File under "Mosul was LAST week"

promoted by hesterprynne

“General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake,. . . there are studies underway to fluoridate … ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children’s ice cream.”

Now that Trump is actually bombing someone, everyone in Washington loves him. And they don’t mind that he is paraphrasing Dr Strangelove. I watched on MSNBC last night and it was the first time in a couple years, at least, that there was no feeling of discontinuity when they cut away to crazy Trump.

“He has to do it, everybody’s watching!” emoted Jennifer Rubin, while the other panelists chanted “Don’t Stop, Don’t Stop!”

So what do you think? Will Trump go for multiple orgasms? Does he have the precious bodily fluids for it?

Cosmetic Moves That (Might) Matter: Nunes Recuses Himself, Bannon off NSC

promoted by hesterprynne


Better. (Or just cosmetic? I don’t know. Either way I’ll take it.)

A few months ago, I would have said this was KellyAnne Conway, making Trump understand that symbolism matters, and these are small concessions to make (yes they couldn’t tell Nunes directly, but White Houses have pull). Now … I don’t know. Trump himself maybe? KAC seems off her game lately.

But again … I’ll take it. Any thoughts?

"Just because every other country can..."

Whip the Dems ... But beat the R's. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Seems like some of our Representatives in DC are AWOL on Medicare for all. I’m sorely disappointed by my rep, Kennedy – doesn’t seem to be ”Some people see things as they are and say why?  I dream things that never were and say, why not?” material. I called Kennedy’s office yesterday and got a verbal shrug. “Idunno?”

I politely suggest that these Reps get called by their constituents.

At least health fare is a true example of American Exceptionalism: almost every other industrialized nation ensures that all citizens (at least) get quality health care at reasonable costs. In the US… not so much on any of those.

Democrat to Watch: Steve Bullock

Lessons from Montana for "detached national Democrats" - promoted by hesterprynne

Nearly 20% of Montanans split their ballot between Donald Trump for President and Steve Bullock for Governor. Here’s how he did it according to the Prospect which asked him what he thought about this crossover appeal:

It was his story.

“I think Montanans knew that I was fighting for them. I spoke about public education, public lands, public money, and those are things that affect us all. We hunt, we fish, and I asked whether we are promoting all Montanans’ interests or only narrow special interests, and how we are going to build folks up individually.”
Justin Gest and Tyler Reny

Perhaps realizing that this doesn’t exactly coincide with most people’s impression of the president, he added, “If there is overlap, it’s making people know that I will fight for them, and that I work for them. I’m not sure that the values are that different in Manhattan, Montana; Manhattan, Kansas; or Manhattan, New York. People want to feel safe, have good schools, and want their kids to do better than they did.

Period. Good schools, good jobs, strong families. That’s literally the three things voters want. They want to make sure they’re are jobs and investment in this country. Trump talked about jobs constantly, he talked about rebuilding this country constantly, and he talked about fighting opioids in the country and gangs in the city. The proof is in the pudding-he was talking out of his ass and didn’t have an agenda. We won the popular vote talking about ours. That said-we won’t win the presidency again without converting this 20% of winnable white working class voters. The NY Times data confirms this. So reaching out to them is an important and vital part of the progressive project.

Instead it is to look to the future-how do we sell our policies to people who haven’t been listening to us-since we haven’t been talking to them-for a generation?

Keep it simple, stupid. Voters don’t want details-they want the broad strokes.

In interviews with locals, I found exhaustion with detached national Democrats, and a pervasive appreciation of straight talk. Bullock is connecting with his brand of progressive populism—a focus on providing solid public education to level the playing field, protecting access to public lands, and maintaining public services without increasing taxes or instituting a sales tax.

What's the Diehl

Last time I make that joke. Huh.

Whitman State Rep Geoff Diehl is poised to take on Elizabeth Warren next year. It sounds like he’ll announce tomorrow.

As Donald Trump’s state co-chair, he has sounded to me like a smoother Curt Schilling. I suspect his actual very conservative brand politics will find very little purchase in a general election beyond die-hard Herald readers … but I should not be in the business of projecting confidence.

He will be well-funded: He will not sign the People’s Pledge to forego ads by outside groups. He will raise tons of money nationally from people wanting to take out Warren. Trump will no doubt loudly Tweet his support for Diehl — at least.

I’ve got some connections with his team that I made friends with and are loyal in a campaign-related way. I think the president himself sees the senior senator as a major obstacle to a lot of what he wants to do,” Diehl, a Whitman Republican, told the Herald yesterday.

“She opposed every single nominee and forced a slow walk of his Cabinet. So I don’t think there’s any love lost between the two,” he added. “And I would say when the time comes, he’d be in support of whomever wins the nomination to replace her.”

It will be an impossibly ugly campaign.

And one nasty data point is that Warren is only moderately popular in MA: 51% approval, and 46% say it’s time to give someone else a chance. I wish that were not true.

Warren raised — and spent — tons of money on her 2012 race. While she has a fiery charisma, she was not a campaign-trail natural. She may have learned much of that since.

What do you think? An annoyance? A real challenge?

MassHealth audit casts doubt on claimed savings in privatizing state services

Hmmm, privatization not a cure-all, sounds familiar ... - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blogsite)

Last year, State Auditor Suzanne Bump approved a proposal to privatize mental health services in southeastern Massachusetts after the for-profit Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP) claimed it could save $7 million in doing so.

The auditor’s review under the Pacheco Law required Bump’s office to compare the proposed costs of privatizing the services with continuing to carry them out with state employees in the Department of Mental Health.

In a report released yesterday, the auditor maintains that MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid administration agency, made questionable, improper, or duplicate payments to MBHP totaling $193 million between July 2010 and 2015. Those allegedly improper payments appear to have been made under the same contract with MBHP that served as the vehicle for privatizing the mental health services last year.

Under that umbrella contract, known as the Primary Care Clinician Plan, MassHealth paid MBHP more than $2.6 billion between 2010 and 2015.

Given the finding that MassHealth’s total payments to MBHP include $193 million in questionable, improper, or duplicate payments, it would seem it has just gotten harder to argue that privatization of human services has been a great deal for the state.

In fact, it seems possible that one of the reasons MBHP was able to offer bids from two providers for privatizing the mental health services that were $7 million lower than what the state employees could offer was that the company knew it could more than make the money back in duplicate payments from MassHealth.

A description of the MBHP billing arrangement by the state auditor paints a picture of the company as a middle-man between MassHealth and providers of actual services under the Primary Care Clinician Plan (PCCP) contract.

According to the audit, the Commonwealth pays MBHP a fixed monthly fee under the PCCP contract for each member enrolled in MBHP.  MBHP then “recruits and oversees networks of third-party direct care providers who assume responsibility for providing a range of covered behavioral-health care.” MBHP subsequently “pays the providers using the monthly…premiums received from the Commonwealth.”

MBHP’s real role here appears to be as a pass-through of state funds. What MBHP really seems to add to the process is an apparently large layer of bureaucracy.

We have noted that MBHP is a politically connected company whose parent companies manage the behavioral health benefits of  70 percent of MassHealth members.  In April 2015, Scott Taberner, previously the chief financial officer at MBHP, was named Chief of Behavioral Health and Supportive Care in MassHealth.

As we pointed out, Taberner was put in a position to manage the contract with the company he used to work for.

State employee unions, including the Service Employees International Local 509, the Massachusetts Nurses Association,  and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 93 did challenge Bump’s initial approval of the privatization arrangement with MBHP last year for the southeastern Massachusetts mental health services.

The unions maintained that the lower bids submitted for the privatization contract assumed major cuts in staffing at mental health facilities in southeastern Massachusetts, which would be likely to result in lower-quality services. They argued that the Pacheco Law requires that service quality not be affected.

The Pacheco Law requires a state agency seeking to privatize services to submit to the state auditor a comparison of a bid or bids from outside contractors with a bid from existing employees based on the cost of providing the services in-house “in the most cost-efficient manner.”  If the state auditor concurs that the outside bidder’s proposed contract is less expensive and equal or better in quality than what existing employees have proposed, the privatization plan will be likely to be approved.  If not, the auditor is likely to rule that the service must stay in-house.

In December, the state Supreme Judicial Court upheld Bump’s Pacheco Law review.

An SEIU official said to us yesterday the union is reviewing the auditor’s latest audit. We think that at the very least, the audit calls into question the savings claim in privatizing the southeastern Massachusetts mental health services.

More broadly, the audit of the MassHealth-MBHP contract calls into question MassHealth’s system of internal controls in managing state’s $13 billion Medicaid program.

It appears the MassHealth internal control system is so inadequate that the administration was unaware that hundreds of millions of dollars in improper payments were being made to its major contractor. Yet the administration was eager to reward MBHP’s efforts to eliminate state employees and cut staffing for mental health services in order to save a reported $7 million.

The MassHealth-MBHP debacle should serve as a warning to legislators and others that privatizing state services is not an automatic panacea to problems in service delivery and to high costs. Privatization comes with potentially high costs of its own, particularly when the state forsakes its role, as it appears to have done in this case, of adequately managing and overseeing its contracts with service providers.


Fiscal Responsibility Promise #1 for Democrats, if we ever get the White House back.....

- promoted by charley-on-the-mta

I don’t know how much it costs each time the president hangs out at Mar-a-Lago or how much it is costing us to keep his penthouse bride and son comfortable in the Big Apple, but one thing is for sure: this crap has to stop. What’s worse, Trump did not start it.  Sure, he has brought it to a whole new level, but again, he did not start it.   As I recall, President Obama and President Clinton much preferred schmoozing with the wealthy sort on Martha’s Vineyard over the working class charm of Camp David.   So before we Democrats start to whine about Trump’s house, we have to do some housekeeping ourselves.

The presidency is a job.  It has a salary, an expense account, and living quarters included.  In addition, it has a vacation retreat for the president and the family of the president to enjoy.  These accommodations are specifically designed to minimize the cost of protecting the president as well as providing the best possible protection.  The people have paid for these facilities and we continue to pay for their daily upkeep.

If the president or the members of the president’s immediate family wants to live elsewhere, that should not be the financial responsibility of the taxpayer.  Furthermore, if the president wants a vacation and wants to spend it somewhere other than Camp David, again, that should not be the responsibility of the taxpayer.   I suppose we could and probably should make an exception if the president wanted to stay at one of our national parks.

Really, fellow Democrats, we need to do this once we regain the presidency.  Anything else is simply wrong, and will result in further losses, more Trumps, and do we really want that?


Comment of the day: Why strong Ward/Precinct culture matters

Moving from “governing by abstraction” to relational, real-world people stuff. From paulsimmons, an elaboration on an old Mike Dukakis riff — read the whole thing — heck, print it out and keep it handy:

Simply put progressives have to relearn grassroots ward-and-precinct politics.

One of those little irritations in my life is that we as citizens have ceded too much power to outside structures – the fact that many of those structures operate with the best intentions is moot – to the detriment of community-accountable grassroots politics.

Over the past forty years, structured Party organisms have been allowed to wither on the vine, the result (in my opinion) is a tendency to govern by abstraction. Corollary to this is a tendency to think of electioneering as synonymous with marketing. A direct result of this was the shifting of resources from permanent, locally-based, volunteer-staffed field organizations to media operations and paid operatives.

RIP Senator Ken Donnelly

The death notice from his family. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

My FB feed lit up late this evening with condolences for the family of State Senator Ken Donnelly (D-4MI) after battling a brain tumor.  The following is from his own FB page:

It is with enormous sadness that we must report that State Senator Ken Donnelly (D-Arlington) has passed away today surrounded by family.

At the time of his passing, Senator Donnelly was 66. The cause of death was a brain tumor he gallantly battled for 8 months.

Senator Donnelly represented the 4th Middlesex district including Arlington, Burlington, Billerica, Woburn and Lexington, precincts 1, 2, and 4 thru 7.

Prior to serving in the Massachusetts Senate, Senator Donnelly was a firefighter for 37 years in the Town of Lexington, and legislative agent and the secretary treasurer of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts.

Ken was known to all who knew him first and foremost for his devotion to his family and as a fighter for those without a voice. Throughout his career, he fought to save others, protect the most vulnerable in our society, and give voice to working men and women across the Commonwealth. He was a staunch believer in the role of unions and government to protect workers, and he was well known for his efforts to advance justice and equality for all people no matter their race, religion, national origin, or sexual identification.

As such, he treated all with whom he met with dignity and respect, and over the many years he worked as both a union negotiator and state legislator, he earned back in return the respect and admiration of both his allies and his adversaries.

Senator Donnelly championed many causes during his career, from increasing access and quality to mental health services for all; to funding for workforce training for the unemployed and underemployed; to more protections for homeless families and retirees on fixed incomes; to women’s’ access to healthcare; and to the creation of a criminal justice system that was fair for all.

Through all these diverse efforts, Senator Donnelly never sought the accumulation of personal credit; but rather he was dedicated to the causes he believed in and the people he represented, and he brought his tremendous energy, courage, and passion to changing many lives for the better.

Senator Donnelly’s number one priority was his family. He leaves behind his loving wife of 43 years, Judy; his beloved children Ryan, Keith, and Brenna and his 5 grandchildren; and a large extended family and group of friends who loved and admired him.

Details on his wake and funeral arrangements will be announced when they become available.

RIP Senator Ken Donnelly

State Senator Ken Donnelly has died after fighting brain cancer. I hope it’s OK to quote Rep. Sean Garballey’s Facebook posting:

Senator Donnelly was my friend and a mentor. Ken was the voice for working families in the State Senate. Whether he was entering a burning building as a firefighter or passionately advocating for the most vulnerable in our Commonwealth on the floor of the State Senate, Ken always always put others first.

After working with Ken for many years I am reminded that he always did what he thought was right. He was a man of profound character and unshakable integrity. I will miss the time we spent together, the laughter and stories we shared, and the immense pride I had in calling him my friend and partner.

My prayers and sincerest condolences go out to Ken’s wife Judy, his children Keith, Ryan and Brenna, his grandchildren, his staff, his friends and the constituents who he loved so much. Rest In Peace my friend.

He was my Senator and was on the right side of a lot of things. I sent him a rather frustrated note after the MBTA-apocalypse of 2015, and he set me straight on his record, which was indeed good. (I am always happy to be set straight in such a manner!)

But today’s not about the politics. It’s about the man and the people that loved him. RIP Ken and much comfort to his family and friends.

BBC confirms key aspects of Donald Trump "dossier"

It takes a keep up with the Trump-Russia connections - promoted by hesterprynne

Mikhail Kalugin, allegedly confirmed Russian spy.

A BBC piece just rolled through my Google news feed that strikes me as significant. I don’t see a current thread for Mark (and others) to comment on, so I thought I’d just start one.

This piece looks pretty damning to me, and comes from apparently reliable sources.

Check this out (emphasis mine):

Members of the Obama administration believe, based on analysis they saw from the intelligence community, that the information exchange claimed by Steele continued into the election.

“This is a three-headed operation,” said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated “bots”, then on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US “news” sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls.

The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of “microtargeting”. Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters.

“You are stealing the stuff and pushing it back into the US body politic,” said the former official, “you know where to target that stuff when you’re pushing it back.”
This would take co-operation with the Trump campaign, it is claimed.

“If you need to ensure that white women in Pennsylvania don’t vote or independents get pissed in Michigan so they stay home: that’s voter suppression. You can figure what your target demographics and locations are from the voter rolls. Then you can use that to target your bot.”
This is the “big picture” some accuse the FBI of failing to see.

With each new drip of information, option three – the chance that this is all a giant mistake, an improbable series of coincidences – seems further out of reach.

Increasingly, the American people are being asked to choose between two unpalatable versions of events: abuse of power by one president or treason that put another in the White House.
It cannot be both.

This is big, folks. We really are talking treason here.

Fehrnstrom Redux

“The Boston Globe’s opinion pages,” the Boston Globe explains to us, “are completely separate from the news operation.”

Indeed, and that’s probably as it should be. But as we learn today from today’s column by frequent contributor and Republican strategist Eric Fehrnstrom, the Globe’s fidelity to this principle extends so far as to allow opinion writers the freedom to contradict facts that were previously established by members of the news staff.

In this column (his fourth effort in the nineteen months he’s been opining for the Globe to harpoon Elizabeth Warren, his personal Leviathan), Fehrnstrom again falsely accuses Warren of helping corporate giant Travelers Insurance to defeat claims brought by victims of asbestos poisoning. But as Globe news staffers reported on multiple occasions when Fehrnstrom was peddling this same story in his capacity as a member of Scott Brown’s campaign staff, it is so misleading as to be untrue. This same campaign lie was also called out on BMG (here and here). Nevertheless, the falsehood is back again on today’s opinion page, and Fehrnstrom goes on to use it to attack Warren for hypocrisy:

If Warren engages in the same behaviors that she pretends to find in others, she should at least be reminded of her dishonesty.

On behalf of the Globe news staff, we are happy to do the same for him.