Mass Revolution Now!

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

February 28, 2006

Russ Feingold For President!

by @ 4:19 pm. Filed under National, Election '08, Russ Feingold

I am really excited to announce a new group for those interested in seeing real change in America; change that is steeped in progressive traditions but mixed with a great twist of common sense and practicality:

Massachusetts for Feingold!

I know we have a TON of work to do with the upcoming gubernatorial campaign but we wanted to get started early to show Russ that he has support all around the country. The site was designed by Greg Dennis who deserves a great big hand. Please sign up for the email list so we can start organizing!

Go Russ Go!

Health Care Action Time!

by @ 1:02 pm. Filed under Massachusetts, Health Care, Social Policy

While I don’t agree with Lynne in calling for Travaglini’s resignation, though I do think he has been obstinate on this issue. I disagree with her primarily because it isn’t just Travaglini, I think he, DiMasi, and Romney have been equally negligent in their politics and that our ire is best directed at all of them for playing politics with this issue.

I do agree very strongly with her on the need to call your state senator and rep TODAY. We have to let the leadership know that this isn’t time, nor is this the issue for which to play games. I got a great email from the folks at Health Care For All containing an easy to follow script that people should use if they aren’t sure what to say (or if like me they may erupt into a fiery ball of rage):

My name is _______________. I
live in ____________ and am a supporter of the ACT
health care reform coalition. Please don’t walk away
from comprehensive health reform. Please support
real reform that includes fair funding through
employer responsibility. New funds are needed for an
expansion of MassHealth, sliding scale subsidies for
middle-income families, and assistance for small
businesses. This is a historic opportunity. I urge the
Senator to support
comprehensive health reform. Thank
you.

The Secretary of the Commonwealth can help you find the info on who represents you if you aren’t sure. MAKE THE CALL TODAY!

PDS Meeting Tonight

by @ 12:10 pm. Filed under Somerville

Come one, come all! After a hiatus, I am finally going to make it to a meeting for the wonderful Progressive Democrats of Somerville. I encourage anyone who is free tonight to pop in and check things out. The group is always looking for new people and the more new faces the better.

Here’s the skinny:

What: Progressive Dems of Someville
When: TONIGHT at 7 p.m.
Where: College Ave Methodist Church, 2nd floor meeting room (room 24)
The agenda:

1) Introductions and Question of the Month (10 minutes)
2) Follow up on Budget Forum planning workshop from January (5 minutes)
3) Follow up on Op Ed planning workshop from January (5 minutes)
4) Caucus wrap-up (10 minutes)
5) By-Laws – Presentation of by-laws amendments, discussion and possible vote (30 minutes)
6) Steering Committee Duties (15 minutes)
7) Issue Presentation and Discussion – CORI – Criminal Offender Record Information (20 minutes)
8) Middlesex District Attorney Race – planning an endorsement process (10 minutes)
9) Other New Business and Announcements (10 minutes)
10) Plus/Delta (5 minutes)

Stop The Email Tax

by @ 8:40 am. Filed under National

I received an email last week from http://massrevolutionnow.com/wp-admin/post.phpMoveOn.org about the plan by AOL and Yahoo! to start charging organizations for bulk emails. Now it is making front page news. Essentially what AOL and Yahoo! plan to do is offer a service to those groups that send out mass emails that guarantees that the email will not get caught up in a junk mail filter. The charge will very from $0.005 and $0.01 an email. MoveOn.org estimates that about 400,000 emails on its 3 million email listserv are from AOL or Yahoo! At those rate it would cost MoveOn.org between $1,000 and $4,000 to send out an email to everyone on its list. What is critical to remember about this is that it will apply to all mass mailings. This means that if you want to send out an email to your friends and family you would be subject to the fee if you want to make sure that everyone gets it. Of course you don’t have pay but the fear is that the companies will downgrade their email service to essentially force people to pay the fee so they know that their emails will get out to people.

What is impressive about this issue is the huge coalition that is building against this fee. Liberal and conservative groups are really worried about the huge cost that they will have to burden in communicating with their groups. The big fear is that if AOL and Yahoo! launch this service then other internet providers will follow which will make sending an email quite an expensive proposition.

I encourage everyone to sign the petition at MoveOn.org. Also, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a lot of great information on its site if you want to learn more. Right now the internet allows grassroots groups the ability to grow via this relatively cheap communication and organizing tool. What AOL and Yahoo! are looking to do is just a glimpse of the ways companies will try to earn a buck off the ‘net and seriously threatening this equalizing tool. We need to act now to send a clear message that this will not be tolerated.

Ambitious Health Care Reform Lost

by @ 8:10 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Health Care

Senate President Travaglini is using the current impasse with the House to weaken health care reform here in Massachusetts. Travaglini released a plan yesterday that would cover only about half the uninsured in this state and that is a best case scenario. The Senate’s plan would buy insurance plans for the 65,000 poorest of the poor and offer subsidies to those families and individuals making between 100 and 300% of the poverty level (which in case you don’t know the horrendously low figures for “poverty” in this country it is $9,800 for an individual and $20,000 for a family of four). The Senate estimates that the plan will cost about $25 million in the first year.

However, the plan does not require anyone to purchase insurance so it really does not do much to cover more people because there is no incentive to sign up. That is why the 305,000 people the Senate estimates will be covered is a best case scenario, because if no one signs up then we really haven’t gone much further in expanding health care; as Jonathan Gruber of MIT, an architecht in the House plan, puts it:

You need the individual mandate to get the majority of the uninsured. Is the goal to prove universal access or univerasl coverage? What Travaglini is trying to do here is provide universal access.

That is the true difference between what Romney and Travaglini want and what the House wants. The plans offered by the former only start to provide universal access, which is a long, long way from universal coverage. The plan offered by the latter points us in the direction of universal coverage and that must be the goal of these negotiations. Personally, I think an issue of this magnitude requires the state to take the plunge and create a plan that will move immediately to universal coverage because if we wait for incremental change we risk losing more uncovered individuals. However, I realize that time is now our enemy and we must negotiate which now seems to mean incremental steps but we cannot negotiate our way in the wrong direction which is what the Senate plan does.

On a related note I wrote to my state representative, Denise Provost, and my state senator, Pat Jehlen and both of their responses were disturbing and offered the same, bleak picture. Neither feels even remotely confident that what will end up being accepted will be close to what was being proposed in the fall. Sen. Jehlen feels that whatever we see come out of committee will be “minimal.” She also expressed her belief that the resistance in the business community to the House plan isn’t as strong as is being reported. She relayed that in talking to some local Chambers of Commerce that she felt as though there was room to negotiate. Unfortunately the key negotiators seem to have run the clock out and we will be forced to accept a sub-par plan.

February 27, 2006

Patrick Showcases His Leadership

by @ 7:31 pm. Filed under Democrats, Massachusetts, Election '06

There is a nice piece about Deval Patrick appealing to reason rather than simply pandering like a typical politician in today’s Globe. The basic point of the story was that there is a bit of a rift between Patrick and a lot of the African American churches and congregations due the two sides’ difference on gay marriage. Patrick is a supporter of gay marriage while obviously most churches and their congregations are not.

So yesterday Patrick asked to speak to the Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester so he could address this issue. What I love though is that instead of making getting bogged down in the minutae of why he supports the issue of trying to walk a fine line he simply said I support it, I think that is what is right but instead of fighting let’s look at some issues that are equally important and which we can make more headway together. I think that is the mark of a real leader. Up until now I have been impressed by Patrick’s style and his positions but I think he is now really showing that is more than capable, and certainly ready, to lead. We aren’t going to agree on every single issue, and on a few no amount of compromise will ever get us to build a bridge to one another, but instead of letting those few issues dominate let’s remember that there is far more in which a lot of us agree with Patrick. Patrick’s call to focus on those issues shows that good things are in store for Massachusetts and that change is possible.

February 24, 2006

South Dakota Stays on Dark Path

by @ 5:14 pm. Filed under National, Social Policy, Civil Liberties

The South Dakota House of Representatives has passed the nearly all-out abortion ban passed earlier in the week by the Senate. As I mentioned earlier it is likely that the governor will sign the bill as he is a life long anti-choice individual. I think it is sad that a state would so amazingly thumb its nose at choice but what worries me more is the federal implications. The purpose of this bill, in my opinion, is clearly to test the new, more conservative Supreme Court. I am starting to get a little worried.

Please Help Us Sen. Kennedy

by @ 10:51 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Health Care

So perhaps the Globe was initially wrong, maybe Senator Kennedy hasn’t fully immersed himself in the negotiations yet. If this is the case, I am asking Sen. Kennedy to please step up to the plate, roll up his sleeves, and get fully involved. First, he is a champion of healthcare. Second, he clearly is vested in the welfare of Massachusetts. Lastly, Sen. Kennedy is in a unique position of being both intimtately involved in state politics while not being directly involved in the complex history of this debate. These factors make him uniquely situated to step in and help broker the necessary deal to help insure thousands more citizens of the Commonwealth and save the state from losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money.

As I have said so many times before this issue must rise above political squabbling and the desire of any politician to gain the political spotlight. If all the sides in this issue can find a solution there will be enough political spotlight for everyone to bath in and from which to benefit. I encourage everyone to drop Senator Kennedy a line and let him know we need to get this deal done.

Kennedy Senate Website (There is a form on the website for emailing)

317 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
202/224-4543

2400 JFK Building
Boston, MA 02203
617/565-3170

I also encourage everyone to contact their state senator and state representative to help put pressure on the leadership to get a deal done immediately! If you do not know who to contact you find out through the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website.

February 22, 2006

South Dakota Senate Gets It Wrong

by @ 9:59 pm. Filed under National, Social Policy, Civil Liberties

Well South Dakota is one step closer to outlawing abortion in all forms except when the mother’s life is at risk. The state wanted to create a case to challenge Roe v. Wade and I feel pretty confident the South Dakotan House will pass the measure as well. Sadly, the bill is sponsored by at least one Democrat, Julie Bartling, who is obviously female as well and apparently does not believe that she is capable of making decisions for herself, she needs a government’s guidance I guess. Her thoughts on the bill? In her own words:

It is the time for the South Dakota Legislature to deal with this issue and protect the lives and rights of unborn children.

Let’s hope either the House or the Governor will get some sense. Though don’t count on Governor Mike Rounds, he has said he will “look favorably” on such a bill. First we have the gay bashing Rev. Phelps, now we have the nut jobs of an elected body passing a law that is unconstitutional. Some days the news isn’t much fun.

Kennedy Helping Healthcare Along

by @ 5:59 pm. Filed under Massachusetts, Health Care

The Globe is reporting that Sen. Edward Kennedy is playing some behind the scenes counseling in attempting to move universal healthcare coverage forward. He is trying to get all sides involved to stop throwing the rhetoric bombs at one another and hopefully start focusing more intently on moving the process along. Kennedy is apparently trying to feed each side suggestions to help find a compromise. Deval Patrick has also urged all sides to find a compromise. He recognizes the high costs of healthcare because he actually cares about issues. Whatever it takes for these sides to agree is how I feel at this point. I hope politics doesn’t squander this moment.

Port Deal With UAE Is More Complicated Than It Appears

by @ 4:38 pm. Filed under National, National Security

David at BMG has had some great stuff on the sale by a British company to the UAE of the company responsible for managing major ports in the United States. He has done a great job of explaining why this might be a major non-story turned into an international PR disaster. The essential argument put forth by David and others is that the management of ports has nothing to do the security of ports. Also the argument is that UAE is a decent ally in our war on terror and this is a pretty bad way to treat a geographically key ally. Lastly those backing the port deal argue that we are being hypocritical by claiming we want to expand democracy and good will in the Middle East but then turn around and discriminate against a company based on geographical location.

These are very sound arguments and ones I find very persuasive, but after digging into the issue more I think the whole affair is more complicated than it seems. ThinkProgress has some great stuff on this issue as well. First, it seems as though our great ally, the UAE, may have been meeting with Bin Laden as late as 1999. Certainly the UAE has been a great ally of late but we have to be incredibly suspect of the any goverment that has been willing to take any meetings with Bin Laden in the last 10 years. By 1999 it was well known in the international community that Bin Laden was no good. This hardly qualifies the UAE as above the fray of Middle Eastern countries that put up blinders when dealing with known terrorists and it certainly doesn’t seem to support the idea that the UAE is an ally we can count on without question. Again, this doesn’t put the UAE in bed with terrorists but it cetainly should have us pause and question whether the country’s latest stand is on terrorism has more to do with money than a firm disagreement with ideology.

The second complication in this matter is whether the United States conducted the investigation within the bounds of the law. The applicable statute, amended in 1993, requires a mandatory 45 day investigation into this type of sale after the initial 30 day investigation. Here is what the law says:


Section 5021 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 amended Section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950 to provide authority to the President to suspend or prohibit any foreign acquisition, merger or takeover of a U.S. corporation that is determined to threaten the national security of the United States. The President can exercise this authority under section 721 (also known as the “Exon-Florio provision”) to block a foreign acquisition of a U.S. corporation only if he finds:

(1) there is credible evidence that the foreign entity exercising control might take action that threatens national security, and

(2) the provisions of law, other than the International Emergency Economic Powers Act do not provide adequate and appropriate authority to protect the national security.

Certainly both subsections 1 and 2 apply and therefore further investigation needs to happen. The Bush Administration has offered no reason as to why the second investigation has not occurred.

I agree with the sentiment that is starting to spread that we might be too quick to judge this deal because an Arab country and company are involved. However, the reality is we are currently engaged in a very deadly war in the Middle Eastern region, many countries in that region, including the UAE, have long histories of supporting or at least being neutral to terrorists. If the Bush Administration conducts a full investigation, as required by law, and finds no reason to deny the contract other than the fact that the home office is in Dubai then wholeheartedly agree with those pushing for the deal to continue. However, it is naive to think that those managing ports have nothing whatsoever to do with security. At the very minimum they will have intimate knowledge of the security operations and in a system that is already vulernable. If we proceed with caution and the appropriate degree of scrutiny now we won’t be complaining about connecting the dots later.

Poor Sportsmanship By Hackett

by @ 8:48 am. Filed under Democrats, National, Election '06

I am on Paul Hackett’s side on the issue of being angry that he was so publicly burned by leaders in the Democratic Party, however, I am not at all supportive of his latest move. Apparently Hackett campaign is now releasing their opposition research on Rep. Sherrod Brown. One of the things that the campaign is highlighting is that Brown voted to cut intelligence funding several times pre-September 11. I think Hackett looks quite silly trying to undermine his own party’s candidate for the Senate. With Dems having a decent chance at winning a Republican seat in a Republican state Hackett proves that maybe he was unworthy of the position if he is willing to throw that away just to stick it to a few people. Can’t we all just get along?

Hap tip to Political Wire.

Healthcare Politics

by @ 8:33 am. Filed under Massachusetts, Health Care

There are two stories in today’s Globe that highlight a growing problem here in Massachusetts. The first is within the story about Development Secretary Doug Foy’s resignation dealing with the failed Regional Greehouse Gas Initiative and the second is in a story buried in a the City and Region section about the failing healthcare talks between the House and Senate here in Massachusetts. The common thread between both stories is the failure of the elected pols in Massachusetts to put aside their political ambitions and focus on what is good for us here in the state.

Romney killed the RGGI most likely because it was so offensive in the eyes of business in this state (and in other states should, excuse me when, Romney runs for president). Instead of making an historic pact between Northeastern states that would be an example for the country, Romney back off after his lending his strong support because businesses started to object loudly. Now, with Massachusetts on the verge of leading again with healthcare reform politics may sink the entire thing. There is bickering and name calling among the three principals, Romney, House Speaker Sal DiMasi, and Senate President Robert Travaglini. Romney is complaining that the House and Senate promised a bill by November 15, 2005 and have yet to deliver. Travaglini is complaining that DiMasi’s “myopic” push for taxing businesses is the hurdle in the negotiations and DiMasi is countering that the Senate won’t recognize House compromises and make some of their own.

In the meantime the state is at risk of losing $385 million in federal Medicare funds because our extension will run out with no plan in place. I realize that what politics is the name of the game up on Beacon Hill but this is not a time for “what’s in it for me” politics but rather “what’s in the long-term interest of the state” politics. Romney needs to temoporarily stop running for president, DiMasi needs to reevaluate what is his central goal, and Travaglini needs to start compromising more. We simply cannot let another moment slip away because of petty personal politics. Suck it up guys and get to work, that will ultimately be your biggest political payoff.

February 21, 2006

Absolutely Disgusting

by @ 9:04 pm. Filed under National

I was just getting ready to settle down and start reading David McCullough’s biography on Truman when a story on CNN caught my eye. Apparently there is a cowardly and disgusting group of gay bashers and anti-military religious zealots out there who are going around CHEERING at military funerals. Why would someone do this you ask? Apparently the idiotic followers of the equally idiotic Reverand Fred Phelps are cheering the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that are killing many in the military. The reason for the cheers is because they view the deaths as retribution for the our overly flaming and homosexual culture. That’s right folks, these religious nut cases are pleased at the death of our soldiers because somehow they are defending homosexuality. I am teeming with equal amounts of rage at the notion that an individuals homophobia can be so severe that he or she rejoices at the notion of a lost life as some sort of retribution and with total shock that such hatred can exist in a person supposedly dedicated to God.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that there a group of about 5,000 bikers that travel the country to help protest these protesters; they cheer as loud as they can to drown out the idiots. I am honestly very, very sad that people can be filled with such hatred. I am not a religious man per se but there is no God that I believe in that would ever hate one of His own creations. There is enough hatred directed toward Americans, why must we tolerate it coming from within?

Somerville Faces Tough Healthcare Choices

by @ 5:09 pm. Filed under Somerville, Health Care

Healthcare has certainly been a prevelant topic here in Massachusetts and now it is hitting closer to home. The city of Somerville is facing staggering healthcare costs for its city employees; this year the costs are topping $24 million, this is a 200% increase since 2001. This is absolutely astonishing. One reason for this might be the fact that Somerville pays for 95% of employees costs. As a contrast, Cambridge, which is significantly more affluent, pays only 88%. Mayor Joe Curtatone is suggesting that if unions are willing to make some sacrifices and start paying a greater share then the city is facing service cuts and layoffs. Contributing to the problem is state cut backs. Despite the fact that Somerville’s healthcare costs have increased over $12 million, state funding has fallen by $10 million. Despite all of the talk of recovery here in Massachusetts cities still aren’t receiving the funds they were pre-slow down and this is hurting cities and towns in a big way.

The most immediate problem facing Somerville in this crunch is the negotiating that must happen. As I said, the mayor is already threatening layoffs and the like and the Police Patrolmen’s Union’s president, Jack Leutcher, is already complaining about the service cuts. The other difficulty is that state law requires any changes in a city’s healthcare costs be made simultaneously in all departments. This means that city hall will have to square off against pretty much the whole city all at once. These are tough choices facing the unions and city hall, all sides need to be willing to work together. The city can’t afford 95% any more and the more the unions push to keep it at that rate the lower the city will try to go. I hope all sides can exercise some restraint because I think when that happens each side will get more of what it wants.

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There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.


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Russ Feingold for President!

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