The West Roxbury pipeline protests are amazing.

At some point everyone’s going to realize these pipeline protests — especially in West Roxbury — are a BFD. They’re working – galvanizing opposition, creating public awareness, and turning the entire issue from an business-as-usual fait accompli into an issue of very public controversy. It’s now out of the State House and into the streets — and indeed the backyards of leafy suburbs that went heavily for Charlie Baker in 2014.

This echoes the Keystone XL movement, which showed that infrastructure is the pressure point at which protests can have great leverage, with a combination of hell-no climate activism and justifiable NIMBY interests. (Gas leaks; it explodes; kills trees; creates ground level ozone; etc.)

A few weeks ago a number of heroic local clergy were arrested. Last week the relentless anti-Spectra pipeline protests got some celebrity-profile assistance when Karenna Gore (Al’s daughter) got arrested in a pipeline ditch.  The word is out, and now the protests are attracting demonstrators from all over the state:

Many residents from Western Mass. came out to support the effort all week.“We’ve been doing organization around these issues of pipelines, mostly on Energy Direct which has been stopped,” said Irvine Solbelman from North Hampton, Mass. “But we have a saying that there’s really only one pipeline, and it’s all one big pipeline and it’s got tentacles all over the country. So we’re here because it’s all still part of the same plan and project.”

via Summer Escalation hits West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline.

This Spectra pipeline is now a major fork in the road for MA and New England: Do we continue on the path of climate suicide, or do we reject fossil fuel growth at every level, at every point? Since the alternatives to fossil fuels are more viable than ever, it’s a very live question.

Combined with Gov. Baker’s pipeline tax oh excuse me, fee, to fund more construction, this is turning into a real political circus. More and more legislators are turning against the tax; at this point I really don’t see a way around a major rebuke of Gov. Baker.

So much gratitude to the organizers and protestors, and those courageous souls who have been willing to be arrested.

I’m participating in the People Over Pipelines march, happening July 14-18 along the proposed pipeline route through communities southwest of Boston, into West Roxbury and straight to the State House. I’m doing some planning volunteer work with 350Mass.

As the legislature goes to conference for the energy bill, they’re feeling the pressure. Again, to quote Commonwealth’s Bruce Mohl — a skeptical observer of statewide energy policy:

What is clear is that natural gas is in retreat on Beacon Hill. Not even the Baker administration is talking up pipelines anymore.

Pull the plug, Governor.

"The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"

The excellent Baratunde Thurston just delivered a reading of this entire speech. It's not in embeddable form, as far as I know, but you can watch the video at this link. - promoted by david

I recently moved from Cambridge to rural Vermont and am so delighted to live in a town that chose to do a community reading of one of the most important speeches on July 4th. Members of the community took turns reading parts of Frederick Douglass’s “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro.”

Much of the content of the speech still unfortunately rings true, but a part at the end seems especially relevant today.

“The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

When in the course of human events...

Bumped for (old) glory, and front-paged for the 11th straight year. As you celebrate America's Independence Day today, take a moment to keep the people around the world who are trying to secure the blessings of liberty in your thoughts. Since the older versions of this post appeared on earlier versions of the blog, the comment threads from years past don't appear here, but can be seen here and here. - promoted by david

Read it and weep.  Seriously.  Happy 230th 231st 232nd 233rd 234th 235th 236th 237th 238th 239th 240th, America.  An image of the original document is in the extended.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.  Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.  And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Preserve the Public Good by Voting No in November

A strong argument. It's a morally tricky issue to keep kids in "bad" schools, too -- or even just a school that doesn't serve a kid's needs. How do you square that circle? - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

This November, a number of powerful people, such as Governor Baker, intend to spend $18 million to raise the cap on charter schools, and opinion leaders like Globe writers tend to support this. Polls seem to predict this expansion will pass. However, this ballot initiative has deep flaws in it that will harm public schools not just in Boston but in smaller communities. So, the progressive choice in November–the choice for sustaining quality public schools in our Commonwealth–is to vote NO on raising the charter school cap.

And since the polling indicates the progressive choice is behind in the polls, I urge you to ask your neighbors to vote NO in November.

That’s the gist of my post. But for those who want to, let’s consider the details of what we the people will actually vote on. This ballot initiative does not affect the currently existing charter schools but instead raises the cap so that the state’s board can create 12 new charters every year, taking up to 1% of the population of school children, every year for all time. Proponents will point out that the board will give priority to putting up new charters in places where test scores are low, but they don’t have to limit themselves to those districts. So a district with good public schools and good oversight by the local school committee can still see a charter school pop up there, taking dollars away from the public schools. The state board who decides whether to approve a new charter school does not consider at all whether a new charter will hurt existing public schools in a community. If they don’t have to consider whether it hurts public schools, then public schools will be hurt. Note how this “only 1%” mechanism can chip away at our system of public schools overseen by elected school committees. In ten years, 10% of the school age population can be in charter schools. Like Prop 2 1/2, this could have long term negative consequences for a public service that is as essential as clean drinking water. We should be wary when we are asked to reduce local oversight of a public good for the people in the locality who need that public good. This year’s ballot question of raising the cap will use one election to gradually undermine local democratic government for every year thereafter.

And that is something anti-Commonwealth about this initiative. A few wealthy donors and their lobbyists are spending $18 million not to give computers, art supplies, musical instruments, or books to Massachusetts kids but to unravel a system that is actually improving already.

Therefore, I ask you to vote No in November, and ask your neighbors and friends to vote No, as a way of preserving a public good in our Commonwealth for future generations.

Energy Bill: It's hero time in the State Senate.

You know how our State Senate is the more progressive of the Houses? Did you know that today in passing their version of the energy bill, they really made good on that? The clean energy/climate folks are really happy with this thing.

There are some heroes to celebrate: Pat Jehlen, whose amendment to prohibit the Baker-approved “pipeline tax” (the Spectra surcharge) passed 39-0. Energy chair Ben Downing, for getting a strong, ambitious 2000MW offshore wind procurement. Jamie Eldridge, who added the gas leak amendment, identical to Lori Ehrlich’s in the House bill. There are more!

The smashing victory of Jehlen’s amendment leads Commonwealth’s Bruce Mohl to ponder:

What is clear is that natural gas is in retreat on Beacon Hill. Not even the Baker administration is talking up pipelines anymore.

Because they’re not popular. And the Governor has to decide if gas pipelines are how he wants to burn his political capital.

Well done Senators … and stand strong when you meet with the House.

Thank you, House, for passing non-compete reform!

An important piece of legislation, which no doubt could be made even better. - promoted by david

It’s been a long time in coming, and it took a lot of discussion and persuasion – but the House listened! And it passed a strong non-compete reform, voted 150-0, limiting non competes to 12 months, with a ‘garden leave provision’: 1/2 of salary, or some mutually agreed upon compensation, to be paid until the non-compete expires.

Notification of any non-compete clause must be served before employment starts – and not weeks later, as it is usually done, at the discretion of the employer. Yay!

The Senate, I hope, will close the loop and pass its own version, including the garden leave provision.

This is good for the employees – and good for the high tech economy, allowing workers to mingle more easily from startup to startup. Cross-pollination is good for a healthy high tech economy!

Second Walsh Aide Indicted

Ugh. - promoted by david

Joan Vennochi:

Unpleasant but lawful conduct will be the argument in defense of Walsh’s aides. According to Wednesday’s indictment, festival organizers hired eight union laborers and one foreman because Sullivan and Brissette insisted upon it. It will be up to federal prosecutors to show that the effort by Sullivan and Brissette to persuade or pressure constitutes unlawful “extortion,” or, conversely, for the defense to show it actually was “permissible, maybe even fairly common contact,” said noted criminal defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate.

Ortiz has won that argument before.

I have no immediate comment, other than this: Ruh roh.

Annals of Income Inequality: June, 2016

A couple items from the income inequality file.

First, as State House News reports (paywall), the Baker administration is about the business reining in the overtime hours of the 39,000 people in the state who work as personal care attendants. PCA’s, as they are called, assist people who have severe disabilities with daily activities like getting dressed and bathing. This help enables many disabled people who might otherwise need to live in a nursing home to remain in their communities.

The cost of the PCA program is rising, and to cap that increase the Baker administration is restricting the number of overtime hours that PCA’s may work. As you may imagine (there being 24 hours in a day), many of the 26,000 people receiving PCA services require more than 40 hours a week of assistance. Nonetheless, the administration is targeting this program for savings by requiring advance approval by the state for any PCA working more than 40 hours per week, up to a maximum of 60 hours.  No word on whether the administration is anticipating that this restriction might result in more nursing home placements of persons now able to live outside that setting.

PCA’s now earn $13.68 per hour, which translates to an annual income of $28,454 for a forty-hour week. (If you’re curious, the income necessary to afford a studio apartment in the state is $36,142).

Second, as DigBoston reports, the Baker administration is asking the Legislature to increase the amount of economic development tax credits the state awards to corporations annually from $30 million to $50 million, and also to allow the administration complete discretion to decide which corporations receive these new incentives (aptly named Extraordinary Economic Development Opportunity Credits).

By “complete discretion” to award these credits, the Baker administration is proposing that, to quote from its bill:

The decision by the secretaries to designate or not to designate a proposed project as an extraordinary economic development opportunity shall be a decision that is within the sole discretion of each of the secretaries, and may include such conditions as the secretaries shall in their discretion impose. Such decisions shall be final and shall not be subject to administrative appeal or judicial review… or give rise to any other cause of action or legal or equitable claim or remedy.

Wow – so much for the separation of powers. It’s not clear (to me at least) that this “extraordinary” delegation of authority to the executive branch to award tax credits, which expressly precludes any sort of court review to control abuses of discretion, would be constitutional.  The Supreme Judicial Court has in the past approved laws in which the Legislature delegates its power to tax — but on the condition that certain safeguards have been met, including that some means of judicial review is available for parties aggrieved by the resulting decisions.

In any event, interested persons are invited to suggest to their Legislators that funding overtime hours for PCA’s to provide assistance to persons with disabilities is a higher priority, especially in this time of severe budget austerity, than funding extraordinary tax credits for favored corporations.

 

Support for Carbon Pricing Amendment in Energy Omnibus Bill

Beat me to the punch this morning! We set a goal, and now we have to accomplish it -- the carbon fee/dividend is one way to do it. More info on the whole bill here from the legal eagles at Foley Hoag. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

The Massachusetts Campaign for a Clean Energy Future, a coalition of organizations supporting the implementation of carbon pricing in the Commonwealth, supports Amendment 48 to S. 2372, the energy omnibus bill, sponsored by State Senator Michael Barrett (D-Lexington) that would implement economy-wide carbon pricing in Massachusetts.

A recent report showed that Boston and the region face significant danger from climate change, and we also know that carbon dioxide emissions across New England are rising.  Additionally, a recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld provisions of the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) of 2008 that require limits for multiple emission sources to decline annually. The GWSA also mandates that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts cut carbon dioxide emissions to 25 percent below the 1990 level by 2020 and at least 80 percent below 1990 by 2050.  Additionally, a recent report indicated that carbon emissions from the region’s power plants rose in 2015 after years of decreases.

The coalition supports including the carbon fee and rebate proposal as part the energy omnibus bill to address these concerns. The carbon fee and rebate policy has helped to reduce fuel consumption and grow the clean energy sector in British Columbia and other places and will give the Commonwealth the biggest bang for our buck in meeting the Global Warming Solutions Act mandates. Most importantly, we believe it will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and combat climate change.

The amendment is based on two proposed bills that would create a common sense carbon pricing system in Massachusetts – S. 1747, which has 48 co-sponsors, and S.1786.  The amendment requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to establish a system of greenhouse gas emissions fees charged to fossil fuel importers.  The revenues from those fees would go into a special dedicated fund for rebates, and be passed on directly to households and employers in order to minimize any increased costs in living and doing business.

Since low- and moderate-income households tend to use less energy than wealthier ones, if the rebate is an equal amount per person or per household, on average they would likely come out ahead, but everyone would have an incentive to reduce their use of fossil fuel in order to pay less in fees.

In passing this amendment, Massachusetts would be implementing a policy that encourages residents and businesses to use less fossil fuel, thus reducing carbon emissions while helping the economy.  We are confident that a carbon fee and rebate policy can be tailored to meet the needs of the Massachusetts economy.

House Benghazi report -- "never mind"

Republicans are losing faith in Trump and trying to play nice with Secretary Clinton. - promoted by Bob_Neer

According to the New York Times, the House Select Committee on Benghazi released its final report today. The result? No new evidence of anything. Two years (more than the investigations into 9/11, the JFK assassination, the attack Pearl Harbor, and the failed response to Katrina), more than seven million dollars, and no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing.

The purpose of the committee was clear, especially after House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) clarified them:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Mr. McCarthy said. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

In other words, a witch hunt.

Neo-birtherism and Sour Grapes

This is a losing issue, as Brown has himself convincingly demonstrated. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Our friend Scott Brown, who may be the only person is one of the only people (Thanks to jimc for pointing out that Endicott Peabody also lost in both MA and NH, albeit 20 years apart in his case.) in history to lose races for the US Senate in two states, is calling on Elizabeth Warren to take a DNA test to prove her Native heritage.  He’s even reprising his “As you can see, she’s not.” line.  Truth is, Ancestry.com has run commercials featuring people who were surprised by their results, but it obviously has no bearing on qualifications or stances on issues.  I find it hilarious that he seems to care about the “real” Native Americans that Warren supposedly pushed aside, never mind that Harvard has confirmed she never received any benefit from checking that infamous box.  If I were Warren I’d be tempted to say sure, I’ll take a DNA test just as soon as you and your candidate take IQ tests!:)

A right without access is not a right

The costs are too damn high. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Yes, that was the decision today, one that all Democrats including the presumptive nominee for president cheered.  A right without access is not a right.  You know where I am going, eh?   If, according to our presidential nominee, affordable health care is a right, then access to wealth that makes health care affordable must be part of the equation, no?  The average premium for single coverage in 2015 is $521 per month, or $6,251 per year.   This is the cost of the policy, not including co-pays and all the rest, but let’s just round it out to $8,000 which is still far less then the $10,000 per person we expect to pay per person this year for actual health care.

 

So what is “affordable”? Can anyone tell me?  Can the Democrats who support the private ownership of health care insurance please weigh in on this?  Can we say that $15 an hour is too high a wage when we know that health care will cost the individual between $6,000-10,000?  Looks to me like the courts have may have done us a favor on this. The “Affordable Care Act” like so many things in Washington (Right to Work for example), is anything but what it sounds like, eh?

 

Single Payer NOW…or at least, let’s start the path to it with a public option for ALL.

 

Thank you.