Sticky notes from Hong Kong

Striking photos from the popular protests in Hong Kong:

Hong Kong Central & Western districts October 2014

Same-sex marriage just quietly became legal in a lot of states

Same-sex marriage just became legal in Utah.  And Oklahoma.  And a bunch of other seemingly unlikely places.

This morning, the Supreme Court denied review of several closely-watched cases in which same-sex marriage had been declared legal despite state laws banning it.  In each of the cases, the lower court order legalizing same-sex marriage was on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision whether to take up the issue.  Now that the Supreme Court has refused to weigh in, the lower court orders go into effect, and same-sex marriage is now legal (or soon will be as soon as some technicalities are resolved) in all states encompassed by the three federal appeals court circuits (the 4th, 7th, and 10th) whose orders were at issue.

According to the pro-marriage equality group Freedom To Marry, today’s events will result in same-sex marriage becoming legal in 30 states encompassing roughly 60% of the American population.  Per the same group, the states that can now expect to see marriage equality in short order despite state laws banning it are: Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

The Supreme Court may well still weigh in – there are marriage cases pending before a couple of other federal appeals courts, and they could come out the other way, which would pretty much require the Supreme Court to resolve the conflict.  But what happened today makes it much more likely that, fairly soon, same-sex marriage will be legal nationwide.

Why?  Think about it this way.  Four votes are required for the Supreme Court to take a case.  That means that, if they wanted to, the “conservative” Justices – Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito – could have required the Court to accept any of these cases.

But they didn’t.  Probably, they didn’t because they don’t think they have the five votes needed for the case to come out the way they want it to, which means they think Justice Kennedy is prepared to recognize a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.

And, as a practical matter, the Court’s action today means that, by the time the case does finally arrive at the Supreme Court (if it ever does), thousands of same-sex couples in the 10 states listed above will be married, will have kids, will have gotten their affairs in order based on the lower courts’ actions permitting them marry legally.  Undoing those arrangements would be terribly disruptive, and would bring the Supreme Court’s already somewhat shaky public reputation into further question.  Honestly, I don’t see it happening.

A lot of this is tea-leaf reading, which is notoriously hazardous when it comes to the Supreme Court.  But one thing is clear: a whole lot more people just got marriage rights today.  And that’s an unalloyed good thing.

Coakley for Governor: The Small Differences That Matter

Noteworthy. - promoted by david

What’s this election really about?

We’ve taken to calling it 16YORG: 16 years of Republican governors.

That’s an unacceptable risk. If Baker gets in, are we ready for another 16 years? That would bring us out to 2030.

As noted, I understand the frustration with the candidates. The differences between Coakley and Baker don’t seem to be the yawning chasm that we’d like. But in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld, you go to war with the army you have.

Let’s look at the differences. They’re important.(All quotes from the respective issues pages.)

Coakley’s issues page.

Baker’s issues page.

Coakley on Jobs and Economy

Providing earned sick time so that no employee is forced to choose between keeping their job and caring for their health, or the health of a loved one. Today, nearly 1 million workers in Massachusetts, many of them low-wage workers and women, don’t have a single day of earned sick time; extending earned sick time to these workers will increase productivity and reduce income inequality.

Baker’s economic plan:

Charlie will not raise taxes, period. He will work to reform a tax code that has grown overly complicated – benefiting only special interests while harming workers, families, and small businesses.
Gas Tax
Charlie opposes the automatic gas tax hike supported by his opponents. Charlie will demand accountability and transparency from Beacon Hill, forcing the legislature to publicly cast their votes before increasing any taxes that affect workers, small business, and the economic future of Massachusetts.
Welfare Reform
By investing in measures to get people back to work and give them the tools to achieve economic stability, and by stopping abuse, welfare can be reformed so that it provides a true safety net for those who need it. Charlie has announced a series of welfare reform priorities to help people achieve economic independence, support parents and families, ensure the integrity of the program and prevent abuse.

Winner: Coakley. Does Baker really think welfare reform will stimulate the economy? And by the way his plan also raises the work requirement age from 60 to 66.

Coakley on gun control

Why does Ed Markey need $30,000 more than he needed yesterday?

Today, another chapter in our ongoing series of “Why Is Ed Markey Constantly Begging For Money He Doesn’t Really Need?”

First, the basics.  As you are well aware, Ed Markey’s is one of the safest Democratic Senate seats in the country.  Nate Silver gives him a >99% chance of being reelected.  Nobody knows who the guy running against him is – the two polls I’m aware of that have polled the race shows that Markey’s opponent, Brian what’s-his-name, is unknown to the vast majority of voters, and that Markey wins the head-to-head running away (53-27 in one, 54-30 in the other).

Despite all of that, Markey’s fundraising emails arrive almost every day, each of them imploring us to send him money, lest the Senate fall into Republican hands (without ever actually saying that his seat is in danger, because he knows as well as anyone that it isn’t).  Here’s one from yesterday:

November is fast approaching, and for Democrats across the country, it’s not looking good. The Washington Post, the New York Times, Nate Silver, and others are predicting a likely Republican takeover in the Senate.

The GOP only needs to pick up six seats to gain the majority in the Senate. We can’t let that happen.

Forecasters are giving the GOP the edge. We need to work harder than ever between now and Election Day, and that’s going to take resources — can you get us $5 closer to our $16O,OOO October goal? …

We need to raise $16O,OOO in October to keep fighting. Help us out with a $5 contribution.

That’s $16O,OOO with a letter “O,” by the way, not the number “0.”  I still don’t get that.

Anyway, here’s what I got today:

The Washington Post is giving Republicans a 77% chance of taking over the Senate this November….

Whatever else happens on November 4th, we need to take care of business here in Massachusetts. To finish this race strong, we need to raise $19O,OOO in October — get us $5 closer to our goal now.

Wait, wait – why the $30,000 raise for October?  Did something happen between yesterday and today to dramatically change the nature of the race here in Massachusetts?  Did Markey commit some epic gaffe, or did ol’ what’s-his-name say or do something so remarkable, such that the outcome of this race is suddenly in doubt?

I’m pretty sure the answer is no.  It just looks to me like Markey got even greedier for campaign cash.  Ugh.

Globe realizes that casinos can bring corruption to town

It took the feds indicting the guys who own the land where Steve Wynn wants to build a casino, but the Globe has finally realized that maybe, just maybe, casinos tend to attract characters who are not always exactly on the up and up.

A question for [voters] to ponder — and for casino proponents to answer in these final weeks of the campaign — is whether a certain amount of seedy intrigue is an inexorable part of bringing the gambling industry to town, and if so whether the economic impact of casinos nevertheless outweighs it….

[T]he fact that a Mafia associate [Charles Lightbody] was involved in a land sale raises the possibility that no matter how hard regulators try, corruption still finds a way to ooze into the process.

[T]he indictments are likely to broaden a casino debate that’s been cast primarily in economic terms. Are casinos too corrupting? Advocates on either side of Question 3 have less than a month to make their case, and voters have less than a month to decide.

On the one hand, it’s great that the Globe has finally woken up to the fact that any time casinos come to town, corruption tends to tag along.  On the other, it’s a tad concerning if the Globe thinks the “certain amount of seedy intrigue” that it concedes might be “an inexorable part” of the gambling industry could nonetheless be justified by the dubious economic benefit of having casinos here.  And all of this, on the heels of two alleged mafiosi being indicted for – what else – “extorting tens of thousands of dollars in protection payments from a video poker machine company.”

EB3′s advice has been right all along, and recent news makes it even stronger: arguing that “gambling is bad” isn’t enough to win on election day.  There just aren’t enough MA voters who think that way.  But if the Yes On 3 crowd can make a convincing case that, whatever you think of gambling in the abstract, the reality is that when casinos come to town, a bunch of unpleasantness tags along, then things will start to look better.  Get to work.

Joke Revue: "U.S. Assures Hong Kong That Their Protest Just One Of Many Issues White House Staying Silent On"


U.S. Assures Hong Kong That Their Protest Just One Of Many Issues White House Staying Silent On

WASHINGTON—Addressing concerns that the Obama administration was selectively ignoring their ongoing demonstrations against the Chinese government, White House officials held a press conference Wednesday to reassure Hong Kong residents that their protest was just one of many issues the White House is currently keeping completely silent on. “While pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong may question why the United States hasn’t offered its unequivocal support, I want to make it clear to each one of them that their campaign is but one of dozens of important causes around the world that this administration is sidestepping,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, adding that demonstrators should not feel singled out or slighted in the least, as the president is presently neglecting to acknowledge a long list of issues with thorny political and economic ramifications, from dangerous working conditions throughout Southeast Asia, to oppression of women and gays in Saudi Arabia, to wrongful political imprisonment in Eastern Europe. “Our inaction puts the people of Hong Kong in good company with the subjugated populations of South Sudan, Eritrea, Central Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, all of whom we systematically overlook. So, our message to the protesters is clear: You are not alone.” Earnest added that Hong Kong’s demonstrators could take pride in the fact that they are receiving the same amount of attention from the U.S. government as the pressing domestic issues of gun violence, environmental protection, and immigration reform.


Citing Security Concerns, Iraq’s Prime Minister Cancels Visit to White House

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has cancelled a scheduled visit to the White House, citing “concerns about the security situation there.”

Speaking to reporters in Baghdad on Wednesday, Abadi said that he had been looking forward to visiting the White House but that recent reports had “given me the willies.”

“They really need to get on top of things there,” he said. “Until they do, I’m better off staying in Iraq.”

Obama to Move to Doorman Building

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—President Barack Obama has decided to move his family into a full-service doorman building in Washington, D.C., saying that “it just makes more sense right now.”

“It really will work better for us,” Obama said in a press conference Tuesday morning. “In addition to the doorman, there’s a guy at the front desk, and, if anyone comes to see you, the desk guy will call up to your apartment first to make sure it’s O.K.”

The senior doorman at the Obamas’ new building, Alex Kornash, seemed unfazed about providing security for the President. “I’ve been a doorman for twenty-three years,” Kornash said. “Someone doesn’t belong here, you tell them to go away. What’s so hard about that?”

Republicans Air Early Attack Ad on Newborn Clinton

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — A Republican Super PAC defended the broadcast, on Saturday morning, of an attack ad highly critical of Hillary Clinton’s newborn granddaughter, Charlotte, who was born on Friday.

The ad raises several serious questions about the newborn, at one point accusing her of being “related to Benghazi.”

Daniel Kurtzman:

“After all the recent security breaches at the White House, Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, resigned today. She said she’ll miss being in the White House, but knowing the Secret Service, she should be able to come back any time she wants. The door is always open, literally.” –Jimmy Fallon

“In a new interview, Mitt Romney referred to Hillary Clinton as an ‘enabler’ of the president’s foreign policy. Which would be a big deal if that wasn’t the definition of being secretary of state.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Autumn is a beautiful time of year. At the White House, squirrels are rounding up nuts on the lawn, which is more than the Secret Service is doing.” –David Letterman

“In California yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed the first state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores. I think it’s very interesting that a guy named Brown is forcing us to buy paper bags.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Security is so tight now that they’ve asked members of Congress to circle the White House – because that way nothing will get past.” –David Letterman

Globe poll shows casino question might be very close - if voters understand it

Bumped, for glory. - promoted by david

Unfortunately, but unavoidably, the wording of the ballot question to repeal the casino law is somewhat counter-intuitive.  If your position is “no casinos,” you should vote “yes.”  If your position is “yay casinos,” you should vote “no.”

The latest Globe poll shows pretty convincingly that the confusing wording of the question is having a real effect.  This week’s poll, which used the ballot question’s exact wording, shows No with 53% of the vote and Yes with 40% (which is roughly where most polling has been lately).  Looks like the pro-repeal forces are losing badly, and so goes the Globe article summarizing the poll (which is entitled “casino repeal faces long odds”).

But the article didn’t pick up on a fascinating detail of the poll.  This week, the pollster (SocialSphere) asked a new follow-up question: “what is the number one reason you would vote [YES/NO] on Question 3?”  (Questions 15-16 in the PDF.)  This question allowed respondents to say whatever they wanted; as you’d expect, the most popular answer among “yes” respondents was that they’re generally opposed to gambling, and the most popular “no” answer was the jobs/economy line.

The really interesting result is this: for both “yes” and “no” respondents, the second-most popular answer was classified as “did not understand question.”  That is, of the respondents who said they were voting “yes” on Question 3, 12% “gave reasons why they support casinos,” and of the “no” respondents, 17% “gave reasons why they oppose casinos.”  That seems to mean that 12% of people who said they would vote “yes” actually should be voting “no,” and 17% of “no” voters should be voting “yes.”

It’s probably too simple to be reliable, but if we assume that the “did not understand” respondents would actually vote the other way (in line with the reasons they gave) if they understood the question properly, we’d be looking at 48-45 instead of 53-40.  That is a huge, huge difference – 48-45 is well within the 4.9% margin of error of this poll.

Having said that, it must be pointed out that SocialSphere’s earlier polling on the casino question was worded differently, so that there seemed to be little chance for confusion, and it tended to show majority support for keeping the casino law in place.  There’s no question that the pro-repeal forces have a difficult uphill battle ahead of them, and time is running short.  But this week’s poll does seem to show that part of the task is to educate voters as to what a “yes” or “no” vote on Question 3 actually means.


It was right around this time in 2006...

A message from John Walsh. - promoted by david

…just a couple of weeks earlier, if I recall.

When I watched the latest piece of crap ad from the RGA in support of Charlie Baker, I immediately recalled that awful feeling – maybe without the knot in the pit of my stomach because at least this time it didn’t involve my twelve-year-old son.

It’s not like they sent guys in orange jump suits this time – I suspect they’ll never make THAT particular mistake again. It’s not even some campaign employees and goons doing the “tomahawk chop” on the corner in Dorchester. That was just around this time as well, I believe. But for me, it’s the same feeling because what this represents is an instinct with Republicans that allows them to repeatedly cross a line – a line it seems they can’t even see. It’s not good.

Globe calls out the falsehoods in "No on 2" ad; TV stations can't be bothered

In a startling break from the usual journalistic practice of refusing to call anyone a liar (instead adopting the “some people say, while others insist” style), today’s Globe flatly declares that the apparently quite effective TV ad being run by the folks against expanding the bottle bill is, well, a crock.

Advertisements with inaccurate data aid foes of wider bottle law

A barrage of critical television advertisements containing information that state statistics show is false has apparently led to a dramatic increase in opposition to a November ballot proposal to expand the state bottle law….

The opponents’ ads say that 90 percent of state residents have curbside recycling, which they use to suggest that the bottle redemption law is no longer needed.

One ad features Peggy Ayres, a former chairwoman of the Marlborough Recycling Committee, who says, “Thirty years ago, the redemption deposit was a good idea. But now with curbside recycling, it’s an idea whose time has come and passed. Ninety percent of Massachusetts residents have curbside recycling right in their communities.”

The state Department of Environmental Protection, however, says only 47 percent of Massachusetts cities and towns offer curbside recycling, reaching 64 percent of the population.

“We’ve been monitoring and tracking recycling in cities and towns, and we have the right numbers,” said David Cash, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Remarkable.  And what do the No-on-2 folks have to say for themselves?

After some TV stations prodded the bottle law opponents to back up their claims, the No on Question 2 campaign added a footnote to the ad with Ayres. The text, which appears for a few seconds in small print and cites the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, says, “More than 90 percent of Massachusetts residents have access to community recycling programs.”

“We’re adding a citation to further substantiate our point,” said Nicole Giambusso, a spokeswoman for the No on Question 2 campaign.

Hilariously inadequate.  Access to “community recycling” is of course not at all the same as “curbside recycling.”  Community recycling is often the old kind where you pack up your recyclables into bags, toss them into the back of the station wagon, and drive a few miles to a transfer station.  So, this effort to “further substantiate” the 90% claim does nothing of the kind.

The pathetic part of the story, though, is that the TV stations that are raking in the dollars by running this ad are refusing to bow to reality.

Many of the TV stations that run the ads, which have been a lucrative source of income, did not return calls for comment.

Bill Fine, president and general manager of WCVB-TV, said his station would continue to air the spots. He described the ads as “what has come to pass for customary political discourse.”

“As often happens in these matters, the opposite sides of an issue use data sets that back their point of view,” he said. “The data is often subject to analysis and ultimately we cannot be the final arbiter of whose interpretation is the correct one. We leave that to the voters.”

Um … sorry, Bill, but that doesn’t work in this case.  ”Customary political discourse” doesn’t – or shouldn’t – include outright falsehoods.  There’s no room for “analysis” as to whether 90% of MA households have curbside recycling.  They don’t, and you shouldn’t be running an ad saying that they do.

So, bravo to the Globe (and reporter David Abel) for speaking clearly when the facts demanded it.  And boo to WCVB and the other TV stations who are putting profits before the public good.

Comment of the day: What are the differences?

From fenway49:

This is not just about “choice and LGBT rights,” though I disagree that they’re “not pressing.” For the people involved they can get pressing in a hurry. This is a guy who demagogued the “bathroom bill” and picked Polito as his running mate.

Baker opposes earned sick leave (and has a bogus replacement plan to try to hide it). Coakley supports the ballot question.

Baker spent three years opposing the minimum wage, only to come around to it only when it was about to pass. Before that he wanted to expand EITC so employers were off the hook and instead the state paid to boost people’s meager incomes. Now he just wants to give employers a “offsetting” tax cut — so employers are off the hook and instead the state pays to boost people’s meager incomes.

But does he plan to raise taxes to cover this budget hit? Oh, no. He plans to cut taxes even more. He’s for Question 1 to repeal the indexing of the gas tax. He wants to eliminate the state’s corporate income tax for any business with up to $500K in net income. He wants to cut or eliminate a host of other taxes.

Baker will spend four years teaming up with Shaunna O’Connell to demonize every EBT recipient in the state, everyone on disability, everyone who might one day get a public pension. He’s full steam ahead on “education reform.” He’d lift the charter cap but he’s against universal pre-K, which Coakley’s strong for. He’s promoting natural gas, a/k/a fracking and pipelines. He wants to deregulate anything and everything he can. He wants an ACA waiver.

And I don’t want him or any of his “incredibly competent” people in the corner office.

Let’s not forget that small matter of the Big Dig.

Mass. taxpayers subsidizing local beverage industry $68 million per year?

Bumped, for the moochers who make us pay millions to clean up their mess. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Credit: Dept. of Energy and Environmental Affairs

A new study by the beverage industry claims that expanding the bottle bill to reduce the litter they inflict on the state will cost them $68 million per year. This, of course, implies that not passing the bill will keep that $68 million, more or less, where it is at present: on us, paying to pick up their bottles from our beaches, playgrounds and parks.

Indeed, the Commonwealth’s Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs confirms that “Water, juice, and sports drink containers are a major source of litter and trash in our communities and cost millions of tax dollars to collect and recycle.” And adds that an expanded law that covers this type of trash will: “Save cities and towns millions of dollars in collection and disposal costs.”

More cheerfully, the industry study claims voting Yes on 2 to expand the bottle bill will generate $27 million in annual revenue from people who are so rich, or so indifferent, they can’t be bothered to return their bottles.

I’d rather have the beverage industry pay $68 million to keep Massachusetts clean — especially since they are the ones producing the rubbish — than keep this cost where it is at the moment: on us.

If there has been a less convincing effort in recent years than the “You pay to pick up our rubbish” No on 2 campaign I haven’t seen it, but that’s OK: I’m voting Yes on 2 because I want a cleaner Commonwealth, $68 million savings in state and municipal cleanup costs, perhaps, and a $27 million annual gift, one nickel at a time, from people who choose to give it.

Coakley and DCF case: What it's really about

Bumped, for justice. - promoted by Bob_Neer

In light of the shabby SuperPAC ad being aired against Martha Coakley, Commonwealth Mag revisited the whole case. The ad flamoyantly characterizes a case with a complex array of legal interests, and hyperbolically blames Coakley for the failures of DCF. Read the rundown, and you’ll get the idea.

Well Martha came out swinging. And gosh, Charlie Baker doesn’t like the tone, but just — can’t — bring — himself to disavow it. This is while his spokesman doubled down on the bogus attack. Yet another Profiles in Courage moment, Mr. Baker; the Kennedy Library is on the phone …

And particularly in a governor’s race, where taxation is at issue, let us revisit this searing prophecy from Judge William Young.

“This is not a case about statistics but about children – our children – and this much is clear, the flaws noted herein are more about budgetary shortfalls than management myopia,” he wrote. “We are all complicit in this financial failure. When next you bemoan your tax burden, remember that, at that moment, somewhere in Massachusetts there is a youngster who has just been taken from her parents’ home. She is confused, inexpressibly lonely, homesick, and desperately afraid. Because of Massachusetts’ penury, her future is murkier than in most places in America.”

via Coakley’s defense of DCF foster care – CommonWealth Magazine.

I’m sure that what those poor kids need is a Charlie Baker tax cut.