How About Commonwealth Magazine Praising Its Boss Mintz Levin For The GE Deal?

Hmm. It does seem that at least a disclosure might have been in order. - promoted by david

What a joke our city is. You don’t think so? Well check this out from Commonwealth Magazine. Within hours of the GE coming to Boston announcement Commonwealth Ragazine put up story cheering on the work of MIntz Levin (ML Strategies) complete with self-serving quotes from Steve Tocco.

Rah Rah! Shish Boom Bah!

A Mintz Levin partner is the chairman of the board of the non-profit outfit that publishes the magazine. Mintz Levin and its high paying clients is to Commonwealth Magazine what George Regan and his stable is to the Inside Track; times ten.

Live Blog of the Last Dem Debate Before Iowa

Your detailed rundown. Thanks Christopher. - promoted by david

I figured I would try this again like I did for the GOP debate once.  Same caveats apply.  I won’t be editorializing or fact-checking on the fly.  Please forgive any typos, sentence fragments, etc.  Expect fireworks between Clinton and Sanders on health care and guns.  The latter released a plan to pay for health care and has reportedly reversed himself on firearm immunity.  I’m told some guy named Martin O’Malley will be on stage as well:)  Feel free to interject in comments.

The Deal on the Repeal

News you can use. Find out how to reach your state rep at this link. - promoted by david

In response to tarbelsanklebiter’s excellent question about the status of the driver’s license suspension law.

First a little background.

Back in 1989, Massachusetts passed a law that revokes for a period of one to five years the driver’s license of anyone who is convicted of a drug offense. Any drug offense — even offenses that have nothing to do with cars or driving. State law also imposes a $500 fee to have a license reinstated after the time has been served.

At the time, our leaders were under the impression that the U.S. Congress was about to enact legislation withholding highway funds from states that did not follow suit, and they seem to have thought that the law was a good idea anyway.

But when the federal law purporting to withhold highway funds finally passed, it included an enormous loophole — a state could preserve its funds simply by informing the feds that it had chosen not to pass a license suspension law. Free to repeal its law, Massachusetts has instead kept it on the books all this time.

Twenty-five years later, it’s clear that the law has failed: it is not a deterrent to drug use (people with revoked licenses drive anyway because they need to get to their jobs and need to get their kids to school). It busies law enforcement with issuing additional citations to drivers whose licenses have been revoked instead of tending to more important matters. Licensed drivers are saddled with additional insurance costs because more unlicensed (and therefore uninsured) drivers are on the roads. And the law adds to the difficulties that those who have been convicted of drug offenses have in reintegrating — staying out of prison and off drugs. As one of the state’s public defenders described the law to the Globe, “If you were going to develop a public policy to promote recidivism, isn’t this just the way you would do it?”

If anybody could defend the policy wisdom of this law, it would be the state’s District Attorneys. And even they favor repeal.  (More background on this ill-considered piece of legislation is here).

So in September, the Senate voted to repeal the law.  On January 6, the House took up the Senate bill, but instead of an outright repeal, the House version kept in place license suspensions for persons convicted of trafficking in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.  (The legislative history of all this is here. The inside baseball of how the House bill came to be amended to preserve the suspensions for these convictions is a story in itself.)

If you think “trafficking” has to mean kilos of drugs packed like bricks, you’re wrong.  It is possible to be convicted in Massachusetts of trafficking for having 18 grams of cocaine in your possession.  That’s not close to even one kilo – it’s 1.8 percent of one kilo. And the underlying question remains — how exactly does suspending a driver’s license help re-entry?

The Senate responded to the House bill on Thursday, reiterating its position that all license suspensions should be repealed. Now the bill goes back to the House.  It’s not clear what happens next.  If you think the Senate position is a more sensible policy, you might want to let your State Representative know that you think the House should agree to Senate Bill 2094).

Remember When Elizabeth Warren Actually Wanted to #makeGEpay?

I wouldn't get too worried about this. Warren has already shown that she's pretty adept at playing a long game. The day that GE announced it was coming to Boston was not the right day for MA's senior Senator to trash them. Rather, she (correctly) pointed out that a company like GE has a lot to gain from coming to MA in terms of workforce, and she did so via a statement to Politico rather than commenting in person - a "bland hurrah," to quote the Globe, and I think that's accurate. She carefully said nothing about the package used to lure GE here, which enables her to say whatever she wants about it later. - promoted by david

Back when Elizabeth Warren was running against then-senator Scott Brown, she ran ads criticizing companies like GE for not paying anything in taxes:

In her bid to unseat Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren is keeping up her populist message, with a new ad out today that notes she “grew up in a family hanging on by our finger tips to a place in the middle class.” It goes on to hit Washington for “let[ting] big corporations like GE pay nothing — zero — in taxes while kids are left drowning in debt to get an education.” The ad comes after Brown joined Senate Republicans in filibustering the Buffett Rule, and in the midst of new reports showing perilously high student loan debt posing a threat to the economy.

And back in November, she was still publicly calling out GE for its tax dodging.

GE’s effective federal income tax rate from 2008 to 2013 was, for instance, -9% despite over $33 billion in profits.

And looking at the state level, GE’s effective income tax rate for 2014 was -1.2%, with an only slightly less appalling 1.6% five-year average. Evan Horowitz at the Globe similarly said that the GE move is unlikely to lead to an increase in tax revenue for the state.

So it was rather disappointing to see her not able to muster a single word of criticism for the $145 million combined city-state tax giveaway that Baker and Walsh agreed to:

“Boston is a great fit for GE,” Warren said in a statement to Politico Wednesday night. “Our innovation economy leads the nation, and GE already has long benefited from a dedicated workforce in Lynn and throughout the Commonwealth. I’m glad that the company will be able to draw on the tremendous resources in the Greater Boston area as it continues to grow.”

The handout is especially galling as GE is fighting a toxic cleanup plan on the other side of the state.

The GE move illustrates how elected officials too often embrace beggar-thy-neighbor as an economic development strategy, rather than working towards real wealth creation. Relocated jobs are not new jobs; they are just poached from Connecticut. And the multiplier effects from having GE in Boston likely just offset the corresponding losses in Connecticut. Real economic development should not be zero-sum.

Last Friday, Charlie Baker unilaterally cut $50 million from the state budget, and Marty Walsh might be cutting $50 million out of the BPS budget. If we want a real economic development strategy, we should be investing in our schools, our infrastructure, and our residents rather than throwing away money at one of the worst corporate citizens.

Paul Kirk endorses Bernie Sanders

Interesting. - promoted by david

Former Senator (for those of you who blinked at the wrong moment he filled a vacancy between the death of Ted Kennedy and the election of Scott Brown) and DNC Chair Paul Kirk has endorsed Bernie Sanders, drawing a connection between money in politics and lack of fairness in our society.

Rally for MA Public Records Reform - 1/21 State House

Fittingly, the rally will be out in the open. - promoted by Bob_Neer

I have nothing to do with this event but thought that some people might want to know about it.


Rally for MA Public Records Reform
Thursday, January 21
4:30 PM – 6:30 PM
Massachusetts State House, 24 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02108

It’s no secret that Massachusetts has some of the worst public records laws in the country. And a bill passed by the House that would improve the situation is insufficient and in some ways makes things worse.

The bill is now in front of the state Senate, our last hope for a solid bill that gives reasonable access to public records. Governoment officials in this state have been operating in the dark for too long. We are constituationally entitled to these records.

The governor is holding his State of the Commonwealth Address at the State House on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m. Two hours before the event, lets get as many reporters, editors, and media members as possible by the front steps of the State House to make some noise and let our elected officials know we’re serious.

This rally is being hosted by the New England chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. All Massachusetts reporters, editors, publishers, media execs, and open record advocates are welcome.

Our demands:

- ATTORNEY FEES MUST BE MANDATORY – the law must provide parties that win a court fight to get their records with attorneys fees.

- 30 DAYS COMPLIANCE – the time frame for compliance with a records request must not be longer than a month. Justice delayed is justice denied.

- NO COST ACCESS – levying additional fees on persons making a records request is an information tax. Telling us what is in our records is what our government does in a democracy.

Globe Calls for Investigation of Newspaper Delivery Industry

The kind of article that makes life worth living. The headline reads: "EDITORIAL: Investigate the newspaper delivery industry." - promoted by Bob_Neer

Once again I am swamped and can’t really get into this, but comedy this compelling can’t be ignored.

Attorney General Maura Healey and federal labor authorities should take an independent look at the newspaper distribution industry — in this region, and nationwide. If the way the Globe and other papers are distributed runs afoul of state or federal labor laws, distributors must change their employment practices. In recent years, courts have sent mixed messages: the Orange County Register reached a settlement with carriers, but a Massachusetts case related to the Athol Daily News upheld the legality of the independent contractor model. In 2009, PCF settled a lawsuit for $1.4 million and agreed to end some labor practices, like docking the pay of workers if subscribers reported that their newspapers were wet.

Maybe the story needs Spotlight.

GOP Committeeman takes control of RedMassGroup

A poignant email (no link) from Red Mass Group, the surreality-based blog that its founders named after us, with our blessings (see historic email/2001 obelisk in Patrick’s comment below), and which is one of a surprisingly large number of color-of-Mass groups (for example, Green Mass Group). The website reached its high point after the Senate election of Scott Brown, now working as a diet pill salesperson — when it was briefly renamed The People’s Blog — and has subsequently fallen on hard times: infrequent posts, fewer comments, and the spam which, like forest fungus, encroaches on untended blogs:

I am pleased to announce that late last year, ownership of RMG was transferred from longtime Editor Rob Eno to an ownership group led by me, Republican State Committeeman Steve Aylward. I want to thank Rob for his many years of hard work helping to keep Massachusetts Republican and conservative politics in the forefront. As the new Editor, I hope to continue that tradition.

The reasons I purchased the blog are many, but most important is my strong opinion that grassroots conservative Republicans need a voice to express their ideas and their concern in a media where it can be viewed by the public, news agencies and politicians alike. Without RMG, the most convenient and pervasive medium for conservative comment and opinion would be lost forever. And in a world where absurd liberal notions ranging from never-ending minimum wage increases to transgender bathrooms to legalized marijuana seem to be forever in the news, RMG becomes more important than ever. Without RMG we as common sense conservatives lose our voice, perhaps our only voice.

A hearty congratulations on Rob as he advances to the next stage of his career. You can follow his adventures at Long may he prosper. He deserves especially sustained applause for getting Aylward and his group, apparently, to pay him for RMG. Lets hope it was a big enough number to keep him in Moxie for the rest of his life.

As to the new owners, they appear to be hewing closely to the state GOP’s socially oppressive and fiscally perverse platform: a key reason Republicans can’t get the educated and progressive population of Massachusetts to vote them into the legislature. First, according to Aylward, they want to keep the minimum wage low, which forces all of us to subsidize corporations that don’t pay enough to keep their employees off welfare. A higher minimum wage allows people to come closer to a living wage for their work, cuts welfare expenses, and builds prosperity. Second, they oppose transgender bathrooms, an issue that affects almost no one. In fact, their #2 priority reveals more about the insecurities and political opportunism of Republicans as they struggle, respectively, to keep up with a changing society and look for vulnerable groups to isolate and attack than anything else. Third, they oppose legalization of marijuana, which would increase personal freedom, boost tax revenues, cut law enforcement expenses, and create jobs.

Its management may be changing, but it appears that “the most convenient and pervasive medium for conservative comment and opinion” will remain as surreality based as ever.

McGovern, Tsongas, Kennedy, Clark, and Capuano Call on Obama to Stop the Deportation Raids

  - promoted by david

Yesterday, 146 US House Democrats—141 representatives and 5 non-voting delegates—called on President Obama to suspend Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) home raids targeting Central American families and children. In the letter, they assert the need for a comprehensive refugee approach that “ensure[s] that Central American refugees, particularly mothers and children, are able to live free from an endless cycle of violence and persecution.”

Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Lucille Royball-Allard (CA-40), and Luis Gutierrez (IL-04) led their colleagues in the letter.

A majority of the MA House delegation signed the letter: Jim McGovern (MA-02), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Joe Kennedy (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), and Mike Capuano (MA-07).

The other 4, however, did not sign: Richard Neal (MA-01), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), and Bill Keating (MA-09). If you live in their district, you should ask them why and encourage them to join their colleagues.

Here is the text of the letter:


The travails of trying to make it in the Bay State as a Californian:

For the record, Bay Stater is a term apparently preferred by the state government. Wikipedia also lists the adorable Massachusite, which appears to have largely fallen out of favor, and then there is of course the beloved Masshole, which as everyone knows was added to the Oxford English Dictionary last year. (As one would expect of the British, evidently still smarting from their poor decisions in 1775 and 1812, it was incorrectly defined by Oxford as a term of contempt. For a better definition, just click here for

Does the presidency matter?

That's what some people asked about the choice between Al Gore and George W. Bush. I submit that it can make a very big difference indeed. For example, I think if McCain had won the Great Recession would have continued throughout his term, just as the Depression did under Republican Herbert Hoover. - promoted by Bob_Neer

There are two rival spectacles on the television tonight — the State of the Union and the advertisement marathon for people who want to deliver not the next State of the Union, but the one after that.  The pageantry is delightful, based on the Constitutional directive that the President “shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”  Then on other stations, I have Bernie Sanders promising to reverse the slide toward political inequality in our country.  Hillary Clinton promising to narrow the wage gap.  The Republican promise a vast change in the treatment of religious expression in our country.

Back to the State of the Union.  Just look at all the gatekeepers in that room.  435 Representatives, whose majority leader can kill an issue simply by refusing to schedule a vote.   100 Senators, 41 of whom can kill an issue due to some procedural tradition called a filibuster.  Nine justices, five of whom can throw out any law with no accountability.  That doesn’t count for the lobbyist population of Washington, DC, which outnumbers most Massachusetts municipalities.  An unelected press who can (and often do) ignore issues into irrelevance.

When teaching the American Constitution to my fifth graders, I often draw on the board two charts.  One shows the hurdles an idea has to leap to make it into American law.  Below it is a chart of the hurdles and idea has to leap to make it into Canadian (or Australian) law.  It isn’t even comparable.   The American system has so many more obstacles.  Anyone who follows the news of the past ten years can see that easily.

In this day and age, I wonder…how much it does matter who we elect in our billion-dollar contest.  Are the Republicans better off controlling state legislatures, blocking legislation in Congress, and forfeiting the Oval Office?  I don’t advocate for a Chinese style government, but it seems impossible to get anything done in this country.  I wonder why I should believe the claims of Hillary or Bernie, even if offered in dead seriousness and goodwill.   Given our system, I don’t know how much it matters who is president….and I don’t know what that says about our system.


Well well well. Ted Cruz might actually be ineligible for the presidency.

As everyone knows, Ted Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban father and an American mother, yet the Constitution says that only a “natural born Citizen” can be president.  Up until now, most respectable observers have dismissed questions about Cruz’s eligibility to serve as president as a form of “birtherism” and have declared that the constitutional eligibility of a person in Cruz’s position to be president isn’t open to serious question.

It turns out that that’s not really the case.  Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe and legal historian Mary Brigid McManamon have both published op-eds making the case that, in fact, the best understanding of what the phrase “natural born Citizen” meant to the people who wrote it in 1789 is that it restricted eligibility to persons born on U.S. soil.  Read McManamon’s article for a good summary of the case against Cruz; those in search of more scholarly treatments of the subject might consider this article from the Boston University Law Review, or this one from the Illinois Public Law Research series.

How will this unexpectedly difficult question be resolved?  Tribe thinks it unlikely that any court would act either to keep Cruz off the ballot or out of the White House on eligibility grounds.  I’m not so sure about that; of course there’s no way to know for sure until someone sues.  But in any event, the solution may be political.  A recent poll showing a very tight Cruz-Trump race in Iowa also shows that only 46% of likely Iowa GOP voters are aware of Cruz’s foreign birth, and that a substantial subset of those, when told, become much less likely to vote for him.  With Trump going all-in on Cruz’s place of birth and the media now interested in the issue, the number of voters in Iowa (and elsewhere) unaware of Cruz’s Canadian roots seems likely to fall quickly, which can only help Trump now that there is respectable academic commentary backing up Trump’s position.  And if Trump wins Iowa, he seems to me to have an excellent shot at sweeping the first four contests (IA, NH, SC, NV), which is great for him and terrible for Cruz (and the rest of the field).

From Cruz’s perspective, the timing could hardly have been worse for this issue to emerge as a serious one.  He’d have been much better advised to have dealt with it long ago.