Block the Partners deal

An interesting development. - promoted by david

The Attorney General’s settlement allowing Partners Healthcare to acquire South Shore Hospital and two North Shore community hospitals is a great and lasting disservice to the future of high quality, affordable health care in Massachusetts.  Facing an opportunity to stand up for patients, business, laborers, and communities, Martha Coakley did not just blink; she closed her eyes.

Today I’m launching a petition asking Judge Janet Sanders to block the deal.

Partners is an important and revered health care leader, but it is also a behemoth, already able to dictate prices and raise costs due to its overwhelming dominance in the market.  The Massachusetts Health Care Commission, which is charged to oversee and report in progress toward better and more affordable care, recommended against Partners’ acquisition of both South Shore and Hallmark, but the Attorney General pushed it through without the benefit of truly open and pubic scrutiny.

This agreement will assure continuing high prices for the Partners system.  Patients and families will have less choice, constructive competition among providers will decrease, and high health care costs for workers and businesses will continue to drain their resources.  Job losses are inevitable, since Massachusetts’ high health care costs are one of the most important reasons that businesses cite for leaving the state, for decreasing their growth, and for not coming to Massachusetts in the first place.  Small businesses, especially, suffer from those costs. 

Attorney General Coakley should have held the line and insisted that Partners do what an organization of its stature and excellence can do: lead progress in Massachusetts toward better care and lower cost at the same time.  Instead, she chiseled the status quo in stone.

Now Massachusetts needs Judge Sanders to block the deal. Please add your voice.

In this decision, Martha Coakley has failed to stand up for the real interests of our Commonwealth. We should expect more diligence and backbone from an Attorney General, and, even more, from one who would be Governor.

Why is this under the radar? UAW forms TN VW union!

Front-paged at BMG. What more do you want? ;-) - promoted by david

Three days ago a union was formed at the Chattanooga VW plant, UAW 42. Such a major turn of events should have been shouted from the rooftops.  The press, internet, and broadcast media have been derelict in not reporting this most welcome outcome.  I guess the biggest mystery is why.  What has to be done to get our news organizations to pay attention when big things happen even if the reformers want to keep a lower profile?  What do others think about this?  How did this story miss front page coverage?  Doing things right in the right way should have a place in what we hear or read about.

As probation trial winds down, U.S. Attorney's office may be heading for total humiliation

The headline on the front page of today’s Globe pretty well sums things up:

Questions rise of why no lawmakers were charged

The headline on the same article in the online version is even worse:

Probation case focus on lawmakers may backfire

Some wonder why legislators not indicted

What’s going on?  This:

Last week, prosecutors focused on [Speaker Robert] DeLeo, accusing him of quid pro quo bribery by doling out legislative favors in exchange for probation jobs for friends, including those of legislators whose vote DeLeo was seeking in his bid for House speaker.

The focus on DeLeo has renewed questions about why — if legislators accepted jobs for their friends in exchange for votes — no legislators were sitting at the defense table.

“If this is a bribery case, how come this person isn’t charged?” Stephen G. Huggard, a defense attorney with Edwards Wildman and a former federal prosecutor and former head of the US attorney’s public corruption unit in Boston, asked of DeLeo. Huggard questioned the fairness of accusing DeLeo of quid quo pro bribery if US Attorney Carmen Ortiz chose not to indict him….

The strategy of alleging that the probation officials’ scheme went as far as bribing legislators could backfire for prosecutors if jurors don’t see anyone being held accountable on the other end of the alleged bribe, analysts said.

“It’s a wider, overarching theory of a crime, and if the prosecutors are dependent on a quid pro quo theory, the defendants will drill home that there’s no proof that any public official participated,” said Martin Weinberg, a prominent defense attorney from Boston. “The government has to prove what it charges.”

Of course, the jury might convict.  But all reports are that the presiding Judge has seemed skeptical of the government’s case, repeatedly cautioning the jury that patronage is not a crime, and not giving federal prosecutors the leeway they wanted in questioning witnesses.  It remains to be seen exactly how the judge instructs the jury, and exactly what they do, but it’s easy to see how they might be very skeptical of a supposed bribery case in which only one side of the bribe is charged with anything.

If they acquit everyone, what an enormous embarrassment for Carmen Ortiz and the entire U.S. Attorney’s office.

A People's Pledge Agreement

After a month-long delay -- why? -- Warren Tolman agrees to a People's Pledge proposed by Maura Healey that includes direct mail communications. Bravo! Unfortunately, he does not appear to have accepted Healey's proposal to include robocalls in the accord. I hate robocalls with such a passion -- filthy little interruptions that mock the personal solicitations they imitate -- that I am making my own pledge right here not to vote for any candidate supported by one that I receive. - promoted by Bob_Neer

As Democrats, we win when we stand up for our values.

We fight for immigrants, for the elderly, for low-income families, and for the disabled. It’s a grassroots fight for justice and equality, not profits.

That’s why clean elections have always represented an opportunity — a chance to choose our leaders based on the strength of their ideas and the power of their principles, without the pernicious influence of big money. I have been leading the fight for more open elections since my early days as a State Representative, when I fought to pass a major campaign ethics and finance reform bill that still is guiding our elections today. The Boston Globe liked my work so much, they called me “Mr. Ethics Pain-in-the-…” I think they meant it as a compliment…

I proudly wore that moniker for my eight years in the legislature because we needed more leaders to stand up for a clean and fair process.

In 2002, I ran the only ever certified statewide Clean Election Campaign in Massachusetts history. Had the legislature and Governor Romney not repealed that law in 2003, I would be running a Clean Election Campaign today.

But now, in the Citizens United era, when corporations are winning more Supreme Court decisions than women, we must create our own standards of ethics and campaigning to supplement where the current laws of our country fall short.

Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown set a great standard in 2012 with an historic agreement on the People’s Pledge. Where other races across the country saw floods of outside money pour across the airwaves defining candidates in unflattering terms, Massachusetts stayed safe and the candidates spoke for themselves. In 2013, Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch expanded the People’s Pledge to ban direct mail along with outside ads on TV, radio and Internet.

Today marks 60 days until our September 9 primary election and I believe it is time we reach an agreement on the People’s Pledge in the race for Attorney General.

This afternoon, I sent over a signed copy of the People’s Pledge, modeled exactly after the Markey-Lynch agreement from the 2013 Special U.S. Senate Primary race. As Ms. Healey and I have worked to find an agreement over the past few weeks, I have had reservations about including a ban on mail in the People’s Pledge, as they are difficult to quantify, track, and report in a timely manner. The Pledge can only be as effective as its ability to identify violations by third parties.

Charlie Baker flails in botched effort to respond to Hobby Lobby decision

In case you missed it: for days after pretty much every sitting or would-be politician in the country had made some kind of statement about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, Charlie Baker hadn’t said a thing.  Then, finally, Baker had this to say a couple of days ago:

“It doesn’t matter.”

“What I care about is Massachusetts, and in Massachusetts it doesn’t change a thing,” Baker said Wednesday. “Which is great.”

The birth control coverage mandate in Massachusetts’s health care law, Baker explained, would likely go forward unaffected.

“In Massachusetts, the terms of our law, I think have worked for everybody involved, and I think can continue to work going forward,” Baker said.

Needless to say, this was just about the worst possible answer.  Baker was wrong on the law – although the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the federal law under which Hobby Lobby was decided) does not apply to restrictions imposed by state governments, there are lots of companies in Massachusetts whose insurance requirements are governed by federal, not state, law, as the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of MA pointed out in a press release slamming Baker’s response.  And he was wrong on the politics too.  Issuing a statement basically saying yeah, this sucks for women outside of Massachusetts, but I don’t care about them … well, let’s just say it was painfully easy for Democrats to jump all over that one, which they did.

So, having realized how disastrous his initial response was, Baker backed off.

“I have always, and will as governor, support women’s right to access comprehensive health care and I am glad that Massachusetts has for more than a decade required insurers to provide contraceptive coverage,” Baker said in his statement Thursday. “This issue is immensely important to me which is why I am deeply concerned that my statement yesterday may have led some to believe otherwise. I will strive to make my lifelong commitment to women’s health crystal clear.”

Baker also said he was wrong to suggest Wednesday that the ruling would not affect Massachusetts.

“It is true that some segment of employers, who self-insure, have been exempt from the state’s mandate but are now subject to a contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act,” he said Thursday. “I misspoke yesterday because it is possible, given the Hobby Lobby decision, that a small segment of employers could qualify for the narrow exemption to the mandate that the Supreme Court deemed permissible.” …

Baker said Thursday, “As governor, I will work to ensure that Massachusetts employers continue to offer comprehensive health insurance coverage, including contraception, to their employees. Should any woman not be able to access contraceptive coverage through her employer, my administration will make it available through the Department of Public Health. I also hope Governor Patrick and our lawmakers act quickly to close this gap so that no woman can be denied coverage.”

And today, it appears, Baker went even further, pledging to spend up to $300,000 to supply contraception to women whose employers refuse to do so.

All of which begs the ultimate question: does Charlie Baker think for-profit employers should be allowed to refuse to cover contraceptives (or other medical treatments) on religious grounds, or doesn’t he?  I’d still like to hear the answer to that one.

Joke Revue: Notorious R.B.G.

Borowitz:

LEBRON TO ANNOUNCE DECISION AT UNITED NATIONS

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—N.B.A. superstar LeBron James said Tuesday morning that he would announce the name of the team that he is signing with on Thursday at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly to be convened especially for that purpose.

“This decision affects everyone on the planet,” James said. “I want to let all the nations on Earth know at the same time.”

An emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday was deadlocked on the issue, with seven members wanting James to remain in Miami, seven others hoping for a return to Cleveland, and Lithuania abstaining.

The Miami Heat president, Pat Riley, and the Cleveland Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert, both confirmed that they would be in the audience at the United Nations to hear James announce his decision. “I’m not going to lie: I wish he’d tell me in advance,” Riley said. “But I guess I’ll have to wait to hear along with Russia, China, Ecuador, and everybody else. That’s the way LeBron wants it.”

To help him with his decision, the N.B.A. star has assembled an esteemed circle of advisers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the scientist Stephen Hawking, all of whom are expected to be in attendance for the United Nations announcement.

The U.N. General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon, acknowledged on Tuesday that the world body had many other issues on its plate, including conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, but added, “It’s really hard to focus on anything until we know where LeBron is going.”

Onion:

Sonny Corleone Would Still Be Alive Today If He Had E-ZPass

COMMENTARY • Opinion • Movies
By Charles J. Galvin, CEO, E-ZPass Group

Over the years, I’ve watched The Godfather more times than I can count. It is, without a doubt, a crown jewel of American cinema. No matter how many times I see it, though, there’s one part I can never make it through without getting a little lump in my throat. That’s because with each viewing, I become more convinced that had Sonny Corleone been driving a car equipped with E-ZPass, he would still be alive today.

You recall the iconic scene: With tensions rising between the Five Families, a trap is laid for Sonny, who, shortly after handing a bill to a man behind a tollbooth, is brutally gunned down by rival gangsters. It’s a hard two minutes for anyone to watch, but for me, the chief executive of a multistate electronic toll-collection system, it’s especially tough.

You see, with an E-ZPass transponder affixed to the windshield of his vehicle, the eldest son of the Corleone family likely wouldn’t have had to slow down past 10 miles per hour, let alone come to a complete stop as he passed through the toll plaza. Nor would he have had to pay his toll in cash and wait around for his change. No, at a participating E-ZPass facility he would have quickly and comfortably passed through the collection booth, living to see another day.

The ease and convenience of E-ZPass would have saved his life. End of story. …

Steve Grossman for Governor

JimC states his case. - promoted by david

Disclaimer: Although it’s obvious to veteran BMGers, new people should note that this is my personal endorsement and not authorized by the campaign.

Excitement is overrated.

First things first: I disagree with Steve on casinos. I wish he opposed them; he doesn’t. At times he’s seemed to roll out the red carpet for them.

But that’s who the guy is. He made his decision, and he’s stuck to it. He focuses on the practical aspects of casinos. What you get with Grossman is sincerity.

If I were writing this someplace other than BMG, I probably wouldn’t mention his opponents. But since this place looks like Berwick Mass Group lately, a brief mention. I have all respect for the good doctor, and I appreciate his goals. But long-time commitment to the Democratic Party means something to me, and Grossman has done more for Democrats than anyone reading this or writing it. Now one can say “insider,” but one might also say activist, and anyone who’s spent time on a town committee can tell you that party organization work is time-consuming, not exactly lucrative, and absolutely thankless.

Ah, but as Juliette Kayyem reminded us at the convention, governor is not a lifetime achievement award. She was right — but she didn’t mention that being governor is also a mountain of largely thankless work. One percent inspiration, 99% administration.

As for Martha Coakley, one could make similar arguments: she’s clearly committed to public service, because she rebounded from defeat and stayed in politics. She may well be on her way to becoming governor. I look at both of them and see things I disagree with, but there’s no difference big enough to sway me to her. In the end, his judgment seems more sound.

Grossman’s Issues page has some stories about practical steps he’s taken as Treasurer that have made a difference. It’s worth a look, but it’s not dramatic.

There’s no need to dance around it: Grossman does not inspire passion. At the moment, that seems like a flaw. During budget negotiations next summer, it will seem like a virtue.

But wait — what about Baker? The Colossus looms. Or does he? He’s polling at 28% against Martha. Grossman and Berwick have lower numbers now, but the dynamic changes if they nominate. The entire field is electable. We have the luxury of picking who we think will do the best job.

To me, when I consider everything that goes into being governor, it’s a pretty easy call. If you’ve decided to support someone else, good luck to you and to them, but if not, I hope you give Steve Grossman a second look. People who get to know Steve get to like him.

Six of seven candidates have confirmed participation in Gubernatorial Forum on Arts, Culture, and Creativity

  - promoted by david

Six of the seven gubernatorial candidates―Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman, Don Berwick, Evan Falchuk, Jeff McCormick, and Mark Fisher―have confirmed their participation in the first-ever Gubernatorial Forum on Arts, Culture, and Creativity.

The Forum will be moderated by arts critic Joyce Kulhawik and will take place at The Hanover Theatre of the Performing Arts in Worcester on Tuesday, July 15 at 6pm. More than 250 artists and arts and cultural leaders throughout the state signed an invitation to gubernatorial candidates to participate in the Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Arts, Culture, and Creativity. It will mark the first time that the arts community has hosted an arts-focused debate among gubernatorial candidates in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All members of the public are invited to attend.

For more information on the Forum, or to RSVP, click here.

Don Berwick practices what he preaches - "stops and helps" unconscious woman at parade

Stories like this are great. In addition to the two other M.D./politicians who are mentioned in the HuffPo article as having done something similar, our friend Dr. Raul Ruiz (a Democratic Congressman from California) assisted when a passenger was taken ill on a flight last year. - promoted by david

At a parade on Friday, Dr. Berwick briefly switched from candidate back to M. D. to assist a woman who had passed out along a parade route.  This article does not appear to say which town.  He was flagged down by spectators and stayed with the woman until he was satisfied that she was stable and an ambulance was en route.

The article mentions a couple of other instances when politicians have rendered medical assistance.  I am especially gratified by the example of the AZ candidate who assisted someone assigned to track him when the latter was injured.  It’s nice to see that humanity can still sometimes trump politics in an era when the opposition is so often seen as the enemy.

Help an Independent Blog Out (in Western Mass)

A worthy cause. Why not subscribe to BMG, while you're at it? A very reasonable $3.99 a month, or $39.99 a year, gets you a spiffy BMG badge by your user name, an ad-free experience, and the satisfaction that you are helping us stay afloat. - promoted by david

Dear BMG Community:

I wanted to share with all of you that my blog, Western Mass Politics & Insight has just kicked off a fundraising campaign to get us through a particularly busy election cycle this year in the Greater Springfield area.

For those of you who do not know, we have no fewer than four competitive legislative primaries and a district attorney’s primary to be followed by two competitive senate general elections.That is on top of the statewide races, which I have been covering as much as possible up to this point. Check out the campaign’s kickoff video to see just a smattering of what WMassP&I has done and what is before it this year.

I'm Giving John Fish a Chance. He's Starting To Win Me Over With His Olympic Pitch

"We can’t rest on our laurels." Amen. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Yes siree, like everyone else I rolled my eyes and laughed when I heard about John Fish from Suffolk Construction leading the charge to bring the Olympics to Boston.

But now I’m given Fish a chance. He’s pushing through despite the media’s snark and sticking with his message. If I understand it correctly the message is something like this:

Listen folks, most of the things required to host the Olympics are already in the pipeline either privately or publicly. Long term public transportation plans along with major capital improvements at our colleges and universities. By focusing on the Olympics the city can catapult itself to where it wants and where it should be years after it hosts the Olympics.

For instance, you can’t have a summer Olympics without an Olympic stadium that seats 70,000 to  80,000. We definitely don’t have one. That’s probably because we definitely don’t want one. But we do want a soccer stadium that seats 20,000 – 30,000 fans. According to Fish a permanent soccer stadium can be built with temporary seating to accommodate the Olympics. (I for one favor the Somerville or Revere site for a soccer stadium but those locations may not work for the Olympics. How do you say Revere in 137 languages?)

The Charles River is a no go for rowing events because of the bridges but Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester is rated one of the top rowing venues in the country That appears to be the only event that has to be exported and if you pay attention to the Olympics a 50 minute ride is nothing for an event or two.

Of course I’m not sold but this is more than a rich guy suckering us in like Robert Preston in the Music Man. The flip side is because Fish runs one of the few big time construction companies in the area he has a good feel for many of the big projects being planned. Especially those on the drawing boards at the local colleges and universities, integral for venues and the Olympic Village.

And if the city doesn’t get  the Olympics great. Look at how much we’ve invested in transportation, infrastructure, and other such stuff that will keep this city hoping for another 50 years.

Quincy Market opened 40 years ago and suddenly Boston was a tourist destination. I’m serious. before that the city sucked. The sun never shone. Everyone spent their days smoking, drinking coffee, reading the Herald, and playing the number with their bookie. Plus we drank constantly.

We can’t rest on our laurels.

The Boston Globe is reporting that US Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire raised more than $2.8m in the 2nd quarter.

- promoted by Bob_Neer

The Boston Globe is reporting that US Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire raised more than $2.8m in the 2nd quarter and has more than $5 million on-hand. Carpetbagger Scott Brown has not yet reported his fundraising but the deadline for reporting is July 15th. If you are like me, please take a moment to simply enjoy the Schadenfreude.