunate in that a couple of friendly staffers were willing – and able – to keep their eyes open and notify me.  Your average citizen has to work everyday, and cannot come to the State House daily and roam the halls to find out when Committees, Commissions, and Task Forces may be meeting.  There is no public, free online site to monitor such meetings.

Therefore, it is not surprising that our state is ranked 42nd in its open records laws and 37th as to its “open meetings law”, see #1, Globe article, and #2 – the complete Better Government Association Report on Integrity in State Government.

All the talk about “ethics reform” will be a sham unless all open records laws apply to both the Executive Branch and its agencies and the Legislature as well as all open meetings laws applying to both the Executive Branch and the legislature.  People behave differently when someone is watching; psychological research has established this behavioral response. #5 Legislators behave differently when constituents can watch and pay attention. #6.

My prescription for “ethics reform” is cheap and simple.   All Freedom of Information laws and Open Meetings Laws must also apply to all governmental units – including the Legislature, the Executive and all Executive Agencies.

And bring back cable coverage of ALL government meetings and Legislative sessions.

Third Party Candidates – Good or Bad?

I have been watching the Coleman/Franken US Senate recount daily and it has raised an issue that I find myself struggling with. The impact of third party candidates – or more correctly, the impact of third party candidates who potentially take votes away from candidates that I support. This from a post on TPM on that race and recount: No, the pickin’s weren’t slim. Many of us liked Franken a lot. We were even excited about his candidacy. We chose him to run against Coleman–intentionally and happily. And if it hadn’t been for the pointless vanity campaign of that goddamn ignorant bastard Dean Barkley and the goddamn ignorant bastards who voted for him, Franken would have won easily. Posted by hrebendorf in reply to a comment from Michael A November 26, 2008 3:39 PM | Reply | Permalink I remember feeling angry with Nader after the 2000 presidentail race (the reality of Gore losing his own home state that year certainly made Nader’s vote in FLA less important when I had time to think it out). Found myself feeling pissed at Dean Barkley without even knowing the specifics of the race. So has Barkley cost Franken the race and Dems […]

Michael Prager, Man of Discretion

The Globe’s magnificent Michael Prager offers a humdinger of a list of the best local websites. He displays his superb discretion, judgment, and taste by giving us pride of place on his list for political coverage. Hurray! RedMassGroup, HubPolitics, and BayStateLiberal also are recommended.