Somerville Home Sells for 1.7 mil-I'm sorry but housing is out of control

Two comments: 1. Somerville's a nice, convenient place to live. A victim of its own success. 2. We have nowhere near enough housing in Eastern MA. We are pricing out the middle- and working classes. And it's going to be zoning reform, not 40B, that solves the problem. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Hat tip to BMGs Ryepower for bringing this item to my attention. From today’s Globe:

A house on Foskett Street in Somerville has just become the most expensive single-family home ever purchased in the city, according to property records on the area’s Multiple Listing Service, a real estate information network. The 4-bedroom, 4 and a half-bath house at 32 Foskett St. sold on Friday for $1,725,000, which Curbed reports is several hundred thousand dollars above the asking price of $1.5 million. The home is a Colonial built in 1920 and comes with a two-car garage.

No offense to SomervilleTom or other denizens of that fine city, but there is no freakin way that kind of house should fetch that kind of price. My own old home shouldn’t sell for 990k, but that’s what the flipper we sold to is asking for. Something isn’t right. We need to build more homes and build more densely. We may need to build upward and reconsider zoning laws, but something has to change.

This conversation of two thirty something Somerville residents who moved to Austin was awfully close to one my fiancee and I had when we were in that fine city. Man, this place is as cool as Davis Square and we could actually afford to live here! And it’s 80 all year round with great BBQ to boot. Now, I don’t want to abandon my roots and I want to get elected in Massachusetts, my home, not pretend to be someone else in Texas. But these terrible costs on top of the mess of the MBTA are not helping me make my case to the misses that this is where we belong. Who knows how many young people and natives we keep losing? We already lost one congressional district, can we afford to lose another? Do we want to be the People’s Republic of Zuckerstan? Do we want to outsource the poor to exurbs that can’t help them?

We have to reform our zoning and we can make housing more affordable and build more urbanized and sustainable communities. It’s not hard. We just need to find the will.

Take down the POW/MIA flags

Do they do any harm? - promoted by Bob_Neer

One of the many strange things about the story of the POW/MIA flag is that it grew more popular decades after the Vietnam POWs came home than they were when the flag was created by activists lobbying for their release. That’s when politicians everywhere started flying the POW/MIA flag outside public buildings.

Now the flags are everywhere. I pass several on my way to work every day, flown not just at veterans organizations, but wherever you see the American flag.  At the inauguration of Gov. Charlie Baker in January, I noticed three flags on the podium of the House chambers: the U.S. flag, the flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the POW/MIA flag.

For a long time, I’ve been wondering why this flag rose to such unprecedented prominence. What does that flag say about American history and the attitudes of Americans? Who does it honor – just the Vietnam-era POWS and MIAs for whom it was created, or POWs and MIAs from other wars, like my Uncle Bub, whose plane crashed in the Balkans during World War II? What about the KIAs and the disabled vets and everyone else who has served in uniform? Are they promised they’ll “never be forgotten” just like the POWs and MIAs? And if all their sacrifices are to be honored, is the image of an American held in a foreign prison the symbol we would choose?

I raise these questions and more in a column this week in the MetroWest Daily News and other GateHouse Media publications:


In the column, I call on people to start taking the POW/MIA flags, hoping to start a conversation. The response has been interesting, and anything but one-sided.

It’s not an issue politicians want to touch. I asked John Kerry about in an ed board in 1996, and he predictably dodged the question. But I still think the wrong flag is being flown in the wrong places, and 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, we ought to be able to talk about it.

Joke Revue: "G.O.P. Chairman Warns Against Hatred for Hillary Peaking Too Soon"

Happy Earth Day, in arrears:


G.O.P. Chairman Warns Against Hatred for Hillary Peaking Too Soon

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In an urgent memo to the field of G.O.P. Presidential candidates, the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, praised them for their relentless personal attacks on Hillary Clinton, but warned that their hatred for the former Secretary of State might be “peaking too early.”

Priebus called the candidates’ ongoing evisceration of Clinton “magnificent,” but expressed his concern that “no human beings, even an impressive group like yourselves, could possibly sustain such a high intensity of throbbing hatred for an entire year and a half.”

“Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint,” he wrote. “You need to leave some hate in the tank.”

In the conclusion of his memo, Priebus advised the candidates to take an occasional day off from hating Clinton so that they could “return to despising her with renewed freshness and vigor.”

Responding to the R.N.C. directive, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that he understood Priebus’s concerns, but assured him that, at the end of the day, they were groundless. “Anyone who doesn’t think I’m capable of spewing an infinite stream of vitriol and bile doesn’t know what I’m made of,” he said, pointing with pride to his long record of hating President Obama.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Jeb Bush has to distance himself from what they call the Bush brand. So he keeps saying, ‘I am my own man.’ But when Governor Chris Christie is out on the campaign trail, he’s always saying, ‘I’m my own man, plus another guy.’” –David Letterman

“Hillary Clinton is making income inequality a central theme in her campaign. Yeah, for example, today she pointed out that her husband makes $300 million a year. She has to get by on $200 million a year, and that’s not fair.” –Conan O’Brien

“Hillary’s trying to appear downhome. Earlier today she was sitting on the front porch of a general store whittling a pantsuit. ” –David Letterman

“Governor Chris Christie says if he’s president, he will crack down on the sale of marijuana. However, that was before he was told it also comes in a brownie.” – Conan O’Brien

“Hillary Clinton announced she’s running for president. Yesterday in Ohio, Hillary popped into a Chipotle and she ordered a burrito bowl with chips and salsa. And on her way out she said, ‘That locks down the Hispanic vote.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Hillary Clinton is not the first woman to run for president. That title belongs to Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872. Her running mate was a young, scrappy John McCain.” –Conan O’Brien

“A new report says that dogs can sniff out prostate cancer with almost 98 percent accuracy. The report also finds that cats can sniff it out with 100 percent accuracy but they prefer to watch you die.” –Conan O’Brien

“Yesterday President Obama traveled to Jamaica, where he will meet with students and Caribbean leaders. Jamaica’s such a beautiful place, Obama says he can’t wait to just take it all in, hold it for several seconds, and then exhale.” –Jimmy Fallon

“In a recent interview, Michelle Obama said that the Secret Service taught Malia how to drive. In exchange, Malia taught the Secret Service how to throw a party when her parents are away.” –Conan O’Brien

What the Globe Forgot to Tell You about Two of Boston 2024’s New Board Members

Useful information. Oh, Globe ... - promoted by Bob_Neer

A few days ago, Boston 2024 rolled outs its new 30-member board of directors, a mix of (mostly) corporate executives, athletes,  and USOC officials.

The Globe printed a handy list of all 30 members and a line or two of background information. However, in at least two cases, the Globe gave rather deceptive descriptions.

The first is Mo Cowan, who has already been a government relations adviser for Boston 2024 for some time. The Globe describes him as  “the former chief of staff for Governor Patrick, who also served briefly as US senator.” This is all true. But he hasn’t been in the US Senate for almost two years now.

After leaving the Senate, Cowan went back to Mintz Levin, where he now serves as the Senior VP and Chief Operating Officer of the firm’s lobbying practice ML Strategies.

Here’s how ML Strategies describes its work:

From Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill, ML Strategies delivers superior government relations and consulting services. With deep knowledge in a range of issues including energy, transportation, health care, financial services, real estate, education, and telecommunications, our senior-level professionals in Boston and Washington, DC use their extensive experience in federal, state, and city government, as well as in the private sector, to build creative, informed, and strategic solutions that meet the goals of our clients.

In other words, he’s not a public servant as the Globe implies: he’s a corporate lobbyist.

We can also see the Globe’s deceptiveness at work when they describe former Boston 2024 President Dan O’Connell as a “former state housing secretary.” Again, that is not untrue. He was Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development under Deval Patrick from January 2007 to February 2009.

However, that was over five years ago. What is Dan O’Connell up to now?

Well, he’s the President and CEO of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a self-described “public policy group comprised of chief executive officers of some of the Commonwealth’s largest businesses.” They’re open about who they are: a bunch of rich people trying to shape government to further enrich themselves.

The MCP consists of the CEOs of Raytheon, Mass Mutual, Suffolk Construction, Partners HealthCare, State Street Corporation, Fidelity Investments, The Kraft Group, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Liberty Mutual, Everousrce Energy, Bank of America, Putnam Investments, Staples, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and EMC—and then Jack Connors, the co-founder and former chairman of Hill Holliday.

Boston 2024 board members John Fish (Suffolk Construction), Roger Crandall (Mass Mutual), and Robert Reynolds (Putnam Investments) are all members of MCP. Joseph Hooley (State Street Corporation) and Jeffrey Leiden (Vertex Pharmaceuticals), who both serve on Boston 2024 advisory committees, are also members of MCP.

Hey Look: Scott Walker's Coming to Town

Why not stop by the Union Club this afternoon to say hello to Governor Walker? - promoted by david

It’s going to be a busy Monday for our friends at the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin and 2016 GOP Presidential candidate will be in town for a fundraiser.

The Mass Fiscal folks may have some of last year’s campaign debt still to retire. In 2014, they and an Independent Expenditure PAC called Jobs First spent quite a lot of money in direct mail efforts targeting 20 incumbent Democratic legislators for defeat. They sent out flyers charging that these lawmakers had taken many scandalously unpopular positions, such as favoring “illegal immigrants over military veterans.”

That this accusation was a distortion in the extreme did not go unnoticed in the press or, apparently, among voters, and 18 of the 20 legislators overcame whatever threat Mass. Fiscal’s “voter education” efforts may have posed and prevailed in their races. Nevertheless, the Democrats are feeling pretty sore about it all and will be holding an event to “expose the truth” about both Mass. Fiscal and Scott Walker at the State House at 1:00.

As it happens, Scott Walker’s views on immigration issues have been much in the news in the last week. Just as it was being reported that he had won the heart and mind of the Koch Brothers, which would pretty much guarantee him the Republican nomination, he began to talk about immigrants taking American jobs — a topic that worries his would-be patrons. The Koch Brothers prefer their candidates to adopt a relatively low profile on immigration policy, the better to emphasize the issues that are more important to their big business agenda, like crushing unions and denying climate change. (Speaking of denying climate change, a Wisconsin state agency voted earlier this month to prevent its staff from even discussing the topic.) Walker’s recent comments to the effect that our immigration policy ought to protect American workers and American wages is contrary to his past statements and to Koch Brothers “right-to-work” orthodoxy. It might also mean that Walker sees a need to pander to the nativist wing of his party.

So it would be interesting to see whether Scott Walker steers clear of this controversial subject altogether when he meets with the Mass. Fiscal faithful. I say “would be interesting” because of course the event is closed to those of us who do not pony up $500 to hear him. (Monday, 4/27 at 1:30 at the Union Club, 8 Park Street.)

(Cross-posted at

Caucus schedule posted

Heads up. - promoted by david

Due to the convention not being until September 19th this year the caucus window is May-June rather than the usual February-March.  The only reason it seems we have been given for the later date is the hope of presidential candidates stopping by on their way to New Hampshire.  Since the registration deadline is in the charter (with a proposal to amend it out pending) you still had to be a Democrat by January 31st the later dates notwithstanding.  Personally I’ve long wondered why we bother during the odd years instead of just doing Democratic Campaign Institutes, but local committees can use these as an organizing tool IFF they capture relevant information.  There’s usually not much competition for delegate slots in the odd years and often slates are incomplete so if you are new to the process or know someone who is this is the time to get yourself or them involved.  The schedule is posted here.  Check-in is open from 15 minutes before to 15 minutes after the announced time.

These MA Representatives Just Voted to Erode Your Privacy Rights...Twice

According to jcohn88: "Neal, Kennedy, Moulton, and Keating voted twice to erode privacy rights. McGovern, Tsongas, Clark, and Capuano voted twice to defend them." - promoted by Bob_Neer

During his State of the Union address, Obama highlighted two issues where he would work with the Republican Congress which should have raised red flags for progressives: trade and cybersecurity.

Yesterday and today, the House of Representatives took up legislation on the latter issue passing two bills described by civil libertarian groups as surveillance bills in disguise.

Yesterday, the House passed the Protecting Cyber Networks Act 307 to 116. 202 Republicans and 105 Democrats voted for it. 37 Republicans and 79 Democrats voted against it.

Earlier this week, a coalition of civil liberties groups and security experts wrote to Congress urging members to oppose the bill.

Here is what PCNA would do:

Authorize companies to significantly expand monitoring of their users’ online activities, and permit sharing of vaguely defined “cyber threat indicators” without adequate privacy protections prior to sharing.Require federal entities to automatically disseminate to the NSA all cyber threat indicators they receive, including personal information about individuals.

Authorize overbroad law enforcement uses that go far outside the scope of cybersecurity

Authorize companies to deploy invasive countermeasures, euphemistically called “defensive measures”

Marty Walsh thinks First Night is too big for the City to run

In fairness, to make the obvious comparison Boston 2024 is a private group, thus the proposed change would make the Olympics and First Night at least organizationally similar. - promoted by Bob_Neer

After Mayor Menino rescued the annual First Night celebrations, it appears that Mayor Walsh wants to get out of the responsibility of First Night essentially because it is too difficult:

“We are not in the business of running events like this,’’ Walsh said. “We can handle small events. First Night is logistically a fairly large event with many different moving parts.”

While I don’t necessarily object to the City trying to find someone else to run the event, I do find this statement inconsistent with Walsh’s insistence that the City has the capability to actively plan and monitor the development of the 2024 Olympics. Even the planning of the City’s own responsibilities for the Olympics will dwarf that for First Night.

First Night has been a popular annual event in the City for almost 40 years. Unlike the Olympics, it caters primarily to the local population and involves mostly local artists, musicians and dancers. If Marty Walsh truly believes that an important and popular local event such as First Night is too onerous a responsibility for the City to bear, then he should admit that the City has absolutely no business taking on the 2024 Olympics.



Kinder Morgan CEO Compares Gas Pipelines to Cigarettes

Time to kick the habit, not just get a bigger drug delivery device. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

cigaretteKinder Morgan’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct fracked gas pipeline has hit all kinds of trouble, with nearby residents saying it’s not worth the risk, and folks all over Massachusetts saying its $2.7 billion cost is far too high and that fracked gas is just as bad for our climate as coal.

As Darren Goode reports (sub. req.) in Politico Pro, CEO Richard Kinder (net worth: $12 billion) is sick of all of us Massachusetts residents trying to tell him what he can and can’t do in Massachusetts:

Kinder Morgan CEO Richard Kinder said environmental protesters are using natural gas pipeline permitting as a “chokepoint” in their war against fossil fuels. But he conceded the protests are working and that his company — which owns stakes in or operates 84,000 miles of pipelines in North America — and the broader industry need to do a better public relations job.

“We’re doing everything we can,” including running ads featuring Kinder Morgan employees, Kinder said. “But, you know, it’s very difficult because protests are news and it’s difficult to disprove the negative.” The broader industry also hasn’t “done a good enough job in explaining how important what we do really is to the economy,” he said. “Sometimes I think people think we’re manufacturing cigarettes.”

Both fracked gas pushers and cigarette makers rake in huge profits by manufacturing a deadly, polluting, expensive product that’s designed to keep us addicted no matter the cost to our public health. Well, I guess Richard Kinder and I agree on something: That’s a perfect analogy!

Happy Earth Day! (*not actually about Earth)

[subhed: "Why my climate-blogging sucks"]

Today President Obama makes a speech in the Everglades talking about the effects of climate change on things that we value. The Everglades — like the entire state of Florida are susceptible to sea level rise — thereby brining its waters.

The Everglades are a treasure, and a great location and symbol, ecologically and politically. But as Joe Romm points out at length, climate change is not about the “environment” or a “healthy planet” or somesuch high-minded, altruistic stuff:

Affection and concern for our “precious planet” is misdirected and unrequited. We need to focus on saving ourselves.

Self-defense. It’s about us, and about fundamental blood and guts facts of human existence: whether we can get enough food; whether we have a place to live; whether our shelters can survive the elements; and whether our children will live a relatively easy life, or a hardscrabble, violent life of scarcity.


“MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds” by FireflySixtySeven – Own work using Inkscape, based on Maslow’s paper, A Theory of Human Motivation.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Don’t get me wrong: Our relationship with nature is one of the fundamental facts of the human soul. Just look at any era of art, music, or poetry and you will find connection to the land, sea, and sky. It’s part of what it means to be human. But with climate change we’re really talking about things lower down on Maslow’s Pyramid — the baser needs of survival.

Meanwhile, most of us find it difficult to even raise the subject of climate change: Only 26% of us actually ever bring it up in conversation. (Even here, most of my climate-mongering lands with a big thud, which squares with my experience — with bona-fide progressives! – in meatspace.)

This makes perfect sense. It’s awkward as hell, for any number of reasons:

  • It’s depressing. Yup.
  • It’s so huge that we feel that it’s utterly beyond our control. Yes. And powerful interests — perhaps the most powerful special interests on the planet — are arrayed against us.
  • We are all “hypocrites” — we all have a carbon footprint, and probably a pretty large one, simply due to living the lives that we know how to lead.
  • … which devolves into lifestyle-mongering and one-upmanship, even if we don’t want to! Well I drive a small car, or I eat less/no meat, or etc etc. I mean, even Scott Brown “recycles all the time.”
  • We cling to our “climate thing”: That miniscule part of the puzzle we can actually relate to — usually something nature-related. For Jonathan Franzen in his maddeningly half-stupid essay, it’s bird habitat. OK as far as it goes. But not the whole story.

But I keep coming back to this: We have to change systems, not just ourselves. Personal conscience and individual choice plays some part in addressing climate, but it’s not sufficient. We did not ask to be born into a fossil-fuel economy. We did not ask for this particular interaction of economics, politics, and geophysics. You’re not a hypocrite. It’s not your fault.

We have to change systems. That means that — in my strongly held view — the greenest possible thing you can do on “Earth Day” is to write a letter, make a phone call, or schedule an appointment with an influential elected official regarding climate change — as represented by these issues:

The people who can actually make those big changes are Presidents, Governors, legislators, and corporate leaders. That’s big, systemic change. We’ve got to catch the conscience of the king.

And it’s important to know that we are making actual progress. Last year we had economic growth with lower emissions for the first time ever. We have the President on the United States, many billionaires, and the world’s most highly capitalized corporation on our side. We have more pressure points than we realize.

The byword is to do what we can, as much as we can, as soon as we can. Not for “the earth”. For us.

Joke Revue: "Rand Paul Joins Crowded Field of People Who Will Never Be President"


Rand Paul Joins Crowded Field of People Who Will Never Be President

LOUISVILLE (The Borowitz Report)—With an official announcement on his campaign Web site, Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has joined a crowded field of people who will never be elected President in their lifetimes.

While Paul and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are the only officially announced Republican candidates with a zero-per-cent chance of ever winning the Presidency, a burgeoning roster of totally pointless candidacies is waiting in the wings.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson are just a few of the men thought to be considering squandering time and money pursuing an office that they will never occupy in a billion years.

On the Democratic side, only former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has stepped forward as someone who could only be elected to the White House in an alternate universe.

Minutes after his announcement, aides to Senator Paul said that they believed that he would emerge as the top choice of voters who are determined to waste their votes in 2016.

“There’s no one out there who has a more remote chance of being elected, unless Trump decides to run,” one aide said.


Man Pleased To Find Most Of His Mid-’90s Anti-Hillary Rant Still Usable

DECATUR, IL—Expressing relief that he would not have to construct an entirely new diatribe from scratch, local man Harold Willis was reportedly pleased Monday to discover that most of his anti-Hillary Clinton rant from the mid-1990s was still perfectly usable. “I got rid of the stuff about her ’93 health care plan, but besides that and a few other tiny fixes, there was still lots of good material,” said Willis, adding that once he updated it with a couple Benghazi details and a quick tag about the recent controversy over the presidential candidate’s State Department email server, the well-worn harangue would be good as new. “I figured out I could just replace the part about her being a frigid woman with how she’s just another corrupt Washington politician, so that was an easy fix. I’ll probably tighten up the Whitewater section a bit, but unless there are any big surprises during campaign season, this should easily last through the election.” At press time, Willis happily realized he could simply recycle the allegation that Clinton conspired to murder Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster without changing a single word.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“John McCain addressed critics who believe he will be too old to run for a sixth term in the Senate, saying that he’s still healthy and ready to go. Then people around McCain said, ‘Why is he talking to that mannequin?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“John McCain responded to critics who say he’s too old for a sixth term by saying that his mother is 103 years old and doing well. The crazy thing is that even she is somehow younger than John McCain.” –Jimmy Fallon

First-world public transportation

A glimpse at what could be.... - promoted by david

Various sources like this report an impressive example of first-world public transportation (emphasis mine):

A Japanese maglev that is the fastest passenger train in the world broke its own speed record this week.

Operator JR Central said the train reached 375 miles per hour (603 kilometers per hour) in a test run on Tuesday, surpassing its previous record of 361 mph (581 kph) set in 2003. The train traveled for just over a mile (1.8 kilometers) at a speed exceeding 373 mph (600 kph).

The maglev trains, begun as a project of Japan Airlines and the national railways with government support, have undergone decades of testing. Construction of the Tokyo-Osaka link, which is expected to cost more than 9 trillion yen ($76 billion), began in 2014.

Traveling by rail from, say, Chicago to San Francisco currently takes three days and two nights. America is a HUGE country with geography that begs for technology like this.

The Japanese government and people looked at a SEVENTY SIX BILLION DOLLAR investment and said “YES”. Why can’t we do the same?