Casinos Fail to Meet the Moral Test

If most MA voters vote to approve casinos, as appears likely at the moment, will that make them moral? - promoted by Bob_Neer

Former Vice-president Hubert Humphrey frequently observed “The moral test of government is how it treats people in the dawn of life – the children, people in the twilight of life – the elderly, and people in the shadows of life – the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.”  This quotation is found above the entrance to the Hubert H. Humphrey Building’s offices of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington, D.C. where Don Berwick served as Administrator from 2010-2011.  The quote inspired Berwick’s work there and has become a touchstone of his campaign for Governor. He recites it at campaign appearances often.

When government encourages and promotes casinos as a means for economic growth, it fails to meet the moral test.  Don Berwick understands this well and is not afraid to provide the leadership necessary to defeat them.  Now that the SJC has ruled that the voters of the Commonwealth will decide the future of casinos in Massachusetts at the ballot box this November, it is up to us to follow this leadership.

The Boston Globe is the Anti-Washington Post - Judge Mulligan Can't Handle The Truth - Women's Health Rights is Campaign Issue? - Gaming Commission Asking For Law Suits - 75 State Street, Behind the Scenes

Great theater at the Moakley Courthouse this week as the cross examination of Judge Robert Mulligan in the O’Brien probation trial ramps up.

From all reports Mulligan is coming across as nothing less than a self-serving liar. His arrogance is own worst enemy. This is a man that has sat through a few thousand hearings and trials in his career. You would think he would have learned something. Like how not to get set-up to look like a nefarious fool when testifying.

Mulligan keeps answering questions on cross with an unequivocal certainty draped in an attitude of moral superiority. You would think he’d learn. Each time John O’Brien’s lawyer, Stellio Sinnis, would show Mulli a letter or document disproving his assertions he displayed an unlikable, arrogant yet hypocritical personality.

Sinnis couldn’t believe how easy Mulligan made it for him. Hollywood could not have scripted it better.

And this is just the beginning. We have yet to hear about Mulli squandering a hundred million dollars the legislature gave him for computers but he instead bought office furniture. Who cares? That’s inside baseball boring stuff. But wait until the jury hears Saint Mulligan explain why he hired Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margaret Botsford’s son-in-law the day before she was mandated to cast the deciding vote to re-appoint him as the CJAM.

Wait til Mulligan tries to explain his O’Brien-war-planning-conversations with Globe reporters, Margaret Marshall, Ronald Corbett, Paul Ware, and a host of other characters who have been portrayed by the prosecution and the media as do-gooders. The exact opposite is true and it’s apparent to those paying attention.

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O’Brien co-defendant William Burke has been sitting in court for two months waiting to hear some evidence against him. Judge Young has been asking AUSA Fred Wyshak what’s the deal with Burke? Same for Liz Traveres. Well last week Wyshak said that the RICO statue can be used against Burke because a witness said Burke said he “wrote the book” on getting people through the hiring process.

You see Burke is retired and he can’t be linked to any hires outside the statute of limitations unless there is a “predicate act” within the statute.  Remember patronage is not a crime folks. Sorry to tell you that.

With RICO if you can find an act, not necessarily an illegal one, just an act occurring within the statute of limitations you can go after anything that happened before the statute the ran. That statement means Burke is facing 20 years.

Casino Town Hall With Don Berwick

Ironic that a town hall meeting to hear "cogent arguments against Casinos" is held in an establishment -- a bar -- that was prohibited at one point in US history on moral grounds. But I digress. - promoted by Bob_Neer

For those of you who are undecided or aren’t sure which candidate they should support.  As you know, Dr. Berwick is the only one on the Democratic Ballot for governor who opposes Casinos for Ma.

A CASINO TOWN HALL will be held at Doyle’s Cafe, 3484 Washington St in Jamaica Plain Mon, July 7th at 7pm.  If you haven’t heard cogent arguments against Casinos, this is an opportunity to do so.  Further it is an opportunity to size up this candidate as a potential governor.

I am sure he will take questions from those who attend.  Hope you can make it.

Joke Revue: "Republican Supreme Court majority calls case a dispute between women and people"

Borowitz:

SUPREME COURT MAJORITY CALLS CASE A DISPUTE BETWEEN WOMEN AND PEOPLE

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—By a 5–4 vote on Monday, the United States Supreme Court settled a dispute that Justice Samuel Alito said was “at its core about the rights of women versus the rights of people.”

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito wrote, “It is the duty of this Court, whenever it sees that the rights of people are being threatened, to do our best to safeguard those rights. In this case, it is clear that people’s rights were being threatened by women.”

Acknowledging that some women “might argue that they, too, have some claim to being people,” Justice Alito wrote, “That is an interesting question for another day.”

While the Court’s decision caused an uproar across the country, it received a big thumbs-up from one of the Justices who voted with the majority, Antonin Scalia.

“This has been a crappy year or so around here, what with all that gay-marriage stuff, but at least we finished strong,” he said.

PEOPLE WHO CALL OBAMA WORST PRESIDENT SINCE SECOND WORLD WAR ALSO BLAME HIM FOR STARTING IT

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)— A new poll released Wednesday revealed that people rank President Barack Obama as the worst President since the Second World War, and also blame him for starting the Second World War.

While the respondents slammed the President for his handling of the economy, Iraq, and a host of other issues, his perceived role as the primary cause of the Second World War was the biggest drag on his numbers. …

“Fair or not, the American people hold the President responsible for starting the Second World War,” Davis Logsdon, a political-science professor at the University of Minnesota, said. “If the President hasn’t gotten his version of the story out, there’s only one person to blame for that: Barack Obama.”

In other poll results, the most popular President in the survey was Ronald Reagan, widely credited with ending the Second World War.

ABUSE OF POWER BY GIGANTIC CORPORATION COMES AS TOTAL SURPRISE

MENLO PARK (The Borowitz Report)—Millions of Americans awoke on Monday to the shocking news that a gigantic corporation with unprecedented power over their lives had allegedly abused that power for commercial gain.

Across the United States, stunned consumers were shaking their heads in disbelief after learning that a gargantuan company whose explicit goal is to make as many billions of dollars as possible through any means available would put its own interests ahead of those of its customers.

“It never would have occurred to me that an enormous corporation with the ability to track over half a billion customers would ever exploit that advantage in any way,” said Harland Dorrinson, twenty-nine, a caterer from Albuquerque. “Like a lot of other people, I feel used.”

Carol Foyler, thirty-eight, a human-resources administrator from Pittsburgh, echoed the reactions of many who were blindsided by the news. “I definitely feel like I’ve lost my innocence today,” she said. “If you can’t trust a multi-billion-dollar corporation to do the right thing, who can you trust?”

Daniel Kurtzman:

“If our Founding Fathers wanted us to care about the rest of the world, they wouldn’t have declared their independence from it.” -Stephen Colbert

When in the course of human events...

Front-paged for the 9th 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, 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

Single Payer in MA - How Do We Get There?

A great question, from one of our very knowledgeable commentators on matters like this. IMHO, it would behoove Don Berwick to make plain the details of his strategy to implement single payer in Massachusetts as soon as possible. - promoted by david

It seems to me that a common mindset on this blog is that it would be nice for Boston to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, but that there are so many questions regarding the costs of such an event that without a solid framework on where the revenue will come from, its hard to really support the idea.  I think its a reasonable view and one that I agree with.  However, I have to wonder why the same rationale doesn’t apply to a single payer health care program.

Vermont has laid the groundwork for adopting a single payer system.  But from what I understand, Vermont has not yet found a way to pay for it.  I’ve seen estimates that implementing the plan will cost close to $2 billion annually.  To put that in perspective, Vermont is a state where the total amount of revenue (both taxes and fees) collected in fiscal year 2013 was just over $5 billion and where close to 90% of the population already has health insurance.  Its easy to point to Vermont as a success story, but the path to success still seems long and riddled with pitfalls.

In Massachusetts, almost 80% of the commercial health insurance market falls under 3 companies – BCBS of MA, HPHC, and Tufts.  Taking a deeper dive into one of those entities, Harvard Pilgrim makes up almost 20% of the market and (based on its publicly available annual statement) collected almost $1.7 billion in MA premiums from over 300,000 plan members and paid out over $1.5 billion in medical expenses (including hospital expenses, professional services, referrals, and prescriptions).  If $1.5 billion in costs represents 20% of the commercial market, then the total commercial market that would need to be replaced by a single payer system is at least $7.5 billion in new expenses (and that’s just paying the direct expenses, not including administrative/overhead expenses).  The total revenue collected by the state of Massachusetts in FY 14 was just over $23 billion.  Don Berwick’s website promises the creation of a panel to determine how to “get to yes” on single payer but doesn’t contain any specifics on where the 33% increase in tax revenue would come from.

Of course there are a lot of other logistical questions that would need to be determined.  But I think the most important threshold question (and one that proponents of single payer should be expected to answer) is: Where does the $7.5 billion+ annually come from?

 

In breaking news along the line of "Water is wet", Romney endorses Scott Brown in New Hampshire...

fredrichlariccia appropriately quotes Goethe in the comments: “Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.” - promoted by Bob_Neer

While watching MSNBC this afternoon, you would have thought that this was an event to rival the discovery of the missing plane in the Indian Ocean, but breaking news: “Mitt Romney endorses Scott Brown in New Hampshire“.

It was truly a battle Royal (pun intended) of the empty suits in New Hampshire today!

Comment of the Day: ryepower12 explains the obvious benefits of Medicare for all

Esteemed commenter ryepower12 explains the obvious benefits of “Medicare for all” or single-payer health care, the system used by the rest of the developed world which produces better results at a fraction of the price, in a few concise paragraphs. Outdated ideology and ignorance are the primary reasons we continue to suffer under our benighted system of medical care payments.

The answer is simple

Just like medicare, money will come from a tax or fee — whatever you want to call it — but it will be considerably less for most than whatever we’re already paying to health insurance companies.

Is this really some big mystery?

BTW: The $2 billion figure for Vermont may sound big and scary and some nice anti-single payer propaganda… but that amounts to a little less than $3.2k per person, in a state that otherwise has the 5th highest premiums in the country.

The least expensive plan in the Affordable Care Act’s health exchange for Vermont costs $4k a year. The medium-level “Silver” plan costs $4750 a year.

So strip away the “Big Gov’ment” scaremongering and single payer is a huge cost savings.

Who cares if we’re paying our “premiums” to a government program instead of health insurance companies?

I think the average taxpayer would be happy to pay less and get as much or more than the alternative any day of the week once it goes into effect and people see the scaremongering isn’t true.

This is why single payer systems are overwhelmingly popular across the world — including in countries where conservative governments have long been in charge.

Later on he elaborates:

correction: everyone pays for government insurance every pay check

We just don’t get to enjoy it until our mid 60s.

Changing that dynamic so we get a Medicare for All right off the bat can only make the program more popular, not less.

I have no doubt a transition would have a couple hiccups, but at the end of the day people will be glad to have a stress free system that costs significantly less, but equals or exceeds the level of care most have now.

We can do that if we want to – we need only to act boldly and be willing to follow the lead of the rest of the world, which has demonstrated time and time again that single payer costs less and delivers more – for all.

Don Berwick's appearance on my local access TV show, "All Politics Is Local"

Hurray for citizen journalism! - promoted by david

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Don Berwick for an hour-long episode of my local access cable TV show, “All Politics Is Local”. We managed to cover every bullet item found under the issues tab at BerwickforGovernor.com

Here’s the full video:

My show appears in 8 towns across the Worcester/Norfolk senate district, and while it won’t make it into the on-air rotation for several weeks due to other shows being ahead of it in the queue, that’s the beauty of publishing to YouTube! Please take an hour to watch the show and please give me feedback in the comments.

Berwick on the SCOTUS decision

- promoted by Bob_Neer

Don Berwick today issued the following statement on the Supreme Court’s decision that companies cannot be required to cover some types of contraceptives:

“Today’s abhorrent Supreme Court decision is yet another affront to women’s health. Every woman deserves access to quality reproductive health care, and I hope that Congress will take swift action toward ensuring that contraceptives are available to women, regardless of their employer’s religious affiliation.

“This ruling also serves as a reminder that it is past time to decouple health coverage from employment and move to a publicly accountable single payer health care system, similar to Medicare for all.”

Supreme Court royally screws up. But it could have been worse.

Bumped, for glory. - promoted by david

Today is the final day of the Supreme Court’s 2013-2014 term, and, as expected, it saw the announcement of two hot-button cases: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and Harris v. Quinn Both were 5-4 decisions with the depressingly predictable conservative vs. liberal alignment, and both were authored by Justice Samuel Alito (more on that below).  Both were conservative “victories,” but neither went as far as it could have.

You’ve probably heard of the Hobby Lobby case, which concerns the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide basic contraceptive services as part of a health care plan.  You might not have heard of Harris, which is about public employee unions’ ability to compel non-members to pay certain “agency fees” to the union.  In brief, the Harris decision called into question – but did not squarely overrule – an earlier decision that permitted public employee unions to charge such fees to non-members.  The Court did hold that unions cannot charge such fees to “partial public employees,” such as the home health care aides at issue in that case.  But the case appears to have no immediate application to “full-fledged public employees,” such as teachers.  That’s about as much as I know about this case, which may have broader implications of which I’m not aware.  There will be much more coverage of it at SCOTUSblog later today.

The biggest-ticket item today (and maybe of the whole term) was Hobby Lobby.  The bottom line is that Hobby Lobby won, which means that it cannot be required to comply with the ACA’s contraception mandate.  Let’s look at a couple of important points.

  • This is not a First Amendment case.  This is an important point that may get lost in a lot of the coverage and reaction.  The First Amendment protects the “free exercise” of religion, and Hobby Lobby did bring a First Amendment claim against the mandate.  But the case was decided instead on the basis of a federal law known as RFRA (“Religious Freedom Restoration Act“).  RFRA was enacted in response to earlier Supreme Court decisions, most notably Employment Division v. Smith, which held that adherents of a particular religion (in that case, Native Americans who used peyote as part of a religious ceremony) could not claim exemption from generally-applicable laws under the Free Exercise Clause.  In response, Congress enacted RFRA, which imposed a much more stringent test than that applied in Smith on whether the government may burden religious practices.  Today’s case was decided under RFRA; the Court explicitly said that it was not addressing Hobby Lobby’s constitutional claims.  Therefore, though it’s admittedly unlikely in today’s gridlocked Congress, it’s in theory possible for Congress to undo today’s decision.
  • Hobby Lobby won because the government already accommodates non-profit religious corporations.  Under RFRA, a government regulation that “substantially burdens” a person’s exercise of religion (more on whether corporations are “persons” below) can be sustained only if the regulation advances a compelling government interest, and is “narrowly tailored” to that end – i.e., it’s the least restrictive available means of advancing the government’s interest.  The Court placed a lot of weight on the fact that, under the ACA, religious corporations like churches are able to opt out of contraceptive coverage.  From Alito’s opinion:

Republicans on Supreme Court Impose Religion-based Limits on Contraception

The Charlie Baker Republican-controlled Supreme Court today continued the party’s “war on women” when it voted to allow corporations to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. NYT:

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.

The decision underlined the partisan politics that drive the country’s unelected branch of government. It moves the nation toward a society where religious faith trumps a secular market economy as a fundamental principle of social organization, and makes it harder for women to obtain contraceptives. David provides trenchant legal analysis here but, to me, the take away is in the headline and the danger in allowing five unelected individuals make laws for a society of 314 million, especially in a time of bitter national divisions.

Refreshingly, both leading candidates for Attorney General in a settlement established as a Puritan theocracy that would have applauded Charlie Baker the faith-based elements of the GOP’s reasoning once upon a time, have denounced the decision.

Maura Healey, who “oversaw the early stages of the Commonwealth’s argument against Hobby Lobby’s claim that an employer should be allowed to deny its employees insurance coverage for birth control because of the business owners’ own religious beliefs,” according to her website, wrote “The court’s decision in Hobby Lobby is a betrayal of women that comes right on the heels of its misguided decision striking down the Massachusetts buffer zone. In its ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that choices vital to a woman’s health and personal autonomy should be made by her employer. It is a dangerous and troubling outcome …”

Warren Tolman said: “Five conservative male justices hijacked a woman’s fundamental right to have access to contraceptives, subordinating it to a corporation’s right to control access to birth control on her behalf.”