Data Viz: Charles Yancey facing tough road to re-election

Out with the old ... - promoted by Bob_Neer

From CommonWealth Magazine:

City Councilor Charles Yancey has represented Boston’s District 4 since the district was created in 1983. In every election since then — both preliminaries and finals — Yancey has taken the top spot at the polls. But all that changed in the September 8 preliminary election, when newcomer Andrea Campbell trounced Yancey, 58 percent to 34 percent. Campbell ran strong across the entire district, which includes large pieces of Dorchester and Mattapan, with slivers of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale. But the size of her victory came from running up huge margins in the highest turnout precincts — precincts that also tended to have the largest white populations in the predominantly minority district (emph. mine).

An interactive version of the piece, with clickable maps and charts, is available here (not great on mobile).


David writes: "It is unfortunate that he apparently [Ed.] met with Kim Davis while he was in the US. That was a mistake." - promoted by Bob_Neer

to be citizens of America and the world.

As the grandson of Italian immigrants I was deeply moved when the Holy Father introduced himself to President Obama at the White House as the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina — the first Latin American Pope.

Then he joined the President by calling on all of us to be the “land of the free and home of the brave”  by practicing the Golden Rule and treat others as we want to be treated.


Fred Rich LaRiccia



Joke Revue: "Kochs Hope to Be First to Pollute Water on Mars"

Sorry for the delay, folks! First up, an old cartoon favorite:


Kochs Hope to Be First to Pollute Water on Mars

WICHITA (The Borowitz Report)—Just hours after NASA revealed the discovery of water on the surface of Mars, a spokesman for Koch Industries said that the company would spend billions to become the red planet’s first major industrial polluter.

“At Koch Industries, we are well aware that our practice of spewing over six million pounds of toxins a year into Earth’s water is not sustainable,” said the billionaire Koch brothers’ corporate spokesman, Harland Dorrinson. “That’s why this discovery of water on Mars is so exciting.”

The company hopes to conduct the first toxic-dumping mission to Mars by 2030—at a projected cost of three billion dollars, or roughly the price of four Presidential candidates, the spokesman said.

In response to a reporter’s question, the Kochs’ spokesman offered no opinion about whether the water on Mars could sustain life, saying only that it would be unlikely to in the future.

Daniel Kurtzman offers a raft of papal jokes, old and new:

“In addition to the ‘no shaking hands,’ Congress was given a lot of rules about the Pope’s visit. First, there’s ‘Don’t fake-sneeze just to get an easy blessing out of the Pope.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“The Pope arrived in the U.S. today. I think that’s exciting. The Pope flew into Washington this afternoon on Lifelong Virgin Air.” –Conan O’Brien

“As you know, we have a new Pope. He is Pope Francis of Argentina. He is a 76-year-old man with only one lung. This could be just the burst of youth and vitality the Catholic Church needs.” –Jay Leno

“The new Pope had part of a lung removed when he was a teenager. I knew those Catholic school nuns were really mean, but I had no idea.” –Jay Leno

“Pope Francis was the runner-up to Pope Benedict in the last election. And this time he got elected. You know what that means? There’s still hope for Mitt Romney.” –Jay Leno

“Pope Francis was a beloved cardinal in Argentina. He gave up all his worldly possessions. He gave up his house to live in a tiny apartment. He gave up his car to ride the bus. You know what that means? Right now every divorced guy is saying, ‘I could have been Pope.’” –Jay Leno

“Everyone is still talking about the new Pope. It turns out that he used to be a high school chemistry teacher. Or as most people put it: ‘Breaking Bad’ spoiler alert!” –Jimmy Fallon

“Pope Francis actually put himself through school by working as a bouncer at a nightclub. Which will come in handy now that he’s kind of the bouncer for Heaven.” –Jimmy Fallon

“A bakery in New York is already selling cookies with a picture of the new Pope on them. Which is perfect for anyone who was hoping to feel even more guilty after eating a bunch of cookies.” –Jimmy Fallon

Politics as a business

An informative review earlier this month in the NYT by financial journalist James Stewart (“Den of Thieves” and “Tangled Webs,” among others) of fellow-journalist and author Michael D’Antonio’s new biography of “The short fingered vulgarian” (Spy Magazine) The Donald caught my eye the other day.

I find the review overall supports my contention that Trump is running as a marketing exercise rather than an expression of real interest in the job of president, but that may just be my bias. Stewart, for one, disagrees: “No one should be surprised that this ambition has propelled Trump into the ultimate contest, which is the race for the White House, or that he’s in it to win.”

Here is an interesting passage:

This year Forbes pegs Trump’s wealth at $4.1 billion, which, while less than half the $9 billion Trump claims, indeed makes him rich. Much of that wealth comes from the Trump brand rather than deal-making per se. His star turn on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice,” his licensing fees, his books, his speaking engagements, even his men’s wear line, have brought in millions. He’s had good divorce lawyers.

But he’s hardly another Henry R. Kravis or Carl C. Icahn. Four of his heavily indebted casino companies filed for bankruptcy, stiffing his creditors. Citibank took possession of the ill-fated Trump Shuttle airline. Trump himself narrowly escaped personal bankruptcy. As David Segal wrote in The Washington Post: “The people who know the least about business admire him the most, and those who know the most about business admire him the least.”

One thing, however, is undeniable: Trump is a master of self-promotion, unrivaled even by the likes of the Kardashians. Whatever the outcome of the current presidential campaign, it has made him as famous, as instantly recognizable and as talked about as anyone in America. Trump figured out early on that fortune follows fame, which is all but indistinguishable from notoriety. Whether or not Trump ends up in the White House, his golden years surely lie ahead of him. His agents must be salivating at the prospect of his next Hollywood contract.

Will The Comb Over be the Republican nominee?

The Dog Ate My Homework: Water Conservation Edition

Heads up. - promoted by david

An amendment to the supplemental budget that’s up for debate in the House tomorrow would broaden a 10-year old law that allows landlords to bill tenants for their water usage under some circumstances.

The current law lets landlords who have installed water-conserving fixtures in their rental units and have also installed water submeters that accurately measure water usage to the tenants’ apartments to charge tenants for water once they have certified to the local board of health (under the penalties of perjury) that they have complied with these two requirements.

The amendment, filed by Representative Angelo Puppolo (D-Wilbraham), would appear to apply to situations in which the rental property has been sold to new owners since the time that the former owners certified that they were in compliance with the law’s requirements but the certification cannot be located despite good faith efforts by the new owners.

One might think that an appropriate solution in these cases (which should be few in number since the local boards of health have records of the certifications) would be for the new owners to provide proof that their properties are equipped with water-conserving fixtures and water submeters.

But instead, the new owners need only file a new “form” to the effect that their rental units are in compliance with the law. The form, which need not even be submitted under the penalties of perjury, concerns almost by definition a topic about which the new owners are confessing their lack of direct knowledge — they weren’t involved.

The House tried to get the Senate to agree to this change during the conference committee negotiations on the main budget in June, but the Senate said no. If the change goes through this time, expect that suddenly lots of tenants will be obligated for water charges on top of their rent.

(Cross-posted here).

I'm genuinely disappointed in Donald Trump's tax plan

I suppose I should have seen this coming.  Still, I’m genuinely disappointed.  As I’ve mentioned before, Donald Trump had (up until now) been talking a different game on taxes than what one normally hears from Republicans these days.  He had talked about cutting taxes for the middle class, while asking the wealthy to pay more.  He had talked about closing the carried interest loophole so that hedge fund managers might actually have to pay their fair share.  He had, in other words, talked about a plan that made some sense, and that was making orthodox Republicans nervous.

But he just released his tax plan, and it’s more of the same old same old.  Cut rates across the board, including an enormous rate cut for the wealthiest, and eliminate the estate tax.  As Josh Barro of the NY Times put it:

Donald Trump’s tax plan, released Monday, does not live up to the populist language he has offered on taxes all summer.

When talking about taxes in this campaign, Donald Trump has often sounded like a different kind of Republican. He says he will take on “the hedge fund guys” and their carried interest loophole. He thinks it’s “outrageous” how little tax some multimillionaires pay. But his plan calls for major tax cuts not just for the middle class but also for the richest Americans — even the hedge fund managers. And despite his campaign’s assurances that the plan is “fiscally responsible,” it would grow budget deficits by trillions of dollars over a decade.

You could call Mr. Trump’s plan a higher-energy version of the tax plan Jeb Bush announced earlier this month: similar in structure, but with lower rates and wider tax brackets, meaning individual taxpayers would pay even less than under Mr. Bush, and the government would lose even more tax revenue.

If Trump’s tax plan had lived up to his rhetoric, he would have continued to shake up the GOP race, and he would have had a shot at regaining some of the momentum he enjoyed earlier but has been losing recently.  But it didn’t.  It’s a dud.  It does nothing to separate him from his primary opponents, and if he allows himself to get lumped in with the likes of Jeb!, Rubio, and Fiorina, he’ll fade quickly.  His only path to the nomination, to the extent he ever realistically had one (and I do think he did), is the one he was charting over the summer.  If he deviates from it, his inevitable failure will be his own fault.

Reasons for hope!

(Today 9/29 at the State House 12pm-5pm is a big fat energy hearing, and clean energy advocates are trying to pack the house. Go if you can.)

I’ve always felt like another climate-voice-for-doom-and-gloom. And yet, look at what a whole lot of pressure, organizing and action have produced just this month:

  • Pope. A papal visit is momentous in any event, but this one helped to make climate change an iconic cause of our time, much as John Paul II’s was for the Cold War. Francis put the issue in front of everyone’s face, and helps push denial to the margins. Practically no one else on Earth can put an issue on the table that everyone across the political spectrum has to confront. (The GOP is left with “The Pope is not a scientist”. Except that he’s got a Masters Degree in chemistry and is just, well, not a crank.)But more than vanquishing denial, it may well activate the soft supporters of climate action into more full-throated boosters. This is extremely welcome.
  • China goes cap-and-trade. Amazingly, the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China has a more realistic view of climate science than a major party of the Land of the Free. The claim that America acting on its own can’t help the climate crisis is now officially, ridiculously moot. (“America is not a planet”? There’s a line for ya.)
  • Alberta Doubles Carbon Tax. Easy for us to ignore, but Tar Sands Land just elected a progressive provincial government that is close to doubling its carbon tax. I mean, this is like Texas joining RGGI. Very unexpected, and also extremely welcome.
  • Hillary vs. Keystone. You could argue that she was being too cute by not opposing it before, but no matter. Keystone went from being that issue that all the Very Serious People agreed was not all that Serious. Well, the case was made — forcefully, repeatedly, and by direct action and with great personal risk — that burning dirty tar sands oil is something to be avoided, and not something to be enabled or made anyhow easier. And that view is now prevailing. Keep that #$%% in the ground.
  • and speaking of which … the Shell arctic pullout. Couldn’t find the goods, and not worth waiting around to find it at today’s low prices.
  • We’ve bought ourselves more time. (ThinkProgress):

    Virtually every major country has made pledges to limit or reduce carbon pollution in advance of the Paris climate talks this December. These pledges generally end in 2025 or 2030, and so they only matter if the world keeps ratcheting down its greenhouse gas emissions in future agreements until we get near zero by century’s end. Otherwise we will blow past the 2°C line of defense against very dangerous-to-catastrophic global warming, and hit 3.6°C warming by 2100.

    That’s the key finding of a new analysis from Climate Interactive and the MIT Sloan School of Business, tallying up the global pledges to limit carbon pollution leading up to the big Paris climate talks later this year.Those pledges, called intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), include the European Union cutting total emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, the U.S. cutting net greenhouse gas emissions emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 (including land use change and forestry), and China’s peaking in CO2 by 2030.

    The good news, as you can see, is that the INDCs have bought us another five to 10 years of staying close to the 2°C path. I asked Andrew Jones, one of the systems-thinking savants behind Climate Interactive, if that was correct and he said, “Yep, about seven years.” By “staying close” I mean staying close enough to the 2°C path that it remains plausibly achievable — though (obviously) politically still very, very challenging.

Yeah, about those challenges

Hillary Clinton, still our most likely nominee, has made climate a central issue and has framed her arguments well and powerfully. She has endorsed Obama’s Clean Power Plan. She seems to get it.

She has suffered greatly from her email controversy. I worry less about bad faith from her, but the technical and political ineptitude rankles, because after all this is her second go-round as a Presidential candidate. If in 2007-08 Hillary had a.) acknowledged that her Iraq War vote was a terrible mistake, and b.) had employed advisors who actually knew the primary system math, she might well be President now. She didn’t, and didn’t, and isn’t. It was within reach, and she blew it.

She is vulnerable — not to Donald Trump — but rather to a smooth-talking Marco Rubio (“America is not a planet”). Although he famously choked away his first big moment alone in the spotlight, at least he has actually won elections. In any event, there will be a surprisingly-credible challenge from a party that ought to have no credibility whatsoever. It’s wildly dangerous.

All this good news is provisional. It hangs by a thread. The 2016 election is a massive gamble on whether human civilization has a future.

I like some things about Hillary, and others concern me. But when it comes to next November, I’ll take a bullet for her if I have to. This single-issue is all the issues. It’s all fine and well to get interested in the political narrative, but to my mind there’s only one bottom line. We win, global warming loses.

State Public Records ruling on release of hospital report is a win for the public

#transparency - promoted by david

(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blog)

In what we see as a win for the public’s right to know, the state’s Supervisor of Public Records has concluded that the Department of Public Health went too far in redacting virtually an entire report on an intellectually disabled man who died in February 2012 after he was reportedly sent home twice by Lowell General Hospital.

The September 21, 2015 decision by Public Records Supervisor Shawn Williams was issued in response to an appeal filed by COFAR after the DPH had sent us a report in May that was virtually unreadable because just about everything in it had been whited out.  Williams ordered DPH to provide us with “a new redacted copy” of the report within 10 days, along with a written explanation regarding any portion the Department still considers to be exempt from disclosure.

Last month, the Public Records Division reviewed an unredacted version of the report in camera to determine whether DPH was justified in the wholesale redactions based on a claim that the report contained medical information that might violate the deceased man’s privacy.

Williams stated in his Sept. 21 decision that “generally, medical information will always be of a sufficiently personal nature to warrant exemption” from the Public Records Law.  The decision also stated that even though the individual is deceased, “an individual’s privacy interest in medical information survives death.”

However, even given that exemption, Williams said DPH “provided no explanation as to why it could not redact portions (of the report) that specifically identify the individual to whom the medical information relates.”  DPH also redacted portions of the report “describing the actions of others who are not the person to whom the medical exemption would apply,” Williams stated.

State Ethics Commission fines Sheriff Steve Tompkins $2500 for "Coercive Use of His Official Position."

Sounds like a desperate man. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Karen L. Nober

Executive Director

Media Contact

David Giannotti
Communications Division Chief

For Immediate Release – September 23, 2015

Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins Pays $2,500 Civil Penalty for Violating the Conflict of Interest Law

Displayed his Sheriff’s ID when asking business owners to take down his campaign opponent’s campaign signs

The State Ethics Commission approved a Disposition Agreement (“Agreement”) in which Steven Tompkins (“Tompkins”), the Suffolk County Sheriff, admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, in 2013 by identifying himself as Sheriff when asking eight business owners in his district to take down his opponent’s campaign signs that were displayed in their shops.  Pursuant to the Agreement, Tompkins paid a $2,500 civil penalty for the violation.

Section 23(b)(2(ii) of the conflict of interest law prohibits a state employee from using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals.  According to the Agreement, in 2013, Tompkins went to eight retail shops in Roxbury that were displaying campaign signs for Douglas Bennett, Tompkins’ 2014 campaign opponent.  The signs all read, “Vote for Sheriff Bennett.”  At each of the shops, Tompkins orally identified himself as Sheriff and displayed his official identification.  He then requested that each business owner remove Bennett’s campaign signs.  All of the business owners complied with Tompkins’ request.

The Agreement states that Tompkins violated the conflict of interest law by using his official position as Sheriff to secure the removal of his opponent’s campaign signs.  The removal of his opponent’s signs upon his request was an unwarranted privilege of substantial intangible value, which personally benefitted Tompkins as a candidate for Sheriff.

“It is unreasonable to think that any shop owner in this situation would have felt comfortable denying what appeared to be an official request from a law enforcement official,” said Executive Director Karen L. Nober.  “Under these circumstances, the requests made by Sheriff Tompkins were an inherently coercive use of his official position to aid his candidacy, and therefore were prohibited by the conflict of interest law.”


Today's political earthquake

My guess: (1) he had finally accomplished his decades-long quest to have the Pope address Congress; and (2) he was sick of trying to hold his majority together while avoiding a shutdown. - promoted by david

As this news is now a few hours old I’m surprised nobody else has posted.  I could have linked any number of stories, but for now I’ll just do a drive-by report that Speaker Boehner has announced his resignation.  There’s speculation about whether he was pushed by the base and even if somehow the Pope’s visit had something to do with it.  There is no modern precedent for leaving the Speakership midterm.  Since it’s not a scandal, even Dems are praising his leadership.

China is pricing carbon; Will Massachusetts?

We certainly should. Fossil fuels suck money out of the Commonwealth and carry many costs. Renewable energy plays to our strengths in technology and research and can create thousands of new jobs. Anything we can do to encourage a move from the former to the latter is a net gain. - promoted by Bob_Neer

For those of us who recognize that the science of climate change is real, this may be the most important news story of the year. China is moving forward with a cap and trade system by 2017.

Of course, there is a lot of work to be done before we know for certain what the program will look like and how effective it will be. But this is the largest polluter in the world taking the single most important step necessary to reduce emissions, by putting a price on carbon. It’s huge news, and alongside the Pope’s visit to the United States, it demonstrates that humanity may indeed be pulling ourselves from the brink of catastrophic climate change.

Carbon pricing, which can be accomplished through either a cap and trade program or a direct fee or tax on carbon emissions, is recognized by almost all economists and policy experts as the central, critical step necessary to wean our economy off of fossil fuels and create the clean energy economy necessary to solve the climate crisis. By making fossil companies pay a cost for their emissions of pollution, putting a price on carbon can hold big polluters accountable for their emissions, while providing an incentive throughout the economy for efficiency and clean energy.

At the same time, putting a price on carbon raises revenue – money that can be used to protect poor and middle class people, either through direct rebates or through investments in efficiency and clean energy that will create jobs and reduce energy costs.

Massachusetts was once a leader on carbon pricing. Massachusetts leadership helped create the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional cap and trade program in the electricity sector. Through RGGI, Massachusetts has generated hundreds of millions in revenue from the fossil fuel industry – money that we have wisely invested in energy efficiency programs that have saved consumers billions. According to a recent report by the Acadia Center, the RGGI program has created over 28,000 jobs while reducing electricity prices and creating over $2.5 billion in economic gains for the region.

The Political Strategy of Pope Francis

America, in particular the GOP which controls the Congress and Supreme Court, by contrast, steps farther away from the norms of the developed world. - promoted by Bob_Neer

A lot of writers on all sides of the spectrum, from Catholic and non-Catholics alike, will be parsing the words and actions of Pope Francis during his American visit to determine what, exactly, the man and his office will stand for the duration of his Papacy. One of the more astute observations was buried in observational commentary from the Atlantic’s political writer Molly Ball.

But what makes Francis different is really a matter of which Catholic beliefs he has elevated to the level of communal concerns—public policy—and which he has framed as individual choices. To Francis, sharing wealth and fixing global warming are matters that governments should address, while not committing homosexual acts or having abortions are individual choices he endorses. (As he famously put it: “Who am I to judge?”) This is quite different from the American Catholic church, which has poured its political energy into laws banning gay marriage and restricting abortion. (The church, often through the Knights of Columbus, was one of the largest funders of anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives, particularly post-2008, when the Mormons largely stopped funding them.

Pope Francis offers hope to progressives of all faiths (or none), since he recognizes that government cannot control individual moral choices but it can-and should-have a wide role in governing our economy, our environment, and the international community. In this light, endorsing climate action, diplomacy with Iran and Cuba, responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, ending the death penalty and government solutions to income inequality make sense and are consistent with the morality of the Church. These are actions well within the purview and range of the government.

These are also similar to the fights government has won in the past and can win in the future. One can only look at the failure of Prohibition in the US, or the failure of morally rigid Church backed dictatorships in Latin America to see how they can’t control the morality of individuals nor respond to the real needs of the community.

It’s why Francis will continue to be an ally, in my view, of center-left governments in North America and Europe, along with reasonable center right governments like Cameron’s or Merkel’s that are compassionately responding to climate change and the refugee crisis. It is why social conservatives, especially those within the United States, will continue to be disappointed.