Wednesday, November 30, 2005

De-Jacobying Jacoby

And so it begins again -- the annual effort to convince people that there's a conspiracy to neuter Christmas, to insist in the name of "righteousness" and "the Baby Jesus" that a greeting of "Happy Holidays" that goes unnoticed by something like 90 percent of Americans is evidence of an anti-religious plot. We all know the drill by now. Talk Radio blowhards urge boycotts of stores where clerks wish you a "happy holiday." Administrators are threatened if the School concert doesn't include singing "Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains."

Sometimes the effort goes to laughable extremes. Fox News itself, one of the primary drivers of the current push to convince America that Christmas is under attack, is selling "Holiday" ornaments on its own website. I wonder if Fox is fueled by anti-Christian bigotry or sheer misanthropic bile. Maybe both!

But mostly, I just wish that Jeff Jacoby had taken the buyout from the Globe instead of Tom Oliphant. The Globe Op/Ed page just got a little more unbearable.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Reilly to Romney: Fish or Cut Bait

During a press availability where he discussed his appeal of former Senate President Billy Bulger's judge ordered pension increase, Attorney General and 2006 Gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly took a swipe at Governor Romney. Here's the story from the State House News (subscription only):

Asked today about Gov. Mitt Romney's latest trip out of state – he heads to California today where he is expected to be named president of the Republican Governors Association – Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thomas Reilly said Romney’s travels have become a "distraction" here. Romney has maintained for many weeks that he would announce whether to seek reelection this fall, which ends on Dec. 20. Romney may seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. "There's important business here," Reilly said at a press availability on an unrelated matter. "I'm focused on things that matter to the people of Massachusetts. It’s become a distraction really. So at some point, make up your mind. Come or go. Stay. Run. Whatever. Just do your job."
I think the AG has hit on Romney's 2006 campaign theme. "Romney '06: Stay. Run. Whatever." Won't that look good on a bumper sticker?

Mitt Heads to California to Head the RGA

Governor Mitt Romney departs today for California where he is expected to be elected the chair of the Republican Governors Association, whose raison d'être is, as you might expect, to elect Republican Governors. As chair, Romney will have to guide the RGA through an election cycle where Republicans are playing more defense than offense. Of the 36 Governorships up for grabs, 22 of them are currently held by Republicans, and some of them, like New York, Maryland and of course Massachusetts, in hostile territory. Not only that, but the five least popular governors, according to Survey USA are Republicans -- Bob Taft of Ohio bottoms out the list with a mere 19% approval rating. Romney and the RGA will have their jobs cut out for them, and there's a serious chance that Mitt may end up reliving his failure in 2004 to elect a single candidate. Wouldn't that be a shame for his Presidental prospects?

On the other hand, Globe columnist Scot Lehigh details the local pitfalls that may await our Governor should he spend too much time attending to RGA matters:

Romney enjoys little by way of genuine good will on Beacon Hill, so even if he isn't on the ballot here next year, Democrats may take a certain pleasure in portraying him as an absentee governor. Nor are they the only ones with a motive for mischief. Last year the governor delighted in rolling rhetorical barrels at US Senator John Kerry during his presidential campaign. Kerry's allies haven't forgotten, and with the senator himself hoping to run again in 2008, his camp may well see turnabout as fair play.
Not to worry, though, because the Romney camp assures us that we're their highest priority. From the Globe:
Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said in an e-mail that the governor is honored to take over the RGA, but that "Governor Romney's first focus will always be his job as governor and the people of Massachusetts."
Romney's first focus his job as governor? Starting when, exactly?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rat Romney at UMass

The UMass Daily Collegian had an article last week, describing a rally by the Graduate Employees Organization protesting the Governor's refusal to sign their 2004-07 contracts, which the GEO and the University itself have already agreed upon. I'll let the article describe the best part:

Speaking first, Governor Rat Romney, a student dressed with a rat head representing Governor Mitt Romney, rallied the crowd of 150 students.

"I can guarantee that a deal is never a deal, a promise made is never a promise kept, and that your collective bargaining agreements will never be worth the paper they are written on," the rat-governor said.

Graduate and undergraduate students holding "Fund UMass" and "Rat Romney '08" signs cheered the governor on, all while recording and photographing the event. The crowd grew larger as students walked past. Through the crowd, the GEO was circulating petitions.
The GEO has pictures from the event, including the rat himself.

Via Romney is a Fraud, who I'm sure couldn't resist. It's okay, neither could I.

Another Globe Column on Deval Patrick

Adrian Walker writes this about the Deval Patrick campaign in today's Boston Globe.

The conventional wisdom is that Patrick started too far behind to make a serious run at Reilly. Too many people -- 80 percent, according to various polls -- still don't know who he is, while Reilly has the reputation, the history with the party regulars (seven years and counting in a high-profile job), and all that cash.

It's begun to be tempered though, by a growing sense that those who actually see Patrick are enthusiastic about him. The coda to these conversations is always that, fairly or unfairly, there has never seemed to be as much excitement attached to the workmanlike Reilly.
I went to a Deval Patrick event at the Newton library last week, and that seems to be true. Many of the people I talked to, or overheard, at that event had never seen Patrick before and came away very impressed by the candidate. What was particularly refreshing, I thought, was that he ran the event more as a conversation than as a campaign stump speech. The bulk of the time was spent on questions to the candidate -- mostly regarding his education policy, and one got the sense that he really enjoyed the back-and-forth.

Right now, it seems that Patrick is gaining some support among Democratic activists, which will be important if he's going to get on the ballot in the first place, particularly with the new convention rules. At the Newton event, he was introduced by Rep. Kay Kahn (D-Newton) who announced that she was endorsing him over Attorney General Tom Reilly for governor. These kind of endorsements may not mean much in September, but that's almost too far ahead for the Patrick campaign to be thinking. Their first challenge is to get on the ballot, and to do that they're going to need to get support from the kinds of people that go to nominating conventions. I think he's in good shape in that regard, but once he does get ballot access, it's still a long road to becoming a credible challenger to Reilly.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

More Bad Polling for Romney/Healey

After a self-imposed holiday news blackout for the long weekend, I was delighted to see that the November State House News Poll has been released. One of the reasons I like this poll in particular is because they not only ask questions about items recently in the news, but they also generally ask the same questions phrased the same way about the 2006 governor's race. They let me down this time, however, by not asking any questions about the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Even without those results, the poll is full of bad news for Governor Mitt Romney and his Lieutenant Governor, Kerry Healey. The lead story is that a majority of Massachusetts residents approve of allowing illegal immigrants who have graduated Massachusetts high schools to pay in-state tuition at UMass, something that Healey has come out strongly against. Not only that, but Healey's favorable/unfavorable ratings are "horrible" for someone trying to position herself for a run for governor, should Romney decline a second term, at least according to the pollster, Gerry Chervinsky. As for Romney, his favorablity rating has dipped below fifty percent for the first time since the poll began.

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

If the candidates in next year's general election for governor were Mitt Romney / [CHALLENGER], and the election were being held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?
ChallengerRomneyDon't KnowNeither
Bill Galvin45.7%(39.6%)40.6%(43.4%)6.3%(10.7%)6.8%(6.0%)
Deval Patrick39.8%(29.1%)41.8%(45.9%)10.5% (15.9%)7.4%(8.8%)
Tom Reilly52.3%(44.8%)36.1%(39.8%)5.4%(10.4%)5.4%(4.7%)
Every challenger does better against Romney now than just two months ago, and in turn, Romney does worse, so that the votes are coming from him, and not from the undecideds. Here's a graph showing how the Democrats have been doing against Romney since May.
What's interesting is how consistent the three challengers have been. Reilly always does better than Galvin who always does better than Patrick. Once you factor out name recognition, it may be that these numbers only reflect external factors -- Romney's approval rating and Democratic enrollment in Massachusetts -- and not anything specific any of the candidates are doing (or in the case of Galvin, not doing). You see the same pattern in the numbers against Kerry Healey, here:
If the candidates in next year's general election for governor were Kerry Healey / [CHALLENGER], and the election were being held tomorrow, for whom would you vote?
ChallengerHealeyDon't KnowNeither
Bill Galvin48.9%(42.6%)28.4%(32.1%)11.4%(17.3%)10.5%(7.7%)
Deval Patrick43.5%(30.8%)31.8%(35.7%)13.6%(20.1%)10.2%(12.6%)
Tom Reilly56.0%(48.6%)25.0%(28.3%)7.4%(14.8%)10.8%(8.0%)
So, why have Reilly, Galvin and Patrick been doing better? One reason that is readily obvious is that they're now doing about ten points better among registered Democrats than they have in previous polls. Again, I wonder if this is related more to how Romney and Healey are doing specifically, or how Republicans are seen generally here in Massachusetts. The Republican party has taken a lot of hits nationally, and it may be that self-described Democrats are now more reluctant to vote for (or admit voting for) someone of the opposite party. It could also be that the things that have been in the news lately -- in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and health care reform -- are issues that favor Democrats generally, at least in Massachusetts. Since the general election is still a year away, it may very well be that the general public has not yet focused in on the 2006 governor's race. It could be that at this early date, the biggest factor in the Romney and Healey reelect numbers is just their opponents' name recognition. That should be reassuring for the Democrats since name recognition can be increased fairly easily, as long as the candidate has enough money for media buys.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Early Congressional Challenger Roundup

It looks like some of Massachusetts' Congressmen are going to be challenged for reelection next year. The Globe reported today that former Beverly City Councillor, Phil Dunklebarger, now of Westwood, plans on challenging Congressman Stephen Lynch in the Democratic primary. Dunklebarger was a Dean supporter in 2003, and according to the Globe, has criticized Congressman Lynch for supporting the Iraq war.

On the Republican side, two challengers have emerged to take on Senator Ted Kennedy, former Wakefield Selectman Kevin Scott and Belmont Republican Kenneth Chase. Chase ran an baffling campaign against Ed Markey for the House last year where he practically accused the Congressman of singlehandedly causing the September 11th terrorist attacks. Ultimately, he got clobbered by a margin of more than three to one in a three-way race with Markey and Independent Jim Hall. Markey did, however, spend some money during that campaign, but not necessarily to beat Chase. He was more interested in the Senate seat that would have opened up had John Kerry been elected President.

Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix has his take on Kennedy's potential challengers in his blog.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Lynch and Capuano Talk About Hearings

Massachusetts Congressmen Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch were both on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney tonight talking about the Iraq war. In case WGBH doesn't archive the conversation on the web, or you can't catch the rebroadcast, here's a portion of the interview that I think underscores the need to take back the House in 2006 if we ever hope to get to the bottom of how the administration got the pre-war intelligence so wrong. I've bolded the portions I think are important.

Congressman Stephen Lynch: Now we're finding out that maybe the president, or maybe someone in the administration actually did cook the evidence, and if Cheney has a problem with people doubting whether that was the case, they should have hearings. We've had five requests, the Government Reform Committee, to have a full investigation and open hearings on whether the intelligence was cooked, whether it was falsified and delivered to Congress. They've refused to allow us to have those hearings on five separate occasions. This is the same Republican leadership that spent 140 hours in hearings and testimony and interrogatories and taking evidence on whether President Clinton violated his Christmas Card privileges.

Emily Rooney: Do you think this might be the end result, though, of [the Fitzgerald investigation?] Might that go to the next level?

SL: We think so.

Congressman Michael Capuano: I hope he's right. I think not. Not until the House changes, because to have House hearings it has to come from leadership. If it's going to be hearings from the outside, that's a different story.

SL: Well, you can also go into executive session, where the press is not included. But members of Congress who are charged with this oversight can have those answers directly from the individuals involved. They're blocking us at every turn.

MC: That has to be approved by the majority, by the leadership. And the leadership right now is run by the Republicans. I don't know, but I don't think they're ever going to let the President be investigated on this issue as long as they run the House.

ER: Why is this so partisan? Why can't everybody look at this the same way and say if we had bad data -- no one's saying, well some people are, that it's intentional, that this evidence was gathered intentionally to drag us into a war. No one really believes that we wanted to go over there and do this.

MC: Don't say no one. <laughs>

ER: Well, that's conspiratorial to think that you would just want to do that without good evidence, so why not do an investigation?

MC: I happen to believe that there are two ways to lie. There is a lie of commission, where you overtly lie. There is another lie of omission, by not telling you the full truth. I happen to believe -- now again, I would love to get more evidence, but as I stand here today without having the full evidence, I suspect that we had a lie of omission. So I think it's pretty serious stuff. I would love to have hearings on this. And for the sake of America, I wouldn't mind being proven wrong. But we're not going to get those hearings. I don't think we're going to get those hearings either in executive session or in public. I hope I'm wrong. I hope that next week we go back or two weeks from now and all of a sudden the Republican leadership says "You know what, we're going have those hearings and we're going to open this up and we're going to do this right." If that happens, then I'll let the chips fall where they may.

SL: I think there's a benefit in just making clear to the American people that we have not had these hearings. We haven't asked these questions, so that if they want to continue to obstruct that -- and I think the American people are owed an answer on this -- if we just keep pushing on this... I think it's a disgrace that it hasn't happened already, but I think that just because they're going to say no it doesn't stand that we shouldn't ask those hard questions.
On that note, last week, I saw Al Franken speak in Cambridge, and he suggested that the Democrats' 2006 motto should be "Subpoena Power". I think there's something to that, particularly in terms of getting out the Democratic base, and convincing Independents that it's the Republicans who are obstructing investigations, preferring to protect the President and their buddies rather than trying to find out the facts about our intelligence failures. Even Rumsfeld has admitted that the pre-war intelligence was wrong, and if Democrats can convince the public that it's worthwhile to try to figure out why, they may get a chance at taking back the House or the Senate next year.

Mass Blogger Meetup

If you haven't been reading the other blogs in the Massachusetts blogosphere, you may not already know about BlogLeft Massachusetts, the December 10th gathering for Massachusetts progressive bloggers, readers, and other hangers on. The convention will be held at the Tatnuck Bookseller in Worcester, a location chosen due to it being equally inconvenient for all parties. Speakers include well known bloggers Frederick Clarkson and Sterling Newberry, and there will be breakout sessions on subjects to-be-determined.

Lynne from Left in Lowell should get all the credit for setting this up. Without her, none of this would be happening; so thanks, Lynne! I hope to see you all there!

Friday, November 18, 2005

New Poll has Romney Up Slightly

The AP reported yesterday that Governor Mitt Romney has regained the lead on Attorney General Tom Reilly in a recent poll. Opinion Dynamics surveyed 410 registered voters on behalf of Mass Insight Corp and came up with the following results:

Good news for Romney? Not really. These numbers are roughly in line with just about every poll we've seen. While obviously Democrats would like to see Reilly beating the Governor, the fact that Romney is consistently around 40% in the polls can't be encouraging. He's the incumbent, and any incumbent that can't break 50% is in trouble. In all the polling we've seen, Romney hasn't gotten a majority except when polled against Deval Patrick, and even then not recently. It's true, however, that Romney's rise in the polls is statistically significant, but that 34% could also just be an outlier. We generally have not seen his numbers that low in other polls.

Of course, we're getting closer and closer to Mitt's self-imposed "technically Fall ends on December 21st" deadline for his reelection announcement. At this point, it would be a surprise if he announced he was running for another term, but maybe his failure to achieve any legislative vicories will cause him to put his presidential ambitions on hold until he's got a second term under his belt. In any event, if the GOP candidate in 2006 is not Romney, it will likely be Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who Reilly leads in this poll by a margin of 45% to 27%. The poll also reports the favorable/unfavorable ratings of the potential candidates:
FavorableUnfavorableNo Opinion
Mitt Romney50%41%9%
Tom Reilly45%21%34%
Kerry Healey34%24%42%
Deval Patrick18%6%80%
No surprises here, Romney has the highest unfavorables and favorables, Reilly has a decent net favorable/unfavorable rating, and Healey is mostly unknown, but not as much as newcomer Deval Patrick, who still has work to do to get his name known.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

GBIO Compares Health Plans

The always diligent folks at Blue Mass Group have been doing a great job sorting through the current Health Care debates for us non-policy wonks. Today, they've put up a comparison sheet (.pdf) covering the difference between the House and Senate health care plans from the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. The major differences between the plans are bolded in the document, and it's clear that the House version goes a bit further.

For the record, I haven't been commenting much on the Health Care debate, not because I don't think it's important, but because I think the folks at Blue Mass. Group and particularly Health Care for All are doing such a great job, anything else I'd add would be redundant. If you're not reading those two every day, you're really missing out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Romney Vs. France

Ahh, Frenchie. Is there no right wing shtick you won't pander to? Governor Romney has predictably joined the chorus of anti-France sentiment coming from neoconservatives, as the Globe reports. Mitt's greater point -- that America must improve it's commitment to education or risk falling behind in the global economy -- is valid, but his gratuitous dig at the country he spent so many of his formative years in seems like typical Romney posturing. The Boston Phoenix's Adam Reilly has a few words of advice for the governor regarding his newfound Francophobia:

Tread carefully, Mitt! After all, France made you the man you are today. Remember the Vietnam War? Not firsthand, since you spent most of 1966, ’67, and ’68 as a Mormon missionary (complete with draft deferment) in the land of Napoleon and de Gaulle. That horrific car crash that nearly took your life near Bordeaux, when the Citroën you were driving collided with a drunk driver coming the other way — it’s not a pleasant memory. But it taught you a valuable lesson; as you told the Herald a few years ago, "It underscores the fragile nature of life — we are here but a short time and gone." Plus, there’s something spine-tingling messianic about the fact that the gendarme on the scene actually wrote "il est mort" on your passport. How cool is that?

Why do Marty Meehan and John Tierney Hate the Internet?

I've been meaning to post about H.R. 4194, the Orwellian-named "Internet Anti-Corruption and Free Speech Protection Act of 2005" sponsored by Chris Shays (R-Ct) and Marty Meehan (D-Lowell), for a while now, but Lynne did such a good job last week that I've put it off. Check out her post, which in turn points to this post at

While the Shays-Meehan bill would protect individuals who have blogs from having to report to the FEC under campaign finance law, it would not protect group blogs, such as,, or any other group blog that spent or took in more than $1000 in a calendar year. The $1000 includes server space and bandwidth costs, which can easily exceed that much over the course of a year for a popular website. What does that mean for the blogosphere? It means that while Bill O'Reilly can stump for any candidate he wants on his TV or radio shows, any group blog or other web endeavor (a wiki, podcast, or mailing list, for example) that spends or takes in more than $83 a month could not do so without violating election law unless they register as a political committee.

Proponents of the proposed measures fear that a company, for example, could start up a blog attacking or supporting a candidate, and avoid campaign finance regulations altogether. They worry that without regulation, groups could spend unlimited amounts on Internet ads. If it's ads you're worried about, though, I think there's a limit to how much you can spend on Internet advertising before you run into diminishing returns. Plus, ads on the Internet generally require people to choose to click on them to see the detailed content. That's not true of TV ads that are pushed out onto viewers. That said, there's a difference between web ads and weblogs -- something that people unfamiliar with the medium may not understand. An advertisement has a measurable value -- the amount one charges to put it on the web. What is the value of a blog post? How would you classify it as an in-kind contribution?

Meehan's colleague, Congressman John Tierney (D-Salem), is a cosponsor on H.R. 4194. Of all of the Massachusetts Congressmen, only Mike Capuano (D-Somerville) cast a vote in favor of H.R. 1606 -- the bill which would have codified the FEC rules the Internet operated under during the 2004 campaign cycle. That bill failed, largely due to the efforts of Shays, Meehan and campaign finance groups that have good intentions, but don't necessarily understand the consequences of regulating speech on the Internet. I would hope that the rest of our Congressmen would either reject their new efforts or amend them so that at least Internet commentators get the same protections as commentators in the traditional media.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ken Miller Profile in the BAM

This month's Brown Alumni Magazine has a great cover article on Professor Ken Miller, one of the most outspoken defenders of evolution against the encroachment of Creationists. I'm sure this will come as a surprise to the majority of the Kansas School Board, but he is not, in fact, a rabid atheist bent on destroying all that is good and moral in America. Miller is one of the best at cutting through the flimsy arguments put forth by those who want intelligent design taught side-by-side with evolution in a way that a layperson can understand. Here's a sampling from the article:

Miller argues that the position of most anti-evolutionists is really scientific illiteracy. Everything in science—from gravity to relativity—is “just a theory,” he points out. If an explanation comes along that more successfully accounts for the observations and evidence, science adopts it, replacing the earlier “truth” with the newer, more complete one. If someone, for example, can come up with a better explanation than gravity for why your spilled coffee falls on the floor instead of the ceiling, science will happily give up the “theory” of gravity. Science is always provisional, Miller explains, but that does not mean that it is controversial, or a matter of opinion, faith, or personal preference. Similarly, evolution via natural selection is a “theory” only in this provisional, scientific sense.
The reality is that the best way to make your reputation as a young scientist is to upset the apple cart. If I or any other scientist thought that we really could upset the ideas of Charles Darwin and replace them with a new or superior theory, boy, there would be no better way to make your reputation, to ensure scientific immortality, and to get the best possible grant funding. It is that very sort of self-promotion that makes science work.
The article is more of a profile of Miller himself than a takedown of Intelligent Design, but it's still worth checking out if you've ever read any of Miller's stuff.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Barney Frank at the ACS Conference

Neo Tokyo Times has a brief rundown of the Keynote Speech that Congressman Barney Frank gave on Saturday during the American Constitution Society's Regional Student Leadership Conference. I crashed the keynote speech and was similarly impressed with the Congressman. For those of you that aren't aware, the ACS is kind of like the parallel universe version of the Federalist Society, but without the sinister goatee so you know that they're the good guys. As such, Congressman Frank could not help but note our own Governor's recent run-in with the group. It's no wonder John Roberts wanted to distance himself from the Federalist Society, Frank noted, if their idea of a funny joke is to compare the notoriously anti-Catholic KKK with Senators Kerry and Kennedy. Sure, Romney's gotten some criticism for not standing up for the Commonwealth at the time, but those of us who are paying attention have come to expect this kind of treatment at the hands of our Governor -- the same man who never once rebuked President Bush or any of his surrogates while they heaped their disdain on Massachusetts during the 2004 campaign.

Congressman Frank also professed his belief that the foes of marriage equality in Massachusetts would not be successful with their current attempt to put a stop to gay marriage. He predicted that supporters of the initiative that would ban all such marriages going forward would not even see the required 50 votes in the Legislature -- and even if it did, by the time it went to a vote, people would be so used to the idea that it would not pass. His contention was that most people have forgotten about it, it has become so uncontroversial. I have to admit, I was surprised by his confidence. He also admitted that the decisions should be up to individual states and that states where it is illegal should not be forced to give full faith and credit to the unions legalized elsewhere. I wanted to ask him whether that meant he was in favor of the 1913 law here in Massachusetts that forbids out-of-state residents from marrying here if it was not legal in their home state, but time did not allow.

Report From UMass Dems Conference

The UMass Daily Colegian has an article today on the UMass Democrats' conference this weekend. Speakers included Congressman Barney Frank, Gubernatorial candidates Tom Reilly and Deval Patrick, and local bloggers Frederick Clarkson and Michael Forbes Wilcox. From the sound of it, much of the question and answer time was devoted to the Iraq War. From the article:

In response to the ballot initiative that campus petitioners have been campaigning for recently, which calls for the withdrawal of the Massachusetts Guard from Iraq, Patrick said that he would use the "power of public leadership to advocate for a prompt end to the war."

However, he said that he did not support the ballot initiative because he respects the right of the federal government to deploy the National Guard and to decide when to bring them home.

Reilly also did not support the initiative, saying that it was not as easy as it may sound to pull troops out of a foreign country.
The article also reports that about 30 anti-war protesters from Northampton interrupted the end of Patrick's speech. Is that really productive? Look, I've thought the war was a bad idea from the start, and I can certainly appreciate frustration with Democrats for not doing enough to stop it, but if you're going to protest someone, maybe it should be someone who played some role in the planning or selling of the war or who has some sort of power to do something about it.

Did anyone out there go to this and care to share their story?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Dates Set for Special Elections

With all the talk of Health Care reform and undocumented immigrants, I missed the announcement last week of the dates for the three special elections for the Massachusetts Statehouse. According to Bill Galvin's office, the primary is scheduled for January 10th of next year, and the general is scheduled for February 7th for all three. The January primary must be a little worrisome for the potential candidates, given that the bulk of their campaign time is going to be taken up by Christmas and New Years, but better in January than in the week between the two, I suppose.

The elections will be held in the 1st Bristol, 27th Middlesex, and 2nd Worcester districts. The 1st Bristol seat became open when Michael Coppola (R-Foxboro) passed away a few months ago and the Mansfield News reports that Ginny Coppola, Coppola's widow and Paul Feeney, an aide to state Sen. James Timilty (D-Walpole) are both considering a run. The 27th Middlesex opened up after the September elections that elevated Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) to the state Senate. Candidates to replace her, according to the Somerville Journal, include Alderman at Large Denise Provost, Somerville Planning Board member Elizabeth Moroney, Ward 5 Alderman Sean O'Donovan and Ward 4 Alderman Walter Pero. In the 2nd Worcester, Brian Knuuttila (D-Gardner) left to join Worcester County Sheriff's office and according to the Sentinel and Enterprise, the Republican Chairman of the Ashburnham Board of Selectmen, Jonathan Dennehy, is considering a run to replace him. Candidates have to decide one way or the other by November 29th.

Update: Susan of Beyond 495 has her take on the 2nd Worcester election.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

LNG Shenanigans

I know I have previously expressed support for putting a Liquified Natural Gas terminal on Outer Brewster Island, but things like this almost make me want to reconsider. It appears that the language of the bill that would open up the Island, would also exclude nearly every company other than AES (the company that first brought up the proposal) from participating in the bid process. Okay, so this kind of thing happens probably every day both in the public and private sector, and the sponsors of the bill, Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) and Daniel Bosley (D-North Adams) claim that they wanted the bid process to be competitive. Still, what makes Outer Brewster attractive is that it is a more remote site than places like Fall River or Gloucester or Providence. To exclude the companies that have proposed sites in those cities means that they have no incentive to reevaluate their plans should the Brewster spot become available.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Only Three Incumbents Return to Council

There were two open seats on the nine member Town Council here in Watertown going into yesterday's election, but I certainly never would have predicted that four incumbents would not be returning next year. H2Otown has the results, so I won't get into them too much. One of the most telling things is that while voter turnout increased from roughly 25% to 30%, the three of the four incumbents who lost seats (assuming the District A vote holds up on recount) actually decreased their vote totals from 2003. Only Susan Falkoff was able to increase her share of the vote -- her 2,615 would have been good enough for second place two years ago -- however, the other repeat candidates for at large seats managed to outperform her percentage gains. In contrast, the two candidates who ran unsuccessfully in 2003 increased their vote totals the most, and won. Here's a table with the 2003 and 2005 vote totals for those candidates who ran in both years:

Candidate2003 Votes2005 Votes% Change
Clyde Younger2,1113,47664.66%
Stephen Corbett2,1872,95435.07%
Mark Sideris2,5223,06321.45%
Marilyn Devaney2,6773,23020.66%
Susan Falkoff2,1922,61519.30%
Stephen Romanelli949*1,088*14.65%
Pam Piantedosi2,7882,635-5.49%
Sal Ciccarelli607*564-7.08%
Fred Pugliese1,011*742-26.61%
*Ran unopposed

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Day!

Today, as many of you are aware is Election Day in most of Massachusetts' cities, including Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown. Please, get out and vote. Democracy is only as good as the people who participate. As always, you can find your polling place here: Polls here in Watertown have just opened, and I'm on my out. I hope to see some of you there!

Update: Just voted at the Hosmer School. There was a big presence for Jonathan Hecht, Sal Ciccarelli, Susan Falkoff, JD Donahue and Yes on 1 -- all good choices as far as I'm concerned. There was no line, which I kind of expected. I'm not sure who that favors, but maybe it won't even matter because of the new Diebold voting machines. He (or she) who hacks the vote first, wins!

I'm mostly kidding. Although, last year they gave us a little sleeve to hide our ballots in while we were waiting to shove them in the optical scanner so no one could look over your shoulder to see how you voted. This year -- no sleeve, so anyone who cared enough could sneak a peek at your ballot. I'm sure no one would go to such lengths, but it still rubbed me the wrong way.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sam Kelley on the Progressive Blog

Proving that Blue Mass. Group doesn't have a monopoly on prospective Lieutenant Governor interviews, Charlie Gallo of The Progressive Blog has posted an interview of his own with Dr. Sam Kelley, who is one of the three Democratic candidates who have announced so far. Here's a sample:

I’m running for lieutenant governor because I believe in Massachusetts. I believe in the people of Massachusetts. And I believe we deserve the right to health care, that our children deserve a quality education, and that all of our families deserve a guarantee of jobs and benefits to take care of their families.

I may not have held public office but I probably have more political and legislative experience than the others. I worked in Washington, D.C. I was a legislative assistant for U.S. congressman Jim McDermott. I worked with the Clinton Administration on health care, and worked to formulate their health care plans. For over 18 years, I worked with John Kerry, not only with fundraising, but also with definition of his policy around education and around health care. And I worked very hard with him on the presidential campaign. For over 10 years, I advocated on Beacon Hill, through the Mass Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, I’ve advocated for family issues, for substance abuse issues, I’ve advocated for sex offenders’ treatments, as well as protection of the public against level three sex offenders, and I’ve advocated for children’s issues.
Being a doctor, Kelley has a number of things to say about the diffrent Health Care reform initiatives, which you can read yourself. Also of note is that Kelley has a brand-new blog of his own. It will be interesting to see what he does with it in the coming year.

Quick Comparison of Health Care Plans

In case you missed it, yesterday's Globe had a very helpful, side-by-side comparison of the competing Health Care plans on the front page of the City section. If you're confused by the different plans coming from the Governor, the House, the Senate and Health Care for All, this is a good starting point for clarification. Check it out.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Article 8 on The Daily Show

I just caught Thursday night's episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Ed Helms did a segment called Mass.Hysteria that featured an interview with none other than Article 8 Alliance's Brian Camenker. Apparently, Camenker was not familiar with the Daily Show style of interview, asking Helms at one point "Are you like asking me serious questions or not?"

MassResistanceWatch has a partial transcript and promises to have the video if it comes available. I'm not sure if they re-run the Thursday episodes on Monday, but set your VCR/DVR/TiVo just in case.

Update: The Malcontent has the video.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Mass GOP Exporting Dollars

What is the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee doing hiring an Iowa-based political consultant? According to the Boston Globe, they gave $15,000 to one Mr. Gentry Collins, a former executive director of the Iowa Republican Party. As I've mentioned before, the purpose of the MRSCC, which is a Federal PAC, is to support Republican candidates for Congress in Massachusetts. On that front, they have managed to spend a total of $385 in the past three election cycles (according to Open Secrets) on actual candidates. If that's the kind of support that Republican candidates for Congress can expect, it's no wonder that the state GOP is having trouble recruiting or that they're 0 for 10 in Massachusetts House seats.

Matthew Wylie, the Executive Director of the Mass GOP, uses the excuse that the state Republicans are just trying to learn about Iowa's "great grass-roots effort" from Collins and they certainly would never dream about trying to buy support for Governor Mitt Romney for his potential 2008 presidential campaign in the state with the first caucus. I guess I shouldn't complain, though if the state GOP wants to use their own campaign funds as Romney's own personal campaign piggy bank before he announced his own run for the Presidency. After all, every dollar that the MRSCC spends in Iowa is a dollar that the Mass Dems don't have to spend defending the Congressional delegation, which is a dollar that can go to winning back the corner office.

Patrick Wages Politics Online

On Tuesday, the Deval Patrick campaign announced that they're forming Team Patrick Communities from their web site. As someone who is interested in the idea of online politics, I decided to check it out, and what they are on a basic level is fundraising pages that supporters can create themselves and keep track of how many dollars and supporters they can bring to the campaign. They even have a leaderboard to see who's brought in the most money. The Bush and Kerry campaigns both tried something like this in 2004, I believe, but I think this is the first time we've seen something like this in a Massachusetts election. Two days after launch, around 125 users have created community pages, bringing in over $5500.

There are two things about this effort that I'm interested in seeing. One is how people use these pages. I exchanged emails with some people involved with Deval Patrick's campaign and they said that their hope is that people will take this opportunity to be creative and make these pages their own. It was refreshing to hear that while the fundraising aspect of this was important to them, it was not intended to be the sole focus of the community. They also mentioned that while the sites are to be simple at first, they're planning on adding features as they figure out how people are using these pages. When you combine these community pages with the website's calendar, you can imagine a very empowering organizing tool that Patrick can take advantage of if he's not afraid of decentralizing his campaign a little.

As far as the fundraising goes, though, this also tells me that the Patrick campaign believes in the power of small donors. True, he almost doesn't have a choice with the campaign finance limits here in Massachusetts, and the state of his own warchest, but it's ultimately the number of people Patrick has convinced that will matter, not the number of dollars. Patrick is so far behind in the money race that he almost can't afford to not take these kinds of risks, particularly against a Reilly campaign that has shown no signs thus far of being innovative.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Kerrie Antoinette

You can always count on Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey for a tone-deaf remark or two. Healey had a "let them eat cake" moment yesterday on the John DePetro Show on WRKO during a discussion about the bill that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates with Attorney General Tom Reilly. Healey apparently missed the point of the tuition breaks and said that if these immigrants wanted to go to college so bad, they should just go to private school instead. From the Globe:

"Let them go to private schools if they want to," Healey said on WRKO radio. Moments later, she repeated: "Let them go to private schools."
In Healey's world, money is never an obstacle and people who can't afford the $18,400 for UMass can surely just cash in a few stock options and pay the $23,000 it costs for an average private school. Of course some scholarships may be available, but these particular students, whose immigration status is the fault of their parents -- not theirs, are not illegible for Federal aid.

While state Republican leaders may agree with Healey on the merits of her comment, one has to wonder if they're not getting nervous about her being anointed as Governor Romney's successor should he decline a run for reelection. If the big story after a radio debate with her likely 2006 competition is how out of touch she is, maybe it's time to start exploring other options.

As for the issue itself, one thing that's lost in this debate is how Massachusetts is really in no position to be turning away anyone -- we're the only state losing population. If letting the children of undocumented residents, particularly those who have graduated Massachusetts high schools and who would have to sign an affidavit affirming that they are applying for citizenship, pay in-state tuition keeps them here, maybe we can stem the loss of political and economic clout that comes with a declining population.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In 2006, Will it Be Insurance or Immigration?

While the health insurance bill (pdf) is probably the most important thing the Legislature will act on this year, unless there is some great disaster, I don't anticipate it will be a big issue in 2006. The House version of the bill is nearly 80 pages long, and I would be surprised if every legislator had read and understood the whole thing by the time it becomes law, let alone the general public. Health Care is one of those issues where (nearly) everyone is dissatisfied with the current system, but if you get into the details with someone, their eyes glaze over. At the same time, the 2006 election may be too early to judge whether the new system is a success or failure. And don't get me wrong, we will be able to measure success, but I think that, in the end, the battle over insuring the uninsured is more of a policy battle than a political battle.

In terms of impact on election, I think we're going to hear a lot more noise about immigration, particularly if the bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition to UMass passes. Today's Globe is reporting that Tom Reilly is backing it, as is fellow Democratic candidate Deval Patrick. This, along with marriage equality, is an easy-to-understand, visceral issue that takes no effort to have an opinion on. The state GOP has used this measure as a talking point before, accusing the Democrats in the Legislature of giving 'perks' to illegals. It's something that can be used to try to wedge away suburban or working class voters from the Democrats. It's also something, however, that if we work to explain why it's a good idea now, we can take steps to neutralize it as an election year issue.

Personally, I don't see the problem with allowing the children of undocumented immigrants who live in state to be charged in state tuition. We're mostly talking about children, the vast majority of whom were brought here by their parents, and we should not be punishing them for the fact that their parents skirted immigration law. In addition, many of these children have lived here since infancy and have never known their birth country -- it doesn't make sense to consider them residents of anyplace else than Massachusetts. The larger, and perhaps more frustrating issue, is that the state really doesn't have the power to do much to stop illegal immigration. You may remember earlier this year that some New Hampshire police officers tried to charge undocumented immigrants with criminal trespass. In August, that was ruled unconstitutional, and all charges were dismissed. That should make it clear that it is not the job of state and local officials to determine who is "supposed" to be in the country. Let the Feds decide who belongs in the country; in their absense, we should do what is right and give these kids, whose immigration status is largely beyond their control, a chance to succeed.