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Warren's dangerous China talk

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 31, 2012 01:24 PM

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In Elizabeth Warren's new ad she trots out Tom Friedman's favorite thing in the whole wide world: Chinese spending on infrastructure. Warren claims that we just don't spend enough on infrastructure anymore and somehow that makes us inferior to them. The gushing over China by the likes of Warren and America's just-do-something authoritarian of record, Friedman, is upsetting because it generally ignores the means of how they do things. People who love China tend to complain about the sausage making in our democratic system but they rarely criticize the bulldozing in the Chinese system.

Oh, and they ignore basic facts that give context to China's recent growth.

China and the United States are at two completely different points in their development as nations so of course they are spending more on infrastructure right now. They are able to spend so much money right now because they don't have roads, highways, rails, etc.

Ira Stoll explains how this is way of thinking is bunk when you look at the math:

The first problem is mathematical. U.S. gross domestic product is about $15 trillion a year. Increasing infrastructure “investment” to the 9% Chinese level that Warren cites would mean an additional $1 trillion a year in government spending. That’s an immense spending increase. To put it in context, the entire federal government spent about $3.6 trillion in 2011, on revenues of about $2.3 trillion.

The other thing we have to remember when talking about China: it's not a free country. Their government can build and spend whatever it wants because there are no checks and balances. There is no free press to stand up and say, "Hey, that tunnel you built has all kinds of leaks in it." There are no labor unions that can rabble rouse for a "fair wage" and better working conditions. Property rights and individual freedom are irrelevant when they stand in the way of The State.

The usage of the "why can't we be like China" imagery is baffling, troubling even, when you remember that Warren is running for an elected office in a free country. When politicians and people in power talk about "being more like China" what they are really saying is, "Why can't we give more power to the government to spend and build things while running roughshod over the people?"

Chick-Fil-A fight is more about Menino than gay rights

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 26, 2012 12:06 PM

The right's ragey rage over Mayor Thomas Menino's standoff with Chick-Fil-A currently being bandied about across the blogosphere and talk radio is shortsighted and extremely selective. Where were conservatives when Menino blocked a project because of a feud with the guy proposing it? Where was the outrage machine when he bullied Wal-Mart? Oh, that's right, those dust ups didn't have the culture war juice that runs through the veins of our national politics.

Meanwhile, the left is celebrating this as some kind of triumphant stand against bigotry. Yes, because Boston's mayor told the head of one of the largest fast food restaurants in the country to go pound sand that now means all homophobia is gone forever. Come on. The gay rights movement still has a long way to go before grilled chicken sandwiches are the front lines of the battle. Again, this is the same left that supposedly cherishes free speech.

The mayor is wrong in blocking a restaurant or business from starting up in the city just because he does not like what their Bible thumping boss has to say but this is the way he operates. He had a problem with Wal-Mart and their controversial business practices. The Chiofaro thing? Well, you got an hour?

Anyone that has paid even the slightest attention to Boston politics knows this. Menino's great stewardship of Boston and his almost twenty years in office has led him to accumulate a massive amount of influence To the uneducated outsider that peddles in the rage of the day this doesn't matter because the story here is tolerance of homosexuality and, to a lesser extent, gay marriage. Or, as the right likes to perceive everything that touches on these issues a "war on religious freedom".

This has far more to do with how the longest serving mayor in the history of Boston can throw around his decades of clout than it does with a "anti-Christian" sentiments. So you can protest by going to buy a so-so sandwich at one of their stores or celebrate Menino's stance by posting his letter to Chick-Fil-A’s President Dan Cathy on your Facebook page but those actions really miss the big picture.

On a side note: Chick-Fil-A's sandwiches, by the way, not as terrible as everyone is saying. Nothing to write home about but, again, not terrible.

How is the bottle deposit really voluntary?

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 25, 2012 10:23 AM

FiveCents.jpg Can we please stop using the word "voluntary" when it comes to describing bottle redemption laws? Just call it what it is: a user fee on beverages. You can get your money back but only after you spend time organizing the empty containers and taking them to a redemption center. I've never calculated the amount of time I've spent doing this but it definitely takes longer to return them than it does to buy them in the first place. When you're all done you get a nifty piece of paper worth a buck or two making it barely worth the time and effort. It's much easier, thanks to single stream recycling, to just throw them in the recycling bin and be done with it because it takes three minutes.

The bottle deposit is voluntary in the same way that renting a luggage cart at the airport is: Do you really want to push that stupid cart all the way back to the baggage claim just to get your fifty cents back? No, of course not. You want to go home, have a beer and watch the Red Sox lose.

And when you're done you'll just toss the bottle in your recycle bin.

Blast from the past: Best Places To Live 1987

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 24, 2012 10:28 AM

In the August 1987 issue of Money Magazine the bedroom community of Nashua, New Hampshire topped a New England heavy list of Best Places To Live in America.


Attractions: growth economy, proximity to Boston and the White Mountains, no state income or sales taxes, high house-price appreciation, safety from crime

Detractions: cold weather, lack of arts, high house prices Typical three-bedroom house: $100,000 to $250,000

A quick perusal of the real estate listings in Nashua shows us that the floor for a three-bedroom home is now $250,000 not $100,000.

You can get a similiar home for under $100,000 in Lawrence, though. Lawrence was listed at 88 in the same August 1987 issue.

Other New England towns making the then top 100:
#2 Norwalk, CT
#5 Danbury, CT
#8 Boston's North Shore, MA
#26 Stamdford, CT
#35 Manchester, NH
#37 Bridgeport/Milford, CT
#57 Bangor, ME
#72 Lowell, MA
#88 Lawrence, MA
#90 Worcester, MA

The 2011 rankings can be found here.

New England highlights from that list:

#2 Milton, MA
#6 Hanover, NH
#11 Sharon, MA
#16 Acton, MA
#37 Tolland, CT
#38 South Windsor, CT
#39 Simsbury, CT
#43 Easton, MA
#87 Merimack, NH
#88 Portland, CT
#90 Dover, NH

Sadly, no tragedy goes without politicization

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 20, 2012 12:08 PM

There's been a national tragedy involving guns so you know what that means: Team Red and Team Blue are going to snipe at each other while trying to score political points. We've been down this road so many times that what will happen is fairly easy to predict.

The press and commentariat will spin their wheels endlessly about the political ideology of the possible killer, desperately ceasing on any type of nugget that could clue us into whether he was a radical right winger affiliated with the Tea Party or a crazy left winger hellbent on socialist revolution. He'll probably turn out to be mentally ill in the end and everyone that tried to pinpoint his politics will look like an idiot.

After this politicians will talk about a time for healing and civility. Political ads will be pulled. This will last for approximately five minutes before it dissolves into a national debate about gun laws and the Second Amendment. One side, usually Team Blue, will argue that we need stricter gun laws. Team Red will argue that if people were allowed to open carry or have concealed weapons they could have stopped the shooting before it got out of hand. They'll probably appear on cable TV shows together and yell at each other for extended periods of time all while a host gleefully looks on, pouring gas on the fire.

After it's all said and done nothing will probably happen to gun laws in either direction.

Oh, and in the meantime who gets pushed to the side in all of this? The victims and people touched by this tragedy. This exercise is depressing and it happens all too often.

WFNX Signs Off Today

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 20, 2012 07:00 AM

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101.7 WFNX, the longtime alternative rock station, signs off the air with live DJs for the last time today at 7:00pm. Here's the lineup for the station's final day:

  • 6:00-11:00am Morning Guy Tai
  • 11:00pm-2:00pm Jim Ryan
  • 2:00pm-7:00pm Neal Robert

The station's frequency was sold to Clear Channel in May for $14.5 million. It's still unknown what Clear Channel will broadcast on the frequency.

I've blogged about WFNX's demise here and here.

So long old friend.

But wait!

WFNX will live on in, really, two forms though one is more definable than the other.

RadioBDC.jpg brought on several WFNX DJs (Paul Driscoll, Adam 12, Julie Kramer, Henry Santoro) to start a new venture Radio, or RadioBDC. It's a pretty intriguing endeavor for a newspaper to take on. Most internet radio stations are free of DJs, or as I like to call them, soulless. It's still unclear exactly what the station will be like but we know for sure that it will sound like an actual radio station instead of just an iPod on shuffle.

WFNX will continue online, too, but what it will sound like is still uncertain.

If you're on Twitter join the #LastSongOnWFNX game and see if you can predict what the last song will be at 7pm.

New emails reveal more about hiring of McGee

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 20, 2012 06:26 AM

CarlStanleyMcGeeAP.jpgCommonwealth Magazine, The Boston Globe, and RedMassGroup have stories up featuring a treasure trove of newly released emails about the failed appointment of Carl Stanley McGee to the gaming commission that focus on his past, particularly his arrest for allegedly assaulting 15 year old boy in Florida in 2007.

McGee was never charged with a crime and eventually resigned from his acting position on the commission when the incident came to light.

Given the history of child sexual abuse in this region it's hard to see how anybody could have thought that the public would let this slide. The spotlight on the newly formed Gaming Commission was so intense, too, that there was simply no way that any appointee's past would not be thoroughly vetted. The public doesn't forgive or forget allegations like this even if they're dropped or found untrue, it's like a scarlet letter.

Does a vice presidential candidate's home state matter?

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 18, 2012 06:28 PM

One of the arguments we've heard during the Mitt Romney Veepstakes is that he needs to pick a running mate that helps in a swing state, like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio or New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. It's a weak argument given the history of vice-presidential candidates carrying their home states. Nate Silver explains:

With that said, it seems likely that the vice presidential nominee's effect on his or her home state is normally quite modest -- perhaps two or three percentage points on average, if a little more in some cases and a little less in others.

To be sure, two or three percentage points in the right swing state is not trivial, but it is probably not enough to outweigh the other strengths and weaknesses that a vice presidential candidate could potentially impart onto the ticket.

Sure, the VP pick can give you a slight bump in their home state but it is not enough to make it a major reason for selection.

Warren is the best thing to happen to Brown's fund-raising

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 18, 2012 11:19 AM

BrownGretchenErtlAP.jpgElizabeth Warren, a national liberal icon with 2016 presidential buzz, is the best thing to happen to Senator Scott Brown's fundraising. Without her as his opponent his fund-raising numbers never approach the level they are at. Her presence in the race has excited liberals and conservatives in all 50 states, driving them to open up their checkbooks.

Brown, was a long shot nobody state senator until about three weeks before the 2010 special election when he took off like a rocket on the national stage but then his star faded with national conservatives as he positioned himself as a New England moderate. The national dollars that poured in to help him topple Attorney General Martha Coakley dried up as national folks realized they did not elect another Jim Demint. Brown went about his business wracking up the third most moderate voting record in the US Senate, firmly establishing himself as a New England centrist.

Along comes Warren.

Warren, with her endless "Wall Street vs Everyone" drumbeat and consumer advocacy crusading has inspired the American left in a way that their former darling, President Obama, no longer can. Warren gives American liberals that warm tingly feeling of hope that they so desperately need to justify their endeavors. As soon as she announced her candidacy the cash started pouring in.

Brown benefited, too, as the money started flowing for him but over 70 percent of it has come from Massachusetts residents. The national appeal for Brown is still limited even though he is facing off against a liberal conservatives despise. As Michael Levenson notes:

Brown has been trying to ener­gize potential donors by warning that Democrats will have a better chance of retaining control of the Senate if he loses in November.

“Majority control of the ­Senate hinges on the outcome, which is why so many national liberals are pouring so much money into our rival’s race, and it’s why I am the No. 1 target of the national Democrats,” Brown wrote in a recent fund-raising appeal. He predicted that he would be outspent and asked for “every dollar I can get to fend off out-of-state liberals.”

Brown is not much of a conservative so the only way he can appeal to national conservatives and Tea Party types is by vilifying Warren as the next Ted Kennedy. Purity driven activists don't really go for the compromise and working together thing anymore.

2012 Ballot Questions From 30,000 Feet

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 11, 2012 09:59 AM

APBallotBox.jpgLadies and gentlemen, here are your 2012 Massachusetts ballot questions:

  • Question 1 Availability of Auto Repair Information.
  • Question 2 Prescribing Medication to End Life
  • Question 3 Medical Use of Marijuana

Question 1 you probably already know as "Right To Repair" or as others have called it, the Talk Radio Stimulus Bill. The Right To Repair Law has been fought over for what seems like forever and now this epic battle will come to an end in November.

In short, it's a fight between major car companies and auto parts dealers over releasing information needed to repair modern cars that are more computers on wheels than gears and grease. The car manufacturers say that the release of this information could jeopardize their business and lead to the manufacturing of potentially dangerous knockoffs. The auto parts dealers and some small repair shops say that this limited release of information hurts them and forces people to go to more expensive dealers.

The fight over Question 1 will probably be one of the most expensive in years and saturate the airwaves. The supporters of the questions spent nearly $300,000 to get it on the ballot. So wedged in there between ads about how horrible Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren are will be ads explaining Question 1.

Questions 2 and 3 are more self explanatory and easy to understand so we won't see the barrage of advertising that we will with Question 1. Most people can tell you where they stand on the usage of marijuana for medical purposes and whether or not people should be able to take their own lives with the help of a doctor.

What your social media habits say about how you vote

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 10, 2012 06:16 PM

What your social media habits say about who you may vote for summed up in one chart from Engage DC:



Never would have pegged Farmville users for Romney voters or Reddit fans to be total commies.

Would have loved to see Gary Johnson on here as an option.

A weekend with the Free Staters

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 9, 2012 08:25 AM

I spent a weekend with the fascinating people of the Free State Project for my latest story on Here's an excerpt:

Every summer since 2004, hundreds of people belonging to and interested in the Free State Project, an effort to move 20,000 libertarians to New Hampshire, gather at a remote campground in the northern part of the state for a weeklong event called the Porcupine Freedom Festival. The outdoorsy extravaganza, more commonly known as PorcFest, is one of the biggest libertarian gatherings in the entire country.

The libertarian stereotype of the nerdy, balding, middle-aged white guy goes out the window at PorcFest. The attendees are so diverse, one wonders how organizers managed to get everybody together in the same place without burning the forest down in a fit of rage. If you want to see what happens when you bring together libertarian politicos, voluntaryists, and off-the-grid family farmers that love raw milk for a week to celebrate one of the more quixotic elements of the libertarian movement, then you have to go to PorcFest.

The Free Staters Go Camping

A primer on the Bernstein-Eno feud

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 9, 2012 07:40 AM

The ongoing feud between David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix and Rob Eno of Red Mass Group moves to the airwaves today as the bickering pair are scheduled to appear on the inaugural broadcast of WGBH's new live and local two hour midday show.

Bernstein and Eno have been at each other ever since Bernstein published a piece that lumped Eno in with what he called "the right-wing smear machine." Bernstein accused "pseudo-journalistic" conservative news organizations of engaging in reckless speculation, pushing conspiracies, and even generating "dirt out of whole cloth." He then cited the way conservative outlets covered two lesser known controversies surrounding Warren while barely touching on the American Indian story.

He did have some nice words for Eno:

Eno, to be fair, does try to distinguish the credible from the conspiratorial. There are plenty of popular right-wing sites he won't touch, and he makes more efforts than most to seek out responses before posting his own material.

Eno, along with the others accused in the piece, strongly objected to Bernstein's take and raised a big stink about the American Indian story even though it is barely mentioned in his piece.

Bernstein shot back saying that the subjects of his piece were responding angrily to an imaginary article.

So here's an invitation to conservatives who have criticized the article: please try again, but this time respond to the actual content of the article, rather than the imaginary article you invented and ascribed to me. Or, admit that you're not interested in truth and fairness. Your move.

Eno and William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection took on his challenge and responded.

Eno took issue with Bernstein's insistence that the smear machine on the left is not comparable.

When a story is proven false, Red Mass Group will, when notified, print a retraction. Red Mass Group will strive, when reporting original news, to get both sides of a story. Bernstein's insistence however, that what he describes as a "smear machine" exists only in the ether of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, is laughable on its face. The left was first, and is quite frankly better at it. The right is just catching up.

Jacobson accused Bernstein of trying to discredit the coverage of the American Indian story by conservative outlets by going after them for their coverage of minor stories while not touching the Cherokee scandal.

Do you really care about the book accusation or the Press Secretary’s Twitter account? Of course not. You tried to play it cute by diverting the discussion to other issues, just like Warren does when she is asked about the Cherokee issue.

You tried to undermine the scrutiny of Warren on the Cherokee issue without having to defend her on the Cherokee issue, and instead attacking the messengers as part of a “right-wing smear machine.”

Bernstein hasn't responsed to their latest rebuttals.

Full disclosure: I used to write for RedMassGroup and have had Bernstein and Eno on my radio show several times. I am a paid contributor to WGBH.

Clarification: This post originally said Eno took issue with Bernstein's insistence that there is no smear machine on the left. Bernstein said that there is one but it is not comparable to the one on the right. A change has been made to reflect that.

Scott, we have to talk about your shirts

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 5, 2012 05:24 PM

While going through the campaign photographs of Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren from their Independence Day parades I came across mostly run of the mill parade photos of the candidates waving at people and shaking hands. Very New Englandy.

And then there was Senator Brown's shirt, very Americany:

Oh, and then there is this from a parade in Wakefield


I know it's red, white, and blue to celebrate America's birthday but, uh, not a good look unless you're a jockey in the Kentucky Derby.

Tierney's handling of scandal vs Warren's handling of scandal

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 4, 2012 09:32 AM

Look at the way Congressman John Tierney handled the scandal surrounding his family during his reelection campaign: he brushed it off, brushed it off, and then, given the circumstances, held a wide open press conference to answer questions about it from the press. Boom.

Has the scandal gone away? No, but Tierney looks much better for having addressed it directly instead of dealing with it here and there. His timing was a smart move, too. Still, Richard Tisei is the toughest challenger he has faced in his entire congressional career and this scandal is only making things more difficult for him.

Compare this with how Elizabeth Warren has handled the controversy over her self-proclaimed American Indian heritage. She let the story go on and on while engaging in contentious exchanges with members of the media at campaign stops.

Three ways Obamacare ruling hurts Romney

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More July 2, 2012 05:19 AM

The Supreme Court's ruling on Obamacare impacts presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in three ways:

1. It reinvigorates the Tea Party.
The Tea Party has new life now that Obamacare looks as if it is here to stay and they will most certainly play a role in the November elections. They will bring life to races up and down the ballot for the Republicans but they may hurt Romney by pulling him to the right. Romney is in an awkward position as the guy who pretty much invented the precursor to Obamacare, Romneycare, in Massachusetts. He had to deal with hostility from the Tea Party throughout the election and tried hard to not get pulled into their purity fights but now he may need them more than ever. Romney has to be careful to not drift too far from his moderate corporate centrism that he is comfortable with.

2. It takes time away from talking about the economy

The health care debate is back and it is taking time away from the economy, Romney's bread and butter. Romney does best when he is talking about creating jobs and restoring the economy, not when he is dancing around his history with health care reform.

3. So is his Massachusetts law a tax, too?

Romney is, again, in an awkward spot as he has to talk about, and defend, his groundbreaking health care law in Massachusetts but this time he has to defend it as a tax. The last thing Romney wants is to be labeled a tax hiker.

About the author

Garrett Quinn began writing for newspapers at age 17 with CNC in his native South Shore. He has been published in BlueMassGroup, RedMassGroup, Pioneer Investigates, and Wonkette. He is a More »

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