Squashed

A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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"Outsourcing Excellence"

I’ve been paying limited attention to the outsourcing kerfluffle in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race between Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker. Basically Coakley’s campaign has been parroting this line about how Charlie Baker “won the award for outsourcing jobs” or something like that.

I get that this is a reasonably effective line of attack against a guy who claims he’ll create jobs in the state. Baker will better care of the rich folks’ money than he will take care of the working folks. Etc.

But “won the award for outsourcing”? Why not just say that when he was a chief executive he sent a bunch of jobs over seas? Why use this clunky metaphorical language about “winning the award” for outsourcing?

It turns out that it’s not metaphorical language. There is literally an Outsourcing Excellence Award. And Charlie Baker won it. From the Outsourcing Center. And he showed up to the ceremony. In a tuxedo. And posed. With his Outsourcing Excellence Award.

(I’m not saying you should vote against Baker because he won an Outsourcing Award—or because posing with an award that says “Outsourcing Excellence” while wearing a tuxedo shows a dramatic lack of foresight. Vote against him because he wants to slash public assistance and seems to want to deregulate everything to allow the same types of reckless corporate behavior that caused the recession. There are plenty of reasons to vote against Baker or for Coakley. But not many are as hilarious as the Outsourcing Excellence Award.)

Martha Coakley

Massachusetts is going to have a tough election. The Democrat, Coakley, is a pretty crappy campaigner. You know how Obama got zinged for waxing professorial and actually answering questions like a competent person who knows things? Coakley is worse.

Bad campaigner. But a highly competent Attorney General and she will be a highly competent governor.

There are progressives who pay lipservice to progressive ideas. Some of them doubtlessly believe them. “Singlepayer healthcare tomorrow and stop global warming the next day!” Great. But … do you have any idea how to turn that slogan into reality?

Coakley isn’t much for catch phrases.1 But she’s tirelessly fought for the least advantaged in Massachusetts in ways that have made a tangible difference to people across the Commonwealth. Once the election is over, I care a whole lot more about competence than campaign charisma.


  1. Baker’s slogan seems to be, “Let’s Be Great, Massachusetts!” As far as I can tell, Coakley’s is “Martha Coakley for Governor.” 

On Prosperity and Disparity

Given how affluent the United States is, on average, it’s a bit perplexing how comfortable we are with poverty. Of course, the “average” wealth means nothing when most of it is concentrated in an increasingly small set of people. This is usually the spot where somebody accuses me of playing the politics of envy.

I don’t think it’s that at all. Imagine you’re at a child’s birthday party. One kid has seven pieces of cake and the others are scrambling over crumbs. Now say you leave the room for a bit and come back and now that kid has fifteen pieces of cake and the others have nothing more. I’d have some questions for the kid with all the cake. Specifically, “Why do you have twenty pieces of cake—and is it possible that you have something that isn’t rightfully yours?”

There are a few answers the child with all the cake could give that I wouldn’t find particularly persuasive.

  1. "You’re a communist."
  2. "The other children aren’t very good children."
  3. "I acquired this cake through perfectly legal methods."
  4. "I give away some of my cake to those who have less."

None of the responses answers the central question of how one person ended up with an extreme portion of the limited resource that in a more just world would be distributed relatively equitably. The fourth response suggests that maybe the kid with all the cake isn’t heartless—but it also fails to answer the question of what went wrong in the cake distribution mechanism. The sheer and increasing disparity suggests both that there’s a legitimate inquiry into its causes and a legitimate suspicion that somebody might be doing something unfair or immoral.

"A coherent ISIS strategy"

According to the radio, the U.S. doesn’t have a coherent strategy for combating ISIS. I think the idea is that we should have some type of plan that breaks down nicely into infographics with maps and bold arrows.

I don’t really see where this is a problem. So far the administration has been pretty consistent in a few things.

  1. Build as large and as local a coalition as possible.
  2. Avoid excessive and prolonged use of force, to the extent practical.
  3. Ensure that ISIS loses every critical spot.
  4. Support people who actually live in the countries at issue.

We tend to get in trouble when we start making detailed plans for countries that aren’t ours.

On ISIS

I’ll confess to a certain frustration with dialog surrounding the conflict in Syria. Basically it’s all political cartoons of Obama morphing into Bush. Or the rhetorical equivalent.

I get the point. If you’re a straight up non-interventionist, all this intervention has got to be pretty disappointing. Same deal if you’re a pacifist of the turn-the-other-cheek-even-if-Hitler variety. And if you’re one or the other of those and voted for Obama in hopes that all the stuff he said about Afghanistan on the campaign trail were just campaign rhetoric, you have reason to be frustrated.

But I don’t think the people who think we should never intervene anywhere outside our borders for any reason are a particularly large group of people. I think most of us believe that if we have some ability to prevent the types of attrocities ISIS seems intent on committing, we should do so. The big questions involve whether we know enough to intelligently implement a course of action that will do more good than harm. Those harder questions than you can fit on a bumper sticker.

Political Identification

Considering the number of radicals I hang out with and the number of strong opinions I’m happy to share, I still think of myself as a sort of moderate. After all, my core political beliefs seem awfully uncontroversial.

  1. The way power, wealth, etc. is distributed in society is affected by relatively arbitrary rules and conventions that should be improved if we can figure out how to do it.
  2. The whole “do unto others” thing still counts (and applies to everybody) when we’re making decisions about this sort of social policy.
  3. The journey is, in many ways, as important as the destination—at least in the sense that nobody who dies on the journey makes it to the destination. So maybe that revolution is a bad idea if it mostly consists of destroying actual things in the name of an improbable goal.

Also a dumb policy supported by clever arguments is still a dumb policy.

Democratic Gubernatorial Race

A few thoughts on the candidates:

  1. Steve Grossman, whose mother got him a SuperPac, is basically an old rich guy trying to pander to millennials. “More summer internships.” “My mother contributed to an independent expenditure campaign. I of course had nothing to do with that.” He says things like, “I believe in solutions first and lawsuits last.” Great buddy. You believe in solutions. Except you said that you believed in solutions rather than offering some kind of specifics. He seems like the rich guy wing of the Democratic Party.
  2. Don Berwick is basically the single-payer anti-casino guy. Needless to say, I’m sympathetic. I like him. I’m not sure he’s serious. He listed his biggest weakness as “my big heart.”
  3. Martha Coakley seems like the most serious candidate. Not the best campaigner. But she’s clearly concerned about income inequality in a serious and credible way.

Full disclosure, I may be biased toward Coakley for her excellent work suing banks. Also I’m worried the male candidates are going to pull a Spitzer and embarrass the state.

The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid.

A couple days back SDS wrote, ” I mean, compare fracking to green tech.” I believe this was supposed to be a rhetorical flourish about how everybody knows that fracking is hugely profitable and “green tech” investments were a comical waste of money.

It’s would be a reasonable rhetorical point around 2010. Except now we have electric cars. And my conventional car gets around 39 mpg. I’m writing this in a room where the efficient fluorescent bulb that I’ve never had to replace for years is a relative dinosaur next to the suddenly affordable LED bulb that paid for itself in about a year and will last (approximately) forever. I’m writing this on three pound laptop so think I’m not actually sure how the advanced battery fits in it. Ditto with the iPhone next to me.1 None of this was possible in 2010—and it’s unlikely that any of these awesome things would have existed without subsidies for these sorts of green tech.

Then there’s fracking. Here’s the chart showing that natural gas production has increased like a whopping 25% over the last few years. That’s a lot. It’s taken a major bite out of coal’s market share.

But I think “green tech” is really a reference to solar and wind power. I put the chart for solar power above. It’s a bit more dramatic. By contrast, electricity generated from wind has only gone up by 1,000% in the last decade. The state leading the charge in wind energy is the pinko bastion of Texas. More resources are coming online each year—so the trend is continuing.

Let’s address the obvious objection. Wind and solar combined still only make up around 5% of electrical generation in the United States. With that said, both show a pattern of geometric growth. Neither shows signs of abating. If five percent of the town’s is infected with the zombie virus with that rate of growth, you can make some reasonable predictions about where the movie’s growing. When the numbers look more like, say, coal at 50% and falling, the movie is over.



Full disclosure: My assertion that the advanced batteries are partially attributable to the various tax subsidies and whatnot for advanced battery research and production is an educated guess. I’m not really inclined to crack the very sealed devices open to confirm one way or the other. If you know whether I’m right or wrong, let me know. ↩

A couple days back SDS wrote, ” I mean, compare fracking to green tech.” I believe this was supposed to be a rhetorical flourish about how everybody knows that fracking is hugely profitable and “green tech” investments were a comical waste of money.

It’s would be a reasonable rhetorical point around 2010. Except now we have electric cars. And my conventional car gets around 39 mpg. I’m writing this in a room where the efficient fluorescent bulb that I’ve never had to replace for years is a relative dinosaur next to the suddenly affordable LED bulb that paid for itself in about a year and will last (approximately) forever. I’m writing this on three pound laptop so think I’m not actually sure how the advanced battery fits in it. Ditto with the iPhone next to me.1 None of this was possible in 2010—and it’s unlikely that any of these awesome things would have existed without subsidies for these sorts of green tech.

Then there’s fracking. Here’s the chart showing that natural gas production has increased like a whopping 25% over the last few years. That’s a lot. It’s taken a major bite out of coal’s market share.

But I think “green tech” is really a reference to solar and wind power. I put the chart for solar power above. It’s a bit more dramatic. By contrast, electricity generated from wind has only gone up by 1,000% in the last decade. The state leading the charge in wind energy is the pinko bastion of Texas. More resources are coming online each year—so the trend is continuing.

Let’s address the obvious objection. Wind and solar combined still only make up around 5% of electrical generation in the United States. With that said, both show a pattern of geometric growth. Neither shows signs of abating. If five percent of the town’s is infected with the zombie virus with that rate of growth, you can make some reasonable predictions about where the movie’s growing. When the numbers look more like, say, coal at 50% and falling, the movie is over.


  1. Full disclosure: My assertion that the advanced batteries are partially attributable to the various tax subsidies and whatnot for advanced battery research and production is an educated guess. I’m not really inclined to crack the very sealed devices open to confirm one way or the other. If you know whether I’m right or wrong, let me know.