The Seabrook Fire Memorial 2019

The Seabrook Firefighters Memorial has been moved to the Seabrook Fire Station, and the Town remembered those that have come before us in the Fire Service in Seabrook with a ceremony on Saturday. Thanks to Chief William Edwards for making this day possible with a lot of excellent planning and work. Many thanks to the Seabrook Board of Selectmen for all of their support. It was wonderful to have former Chief Jeff Brown on hand, and deep appreciation to Chaplain Craig Everett as well as bagpipers Bill Shute and Jim MacDonald, and Newburyport Chief Chris LeClair.The weather did not cooperate much but it was a great ceremony despite that.

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The David Miliband 2019 Fulbright Lecture

The David Miliband 2019 Fulbright Speech “Global Politics in the Age of Impunity” is worth a look. Axios covered the speech by the former British Foreign Secretary and looked at some of the highlights. From Axios:

Miliband contends that from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, the world seemed to be moving toward a future where such values were protected internationally.

But, but, but: “The voters in the West clearly became disillusioned with foreign policy failings, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he says. Economically, globalization in that period was "too unequal for its own good and too insecure for its own good, and therefore unsustainable.”

Miliband adds that leaders took advantage of the backlash. He points to Brexit (which he opposes) as an example of misleading claims meeting public discontent with explosive results.

Miliband is an extremely sober and clear minded individual, and this speech highlights some of the key political changes occurring across the world, with the negative ramifications of those changes highlighted by Miliband. From the speech:

However, the Age of Impunity is born of political changes. It reflects serious shifts in geopolitics. There is a political emergency as well as a humanitarian emergency. The political sea change is that constraints on the abuse of power are being weakened internationally and nationally at the same time. Where the years after the Cold War saw growing civilian protection internationally and a surge in accountable government nationally, so today we see the reverse. The multilateral system is under assault from its cornerstone in the US, and Brexit represents a further attack here in the UK. Meanwhile, checks on executive power at the national level are also being weakened.
This is the new arrogance of power, internationally and nationally, and it needs to be understood and then addressed if the trends towards greater protection of the most vulnerable are to be restored.

The full speech is very much worthy of a look.

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A Review of “The Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump’s America”

The Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump's AmericaThe Hill to Die On: The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump’s America by Jake Sherman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another look at the first half of the Trump Administration, but this time from the perspective of Congress. The authors appear to have been granted access to some key Congressional leaders from both parties, leveraging that access to produce a work that will likely confirm some of the worst public perceptions of the Congress.

The book is not Trump dominated, but most certainly shows how the interactions with the President are handled by Congress, and how Trump (and staff) himself managed the Congressional process. It is not a pretty picture for any of the players involved, even when some measure of success is achieved. The book extends beyond Trump, allowing us to see how the GOP leadership race played out after Speaker Paul Ryan announced his retirement, giving us a close view of the attempt by Steve Scalise to find a way to bump off Kevin McCarthy. Nancy Pelosi fighting off the insurgent effort to replace her as the Democratic leader is covered, and she comes off as a master, while the insurgents do not look so good. The battle for control of Congress, won by the Pelosi led Democrats, is covered extensively. In that coverage we get a good look at the Joe Crowley- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Democratic primary, and how Crowley, interested in leadership of the Democratic caucus, never saw the train coming that took him out of Congress. The role of money, and how it is allocated, and its importance in shaping the races, is shown clearly.

The leadership races, and the battle for control of Congress, is not all that the authors look at. The important legislative battles that brought us the government shutdown, the GOP passed tax bill, Supreme Court nominations, and the rather unique Trump method of dealing with Congress are all covered. Paul Ryan’s exasperation, and frustration, come through clearly on that front. Ryan, as Speaker, had to deal with the dynamic of the GOP Freedom Caucus, which wreaked all sorts of havoc on Ryan and GOP leadership. Trump back dooring the Speaker on multiple occasions by dealing directly with Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows of the Freedom Caucus created all sorts of problems for the GOP leadership. Trump’s fundamental miscalculation, against all GOP advice, on forcing the government shutdown, and then being forced to capitulate to Nancy Pelosi, is covered in some detail. The response to the shutdown, and the out of touch nature of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, is highlighted. The coverage of Kushner is unflattering, to say the least. Not sure how it could be otherwise, as this guy is a walking train wreck, with little or no self awareness. Here are some of the Kushner gems from the book.

“It was at this point that Kushner got more involved in trying to solve the shutdown. He seemed to view himself as uniquely qualified to break legislative logjams, although there was scant evidence that that was the case. Kushner had played a central role in passing a bipartisan criminal-justice reform bill, and appeared to relish his work on that front. But, to longtime aides on Capitol Hill, this wasn’t the triumph he seemed to think it was, since Democrats were always yearning to rewrite the nation’s incarceration laws. Just before the shutdown set in, Kushner told Ryan, McCarthy, and Scalise that he wasn’t focused on the immigration standoff because he was “distracted with criminal justice reform.” But now that reform was done, he expected to make short work of it. I’m on it, he told Ryan. I can quickly fix it.”

Sherman, Jake. The Hill to Die On (p. 389). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

Of course Kushner solved nothing, but his self importance and self delusion are astounding.

“When Sen. John McCain visited the White House early in the administration, he was in the midst of telling Trump about military procurement reform, a longtime passion, when Kushner interjected. “Don’t worry, Senator McCain. We’re going to change the way the entire government works,” Kushner said without a hint of irony. “Good luck, son,” McCain responded.”

Sherman, Jake. The Hill to Die On (p. 48). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

Kushner was also convinced he could solve the issue of immigration, constantly telling people that a big deal was possible. Never mind not understanding his negotiating partner, Kushner did not even grasp the actual position of his own team. Kushner’s involvement in immigration talks ended like everything he touches ends. With recriminations, bad blood, and of course no deal.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sessions, which happened over the first weekend of 2019, did not bear much fruit. Participants were struck by how many aides the White House had gathered—more than fifty, by several estimates—which made the sessions un-conducive to deal cutting. Kushner began speaking more regularly in these meetings. In one, he marveled at the fact that it costs the government $750 per day to keep an undocumented child in the United States. They might as well put them up at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, he quipped. He also said he was bringing a businessman’s mind-set to the border talks. The border needed more money because people were trying to cross it more often, he said. He brushed aside concerns about cost, and said the federal government should spend whatever it needs on security. The meetings left Democrats and Republicans alike bewildered. How, they thought, could they come to a deal with a White House that was so scattershot in its thinking? How could the president put his trust in a neophyte like Kushner?”

Sherman, Jake. The Hill to Die On (pp. 392-393). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

I enjoyed the book, and I do recommend it. The authors garbled what a “pocket veto” is, but aside from that minor complaint the book is another look at the first couple of years of the Trump Administration from a different vantage point, and contributes to understanding some of the forces pulling the political system apart. It does not always take new ground, but certainly gives more detail than you will get from reading Politico, where the authors write a daily newsletter.

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Seabrook Memorial Day Celebration 2019

A beautiful day for the Seabrook Memorial Day celebration yesterday. Thank you to Katie Duffey for all of her hard work, as well as our DPW for all of the preparation. As always our thanks and gratitude to the Raymond Walton American Legion Post 70 for their work, and for their hospitality after the parade. A big thank you to all of the parade participants.

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Seabrook Swim Safety Event

Thank you to Police Chief Brett Walker, the New Hampshire State Beach Patrol Deputy Chief Murphy and Captain Kelley, and New Hampshire Marine Patrol Captain Dunleavy, for putting on the swim safety seminar last night at the Seabrook Recreation Center. We recorded the event, and will put it up on social media and Channel 22 shortly. Thanks to Fire Deputy Koko Perkins and Police Deputy Kevin Gelineau for their attendance and support as well. Thank you to the Board of Selectmen for their support, which enabled the event to go forward.

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A Look at “Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century” by John Farrell.

Tip O'Neill and the Democratic CenturyTip O’Neill and the Democratic Century by John A. Farrell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bumped into this book in my library, so I read it the old fashioned way, and I am very happy I did. Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neil is a name that many recognize, especially in Massachusetts. For me Speaker O’Neil most certainly was a giant of Massachusetts politics, but I really was not versed in his career, and how he managed to achieve such political success. This book does, in my estimation, a great job of giving us a good look at that career, from start to finish. While the book is about Speaker O’Neil it is fully titled “Tip O’Neil and the Democratic Century,” and it provides us with a history touching some of the giants of the national Democratic Party, along with the interactions with some of the greats of the national GOP.

Speaker O’Neil represented a Congressional District in Cambridge that has a storied history, with John F. Kennedy beginning his political career by representing the district. James Michael Curley also represented that district. Farrell takes us through how a young Tip O’Neil ended up winning that seat, but before we get there we see Tip O’Neil winning a Massachusetts House race in Cambridge, and building a political organization that would serve him for the rest of his career. Just that part of the story makes the book worthwhile, as we get a pretty good look at Massachusetts politics, with State Representative O’Neil rising to become Speaker of the Massachusetts House. We get a pretty good look at some of the give and take with the Kennedy family, including the massive resources that Ambassador Joseph Kennedy was willing to bring to the table to support the political aspirations of his son Jack.

Tip O’Neil’s move to Washington as a Congressman was not easily achieved, as he had to twice defeat Michael Lopresti of East Boston, a very formidable opponent. (The Lopresti family remains politically prominent in Boston) We get to see some of the interactions with political giants like Sam Rayburn, John McCormack, and Lyndon Johnson. McCormack was a political patron, with Representative O’Neil benefitting from McCormack’s political acumen and influence. The story on the O’Neil influence on the Boston Herald loss of the Boston Channel 5 broadcast license (and how they got it) is a remarkable piece of Massachusetts history which reverberates to this very day. Watching the O’Neil climb in Washington, in addition to showing us some of the outsized personalities of the era, brings us some understanding of the importance of how the House works. (The Rules Committee) O’Neil’s fundamental ability to read people, to partially camouflage his ambition behind humor, his dedication to doing the hard work of networking with the members, understanding their needs and districts, allowed him to rise through the ranks. At a pivotal moment O’Neil was in the right place at the right time when Rep. Hale Boggs was lost in a tragic air accident.

O’Neil’s turn away from LBJ and the Vietnam war, and how that change mirrored the changes occurring in his Cambridge district, is covered. He took that stand in spite of the tension it created with John McCormack, a steadfast ally of LBJ on the Vietnam war. We get a look at how Tip O’Neil was an important player in the eventual impeachment hearings on Richard Nixon, managing the floor for Speaker Carl Albert and trying to manage Peter Rodino. O’Neils role in the selection of his pal Jerry Ford as Nixon’s Vice President is covered, and brought one of my favorite quotes from the book. As his friend Jerry Ford was about to assume the Presidency he had a conversation with O’Neil.
“‘Christ, Jerry isn’t this a wonderful country?’ O’Neil said. ‘Here we can talk like this and you and I can be friends, and eighteen months from now I’ll be going around the country kicking your ass in.’”
Farell, John “Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century” (pg 380) Little Brown

Speaker O’Neil interactions with the Carter Administration are also a very important, in my view, part of the book. O’Neil was a New Dealer, and the Carter Administration desire to approach things differently, and often times clumsily, led to some less than harmonious relations between a Democratic President and Speaker. His relationship as Speaker, and his famous battles and accommodations, with President Reagan, are covered. Really great stuff. The O’Neill interaction with a rising Georgia firebrand named Newt Gingrich is also covered, and that period began the change in the GOP that started the hyper-partisan atmosphere that exists today.

The author, in writing this book, covered Speaker O’Neil fairly. He did not gloss over some of the things that might today be considered deficiencies, but despite that Tip O’Neil comes through this book as an honest man who reached great heights, and was involved in some of the monumental issues of the day. He was underestimated by many, and considered by the GOP to be the perfect foil for President Reagan. But Tip O’Neil knew how to play the game, and President Reagan understood that O’Neil was a formidable opponent. Times may have been a changing but Thomas P. Tip O’Neil never forget his roots in the New Deal, and how government could help the less fortunate. He should be considered in the upper echelon on the Massachusetts list of political giants, and that is a quite a testament to him. This book, even today, is a great read. I am glad I looked through my library.

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Seabrook Reaches Tax Agreement With NextEra on Seabrook Station

The Seabrook Board of Selectmen yesterday announced that a three year tax agreement with NextEra, the owner of the Seabrook Station nuclear plant, had been achieved. The agreement covers FY 2018-2019-2020, and calls for NextEra to make tax payments of $36 million to Seabrook over that three year period. The payments will be annualized at $12 million. This agreement follows the last two year agreement that covered 2016-2017 that was worth $24.75 million. The assessment for Seabrook Station for FY 2018 was $849,858,400.

The national nuclear power industry has had rough times over the past few years. There have been multiple plant closures that have already occurred, with as many as nine plant closures scheduled for the next few years, including the NextEra owned Duane Arnold plant in Iowa. The challenges in that industry translate to difficult negotiations for the Board of Selectmen. They should be commended for their work here.

The agreement comes after the close of the fiscal cycle of 2018. In that period the Town of Seabrook assessed the plant at a value that resulted in a tax bill of $12,500,000. Although the Board was not required to abate that amount (the $500,000 could have been offset against the next two years of tax payments) they have determined, for legal and strategic reasons, to abate the FY 2018 over-payment.

This agreement was the result of long hours and much hard work by the Seabrook Board of Selectmen. Town Assessor Angela Silva was instrumental in reaching this agreement. Our thanks to NextEra, who worked diligently with the Town to reach this agreement.

Press coverage of Seabrook/NextEra tax agreement.

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