AG Healey vs pipeline to nowhere

Big thanks to AG Healey for continuing to oppose unnecessary and harmful fossil fuel infrastructure. The Baker administration wants to stick us with the cost of something we don’t need — in fact, which we strenuously need to avoid having: the Spectra pipeline project. It’s a tax!

The AG’s office argues that [...] this unprecedented requirement for electric ratepayers to shoulder pipeline construction costs [is] unnecessary. The plan, her office argues, would expose ratepayers to risks that the Legislature sought to avoid by restructuring the electric industry in the late 1990s.

Healey has decided to play the role of ratepayer advocate, one of the attorney general’s responsibilities.

“This issue is at the core of whether New England continues to decarbonize its energy platform or lock into fossil fuels for another generation,” said Bradley Campbell, Conservation Law Foundation’s president. “The last thing the government should be doing is providing a subsidy to natural gas pipelines, especially when that subsidy is against the interests of families and businesses paying their electricity bills.”

Exactly. And this is why you need a vision, not just a managerial bean-counting attitude from the Governor’s office. “Gas is expensive — Need MOAR gas” is the kind of very-much-in-the-box thinking we’ve come to expect from today’s business minds. Our gas leaks are everywhere.  Gas is not cleaner than coal. And the infrastructure that we build now, based on today’s volatile per-unit asset prices, will be around for a generation. It locks in a long-term, epochal and ultimately undesirable response to a short-term, temporary and mitigable problem. It’s the energy equivalent of the Central Artery: Gets the job done, sure, but only by carving a swath through better alternatives, and leaves a gigantic white elephant behind — physically, economically, and environmentally.

No. We should be focused on using and wasting less gas — which may well have a market effect. And if we’re building infrastructure at public expense that will last a generation, it should only be the infrastructure of the zero-carbon future.

Thanks to AG Healey for getting it, and for continuing to fight for the future.

Trump "loves" Hispanics?

Hive mind, to arms: is Trump making a ham-handed but sincere attempt to reach out to a demographic he has mocked, insulted and threatened throughout the campaign, or is he using the monumental asininity of this Tweet to further pander to his Base o’ Hate with an ironic digital wink and self-promoting nod?

No More Media-Sponsored Debates; Bring Back the League of Women Voters

No doubt Trump would object to this suggestion on grounds of bias given his alienation of most female voters in the nation. But it's a good one. - promoted by Bob_Neer

That’s it, really. Not much more explanation needed.

But the league ran MUCH better debates. The moderators (if memory serves) were reporters from competing outlets. Compare that to, say, MSNBC stocking a panel with its own hosts and worrying about ratings. They will be overly deferential to the candidates to avoid alienating them.

If you want a debate focused on issues, bring back the League of Women Voters. No more bipartisan negotiations with the press.

(Hat tip to Elwood, former front-pager at Blue Hampshire.)

Ayotte lines up with Trump


Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is in a tough re-election race, signaled that she would “support” Mr. Trump but not “endorse” him, as a spokeswoman put it, a rhetorical contortion that other Republicans repeated privately.

Spoken like a lawyer, but hardly a profile in courage. Will lining up with a misogynist help her campaign against popular Governor Maggie Hassan?

Blame the Globe, not Eric Fehrnstrom, for this nonsense

Today’s Globe has a hilarious and pathetic op-ed from Eric Fehrnstrom, consultant to several losing candidates from Massachusetts (notably for present purposes, Scott Brown in 2012).  Fehrnstrom, who revels in concern-trolling, thinks that Elizabeth Warren would be a poor choice for vice president.  Guess why?

If Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton puts Warren on the ticket, Clinton will be engulfed in an affirmative action controversy over whether her running mate claimed to be Native American to advance her career…. [I]t’s the Native American issue that has the potential to create a Rachel Dolezal-type spectacle that will send Clinton’s campaign crashing to earth.

It doesn’t, actually.  But dream on, Eric.

Warren’s defenders believe the issue was laid to rest when she beat Republican Scott Brown in the 2012 senatorial election. (Disclosure: I was a consultant to Brown in that race).

That’s like saying Chappaquiddick was neutralized as an issue for Senator Ted Kennedy because he won reelection in Massachusetts following the 1969 accident. In a national campaign, everything old is new again.

Hmm, right, because a listing in a law school faculty directory is very similar to being involved in the death of another person.  Makes total sense.  Thanks for the disclosure, though.

Warren was a Rutgers Law School graduate who held various teaching positions at public universities until she started to list herself as “Native American” in directories published by the Association of American Law Schools. From there, her career took off.

Warren attained a full professorship at the University of Pennsylvania. Then Harvard came calling, and she became the only tenured professor there who had graduated from a public law school.

This is a curious line of argument from someone who, one assumes, is sympathetic with the usual Republican protests against “coastal elites.”  Fehrnstrom seems to be saying that no graduate of a public law school could ever be good enough to teach at Harvard purely on academic merit.  Absurd, of course.  But do go on…

Harvard would go on to cite Warren in defending itself from charges the faculty lacked diversity.

Warren and her former colleagues insist her claim to minority status played no role in her rising career…. To this day, Harvard refuses to release the personnel records that would settle the matter once and for all.

Chronology is important here, and Fehrnstrom is ignoring it.  Back in 2012, I spent a good deal of time looking over contemporaneous accounts of Harvard Law’s wooing and eventual hiring of Warren.  From those accounts, most of which come from the Harvard Crimson newspaper (which was strongly in favor of increasing the diversity of Harvard’s law faculty), it seems extremely unlikely that Native American heritage had anything to do with Warren’s hiring.  After reviewing dozens of articles, here’s what I concluded:

The bottom line: there was a lot of talk about the fact that Elizabeth Warren is a woman, and that Harvard Law School didn’t have a very good record at the time of tenuring women faculty.  But, as far as I can tell, her Native American heritage was not publicly mentioned until at least a year after she was hired.  Since it’s well known that the lack of minority women on Harvard Law’s faculty had been a hot issue for years – recall then-law student Barack Obama’s now-famous introduction of Derrick Bell, who ultimately gave up his Harvard professorship over the issue, at a law school rally in 1990 - it would be extraordinary if Warren’s background were known but never mentioned.

The fact that the student-run – and diversity-supporting – Harvard Crimson never thought to mention Warren’s heritage, even in its Feb. 22, 1995 editorial praising her hiring – seems to strongly support Professor Charles Fried’s insistence that Warren’s background simply never came up in the hiring process.  We don’t know, because Harvard won’t say, what led law school spokesman Mike Chmura to comment publicly on her background in 1996, apparently for the first time, but even his 1996 comment supports the notion that precious few people at Harvard were aware of Warren’s heritage, since he said that the “conventional wisdom among students and faculty” was that even after Warren’s hiring, there were no minority women at Harvard Law.  In any event, that comment seems to have made Warren’s Native American heritage part of the narrative at Harvard, judging from subsequent Crimson stories.  But it seems clear that, while Warren’s gender was certainly relevant to her hiring by Harvard, her Native American ancestry was not.

It’s true that Harvard hasn’t released its personnel records.  I’m not sure that releasing confidential personnel records over something like this would ever be a good idea.  But, in any event, there really is zero evidence that I’m aware of tending to show that Warren’s hiring was related to the issue of Native American heritage.

This is maybe my favorite line of Fehrnstrom’s piece:

Even though she won election due to a heavy Democratic turnout, the controversy damaged Warren. She underperformed President Obama by 15 points, lost independents and, according to exit polls, ended up less popular on Election Day than her rival.

Wow.  Talk about a sore loser (as well as failing to take responsibility for your own shortcomings).  Eric, Warren whipped your candidate – a sitting U.S. Senator, drove him out of the state, and relegated him to hawking shady diet pills.  #Bqhatevwr.

All of that said, this piece really isn’t Fehrnstrom’s fault.  It’s exactly what you would expect from him.  The fault lies with the Boston Globe, who really should decline to publish drivel like this.  It does not advance public discourse.  It just requires those of us who took the time to debunk these claims four years ago to do so again.  We all have better things to do.

This is How We Unite the Democratic Party

Floating names for Clinton's VP pick. More than a dozen so far ranging (alphabetically) from Alec Baldwin to Elizabeth Warren. Meanwhile one of the staffing conversations on the GOP side has Ben Carson suggesting that Trump pick Cruz as his Attorney General. Cruz will prosecute Clinton and then when he's done Trump will put him on the Supreme Court. - promoted by hesterprynne

The best way is to join the ticket:

Sanders supporters, would you vote for a Clinton / Warren ticket?

Field Notes on the House Budget Debate

The Massachusetts House of Representatives held its annual budget debate last week. It was a three-day event this time like it was last year (down from what once was the usual four).

To the extent there was any press coverage, the story once again was that House leadership made nearly all the budget debate decisions by way of what it calls the “consolidated amendment” process. The first step in this process is for House Ways and Means Committee staff to sort the 1307 amendments that members filed into subject matter categories. The second step is for House leadership, after a brief opportunity for advocacy by amendment sponsors, to winnow each of those categories (there were nine this year) into a multi-page consolidated amendment that adopts some of the originally-filed amendments and rejects many others.

If you were thinking that amendments with very broad support, like this one to increase funding to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, would have an excellent chance of being adopted, you would not necessarily be right. Notwithstanding its supermajority of 92 sponsors (out of 160 members), it  went down. Conversely, an amendment to tinker with the distribution of revenues at greyhound racing simulcast sites made it past the finish line with only a single sponsor.

May BMG Stammtisch -- tomorrow!

Cheers! - promoted by Bob_Neer

The Saloon

May day, only a few days late. Come, enjoy some libations, and talk politics. Or just enjoy libations and sustenance.

Our now-regular monthly BMG Stammtisch will happen tomorrow — 4-May — at The Saloon in Davis Square at 7p.

Hope to see you there!

Party Unity Should Start Now

A very worthy discussion. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Aside from the fact that it ain’t over until it’s over, Democrats are sitting in a pretty good position for the general election.

The Republican brand is at an all-time low. The presumptive Republican nominee is widely reviled by women and people of color. He’s looking at testifying in a law suit against his Trump University scam and a convention that promises to be a circus. Big money donors are sitting out the presidential election. Even Charles Koch is expressing doubts. Republican voters are so pissed, they are ready to punish down-ticket GOP candidates. (See more here and here). We still have a long way to go, but the headwinds are favorable.

The root of the Republican problem is that the base has caught up to the party establishment:

Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which even Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

As far as Democrats are concerned, our

party defines itself as the protector of the poor and the middle class, and especially of nonwhite voters. Does it fall short of fulfilling this mission much of the time? Are its leaders sometimes too close to big-money donors? Of course. Still, if you look at the record of the Obama years, you see real action on behalf of the party’s goals.

We’re in good position, but there are always wild cards, the most important being Bernie Sanders and the Sandernistas. Bernie has inspired a lot of voters, but they aren’t all typical Democratic voters. There are the conspiracy theorists and the revolutionaries, the biggest revolutionary being Sanders himself. I wrote previously, one of the biggest differences between Sanders’ side and Clinton’s side of the primary was a theory of change. Kevin Drum says much the same thing in Mother Jones:

if you want to make a difference in this country, you need to be prepared for a very long, very frustrating slog. You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves—all the things that Bernie disdains as part of the corrupt mainstream establishment. In place of this he promises his followers we can get everything we want via a revolution that’s never going to happen. And when that revolution inevitably fails, where do all his impressionable young followers go? Do they join up with the corrupt establishment and commit themselves to the slow boring of hard wood? Or do they give up?

If Sandernistas were to change democracy for the better, I’d happily eat my words. But I’m worried that they truly don’t understand American politics. All the talk of revolution sounds great, but we haven’t had a revolution since 1776. As Drum says in his article, we’ve never had a revolution since then.

Ed Kilgore writes in New York Magazine that a group of laid off Sanders campaign staff has started what amounts to its own party with the political initiative A Brand New Congress:

the closer you get to the Sandernistas’ Brand New Congress initiative — the new project by recently laid-off Bernie staffers to create a revolution in Congress beginning with the 2018 elections — the less it looks like the instrument for a difficult but achievable task and the more it looks like the product of a very strange set of beliefs about American politics. It’s not focused on boosting progressive turnout in general elections, but on recruiting and running candidates in Republican as well as Democratic primaries who meet a rigid set of policy litmus tests. The idea is very explicitly that people alive with the Bern can literally elect a “brand-new Congress” in one election cycle to turn public policy 180 degrees.

President Obama began his presidency believing he could work with Republicans. We know how that worked out. If that weren’t weird enough, A Brand New Congress also believes it can work with tea party activists.

Corbin Trent, another former Sanders staffer, said bringing Republicans on board is “the key to it being a successful idea” and there’s enough overlap between Sanders’ platform and tea party conservatives to make the PAC’s goals feasible.

Reality television star Donald Trump’s current status as the Republican front-runner demonstrates that GOP voters are eager for candidates who, like Trump, criticize the corrupting influence of money in politics and the impact of free trade deals on American workers, Trent said.

“This will allow Republicans to say ‘Yeah, I’m a Republican, but I believe climate change is real and I don’t believe all Muslims are terrorists,” he said. “It will allow people to think differently in the Republican Party if they want to pull away from the hate-based ideology.”

Bernie Sanders and the Sandernistas have an excellent opportunity to change the Democratic Party. They won’t affect a revolution, but they can exert the force necessary to reorient the party. Sanders can get concessions on party platform, convention speakers, and DNC operations. They can work for progressive Democrats already running for office. Maybe they’ll make enough money from this initiative to keep themselves employed, but in the end, we need them to work on the presidential election.

Bernie will continue to run and make appearances. That’s okay. But we need to start working on party unity. Half-baked political initiatives won’t help.

I wonder if they would let me in for a donation of $27?

Additional discussion on the subject "Clinton and Sanders" - promoted by Bob_Neer

I received an invitation to attend a fund raiser for Hillary Clinton.  All I needed was $1,000 dollars and the ability to free my schedule for Wednesday May 4th, from 6:00 -8:00 PM.  In return for my $1,000, I’d be able to have a conversation with with John Podesta, Campaign Chair, Hillary for America.  The event is hosted by Bob and Liz Pozen.  I assume Bob Pozen is the guy from Fidelity.  His name rung a bell.  Wasn’t he the same guy who served as a member of President George Bush’s Commission on Social Security?  I always get nervous when Republicans want to  tinker with Social Security.

So what does Mr. Pozen say about the projected shortages for Social Security and his cure?  In short, “we can’t raise taxes on the rich so we must cut benefits and raise the age of eligibility”.  Well, he does not come out and say it directly. But read Why my plan to fix Social Security will work and Why liberals should back Social Security reform and tell me what you think.    To his credit, he does say that  ”Contrary to popular opinion, the structure of federal retirement programs today favors middle and high earners over less well-off retirees.” but what he leaves out it the middle class wage earners are dwindling in this nation and have been for 40 years.  He does say this No one has a legal entitlement to the current schedule of Social Security benefits.  That’s rather chilling, eh?

Sorry Bob and Liz, sorry Mr. Podesta and Secretary Clinton, but while I can clear my schedule for Wednesday, I make $12 an hour at a part time job and at the age of 61, I simply don’t have $1,000 to spare.  I used to be a middle class earner, I really was.  Will those days return?  The prospects don’t look good, do they?  If we keep the same political positions, the return of a vibrant middle class is just a theoretical debate over something that will never, ever happen.

Joke Revue: Cruz Hopes to Tap Into Immense Popularity of Carly Fiorina

Update: remarks of the Comedian In Chief at this year's White House Correspondents Dinner.

- promoted by david

Borowitz owns Cruz’ feeble imitation of McCain’s choice of Palin, once again proving Karl Marx’ dictum that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. Hat tip to esteemed BMGer jasiu:

Cruz Hopes to Tap Into Immense Popularity of Carly Fiorina

INDIANAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—In choosing the former Hewlett-Packard C.E.O. Carly Fiorina as his running mate, Senator Ted Cruz hopes to tap into the immense popularity of one of the most beloved public figures in America.

Minutes after the news of Cruz’s selection leaked, political insiders called the choice of the wildly adored Fiorina a game-changer for the Cruz campaign.

“It’s no secret that Ted Cruz has some trouble with likeability,” the Republican strategist Harland Dorrinson said. “What better way to fix that than by choosing Carly Fiorina, a person everyone is absolutely crazy about?”

Fiorina’s reputation for winning the hearts of everyone she comes in contact with dates back to her days as the incredibly well-liked C.E.O. of Hewlett-Packard and, before that, Lucent Technologies.

“At Lucent, she could light up any room with her smile,” former Lucent employee Tracy Klugian said. “If you had to say what people loved about working at Lucent Technologies, it all came down to two words: Carly Fiorina.” …

Borowitz also has this gem:

Ben Carson Says He Has No Memory of Running for President

WEST PALM BEACH (Satire from The Borowitz Report)—Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, stirred controversy on Thursday by saying in a televised interview that he had no recollection of running for President of the United States.

Appearing on the Fox News Channel, Dr. Carson responded to host Sean Hannity’s question about his ten-month-long candidacy by saying, “I do not recall any of that occurring.”

“I’ve been told that I did it, but I find it impossible to believe,” he said. “I don’t think I’d forget a thing like that.” …

While Carson insisted that “there is no way I ran for President,” he did not rule out running for the Republican nomination in the future.

“I think I’d be really good at it,” he said.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Today, Carly Fiorina was announced as Ted Cruz’s running mate. Fiorina said it’s always been her lifelong dream to lose twice in the same election.” –Jimmy Fallon

“According to a new poll that just came out, 50 percent of Republicans say they could support Donald Trump. The other 50 percent are a group calling themselves ‘Women.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Yesterday, Donald Trump said, ‘If I lose, I don’t think you’ll ever see me again.’ So finally, a Trump campaign promise we can all get behind.” –Conan O’Brien

“A woman who looks exactly like a female Ted Cruz has been asked to star in a porn movie. So finally, a cure for your porn addiction.” –Conan O’Brien

“If you think that you’re worried about what is going to happen in this race, just consider Reince Priebus, RNC chairman and man whose name is an anagram for ‘crisp bee urine.’” –Stephen Colbert

“House Speaker Paul Ryan this afternoon issued a formal statement ruling himself out as a potential replacement candidate if there is a contested Republican convention. And you know things are bad in the Republican Party when people who aren’t even running are dropping out of the race.” –Seth Meyers

“After losing in Wisconsin, there has been a big shake-up in the Trump campaign staff. In fact, the guy in charge of racist comments is now in charge of sexist comments.” –Conan O’Brien

MA pols suck at controlling health care costs

Bumped, for glory. - promoted by david

Why do we have high prescription drug costs? Because over and over again, our political system — including and especially Democrats — decides that it’s going to enable it.

Example 1: Richard Neal. The Obama administration tries to scale back the incentive (!) that docs get for prescribing expensive drugs. Richie Neal writes a letter!

House Democrats Push Back On Obama Plan To Cut Drug Prices.

WASHINGTON — A group of House Democrats is organizing an effort that could slow down an Obama administration plan to reduce drug prices, according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

The Department of Health and Human Services is working toward finalizing a new rule that would experiment with ending the financial incentive doctors have for prescribing some extremely expensive medications. The rule has been well-received among some patient advocates, but congressional Democrats have been largely silent, while the pharmaceutical industry and medical community have waged an aggressive campaign to stop it.

The campaign is bearing fruit. The letter from House Democrats, according to Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), was made necessary because Big Pharma and oncologist lobbyists had pushed many Democrats to the brink of signing a much more aggressive Republican letter. The letter expresses concerns with the proposed rule, but doesn’t call for it to be withdrawn.

… Hammill said Pelosi is urging members to sign the letter, which is being circulated by Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

Well how about that. Glad someone is looking out for the little guy.

And look at what happened to poor Sen. Mark Montigny a few weeks ago – who actually was trying to do something about profiteering pharma companies? Smacked down left and right, he had to back off of price caps for stuff like life-saving hepatitis-C drugs because bad for business!

This is in a state where we can’t even sustain a ban on small-time bribery of doctors and their offices, with sandwiches and presentations. Yes, Dr. Purity Yale Cabot Lowell VIII, all your protestations to the contrary, the PhRMA gang knows precisely what a cheap date you are. They have departments for this stuff, with the numbers to prove it. They know what docs prescribe what drugs. It’s their job!

Of course we have obscenely high prescription drug prices. That’s what we voted for, apparently.