An eighty one year old reason to vote "yes" on question 4

Our State Police and National Guard protecting us from........? - promoted by hesterprynne

I noticed, here in the Washington DC suburb of Gaithersburg MD, a Washington Post story providing an eighty one year old reason to vote “yes” on four and legalize marijuana — in Massachusetts and eventually nationwide:

Margaret Holcomb, an 81-year-old woman from Amherst, Mass., grew a single marijuana plant in her garden, tucked away behind the raspberries. She used it to ease the ailments of old age: glaucoma, arthritis and the occasional sleepless night.

She hadn’t tried to get a medical marijuana card, because of the challenges of getting a doctor’s approval, she told the Daily Hampshire Gazette. And traveling to the dispensary in the next town over and paying for marijuana grown by someone else would be too costly, she feared.

So on the afternoon of Sept. 21, a team of Massachusetts State Police and Massachusetts National Guard troops sent a helicopter, several vehicles, and a handful of troopers to Holcomb’s house to chop down the plant and haul it away in a pickup truck.

These were Massachusetts, not federal, authorities. Fortunately, no one was arrested and nobody was hurt.

Thankfully, Ms. Holcomb appears to be just the sort of independent and perhaps cantankerous resident that stirs inspiration in me:

Holcomb told the Gazette she is considering simply growing another pot plant. “I don’t picture them out here and putting an 81-year-old woman in jail,” she said.

What kind of person, and what kind of government, harasses and persecutes an elderly woman this way?

Surely it is time to put a stop to this insanity.

No on No on 3

Last week opponents of Question 3, which would bar the extreme confinement of farm animals and the sale of meat and eggs produced under those conditions, got themselves registered as a ballot committee under the name “Citizens Against Food Tax Injustice.”

This is the same group that earlier this year challenged the Attorney General’s decision to allow Question 3 to appear on the November ballot. By way of a spokesperson whom they describe as an anti-poverty activist and a recipient of food stamps, they offer a populist take on the evils of Question 3; it’s “a food tax that seeks to steal affordable food choices that most of us make, causing undue harm to the hundreds of thousands of residents in the Commonwealth who already struggle to feed themselves and their families.”

I’ll let the proponents and opponents of Question 3 fight it out over the effect that Question 3 would actually have on egg prices – I’m more interested in the bona fides of the group’s professed anti-poverty motives.

Of the $75,100 in the ballot committee’s treasury, $75,000 of it comes from Forrest Lucas, the Chairman of Lucas Oil (as in Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Indianapolis Colts play) and the deep pocket for “Protect the Harvest,” a non-profit created to defend agribusiness against a “food elitist movement” that advocates for regulations that will increase production costs. (Mr. Lucas is also rumored to be a front runner for the position of Secretary of the Interior in a Trump administration, which is seeking a cabinet that is more “business-friendly” than the current one.)

Other evidence tending to disprove the so-called egalitarian sympathies of Citizens Against Food Tax Injustice:

One of the lawyers in the legal challenge that the group brought against Question 3 is Jon Bruning, a former Nebraska Attorney General who generated some controversy in his unsuccessful campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from that state a few years ago by comparing welfare recipients to raccoons, thusly: raccoons are “not stupid, they’re gonna do the easy way if we make it easy for them. Just like welfare recipients all across America. If we don’t send them to work, they’re gonna take the easy route.”

The Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance, another Question 3 opponent, made sure that its annual meeting in Albany this summer included a trip to the State Capital to register protests to proposals to increase that state’s minimum wage.

Question 3 opponent National Pork Producers Council lists among its recent victories a labor ruling that shortens the rest break time that employers must afford to the livestock truck drivers who work for them.

I think we get it. Citizens Against Food Tax Injustice wants consumers to be able to afford the food its business interests produce. Despite its choice of a spokesperson with a commendable background in fighting poverty, it’s no more of an “anti-poverty” concern than Walmart is.  No on no on 3.

HURRICANE THREAD: Matthew could affect the presidential election

Hmm. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Well, Matthew ain’t coming to New England at all according to the most recent forecast.

But the forecast for the Palm Beach and Boca Raton areas of Florida could not be worse at this point. [Update: as the hurricane bounced off Grand Bahama the path turned further north, meaning that storm surge, not wind, will be the big danger and it will affect Daytona, Jacksonville, and Savannah Georgia especially. That's a more conservative area of Florida than Palm Beach County, though in Jacksonville and metro Savannah the demographics are mixed.]

Below is the expected position of the storm around midnight [it moved about 25 miles east of that track]. Undoubtedly, the federal government’s response to the impending disaster will have an impact on the voting in the election. Two recent polls show Clinton up by 5 points, and Trump up by 1 point. And the hurricane may disrupt voting in relatively liberal areas of the state. I expect both parties to try to make political hay out of this disaster.

In the months leading up to the general election, Governor Rick Scott has been winning points for Republicans by making repeated and silly requests for disaster relief money for a relatively benign problem, the growth of algae in lakes:  Obama has done the right thing to turn down these requests and leave funds in the coffers for real disasters like what is about to unfold.

Not only is the storm expected to put 15-20 feet of water on the immediate coast, but the area near the St. Lucie nuclear plant could experience the worst impacts.

The highways in the area are unlikely to accommodate the whole population of Palm Beach county and metro Fort Lauderdale, and the hurricane could make a sudden left turn at any time and strike areas where people are evacuating to. To make matters worse, the hurricane warning in Palm Beach was provided well under 24 hours prior to the expected onset of tropical storm conditions.

On the Weather Underground site, one reader “Arnoldsw” raised the possibility that Matthew could blow out the major dykes holding back water in Lake Okeechobee. If that happens, 20 feet of water could be seen well inland, and the President and the Army Corps of Engineer would be held responsible.  Arnold writes:

“Any news on Lake Okeechobee? Dike failure would be catastrophic. A few days ago, The Sun Sentinel reported “The lake level on Tuesday was 15.78 feet. Erosion problems and other stability threats are more of a risk when the lake level rises above 17.5 feet, according to the Army Corps. The problem is, the lake fills up much faster than South Florida’s vast system of canals and pumps can drain water out to sea. Just one tropical storm can boost the lake 3 feet.

I remind you of the 1928 Lake O hurricane. “Early on September 17, the storm made landfall near West Palm Beach, Florida with winds of 145 mph (233 km/h). In the city, more than 1,711 homes were destroyed. Elsewhere in the county, impact was severest around Lake Okeechobee. The storm surge caused water to pour out of the southern edge of the lake, flooding hundreds of square miles as high as 20 feet (6.1 m) above ground. Numerous houses and buildings were swept away in the cities of Belle Glade, Canal Point, Chosen, Pahokee, and South Bay. At least 2,500 people drowned, while damage was estimated at $25 million.

If those dikes fail, we have a New Orleans Katrina on our hand. ..Why aren’t we evacuating this area?”

New reports this morning also suggest a real possibility that Matthew could do a complete loop and strike Florida yet again, five days from now!   Please share any new developments. At least it is a break from constant news about Donald Trump!

Vice Presidential Debate Open Thread

Utterly irrelevant. I thought Kaine won, because Pence couldn't defend Trump and consequently looked like a lost child, but I don't think this event will make a particle of difference to the general election. Perhaps it should, but it won't. - promoted by Bob_Neer

It’s 10:15 and hadn’t seen this yet, so I figured I’d start.  Here are my takeaways so far:

  • We do seem to be getting a pretty standard Dem v. GOP debate as many predicted.  I doubt it moves many votes in either direction and I’m not sure how an undecided voter using only this debate would lean after this.
  • Both candidates seem to be using a lot of talking points and answering the questions they want to answer only tangentially related to the question asked.
  • The moderator is not a strong personality.  Both candidates have been walking all over her.
  • I noticed the candidates each wore ties colored as usually associated with the opposite party.

What say you?

Why I'm voting "No – No – No – No." Will you?

I'm voting No (additional slots-only casino license), No (authorize of up to 12 new charter schools per year), Yes (prohibit certain methods of farm animal containment), and Yes (legalize recreational marijuana for individuals at least 21 years old). - promoted by Bob_Neer

The initiative process is Democracy at its greatest.

The initiative process is Democracy at its worst.

In many cases, we are frustrated that elected representative legislatures are not enacting the laws we want.  Often, our personal politics aren’t the same as the majority of the legislature— as a whole or just on this issue.

Other times it’s legislative procedure can be messy sausage-making which frustrates people.

So what if we had a poll of all the people to ask them what they wanted?  Or how about all the registered voters? Or all the likely voters?  Or — and here’s how initiatives & referenda really work — all the actual voters?

How are the voters any more qualified to decide what legislation to enact?

[ From the NYTimes today: Colombia and ‘Brexit’ Show Why a Referendum Can Be Dangerous ]

Legislators are skilled (“usually,” I admit begrudgingly), experienced, have a research staff, and can delve deep into the issues.  On the other hand, they can be lobbied, cajoled, or even bribed.  They have political considerations that can overwhelm their constituents’ best interests or even basic common sense.

Is Proposition 2½ so great just because it was enacted by initiative? How about this year’s Question 2?  Or, for that matter, Question 1?

Sure, I support some of these propositions, as I understand them.  But the truth is that I don’t fully understand the details and, as recently posted, even the seemingly unbiased state Voter Guide isn’t as helpful as it ought to be (“Baker administration shows bias in Voter Guide “Fiscal Consequences” statement on Question 4“).  And, to top it off, I’m an attorney who’s pretty good at legislative drafting— surely better than a vast majority of voters.

Even the questions that I support in principle will be voted “No” by me.  They should be brought to the Great and General Court.  If they are defeated there (as so often they are before going to referenda), then they’re dead.  That’s the good, bad, and ugly of making sausages.

Convince me otherwise, please.

Baker administration shows bias in Voter Guide "Fiscal Consequences" statement on Question 4

Legalizing marijuana will add tax revenues to the state's coffers. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The Baker administration is drawing suspicion for inserting language in the 2016 state Voter Guide that could influence voters’ opinion of Question 4, the measure that would regulate and tax marijuana.  In its “Statement of Fiscal Consequences”–which is a new addition to the Voter Guide for 2016–the Baker administration included a speculative comment from the Senate Special Committee on Marijuana, which was chaired by Sen. Jason Lewis, a leading opponent of Question 4.  The comment read: “Tax revenues and fees that would be generated from legal sales may fall short of even covering the full public and social costs (including regulation, enforcement, public health and safety, and substance abuse treatment).”

The Question 4 language differs sharply from language for the other three ballot questions. For example, the administration’s fiscal consequences language for Question 1 (expanded slot-machine gaming) said “The fiscal consequences of this proposed measure for state and municipal government finances could range from 0 dollars to an unknown positive amount.”  Similarly, the fiscal consequences for Question 3 (conditions for farm animals) said “Because the law would not take effect until January 1, 2022, the fiscal consequences of this proposed measure for state and municipal government finances are unknown.”

So why did the administration insert such speculative and biased language in the Question 4 statement?  Difficult to know for sure, but circumstantial evidence suggests political motivations.  Baker, along with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, formed the official Question 4 opposition committee.  Sen. Lewis, whose “open-minded” claims about legalization are undercut by his opposition to decriminalization in 2008 and medical marijuana in 2012, has toured the state as the top surrogate for Baker’s anti-Q4 Safe and Health Massachusetts committee.  It doesn’t help Lewis’s cause that his own chief of staff described the Senate marijuana report as an “amateur economic effort” featuring “back-of-the-envelope-type calculations” in a July 12 Metro story.  Nor does it reflect well on Lewis or the Baker administration that both ignored solid data that shows marijuana receipts far exceeding administrative costs in Colorado and other states.

This is not the first time the Baker administration has used false messaging to influence voters.  Lt. Governor Karen Polito was criticized for telling municipal officials at a State House meeting last month that state aid to communities may be cut if Question 4 passes.  Polito’s assertion is absurd: In every other state that has legalized, tax receipts from marijuana sales are coving administration costs and are returning money to taxpayers for school construction projects, community initiatives and other public benefits.

A petition is now circulating to bring awareness to the Baker administration’s unfair approach to Question 4 in the Voter Guide.  Voters deserve fairness in official state election documents, not propaganda that serves the governor’s personal viewpoints.

Joke Revue: Trump Threatens to Skip Remaining Debates if Hillary is There



HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (The Borowitz Report)—Plunging the future of the 2016 Presidential debates into doubt, Donald J. Trump said on Tuesday morning that he would not participate in the remaining two debates if Hillary Clinton is there.

Trump blasted the format of Monday night’s debate by claiming that the presence of Clinton was “specifically designed” to distract him from delivering his message to the American people.

“Every time I said something, she would say something back,” he said. “It was rigged.”

He also lambasted the “underhanded tactics” his opponent used during the debate. “She kept on bringing up things I said or did,” he added. “She is a very nasty person.”

Turning to CNN, Trump criticized the network’s use of a split screen showing both him and Clinton throughout the telecast. “It should have been just me,” he said. “That way people could have seen how really good my temperament is.”

SNL has also had astute commentary on the debate:


Pat Jehlen explains why she will vote "No on 2"

In such excellent detail, I thought it was worth quoting her entire email here (sadly, no link):

I hope you’ll join me in voting no. Here are some reasons why:

1. Question 2 is extreme

It sounds modest: an increase of just 12 schools and only 1% of student enrollment. But that’s 12 schools every year; far faster than in the past 23 years, when 80 charters have been granted. And it’s 1% of the whole state’s student enrollment: 9500 new seats a year, mostly in a relatively small number of districts. That’s a rate of new seats five times faster than previously.

Some strong supporters of charter schools are against Question 2 because they believe it goes too far. It sets no limit at all on how much public school money can go to charters.
Boston Mayor Walsh, for example, wants to raise the current limits on charter school spending, but he’s against Question 2 because it would “wreak havoc on municipal finances.”
Bay State Banner editor Yawu Miller says in an interview, “What I’ve noticed in the debate in Boston is that people are not against charter schools. They think that there is a place for them. They think that charter schools work well for some people, maybe for their own children. But they don’t want to see the kind of expansion that’s being proposed now. They think there’s a threat to the district school system if that happens. You hear a lot of people saying *I’m not anti-charter. I’m against this ballot question.* I think the funding issue has caused a lot of people who pay attention to the schools to come out strongly against this.”

2. The money to fund charter schools comes from district schools.

If a new charter school opens, the district has to either slash programs or close a school. You can’t spend the same dollar twice.

Question 2 backers say new charters cause the state to increase its aid to schools, but that’s misleading. The money they are talking about is temporary reimbursement that the state gives districts to soften their charter losses. It allows districts to avoid slashing programs or closing schools immediately. They have about a year to make those tough decisions. After that, the state money is gone.

If Question 2 passes, that stop-gap funding could cost well over $100 million a year. That money could otherwise be spent to meet other important state needs.

Is charter expansion a better use for $100 million than pre-school for low-income children, a proven way to reduce the achievement gap?

What I learned in NH yesterday

Blessed are the canvassers for Hillary. - promoted by Bob_Neer

While canvassing for Hillary with a friend in a small town outside Keene, NH, we learned from a public school teacher, who reads Breitbart, that Obama is: A) bringing the Caliphate to the U.S.; and B) Hillary will open the doors to immigrants and we will lose our country. Very informative. Next week, we’ll be bringing tin-foil hats to distribute during canvassing. Fortunately, we also met former Bernie supporters who are all in for Hillary and even took lawn signs. It’s always an adventure in NH. Please join us next week … and remember those tin-foil hats.

October BMG Stammtisch

A proposed agenda item in the comments (and the vice presidential debate will have taken place the day before). - promoted by hesterprynne

Update, 1-Oct-2016

I have been forced to make an emergency trip to Gaithersburg, MD to attend to my 92 year old mother, who is near death. I will, sadly, not be able to attend this week’s stammtisch. I encourage the rest of you to come and enjoy yourselves.

The Saloon

Come, enjoy some libations, and talk politics. Our now-regular monthly BMG Stammtisch will happen, as usual, the first Wednesday of the month — 5-October — at The Saloon in Davis Square at 7p.

Hope to see you there!

Environmentalists Are Awful Voters

Nathaniel's a friend who's doing great things. How many folks don't vote because they just don't find the candidate "inspiring" enough? And then they get worse representation, which makes them less inspired --- and more easily ignored by politicians and parties. A downward spiral. I fear that we'll repeat the pattern this election. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Nathaniel Stinnett launched the Environmental Voter Project ( in 2015 with the mission of “identifying inactive environmentalists and then turning them into consistent activists and voters.” He spoke on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at MIT and at Tufts on Thursday, September 22 on the topic of “Modern Environmental Politics: big data, behavioral science, and getting environmentalists to vote.”

You can see his Tufts presentation at

The Environmental Voter Project concentrates on one thing and one thing only, increasing environmental turnout . Their polling data shows that environmentalists are “awful voters”: they don’t vote. They estimate 15.78 million environmentalists did not vote in the 2014 midterms; 10.12 million did not vote in 2012; and in MA 277,250 environmentalists did not vote in 2014. You can see their MA environmental non-voters by zip code map at

Stinnett believes “We have a silent environmental majority right now” if, If, IF we can get those environmental voters to the polls. Using predictive modeling surveys, asking a few questions to 40,000 respondents, the Environmental Voter Project can find hidden patterns and correlations that identify environmental voters with 89% accuracy. Their research shows
homes without a landline,
women 55-59,
men 25-29,
people in a new home with no kids,
basketball fans,
are all demographic groups with higher environmental concerns (in descending order) than the general population.

Nearly 90% of the population say their biggest issues are, according to the polling, national security, the economy and jobs, and immigration. Only about 4% of us list the environment or climate change as our primary issue. [Now if only someone would link national security, the economy and jobs, and immigration to a positive green future, those figures might change. We could start with Solar IS Civil Defense and work from there. Make the environmental payoff a side-benefit of more security, a better economy with more and better jobs, and part of the solution for international migration and there’s at least the possibility of a conversation.]
The Environmental Voter Project focuses on getting people to the polls not candidates or issues but they are using social pressure, peer pressure to get likely voters to vote. An example of this is in the message “Who you vote for is private/whether you vote is public record” which was shown to increase turnout by 14.1%. This is similar to what Opower ( and other energy management companies have found when they included a “how you compare to your neighbors” energy graphic on the utility bill. “Everybody’s voting” is much better than “Voting is important,” a message which can actually be shown to depress turnout.

Roughly 220 million people in the USA are eligible to vote, 180 million are registered, and 129 million voted in 2012 Presidential election. The Environmental Voter Project wants to identify likely environmental voters and get them to the polls. If you sign their pledge, they will remind you of all your local elections:

The Tufts Institute of the Environment Lunch and Learn Series
has an archive of 44 hour-long talks on a wide variety of environmental topics

It is a great resource and they are always adding more.

New Hampshire's ballot selfie ban is unconstitutional. Ours probably is too.

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (whose decisions apply in both NH and MA) declared that a New Hampshire statute criminalizing “ballot selfies” – that is, taking a photograph of a marked ballot and then sharing the image – is unconstitutional, because it violates voters’ freedom of speech.  I haven’t seen any comment yet from Bill Galvin, Maura Healey, or other MA folk with a role in enforcing our own, archaic law that also seems to prohibit such things, but I can’t see how our law could survive when New Hampshire’s failed.

The New Hampshire statute reads:

No voter shall allow his or her ballot to be seen by any person with the intention of letting it be known how he or she is about to vote or how he or she has voted except as provided in RSA 659:20. This prohibition shall include taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means.

NH officials defended this law on the borderline absurd ground that it stands as a bulwark against the nefarious practice of selling votes … which, as far as anyone can tell, has literally not happened in NH in decades.  The opinion contains this marvelous passage:

Secretary Gardner has admitted that New Hampshire has not received any complaints of vote buying or voter intimidation since at least 1976, nor has he pointed to any such incidents since the nineteenth century.

Needless to say, the Court was not impressed by the state’s attempted justification for this restriction on speech.  The Court also held that even if the state’s reason for the law were legitimate, the means chosen – criminalizing all ballot selfies – was unacceptably overinclusive: “the State has not demonstrated that other state and federal laws prohibiting vote corruption are not already adequate to the justifications it has identified.”  It therefore held the New Hampshire law unconstitutional.

All of this brings us to an old Massachusetts law which reads:

Whoever, at a primary, caucus or election, … allows the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law, … shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than six months or by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.

There’s no indication as to why this provision is still in effect, though one assumes that the justification for it would be similar to that put forth unsuccessfully by New Hampshire.  But unless Massachusetts has some drastically different reason for outlawing ballot selfies, it’s hard to see why our ban shouldn’t be just as unconstitutional as New Hampshire’s.