Winners, Losers, and Loozahs in Demolition of Speaker Term Limits

WINNERS:

Bob DeLeo  (Duh)

His staff (Duh again)

Winthrop (OMG, how many times can I say “duh”? Duh.)

Suffolk Downs  (At Least four times. Duh.)

Future speakers (Five, five Duhs. Duh)

The House as an Institution: By definition term limits causes turmoil inside the House and weakens it on the oustide. A lame duck speaker gives a governor and senate a huge advantage in getting things done as House members  obsess about his replacement and are they “in” with the right people. Totally sucks the air out of the place.

LOSERS:

Rob Mariano: The majority leader/kingmaker is not happy.  Jesus effin cripes. He’s spent the past six years making sure his hand chosen minion will be the next speaker, in this case Brian Dempsey. Do you know how many goddamn dinners he’s had to endure with schlomo reps from East Puttsville and other god forsaken places  in order to get the one and only thing they have that’s worth anything? Other than the name they spit out when called for their speaker vote they’re worthless. WORTHLESS I TELL YOU!

So now he has to keep them all in line for much longer than anticipated. First off, them being made to do something they don’t like to do (vote to extend the term limits – makes them look bad at home and second (actually a derivitive of the first thing) this is the type of vote that can come back during election season and severely bite many of them on thier asses.

Brian Dempsey: How pissed off is this guy right now? How long will this go on for? Can he keep his people together? Trust me on this. Nobody is more interested in Bob DeLeo’s health right now than Brian Dempsey.

LOOZAHS:

Tom Sannicandro: The courageous and overly self-impressed liberal’s liberal from Framingham whose politics is pretty much opposite of the very conservative (Massachusetts Democratic conservative) Bob DeLeo sent out a transparent, insulting, embarrassing, shameful, moronic, naive, etc. etc.  tweet this morning.

Check this gem out from Tom the savvy politician:

“ @SpeakerDeLeo has changed the world for people with disabilities, we need his continued leadership #mapoli @TheArcofMass @TheMDSC @MassADDP

Really Tom? Really? Which chairmanship are you gunning for? What was the purpose of the tweet? Are you for real dude? Not only has he “changed the world” for peoiple with disabilities he’s so awsome he needs to stay.  Are you fucking high?

Now if Scaccia or some other old timer with institutional respect and buddies with DeLeo tweeted this out I’d laugh and say “good job.”

But you Tom? Baahahah. Not only does this tweet prove you a fraud it proves you a clueless one.

Instead of keeping of your mouth shut and voting you had to go above a beyond. Another lightweight.

Brad Garrett, I mean Garrett Bradley: Oh sure he’s been whipping up the votes for DeLeo. By that I mean he’s been calling up reps and having a conversation that goes something like this.

Rep. Bippity Bop: Hello

Brad: Hey Bip, it’s me Brad.

Bip: Oh, hey Brad.

Brad: Listen, Bip, leadership, including the speaker, want to make some rules changes come next term. As you know some of our current rules do nothing but weaken us as an institution and that’s never good.

Bip: So true. So true.

Brad: Right. So we’re gonna get rid of the speaker’s terms limits and a few other things so we can move this place in the right direction. All right?

Bip: You tell the speaker I’m here for him when it counts. He has my support on the rules changes.

Brad: He’ll appreciate that Bip. He’ll appreciate that.  Take care.

Bip: You too Brad, take care.

Click

After hanging up Representative Bop mumbles to himself, “Muuuuthah Fuuuckah. I can’t believe these guys.”

And scene 

That’s not politics Brad, I mean Garrett, no, screw it, I mean Brad. That’s just being a messenger. Like a pencil and paper. Like a tool.

But that’s not my problem with Brad Garrett aka Garrett Bradley. My problem is that the triple eagle rep, from upper crust Hingham in 2015 thinks he’s a working class rep. from Lowell in 1970. He’s got relatives up the kazoo on the state payroll. Not one or two. Many more. Very unbecoming Brad. Not cool anymore. Take care of one, maybe two. So un-Hingham like.

Anyway because of Brad’s willingness to carry the ball for the speaker on this he’s put a bull’s-eye on himself and that’s resulted in the uncovering of the family employment racket he’s got going.

The problem ladies and gents is that for the most part the quality of people running for the legislature has gotten worse and worse.

What more can I say?

"Why can't you be a f***ing gentleman?": A bad day for the House

First, when you’ve got left (BMG), right (the Herald), and center (well, maybe center-left) (the Globe) agreeing on an issue, there’s probably a decent chance that they’ve got a point.  In fact, just about the only people in Massachusetts who seem to think that repealing term limits for the Speaker is a good idea are the Speaker himself and just over 100 other House members, who just rejected an amendment that would have put the term limit back into the House rules. [UPDATE: the entire rules package has just been adopted, and the Speaker's term limits are no more.]

Early reports indicate that only 11 Democrats had the gumption to vote in favor of the amendment (Reps. Hecht, Ayers, Provost, Dwyer, Timilty, Rosa, Zlotnik, DiZoglio, Dinatale, Dykema, and John Rogers, per the Herald’s Matt Stout), and that of them, only Rep. Hecht spoke on the floor in favor of its adoption.  Kudos to those brave 11 souls (especially Jon Hecht), who no doubt will feel the wrath of DeLeo brought down upon them in the form of crappy offices and committee assignments.

Second, to add insult to injury, a number of the House’s court officers and legislators apparently aren’t familiar enough with their own rules to realize that a caucus meeting is open to the public until closed by a vote of the members.  Which results in embarrassments like this:

Two State House reporters clashed with Beacon Hill court officers before Democrats voted to close a caucus meeting where they discussed ending term limits for the office of House speaker….

The two reporters involved, the author [our own Garrett Quinn] and one from the State House News Service [Gintautas Dumcius], were initially confronted by a confused court officer and a handful of legislators that thought they had to leave.

The reporters informed them that House rules state that the meeting is open until it is voted closed by a majority of members present.

Two additional court officers confronted the reporters moments later before the start of the meeting and asked them to leave. When the reporters calmly repeated the rules to them the lead court officer grew increasingly agitated and grabbed the arms of both reporters before swearing at them.

“Am I going to have to have you escorted out of the f***ing building? I am talking! Quiet! Are you telling me you’re not going to leave?” said the officer, raising his voice.

The visibly agitated court officer continued to confront the reporters and grab their arms as if trying to move them out of the room.

“Why can’t you be a f***ing gentleman?” said the officer while loudly asking them to leave the room.

Here’s the kicker:

Both court officers involved in the confrontation declined to identify themselves when asked by the two reporters.

WTF.  It hardly needs to be said that (a) court officers have no business refusing to identify themselves in circumstances like these; and (b) the reporters involved are owed an apology by the officers, and by the Speaker’s office.  Naturally, the members who were present unanimously voted to close the caucus, at which point the reporters left on their own.

In sum, today the Massachusetts House of Representatives held an important debate that was closed to the public, roughed up a couple of reporters who were trying to cover it, and then voted to repeal term limits for the Speaker which had been put in place at the instigation of that very same Speaker as a needed reform to restore trust in government and guarantee the flow of fresh ideas.

Yeah, I’d call that a bad day.

Properly Pricing Carbon

The Williamstown Democratic Town Committee has endorsed a bill (SD285) filed in the Massachusetts State Senate by Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) that would impose a revenue-neutral carbon fee that is reimbursed to households and businesses.  We did so because we agree that it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our state’s dependence on fossil fuels while spurring economic growth.  We like the feature of the bill that returns tax revenue to households and businesses in a way that protects low- and moderate-income households and business competitiveness.

By coincidence, in its January 17th issue The Economist also came out in favor of carbon taxes, which the magazine’s editors called “a much better way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases than subsidies for windmills and nuclear plants” (p. 9).  Their broader point was that governments should use the opportunity given us by lower energy prices to price carbon-based fuels at their real cost – that is, including their damage to the environment.  Their arguments are persuasive.  The time to act is now.

We urge all Democrats in both Houses of the Massachusetts Legislature to support and cosponsor SD285, An Act Combating Climate Change.

Jim Mahon
Chair, Williamstown Democratic Town Committee

Hacks in a huddle

The Joke Revue came early this week, and in the Herald of all places: Matt Stout reports in “Critics press lawmakers to oppose Robert DeLeo:”

DiMasi became the third speaker in a row to be convicted of a federal crime, and 
DeLeo, while never charged, was labeled by federal prosecutors last summer as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Probation Department corruption trial — a fact he admitted “taints” 
his legacy. …

“This is not about Bob DeLeo. It’s about the House as an institution,” said state Rep. Garrett Bradley.

Another member of DeLeo’s inner circle, state Rep. Paul Donato, said, “I don’t believe the speaker’s position is, ‘I want to be speaker and I don’t want to let go of it.’ ” And while DeLeo “changed his mind” on the term limits, Donato expects the majority of the House to support him.

So hilarious. What this power grab by DeLeo and his coterie of cronies demonstrates is the incompatibility of one party rule and democracy: apparently, the US Attorney is the only one who can generate turnover in the Speakers Office. (As a side note, a shout out to yesterday’s Comment of the Day from TheBestDefense on HesterPrynne’s post: “Here is a run down from SouthCoastToday on DeLeo patronage games. Carol DeLeo, his sister, Secretary of State’s office; now she’s at the State Auditor’s office. Vicki A. Mucci, his longtime girlfriend, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. Ralph DeLeo, his cousin, Executive Office of Administration and Finance. Joseph DeLeo, his cousin, the Revere Police Department. Brian Mirasolo, his godson, acting chief probation officer, Administrative Office of the Trial Court. 15 people at the state Probation Department who contributed at least $850 apiece to his campaign” citing this 2011 Globe piece by Andrea Estes and Scott Allen).

For progressives, what it shows is the dreadful cost of the failure to develop an effective Progressive Caucus under Governor Patrick that could vote as a block and stand up to bullying like this. At the moment, they are scattered like gulls at the seashore, and BMG readers find themselves applauding the chair of the Mass GOP.

Shenanigans like this are an important part of the reason Charlie Baker beat established Democratic pol Martha Coakley (and Scott Brown, before him), and help explain why the largest political party in Massachusetts is Unenrolled.

Today in "even a stopped clock is right twice a day": Kirsten Hughes nails it on DeLeo and term limits

Kirsten Hughes, the chair of the Massachusetts Republican party, doesn’t often say things that gain much traction around here.  But on Would-Be-Speaker-For-Life Bob DeLeo, who is seeking to abolish the House’s 8-year term limit on being Speaker, she’s right.

state Republican Party chairwoman Kirsten Hughes said, “Speaker DeLeo’s sudden reversal on term limits he once championed smells of hypocrisy. Speaker DeLeo’s about-face is yet another example of Democrats on Beacon Hill changing the rules for their own self-interest and demonstrates a lack of commitment to changing the culture of corruption that led to the indictment of three consecutive speakers.”

Yeah … I’m afraid I can’t find much in there to disagree with.  DeLeo, as the Globe correctly points out, used to see a term limit on the Speaker’s chair as not only a way to restore badly-needed confidence in government, but also as a way to ensure that “fresh ideas” had a chance to emerge from the House.  As he put it in 2009,

“Is it a symbolic move? Maybe it is,” DeLeo said. “But sometimes symbolic moves can do a great deal in instilling public trust.”

DeLeo has called ethics reform his top priority and said he considers term limits to be a part of his overall reform package because it would mandate that the powerful position change hands regularly.

“It’s important in a position such as speaker for there to be an opportunity for fresh ideas, and the only way you can ensure that is to put term limits on the speaker,” DeLeo said. “Sometimes folks feel they’re concerned about political figures getting stale. This shows that there’s opportunity for change.

“Whether it’s president of the United States or speaker of the House, there’s an opportunity to bring fresh ideas.”

But so much for all of that.  What DeLeo is doing, essentially, is saying that ethics reform and fresh ideas were needed in 2009 because other people had been Speaker, but they’re unnecessary now because it’s me, and you can trust me.  Is that not the very definition of hubris, especially coming from a guy who came awfully close to being indicted last year?

Getting rid of term limits for the Speaker is a terrible idea.  Apparently, it’s nonetheless expected to pass easily.  If it does, what a sorry commentary on the House that will be.

When it Comes to Credibility and Entertainment John Henry's Sports Page Can't Compete With Dave Portnoy's Web Page.

This kid is a media pioneer who unlike the sports “journalists” has credibility.

Even if you are not a Patriots fan do yourself a favor and watch his report from media day at the Super Bowl.

Portnoy’s a Boston original. We get to claim him. Like being from Liverpool when the Beatles started out. (Yeah, I said that)

P.S. I think he should run for Bosotn City Council At-Large.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMJAKnrVv1sRzlq_vqige3Q

 

International trade policy vs. parking-space-saver policy

Did you ever notice the parallel between parking-space-saver policy (those chairs and orange traffic cones people use as space savers after a snowstorm) and international free trade policy?

Free trade:  Theoretically, free trade opens up markets and increases the size of the pie for everyone.  But it’s a huge gamble, and lots of people’s instincts lean toward protecting domestic markets.  Especially if their job or their regional economy is at risk when trade patterns shift.

Parking:  Banning space savers theoretically expands the availability of parking throughout the day.  But again, a gamble, with the instinct to try to protect the space you cleared out.

Opinions on both issues tend to vary based on your situation — do you work in a manufacturing job that is at risk?  Do you park on a crowded street? — as well as social/political groups.  More conservative, old-school, old-neighborhood folks tend to favoring protecting jobs, markets, parking spaces.

As a question of political strategy (and neighborhood etiquette) I think it’s useful to think about this …. space-savers might seem like a minor issue, but it’s a real opportunity for understanding……  How does one’s perception of risk affect one’s political views?  And why do people whose jobs (or parking spaces) are most at risk tend toward conservative approaches….

 

 

2015 Blizzard: More Evidence Climate Change Intensifying Winter Storms

Massachusetts National Guard

Scituate, MA (Courtesy of MA National Guard)

It’s not your imagination: Giant snowstorms really are hitting Massachusetts more often than they used to.

Here’s an example: The 1993 “Storm of the Century” delivered 20.1″ of snow to Worcester. Incredibly, that storm no longer even makes Worcester’s top 10 – Worcester has gotten 7 snowfalls of 20.8″ or greater in just the last 22 years.

Climate change obviously makes storms like this worse by raising sea levels. Not only are sea walls that were built 50 years ago old & crumbling, they were built for an ocean that was about half a foot lower.

But climate change also makes blizzards worse by fueling them with warmer sea water. As climate scientist Dr. Kevin Trenberth told Joe Romm at ClimateProgress.org:

The number 1 cause of this is that it is winter. In winter it is cold over the continent. But it is warm over the oceans and the contrast between the cold continent and the warm Gulf Stream and surrounding waters is increasing. At present sea surface temperatures are more the 2F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the east coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10% higher as a result. About half of this can be attributed to climate change.

We can see clear evidence of a trend by looking at the top 5 snowfalls of three big local cities.

State body proposes to screw employee health care because it won't balance a budget fairly

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  The government makes promises to those willing to accept pay cuts to work for it.  The state doesn’t provide the funding to meet those promises, and then declares that those silly enough to believe them should pay for it.

Okay, that was rude.  Many of you tried to stop me and I finished to story anyway, because we’ve <b>all</b> heard this one before.  This time, the discussion is on the Group Insurance Commission.

 

Tomorrow's Speaker-for-Life Maneuver: Advocacy Materials

The Globe confirms that at tomorrow’s House session, at which the rules for the 2015-2016 session will be debated, Speaker Robert DeLeo is planning to ask members to abolish the eight-year term limit on the Speakership that the current rules impose:

House Rule 14A: No member shall hold, for more than eight consecutive years, the office of Speaker of the House. For purposes of this rule, the counting of consecutive years shall commence on January 7, 2009.

If you want to communicate your views on the proposal to abolish Rule 14A to your elected Representative, here’s some information you might find helpful.

1. On May 10, 2009, the Globe published an op-ed by Speaker DeLeo, in which he praised the House for its wisdom in reforming various of its practices. The reimposition of an eight-year term limit on the Speakership was among the improvements he praised. Excerpt below (emphasis on term limits added):

Boston Globe, May 10, 2009

Section: Editorial Opinion

House on the road to reform

Robert DeLeo

In the few months I have been speaker, the Massachusetts House has done what many thought it was incapable of doing: Amid a global economic downturn and statewide fiscal crisis, the House has embraced change and reform.

Massachusetts is paying for the sins of the past. Some of those sins we committed ourselves – such as allowing a dysfunctional transportation system to persist long after it was known to be unsustainable. Some are the result of much larger forces that sent the global economy into a free fall. Regardless of their origin, what is critical is that we find quick and thoughtful solutions to the challenges.

Real change in the House cannot come from fiat or edict. As speaker, I must balance the concerns and interests of 158 other members – all of whom represent distinct cities and towns with their own specific interests.

Yet even with those obstacles, we have accomplished much.

In order to restore public confidence in the government, the House passed ethics, pension, rules, and transportation reform measures that change the face of state government for the better…

On rules reform, the House reinstituted an eight-year term-limit for the speaker and put in place new measures to combat phantom voting…

It will take the courage and commitment of every elected leader, and every citizen as well, to get us through these most difficult of times.

Democratic Representative Robert DeLeo of Winthrop is speaker of the Massachusetts House.

2. The February 11, 2009, roll call vote, at which the House members approved rules changes, including the eight-year term limit, is here.

Compensation of provider executives in MA reaches $100 million

(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blog)

More than 600 executives employed by corporate human service providers in Massachusetts received some $100 million per year in salaries and other compensation, according to our updated survey of the providers’ nonprofit federal tax forms.

By our calculations, state taxpayers are on the hook each year for up to $85 million of that total compensation.

We reviewed the federal tax forms for some 300 state-funded, corporate providers, most of which provide residential and day services to persons with developmental disabilities.

The following is a summary chart of our latest survey results (click on the chart to enlarge):

Vendor survey summary chart 1.22.15

For the complete survey chart, click here.

We first released our survey about a year ago, when we found that more than 550 executives working for some 250 state-funded corporate providers of services to people with developmental disabilities in Massachusetts received a total of $80.5 million in annual compensation.

COFAR has also previously raised concerns that increasing amounts of money going to provider executives have not translated into higher pay for direct-care workers in Massachusetts.

The latest survey reports on 635 executives who received total annual compensation of $102.4 million and average annual compensation per employee of $161,231.  The survey was based on provider tax forms filed in either the 2011 or 2012 tax years.  Those tax forms are available online at www.guidestar.org.

The survey sample included 100 CEO’s and presidents, making an average of $210,227 in salaries and benefits; and 107 executive directors receiving an average of $130,835 in compensation.  As the chart above shows, the survey also included 67 chief financial officers, 31 chief operating officers, 100 vice presidents, 110 directors, and 120 other officers, all earning, on average, over $100,000 a year.

A state regulation  limits state payments to provider executives to $158,101, as of fiscal year 2013. Money earned by executives above the state cap is supposed to come from sources other than state funds.

Based on this regulation, we calculated that provider executives are eligible for up to $85 million a year in state funding to cover those total salary and benefits costs.  Our calculation was based on identifying the companies paying executives at or above the state threshold of $158,101, and assuming that amount as the maximum state payment for each of those companies’ executives.

Among the top-paying providers in our latest survey was the May Institute, which paid two employees a total of $999,221 in the 2012 tax year.  Both employees were listed as president and CEO of the provider.  The May Institute’s federal tax form shows that one of the two employees, Walter Christian, worked for the company until December 2012 and received a total of $725,674 in salary and benefits in that tax year, which started on July 1, 2012. Christian was replaced as president and CEO by Lauren Solotar, who received a total of $273,547 in that same tax year, which ended on June 30, 2013.

Despite the regulation capping compensation payments by the state, the state auditor reported in May 2013 that the state had improperly reimbursed the May Institute, a corporate provider to the Department of Developmental Services, for hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to company executives in excess of that cap. COFAR had previously reported in 2011 that the state may have paid Christian and other executives of the May Institute more than the state’s regulatory limit on individual executive salaries.

The following charts show the top earning presidents/CEO’s and executive directors in our latest survey and the number of those executives holding each title in each company:

Pres.CEO top 10

 

Executive directors top 10

Most of the providers surveyed are under contract to the Department of Developmental Services, which manages or provides services to people with intellectual disabilities who are over the age of 22.  The providers operate group homes and provide day programs, transportation and other services to tens of thousands of intellectually disabled persons in the DDS system.

As we have noted, the state’s priority has been to boost funding dramatically to corporate residential providers, in particular, while at the same time slowly starving state-operated care, including state-run group homes and developmental centers, of revenue.

Funding to DDS corporate residential providers rose past the $1 billion mark for the first time in the current fiscal year.  The line item was increased by more than $140 million –or more than 16 percent—over prior-year spending in fiscal 2015 dollars.  At the same time, both the former governor’s and the legislative budgets either cut or provided much more meager increases for most other DDS line items.

More financial information about nonprofit corporate providers, including compensation of executives, can be found at www.guidestar.org.

Boston's Matt O'Malley on This and That

Matt O’MalleyA relentless and sincere activist Boston City Councilor, Matt O’Malley keeps his eyes on many prizes. He reaches for and works for them, but never despairs when he can’t grasp one.

He has represented District 6 — West Roxbury, most of Jamaica Plain, and slivers of Roslindale, Mission Hill and Roxbury — for four two-year terms. While young for the job, he earned his way working for or to elect many pols, including Steve Grossman and Tom Menino. He spoke of some of the important lessons. For example, Mayor Menino would see him in City Hall and immediately scold him, saying to get out of the building and go talk to the constituents. He quipped that he judged his success for a weekend when Menino was Mayor by how many times he ran into Tom. If its three or four, he figured he was hitting enough of the right events and locations.

We had a rambling talk, though we never got around to the Pats. Click below to listen to a half hour or so of his views on the Summer Games 2024, casinos, schools and even compost.

The Partners Debacle

AG Maura Healey has stepped up to the plate on the Partners’s merger with SSH and Hallmark Health.  She has told Judge Sanders that this is a bad deal for the citizens of the Commonwealth.  Further if the Judge agrees she will go after Partners to stop any further expansion and bring their payments in line with equivalent hospitals.  This is a breath of fresh air from our new Attorney General. She seems to have an understanding of the issue Martha Coakley lacked. Instead of getting the best arrangement you can, it is time to do the right thing for the people of Massachusetts when it comes to healthcare.

If this deal goes through it will add to hospital costs unnecessarily, raising premiums higher for health insurance.  Besides SSH has the resources to clean up their own act.  They do not need to take the easy way out by latching onto deeper pockets. Each hospital if they serve a decent catchment area should be capable of meeting a doable budget.

Three cheers for our new “people’s lawyer”.

Of course if Judge Sanders says no deal, what’s next?

Hot Take On Balls, Chapter the Final

It’s a snow day, so we have time for this. dave-from-hvad has heroically chimed on #deflategate already, so I’ll just add this:

I think we’re owed an apology. By a lot of people.

Don’t get me wrong — we shouldn’t worry about billionaire Bob Kraft crying into his pillow over his team’s reputation, or Tom Brady bitterly spitting out his avocado ice cream in a hurt rage. These guys will be all right.

Right now the case against the Patriots rests on 90 seconds where a ball attendant apparently took a pit stop before delivering the balls to the field. #PEEPEEGATE:

The surveillance footage that FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Monday afternoon shows a Patriots’ locker room attendant entering a bathroom with 12 New England footballs and 12 of the Indianapolis Colts’ footballs before the AFC Championship Game, a source told ProFootballTalk Monday night. He stays in the restroom for 90 seconds, then leaves.

Upon this hangs the reputations of Belichick and Brady as cheaters who deserve to have their achievements vacated, who deserve to be banned for the Super Bowl, fired, suspended, fined — hell, imprisoned. Troy Aikman, Mark Brunell, Jackie MacMullen; the Indy Star guy who broke the story, and many others have put forth some variant of this non-sequitir, equally Draconian and incoherent. They extrapolate from a minor but admittedly tantalizing bit of evidence, straight to mischievous intent and guilt. Never mind how trivial the motive; never mind there has never been any hint of a smoking gun. (Perhaps you’re the kind that demands video proof of urine hitting porcelain in that 90 seconds.) As someone once said of Ayn Rand, these folks are the Evel Knievels of leaping to conclusions.

Perhaps even worse are those in the media who have propounded something along the lines of “well, it doesn’t matter if they’re guilty; the damage to the Patriots’ reputation is done.” As if those scribes and radio hosts had nothing to do with that! As if the constant conjecture and innuendo wasn’t causing that damage!
Gronking

The rush to judgment has been worthy of McCarthy-era literary classics. In a way, it’s fortunate that the victims of this witch hunt are incredibly wealthy, powerful, popular people, with a loyal following and a huge media megaphone at their disposal. Imagine how this kind of thing goes for those who don’t have the money or standing to defend their reputations.

And with that, I want an absolute decimation in the Super Bowl. I want a U Mad Bro Tom Brady. I want a tricksy, spiteful Belichick. I want a full Gronking. Pats 62-3.

 

Talk Poverty: Civil legal aid is potent anti-poverty tool

Up on the Talk Poverty blog this morning is a post from Lonnie Powers, executive director of the Mass Legal Assistance Corp.

Some highlights:

What did Sargent Shriver, the general of LBJ’s War on Poverty, think of civil legal aid?

“My favorite is Head Start because it was my idea,” he answered. “But I am proudest of Legal Services because I recognized that it had the greatest potential for changing the system under which people’s lives were being exploited.”

How civil legal aid is one of the most effective ways to reduce domestic violence:

While services provided by emergency shelters, counselors, and hotlines are vital in the short-term, Farmer and Tiefenthaler wrote, services provided by civil legal aid “appear to actually present women with real, long-term alternatives to their relationships.” (It is also interesting to note that between 1994 and 2000, the period during which incidents of domestic violence declined, the availability of civil legal services for victims of domestic violence increased 245 percent—from 336 such programs to 1,441).

The return on investment for taxpayers when the state invests in civil legal aid:

Looking at work solely related to housing, public benefits, and domestic violence, three independent economic consulting firms which did analyses for the Task Force found that every dollar spent on civil legal aid in eviction and foreclosure cases saved the state $2.69 on services associated with housing needs such as “emergency shelter, health care, foster care, and law enforcement.” Every dollar spent assisting qualified people to receive federal benefits brings in $5 to the state. Every dollar spent on civil legal aid related to domestic violence is offset by a dollar in medical costs averted due to fewer incidents of assault.

Read the full post here.

So what if the pharaoh’s pyramid will be a little shorter this month?

It’s a snowy Tuesday and I’ve got the day off from work.  Actually, we’re in the middle of a blizzard and the governor has declared a state of emergency, no travel allowed, all mass transit is closed down.  Unless you are working in a hospital, a police officer, a fire fighter, and the like, you’re off today.

And guess what?  The world will not come to an end.  Oh for sure, we’re losing one day of “production” for consumers who now have one less day to consume. Month end goals are now in peril and quarterly reports will be severely off their projections.  Oh, the horrors.

Instead, most of us will spend a quiet day at home, with friends and family, enjoying each others company and marveling at the wonders of nature, with little or none of this adding to the GDP, DOW, GNP, or other financial gauges of our value.  Our productivity output as the nation’s labor force will falter.  And to it all I say, so what?

Maybe it’s because I just turned 60 or maybe it’s because I’ve grown tired of waiting for the wealth that our productivity has created to trickle down. Maybe it’s because I noticed that since the early 70’s, my productivity as a laborer has gone up, our GDP is up, our nation’s wealth has grown, but I am no better off now than I was in the early 70’s.  I’m not alone, I’m the majority and the majority of us have worked harder and harder each year only to see the wealth of our labor transferred to a tiny minority.  It’s simple math.  If we’re all working harder and the nation is getting richer for it but we’re not seeing it in our wallets, whose wallet is it in?  It’s in the wallets of a small group that the Republicans call “Job Creators” while a more accurate term would be labor exploiters, little different from the pharaohs who “created jobs” for the men and women who built the pyramids.  Yes, these pharaohs created jobs for masons, sculptors, day laborers, cooks, and so on, but they, like we, are not really going to benefit from the pyramid scheme. (pun intended).

So enjoy your day off and worry not about the falling DOW and GDP.  You’re not getting a piece of that anyway.  So what if the pharaoh’s pyramid will be a little shorter this month?

Roger Goodell and the NFL should be investigated for "Inflategate"

Inflategate: The creation, though leaks by anonymous sources, of something sinister where little or nothing previously existed, in order to obliterate a perceived opponent.

The NFL should be investigated and so should should Roger (“Kenneth Starr”) Goodell for their attempted takedown of what may be the best team, coach, and quarterback of all time on the eve of the biggest game in their history.

Roger Goodell seems to be trying to ruin the game of football — he has certainly almost completed the job of ruining what may have been the last great season of the Belichick-Brady era.  And for what?  To save his own tattered reputation for his missteps in the Ray Rice video scandal?

Robert Kraft may have thought Goodell was a friend.  But how many friends conduct sting operations on you?  Kraft is right that the NFL owes the Patriots an apology.

The key question here is why is this all happening now, on the eve of this potentially historic game?

Why is “information” about the NFL “investigation” being continually leaked, and why now, given that this investigation is supposedly going to continue for several more weeks?

First, anonymous sources tell ESPN that 11 of 12 game balls were under-inflated.  Yesterday, anonymous sources tell Fox News that the NFL is looking at a “person of interest” who took the balls into a separate room before bringing them out on the field.  Today we learn from anonymous sources that the room was a bathroom.

I would hope the media, at least, would ask some of these questions of Goodell, but I’m not optimistic.  The media have shown they just want to be Goodell’s abettors.

Senate Republicans Are Blocking Debate on Keystone XL Pipeline Pipe Dream

Even after Senate Republicans blocked me from speaking on the United States Senate floor last Thursday, I will not pipe down about Senate Republicans and the oil industry’s Keystone XL pipeline pipe dream.

I have tried to debate two of my amendments to the Keystone XL pipeline legislation. The first would ban the re-export of the Canadian tar sands transported through the Keystone pipeline and the gasoline and other products made from that oil, so we would keep it here in America.

The second would close the tax loophole that gives Canadian tar sands a tax free ride through our country by not having to pay into the oil spill fund. That means if this Canadian tar sands oil spills as it moves through this straw we are building across America, it would be American taxpayers who would foot the bill.

On the first amendment, along with amendments from four other of my Democratic colleagues, Republican leaders used a procedural maneuver to deny us a straight up-or-down vote by moving to “table” these amendments. They wouldn’t even let me speak for one minute to defend my amendment to close this oil company tax loophole.

Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican leadership promised an open amendment process, but they have closed down debate, and they aren’t allowing up-or-down votes on important Democratic amendments.

Here’s the reason why: They know if they allow real debate and real votes on these amendments, their arguments for this Keystone pipeline pipe dream will be shown as completely hollow.

They know that if they allow real debate and real votes on exports, they’ll prove this pipeline was never about energy independence, even after all of their rhetoric and the ads saying Keystone is about “North American energy security.”

They know that if they allow real debate and real votes on using U.S. steel to build the pipeline, they’ll prove this isn’t really an American jobs bill.

They know that if they allow real debate and real votes on closing an oil company tax loophole, they’ll prove that they are Big Oil boosters who will kill clean energy tax incentives but preserve oil company tax breaks.

The American people want a United States Senate that is working to keep energy prices low for Main Street, not approve foreign oil export pipelines that will raise oil prices and oil company profits on Wall Street.

Senate Republicans are trying to ram through a pipeline that could spill and harm drinking water sources, and now they are poisoning the Senate well by closing off debate.

We need an up-or-down vote on my amendments that put Senators on the record about whether they favor the interests of the oil industry over those of consumers, businesses, our climate, and our national security. Senate Republicans should not be allowed to shut down this important national debate.

Blizzard or no blizzard, Walk To The Hill is this Thursday

Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court will join hundreds of private attorneys from more than 40 law firms at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, Jan. 29 for the 16th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid. Attendees of this annual lobby day, one of the largest held at the State House each year, will ask for a $10 million increase in state funding for programs that provide civil legal aid to low-income Massachusetts residents.

Civil legal aid programs assist low-income individuals and families in resolving issues related to basic necessities such as housing, employment, classroom accommodations for children with disabilities, and conflicts related to child support and custody, divorce, and domestic violence. Currently, more than 60 percent of those eligible for civil legal aid in Massachusetts who seek services are turned away due to lack of resources.

This fall, the Boston Bar Association’s Statewide Task Force to Expand Civil Legal Aid in Massachusetts recommended increasing the Commonwealth’s investment in civil legal aid by $30 million over the next three years to begin to address this unmet need.

Currently, the state invests $15 million annually in civil legal aid.

Numerous attorneys and legal advocates including Attorney General Maura Healey; former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, former Boston City Councilor and mayoral candidate Mike Ross; Deputy Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Rahsaan Hall; Greater Boston Legal Services Director Jacqui Bowman; and Boston Bar Association President Julia Huston have expressed their support for increased investment in civil legal aid by participating in the #IWalkForJustice social media campaign:

Speakers at Walk To the Hill will include Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Attorney General Maura Healy, Boston Bar Association President Julia Huston, and Massachusetts Bar Association President Marsha Kazarosian. Two legal aid clients will also recount how they were able to extract themselves from domestic abuse with the assistance of civil legal aid attorneys.

Following the speaking program, attorneys will visit their legislators and urge them to increase funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation by $10 million to $25 million in the FY16 state budget. MLAC is the largest funder of civil legal aid in Massachusetts.

Walk to the Hill is sponsored by the Equal Justice Coalition, which is a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The event is also co-sponsored by numerous county and specialty bar associations throughout Massachusetts.

SPEAKING PROGRAM:
11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Great Hall of Flags
Massachusetts State House, Boston

The order of speakers is as follows:
• Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court
• Attorney General Maura Healey
• Boston Bar Association President Julia Huston
• Massachusetts Bar Association President Marsha Kazarosian
• Legal aid clients

NOTE: Members of the media are welcome to attend all or part of the speaking program. Please follow the Equal Justice Coalition on Twitter (www.twitter.com/equaljusticema) as well as the hashtag #IWalkForJustice for the latest on Walk to the Hill 2015.

About the Equal Justice Coalition
The Equal Justice Coalition, a collaboration of the Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, works to increase state funding for civil legal aid. For more information, visit www.equaljusticecoalition.org.

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Former SJC Chief Justice Margaret Marshall supports civil legal aid funding

Former Mass. SJC Chief Justice Margaret Marshall explains why she supports increased investment in civil legal aid.

Former Mass. SJC Chief Justice Margaret Marshall explains why she supports increased investment in civil legal aid.

 

Each year, hundreds of attorneys participate in Walk To the Hill, one of the largest lobby days at the Massachusetts State House. Ahead of this year’s Walk to the Hill, attorneys and advocates who support civil legal aid are taking part in #IWalkforJustice, a social media campaign in support of the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation’s request for a $25 million state investment in civil legal aid.

In this photo,former Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall explains why she supports increased investment in civil legal aid!