August 2011
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Month August 2011

Pioneer Institute Supports State Budget Increase for Education

They say the definition of chutzpah is killing your parents and then begging for mercy because your an orphan. In a recent op-ed in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the anti-union Pioneer Institute aspires to chutzpah using Labor Day as an excuse for lobbying for an unfunded mandate. How else to interpret their op-ed bemoaning the fact that the Commonwealth has yet to implement the history portion of the MCAS: With Labor Day upon us, it’s unfortunate that current state policy makers are ignoring the words of the education reform law and Madison’s wisdom that has endured for well over two centuries. Today, history is a shrinking part of the curriculum in Massachusetts schools because the commonwealth has indefinitely postponed making passage of an MCAS U.S. history test a high school graduation requirement. The move is particularly unfortunate given our rich labor heritage. Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law limiting the use of child labor in 1843 because union members petitioned the state Legislature. The reason for no MCAS test in History: money. It costs money to implement a test. Questions have to be written, field-tested, and stock-piled for retests. Psychometricians have to analyze the results for reliability and bias. People have to be paid to correct […]

Court stands up for citizen journalists

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit’s recent decision on videotaping the police in public is a big deal, and for reasons that go well beyond the Massachusetts wiretap law.  As has already been noted here, the Court allowed a civil rights lawsuit to go forward against the City of Boston and several police officers who had arrested a guy with a cell phone camera who videotaped the officers arresting someone on the Boston Common.  In so doing, the Court made it crystal clear that the MA wiretap law cannot be used against people who videotape the police in public in the course of carrying out their duties. The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public?  Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative…. [T]hough not unqualified, a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment. Less attention has been paid to some other […]

Brown Returns from Afghanistan. Tread Lightly!

It finally happened.  Scott Brown is returning from Afghanistan safe and sound…wait, he left? Several months ago, Brown announced–then claimed it had been leaked–that he was going over to Afghanistan to “do some missions.”  It was never entirely clear why a JAG National Guard officer would be better trained in Afghanistan as opposed to here as it seems unlikely the adjudications of a war zone would be applicable at the Milford Nat’l Guard HQ.  But whatever.  The announcement, however, seemed oddly (or conveniently) timed as it came out around the time that Setti Warren was prepared to enter the race.  Setti Warren, mind you was already an Iraq war veteran, and, on paper at least, had the biography if not the political resume, to challenge Brown.  As I have often harped, these adventures or “missions” to Afghanistan, seemed like more evidence of the construction of Scott Brown his media men (and women, no offense former staffer Gail Gitcho) have sought to create for the politics-consuming Massachusetts public. It seems, however, that the meaning behind Brown’s mission has deflated somewhat.  With Elizabeth Warren sucking the air out of Democratic nominee room and Alan Khazei bearing the brunt of the Brown camp’s […]

Parole in Massachusetts: Two steps forward and one step back?

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Committee for Public Counsel Services (the state’s public defender agency) and the ACLU of Massachusetts recently spoke out about the dropping parole rates under the state’s reorganized Parole Board.  We told Gov. Deval Patrick that his new appointees to the Board seem to be undermining certain 2010 drug sentencing reforms that he championed as well as his own legislative agenda for the current session of the Legislature.  Our concerns were cited in articles by the  Boston Globe and State House News Service and editorials by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (agreeing) and the Boston Herald (disagreeing). Here’s our letter.  You can decide for yourself. Dear Governor Patrick: On behalf of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the ACLU of Massachusetts, we write to express our concerns about what appears to be the Parole Board’s current policy of significantly restricting parole.  In our view, such a policy is contrary to the sentencing reforms enacted in 2010 and undermines some of the Administration’s current legislative priorities that we strongly support. According to the Parole Board, as of July 2011 the parole rate for state […]

Ignoring our rich labor history

Worcester Telegram & Gazette  Circulation: 90,000  Wednesday, August 31, 2011  by Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass In Federalist #10, James Madison wrote that regulation of competing interests like labor and management is the “the principal task of modern legislation.” The framers of Massachusetts’ landmark 1993 education reform law understood this, which is why the law calls for the commonwealth’s education standards to include America’s Founding Documents and “the history of working people and the labor movement in the United States.” With Labor Day upon us, it’s unfortunate that current state policy makers are ignoring the words of the education reform law and Madison’s wisdom that has endured for well over two centuries. Today, history is a shrinking part of the curriculum in Massachusetts schools because the commonwealth has indefinitely postponed making passage of an MCAS U.S. history test a high school graduation requirement. Read the rest here.

Smoking Guns? Boston Globe and/or Associated Press Screw With News Photos While Herald Finds New Ways to Goof on Blacks

London’s Daily Mirror has this story and photo in yesterday’s edition. The headline tells of a “Dramatic Moment When Man Stabbed at Notting Hill Carnival”. Here’s what happened. Some punk stabbed most likely another punk at a Caribbean street festival across the pond. The stabbing had an audience including some bobbies who eventually gave chase to the knife wielding chap. But the hero was an old timer who came out of nowhere and, with a camera in one hand and a couple of plastic shopping bags in the other, stuck his left foot out and bloody thwarted the escape. What makes this great is a that a news photographer from Getty pictures got the perfect shot showing the guy running with knife in hand, the old guy and his shoe about to finish the trip, the victim in the background standing with apparent stab wound on his side, an English cop with hands on hips watching as the culprit sprints away and another starting to run towards the victim. The face of the culprit was edited so he could not be identified. (Crazy code of British journalists I guess) The stabbing probably happened literally, and I mean literally, three seconds […]

Fehrnstrom Enters Pantheon of Dirty Tricksters

          Now that Eric Fehrnstrom has been unmasked as the source of politically incorrect tweets about Senator Scott Brown’s potential Democratic rival, Alan Khazai, he has ascended to membership in the dubious pantheon of renowned dirty tricksters.         Fehrnstrom, the brains behind the morphing John F. Kennedy to Scott Brown video, believed to be the flashpoint for Brown’s upset of Martha Coakley in the 2010, not only has the title of senior campaign advisor for Brown, but, also, doubles as a top aide in the Mitt Romney entourage.        His elite status appears the only anomaly compared to fellow tacticians, Dick Tuck and Donald Segretti, both low level operatives/mudslingers of a bygone day when their targets were Richard Nixon and Edmund Muskie, respectively.        Tuck’s shenanigans involved embarrassing candidate Nixon during his run for the White House. In 1968, according to Wikipedia, Tuck ” utilized Republican nominee Nixon’s own campaign slogan against him; hiring a very pregnant African-American woman to wander around a Nixon rally in a predominantly white area wearing a T-shirt that said,”Nixon’s the One.”       Segretti, involved in the “dirty tricks” Watergate-era circa 1972, forged a letter, according to Wikipedia, “ascribed to Sen. Muskie (the early Democratic frontrunner) […]

Romney slams “career politicians” in Perry’s backyard – Brown backs Quincy council hopeful – Irene damages – More trouble in Lawrence

MITT MONITOR: Former Gov. Mitt Romney took it to GOP presidential primary opponent Gov. Rick Perry in Perry’s own state of Texas yesterday, slamming “career politicians,” of which Romney has only been one of for a decade or so. (AP, PI) 2012: While Elizabeth Warren’s not quite ready to throw her hat over the fence just yet (Globe), Scott Brown’s backing a candidate for city council in Quincy (WL) which is incidentally Ramblin’ Tom Conroy‘s next stop (Ledger). DISASTER ZONES: Ben Downing is concerned about flood damage (MassLive). David Linsky wants to hear about power outages (WL). Linda Dean Campbell wants someone to do something about Lawrence (Eagle Trib.) Read the rest of the MASSterList, including the Mitt Monitor, today’s legislative headlines, transportation news, new health care headlines, today’s Best of the Blogs and more by signing up for daily email alerts.  

Elizabeth Warren interviewed in today’s Boston Globe

So much for that “afraid of the press” meme. I didn’t love the headline on the front page profile, but the article strikes me as a pretty good introduction. Warren effectively countered any “ivory tower” or “silver spoon” associations due to her position at Harvard (“I came up scrappy. I came up the hard way,” she’s quoted), and she was right on her message of being a fighter for the middle class. Bonus extra column on Warren by Brian McGrory in the Metro section. Could the sometimes misanthropic McGrory have been a bit smitten? The piece is headed “New Kind of Contender,” and touts Warren’s energy, smarts and charm. And for those who bought the “Martha Coakley couldn’t beat Dick Cheney for mayor of Berkeley” analysis (being an admirer of the AG I don’t subscribe to that school myself), that McGrory sees Warren as the opposite of the “all scripted and tailored” Coakley may come as some reassurance.

Fixing the comment nesting problem

I think the frequent problems we see with comments failing to nest properly can be fixed by changing the default behavior of the page that opens to read a particular post. Right now, that page opens with big open “comment” entry box. It shouldn’t. I think that a more intuitive approach is to require the user to click on SOME reply link in order get a place to type at all. Place the top-level reply button at the bottom of the thread-starter, before the comments. Maybe put another copy at the end of the comments, but clearly separated from the comments. I wonder if this is the way the old BMG worked? Meanwhile, it is still true that if a user opens a properly-nested comment, enters text, and then hits “reload” (before submitting the comment), it will be bumped to the top-level after the reload. This is a bug in the page reload code.