Big Oil Front Group Pushing Fracked Gas Pipeline Tax

It's a very good idea to be aware of who is funding these sorts of groups. - promoted by david

Natural Gas PipelineThe “New England Coalition for Affordable Energy” is a front group of the American Petroleum Institute with one goal: Build new and expanded fracked gas pipelines. But State House News Service recently reported on a “survey” by the Coalition without ever mentioning the American Petroleum Institute.

The Survey

What’s most telling about the survey is the words it carefully avoids mentioning. It never says climate change, fracking, or pollution. It also never gives respondents a choice between fracked gas and clean energy (or maybe they just didn’t release those questions).

Keep in mind these results come despite questions carefully crafted to get the best answers for Big Oil:

  • Only 35% of New Englanders say they’re very concerned about the cost of energy
  • Only 30% strongly favor new gas pipelines, lower than the total that strongly or somewhat oppose them (31%)
  • 39% say they’re not concerned about letting gas pipelines expand, compared to just 19% who say they’re very concerned. For state politicians, this is the support on which you’re going to base a pipeline tax?

The results should be sobering for politicians like Gov. Charlie Baker considering whether to support a tax for new or expanded gas pipelines. It gets even worse when you take a look at the electricity bills of the states most dependent on fracked gas.

Does Dependence on Fracked Gas Bring Down Prices?

The survey clearly shows the American Petroleum Institute wants us to believe we pay outrageously high energy costs. It’s true that Massachusetts has the 7th-highest electricity rates. But Massachusetts only pays the 31st-highest electricity bills, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That’s thanks in large part to our investments in energy efficiency. Massachusetts consistently ranks first in America in energy efficiency and those investments have delivered $1.2 billion in net economic benefits.

Thinking Out Loud: Should We Ignore Trump as Best We Can?

Tempting, but I think he has to be confronted rather than ignored. In any event, the polls suggest focusing on Trump is destroying his chances at election, so there's that, too. - promoted by Bob_Neer

At times it has seemed that the GOP nominee is merely trolling the electorate. I saw this the other day:

“Are people complaining that I said he was the founder of Isis,” Trump asks.

The original audio of Trump’s statement is quite striking. There is no sarcasm (unless he doesn’t know what sarcasm means), and there is no metaphorical connection, like “Obama’s policies created ISIS because … “). He is shouting and emphatic.

Just yesterday, the mercurial Katrina Pierson said President Obama took us into Afghanistan.

These statements don’t feel like mistakes. They feel like a deliberate strategy to disrupt the news flow by trolling it.

Trump’s success in the primaries was based at least in part on not allowing any other GOP candidate any oxygen. They learned quickly that the only way to make news was to take on Trump.

I’m not suggesting a Trump blackout; that would be too stressful to maintain. But I wonder if we should make an effort to focus more on HRC and her upside. (Hey, she had a press conference the other day!) But more seriously, how she would improve the country — less so how he would wreck it.


Mass Fiscal's New Legislative Scorecard Includes a Vote About Mass Fiscal

Our right-leaning friends at the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance are out with a new 2015-2016 scorecard tracking the votes of our state legislators for the session that just concluded.

Mass Fiscal, for those who aren’t familiar, is an advocacy group that has tax exempt status because it is “operated to promote social welfare.” What promotes social welfare, in Mass Fiscal’s view, is steadfast resistance to taxes, government spending and labor unions (often with an overtone of hostility toward immigrants that’s consistent with Mass Fiscal’s origins as a promoter of Voter ID laws).

Given these priorities, it’s not surprising that its scorecard ranks every Republican in the state legislature higher than any Democrat.  And given the uses to which Mass Fiscal puts its scorecard, it’s not surprising that questions have arisen about the tax-exempt status it enjoys and whether it should be allowed to withhold all information about its sources of income.

This self-described electoral bigfoot specializes in communicating by direct mail. Here’s a brag about their clout in the 2014 statewide elections:

Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance delivered more than 2,000,000 — that’s two million — pieces of direct mail and advocacy pieces to residents of the Commonwealth, highlighting our positions and those of lawmakers….Our campaign ran in 21 different legislative districts, with each district on average receiving 95,837 mailers.  As part of our efforts, we used a strategy known as every-door direct mail, or EDDM.  Through this method, we were able to contact as many residents and businesses as exist in the towns where we focused.

The Democratic lawmakers targeted by these direct mail efforts objected strenuously that their positions, as Mass Fiscal characterized them, were preposterously distorted. That objection was backed up by journalists including David Bernstein, who dismissed the scorecard’s claim “that certain targeted state legislators voted to prioritize illegal immigrants over veterans for public housing.” “That’s a crock,” he continued. “They did no such thing.”

Which brings us back to Mass Fiscal’s new scorecard, which includes House and Senate votes on a bill the legislature passed and Governor Baker signed this week that directly affects Mass Fiscal. The new law requires organizations that use direct mail for their electioneering to disclose their five biggest donors of more than $5000, just as organizations that use paid television, internet and print advertising must do.

Not surprising that Mass Fiscal opposed the bill or that its scorecard describes the votes approving it as “deterring freedom of speech.” Whether the vote will be included in Mass Fiscal’s 2016 electioneering efforts (the new law is effective immediately) is rather doubtful, though  – only 16 of the Legislature’s Republicans (fewer than half) took their side.


NYT raises a dire possibility: Trump may be moving outside electoral process

In a striking editorial the NYT raises a possibility unprecedented in mainstream U.S. politics since the Civil War:

But his behavior this week raises a more disturbing scenario. Perhaps he has given up on winning through civil means and does not care about the consequences of his campaign of incitement.

It’s a radical proposition, and one with about as much chance of success as Ammon Bundy and Co.’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge i.e. virtually none. It would be extremely personally unwise for the candidate, his family, and his business interests, and would probably destroy the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. It would also, of course, be a tragedy for the country: a grievous self-inflicted wound. But could they be right?

Pat Jehlen for State Senate

Pat Jehlen represents the democratic wing of the Democratic Party in Medford, Somerville, Winchester, and Cambridge. We are are delighted to endorse her for re-election to the state Senate.

Jehlen gets results. Her equal pay bill made national news when Governor Baker signed it into law last month. “Equal pay for comparable work becomes law in Massachusetts,” said WBZ. She introduced this law in 1998 and has passionately advocated for it ever since. Anyone who knows people who work should vote for Jehlen.

She helped pass the Senate’s paid family and medical leave act last week. Anyone with a family should vote for her.

She helped lead a unanimous Senate vote against funding the Spectra pipeline, a misguided corporate welfare program that would have cost taxpayers money, done little to help energy costs, and boosted fossil fuels. It has been the target of recent progressive activism. Its fate remains uncertain. Anyone who cares about our environment should vote for Jehlen.

Jehlen was a prominent supporter of the transgender rights bill that recently passed the Senate and was signed into law. Anyone who supports civil rights and personal liberty should vote for her.

This candidate has spent a lifetime as a dedicated progressive activist and tireless representative of the best of Massachusetts. Voters who value working people, families, the environment, and liberty and justice for all, should enthusiastically vote for Pat Jehlen.

To donate to her campaign, click here. To volunteer, click here. Her Facebook page is here.

Goal Thermometer

The National Press Failed America in 2016

But not the blogs! - promoted by Bob_Neer

The national press is not doing its job.

We continue to witness the same press false equivalency that let Trump defeat GOP opponents in a fact-free primary.

Trump says ‘Estonia is in the suburbs of St. Petersburg. Why should we defend them if they don’t pay their fair share to NATO?’ You cannot be “fair and balanced” with this:

Hillary knows and points out that Estonia was one of two NATO nations to pay 100% of their financial commitment to NATO, and she knows and points out that we have a treaty commitment to an organization that has prevented world war for nearly seven decades. That is not an ordinary contract negotiation.

A responsible journalist who is more interested in the truth than in appeasing both sides, would state clearly that Trump, yet again, is wrong, and, yet again, did not apologize for it, and, yet again, said something bright, shiny, and absurdly wrong the next day, yet again distracting the public from his own ignorance. Think Edward R. Murrow.

What should they do instead? On the one hand, on the other hand?

Generally these days, they spend any time on Hillary rehashing the same old email and hacking stories, seemingly out of a need to ‘say something bad about her if we said something bad about him’. It’s embarrassing to watch.

We Americans are not giving in to this. This great country will emerge proud after this paroxysm of paranoia over both Obama and the demographic change occurring in the US that Trump is so skillfully exploiting at the moment.

Joke? What Joke? Says Thomas a'Becket

Joke or not, it was the latest demonstration that Trump is not fit to be president. - promoted by Bob_Neer
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Two sayings come to mind:  “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it” and “Loose lips sink ships.”

California's New Gun Laws Might Be Game-Changers

And kudos at home to Maura Healey who is doing important work on gun safety. Getting out in front of this issue and generating NRA/gun owners opposition will also strengthen her for any state-wide runs she may be contemplating in the future. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Years ago, I recall a friend telling me that California’s new emissions standards would mean that the entire US auto industry would have to comply, because California was such an overwhelmingly large market.

That won’t happen with guns … but it would be nice.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed new gun control legislation for California, enacting bills that limit magazine capacity to 10 bullets; require a background check for those purchasing ammunition; and restrict the lending of firearms, among other effects.

In signing the bills, Brown said he wants “to enhance public safety by tightening our existing laws in a responsible and focused manner, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Two of the bills close the “bullet button loophole,” as member station KPCC reports:

“The loophole refers to the sale of ‘California legal’ firearms that don’t fall under California’s ban of guns with detachable magazines.

“To get around the law, manufacturers created versions of firearms that feature a button that can be pushed with a small tool — for instance the tip of a bullet — to release an empty magazine and insert a new one.”

Another bill that will now become law tries to limit “straw purchasing,” the practice of a person buying a gun legally with the intent of giving or selling the weapon to someone else. In addition to making it a misdemeanor to file a false report about a gun being lost or stolen, the new law will prohibit the purchaser from buying another gun for 10 years.

Here’s a name to remember: Melissa Melendez.

All of the bills Brown signed were sponsored by Democrats — and so were the five bills that he vetoed, although one of those, which makes it a felony to steal a gun, was also sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Melissa A. Melendez.

Major kudos to Jerry Brown for having the guts to sign these.

In any case it’s progress, and I welcome it. It might be time to update the gun clock soon.

So Who's Telling the Truth?

Republicans have to deny reality in order to exist. - promoted by Bob_Neer

I had recently found this interesting PolitiFact grade analysis of candidates. Guess who had made the most false statements? I know that question was not hard, Trump can’t make a statement without lying, but for chrisakes, 4 out of every 5 things he says is a lie. That’s crazy. But in the perception vs. reality department, Hillary Clinton I found interesting, during campaigns when candidates stretch the truth a bit or try to frame other candidates in a certain way Clinton still rated second in making factual statements behind President Obama.

Canvassing has started in NH

A dispatch from the swing state north of the border. - promoted by david

I wanted to make this a comment on the Ayotte post now on the front page, but there is some kind of bug preventing that.

We live in Amherst MA, and my wife was invited by email to canvass in Winchester NH this Saturday.   There is a nice young man from Alabama who is staying in a supporter’s house and coordinating volunteer activity for maybe 2% of the state (Winchester, Hinsdale, and a few smaller towns).

We did a standard 20-house turf in Winchester — as usual, most people were not home, but we hit a few women who were for Hillary where their men were for Trump.  We had Clinton and Hassan lit, and asked people about Clinton, Hassan, and Kuster when we could talk to them.

They are just starting out, but the infrastructure is there to make use of a lot of volunteers just as we had in 2012 and 2008.

The Cheshire County Democrats don’t seem to be in action yet, so the best place to volunteer is probably the Clinton campaign.

I’m not sure which is the more damning comment to make about Ayotte, that she is all for Trump or that she can’t decide whether she’s for Trump or not.

Kelly Ayotte becomes Trump's candidate

For better or for worse, she is running with him until election day. Globe:

In addition to formally endorsing House Speaker Paul Ryan, Trump on Friday evening also threw his support behind Arizona Sen. John McCain and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, with whom he has sparred. Trump says, ‘‘We have to unite.’’

Since she already has the New Hampshire Republicans it is hard to see how this will help her attract independents or Democrats. Instead, it effectively makes her the political partner of the Gold Star parents-defaming, secret-tape imagining candidate.

Understanding Donald Trump Means Understanding Mental Health

Vanity Fair was on it last year. - promoted by Bob_Neer

“So it was really important that I do it, for myself … I mean I really considered it strongly last time” 

Donald Trump

A few weeks ago, I commented that Donald Trump had narcissistic personality disorder. My assertion was dismissed as “smug,” not “a good road” for political discourse, and “a pretty good way to cheapen and stigmatize people with mental illness.”One partisan claimed that Barack Obama could be diagnosed the same way. My goal was to improve our understanding and then prediction of the Republican nominee’s behavior. Diagnosing the mental health of the opposition’s candidate is not a viable political strategy because it’s rarely warranted (or effectivae, at least not since Nixon). Because his behavior makes no sense, a psychological analysis is warranted. And at this point, it’s too late to stop people from questioning Trump’s mental health for discussion to stop.

(CNN) New York Times columnist David Brooks says the Republican candidate for president appears to have “multiple personality disorders.” Michael Bloomberg prefers to imply that he is not “sane.” And on Sunday the billionaire Mark Cuban called Donald Trump “bats**t crazy.”

Though hardly a term of art when it comes to mental health, Cuban’s comment reflects widespread concern about the stability of the Republican nominee for president.

Eugene Robinson and Robert Kagan have also commented extensively. In fact, Trump’s behavior has been so weird in the last 72 hours that ”Top Republicans and political allies to Donald Trump have been talking about an “intervention.”

What’s missing from these discussions is a useful framework and vocabulary. Mental health problems are many, varied, and complex, and colloquial descriptions oversimplify them and shortchange people who suffer from them. Words like “crazy” and “sane” are descriptively useless, not to mention offensive to the mentally ill. There is still enough stigma about mental health issues that we struggle to discuss them in public. Intellectually, we may accept the mental illness as a health issue, but we still discuss it as if were something at the very least slightly shameful. As a society, we need to do better. We can’t do so when we’re afraid to talk about mental health.

That’s not to say that we need psychological diagnoses to understand the vast majority of people, including politicians. Biographers, like Robert Caro, do a good job of conveying the psychological complexity of politicians without referring to the DSM. Psychological diagnoses aren’t requisite for understanding complex personalities, but if a politician is likely to have a psychological disorder, there is no reason to use it to describe him. In the case of Donald Trump’s case, the amount of evidence and commentary about his mental health warrants a discussion. Crude, colloquial terminology has limited explanatory power and does an injustice to people who are mentally ill. If Trump suffered from alcoholism, we wouldn’t hesitate to discuss it. It’s not any different to discuss the fact that he exhibits the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder explains his behavior better than anything else.

Most people are familiar with mood disorders, depression and bipolar disorder. Few people, however, are acquainted with personality disorders:

a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, work and school.

Some people may have heard of Borderline Personality Disorder, which has been a trendy diagnosis. Most people have heard of psychopathy, though not by its clinical term anti-social personality disorder. Psychologists and a congresswoman have suggested that Donald Trump has narcissistic personality disorder.

Trump has the symptoms of a personality disorder. He has “trouble perceiving and relating to situations and people.” He’s the guy who tells a mom that he loves babies. He tells her not to leave, then changes his mind. He knows it’s right to say nice things about babies, and in my opinion, he was actually being honest about liking the baby. But then he changed his mind about the baby staying. Trump doesn’t admit to mistakes, so he made a joke about the mother not taking him seriously the first time he spoke. It wasn’t his fault that he told her to stay–it was hers–but he was forgiving her without admitting he was wrong. It was also bizarre that he told the veteran who gave him his Purple Heart that “I always wanted one of these.” An appropriate comment would have been reflected the veteran’s sacrifice, but Trump really has “trouble relating to situations and people.”