Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Galvin in Watertown Tomorrow

Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin will be speaking at tomorrow night's Democratic Town Committee meeting in Watertown. The meeting is tomorrow at 8:00 pm in the lower meeting room of the Town Hall and is open to the public. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to be able to make it, but I will try to get some impressions of the candidate from people who are attending. If you are in the area and interested in hearing what a potential 2006 gubernatorial candidate has to say, I'd encourage you to stop by.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

And the Winners Are...

The Somerville News has the results from the Second Middlesex race. Pat Jehlen won a narrower than expected victory with a total of 7475 (56.5%) to Republican Bill White's 5762 (43.5%). White came very close in Somerville, losing the city by less than 500 votes. Jehlen pulled away, however, in Medford, Winchester and Woburn where White is a virtual unknown. Jehlen won nearly 60% of the vote outside of Somerville. Unless I read the Conventional Wisdom wrong, I was under the impression that those results would be reversed with Jehlen taking the more liberal Somerville rather easily (aside from White's neighborhood of course) and then they would fight it out in the suburbs. My guess is that the contested Democratic primary helped Jehlen boost her name recognition outside of Somerville and forced her to build an organization that could reach out to Medford and Winchester. Turnout, by the way, was less than reported in the August 30th primary.

The results for the Boston City Council preliminary election are also out. A couple of superficial things about the Boston races. First, it's interesting to note the split in votes between the top eight finishers and the bottom seven. Everyone who made the cut cleared 11,000 votes, and no one who didn't saw even half of that total. Also of note is that John Connolly polled higher -- by just shy of 200 votes -- than incumbent Stephen Murphy. Sam Yoon also has to be pleased, as he beat out the offspring of two former mayors and 2003 candidate Matt O'Malley.

Polls Open Today

Don't forget, if you live in the 2nd Middlesex state Senate district, today is the special election between Representative Pat Jehlen, the Democrat and Somerville Alderman Bill White, the Republican. It will be interesting to see what the turnout is like for the general, as compared to the primary.

In addition, today is the preliminary election for Boston City Council. The top eight candidates (out of 15 running) will move on and compete for the four at-large seats in November. I'm not going to pretend I know anything about Boston politics, so check out DFA Boston if you want to learn more about that election.

As always, you can find your polling place here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Governor Shecky

It seems that Governor Romney's Massachusetts bashing has made the national press. The Washington Post has noticed what we in Massachusetts have been talking about for a long time now:

For months, this blue-state governor has been pitching himself to conservatives in a way that campaign experts say is highly unusual -- perhaps even historic. Instead of talking about his home state with the usual lip-quivering pride, Romney uses it like a vaudeville comic would use his mother-in-law: as a laugh line.
The article also has this quote, unattributed but probably from Romney mouthpiece Julie Teer:
As far as the presidency goes, a spokeswoman described Romney's current status this way: "He's testing the waters. It's not a full-time testing of the waters."
So, it seems that Romney is now a part-time Governor and part-time professional water tester. At least his people are willing to admit it now.

Via Universal Hub, Fred and my mole in DC.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Who's Behind the Insurance Ad Campaign?

Those of you who watched tonight's Red Sox game may have noticed some new commercials from the folks at One of the commercials seems to be making the misleading claim that good drivers pay more than bad drivers do in Massachusetts. The whole point of the Massachusetts system, whether you are for or against it is that bad drivers generally pay the same amount as good drivers. While this may be less than those same drivers would have to pay under a more competitive system, the ad does not bother to point out that nuance.

So, who is behind the new ad campaign? The commercials are paid for by the Massachusetts Insurance Federation, which is headed up by Insurance Company lobbyist James T. Harrington. Harrington was, at least until recently, the northeast region vice president of the American Insurance Association, and in fact, back in 1994, former Rep Frank Emilio (D-Haverhill) was fined by the state Ethics Commission, in part for accepting inappropriate gifts from Harrington while he worked for the AIA. The AIA, of course, represents the interests of large insurance companies, who would benefit from the insurance market being opened in Massachusetts to more competition. Of course, you don't need to even do that much digging to find out who is behind these ads, just check out their supporters page: Liberty Mutual, Metropolitan and other large insurance companies.

Now, I don't know if Romney's insurance plan will reduce anyone's rates, but it's telling that the ones pushing it are the big out-of-state insurers. They're not in it because they're looking out for good drivers, they're in it because Massachusetts is an untapped market for them, and they want the chance to get your money.

State House News Poll and Trends

The September numbers for the bimonthly State House News Poll are out and they tell an interesting story. The big story is that were the vote held today, the gay marriage ban would fail, with only 43% in favor and 51% opposed. The tricky thing about those results is that what people are willing to say to a pollster may not match what they're going to do in the voting booth, but I would have to say that those are encouraging results and with three more years before the measure ever sees the ballot, they're likely to only improve. Curiously enough, opposition to the measure is slightly greater among Independents than Democrats, though not by a statistically significant amount. In addition, support for the ballot question that would expand health coverage in Massachusetts was very high, with 62% in favor to 33% opposed. As we've seen before, Romney's favorability ratings are consistently higher than actual support for his re-election. That is, his favorability rating has stayed steady, now at 54%, but the highest he polls against any challenger is 45.9% (against Deval Patrick, down by four points from July).

Here are the head-to-head poll results, with the July results in parentheses.

If the candidates in next year's general election were Mitt Romney running as the Republican and [CHALLENGER] running as the Democrat and the election were being held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?
ChallengerRomneyDon't KnowNeither
Bill Galvin39.6%(40.2%)43.4%(48.8%)10.7%(7.3%)6.0%(3.4%)
Deval Patrick29.1%(35.1%)45.9%(49.9%)15.9% (9.5%)8.8%(5.4%)
Tom Reilly44.8%(47.1%)39.8%(44.0%)10.4%(6.2%)4.7%(2.7%)
The good news is that Mitt Romney's numbers have gone down across the board. The bad news, however, is that the Democrats' numbers have too as more people polled this time around are either undecided or unwilling to vote for any of the candidates. In any event, Tom Reilly is still ahead, and while his lead has grown, it's by a statistically insignificant amount. Bill Galvin does measurably worse than Romney for the second poll in a row; where he was in a dead heat with the Governor back in May. Deval Patrick took a big hit from last month, the first time we've seen him backslide in a head-to-head poll with Romney, who gets his highest percentage against a Democrat here, likely due to Patrick's poor name recognition. Here's a graph of how the Democrats have been doing against Romney:
Those trendlines do not look good for any of the Democrats, as the only candidate that was showing a positive trend, Deval Patrick, took a sharp drop and the others failed to reverse the steady erosion of their numbers. In a vacuum, these numbers are discouraging, but given that Romney's numbers have decreased as well, one would have to admit that this race is still very competitive.

Last time around, I also checked out the Democratic numbers in those head-to-head matchups. I was disappointed that more registered Democrats were unwilling to support the candidate from their party. This time around is no different, and in fact Tom Reilly does measurably worse with Democratic voters. Here's the breakdown of the percentage of Democrats voting for the candidate, with last poll's numbers in parenthesis:
Tom Reilly69.1%(76.2%)
Bill Galvin66.7%(61.4%)
Deval Patrick52.0%(55.4%)
Again, these numbers are probably a factor of name recognition, but it's hard to say why Reilly's numbers would have dropped, given that his name recognition could only have gone up in the past two months. As a consolation, however, Reilly does do the best out of the three candidates among Unenrolled voters, which explains why he's the only one beating Romney.

Of course, numbers against the Governor won't mean anything when Romney finally announces that he's not going to run for reelection. Sure, there's a chance that he might still run, and if he sees this poll he might be encouraged to try, but I think more people who are paying attention would be surprised if he actually did run than if he didn't. Even the State House News pollsters realize this, so for the first time, they've included the numbers for the three likely candidates against Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey.
If the candidates in next year's general election were Kerry Healey running as the Republican and [CHALLENGER] running as the Democrat and the election were being held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?
ChallengerHealeyDon't KnowNeither
Bill Galvin42.6%32.1%17.3%7.7%
Deval Patrick30.8%35.7%20.1% 12.6%
Tom Reilly48.6%28.3%14.8%8.0%
All of the Democrats to markedly better against Kerry Healey, though I would have liked to see Tom Reilly break fifty percent against her. Healey only beats Deval Patrick, who is the candidate with the lowest name recognition, but the undecideds in that matchup are so high as to almost render it meaningless. Another interesting thing is that the partisan splits amongst Democrats in this question are almost identical to the Romney matchups. That is, the same percentage of Democrats are willing to vote against the candidate from their party, regardless of who he's running against. That strikes me as odd, but it could just be a reflection of the Massachusetts public's desire for divided government.

Here are the poll results for the Democratic primary, along with the time series results for July, May and March:
Tom Reilly35.6%43.8%32.6%41.5%
Bill Galvin16.9%8.1%7.0%10.5%
Deval Patrick6.8%10.2%5.8%3.2%
Don't Know36.2%30.2%44.2%36.4%
The results across months aren't exactly comparable given that the poll included Mike Capuano last time around and Chris Gabrielli before that. Still, it's strange to see Tom Reilly's numbers so volatile. There's good news for Bill Galvin, though, as his numbers went up by a significantly significant amount without doing any campaigning whatsoever. Here's a chart with the three expected candidates:
The trend for Galvin is looking a lot better than it did just two months ago, and Patrick has to be pretty disappointed to see his modest gains reversed. Still, the numbers show that Reilly consistantly towers above the rest of the competition with just less than a year to go before the primary.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Waiting Lists Not Inevitable

As soon as Health Care Week was announced, I started frantically looking for an article I read a few months ago about Universal Health Care, and particularly the idea that the health care "rationing" we hear about in places like Canada and the UK was not necessarily a inevitable problem caused by the system, but more a matter of funding. As it turns out, the article I was looking for was actually a blog post by James Kroeger, who also wrote The Republican Nemesis. You should read that as well, but here is an excerpt from the article on Universial Health Care:

In spite of roughly equal “health outcomes” (OECD), America’s private health care system costs Americans more than twice as much as the NHS costs the citizens of the UK. In 2002, UK citizens spent only about 8% of their GDP on health care ($2,160 per citizen). This compares to the approximately 15% of GDP that Americans spent on health care that year ($5,267 per citizen). While the Brits enjoy a quality of health care that is superior to that enjoyed by Americans in many respects (no insurance policy headaches, no frustrating discussions of “ability-to-pay” prior to the provision of health services, no paperwork hassles) the overall quality of their health service lags behind America’s in one important respect: they must put up with far longer waiting times for elective surgery.

What is wrong with the Socialized Medicine model practiced in the United Kingdom that causes these long waiting lists? Nothing. It is not perverse incentives or imagined “inefficiencies” that are to blame for the waiting lists; it’s the conservative legislators in Parliament who have used their influence and pressure to underfund the NHS. If the British were to decide tomorrow to start spending the same percentage of their GDP on the NHS that Americans spend on their inefficient private health care system, they would be able to dramatically reduce waiting times for those elective procedures. If you hire more doctors and build more operating rooms and support services, then you will reduce wait times. It’s just that simple.

Blue Mass Group Interviews John McDonough

This morning, Blue Mass. Group has posted an interview with John McDonough, the Executive Director of Health Care For All. In it, McDonough describes the problems with the Governor's proposed "RomneyCare" initiative:

  1. Not one of the state’s private insurers has come forward with a detailed policy meeting the Governor’s target premium, and outlining benefits, costs, and other limitations. Without such details (we’ve been waiting since last November), we cannot support the assertion that these low-cost plans are viable;
  2. We do not believe available funding from the existing health care safety net would be sufficient to finance adequate subsidies for lower income persons who cannot afford insurance purchase with their own income;
  3. We believe depletion of the existing safety net to pay for the Governor’s plan would severely jeopardize hospitals and health centers that provide the bulk of care for the Commonwealth’s uninsured;
  4. We believe the Governor’s “individual mandate” would create a series of trapdoors for vulnerable uninsured residents which would create long term financial hardship for low income folks whose only offense is getting sick.
If you're at all interested in the push for health care reform here in the Commonwealth, you should definitely check this interview out.

While you're at it, check out Adrian Walker's column in today's Globe where he profiles a case where MassHealth refused to pay for a young girl's surgery to remove a growth from her neck.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Romney Gets a Bounce

SUSA has released the latest one of their 50 state Governor approval rating polls, and Mitt Romney clocks in at number 33, with 51% of the respondents approving of the job the Governor is doing and 46% disapproving. Romney seems to have made slight gains among conservatives, moderates and Democrats. Perhaps Romney is experiencing a bounce from the opening of Camp Edwards to hurricane Katrina evacuees. It could also be that Romney was experiencing an anti-bounce last month, after his call for the repeal of Roe v Wade in the Globe. It may just be that voters have forgotten or forgiven the governor for his shift to the right.

Here's the graph of the SUSA results since May of this year:

Health Care and Katrina

Just in time for Health Care Week, Globe Columnist Derrick Z. Jackson has a column today about the state of our nation's healthcare system. Here's an excerpt:

Last week, as Bush conducted damage control over the negligent federal response to Katrina, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report indicating that healthcare premiums continue to increase at triple the rate of inflation. The average cost of family health coverage is now $10,880, surpassing the gross earnings of someone working full time at the federal minimum wage.

In the Bush years, the cost of health insurance has skyrocketed by 73 percent. While Bush has given vastly disproportionate shares of his tax cuts to corporations and wealthy individuals under the guise that the rich will create jobs, not only has there been no rise in income for the average American; business firms, especially small ones, are cutting workers out of healthcare. Since Bush took office, the percentage of companies that offer health insurance has dropped from 69 percent to 60 percent.
Jackson's central idea is that the failure to protect patients at public hospitals in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina parallels the failure of our healthcare system to protect the poor and otherwise uninsured. The article ends on a cautionary note: "The travesty of the hospitals in New Orleans is only a prelude to the disaster that is about to strike healthcare in America." The whole column is definitely worth reading.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Charter Changes Redux

Last week, I went to a meeting of the Mass. Democratic Party Charter Committee. The meeting was billed as a chance for people who were disturbed (to say the least) by the changes to the party charter at the May convention. No questions were taken at the meeting, of course, but several people had emailed their concerns to DSC members, who were allowed to ask them. The result was kind of an awkward process whereby DSC members would pose sometimes angry questions to the group and then be asked to defend the questioner's point of view. Eventually, the DSC members allowed one of us from the peanut gallery to explain what he thought the problems with the new charter were.

Two things were apparent throughout the meeting. The first was that the majority of the committee members in attendance were completely oblivious as to why, when taken as a whole, the changes to the charter could be seen as an attempt to keep the grassroots out and reduce the accountability of the state party. Better folk than I have already listed their grievances with the charter changes, so I won't rehash them here. In any event, most of the group was honestly perplexed by the criticisms. Party chair Phil Johnston, who was there for much of the meeting, called the idea that the party wanted to shut out the grassroots absurd.

The other thing that I noticed was that no remedy for these complaints was proffered. The prevailing attitude was that most of the folks who came away from the convention dissatisfied were new and likely confused about the process. The DSC reasoned that if they just did a better job of communicating, there would be fewer problems in the future. In addition, some of the members thought that the convention was too late in the process for people to object to the changes, given the number of hearings that were held leading up to it. Most agreed that the convention was not a particularly conducive environment for debate, which I suppose is true, but also makes the whole process seem like kind of a sham. As far as the hearings go, I would imagine that most of the convention delegates were unaware of them, which reflects back on the communication issue. If it's the member's responsibility to stay informed, then the party also has a responsibility to make that information as easily accessible as possible.

The Committee did give some clarifications that made some of the charter changes seem less odious. Under the new rules, the DSC members can close their meetings to the public with a two-thirds vote. While this is certainly problematic, they assured us that no votes can be taken in closed session. While I appreciate the need to keep political opponents in the dark about strategy, I'd certainly prefer that all registered Democrats attending meetings in good faith be allowed to attend. Perhaps this is a good enough compromise. One of the other controversial changes was that now Democrats can endorse independent candidates in races against fellow Democrats. The example they gave was the 1972 Congressional race between Louise Day Hicks (who won the primary) and Joe Moakley, though the more recent example on the minds of progressives was the race last year between Vinnie Ciampa and Carl Sciortino. As for other amendments, the committee expressed a desire to "protect ourselves from ourselves" which, again, is indicative of a party trying to close ranks.

If there's one thing that I hope the Democrats take away from all this, it's that if you expect to involve the grassroots in a campaign, you'll also have to listen to their concerns. The party also needs to communicate effectively with their members. They have a website, a blog, an email list, all of our street addresses, and a group of people willing to volunteer their time. It's about time they started using all of those assets effectively.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Deval Patrick on WGBH

I know it's Health Care Week, but I'll have to admit, I'm a little behind on my homework. I was hoping that gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick would mention something about health care on his appearance today on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, but he only made brief mention of the issue. Toward the end of the interview, Rooney asked Patrick about his campaign finance situation, mentioning that he would have to have enough money to get ads on TV. Here was what Patrick had to say about that:

We know we have to raise the money to be competitive on TV, and we will have it when the time comes. We'll need that next summer. What it's mostly about, and what it hasn't been about for too long, is a grassroots organization -- going directly to people where they live and where they are inside. And making an appeal to them for why it matters for them to see this as their government, to see my candidacy as their candidacy. We have 2000 volunteers so far, and we add to that number every week. By the time of the caucuses in February, we will have a captain in every single one of the 2157 precincts in the state. They will each have a handful of coordinators to help by neighborhood, ward or block as the case may be.
The important thing to take away here is that Patrick is focusing his efforts on organization. This is something that Democrats have failed to do for about twenty years here in Massachusetts. The Mass Dems never adapted from the city machine model when people started to drift out of cities and into the suburbs. For some reason it's taken them this long to try to assemble an outreach effort that reflected the state's changing demographics. All the TV money in the world isn't a substitute for face-to-face voter contact. It's good to see that at least one candidate, and the party as a whole are addressing this.

Later in the interview, Rooney asked Patrick if he'd rather face Governor Romney, or Lieutennant Governor Kerry Healey. Here was his response:
Doesn't matter to me, and I'll tell you why. Because it's just not about the chess game of politics -- that can't be -- that's what it's been about for too long. It's about a completely different vision for government. It's about a vision of government not about it being big or small, that's a silly dichotomy. It's about a vision for government that is active and engaged. That is effective and efficient. That is compassionate, and reflects the best of what we are and who we are in Massachusetts.
This is why, I think Patrick has been gaining traction among a certain section of Democrats. He's the only one talking about effective and responsive government, something we've been sorely lacking in Massachusetts for a long time.

One Week, Two GOP Scandals

Last week, we in the Commonwealth were treated to two Republican scandals. The first involved none other than our Lieutenant Governor and possible 2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey. According to the Globe, Healey's husband benefited to the tune of $1 million from tax credits under a Romney economic development program. That in and of itself would be unremarkable under a Republican administration, but a Department of Revenue report came out last October claiming that the credits were "handed out as favors" to recipients. That report was mysteriously withdrawn five days later and disappeared into the political ether. Here's what the Blue Mass. Group has to say about that:

DOR denies that it withdrew the report because of pressure from higher-ups. Uh huh. And if you believe that, I have some lovely waterfront property in Brooklyn that you might be interested in.
More recently, Massachusetts Republican Party vice-chairman and chair of the Brockton GOP, Larry Novak (seen here relaxing after burning some evidence?) has resigned after being arrested for allegedly laundering over $100,000 of drug money for one of his clients. Novak, who of course was running for Brockton City Council on an anticrime platform, is also under investigation by US Attorney Michael Sullivan for allegedly advising that same client to file false affidavits in court in an effort to get his prior state convictions overturned.

Chimes at Midnight wondered aloud where that drug money was headed -- was it destined to line the state GOP coffers? Indeed, records show that Novak loaned himself over $100,000 for his 2004 race against state Senator Robert Creedon. While Novak is a wealthy attorney, one has to wonder if any of that money came from unseemly sources. No worries, Mass GOP spokesdroid Darrell Crate tells us that the charges against Novak "have absolutely no connection to the Republican Party" and that they are "probably" going to return Novak's political donations. How reassuring.

A lot of people in Massachusetts disagree with Republicans on policy, but vote for them because they think the Democrats are corrupt. The events of last week should remind them that no party has a monopoly on scandal.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Obama and Patrick

Throughout his campaign, Deval Patrick has been compared to Illinois Senator Barack Obama. I always thought those comparisons were easy given that they are both African-American, Harvard lawyers and electrifying speakers, but ultimately superficial.

Well, today, Senator Obama gave the keynote address at the Harvard Law School Celebration of Black Alumni, where he received the Harvard Law School Association Award. Before breaking into the meat of his speech which focused on the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and the "Empathy Deficit" in government, Obama made the comparison himself. I don't have the exact quote, but the Senator recalled that in his own primary, many people thought he was the best candidate, and would be the best Senator, but doubted his ability to win a contested primary against several other popular figures. He then mentioned that there was someone there that a lot of people thought would make the best governor, and pointed Deval Patrick out to the crowded room. With that endorsement, I have to imagine that Patrick had a pretty good fundraising weekend.

Update: The Boston Globe has more information on the speech.

Update Update: The address can be viewed in full online here. Realplayer is required, of course.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Maybe He Left it With O'Reilly's Peabody

"Local" talk radio blowhard Jay Severin has been caught padding his resume by Globe Columnist Scot Lehigh. Here's a teaser:

Here's what Jay said: "But since journalism began, and up until the time at least that I took my master's degree at Boston University -- and may I add without being obnoxious, up till and including the time that I received a Pulitzer Prize for my columns for excellence in online journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism, the highest possible award for writing on the Web -- right up to and including that in 1998, you still had to practice journalism to be a journalist."

That struck several listeners as unlikely. Once I'd heard the claim, I asked the Pulitzer folks to check it out. "We looked at the records and there is no record of him winning a Pulitzer Prize," says Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzers. Nor is there a Pulitzer for excellence in online journalism.
As it turns out, this is not the first time Lehigh and Severin have crossed paths. Mark Jurkowitz has the rest of the story.

New Developments in Second Middlesex Race

Wednesday night, a new development in the 2nd Middlesex state Senate race was brought to my attention. If you'll recall, Representative Pat Jehlen won the special primary on August 30th, and now faces off against Somerville Alderman Bill White, the Republican (though he doesn't advertise that fact). White has gotten the endorsement of four of his fellow Aldermen -- something that would be wholly unremarkable under normal circumstances, and likely somewhat symbolic as most residents of Somerville could likely not name four Aldermen, let alone care who they endorsed. All four Aldermen are Democrats, however, and while Democrats do endorse Republicans from time to time, one of the Aldermen, Bill Roche, also happens to be the chairman of the Somerville Ward 1 Democratic Committee. As it turns out, the Somerville Democratic City Committee's charter calls for those who endorse members of other major parties to be stripped of their positions and now Helen Corrigan, chairwoman of the City Committee, is calling for resignations. In addition, the State Democratic Party charter says that those who endorse someone from another party with ballot access (Independents are now fair game) are precluded from attending the nominating convention.

This underscores an interesting conflict. As elected officials of the City of Somerville, these people have a duty to the residents of that city. They also, however, have a duty to the Democrats who elected them to their leadership positions in the party and the voters in the Democratic primary who decided on the candidate. One would hope that their commitment to the city would trump the party, but at the same time, they should be willing to face the consequences of their decisions, even if they did what they thought was right.

Personally, I had thought this was a low-stakes race with Jehlen being the heavy favorite, but apparently people are taking it very seriously. Not only did the members of the Board of Aldermen stick their necks out, but there are several incidents of vandals targeting houses with Jehlen lawn signs. The Mass Dems are sending out emails calling White one of "Mitt Romney's right-wing Republicans" and calling for volunteers. Perhaps there could be some surprises on the 27th after all.

As an aside, check out this quote by White in the Somerville Journal:

"[Jehlen] has not risen up the ladder, and she has not been a committee chair and that may have cost [Somerville]."
Now, that may be a valid criticism, and it may even be true. If Bill White thinks, however, that he is going to rise to committee chair as a Republican in the state Senate anytime soon, he's living in a fantasy world where Massachusetts Republicans somehow regain the majority. A Democrat might be able to argue that they could rise faster to committee chair, but unless White is telling us that he's going to switch parties, like Charlie Shannon did, criticizing Jehlen for not having a chairmanship is nonsensical.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

J. Edgar Romney

Governor Mitt Romney has created quite a stir with his remarks on Homeland Security yesterday in front of the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The Boston Globe focused on remarks that the Governor made calling for the wiretapping of mosques and the surveillance of foreign students, but those were just two of the examples he gave in what was a clear call to the administration to increase efforts and powers in domestic surveillance.

Other bloggers, particularly Universal Hub, and Chimes at Midnight have touched on the wiretapping mosques issue, and Dan Kennedy has the reaction from the ACLU, so I won't spend too much time on that issue, except to say one thing. To be clear, if there is a court order and a compelling reason to place a wiretap in a specific place, then of course it should be done. Governor Romney, however, made no reference to such safeguards and seemed to imply that the government should have carte blanche powers for domestic intelligence gathering. That terrifies me personally, and it should do the same to anyone who believes in limited government power.

As far as tracking and eavesdropping on students from terror-sponsored countries goes, what exactly is Romney suggesting? That we wiretap dorm rooms? Give the Government veto power over class schedules? Send agents posing as students to spy on classmates based on their country of origin? I have to imagine that a large number of these foreign students are coming to study in America in order to get away from their totalitarian, terror-sponsoring regimes. Is treating them as criminals before they step off the plane the way to show them the power of American Freedom and Democracy? And frankly, if you're really concerned about security and not just posturing to xenophobes, you'll realize that we need the help of the 99.9% of the people who come to the United States for legitimate reasons to help us find the 0.1% (if that) who mean us harm. Is treating them all like suspects the way to do that, or is it counterproductive?

One of the great ironies in Romney's speech is that he spent much of it criticizing the amount of Homeland Security money spent on first responders, even as he argued that those very same people should have a greater role in the prevention of terrorist acts. The great asset of the states, when compared with the Federal Government, he said was that they had "lots of eyes and ears" on the ground. Romney said that the states should gather data from locals -- from the private sector, police, water & meter readers, etc, and send it to Washington. That's right, meter readers. Be careful if you use too much electricity one month -- you might end up raising a red flag!

Here's the thing that really bugs me. We have a Homeland Security Department right now that puts infants on the No-Fly list, and we're supposed to trust that they will only spy on the "bad guys". I certainly don't want to end up with my phone being tapped because I used an inappropriate amount of water for a house my size two months in a row or whatever. That doesn't even take into account the temptation for the unscrupulous to use such a domestic network to spy on their political enemies. Not that that has ever happened before.

If you'd like to see the speech for yourself, the Heritage Foundation website has the video from the event (RealPlayer link). Romney's remarks begin at 6:55 and he takes a few questions at 35:50. You'll have to slog through a litany of corporate buzzwords for about five minutes, but he does eventually talk about Homeland Security.

The Onion Predicts the Future

Now that Gillette CEO James Kilts is back in the news, I'm reminded of this Onion Editorial that they attributed to him back in 2004.

The funniest part is, the Onion's prediction just came true.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Civil Union Amendment Fails

The big news today out of Beacon Hill is that the proposed Civil Union amendment went down by a margin of more than 100 votes. The final tally was 157 against to 39 in favor with a significant number of legislators switching their votes from just a year ago. The overwhelming message of the Convention was, in the words of Republican Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees:

"Gay marriage has begun, and life has not changed for the citizens of the commonwealth, with the exception of those who can now marry,"
According to MassEquality, at least 115 of the legislators voted no specifically because they favor equal marriage rights. That means that in order to stop the 2008 ballot initiative before it reaches the voters they would need 35 members to either switch positions in 2006 or 2007, or be replaced by pro-marriage legislators in the 2006 election. That seems like a tall order, but not impossible given how long two years is in political time. Don't forget that the thirty-nine legislators who voted in favor of this amendment are now on the record as supporting rights for same-sex couples. It is not difficult to imagine that at least some of those folks could be convinced that it doesn't matter whether we call those rights "civil unions" or "marriage". Given that and the swing in support for marriage equality just over the past year, it's not impossible that opponents could fail to get their required fifty votes in either 2006 or (more likely) 2007.

By the way, The Fray had someone on the scene for the entire day, liveblogging the Convention. Check it out for a description of what it was like to be there.

Update: The Globe has the full roll call.

Deval's Blog Blitz Continues

On Saturday, gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick continued his blog blitz, giving a wide ranging interview to the Progressive Blog's Charlie Gallo. Patrick talks about the war, taxes, higher education, the death penalty and more. If you've been following the Patrick campaign closely, he doesn't break much new ground, but I still have to respect him for bringing bloggers into the conversation. As an underdog candidate, he can afford to try new ways of getting people interested in his campaign and we in the Massachusetts progressive blogosphere are better off (or at least better informed) for it.

That's not to say that Patrick is ignoring traditional media. He was on NECN's News Night with Jim Braude again a few days ago, where he spoke mostly about Attorney General Tom Reilly's recent decision to certify the marriage ban initiative and the response to Hurricane Katrina. You can check out the video from Newsnight's webpage here, or go directly to the video here (I think).

And if you really can't get enough of Deval Patrick, he's having an open house at his campaign headquarters in Charlestown this Saturday. If you're interested in volunteering, this may be a good chance to look before you leap, so to speak.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Another Patronage Appointment for Romney

The AP is reporting tonight that Governor Mitt Romney has appointed former Republican legislative candidate Mary Connaughton to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. Connaughton, if you recall, lost a mean spirited race in 2004 against Democrat Tom Sannicandro to fill the seat Karen Spilka vacated when she ran (successfully) for the state Senate. Romney stumped hard for Connaughton, and the state Republicans spent just over $23,700 on her campaign. On election day, all Connaughton and Team Reform had to show for their efforts, however, was a dog bite and a thirty point loss.

As the rumor goes, Katherine Abbot, the former head of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and her chief of staff were fired in part because they refused to hire Connaughton. Sure, the official word was that the axe came down after some students were injured in an accident caused by an unplowed sidewalk, but the impression that DCR is a haven for hacks and retreads just won't fade away. Apparently Romney never stopped looking for a slot to plug Connaughton into, and today he was able put her in a place where he and state Republicans could finally start to get a return for their investment.

By the way, during the 2004 campaign, Connaughton campaigned in favor of merging the Turnpike Authority with MassHighway. One wonders if her determination will continue now that she runs the risk of making her own job redundant.

No Political Agenda?

Today's Boston Herald has an article on another out-of-state speech by Governor Mitt Romney, this one in front of the conservative Manhattan Institute. During the speech, the governor spoke at length about the hurricane Katrina disaster, and the government's response to it. Of course now, with the resignation of Mike "Heckuva job, Brownie" Brown, some are dropping Romney's name as a possible long-term replacement. From the article:

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions had mentioned Romney as "the type of individual" who could oversee the $61 billion Katrina cleanup job.

"We need someone without a political agenda who can report directly to the president to help coordinate this relief because the potential for fraud, waste and abuse is so great."
How the Senator (who is actually from Alabama, not Arizona) managed to say the words "Mitt Romney" and "someone without a political agenda" in the same breath without cracking up, I'll never know. Apparently, for Republicans, that is code for "willing to carry the administration's water." Already Romney has backed off his earlier statement that FEMA was "an embarrassment" that made him "shake [his] head" and he's now, in that very same Herald article where he's praised for his lack of agenda, claiming that the blame lies squarely on state and local officials. Here are Governor Romney's remarks from yesterday:
"You have to have a leader. Someone who grabs the reins and says, 'I'm in charge,'" Romney said."What I saw ... was the apparent absence of the state and local level on the ground -- someone who was calling the shots."
Never mind that whatever it was that Romney "saw" in those first few days of the disaster he saw from television in his palatial Belmont estate. Never mind, too, that it is reasonable to expect FEMA or Homeland Security to fill any vacuum left by local leaders when dealing with a flood that stretched the equivalent distance from Boston to Framingham. Apparently, Romney got the memo from the administration that it was time to deflect some of that blame onto the locals. The result: another stunning "turnaround" for our Governor. You know, the one with no political agenda.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Duke Vs. Mitt

The Boston Herald has an amusing story today about former Governor Mike Dukakis' call for current Governor Mitt Romney to finally let the Commonwealth in on his plans to run for reelection. From the article:

Dukakis said he announced he would seek the presidency in April 1987, just a few months after he had been sworn in for a third term.

"I didn't dance around it," Dukakis said. "There wasn't a lot of mystery about the whole thing."
Dukakis was critical of Romney's many forays out of state.

"I wasn't running around doing events designed to enhance my national stature," Dukakis, who is now teaching at Northeastern University, said. "I don't think it helps to run around the country trashing the state you are governor of at Republican events."
Now, I'll admit that I was not living in Massachusetts in 1987, so others can verify the Duke's claims, but what I will say is that it is a disgrace that Mitt Romney has not made his intentions official -- particularly now that it's less than a year before the GOP Primary. The only commitment he's been willing to make is that he'll make his decision "in the Fall" -- which technically gives him until December 20th.

Civil Union Amendment Doomed

If today's Globe is to be believed, the Constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage but also create civil unions is all but doomed. Groups favoring equal marriage rights have counted as many as 104 legislators (out of 200) who are voting against the amendment explicitly because they also favor those rights. Previously, it had been thought that the amendment would fail only because those who are opposed to both civil unions and marriage equality would also be voting against it. Now, it looks like there is a definite pro-marriage majority in the legislature. Here's a clue as to how that came to be:

State Senator James E. Timilty, a Walpole Democrat who campaigned last year in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment, said the meetings were crucial to altering his position because they converted abstract moral arguments into tangible reality.

"At many of these meetings, when I would look at the children of these couples and see that they deserved all of the benefits that I had certainly growing up in a family, the principles of fairness changed my mind and I decided that a no vote was the correct vote," Timilty said.
That the people who would deny these benefits to children call themselves pro-family is particularly galling to me. Look for this strategy of putting a human face to marriage equality to continue into 2008, should the anti-marriage initiative make the ballot. This is how those of us on the side of equal marriage rights are going to change minds -- not by calling names or making accusations, but by showing people that marriage equality has real consequences for real families.

By the way, as Blue Mass. Group noted this weekend, Kerry Healey has come out in favor of the anti-marriage/pro-civil union amendment. It makes sense given that in the unlikely event that the amendment passes on Wednesday, she'd want to be on the more "Republican" side. It also gives her a no-risk way to distinguish herself from Governor Mitt Romney, since by the time she made her announcement, the measure already looked like it was destined to fail. One thing that is interesting to note, however, is that Healey mentioned that she would be in favor of creating civil unions even if the 2008 measure to ban gay marriage passes.

UPDATE: As always, Mass Marrier is right on top of this.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Who Are They Going to Vote For?

In an editorial praising Attorney General Tom Reilly for his decision to certify the anti-marriage initiative, the Boston Herald makes this comment:

This wasn't all that tough a call for Reilly politically. He might cede some gay marriage supporters to the underfunded Deval Patrick, but given the likely choice between Reilly and the GOP nominee for governor – whomever that might be – who are those people going to back?
Of course, the Herald oversimplifies the choice. No matter what happens between now and November, 2006, it will never come down to a decision simply between the Republican and Democrat. As we saw nationally in 2000, the Green party candidate can siphon support from the left and if neither candidate is particularly inspiring, folks on the left may simply stay home. In a close election, that might be enough to swing it to the Republican. As I understand Massachusetts politics, Democrats do best when there's an alliance between the progressives and the insiders. In 1998, Scott Harshbarger had the progressives, but the insiders didn't back him. Four years later, Shannon O'Brien had the insiders, but the progressives fled to Jill Stein or sat out. If Reilly wins the primary and can't convince liberals that he's worth voting for, they'll stay home and at least take solace in the fact that no Republican can get anything accomplished without the consent of the Democratic legislature.

What's clear to me now, however, is that it really didn't matter which way Tom Reilly ruled this week. If he had ruled the opposite, anti-marriage forces would have appealed the decision, and I understand that it's the policy of the Commonwealth to allow signatures to be collected while the prospective initiative is under appeal. Since both sides were determined to appeal, the final decision never rested with Reilly at all, but with the SJC instead. If you think about it, Reilly's decision actually helped pro-marriage forces since it killed the potential 2006 initiative (or so we assume). If he had gone the other way, those against both equal marriage rights and civil unions may have planned to switch their votes at the Constitutional Convention this coming week. In any event, the actual decision, makes a compelling case that this is the correct legal outcome, and if it's upheld on appeal it will be clear that Reilly, whether you agree with the decision or not, did what he was Constitutionally obligated to do.

Watertown CPA Needs Signatures!

The Watertown Committee for Community Preservation is still looking for signatures for their petition to get the Community Preservation Act on the ballot this November. The committee is looking for a total of 1,750 signatures by September 27 and they're already more than halfway toward their goal. Under the CPA, Watertown stands to generate over $800,000 for open space/recreation, historic preservation, and affordable housing. If the committee doesn't get the required signatures, however, all that money is left on the table, and it'll go to subsidize projects in towns like Chatham, Cohasset, Duxbury and Wellesley.

If you're interested in signing the petition, and you're a Watertown resident, volunteers will be collecting signatures in front of the Watertown Post Office (Main Street) on Saturday, September 10 and Saturday, September 17 between 9:30 am and 1:30 pm. In addition, Community Preservation supporters will have a table at the Faire on the Square, September 24th in Watertown Square. If you can't make any of those days, drop me a line and I'll try to hook you up with a petition.

If you're on the fence about the CPA, think of it this way. Imagine the state is giving you a magic box that your taxes are already paying for no matter what you do. If you put $25 into the box, it shoots out a $50 Home Depot* gift card. Sure you can't use that money to pay the mortgage or other bills, but suddenly everything you do to improve your house (and increase your property value) is half price. Who could turn that down?

For more information about the CPA, see my interview with Dori Peleg of Watertown Community Housing.

*For those of you boycotting Home Depot for various reasons (ideological or incompetence) substitute Coolidge Hardware or an equivalent outside of Watertown.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Little More Perspective

The Boston Globe has updated the tool I mentioned yesterday to include the area flooded by Hurricane Katrina. Check out the New Orleans flood superimposed on the Boston area. The flood damage runs from the North End to Framingham. All of Allston and Brighton would be underwater, the same with most of Newton, Wellesley and all of Cambridge east of Harvard Square. If you had any doubts about the scope of this disaster before, this should put it in a perspective we can appreciate here in Boston.

Bill Galvin Responds

Others have already noted gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick's reaction to the certification of the gay marriage ban ballot initiative. Today's Boston Globe has reaction from another of Reilly's 2006 rivals, Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin:

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, who is also considering a run for governor on the Democratic ticket, declined to offer an opinion on Reilly's decision, but said he sees no reason for voters to support the ballot question.

"I think this is one of those instances where the institution of gay marriage may be less divisive to society than the referendum campaign will be," Galvin said. "The emotions that this kind of issue brings out can be very detrimental to society. It has been around for a year and any honest person can conclude that it has not been detrimental to society."
Galvin is exactly right. We're being subjected to three years of poisonous rhetoric (on both sides) for what? To stop a handful of gay couples from being happy.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Time's Up

I'm sure that Herald Columnist Joe Fitzgerald thinks that this is a victory of the "disenfranchized" over the "militant gay lobby," but Tom Reilly has finally made his decision and certified the anti-marriage ballot initiative.

The good news is that this effectively kills the 2006 Travaglini-Lees Compromise amendment. With the news that a couple of Trav's lieutenants are switching their votes, plus the unwillingness of anti-marriage legislators to back any initiative that includes civil unions, the vote next week is almost a foregone conclusion. In addition, this gives Commonwealth residents three more years to come to terms with marriage equality. More and more of them will realize that, to paraphrase Jefferson, that equal marriage rights neither picks their pocket nor breaks their leg.

The bad news, of course, is that Reilly has decided that it's fine to put people's civil rights on the ballot. Not only that, but we will all be subject to three years of hysteria from both sides -- something that we all thought we had put behind us in May 2004. Nothing horrible has happened now that 6,500 gays and lesbians are married, but millions of dollars are going to be spent in an effort to take away the rights they were granted. Aren't we all tired of this already? Reilly himself said it was time to "move on" yet when he is given the opportunity to do so, he refuses.

Clock Ticking for Reilly

Sometime today, Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly is due to announce his decision whether or not to certify a ballot question that would end equal marriage in Massachusetts. Unlike the measure that is up before the legislature one week from today, this would not simultaneously create civil unions as a consolation prize. If certified, anti-marriage activists would have to gather enough signatures to get the measure before the legislature where it would need to be approved by only 25% of the body at two consecutive Constitutional Conventions (presumably one in 2006 and one in 2007), a hurdle it is likely to clear given the low standard of entry. At that point it would be on the ballot in 2008, four and a half years after the first same-sex marriage was performed in Massachusetts.

The decision not to certify should be a slam dunk given that the state Constitution forbids ballot questions that are intended to reverse judicial rulings. However, Reilly's delay is leaving him open to charges that his decision will be politically motivated, as Eileen McNamara does in her Boston Globe column today. Here's an excerpt:

By waiting until the last minute to rule on this misguided ballot initiative, the putative Democratic gubernatorial candidate has only reinforced suspicion that he is preoccupied with questions of politics, not of law. It is a suspicion Reilly cannot afford in the face of a credible challenge for the nomination from Deval L. Patrick, a former assistant US attorney who has been unequivocal in his support for equal civil rights for gay people.

Reilly has spent a fair chunk of his career in public life battling the perception that he is less motivated by legal conviction than by political self-interest.
In contrast to McNamara's view, however, last month the Springfield Republican noted that Reilly "can successfully separate his duties as the state's top legal officer from politics." Of course, no matter what he finally decides, he will be open to criticism from those who disagree with his decision. Supporters of the anti-marriage referendum will claim that he's trying to appeal to Democratic primary voters if he rejects it, and opponents will conversely claim he's trying to pander to social conservatives should he approve it. Since Reilly is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, it only makes sense that he should do what the law demands.

A Slight Problem of Scale

The Boston Globe website has this neat tool that allows you to see a map of New Orleans superimposed on a map of Boston. The idea is to give us a better idea of the scope of the damage there. Notice, however, the bottom left hand corner of the map as you switch between New Orleans and Boston. Whoever chose the maps screwed up the scale. Believe it or not, the Boston map should go about two miles more to the north and west to be the same size as the area of New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Romney, Patrick Call for Volunteers

With the immanent arrival of more than 2500 Katrina evacuees to Camp Edwards at Otis Air National Guard base on Cape Cod, Governor Romney has put out the call for help. From the Globe:

Governor Mitt Romney said yesterday that the roughly 100 National Guardsmen on the base are not enough to help the evacuees. He called on residents to volunteer for weeklong stints cooking and serving, counseling, teaching, and providing child care and pet care at the base.
If you want to volunteer locally, individuals should call 800-293-4031 and businesses 508-820-2000. Cape Cod Works also has a great rundown of what the Cape's new guests need and can expect.

Romney is not the only one urging people to get out there and help with the relief effort here in Massachusetts. On Friday, gubernatorial hopeful Deval Patrick instructed his supporters to direct their efforts toward hurricane relief. According to his campaign, Patrick will also be volunteering his own time to help Katrina victims who are being relocated here. From their press release:
Patrick is encouraging people to rise to the spirit of his grassroots campaign by donating their time and money to the Katrina efforts. "There is so much to be done. I hope we see the kind of partnerships we need between government, business, charities and other private interests to get the job done in the Gulf Coast and wherever refugees may land. I want us to show the survivors who come here what welcome and community mean to us in Massachusetts."
As an aside, almost every Democratic mailing list I've managed to get on, including the Mass Dems, sent out a call for donations of volunteers in the wake of the hurricane and subsequent floods. The Mass GOP, who routinely emails out talking points for Romney initiatives, on the other hand, sent nothing.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Taxing Gas

Does anyone really think that if the gas tax is temporarily repealed that we'll really see a corresponding drop in gas prices? The $3.00 taboo has been broken. Now that that genie is out of the bottle and the oil companies know that we'll pay -- most of us have little alternative. It seems to me that, if the prices don't go down it's becomes a choice between putting that extra twenty-one cents a gallon into bridges and roads or into the pockets of oil barons.

Of course, Bradley Jones's bill is really just a trap for Democrats in the Legislature. Get them on the record voting against a tax cut and run against that next November. It's pretty standard fare for Republicans. The curious part about it, though, is Governor Romney's reaction to all this. Unlike Georgia's Governor, Sonny Perdue, who signed an executive order today that canceled gas taxes for a month, Romney didn't even know that there was a plan to do the same in Massachusetts when questioned by a reporter. He called it "crazy" at the time, saying it would "create additional incentives to use more gasoline and energy." He had to call the reporter back, presumably after he found out about Jones's bill, to clarify that he would sign a bill if it crossed his desk but said that, its "not the answer and it's not something that I'm going to be campaigning for." A stunning example of leadership. No wonder the Boston Phoenix is looking for a governor.

A GOP Primary After All?

Fresh on the heels of Charlie Baker's announcement that he's sitting out the governor's race, the Boston Globe's Brian McGrory reports today that former Turnpike Board member and Republican zillionaire Christy Mihos is talking about running. Mihos had previously talked about running for John Kerry's Senate seat, however he's now saying that he wants a competitive primary for governor if Mitt Romney sits out. From the column:

"If [Romney] doesn't run, I believe in competition. I don't ascribe to the belief that we all have to get behind one candidate."
Of [Lieutenant Governor Kerry] Healey, he says: "She's a very nice person. And I like her. But I don't think it does the party any good to have just one candidate. And I don't think people will stand up and say, 'Mitt Romney has deemed her his successor, let's follow lockstep.'"
As with Baker's, announcement, this is good and bad news for state Democrats. Mihos, with his piles of money, will make sure that the Republican primary is expensive for Healey, and whoever else may want to run. The more money they spend before September, the less they'll have to spend before the general election. Of course, Healey and Mihos both have access to practically infinite resources, so don't expect either of them to become paupers before next November. The bigger advantage is that those candidates will likely spend next summer bloodying each other rather than sniping at the Democratic candidates from the sidelines and raising money and resources unchallenged.

The flip side, of course, is that Mihos is a candidate that could potentially catch fire. He's more socially liberal than Romney and he's a bona-fide Big Dig Whistleblower. He can credibly use the old Republican playbook of running against special interests and the legislature without having the baggage of being linked to the current administration. Look for him to play of the fact that Jane Swift tried to fire him because he didn't want to raise tolls while on the Turnpike Board.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Making Fun of Mitt Romney

I mentioned in my last post that today might be a better day to make fun of the governor. While the news from New Orleans and coastal Mississippi is only getting worse, I thought it might be worthwhile to bring your attention to this little bit of levity from Boston Magazine, before it goes online:

Imagine Mitt Romney walking into a Dunkin' Donuts shop. After cooly assessing the globs of gluten, the muffins that look like evil brains, and the weapons-grade frosting, he switches his smile to high beam, blinding the tired immigrants behind the counter.

"I'll have a lightly boiled egg," says the governor, "with a wedge of seven-grain toast garnished with a teaspoon of imperial black caviar. Also, half a grapefruit sprinkled with unrefined cane sugar. And eight ounces of papaya juice, hand-squeezed by a Peruvian virgin and served in a silver goblet. Oh, and a Wall Street Journal." he lays down a crisp dollar bill. "Keep the change. Vote Romney."