Superior Court Judge Constance Sweeney has issued a decision that limited the damages owed by the City of Springfield to its public school teachers for the withholding of back pay. The teachers are to receive the back pay that they would have received during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004. The financial exposure from this decision is approximately $2.5 million.
Judge Sweeney reportedly "left the door open" for additional damages. According to the Republican, she
suggested the union consider filing a lawsuit over those years if it wants to seek damages for that time. However, the wage freeze for those years was the doing of the Springfield Finance Control Board, which was granted "vast powers to control the city's financial obligation."
The potential exposure to the City of Springfield if all municipal unions sought similar damages for all three fiscal years in which the wage freeze was implemented has been estimated at $35 million. Given the City's financial condition, a $35 million obligation would be difficult - at best - to meet. If the City were to need to meet such an obligation, it is a serious question whether such might trigger implementation of receivership. For now, it appears that this issue at least will not trigger receivership.
The Concord Coalition has released an Issue Brief on the Federal Debt Limit. Treasury Secretary John Snow has requested that Congress raise this limit, which is currently at $8.18 trillion - roughly 2/3 of this nation's GDP. Without an increase in the debt limit, the United States government will soon be unable to borrow to finance its deficit spending.
As the Coalition points out, the need for the debt limit increase reflects both chronic fiscal imbalance and growing long-term obligations (e.g, Social Security). Congress has increased the debt limit four times in the past ten years - in 1997, 2002, 2003, and 2004. It is not coincidental that the past three increases have happened under the Bush administration with its return to chronic deficits.
Blue Mass Group - and the AP - are reporting that Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly has chosen Rep. Marie St. Fleur (D - Boston) as his running mate to run for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. This comes shortly following the collapse of talks between Reilly and the 2002 Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, Chris Gabrieli.
Reilly evidently wishes to shore up support within Boston and in communities of color - both important voting blocs for the Democrats. It's not clear how much St. Fleur's presence on the Reilly "ticket" will hurt Deval Patrick in the African-American community - and whether this damage will matter to the Patrick campaign. (I put the word "ticket" in quotes because St. Fleur still would need to win the primary.)
Even though St. Fleur is of African descent, she is not African-American. This means that her presence on a Reilly ticket might not draw significant numbers of African-American voters away from Deval Patrick - even though it will likely draw Haitian-Americans and other immigrant voters into the Reilly camp. Another point is that Patrick's success is not likely to rest in any great degree on his success in the African-American community. Patrick's base - in the primary, anyway - is the largely white suburban liberal voting bloc in Metro Boston.
It is unclear whether selecting a running mate - and the choice of St. Fleur as that running mate - will provide significant help for Reilly's primary campaign.
David at Blue Mass Group has commented today on the possibility of independent Massachusetts Gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos running on a ticket with former Congressman - and Massport Director - Peter Blute as candidate for Lieutenant Governor. David's opinion of this possibility is summarized by the title of the post - Mihos/Blute: oh please oh please let it be true.
David reminds us of the mini-scandal that caused Blute's resignation as Massport Director. He then goes on to say that the selection of Blute as a running would prove that Mihos is a loose cannon. David feels that, as a loose cannon, Mihos really does not have a chance to win. According to David,
Christy Mihos, while an unquestionably interesting guy who will liven up the Governor's race substantially, can't win. He's too much of a loose cannon who will say or do enough outrageous things in the course of the campaign that too many people will be really, really nervous about installing him on Beacon Hill. Even considering Peter Blute as his candidate for Lieutenant Governor is an excellent step down that road.
David is simply wrong about this. Unless Mihos self-destructs in the next nine months - a distinct possibility but not inevitable - he will be a formidable candidate for Governor of Massachusetts. Mihos is well-heeled enough to become known throughout the state. His business background, his positions on issues, and his persona (loose cannon and all) will have strong attraction for voters - particularly outside of Route 128.
A three-way race means that the next Governor could get elected with 34 percent of the vote in November. Mihos could put this together with strong showings in central and southeastern Massachusetts, and in the MetroWest suburbs - all places where Mitt Romney did very well four years ago. Mihos could easily win pluralities in places like Leominster, Taunton, and Attleboro. He could do well also in places like Framingham and Lowell. The Democratic candidate - Reilly or Patrick - will need to get strong percentages and turnout in western Massachusetts and within Route 128 to win against Mihos. Kerry Healey is unlikely to win more than 20 communities - places like Manchester-by-the-Sea and Dover. She is unlikely to be a factor - except as a spoiler for Mihos!
As for Blute's impact on the race, it's important to keep in mind at this point that the mentioning of his name as a Mihos running mate would seem to be a "trial balloon" - much as the mentioning of Chris Gabrieli's name as Tom Reilly's running mate two months ago was one. If Blute's troubles at Massport continue to be a liability, Mihos' polling will likely show that - and this "trial balloon" will pop. If not, then Blute could help the ticket, particularly in central and southeastern Massachusetts, which he represented in Congress.
Loose cannons sometimes win elections - as Jesse Ventura did in Minnesota eight years ago. 1990 Democratic Gubernatorial nominee John Silber - certainly a loose cannon - did self-destruct in his infamous interview with Natalie Jacobson of WCVB-TV in Boston. However, his self-destruction might not have been fatal had there been a three-way race. In fact, had Silber run as an independent in 1990, it's easy to speculate that Silber could have beaten both Frank Bellotti and Bill Weld - but that is only speculation.
The Democrats dismiss Christy Mihos at their own peril.
A Disturbance of Fate by Mitchell J. Freedman, published in 2003, explores the questions of what would have happened had Robert F. Kennedy survived the attempt on his life in June 1968 and gone on to win the Democratic nomination for President of the United States then the White House. Freedman combines both novelistic and historical techniques in writing this alternative history. He writes from a strongly leftist perspective, but his narrative and analysis are strong - even if one quibbles with his perspective or conclusions.
In general, Freedman develops an alternative America in which history is accelerated by an RFK administration. With Kennedy's help, the Cold War ends - fifteen years before it does in our reality. South Africa also ends apartheid early - and elects Nelson Mandela as President in the 1970s. Kennedy's administration assists in the development of personal computers and wide use of the Internet - again, 15 to 20 years before it happens in our reality.
In addition to an accelerated history, America and the world enjoy much more peace and harmony with a President Robert Kennedy. President Robert Kennedy ends the war in Vietnam without a collapse of the regime in Saigon. Fundamentalist Islamic movements do not develop the traction that they do at the end of the twentieth century - in part, because of Kennedy's policies.
Robert Kennedy's America is one in which labor unions ultimately play a much more central role - and one in which racial and ethnic harmony is much closer to reality.
This observer feels that Freedman is too optimistic regarding the electoral and policy success of the Democratic Party in Robert Kennedy's America after 1968. In Freedman's history, Kennedy serves two terms as President - succeeded by his Vice President, former Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough in 1977. Yarborough goes on to serve two terms in the White House - giving the Democrats 24 straight years in the White House. Since the development of modern political parties, there has been only one time that a political party has been elected to six consecutive terms in the White House - the Republicans from 1860 to 1884. It seems implausible to me that the Democrats could have matched that in the 1970s and 1980s given the combination of inflation and economic stagnation ("stagflation") that afflicted our country in those years. (Freedman assumes that Kennedy and Yarborough would have faced stagflation - as Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan did.)
Those same economic forces would also have posed a problem for the economically and socially progressive policy agenda of Presidents Kennedy and Yarborough. Harvard University economist Benjamin Friedman makes a strong case in his book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, that economic stagnation or contraction usually does not produce progressive policies.
In addition to these large issues, one might quibble with the plausibility of certain alternative historical events - would President Robert Kennedy really have named Georgia banker Bert Lance (who would in reality become Jimmy Carter's Director of the Office of Management and Budget) as Secretary of the Treasury in 1969?
These criticisms aside, Mitchell Freedman has showed himself to be both a worthy novelist and historian. While the book is not new, it is well worth seeking out.
Mozart did not come from nowhere. He was the product of a society that was avid for music on every level, that believed in the possibility of an all-encompassing musical genius. The society we live in now believes otherwise; we divide music into subcultures and subgenres, we separate classical music from popular music, we locate genius in the past. Today, a young man with Mozart's abilities would very likely labor in obscurity, and perhaps give up in frustration. As I once wrote, if Mozart were alive today, he'd be dead. (My underline)
Alex Ross is speaking, of course, about our country. Musical talent is nurtured in other countries, including most of the countries of continental western and central Europe. I think of France as a particular example of a place that values its musicians.
Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, perhaps the greatest composer of Western classical music. In a life that lasted two months less than 36 years, Mozart produced a body of work that runs well over 600 pieces - including 41 numbered symphonies, 27 numbered piano concertos, and many operas. His last work, the Requiem, is numbered 626 in the Köchel catalog. Commemorations of the anniversary have been happening in concerts and on classical radio stations around the world for the past month.
This morning's Boston Globereports that Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Massachusetts, is in discussions with the 2002 Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, Chris Gabrieli, to see if Gabrieli will join Reilly's campaign as candidate for Lieutenant Governor. This report seems to confirm what a source told TER nearly two months ago.
Countries where living standards improve over sustained periods are more likely to seek and preserve an open, tolerant society, and to broaden democratic institutions. But where most citizens sense that they are not getting ahead, society instead becomes rigid and democracy weakens.
Friedman's analysis is deep and wide. He looks in detail at American economic history to test the idea that economic growth leads to more openness and democracy - and that stagnation leads to intolerance and retrenchment of democratic institutions. He also looks at other developed nations - the United Kingdom, France, and Germany - as well as the developing world. He makes a strong case that growth and openness are correlated, if not causally related.
He finally looks forward to what will help our society be strong morally in this century. He believes that capital formation - human as well as physical - will be critical in maintaining the kind of economic growth that will lead to a more just society. He is critical in the end of policies that will likely thwart capital formation - including the tax cuts proposed by President Bush and passed by Congress in the last five years and ballooning budget deficits.
This is an important work that should make a significant contribution to policy debates now and in the coming decades.
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