Mass Revolution Now!

Another member of Massachusetts’ reality based community. Maybe honesty IS the best policy.

November 30, 2005

I Heart Russ

by @ 9:37 pm. Filed under Democrats, National, Election '08

I really do like Russ Feingold a lot. He talks honestly and competently; he is not afraid to answer a question directly and use actual intellect. He is a natural leader who has principles and will not be deterred from following them even when they are not necessarily popular with his party. I hope that he runs for president if for no other reason than to show this country that a real leader is possible again. Why all the gushing about Russ? I just read this post from DailyKos and was excited to see others are beginning to have the same impression of Feingold as I do.

PDS Endorsement

by @ 1:36 pm. Filed under Somerville, Special Election

Last night was the monthly meeting of the Progressive Democrats of Somerville as well as the nomination meeting for the upcoming special eleciton. Elizabeth Moroney and Denise Provost both talked to the group in hopes of seeking the endorsement. After the votes were tallied Denise Provost got the nod from PDS and therefore the endorsement.

Personal disclosure: I am a member of PDS as well as voted to endorse Denise Provost (I, however do not speak for PDS so anything thoughts on PDS or Provost are my own).

I was impressed with Provost’s policy knowledge. She seemed a little shy at first but clearly once she began to talk about the issues it was clear that she cares quite deeply about what she does as well as for Somerville. Provost also comes across as extremely knowledgeable which is exactly what I want in my state representative. Moroney was not unimpressive but Provost won me over with her in depth analysis.

As for the meeting, I was really impressed to see that a large number of people showed up. PDS is an awesome organization and its effects are starting to make awesome change in Somerville. I am new to the group but I can’t wait to get more involved and I encourage everyone to check the group out.

November 29, 2005

1,000 Will Have to Wait

by @ 5:20 pm. Filed under Current Events, Law

I am pleased that the 1,000th execution since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated, has been delayed. Mark Warner, the Democratic governor of Virgina has stopped the execution and commuted the sentence to life in prison. I am no fan of the death penalty so I am happy 1,000 will have to wait a little longer.

More Attacks on Abortion

by @ 4:55 pm. Filed under Law

There was a timely op-ed piece on abortion today written by Martha Davis who is the former vice president and legal director of NOW’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. I highly recommend it, the piece dovetails my post regarding the slow erosion of Roe v. Wade. There are two important cases before the Supreme Court this week, Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood and Scheidler v. National Organization for Women. These cases will play a big role in either protecting Roe or continuing the erosion of its foundation.

If you are interested in the technical and legal side of the cases, SCOTUSblog has a great outline of the Scheidler case and the Ayotte case.

November 28, 2005

Compassion is Our Strength

by @ 7:10 pm. Filed under Democrats, Election '06

Charley over at Blue Mass. Group raises an interesting question:

Well, how do you advocate for better health care and caring for old people and poor people and the environment and kids and not being a dick in international affairs — and be properly aggressive? How can compassion be the flag to rally around and fight tooth-and-nail for, as opposed to a soft underbelly to be exploited?

Basically Charley is wondering if compassion must always equal weakness and if not how do we show this? I hate to answer a question with another question but I think it sets my answer up nicely. What would call a person who watches another person steal the last five dollars from a defenseless child? Who would you say is weak? Personally, I would say they are both weak. Clearly the thief has no morals; he is weak because he preys on the defenseless. The individual who watches the whole episode and refuses to stand up for the defenseless child is weak because put his own self perservation and fear of injury first instead of the needs of another. The witness is weak because he knows that should it have been his child he would have hoped someone would have come his child’s aid yet when it is another child he forgets this. However we would call the person who stopped the whole incident from happening a hero, a defender of the public good.

This is how we make compassion the flag to rally around rather than our soft underbelly. Right now there are Republicans in Congress who are near literally stealing from defenseless children. There are Republicans, and sadly a good number of Democrats, who are refusing to get real on health care and insure the MILLIONS of children in our state and country. There are Republicans who instead of helping families on the brink of bankruptcy want to take the last dollars these families have by jacking up filing fees and making it hard to emerge from troubled times so that credit card companies and banks can give ever bloated salaries to CEOs and other top executives. There are Republicans who demand that we continue to throw the lives of people’s children, often children who thanks to Republican cut backs and neglect live in urban or rural areas that offer no real hope of a better future, into a war in land that was never a real threat for reasons that never really existed. Their lack of compassion is precisely their weakness rather than their strength.

Getting tough means calling people out on these issues. Instead of letting them turn compassion on us we demand from them why they offer no compassion to their neighbors and fellow citizens. “Throwing elboes” does not have to mean that negative television and radio ads. Throwing elboes should be reminding citizens that it is their friends and neighbors, and potentially themselves, that suffer when the so-called tough love and lack of compassion of the Republicans fails to move anyone closer to the American dream except those already living that dream. Compassion does not look weak when it is an American tank division with a platoon of Marines and UN peace keepers behind it rolling down the street of Darfur.

Compassion is only our weakness when we allow those who do not have it to paint the picture for us. Compassion is our greatest strength. We are a better party because we seek to lend a hand to those in need, because we seek to help up those who want more find a way to more, because we realize that we serve our own self interests more quickly when the tide is lifting all boats.

PDS Meeting

by @ 2:58 pm. Filed under Somerville, Special Election

The Progressive Democrats of Somerville is having its monthly meeting TOMORROW. Below I have included the agenda as emailed to me. PDS is pretty cool, so if you want to be cool I suggest you attend. I have cleared my calendar (truth be told I had nothing to clear) and will be there.

For anyone who is interested in getting to know more about the candidates running in the Special Eleciton you can find their answers to the PDS endorsement questionarre here.

PDS November Meeting
Tuesday November 29, 2005 7:00 pm
College Avenue United Methodist Church
Basement Function Room
Corner of College Ave and Chapel Street in Davis Square


1) Introductions and Question of the Month
What was your favorite moment in the recent city elections?

2) Celebration for city elections
We would like to take some time at our meeting to Toast our PDS members who ran for office, were campaign managers, volunteer coordinators, and volunteers who worked so hard in the recent city election. Whether our endorsed candidates won or came in close, they all ran great campaigns and brought new awareness to issues affecting our city to the public’s attention.

3) Endorsement for State Representative Special Election Democratic Primary - 40-60 minutes
We have invited each candidate to appear separately, each with a 5 minute opening statement and 15 minutes for questions. We will distribute responses to our questionnaire on Sunday November 27. Following our time with the candidates we will allow time for discussion and voting for endorsement. Our voting procedure allows dues paying (or waiver granted) members who have attended at least 2 previous PDS meetings or 2 PDS qualifying events to vote on endorsements. We will only consider candidates who respond to our questionnaire and by doing so apply for our endorsement.

4) Democracy For America Liaison – 5 minutes
At a past meeting PDS voted to become a chapter of DFA. We would like a member to volunteer to be our DFA liaison. The liaison would be responsible for keeping the PDS list and the Steering Committee up to date with activities and actions of DFA and its Massachusetts chapters.

5) Membership committee – 5 minutes
Fred Berman, our Membership Chair will talk about proposed membership activities and ask for volunteers to help him plan future events and actions. This would be a great opportunity for members to become more involved and help shape our organization in the upcoming year.

6) – 5 minutes
At a past meeting we agreed that after the November elections were over that the Scorecard Committee would reconvene and work to update our scorecard website with votes from the past year. This involves researching relevant votes in both the house and senate. Please consider volunteering for this committee.

7) Democratic State Committee elections – 8 minutes
Will there or won’t there be an election to fill State Committeeperson seats in February? All we know will be revealed at this meeting. If there are elections, to vote in that caucus you must be a member of or an associate member of your city Ward Committee by December 31st.

8) Democratic Convention Caucuses – 5 minutes
To be eligible to run or vote in these caucuses which will determine who goes as a delegate to the Democratic State Nominating Convention, you must be a registered Democrat in your Ward by December 31. We will briefly discuss how to get elected as a delegate.

9) Democratic City Committee Rules Subcommittee – 2 minutes
Jake Beal is the chair of this subcommittee which will be holding a meeting open to all on December 6th.

Open Seat in Cali

by @ 2:48 pm. Filed under Current Events, Election '06

Duke Cunningham resigns. He admitted to taking bribes, how honorable of him to step aside. The Republicans and their darn scandals.

Somerville Special Election Update

by @ 12:02 pm. Filed under Somerville, Special Election

For those of you interested in the upcoming special election in Somerville, The Somerville News has an interview with Elizabeth Moroney. Sean O’Donovan has pulled papers to run but there is a rumor that he isn’t going to run after all. This in and out sort of thing seems odd. He was quoted as saying he wanted in on election night after his victorious race. Also, I have heard something about Denise Provost striking a deal with Mayor Joe in which she would vote to remove the Police Chief’s position from the civil service rolls in exchange for Mayor Joe’s support in her bid to win a seat in to the House. Does anyone know anything more about this? The politics of this city are incredibly interesting.

Personally, I think too few people have been doing the governing for too long in this city. I get the sense that people are just shifting slots rather than anyone with new ideas ever moving in. I like Provost and I am pretty sure I would like to see her win but I really hate the idea of someone getting a seat becasue it is their “turn.” Would love to hear what you all think!

Update: A comment was posted that pointed out that perhaps I suggested Denise Provost’s vote was for “sale.” I would like to correct this by emphatically stating that I DO NOT think that such was the case. What I meant to ask, but failed to communicate, was whether others had heard of this silly rumor of quid pro quo and to try to discern what, if any, of the real facts were. I stand corrected and hope those who may have been offended accept my apology.

Speak Up for Somerville Schools!

by @ 10:21 am. Filed under Somerville, Education

Education is the most important public issue there is. Education is the great equalizer. If you live in Somerville and care about the schools I strongly encourage you to go, even if it is only for a few minutes, to this meeting. Any support for our schools helps! (I, however, am a hypocrite because I don’t think I can attend, I have a job interview! Job interviews are good.)

Joint Public Hearing with
our State Representatives and Senators

Hosted by the Somerville School Committee

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 @ 7:00 p.m.
Board of Aldermen Chambers, 2nd Floor, City Hall

All members of the Somerville community are invited.

Officials in attendance:
Senator Jarrett Barrios
Senator Patricia D. Jehlen
Representative Carl Sciortino
Representative Timothy J. Toomey

7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Discussion of Local Funding
8:00 – 9:00 p.m. Discussion of State and Federal Funding

The Erosion of Roe

by @ 10:07 am. Filed under Law

I was reading today about the parental notification case from New Hampshire that will be argued before the Supreme Court this week when I realized how off base we on the left have been in our approach to Bush’s Supreme Court nominees and their approach to abortion. We have been assuming that Roe’s biggest threat was from justices seeking to overturn the law. We are wrong, the strategy is death by a thousand cuts.

For most people Roe is the case when it comes to abortion. That certainly is true, Roe did in fact establish the right for a woman to have an abortion. Roe is no longer the case that control the right to an abortion however, that case is Casey v. Planned Parenthood. Casey upheld the right to an abortion but added a potentially fatal twist to the right, Casey said that restrictions could be placed on abortion so long as they did not constitute an undue burden. Essentially, the court was saying that so long as a restriction did not effectively prevent a woman from getting an abortion it was an acceptable restriction. One restriction that is popular is parental notification which has been adopted by 33 states in wildly varying forms. The caveat with these notification laws has been that there must be certain exemptions otherwise they would be considered unconstitutional due to the fact that outright parental consent would constitute an impermissible burden. So many states have exemptions for the health of the mother. In Massachusetts we allow a woman under 18 to seek exemption from a judge. Basically the judge deems her mature enough to not need the consent or notification of parents.

New Hampshire’s law, as far as I can tell, does not have any such exemptions. New Hampshire’s law says that if you are under age 18 you must have the permission from your parents to have the abortion procedure. And this is how Roe begins to rapidly errode. Should New Hampshire’s law be found constitutional you can almost hear the fury of legislators’ pens as they seek to change their laws and eliminate the exemptions. And should New Hampshire’s law be constitutional it will likely usher in new and increasingly bolder hurdles to abortion. As these hurdles keep coming it is likely that some will stick, making it more impossible for a woman to privately seek a safe abortion; she will have more and more hoops to jump through. It is not hard to envision a scenario, thanks to the new hurdles, in which Roe has not been overturned yet a woman essentially cannot get an abortion without either getting permission from someone or have to listen to hours of preaching or even having to wait through a “cooling off’ period.

Does any of this mean anything for Alito’s nomination? Yes it does in fact. Alito was the sole dissenter in Casey. Alito believed that the law allows for spousal notification. He believes that the father has an “interest” in the fetus (as if it was property) and therefore should be notified. Alito can look into the eyes of the Judicial Committee and assure them that the “super-duper precedent” of Roe is safe with him, that he has no intention of overturning the law. He can do this with a staight face because he knows he does not need to overturn Roe, his strategy is one of nullification, he can nullify the effect of Roe by erroding a woman’s access to the decision.

I’m Back

by @ 7:22 am. Filed under Site News

After a four day break from everything for Thanksgiving, I am back. I hope no one missed me too much. Sometimes it is nice to take the time and clear one’s head and get focused. I was happy to spend time with my wife and relax. My family all lives in Wisconsin, and while I missed them there is something to be said for not having to deal with the rush and crush of family during a busy holiday. I hope that everyone had a great, relaxing Thanksgiving and weekend. Less than four weeks to go until the next big holiday season, where has the year gone?

The Need to Reform

by @ 6:33 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Election Reform, National, Campaign Finance Reform

An article from Saturday’s Globe has been running through my mind these last few days. At first the article was sort of innocous yet informative. However, the more I have thought about the article the more I find that it captures, on a microscopic level, the pull I feel over campaign finance reform.

Apparently Boston City Council President Michael Flaherty raised over two-thirds of his $310,000 from individuals living outside of Boston. I realize that with the large commuter nature of a city the size of Boston’s as well the numerous projects going on in the city at any given time, it would not be unusual for a decent percentage of a candidate’s contributions to come from outside city limits. I think, however, that two-thirds may be a little excessive. That is not was has really been eating at me though. What bothers me is the unvarnished telling of the story the Globe offers. For instance, the article points out that employees at mega-law firm Brown Rudnick provided contributions because the firm “has a large governmental law practice.” Or how about the Millenium Partners, a development firm in New York responsible for luxury condos and the new Ritz Hotel who contributed. Another developer, Intercontinental Real Estate, aslo felt the urge to contribute. What is the connection (if it is not obvious yet)? The Globe, offering that unvarnished approach I mentioned, ties it together perfectly: the connection is that nearly all of the out-of-towners have “business with city government.”

The fact that we have devolved to far that we no longer need to hide or make excuses for the fact that people give money not to support the ideology as much as to buy their way to special projects offends me. We have lost the battle between clean elections and outright graft. These people are giving Flaherty money for one of two reasons, either because they like that he has already supported their projects and therefore they are interested in seeing him re-elected, or, and this is the most reprehesible, they hope that Council President Flaherty will “make note” of the contribution that helped put him in office when he needs to make a decision on their project. (I don’t mean to specifically point out City Council President Flaherty, he is simply the subject of the article and I am sure that if we look at any other candidate we will find nearly indentical patterns.) In the case of LVI Environmental Services I think it is the latter because it holds a $3.9 million contract for which they have yet to actually provide any service.

The problem is finding a balance. I firmly believe in the First Amendment and an individual’s right to speak. The Supreme Court, back in the 1970s, ruled that candidates could essentially spend an unchecked amount and that individual contributions were a form of speech that could not be regulated until they reached a certain point (that limit today is $2,000 and plus a limit on overall contributions). The court also recognized that the federal government was able to limit the individual contributions because it had a compelling interest in trying to stem corruption or the appearance of corruption. The battle for balance then is between an individual’s ability to express herself and society’s interest in fair, clean elections.

On the blogs lately there has been a lot of hype surrounding H.R. 4194 and other attempts to bring blogs into compliance with the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Refom Act (BCRA). 4194 seeks to close a loophole that allows blogs to become fronts for campaigns or individuals to circumvent the campaign finance laws by raising unlimited amounts of unregulated money and distributing it to other campaigns and candidates. I am torn on whether a measure like 4194 should pass because blogs would then be regulated by the government and the civic effects the blogs produced would be greatly threatened. Sites would feel less inclined to write about candidates and campaigns for fear they would run afoul of guidelines. If a site decided to endorese a particular candidate and encouraged others to support him or her or to contribute it is possible that such a blog would be violating the law. The chill on speech is not good. However, there is nothing stopping any large multi-national from setting up a fake blog and funneling tons of cash to a few pols they want to see re-elected. We certainly don’t want to be in the business of determining what is a “real” blog versus what is a “fake” blog.

In the end I am compelled to think that the reasoning underlying the decision in Buckley (the seminol case that ruled in favor of regulations on contributions), that the appearance of corruption or corruption itself, is justification enough for the government to seek some regulation of blogs. As bloggers and consumers of blogs we should hope for such regulations ourselves. In order for this medium to be effective it must be genuine. If companies and campaigns are allowed to create “front blogs” the disseminate bogus information, the effect of the geniune bloggers is diluted. If a mega-site like DailyKos wants to raise money for great candidates around the country, and I hope it does because of its vast audience, why should it not report the activity? Kos’ content is in no way compromised by complying with current regulations that require anyone to report contributions raised in excess of $200. The government will not shut him down for being overly Democratic, that is his right. I think that requiring blogs to report their contributions, and only contributions intended for use by candidates, reaches the appropriate balance between Kos’ right to say what he wants and our right as spectators and participants in elections, to know that they are being run fairly and hopefully someday, without the influence of money.

November 23, 2005

FEMA Bends

by @ 7:05 am. Filed under National

After significant public pressure FEMA has extended the housing subsidy deadlines. This means that the victims of Hurricane Katrina can have a place to stay at least through the holidays. The new deadline for housing subsidies is January 7. I am really at a loss for words in the face of continued bungling of the aftermath of this horrific disaster. I hope they figure out a decent response soon.

The Obama Approach

by @ 6:58 am. Filed under Democrats, Iraq War, National

I like Sen. Obama’s approach. Instead of demanding a huge, immediate pullout of the troops, he is softening the ground the demanding that first President Bush admit that there have been errors in the lead up and execution of the Iraq War.

This is a smart approach because I think it will help solidfy support from the part of the public that is not committed to getting out of Iraq fast (admittedly this portion of the public is growing smaller almost weekly). The constant demand from the Democrats for President Bush to admit mistakes will help us reach that tipping point more quickly where the vast majority public is clearly against the war. We are looking to be in the same spot as we were at in 1970 when finally the politicians found the Vietnam War a politically untenable excursion to support.

Sen. Obama also had harsh, but solid critiques against the President:

Straight answers to critical questions. That’s what we don’t have right now. Members of both parties and the American people have now made clear that it is simply not enough for the president to simply say ‘We know best’ and ‘Stay the course.’

The time has certainly arrived for straight answers. Instead of demanding withdrawl from Iraq I think the wiser approach by Democrats would be to make President Bush talk about the war. Congress needs to start hauling this Administration in, one by one, and demanding straight answers to specific questions like a general was fired for telling Congress we would need 200 to 300,000 troops? Like why no solid exit strategy was created to ensure that our troops were not stuck in a quagmire? Like why our troops still do not have the appropriate armor? Like why we are allowing for war profiteering by Haliburton? We need to start making more than just politics of the war, we really need to start demanding real answers so we can learn from this mistake.

November 22, 2005

How Long Can the House of Cards Stand?

by @ 12:10 pm. Filed under Massachusetts

The Washington Post is reporting that Michael Scanlon, a former partner of ultra-corrupt Jack Abramoff, has agreed to plead guilty. As part of the plea Scanlon was charged with only one count of conspiracy and must repay the $19.7 million he ripped off from American Indian tribes.

The part of the story that is the most tantalizing is that Scanlon is singing like a canary. During his guilty plea before the judge Scanlon actually corrected the record and said the bribing began as early as 2000, not 2001 as had been previously reported. Scanlon’s song is particularly terrifying for the disgusting Reps. Tom Delay and Bob Ney. From all that has been reported, these two have been in on the scheme with Abramoff and his people from the beginning. One thing does trouble me however, and that is whether any Democratic members will be brought into this scandal. I have heard reports that Abramoff’s dealings are not exclusive to Republicans. I will be sad to see how many Dems are in the same corruption category as Delay but even more sad because if Dems get swept into this mess we can hardly hold our Party out as being above the fray.

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