1. I’m fascinated, as a writer and a nerd, by the future of the printed word. Newspapers’ struggles are well-documented, but lately my thoughts have turned to the changing book industry and the Kindle-powered rise of e-books. For a long time I wondered if people would be willing to pay $10 for the digital text of a book with no physical copy to show for their money afterwards. But recently I read two books on my Kindle - Robert Caro’s new LBJ biography and Politico’s final look at the presidential race – and the experience got me thinking about the potential for a change in consumer psychology. Perhaps reading with your Kindle is less like buying a traditional book and more like buying a movie ticket – you pay $10 or so for an immersive cultural experience, and you don’t expect to have something physical afterwards. Better yet, maybe that lower price point (compared with a hardcover) will get people to buy more books than they do now. Of course, if too much of the industry moves to e-books it might be bad news for independent bookstores. We’ll see.
2. I’m pleased to announce that my friend Dan McGowan will be joining WPRI.com next month as our second digital reporter, part of WPRI 12’s continued expansion of our newsroom and our online team. Dan will be covering Rhode Island’s political scene and whatever else is interesting. He first came on my radar screen in 2010, when he was blogging about the Providence mayoral race and related topics for Rhode Island’s Future; since then he’s earned a journalism degree from Boston University and done great original reporting for GoLocalProv. (When McGowan accepted the job, I said to Tim White: “Good. Now he can’t scoop us anymore!”)
3. Should Providence consider switching to a two-tier property tax, with a higher tax rate for land and a lower tax rate for the value of buildings? It worked for Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, apparently, when they wanted to revitalize their city redevelopment.
4. Color me skeptical about the odds that Gina Raimondo will run for governor as an independent (let alone as a Republican) if for no other reason than it would sharply reduce her chances of eventually joining the state’s congressional delegation, which could be down to three people by the end of a hypothetical Governor Raimondo’s second term. That said, there’s recent precedent for a center-left independent and former governor winning a U.S. Senate seat: Angus King, who did precisely that in Maine last month. If Raimondo was a popular and successful independent governor, she might have a shot as an independent. But King was running for an open seat vacated by a Republican (Olympia Snowe) in a state without a deep Democratic bench; a congressional vacancy in Rhode Island would almost certainly be left by a Democrat, and there’s never a shortage of those eying higher office. Of course, if Raimondo has her eye on the White House, she’s best-off staying in one of the two parties.
5. Speaking of Rhode Island’s most powerful women, a number of observers have pointed out to me that January marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Senate president’s office, put in place by a 1994 constitutional amendment which removed the lieutenant governor as presiding officer of the upper chamber. There have been three Senate presidents so far – William Irons (2003-04), Joseph Montalbano (2004-09) and Teresa Paiva Weed (2009-present) – and the post has become a power center of its own right in Rhode Island government – maybe more of one than those who backed the amendment had expected.
6. In Massachusetts, Matt Murphy of State House News Service offers this list of the state’s top 10 political stories of 2012, as ranked by the Beacon Hill press corps. Closer to home, RIPR’s Ian Donnis answers Rhode Island’s 12 big political questions of 2012.
7. Pope Benedict is tweeting. Episcopal Bishop Nicholas Kinsely is tweeting. But don’t expect Bishop Tobin to start tweeting anytime soon, spokesman Mike Guilfoyle tells me: “The Bishop has no plans to begin using a personal Facebook page or tweeting in the immediate future.” However, Guilfoyle and his diocesan communications team do keep up a Facebook page for the bishop and another for Rhode Island Catholic, as well as an @RICatholic Twitter account.
8. Is 2013 the year we should embrace the power of negative thinking?
9. Friday saw a veritable stampede by leading Democrats to anoint veteran Congressman Ed Markey as the consensus candidate to succeed John Kerry in the U.S. Senate, no doubt in a bid to avoid once again handing Scott Brown what should be a safe Democratic seat. That makes it seem less and less likely that a long-shot candidate with local ties will get the nod: state Sen. Ben Downing of Pittsfield. Downing graduated from Providence College in 2003 with a political science degree, one of a number of PC alums who’ve gone on to careers in public service. The best bet for Downing (or Congressman Steve Lynch) to pull off an upset would be for Congressman Mike Capuano to jump into the race against Markey, helping to split the liberal and regional votes, according to Boston Phoenix scribe David Bernstein.
10. Monday is the last day of the year, which means a lot of people are giving to charity, and there’s no lack of advice available. Felix Salmon says you’re probably doing it wrong. Dylan Matthews says your best bet may be GiveDirectly, which does just that. A few years ago Ezra Klein said you should donate to a nonprofit that does policy advocacy.
11. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers – former Republican gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille and Providence Phoenix news editor David Scharfenberg. Watch Sunday at 10 a.m. on Fox Providence. This week on Executive Suite – Swipely CEO Angus Davis on his growing company and Rhode Island’s startup scene. Watch Sunday at 6 p.m. on myRITV (or 6 a.m. on Fox).
12. Happy New Year to you and yours! I hope you have a safe and happy holiday. See you back here next weekend, for the first Saturday Morning Post of 2013.