So what if the pharaoh’s pyramid will be a little shorter this month?

Hurrah for snow days! - promoted by Bob_Neer

It’s a snowy Tuesday and I’ve got the day off from work.  Actually, we’re in the middle of a blizzard and the governor has declared a state of emergency, no travel allowed, all mass transit is closed down.  Unless you are working in a hospital, a police officer, a fire fighter, and the like, you’re off today.

And guess what?  The world will not come to an end.  Oh for sure, we’re losing one day of “production” for consumers who now have one less day to consume. Month end goals are now in peril and quarterly reports will be severely off their projections.  Oh, the horrors.

Instead, most of us will spend a quiet day at home, with friends and family, enjoying each others company and marveling at the wonders of nature, with little or none of this adding to the GDP, DOW, GNP, or other financial gauges of our value.  Our productivity output as the nation’s labor force will falter.  And to it all I say, so what?

Maybe it’s because I just turned 60 or maybe it’s because I’ve grown tired of waiting for the wealth that our productivity has created to trickle down. Maybe it’s because I noticed that since the early 70’s, my productivity as a laborer has gone up, our GDP is up, our nation’s wealth has grown, but I am no better off now than I was in the early 70’s.  I’m not alone, I’m the majority and the majority of us have worked harder and harder each year only to see the wealth of our labor transferred to a tiny minority.  It’s simple math.  If we’re all working harder and the nation is getting richer for it but we’re not seeing it in our wallets, whose wallet is it in?  It’s in the wallets of a small group that the Republicans call “Job Creators” while a more accurate term would be labor exploiters, little different from the pharaohs who “created jobs” for the men and women who built the pyramids.  Yes, these pharaohs created jobs for masons, sculptors, day laborers, cooks, and so on, but they, like we, are not really going to benefit from the pyramid scheme. (pun intended).

So enjoy your day off and worry not about the falling DOW and GDP.  You’re not getting a piece of that anyway.  So what if the pharaoh’s pyramid will be a little shorter this month?

Senate Republicans Are Blocking Debate on Keystone XL Pipeline Pipe Dream

Who's afraid of Ed Markey? - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Even after Senate Republicans blocked me from speaking on the United States Senate floor last Thursday, I will not pipe down about Senate Republicans and the oil industry’s Keystone XL pipeline pipe dream.

I have tried to debate two of my amendments to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation. The first would ban the re-export of the Canadian tar sands transported through the Keystone pipeline and the gasoline and other products made from that oil, so we would keep it here in America.

The second would close the tax loophole that gives Canadian tar sands a tax free ride through our country by not having to pay into the oil spill fund. That means if this Canadian tar sands oil spills as it moves through this straw we are building across America, it would be American taxpayers who would foot the bill.

On the first amendment, along with amendments from four other of my Democratic colleagues, Republican leaders used a procedural maneuver to deny us a straight up-or-down vote by moving to “table” these amendments. They wouldn’t even let me speak for one minute to defend my amendment to close this oil company tax loophole.

Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican leadership promised an open amendment process, but they have closed down debate, and they aren’t allowing up-or-down votes on important Democratic amendments.

Here’s the reason why: They know if they allow real debate and real votes on these amendments, their arguments for this Keystone pipeline pipe dream will be shown as completely hollow.

They know that if they allow real debate and real votes on exports, they’ll prove this pipeline was never about energy independence, even after all of their rhetoric and the ads saying Keystone is about “North American energy security.”

They know that if they allow real debate and real votes on using U.S. steel to build the pipeline, they’ll prove this isn’t really an American jobs bill.

They know that if they allow real debate and real votes on closing an oil company tax loophole, they’ll prove that they are Big Oil boosters who will kill clean energy tax incentives but preserve oil company tax breaks.

The American people want a United States Senate that is working to keep energy prices low for Main Street, not approve foreign oil export pipelines that will raise oil prices and oil company profits on Wall Street.

Senate Republicans are trying to ram through a pipeline that could spill and harm drinking water sources, and now they are poisoning the Senate well by closing off debate.

We need an up-or-down vote on my amendments that put Senators on the record about whether they favor the interests of the oil industry over those of consumers, businesses, our climate, and our national security. Senate Republicans should not be allowed to shut down this important national debate.

Boston 2024 hasn't even spoken with the owners of the land they want to bulldoze

A remarkable series of largely anti-Olympics posts over the weekend (please note that Petr, author of Volume III, writes "Please do not include or lump my diary “Wonkpost: Terms of The Debate, Cost” among those diaries that are clearly Anti-Olympics") collected here in what I have termed a Five Volume series arranged in descending time order from oldest to most recent. One might almost imagine Boston's corporate media isn't interested in this kind of discussion -- I haven't seen any comparable breadth of NOlympics dissent at the Globe or on radio or TV -- which pushes it to alternate venues like BMG. Since, of course, the Internet, and not the legacy media, is where the people of the Commonwealth speak and, increasingly, form their opinions, Olympics supporters would do well to heed these views. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Just in case there were any remaining doubts about just what Boston 2024, the IOC and USOC is all about… read this.

Boston 2024 said in its planning documents that it has “engaged all owners in ongoing dialogue about permanent control of all land required” for the stadium and other venues.

Except, well, they didn’t.

Property owners where Boston’s proposed Olympic facilities would be located said they feel shut out of the process and have not been contacted by the Games’ local organizers, who have publicly released plans showing new venues on their land….

Vendors at New Boston Food Market off Interstate 93, where Boston 2024 is proposing the main Olympic stadium, said organizers have falsely represented that their property is for sale and the businesses are open to relocating.

“We don’t want to move. We’re happy doing business right where we are,” said Jeffrey Corin, owner of Robbins Beef Co. and president of the cooperative that manages the property. “It’s kind of mind boggling when people say, ‘We’re going to build it here and just move these businesses someplace else.’ Nobody’s even talked to us.”

What a monumental whopper for Boston 2024 to have included in their bid report.

Since we haven’t and probably won’t ever be given any of the real facts before the IOC makes a final decision, all I have are a bunch of questions.

After lying this brazenly in their bid report, can Boston 2024 be trusted with anything? Don’t workers and business owners who’s property is on the chopping block deserve as much advance time as possible to be “startled?” Isn’t allowing them to use their freedom of speech a part of the democratic process? Boston 2024 may not want to “startle” businesses by speaking honestly with them, but what about investments these businesses are making into their property or may want to plan? Are they just to be left in limbo or waste resources investing into property that could be bulldozed in a few years?

Why are only CEOs, high powered lobbyists and other rarefied elites invited into the planning stages? Do they care at all about the working people of Boston? Just how many jobs is Boston 2024 willing to destroy to turn vibrant businesses into white elephants and empty parking lots? And why is Boston 2024 describing a thriving enterprise like the New Boston Food Market, employing nearly 1,000 employees through providing a vital service for the entire region, as “a tangle of maintenance yards?”

If the plebes who happen to use this land don’t submit to their Royal Highnesses, Boston 2024, will eminent domain be threatened or used? The City is already seeking to extend its vast eminent domain powers for much of Boston right through 2024. Why?

After the West End and Scollay Square, are the people of Boston going to let the powers that be do this all over again?

Have we learned anything? Where is the transparency??

I think it’s time to throw Boston 2024′s tea into the harbor.





They Get the Bread, We Get the Circus: The Case Against the Olympics 2024

Volume Two, in todays five-volume anti-Olympics series. - promoted by Bob_Neer

My local public radio affiliate WFCR occasionally interviews Smith College professor and sports economist Andrew Zimbalist. Over the years, I’ve heard him interviewed several times and respect his opinion. He’s very level-headed in my opinion. He also wrote the book on hosting the Olympics, at least economically speaking. Yesterday, Zimbalist was interviewed on WFCR yesterday when he persuasively explained why the Olympics are not worth hosting. As an economist, Zimbalist is, of course, concerned with the bottom-line, but his thinking about the incentives and planning process are also helpful.

The hosting of the Olympics should be considered as a question of return on investment. Will the they cost the Commonwealth more than they bring in? Would they bring in more tax revenue? Would Massachusetts gain useful new infrastructure? Would they contribute in some way to our well-being? Make us feel really good about ourselves? The answer is, no.

Zimbalist has an op-ed in the Globe, but I’ve maxed out on my free articles. He had one in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

Around the time of the London Olympics, Zimbalist explained the return on investment:

These days the summer Games might generate $5-to-6 billion in total revenue (nearly half of which goes to the International Olympic Committee). In contrast, the costs of the games rose to an estimated $16 billion in Athens, $40 billion in Beijing, and reportedly nearly $20 billion in London. Only some of this investment is tied up in infrastructure projects that may be useful going forward.

Wonkpost: Terms Of The Debate, Cost

Volume three of five. - promoted by Bob_Neer

A lot has been written about the cost of a potential Olympics. The Boston Globe, among others, has reported the budget of the games to be at $4.5 to $5 Billion. This is not strictly true: this is only the cost to organize and run the actual Olympics. It does not include the bid costs and does not include costs to prepare public infrastructure. By way of analogy, if you own a car your operating costs are what you pay for fuel, excise, insurance and regular maintenance… and do not include the initial cost of the car, wht you paid to trick it out with fuzzy dice or a custom steering wheel, or your time and effort in learning how to drive it…

According to the bid documents, should the city of Boston be chosen to host, the Olympics will start on Friday, July 19 2024 and end about two weeks later. Spending will continue until the the 25th of August, 2024, upon the completion of the Paralympic Games. It is expected that the cost of doing this to be around 4.5 to 5 Billion dollars. This is the cost of the actual operation of the games themselves. Furthermore, that cost is expected to be fully recouped through ad revenues, ticket sales and other revenue.

From a reading of the bid documents here is the breakdown of the total expected cost of the 2024 Olympics (as they stand now):

Bid Budget: $75 Million
OCOG Budget: $5 Billion
NON-OCOG Budget: $3.4 Billion
Expected sub total: $9.15 Billion

Importantly, this does NOT include security costs which are expected to be between 1 and 2 Billion dollars (although, purportedly, existing security infrastructure in Boston is held in high esteem and thus new spending on it may be therefore lessened) and are expected to be borne solely by the Federal Government… so we can split the difference, say security will be $1.5 Billion and guesstimate the full, final, total, to be projected at:

$10.65 Billion.


24 Reasons Why Boston 2024 is a Raw Deal

Fourth installment in the anti-Olympics series. - promoted by Bob_Neer

There are many reasons to oppose Boston’s Olympics bid. But here are 24 to start.

(1) Fool Me Once: The Boston 2024 Olympics bid has been developed behind closed doors by an unelected group of CEOs and corporate lobbyists. Despite its stated commitment to transparency and economic inclusiveness, Boston 2024 did not find the time to host a single public meeting while preparing its bid for submission to the USOC. If they have flagrantly violated their own promises already, do they really deserve a second chance?

(2) Sliding Down a Slippery Slope: Mayor Marty Walsh has expressed his adamant opposition to a referendum on the issue of hosting the Olympics or using public funds for it, arguing that his election is sufficient for a democratic stamp of approval. He has also signed a document barring city employees from criticizing the Olympics, the USOC, or the IOC and requiring them to actively promote it. Boston 2024 has no intentions of releasing the full bid it submitted to the USOC, and Walsh has ignored public records requests about the bid. Such anti-democratic decision-making sets a dangerous precedent.

(3) Rotten to the Core: If you are worried that the corporate lobbyists and CEOs of Boston 2024 don’t have your best interests at heart, wait until you meet the members of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), an institution whose members and practices are notoriously corrupt.

(4) Not Keeping It Common: Boston 2024 is planning to build a “temporary” beach volleyball stadium in Boston Common and hosting the pentathlon and equestrian competitions in Franklin Park. However, our parks are our premier public spaces, places where citizens from all backgrounds and of any means can convene freely. Committing them to a closed, private, multi-week spectacle undermines the ethos behind them.

(5) Overrun This Town (and State): Miss the Big Dig? Over the past fifty years, the Olympic Games have produced an average cost overrun of 179 percent in real terms. Although Boston 2024 has promised that no public funds will be used for the games, Massachusetts has to promise the IOC that it will cover all necessary costs. And history has shown that such “no public funds” promises are as easily broken as they are made.

(6) Bleeding the Budget: Money spent on the Olympics will be money not spent on more pressing concerns like education, which is already underfunded. Massachusetts has cut per-student higher education spending by over one-third since the Great Recession, and Boston’s public schools face another round of cuts. Having to make budgetary space for the Games increases the risk of even deeper cuts.

What if a City Councillor Opposes the Olympic Bid?

Fifth in the series. - promoted by Bob_Neer

They’re city of Boston employees, right? So does the city get sued if they speak up? I don’t see any special carve out for them in the agreement. Not only did the Mayor agree to do away with free speech rights for his subordinates, but also for people he can’t even control. Unless the entire council has agreed to be bound by this gag order. So I’d like to hear from any of the councilors or their staffs who post here: did you agree to throw away your own judgment and discretion to support the bid?

If not, Eugene O’Flaherty and the city’s entire law department need to go.

I voted for Marty Walsh twice in 2013, but I won’t do it again if the Olympic bid is still viable in 2017 and there’s a challenger who opposes it. I’m also disinclined to vote for any city councilor or candidate this year who supports it.

Terrifying: NOAA graphs CO2 over the ages

If you need to see why paleo-climatologists are extremely concerned – OK, terrified — about what is happening right now in our climate, do watch this set of two animations. The first is CO2 concentrations from 1979 to the present. You will see that in a vanishingly tiny time period in geological terms, we have jacked up our CO2 concentration by nearly 19%, 335ppm in 1979 to 398ppm now. The second shows that progression in the context of the last 800,000 years.


ESRL Global Monitoring Division – Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

We are also in the middle of a massive die-off of countless species — at a scale not seen — well, not by humans, ever: 65 million years ago.

Here in MA, our politicians respond to fishermens’ desperation with regard to federally imposed catch limits, necessarily ignoring the fact that there just aren’t enough fish. They’ve been over-harvested, or moved away because of warming waters. This isn’t just business and economies and families. This is our food we’re talking about.

Meanwhile our US Senate voted 50-49 to deny that humans are causing climate change. And our new Governor’s appointees seem to have an extremely narrow and short-sighted view of the public good. We seem to really be talking about a new pipeline, when Boston is single-handedly leaking 15 billion cubic feet of methane per year.

If we ask what should we be doing about it, the answer is “everything”: Carbon tax. Plug the leaks. Massive efficiency improvements. Cape Wind. Farther offshore wind. Onshore wind. Zoning and permitting reform. Solar incentives. (HELLOOOO tilted playing field!) Electric car plug-ins at every gas station.

We need a total economic transformation. It is radical. But there is no future worth having, that has fossil fuels in it.

"When the South Wasn’t a Fan of States’ Rights"

A nice bit of political analysis from Politico’s History Department by Columbia professor Eric Foner related to his new book about the Underground Railway Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad:

When it came to enforcing and maintaining the peculiar institution [an Old South nickname for slavery - Ed.] against an increasingly anti-slavery North, the Old South was all too happy to forget its fear of federal power—a little-remembered fact in our modern retellings of the conflict.

The slavery exception to otherwise robust support for states’ rights was a recurring feature of antebellum Southern politics. Southerners wrote into the Constitution a clause requiring the return of slaves who escaped from one state to another, and in 1793, only four years after George Washington assumed the presidency, they persuaded Congress to enact a law putting that clause into effect. Ironically, when it came to runaway slaves, the white South, usually vocal in defense of local rights, favored robust national action, while some northern states engaged in the nullification of federal law, enacting “personal liberty” laws that barred local officials from cooperating in the capture and return of fugitives. …

The most striking example was the South’s embrace of national power to capture and return fugitive slaves, especially as implemented in the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This law was the most robust expansion of federal authority over the states, and over individual Americans, of the antebellum era.

In the 1840s, as increasing numbers of slaves pursued freedom by running away to the North and a network of local groups, collectively known as the underground railroad, came into existence to assist them, southerners demanded national action. As part of the Compromise of 1850, which abolished the slave trade in the nation’s capital and allowed territories recently acquired from Mexico to decide whether or not to allow slavery, Congress enacted the new, draconian fugitive slave law. The measure created a new category of federal officeholder, U.S. commissioners, authorized to hear cases of accused fugitives and issue certificates of removal, documents that could not be challenged in any court. The fugitive could neither claim a writ of habeas corpus nor testify at the hearing, whose sole purpose was to establish his or her identity. Federal marshals could deputize individuals to execute a commissioner’s orders and, if necessary, call on the assistance of local officials and even bystanders.

Read the whole thing here.

Baker's Medicaid Pick - Huh?

The Medicaid pick seems ... extraordinary. It requires an extraordinary explanation. Smart Harvard kid + a few years doing consulting is really not an adequate resume, so tell us more. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Governor Baker recently announced two very important picks for health care positions, including the new heads of MassHealth and the Connector. We’ll have to wait and see how they perform, but initial research into one of their backgrounds leaves me scratching my head.

The new head of the Connector will be Louis Gutierrez. He looks to be incredibly accomplished and experienced in the health care IT world, with multiple stints in state government, work in federal government, and private sector health care experience. It seems a bit weird that he’s more of an IT person than a health care person, but he probably understands managing the tech aspects of the Connector as well as anyone. And given how all the recent attention is on the tech failure at the Connector, this seems like a decent pick.

The MassHealth pick, on the other hand . . .

What the . . .

Daniel Tsai will now be running the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program. From what I can gather, Tsai graduated from Harvard (undergrad) in 2007 and has worked at McKinsey in their health care practice since then, with some focus on Medicaid consulting. That’s it.

No doubt he’ll make every 30 Under 30 Boston Magazine or whatever else list, but this is a tough pick to support. Medicaid is too important. I hope I am wrong, but I can’t help but worry about this pick.

What do you think?



Evan Falchuk's brilliant Olympian gambit

Evan Falchuk did not win the 2014 race for Governor.  He did, however, barely manage to achieve 3% of the vote, which was enough to give his United Independent Party or UIP (an amusingly oxymoronic name, but I digress) official standing as a party in which people can register.  But, you know, the Green-Rainbow folks have official standing too, and they’ve never really made much of it.

So what does the UIP need to really entrench itself in the Massachusetts political landscape?  Sure, Falchuk or another UIPer can run for Governor again in four years … and he or she will probably get less than 5% of the vote again and be a non-factor, just like Jill Stein always does.  UIP can – and should – run candidates for the state legislature in some carefully-chosen districts, and maybe they’ll even win a couple.  That would be the beginning of some kind of presence, though in our top-down legislature, it would be many years before that route would lead to much ability to influence policy in any meaningful way.  They have nicely drafted policy positions that in some respects differ (marginally, in some cases) from those of the major parties … but, as we all know, policy positions alone aren’t enough to grab the public’s imagination.

How else could UIP make a splash?  Gosh, if only there were some big, controversial, attention-grabbing single issue that the movers and shakers in the two major parties mostly agree on so that there’s space for a third party to stake out some territory; that involves billions of dollars; that people on both sides feel really strongly about; that routinely hits the newspapers’ front pages; that directly affects the lives of the people of Massachusetts; and that has national and even international implications.

Oh right.  Bringing the Olympics to Boston pretty much checks all those boxes.

And that, in part, is likely why the UIP is aggressively opposing a Boston Olympics, and why Falchuk is taking the lead on putting a question about a Boston Olympics on the ballot (presumably in 2016, shortly before the International Olympic Committee selects the 2024 host in 2017).  He recently filed the paperwork to create a ballot question committee, called the “People’s Vote Olympics Committee.”  That committee’s goal would be to put an as-yet-undrafted question on the ballot whose “purpose would be to restrict the ability of the government to put tax money toward the Games.”

It’s a brilliant gambit.  Marty Walsh, Charlie Baker, Deval Patrick, and most of the other bigwigs in town from both parties seem to love the idea of a Boston Olympics, and Walsh has (foolishly, IMHO) declared that he doesn’t like the idea of a ballot question.  (Seems odd that he’s simultaneously suing the Gaming Commission to give Charlestown a vote on a casino, but again I digress.)  So Falchuk’s taking the lead in putting an anti-Olympics question on the ballot places him squarely in opposition to the existing two-party power structure, which is exactly where a new “independent” party needs to be.  Furthermore, a serious prospect of a ballot question in 2016 means that nearly every time there’s a news story about the Olympics – which will be often – the question, and Falchuk’s role in it, will be part of it.  It’s a way of guaranteeing that his fledgling party stays relevant in a way that most new parties (and some old ones) never manage.

Could Falchuk get the question on the ballot?  Of course.  Falchuk is wealthy – he reported almost $2 million of income in 2012, and he put over $1.5 million toward his gubernatorial campaign.  There is no limit on how much an individual can contribute to a ballot question committee, so Falchuk can personally make sure that the committee has what it needs to gather the necessary signatures.  If the underfunded anti-casino folks could do it, an anti-Olympics committee can do it too.  I’m not sure where the suggestions in the press that it would be an “uphill climb” to get a question on the ballot come from; they strike me as misguided.

The folks favoring a Boston Olympics bid are, IMHO, making a huge mistake by opposing a ballot question, and an even bigger one by suggesting that even if a vote went against the Olympics they might go ahead anyway (it seems unlikely to me that the IOC, which wants local buy-in, would select Boston if the public had already expressed its disapproval at the ballot, and the boosters would appear anti-democratic at best by proceeding in the face of public opposition).  By opposing a public vote, they look weak and afraid.  Do they think they will lose?  A far better route for all concerned would be for the boosters as well as the opponents to agree that the public should be consulted in the most direct possible way – via the ballot – and then let the chips fall where they may.

In the meantime, Falchuk may just be able to generate enough statewide interest in the UIP via the Olympics to cause some serious headaches for the major parties down the road.  And wouldn’t that be interesting.

Now for something a little lighter.

An excellent diversion, which also gives me the opportunity to say thank you to all who were able to join us at Bertucci's last night. We had a terrific turnout, we raised a bunch of money, and it was a real pleasure to see so many of you in person. We'll have to do things like that more often. - promoted by david

I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while, but conversations at Bertucci’s tonight prompted me to finally post this thread-starter. I’m curious, and I hope others are as well, about the significance of some BMG handles. Many of us of course just use some form of our name, but if you do not I invite you to comment on this thread (without revealing anymore than you want to about yourself) about the origin and reason for your handle. I learned a couple of interesting ones tonight and I hope those people will be among those who comment.