Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ruminations on Campaign Advertising

In the original Manchurian Candidate, Raymond Shaw, played by Laurence Harvey, says:

"Have you noticed that the human race is divided into two distinct, irreconcilable groups? Those who walk into rooms and automatically turn television sets on, and those who walk into rooms and automatically turn them off. You know, the problem is, they usually marry each other."
This has certainly proven true in my life. I am the former, while my wife is the latter. I'm trying to moderate my viewing habits, but more often than not the television ends up on in our house, if only as background noise.

You would think that with the TV on so frequently, I would be inundated with campaign ads from Kerry Healey, Tom Reilly, and Chris Gabrieli, the three candidates for governor who have gone on the air. Certainly, in May it felt like I couldn't turn my head without seeing Gabrieli on TV. Still, the thing of it is, I've hardly seen any of them. I think I've seen them more often on the news being discussed than when they actually paid for them to be shown.

Maybe it's because it's summer and I'm going outside more, or because there's absolutely nothing worth watching. I think that's part of it. It's harder to predict what people are going to be watching when everything on is crap. (Again, my wife disagrees.) Still, it got me thinking about the future of campaign advertising.

It used to be that there were only a handful of channels, so buying ads was easy. Now, there are hundreds of channels, so the audience is more diluted. While most individual network shows beat any individual cable show in the ratings, when taken as a whole, cable is a significant portion of the viewing audience. The advantage, of course, of this dilution is that you can target your ads to specific groups by advertising on a station that caters to them. This was something that President Bush did in 2004, but I don't think any of the gubernatorial candidates have attempted in Massachusetts.

The other thing that may change political advertisements is the change in the way we get our TV. For instance, as Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) like TiVo or on-demand services become more popular or more people start getting their TV shows over the Internet or on their iPods, it's going to become more difficult for candidates to reach viewers. Product advertisers don't necessarily have the same difficulties, because they can always partner with content providers. For instance, The Apprentice is just an hour long commercial for Donald Trump and whatever sponsor the contestants have to shill for that week. A candidate does not have the luxury of product placement, unless he or she goes on talk shows. The way to stop people from fast-forwarding through your ad is to make it more interesting. From what I've seen so far, the candidates here have a lot to work on in that regard.

One of the more innovative things a candidate has done with media so far this year was when Democratic Lieutenant Governor Candidate Andrea Silbert posted her campaign video on Comcast's On Demand in July. I'm curious as to how many people actually watched it. It reportedly only cost the campaign $3,900 -- a tiny fraction of what a real media buy would cost -- and I wonder what the final cost-per-viewer ratio turned out to be. My hunch is that few people bothered to watch, but perhaps as on-demand services become more widespread more candidates will turn to this method.

Don't get me wrong, TV ad buys are still a huge part of any political campaign. In the future, though, the candidates who first adapt to technology changes will have the advantage.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Memo: Ceiling Panels Determined to Strike in Tunnel

The Boston Globe has now got a copy of a 1999 memo warning about the bolt-and-epoxy system that held the concrete ceiling panels in place in the I-90 connector tunnel. The memo, written by the on-site safety officer, expressed the concerns of the workers to officials at Modern Continental, the company overseeing that part of the project. The memo noted that the weight of the ceiling panels was "excessive" without additional reinforcement and warns that someone could end up killed. From the memo (emphasis added):

Should any innocent State Worker or member of the Public be seriously injured or even worse killed as a result, I feel that this would be something that would reflect Mentally and Emotionally upon me, and all who are trying to construct a quality Project.

I know my concerns should only be for those who work here but somehow I feel I need to pass on what everyone down here appears to be thinking.
The last line is what disturbs me the most. Despite the fact that workers on the site were skeptical of the design, nothing was done. This whole situation is revealed to be another one of those Big Dig open secrets that everyone knows but no one does anything about.

Author of the memo, John J. Keaveney, told the Globe that he started asking questions after he invited a third-grade class from Norwood to tour the Big Dig site. A little girl asked him if the bolts would hold up the concrete. He told them they would, but started thinking more critically about they design at that point.

If there ever is an independent investigation, I think that we should add this to their final recommendations: Every project from now on must justify all design decisions to a panel of third-graders. If any of them say "that's stupid," the project is off. Anything that you can't explain to a nine year old is probably too complicated to work anyway.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More On the Ward Commission

The Globe's Sunday Ideas section had three pieces related to the Big Dig and its political history that I found very interesting. A lot of the discussion lately has been about bolts and epoxy and duct tape, but I'm not a structural engineer, so I feel like I can't add anything to that. I've been accused of being a software engineer, and in fact the current situation reminds me of the old joke: When an engineer builds a bridge, he specs everything out first, makes sure the design is robust and when the bridge is built, it's ready for cars to cross it. If a software developer built a bridge, he'd immediately start building, and when he thought it was done he'd send a few test cars across. If it failed, he'd fix only where it failed and try again. Once enough test cars crossed, he'd ship it (patches, of course, forthcoming). Hmm, maybe the CA/Tastrophe was done by software types after all....

But back to the Globe. The first piece, by Robert Keough of MassINC, details the revolving door at the head of the Big Dig since its inception. I have a hard time taking any column that describes former MassPike head Jim Kerasiotes as "incorruptible" considering that he hid $1.4 billion of Big Dig cost overruns and had to settle with the SEC to avoid prosecution, but that's a minor quibble. Keough doesn't exactly make the case that no one was held accountable because of the constant turnover in leadership and responsibility, but it certainly can be argued that a lack of continuity at the top did not help matters any.

The other two pieces are on the Ward Commission, which investigated corruption in Massachusetts construction projects over twenty five years ago. Dave Denison asks if the lessons of the Ward Commission can be applied today and examines what made the commission different:

The Ward Commission was given real power-to subpoena records, to grant immunity to witnesses, to hold public and private hearings, and to refer cases for prosecution. Telling the straight story about how things went wrong was only the beginning. "The main point was to get laws changed," says [Nick] Littlefield, [former executive council to the Ward Commission].
What would be the main point of a commission should one be formed today? Personally, while I would like the laws changed to reflect problems that the commission might uncover, what I feel I want most is for someone to be held accountable, and to have the entire process exposed to some sunshine. I basically want what Keough described in his article as "the political history of the Big Dig" to be written. I want to know how "this" happened -- not just the death of Melena Del Valle, but the entire set of problems we've known about and the ones that such a commission will uncover -- so we can know what happened, who is responsible and how to prevent it.

The last column is an opinion piece by Mark Wolf, now a judge, but who worked with then US Attorney Bill Weld in some of the prosecution that followed the Ward Commission's findings. Wolf asks if there's something in our political culture that has caused our history of corruption in construction projects. He asks:
How could a project launched by Dukakis [who appointed the Ward Commission,] and built substantially during Weld's tenure as governor have become so costly and catastrophic? What is there in our political culture concerning public construction that seems more powerful than even the most well-meaning leadership? And in view of the culture of corruption so vividly demonstrated by the Ward Commission in 1980, was enough done to discover, punish, and deter possible abuse while the Big Dig was being built?
Wolf makes a similar call for a commission that has a wider scope than a safety audit that would necessarily focus on the engineering issues. He describes three things any any commission would need: power to investigate possible corruption, capable people at the helm, and "all the resources" it would need to make these discoveries.

We can apply enough political pressure to get a commission created, and maybe even make sure it is funded and has the power it needs. The question remains, is there anyone left in Massachusetts who is both politically savvy enough to take this on and politically independent enough to make sure no responsible party is spared?

Monday, July 24, 2006

At Least There Are No Missiles

Sure, we've got deadly ceiling tiles, but at least no one has yet crashed into a missile on the Turnpike yet. I lived for a while near where this happened, where I-95 meets the Hutch in the Bronx. Everything turned out OK since the missile was just a replica used for training but it had to have been pretty harrowing for the first responders.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What Took Him So Long?

The Globe is giving Romney high marks for his current response to the deadly collapse of the ceiling panel in the I-90 connector tunnel. They point out, in particular, how quickly he's mastered the engineering lingo and how eager he is to appear in front of the cameras. During all this, though, they neglect to mention something that the Phoenix's David Bernstein and Emily Rooney noted yesterday on Greater Boston. That is, if Romney could get up to speed so quickly on the Big Dig now, where was he earlier in his term? It's not as if this latest crisis was the first time during his term that we've been told of a deficiency with the project's construction. Before the ceiling tile fell, there were three other serious problems with the tunnels that were identified while Romney was governor: defective slurry wall panels, substandard concrete, and hundreds of leaks. After each was discovered, Romney did little other than to call for Turnpike Authority Chair Matt Amorello to resign -- as if that would have magically fixed those problems. No doubt, if Amorello had a shred of decency, he would resign and save the public the expense of having his removal fought out by lawyers, but that's a different item all together.

After each of those problems were found, we were told that the tunnels were safe. It took a tragedy to reveal that those reassurances were empty. Where was Romney then? Heck, where was anybody? It's sad that it took a death for people to start taking serious action to review the safety of the project.

This is why we need an independent investigation with a scope greater than what the criminal investigation or other audits can uncover. Yesterday's problem was the slurry wall, today's is the bolts and ceiling panels, what will tomorrow bring? Will anyone believe that there's not something even worse lurking around the corner until a thorough independent and public review is done?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Walsh Calls For Public Hearings

State Senator Marian Walsh (D-West Roxbury) has proposed creating an independent commission, similar to the 1980 Ward Commission which investigated corruption in public construction projects, to try to force Big Dig management to testify under oath and in front of the public. This commission would be apart from the criminal investigations already underway, and I would hope would be wider in scope. While the criminal inquiry would necessarily focus only on events relevant to the death of Milena Del Valle, an independent commission could put everything on the table, from mismanagement to corruption to kickbacks to plain incompetence. Here's how the Globe describes it:

Walsh wants to establish an eight-member committee selected by the governor, attorney general, state treasurer, and state auditor. The panel would be led by a retired state judge and include a layperson with financial expertise, an engineer, an architect, a former prosecutor, and a construction expert. The committee would have the power to subpoena anyone involved in the Big Dig, and would hold public hearings.
This, I think is a necessary step in getting the public bloodletting that many are calling for. A criminal investigation is appropriate, but most of that will go on behind closed doors, and the public may never know what happened if there's not enough evidence to convict anyone. With a public inquiry we might actually get some answers to the questions we all have been asking for years.

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh called for this in his Tuesday column, where he got positive reactions from Attorney General Tom Reilly and former AG Scott Harshbarger, but only a tepid response from House Speaker Sal DiMasi. DiMasi was worried that such a hearing would interfere with the criminal investigation. Well, if Reilly, the guy actually doing the investigation, has no problem with it, I can't see how DiMasi could object unless he's afraid of what such a commission might uncover or whose feathers it might ruffle. The best way for Beacon Hill to regain any of its credibility is to haul everyone and anyone who was ever involved in the Big Dig in front of a camera and microphone to answer tough questions under oath. If that means some current and former politicians have to sweat it out, even better.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Globe's McNamara in Bizarro World

Globe columnist Eileen McNamara writes today that now, with the city paralyzed by gridlock after last week's tunnel collapse is the perfect time to get commuters more interested in investing in public transit. McNamara apparently lives in some kind of Bizarro world where after someone is killed by a poorly managed public works project, the public is ready for another one. From her column:

Skyrocketing gas prices and the collapse of ceiling panels in the Interstate 90 connector could give fresh political impetus to a plan floated last spring by mass transit advocates to invest $2 billion in transportation construction and expansion projects. The money would come from existing tax revenue and new fees on everything from hotels to rental cars.

It sounded implausible in May. But the gridlock of the last week might have cooled the fevered antitax climate that has doomed so many initiatives for the communal good in the past 25 years...
I'm not so sure. I'm afraid that the opposite dynamic will come into play. People are angry, and angry people don't want to put even more money into a new project that could end up causing just as many problems as the CA/Tastrophe. McNamara forgets that residents of the state that do not have to commute into Boston (yes, there are such people) are not going to want to have anything to do with another expensive public works project for a long time. I, for one, would rather sit in my car than give Beacon Hill hacks another opportunity to line their pockets until they can prove to me that they've cleaned up their act. I am certainly no antitax crusader, so if even I am thinking that way, there's no way there's any public appetite for further tranportation investment right now, despite all the gridlock.

It's not about whether extending the Blue line or building the North Station-South Station rail link are good ideas. It's about whether state residents will trust anyone on Beacon Hill to effectively manage and oversee a public works project ever again. After the scandals, inaction and outright lies of the past 15 years, from where I sit the answer is 'not likely'.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hot Enough For You? Just Wait

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary about global warming. Ironically, what got us out of the house to finally see the movie was the fact that our air conditioner is broken. I have to say that I'm glad we did. Everyone should see this movie. It's easy to be skeptical of a film that is largely just former vice president Al Gore just giving a Powerpoint presentation, but somehow it works. Despite Gore's involvement I would not characterize this as a partisan film. Sure, there's a short bit about the 2000 election that I thought was out of place, but other than that, the film is mostly an attempt to answer global warming skeptics in the media and political arenas.

I'm a guy who respects graphs, and when and when he showed those historical trends, even without the projections, I was floored. What really got me, though, was the difference between American auto emission standards (which are very low) and the rest of the world (which has much higher standards, generally). Don't American car companies sell to those international markets? Or at least, don't they want to? I don't understand their resistance to higher standards if it will make it easier for them to sell the same products here and overseas.

It's hard to walk away from that movie without deciding to take at least some action. Our first step is easy. The next air conditioner we get will be energy efficient (as much as air conditioners ever are, at least). While we're at it, we may as well get a programmable thermostat and take a few of the other simple measures they recommend to reduce our CO2 emissions.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tunnel Crisis Interrupting Romney's Me Time

It looks like Governor Mitt Romney will be spending more time in Massachusetts now that he's taken responsibility for managing the aftermath of last week's Big Dig ceiling collapse. Could it be that his trips to Iowa, South Carolina, and other faraway presidential primary states are now on hold? Here's what the Herald had today:

As the man now in charge of deciding when the troubled Big Dig tunnels reopen, Romney vows he's staying put until the job is done: "Surely as long as these lanes are closed and (in) the early days and weeks here, my travel is going to have to be extremely limited," Romney said. "If it remains as such that I need to be here on the site, I will be. I anticipate that I'm going to be here pretty much consistently over this period of re-mediation."
This is the danger of putting Romney in charge of the Big Dig going forward. His priorities are not our priorities. He's already written the script for the next few weeks and months -- handsome governor takes the mismanaged project by the scruff of the neck and whips it into shape to make it safe for everybody. I'm not convinced that he won't alter the facts on the ground to fit that story, no matter what the actual condition of the tunnels is. If he were really interested in the Big Dig and the myriad of well-documented problems, why didn't he do anything sooner? Moreover, since he has no engineering backround, what exactly should we expect him to do now? It seems like the biggest thing he's done is call for Matt Amorello to resign, and he's already been doing that for a long time now.

What I'd like to see is an independent investigation by someone with an engineering background, not a political one. Someone who isn't beholden to either the politicians, the project managers, or South Carolina Primary voters. I'm hopeful that the NTSB investigation can shed some light on whether the tunnels are structurally sound, but I think a full investigation of the entire project -- cost overruns, leaks, skimming off the top, etc -- is long overdue.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Tunnel Stories

Monday night's tunnel collapse that killed Milena Del Valle was one of those "there but for the grace of God go I" moments for most of us in the Boston area. It could have been any of us -- thousands of people use that tunnel every day. I drove my wife to the airport through it on Saturday and was set to drive through again last night to pick her up. If the epoxy held for another 24 hours, it might have been me under that rubble.

But it wasn't me. It was Milena Del Valle, and the Globe has the heart-wrenching story told by her husband, who was driving the car that was crushed and escaped with only minor injuries. My sincere condolences go out to their family. My wife and I have been married for just about four years -- I can't even imagine what I'd do if this had happened to us.

The Herald describes the scene that faced the rescue workers on the pike that night:

"There was a hunk of concrete hanging by a piece of rebar directly above the whole thing," Price said. "It looked like it may have come down on us. It was swinging like a pendulum, probably a 2,000 pound slab just swinging, hanging on by like a bolt."
There are also stories coming out this one (via Universal Hub).
This particular project [a column on the Zakim bridge] made three samples for early breaks. The first test, performed the morning after the column was poured, broke at too low a strength, failing the test. Later that afternoon, the second test was done. It failed. The
following morning, our favorite contractor's rep (the same guy who gave the go-ahead to pour at the airport), showed up with the final sample for testing. This cylinder also failed with a low break-strength. The concrete tech (my husband) wrote the break-strength numbers on his report and gave a copy to the contractor.

Immediately, the contractor's rep called the job site, informed his men that the test had passed and that it was safe to strip off the forms. Erasing the failed break-strengths on the report, he wrote in the numbers he wanted to see, and faxed the report to the site.
This is not a new story. We've been hearing whispers and accusations now practically since the project began. Not just the cost overruns and the skimming off the top, but actual questions about the workmanship. That it may have taken someone's death for us to get some action on these known problems is an outrage.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Those Darn Activist Judges!

Yesterday, in a unanimous decision, the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court gave final approval to the ballot initiative that would ban all further same-sex marriages in Massachusetts. The short version of the argument was that the petition did not constitute an unconstitutional reversal of a court decision because even if it were approved, the Goodridges, et al, would still be married -- though no further gay and lesbian couples would be able to do likewise.

I'll repeat what I said at the time. It never really mattered which way Tom Reilly decided on the certification of the ballot initiative. If he had gone the other way, anti-marriage groups would have appealed, been able to collect their signatures anyway, and we'd still be where we are today. Keep in mind that Reilly made his decision before last year's Constitutional Convention, where the Travaglini-Lees civil union compromise amendment failed largely because opponents knew that this more restrictive amendment was going forward. It's not impossible that, had Reilly struck down the petition, that we'd be voting on marriage equality this year instead of (potentially) 2008.

That being said, the question now goes to a vote tomorrow before a joint session of the legislature. The measure requires a mere 50 votes out of 200 this year and next before it can go to the voters in 2008. There is talk that the legislature will use procedural maneuvers to prevent the measure from going to a vote -- as it has on other issues in the past. While folks like like Scot Lehigh and Jon Keller tell us all how terrible it would be if the ban was blocked without a vote, I'm not so sure. I respect the process, but the SJC has admitted that it cannot force the legislature to vote on anything. If there's no enforcement possible, is there really an obligation to vote? I for one will shed no tears if the amendment is killed without coming to a vote.

While I'm hopeful that supporters of marriage equality will be victorious should it come to a vote, I don't think anyone should underestimate the organization of anti-marriage groups, particularly those coming in from out-of-state. They are going to spend money and resources like it's the end of the world (which some of them may actually believe). On the other hand, many people don't particularly care whether gays and lesbians are able to get married. Will they be motivated to go to the polls to vote against the ban? A well-funded, organized minority can certainly triumph on election day, even if a majority of the entire populace disagrees with them.

Jeff Jacoby: Wrong Again

Now, I know that if I had to post every time Jeff Jacoby was wrong about something, I'd probably end up spending more time in front of the computer. Still, I feel like I have to respond to his latest post on the Boston Globe's Thinking Politics -- their 'opinion blog' (whatever that means). Here's what Jacoby has to say:

Shouldn't John Kerry's new policy of "endorsing only candidates in contested primaries who are veterans," as the Globe's Rick Klein reported last week, be getting a bit more scrutiny? After all, a veterans-only rule would tend to rule out women, gays, and the handicapped.
The funniest part of this is that Kerry had, in fact, endorsed Tammy Duckworth for Congress in Illinois in her March primary (she won by 200 or so votes in a low-turnout election). Duckworth is not only a veteran, but also a woman, and she lost her legs in a helicopter explosion in Iraq. Maybe in Jacoby's world, there are no female veterans, and none are ever wounded in the course of their duty, but I've suspected for some time now that Jacoby does not live in the same reality that the rest of us inhabit.

You would think that someone who talks about how Kerry's primary endorsements should be getting 'more scrutiny' would bother to actually check who Kerry endorsed before complaining about how sexist and ableist the Senator might be.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Patrick Leads First State House News Poll

Holy cow. The State House News has released the internals and the executive summary of their bi-monthly poll, and the results are a big surprise. For the first time in that poll, not only does Democratic candidate Deval Patrick lead the primary, but also polls the highest against Republican Kerry Healey.

The usual caveats apply to the Statehouse News poll. It's a poll of residents, so by the time you drill down to registered Democratic primary voters, the sample size is much smaller and the margins of error are much higher. Still, it's valuable to look at the trends -- and they continue to be bad for Attorney General Tom Reilly. Here are the results of the poll since January.

Reilly has lost 40 points in this poll since the beginning of the year. He may end up winning the primary after all is said and done, but this trend has been fairly steady and replicated in almost every poll done over the course of the year.

Here are the results for the general election, with the May Results in parentheses.
 Chris GabrieliDeval PatrickTom Reilly
Kerry Healey30.30%(31.2%)30.50%(31.1%)31.30%(29.9%)
Christy Mihos9.20%(10.4%)9.30%(14.5%)12.60%(12.9%)
Grace Ross3.10%(NA)1.70%(NA)3.20%(NA)
Don't Know11.40%(15.2%)11.40%(17.4%)10.60%(13.0%)

Notice again the big jump for Deval Patrick since May. Patrick beats Kerry Healey for the first time in this poll since January -- before Christy Mihos and Chris Gabrieli were poll options. The other candidates remain mostly unchanged.

The poll also asked about the most important problem facing Massachusetts today. Here are the results of that, sorted by the response of the unenrolled voters, with "other" and "don't know" removed:
Health care7.40%8.20%8.40%1.80%
The economy6.50%5.30%8.30%1.80%
Affordable housing5.70%4.10%7.50%3.80%

I'm not surprised to see "taxes" as the number one issue, though "education" -- often a top contender -- is number two among independents. I'm wondering if the recent discussions of the state budget, which have largely focused on state spending, have moved taxes to the forefront of the voters' minds. Still, I can't help but feel that it's the property tax that hurts more than the state income tax. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the tax issue is just about the rollback. There's a whole package of taxes and fees that people have to pay, and unlike the payroll tax, those are things you actually have to make out a check for. It's also about trust. Will voters trust a Democrat to lower their taxes, no matter what he says his position is? That's the danger whether you're talking about lowering the income tax rate to 5.0% or lowering the property taxes -- will voters believe it? On top of that, the legislature is viewed unfavorably by two-thirds of the population. Does it even matter what a gubernatorial candidate says about taxes if people think the legislature is unlikely to do anything about them?

Monday Morning Catch-Up

Sorry for the absence this past week, but I felt like I needed a little blog vacation to go with my real-world vacation. I have recovered from the numerous needle-stick injuries I received in New York, and just wanted to quickly point out some things that I didn't get a chance to last week.

  • Monitor Profiles Mihos' Ad Man: The Christian Science Monitor had a profile of Bill Hillsman last week. Hillsman is doing ads not only for independent gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos, but also is working for underdog candidates like Kinky Friedman in Texas and Ned Lamont in Connecticut. He's won awards for the work he did on successful campaigns in Minnesota, particularly the election of the late Senator Paul Wellstone and wrestler-turned-Governor Jesse Ventura.

  • Mihos Comes to town: Speaking of Christy Mihos, he was in Watertown recently, just a short walk from the .08 Acre homestead, working the Greek festival for votes. The Globe notes that reaction to Mihos here in Tom Reilly's hometown was mixed.

  • Dunklebarger vs. Lynch: Last weeks Phoenix had the first in-depth story I've seen on Phil Dunklebarger's primary challenge to Steve Lynch in the Ninth Congressional district. The article notes that Dunklebarger blames lack of media coverage of the race for the fact that few people know about his candidacy. These days, though, it's never been easier for candidates to make their own media coverage. If the TV stations won't cover your stump speech, record it yourself, slap it up on the Internet (Youtube will do it for free, even!) and email it to your supporters, bloggers and reporters. Post it to sites like Universal Hub and Blue Mass. Group. An Internet buzz might not reach everyone in the ninth, but it may cause more traditional media outlets to start paying attention.

  • Question of the Day: Can Kerry Healey point to a single instance where she influenced Mitt Romney's decision to veto or not veto anything? The Herald's Wayne Woodlief noted last week that the Lieutenant Governor has yet to demonstrate her political independence from Mitt. What struck me about that column, though, was how Healey refused to comment on whether or not she 'counseled' the governor to refrain from vetoing money in the budget for a work-force training program. Healey said she wouldn't have vetoed it, but when reporter Janet Wu asked her if she gave her opinion to the governor, Healey declined to answer. (via Kerry Healey -- Out of Touch)

  • Play Nice or Else!: The Mass Dems have created a watchdog panel to monitor their candidates for negative campaign ads as the primary season heats up. Candidates Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli are withholding their judgment, but a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Reilly noted that this was something he'd expect from a "good government group" and not a state party. Personally, I'd like the Democratic party to stand for good government, but that's another issue. The problem, of course, is figuring out exactly what constitutes a negative ad, which is why this effort could devolve into typical intraparty bickering. I'm hopeful, though, that candidates will eschew negative advertising. While it does often work, it does so by driving down turnout. The Democrats cannot afford to have more people sitting at home during this year's election, and if we can get people out in September, we're more likely to keep them in November.

  • State GOP Losing Dough: The Herald reports today that the Mass GOP spent $50,648.84 more than it took in this past quarter. During the same period, the state Democrats netted $397,438.90. Of course, this won't matter for the gubernatorial race, which will be funded on the Republican side by AMG, but it shows how little support Republican legislative candidates can expect from their state party.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July!

I've been spending the weekend away from the Bay State in the ancestral homeland up in the Adirondacks of New York. Despite what Kerry Healey and others might say, even though it's legal in New York to sell hypodermic needles over the counter at a drug store, I did not have to wade through a pile of syringes to get here. In fact, I actually went to a CVS, and there were no hoards of junkies clamoring to get through the door. The cashiers and pharmacists did not live in constant fear of needle attacks. In fact, I would say that the only difference between the CVS I went to here and one in the Boston area is that you can't buy Red Sox caps around these parts. While that might seem like a horrible dystopia to some of you, I don't think it has anything to do with the availablity of clean syringes.