Sometimes, Ignorance Can Be An Excuse

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a story out of Massachusetts where the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission had decided on a new interpretation of a regulation that threatened to shut down a whole lot of small breweries — and help out the larger ones.


Well, that policy’s been reversed, and the ABCC are saying it was all a screwup, and they didn’t realize what they were doing.They insist they weren’t trying to put the smaller guys out of business, or help the big guys — they just messed up.


You know what? I believe them.


Go ahead and read the article — and read between the lines. What they’re saying is “we have absolutely no clue what we’re doing here. We’re all a bunch of political hacks who just wanted safe, secure, easy state jobs, and we used our political connections to get these jobs. What happened was one of us figured we ought to at least try to do something, and naturally he or she botched it. We’re sorry, and we’ll go back to doing as little as possible — please don’t take our cushy state jobs away and make us get ‘real’ jobs, where we’ll actually have to do real work!”


That’s how things operate, more or less, in Massachusetts. A lot of the state bureaucracy is filled with people who owe their jobs to the old principle of “it ain’t what you know, but who you know.” Hell, Whitey Bulger — for almost two decades the FBI’s Most Wanted non-terrorist — had a little brother (Jackie)  with a lengthy criminal record, but he (with the assistance of the third Bulger brother, William — for years the all-powerful Senate President) had a job in the Massachusetts court system. And the probation division just underwent a massive shake-up that kicked loose a LOT of politically connected people with zero qualifications and do-nothing jobs.


So when a bureaucracy in Massachusetts screws up and says “sorry, we did that because we have absolutely no clue what we’re supposed to be doing,” I’m willing to buy into the “never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence” theory.


Oh, and just in case anyone forgot, Massachusetts is the bluest of the blue states. The legislature had been at least 80% Democratic for well over a decade, their House delegation has never had more than two Republicans (and none in about a decade), the Senate seats were the property of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry for several decades (Republican Scott Brown scored a major upset when he took Ted’s place), and the Republicans’ 16-year run of holding the governorship ended in 2006. (And that I explain by saying that Massachusetts voters aren’t completely insane — they wanted at least some kind of check on the Democrats. On the other hand, the Republicans who held the seat were William Weld, Paul Cellucci, Mitt Romney, and Jane Swift. And Cellucci and Swift — who were never elected — were both abysmal.)


To me, this is just another example of how bad things can get when you have one-party rule for too long. Especially when that one party is the Democratic one.

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