To What Extent, If Any, Does BMG have a "Liberal Blind Spot"?

Sunday think piece. To partially answer GGW's question, I'll quote our rules, which have been pretty much unchanged since we started the site in 2004: "The purpose of Blue Mass. Group is to develop ideas that will invigorate progressive leadership in Massachusetts and the nation. Robust debate is an important means to that end. We welcome bold, constructive observations." We've always welcomed differently-winged contributors, some of whom have been with us since the very early days. - promoted by david

Nicholas Kristof in today’s NYT, titled “Liberal Blind Spot”:

In a column a few weeks ago, I offered “a confession of liberal intolerance,” criticizing my fellow progressives for promoting all kinds of diversity on campuses — except ideological. I argued that universities risk becoming liberal echo chambers and hostile environments for conservatives, and especially for evangelical Christians.

As I see it, we are hypocritical: We welcome people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.

It’s rare for a column to inspire widespread agreement, but that one led to a consensus: Almost every liberal agreed that I was dead wrong.

“You don’t diversify with idiots,” asserted the reader comment on The Times’s website that was most recommended by readers (1,099 of them). Another: Conservatives “are narrow-minded and are sure they have the right answers.”

Finally, this one recommended by readers: “I am grossly disappointed in you for this essay, Mr. Kristof. You have spent so much time in troubled places seemingly calling out misogyny and bigotry. And yet here you are, scolding and shaming progressives for not mindlessly accepting patriarchy, misogyny, complementarianism, and hateful, hateful bigotry against the LGBTQ community into the academy.”

I’d welcome any thoughts on how this may or may not apply to BMG.  I’m not sure if posing this question itself is considered troll-like.  That’s not my intent.

I’m curious particularly about the BMG founders – Charley, Bob, David.  To what extent has BMG become what you’d hoped?  To what extent if any are you concerned about what Kristof describes/argues?

Close to Zero: Polling, Predictability and Late Primary Politics

Is the Democratic primary race in California not as close as polls are making it appear? - promoted by hesterprynne

Depending on which poll you look at, the race between Clinton and Sanders is a dead heat or blowout.  Here’s Electoral-Vote:

A related category of bad political analysis is the search for a horse race that may not actually exist. The current Democratic contest in California is an excellent example of this. Because of a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll released a few days ago, in which Hillary Clinton had a lead of only two points over Bernie Sanders, nearly all media outlets are now describing the race as a “dead heat.” If this was the only available poll of California, then that would be correct, but it is not. In fact, there have been four major polls of the Golden State in the last month, and they—in order, from oldest to newest—had Clinton +12, +2, +18, and +2. There’s nothing that tells us that the recent +2 result is any more or less valid than the recent +18 result and indeed, if one had to pick, the +2 came from a minor firm with limited presidential polling experience (PPIC), while the +18 came from well-known and battle-tested SurveyUSA. Further, a single +2 result is a statistical dead heat, but four positive results in a row effectively eliminate the margin of error, even if it had been +2, +2, +2, and +2 for Clinton. In short, while there is time for things to tighten up, and for us to get new and better information, the current evidence does not actually indicate California is a dead heat.

Sanders is out of money. He’s doing his best in California with earned media, but the facts are he’s at the end of a primary he can’t win, being badly outspent in a state that requires a lot of paid media, in a state where demographics are against him. He could theoretically overcome these obstacles, but right now, there’s no clear signal that he’s doing so.

Meanwhile, national polls indicating a close race between Clinton and Trump are at their least reliable, says Sam Wang, who crunches the numbers. Ornstein and Abramowitz, for the less numerate, offer an more accessible take:

In this highly charged election, it’s no surprise that the news media see every poll like an addict sees a new fix. That is especially true of polls that show large and unexpected changes. Those polls get intense coverage and analysis, adding to their presumed validity.

The problem is that the polls that make the news are also the ones most likely to be wrong. And to folks like us, who know the polling game and can sort out real trends from normal perturbations, too many of this year’s polls, and their coverage, have been cringeworthy.

Take the Reuters/Ipsos survey. It showed huge shifts during a time when there were no major events. There is a robust scholarship, using sophisticated panel surveys, that demonstrates remarkable stability in voter preferences, especially in times of intense partisan preferences and tribal political identities. The chances that the shifts seen in these polls are real and not artifacts of sample design and polling flaws? Close to zero.

At 538, Harry Enten thinks there’s a good chance of Clinton clinching the nomination before polls close in California. (Think New Jersey).

Unless Hillary Clinton starts killing puppies or Bernie Sanders sprouts wings and a halo and begins healing lepers and raising the dead, the probabilities remain the same: Clinton wins the nomination and the election.

Weld Bombs at Libertarian National Convention

Oh Bill. [And apologies for the bug. JohnK is the author of this post.] - promoted by david

Politico is reporting that former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld has had a tough time of it in Orlando at the Libertarian National Convention. Bill Weld could be out as quickly as he came in. Delegates have been vocal in their dislike of Weld calling him Republican-Lite, an association that is disliked by activists. When Gary Johnson spoke of Weld calling him “the original libertarian.” he was met with a chorus of boos.

So while Johnson remains popular, it’s doesn’t automatically mean that Weld gets a pass and is chosen as the VP pick, each nominee is selected separately.

While Johnson and Weld are trying to run as a ticket — they are handing out joint buttons and paraphernalia — the Libertarian Party convention actually picks their presidential and vice-presidential nominees separately. Delegates could select Johnson and then reject Weld.

To add insult to injury, Weld also stunk it up during the VP debate:

Weld did little to help himself at a Friday night vice-presidential debate in which he got a chilly reception from the hardcore audience of Libertarian true-believers. Asked who did more damage to America — President Obama or President George W. Bush — Weld gave a classic politician answer. “I’d rate it a tie,” he said. He used the word “miasma” in his closing statement.

But my favorite line of the night from Weld.

when people think of Libertarians they often think of “unattractive people” in their neighborhoods.

That’s how you sweet talk them Bill. Let’s see how Weld compares to Carly Florina’s VP run.

Inspector General Says Clinton Broke Federal Rules

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall is saying that the Inspector General's report is a "big nothingburger." Seems like we don't all agree. hesterprynne. Bumped, for all the opinions in the comments. - promoted by Bob_Neer

I don’t particularly want to post on this, but I feel like somebody should, for the sake of intellectual integrity.

Hillary Clinton and her team ignored clear guidance from the State Department that her email setup broke federal standards and could leave sensitive material vulnerable to hackers, a department audit has found. Her aides twice brushed aside concerns, in one case telling technical staff “the matter was not to be discussed further.”

The inspector general’s review on Wednesday also revealed that hacking attempts led forced then-Secretary of State Clinton off email at one point in 2011, though she insists the personal server she used was never breached. Clinton and several of her senior staff declined to be interviewed for the investigation.

Some more.

The audit did note that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had also exclusively used a private email account, though it did not name any other prior secretaries who had done so. But the failings of Clinton were singled out in the audit as being more serious than her predecessor.

“By Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the department’s guidance was considerably more detailed and more sophisticated,” the report concluded. “Secretary Clinton’s cybersecurity practices accordingly must be evaluated in light of these more comprehensive directives.”

Republicans said Wednesday the audit showed Clinton was in clear violation of the Federal Records Act and endangered national security.

To me, this is a perfect political storm. The defenses are incredibly hollow. For Clinton haters, this confirms everything they already believe about her.

And, not to beat the drum again, but there are thousands upon thousands of e-mails to pick through.

This doesn’t even touch the subpoena issue.

An unforced error of epic proportions. And to those who say, “Double standard! Colin Powell did it!” That argument would be better if Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney did it. We always went pretty easy on Powell; hell, he endorsed Obama.

One other thing: my take, most Americans look at this and think one thing: I’d get fired for that.

It’s a horror show, and it’s not going away.

Joke Revue: "The Arguments For And Against Bernie Sanders Staying In The Race"

The Onion:

The Arguments For And Against Bernie Sanders Staying In The Race


  • Mathematical impossibility of receiving nomination only reinforces status as outsider candidate
  • More than halfway done cobbling together foreign policy plan
  • Would continue to push Clinton’s speeches to the left
  • Already booked nonrefundable Spirit Airlines ticket to visit Philadelphia during dates of Democratic National Convention
  • Probably our last chance to hear a public official say “single-payer health care” for a generation or two
  • “BEST Bernie Moments” YouTube compilation could use couple more minutes of material
  • Staying active and engaged in society has numerous health benefits for seniors
  • Nation can pretend it might actually do something about corporate influence on politics, becoming embroiled in imprudent wars, and income inequality for few more weeks


  • Staying in forces Clinton to waste time and energy learning to campaign against someone with clear principles and political stances
  • Having raised $207 million, dropping out would help get a lot of money out of politics
  • Learned that the president does not actually get to decide everyone’s income
  • Would finally have some time to jab fingers recreationally
  • Would allow Clinton to focus on fucking up general election campaign
  • Might be nice to relax and have a friendly chat with a banker from time to time
  • Pennsylvania Convention Center needs DNC itinerary set Friday by 5 so they can coordinate with vendors
  • Best to just squash Americans’ belief they can actually make a difference in the political system now before it gets too far out of hand



NEW BRUNSWICK, NEW JERSEY (News Satire from The Borowitz Report)—President Obama handed the Republican Party a gift for the general election by making a series of offensive pro-knowledge remarks at Rutgers University over the weekend, a leading Republican official said on Monday.

According to Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, the President’s inflammatory comments, in which he offered full-throated praise for such controversial fields of knowledge as math and science, are sure to come back to haunt the Democrats in November.

“If President Obama was trying to alienate millions of Americans in one speech, mission accomplished,” Priebus told Fox News. “When I watched him speak, I said to myself, ‘Well, Christmas came early this year.’ ”

While many Republicans expected Obama to walk back his ill-advised praise of knowledge, facts, and evidence, the White House as of Monday morning had refused to do so.

“The President seems to be doubling down on this, which is not surprising,” Priebus said. “This is a man who never met a fact he didn’t like.”

The R.N.C. chairman said that the Party was already creating negative ads that would make extensive use of the President’s polarizing pro-knowledge rant.

“This fall, we will ask the American people, ‘Do you want four more years of knowledge, or do you want something else?’ ” Priebus said. “Because the Republican Party has something else.”

Daniel Kurtzman:

“A new government report reveals that Hillary Clinton ignored the State Department rules about cybersecurity. The report states that Hillary’s recklessness, arrogance, and defiance could get her the Republican presidential nomination.” –Conan O’Brien

“The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has found that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have nearly opposite results with rural voters compared to urban voters, with Clinton leading Trump by 25 percent in cities, and Trump beating Clinton by 31 percent in places where he wouldn’t be caught dead.” –Seth Meyers

“Trump got turned down for a meeting with Kim Jong Un. So I guess his search for a vice president isn’t going so well. Seriously, how do you get denied by North Korea?” –James Corden

“The NRA on Friday endorsed Donald Trump for president. I guess that reaffirms their commitment to absolutely zero background checks.” –Seth Meyers

“Ed Rendell tried to help Hillary Clinton by attacking her opponent, saying, ‘Trump’s comments, like ‘you can’t be a 10 if you’re flat-chested,’ will come back to haunt him.’ And then Rendell helpfully added, ‘There are probably more ugly women in America than attractive women. People take that stuff personally.’ Yep, I have a feeling a lot of women are about to take that really personally.” –Stephen Colbert

“Democrats are concerned that Sanders’ campaign could alienate enough voters to hand Donald Trump the election. Bernie said, ‘Listen, I’m 74 years old. I’m surrounded by college girls screaming my name. Don’t ruin this for me.’” –Jimmy Kimmel

“The article makes the point that Donald Trump has hired many women to run his businesses and even quotes him as saying, ‘A good woman is better than 10 good men.’ And Hillary was like, ‘Thanks for the new campaign slogan.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Audio has surfaced showing that in the 1980s and ’90s Donald Trump may have used a fake name to pose as his own publicist. Or, maybe a little-known publicist named John Miller used a fake name to pose as a New York real estate mogul and run for president.” –Seth Meyers


Twilight of the elites; or, what's a DC policy wonk to do?

This quote, at the very end of today’s Globe story reporting the confused state in which Washington policy types find themselves as they try to figure out what Donald Trump would actually do as president, to me says a lot about our current circumstances.  It’s from Heather Hurlburt, “director of the New Models of Policy Change at the non-partisan New America Foundation and a former Clinton administration official.”

The guy [Trump] is enough a master of the American political process to get nominated by one of our two political parties; you really need to take him seriously…. If you think what’s at stake in the election is the demise of the liberal international system, but taking a position on that edges you closer to what your tax lawyers are telling you you can’t do, that’s a struggle for executives at think tanks.

It’s a perfect storm, no?  The unfortunately outsized role in policy that Washington think tanks – densely populated by “former ___ administration officials” from both parties – have played for decades suffers a head-on collision with the absurdity that is American tax law governing nonprofits, and the result is a whole bunch of legitimately smart and knowledgeable people who can’t actually say out loud that a Trump presidency is a serious threat to America’s position in the world.

It doesn’t appear to be universally true that the think tank crowd can’t take a strong anti-Trump stand – as just one example, Robert Kagan, of the Brookings Institution and a “former Reagan administration official,” wrote a good column concluding that “[t]his is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes … but with a television huckster, … and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.”  But the hand-wringing, both over what Trump actually says (how do we evaluate it? our models break when we input his statements!) and over their employers’ coveted 501(c)(3) status, is yet another unpredictable factor in this most unpredictable of election years.

Cost-saving plastic bag ban moves forward

Allowing baggers to drain public funds by polluting the state and forcing everyone else to clean up after them makes no economic sense. A plastic bag fee will cut clean up costs and better align expenses with costs. Good job, Senator Eldridge. Globe:

Come August of 2018 in Massachusetts, you may rarely hear the question “Paper or plastic?”

The Senate Thursday was poised to pass an almost $40 billion budget bill that included a provision banning single-use carryout bags at all retail establishments that are 3,000 square feet or larger, or have at least three locations in the state. The bag push, adopted by a bipartisan vote, is meant to make the state more environmentally friendly and was cheered by green advocates.

But it drew an immediate rebuke from local retail groups, which worry it will erode consumer choice at perhaps 20,000 retail locations and hurt mom-and-pop stores in their battle with online merchants for customers.

And Governor Charlie Baker telegraphed significant worry through a spokesman.

The administration, said Baker senior adviser Tim Buckley, “has serious concerns about enacting such a sweeping mandate through the budget process with little to no debate, especially due to the potential impacts on low-income families’ grocery bills, and retailers across Massachusetts.”

The budget provision, which faces major hurdles before it could become law, would allow stores to make a reusable grocery bag or recycled paper bag available for purchase at the point of sale, but retailers would have to charge at least 10 cents per bag.

Senator James B. Eldridge of Acton, a lead backer of the effort, said more than 30 of the state’s 351 cities and towns have already approved plastic bag bans. They include large cities like Cambridge and Newton and small towns like Truro and Lee.

Eldridge said plastic bags are harming sea creatures and wildlife, and littering Massachusetts’ landscape. He said the proposal is sensitive to small businesses because it exempts all retail stores under 3,000 square feet, unless they are part of a chain. And it’s sensitive to consumers, he asserted, because it allows plastic produce bags and dry-cleaning bags.

Plastic bags, he said, are “something that we really don’t need, given that there are alternatives like a reusable bag or a paper bag.”

News Flash: Status quo produces failing mass transit

The NYT orders itself a double shot of Obvious at the Journalism Bar with a news story that highlights failing mass transit systems in Boston, New York and Washington D.C. Here are the key paragraphs, buried after columns of color quotes from frustrated riders etc. etc.:

One of the most vexing questions is how to pay to fix infrastructure. With federal transit funding essentially flat, many states and cities are grappling with how to cover improvements on their own.

Some experts have called for increasing the federal gasoline tax — which has remained the same since 1993 — or raising state gas taxes, sales taxes or tolls for highways and bridges. Many praise the so-called value-capture approach, which allows cities to pay for projects by recovering tax revenue generated from new development.

“You either pay now or pay later,” Richard A. White, acting president of the American Public Transportation Association, said. “The more you stick your head in the sand on this issue, the worse the problems are going to become.”

Unstated conclusion: in the present climate, public ownership does not yield sufficient capital to maintain these vital systems. Structural reform is required for any substantive changes.

Ken Starr forced out over sex scandal

An extra helping of irony for the sex-obsessed former Special Prosecutor. TPM:

Baylor University’s board of regents announced Thursday that Ken Starr would be removed as president and transition to the role of chancellor at the Texas university.

The board also suspended the school’s football coach, Art Briles, with the “intent to terminate” his contract, over the way school officials handled numerous claims from female students that members of the football team had committed sexual assault.

“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students,” Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, said in a statement. “The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”

In the statement about the removal of Starr and Briles, the board of regents summarized findings from an outside investigation into the how university officials handled claims of sexual assault. The school had been accused of failing to address claims made by at least six female students that members of the football team had committed sexual assault between 2009 and 2016.

June BMG Stammtisch

Mark yer calendars. - promoted by hesterprynne

The Saloon

Get an early start on summer. Come, enjoy some libations, and talk politics. This is the last Stammtisch of the 2016 primary season, for better or worse.

Our now-regular monthly BMG Stammtisch will happen one week from today — 1-June — at The Saloon in Davis Square at 7p.

Hope to see you there!

Wind: "Go Big" -- and govern for the future

LOVING Derrick Z. Jackson’s piece in the Globe today. Go click it and read the whole thing. He’s calling for a 2000MW purchase requirement for offshore wind — which through economies of scale will tip the whole balance into abundant, clean and cheap energy in the decades to come:

These two words should guide Beacon Hill on offshore wind:

Go big.

…. Factoring in economic and social benefits of a surging industry, top turbine supplier Siemens calculates that, by 2025, offshore wind will be cheaper in Germany than any major fuel source, except for onshore wind. Benefits could include more jobs, less carbon, and energy that is ultimately cheaper for society than nuclear or conventional sources.

That will be true here, too, if the Legislature and Baker go for 2,000 megawatts. A recent study by the University of Delaware’s Special Initiative on Offshore Wind found that that amount, the equivalent of four Cape Winds, would create a European-style pipeline of competitively priced projects that would bring the cost of electricity down to or below today’s electricity prices by 2030. That is without federal or state tax credits and renewable energy credits.

via Derrick Z. Jackson: All-in for offshore wind – The Boston Globe.

This is the difference between planning for the future, and reacting to the present. Energy prices — on the production and retail sides — are not permanent, but infrastructure kind of is. If we make an investment in gas infrastructure, as the Baker administration wants, we’ll have gas — for 20-30 years. If we make that leap into wind, we’ll have wind — thereby jumpstarting the whole industry, as has already happened in Europe. This would of course be much to our economic benefit — especially to New Bedford, which needs it the most.

We have a better alternative, and it’s long past time to simply take advantage of the thing that’s sitting right in front of us.


Clinton on Guns: OK, But Not Good Enough for the General Election

Is a strong gun control message a general election winner? - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

From the HRC website:

Hillary will fight to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill:

Support legislation to stop domestic abusers from buying and possessing guns. Although federal law generally prohibits domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing guns, this protection does not apply to people in dating relationships or convicted stalkers. Hillary will fight for legislation to prohibit all of these domestic abusers and stalkers from buying guns.

Make straw purchasing a federal crime. When an individual with a clean record buys a gun with the intention of giving it to a violent felon—only so that felon can avoid a background check—it should be a crime. Hillary will fight to make so-called “straw purchasing” a federal crime.

Close loopholes that let persons suffering from severe mental illness purchase and possess guns. Hillary will fight to improve existing law prohibiting persons suffering from severe mental illness from purchasing or possessing a gun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should finalize its rulemaking to close loopholes in our laws and clarify that people involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment, such as the Virginia Tech shooter, are prohibited from buying guns.

Keep military-style weapons off our streets. Military-style assault weapons do not belong on our streets. They are a danger to law enforcement and to our communities. Hillary will work to keep assault weapons off our streets and supports reinstating the assault weapons ban.

Sorry, but I find this uninspiring.

It almost goes without saying that Trump is worse, and he says scary things about every American having the right to carry whatever they want anywhere, but there’s also this:

Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release. Obama’s former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a “cookie cutter” program. That’s ridiculous. I call that program a success. Murders committed with guns in Richmond decreased by over 60% when Project Exile was in place – in the first two years of the program alone, 350 armed felons were taken off the street.

Frankly that sounds better to me than HRC’s “straw purchasing” proposal. Is straw purchasing really a big problem?

But more to the immediate point, my vote is securely Democratic. What of the pesky independents?

I submit, unprovably, that HRC would be far better off really throwing the gauntlet on guns. It would enable her to force the issue and make people choose a safer path, and arm herself (pun intended) for future legislative battles on guns (which, at the moment, hardly seem possible).

It would be a hard choice (pun intended again), but also a strong one.

ADDING: It’s interesting that, once Clinton felt threatened by Sanders, she went after him on guns. Her instinct was correct (though honestly I found the attack shaky).

The other day, surprising no one, the NRA endorsed Trump. Why not fire up our base, bu doubling down on that? WHACK Trump on guns as much as possible, and stake out a clear plan for gun safety. RUN on this.