Archive (2009)

It's What You Do, Not Who You Are

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post critical of the Smugtown Beacon. Philip at Stop the Cap wrote a takedown of the same post. I contacted the publisher of the Beacon to see if he had a response to either of us, but he refused to engage on the issue on the grounds that I'm an anonymous blogger.

Smugtown's position on anonymity is detailed in this post by Aaron Wicks. Wicks says that "we find most blogs (the anonymous ones, at least) to be accountable to no one", and that "we always strive to be as blunt and honest about what we observe and conclude". Wicks argues in that post that Smugtown is more trustworthy because it's possible to contact the authors of the post in real life. He says that efforts of anonymous bloggers are "akin to a whispering campaign by Klan members or Nazis".

I disagree, but instead of giving an abstract argument, I'll use a couple of Wicks' posts from the Beacon to illustrate that, despite using his real name, he's been less than transparent with his readers. Begin with this Wicks post, titled "As Summer Approaches, The Grassroots Grow ... Angrier". Wicks says that he has a "personal bias toward more political competition rather than less" and warns that "it does appear that there is objective evidence that the leadership of the Democratic party in Rochester is in for a bumpy ride over the next several weeks."

In a post this month, Wicks' prediction of a bumpy ride seems to have come true. Titled "With Friends Like These ... Dems Implode in LD21", the post details a primary challenge filed by Jan Bowers in Monroe County LD-21. Wicks makes fun of Democratic leadership for having to scramble to get some petitions filled. He ends his post on this note:

The good news? Someone who is willing to work hard and who has a handful of solid supporters can still compete with an established political party. Competition is a wonderful thing in a democracy. Democrats in LD21 learnt this recently (and may yet learn more such lessons).

Wicks is clearly trying to establish a narrative of a grassroots Democratic uprising in Rochester, and his posts make it sound like he was simply a witness to these events. The truth of the matter is that Wicks was a participant in the LD-21 petition drive, and it wasn't a Democratic uprising. According to City Newspaper, "There's one aspect of Janice Bowers' candidacy and campaign that Democrats have been quick to draw attention to: the majority of her petitions were passed by Republican operatives." According to Moonbat over Monroe, Wicks himself circulated petitions for Jan Bowers in LD-21. I contacted John Locke, who writes Moonbat, to confirm his story. Though he's clearly a partisan, he seems to get his facts straight, and he confirms that he saw those petitions himself.

None of this was disclosed by Wicks in his posts. In an earlier post on the site, Wicks does reveal that he worked for Jan Bowers' husband on a 2007 campaign, but there's no mention of his earlier relationship with the Bowers in his current work.

If I started reading the Smugtown Beacon in June and trusted that Aaron Wicks to give me the facts on the Democratic primaries, I'd have been completely misled. I'd have mistaken what appears to be an effort by Wicks and the Republicans to embarrass the MCDC for a real grassroots uprising.

So what does it matter if I know Wicks' real name and bio if he decides to mislead me? That's my point on anonymity.

(By the way, anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I have a low opinion of the MCDC, so this has nothing to do with the politics in LD-21. )

Whatever Happened to Malpractice Reform?

Next year, Tom Reed is going to be selling himself as someone who can get things done in Washington. In order to make that sale, he needs to be part of a functioning opposition party. In the last 6 months, we've seen nothing but dysfunction from the Republican leadership. Their strategy is to do nothing and wait for Obama or the Democrats to screw up. But doing nothing means that some parts of the Republican agenda that could be getting done aren't going to happen.

Malpractice reform, a.k.a. "tort reform", is one prime example of something the Republicans could get if they would bother to engage. Tort reform has been a key part of the Republican healthcare agenda for the last 20 years. Every Republican politician, conservative talk show host and right-leaning pundit has mentioned it as one of the key requirements for changing our healthcare system. Even President Obama has signaled that he'd accept some kind of tort reform.

The Democratic rank-and-file has no interest in tort reform. In order for tort reform to make it into the healthcare bill, Republicans would have to come to the table with some possible votes and negotiate to get it into the bill. Though the current bill is far from finished, the latest reports indicate that tort reform isn't part of the bill. The reason is simple: the negotiation going on right now is between Nancy Pelosi and the "Blue Dogs", not Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner.

Polls have shown that Americans are willing to accept tort reform as part of a healthcare package. As one healthcare expert put it:

The public isn't pushing hard for malpractice reform but will be happy to have it if the lawyers, doctors, administration and Congress can agree to a plan [...]

There's no reason that tort reform couldn't be part of the current healthcare bill -- no reason, that is, other than incompetent leadership driven by petulant, bullheaded stubbornness. This is the leadership that Tom Reed will be serving if he goes to Washington. Why would anyone want a Representative from a party that has specifically chosen to get nothing done?

Dunning's Take on Corning Inc

Reader Elmer sent me Joe Dunning's Sunday column on Sunday, but I screwed up and forgot to post it. It's here [pdf].

Dunning took a look at Eric Massa's financial disclosure, which contains a number of donations from Corning, Inc and Corning executives. Dunning's explanation for why a typically Republican corporation would put $10K in Massa's pocket is worth a read in full, but I hadn't heard this before:

There may also be some backlash against Reed, who announced he’s not seeking re-election as Corning Mayor in the midst of his first term. The company strongly supported Reed in his successful bid in 2007 to unseat Democrat Mayor Frank Coccho in hopes of securing the office for a number of years.

There were those who felt Reed jumped ship too early for his own political gain, allowing Coccho back into the political picture with his own bid to regain the mayorship. Those who donated to Reed's campaign against Coccho might not be so eager to give to his congressional campaign.

Dunning is an apolitical straight-shooter, so I think this reflects a real sentiment in Corning rather than a political talking point.

Post-Doc in Stupidity

The Smugtown Beacon has a new contributor, Susan Edelman. Here's her august list of qualifications:

Susan Edelman has a Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University. In addition, Ms. Edelman was an economist at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Department of Defense. She also was on the Columbia University Business School faculty, and locally, worked in market research with Harris Interactive. Susan was a post-doc in the now defunct UofR Public Policy Analysis Program.

Her first post, despite having 8 footnotes, is a great example of how someone can pile up degrees and learn nothing about one's supposed area of expertise. Almost every paragraph shows a pretty shocking ignorance of the basics of her topic, which is a mishmash of Sarah Palin and Eric Massa's position on Time-Warner cable.

I'm going to pick apart just one terrible paragraph, otherwise I'd be here all night.

ACT THREE: In which the economist notes that private firms, like TWC and CBS, can run their firms any way they wish (assuming no laws are broken; not even suggested here). In a market economy, consumers show displeasure with a product by buying something else. There are substitutes for TWC/Road Runner and Letterman/CBS, e.g., Frontiernet and Conan/NBC. (And don’t tell the economist that DSL is not the same as RR: they’re both ISPs and provide the same content. See comments in Computer Link Magazine Saying that RR is better because it’s faster only means that it is a superior product, and we expect quality to cost more.)

The first sentence makes no sense. Eric Massa proposed more regulation of TWC -- he's saying "there ought to be a law". It's perfectly appropriate for a legislator to suggest legislation, and it's no argument against it to say that companies aren't breaking current law.

The rest of that paragraph also shows a complete lack of understanding of what's on offer from an ISP, and of monopoly economics. First, TWC and Frontier don't "provide content". They provide a conduit over which content is delivered, so all that matters is speed and reliability. Second, consumers can't "show their displeasure" by buying something else in most of the Southern Tier: RoadRunner is the only service available for most of Eric Massa's constituents. Finally, an economist should know that a duopoly is not a free market, that duopolies almost always lead to collusion and price-fixing, and therefore consumers don't have real choice in such a market.

The fundamental problem with Edelman's post is that she is trying to dodge Massa's reasonable claim that ISPs got a "pass" that's not provided to other public utilities. She makes the crazy statement that only two owners of "information transmission lines" have been government owned or regulated. Her examples are AT&T and the USPS. What about cable TV, which is regulated by franchise agreements in most cities and states?

And why is information different from all the other things transmitted to or from our houses over public right-of-way? Gas, electricity, water and sewer are either government-owned or heavily regulated. The onus is on Ms Edelman to explain why Internet service is in a different category.

Normally, I wouldn't bother with junk like Ms Edelman's post, but it's scary that someone so ignorant has advised the FCC as an "economist". This really is a new low for the Smugtown Beacon, which occasionally publishes some interesting stuff.

Kuhl Keeping it Classy

Reader Don sends WETM's teaser for a Randy Kuhl interview, which contains this gem from the former Representative:

You know when I first ran for public office way back in 1980 I took it with the understanding that someday people are going to want hamburger instead of steak.

Randy's planning on supporting Tom Reed next year. Perhaps Reed will have a better strategy for luring back Republicans who voted for Massa: one that doesn't include insulting them.

Massa v O'Reilly

Eric Massa's call to fire Bill O'Reilly made the Messenger-Post, as well as some big audience national blogs.

For those new to the controversy, it concerns Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who is serving in Afghanistan, was captured by the Taliban under unclear circumstances, and was featured in a recently released propaganda tape. Here's a CNN update on the case.

Fox analyst Ralph Peters, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, said the following about Bergdahl on Fox:

If, when the facts are in, we find out that through some convoluted chain of events, he really was captured by the Taliban, I'm with him. But, if he walked away from his post and his buddies in wartime, I don't care how hard it sounds, as far as I'm concerned, the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.

Obviously, calling for the murder of an American soldier by the enemy is a bit beyond the pale, even for Fox News.

In what was apparently a misguided attempt at damage control, Peters appeared on the Bill O'Reilly show, where O'Reilly said he thinks that Bergdahl is "crazy", and Peters said that he's sure that Bergdahl has "shamed his unit", though "I do hope for his family's sake this guy comes back safely". This is apparently what passes for an apology on Fox News.

The Army is running an investigation, and at some point we'll know what happened to Pfc. Bergdahl. In the meantime, over 500 people in the town of 6,000 where Bergdahl grew up are having a vigil for him. Here are a few words from them:

"It was part of his adventurous spirit that carries on," said Blaine County Sheriff J. Walt Femling, who rented an apartment to Bergdahl in 2006, on why he joined the military. "Not only that, but he wanted to serve."
Bergdahl showed up at the Blaine County Gun Club in 2007, looking for summer work. He and manager Dick Mandeville got along well, with Bergdahl's duties including helping shooters on the trap fields, stocking targets and cleaning racks full of rifles.
"He was good every which way you looked at it," Mandeville said.

I don't know what happened to Pfc. Bergdahl, and I doubt that Bill O'Reilly will resign because of this, but Massa's right to make some noise about this one. It stinks.

Another D&C Gem

Couldn't resist posting this one:

In this age of e-everything, the thank-you note is the unicorn of communication — a rarity.

Apparently the D&C's cost cuts have prompted them to start hiring six-year-old girls as staff writers, because that's the only group that thinks unicorns are "rare" rather than "nonexistent".

Reed Staffs Up

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader front page [pdf] (and jump [pdf]) with a story about Tom Reed's new hires. His campaign manager will be a veteran of the 2006 New York State Governor's race who has ties to the national party.

Reed's staff is quite different from Randy Kuhl's. Kuhl's 2006 campaign manager was his son, and his 2008 manager had nothing like the experience of Reed's new hire. This is a clear signal that the national Republican party is taking this race very seriously.

Massa Internet Healthcare Poll

Reader Vincent sends an email from Eric Massa that includes an online poll asking recipients their opinion on the new healthcare bill. The poll was sent to anyone who signed up for Massa's newsletter on Massa's home page. It's another interesting use of technology, one which presumably costs a small fraction of the price of a direct mail outreach.

Massa Has Some Concerns About Health Care

Joe Dunning's story in today's Corning Leader has Eric Massa's reaction to the House health care bill. Massa's concerned that the funding mechanism (a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans) will hit New York disproportionately.

Massa Has Another Good Quarter

Eric Massa's FEC report for the second quarter shows that he raised $282K, which leaves him with $336K cash on hand. About $130K of his total came from individuals, and about $150K came from corporate, union and party PACs.

Rolfe on Reed

Reader Elmer sends Corning Leader columnist Bob Rolfe's take [pdf] on Tom Reed's run. Rolfe thinks that the run is a mistake and that Reed doesn't have much of a chance.

I think any Republican has a chance in the 29th, but I agree with this statement:

Platform? All you did last week was spout the party line – the line of what’s come to be known as the Party of No.

Reed needs a positive, New York-friendly agenda.