Ezra Klein: What America Needs is a Liberalism That Builds

I have been wanting to write a few words about an impressive column written by Ezra Klein back in May. Entitled “What America Needs is a Liberalism That Builds” this New York Times piece manages to hit some pretty important points about the failure of governance in the U.S. as reflected by our seeming inability to build out major infrastructure within reasonable time frames and costs. Klein is a man of the left but is not afraid to point out areas where he believes progressive governance needs improvement. He manages to bring in the issue of industrial policy, an area where there might be some convergence between left and the populist right.

Klein gives us a pretty generic statement but manages to fill in behind it with some real serious policy meat. That statement.

“You can’t transform the economy without first transforming the government.”

Ezra Klein What America Needs Is a Liberalism That Builds New York Times May 29, 2022

Klein first advocates for a U.S. industrial policy. He has focused on a speech by Brian Deese, Director of the Biden Administration National Economic Council, that calls for such a policy. While the areas where such a policy would be effective remain a source of disagreement between left and right the obvious supply chain issues, the result of years of neglect, and a belief that pure free trade and markets would solve all issues, has brought some agreement. Deese, in his speech, gives some daunting statistics:

“Consider critical minerals.  Lithium, nickel, and cobalt are building blocks in everything from computers to appliances to electric vehicles and other clean-energy technologies—and demand is set to skyrocket. Yet the United States depends heavily on foreign sources for many of these critical minerals.  China, for instance, is estimated to control 85 percent of refining capacity for rare earths. So far, private investment has fallen short of our national needs.  But through strategic coordination, we can open channels for companies to invest. “

Brian Deese, Remarks on a Modern American Industrial Policy

Klein states what has become obvious to many, although not all.

“Do we have a government capable of building? The answer, too often, is no. What we have is a government that is extremely good at making building difficult.”

This is where the Klein criticism comes in, and that criticism is not pointed at just Republicans. (Though they are not exempted either) Whether the discussion is over industrial policy or simply over how do we build simple infrastructure in a cost effective, and timely, way, both Klein and Deese point out some flat out regression in our performance as a nation.

“The first step is admitting you have a problem, and Deese, to his credit, did exactly that. “A modern American industrial strategy needs to demonstrate that America can build — fast, as we’ve done before, and fairly, as we’ve sometimes failed to do,” he said.

He noted that the Empire State Building was constructed in just over a year. We are richer than we were then, and our technology far outpaces what was available in 1930. And yet does anyone seriously believe such a project would take a year today?

“We need to unpack the many constraints that cause America to lag other major countries — including those with strong labor, environmental and historical protections — in delivering infrastructure on budget and on time,” Deese continued.”

Ezra Klein What America Needs Is a Liberalism That Builds New York Times May 29, 2022

This is the crux of the entire discussion. We have failed, and that failure is becoming a part of everyday governance in the United States. The failure is not due to labor or, environmental protections, but because we have built so many obstacles into the system that where it is possible to do infrastructure it has become prohibitively expensive, and exceedingly difficult to do timely. Pandemic supply chain issues have now made the process painful, in addition to expensive. Klein looks at specific costs of rail infrastructure, and those numbers are not pretty when we compare the U.S. to other nations.

“Even so, the United States is notable for how much we spend and how little we get. It costs about $538 million to build a kilometer (about 0.6 mile) of rail here. Germany builds a kilometer of rail for $287 million. Canada gets it done for $254 million. Japan clocks in at $170 million. Spain is the cheapest country in the database, at $80 million. All those countries build more tunnels than we do, perhaps because they retain the confidence to regularly try. The better you are at building infrastructure, the more ambitious you can be when imagining infrastructure to build.”

Ezra Klein What America Needs Is a Liberalism That Builds New York Times May 29, 2022

Klein cites “The Procedure Fetish” by Nicholas Bagley, which is also worth a read. An oversimplification would be to say that Bagley blames the lawyers, and who can’t get behind a sentiment like that??? (It will be my only fun at the expense of lawyers for the entire post) The real thrust is that we have become prisoners of process, and that ”process” is not giving us good results.

Klein, one more time:

“This is a way that America differs from peer countries: Robert Kagan, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has called this “adversarial legalism” and shown that it’s a distinctively American way of checking state power. Bagley builds on this argument. “Inflexible procedural rules are a hallmark of the American state,” he writes. “The ubiquity of court challenges, the artificial rigors of notice-and-comment rule making, zealous environmental review, pre-enforcement review of agency rules, picayune legal rules governing hiring and procurement, nationwide court injunctions — the list goes on and on.”

Ezra Klein What America Needs Is a Liberalism That Builds New York Times May 29, 2022

Klein has brought much forward to both think about, and act upon. Since this column was written we have seen catastrophic failure of a water system in Jackson, Mississippi as well as so many unattended infrastructure problems throughout the country. The quote above from Professor Kagan gets to the heart of the matter but needs fuller discussion. Having processes in place to offer protections against systemic abuses is not a bad thing. Making those processes last for years is a bad thing. Streamlining permitting is only one aspect of the problem. Setting up processes that offer review, but do so within a vastly shortened window of time, with limited appeal, would cut through so many of these issues.

An industrial policy for the U.S. is vitally important if we are to be competitive internationally, especially with China. The Deese speech is but one of many important viewpoints on the subject, and his position, I believe, reflects the reality.

“The question should move from ‘Why should we pursue an industrial strategy?’ to ‘How do we pursue one successfully?’”

Brian Deese, Remarks on a Modern American Industrial Policy

Posted in Resiliency | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

James McCarty for State Representative

Election day is coming up fast, with primaries scheduled for Tuesday September 6. Lots of important races to consider. With the redrawing of many political lines there is a new Representative District, the Fourth Essex, made up of sections of Lawrence and Methuen. I am pleased to join former Methuen Mayor Dennis DiZoglio, current Methuen Mayor Neil Perry, and City Council Chairman D.J. Beauregard in endorsing Methuen’s James McCarty for this seat. Why have three Mayors and the City Council Chairman endorsed James McCarty? Each one of us has sent a “letter to the editor” outlining those reasons, with links to each one below.

Please remember to get out and vote on Tuesday September 6.

The Mayor Perry letter to the editor.

The Mayor DiZoglio letter to the editor.

The Mayor Manzi letter to the editor.

The Chairman Beauregard letter to the editor.

Posted in Methuen | Tagged | Leave a comment

A look at “Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy” by Henry Kissinger

Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy by Henry Kissinger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The new book by Henry Kissinger looks at six historical figures and the leadership skills that they brought to bear on the rather monumental problems they faced in the post World War II era. I took a look at some of the reviews before I bought the book and will need to dispense with some of the issues raised in those reviews, as they are a constant when dealing with all things Kissinger.

We always will get a substantial group of reviewers that indicate that the book was terrible because it includes some self serving revisionism by Kissinger, and that in any case he is a war criminal etc, etc. Relying on the review of someone describing Kissinger in those terms will not bring a potential reader a fair estimation of the book. I discard those reviews despite having some real disagreements with Kissinger/Nixon policies in Indochina, and with some of his actions as National Security advisor and Secretary of State to President Nixon. Disagreements do not take away from Kissinger’s underlying brilliance, and have nothing to do with books by Kissinger, or about him.

This book looks at six leaders from the Post World War II era, with Kissinger describing a specific type of leadership trait in each that he believes produced groundbreaking results for the countries they led. His observations, in my view, are insightful, and bring some important concepts on leadership forward that have practical meaning for current and future leaders.

Kissinger has highlighted the career and leadership traits of:

Konrad Adenauer (The Strategy of Humility)
Charles DeGaulle (The Strategy of Will)
Richard Nixon (Strategy of Equilibrium)
Anwar Sadat (Strategy of Transcendence)
Lee Kuan Yew (Strategy of Excellence)
Margaret Thatcher (Strategy of Conviction)

Kissinger knew, and in some fashion worked with, each of these individuals. In reviewing the book Admiral James Stavridis said:

“This is an extraordinary book, one that braids together two through lines in the long and distinguished career of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The first is grand strategy: No practical geopolitical thinker has more assuredly mastered the way the modern global system works or how nations use the tools of statecraft to bend an often-resistant world to their will. But Mr. Kissinger is also an astute observer of the personal element in strategy—the art and science of leadership, or how, on the executive level, “decisions [are] made, trust earned, promises kept, a way forward proposed.”
Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2022 “Follow the Leaders” James Stavridis

To me that snippet from the review gives us a great overview of what this book is about. Different problems, and differing approaches to problem-solving unique to these leaders and the specific time in history that thrust them into leadership positions. After some biographical information about each Kissinger gives us a great view on how each of these leaders contributed in areas that required extraordinary skills to navigate, and the leadership qualities that helped them to succeed. Kissinger does not sugarcoat deficiencies but hyper-criticism is not the point of the book. Kissinger ties it together with a last chapter aptly titled “Conclusions” that brings additional historical insights and observations.

As you read Kissinger you understand his views, and how those views color his analysis. His chapter on Nixon, the strategy of equilibrium, fairly well establishes a core Kissinger value. Equilibrium is a constant theme for Kissinger, more so than the oft-described philosophy of “realism” used to describe him frequently.

Each one of these individuals contributed to the new world order developed after the calamity of World War II. Adenauer, the first Chancellor of the West German government that arose after the war, gave a speech that would give an idea of where he would steer the German people.

“Criticizing Germany’s conduct under Hitler. Adenauer asked an audience of thousands in the severely damaged main hall of the University of Cologne how it was possible that the Nazis had come to power. They had then committed ‘great crimes’, he said, and the Germans could find their way toward a better future only by coming to terms with their past. Such an effort would be necessary for their country’s revival. From this perspective, Germany’s attitude after the Second World War needed to be the opposite of its reaction to the First. Instead of indulging in self-pitying nationalism once again, Germany should seek its future within a unifying Europe. Adenauer was proclaiming a strategy of humility.”

Leadership, Kissinger, Henry p 9

Adenauer, in one of his final conversations with Kissinger, highlighted a true leadership conundrum. Adenauer had, through his leadership, steered post war Germany towards reconciliation and European integration, with special emphasis on repair of the relationship with France. This was not always a consensus view but Adenauer had steered the Federal Republic towards it on a long term basis. This conversation, after Adenauer’s retirement, brought forward the question to Kissinger (in response to Kissinger asking him to evaluate the existing leadership of West Germany)
“Are any leaders still able to conduct a genuine long range policy? Is true leadership still possible today?”
Leadership, Kissinger, Henry p 42

That question was posed in 1967 and is still a bona fide concern in the democracies today.

Adenauer and Lee Kwan Yew would likely be the least recognizable of the six figures, and in some respects the most significant, in terms of studying effective leaders. Lee Kwan Yew should be required study for all those that aspire to political leadership. His building of the city-state of Singapore is a textbook example of success not being reliant on size. His methodology would not always pass a test of democratic norms, but his strong emphasis on good, corruption free governance, excellence in business and an adherence to the rule of law brought real results. Kissinger cited some pretty impressive statistics.

“An assessment of Lee’s legacy must begin with the extraordinary growth of Singapore’s per capita gross domestic product from $517 in 1965 to $11,900 in 1990 and $60,000 at present (2020.)”

Leadership, Kissinger, Henry p 313

Of course Kissinger is not an economist so we get an examination of Lee from a foreign policy point of view. Kissinger has strong admiration for the balancing act that Lee performed between China, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Kissinger admires Lee’s devotion to “order” and the way he strategically balanced his foreign policy in a multi-polar world. (Equilibrium?) Lee was a truly fascinating leader worthy of more study.

Kissinger, as mentioned, did not dwell on the negative, but managed to provide balance, with an occasional wry observation that makes a point with a bit of humor. In speaking of a dispute between Charles de Gaulle and Marshall Petain over literary credit on a post World War I book, Kissinger observed:

“The capacity for gratitude not being among de Gaulle’s most highly developed traits….”

Leadership, Kissinger, Henry p 58

Kissinger’s relationship with Sadat may be one of the most important, in a sense of real accomplishment, by both men. Kissinger acknowledges a truth that was highlighted in Martin Indyk’s book “Master of the Game,” which was that he initially dismissed Sadat, not considering him to be a first rate leader, anticipating that he would be a short termer. That misjudgment was a contributing factor in the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war launched by Sadat and Hafez al-Assad against Israel. Kissinger does manage to stick in a very indirect criticism of a piece of the Jimmy Carter Middle East policy, due to the inclusion of the Soviets, but concedes that Sadat took that policy and in leapfrogging it ended up in Jerusalem.

The chapters on the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher and Richard Nixon will of course bring some criticism but are worthy and well done. I did not fully agree with the characterization of the Thatcher policy on Northern Ireland but that did not detract from my understanding and appreciating the larger points made. As always with Nixon Kissinger does not hesitate to acknowledge the flaws but highlights some of the major accomplishments of the Nixon Administration on foreign policy. Self interested? Maybe a bit, but the Nixon Presidency is worthy of plenty of discussion, and has some impacts that are still with us today.

In the Admiral Stavridis review he regrets that Kissinger did not make the book longer by including some other figures such as Deng of China and Bismarck. I agree, but would also include Zhou Enlai, who Kissinger has described as one of the most impressive men he has ever met. Even at his age he is still producing impressive works of literature that impart valuable insights. You do not have to agree with everything Kissinger believes to glean value from those insights. Highly recommended.

‘Leadership’ Review: Tales From a Global Chessboard – WSJ

View all my reviews

Posted in Books | Tagged , | Leave a comment

William Felton Russell

The death of Bill Russell was announced today and it is indeed a sad day. I grew up in the Russell era, and I shared with my father a huge respect for Russell as an athlete, and more importantly as  a man. His impact, on the NBA, and on the nation, was in no way limited to his vast ability as a basketball player. He was more than that, but it was his outsized talent on the basketball court that brought him to us, and I could not have been luckier to have seen him play on many occasions with my Dad at the old Boston Garden. Amazingly those games were not sold out.

There is a lot to say about Russell, much of it not directly related to his basketball career. For the purposes of this post I am going to stick to basketball.

There have been many stories on the Russell basketball record, which is so extraordinary that it really seems to be beyond real. In the NCAA two consecutive national titles at the University of San Francisco as well as 55 consecutive wins. He led the U.S. to the gold medal in the 1956 Olympics, and then in the NBA led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 seasons, a record that will likely never be eclipsed. But we know that extraordinary record because it has been covered extensively after his death. Russell’s last season was 1969, and as time has elapsed some memory of Russell’s achievements, and his singular contribution to the Celtic record, has been clouded. His magnificent duels with Wilt Chamberlain, a tremendous athlete and one of the best to ever play the game, provided fans with lots to argue about. That argument, about who was the “better” player, still exists today. And the passage of time has allowed a theme to develop: Russell was a great winner, but always had the advantage of having the better team with him in the Chamberlain matchups.  The resolution of that “argument” does not just impact the Russell-Chamberlain issue but points to the essential greatness of Russell himself. His achievements in his last years of playing need to be looked at in a closer way in order to understand the the centrality of Russell to the Celtic winning, and to resolve, once more, the Russell-Chamberlain debate.

As Russell entered the NBA in 1956-57 he led the Celtics to a championship, defeating the St. Louis Hawks in 7 games. In 57-58 the Celtics once again made the finals, but an injury to Russell sidelined him for much of the series against the same Hawks, who defeated the Celtics. The centrality of Russell to the Celtics winning was shown clearly by this loss. It would not be repeated for many years.

Chamberlain entered the NBA in the 1959-60 season, becoming a member of the Philadelphia Warriors. He set astounding individual records, and brought his team to the Eastern finals against the Celtics, where a close series went to the Celtics. The Warriors were a good team, but Russell definitely had a better supporting cast. Those teams met again two years later in the Eastern finals, with the Celtics winning in 7 games. Once again Russell had the superior supporting cast. With the move of the Warriors to the west coast Chamberlain continued to accumulate astounding stats, and the San Francisco Warriors made the NBA finals in 1963-64, where Russell’s Celtics were waiting for them. The Celtics crushed the Warriors 4 games to 1. Yes, Russell had the superior supporting cast that year as well.

The story begins to change a bit in the next season, as San Francisco traded Chamberlain back to Philadelphia, where the Syracuse Nationals had moved, becoming the Philadelphia 76ers. This team got Chamberlain mid-year and they were loaded with talent, with Hal Greer, Luke Jackson, Chet Walker and a strong group of supporting players. This team would further develop in the years to come. In this season the 76ers got to the Eastern finals against Boston, and took them to 7 games, before John Havlicek stole the ball on the final play of the game, preserving the Celtics win. In this cycle the 76er team was at least equal to the Celtics in terms of talent, but still lost.

The Celtics had not only won every championship since the loss to the Hawks in Russell’s second year, but they had always finished first in the East, usually by a wide margin. That was about to change, as the 76er team both matured, and added some additional talent (Billy Cunningham and Wali Jones,) bringing them to first place in the East in 1965-66, narrowly edging out the Celtics. They met again in the Eastern finals, where the Celtics crushed the 76ers in 5 games. At this point it can be said that the 76ers had the superior team, and yet Chamberlain not only lost to Russell and the Celtics but was essentially crushed.

With the 1966-67 season this 76er team truly gelled, and Chamberlain took a different path, shooting less, passing more, and really concentrating on defense. I watched that team in shock as they started out the season by winning 46 of their first 50 games, ending up 68-13 for the year. This 76er team can be safely considered to be one of the greatest to ever have played. Guards Hal Greer and Wali Jones, forwards Luke Jackson and Chet Walker, and Chamberlain at center, with Billy Cunningham coming off the bench. They once again met the second place Celtics in the Eastern finals. That was a painful series for the Celtics, as the 76ers essentially stomped them, winning that series in 5 games, with some of the games big blow-outs. The Celtics were still a good team, but they had been eclipsed by Wilt and the 76ers. Lots of talk about the changing of the guard, and how Wilt had finally given Russell a comeuppance. No doubt that the 76ers were the better team.

The 1967-68 season, Russell’s next to last, had the 76er juggernaut again with the best record in the NBA, winning the East by a full 8 games over the Celtics. Chamberlain actually led the NBA in assists during the regular season. The 76er offense was something beautiful to watch, with Chamberlain, in the post, picking teams apart by having the offense flow around his presence. With wide expectations of a second title the 76ers again met the Celtics in the Eastern finals, and quickly established a 3 games to 1 series lead. It looked like the series from the prior year. Despite the many who had written Russell and the Celtics off  the team rallied and won 3 consecutive games to win the series and become the first NBA team to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. It was a shocking end to that 76er team, as Chamberlain would be traded to the Lakers in the offseason. This series win, against arguably one of the best teams in NBA history, most certainly is a rather forceful rebuttal of the canard that Russell always had the better team. Russell beat that 76er team 3 times out of 4 meetings, but the old man was not quite finished yet.

The 1968-69 season was Russell’s last, and the Celtic roster had become a bit old and a bit tired. They had some pretty good players, including a John Havlicek that was coming into his own, the great Sam Jones, also in his last year, an older Bailey Howell, Larry Siegfried, and Emmett Bryant. Tom Sanders was still there as well. This older group finished fourth in the East that year, the last playoff spot available. They had to face the second place 76ers, without Chamberlain but with that great group of players still there. The Celtics easily won that series, and moved on to the New York Knicks. That Knick team would win the championship the very next year, and they were indeed a powerful team, anchored by the great Willis Reed. The Celtics dispatched them as well. That brought Russell and the Celtics to the finals, where Wilt and the LA Lakers were waiting.

After the Wilt trade to the Lakers the NBA had its first super-team, with Wilt, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor forming the nucleus of a powerhouse. The Jerry West psychological torture, brought on by losing to Russell’s Celtics multiple times in the finals, would finally come to an end. West, and Wilt, were convinced that this was the year that string of losses would end. After the first two games in L.A. it looked like they might be right, as the Lakers took a 2-0 series lead. The Lakers had a chance to put the Celtics away in game 4 in Boston but Sam Jones hit a runner off the wrong foot at the buzzer to even the series. After trading home wins the Celtics had to play game 7 in LA, where the Lakers were so sure of victory that they had the rafters filled with balloons to celebrate. With Chamberlain taking himself out of the game at a key point the Celtics, who had built a big lead, hung on for the victory. Russell left the court for the final time as a champion, having defeated a vastly superior Laker team with Wilt. That Laker team, a couple of years later, would win 33 straight games and become champions. But not in 1969.

Russell’s basketball legacy is not just as a guy who had great teams and managed to win. He willed victory when he had no right to expect it. He was a monster talent, and he changed the game of basketball forever. Russell famously said; “I created the vertical game.” Of that there can be no doubt.

Red was a genius, and the Celtics had some truly great players (imagine having Cousy and Sharman starting, and Sam and KC Jones as the backups?) but without Russell there could not have been the success. When someone tells you that Russell always had the better teams just call that out for the nonsense it always has been. There is but one GOAT in NBA history, and his name was William Felton Russell.

Books to read:
Tall Men Short Shorts: The 1969 NBA Finals. Wilt, Russ, Lakers, Celtics and a Very Young Sports Reporter. Leigh Montville
Go Up for Glory: Bill Russell
Season of the 76ers: The Story of Wilt Chamberlain and the 1967 NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers. Wayne Lynch
West by West. Jerry West

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Seabrook CIP Draft 2023-2028

The Seabrook Draft CIP has been released. We have utilized a new format for this draft which will better meet the needs of the Selectmen, Budget Committee, and Planning Board as a key aid in compiling annual capital budget requests through the warrant. This document, in draft form, has been presented to the Board of Selectmen, who have begun their review.

In order to facilitate that review I have prepared “mini-CIP” documents reviewing departmental requests, with a focus on the FY 2023 capital budget by department. The reviewed department documents are also included here.

One of the improvements made to this process is to identify how these capital requests will be paid for, and whether such financing is on a “pay-go” basis or utilizes other financing methodology.

There may be some changes to this document before it is finalized.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Look at Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson

Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga by Hunter S. Thompson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The first book by Hunter S. Thompson but one that I had not read until very recently. Released in 1969 the book comes to mind with the death over the past few days of Ralph “Sonny” Barger, the driving force behind the Angels, starting as the head of the Oakland branch of the organization, and a prominent part of this book.

The book gives us a glimpse of the unique writing style that would so identify Thompson in the future. Thompson’s observations, and his style of presenting those observations, was always fascinating to me. We can see that talent here.

In advance of reading the book I looked over some of the criticism of the work and the subject matter. Was Thompson glorifying the outlaw group, and all of the criminal activity involved with the Hell’s Angels? I did not take it that way. Thompson hung with, and rode with the Hell’s Angels, (although he did not ride a Harley) He gives a relatively unvarnished view, with the Thompson touch, of the outlaws. Thompson did not go into the effort looking to write a condemnation, but rather to observe and understand the juxtaposition of the Angels with American society. Whether you agree with him or not that contrast is one of the writing strengths of Thompson, with ridicule of hypocrisy to play a prominent role in future writing.

Thompson describes the Angels as he sees them.

“Now, looking for labels, it is hard to call the Hell’s Angels anything but mutants. …They are the sons of poor men and drifters, losers and the sons of losers. …The Angels don’t like being called losers, but they have learned to live with it. ‘Yeah, I guess I am,’ said one. ‘But you’re looking at one loser who’s going to make a hell of a scene on the way out.’”
Thompson, Hunter; Hell’s Angels. A Strange and Terrible Saga P252-254

Hunter Thompson manages to deflate some “legendary” stories about the Angels, and in so doing examine some of the American fascination with outlaws, and the Hell’s Angels in particular. We get a look at the intersection of the Angels with the beat/hippie contingent, brought together with Ken Kesey, Allan Ginsburg, and the Merry Pranksters. It was not a natural pairing, and though it seemed to flourish for a bit it would end badly, with the Angels coming down in support of the Vietnam War, and actually attacking anti-war demonstrations. (The culmination of this disastrous attempt to bring both sides together would occur at Altamont)

Thompson was famously “stomped” by a contingent of Angels at the conclusion of the book, so he experienced firsthand some of the nastier elements of the Angels lifestyle.

The death of Barger, more than fifty years after the publication of this book, and his own touch of fame, as an author, an “actor,” and an outlaw celebrity, is in part due to the notoriety he derived from this work. If you have not read it and you are a fan of Hunter S. Thompson it is still worth a read.


The NPR Obit of Sonny Barger.



View all my reviews

Posted in Books | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Methuen Dems Breakfast 2022

The Methuen Democratic Committee held the annual breakfast yesterday, June 11, 2022 at the First Church Parish Hall. Thank you to Committee Chair Lisa Ferry for all of her hard work on the event. Great job as emcee by City Council Chair D.J. Beauregard. It was really great to see people able to gather and hear candidates talk about the important issues facing Massachusetts and the Merrimack Valley.

The Committee did a straw poll for many of the contested races, and those results are below. The Committee honored retiring Representative Linda Dean Campbell as the Democrat of the Year. It was a well deserved honor.

Straw Poll:

Governor
Maura Healey 90%
Sonia Chang-Diaz 10%

Lt. Governor
Kim Driscoll 78%
Tami Gouveia 13%
Eric Lesser 9%

Attorney General
Andrea Campbell 61%
Quentin Palfrey 30%
Shannon Liss-Riordan 9%

Secretary of State
William Galvin 53%
Tanisha Sullivan 47%

Auditor
Diana DiZoglio 90%
Chris Dempsey 10%

State Senator (First Essex District)
Eunice Ziegler 59%
Pavel Payano 41%

State Representative (Fourth Essex District)
James McCarty 57%
Estela Reyes 43%
William Lantigua 0%

State Representative (Sixteenth Essex District)
Marcos Devers 73%
Francisco Paulino 27%

Essex County District Attorney

Paul Tucker 85%
James O’Shea 15%

Sheriff Essex County
Kevin Coppinger 81%
Virginia Leigh 19

With Governor’s Councilor Eileen Duff and Lt. Gov. Candidate Mayor Kim Driscoll


With Democrat of the Year Linda Dean Campbell
Lt. Governor Candidate Mayor Kim Driscoll
State Rep. Candidate Ryan Hamilton
Lt Governor Candidate Senator Eric Lesser
Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger
State Rep. Candidate James McCarty
State Rep. Candidate Estela Reyes
State Senate Candidate Eunice Ziegler
State Senate Candidate Pavel Payano
State Rep. Candidate Marcos Devers
State Rep. Candidate Francisco Paulino
Governor’s Councilor Eileen Duff
Secretary of State Candidate Tanisha Sullivan
Attorney General Candidate Quentin Palfrey
District Attorney Candidate Paul Tucker
District Attorney Candidate James O’Shea
Auditor Candidate Senator Diana DiZoglio
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Seabrook Water and Sewer Reports 2021

The Seabrook Water report, and the separate Sewer report, are posted below. These reports will be discussed by the Board of Selectmen at the May 16, 2022 meeting.

Despite great progress there is still a taxpayer subsidy going to these funds, especially in Sewer.

Posted in Seabrook | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Seabrook Finance Report 2021

Each year I present a finance report to the Board of Selectmen that covers Town financial data from 2014 on. In this case the covered period is 2014-2021. We examine the trends that the finance data show, and what challenges those trends bring to policy makers. The continuing shift away from the commercial/industrial sector as a percentage of the overall tax levy is shown through the NextEra (Seabrook Station) numbers over the measured period. NextEra as a percentage of the overall tax levy has gone from 42% to 28%. (The NextEra Shift) In 2021 the residential sector exceeded 50% of the total levy for the first time in the measured period.

With the application of fund balance the total tax levy in 2021 rose by under 4%. Despite that number the shifting of the overall burden to residential created, and will continue to create, a rising tax burden for the Seabrook residential sector.

I have included an executive summary that is attached below that brings some additional key data into the discussion for policy makers. We will be discussing the report at the Board meeting of May 16, 2022. I will post the 2021 Water and Sewer reports separately. They will be a key part of the ongoing discussions.

Posted in Seabrook | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Look at “The Founders: The Story of Paypal…

The Founders: The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley by Jimmy Soni

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A pretty impressive book by Jimmy Soni, who manages to give us an up-close look at how PayPal was created, bringing us through the different iterations of the company. Who cares about PayPal? The group that created this company has become known for so much more than their work at PayPal. The list of “The Founders” includes Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, and a cast of coders that were nothing short of brilliant.

This book is not biographical. If you are looking for an in-depth look at any one of the individuals this is not your book. It will show you how a start-up, even with brilliant people at the helm, is often one step away from oblivion.

I was not aware of the history here, which includes the fact that PayPal was a merger of competing companies helmed separately by Peter Thiel and Elon Musk. This meter created PayPal, which eventually has Musk as the CEO.

Musk obviously has garnered a lot of publicity of late, and not everybody is happy about it. But this book shows you some of what he is made of. He had made a small fortune selling another company before his involvement in the PayPal predecessor X.Com. Musk, despite several twists and turns in just what product(s) his company was developing, was willing to stake a big chunk of his newly made fortune into X.Com. He had guts and was willing to gamble it all. But this is not an Elon Musk story. The team that developed from the merger of X.Com and Confinity (and even before) was free-wheeling, a bit reckless, and absolutely brilliant. Confinity initially invested heavily into a product that would allow money to be beamed between Palm Pilots. Maybe a good idea at the time, but as technology evolved so did the PayPal team, striking gold in realizing that there was a market for a payments provider for the auction site eBay, which was just taking off.

Soni does take us through the development of the business and how, even when the company appeared to find success, the chance of failure was ever present. How to combat user fraud, ward off the hostile EBay, who had their own payment platform, scale down customer acquisition costs, which were enormous, and stay one step ahead of regulators was a rough road indeed. The coders did amazing work here, and the entire group put in hours that were simply inhuman. But success depended on that level of commitment and this group was willing to pay the price.

I read a couple of reviews that were a bit critical of the level of detail on the business development in the book. I thought it was just right. With all of the big names involved here as younger men and women a certain legend has grown around the PayPal “Founders.” The group has gone on to some great heights after PayPal, and has been accorded the nickname “The PayPal Mafia.” You can see, through this book, how that group got its start, took a new market by storm, and made a barrel of money. Their success was not pre-ordained but came through hard work, brilliance in driving the company to the right spot in the market, and out-flanking business competitors. I enjoyed the book, and recommend it highly.



View all my reviews

The “paypal mafia” photographed at Tosca in San Francisco, Oct, 2007. Back row from left: Jawed Karim, co-founder Youtube; Jeremy Stoppelman CEO Yelp; Andrew McCormack, managing partner Laiola Restaurant; Premal Shah, Pres of Kiva; 2nd row from left: Luke Nosek, managing partner The Founders Fund; Kenny Howery, managing partner The Founders Fund; David Sacks, CEO Geni and Room 9 Entertainment; Peter Thiel, CEO Clarium Capital and Founders Fund; Keith Rabois, VP BIz Dev at Slide and original Youtube Investor; Reid Hoffman, Founder Linkedin; Max Levchin, CEO Slide; Roelof Botha, partner Sequoia Capital; Russel Simmons, CTO and co-founder of Yelp
Posted in Books | Tagged , , | Leave a comment