Both of MA's Senators Voted Against Arming the Syrian Rebels

  - promoted by david

Today, the Senate voted on the Continuing Resolution that passed the House yesterday, with the funding authorization for Obama’s plan to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels.

Last week, the New York Times had an excellent article on how defining clear-cut “moderates” in Syria is a near impossible feat, one asking for trouble:

“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”….

The Syrian rebels are a scattered archipelago of mostly local forces with ideologies that range from nationalist to jihadist. Their rank-and-file fighters are largely from the rural underclass, with few having clear political visions beyond a general interest in greater rights or the dream of an Islamic state.

Most have no effective links to the exile Syrian National Coalition, meaning they have no political body to represent their cause. And the coalition’s Supreme Military Council, which was intended to unite the moderate rebel forces, has all but collapsed.

The C.R. passed the Senate 78-22. Both Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were among the 22 NO votes.

They were joined by only 8 other members of the Democratic caucus:

Mark Begich (D-AK)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Here is the statement Elizabeth Warren issued on her vote:

I am deeply concerned by the rise of ISIS, and I support a strong, coordinated response, but I am not convinced that the current proposal to train and equip Syrian forces adequately advances our interests. After detailed briefings, I remain concerned that our weapons, our funding, and our support may end up in the hands of people who threaten the United States — and even if we could guarantee that our support goes to the right people, I remain unconvinced that training and equipping these forces will be effective in pushing back ISIS. I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, and it is time for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to step up and play a leading role in this fight. Therefore, at this time, I cannot support funding for this specific action.

If we look at the two votes (McKeon amendment and Continuing Resolution) from the House last night as well, then we can say that if you live in MA-02 (McGovern), MA-03 (Tsongas), MA-04 (Kennedy), MA-05 (Clark), MA-06 (Tierney), or MA-07 (Capuano), then your full congressional representation voted against this latest misguided move to deepen US military involvement in the Middle East.

Biggest Game of Our Lives on November 4th Against Casinos, Media, Mobsters and Politicians. We Can Beat The Big Boys. Have to Work as One

A strategy is proposed. - promoted by david

Okay, bring it in. C’mon, gather ’round. Take a knee. Smoke ‘em if you guttem. Put down the goddamn cell phones before I smash every last one of them. I need you all to listen. It’s important.

In few weeks time we will playing the biggest game of our lives. I don’t care where you go from here and what you do in life. If you are victorious on November 4th and pass the ant-casino referendum you will have a beaten the largest and most powerful and moneyed group of individuals, institutions, wise guys and government entities ever assembled for for a campaign. Their game plan is to mislead and divert voters’ attention to the same old pro and con casino arguments.

So what we have to do is not let these people hi-jack our campaign. We must channel former MA Governor Ed King in his victorious 1978 Democratic primary win over Mike Dukakis by repeating our short concise complaint in every interview, speech, and advertisement. Corruption is running amok at the Gaming Commission!

Koch Influence on Higher Ed: Letter to New Suffolk University President

Certainly, if Koch donations are accompanied by "memoranda of understanding" rather than just being no-strings-attached gifts, the Suffolk community deserves to know the details. - promoted by david

President Smith,

As a proud alumna of Suffolk University, I’d first like to say: welcome to our University! New leadership means a fresh start and I’m excited to see what opportunities your presidency will present for the Suffolk community, past and present.

Because I love my alma mater and care about its future, last fall I began a campaign, Koch Free Zone, to bring attention the Kochs’ influence at Suffolk. As you may know, the Koch brothers, wealthy industrialists from Kansas, have give millions of dollars to colleges across the country in an attempt to influence academic research and class curriculum. The Kochs have donated over $750,000 to Suffolk since 2008, which is much more than many of these schools have received.

An independent New England?

You heard it here first in the NYT:

The details of Scotland’s grievances are almost the diametrical opposite of those of, say, the Tea Party or Swedish right-wingers. They want more social welfare spending rather than less, and have a strongly pro-green, antinuclear environmental streak. (Scotland’s threatened secession is less the equivalent of Texas pulling out of the United States, in that sense, than of Massachusetts or Oregon doing the same.)

It is amazing to me that what sparked a civil war in the United States is apparently just a matter for a one-day vote in the “United Kingdom,” but times are changing and nations are less important than they used to be — just ask the Europeans, or take a trip abroad and observe the extraordinary social, economic and linguistic commonalities that unite the world in comparison with, say, 1787. Perhaps we could keep using the dollar, and preserve the right to travel and work freely in the rest of what is now the United States.

Would we be better off on our own?

How the MA House Delegation Voted on Arming Syrian Rebels

Take note. - promoted by david

The Roll Call on today’s resolution arming Syrian rebels to fight ISIL. Which passed 273-156. 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats, including all the major leaders and committee chairs, voted for the resolution while 71 Republicans and 85 Democrats voted against it.

In our delegation Neal and Lynch voted for the resolution, while Clark, Capuano, Kennedy, McGovern, Tierney, and Tsongas voted against it.

Keating voted against the initial resolution, and for the amended continuing resolution containing the funding.

I personally have mixed feelings about how best to fight ISIS, but it seems that arming Syrian opposition groups is what helped create it in the first place. Kudos to our members who took the tough vote bucking the President on this contentious issue.

MA Again Leads in Health Coverage, but US incomes stagnant and poverty declining slowly

It's the economy, stupid. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The economic security of working families depends on reliable access to affordable health care, as well as opportunities to earn good incomes and to share in the benefits of economic growth.

New information released by the Census Bureau today shows that, in 2013, Massachusetts continued to lead the nation in the share of its state population covered by health insurance. With 96.3 percent of people in Massachusetts covered, the Commonwealth far exceeds the national average of 86.6 percent. Massachusetts has led the nation in health care coverage for its population since the implementation of the state’s health reform in 2006. [For more on health insurance coverage rates, see MassBudget's new factsheet on this part of today's Census release, available HERE.]

Today’s Census data also reveal that four years into an economic recovery, low and moderate income U.S. households are seeing limited benefits from the nation’s economic growth – median household income is lower and the poverty rate is still higher than in 2007, just before the start of the Great Recession. Modest reductions in the overall and child poverty rates, however, did occur between 2012 and 2013. Specifically, the data show the following:

  • There was no statistically significant change in real U.S. median household income between 2012 and 2013. U.S median household income in 2013 stood at $51,939, an amount 8.0 percent (or $4,497) below pre-recession, 2007 levels (adjusted for inflation).
  • The U.S. poverty rate fell to 14.5 percent in 2013, which is lower than the 15.0 percent rate in 2012 and is the first statistically significant decline since 2006. The 2013 rate remains significantly higher than the pre-recession (2007) rate of 12.5 percent.
  • The U.S. poverty rate for children dropped to 19.9 percent in 2013, a decline from 21.8 percent in 2012. This is the first statistically significant decline in the child poverty rate since 2000. Across the country, however, 1 in every 5 children still lived below the poverty line in 2013.

Both short and long term factors have added to the challenges faced by low and moderate income households. In the near term, budget cuts due to sequestration as well as other austerity measures at the federal level during 2013 significantly reduced overall economic growth, likely impacting job and income growth. Over the long term, in a decades old trend, the well-being of working families has become increasingly disconnected from growth of the national economy. While workers’ wages rose in lock-step with productivity gains throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, since the late 1970s, wage growth for most U.S. workers has fallen far short of growth in productivity. [See MassBudget's Labor Day release on workers' wages and incomes.]

The data in today’s release provide a useful overview of poverty, income, and health coverage on the national level (using Current Population Survey data), as well as health coverage data at the state level (using American Community Survey data). On Thursday (9/18), the Census Bureau will release additional state-level data from the American Community Survey. When that data is released, MassBudget will provide analysis of changes in income, poverty and child poverty levels in Massachusetts.

The full Census Bureau report is available on their website. Complete analysis of the national trends can be found at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Don Berwick offers a hearty endorsement of Martha Coakley

Email from Don Berwick (no link) that arrived this morning:

It has been a pleasure and an honor to serve as a candidate for governor, and the 114,000 voters who supported me are, without doubt, a future force for change.

To all of you, I have one request now: join me in full support of Martha Coakley and the Democratic ticket on November 4th. Although we do not agree on all of the issues, I have no doubt at all that the Commonwealth’s future will be in excellent hands in a Coakley Administration. I cannot say the same about the prospect of four years under Charlie Baker and the Republican Party….

I believe that the future well-being of the Democratic Party lies in its unapologetic and firm commitment to the progressive values that together we explored over and over again in this campaign: social justice, equality, and compassion in public policy.  Our state and our nation are hungry for leaders who remind us all of our shared interest in these values and in human rights. The Democratic Party stands for those values and Martha Coakley will champion them.

Good for Berwick.  He didn’t have to do this – he’s not someone who strikes me as the sort who will definitely seek elective office again (though maybe he will).

What say you, disappointed Berwick backers who are skeptical of Coakley’s candidacy?  Does Berwick’s full-throated endorsement change your view?

Open Thread - Steve Wynn Gets License. 3 −1 Vote. Judge McHugh Votes for Revere

We have a Wynner. Ha - see what I did there? - promoted by david

let the games begin.

I’ll start the open thread.

The goods news is King Arthurs will re-open and I hear they’re getting some new out of town talent plus they’re replacing the urinals with the automatic flushers. Nice. Real nice.

Now the referendum will have the face of Steve Wynn.

How bad did Jim McHugh set up his fellow commissioners to vote for Wynn then after they committed he bailed? I can’t wait until he is deposed.

These’s still a few acts left in this play.

Ed Markey ironically cites Nate Silver in asking for money

I know that you’re probably sick of my complaining about Ed Markey’s fundraising emails.  I understand that, even though his is one of the safest Democratic Senate seats in the country, he has to raise some money to keep it safe, blah blah.  But really – every day?  Look at your inbox and count the number of days over the last several weeks in which you didn’t get a fundraising plea from Markey.  If your inbox looks like mine, it’s a pretty small number.

Anyway, I was amused by the irony of the latest plea, which arrived this morning (email, no link):

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans a 54.7% chance of taking the Senate. The Washington Post and the Rothenberg Report are making similar predictions.

The Republicans are pulling out all the stops to take over the Senate this year. We need to build up our grassroots defense to make sure Massachusetts isn’t one of their conquests.

But a little context is useful.  First, Silver is indeed now forecasting a 54.7% chance of a GOP Senate takeover.  But that is down almost 10 points from a 64% chance just two weeks ago.  So things are trending in the right direction.

Second, and more importantly, Silver’s assessment of the probability of Democrats retaining Markey’s seat is … [drum roll] 100%.  That’s right, 100%.  And that makes perfect sense.  What do you think the odds are that more than a handful of GOP activists in Massachusetts can even name the Republican running against Markey?  Brian what’s-his-name is not going to be the next US Senator from Massachusetts.  He’s just not.

My point is not that Markey shouldn’t be getting in all of our faces regarding the upcoming election.  My point is that his is a safe seat, so it seems to me that he could spare a little fundraising muscle for his colleagues who really are in close races.  Colorado.  North Carolina.  Iowa.  Minnesota.  Even New Hampshire, for heaven’s sake.  If Markey’s goal is really to avoid a GOP takeover of the Senate, it seems to me that his fundraising prowess would be better spent on those races, rather than on padding his own already hefty campaign account to blow out a guy who is little more than a token opponent.

The 2014 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary Results, By the Numbers

Great, great stuff. Campaign strategists, take note! - promoted by david

Building on jcohn88′s post from Friday, which looked at the primary results in Boston on a precinct-by-precinct level, I took advantage of some lousy weather on Saturday to look at town-by-town results in the governor’s race statewide.

By now most of us have seen the above statewide map, courtesy of WBUR, showing who won each town. By my count this map shows that AG Coakley won 220 of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns outright and tied for first in six more (four with Steve Grossman and two with Don Berwick; more on ties at the bottom of the post). Steve Grossman won 80 towns (74 outright and six ties for first) and Don Berwick placed first in 51 towns (48 outright, 2 tied with Coakley, and 1 tied with Grossman).

I’ve found such maps to be interesting but of limited use in a three-way race, so I’ve gone ahead and made a spreadsheet and generated some more maps for your viewing pleasure. The goal is to show where each candidate did – or didn’t – have support and to identify some trends.

Martha Coakley

The sitting AG, of course, was the winner last Tuesday with 42.4% of the vote, compared to Steve Grossman’s 36.5% and Don Berwick’s 21.1%. As the map below shows, she did well just about everywhere and truly poorly almost nowhere.

The key for the map is as follows:

Good towns: Dark Blue: 60%+, Blue: 50-59.99%, Light Blue: 40-49.99%
Medium towns: White: 30-39.99%
Bad towns: Pink: 25-29.99%, Red 15-24.99%, Dark Red: Below 15%

Labor Day Weekend in Central America

Thanks to Rep. Kennedy for posting here! - promoted by david

(Hi everyone. Thanks for welcoming me to the BMG community. For my first post I wanted to share a few takeaways from my trip to Central America earlier this month. Would love to hear your thoughts and look forward to joining this conversation.  – Joe)

Gunfire at work. Death threats at home. Vicious gangs demanding you pay them a ‘war tax’ or your 7-year-old son’s life is on the line.

For Margarita and her son Darling, this was their daily reality in Lempira, Honduras. And last November it finally forced Margarita – terrified and desperate – to leave her home, pack up what few belongings she could, and flee the country with Darling by her side, moving north to a country whose golden door has long been a refuge for the oppressed and afraid.

They were not alone. Since last October, nearly 60,000 children and families have arrived at our border asking to be let in. Many were fleeing similar danger as Margarita and Darling. Some were seeking economic opportunity. Others were trying to reunite with family. But all cascaded on our border asking for help. For several months – even as the numbers pouring in have steadied — our country has struggled to respond.

With this in mind, I traveled to Central America over Labor Day Weekend with a bipartisan group of my colleagues, trying to understand what fueled the surge in migration. We talked to religious leaders in El Salvador about how they protect their communities from violence in the absence of a reliable police force. We visited an outreach center for Honduran youth where the first thing you see when you walk in is a wall filled with pictures of local children who have lost their lives to gang violence. We toured a shelter for victims of sex trafficking in Guatemala City, speaking to girls no more than 14 and 15 years old.

That life, raw and real, opened our eyes to the circumstances so many of these families are desperate to leave behind. This is not a problem for the United States to solve on its own. But there is no question there are areas where we can help. We need to work with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to crack down on the human smugglers (known locally as coyotes), address poverty, assist local development and restore faith in civic institutions. We have to clean up our own system, pass comprehensive immigration reform and make a strong, clear statement about what US policy is – and isn’t. And we need additional judges, lawyers and legal resources in our system to speed up the process for assessing whether people arriving in this country have a legitimate claim to asylum or not.

But there was a lesson that resonated through our experience above all else. Fueling the instability and violence wreaking havoc on Central American communities is one thing: the United States’ deep, painful and persistent addiction to narcotics.

This is a plight we here in Massachusetts know far too well. From Taunton to Springfield, families across our Commonwealth have been coping with this heartbreaking epidemic. But the human cost of our country’s addiction extends beyond our borders. At the heart of the poverty, crime and lack of opportunity driving desperate children and adults to American soil are drug cartels that have systemically undermined civil society, rule of law and economic justice. The impunity of these cartels is protected by the US drug trade. By the billions of dollars that flow into their pockets from the rock bottom of the American drug culture.

Which is why this country needs to confront its addiction crisis head-on, as the public health emergency that it is, rather than the law enforcement problem it has become. The DEA estimates that the heroin trade with Mexico alone is well over $40 billion per year; the gross domestic product of Honduras is only $18 billion. There is no chance we can arrest our way out of this problem. We need to invest more resources into education, treatment and prevention. Combatting drug abuse will require a comprehensive approach, ensuring we have enough providers, making sure dosing guidelines reflect the realities of addiction, holding insurance companies accountable for their role in helping to improve access to care, and guaranteeing that those with addiction get the long-term health care they deserve for what is a chronic condition.

There is no easy answer to the crisis of drugs, violence and economic opportunity that continues to drive thousands to our doorstep. At every repatriation center we visited on the trip, I asked the individuals there why they’d left; why they’d risked everything on a dangerous journey with no guarantee of success. The answer was simple: promise of a life free of fear and violence. Promise of a country that doesn’t turn its back on the hungry, the persecuted or the abused.

As the United States works to address this issue and reform our broken, backwards immigration system, it is that promise that must light our way. Because few American families would be here today were it not for that golden door. Mine certainly wouldn’t.


Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Bottle Bill?

It's all about the branding. - promoted by david

On Saturday, since the candidate for whom I had been volunteering (Berwick) lost the primary, I decided that I would devote some of my new free time to the ballot initiatives. I signed up to volunteer for Yes on 2, Yes on 3, and Yes on 4.

Coincidentally, that afternoon, the Massachusetts “Information for Voters” guide from Secretary Galvin came in the mail. I’m new to Massachusetts (I’ve lived here just over a year), so I found it particularly interesting to get such a guide. (I don’t remember ever getting one in Pennsylvania—not that we ever had as compelling ballot initiatives in recent years, at least to my memory).

The booklet provides a summary of each of the four ballot questions, tells you what a yes or no vote will mean, provides space for arguments submitted by both sides,and then gives the full text of the proposed law.

The name of the group campaigning against Question 2 caught my eye: “Comprehensive Recycling Works.” By the name, it sounds like either a recycling advocacy group (“works” as a verb) or a recycling company (“works” as a noun). “Comprehensive Recycling Works” criticized the proposal for “expanding an outdated, ineffective, and inconvenient system” and called for “modern recycling technology” that would enable Massachusetts to become a “recycling leader.”

After reading this, I thought to myself, “I wonder who is behind Comprehensive Recycling Works.” So I googled the address (it was given), and lo and behold, the first thing to show up was the website for the Massachusetts Food Association, that is, the supermarket lobby. Or, to use their own words, a trade association of “retailers (from the large chain supermarkets to the corner store operator), food brokers, manufacturers and wholesalers.” Same building, same suite. How kind of them to provide space for this completely-not-connected-in-any-way-group.