Open Thread: Cruel Stats

GO SOX! - promoted by Bob_Neer

“But baseball was different. Schwartz thought of it as Homeric – not a scrum but a series of isolated contests. Batter versus pitcher, fielder versus ball. You couldn’t storm around, snorting and slapping people, the way Schwartz did while playing football.You stood and waited and tried to still your mind. When your moment came, you had to be ready, because if you fucked up, everyone would know whose fault it was. What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?”

Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

Spring springs on the day of the Home Opener. It’s the law.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

PS. The crowd was so into it because they were betting on the game, which was probably fixed.

But no matter, we all know it’s perfectly legit now. The huddled masses yearn to breathe the free air at Fenway. Play ball!

And this, if you like, is an open thread.

For the Environmental Community, the Choice is Tolman

George Bachrach weighs in. - promoted by david

The environmental community in Massachusetts has a big problem: Everyone says they agree with us. When we ask candidates for office if they will fight to protect the environment, they all say yes. Should we recycle more? Sure. Keep pollution out of our water and air? Of course

And yet, even as we elect politicians who claim to support the environment year after year, the priorities of the environmental community get passed over for shinier objects and issues that seem more pressing. This year, the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund is aiming to pump up a more muscular and politically effective environmental community. On the statewide level, we are particularly interested in the races for Governor and Attorney General. Gov. Patrick has been a champion for the environment and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that his successor will continue his legacy. The road to the Corner Office will go through the environmental community.

For the environmental community, the choice for Attorney General is clear. Warren Tolman has a long record of leading the fight to protect the environment. When Warren pledges to crack down on companies that pollute our rivers and oceans through civil and criminal enforcement, ensure that Massachusetts’ environmental laws are enforced fairly across industries and support conditions where green industries and jobs can flourish, I know he is not just talking the talk because he has a long, long record of walking the walk.

Another win for the 1%

Today, in the much-anticipated case of McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court threw out aggregate limits on campaign contributions.  In a nutshell, what this means is that you still can only donate $2,600 to any particular candidate, but the two-year overall limit of $123,200 in total donations is gone.  The vote was 5-4 (surprise!), with Justice Thomas writing separately to state his view that the whole system should be blown up, and he didn’t join Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion because, in his view, it didn’t go far enough.  Justice Breyer (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) filed a vigorous dissent: “Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U. S. 310 (2010), today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve…. The result, as I said at the outset, is a decision that substitutes judges’ understandings of how the political process works for the understanding of Congress; that fails to recognize the difference between influence resting upon public opinion and influence bought by money alone; that overturns key precedent; that creates huge loopholes in the law; and that undermines, perhaps devastates, what remains of campaign finance reform.”

Obviously, this decision directly affects only the very, very wealthy, since they are the only ones likely to want to blow through more than a hundred grand in political donations every couple of years.  So, really, what could go wrong?

I haven’t yet read the opinion, but one imagines that a direct challenge to whatever is left of Buckley v. Valeo, which upheld the individual campaign contributions in the 1970s, is soon to come, and unless the membership of the Supreme Court changes between now and then, those limits seem likely to suffer the same fate as the aggregate limits did today.

Berwick: The Progressive Choice

Another vote for Don Berwick. Interestingly, in his statement on today's Supreme Court decision (email, no link), Berwick said that "[w]e need to move – quickly – toward repealing Citizens United and implementing publicly financed elections." Has the subject of public financing come up before in the Gov race? I don't recall previously seeing statements that are that definitive. - promoted by david

For anyone out there who is still undecided for this fall’s gubernatorial race, I would highly recommend this excellent piece written by Clifford Marks in The Harvard Crimson. Here’s an excerpt:

All this is well and good—and Berwick is no doubt the most committed progressive running for the Democratic nomination: He is the only one, for instance, to endorse a Medicare-for-all health care system in Massachusetts. Were it just his philosophy, though, I wouldn’t be writing this. But Berwick also possesses a gift far rarer: the ability to lead and change large organizations.

A really bad day for the Mass. GOP

As you probably know by now, Jason Lewis won today’s special election to replace Katherine Clark in the state Senate.  He beat a solid opponent (Melrose alderman Monica Medeiros) in a seat that, for a long time, was held by Richard Tisei.  The GOP no doubt wanted that one back, but Lewis, as a sitting state rep, was always the favorite.  Also, Democrat RoseLee Vincent won a contested (though I think not all that seriously) election in the 16th Suffolk to represent Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus.

The GOP’s loss out in Westfield has to hurt a lot more.  That seat, the 4th Hampden previously held by Don Humason, has been held by the GOP for many years.  But today, Democrat John Velis turned it blue, beating Republican Dan Allie.  It’s not like the GOP can afford to lose seats in the state legislature.  I just got an email from the DC-based Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee touting Velis’s win.  So the GOP’s failure to hold this seat has not gone unnoticed.

And on top of the election results comes the not-unexpected-but-still-embarrassing news that disappointed gubernatorial candidate Mark Fisher has followed through on his threat to sue the Mass. GOP over their refusal to put him on the ballot despite his apparently having obtained enough votes at the convention if you do the math correctly.  Globe:

The opening of the intraparty battle could prove a distraction for the GOP, which is hoping to focus squarely on winning back the governor’s office after eight years of Democratic control. Both sides appear to be arming for battle.

On Monday, Fisher deposited $50,000 of his own money into his campaign account, which could be used to fuel his legal fight, according to his campaign manager, Debbie McCarthy.

Meanwhile, Kirsten Hughes, the party chairwoman, blasted out an e-mail on Tuesday to the party’s top activists, saying she has consulted legal experts and is preparing to launch a defense fund to fend off Fisher’s lawsuit.

This is such a bad move by Hughes.  Instead of inviting Fisher onto the ballot, thus appearing magnanimous and in favor of democracy and competition (isn’t the GOP supposed to like competition?), she’s going to (a) spend a pile of money she can’t afford on a lawsuit that (b) she is probably going to lose, all the while (c) letting the media write about the lawsuit rather than Baker, even though the whole point of keeping Fisher off the ballot was supposed to be to keep the focus on Baker.  If she does lose, she ends up looking ineffective and petulant.  And even if she wins, what has she achieved?  She avoids a primary that Charlie Baker would obviously win anyway, thereby depriving him of the ability to boost his appeal to independent/moderates by contrasting himself with the tea-partying Fisher.  Yes, keeping Fisher off the ballot would make it easier to fundraise because the party can openly back him, but Baker is not going to have any trouble raising money (he did fine last time).

What a terrible start to Hughes’s tenure as Mass. GOP chair.

Election day is TODAY! (Updated: Jason Lewis wins!)

Another notch in the collective belt of BMGers. Congratulations Jason Lewis! -Bob

Also, congratulations to Rep.-elect John Velis, who picked up a seat for the Dems by beating GOPer Dan Allie in Westfield. - promoted by david

If you live in the Fifth Middlesex Senate district (a/k/a Stoneham, Malden, Melrose, Wakefield, Reading, part of Winchester), or in the Fourth Hampden House district (a/k/a Westfield), or in the 16th Suffolk House district (a/k/a Chelsea/Revere) your contested general election is today!  There are also uncontested generals tomorrow in the 13th Suffolk (Dan Hunt will replace Marty Walsh) and in the 2nd Suffolk (Dan Ryan will replace Gene O’Flaherty).

Also today is the five-way primary to replace expelled ex-Rep. Carlos Henriquez in Boston’s 5th Suffolk district.  There are no Republican candidates, so the winner of the primary will win the general election on April 29.

Don’t forget to vote!

Create the Vote Meeting in Boston Tonight

Disclosure: I work in the arts. - promoted by david

Over the next eight months, the race to elect a new governor of Massachusetts will provide candidates and voters the opportunity to discuss the strengths and challenges of the Commonwealth and debate our vision to strengthen the economy, improve our schools, and make our communities healthier and safer. It’s an exciting and important time.

MASSCreative and the Create the Vote coalition will work with the statewide creative community to make sure that arts, culture, and creativity are an integral part of this important discussion. The Arts Matter in the Commonwealth, so they should matter in this election. We will be meeting tonight from 6-7:30 at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley St., Boston to plan the campaign. Please join us!

Arts matter in Lynn

Disclosure: as a professional singer, a substantial portion of my income comes from activities that are funded in part by the MCC. - promoted by david

Arts matter. That’s why we are asking lawmakers to increase the budget of the Massachusetts Cultural Council to $16.1 million. MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson teamed up with Raw Arts Works Executive Director Kit Jenkins to make the case for increased funding in this oped published in the Lynn Daily Item.

Imagine if you could devise a program that helps at-risk youth envision positive futures for themselves and apply for college, stay out of gangs and do better in school. Imagine, also, if this program helped create public art that cut down on graffiti and contributed to efforts to revitalize downtown Lynn.

It’s possible.

Raw Art Works (RAW) serves more than 1,200 under-resourced youth in Lynn ages 6 to 19 through its art programs, including one funded, in part, with a $10,000 grant this year from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC). Young people working with art therapists and professional artists have painted utility boxes and murals on Willow and Monroe streets. They have learned to express themselves through media ranging from paint, fabric and film to found objects. With art, they are taught to see a larger life for themselves than they might otherwise come up with on their own.

You can learn more about our budget advocacy campaign here.

Time for Kirsten Hughes to show some leadership. Will she step up?

The latest from the increasingly embarrassing debacle that was the Mass. GOP convention last weekend is that the party’s chairman of the rules committee, Steve Zykofsky, says that blank or “present” votes should not have been counted in determining whether Mark Fisher got the 15% of delegates he needed to make the ballot.  And if you don’t include those votes, Fisher would qualify.  But the party’s executive director, Rob Cunningham, disagrees with Zykofsky, arguing that the party’s head rules guy doesn’t understand the rules.  And Fisher says he will go to court if the party keeps trying to shut him out.

Cunningham’s defense of how things went at the convention is nothing short of hilarious.

Asked where the additional blank votes came from, he declined to provide details, but noted that officials from both campaigns were in the tally room where the vote was verified.

“That came out of independent, impartial tally room staff making the official vote in a controlled, overseen, and transparent environment in the back of the building,” Cunningham said.

He declined to provide a district-by-district tally of the votes to the Globe.

“In the back of the building.”  And he refuses to supply the actual tally to the press.  Sounds about as transparent as a brick wall.

Kirsten Hughes, the GOP chair who presumably has ultimate responsibility for this thing, was confused while it was actually happening.

The party’s vote-counters came up with a total of 2,533 votes later that night, after the convention emptied of activists. By their math, which included 64 blanks, Fisher fell just short of qualifying with 14.765 percent, Hughes said.

When she gave reporters the official vote tally, Hughes also asserted that blanks were not being counted.

“You can’t count blanks toward a bottom line,” said Hughes. “That’s not how it goes.”

Later, Hughes said she had misspoken and that the blanks had in fact, been counted.

Anyway, the point is that now, everyone knows the story: if you count the blanks, Fisher doesn’t make it, but if you don’t, he does.  Hughes is looking at a public dispute between her executive director and the chair of her rules committee, and if she doesn’t act quickly to restore order, Fisher is going to take her to court, guaranteeing that this will be prolonged for months.

What’s the right call?  Easy.  Hughes should overrule Cunningham, go with her rules chair, and declare that Fisher got his 15%.  That avoids a lawsuit (no way Charlie Baker would sue to keep Fisher off the ballot), it makes her look in-charge and decisive, and it’s the pro-small-d-democratic outcome.  It’s also much better for Baker to have a primary, whatever he or the party Pooh-Bahs may think.  Fisher is the perfect foil for Baker to prove to independent voters that he’s not the captive of the Tea Party, social conservative, RMG types who are probably the main reason Republicans do so badly in this state year after year.  Also, a primary keeps Baker in the news, instead of ceding the free publicity to the Dems as they slug out their five-way battle.

Baker had no primary in 2010, and we all know how that went for him.  He and Hughes should hold a presser to jointly welcome Fisher to the primary ballot.  They’d both come out smelling like roses.

"This is an emergency"

One of the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical journals makes an absolutely unequivocal statement on the health effects of climate change – and remarkably, proposes action:

This is an emergency. Immediate and transformative action is needed at every level: individual, local, and national; personal, political, and financial. Countries must set aside differences and work together as a global community for the common good, and in a way that is equitable and sensitive to particular challenges of the poorest countries and most vulnerable communities.

… So what can health professionals do? Firstly, we should push our own organisations (universities, hospitals, primary care providers, medical societies, drug and device companies) to divest from fossil fuel industries completely and as quickly as possible, reinvest in renewable energy sources, and move to “renewable” energy suppliers. Secondly, we should each use whatever influence we have to change the minds and behaviour of others who are in positions of influence.

Thirdly, we need to build an alliance of medical and other health professionals to speak clearly to the public, the media, governments, and intergovernmental bodies to provide a strong and unified message—that climate change is real and is the result of human activity; that it is already affecting people around the world and is the greatest current threat to human health and survival; and that there are many positive and practical things we can do systematically and at scale to avert its worst effects.

via Climate change and human survival | BMJ.

So in spite of the pooh-poohing from institutions like Harvard, BMJ calls for institutional divestment.

In any event, climate has obvious and gigantic health implications. Leadership from medical professionals — who are typically among the most respected members of any community — . would help to galvanize the public to act.

There are some signs that climate is emerging as a central and motivating issue — among progressives and Democrats, for sure, but also in the corporate world. Witness the Senate’s recent climate all-nighter (featuring our Ed Markey); or Apple CEO Tim Cook’s rebuke to climate-denialist activist shareholders; or even ExxonMobil’s acceptance of a future cost of carbon. Ignore the deniers: even they know in their heart of hearts that they’re wrong. The key is to use the levers of power that are available. May BMJ’s strong wording convince those insitutional players in the medical field to take immediate action.

Cambridge pre-K/K teacher: My job is about testing and data. I quit.

A sad commentary. - promoted by david

On Sunday, the Washington Post had a blog entry about veteran Cambridge teacher Susan Sluyter and why she quit her job teaching pre-kindergarten and kindergarten in the Cambridge Schools. I found it a fascinating read, especially since it goes into so much detail and confirms things I’ve heard as a parent from teachers and kids in our school system (at all levels, not just kindergarten).

Some choice snippets (but I really recommend reading the whole thing):

I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.

I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!”

We found ourselves in professional development work being challenged to teach kindergartners to form persuasive arguments, and to find evidence in story texts to justify or back up a response they had to a story. What about teaching children to write and read through the joy of experiencing a story together, or writing about their lives and what is most important to them? When adults muck about too much in the process of learning to read and write, adding additional challenge and pressure too soon, many children begin to feel incompetent and frustrated. They don’t understand. They feel stupid. Joy disappears.

I remember one Sunday evening when I received an email from the principal of my school letting me know that I was missing one particular document from my assessment site. The missing document was a photo of a math assessment recording sheet that I had somehow failed to post. If I could post it by 9 a.m. the following morning, I would recieve “exemplary teacher” status. If I did not, I would get a label of “needs improvement.” I remember at that moment thinking, “Seriously? It has come down to this sort of nonsense?”

Again, read the whole thing.

What's the Matter with Massachusetts? (thoughts on Beacon Hill, the minimum wage and the grassroots)

Bumped, for the update. It's not over yet. - promoted by david

Updates, 3/27/2014: To no one’s surprise, the House legislation is missing key provisions — no indexing and too low of an increase for tipped workers.

Now the push comes to the Amendments, and the hardball is, apparently, around the INDEXING amendment. We may already know that the Speaker is going to strong arm his delegation to kill it. But who will make a stand and be on record as SUPPORTING this eminently MODERATE policy?

Indexing to min wage is SO moderate, in fact, that ARIZONA –Ari-flipping-Jan-Bewer-Show-Us-Your-Papers-Zona– has already indexed their minimum wage. It’s so moderate that MITT ROMNEY supports it!!

So, we’re up against a deadline. Legislators have until tomorrow, 3/28, 5pm, to add their names as sponsors to Amendments. 

*We* each need to be on record with our State Reps (and, any other Reps with whom we have relationships… perhaps you took a day off to GOTV?) asking them to sponsor an Amendment to INDEX the minimum wage to inflation.

And ask Bill T said on twitter, let’s hear it from the Reps themselves: what possible reason does the Legislature have for NOT supporting indexing?

Progressive Mass has more information and a call reporting tool: