I learned a sweet expression yesterday: good-enough Morgan, an issue or talking point used to influence voters temporarily, particularly in the period before an election. For example, gay marriage became a good-enough Morgan in 2004, driving evangelicals to the polls so they would vote for George W. Bush and then vanishing from the national Republican agenda. But the best part of “good-enough Morgan” is the etymology. William Morgan was a former Freemason who planned to write a tell-all book before his mysterious disappearance in 1826. When Thurlow Weed, organizer of the nascent Anti-Masonic Party, found a body floating in the Niagara river in 1828, he said it would be a “good-enough Morgan” until after the election. Today is Friday, and the people must be tricked into wisdom somehow. Won’t you misidentify the bodies with me?
Here’s a fun fact: Missoula is the only major city in Montana that does not own its water system. Mountain Water is owned by the Carlyle Group, a $35 billion private equity firm that purchased the utility in 2011. One condition of the sale was that Carlyle would entertain purchase offers from the city in good faith, but it has since rejected all of them—possibly as a result of ideological objections to public ownership among its executives. Under Mayor John Engen, the city has tried to buy Mountain Water for the last year, only to meet vigorous resistance from The Carlyle Group, which has simultaneously arranged to sell to Algonquin Power. It’s a tangled web, and last week the city took Carlyle to court for condemnation proceedings—a process originally projected to cost $400,000, whose combined legal fees now stand at $2 million.
That’s okay, though, because Mountain Water is a deal at any price. That’s been the city line all year, but last week an expert witness hired by same testified that the system could need as much as $95 million in capital improvements to meet industry standards. That’s more than the total purchase price we offered Carlyle last year. The more Missoula argues in court that Carlyle has mismanaged Mountain Water, the less it seems like a great idea to buy it. That’s the gist of my column in this week’s Missoula Independent, which is some hardcore local stuff but still of interest to those of you who like to see how small-town politics work. Basically, how it works is that the most charismatic dude in the city comes up with a plan, and we follow him into what is hopefully an elysian future. Or it’s a public debt dystopia—we’ll find out when we get there.
Remember the 113th Congress, whose purpose was to thwart President Obama’s legislative agenda so that Republicans could retake the Senate and get stuff done in the 114th? It tuns out single-party control only works when the GOP is a single party. Over at the Times, Neil Irwin suggests that this week will tell us whether Boehner and McConnell can manage the tea party wing of their caucus, and things aren’t looking good. He points out that the House only avoided a DHS shutdown earlier this month by passing a stopgap bill at the last minute with Democratic votes. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Boehner agreed on a doc fix for Medicare but may not bring their parties along. And a bill to fight human trafficking has been derailed by a redundant anti-abortion amendment, which has in turn left nominated Attorney General Loretta Lynch with the longest wait for confirmation in US history. So next on the list is a federal budget.
From the depths of his fatherhood, Ben al-Fowlkes sent me this Bubble Tape commercial of the early 90s—right at the intersection of Max Headroom and MTV. The Baby Boomers had recently assumed control of broadcast media, but they retained their identity as the first generation in history to see through institutional authority. They still didn’t buy what the man was selling, but their lives had progressed to the point where they were selling it. The generation told not to trust anyone over 30 was now in charge of marketing long gum to children. Naturally, they employed the message that most resonated with them: old people are not cool. As the Boomers grew even more hideously aged in the decades that followed, that idea would mutate into “most people are not cool.” The notion that you could be different from most people by buying something would become the central premise of American advertising.
Ted Cruz has formally entered the 2016 presidential race, announcing his candidacy this morning at Liberty University. And what better analogue for his brand of conservatism than a college founded by a televangelist? As the Telegraph reminds us, Liberty University teaches that the Earth is 6000 years old and notes the “strong possibility that horses, zebras and donkeys are all descended from an original pair of horses that were on Noah’s Ark.” That’s only a possibility, though; we shouldn’t assume anything until we can do more research. Cruz is a Baptist, but he didn’t go to Liberty University. He went to Princeton. That, dear reader, is the senator from Texas in a nutshell.