November 2006
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Month November 2006

Election Day Registration: A Day-One Move on Civic Engagement

The Civic Engagement Working Group will choose at best 3 or 4 initiatives for the new Patrick Administration.  Election Day Registration should be one. 

Here is why:

Election Day Registration will boost turnout between 3% and 15%.  People who recently moved benefit the most, followed by young people.  Massachusetts has a very mobile population.

Election Day Registration doesn’t cost much: other states have implemented for $250 per precinct.  With 2,166 precincts in Massachusetts, we are under $1 million for the whole state.

If Patrick gets behind it, it will pass, and Patrick will score an early, important victory:

(more below the fold!)

The budget is a moral document; please justify $264 million

In the spirit of governor-elect Patrick’s “Streamlining Spending: Improve Budget Transparency” goal, I’d like to highlight a large spending initiative that I don’t foresee delivering a powerful positive influence.

The front page of today’s Boston Globe announces that state officials have agreed as part of a lawsuit settlement to build a $264 million link between the Government Center and Charles/MGH T stops.

The article says the new tunnel is meant to offset pollution (pushed by the Conservation Law Foundation) and ease the commute of Mass. General Hospital employees (pushed by Partners Healthcare).

While I feel the pain of commuters coming from Revere and support fresh air and fewer cars on the road as much as the next person, I need more convincing that is the best way to spend $264 million.  Am I alone?

Will Open Source Software Get a Fair Shot in Patrick’s Administration?

[Xposted from Left in Lowell.]

An alert reader [of my blog] sent me a link of an article looking at one of Deval Patrick’s appointees to his Technology transition team, Brian Burke, Microsoft’s Regional Director for Public Affairs.

If you’re just joining this fight mid-program, Massachusetts had become a battleground in the open-source software movement vs. big giant software company (read: Microsoft). This ZDNet blog post gives some (old) details…Romney and his CIO Peter Quinn were opting for Open Document Format, which would open the doors to a number of cheaper open source computer programs which could replace expensive MS Office. (Romney’s peeps occasionally get things right.) The article is old, it says Romney’s favored for reelection, but it gives you an idea.

Transition: three more civic engagement meetings; full calendar now available

The civic engagement working group can now announce three more public meetings: Wednesday, Dec. 6, 8:30 am (with Higher Ed group): UMass-Boston Alumni Lounge 2nd Floor Campus Center 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston Wednesday, Dec. 6, 7:00 pm Roxbury Community College Reggie Lewis Center Gymnasium 1350 Tremont St., Boston Monday, Dec. 11, 6:00 pm Lawrence Senior Center 155 Haverhill St., Lawrence (note that the Human Services group is holding a meeting at the same location starting at 4 pm) There’s still at least one more meeting that we’re trying to work out logistics for. In addition, you can (finally) see a complete calendar of all the scheduled meetings at this page on the official transition website. Mark your calendars!  Please plan to come, and to bring as many people with you as you can.

Building Our Movement

[The following is cross-posted at Ryan's Take.]

The rise of the progressive blogosphere in Massachusetts has had a number of impacts. Perhaps the best impact is in building a larger community of people who care. Through the internet, people are able to organize new communities and share resources with other communities. People who prefer to work via email and postings can get involved without having to knock on doors or make phone calls. And that’s okay; some people just aren’t comfortable with certain ways putting themselves out there. Others, who are willing, are able to capitalize on the diversity of mediums available to get their message out.

A lot of people would probably say the best thing about the blogosphere was our ability to organize and influence the previous election – I have no doubts that without the presence of the netroots (which extends far beyond blogs), Deval Patrick probably wouldn’t have been able to catch on and at least win with the dominance he displayed. The blogosphere certainly helped feed the word-of-mouth press Deval needed to get through the primary. We also contributed to what the mainstream media reported on (as evidenced by the fact that people at the Boston Globe tend to read my little site daily). Tens of thousands of people visit sites like Bluemassgroup every week – so of course the netroots have made an impact.

The question is – what do we do now? The influence of the netroots will undoubtedly expand as the years come through a natural movement, but we’ve already reached a point in which we need to start creating new methods of building ideas, organizing those ideas and getting those ideas out there. We need to fuse and expand on our abilities to create a noise machine and form new ideas, almost like a think tank. How do we go about doing that?

One of the best things about the netroots is that the people who comprise it are regular people, who are rarely part of the establishment. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that all of these “normal” people also happen to be exceptionally bright in their own fields – they have great ideas that aren’t making it to Beacon Hill. I look at people like David at BMG, who’s a lawyer and is now on one of Deval’s transition committees. I look at people like RevDeb, of the Mass Netroots, who’s a Unitarian Universalist minister who has done some great, largely behind the scenes, work on glbt and habeas corpus issues – working with both Senator Kerry and Kennedy’s office.

We need to expand on all of these great people who consider themselves a part of the “netroots” and create an organization that can turn our individual expertise into universal progress. In doing that, I’ve come up with a few ideas. Here are my suggestions, all drawing from the best that the progressive netroots has to offer:

The grassroots as candidate-filter

Oh yes indeedy: Here is the deal: Hillary Clinton is not, and never was, the frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination. It does not matter how much money she or any other candidate has in her bank account at this point. It does not matter at this point how well known she or any other candidate is. This far out, what matters is the ability of the various candidates to inspire the still growing wave of grassroots and netroots activists on your behalf, and to inspire non-active, rank and file Democrats to become activists on your behalf. At this early point, that ability to inspire is worth far more than any bank account, any family name, or any meaningless lead in national primary trial heats. Of course it is still necessary to conduct all of the organizational and media steps required to run an effective campaign, but without the ability to inspire the new movement, your campaign will have a much tougher go of it. And that is why grassroots jes’ folks and candidates themselves must ignore the opinions of Those Who Are Paid To Know Such Things: The wiseguys don’t know anything more than you. I get the […]

Gay Marriage Suit going to Full SJC

In the interest of keeping everyone informed about what’s going on, I pass along this tidbit from State House News: In a decision handed down less than four hours after the hearing, Supreme Judicial Court Judith Cowin forwarded to the full seven-member court a lawsuit demanding that Senate President Robert Travaglini call a vote on a gay marriage ballot initiative or forcing Secretary of State William Galvin to put the amendment on the 2008 ballot. A hearing for arguments is set for December 20 at 9 am. In her decision, the plaintiffs, who include Gov. Mitt Romney and former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, are required to submit briefs by Friday, December 8, and both the plaintiffs and defendants have to file an “agreed statement of facts” the same day. The defendants, represented by the attorney general’s office, have their brief due on Monday, December 18. At the hearing before Cowin this morning, both sides said they were willing to go before the full court, but differed on the timing. The plaintiffs want action before January 1, a day before the Legislature resumes its Constitutional Convention, while the defendants preferred sometime next spring. “The defendants have no objection to such an […]

Vilsack’s running for Prezzzzzzzz….

HT to David E., who notes Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack’s announcement that he’s running for president.  Vilsack is the first Democrat to announce that he’s officially in the race. I’m sure Vilsack has been a fine governor (not that I really know what he’s done out there) and would be a competent, and maybe more than competent, president.  So why am I so unexcited by this announcement?

DA Lies to SJC in Brief Opposing LaGuer (and a twist)

As the Benjamin LaGuer case heads for oral arguments in the Supreme Judicial Court it is vitally important for civically engaged netizens to keep a close eye on the process. Trials and other court proceedings are public for a reason, because in a democracy sunshine is always the best disinfectant.

Two weeks ago the commonwealth filed its brief opposing LaGuer’s bid for a new trial. It is a public document and I’ve posted it in full to (look on the “Filings and Rulings” page). I also published a commentary on it in this week’s Valley Advocate. Read the article here below the flip. LaGuer’s lawyers, headed by James C. Rehnquist, are due to file a rebuttal next Monday (Dec. 4). The Committee for Public Counsel Services is expected to file an amicus.

I have been blogging on the case at Blue Mass Group and following it in the pages of the Valley Advocate:

  • Worcester County DA John J. Conte Uses Lies And Illogic In His Brief Against Ben LaGuer.

  • The Anatomy Of A Political Hit.

  • LaGuer Reconsidered: For 23 years, Ben LaGuer has maintained his innocence, a move that has only kept him in jail longer on a rape conviction. What now?

    And here’s the twist: Oral arguments in the SJC are scheduled for January 4, 2007, the same day and few blocks away from where the governor-elect who was savaged during the campaign for his past advocacy for LaGuer will be sworn in as governor.

    (read about the commonwealth brief below the flip)

  • Will there be justice for Lori Berenson?

    This diary cross-posted from DailyKos(where it was rescued) and updated a bit.

    Today, Lori Berenson,  an American citizen and an MIT graduate, marks 11 years of imprisonment in Peru and has nine years left to go in that country’s practically medieval prison system.

    After her initial detention in 1995, she was convicted of collaborating with a Peruvian terrorist group, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement or MRTA, and given a 20-year sentence, with credit for time already served. 

    She has become essentially forgotten in this country today.  And that’s to our detriment and disadvantage, because the lack of interest our government and the public at large have shown in this case bodes ill for other Americans who may get in trouble abroad, regardless of their guilt or innocence.