Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Fox For Mayor" Trivia Team Takes Second Place In Trivia Grandchampionship

Every Monday at the Sly Fox Pub there is a heated trivia competition. The questions are researched by an employee of Sly Fox, and up to 30 teams participate.

Mrs. Politics, ever the trivia savant, was on a trivia team aptly named "Fox For Mayor". Points were accumulated from week to week, and the top-performers were invited to participate in a playoff featuring a different format and more difficult questions.

The playoff took place this past Monday, with the "Fox For Mayor" team taking second place! Mrs. Politics, noting that posts on this blog don't always have to be about politics, asked that I post an announcement about the accomplishment.

I agreed to make such a post, and failure to do so until now has been a source of fodder from my better half for the past 6 days!

So here it is, hon. Congratulations!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Democratic Process Influenced By Failure of Journalism

This is a continuation of this post. I could have included all this info in the same post, but the more posts you make, the more hits you get on your blog. And the more hits you get on your blog, the more likely you are to win the lottery. Why do you think people write such drivel on blogs?

(Note to bloggers: just kidding. Just trying to entertain the masses.)

(Note 2.0 to bloggers: don't write drivel.)

So, everyone likes to make fun of the media, and for good reason---many media outlets are terrible. In Annapolis, we have the misfortune of having only one major newspaper, The Capital, which is particularly infamous for inaccuracy. This blog named itself to point out the shortcomings of the newspaper. The bumper sticker "End Capital Punishment, Cancel Your Subscription" serves the same purpose. On the rare occasions in my life when I have spoken with people important enough to have their names/stories told in The Capital, I've heard horror stories of quotes that began as "Mrs. Politics is a great girlfriend" and ended as "Mayor Moyer kicked me in the rear end".

The Capital totally missed this story. The Post and The Sun missed it too, but they have an excuse because they actually have other real stories to write about. The Capital should have uncovered this long ago. I would have uncovered it myself, buy my legal team advises me that the farther away I stay from the court system, the better.

Imagine how different the campaign would have been if Zina's legal history was reported a year ago when she entered the race. Sam Shropshire, a sitting alderman, is facing highly publicized legal troubles....and he received 9 votes. NINE. VOTES. Before this campaign, Zina Pierre had no name recognition in this town. If somebody that nobody knows was labeled as having such problems, would their campaign have even gotten off the ground? Probably not. Instead of (essentially) a 3-person race, would it have been Josh vs Trudy? Who knows what the outcome would have been?

As it is, the media missed the story, Zina was elected, and now has withdrawn. The Democrat central committee gets to pick the replacement. Cohen certainly has to be a front runner. Will McFall lobby for the nomination? I would. One can't help but think that if the media did its job, she might not have had this burden.

Pierre Withdraws From Race; Central Committee Can Choose Replacement

Whenever something confuses me in politics, I always look for the most cynical explanation possible. Such an approach is usually accurate in ascertaining the truth, and has served me well on several occasions where suspension of total disbelief was a good quality to have.

One day after Zina Pierre was officially certified as the Democrat nominee for the Mayoral election, details of legal problems surfaced. The Capital sent out an email confirming that, in the face of these revelations and citing personal reasons, Zina had decided to drop out of the race. I believe The Sun will run a story tomorrow.

To quote a poker promo from ESPN: this is beyond fairy-tale, it's inconceivable. So what now? You're going to like this. Section 4.20.150 (C) of the city code allows a candidate nominated for office to decline their nomination within 10 days of receiving that nomination. And wouldn't you know it: it's less than 10 days since Zina received the nomination. And wouldn't you also know, section 4.20.160 allows the central committee--in this case the Democrat Central Committee--to fill the vacancy with WHICHEVER CANDIDATE THEY PICK.

Here's the email from the chairman of the Democrat Central Committee:
Dear ADCC Members and Friends,

Zina has withdrawn her candidacy after the revelations of her legal
problems. We in no way urged her to do so and left it to her judgment. We feel
sad for her and all her supporters.This puts a great deal of importance on
the ADCC, that by city code is charged to name a successor by October 2. ADCC is
under no City Charter/Code restraints in our choice and we then must establish
the procedures for our choice.

We will have to meet shortly. Our meeting for September 23 is still on.
Let me know if these dates are available to the elected members: Sept. 24, 25,
26, 28, and 29. In the meantime, consult with Democrats in your wards, our
elected officials, and your own thoughts.

Still, Victory in ‘09!

The statement that "we in no way urged" Zina is of course believed by everyone to be fucking bullshit. I'm sorry to cuss but it's such an arrogant attitude that one is left with no other articulation of one's feelings.

The email chatter has been off the charts on this issue, so I'll pass that along to you. In addition to the email chatter, I've had several verbal conversations about what's happening. My promise to you, the blog reader, is that I will plagiarize equally the thoughts I heard from emails and those from phone conversations.

I enjoy email chatter, because it tends to offer the most cynical and far-fetched explanations of any given event. And as we learned at the beginning of this post, that makes it correct. Even the most amateur politico could follow the storyline. The "chosen candidate", Josh Cohen, gets in the race because he has the backing of the machine and thinks he can win with their money and influence. The "machine" is defined as Mike Busch, John Astle, Ellen Moyer, and the Democrat Central Committee. The machine got Sam Shropshire elected in this manner, and they're at it again.

I guarantee this info about Zina is not new. The machine likely dug it up when Zina jumped in the race, but sat on it in hopes that Josh would win straight up and they wouldn't have to use it. When Zina won, they sprung into action--and they worked quickly because they knew the code says Zina would have to resign within 10 days of winning the primary. I mean, think about it....Zina knows politics. She worked for Bill Clinton, and runs a lobbying firm. She had enough expertise to beat Cohen--despite his machine backing; and to beat Trudy McFall--who ran a perfect campaign for 2 years. You mean to tell me that one setback would be enough to convince her to drop out of the race for personal reasons?? Shenanigans!! I call shenanigans! The legal problems seem to deal with economic circumstances. So Zina is facing economic hardship...just like half of freeking Annapolis! A clever candidate could spin that in their favor...not bow out of the race.

You know what else is interesting?? People always talk about "ending the partisanship"...the bickering between Republicans and Democrats. But this wasn't the Republicans sticking it to the Democrats--this was Democrat skulduggery all the way!! "Incest Partisanship" is what I call it--don't be surprised if that term catches on. Heck, the Republican candidate hasn't done anything political in, like...8 years! It's not enough for the machine to retain power for their party; they have to retain power for their lineage.

Now, as far as I know, Josh has not yet been officially selected as the replacement for Zina. I know Josh on a quasi-personal level, and I will say that he's been pleasant on the few occasions we've ordered beers from the same bartender. He's commented on this blog before, and is more than welcome to offer an explanation. But this whole thing reeks of a sinister plan executed as designed.

Edit: After posting this, I spoke with someone who I consider to be reliable and knowledgeable, and that person swears the machine had no prior knowledge of these issues. It's hard to believe but I guess it's plausible. Could it possibly not be Cohen that is chosen by the central committee?

There is still much to consider. First, as the first commenter says, what a failure of journalism. If the Capital spent as much time researching their candidate profiles as they do the Home of The Week, we would have known about Zina's problems long ago.

...which brings me to another point--Zina deserves blame. The charges against her, if intentional, represent characteristics we don't want in a mayor. There were questions--including on this blog--about Zina's candidacy when she entered the race. And for every question answered, we have 3 new ones in its place.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

City Council Meeting 9/14/09: Live Blog!

Many people tell me that the live blogs are their favorite feature on this blog. I am proud of that compliment, because turning the painfully boring into something useful and interesting is a key skill for anyone seeking a future career in economics. Some people have told me that they follow the live blog while watching the telecast of the meeting on television. Wow. In some jurisdictions that's known as 'double jeopardy', and is prohibited by law. I haven't heard of that much masochism since Mrs. Politics agreed to go on a first date with me more than 3 years ago*.
(Within 2 weeks of that first date, Mrs. Politics left for Spain--with a one way ticket and no plans to return. This is a true story.)


There is a work session going on right now, preceding the council meeting. Arthur, the historian whose last name I don't know, came up to me expressing anger. Trudy McFall, he says, always brags about how she goes to everything. "Is she here now?". Technically he is correct, but I pretended to ignore him just so he knows that he can't be a ghost writer of this blog.


Arthur just asked Tony Evans "what if there's inflation". I will now permanently ignore him.


Actually, deflation is a scary thing. I think it's scarier than inflation and I'll tell you why. With the case of inflation, the economy and the authorities can react. Employers can raise salaries to keep up with cost of living, banks can raise the interest rate on loans so that they make a real (meaning inflation-adjusted) profit, and central banks can raise their target interest rate to try and 'ease the expansionary pressure'. If you have deflation, it's harder to do the opposite. It's more painful and difficult to lower wages, even if the cost of living falls more than wages and your standard of living increases. Plus, interest rates don't rarely go below 0%. Banks would have to be SURE of deflation to actually pay you to take a loan. Conclusion: inflation and deflation are both scary. Inflation is the bigger concern now.


ALERT: SHROPSHIRE PLANS TO RE INTRODUCE CITY MANAGER BILL. So far nobody support him, including Doug Smith apparently.


An early start! Not a heavy crowd, but several luminaries. All elected officials are here. Alderman Israel sports a fresh haircut and receives a compliment from the Mayor. How nice. I have since learned that when receiving his new buzz cut, he requested "give me the Doug Smith". Funny.


A new 2 a.m. bill is on first reader, and there are people here who do not like this. The mayor knows this, and tries to deflect some ire by reminding people that there will be a public hearing for this bill, and that hearing is not taking place right now. As a result of her suggestion, nobody did anything different.


There are several council meeting hallmarks to look for when you are watching a meeting. The most famous is Alderman Shropshire addressing the crowd on television, but there's also Stankivic voting "no" on a first reader, committee chairmen cancelling their meetings, Alderman Paone growing another 6 inches, and the city attorney declining to comment on something. Tonight, I'm looking for something special--more than 2 Alderman asking to be added as co-sponsors to any bill submitted by Alderman Israel, an event that reflects the belief that Israel actually researched the legislation he submitted.


The public is now allowed to speak. First is candidate Cohen, opposing the 2 AM bill (on first reader). He pledges that, if Mayor, and if this bill passes, he will try to repeal the law when he becomes mayor.

THIS will tell you about 95% of what you need to know about the 2 AM "Bar Wars" back story.


A common theme is that even for things that might make sense, we should wait for the next council to consider it. I guess this makes sense for big issues, but city government shouldn't shut down just because there's a campaign going on.

(Note: There is a campaign going on. The primary is tomorrow.)


Arthur is telling the council the same thing he told me earlier. They seem equally appreciative of the information.


Minor Carter: Midnight bars knew what they were getting into when they opened.


Alderwoman Finlayson just made a surprisingly lucid argument, asking Minor "we make changes all the time to laws that were previously in place...are you telling me we shouldn't consider ever changing anything". I use the word "lucid" in the hopes that it means logical--I apologize for not knowing the meaning of the word, it's just that there's not that many chances to use the word 'logical' or any of its synonyms while at a city council meeting.


Tony Evans: The Market House is an example of why outgoing councils shouldn't decide on things. Tony calls Ward 1 a "tax colony" for the rest of the city, perpetuating the Ward 1 superiority syndrome that has plagued Annapolis for longer than this blog can document.


Ugh, more people are testifying against the 2 am bill, and my fingers are getting tired of typing. So, until something different happens, I am not going to type. Here is how it works. There is a certain population of Ward 1 who really does not want more 2 am licenses. They claim that the extra 2 hours of being opened cause exponential damage to their flower pots, and overall quality of life. Broadly, they are not all that interested in suggestions to enforce the laws (i.e. nuisance, vandalism) that already exist, or to recognize that parking reform could be a solution--since most people who urinate in flower pots do so on the way back to their illegally parked cars. They also tend to define fairness not necessarily as a level playing field for businesses, but as full disclosure of the unfairness at the time of inception of the business.

I tend to think of this as a squeaky wheel problem...the people who vigorously oppose this are also the people who come to meetings and are politically active. If you surveyed every citizen of Annapolis--not to mention the tourists on whom the city depends to create revenue--and more than 25% of those people opposed the 2 AM idea, I would do the unthinkable and let a Ward 1'er actually write a paragraph on this blog!


While various citizens debate with various Aldermen, let me take a moment to address a comment I received on my last post. The commenter suggests that blogging is so "passe", suggesting that I should "twitter" the proceedings of the meeting. I want to nip this idea in the but. For those of you that don't know, Twitter is a torture mechanism created by the Internet itself aimed at making obsolete the social networking site you just learned about, and making you feel inferior for not understanding what is a tool of only modest effectiveness.

The Internet has become self-aware, much like the robot in I Robot and the computer in War Games. First it created MySpace, which was replaced by Facebook due to the latter's ability to weed out creepy people. Sadly, Facebook actually requires people to mutually acknowledge that they are friends in real life before they can be friends on the web site. With Twitter, you can search for your favorite celebrity, non-celebrity, friend, victim, or other entity, then unilaterally sign up to "follow" that person, which allows you to receive 140-letter updates of what the person you are following is doing or thinking at any given time.

Twitter is useful in some circumstances, but one outlet for me to articulate my brain activity is more than adequate.


In my life, I have heard the words "Ward 1 Sector Study" just as many times as I have heard the words "would you like a lime in that", a correlation that highlights the measures a sane person must take to counteract the effect of political involvement.


Voting Time.

Shropshire moves to add CA-08-09, a new city manager charter amendment.

They are doing something regarding the new parking fees but it's not on the agenda and I can't hear what they're saying.

O-25-09: Requires the Public Works Department to establish and implement at 10-year water and sewer plan. PASSES 9-0.

O-32-09: Directs the order of voting for a roll call to be a "rotating sequence". FAILS 5-4 (I think...the PA system is too damn inaudible.) (voting no: Moyer, Israel, Cordle, Stankivic, Arnett).

Bills Passed on First Reader:

O-27-09: 2 AM licenses.
O-50-09: Lease of dock space for a sailboat race.
O-52-09: Rules for foreclosure properties.
R-56-09: Fines to accompany the foreclosure ordinance.
R-54-09: To declare September 2009 as "Family Day"! (Not a joke). Rules suspended. "Family Day" adopted on final reader.

There are some appointments and budget revisions that you may want to look at, perhaps particularly Carl Snowden to the HACA board.

September 28th meeting moved to October 5 because of Yom Kippur.

910: adjournment.

Live Blog Tonight!

Tune in at 7:30.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Best Business Decisions Ever

I gave you the worst, and here are the best:

7. Andy Grove was the President of Intel when their business had grown on the back of memory chips. Seeing Intel's market share being lost to competition in Asia, Grove asked his CEO what the Board of Directors would do if Grove was fired and a new President was hired. The answer was that the new CEO would get the company out of the memory business, an idea that was inconceivable to the company's managers. So, Grove symbolically fired himself, and returned as a "new" CEO with a directive to move into a new business. That new business: semiconductor processors.

6. Ed Washburn franchises a couple of automotive businesses to his military buddies in Utah. Two thousand miles away, a self-made millionaire named Jim Hinman was working as an unpaid football coach in Maryland when one of his players bet him he couldn't make another million dollars. Hinman sent a representative to Utah, bought Washburn's automotive businesses, and created Jiffy Lube International.

5. A small electronics company called Computer Tabulation Recording Corporation decides they have good products but they need a more regal sounding name to accompany their expansion into Canada. Company President Thomas Watson decides the company new name will be International Business Machines--IBM.

4. At the turn of the century, Americans were thrifty (much like Mrs. Politics, to the benefit of yours truly). A bottle cap salesman recognizes the value of throwing something away after one use--the value being that customers keep coming back for more. So, King Camp Gillette invents and sells the disposable razor.

3. Amadeo Giannini formed the Bank of Italy in the early 1900's with the philosophy that banks should serve the customers, not themselves. Offering loans as low as $10, this microcredit was a century ahead of its time. When fires blazed in San Francisco in 1906, Giannini decided to take all the gold from the bank's vault and hide it in his fireplace, enabling the bank to give loans 2 days later using for a desk a piece of wood on top of 2 barrels! The bank quickly became the biggest in the state, and today Bank of America is the biggest in the country.

2. Henry Ford, known as a great innovator but also a great asshole, decides to reduce hours in the workweek and double the salary of his workers to $5 a day. The move reduces Ford's 370% employee turnover rate, and marks the beginning of the idea that an employee-employer contract is more than just paying the employee the lowest wage possible.

1. The McDonald brothers opened their first restaurant in 1940, following a normal business model. Ray Kroc, a Multimixer Milkshake machine salesman, hoped to sell 1 milkshake machine to any given customer. The McDonald brothers needed 8 machines! Intrigued at how a restaurant could be so busy as to need 8 milkshake machines (each producing 5 milkshakes at a time), Kroc goes to meet the brothers. He convinces the brothers to sell him the McDonalds name and starts franchising food "factories" that amassed $28.8 billion in sales last year.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Worst Strategic Business Decisions Ever

The 5 worst business decisions of all time, listed in reverse order for added drama:

5. William Orton, President of Western Union, declines to purchase Alexander Grahm Bell's 'Bell Telephone Company' for $100,000, calling the telephone an "electrical toy" that families would not use.

4. Decca Records refuses to offer a record deal to The Beatles. "Guitar groups are on their way out", according to an awful judge of talent.

3. My decision to take over restaurant operations at a crumbling building in a college town with a bad reputation for food, which cost me nearly as much money as the Mercedes I currently covet.

2. Ross Perot passes on the chance to buy Microsoft for $6-$15 million.

1. The creator of the World Wide Web (not the Internet...2 different things) decides to offer his invention to the world FREE OF CHARGE.