Monday, November 29, 2010

Draw your own Career Tree

This came across the Moogaz desk this morning from a fellow infographics connoisseur and blogger at UCLA.  The tool automatically draws a career tree out of your LinkedIn profile.  The thing is, having drawn mine, I have no idea what the usefulness of a career tree is.  But since it took 10 seconds to do and it’s colorful, I present it here for the Moogaz world to play with.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Buy Nothing Day = Black Friday = Conflicted

Every year I Like a Buy Nothing Day group on Facebook.  Shortly after I do this, my wife returns with my sister and mother from the mall.

The logo changes from year to year, but the concept is always the same.

image image

Around yesterday’s turkey extravaganza, we discussed the irony.  Every year it comes up.  Some years more loudly than others.  This year I wasn’t too high on my pedestal; it’s hard to yell at consumerism vociferiously when you’re unwrapping birthday gifts.

In my aged wisdom I realize now that you can’t buy nothing (well actually there’s some nice stories on how you can).  But what bothers me about Black Friday is the sport of buying things that aren’t needed.  A 2006 survey showed that the average American spends $850 on Christmas.  It wouldn’t bother me if everyone received $850 worth of things they need.  But inevitably my guess is that $600 of it is stuff people will throw away, only $250 will actually go to things we need.  The exchange is as locked into our consciousness as apple pie … “thanks for the ummm gift.  I love it.” Etc.  

Kids get hordes of gifts that quickly pile up.  Adults get sweaters and calendars.  Lots of merriment climaxes quickly on Christmas morning only to be followed by the roll over and the cigarette by 4pm.

The only winners are the condom makers and marketers.  The cash rolls in.  And it needs to roll in.  Without consumer spending, which accounts for 2/3rds of our economy, there are no tax receipts, no holiday bonuses, no employment for assembly liners in Southeast Asia.

I’m watching a series my Dad recommended today by Michael Palin (the less wierd Palin, of Monty Python lore).  It’s really 80s, revived by Netflix, complete with Norwegian skier women with massive hair and the remnants of the Cold War.  In the series, Michael Palin travels from the North Pole to the South Pole along the 30th meridian and meets and greets all sorts of cultures – right now he’s in Finland, soon to head to Estonia. 

Pole to Pole Poster

Imagine what we could do with that $850 spent every year for our entire lives.  That’s $68,000.  And we wouldn’t have to carry around all that stuff.  You know, the sweaters and calendars.  Well, I imagine our lives would be a little more like Michael Palin’s adventure.  Meeting people, taking baths with Norwegians or taking the bus across Lapland.  In other words, we wouldn’t be so encumbered by the purchases that are suppose to make us happy.

Anyways, I’m re-inspired to celebrate Buy Nothing Day.  Now to make lunch for the kids.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The TSA will Destroy your Snow Globe, but They’re still Nice People

image Kudos to the TSA blog team for adding some much needed levity to the current journalism breakdown over pat downs.

In their latest post, the TSA team advises to keep your pies close:

Pies are permitted, but they are subject to additional screening if our officers see any anomalies. (Additional screening of pies does not include our officers tasting the pie, no matter what they tell you…)

And keep your snow globes at home:

We are not in cahoots with the Heat Miser, but snow globes are not permitted in your carry-on luggage. They are sealed containers full of liquid that would have to be opened and destroyed to test. We’re not in the business of busting snow globes, so we suggest you place them in your checked baggage or mail them ahead of time.

And there’s even a warning for Tofu Turkeys and Pilgrims:

Travel Advice for Tofu Turkeys: You are not real.

Travel Advice for Pilgrims: Leave your muskets at home and refrain from wearing clothing with large buckles.

A little digging and we meet the TSA team responsible for the post.  The main character is a TSA employee named Blogger Bob.  His bio is pretty standard but this nugget stands out:

Prior to the TSA I was a singer songwriter and traveled the world with my band. Songwriting is now one of my hobbies along with record collecting, ugly ties and photography. My favorite type of music is Garage Rock from the 1960s.

In his posse is Lynn and Nico, Tim and West.  Average government employees doing an excellent job fighting a world where shooting down average employees working for the government is the cool thing to do. The TSA has an impossible task.  All it takes is one slipup in a system that ferries 618 million passengers a year.  They need 99.9999998381877 percent accuracy in a world where someone could try and blow up a plane using a pumpkin pie. 

Thanks Blogger Bob.  Here’s to you.

Tons of Goodwill

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the MuGaz is excited to post the following clip to remind readers that shopping for recycled clothes is way more f***ing exciting than shopping for new ones.

Be sure to give thanks!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This is Not Good

Deflation is really not good.  Think about what would happen if suddenly, everything sold for less than it did last month. 

Krugman lays it out here in economics major detail:  But for the layperson, here’s the shtick.  First, if I build widgets and widget prices are going to be lower next month than this month, why would I invest money in building widgets?  I’m better off holding onto my money.  With lowered prices comes lower wage growth, especially in economies with unemployment.  Why pay more to people making widgets when there are a 100 people knocking on the door for a job?  Third, all of this is reinforcing.  Less spending begets less demand which begets lower wages which begets less spending.  Then suddenly, no one wants a widget.

I wasn’t really nervous until I saw this chart.  For those who didn’t watch Lost in Translation, Japan went through a housing boom in the 1980s to be followed by 20 years of economic funk.  Think Detroit with kimono robes and sushi. 

Two things compound the problem:

1. There’s a lot of pressure to cut government spending (ie trim the deficit).  Since we’re a borrowing country, this deficit money is a net flow into the US economy.  Cut the spending and you cut the flow.  Cut the flow and suddenly there’s $1 trillion less demand in widgets.  Dōmo arigatō.

2. Tea Partiers are throwing stones at the Federal Reserve’s action to inject $600 B into our economy.  In the Tea Party thesaurus, “central” and “reserve” are synonyms with Hitler and Maoism (or something).  See this comic:

But the Federal Reserve’s actions are to prevent the chart (above) from becoming reality.  What does a Japanese-style 20 years of non-growth look like?  Well, think close up of Bill Murray and a world where Scarlett Johansson doesn’t wear makeup.  It’s that bad.

(Downloaded) Video Killed the Video Star

Watched your latest movie on Netflix?  Downloaded a movie torrent?  You’re not alone.  For the first time ever, the number of cable subscribers decreased according to a WSJ interactive.

Netflix is onto this, opening up an online video only subscription.  Previously, you had to order DVDs by mail and online video was an add-on.  But they’re quickly realizing that streaming media is the future.

The Portland, Maine area lost 3,000 subscribers last quarter, out of approximately 310,000 total subscribers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hungover Owls

you know how some animals just always seem to be wearing the same expression?  Dolphins always have that stupid grin.  Turtles always look bored.   And have you ever seen a monkey that didn't look like it was about to do something mischievous?

Apparently this guy thinks all owls look hungover.  Case in point:


Judge for yourself


The Impressive Clergyman: Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam...
[cut to Westley, Inigo, and Fezzik]
The Impressive Clergyman: And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva...

Can you guess the movie?

Mawage is becoming extinct according to a Time Magazine Pew Research poll.  Check out the graphics: parts I, II, and III of the study. 

I thought this was the most amazing of the charts.  Married, living with kids is dying quickly.  The whole article is here:


West Virginia’s Always an Enigma

Brilliant quote from Senator Nelson Rockefeller at a Senate Communications Subcommittee meeting yesterday.

When it comes to developing content, our entertainment machine is too often in a race to the bottom. In fact, it is in a race to the bottom. Getting close. Even worse, our news media has all but surrendered to the forces of entertainment. And much of our news media is entertainment as opposed to news. Instead of a watchdog that is a check on the excesses of government and business, we have the endless barking of a 24-hour news cycle. We have journalism that is always ravenous for the next rumor, but insufficiently hungry for the facts that can nourish something called our democracy. As citizens, we are paying one heck of a price in the dumbing down of America.

Did Sam Seaborne write this?  The full video below.

What’s amazing is that it took only 10 seconds to discover Rockefeller’s words in practice.  Trying to find information about the Committee’s bill I had to go through 4 “News” feed items from Google mentioning the speech before I got to one that came close to mentioning what the Committee was actual doing.  And that “News” source?  An industry specific news blog: and Variety:  Not CNN.  Or another “News” source. 

To avoid the same error of these other aggregators, here’s a quick synopsis on the Committee hearing which is looking at the structure between content producers - like Fox and ABC - and content distributors – like Time Warner.  Content producers want the current solution where they can sell channels in bundles to distributors.  Distributors feel they’re being monopolized.  Both sides use the consumer to argue their position: distributors argue consumers don’t want high rates, producers argue that consumers want access to their content.  They both want government to fix the issue (for them of course).  Neither side really cares about the consumer.  And the Senate can’t really do anything for the consumer anyways because the House is now controlled by free market government-do-nothings in Congress.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Warren Buffet, Voltaire, a Good German Movie, and Snoopy

Tea partiers, with all their yelling and nonsensical political mumbo jumbo, really clouded up something which I hope resurfaces in time for 2012.  Our government saved us from the Great Depression.  Warren Buffet thinks so too.  His op-ed in the NY Times is a stirring reminder of how great a government we have.  Sure, there are budget deficits to work out and legislature to pass and we have lots of systems that suck but back in the Fall and Spring of 2008 the Treasury, White House, and Congress did its job.   How many times do you get to go to the brink and then profit from it two years later; GM will repay $23 billion this week in a bailout even I was skeptical about. 

If you haven’t seen it, Frontline has a great production of the weekend the World almost ended.

imageGood for us, the World didn’t end.  Mostly so I can check out the awesome work being done on how Enlightenment literature spread through Europe. Literature and data mixing, what comes next?  Amelie’s unicorn walking up our driveway.  One of the cool outputs of the projects described in the article is how by tracking correspondence, historians are using map mashups to see how Voltaire ideas spread through Europe.  The whole article is here. 

Ok, so the last thread in my Wednesday chicken soup is a recommendation for a German movie that was panned on the Continent but has some awesome early 20th century period scenes.  It’s also on Netflix online.  The Red Baron (2008) tracks the story of Manfred von Richthofen, aka the Red Baron, or the Ace of Aces of World War I.  It’s a bit stiff, but the story is fun to watch and the visuals impressive.  Here’s the German poster:

Side note: Snoopy versus the Red Baron is my favorite Christmas carol. 

Galactic Empire State of Mind Interlude

Great followup:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Portland Technology Park Promises to Destroy Wetlands, No “Special Significance”

The Portland Economic Development Division has a plan to create a business park absolutely void of any modern sustainability thinking.

First, the new business park will not be on a bus route.  8 buildings, 400 workers, all cars.  Wait, call me surprised.

It’s on Westbrook Street, in the middle of a semi-rural, residential area bordering the Stroudwater trail network.  The access point to Westbrook Street is the intersection with Congress near the airport (the traffic lights near Stroudwater).  That intersection is already a traffic nuisance, but why think about that?


And, haven’t we learned that when you zone low density in the burbs you get crap traffic situations like driving to Gorham and the Maine Mall.

The developers want to lure you with their Silver certification in US Green building.  But how much CO2 are people going to use commuting back and forth?  Green.  Hah!  And there’s no restaurants or nearby cultural activities for lunch so everyone, hop in your car.

And because Portland has so much money (didn’t we just cut the budget dramatically?), we’re generously running utilities all the way there plus paving 950 new feet of roadway. Nice of us.

Thankfully the Department of Environment Protection has already declared the 10 acres of forested wetlands and vernal pools as having no “special significance.” That is, unless you enjoy woods and wetlands and clean air and things that Maine is suppose to represent.

Economic development doesn’t have to mean bulldozing the forested exurbs.  There are lots of brownfield places within Portland with already established utilities and roadways and restaurants and bus lines.  The Economic Development Committee needs to dig a little deeper than bulldozing forested lands half way to New Hampshire.

For those who want smarter solutions to jobs than urban sprawl, there’s a Portland Planning Committee workshop on November 23rd  at 3:30pm in room 209 second floor of City Hall to view and comment on the developer’s plans. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Third Rail

I love little tools that let you play with budgets and the NY Times has a great one out this weekend.  Thanks Andy for passing it to me in an email, but truthfully I spent a good chunk of Sunday adjusting my budget instead of helping with dinner and dishes (sorry Kristyle).  I also had a hangover, so that didn’t help anything.

Today’s blog is about two checkboxes that I didn’t check which would have raised the retirement ages to 68 and 70 gradually.  


A couple of months ago, I may have checked these.  After all, average life expectancy continues to grow in the US.  Check out this fun Google interactive. In 1970, it was 70, now, 78.  And many argue that gradually increasing the retirement age means more economic growth.  Plus, France is raising their age (albeit to our current level) and well, it’s $247 billion in my budget game.

But I’ve recently read a couple of things that have changed my mind.  First, there is now good evidence that poorer people’s life expectancies aren’t growing as much as rich people’s.  For the most deprived group, life expectancies for men have grown only half as much and for women, haven’t grown at all since 1980.  Here’s a really great article going into the reasons.


Second, while CEO salaries have increased 6 fold since 1980, the number of firms offering defined pensions has fallen off a cliff as the 401(K) replaces the employer pension as the retirement option.  Since amounts aren’t defined and the 401(K) is at the control of the individual, what this means is that good accounting people will get something at retirement and not so good, well they’re out of luck.

Third, getting a job at age 60 is nearly impossible.  Kristyle’s granddaddy had a great job, he fixed bicycles for Toys ‘R Us, and I’m not arguing that older people don’t make great employees – they do.  And it’s awesome for their mental health. But picking up a nice keep-you-busy job and having to find work to pay bills are two different things. 

Yes, older people can create economic growth and yes, they should be saving and everyone should be getting healthier but ultimately that is why social security was created – because not everyone has the same opportunity over their lifespan to do these things. 

There’s a good argument that at one-time the ratio of workers to seniors was 50-1 and now it’s 2-1 and if that’s the case, I think raising the social security tax should be discussed before we go throwing our Seniors to the lions.  In the end i didn’t have to do either; I balanced my budget without even touching the third rail.

Animated Hip Hop Breakdown of US and Chinese Economics

I’m not vouching for the content of what’s in this video, only that somebody took the time to combine animation, economic theory, dancing pandas, and hip hop into a 4 minute music video.  I love that it incorporates Bretton Woods, the New Hampshire town famous for hosting the first international monetary policy setting forum.  Also make sure you watch long enough to hear the “We’re frenemies, not enemies” chorus.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And Nutting Wins!

New Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.

Not the owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


More on Freilich....

He ran for US Senate for Vermont in the Democratic primary, against Pat Leahy. He is a doctor and Navy veteran. No, he was not elected. But you can check him out debating Leahy here (or not debating, depending on your perspective). This guy is amazing.

And he has fans!

And a serious side?

Cats vs. Dogs

The battle ensues. I vacillate between finding this article in today's New York Times both fascinating and absolutely revolting. Especially the photos of the cat drinking milk in slow motion.

We all knew cats were classier ("snobbier") than dogs anyway.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

House Speakers Part Deux

As a follow up to Keith's post, here are profiles for the three other Republican speaker candidates in Maine:

Andre Cushing

Andre Cushing of Hampden, is a rookie Representative, serving his first term in the House for District 39. From his website you can see that he is also on the Hampden town council and serves as Deputy Mayor.

Recently, Mr. Cushing wrote a guest column in the Bangor Daily News in which he makes a rather benign case against public funding being used in elections. You can read that column here.

You can also watch Mr. Cushing's "Voice for Paul" in which he jumbles together talking points in support of Paul LePage. (As a side note, I do plan to go back and watch more of these "Voices for Paul" and will report back).

Paul Davis

Hailing from Sangerville (way up near Dover-Foxcroft), Rep. Paul Davis covers District 26. Also serving his first term, Mr. Davis brings a stronger resume than does Mr. Cushing - four terms as a state Senator in which he served two terms as Senate leader.

In this 2006 commentary on Baldacci's re-election, we perhaps have a summary of Mr. Davis' ideals for the state of Maine, in particular this strong statement:

"Maine does not have an effective Energy Plan. And the hardworking people of Maine are paying the price. In addition to having one of the country's highest gasoline taxes, our electricity costs are increasing at a staggering rate.

Energy efficiency is a key to our well-being. We need a long term strategy.
A Strategy that brings all the resources of the private and public sector together.

Depending upon communist rulers and dictators for handouts and charity is not an energy policy.

Great! Let's make it happen. I and most MG readers can certainly support this, though I think we can dispute his characterization of Mr. Baldacci's energy policy. Mr. Davis' experience on the National Panel on Energy and Agriculture (under the National Conference of State Legislatures) shows commitment to issues to energy and conservation. I hope that when federal tax dollars are available for renewable infrastructure development Mr Davis won't turn his back...

Stacey Fitts

Stacey Fitts is serving his third term in the Maine house and represents District 29, which includes his hometown of Pittsfield. Mr. Fitts was the ranking Republican on the Legal and Veterans Affairs panel.

Mr. Fitts is a supporter of the Electoral College, casinos ("You know everything you do is a recycling of dollars, whether you have a restaurant or any other type of entertainment venue. So this [Hollywood Slots in Bangor] is just another example of an entertainment opportunity that people would like to have available to them..."), and the populism of petitions and referendums:

I was excited to see that Mr. Fitts was an advocate of wind power under Baldacci's administration. But as the Citizen's Task Force AGAINST Maine wind power neatly confirms, Mr. Fitts is also employed by Kleinschmidt Associates, a semi-national water and energy consultant. On his Linkedin page, Mr. Fitts lists his role at Kleinshmidt as Field Services Specialist. I guess that explains the tone of this Bangor Daily News editorial against small scale renewable energy generation.

As an aside, this was Mr. Fitts' democratic opponent in this November's election:


The Doodle Bra

One year ago, 18-year old Rachel Segal was on the View peddling her invention, the Doodle Bra, according to a NY Daily News article from November 2009.

Today, both her father and her mother-in-law have been convicted of using the funds from the invention to go on trips to Hawaii, New York, and Las Vegas. 

What started out as a brilliant young entrepreneur story is now cascading quickly into the realm of Balloon boy.  Here at Moogaz headquarters we pride ourselves on enriching stories that change minds.  This is not one of those stories.

Doodle Bras are $14.98 and are available here.  But apparently most of the money is embezzled so you may want to wait until now 19-year old Rachel wins rights to her company.

The Doodle Bra has turned into a booming business for teenage inventor Rachel Segal and her family.

Give a Vermonter a Video Camera

This guy is hilarious.  Anybody know if he got voted in?

This ad was number 1 on’s Awards for the 2010 election.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Daylight Savings Time

This is an interesting article on Daylight Savings Time, its origins, and why we do it.  As anyone in Maine notices, it’s really dark in the evenings now.  I miss the Sun.  So does this British group, the 10:10 Lighter Later group.  You can read about them in the article.  Their latest blog says “Welcome AA members.”  Hi, my name is Keith and it’s been 1 week since I’ve seen the Sun. (Large group in sync) Hi Keith.  Of course it’s England and AA is the Automobile Association.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Speaker Profiles

This is part I of a two part series.  There are 6 candidates vying for Speaker of the House of Representatives in Maine now that the body has become Republican. 

Pat Flood

Patrick Flood’s bio from his House webpage:

A retired forest products company manager, Rep. Flood received his undergraduate degrees from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Syracuse University in 1974. He worked in various management roles in the forest products industry until 2004 when he retired and ran for the Legislature.

He is beginning his fourth term in the House and is on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee as well as the Joint Select Committee on Joint Rules (no doubt the outcome of the Medial Marijuana bill, ha ha little joke). 

In his webpage, his testimonials point out that he’s a “non-partisan problem solver” and “the one person not afraid to talk to the other side.”  He’s noted to be very studious, and someone who “enjoys the tedium of studying the state budget line by line.”  In About Pat Flood, he emphasizes environmental protection, encouraging business opportunities, and management of the state’s finances as high priorities.

His signature sponsored legislation included LD 144.  Requiring 2/3rds and failing by 8 votes, it would have reduced the size of the Maine legislature.  In a list of other sponsored legislation, there’s clearly a focus on land conservation and fiscal discipline. Here’s his sponsored list for the last session

VoteSmart has interest group ratings for Pat Flood.  No big surprises here - high in business and gun issues (big surprise), and low as ranked by the AFL-CIO and Maine People’s Alliance.  Pat represents Winthrop district 82.  In the 2010 gubernatorial race, he supported Steven Abbott in the Republican primary (info via Huffington Post donation lookup)

Robert Nutting

photo of Representative NuttingRobert Nunning has returned to the Maine House 6 times representing Oakland Maine.  He has been in the budget reviewing Appropriations Committee for two terms.

He ascended from the Oakland Town Council and worked as a licensed  pharmacist.  He lists his hobbies as hunting, golf, and gardening.

Not nearly as active in sponsoring legislation as Pat Flood, Nutting sponsored two bills in the last session to revise the border between Waterville and Oakland and to help cosmetologists, barbers, and manicurists perform work outside of their primary business location

In 2010, Nunning made a $500 contribution to LePage’s campaign and actively supported his bid for governorship.  Oakland borders LePage’s hometown of Waterville (the borders were recently updated, see above). 

Meredith N. Strang Burgess

photo of Representative Strang Burgess

A Southern Maine House Representative serving District 108 (Chebeague Island, Cumberland, Long Island, and North Yarmouth), Rep. Strang Burgess is the founder and owner of Burgess Advertising & Marketing in Portland.  On the Health and Human Services Committee, she is an cancer early detection activist and past President of the Maine Cancer Foundation.

Her sponsored bills in 2010 include initiatives to increase access to oral health care, add benefits for children covered in MaineCare, and numerous cancer advocacy pieces of legislation: lottery tickets for awareness, screening funding., her website, emphasizes endorsements by Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.  In the Issues section, she ties controlling spending with keeping burdens off of small businesses and mentions health care, education, and energy but offers few details.

Burgess’ contributions totaling near $135 were generic donations to the Maine Republican Party. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Graffiti Gone Wild

There are two types of graffiti artists in Portland.  There are the punchers.  These are the youthful spiky hair dickheads who tag a wall with graffiti.  And there’s the Portland Public Services Department.

In the haste to mark out a project, they roam the streets aerosoling everything in sight.  Keep your kids close folks, these guys are likely to put a blue stripe in the middle of little Sally’s forehead.


If I run for City Council some day, it will be to remove this unsightly spray paint from our beautiful brick and cobblestone streets.  To this end, I have put together a cool map photo mashup where you can view the destruction.  In one walk from my bus stop to work, I was able to photograph 10 unique spots (and I probably missed some). Click the picture to check it out.


Some of these tags have been here a long time too; rain doesn’t wash away this artwork.  If you agree it’s too much and you’re a Portlander, Like the Facebook post or pass it on and let’s see if we can create some buzz.  Remember that we’re not against the Public Services Department – they do good work too – but just trying to bring up something they’re probably not too aware of.

If this doesn’t work, I’m going to spray paint their building.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

How the Casino Vote Played Out

Patrick and I had been wondering where the Yes votes accumulated for Maine bond issue 1 – which allows Oxford County to build its new casino. The vote was extremely close – 282,463 (50.5%) for and 276,845 against (49.5%).  In all of my research, I couldn’t Google a map that showed the county by county breakdown so I created one for dedicated Moogaz readers.

The northwestern rural interior clearly came out supporting the measure the strongest: Oxford, Somerset and Franklin counties all had stronger than 56% support.

Coming out strongly against the measure were the Downeast counties with Washington County leading the way; only 30% of voters supported the measure.   No doubt this was payback for the Maine state legislature voting against a similar casino measure for Washington County earlier this year.  


Along the I-95 corridor, Kennebec County (Augusta, Waterville) stands out in that they were an urban area strongly supportive of the measure.  York, Cumberland were not too far behind.  Of the I-95 urban centers, only Bangor (Penobscot County) voted strongly against.  This was no doubt because of their own Casino interests.

  Yes   No  
Oxford 16150 62% 9703 38%
Kennebec 30258 58% 22164 42%
Somerset 11342 57% 8390 43%
Franklin 7401 56% 5925 44%
Androscoggin 22441 54% 19144 46%
York 42563 53% 37925 47%
Cumberland 65500 52% 61200 48%
Sagadahoc 8276 51% 7806 49%
Aroostook 13028 49% 13301 51%
Piscataquis 3678 49% 3816 51%
Lincoln 8167 48% 8772 52%
Waldo 7853 45% 9490 55%
Knox 7581 43% 10098 57%
Penobscot 25095 42% 34396 58%
Hancock 9376 37% 15823 63%
Washington 3754 30% 8892 70%

Comparing a very similar 2008 Oxford County initiative which was voted down 54-46, the Downeast support decrease is dramatic.  Cumberland and York Counties clearly were swayed by the jobs argument though; their support increased 8% and 10% respectively from 2008 to 2010.  The real game changers though were Kennebec and Androscoggin Counties, where 18 and 21% more voters voted Yes this time around.  Harder hit by the Recession than the urban centers to the South or the tourist towns to the East, these mill towns clearly sympathized with the Northern Counties and the jobs argument.  

  2008 2010 Change
Washington 59% 30% -29%
Hancock 55% 37% -18%
Knox 52% 43% -9%
Penobscot 46% 42% -4%
Waldo 48% 45% -3%
Lincoln 47% 48% 1%
Aroostook 47% 49% 3%
Cumberland 44% 52% 8%
Piscataquis 41% 49% 8%
Sagadahoc 42% 51% 10%
York 43% 53% 10%
Franklin 39% 56% 16%
Kennebec 39% 58% 18%
Somerset 37% 57% 20%
Androscoggin 33% 54% 21%
Oxford 35% 62% 28%

Well, plenty of numbers to think about until construction completes in a couple of years.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Too Many Bragdons? Maine's Transition Begins

I noticed today in the Portland Press Herald that Gov-elect LePage has named his transition team. I was surprised to find that he named Tarren Bragdon to an unspecified role.

Tarren Bragdon is a former Maine state rep and is now CEO of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative think-tank that describes itself this way:

"The Maine Heritage Policy Center is a research and educational organization whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise; limited, constitutional government; individual freedom; and traditional American values–all for the purpose of providing public policy solutions that benefit the people of Maine."

Fine and dandy. But if you dig a bit further, you'll come across this great September article from the Lewiston Sun Journal . The LSJ contextualizes the Maine Heritage Policy Center within a growing national trend of conservative (and non-profit and therefore supposedly non-partisan) policy institutes that aggregate conservative cash and spend it through the release of partisan policy papers. They also point to this New Yorker article which analyzes the reach of Americans for Prosperity policy centers nationwide. It's astounding the amount of corporate money floating out there, influencing local elections and blurring the lines between policy, education and electioneering.

Interested, I checked to see if Maine has an Americans for Prosperity chapter. We do. And who do we have as the Director? Trevor Bragdon, Tarren Bragdon's brother. Small world?

Though LePage is quoted in the PPH story as saying he doubts Tarren Bragdon will play a role in his administration, his appointment to the transition team sends a clear message to Mainers: extreme conservatives in Maine will operate under the belief that Nov. 2 handed them a mandate for change. No more Bangor rallies with 25 people. No more voter-rejected policy initiatives like TABOR.

Maine has a Republican Governor and Republican-controlled Legislature. Let the transition begin.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Thought the QE2 was a Boat

Michelle, my sister, once had me draw out a chart on how the Federal Reserve worked so she could pass a High School Economics test.  So I drew it out on the back of a paper bag.  I thought I’d draw it again for the Moogaz world.

  1. The government can spend money by collecting it through taxes or taking on debt.  It takes on debt by issuing Treasury department notes.  No new money is created or destroyed in this process, only moved around.  In this way, the government operates like you and me.  
  2. Central banks aren’t really banks.  They print money.  This is not like you and me.
  3. When a central bank wants to print money, it buys things.  Hmmm… say what.  Pretend you had the ability to create money out of the thin air.  What would you do first?  Sure, you’d go somewhere and spend it.  Central banks spend their new money buying debt.  Literally, in their accounting books appears the ledger term “ex nihilo” (out of nothing).
  4. The central bank can buy lots of things.  At the beginning of the Great Recession, it bought toxic mortgages from banks.  This was known as QE1.
  5. Now, it’s buying new US treasury debt.  This is QE2.
  6. Just like anything else in the economy, when everyone is buying the price goes up.  Well, if the Central Bank spends too much, too fast interest rates go up.  Print too much money, and you have hyperinflation.
  7. But right now, there’s not enough people buying things so even with the Central Bank buying $600B worth of things, there’s little cause for concern.
  8. Unless you’re a foreign country.  China, Brazil, Europe – they all don’t like the QE2.  Because the Central Bank can create money out of nothing, it makes what’s already out there a little less valuable.  This makes the US Dollar a little less valuable.  Thinking about vacationing in Europe this summer?  Maybe not so much now that your London latte will cost you more.  And this is why the EU and China are complaining.
  9. But all of that said, the Central Bank just printed $600B worth of money.  And this all but paid for the $800B in Stimulus money spent earlier this year.  What? How?   Well, since the Central Bank bought the debt, we don’t have to pay interest to anyone else.  The debt … disappeared.
  10. Boy, that was easy. Why can’t we do that all the time?  Besides inflation, there’s suppose to be independence between a central bank and it’s government.  Obama and Bernanke aren’t suppose to coordinate printing of money and issuance of debt. 

So in a nutshell QE2 is a good thing. It helps the economy by injecting capital.  It gets rid of $600B in debt.  And it helps exports. 

So don’t let the nut head Tea Partier tell you the whole world is falling down.

And banks, how about lending some of this money instead of hording it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hoping for Cutler, Likely LePage

Those following the Maine governors race will note that 91% of the precincts have reported and LePage is over Cutler by 7,578 votes.  Unfortunately, a Moogaz analysis of the remaining towns shows Cutler probably will not be able to make up the difference.

Here are the top 13 remaining.  Estimating the total voters and expected voting percentages (by looking at surrounding towns), the total vote gain for Cutler is potentially only 1,100 votes.

Since all of the other towns on the list TOTAL to 12,000 voters, there’s virtually no path where Cutler can accumulate the 7,600 he needs to win.

But there’s hope in a recount.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Town Total Votes Est. Cutler LePage Others Potential Vote Gain +- Cutler
Scarborough 7992 45 35 20 799
Waterville 4947 35 55 10 -989
Farmington 2944 45 35 20 294
Belfast 2571 46 24 30 566
Rockland 2396 46 24 30 527
Sidney 1563 46 24 30 344
Winterport 1493 46 24 30 328
Oxford 1490 32 40 28 -119
Madison 1477 31 49 20 -266
Litchfield 1325 36 39 25 -40
Pittsfield 1321 36 39 25 -40
Limington 1273 32 39 29 -89
Pittston 1080 35 55 10 -216