Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Copping a Beer

City of Portland Politics Warning.

Been a host of zoning changes goin' on around here. All of it is targeted at preserving the 'liveability' of our fair city whilst permitting the inevitable growth. Managing retail expansion, IOW. Coming under review in this laudable effort to craft a great American city is the cost of policing Portland's "Old Port," a lovely section of town that used to be wharves and warehouses but is now home to small shops, restaurants, bars and clubs.

On Monday, the Old Port Night Life Task Force presented recommendations to the city council that would change the way fees are assessed and alter the zoning regulations for future development. A new boundary was proposed for the greater downtown area specifically for this licensing overlay, inside of which a rate hike for licenses tied to dancing, music and liquor permissions granted by the City. While the plan would raise the rates marginally for many restaurants and bars that are relatively far from the Old Port, some of the more notorious locales will see precipitous drops in their fees:
Councilor Edward Suslovic questioned why some restaurants would be tapped while the busy Pavilion nightclub on Middle Street would see its assessment for Old Port policing drop from $14,075 to $3,120. Suslovic also said he would support increasing license fees for 100 convenience stores and supermarkets citywide that sell "liquor to go."
Sixteen of the 24 business that pay the seat tax would see reductions in their overall fees. The Old Port Tavern, one of the biggest beneficiaries, would see its annual fees drop from $10,790 to $3,120. Fees would be adjusted annually to reflect fluctuations in the cost of extra police protection.

Essentially it's a flat tax for police protection (a meta-legislative issue: are we using fees in lieu of taxation--a subtlety seemingly picked up on only by Councilor Donoghue and the Task Force attorney), spread over an arbitrarily drawn area that seems to follow most closely the logic of a raindrop. I was also struck by just how little concern for governance some councilors evinced and how much a sense of district-provincialism was displayed.

After sitting in on the talk, without reading the report, I must say I oppose the plan.

One of the Task Force participants and Councilor Cohen felt that greater police presence is beneficial not just to the Old Port bars, but to everyone in the city who is open late. To me, this seems illogical and wrong on its face. As noted by Mr. Suslovic to the contrary, the police are drawn away from the outer districts to the downtown area, effectively leaving these places uncovered. Police are focused on the Old Port precisely because that's where the area of concern is.

It seems rather obvious that those who benefit from a service should be the ones to pay for it. That was the logic of the now-disfavored "seat tax." It is true that all of Portland benefits from the Old Port, and all of Portland benefits from Police protection. More germaine to this discussion, however, is the idea that if you're the source of the problem, you should be held accountable. The Old Port costs Portland. As some publicans are on record as saying, if you police yourselves, you don't need the Police. Last night I was thinking (not having a copy of the report to look at) that a GIS overlay of police calls, EMT calls and incidents reported with the location of bars, etc., could be a useful means of graduating a surcharge system for licenses.

For example: a basic, small hike in liquor license fees to everyone who sells it within city limits, including those that are takeaway places like Hannafords and RSVP or 7Eleven. Then, using the GIS overlay, tacking a surcharge on those locations manifestly responsible for the police/EMT calls--let's say a certain number of cents per call. This puts commerce at work for us by creating a purer econometric: the cost of doing business includes the cost incurred when your patrons are out of control. Call it the pollution model. We can figure out who costs Portland the most and we can make them absorb that cost. This creates a perfect incentive: police yourself effectively or pay us to do it for you.

Rates are assessed at license renewal based on the incidents reported in the prior year. A decrease amounts to a discount -- functionally a reward to doing better. I like this cost-sharing better than the flat-tax method proposed in the plan. It could have the added benefit of encouraging dispersal of venues as well, through simple economics: you know the OP attracts a high number of incidents and therefore a high cost for license. If you want to avoid that cost, establish elsewhere. No need for pesky 100 foot or 150 foot zoning regs that the Task Force proposes--the space will take care of itself. If a new business wants to open in the OP, take the average of the fee that is charged (or will be charged) to its two nearest neighbors--that's your starting surcharge.

The beauty of this system is that it can be applied city-wide. It fairly brings home the cost of policing a business to that business (Bubba's, let's say), without unfairly penalizing businesses that don't encourage that level of rowdiness (Thai Garden or King of the Roll, e.g.). And for businesses that argue that their area is generally rowdy even though not thanks to their patrons, the answer is, "that's the added cost of doing business in a location that is so beneficial to business. You profit from the very nature of the Old Port, help us keep it safe." It's also important to note that the money needed for the increased warm-weather policing ($61,000) amounts to a tiny fraction of the overall budget, about .02%

The Task Force plan is a windfall to bad actors. It has the opposite effect you'd want a regulation to have: rather than encouraging good behavior it effectively rewards indiscipline. It's imprecise where imprecision is unnecessary. And it is arbitrary, applying only to businesses within some conjured line. You've got to do better than that.

Photo of the Old Port (c) Dean Abramson, used without permission

Fins 21 Pats 0

I've not been wanting to write this.

Right now we're very, very average. The outcome of the game shouldn't come as a surprise to regular fans, however, as we've been coming to this effort for most of the last month. Turnovers, mental mistakes, uninspired play and play-calling. It's all good if you're playing Detroit. Miami is not Detroit.

From a spectator's POV, I wrote "game over" in my notes in the third quarter after the Dolphins scored on a 32 yard pass to Booker over safety Artrell Hawkins. (The Pats had held on three straight runs but gave up the first on fourth and, in a play reminiscent of the Charlie Weiss era, the Fins went straight for the jugular and scored big.) But in reality, this game was over before they took the field. The tally of errors was similar to that of the Detroit and Chicago games. Daniel Graham coughed up another fumble after making a big catch (led to a Miami TD). 2 roughing the passer calls (for the record, both were bullshit--this league has gotten so soft it's sick) kept Dolphin scoring drives alive.

The offensive line, which laid a turd last week against Detroit dropped another dooky on Sunday. Jason Taylor continued pave his path to Canton with the jockstraps of NFL tackles. Nick Kazur, starting in place of injured O'Callaghan, had a nightmare of a day. Matt Light, who usually can handle Taylor pretty well was edgy and out of position most of the time. I think I wrote "offensive line a sieve" about 4 times. Taylor even spooked Light into jumping offsides on what could have been a crucial 4th down attempt, but turned into another crappy punt.

Pats punter Ken Walter put on a clinic--on how not to punt. His chief weakness has always been a striking weakness of the leg (weakness of the striking leg?) and Sunday cast that shortcoming into glaring relief. Saddled with poor field position all day (due to some amazing kicking counter-point from Miami's punter), he only threatened to pin Miami deep once. That kick was called back by an illegal procedure penalty.

This Branch, however, was twisted from the root. All year long it has been clear that the Patriots lack a deep threat at wide receiver and that they lack depth in the defensive secondary. Brady (who spent most of the day trying to keep his ass off the grass) completed only 4 passes to his wide outs, who were smothered by a very average Dolphins secondary. Goodman? Allen? These guys are lunch pail, not Champ Bailey or Ty Law. The Patriots attempted to use their tight ends as deep threats, but that's a poor substitute. A passing attack needs all levels in order to be credible. If only half your package is going to get open, the defense will target them. Brady, who has never been very accurate as a deep-passer, hung Watson out to dry on one deep-middle play in the third and nearly got him killed. We'll see if he can make a comeback.

As for the future, well, we've got a few draft picks (though with Seattle's comeback season, they aren't as good as they might have been). I will charitably keep the jury out on Chad Jackson. He's a rookie and rookie wide outs don't usually produce much. We need him though, and that Deion Branch trade is really looking stupid right about now.

On our defensive side, well, what can you say? True, Samuel is having a standout year with 7 picks. But I have this to say about that: it's his contract year and picks and passes defensed are not the same thing. He still gets burned about as often as Beavis working the grill.

On the other side, Hobbs got torched repeatedly by the larger Booker, who had a standout day. Chad Scott is a castoff for a reason. Ray Mickens? He was on the street last week. He's 33 years old. And he had more snaps on Sunday than "starter" Hobbs. In fact, the entire defensive backfield smelled of old fire and ashes on Monday morning. The only possible light spot in that picture is that they were fielding the JV for much of the day. Wilson, Gay, Jones and of course Harrison are all on the injured list. For a unit that needs cohesion and communication as much as the o-line, this kind of decimation can only be crippling.

There are many potential excuses: Seau drops for the year. Harrison isn't the General anymore. The starting o-line was reshuffled for the second week in a row. Standout rookie and fearsome runner Maroney was hurt and at home. But in the end, there are two facts and two stats that tell the whole story:

Fact 1: We need two wide outs: one that gets open and one that gets up-the-field separation and both of whom can catch the ball. As the Herald said, you don't bring a knife to a gun fight.

Fact 2: We need at least one corner and one safety who can reliably cover and reliably tackle.

Stat 1: 9 penalties for 71 yards against.

Stat 2: 0 Miami turnovers, 3 New England turnovers.

So, you lose. This is to take nothing away from Jason Taylor who had a monster day. If he played on a better team, we'd already be talking about him the way people talk about Strahan. Nor from Nick Saban, who is smart enough to know how to beat you and confident enough to go do those things.

Searching for a Patriots highlight of the day brings me to Corey Dillon. The onetime thoroughbred finds himself in front of the plow these days, but there have been no complaints from a player once thought to be clubhouse cancer. Each week he dutifully picks up the hard yards and provides a solid example for the young talent coming up behind him. He no longer gets to the edge like he once did, and he doesn't run away from people much anymore. But on Sunday he showed that he can get it done when he has to. His 16 carries for 79 yards included several tough runs when the Pats were pinned deep. Used best, he runs north-south (outside leg of tackle/end to outside leg of tackle/end) with Evans leading. In those circumstances, he remains one of the league's best.

It was that kind of a day.

Bonus Broadcast Commentary: I think Dick Enberg and Dick Clark are sharing the same skin. In a year that has been notable for poor, uninformative, tangential and trite booth teams, Enberg and Cross are merely par for the course. And for the studio guys? Shannon Sharpe has been doing that highlight segment for years. He still sucks.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Brief Hiatus

I feed myself as a carpenter. These days work is tough to come by here in Maine. At least for a young guy like myself (and my partner) who aren't fully established, with a book of business and a strong word-of-mouth network. In fact, I've basically been unemployed for about a mouth and a half.

I've been in Providence since Tuesday, grabbing work where I can. A friend of mine has bought a three level mansard-style building (late 1880s vintage) in a neighborhood behind Federal Hill. We're rennovating it, starting with the top floor.

This involves a lot of demolition and trips to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Center (RIRRC), an awesome wasteland of trash. We've levelled and strengthend the floor in the front and once we've worked our way to the back of the house we'll drop the old plaster ceiling and begin the remodel. So my posts will be intermittant at best for a while.

Today, I'm hoping to do one on the Pats v. the Fins and a follow up on some local politics: a case for IRV in Maine and a piece on Portland's transportation issues. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 4, 2006

The Moral Imperative of Impeachment

Just in case you've stumbled upon this post with no idea of what's been going on for the past six years, let me start by saying this:

Holy shit, guy! Where have you been?

But let me continue. The foundation of western government, from the moment the Magna Carta was wrung out of King John, has been the Rule of Law. That document was practically useless to the English common man, and if we fail to act more forthrightly and sternly than we seem about to, our Constitution will become equally useless to us. I'm writing this only in the hope that a few more paragraphs can help: if America can return to grace, impeachment is the only sure way.

There happens to be some fairly solid ground for seeking impeachment of both the President and the Vice President. In the course of the investigations that would be necessary to lead to their impeachment (congressional hearings complete with subpoenas, and perhaps a special prosecutor funded to the tune of Ken Starr), there are also likely to turn up grounds for indictments, not only of those two gentlemen but a substantial supporting cast of characters.

There are a lot of places we can look for malfeasance. No-bid contracts, including some to ex-Cheney roost KBR for Iraq, illegal campaign and election activity from the top of the GoP to the field, the "rendition" of "terror suspects" to countries amenable to torture (or should I say, countries more amenable to torture) than our own. Or the entire legal house of cards surrounding Guantanamo Bay. I'm not going to delve into the Valarie Plame/Wilson incident, other than by linking to it. Perhaps the handiest reference for Bush's disdain for congress (and therefore you, by the way) are his "signing statements". Charitably put, W has used the signing statement as a means of salving his conscience by warning the country that he has no intention of obeying the law he is signing. He's made over 750 of them. A sampling.

So there are a lot of rocks to sniff under (are those bodies I smell? Why, yes...). But the reality of wrongdoing has never been enough of a reason for justice. Investigations cost more than money. They take a significant amount of political will. The victory by the Democrats, although comprehensive, was still close. In perhaps the only glimmer of intelligence we've seen from him in six years, W said, "If you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close. It was a thumping." Well, he knows sports so let's give him that one. Each one of those reps and senators who won "close" will be seeking to consolidate their position--as will the Democrats as a whole. Their calculus is very clearly that the country is not ready for impeachment hearings. Her Nibs Pelosi is on record as saying, "impeachment is off the table."

There are a lot of reasons for this, and I don't know them all. Some of it likely has to do with the nearness of the Clinton impeachment attempt. In retrospect, that spectacle is even more tragic than it seemed at the time. To the extent that the Republican congress spent our civic energy and cash (40 million dollars) chasing the truth of a blowjob, we're now hamstrung. We have an administration that so deserves the heaviest hand a Congress can lay on it, but the will just doesn't seem to be there. America is a battered bride to her government right now and what we're told we need is reconciliation and repair.

What we really need is the bitter pill of impeachment--now more than ever in our history.

First, I want to remind you of two simple "high crimes and misdemeanors" upon which impeachment can be based. Then, and most importantly, I want to talk about why it is so important. If you know the backstory, feel free to skip to the second reel.

Allow me to lay the outlines of two basic cases: First, the waging of an illegal war and second, the pursuit of illegal spying against United States citizens. Cast your memory back to the run-up to war. Try to recall the provisions of international law that were cited to justify our invasion of Iraq. Here's a reminder:

Articles 39 and 42 of the UN Charter states that it is the role of the Security Council as a Council to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression." If any such thing exists, the Council may authorize the use of force "to maintain or restore international peace and security." Article 51 of the U.N. Charter affirms "the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence" against "an armed attack." If you doubt the power of the UN Charter over the United States, may I direct you to our Constitution, specifically Article Six, which states, "...all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land... ." In our case, "all treaties" includes the UN Charter. It's the supreme law of our land.

As of Wednesday, November 29, 2006, the estimated number of Iraqi citizen non-combatants that have been killed since our invasion of their country is at least 48,904.

Here's another Constitutional goodie:
...[The President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed...
That's in Article II. There's a law, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that covers spying on Americans. It was enacted because Nixon liked to use the FBI to spy on peace groups. He thought they were a threat to the country. Bush has been doing the same thing, except he's ignoring the law that was passed because of Nixon. I now refer you to Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's opinion in the case of ACLU et al v. NSA et al:
The wiretapping wiretapping program here in litigation has undisputedly been continued for at least five years, it has undisputedly been implemented without regard to FISA and of course the more stringent standards of Title III, and obviously in violation of the Fourth Amendment. p.31
The President of the United States, a creature of the same Constitution which gave us these Amendments, has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders as required by FISA, and accordingly has violated the First Amendment rights of these plaintiffs as well. p.33
The secret authorization orders must ... fall. They violate the Separation of Powers ordained by the very Constitution of which this President is a creature. p.37
There's more, but I think you get the point.

Certainly, George W. Bush isn't the first President to break laws. The last person to break as many (Nixon) resigned before he could be impeached. That era also encompassed the national hangover of the Vietnam War (a lesson by which we have steadfastly refused to be instructed). But all of this is simply prelude:

Republicans believe that committing adultery and then lying about it to a Grand Jury are impeachable offenses. Those offenses were exposed by a long, expensive and comprehensive investigation. If a long, expensive and comprehensive investigation of the Bush Executive reveals an illegal war begun on deliberately falsified or misrepresented 'intelligence,' surely that is impeachable as well. If a long, expensive and comprehensive investigate reveals the willful disregard of a law enacted by Congress and the concomitant violation of the First and Fourth Amendment protections of any group of American citizens, surely that is impeachable as well. If a long, expensive and comprehensive investigation reveals the willful "outing" of an undercover CIA agent for political advantage, surely that is impeachable, as well.

But why bother? Democrats have taken control of the House of Representative and worked a functional tie in the Senate. If they can push forward even a moderate slate of decent legislation (itself not certain) and continue to lead on the reformation of policy regarding the Middle East, should not they simply be content to marshall small victories in the hope of taking the Presidency and solidifying a hold on the Senate in 2008? Shouldn't they simply be satisfied that Things Are Changing and not drag the country through the morass and expense of endless hearings? "Let this sad chapter recede into the past," says Reasonable Pundit (by which I mean the lapdog press).

No. No, and a thousand times, no.

To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to deemphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but and ideological choice. It serves -- unwittingly -- to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress...that is still with us.

...The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest.... And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.

...My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present.

Howard Zinn, The Twentieth Century

So long as George Bush lives, we are in the present. So long as Rumsfeld and Cheney breathe, we are in the present. So long as the Project for the New American Century has a membership, we are in the present. As long as our Soldiers' children mourn their parents, we are in the present. And until the people of Middle East have a memory of America, we are in the present.

I could spend many days cataloguing what The United States of America has lost in the years since 9/12/01. It will take decades to get it back, if we do. But the one thing we have always claimed to value is our sense of justice as expressed by our laws and embedded in our founding documents. Transparency, open government, "checks and balances." When a crime is committed, a criminal is tried. If he's guilty, we convict and punish him according to the law, not the mob. It is time for a check. It is time for a balance.

"In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners." We cannot allow the misdeeds of the last five years to go un-examined. We can't just move on and not bother to look. Adults take responsibility--that's the only thing that separates them from kids. And if, when we look, we find a crime, then we must impeach, indict and convict. Simple. Really, it is.

But simple does not mean easy. I have argued elsewhere that the US should not leave Iraq. In answering criticsm of that diary, I said:
There have been a few comments on this thread about whether we ... bear any moral responsibility for what was pretty clearly a Bushadmin-generated war.

...My response to that is, yes. Of course we do. As long as we want to continue to consider ourselves members of this Nation, we bear joint responsibility for everything our country does. That's what makes it so painful. Not just empathy for the victims, but shame as a part of the perpetrator.

...I can't believe (or stand) what we have become. But so long as I believe this form of governance can work (and that's not an unwavering faith these days) then I have to work to see that WE do what I think is right. I try to get people to agree with me. I try to own, to the extent I can, the actions of the people that I helped elect. I never voted for W. But We did. I never invaded Iraq. But We did.

Just as every Iraqi is not Saddam, every American is not W. But because we have a representative democracy, I feel an obligation to try to correct the damage that We have caused. Because not every one of us is a perpetrator, then we can collectively take responsibility even when a crime has been committed in our name.

One of the most beautiful characteristics of the United States that I was raised to believe in is that it has a true body politic. I just saw a local artist get elected to city council. On a budget of about 2 cents and a fist full of notecards Carol Shea-Porter upset Jeb Bradley. He didn't even see it coming. When it functions correctly, we run it. A John Edwards was fond of saying, the son of a millworker really can go on to run for President. Even today. It isn't an oligarchy yet.

But even most conservatives understand that the margin is thin. In the past five years we've come as close as ever before to a nation run by and for the benefit of the very rich. From the drafting of energy policy, to the tax system, to the war, to the social security debate, to NCLB every decision has been made to consolidate power away from the artist on the corner, the history teacher, the farmer. To maintain the fiction that every big move, every sweeping gesture was required by a "Global War on Terror," laws were broken. But so was the public contract.

Government serves the people. That is its sole duty. If the last five years can be explained or ignored with the cynical resignation urging, "The government is corrupt, always has been, always will be," then we really are at the end of the Pax Americana and at the beginning of a new era. In that era, we will be small. Not in might, but in action and conviction and esteem.

It is hard to discuss our duty to our government (and its to us) without lofting phrases like an enraptured preacher. Perhaps that's why the far-right wing of Protestant Christianity has done so well by merging politics with faith. It's because the USA really is nothing more than an idea, a vision. There is nothing concrete that you can grab onto and thereby hold America. We just wrote down a bunch of really good ideas. Then we said, "There. Believe in that, defend that, and you can be a United States Citizen."

Repeatedly fail to defend and enforce those ideas within that community, and over time, without realizing it perhaps, they all begin to ring hollow. Lie to others if you must. Lie to yourself? Hand the gun to your enemy. No one official in the United States is handed a greater amount of trust than the President. Violation of that trust by the President is the greatest crime against us as a people: no one can harm us but us.

The rule of law is about to go down to political expedience. And not at the hands of the President, but at the hands of the only people in the country who have the ability to do anything about it. Unless we believe the Constitution should have no force, unless its only purpose was to gull the hoi polloi and keep us happy in our chains, then investigation, impeachment and conviction is the only moral act.

If you believe in this, if you defend this.

This file is by way of keeping the discussion on the table.

Cross-posted at Booman Tribune.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Patriots 27 Detriot 21

This game was like a bad case of diarrhea. Just when you thought things were about to improve, you were shitting yourself again. If you read the reports or look at the box score, you'll get part of the story: 10 Patriots penalties, 3 Patriot turnovers, a safety surrendered to a 2-9 Detroit team.

The rest of the story? It was even worse than it looked. Kitna, the Lions' QB, made our defensive secondary look every bit as bad as it is. Consistently hitting receivers over the middle and using well-timed screen plays he made the Pats look like a high-school team. They complied, playing like a bunch of freshmen. After a week of practice where their coach reportedly harped on mental errors, they gave up a first down via an offsides on a punt. On a punt? Seriously guys, what the hell is that?

Watson coughed it up again, and Brady had a straight give-away interception. Only the fact that we were playing the Lions bailed us out. 15 points in the fourth quarter bailed us out. Screens and quick-dump passes to Kevin Faulk keying two late drives for points combined with a timely strip-sack of Kitna by otherwise quiet Rosey Colvin (recovered by Mike Wright) delivered us the game. It was not a performance that inspired much confidence heading into the stretch run of the season--a run that includes away games against the Dolphins (who always seem to play us tough) and the resurgent Titans, who just topped off the Colts today and are playing energized ball under emerging star Vince Young.

Only two highlights worth recording. Reche Caldwell continues to thrive in his relationship with Brady. He caught 8 passes for 112 yards, including a stretch in the first half where he provided 5 of the 6 receptions on a 18-play scoring drive.

The other highlight of the day was the standout play of defensive end Ty Warren (pictured, celebrating on the ground). Featured by the Boston Globe in this nice profile by Jackie MacMullen, he was all over the field, and made himself a home in Detroit's backfield. 10 tackles, 8 solo, and two sacks. When a defensive lineman in a 3-4 is causing that kind of statistical disruption, you know he's having a monster day. And Warren certainly did. If only we could get Jackie to profile the guy every week!

Up next: Miami.

(Photo (c) Boston Globe)

Saturday, December 2, 2006

IRV. Watch this space.

Buy your ex-rep a beer. It might get you into a decent conversation.

I was down at my local tonight (Ruski's) getting the final touches put on a nice warm feeling of EtOH inebriation and found John Eder (G) in a corner with some friends. I sent him a pint of PBR and earned myself a fine conversation on the potential benefits of Instant Run-off Voting (a system I heartily endorse).

Sadly, John was edged out in a fierce campaign by a local Dem (ah, the heart aches). But one of the things we chatted about was the general virtue of IRV. Watch this space for an entry that I hope will be as elucidating as my evening was inebreating.

(It took me about five minutes to type this. A good night.)

Friday, December 1, 2006

Tom Allen Officially Under Assault

According to the West End News (a small but usually accurate publication), Ethan Strimling has kick-started his campaign for Allen's seat:
Portland State Senator Ethan King Strimling has begun his campaign to run for the United States Congress. Strimling's campaign group met for the first time on November 8th, just eight days after Strimling won re-election to his third term in the Maine State Senate.
..."It's up and running," said Sive Neilan, Chair of the Portland Democratic City Committee, who praised Strimling's organization. "He's going to be the one to beat."

The District I seat in Congress is currently held by Congressman Tom Allen, who is expected to run for the US Senate in 2008 against Senator Susan Collins, but who has made no official announcement.

I don't know who the WEN people know, so this line has a bit of the "some say" vibe to it. (As in, "some say the terrorists have been rooting for a Democratic victory this year." Oh yeah? Who exactly said that? "Oh, you know. Some.") But it also seems concievable, especially to those of us who are already reading and writing posts like this one.

I think Allen would be smart to go after Collins, though he's a bit more in the DLC mold than I would like. Ok, a lot more. I'm reasonably sure that he was a Steny Hoyer supporter, for example. (That's but a small shred of evidence, however, as I can think of lots of reasons for favoring Hoyer over Murtha--tactical as well as prinicpled.) And folks have remarked on seening Allen in the second district a bit more, lately. Although I heard alot of that talk a couple of years ago, when some people thought he would challenge Snowe. If he eschewed that run to aim at Collins instead, that seems shrewd.

But this does raise the comprehensive victory/control issue. If Allen does pursue Collins, a new Democratic candidate needs to take his place in the House. I think Strimling would be an excellent choice. According to the WEN:
Strimling is the Director of Portland West, and Board President of A Rising Tide, a training program for young people (under 35) interested in politics. Newly-elected West End School Committee member Robert O'Brien is a graduate of the program.
I've been more than happy to cast my ballot for Strimling twice in the past. As his record indicates, he's a man intimately connected with the community in which he serves. Portland West also has the distinction in Maine of working closely with a minority immigrant population and its offices have been a focal point of community building on Brackett Street for some time. Newly elected city councilman David Marshall sprang from that incubator of community building himself. Strimling has also proven himself an able legislator, pushing though legislation that benefits alternative energy, enhances protection for victims of domestic violence, aids immigrants--straight progress policy. He's even delved into international affairs, drafting legislation that would require the State of Maine to divest from Sudan.

So, even if Allen doesn't jump after Collins (which he should), Strimling will give him a run for his money. According to WEN, former State Senator Michael Brennan and for State House Speaker John Richardson are also expected to challenge Allen. At least, "that's what some say."

Cross-posted at TurnMaineBlue.com

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

First Pats Post

It's been too long since the game--my apologies. If you're reading this at all, then you know the Pats overcame the Bears on Sunday, 17-13, at home. Highlights include the new FieldTurf, our rookie placekicker hitting a career long 53 yarder, terrible officiating and a drive-sustaining scramble by Brady, and the loss for the season (and possibly ever) of linebacking great, Junior Seau.

First, a word about the Bears:


OK, more than a word. IMO, the Bears have been overrated from the beginning of the season and as that season wears on, we're beginning to see why. Rex Grossman is not up to the task. Normally this isn't a problem because they play in the NFC Central...err, North, and they can generally get the points they need with their running game. But against superior competition (and believe me, that does not yet include the Pats) they need to be able to complete passes. There were numerous opportunities this past Sunday (including the game-ending interception) where wide open receivers were missed. He's a leader, but not a performer. That's going to hurt them in the playoffs.

"But Jim!" I hear Bears apologists begin, "The Bears are 9 and 2! Their defense is unbeatable, Urlacher is God!" I have this to say about that: So what.

Look at their pathetic excuse for a schedule. The glory days of the NFL's Norris Division have passed. My have they passed. If you can't win 2 against the mighty Green Bay Packers (4-7), the Vikings (5-6) and the Lions (2-9), you can't even be in the conversation. That's at least a 6-win season right there if you do anything but suck. So where did the Bears get their other victories? Try Buffalo (5-6), Arizona (2-9), San Francisco (5-6), New Jersey B (6-5), New Jersey A (6-5), and Seattle (a soft 7-4). Res Ipsa Loquitor with respect to all but Seattle and Jersey A.

If you've been watching Jersey A, though, you'll have noted the tell-tale signs of a Coughlin implosion. They're 0 for their last 3 and falling fast. The rest of the NFC east should be sending thank-you notes to the Mara family for keeping this guy around. Hell, Bill Parcells should personally send them a bouquet of roses with TO's sharpied autograph. And Seattle? Lost. When they got rid of McKinnie, they lost their mojo. It's as simple as that, and all the Deion Branches in the world can't change that. Detroit, Arizona, Oakland and Green Bay account for four of Seattle's their 7 wins, and that Green Bay game was very nearly a debacle. I predict that Denver will dismantle them this week, even with a rookie at quarterback.

Hell the Bears even lost to Miami (5-6). Consider that their only two losses both came against teams from the AFC East. The East was a beast, but now it's the least. With Miami and Buffalo too inconsistent to be threats and the Jets (though showing signs of life) charging too late, the Pats practically sewed it up last week. And we ain't great. The holes in the defensive backfield have been huge all season. If Favre was 1/2 the QB he used to be, he would have lit us up. (Actually, the travelling car-wreck that is Brett Favre probably deserves its own entry. Stay tuned.) Grossman found those holes early (particularly with passes to B. Berrian--god could we use someone like him), but he couldn't do it consistently. It was a game we should have won, and did. I predict the Bears to go 1 and out in the playoffs. Sorry, Chicago, but your boys are a fraud. This year.

On to the Game!

Especially hard-hitting, especially fun to watch. The Pats turned it over 5 times, though. As Ron Borges noted in his piece for the Boston Globe, 5 turnovers usually denotes a sloppy game, but in this case you can also credit the hard hitting. If they do anything well, Chicago hawks the ball like no other team in the NFL. Only one of those five, a high-and-behind pass from Brady, was a pure give-away. Unlike Borges, though, I won't let my guys off the hook that easily. Maroney, Watson and Caldwell were all cleanly stripped. That's lack of focus, plain and simple. In Watson's case it's a double-whammy: He was rocked earlier in the game and gave it up, so should have had ample extra incentive to hang on (not that he needs any).

As he has been all season, Brady was less than crisp. I'm happy to give him some leeway since we picked up most of our receivers at a yard sale last week, but he's pressing a bit. He missed several open guys, as he did in the Packers game. That said, he remains a general. On a critical, clock-crunching 6:32 drive in the fourth quarter the Pats faced their third and most crucial third-down conversion opportunity. Dropping back to pass, Brady sighted down his progression but found no open pass-catcher. So he ran it. Urlacher waiting in the middle of the field, as middle linebackers are wont to do. Never to be mistaken for Barry Sanders, Brady nevertheless pulled out his one move, leg-faked 54 (pictured) and slid in safely. He rewarded the fans with a brassy display of emotion, popping up and emphatically signally the first down. Crowd roars, Pats go on to a TD (Brady to Watson on a nifty play-action throwback that was nearly too short), game, essentially, over.

The real spot on the game for me was the officiating. Fans around the league will agree that officiating has deteriorated mightily within the past year, with the serious rot starting to show around the time the Steelers and the Seahawks began making their way to the Superbowl. Against the Patriots, two clearly noxious deep-field pass interference calls were made. Amounting to 75 yards -- 1/4 of Chicago's total -- these penalties each aided a scoring drive and resulted in 10 points. Even a Bears fan, in her more honest moments, will have to admit that the second call was especially egregious. The DB had position relative to the pass, looked back for the ball and even had a shot at catching it. It was, upon review, one of the more elegant displays of the defensive art you're likely to see. In a word: perfect. Yet, somehow, illegal.

Finally, a sad bit of news. Linebacking legend Junior Seau may be done for good. Making a tackle behind the line in the second quarter (pictured), Seau's right arm was guillotined between the pistoning heels of tailback Cedric Strait as Strait struggled to pull away. In a sight reminiscent of Bengal tackle Tim Krumrie's Superbowl XXIII injury, Seau's arm was seen to flop unnaturally below the elbow as the veteran hunched on the new turf. Seau will be out for the season. If it proves to have been his last game, the 17 year veteran will leave behind a legacy of toughness and excellence that should guarantee him a bust in Canton. The football gods mourn.

This week we welcome the "fierce" Lions of Detroit to the Big Razor. Roar.

All Patriots v. Bears photos (c) Boston Globe.

I'm shocked, SHOCKED

With apologies to Claude Rains, we are "Shocked, shocked, to discover gambling going on in here!"

Your winnings, sir:

...[A] social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush.

...The thesis draws on a survey of 69 psychiatric outpatients in three Connecticut locations during the 2004 presidential election. Lohse’s study, backed by SCSU Psychology professor Jaak Rakfeldt and statistician Misty Ginacola, found a correlation between the severity of a person’s psychosis and their preferences for president: The more psychotic the voter, the more likely they were to vote for Bush.

The study was an advocacy project of sorts, designed to register mentally ill voters and encourage them to go to the polls, Lohse explains. The Bush trend was revealed later on.

Finally, as if that weren't enough:
“Bush supporters had significantly less knowledge about current issues, government and politics than those who supported Kerry,” the study says.

What can I say? It's nice when you have science to back up your hunches...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Home for the holiday

...in which I dive once more into that labrynth of competing neuroses some people call "family."

My supply of charity for some of the people that I've known all my life is dwindling precipitously, as is that charity for those who find themselves unwittingly thrust into the space between that hammer and that anvil. Each of them threatens to impinge on my comfort and my selfish self-centeredness admits only of ever shorter such infractions.

Follow? I'm not looking forward to this.

I suppose every family has a straw that stirs the proverbial drink. I'm the only one in my family, however, that is still allowing himself to be affected by our personal straw. So others look on bemusedly as I blow circuit after circuit on my way to a personal hell. Or at least the bottom of another glass.

This year's Thanksgiving promises to be a richer stew than ever. Accompanying me on my two-hour drive to the parent's house will be my girlfriend, her mother, her iconoclastic brother. At the parent's house (in addition to the parents) we will find my sister and brother-in-law (islands of sanity), my personal straw, a lately divorced ex-corporate big-wig friend of the parents, a recently divorced housewife friend of Mom, Mom's certifiably neurotic partially estranged and senile queen-bee biological mother, and one high-strung ill-behaved golden retriever.

On the plus side, I think I successfully pulled off my first-ever apple and pumpkin pies (complete with homemade crust).

Wish me luck, and I wish you the same.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Joe Sucks, but Snowe won't go

So. There's been a fair amount of bloviating in the liberal blogosphere about the possibility that Joe Leiberman (CFL-CT) may caucus with the GoP. Some people out there seem to think there's a possibility that one of the more "moderate" senators from the GoP might be persuaded to cross the aisle and caucus with the Dems -- much in the mold of the Vermont Independent, Jim Jeffords.

Some of that speculation has centered on Maine's two "moderate" senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Well, folks, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that ain't happening. Check out this story on Snowe and Collins I originally posted on Dailykos for a rundown on why.

One caveat--in the original story I wrote that Snowe voted against Alito. Not true. But the rest of it is good and, I think, correct.

The upshot, from my point of view, of these mid-terms is that as progressives we've effectively doubled our workload: we've got to ride herd on both the majority and the executive now, not just the GoP. Things have just gotten started.

Opening Remarks.

Welcome friends and supporters of the Project for a New American Century.

Just kidding. (Oh, by the way, great work on that war-thing, fellas. It's really working out well.)

First post on perhaps the 15,978th new blog started in the United States this week. I've no grand plans for it. My girlfriend is simply tired of hearing my opinions so I've found a new outlet.

The main items are listed: progressive politics when I am so moved, personal gripes most of the rest of the time and the Patriots when they do something to deserve it. Like, play.

Other than that, what you see will be what to expect. Cheers.