Friday, October 30, 2009

Throwing a Flag on the Sentinel: 15 yards for incompetence

Well, the Sentinel and Enterprise screwed up another one.

In an article titled "Bill: Students should recite the Flag Code," both the reporter and the editor get it wrong. Like, the whole thing totally wrong.
BOSTON -- Sometime between five and eight years ago -- the two men differ in their recollections -- Wilmington American Legion Commander Joe Steen approached his state senator, Bruce Tarr.

Steen was incensed by a story he read about a group of Texas protesters stomping on an American flag, and he had a request -- a bill that would require Massachusetts schoolchildren to recite the U.S. Flag Code along with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Among the provisions in the code: Never let an American flag touch the ground; do not display the flag on clothing; in a row of flags, always display the American flag on the far right; the correct way to dispose of an American flag is by burning.

Over the years and many trips to committee, that bill morphed into S371, a measure that would make flag etiquette a part of public-school civics classes.
Just reading the first four paragraphs of this story, I knew something was amiss. I understand that Republicans like to wrap themselves in the flag and frequently propose pseudo-patriotic resolutions--with the explicit intent of having Democrats kill them, so they can try to pin their opponents as un-American--but I can't imaging that even the craziest of them would submit a bill requiring children to recite a federal law at the start of the school day. So I decided to look up S371, as referenced in the article:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. Section 80A of Chapter 131 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding at the end thereof, the following new paragraph: Any person issued a permit as provided by this section shall, within thirty days of the expiration of such permit or extension of same shall report to the director of the division of fisheries and wildlife, on a form approved by said director, the municipality of which the request was made, the name of the property owner, address of the property threatened, the name of authorized agent, method used to alleviate the problem, and the number and species of animals taken pursuant to the permit, and other information deemed necessary by the director.
Well, good. Either we're trying to teach schoolchildren how to report the removal of pesky animals, or the report incorrectly lists the bill number.

Let's see. I'll go to the legislative search function on, search Senate bills for the word "flag," and...hey, here it is. Look what 30 seconds of research can do! Sentinel reporters should try it. From S282 ("371" must have been a transcription's really close to "282"):

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. Chapter 71 of the General Laws is hereby amended in Section 2 by adding after the word “government” the following phrase:- “and a program of relating to the flag of the United States of America, including but not limited to proper etiquette, the correct use and display of the flag, and the provisions of 36 U.S.C. 170 to 177”.
That's not so crazy. I have no problem with schools teaching the proper etiquette of the flag as part of the curriculum. I'm not sure that is the sort of thing that should be done legislatively--the people who set curriculum standards in the commonwealth's Department of Education are a more appropriate group to be setting these standards--but nonetheless, I have no problem with that proposal.

(As an aside, I learned proper flag etiquette from my Grandfather, who flew the flag religiously outside his home. At that time, a little pamphlet describing proper etiquette was included with the flags that he purchased. I don't know if he always kept one with him or if he would slip it into his wallet at certain times to make a point, but I remember more than once he pulled that little tract out to show me what was or wasn't proper when we'd see a flag in our travels around town. The message got through to this youngster. While I don't go around telling people to correct the way they display the flag, I always notice if a flag is backwards, or in the wrong spot in a lineup, or not at half-staff at a designated time.)

Anyway, one thing that bill does not do is require schoolchildren to recite the Flag Code, despite what the headline says. Which is a good thing, because if you follow the links through the article to the American Legion website, you would find that the Flag Code is six pages of legalese. If my son and daughter must learn to recite something in the name of patriotism, I'd much rather have them learn the Gettysburg Address than be able to recite portions of "Title 4, United States Code, Chapter 1."

Of course, if the editor had read any farther than the second sentence of the article, he'd have realized that the bill does not suggest "Students should recite the Flag Code."

Now, I'm just a blogger. I could get away with writing something that I haven't researched because I don't have to be accountable to anyone. People don't pay me to get "news." But years ago when I wrote for a newspaper, I thought it might just be in my best interest to look things up, just to make sure it was right. When I was an editor, I figured I should read the whole story before slapping on a headline, just to make sure it was right.

But then, I didn't work for the Sentinel.

(I realize the article was filed by a "Sun Correspondent" which means that it was originally written for the Lowell Sun, the Sentinel's sister paper. Doesn't change the fact that the editor of the Sentinel could have checked it out before putting into his paper).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Women for Coakley say woman for Coakley is not for Coakley because she's a woman

The irony meter started ringing early this morning. linked to a charge from the organization Women for Coakley that a NECN report was sexist for implying that Congresswoman Niki Tsongas might have endorsed Martha Coakley for Senate because she is a woman.

From Women for Coakley:
Reporters assume that if one man is endorsing another man it’s because that man is competent. To then turn around and ask women such a question is insulting and biased because the question’s very existence carries the presumption that the candidate’s qualifications weren’t enough to merit the endorsement.
I have no doubt that Tsongas’s endorsement is based on merit and not gender. But it’s awfully rich for “a small team of women seeking big gains for women in politics,” which is hoping to unleash “the full potential of ‘the other half’ of the population’s unique perspective, talents and leadership” to criticize someone else for asking if gender is part of the decision-making process.

Senate Debate Wrap-up: The (Thurs)day after

I’ve had a chance to mull over the senate debate and I’ve come to the same conclusion I had when I watched it: it was awful. Bad moderator, bad format, bad questions, bad video quality, you name it.

But there was an important “good” that came out of it, and that was the opportunity to see these candidates live. Sure, they’ve each done a handful of appearances and forums, but this was the first opportunity for many people to see the candidates outside of their commercials. Here are my thoughts on the candidates’ performances, in alphabetical order:

Mike Capuano was the most passionate, energetic (caffeinated?) of the four candidates. He also seemed to be the least scripted, speaking easily about the issues. While I’m sure he had prepared for the debate, he appeared to be winging it, and doing so successfully. He appeared to genuinely care about the issues.

It was nice too see the passion from him, considering that he appears nearly morose in his campaign commercials. Perhaps he is this energetic all of the time. If so, his commercials are doing him a real disservice. I came away with a much higher opinion of him than I had when the debate started.

Not that Capuano was perfect. He spent way too much time (that is, more than zero) talking about what a good “horse-trader” he is, and how his status as the only insider makes him much better equipped to deal with the workings of the Senate. Is that a plus? Yes. Does anyone want to elect a “horse-trader” to the Senate, or the State House, or selectman, or dog catcher? No. I’d suggest the word negotiator the next time this comes up.

Martha Coakley, on the other hand, was much more reserved and even. Whether that is her natural persona or whether she has trained herself to stay even-keeled, it served her well. (Unfortunately, there is still a bias out there against more animated female politicians. If she had exhibited the same “passion” as Capuano did, she’d have been characterized as shrill or scattered, not “passionate.”)

Come to think of it, I can’t think of one thing that she said that made me say “Wow, I like that Martha Coakley.” But I can’t think of anything that turned me off to her either. She was just solid. And considering that the debate itself was nearly a waste of an hour, solid was probably a very good result.

The only thing that stuck out to me as a negative was Coakley’s quip that maybe we should go and rob banks to help pay for...I don’t remember what. The Attorney General probably shouldn’t be advocating for the commission of a felony, even if it is in jest.

I really, really wanted to like Alan Khazei. This was the first chance I’ve had to see him and from what I’ve heard, he is the truest progressive in the race. I like the idea that he is not an “insider,” but has worked a number of issues on Capitol Hill. But I could not get into him at all. I appreciate that he has a great story to tell, but his father being a doctor from Iran is not relevant to every issue. I know that this is Ted Kennedy’s seat, but tying himself to one Kennedy or another in response to nearly every question (I was half-expecting references to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Joe-4-Oil, and the Kennedy Space Center in his closing statement) made him come across as a panderer.

He seemed stiff to me, like he was trying too hard to remember his points instead of being able to discuss them easily. And I positively rolled my eyes when he ended his closing statement by challenging the other candidates to weekly televised debates. That’s straight out of Campaign Tactics for Dummies and never, ever works.

It’s too bad that Khazei filled his allotted time with anecdotes about his father and the Kennedys, because once he got going, he seemed to have a pretty good command of the topics. But moderator Peter Meade kept cutting him off, becoming more and more petulant with Khazei as the night went on (which I thought made Khazei a bit of a sympathetic figure).

Steve Pagliuca suffered from a mix of poor preparation and bad luck. He really seems out of his element speaking from behind a podium. He looks like he should be leading some sort of business seminar, walking the stage with a clip-on mike and a power point presentation on the big screen behind him. His command of the issues appears to be pretty shallow; he’s OK when he can give the stock progressive stance on this or that, but is very shaky when it comes down to the details.

Had he been in a different place on the stage he might have been able to get by with that, but he was positioned after Capuano, so in three out of every four questions he spoke after the energetic wonk. Pags spent much of the night starting his responses with “I agree with Michael,” which essentially invalidated anything else he had to add. If he had a better command of the little things, he might have been able to respond effectively.

I’m not going to get into all of the ways that the debate itself was terrible. I agree with Emily Rooney, who killed the organizers in a blog post yesterday:
The format was lame, the questions were lame, the production was lame and the result was tedious...

Virtually every rule of "don't" was broken. Don't ask everyone the same question, don't ask yes/no questions, don't ask hypotheticals, and don't use a format that doesn't allow for interaction among the candidates.
That about sums it up.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keller: Deval Patrick should quit before he wins again

Channel 4 political editor, crank, and Deval Patrick-hater Jon Keller came up with a real doozy earlier this week in relation to a new Rasmussen poll showing the Governor with a big lead in his re-election race. How does Keller think Patrick should respond to the news that he’s on his way to reelection? Quit!
If Gov. Deval Patrick were to win re-election despite half the electorate wanting him out and only 14% admitting to a very favorable view of him - as this poll suggests would happen if the election were held today - what would re-election be worth? How would he function as a weak, widely-disliked lame duck, dealing with a hostile legislature? Why would he want to be in such a position? And how can he argue that it's in the best interests of the state to suffer through four years of that?
Seriously? The governor is so far ahead that he should quit, saving us the pain of four more years of Deval (despite the fact that we appear to be voting him back into office)? That might be the most ridiculous thing I’m going to read in the 12 months leading up to the election. Definitely the leader in the clubhouse.

Why does Keller fear that Patrick will win? Looking more closely at the numbers, it’s hard to see how Patrick loses. The scenario where Tim Cahill’s candidacy would hand Patrick another term appears to be coming true. Here are the numbers:
With Christy Mihos as the Republican nominee:
Deval Patrick (D) -- 34%
Christy Mihos (R) -- 23%
Tim Cahill (I) -- 23%
Not sure -- 19%
With Charlie Baker as the Republican nominee:
Deval Patrick (D) -- 34%
Charlie Baker (R) -- 24%
Tim Cahill (I) -- 23%
Not sure -- 19%
Patrick currently holds at least a 10-point lead. In a best-case scenario for a challenger (assuming these numbers hold as a minimum—a dicey assumption 12 months out), the third place finisher would end up with at least 23%, meaning it would only take 39% of the vote to win. To get to 39%, Patrick could lose the “Not Sure” voters by as much as 3-1 to whomever finishes second and still be victorious (39-38-23).

In a scenario where the two challengers split the undecided vote evenly, Patrick could still win even if he picked up no votes from that group (34-33-33).

In other words, Patrick only loses a race with three strong candidates under a scenario where the economy gets so much worse over the next 12 months that Patrick loses the support he has.

And while it is certainly possible that things will get worse, there is a pretty good chance that the economy is starting to turn around. If that happens—even a little—then the only way Patrick loses is if Cahill drops out or if Patrick suffers some sort of scandal that isn’t even on the radar at this time.

Keller is smart enough to figure this out—he knows that unless things get even worse, the only way Patrick loses is if he quits.

Of course, Keller fails to mention the obvious. A Republican who wins with only 35% of the vote will also be a “weak, widely-disliked lame duck, dealing with a hostile legislature.” If Cahill were to win, the same would apply. So why not ask one of them to quit, Jon?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"I agree with Michael..." and other thoughts from Monday's Senate debate

You're looking live at the JFK Library in South Boston where the four Democratic candidates for US Senate try to be even half the politician that Ted Kennedy was...will any of them measure up? Or will the least small of them win? And away we go...

(OK, it's not live. I watched it on tape delay because the kids had their Halloween parade and then I had to head back to the office. Deal with it).

Auuugh, my eyes! Instead of running this thing in HD, it's in widescreen standard definition, which means it looks like it's being broadcast from the bottom of the ocean. Guess I won't need my glasses...

The first question goes to "Martha." I wonder if they agreed to call each other by their first names. It seems too informal, especially when a sitting Attorney General and Congressman are involved.

First question is "What was the moment you thought you should be the next senator?" That's really a question without a good answer. I'd rather hear them answer the question "why do you want to be Senator?"

Wow, Michael Capuano talks way too fast.

There is an interesting dynamic going on with the way the candidates deal with the TV cameras. Martha Coakley and Alan Khazei are looking at what they think are the hot cameras or an advisor, or something, and it looks like they're staring off into space. Capuano looks straight at the moderator, Steve Pagliuca looks at the crowd.

"Senator Kennedy would have wanted me to do this." Wow Pags, just a little presumptuous, no?

Peter Meade, no one wanted to give you a moment, because no one had an aha moment or had a rock hit them in the head.

Capuano whacks Khazei for his not answering the hypothetical question about Hanscom Air Force Base, and then doesn't really have an answer. He then goes after Khazei a little more: "If you want to go down and change Washington, Good Luck." Risky business. It doesn't seem like the insider's track is usually a winning strategy.

And Pagliuca calls him on it. He sounds naive, though. "I'll tell the other senators that we can't afford to close it." That and three bucks will get you a cappuccino, Steve.

Martha has found the camera. She is preaching the importance of staff.

Oh, God. Pagliuca thinks that we won't have any bad deals because we have John Kerry.

Coakley: "They're both in Middlesex County, so I can't give either of them up." So, would one of them be more apt to be dropped if it were in Worcester County?

Khazei name-dropping Carl Levin and John McCain. Apparently he thinks the one who can name the most senators in an hour wins.

What an absolute farce. I'm 18 minutes into this and this is becoming a Republican's wet dream. Having a wonky insider like Peter Meade run this debate is the worst thing that could have happened because he's talking like the insider that he is and the entire first quarter of the debate has been about process, and "horse-trading." There are real issues to be discussed, yet the whole thing is about process. NO ONE CARES HOW LEGISLATION IS MADE! We want to know what these candidates stand for.

Peter Meade needs to stop answering his own questions.

Do we need another stimulus? Steve Pagliuca: "We might." Way to take a stand, Steve. And then he likens raising taxes on the rich to robbing banks. I don't think he has the first idea what he's talking about.

And Coakley jokes that we really should start robbing banks. There is a Republican campaign ad right there. She also won't commit to an updated stimulus.

Alan Khazei's father is a doctor....and Khazei is in favor of another stimulus. Not sure what one has to do with the other, but at least he took a stand.

Khazei is wrong that the problem of the stimulus was "8,000 earmarks." The problem of the stimulus is that the "centrists" stripped out things like money to build schools (as though actually building things is not stimulating).

Hey, Capuano agrees with me about the stimulus. But he's losing votes every time he talks about "horse-trading." He has to stop talking about that like it's a good thing. Being able to negotiate is a good thing, but the term "horse-trading" has a negative connotation. If I were a Republican operative, I'd run a 30-second ad consisting solely of a montage of Mike Capuano saying "horse-trading". End it with a tag line of "Can you trust a horse-trader to represent you in the Senate?" or something like that.

Health Care...Public option? With or without an opt-out provision? Capuano is for a robust public option. May not support Senator Harry Reid's opt-out. Pagliuca will only vote for a "robust" public option with no mention of the opt-out. Coakley will support a public option with or without an opt-out. Khazei is all about the public option as well, hates the medical insurance lobby, and would vote for the opt-out. His father is a doctor and his mother is a nurse. Coming up next, the work status of his siblings.

Meade is asking whether or not they need to have a Republican vote to justify the plan. Another wasted question. Of course they don't.

Hey, Khazei's father is a doctor...but he also is in favor of strong Malpractice reform, which sets him apart from the others.

Steve Pagliuca has actually read about the difference between a majority and a cloture-vote. Good for him. Earlier tonight, I read "Green Eggs and Ham." Vote for me.

Khazei is against a troop increase in Afghanistan...Capuano will also not vote for more troops. OK, he says we should get out of Afghanistan because we're done rooting out Al Qaeda, and they are now in Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, etc. and we should chase them down. I assume he doesn't mean that we should invade all of those countries.

Pags, you agree with Capuano on just about every question. Why don't you just vote for him?

Coakley knows that one of the troops killed in Afghanistan was from Massachusetts. Point Martha. She would also not vote for the troops.

Honestly, I'm having a hard time finding a difference between these guys.

Khazei in a nut shell: Kennedy, doctor, doctor, Kennedy, doctor, nurse, Kennedy, doctor, doctor, Kennedy.

General McChrystal isn't wrong. He's supposed to give his opinion. It's a data point that the president needs to take into consideration. One of many. I'm not sure saying that a general in the field is "wrong" about what he needs is a big vote-getter.

Immigration? Good question. Maybe the first one of the night. Coakley says no drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, punts on healthcare. Khazei says no to both. Capuano refuses to answer. For what it's worth, his overall question was the best one, but he refused to say what he would do on the specific issues Meade mentioned.

Capuano is wrong, by the way, that the issue will never come up or be voted on. The public option proposed in the house would exclude illegal immigrants from the possibility of receiving subsidized care. Not only will the issue come up, but it is currently before Congress. While I liked his answer about immigration in the whole, this dodge was weak.

The only issue that would preclude Khazei from voting for an Obama Supreme Court nominee is Roe v. Wade? Oh, come on. Pagliuca had no idea what the question was about. None.

It's interesting to hear Coakley talk about what she would look for in a Supreme Court justice, considering her widely panned appearance before the court.

Peter Meade needs to stop badgering Khazei. He lectures him like he's a schoolchild on the length of his answers. At least twice Meade has started to cut off Capuano and then clammed up to let Capuano extend an answer. If he's going to condescend to one candidate he needs to do so to all of them. It seems like "Mike" is his favorite.

And that's it. I can't say I was wowed, but I need to think about it a bit.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Clinton turns to bullying -- again

A couple of years ago, when Clinton and Sterling were in dispute over the fate of the Wekepeke reservoirs, a member of the Clinton Board of Selectmen finally had it to here with Sterling and tried to bully one of our selectmen by dismissing the town as full of lay-abouts with nothing better to do than to harass poor old Clinton.

Now Clinton’s long-running dispute with Lancaster over the Clinton Fish and Game rifle range is heating up again, and once again Clinton has had enough of its neighbors. This time, not only is one of its selectmen resorting to name-calling, but the police chief is threatening to stop or reduce mutual aid to Lancaster. First, Selectman Bill Connolly:
Selectman William F. Connolly Jr., a proponent of keeping the range for target shooting and for police use, is a former member of the Fish and Game Association who has battled Lancaster officials about its use, and tried to work out an agreement to satisfy both sides.

Mr. Connolly said although approval for police was made last year before he was elected to the board in May, he was under the impression all involved had no problem with police certification shooting, including residents near the range...

“Little Napoleon [Lancaster Town Administrator Orlando Pacheco] may think he can tell the Lancaster Board of Selectmen what to do, but he’s not going to tell the Clinton Board of Selectmen what to do,” Mr. Connolly said.
My guess is that Selectman Connolly is exasperated that Lancaster has gone back on what he thought was an agreement to allow the Clinton police to use the range. Frankly, I would be miffed too if the rules had changed out from underneath me. But deriding the administrator of a neighboring town as “Little Napoleon” is rarely a successful negotiating tactic. I can’t imagine that derision will help bring the two towns back into agreement.

(For his part, Pacheco doesn't have a reputation for professional language when it comes to negotiating agreements either. He has likened his own town's police union to "pigs in the mud.")

But more troubling is the implication that Clinton police might not be so willing to help Lancaster out with its public safety needs if they don’t get what the want from the negotiations.”
Chief Laverdure said he is particularly miffed because the stop order has caused bad feelings in the two towns after years of cooperation between the Lancaster and Clinton police departments, which has included using the Clinton police lockup for Lancaster prisoners, and assisting Lancaster with police calls.

Just last week, he said, six Clinton officers helped two Lancaster officers at a break-in on South Meadow Road in Lancaster, near the range, in which the alleged robber was still in the house.

“We combed the woods, we identified a suspect — and it’s a dangerous guy, and he’s still out there. We spent 20 hours on that case. I’ll be reluctant to do that again,” Chief Laverdure said.
It is outrageous for the police chief in one town to threaten to withhold aid to a neighboring community because of a political dispute between the boards of selectmen in the two towns. I guess it speaks to a certain naivete on my part, but I would hope that our police would stay out of public policy disputes. I believe the motto is “To serve and protect,” not “To serve and protect unless your town administrator pisses us off.”

Let’s turn it around for a minute. Would it have been appropriate during the Wekepeke dispute for the Sterling Police or Fire Department to come out and say “Well, since Clinton hasn’t repaired the dams up there, we can’t help out if Clinton calls for help; we need to make sure we are ready if one of those dams should blow.”? Absolutely not. In fact, it would have been offensive.

Just because Clinton is the big dog in the region doesn’t mean it should also be the big bully. It didn’t get them anywhere in the Wekepeke dispute and it likely won’t help out here either.

Family Planning and DirecTV

Like a lot of folks, we’ve been trying to find ways to cut costs. Every so often I will comb through our family budget and try to find places where we can save a couple bucks here and there. Now that we’ve had our DirecTV service up and running for over a year we’ve lost the introductory discounts, so I figured that would be a good place to try to cut costs.

Man, has this been a disaster.

About a month ago, I called DirecTV and asked to drop to a lower tier. We have been in the “Choice Xtra” plan (what’s with DirecTV and the dropping of letters?) which boasts over 200 channels and carries a cost of $61 per month, before HD, DVR, etc. I decided that we would go with the “Family” plan, which carries only 50 channels or so for a price of just $30. Both carry local channels, so I figured that we’d at least have 2, 4, 5, 7, 25, etc and we’d be OK.

Well, let me tell you what DirecTV’s definition of family is.

According to DirecTV, families only watch kids’ shows, religion, and National Geographic. Essentially, the breakdown is 20 kids’ channels, 20 religious channels, a farm channel, a do-it-yourself channel, National Geographic, and three music channels, which only carry kids and religious music.

No news. Not CNN, MSNBC, Fox, Headline News...nothing. No sports. Not ESPN, Versus...they don’t even include the local sports networks like NESN and CSNE.

Apparently, families are all religious nuts who watch kids shows in the morning, preachin’ and prayin’ in the afternoon, and tips on how to raise cattle or fix a toilet in the evening. The moms and dads in these families don’t care about the news and don’t watch sports. Families don’t have teenagers, who might watch MTV.

In short, the typical DirecTV “family” is disturbed.

Now, I rationalized that I could do without the news channels because I get most of my news from the Internet, and I didn’t really need ESPN—if there is a big Monday Night Football game or something on I can go watch it with my brother. But I couldn’t do without seeing the Bruins and Red Sox, so I asked what it would cost to add NESN and CSNE back to the package. I was told that I’d need to buy the entire sports pack, which includes all regional sports networks from across the country. It’s an extra $13 per month.

OK, so now my cost is up to $43. But at least I can watch the Bs, Sox, and Celts when they’re on, as well as coaches’ shows from every East Tumbleweed State College across the country.

So...that part about watching the Red Sox? Last night, I realize that this family package doesn’t include TBS. This means that I won’t be able to watch Sox playoff games. My options are either to go to the aforementioned brother’s house—which means some late night driving since the first two games start at 9:30 each night—or watch it on some pirated Internet stream from ESPN South America or whoever it is that broadcasts these games in Spanish.

(By the way, this works better than you might realize. I watched much of the last Monday Night Football game this way, and while I heard the name “Favre” a lot, all of the other words were in Spanish so I didn’t get as disgusted about it as I would have if the game were in English).

Neither of those are good ideas, so I called DirecTV to go up to the “Choice” tier, which includes TBS (and 149 other channels) at a cost of $56 per month. I figure that I’ll keep it until the playoffs move off from TBS, and then go back to the “Family” package.

When I got off the phone, it was time for me to put Jackson to bed. So we went upstairs and Jackson took his vitamin, brushed his teeth, changed into his pajamas, and then climbed into Michelle’s and my bed to watch “Kipper.” It’s become part of our routine to watch a little episode of “Kipper” on PBS Sprout every night before I tuck him in. So he’s comfy, I turn on the TV and...nothing. Well, there has to be some mistake; I mean, I now have 150 channels, something must be wrong.

Jackson’s not too happy but he takes the news OK and heads off to bed. After I kiss him good night, I check the TV downstairs and still, no PBS Sprout. So I log on to find out if I made a mistake when I ordered and find out that...the Choice package does not include the kids’ channels! Some choice!

Finally, I think I have this straight.
  • If I am a religious nut with kids and no interest in anything other than the Bible and Barney the Dinosaur (wait, there aren’t dinosaurs in the Bible. Hmmm...), the “Family” package is for me.

  • If I am a lonely, childless adult, then the “Choice” package is for me.

  • But if I am like most every other damn American family who has a range of interests like news, sports, music, drama, and children’s programming, I’ve got to open up my wallet to pay a premium for 150 channels I’ll never watch so that me and my family can enjoy the handful that we do.

And even for all that, they are still a better deal than Comcast.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

State house Republicans bad for business

Last week, three Democratic state senators offered up a resolution that would have called for a boycott of Hyatt Hotels for firing nearly 100 custodial workers in Massachusetts and replacing them with low-wage replacements. In opposing the resolution, Minority Leader Richard Tisei digressed into the usual anti-Democrat anti-business tripe. In part:
With unemployment at 9.1 percent, and so many companies struggling to just keep their heads above water, we should be doing everything we can to help them weather the downturn in the economy, and not trying to stigmatize them and drive them out of business....

I was discouraged to read over the weekend that EMC – one of the state’s largest employers – is moving 400 jobs to North Carolina because of the high electrical rates here in Massachusetts. These are the kinds of problems we should be addressing and trying to fix.

Instead of attacking businesses, the Legislature should be meeting in session every day to discuss how we can improve the state’s business climate, encourage companies to locate and expand here, and get Massachusetts residents back to work.
The criticism that the Democratic legislature is not doing “everything we can to help [businesses] weather the downturn in the economy” and that it should be doing more to “encourage companies to locate and expand here” was particularly rich considering what was going on in the other chamber at nearly the same time.

A number of mayors from smaller urban centers like Fitchburg were petitioning the Legislature to pass a package of tax credits that would encourage “companies to locate and expand” in these decaying communities. The proposal would increase tax credits to refurbish former mill buildings and provide direct tax credits to companies who hire new workers.

This proposal to encourage businesses to locate in Massachusetts communities by cutting taxes was opposed Republicans, including Rep. Lew Evangelidis:
Not everyone on the Revenue Committee was persuaded. Rep. Lewis Evangelidis, R-Holden, said he worried about the potential cannibalizing effect the tax credits could have on other communities.

"They might entice companies to move from one community to another," Evangelidis said. "Also, we're in a budget crisis, and tax incentives cut into revenues."
But Representative, “these are the kinds of problems we should be addressing and trying to fix.” “With unemployment at 9.1 percent, and so many companies struggling to just keep their heads above water, we should be doing everything we can to help them weather the downturn in the economy.” Why wouldn’t we want to provide tax credits to help match struggling companies wit struggling communities?

A ha! I think I’ve found the answer:
Their pitch came as lawmakers consider a bill of state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, described as an economic recovery act for older cities that serve as regional economic hubs.
It’s because the bill was proposed by a Democrat. Period. A tea-party attending tax fighter like Evangelidis is opposed to a tax cut because it might "cut into revenues?" How disingenuous. Look, I'm as partisan as anyone, but if you're going to try to make a name as a tax-cutter, then support tax cuts. Unfortunately, the State House Republicans seem to care more about opposing Democrats then advancing a policy agenda.


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