Joe Curtatone,my Favorite Mayor, Hangs Black Lives Matter Banner from City Hall

Bravo, Mr. Mayor! - promoted by david

He has been for quite some time, from a thoughtful approach to smart growth, a wise road not taken on the Olympics proposal, and a commitment to sustainability and mixed use development that has allowed Somerville to leapfrog ahead of other municipalities. His commitment to e-government, 311, and an incubator of policy students working on issues affecting Somerville shows a vision beyond the confines of his densely packed small city. I have long viewed him as a future candidate for statewide or congressional office.

And his bold leadership today takes the cake. Joe Curatone has put City Hall on the side of Black Lives Matter activists, aligning his city, the police department he commands, and the entire community with the civil rights issue of our time. This is bold leadership and this is the kind of leadership every Democratic official in our state should be taking.

Why Curatone Made the Move:

“We see this as an important opportunity for an important national conversation” about race, Curtatone said. He said the move was “a very clear statement we are making to the community that we recognize that structural racism exists in our society; it exists in our public and private institutions.”

How Black Lives Matter Has Responded:

Stephanie Guirand, lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Cambridge, said the group was honored that Curtatone agreed to hang the banner and work with them closely.

“He said all the things we wanted to hear about being on the right side of history,” she said.

How it is a recognition that he needs to listen and improve:

When asked if he thinks racism is a problem in Somerville, he said, “Racism exists everywhere.”

“In our public institutions, we can remove it,” he said.

Somerville Police Endorse the Banner:

Curtatone said the partnership is not meant to criticize the work of the Somerville Police Department, which he referred to as a model for community-based policing efforts. He said it was actually a “statement of faith” in the department.

“They’re fantastic,” he said, adding that the police chief supports the cause. “This is not just about law enforcement. The goal is to address racism in all of our other public and private institutions. We are in this as a whole city, not with just a focus on police.”

Taxis suffer huge loss in ridership; propose the wrong remedy

Globe:

Boston taxis drove 1.5 million fewer passengers and took $33 million less in fares in the first half of 2015 compared to the year before, new city data show.

Ridership dropped 22 percent from the January-to-June total last year of 6.8 million to hit 5.3 million, and fare revenue dropped from $133 million to $100 million as drivers grappled with nasty winter weather and escalating competition from ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft. The 22 percent fall in ridership and 25 percent drop-off in fares has increased the sense of urgency felt by many in the industry to strictly regulate ride-hailing companies.

That’s a big drop in ridership, and obviously the taxi industry will collapse if things keep moving in that direction.  So, what to do?  Here’s Donna Blythe-Shaw, head of a group representing Boston taxi drivers, who is both exactly right and totally wrong:

“The taxi industry isn’t going to survive without any kind of reform or regulations…

Correct.

…on Uber.”

Wrong.  Yes, there are regulatory reforms that should be imposed on Uber, Lyft, and similar services.  A number of them are already in progress.  In particular, background checks and insurance requirements should be uniform across companies that provide rides for hire (and yes, that’s what Uber does, despite its silly insistence that it doesn’t).

But what the taxi industry needs is not for Uber et al. to be regulated out of existence.  What the taxi industry needs is to be freed from the yoke of antiquated, oppressive regulation that has failed to keep up with the times (as I’ve been saying for years).  Get rid of the medallions.  Get rid of town-by-town regulation and the nonsensical rules prohibiting Boston cabs from picking up fares outside city limits.  Let taxis compete directly with Uber and Lyft and win back their business, not because the state made life more miserable for everyone, but because they do a better job.

There’s a real role for state regulation in the business of transporting passengers for hire.  There are safety and liability issues that need to be taken seriously.  But neither the state nor municipalities should be deciding how many cars for hire should be on the road – that is for the market to determine.  Nor do I understand the basis for requiring a Boston cab who drops off a fare in, say, Wellesley, to have to drive all the way back to Boston until it can pick up another passenger.

It’s long past time for the state to take over regulation of the taxi industry from cities and towns, to impose uniform rules across the state, and to get rid of measures that no longer work (if they ever did).  And it needs to happen soon, before the taxi industry is destroyed.

Joke Revue: "Amazon Chief Says Employees Lacking Empathy Will Be Instantly Purged"

Borowitz:

SEATTLE (The Borowitz Report)—Saying that he was “horrified” by a New York Times article recounting callous behavior on the part of Amazon executives, company founder Jeff Bezos warned today that any employees found lacking in empathy would be instantly purged.

In an e-mail to all Amazon employees issued late Sunday evening, Bezos said that the company would begin grading its workers on empathy, and that the ten per cent found to be least empathic would be “immediately culled from the herd.”

To achieve this goal, Amazon said that it would introduce a new internal reporting system called EmpathyTrack, which will enable employees to secretly report on their colleagues’ lack of humanity.

The system will allow Amazon employees to grade their co-workers on a scale from a hundred (nicest) to zero (pure evil), resulting in empathy-based data that will be transmitted directly to Bezos.

Then, through a new program called Next Day Purging, any employee found lacking in empathy will be removed from the company within twenty-four hours of Bezos’s termination order.

“We can’t be the greatest retailer in the world unless we are also the kindest,” Bezos wrote in his e-mail. “So my message to all Amazonians is loud and clear: be kind or taste my wrath. Love, Jeff.”

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Donald Trump refuses to give details about his policy plans. Trump apologized by saying, ‘When I announced I was running for president, I had no idea people would take me seriously.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Donald Trump said in a new interview that he believes his performance in the polls shows that he has not crossed the line of appropriateness. You can read the entire interview in this month’s issue of Juggs magazine.” –Seth Meyers

“According to an online poll, Donald Trump is still the front-runner in the Republican primary race. It’s very impressive because it’s the only race left that he hasn’t offended yet.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Donald Trump said today that he has made up with Fox News over his controversial comments toward Megyn Kelly. And if there’s anything Trump and Fox are great at, it’s making things up.”-Seth Meyers

“A new report claims that William Shakespeare was a marijuana user and may have been high when he wrote some of his plays. Which explains that one line: ‘To be, or not to be . . . Wait, what was the question?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Donald Trump’s top strategist has stepped down after Trump seemed to imply last week that Megyn Kelly was menstruating during the debate. Even more shocking, Donald Trump has had a campaign strategist this entire time.” –Seth Meyers

“Tonight is the first Republican debate over on Fox News. The moderator, Chris Wallace, said there’s ‘so doggone many’ candidates, and that he planned on asking them some ‘doozies.’ He would’ve said more but he had to go back to the soda shop he works at in 1954.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Tonight was the first Republican primary debate. If you missed it, just imagine your uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, and then multiply by 10.” –Seth Meyers

Will Globe Keep Ignoring Columnist's Blatant Conflicts of Interest?

This is just sad. - promoted by david

Why is the Boston Globe letting former US Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) sell space on its op-ed page? As Eric Hananoki reports for Media Matters, the Globe has once again allowed Sununu to pen a column without disclosing he’s a highly-paid industry lobbyist:

Sununu wrote in his August 17 column that “Obama’s bureaucrats reach ever deeper into the economy, pursuing expensive and unnecessary regulation of the internet.” Sununu and the Globe did not disclose that he is the highly-paid honorary co-chair of Broadband for America, an organization whose members have included major broadband providers and has been heavily funded by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Broadband for America’s most recent IRS 990 form states that the group paid Sununu $480,067 for “lead consulting” during parts of 2013 and 2014.

Sununu also serves on the board of directors for Time Warner Cable (TWC), which fights Internet regulation. [...] TWC gave Sununu approximately $272,000 in compensation in 2014, according to company documents.

But Sununu’s byline innocuously reads, “John E. Sununu, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, writes regularly for the Globe.”

Sununu has also used his column to attack President Obama’s Clean Power Plan while serving as “Adjunct Senior Policy Advisor” for Akin Gump, a powerhouse DC lobbying firm that rakes in millions from the coal, oil and fracked gas industries.

The Globe’s excuse? “Reached by phone by Media Matters‘ Joe Strupp, Editorial Page Editor Ellen Clegg said she’s on vacation and hasn’t ‘read this column closely.’” When it comes to Sununu’s incomplete byline, Clegg says ”take a look at it.”

But when Media Matters first pointed out Sununu’s Akin Gump conflicts of interest back in 2012, then-editorial page editor Peter Canellos claimed, “If [Sununu] were in any position to benefit from matters he writes about, we would disclose that fact.” (Canellos is now executive editor of Politico.)

The Globe is failing to live up to its own stated ethical standards. Will Clegg now succeed where Canellos failed?

On Point Debates BLM and the Democratic Party

Kudos to Sacha Pfeiffer for tackling a hot issue today at On Point on WBUR and NPR. Have a listen.

For decades, black Americans and the Democratic Party have gone hand-in-hand. Loyal supporters of one another. But the Black Lives Matter movement has been publicly confronting Democratic presidential candidates over their attitudes on race and racial inequality. Not even ultra-progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been spared. Protesters say they want to hear specific policy plans, not vague promises. And they’re putting the Democratic candidates on the spot. Is this clash creating a rift between blacks and the Democrats that could benefit the GOP? Or is it making their relationship stronger? This hour, On Point: African-Americans challenge the Democratic Party.

The jungle behind amazon.com

"[A] soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard," in the words of Jeff Bezos. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Jack Welch’s style of management (fire each year the bottom 5 or 10%) can’t hold a candle to the management style of Jeff Bezos.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html

This is a report catching fire on the Internet about Amazon’s experiment – seeing how far its employees can be pushed for productivity. The cult of efficiency is as old as the Ford assembly line – in this case the widgets are engineers & managers & other workers, who are ingested, chewed and tossed out when they are unable to work 80 hours weeks, burn out, or become pregnant, or have to care for a sick family member.

========

Here’s but an excerpt that would make George Orwell proud. (A Modern Animal Farm, if you will:)

“In 2013, Elizabeth Willet, a former Army captain who served in Iraq, joined Amazon to manage housewares vendors and was thrilled to find that a large company could feel so energetic and entrepreneurial. After she had a child, she arranged with her boss to be in the office from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, pick up her baby and often return to her laptop later. Her boss assured her things were going well, but her colleagues, who did not see how early she arrived, sent him negative feedback accusing her of leaving too soon.

““I can’t stand here and defend you if your peers are saying you’re not doing your work,” she says he told her. She left the company after a little more than a year.

Torture stays on the table

The waterboarding table, that is. The Bush family sticks together. - promoted by Bob_Neer

On Thursday (13-August-2015), GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush publicly refused to rule out torture, according to reports like this:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Thursday declined to rule out resuming the use of torture under some circumstances by the U.S. government.

“I don’t want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement,” Bush told an audience of Iowa Republicans, when asked whether he would keep in place or repeal President Barack Obama’s executive order banning so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the CIA.

Had our government aggressively investigated, prosecuted, and punished the apparent war criminals of the prior administration (notably led by Jeb Bush’s brother), government-sponsored torture would not still be “on the table”. We already have, for example, a Senate Report that concluded that the practices of the prior administration were more brutal than disclosed, that the CIA lied, and that the abuses were ineffective (from the above link):

A Senate report released last year cited CIA records in concluding that the techniques were more brutal than previously disclosed, that the CIA lied about them, and that they failed to produce unique, life-saving intelligence. The CIA and its defenders take issue with the report.

The decision of a Democratic-controlled House, Senate, and President to not pursue the apparent crimes against humanity perpetrated by the prior administration is a shameful embarrassment that may well haunt us for decades to come. We Democrats have blood on our hands. We could have acted, and we instead chose the politically expedient route (a choice that was itself utterly ineffective — we got NOTHING for it). On this question, we were a Profile in Cowardice.

I do not want to live in an America that views torture as acceptable US policy.

'Reducing Income Inequality' to be Official Theme of the 2015 Mass. Democratic Convention

OK. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Last Thursday, at its quarterly meeting in the town of Amesbury, the Democratic State Committee passed the following resolution:

Making ‘Reducing Income Inequality’ the Theme of the 2015 Massachusetts Democratic Convention

WHEREAS,  The Massachusetts Democratic Party needs a strong message, a clear and unequivocal message, a message that reaches into the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of our threatened Middle Class; and

WHEREAS,  The Massachusetts Democratic Party – unlike Governor Baker’s party – is the people’s advocate, and as such we want to convey to Massachusetts voters that “we have your back; and

WHEREAS,  Income Inequality has soared since the election of Ronald Reagan and has resulted in a stratification of society not seen since the age of the Robber Barons; and

WHEREAS,  Reducing Income Inequality is a core principle underlying every issue for which we advocate as Democrats including,  Social Justice, Economic Opportunity, Transportation, Labor, Education, Climate Change, Racial Justice, Housing, Voting Rights, Health Care, and Disability, and will generate the kind of enthusiasm and excitement we will need to organize and win in 2016; and

WHEREAS,  The Massachusetts Democratic Party wishes to demonstrate that our principles are not just rhetoric, that our elected officials and candidates stand by and run on these principles; and

WHEREAS, The Executive Committee of the Democratic State Committee has endorsed “Reducing Income Inequality” as a theme for the upcoming Convention; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED,  That “Reducing Income Inequality” shall be the official theme of the 2015 Massachusetts Democratic Convention, and every element of our convention – our morning plenary session, all afternoon breakout sessions, and a general resolution of the convention – will embrace, incorporate, and further that theme.

 

Kinder Morgan Meets Resistance in Northeast Massachusetts

Post summary: Republican-led company trying to reach into ratepayer wallets to line its own pockets and jam through an expensive and destructive project. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The multibillion dollar company Kinder Morgan is now facing grassroots popular resistance to its proposed gas pipeline project from towns across the portion of the route in Eastern Massachusetts, from Dracut to Danvers, just as it has in the past faced opposition from Western Mass. The founder of Kinder Morgan is also a long term supporter of Republican candidates and he donated $2 million to the SuperPAC supporting Jeb Bush for president, while holding a Bush fundraiser at his house.

650 people turned out last night at Dracut High school where 18 elected officials and over 50 local residents spoke out against this project. Here is a video clip from Dracut’s Board of selectman chair, who is also part of the town’s Democratic City committee:
Dracut Selectman Chair Archinski, speaking to FERC

In the last 3 months, the city councils of Methuen and Peabody have both passed unanimous resolutions against the construction of this pipeline. Neither city had acted on it before, but as Kinder Morgan has increased the pipeline diameter to Methuen and as it just added a lateral to Peabody a few months ago, opposition groups have sprung up in both cities and in many towns in between.

The pipeline is vigorously opposed in Andover and Dracut, towns of 31,000-34,000 people. in which pipeline construction would clear cut a 75 to 100 foot buffer of trees that currently shields hundreds of homes from a major power line easement. Peabody faces the destruction of a famous bike path and Wilmington the encroachment of critical protected zones that help feed the wells the town depends on for drinking water.

Donald Trump to be guest at fund-raiser hosted by Ernie Boch Jr.

This should be good... - promoted by david

The Circus is coming! The Circus is coming!

Globe

“Ernie’s Summer Bash,” a three-hour fund-raiser that will feature live music and a speech by Trump, is a private event. Those who were lucky enough to receive an invitation from Boch will need to pay $100 to get in the door and hear what Trump has to say.

“Whether you are for him or against him, you will be more educated in your decision for who to vote for after hearing him speak,” Boch said. “Is he a loose cannon? Maybe a little. But who hasn’t been a loose cannon in their life? That’s the appeal.”

The Making of the Sales Tax Holiday, 2015

In which the whole sorry mass, like an excised tumor, is laid out for public inspection. - promoted by Bob_Neer

As we count down the hours (48 or so) until the August sales tax holiday, when we can save $20 on the four new (tax free!) tires our cars need because of the deplorable condition of our roads, some thoughts on how this year’s holiday came about.

As is typical, the Legislature waited until late July to enact the holiday bill, perhaps deterred by the words of the former Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, who once described the holiday as perhaps not the finest public policy on the planet. But as is also typical, by late July, retailers have already advertised not only the existence of the holiday but also have hinted broadly about when in August it will occur. And the Legislature does not excel at taking candy from babies.

This year, more legislators in both House and Senate joined the ranks of sales tax holiday skeptics, and this time they also had the Mass. Taxpayers Foundation in their corner (the holiday “is getting increasingly more difficult to justify”). But even as they scored more points than ever in the policy debate, they knew they were outnumbered, despite the fact that many of those supporting the holiday were pretty listless about it  (Senator Marc Pacheco, one of their number, distilled this lethargy into a single sentence: “I will be voting for it reluctantly so that the Senate is not blamed for stopping it”).

The success of the sales tax holiday owes much to the inherent popularity of any law that lowers consumer prices, but not everything. The holiday’s primary lobbyist, according to the Globe, is an “aw shucks, good old boy” who’s very popular on Beacon Hill. The holiday also has think tank support from the (Koch-funded) Beacon Hill Institute. The Institute weighed in with the requisite charts and tables demonstrating the enormous boost the state economy would receive from the holiday, including the rather astounding news that this year’s holiday would generate as many as 860 jobs (note to the Institute: those sound more like “shifts” than jobs,” no?).

And yet another factor: the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance and their kinfolk at the Independent Expenditure PAC, Jobs First.

Donald Trump, moderate Republican...?

Is Donald Trump a blowhard?  You bet.  A demagogue?  Maybe.  A plausible President of the United States?  Gosh, I sure don’t think so.

And yet, it must be noted that his positions on some important issues are actually to the left of the rest of the GOP field.  For example, on abortion rights:

Donald Trump on Tuesday said that he is pro-life, but also supports exceptions to bans on abortion in cases of rape and incest, as well as in cases that would save the life of the mother.

CNN’s “New Day” so-host Chris Cuomo asked Trump if he agreed with Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) stance against exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

“I disagree with that. I am for the exceptions,” Trump responded. “And so was Ronald Reagan for the exceptions, by the way. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Rubio’s stance is shared by most of the rest of the GOP field.

What about defunding Planned Parenthood?  Trump doesn’t like Planned Parenthood … and yet,

“If the time came, I would look at the individual things that they do and maybe some of the things are good, and maybe — I know a lot of the things are bad,” Trump said. “I would look at the good aspects of it and I would also look because I’m sure they do some things properly and good and good for women.”

That stance is clearly left of every other Republican running.  And then there’s health care.  From the debate:

we have to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves. And I will do that through a different system [than Obamacare].

OK, so he doesn’t like Obamacare; that’s par for the GOP course.  But wait – he thinks government should look out for at least some people?  That sounds something like Medicare/Medicaid, and it’s got some conservatives pretty upset.

And speaking of health care, no less of a credentialed lefty than Matt Yglesias had this to say about Trump’s debate performance:

Donald Trump offered the single best, most original policy idea in the Republican Party debate Thursday night. He also demonstrated by far the greatest understanding of a complicated area of public policy. There, I said it….

[W]hile I wouldn’t rank Trump as one of the great health wonks of all time, his answer to a question challenging him to defend his past praise of single-payer health-care systems demonstrated a decent knowledge of the subject and an innovative and important health-care idea….

Trump then pivoted from [his non-insane explanation of why single-payer wouldn't work here] to a constructive suggestion about reforming health insurance in America, proposing a change that, while big enough to make a difference, is sufficiently non-revolutionary to be plausible.

“What I’d like to see,” he said, “is a private system without the artificial lines around every state.”

Right now, you see, health insurance is a heavily regulated industry. And it’s regulated in slightly different ways by each state government. Consequently, while buyers and sellers of most products (breakfast cereal, cars, appliances, clothing) have one gigantic marketplace to participate in, buyers and sellers of health insurance have a handful of midsize markets (California, Texas, New York) and a few dozen small ones.

“I have a big company with thousands and thousands of employees,” Trump observed, but “if I’m negotiating in New York or in New Jersey or in California, I have, like, one bidder. Nobody can bid.”

One bidder is an exaggeration, but it’s true that the number of players in any given state market tends to be small, and the problem is getting worse. The issue is especially severe in smaller states, where the overall size of the market isn’t necessarily big enough to make it worth anyone’s while to enter. But it’s also a logistical hassle for employers who operate in multiple states, especially because states aren’t real economic units. Lots of people live in New Jersey and work in Pennsylvania, or commute from Kansas to Missouri.

So, scoff all you want at Trump’s antics.  I sure do.  But while you scoff, bear in mind that when it comes to policy, he might actually be better than the rest of them.  That should terrify all of us.