Thingish Things

As Cities Go Broke

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 20•12

Jammin’ Jimmy Vielkind of the Albany Times Union has a very good piece out today on the possibility of struggling New York cities going bankrupt,  as is happening in other parts of the country. 

As an alternative, financial control boards are being proposed.  Why?  Because it gets local electeds off the hook in making tough decisions. 

The Vielkind story reads: 

“Instead, the state’s localities have turned to local fiscal control boards since the 1970s, when the Municipal Assistance Corp. nursed New York City from the brink of default to financial steadiness.

Similar boards have been imposed in Yonkers and Troy, and remain active in Erie and Nassau counties. Former Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, an architect of the Municipal Assistance Corp., said control boards are a useful ‘political tool’ for local officials facing pressure over unpopular decisions like raising taxes or cutting services.”

If local elected officials can’t make the decisions necessary to save their municipalities, what’s the use of them being in office?  If we know they’re panickers when the ship takes on water, it’s time to throw them overboard. 

This chicken-liver stuff…how out of key in the days of Paul Ryan.



Don’t Go Wobbly, GOP

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 17•12

Gene Wilder delivers a memorable line in the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” that captures the state of American politics at this very moment in time.

Portly Augustus Gloop becomes lodged in the main chocolate artery of Wonka’s plant. A seemingly irresistible force of liquid chocolate builds in the pipe behind him. Something has to give, either the pipeline or the hapless Gloop himself.

Wonka, entranced by the scene, rapturously whispers to no one in particular: “The suspense is killing me; I hope it lasts.” (Gloop is then shot through the pipe like a cannonball, at last clearing the thing.)

Fiscally conservative political observers — those willing to accept such a light analogy — must empathize with Wonka. The political suspense of the day is killing us, but there is something so excruciatingly delicious about what we are seeing right now that we almost want it to linger.

We find ourselves at the most ideologically heightened moment in memory. On one side we have steadfast budget reformer Paul Ryan— and his running mate Mitt Romney — calling for fundamental national spending reform. On the other we have ardently liberalDemocrats calling for greater federal entitlements (Obamacare) and employing their tried-and-true “Mediscare” attacks.

This is the time when the Republicans normally run.

But not Ryan. And not Romney. Not this time.

The Republican ticket is holding firm on principle, and all America is watching. No one knows for sure what will happen.

The suspense is killing us in the most exciting way. The rest of this column is available at Newsday and Newsday Westchester.  Thanks for reading!

The Political White House

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 17•12

Are we not even pretending there’s a wall between the two now?  What is the White spokesman doing answering campaign questions? 



Giuliani on Biden: “This Guy Isn’t Bright”

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 15•12



Bowles on Ryan

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 14•12

Erskine Bowles was President Clinton’s Chief of Staff and co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. 

The Death of the Vacation

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 14•12

How does one get away from technology now

Does anyone know what an ashram is?

I don’t. Not really anyway. But that’s where I’m going on my next vacation.

I’m told an ashram is a spiritual hermitage, which is all very interesting. But all I need to know is that they don’t allow cellphones or laptops. If no electronics is the firm rule, an ashram is where I’m headed. They had me at hello — or lack thereof — as the line goes.

There’s a great scene in the movie “City Slickers” where a 40-year-old named Phil, in a deeply unhappy marriage, habitually pretends to be asleep whenever his torturous wife is present. A friend, played by the comic Billy Crystal, catches him in the act. “Nice life you’ve carved out for yourself, Phil,” he whispers, as the guy, wineglass in hand, sits upright on a couch with his eyes squeezed shut. “I know you’re not really sleeping,” Phil’s wife needles, as the poor guy struggles to hold his pose.

I have no problem with my wife, but I’m beginning to understand Phil. I think we all may be.

It’s August, the month when Europe virtually shuts down. But everyone I know here in the States is swatting away mobile work calls and emails like clouds of gnats following us wherever we go. And these are the people on vacation. We just can’t get away from our work anymore — anywhere. Except, evidently, at an ashram.

Modern conveniences are asphyxiating us with real-time communication. We are being waterboarded by ones and zeros, not just at our desks anymore, but everywhere we live and breathe. As hard as we try, we cannot come up for air.

A depressing study came out last month putting hard numbers on this phenomenon. According to Good Technology, 80 percent of Americans now bring work outside of the office for an average of seven extra work hours per week.

I find that startling. How are the 20 percent pulling it off?

Half of Americans now check their work email in bed, and 40 percent are still working after 10 p.m., according to the study. Thirty-eight percent, me included, check email during dinner.

My grandmothers would be appalled. I used to have table manners.

Harris Interactive released a poll in 2011 revealing that only 40 percent of us planned to take time off last summer. Of those, 46 percent worked during vacation. The percentage working on holiday will reach 52 percent this summer, according to Harris’ 2012 survey.

I feel truly sorry for young people today — this must seem normal to them. They will never know a life of inaccessibility, of moments of utter personal freedom. To those of us who remember it, life was so different when we weren’t always on call. Wasn’t it just yesterday, in the years before answering machines, where calling someone’s home after 8 p.m. was considered rude, and when you could head to a phoneless beach town and actually not be reached for a week? What was once taken for granted sounds like Nirvana now.

The digital pace of modern life cannot be healthy. One can feel it reworking the circuitry in the brain — and not in a good way. But how do you get away from it now that the mobile technology genie is out of the bottle, if only for a day or two?

An ashram. That’s how.

I can think of no other way.

I am a coffe-guzzing carnivore who wouldn’t know a yoga position from a frozen yogurt pop. But I will go to any length — I will do anything — to, poof, disappear for a few days.

So if you email me in November, this will be my vacation reply: Please Note: I am 100% inaccessible from xx to xx. I am unable to receive telephones calls, emails or any other form of communication. If you absolutely must reach me, please try Zen meditation. I am at a spiritual hermitage.

Somewhere Phil is beaming.

This column is available at Newsday.  Thanks for reading!

Ryan in Action

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 13•12

How sharp is Paul Ryan?  Take a look. 


With Ryan, GOP “All In” on Debt

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 12•12

Anyone who’s watched the game “Texas Hold ‘Em” knows the term “all in.”  When you’re “all in,” you’re betting everything you’ve got on the hand you’re holding.

Mitt Romney just went “all in” on economic conservatism with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential pick.  He placed a bet that the American people want bold action on the national debt, Ryan’s signature issue, even if that means making significant sacrifices.

There are other candidates who may have added more to the Romney ticket electorally, and who almost certainly would have posed less political risk to him. I argued in this space just last week for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as a long-shot pick. But no candidate could have defined the ticket as sharply asHouse Budget Committee chairman Ryan now does.  In that, Romney’s selection  is a game changer.

The former Massachusetts governor just knowingly handed the Obama team and theDemocratic Party an arsenal of attack fodder.  But here’s the thing: He did it willingly. That takes audacity.

Mitt Romney — and the entire GOP — knows the hits are coming. Those scoundrelRepublicans want to cut everything,Democrats from coast-to-coast will say from now until Election Day. They’ll take food away from our children, the wheelchair out from under grandma, and they’ll invest our Social Security dollars in Halliburton and AIG — all to help those greedy millionaires and billionaires.

The rest of this column is available at Newsday.  Thanks for readng!

What the Joe Soptic Ad Says about President Obama

Written By: Bill Lalor - Aug• 09•12

You’ve probably already seen it:  The Joe Soptic ad is a classic “smear” meant to reinforce the Obama campaign’s portrayal of Eeeeevil Mitt Romney as a heartless corporate raider who doesn’t care about you, or whether you die of cancer.

The ad is ridiculous and basically indefensible, because it’s stuffed with lies

Did anyone expect the intensity of the backlash?  And would the backlash have happened in 2008?

Those are questions for later.  At the moment, it’s the month of August and the presidential election is about 90 days away.   August is when presidential candidates are trying to stake out big themes and top-level talking points, and this ad was an attempt to define Mitt Romney.

But the ad says more about President Obama than it does about Romney. The ad confirms, I think, what many independent-minded voters believe or at least suspect about President Obama: he’s been a failure, and frequently an embarrassment.

More to the point is that independents in particular tend to see this kind of negativity and character assassination as the last resort of failed incumbents who can’t defend what they’ve done in office.  Such things exasperate independents.

Menacing Laugh Menacing Laugh

The Soptic ad is quintessentially a character assassination, and it’s low-brow trash by Presidential standards, so while it might please the left, for independents, I suspect, it flagrant and tasteless enough that it will only confirm the worst suspicions about the President: he’s a un-Presidential Chicagoland yokel, he was full of gas in 2008, and he has no business occupying the White House.   It also hits one of Obama’s remaining (but fading) strengths: basic likeability. (How many voters really give Obama a pass because the ad was run by a surrogate?)

In a month when the campaigns are looking to set forth election themes, the Soptic ad might have permanently done just that:  by tattooing President Obama – and again, my focus here is independents – as a desperate, angry and nasty incumbent lashing out because his own record, like the Soptic ad, is basically indefensible.

If the tempest persists, the Soptic ad might prove to incredibly damaging to President Obama’s re-election hopes.

Quote of the Day, Vincent Grandil

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Aug• 08•12

“French people have an uncomfortable relationship with money. Here, someone who is a self-made man, creating jobs and ending up as a millionaire, is viewed with suspicion. This is big cultural difference between France and the United States.” — French attorney Vincent Grandil on news that France’s new Socialist government plans to tax income over $1.24 million at a rate of 75%.