AG Healey talks to Arlington

In an event with campaign atmosphere, but with no campaign to be had, a capacity crowd filled the First Parish Unitarian Church in Arlington tonight to hear Attorney General Maura Healey. She spoke to her actions as specific role as the state’s attorney, but also entertained topics in a Q&A session that went rather outside her bailiwick. Still, she was game to stand in as the stand-in for Massachusetts progressive pols, taking advice and entertaining action ideas from the crowd. She was introduced by Isabel Vargas, a Hillary Clinton campaign volunteer and “Dreamer”, a longtime undocumented resident allowed to stay under President Obama’s DACA policy.

Healey’s theme throughout the evening was the best way to react to the election of Trump is to speak up, show solidarity with each other, and act locally on issues we care about.

As AG, Healey said her “playbook hasn’t changed”: She mentioned the hate crimes hotline set up by the office, in response to the wave of harassment after the election; she committed to help immigrants, and mentioned that Boston Bar Association had offered help; she pointed to continued work on financial sector crime and on behalf of students with regard to predatory lending and for-profit schools; and fighting opioid over-prescription.

In other words, she assured us she’d still be doing her job — and it’s a huge one, since AGs will be the people to put sand in the gears of the Trump machine. But the job itself may change. She mentioned the 2007 Massachusetts vs. EPA Supreme Court decision, which forced the EPA to regulate CO2; what happens if Congress passes a law that simply forbids the EPA from doing so?

I confess I’m not sure what to make of statements like this, that assert that the response to this catastrophe is to just keep doing what we’ve been doing, only better! We don’t know exactly what the incoming administration is going to do, but it strikes me we should actually prepare for the worst.

Healey took questions and entertained action ideas from the crowd, in a sort of group brainstorm. Several speakers asked how to protect groups marginalized and targeted by Trump and the racists that feel enabled by him. Healey said to speak up and call out unconscious bias, without being antagonistic; find and rely on support networks;  support organizations that fight hate and bigotry; find candidates to take up the fight; and use the law.  An activist from the climate-change-fighting Mothers Out Front gave encouragement for Healey in Exxon’s lawsuit against her (“For the record: I didn’t sue Exxon, Exxon sued me”). Healey acknowledged the grave danger of climate change, and praised Massachusetts’ leadership and new energy bill. She advocated expanding the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to more states.

Other topics:

  • Support good candidates, at every level: Identify them early on, especially women and people of color.
  • Write letters to the editor and op-eds;
  • Donate money to organizations;
  • Divest from companies that support Trump;
  • Support news organizations to counterbalance “fake news”
  • Support ballot initiatives, like the Fair Share Amendment.
  • Meet your Congresspeople and local electeds;
  • Get out in real space.

Healey mentioned the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, “in solidarity with communities most affected by the hate, intolerance and acts of violence being perpetrated throughout the nation.” There will be a Boston Women’s March on the same date on Boston Common. Details as to message are a bit sketchy so far.

I might add we’ve got a Governor’s race in 2018. I suspect it’ll be more competitive than is widely thought.

In any event, Healey and the crowd did point out the power of solidarity, the various points of resilience, leverage, and resistance to a Trump administration; and the opportunities for action and improvement that we still enjoy in Massachusetts. The action is now here.

McKinsey and Company Talks Energy and Climate at MIT

Awesome - thanks for the rundown - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

On November 21, 2016 Scott Nyquist of McKinsey & Company (http://www.mckinsey.com) spoke to the public at MIT’s Sloan School.

Over the next 20 years, there are projections for 80% more demand on resources as a result of growing populations and growing economic production. However, higher energy intensity, efficiency, and slower GDP growth leads McKinsey and Company to consider a less than base case view.

McKinsey sees 74% of our energy still coming from fossil fuels by 2050, with an energy related CO2 peak by 2035, and a similar peak in transportation by 2025. COP 21, the Paris Agreement, has businesses going ahead and beyond waiting for negotiation, regulations and governments. Nyquist pointed us toward not only the Energy Transitions Commission (http://www.energy-transitions.org), 28 leaders from business who recognize that COP21 is not enough and are setting zero carbon as a planning goal but also the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (http://www.oilandgasclimateinitiative.com), 10 companies with 20% of global oil and gas production, which has pledged $1 billion for low carbon technology.

AG events tonight and 12/21; Interfaith solidarity event Sunday night 12/11

Bumped. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta
  • Tonight Attorney General Maura Healey will be talking to Dem activists in Arlington, on the way forward in the time of Trump. Given that state AGs (Healey, Schneiderman in NY, Becerra in CA, et al.) will be at the forefront of resistance in the next few years, this should be very interesting indeed. I’ll be there — unfortunately the event filled up for the capacity of the venue, but you can watch it at Healey’s Facebook page starting at 7:15pm, and you can tweet questions to her @maura_healey.
  • Healey will do another such event in Framingham, 7 PM on December 21 at Heritage Assisted Living Center 747 Water St. Sign up here: http://tinyurl.com/j7s2y59
  • “Out of Many, One: An Interfaith Call for Dignity and Diligence” — with Mayor Marty Walsh and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Sunday night 12/11, 6pm-7:30pm at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, 100 Malcolm X Blvd, Roxbury Crossing. This is sponsored by the excellent folks at Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. It’s imperative to show solidarity with our Muslim neighbors right now.

    Join together with people of faith from across the city for a special evening service that will feature testimonies from local residents, prayers from Boston’s interfaith leaders, and a non-partisan call to Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Walsh for dignity and diligence in this time of heightened social tension and political transition.

    RSVP at https://goo.gl/forms/GPWGTTzrhfd9bOVQ2

Meet people in meatspace. It still happens. If you have other such events, feel free to post them on BMG.

State officials need to respect voters’ decision to legalize marijuana

Meh, I don't see many folks driving up to Maine to save on the taxes. I'm pretty sure they should be higher here -- the taxes, I mean. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Over the past year, state officials from both parties tried in vain to scare voters away from legalizing marijuana. In spite of — or perhaps even because of — this fear-mongering, 54% of Massachusetts residents voted yes on question 4 to tax and regulate marijuana for adults over 21. But rather than accept the will of voters, some of these officials have already called for gutting this new law before it even takes effect. This is tremendously disrespectful to the people of Massachusetts and cannot be tolerated. Instead, officials should listen to their constituents and focus on implementing this new law responsibly. Below, I’ve listed three of the most important issues being discussed right now:

  1. Timeline:
    One of the most common concerns is the timeline set up by the initiative, with Treasurer Deb Goldberg even calling for an extension. But while our law will remove penalties for personal possession on December 15, 2016, retail sales would not begin until early 2018. This gives the state plenty of time to set up the Cannabis Control Commission and enact sensible regulations. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same amount of time that Colorado took to set up their industry, and they were starting from scratch. With the experience of four other states to guide us, we should have no trouble sticking to the same timetable as those trailblazers.
  2. Home growing:
    Some officials and pundits are also calling to remove the right of people to grow marijuana in their homes, with Goldberg lamenting that it would be untaxed. Yet this is part of the point — marijuana is expensive and not covered by health insurance, and because our medical marijuana law does not allow all patients to grow their own, providing this protection to all adults will finally let patients provide for themselves. And beyond that vulnerable population, it’s unlikely that this right will be exercised by many beyond the most enthusiastic hobbyists. Home brewing is legal, but my neighbors making their own beer isn’t putting the Boston Brewing Company out of business any time soon.
  3. Taxes:
    Speaking of taxes, the final proposal being floating by many politicians is drastically increasing the tax rate approved by voters. This argument sounds sensible at first: Massachusetts’ effective tax rate of 12% is much lower than that in Colorado and Washington. But it’s lower for a reason. Drafters of the initiative saw those states having trouble extinguishing their black market, since the high tax rates make it cheaper to buy off the street than in a store. And critics fail to mention that Maine also legalized marijuana this year, with an even lower tax rate of 10%. If we raise ours too high, that creates an incentive for people to buy in Maine and bring it back to Massachusetts, just like they already drive to New Hampshire for cheaper alcohol — but this time, they’d be breaking both New Hampshire and federal law.

Now, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. The initiative was smart to create a Cannabis Control Commission to regulate the industry, filling in all of the gaps that couldn’t be addressed in a ballot measure. Its members will be able to regulate everything from packaging, to warning labels, to the types of products that can be sold. For example, regulators in Colorado have banned marijuana gummy bears and other items shaped like animals, and Massachusetts regulators could, and probably will, do the same. Since the Commission will be appointed by the Treasurer, it’s almost certain they’ll be quite cautious about the new industry. This regulatory process is where Goldberg should focus her efforts, not on lobbying for a bill to gut the law.

The main role for the legislature in the post-legalization world is to decide where the new money raised through marijuana taxes goes, and I hope they steer a large portion of it to evidence-based drug prevention programs and public education. With tax revenues projected around $100,000,000 per year once the new industry is up and running, there’s even more reason to move quickly on implementation.

The political establishment already failed at scaring voters away from legal marijuana. Rather than continue their campaign of resistance, they should listen to the people and regulate marijuana responsibly.

Swing state exit polls show Hillary won "economy" voters

So, this is interesting.

According to a broad swath of popular understanding, Donald Trump will be the next president because he narrowly won three critical states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — powered by working class voters frustrated with economic intransigence.

But that’s not what exit polling shows in those states…. Exit polls show Hillary Clinton winning a majority of the vote from people who told pollsters that the economy was the most important issue facing the country. What’s more, in each state, a majority of voters said that was the case….

How can she win a majority of the majority and still lose? Because she lost with other groups worse.

The exit poll questionnaire gave voters a choice between four options for the most important issue. Clinton was generally preferred by those who said foreign policy was the most important issue, too, but Trump was preferred by those who saw immigration or terrorism as most important. The key is the margins. On average, about 13 percent of people in the 27 states said foreign policy was most important and they preferred Clinton by an average of 30 points. On average, voters who said the economy was most important preferred Clinton by 7.3. But on terrorism, rated most important by a fifth of voters, on average, Trump led by an average of 21.8 points. On immigration (most important to an average of 12.2 percent of respondents)? A huge 42.1 percentage point lead for Trump.

Shorter: a majority of swing-state voters said the economy was the most important issue, and among those voters, Hillary won by about 7 points.  But she got slaughtered among voters who said terrorism or immigration was the #1 issue.  Bottom line:

across the country, the story told by the exit polls seems clear: Trump didn’t win because people were worried about the economy. He won thanks to people who were worried about the subjects of immigration and terrorism that he started hammering on from the very first day of his campaign.

Now, exit polling isn’t always right, so take this with the appropriate amount of salt.  But before you buy into the frame that Democrats lost because of their economic message, look into what the data show.  It’s maybe not so clear.

VAN JONES - Dakota Pipeline Protests as big as the Civil Rights Movement! #NoDAPL

December 4: Bumped -- for today's big win! Turns out that the President's Army Corps of Engineers has something to say. (Previous promotion comment: The president-elect is busy chatting up North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp on this and other issues. Does the President have anything to say?) - promoted by hesterprynne

As Morton County’s Sheriff creates a social media team to spew Orwellian language, and a group of veteran’s raises $800,000 through crowd funding and led by Wesley Clark, Jr. deploys in convoy towards North Dakota – WHERE is leadership? When white Bismark said “NO” the DAPL “Trans Energy Partners” began to ram DAPL down the throats of Native Americans at gunpoint – where is the outrage?

Liberal commentator Van Jones says he sees similarities between the demonstrations against the Dakota Access pipeline and the biggest protests of the 1960s.

“To me, this is Selma, this is Birmingham, this is as big a civil rights movement and as big a civil rights moment as you’re ever going to see,” Jones said on Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show “Chelsea” in an episode airing Friday.

In a brief clip from the episode, Handler mentions to Jones she wants to visit the protest site and asks what he thinks of the issue.

“They were going to put the pipeline through a white town, and the white people said, ‘Hell no!’ So instead, the Dakota Access company decided to route it through a Native American reservation,” Jones said. “And it turns out that the land that they’re putting it on is some of the most sacred land for Native Americans in the world.”

“For some reason, the mainstream media really hasn’t talked about it as much,” Jones added.

He added that the movement is one of the largest gatherings of Native American tribes since Christopher Columbus arrived in America, calling it the equivalent of the civil rights movement.

Jones called for President Obama to take action to stop the pipeline.

“President Obama is still the president of the United States right now,” he said. “And I think he should tell the Army Corps of Engineers to cancel this whole project. If Trump wants to do it, we’ll deal with that later, but President Obama should stand up and say this has gone far enough and needs to stop and needs to stop right now.”

How the Democrats Blew It

Facepalm. We really were stupid. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Hindsight is 20-20 I know, but indulge me.
The Democrats had a clear opportunity in 2009 to establish themselves clearly as the party of the white working class. The first thing they should have done was save a lot of blue-collar jobs. I would have gone big league, and picked an industry that was not only a major employer but the very symbol of a well paying blue collar job. That’s right– I’m talking about the auto industry.
Can you imagine the Democratic landslide in Michigan (and the rest of the upper Midwest) if the Democrats had rammed through a bill saving all those auto industry jobs? And done it over Republican objections? Instead, look at what happened. As other posters on this site have pointed out, the Democrats did absolutely nothing. We just sat around sipping lattes and doing identity politics.
I wouldn’t stop there. Just in case there were white workers who didn’t feel like the auto bailout benefited them personally, I would have done something that would put money in every white worker’s pocket. I would have done something dramatic about energy prices.
I mean fracking. Why oh why did we ever listen to those environmentalists and stop all the fracking? We should have ignored them and let the price of gasoline drop and drop, along with the price of heating oil, and the chances of the Republicans ever taking the presidency. What if energy prices today were a fraction of what they were when the Democrats took over? Picture gasoline at about $2.50/gallon. It seems impossible, but I’m convinced it could have happened. But I guess we’ll never know.
Low gas prices and an entire industry saved. Let some demagogue try run a campaign going after Mexicans and Muslims then.

Senator Sanders in Rolling Stone

Good stuff. Some commentary about what lies ahead in addition to the (necessary) autopsies - promoted by hesterprynne

An Interview with Matt Taibbi worth reading in full. Bernie is careful to avoid some of the pitfalls that have befallen many of us (myself included) in our last three weeks in the Mirror Universe. No Hillary bashing, no assertions he could’ve won, and no false binary between defending people of color, women, Muslims, and the LGBT community and advocating for all working class Americans. Worth reading in full and sharing!

Issues Are the Way Forward

Would add, as has been addressed in the comments, that the intersection of climate/jobs is a big one, which younger voters may be particularly attuned to. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

In 1964, conservatives were out of power. They coalesced around Goldwater, and all of their successes seem to follow from that campaign. We forget now, but before Goldwater (and during), “conservative” was an insult. He rallied them around their issues.

When conservatives are in power, their issues fall by the wayside. Let me be the millionth person to point out that deficits are only important when Democrats are in power.

But we shouldn’t overstate that. They used issues to motivate their movement. Now they use a variety of tools, including holding on to power and hating us.

However, there are true, hardcore conservatives out there, and they are up in arms that six years of Republican control of Congress hasn’t reduced spending. They’re furious that the party hasn’t lived up to its rhetoric. Many of these people led to Trump, because they wouldn’t listen to old news guys like Graham.

We need to think about our core issues. The biggest, I think, is jobs (not the “economy,” jobs).

The second biggest is homeland security.

The third biggest is infrastructure. If you’re allowed to telecommute, have you ever hesitated because you think the T won’t work? I have. Now imagine you don’t have the option to telecommute.

“Income inequality,” as we’ve come to call it, is not the issue. The real issue is employment, or underemployment, and therefore social mobility.

Houses cost too much, at least here. College costs too much. We can’t fix that, but we could do a lot to improve the public colleges. The proverbial family of four is struggling to have a comfortable standard of living.

Quality of life is an issue. Travel is a hassle; we need to look at the security apparatus we uncritically adopted 15 years ago (during a time of crisis, and with an architecture led by George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Joe Lieberman as our sole voice).

Guns are an issue. We can argue over what to do, but we can never forget that basic public safety is at risk.

The Global War on Terror is also an issue, but it’s one that we can’t really focus on when we’re out of power.

Add anything you like — but the point is that we focus on stuff the government can control, and we force the Republicans to address them. We can even share the credit if we have to, because the issues are what matter.

In short, we will make government work. And our base will see the improvement, and the effort will feed itself. A focus on issues will help us recruit committed candidates.

December BMG Stammtisch

Gonna need a drink ... - promoted by charley-on-the-mta


The Saloon

Come, enjoy some libations, and talk politics at the first post-truth stammtisch. Our now-regular monthly BMG Stammtisch will happen, as usual, the first Wednesday of the month — 7-December— at The Saloon in Davis Square at 7p.

Hope to see you there!

Trump finally finds election fraud

PoliticsCentral:

Top Trump campaign aide in Michigan guilty on 10 felony counts

Brandon Hall, the controversial west Michigan blogger who served as a key figure in the Donald Trump campaign’s organizing efforts across the state, was found guilty today on 10 felony counts of election fraud.

In Ottawa County Circuit Court, a jury took less than an hour to find Hall guilty of forging signatures on nominating petitions for a circuit judge candidate who was a Hall political ally. In 2012, Hall, now 27, admitted to signing fake signatures on the petition of Chris Houghtaling as they traveled to the state capital of Lansing to beat the candidate filing deadline. Hall used different pens and both hands to make the signatures look distinct.

Though he hopes to appeal the verdict, Hall now faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 27. …

Taking The President-Elect Seriously, Not Literally

As Masha Gessen said, "Believe the autocrat." - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Another piece cross posted from my blog at thevibesman.com. Hope you like it.

Yesterday a column was posted on CNN.com by a fellow named Brad Todd, titled “Dear journalists: Stop Taking Trump Literally”.  Mr. Todd says that while journalists take Trump literally, his voters take him seriously and that’s what matters. I read the piece and thought it was bad. After all, I had just a few days ago written a very long post on my own website about journalists doing the exact opposite, taking Trump seriously when he said he had an open mind to climate change and putting words in his mouth to indicate that he did have an open mind, rather than just taking a literal reading of what he said. I also thought the CNN article was written from the wrong perspective, an advertising man advising journalists to look at news as a for-profit industry, the reader as “customer,” and the important customers as Trump voters, and to stop trying to provide as much information possible in as complete a way as is necessary to tell the whole story to as many readers as may find it relevant. “This is seriously a bad take, and I mean that literally,” I said.

But yesterday, a twitter user named @ezlusztig posted a series of tweets that made me rethink the whole idea of taking Donald Trump seriously and not literally. Elliott Lusztig refers to a book by Hannah Arendt called “The Origin of Totalitarianism”, published in 1949, I have not read the book so I rely on his interpretation. He says Ms. Arendt noted how “decent liberals in 1930s Germany would ‘fact check’ the Nazis’ bizarre claims about Jews” failing to understand that the Nazis were not stating fact but intent, “not describing what was true, but what would have to be true to justify what they planned to do next.” Another user quotes Jean-Paul Sartre, from his 1944 book “Anti-Semite and Jew” as follows:

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play.

They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.

Lusztig concludes by referring to Trump’s tweeted falsehood about 3 million illegals voting in this context, which many mainstream news sources rushed to fact-check in its immediate aftermath:

What Trump is saying is not that 3m illegals voted. What he’s saying is: I’m going to steal the voting rights of millions of Americans.

I still think the main points of Todd’s piece are off base and many of his conclusions are wrong (at the very least it’s more relevant to cable-type news than factual reporting), but his ad-man sloganeering can be applied to many Trump’s statements in the context of seeing them as statements of intent rather than literal fact.

So when Trump tells you he thinks 3 million illegal immigrants voted, don’t take him literally and scream, “No they didn’t!” Take it seriously as a threat to take voting rights away from Americans. Often you can find corroboration of his “statement of intent”, like in his pick for Jeff Sessions for AG. Sessions has a 30-year “record of hostility” toward minority voting rights. The Justice Department has been involved in a number of lawsuits in recent years against states seen by the DoJ to be in violation of voting rights laws. This will likely end under Sessions, who cheered the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court. Or look at his pick of Steve Bannon as chief strategist. Bannon once said he thought only property owners should be allowed to vote, which leaves out large groups of minorities, young people (especially students), people who live in population centers, and, of course, poor people.

When Trump tells you he thinks that protesters are acting in bad faith, or that he believes flag burners ought to be put in jail or denaturalized, don’t take him literally and start talking about whether the public supports a ban on flag burning or argue about whether protesters are right to protest. Take it seriously as a threat to free speech and the right to protest, from a man who as shown over and over again that he can’t stand being criticized and has repeatedly expressed his admiration for totalitarian states that jail dissidents. Look for corroboration in his own history of disdain toward free expression, like when he proposed fighting ISIS in America by closing down our mosques and even threatening to restrict our internet speech like North Korea and other totalitarian states, saying, ”Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.

When Trump tells you he thinks this media outlet or that reporter treats him unfairly, don’t take him literally and examine whether the treatment was indeed correct and fair. Take it seriously as a threat to curb freedom of the press and subject it to heavy government interference by a man who has expressed a desire to “open up the libel laws” to make it easier to sue the press for writing about him, and who has first-hand experience in how much fake propaganda (no matter who it comes from) and control of the news cycle can help or hurt someone in the eyes of the American people.

Trump often speaks in an obfuscating manner, and reporters have a hard time getting him to state a position clearly. Trump’s surrogates – and one has to assume this will be true of a White House Press Secretary as well, as far as one exists in a Trump administration – often don’t bother to try to interpret or clarify his statements, deferring back to him or making light of his off-the-cuff way of speaking. When they do provide a “clarification” it will often be an outright lie itself. So reporters interpret Trump’s words for themselves and hack up his quotes to make it seem he said things they would like him to have said. This will continue to be a problem. But making sense of Trump’s nonsense will not be as simple as just listening to exactly what he says. Behind a literal statement that seems so outrageous and obviously incorrect that it must be just a pretext for controversy lies a serious threat feeling its way out into the public discourse, looking for approval from Trump’s followers while providing a cover of plausible deniability to the people making the threat.

So the next time you hear Trump or one of his surrogates say something outrageous, don’t take it as a literal statement. Take it as a serious threat.

Please pay attention!

See you soon.

(follow me on twitter @davibesman)