David Bernstein: "Let's Dismantle the Massachusetts House of Representatives"

David Bernstein has really had it with the Massachusetts Legislature’s opaque back-room operations and its continuous failure to address many of the state’s long-term needs. And in this month’s Boston Magazine, he’s offering a solution: “Let’s Dismantle the Massachusetts House of Representatives”:

If all of this infuriates you; if you’re also enraged that Beacon Hill continuously fails to seriously address the state’s long-term needs for transportation, housing, education, and development; and if you’re sick and tired of the state legislature’s opaque back-room operations, I have a proposal for you: Eliminate the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Points for boldness! This is also a thoughtful argument that touches on the feudal origins of the two-chamber system (the nobles needed a safe space where they could protect themselves against the tyranny of the majority) and the present effect of that system, which is to allow “special interests to gum up the works without any public accounting for legislators.” Exhibit A in this regard is the conference committee process, which comes into play every time the House and Senate pass differing versions of a bill:

As Beacon Hill watchers know, bills in conference committee pile up until the final days of the formal session, when the supposed work of two years, 200 legislators, and committees in open hearings is actually done in a hectic rush, by a handful of people, horse-trading within and between bills, until finally spitting out new versions for the two chambers to hastily endorse.

Also not to be missed is a timeline detailing Speaker DeLeo’s consolidation of power and predicting the end date of the DeLeo era (January 2021, when he becomes a lobbyist).

A couple thoughts:

First, in deciding on its governing rules for this new (2017-2018) session, the Legislature acknowledged the problem of the end-of-session bottleneck. The new rules require the joint committees, which handle the initial consideration of bills, to complete their work in early February rather than in mid-March, and they also prohibit the appointment of new conference committees within 14 days of the end of a legislative session. But there’s no deadline for conference committees to finish their work, so stay tuned to July of next year to see if these rules changes have practical results.

Second, if the Legislature is continually failing to address the state’s pressing issues, the question arises — what are they doing with their time?

My theory: they’re doing a lot of enacting, but the bills that are passed fall under the decidedly “noncontroversial” category — designating bridges and overpasses in honor of beloved community members; establishing sick leave banks for one state employee at a time, exempting a single municipal position from the Civil Service laws, or granting one additional liquor license to one town.

In 1997, the noncontroversial bills like these made up about a tenth of the Legislature’s output. Now it’s more like one in three.


The graph presents a corollary of Bernstein’s thesis — our Legislature avoids many pressing issues (charter schools and marijuana being two recent examples) and increasingly contents itself with hyperlocal items lacking in wide application or great import.

Anyway, read the article. I’m not quite convinced about the remedy he’s proposing, but the diagnosis is beyond dispute.

Mass Dems Platform - Add-On Delegate Applications Welcome

Kate with deets on getting involved in building the state Democratic platform - promoted by hesterprynne

The Massachusetts Democratic Party will be establishing our platform for the next four years at our convention in June in Worcester. We are almost through our caucus period.

Whether or not you are a delegate to the State Convention, there is still the opportunity to take part in the process of developing the Platform.

1) There are still some caucuses that have not yet been held. Here is the schedule.

2) For youth, minorities and those with disabilities there is an add-on process. The deadline is April 4 at 5:00 pm. You can apply online here.

3) There is a Platform Committee which will be conducting hearings across the state. The MDP recently announced the selection of three members to chair our platform committee: Former Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Murphy, Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, and former Massachusetts State Director for Bernie Sanders for President Paul Feeney. The schedule has been published and locations are in the process of being finalized. Information on schedules and an overview of the Platform can be found here. People can attend a platform hearing or submit testimony online.

4) In addition to Platform Hearings, Democratic Town/Ward/City Committees, DSC members and Democratic organizations can host Platform Meetings. Information on Platform Meetings can is here.

You can find information on the platform and events across the state in this week’s Dispatch.

I thought that I would take a minute and invite those who are interested to subscribe to my weekly e-mail Democratic newsletter, the Democratic Dispatch. Just once per week, the newsletter is primarily a calendar of Democratic events across the state.  To subscribe send an e-mail to DDemDispatch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Yahoo then typically sends an e-mail asking for confirmation. This sometimes goes to spam, sent check all your mailbox folders. You can check out previous issues.


Flynn May Already Be Cooperating With Investigators

More ????? - promoted by hesterprynne

Is Michael Flynn is cooperating with investigators?

The question may be speculative, but it’s not idle speculation.

Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page have all said they want to testify before the House Committee on Intelligence about the growing Russia-White House scandal. “Nothing from Flynn yet,” John Schindler, formerly of NSA counter-intelligence, tweets, ”Fill in the blanks.”

Bill Palmer of the Palmer Report draws a similar conlcusion:

I’ve strongly suspected Flynn had already cut a deal with the FBI from the minute the story broke about him registering as a foreign agent. It was probably fairly easy for the FBI to convince him to go along with it, as they already have him nailed on the felony of lying to them about Russia several months ago (source: Washington Post). Now that he’s the only one of the four known campaign targets who’s not running to the Congressional committee show-trials, it seems all the more obvious.

There’s no question that Flynn is in legal trouble. He’s violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act and probably the Logan Act, though that law may not be prosecutable. In addition to these offenses, Flynn may have violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution when he spoke at the Russia Today 10th Anniversary gala. Add conspiracy to kidnapping to the list and Flynn has serious trouble. There’s no evidence to suggest that Flynn had lied to investigators at any point, but that would also be a legal concern for the general who’s been fired from two presidential administrations.

This week the Wall Street Journal reported that Former CIA Director James Woolsley was present at a meeting where Flynn, some other Americans, and some Turkish officials discussed kidnapping exiled Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen. The meeting took place at… one of Trump’s hotels. The Journal is paywalled, but the Palmer Report has a subscription and offers its summary on the events:

Long-retired former CIA Director James Woolsey was an adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign. He eventually quit during the transition period, diplomatically suggesting that his role had run its course. But he’s now publicly disclosing something which may have been a factor. Last summer Michael Flynn brought Woolsey along to a meeting with representatives from the Turkish government, where they discussed theoretical plans for abducting Turkish dissident Fethullah Gulen from his home in Pennsylvania and shipping him back to Turkey. During the same meeting, Flynn tried to hire Woolsey as a consultant to his firm, in the name of furthering this plot against Gulen.

Woolsey now says he was taken aback by what he overheard at the meeting, and he suspected that even the discussion about abducting Gulen was a crime. So he refused Flynn’s money, and instead he reported the meeting to the federal government.

Flynn has been on the U.S. intelligence radar since 2015 when he took money from the Russians for delivering a speech at which included a well-publicized, well-compensated speech at Russia Today’s 10th Anniversary Gala. Last summer, Flynn was reported by Woolsley for discussing the kidnap of Gulen with Turkish officials. That would be enough for a FISA warrant for the NSA and the FBI and allowed the transcription and analysis of Flynn’s discussions with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Although not quite incriminating, Flynn’s ability to lie certainly raises questions about his guilt. At first, Flynn flatly denied discussing sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak; he subsequently changed his story and claimed that he couldn’t remember whether he discussed sanctions.

Aspiring liars should note that people who use the “I don’t recall” strategy usually begin, not end, with it. Even then, it stretches credibility when a liar has five conversations with someone in one day and claims not to remember what they talked about.

It’s no surprise then that Sally Yates was scheduled to testify at the House Intelligence Committee’s now cancelled hearing on Tuesday. Yates was the acting Attorney General who informed the Trump Administration that Flynn had not been truthful about his contacts with Russia related to sanctions and that he was vulnerable to blackmail by Russian intelligence Flynn may have lied to Congress.

Like much coming out of the White House these days, the White House came up with a cover story. that covered less than a nightie from Victoria’s secret: Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence.

Elijah Cummings the top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform told then Vice President-elect Mike Pence in a November letter that the man Donald Trump had tapped to be his national security adviser was lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.

The cancellation of the House Intelligence Committee open hearing on Tuesday–it may only be the “open” that was cancelled–is a speed bump. Carrying water for Trump, Devin Nunes has likely destroyed not only his committee’s credibility but his career. Nunes is one of the less affluent members of Congress. He has a $50,000 stake in a winery. Guess which country buys a lot of its wine?

Should Dems Partner with "economic nationalist" for single payer?

???? - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

OK, now that Trump’s “moderate” advisors choked on health care (Priebus & Pence moderates?…yes that is the country we now live in) will he turn to his extremist advisors and open up the door to the possibility of expanding single payer care in the US? And should the Dems encourage this possibility?

First off, I’m not completely crazy to suggest this, as it was Trump friend and NewsMax publisher Chris Ruddy who floated this very idea more than a week ago.  Among his suggestions:

  1. Ditch the Freedom Caucus and the handful of Senate Republicans who want a complete repeal of Obamacare. They don’t agree with universal coverage and will never be placated.
  2. Find a few parts of Ryan Care II that can win passage in the House and Senate with either GOP support or bipartisan support. Declare victory.
  3. Rekindle the bipartisanship in Congress that Obama destroyed. Empanel a bipartisan committee to report back by year’s end with a feasible plan to fix Obamacare.
  4. Reject the phony private health insurance market as the panacea. Look to an upgraded Medicaid system to become the country’s blanket insurer for the uninsured.
  5. Tie Medicaid funding to states with the requirement each pass legislation to allow for a truly nationwide healthcare market.
  6. Get Democrats to agree to modest tort reform to help lower medical costs.
  7. While bolstering Medicare and improving Medicaid, get Republicans and Democrats to back the long-term fix of health savings accounts. This allows individuals to fund their own healthcare and even profit from it.

Point 2 is water under the bridge now. But it is point 3 that is most intriguing.

So BlueMassGroupers…what do you say, should the Dems publicly start making noise about working with Trump to fix the ACA and maybe get an expanded single payer system to cover the working poor?   Of course that would mean working with the devil on this (that would be Steve Bannon not Chris Ruddy). As for those wondering why a Steve Bannon would support something like this…I point to the first sovereign leader that implemented health care insurance and his motives behind it.


Let's Look At Poll Data About Trump's "Populism"

Got tired of winning I guess - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Political reporters and pundits constantly refer to Donald Trump’s politics as “populism.” The trouble is that Trump and his policies are actually extremely unpopular:

  • Trump: 39% approve, 56% disapprove (Gallup daily tracking 3/23)
  • Trumpcare: 17% support, 56% oppose (Quinnipiac)
  • Cabinet selections: 38% support, 52% oppose (Saint Leo)
  • Building the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline: 42% support, 48% oppose (Pew)
  • Increase military spending by cutting funding for the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defense agencies: 41% support, 58% oppose (CNN)
  • Building a border wall with Mexico: 39% support, 61% oppose (CNN)
  • Muslim ban: 47% support, 53% opppose (CNN)

Trump lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, or 2.1% of the popular vote. He’s never had majority approval in the Gallup daily tracking poll, with a positive approval for exactly two days of his presidency, January 24-25, when he was at +1 (46% approved, 45% disapproved).

There are many ways to describe Trump and his policies, but “popular” is not one of them. “White nationalist,” on the other hand, is extremely accurate! Or, considering how many of Trump’s promised trade protections have been abandoned, how about “white corporatist”?

Climate Mobilization April 29: Bus tickets from Boston area available

Just a quick note: The People’s Climate Mobilization is happening in DC on 4/29. 350Mass and other local orgs are getting buses (probably the lowest-carbon way to get there) from a number of places around Greater Boston. They’re on the red-eye schedule — leaving Friday night, getting there early Saturday morning; leaving DC Saturday night, getting back early Sunday am. (For me, that actually works perfectly.)

The word on locations, from an email from 350Mass’s Emily Kirkland:

Current drop-off / pick-up locations: based on ticket sales, it’s looking like Alewife, Franklin Village, Worcester, somewhere on the North Shore, Brookline, JP, downtown Boston, and possibly somewhere on the South Shore. No matter what, we will try to set up pick-ups and drop-offs that are reasonably convenient for almost everyone! More soon.

(I’ll be on an Alewife bus.)

Today is the last day you can get a ticket for $85. After today it goes up to $110.

Look, there’s a lot happening every day, as our government seems to be crumbling around us. But look at Trump’s proposed budget: The EPA suffers absolutely the worst cuts of anyone. And I’m afraid that because the EPA handles long-term, de-personalized risks and crises, that the current political juice of the Indivisibles, etc., will not rescue it from GOP devastation. But they deserve support, because they save lives and health too — very effectively!

We need political mobilization. We need bodies. We need voices and phone calls and signs and energy and all that. Please come to the march. Get your ticket.

Franken, Gorsuch, the Frozen Trucker, and Absurdity

In case you missed it, you really need to see this line of questioning — more an anecdote, really — from Al Franken to Neil Gorsuch:

There can be different colorings of the word “absurd”: Sometimes it’s kind of silly. In this case, it’s a menacing, Kafka-esque, Catch-22 absurdity: The court is going to pretend you have options — and they empathize, they really do – but they’re just going to rule against you anyway. The cat lets the wounded mouse run around a bit, plays with it, but its fate is clear. The wealthy always win, because they’re in charge and have made the rules. You can use whatever argument, any principle you want (“plain meaning”)… but the conclusion is pre-ordained.

In SCOTUS appointments, I’m less than impressed by high-minded assessments of a judge’s character, qualifications or intellect. There are plenty of honest, qualified, and smart judges. Gorsuch may be all of those things or none; but in any event it’s not why he’s there. He’s there precisely to protect wealthy interests from lawsuits and regulation; and to whittle down voting rights for those unfavored by this radically illiberal administration (and party).

It’s politics. We know what he’s there for.

A chance for realignment, if you make the case

Noah Smith (@noahpinion) points to this intriguing chart, derived from the Quinnipiac Poll:

The dip in Trump’s approval coincides with the current health care debacle, not the deepening, already-obscene Russia mire. Why? Having suffered downward mobility for a generation, the white working class was willing to forgive a ton from Trump, in the hope of the return of jobs — a hand up. Trump saw an underserved market and told them what they wanted to hear. That’s politics.

But the WWC — like the rest of the working class — has real skin in the game with health care. We know anecdotally that many Trump supporters disliked Obamacare because of rising premiums and high deductibles. And Trump told them what they wanted to hear! Better care, more covered, lower costs. Which as we know, has nothing whatsoever to do with the bill the House is planning to vote on today.

The Republicans may be — ought to be — screwed either way. Those who vote against the bill for reasons of compassion and good sense (if such there be) will have to contend with the wrath of Trump and the Hannityites in a primary. Those who vote for it will face outraged voters in practically every precinct, looking to properly reward an act of reckless legislative barbarity. (Good luck to those upstate NY Republicans, who accepted a minor tax fix — really just a transfer of fiscal responsibilty — in return for taking away thousands of their constituents’ health care. See how that works out for you, fellas. )

The Democrats have an opportunity here to win back those voters. These voters have nothing whatsoever to gain from Ryan/Trump-style Social Darwinism, and that’s starting to show in the polls. This is not what they asked for. The Dems need to speak clearly about fairness, about community, about helping each other out. There needs to be a philosophical coherence, and the programs they propose need to be quite bold. Even as it has been a massive step forward, the problem with the Affordable Care Act is that it is not affordable enough.

Will it be time — in a year, say — to boldly propose cradle-to-grave health care, that you can never lose? Will the country be at that point? It’s not wrong to float the principle, to let people know you’re looking out for them.

(More on that later.)

Dems Cave on Gorsuch Hearing- Exactly Wrong Move

The context of the Gorsuch nomination is *everything*. Stolen seat; president elected without majority, without mandate. If he wanted to nominate a moderate, we'd certainly consider it. Gorsuch may be qualified but he's not that guy. Nope nope nope - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

The following is a thread discussing current Dem strategy on the Gorsuch nomination.

BMGr’s:  what do you think?

MY POST:  Even if Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch were Oliver Wendell Holmes, due to the unconstitutional theft of Obama’s nomination to the Court, any Democrat who votes for Gorsuch should be primaried.

MY FRIEND, P.R.:  ”The only problem with that is that we need every Democrat no matter how disgusting in 2018 to turn the Congress- i would wait till after that to get revenge”
ME:  ”Not a bad idea!  But tough to execute I suspect.”
MY FRIEND, P.R.:  ”but we need to advocate for every Democrat and not primary those who can win in their state just because we don’t like all their positions- again a Democrat in Mass will run on a different platform than on in WV or MS.  and need to vote differently on some issues to be elected. As long as they commit to voting for the Democratic Leadership in 2018 I will give them a pass-  even Bernie Sanders who isn’t a Democrat but will vote for the Dem leadership needs to be reelected in VT.”

ME:  ”…a Democrat in Mass will run on a different platform than on in WV or MS. and need to vote differently on some issues to be elected.”

Yes, I agree.

“As long as they commit to voting for the Democratic Leadership in 2018 I will give them a pass”

No, I do not agree.

This is not just another policy issue. Were Ted Kennedy alive today, I believe in 2016 he would’ve put getting Obama’s Merrick Garland on the agenda as his number one – not number two not number three not number four… Number 1 priority. Therefore, I don’t think we would be here.

Nonetheless, here we are.

Next question:  Were Ted Kennedy alive today, I believe that he would not participate in the completion of this theft – and that is what it is – it is a theft of the seat. It’s not a normal issue.

The Republicans have consistently cited isolated quotes from Joe Biden and others to say, “Well, the Democrats did it too.”

Not true. There may have been isolated quotations, but the Democrats never ever deprived a Republican president of at least a hearing on his Supreme Court nominee.

That is why I disagree with you. This must not be treated like just another normal issue where Democrats have to run differently in different states. Sadly, your position is carrying the day in Washington DC.

We are thereby creating a terrible precedent.”

When did Republicans replace "Citizens" with "Consumers"? (and why?)

My guess: it began in the aftermath of 9/11 when George W. Bush told us to go shopping. - promoted by hesterprynne

From what I have observed, unless they are talking about their beloved Second Amendment, Republicans have replaced the term “citizen” with “consumer”.  This is painfully obvious in the health care debate, but it also runs through financial regulations, protection of the environment, again, just about everywhere with the notable exception of a citizens right to bear arms.  Why they have not altered this to read “the right of the consumer to purchase a firearm” is a mystery to me, but I digress.

What is it about the word “citizen” that is abhorrent to so many Republicans?  A dictionary I referenced defined citizen as an inhabitant of a city or town; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.

Ah, is that it?  Citizens has rights?  Citizens are entitled?  Citizens have privileges?  Such words run counter to the Republican adoration of the wealthy job creators, the self made men, the ruling class that they (and sadly too many Democrats) have hitched their wagons to.

I have listened to Republicans arguing against the forced mandate of health care insurance as “Forcing the consumer to purchase a product they do not want”.  What is this “product”?  If it’s a worthless piece of paper with huge deductibles, high premiums, and arcane policies, why of course, who would want to buy it, much less be “forced to buy it” as a “consumer”?

On the other hand, given the reality of the high cost, but life saving medical advancements of the past 100 years, what citizen would reject the right to these advancements in order to prolong or improve their life?  We are not consumers of health care anymore than we are consumers of national security.  As citizens we acknowledge that many of us will pay for the services that few of us may need, in the same way that we, as citizens join together to buy a Lockheed Martin F-35.  Most of us will never, ever need this, but we know that some will and we, as a collective of citizens, accept that responsibility and demand the entitlement of protection if needed. We do this with police stations, public schools, fire departments, all as citizens.

In the repeal of banking regulations, by repealing the fiduciary rule Republicans was cheered as a repeal of “limited consumers’ choices in financial products,” with no mention of the word “citizen”.

As consumers, we build shopping malls and go to Disneyland.  As consumers, we watch Dancing with the Stars and the Super Bowl.  As citizens, we call our senator, our state rep, we vote on election day and we watch CNN.

Democrats to Watch: Tom Perriello

John Podesta and jconway both like this guy. Anybody else? - promoted by hesterprynne

The first in a series profiling Democratic voices embodying our party’s future

Virginia and New Jersey voters will head to the polls in less than a year to elect new governors in races that get an unusual amount of media attention in between the presidential and midterm races. Past rising stars include Democratic names like Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; or Republicans like Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell. Tom Perriello is exactly the kind of Democrat who should be presidential timber some day-and it starts by fighting for the VA governors mansion.

In two illuminating interviews with Slate and the American Prospect, he lays out an agenda that uniquely bridges the divides of the last presidential primary with a both/and focus on fighting the bigotry of Trump and the economic inequality that enabled his rise.

Democrats need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to be uncompromising in our resistance to both the policy and rhetoric of hate and bigotry. I will certainly look for every legal authority as governor to prevent the kind of actions we’ve seen that bully the vulnerable and undermine our best values. There’s been some debate nationally about a false choice between whether this election was about race or about economic anxiety. The two things have always gone hand in hand. And the more we offer an agenda of truly inclusive economic growth that doesn’t leave any region or community of color behind, then Trump’s offer of blaming people who don’t look like you is less compelling.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Perriello was one of the few 2010 Democrats to remain loyal to President Obama and run on Obamacare rather than away from it. He lost his red leaning district, but only by a few points instead of a blowout. He’s gone on to work for both the Obama administration and Clinton State Department as a human rights lawyer while also acknowledging that Bernie Sanders has the right rhetoric for our movement going forward. Defending the status quo from 2008-2016 isn’t enough. American workers want and deserve more from their government and what should be their natural party.

Here’s a sample of his both/and rhetoric, which is so refreshingly forward thinking:

On the link, which I’ve discussed, between rising inequality and rising extremism:

GDP has become less and less connected to issues of job growth and the middle class, really what you want to look in terms of stability are things like: What is the inequality coefficient? What is the joblessness for youth? What is the age in which a young man can buy his first home, which in many countries correlates to when he can get married? How much exclusion is there in the economy for minority groups or others? If this is something we look at overseas to better understand the stability of countries, it’s the same stuff we should be talking about at home. GDP isn’t enough. We need to understand these more important dynamics of inequality.

On the connection between race and inequality:

The forces of economic and racial anxiety, if left unaddressed, are on a collision course in America. Internecine debates about which factor is stronger obscure the interconnection and thus acceleration of both. We also often miss the fact that economic anxiety is not limited to those below certain income levels.

Too often, Democrats defend the status quo, noting positive GDP and unemployment numbers instead of speaking to the underlying forces that threaten economic security. When we say our only problem is with messaging, we imply that voters are too dumb to realize how great we have been for them or would be for them. People are smarter than elites think. They already know that both parties were naïve about the costs of globalization and can see that both parties are again failing to address the impact of new forces like economic consolidation, automation, and exclusion.

Take a look at both interviews and donate to his campaign if you can. I already have.

Ireland's PM takes Trump to school on the true meaning of America

promoted by hesterprynne

On Friday at the White House, with Trump standing next to him, this is what Prime Minister Enda Kenny said :

” It’s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy.  He, too, was an immigrant.  And though he is of course the patron saint of Ireland, for many people around the globe, he is also a symbol — indeed, the patron of — immigrants.  35 million people claim Irish heritage, and the Irish have contributed to the economic, social, political and cultural life of this great country over the last 200 years.  Ireland came to America because, deprived of liberty, deprived of opportunity, of safety, of even food itself, the Irish believed.  And four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore.  We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America.  We came, and we became Americans.”

Fred  Rich  LaRiccia