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Month May 2016

BMG reunion at the MA State Democratic Party Convention?

I’m a delegate representing Maynard, and this will be my first convention!  Just curious whether any other BMGers are planning on attending.  Hope to see some of you in Lowell this Saturday! ~Betsey Gardstein


It is being reported that Governor Charlie Baker will sign the public accommodations bill expected to pass the House of Representatives tomorrow.  It has already passed the State Senate. This is good news for our transgender brothers and sisters who have suffered hateful bigotry for years. Fred Rich LaRiccia Board of Directors Bay State Stonewall Democrats      

Gawker on Trump’s “microcylinder intervention” hair approach

Controversial website Gawker proves it can be useful with this hair-raising investigation published last week. Now you know. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has generated an unceasing torrent of press attention that some estimate to be worth roughly $2 billion. Yet the central mystery at the very core of his persona—his inscrutable hairdo—has somehow, impossibly, remained unsolved. Until, perhaps, now. A tipster who claimed knowledge of Trump’s hair recently came to Gawker with a potential solution to the enigma: Trump’s hair is not his own, costs tens of thousands of dollars for installation and upkeep, and comes from a man as mysterious as Trump is bombastic. This solution that Trump, our tipster says, sought for his hair woes is a little-known, patented hair restoration treatment called a “microcylinder intervention.” It’s only performed by one clinic that we know of—Ivari International—where our source once sought treatment, and where he says he learned of Trump’s apparent patronage. What’s more, Ivari’s New York location was inside Trump Tower—on the private floor reserved for Donald Trump’s own office.  

If there’s a case against the Fair Share Amendment, it wasn’t on yesterday’s op-ed page.

It was almost physically painful to read the absurd anti-tax screed by Meredith Warren, attacking the proposed Fair Share Amendment that would increase the state income tax rate on high income earners, that appeared on yesterday’s Globe’s op-ed page.  This piece makes sense only if you uncritically accept its two basic premises (which are both assumed but not defended): Taxation is a form of theft; and Different tax rates on different levels of income are inherently unfair. Our friends over in the Libertarian Party might agree with the first point (though I wonder whether one of its newest members, former MA Governor Bill Weld, actually thinks that way) .  But there’s a reason the Libertarian Party gets only a tiny number of votes every time they run: that view is espoused by a minuscule minority of Americans, and it is often associated with views that are even less mainstream.  Basically, most people understand that a functioning government is necessary, and that taxes are needed to make it function.  Even Warren herself doesn’t seem to agree that taxation is theft, since she says that “[t]here’s no question we need more money for education and transportation in Massachusetts.”  Where does Warren think that […]

House and Senate not following their own funding plan for employment of the developmentally disabled

(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blogsite) For the past three years, the state has been carrying out a policy of closing sheltered workshops for people with developmental disabilities and subsequently placing those people in mainstream workforce jobs. Yet the Legislature, which bought into this policy, is failing to provide the necessary funding for it. As the Department of Developmental Services and its corporate service providers jointly proclaimed in 2013, the policy has been to move developmentally disabled people out of sheltered workshops and into community-based day programs and ultimately to the mainstream workforce. Sheltered workshops are settings in which developmentally disabled people work together on simple assembly-line tasks and are usually paid a small wage.  The workshops have gone out of favor because they are viewed as “segregating” their participants from their non-disabled peers in the community. Since 2013, the majority of the remaining sheltered workshops in Massachusetts have reportedly been closed.  All are scheduled to be closed as of June 30 of this year. But the problem is that the Legislature, and to some extent the administration itself, aren’t following through on the policy, which calls for beefing up funding for DDS day programs and job development staffing.  Last week, the Senate joined the House in rejecting higher funding levels considered by the […]

Reducing Recidivism: Start with Low-hanging Fruit

The Council on State Governments, at the request of the Governor and other state leaders, is taking a year-long dive into our state’s criminal justice system. A preliminary report shows we have a recidivism problem: three out of four persons convicted in Massachusetts in one recent year have been convicted before.  Among the most common infractions are crimes involving motor vehicles.  And within that category, the crime that has sent the most people back to jail is operating with a suspended license. This fact is not news to advocates of a recently-enacted state law that repeals an automatic driver’s license suspension imposed on most people convicted of drug offenses. For the 27 years that this counterproductive relic from the War On Drugs was in effect (until its repeal this March), Massachusetts residents jailed for drug offenses faced an additional penalty after being released: a five year license suspension and, after the suspension period was served, a $500 license reinstatement fee. Some of those people whose licenses were suspended on this basis ran the risk of driving with a suspended license, and the unlucky ones found themselves back in jail. So a welcome side-effect of the repeal of  the license suspension law is the lowering of our […]

Diehards against Trump now embracing him – What does that say about Washington?

“So let me make it perfectly clear, Senate Republicans condemn David Duke [and] the KKK,” said Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority leader about Donald Trump. “I condemn his comments in the most forceful way.” But that was then. Now, he hopes Trump will take the White House. Winning it for the Republicans is more important. Means don’t matter if the end goal is achieved. Lindsay Graham called him a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. Now, he’s urging Republicans at a Florida fund raiser to back Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan sounded cool on him. Now he’s hoping Trump will be elected. Rick Perry was going to defend conservatism from the cancer of Trumpism. Then, he endorsed him: “What I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them”. Mike Huckabee at least was consistent, pounding on Republicans who were unwilling to climb in bed with Donald Trump. “The establishment Republicans are all, you know, bed-wetting over this… They don’t seem to understand that we have an election.” Before standing behind Trump, Chris Christie considered him “thin-skinned”, “carnival barker”, “entertainer-in-chief”, and mocked his Mexican wall: “This is not negotiation of […]

Act Now: Save the Nuke Plant Safety Bills

Most or all the bills to protect us from dangers of Pilgrim and Seabrook nuclear power plants will die unless  Democrats including Town Committees tell legislators to pass, before the end of June, the bills which were near-unanimously approved by the 2015 Democratic Convention. Co-chairs Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Kate Hogan of the Joint Committee on Public Health need to be asked to favorably report H.2031 to provide radiation monitors up to 50 miles from the plants, also including Nantucket, which bill however needs funding.  Senate Ways and Means chairperson Sen. Karen Spilka needs to favorably report S.1798 to bill Pilgrim owner Entergy to build the decommissioning fund and House Ways and Means Committee chairperson Brian Dempsey should report favorably H.2167 for emergency planning. Sen. Danial Wolf withdrew S.1797 to incentivize Entergy to move spent fuel rods into dry casks, anticipating the company’s opposition. The Secretary of State’s website reports an Entergy employee in 2015 opposed all the bills approved by the Convention. The site reports that various Entergy corporate entities have spent more than $1.6 million in lobbying salaries since 2005.   John Nichols Orleans

State Senate’s zoning and housing production bill

As said so well by the Globe’s editorial on Saturday, the state may be near a legislative breakthrough in dealing with some of the symptoms and roots of the housing crisis in Greater Boston. The State Senate’s Ways & Means Committee released a “working draft” of a bill that would make major changes in the state’s zoning laws for the first time since 1975. The Senate may vote on the bill in early June. This is from the Globe editorial on why the effort is important: In the four decades since the last substantial update of the zoning law, some towns have used its provisions to fight all significant housing development, instead of trying to gently accommodate a modest amount of growth. Not coincidentally, much of the state is now in the grip of a housing shortage — evident in spiraling home prices — that hampers economic growth and discourages younger families from putting down roots in Massachusetts. Speaking for the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance (and as a longtime, but largely silent, BMGer), we believe that the State Senate has done a thoughtful job balancing the needs of municipalities, developers, and the environment. The bill filed this session by Senator […]

“Walsh, like a lot of thugs, picks his victims according to how little they can fight back.”

Last year (January 2015 to be exact), protesters blocked the Southeast Expressway. The day after the protest, Mayor Walsh fired one of the alleged protesters, Nelli Ruotsalainen, a part-time city worker. “(The Mayor) finds it unacceptable for a city employee to put public safety at risk,” a city spokesman said. You may have seen the video last week of an off duty police officer, Edward P. Barrett, assaulting a pedestrian in broad daylight on a city street, pushing the pedestrian’s face into the ground. The excuse given was that the man hit the officer’s car with his umbrella. Walsh’s reaction, after being shown the video, was a lot different from a year ago. “Clearly there was an incident where a gentleman hit an off-duty police officer’s car with an umbrella, we can’t be having that in the city of Boston. . . ” Walsh seems less concerned with public safety these days than with smudges on car windows. When he fired, Ruotsalainen, it was done months before she had even had a pre trial conference. But for Barrett, there’s no rush. “Certainly during it, it seemed a little aggressive, but again, we’re going to wait and see what happens with […]