Editor's Note: Every Friday, Tom Keane offers up assorted observations, conundra and miscellanea about the week that was. Here's his round-up for the week ending March 3, 2017.
The burning question of the week: If Oscars’ accounting firm PwC had been responsible for counting the votes on Election Night, would Hillary Clinton now be president?
- Let’s try that one again. Donald Trump tried to reboot his presidency with a decently delivered, optimistic speech before Congress, one that made him sound inclusive, engaged and forward thinking. He hasn’t really changed, of course. But with favorabilities at historic lows, a do-over was needed. The flurry of executive orders notwithstanding, presidents aren’t dictators; they need a majority to get things done.
- Where does it end? It once seemed theories about a Russian take-down of the U.S. elections were just conspiratorial ravings. Now, they’re starting to look more credible. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is history. Jeff Sessions – thanks to his undisclosed contacts with the Russians – likely soon will be. And questionable intelligence alleging all sorts of bizarre dealings by Trump himself is getting a second look.
- Really wicked hard. Trump told a meeting of the nation’s governors that, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Um, actually, everybody knew. That’s why policy wonks spend their lives on the subject. That’s why the Affordable Care Act was 1,990 pages long, and its regulations numbered in the tens of thousands. And that’s why whatever the GOP proposes to replace Obamacare with will be equally complex and controversial.
- It’s the economy, stupid. For all of the caterwauling about the bumbling Trump administration, the surge in the stockmarket speaks louder. Business loves the president because his economic policies are expected to deliver more revenues and more profits. If so, GDP growth will surge — maybe not the 3.5 percent Trump expects, but more than the anemic 2 percent average of the last eight years. That should mean more people employed and more money in people’s pockets. And really, that’s all the folks who voted for Trump are looking for.
- Oh, say can you see? Why do people so love the Citgo sign? The new owner of the Kenmore Square building on which it sits is trying to boost its rent, and the gasoline retailer objects. In response, some Bostonians are trying to designate the sign a landmark, compelling it to remain in place. This is nonsense. It’s a billboard, for Pete’s sake – and a billboard for an oil company owned by the repressive government of Venezuela. I understand. You have misty memories of your days at Fenway Park with the Neon blazing over the Green Monster. Some of us had the same affection for the erstwhile Coke bottles on the left field light tower. I got over the demise of my sentimentality; you’ll get over yours.
- We’re #1! US News & World Report ranked Massachusetts the “Best State” in the nation. It’s a feel-good honor that Gov. Charlie Baker undoubtedly appreciates – especially for the political benefits it brings – but the factors that went into the ranking (such as education or economic performance) were decades in the making. Perhaps our reputation as the “bluest state” is less epithet than something others might want to emulate.
- Four more years. Marty Walsh should also be happy. S&P Global Ratings just graded Boston’s bond AAA, high school graduation hit a record high of 72.4 percent, the city agreed to a four-year contract with the patrolmen’s union, and the mayor has cut an enviable national profile thanks to his ardent defense of immigrants. The only loser out of this? What’s-his-name – you know, the guy who’s running against him.
- Wordsmiths. Barack and Michelle Obama both signed up to write their own books, with advances as much as $60 million. Unlike most of his predecessors, the 44th president is a good writer, meaning that his memoirs might truly be worth reading. And hers? Perhaps a platform for a future run.
- Booze in Beantown. Liquor licenses are just like taxi medallions. Both keep supply low, prices high and their owners enriched. In the case of taxis, the gravy train ended when companies such as Uber and Lyft did an end-run. No such end-run seems possible for bars and restaurants, but Boston, to its credit, is now pushing the state to allow it more licenses. In truth, the number of liquor licenses should be unlimited. And the criterion for a getting a license should not be Can you afford it? but Are you a good operator?
- Hot and heavy. And finally, the Swedish town of Overtornea is debating a proposal to grant town workers a new benefit: a weekly one-hour sex break. This is an idea the Boston city council might want to explore, although annually for 15 minutes should be sufficient for us.
This column was first published by Cognoscenti on March 3, 2017.