Gloucester Leading the Way on Drug Enforcement Reform

The Prohibition of our time. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Happily surprised to see in today’s Atlantic a fascinating interview with Gloucester Chief of Police Leonard Campanello. He started a Facebook post that already has 1.5 million hits, generated a community wide forum that lead to a radical solution to the opiate problem, and has bipartisan support from State Sen. Bruce Tarr, Congressman Moulton, and Senators Markey and Warren-who will all be presenting Campenello’s new strategy for tackling addiction before Congress. The strategy=decriminalize drug addiction and get addicts the help they need.

From the article:

Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged. Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery. We will assign them an “angel” who will be their guide through the process. Not in hours or days, but on the spot.

Narcan, the artificial opiate drug to prevent overdose will now be available for free over the counter at Gloucester drug stores to anyone who needs it. The coverage has been paid for using revenues seized from drug dealers.

Highlights from the Interview:

There’s an expectation among the public and even those who use this drug that the health community is there to help and to treat it as a disease, but the police department is there to treat it as a crime. And when we start seeing lives lost because of it, and we don’t see any results from an enforcement standpoint, we have to start looking at it differently.

I think law enforcement in general needs to focus on supply as well, but we need to be doing much more with demand. I think that we’re getting close to really proving that attacking the supply is not working and I think that we need to spend a lot more time on the demand. This initiative is one of the ways that we can be compassionate, progressive, bipartisan, and unilateral, because we’re talking about saving lives, and I think the bottom line is it’s the right thing to do.

Kudos to Chief Campanello and our local policy leaders for this innovative approach to policing and addiction treatment. I am proud to see so many local leaders step up to solve this problem, and to see Massachusetts once again be a leader in public health.

Pretty Things

A critical issue as the height of the summer beer-drinking season approaches. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Some interesting questions are brought up by a friend of mine on her weekly email from a liquor store where she is one of the owners.

From her email:

“Dan Paquette, co-owner of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, let loose a Twitter rant. In dozens of tweets, he went to town on ‘pay to play’ in Massachusetts bars, restaurants, and stores. From “ever walked into a bar and wondered why they don’t serve local beer?”, to ” Do you know a bar that takes money for their draft lines? .. Restaurant wine lists are purchased, by a winery or distributor. Retail ‘end-caps (i.e. prime display space) are reserved- for a fee. Distributors and suppliers pony up cash or expensive equipment. Retailers and restaurateurs agree to feature certain products and exclude certain others. And while all of these practices are technically illegal in MA, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) hasn’t brought one charge in over 15 years.”

“After a recent report showed that MA has the fifth-lowest ratio of enforcement agents to licensees in the country, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg asked for a substantial increase to the ABCC budget. Governor Baker is on record as opposing this request.”

So we have laws that we cannot enforce because we can’t fund the labor costs involved and when State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg requests funds to enforce the law, Governor Baker says “nope”?

What's a "Money Bill?" More Annals of Senate-House Discord

Who interprets, decides. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The annual state budget process, now underway, has opened a new battlefront in the ongoing power struggle between the Senate and the House: what’s a “money bill?”

Our State Constitution (in Part II, chapter 1, section 3, article 7 for you wonks out there) says that “all money bills shall originate in the house of representatives; but the senate may propose or concur with amendments, as on other bills.”

We know from a very old decision by the Supreme Judicial Court (126 Mass. 557 for you wonks out there) what a money bill is not — it is not simply a bill that appropriates money for government spending. Money bills, the court said in that decision, are those that “transfer money or property from the people to the State.”

The Constitutional provision giving the Senate the power to “propose or concur with amendments” to money bills muddies the waters of that court decision a little. Are money bills only those that raise taxes? If the House were to propose a new tax, the Senate’s power to propose amendments would seem to allow that body latitude to increase or to lower that tax, or other taxes, or to change tax deductions or tax credits, or to otherwise amend state tax policy.

So in recent memory the House and Senate have defined a money bill as any bill that alters tax policy. In 1997, for example, the House budget proposal included a tax credit for homeowners who had to upgrade their septic systems and a one-year extension of an investment tax credit. The Senate, with the understanding that the House budget was a money bill, proposed additional tax credits and deductions, including the establishment of a state counterpart to the federal earned income tax credit for low-income families.

Justice subpoenas MA Health Connector records

Oof. - promoted by david

From Politico:

The Justice Department has subpoenaed records on the Massachusetts Health Connector, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office confirmed Thursday. The subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s office relates to technical problems at the exchange dating to 2010, when Deval Patrick was governor.

Joke Revue: "Residents of Austin Completely Surrounded by Texas"

 

Borowitz:

Desperate Residents of Austin Completely Surrounded by Texas

AUSTIN (The Borowitz Report) – In a deepening humanitarian crisis, residents of the city of Austin report that they are completely surrounded by Texas, a situation that locals are calling “dire.”

Austin has traditionally enjoyed freedoms as a semi-autonomous region, hosting film festivals and literary events without the interference of its hostile neighbors, but there are growing fears that those days may be coming to an end.

Alarmingly, citizens of Austin report, extremists within the city limits have taken over the Capitol Building and installed a militant government with dominion over its residents.

In recent days, Austin has made desperate requests for assistance to the U.S. military, which will be conducting exercises in Texas in July.

The city is hoping that the United States will use its military might to liberate the isolated municipality and transform it into an independent state along the lines of Kurdistan.

But those who live in this besieged city are growing increasingly desperate as they await military aid. In the words of one resident, “We feel so alone here.”

 

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Today Carly Fiorina announced that she is running for president. Someone else bought ‘CarlyFiorina.org’ and posted 30,000 sad emoticons to represent all the people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard. I haven’t seen that many sad, blank faces in one place since the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.” –Jimmy Fallon

Carly

“Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to announce tomorrow that he is running for president, making him Hillary Clinton’s only Democratic challenger so far. Or as Hillary put it, ‘Oooo, appetizers!’” –Jimmy Fallon

“A new presidential poll reveals that Democrats have the edge among voters under 30. The good news for Republicans is that there’s only six people under 30 who actually vote.” –Conan O’Brien

“Many believe that Hillary Clinton was channeling President Obama during her recent speech in New York City. She focused on equality, justice, and how hard it was for her growing up as a young black man in Hawaii.” –Jimmy Fallon

“A U.N. study claims the happiest country in the world is Switzerland. When asked why they’re so happy, Swiss people couldn’t answer because their hands were counting money and their mouths were full of chocolate.” –Conan O’Brien

“Mayor de Blasio said that whenever he goes to a Yankee game he gets sick and tired of people booing and giving him the finger. Hey, what do you want? You’re the mayor of New York City. It comes with the gig, pal.” –David Letterman

“Donald Trump may be running for president. He said he is sick and tired of the rest of the world laughing at the United States. Well, President Trump will certainly put an end to that.” –David Letterman

“Jenner also identified himself as a conservative Republican. He said he believes that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will support him and advocate for transgender issues. Yeah, of course they will. They’re probably having the buttons printed as we speak.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“It’s being reported that Google spent over $5 million on lobbying just during the first quarter of this year. You’d think Google wouldn’t really need to lobby politicians. All they have to say is, ‘We have your search history. Do what we tell you.’” –Jimmy Fallon

The insanity of not voting for Bernie Sanders

An opinion is stated. - promoted by david

Remember 2008? That whole subprime mortgage crisis thing? Millions of foreclosures overnight? Billions of dollars in working class savings gobbled up? Collateralized debt obligations? Mass layoffs leading to skyrocketing unemployment, orchestrated by an elite class of millionaires and billionaires who went on to cash in massive bonuses and avoid any jail time whatsoever?

You do? Well get used to that feeling. Because at the going rate it will back very, very soon.

Introducing H.R. 685, the Mortgage Choice Act of 2015. The bill, passed by the House of Representatives on April 14 and awaiting a vote in the Senate, lowers the standards for a Qualified Mortgage (QM) as specified by Dodd-Frank and the Truth in Lending Act. According to D. Sidney Potter at the Huffington Post:

“A QM has a 43% debt to income ratio. The [National Association of Realtors] would like to see that ratio kicked up, possibly to the 50% plus range. The downside of that waiver, is that it results in a high rate of loan default. The subprime ratios in the mid-2000′s were regularly in the 50% to 60% plus range.”

The N.A.R., which Potter mentions, is just one of the dozens of organizations relentlessly lobbying for legislation like H.R. 685. The bill was brought to the floor by Rep. Bill  Huizenga, a former real estate agent, and endorsed by real estate finance giants like the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, and the Mortgage Lenders Association.

Make no mistake, this bill could very easily become law with a newly republican senate. And if not, you can bet a bill just as ludicrous will make its way to the House floor in a year or so, probably with even more funding and support. Sadly legislation like H.R. 685 is just about inevitable in a system where elections serve as nothing more than glorified auctions that go to the highest bidder.

And that’s the true root of the problem. As long as elections are fundraising contests, bankers and billionaires will find ways to buy legislation like H.R. 685 that benefits their quarterly spreadsheet and screws over the masses. For progressives who want to see that change, campaign finance reform should be the single most important issue on your voting docket.

So you probably agree, right? You’re probably thinking, “Screw H.R. 685! Screw those elitist republicans trying to manufacture another housing bubble! I want campaign finance reform and I want it now!”

You’re probably voting for… Hillary Clinton?

Cullen Wants Protests Over Cop's Death

Good post. Of course Officer Moore's death is a horrible tragedy. But what would the protest that Cullen wants be about? Maybe about too easy access to guns ... I could get behind that. But I doubt that's what Cullen had in mind. - promoted by david

And the protests start when? NYPD Officer Brian Moore dies from injuries.

Kevin Cullen Tweet

It’s always sad, indeed usually tragic, when a cop is killed in the line of duty. When it happens, police from everywhere show up. Every cop knows there is a risk in just being a cop. Beside death and physical injury, every cop runs the risk of psychological and family issues by bringing the job home with them. We haven’t lost a lot of cops in Western Massachusetts, but Gary DiNapoli, a Holyoke cop, was one I remember. He was a friend of a friend, and by all accounts, a good guy. He was killed in 1999:

DiNapoli, 52, was in plain clothes, unarmed and in an unmarked cruiser, out running an errand when he wound up volunteering to respond to a disturbance call at Walnut and Sargeant streets on the morning of Dec. 22, 1999.

DiNapoli followed one of the men involved in the disturbance who was leaving the scene on foot, police said, and, a block away at Walnut and Hampshire streets he was shot dead in his vehicle….

In what was an apparently unprovoked act, Eddie O. Morales shot 10 times at DiNapoli’s cruiser; five of the shots from the 9mm handgun struck the officer, killing him on the spot. His killer, who admitted he’d been selling drugs on the street corner, later claimed he had been “nervous” when he opened fire on DiNapoli’s cruiser.

DiNapoli was an innocent man, just doing his job. His killer is in jail. Justice was served. Freddie Gray was just a guy who ran away from eye contact with a police officer. Unfortunately, most people who die at the hands of police are never charged, never mind convicted. And in Baltimore, you have a pretty good chance of getting abused even when you’re entirely innocent. The reasons for the protests in Gray’s case and the cases we’ve seen the the last several cases isn’t that these men were killed. It’s because, when it comes to black people, justice remains to be served. When it comes to police malfeasance, justice has almost never been served. People protest to draw attention to injustice. Not death. Not crimes. We have a justice system to address murder, but it doesn’t work so well when police do something wrong.

So why does Kevin Cullen want to see protests over the death of slain NYPD Officer Brian Moore? In part because he a columnist, which, in itself, puts one foot perilously close to a trench of bullshit. He gets paid to have opinions. Insight is secondary. But Cullen’s tweet is stupid. I know he gets his street cred loving cops and writing books about Whitey Bulger, but he’s wrong here and muddying the waters. Or maybe he’s been hanging out with Sean Hannity. As Vox has it:

People can reasonably disagree on whether police officers unjustifiably kill black men at disproportionate rates, whether cops should be given less legal latitude to use deadly force, and whether the criminal justice system really does disproportionately hurt minority communities. But trying to set up false equivalencies between the murders of police officers and killings by police officers fundamentally misunderstands what the Ferguson and Baltimore protests are about — and it undermines the legitimate tragedy of Brian Moore’s death by cheapening it into a political talking point.

"To some extent the T needs to be put out of its misery"

That’s probably the biggest money quote from the fascinating, no-holds-barred interview with former MBTA general manager Beverly Scott, by Gabrielle Gurley in CommonWealth Magazine.  But read the whole thing – it’s not that long, and very interesting.

Investing in Working Families

Thanks for posting here, Senator. - promoted by david

Raising the minimum wage and ensuring earned sick time for workers were two important steps to take towards reducing poverty and building a fairer economy, but they shouldn’t be the last steps we take. To build on the success of these efforts, we should double the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and pay for it by making our tax code more fair.

Recent data from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center highlights that a strong minimum wage and EITC help lift the working poor out of poverty. Doubling the credit would provide working families with an additional $450-$900 per year at a cost of approximately $130 million. Given the current budget climate and glaring needs across the state – transportation, early education and public higher education to name a few – that figure cannot be ignored. However, the cost of previous decisions should be examined as well.

Governor Baker recognized this, proposing to pay for doubling the EITC by eliminating the Film Tax Credit. I appreciate his proposal and am open to any effort to increase the EITC. Similarly, I am grateful that my colleagues on the Revenue Committee are focusing on related proposals. A public hearing on the Governor’s bill on March 31st was standing room only. Today, a second hearing on similar proposals, including my bill, S.1475 – An Act Reinvesting in Working Families continued this important conversation.

Quietly, since 2012, the Massachusetts tax code has gotten more regressive. How? Thanks to a 2002 law and a recovering economy, our state has hit economic and fiscal benchmarks that have cut the Personal Income Tax from 5.3 to 5.15%. The benefits of these cuts have flowed disproportionately to the wealthy, tilting an already unfair playing field even further – 25% percent of the benefits of income tax cuts flow to the top 1% of earners. If benchmarks continue to be met, the law stipulates that further reductions will occur until the income tax rate is 5%.

Should this happen, the revenues collected by the state to support important programs and services will be reduced by $400-450 million a year. That’s why I am proposing to shift those priorities: eliminate the income tax cuts, which primarily benefit the wealthy, double the benefit to the working poor and preserve $270-$320 million to invest in the previously stated needs.

Making income tax cuts small and predicated on benchmarks may make them easier to account for in the budget each year, but their cumulative effect is real. It is also limiting our ability to create economic opportunity for the middle class and working poor. My proposal will not solve the entire problem, but it starts to change our course and refocus our priorities.

Hard working families deserve a tax code that’s fair, smart and meets our needs. This isn’t our reality today, but this debate is the first step in making it so.

BMG's Plan for Universal Dominion Continues Apace

In a spectacular example of the principle that the arc of the universe bends toward justice, applause is due two BMG stalwarts who have gathered the reins of power into their enlightened hands for the good of city, nation, planet, and universe (moving out from its Hub).

Mayor Walsh’s Chief of Policy Joyce Linehan, the woman who convinced Elizabeth Warren to run for Senate, according the Boston Magazine, is a long-time BMGer — member 1,594 of our current 8,465 member gathering of the best of Massachusetts. With a graduate degree in America, and a professional pedigree that mixes poetry, punk, and the Holy Spirit, she is a progressive exemplar.

Eoin Cannon, Walsh’s speechwriter, trumps even Joyce’s ancient blogging ancestry: as BMGer 615, he is one of the earliest stars of our expanding universe, with posts that date back to the Mayflower 2006. At that time, BMG was little more than a wave of super-heated progressive gas and light expanding from an infinitely dense reality-based core. Cannoneo, who earned a 2010 American literature Ph.D. from Boston University, and wrote a splendid book about the politics of redemption, has educated the state with dozens of trenchant posts over the years. During blogging breaks, he also lectured on History and Literature at Harvard from 2007 until duty called and he joined the Mayor’s Office.

And here is the O. Henry twist: Joyce was so impressed by the wit and wisdom of Eoin’s passion powered BMG posts, that she tracked him down offline and introduced him to Mayor Walsh. His job followed. From progressive pixels to the lips of power.

Onward! Our mission to expand reason and reality-based political decision-making demands continued bloviation and persiflage with all the force that 30,447 posts, 360,006 comments, millions of unique readers, and tens of millions of page views since 2004 demands.

And more immediately, kudos to Joyce and Eoin!

Grumpy Old Globe Columnist Lectures Climate Activists

Nothing like a good old-fashioned fisking to bring a smile. - promoted by david

Hey, you kids! Pull up your pants and turn down that loud music! An old lawyer is here to condescendingly tell you how to stop with your popular, effective actions against climate change, and instead take up his unpopular niche solution that won’t at all solve global warming.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has gotten hundreds of colleges, communities, religious institutions and foundations to commit to selling off stocks, bonds or funds that invest in climate-disrupting fuels. But Boston Globe columnist Tom Keane is here to tell you divestment is stupid and all those kids are stupid too:

It’s easy to question the students’ tactics. For one, there’s a whiff of hypocrisy. The same students doubtless drive cars, ride the bus, and fly in airplanes, all powered by petrochemicals. Demanding divestment gives the illusion of clean hands without actually having to wash up. Of course, almost all of us who worry about climate change are hypocrites as well. Fossil fuels are ubiquitous and necessary. Yes, Al Gore would jet from country to country telling folks, basically, not to fly in jets. But how else could he get there?

If you go anywhere you’re killing the planet! But we have to go places to get anywhere! I have no idea what Keane’s point is here. College kids are ruining the planet by taking public transportation?

In any event, occupying presidents’ offices won’t do much to help the environment.

What did protesting ever solve, anyway?

Joke Revue: "Dick Cheney is the worst President of my lifetime."

President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner:

“After the midterm elections, my advisers asked me, ‘Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?’ And I said, ‘Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.’ Take executive action on immigration — bucket. New climate regulations — bucket. It’s the right thing to do.

“A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst President of his lifetime. Which is interesting, because I think Dick Cheney is the worst President of my lifetime.”

“I’ve got to stay focused on my job, because for many Americans, this is still a time of deep uncertainty. For example, I have one friend, just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year and she’s now living out of a van in Iowa.”

“Ted Cruz said that denying the existence of climate change made him like Galileo. Now that’s not really an apt comparison. Galileo believed the Earth revolves around the sun. Ted Cruz believes the Earth revolves around Ted Cruz.

On his bromance with Vice President Joe Biden: “We’ve gotten so close that in some places in Indiana they won’t serve us pizza anymore.”

“Being president is never easy. I still have to fix a broken immigration system, issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran – all while finding time to pray five times a day.”

“Just this week, Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days. Now, that’s a legacy. That’s big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington, they didn’t do that.”

In a moment of history, we pause the contemporary Joke Revue for a genuflection to one of the greatest White House Correspondents dinner talks: Stephen Colbert in 2006. Savor the truthiness:

Borowitz:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Asks Someone to Wake Her When Scalia Stops Talking

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – As Justice Antonin Scalia weighed in on same-sex marriage at the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg interrupted the proceedings by announcing, “Someone wake me up when he stops talking.”

There was stunned silence in the courtroom after the pronouncement by Justice Ginsburg, who had been visibly nodding off during Scalia’s remarks, her head jerking upward violently at various junctures.

“Look, it’s not like he’s going to say anything on this subject that I haven’t heard him say nine zillion times before,” she said. “I’m gonna get me some shut-eye.”

Having completed her remarks, Ginsburg moved down the bench to what she called “my favorite quiet place,” next to Justice Clarence Thomas, and fell soundly asleep.