Race for Party Chair

This is potentially a pretty big deal for the future of the party. - promoted by david

The race is on. The Globe has a story about people who have expressed an interest in running. What do people here think?

Jill Stein - Unfit for Office . . . Johnson, too . . . Oh yeah, and of course Trump

A sorry state of affairs. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The title is something that I suspect many here already know, and throughout the campaign I think she’s demonstrated it time and time again. She fails minimum competency tests regularly. She may have outdone herself today, though.

Here’s Jill Stein’s message today.

With so many #Sept11 secrets, we cannot move forward as a nation and end terrorism.
#NeverForget #ItsInOurHands

She links to a NY Post article from yesterday about the redacted “28 pages” of a Congressional 9/11 investigation that cover alleged involvement of the Saudi government. The 28 Pages truthers are quite similar to the general 9/11 truthers who think the attacks might have been an inside job. Entertaining the conspiracy theories is enough of a dealbreaker, but that this would be her campaign’s message on the anniversary of the attacks demonstrate that she has zero political instincts, has terrible judgment, and honestly may not even be a decent human being (or at least hires such people and gives them communications control). There’s a way to make a statement and be critical on 9/11 by addressing civil liberties or our often wrongheaded response to terrorism. She didn’t. The typical “Rah Rah America 9/11 Never Forget” message is not something in which one must indulge. The conspiracist angle is one of the dumber approaches she could have taken. I hope that she earns less than 1% in this election and the Green Party finally drops her and looks for leaders who may help bring the party (and its admirable policy goals) closer to where they should be on the national stage.

Gary Johnson similarly exposed how he is completely unfit for the Presidency last week. His “What is Aleppo?” episode was one of the most embarrassing incidents of the Presidential race this far. (Although it was very bad and worthy of news coverage, the media’s choice to make it huge news may be even more troublesome because nothing about the incident demonstrated Johnson’s failings to anywhere near the same degree that everyday statements demonstrate Trump’s idiocy, misinformation, and dangerousness. Trump has said hundreds of things that are worse and more shocking.) Johnson’s lack of knowledge of foreign issues is not that surprising given his ideology. Real libertarians just don’t care. That’s exactly why a libertarian shouldn’t be President in this modern world.

MSNBC did interviews with Johnson and Weld and it was almost embarrassing to watch to see how Johnson has absolutely no business being on the top of that ticket. He seems like an affable guy, but that’s about it – almost like what George W. Bush was early on and before he was surrounded by and working with Cheney and the other terrible neocons. They sounded like two peas in a pod back in the day:

“George turns to me and says, ‘What are they talking about?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘You don’t know a thing, do you?’ And I said, ‘Not one thing.’ He said, ‘Neither do I.’ And we kind of high-fived.”

The MSNBC interviews were so telling. Weld has bucketloads more experience, intelligence, and charisma. He’s so much better, but he’s not really a libertarian, which is problematic. Even simple questions like, “What’s your favorite book?” made Weld look so much better than Johnson. Johnson said, “Uhh, probably The Fountainhead.” Weld went on for a bit about an Argentine author and then mentioned Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

I mentioned Trump in the title, but that one’s obvious. In a choice between the four candidates he should rightfully be a distant fourth, even though all but Clinton would be a disaster. And I don’t even like her!

And to round it out with criticism of all the candidates, Clinton said something very stupid last week. She has already apologized and walked back the statement.

You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.

The reason it’s stupid – it’s actually much more than half! I know, I know. She and we shouldn’t be ridiculing these people but everything she said was true. I’m not sure how best to navigate this. If she says something honest like this, she gets hammered. If she apologizes, she looks weak. It’s a tough balance. This story will be over in a day or two, though, and we’ll move onto another fake controversy.

Joint Statement issued by the Department of the Army, Department of the Interior and Department of Justice halting the DAPL pipeline on federal land and pledging to bring the Sioux to the table

Notable. - promoted by Bob_Neer

I do not recall seeing anything like this, previously, in my lifetime. I have not added a word:






Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Friday, September 9, 2016

Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior issued the following statement regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.  However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.  Therefore, the Department of the Army, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior will take the following steps.

The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.  The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution.  In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.

“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.  Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.

“Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely.  We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.  Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state, or local authorities.  The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local, and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest, and maintain public safety.

“In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites.  It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”

Updated September 9, 2016

Judge allows body camera pilot program to proceed; Globe publishes misleading editorial

In a 19-page decision, Superior Court Justice Douglas Wilkins ruled today that the Commissioner of the Boston Police Department may institute a pilot program in which he will order 100 officers to wear body cameras, rejecting the police union’s request for an injunction barring the Commissioner’s action.  The union had already agreed to a pilot program in which officers would volunteer, but objected when, after nobody volunteered, the Commissioner decided to make the program mandatory.  Commissioner Evans had already instructed his command staff to begin wearing cameras.

As a policy matter, this strikes me as a very good thing.  Body cameras are good for everyone – indeed, one of the reasons the Commissioner is so strongly in favor of implementing them is his conclusion that, in three recent shootings, video footage helped persuade the community that the officers were not to blame.  Even the police union claims that both its leadership and its membership is in favor of them, but objects to the way this particular program was being implemented (they have argued that the lawsuit was about collective bargaining, not cameras … FWIW).  There are contrary arguments (here’s one by jimc), but to me, the value of body cameras in documenting interactions with the public outweighs considerations going the other way.  And the judge’s reasoning as to why this order was within Evans’ authority as Commissioner strikes me as pretty persuasive.

Unfortunately, the Globe editorial from this morning played a bit fast and loose with the facts in urging Justice Wilkins to reach the conclusion he did.  The editorial, entitled “Boston union can’t have it both ways,” makes the following startling allegation:

the city’s lawyers revealed this week that the BPPA [the police union] didn’t fulfill its end of the deal. They produced photographic evidence that the union was encouraging its members not to sign up for the program. A notice posted to a bulletin board at a Hyde Park police station read in part: “The position of the BPPA is that NOBODY in the BPPA membership should volunteer for this program.” Another notice was just plain coercive: “Sanction any officer who volunteers.”

The BPPA can’t have it both ways —undercutting its bargain with the city one day, then going to court insisting on the sanctity of bargaining the next — but that’s what Patrick Rose, the union’s president, is trying to get away with.

That is at best a highly misleading recounting of what actually happened.  A more accurate picture appears elsewhere in the Globe, in this timeline of events (italics added):

• July 12, 2016: After months of negotiating, the city announces it has reached an agreement for a volunteer body camera pilot program for 100 officers. Union president Patrick Rose applauds the deal. Officers are expected to wear the devices in August….

• July 26, 2016: Superintendent Kevin Buckley alerts Evans to a notice inside a Hyde Park police station discouraging officers from volunteering for the program. The notice was dated for June. Scrawled at the top of another notice dated for January said, “Sanction any officer who volunteers.”

• Aug. 2, 2016: Rose receives a call from the city that no officers have volunteered. He sends a note to membership stating that those interested should volunteer.

What actually happened, as is made even clearer in the judge’s decision (p. 5), is that the “nobody should volunteer” notice mentioned in the Globe editorial was from June (before the department and the union had agreed to a voluntary program), and urged members not to volunteer to wear body cameras until the pilot program had been bargained.  Once the department and the union agreed to the voluntary program in July, the union president declared in a letter to the membership that it was “a great agreement.”  Subsequently, when the outdated June notice was reported to have appeared in a Hyde Park police station, the union president sent out another statement (p. 7) saying that

[i]t has now come to the attention of the Union that some patrol officers may believe that the Union does not support officers volunteering for the program.  This is not accurate.  The Union believes it is important that this pilot program be voluntary and officers interested in volunteering should do so.

Unfortunately, the Globe editorial doesn’t tell you any of this.  So anyone reading it who hadn’t followed the dispute in detail – like me, until I looked into it further – would read it to think that the union had been actively undercutting the very voluntary program that it had just agreed to.  That does not appear to be the case, at least from the evidence that emerged at trial.

Now, to be sure, the judge criticized the union for its lackluster efforts to recruit volunteers once it had agreed to the pilot program.  The opinion says that it “appears likely that, at a minimum, the BPPA has not conveyed a strong message of support for officers to volunteer for the [camera] program” (p. 7), and that “an injunction effectively rewarding the BPPA for its lackluster efforts to ensure the [voluntary program]‘s successful implementation would be unjust.” (p. 19)

But lackluster efforts are not the same as actively undercutting the deal, and it’s the latter of which the Globe accuses the union leadership.  I’m no big fan of police unions, but on this topic (or pretty much any other), you don’t help your side by playing loose with the facts.  You just make yourself look bad.  That’s what the Globe editorial page did today, IMHO.

State Primary Results: Open Thread

Masslive has all the results here. In a race of particular interest and discussion on BMG, progressive senator Pat Jehlen appears to have beaten Cambridge city councillor Leland Cheung by a wide margin: 77-23 with 32 percent reporting.

Today is primary day!

Don’t forget to vote!  This is your primary day open thread.  Let us know what you’re seeing out there.

UPDATE: Unofficial reports on Twitter and elsewhere are saying that Pat Jehlen has easily won her primary against Leland Cheung.  This source claims something like 14,000 votes for Jehlen to 4,000 for Cheung.  Brava Pat!

What pay-to-play actually looks like

The term "pay-to-play" actually seems generous to me in this context. "Bribery" seems more like it, but hey, what do I know? - promoted by david

Donald Trump and Florida AG Pam Bondi

While some of us continue to complain about an alleged appearance of impropriety in the dealings of Hillary and Bill Clinton, we see yet another case study in the FACT of such impropriety in today’s news (emphasis mine):

The swirl of scandal around Donald Trump’s donation to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is intensifying, with the Republican nominee and his aides vigorously pushing back against the idea that he bought the decision by Bondi to not pursue an investigation into his Trump University.

The controversy whipped back up last week when news emerged that Trump paid a $2,500 fine because his foundation improperly donated $25,000 to Bondi’s political election committee in 2013 (tax-exempt charitable groups are not allowed to make political contributions).

Following the donation in 2013, Bondi’s office declined to join a fledgling multi-state probe into Trump’s real estate seminar program. The links between the two continued, with Trump hosting a lavish fundraiser for Bondi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in March 2014, and Bondi endorsing Trump in March of this year.

Let me just, again, review the key points:

1. Contribution: A significant cash contribution was made by Donald Trump to the Florida Attorney General (Pam Bondi).
2. Quid Pro Quo: After the contribution (not to mention the “lavish fundraiser” hosted by Mr. Trump), Ms. Bondi decided not to join the several other states prosecuting “Trump University”
3. Admission of guilt: Mr. Trump paid a fine, acknowledging that his contributions were improper.

Progressives line up behind Jehlen

Stalwarts Alice Wolf and Marjorie Decker have this to say for the Senator seeking re-election:

Dear Friends,

Please join us tomorrow sending Senator Pat Jehlen back as our State Senator. We have both worked with Senator Jehlen closely on issues impacting education, the elderly, transportation, environment, affordable housing, and public safety.

We have experienced Pat’s thoughtfulness and appreciate her longstanding commitment to people who need a voice and to all of us who need informed, experienced representation. She is also very smart.

Pat is a progressive leader who has proven to be effective and respected by her colleagues in the Legislature, advocates across the Commonwealth, and most importantly by her constituents. She now serves us in an important role in the Senate – Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate ways and Means Committee, setting finance policy and budgets within the Senate. We would not want to lose that representation. She is also the Chair of the Elder Affairs Committee which influences policy and budget for our seniors.

It is also not lost on either of us that the number of women serving in the Legislature has remained stagnant in the last two decades. Women make up just over 20% of the House and Senate. That is a lower percentage than in 1996 when Alice entered the House.

So vote for Pat Jehlen tomorrow (yes, Thursday) to keep strong, informed, progressive leadership representing us.


Alice K. Wolf, Former State Representative
Marjorie C. Decker, State Representative

Words to the wise.

Open Thread: Primary Eve

At the water cooler ... - promoted by Bob_Neer

Presidential contest content allowed, but state primary contests content preferred.

IRV for ballot questions if they’re within five points? (Only half-kidding.)

Predictions? Rumors? Who slashed whose tires?

September BMG Stammtisch TONIGHT

Cheers! - promoted by Bob_Neer

The Saloon

Help us celebrate state primary eve at the first back-to-school Stammtisch. Come, enjoy some libations, and talk politics. The state Democratic Party primary is tomorrow — Pat Jehlen has a primary competitor, Denise Provost a competitor in the general, and we will collectively wish them well. Denise Provost has said she’ll join us for a brief time before leaving to help the Pat Jehlen campaign. Pat Jehlen has been invited, and we hope she’ll be able to join us.

Our now-regular monthly BMG Stammtisch will happen, as usual, the first Wednesday of the month — tonight — at The Saloon in Davis Square at 7p.

Hope to see you there!

How Global Warming is Fueling Hermine

Eek... - promoted by david

Via Twitter.com/Accu_Jesse

Progressives are often nervous to talk about how global warming is impacting our weather. Climate science deniers have lots of theories that are hard to answer!

My advice is to focus on what we know: Extremely warm ocean water is adding fuel to Hermine, and higher sea levels are worsening its damage. Here’s more from Eric Holthaus at FiveThirtyEight.com:

Hermine really has no precedent, at least in the modern meteorological record of the North Atlantic. Hermine has transitioned from a hurricane to a hybrid, post-tropical cyclone and will likely re-strengthen back to hurricane– though it’s unclear whether the National Hurricane Center will change the storm’s designation again. The center notes that the interaction between Hermine’s tropical core and its more nor’easter-like influence could result in short-term looping motions of the storm’s center that are essentially unpredictable.

Even during peak hurricane season, hurricanes that pass north of the Delmarva Peninsula typically weaken because of cooler ocean waters that limit the growth of central thunderstorms. But not Hermine. This sort of storm arguably wouldn’t be possible without the near-record high ocean temperatures currently offshore. Waters between North Carolina and New Jersey are warm enough to sustain a hurricane right now, about 3 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal. That means the region where Hermine will be camped out for most of this week likely wouldn’t foster intensification in a normal, cooler year. Climate change is expected to make storms like Hermine even more common in the North Atlantic.

And the storm is coming in the middle of a year that’s on pace to absolutely obliterate the previous mark for hottest year on record. Here, look at this:

I Miss the People's Pledge

There’s been much discussion here and elsewhere – and appropriately so – about the roughly $100,000 that Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) has dumped into Leland Cheung’s effort to unseat Pat Jehlen in the state Senate.  DFER’s money comes from an out-of-state pro-charter outfit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors.  It is the definition of dark money, and its presence in this race is an unalloyed bad thing.

But, in fairness, it’s also true that the Mass. Teachers Association (MTA) is spending a similar amount on behalf of Jehlen’s reelection effort.  We do know where that money comes from, but the fact remains that the MTA is still a special interest group that is able to spend more money on the race than the candidates themselves have raised.

All of this strikes me as, on balance, bad.  People talk a lot about how terrible Citizens United is, and how we should be trying to keep big money out of politics.  And this is exactly why: right now, outside groups are able to spend tons of basically unaccountable money – often (as in this case) more than the candidates themselves are able to spend – in order to advance a very specific policy goal that may not even be apparent from the advertising that the groups buy.  As I’ve already noted, the DFER materials that I’ve seen on behalf of Cheung don’t say a thing about charter schools, yet we all know that’s why they’re involved.

Fortunately, there is a proven solution: an agreement between the candidates that they will both swear off outside money and a pay a financial penalty if an outside group spends money on their behalf or to attack the other.  In short, the People’s Pledge.  Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown proved that it works brilliantly – as you’ll recall, that was one of the hottest Senate races in the country, in a year when outside groups were flooding Senate races with millions of dollars, yet almost none of that money came here.  And several Massachusetts races have used People’s Pledges since then, though recently they seem to have fallen away.

It’s too late for the Jehlen-Cheung race, unfortunately, a race that would have been a perfect Pledge candidate.  But whatever the result on Thursday, this unpleasantness should be a reminder that outside money remains a serious problem – particularly in down-ballot races, where it can drown out the candidates themselves.  It would be nice to have a legislative solution, but that’s likely a long way off.  Until we do, candidates can, and should, take matters into their own hands.

PS: some people think People’s Pledges are a bad thing.  They are wrong.