Friday, December 30, 2005

Last Day to Register Before Caucuses!

Today is the last day you can go to your city or town hall and register as a Democrat to be eligible to attend your local Democratic caucus in Februrary. Only voters who are registered Democrats as of December 31 will be able to vote in the caucuses, and it's unlikely that your town clerk's office will be open tomorrow. If you are planning on changing your registration today, be sure to call ahead and check the hours.

If you absolutely can't get to the town hall today, you can print out a registration form from here and mail it in. You should still be eligible for the caucuses if your letter is postmarked by tomorrow, the 31st. You may want to check with your town/city clerk beforehand, though, to make sure.

If you live in Watertown and are interested in the caucus here, drop me a line or post a comment and I'll make sure you're kept in the loop. The time and place is supposed to be announced beforehand in the Tab, but last year I don't think I would have known when it was if I hadn't already been going to the Town Committee meetings.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Population Woes

Last week, the Census reported that Massachusetts lost population for the second year in a row according to its estimates. While some people don't seem to think that this is a big deal, it is. Fewer people means less access to Federal funds, and fewer dollars for Massachusetts. When that happens, who do you think has to make up the revenue shortfall? A loss of a Congressional seat (or two!) not only means less clout in Congress, but also means that Massachusetts will lose electoral college votes -- while states like Texas increase their influence on the presidency. With less people, an economic recovery becomes even harder, as companies don't move jobs to places that are losing people, and without access to jobs, people leave creating a death spiral. There are already areas of this and neighboring states where this has happened at the local level and we certainly wouldn't want this pattern repeated on a statewide scale.

There are two things we should do to combat this. The first, and comparatively easier, course of action is to make sure that we have the most accurate count of residents possible. This is particularly challenging in a state where so many of the people here are students and immigrants -- two of the hardest groups to get a reliable count of. Holly St. Clair of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council has an opinion piece in today's Globe outlining the difficulties with getting accurate numbers. She gives the following recommendations for producing a more accurate count:

First, the Legislature and governor should reinstitute funding for the estimates and projections program, which can be managed by the UMass Donahue Institute, whose staff is highly qualified to handle this responsibility. Second, the secretary of state, colleges and universities, and community-based organizations with ties to immigrant communities must begin planning for the 2010 Census immediately. Cities such as Boston and Cambridge that have lots of students and immigrants need to be at the table, too.
Of course, it's one thing to make sure that no one currently in Massachusetts is left out of the Census in 2010, but it's another thing entirely for the state to lure people here in advance of that count. It's going to be too late to do anything about that in a year or two, so it's particularly important for the state government to act now. This means that they have to address the high cost of living in the state. To my mind, that means increasing the affordable housing stock -- and by that I don't mean subsidized housing, I mean housing that an average couple can afford when they're looking to put down roots. That also means attracting jobs to the state -- something Governor Romney promised to do, but he has been less than mediocre at. These things have to go hand in hand, because companies won't relocate here if there's no place for their employees to live, and people won't move here if there's no place to work.

Of course, if you're like the Boston Herald Editors, you think that making sure people have access to health care will drive them away. That's a bit counter-intuitive, particularly since the kinds of jobs that we need to attract in Massachusetts are the ones that are the most likely to already offer health benefits -- associate level white collar type jobs that can lure recent graduates into staying put for a few more years. Massachusetts is well positioned to keep these people in state because there is always a new supply of students graduating from our excellent colleges and universities every year. They're leaving because of cold weather, a cold job market, and no place to live. We need to do a better job of holding on to these people, because that's where this state's future lies. Massachusetts can't compete globally for manufacturing jobs, so they need to keep as many knowledge workers in the area as possible so they can lure companies here with high-quality employees.

As an aside, around the same time my wife and I bought the .08 Acre Homestead in Watertown, we visited some of her relatives just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. They lived in a mansion -- their garage alone was close to .08 acres -- in a community full of mansions with, they assured us, great schools, an easy commute to the city, and other sundry amenities. Down the street, a similar house was for sale -- used to Boston prices, we laughed about how we could be neighbors. When we took a look at the flyer, however, we saw that it was on the market for less than what our own shoebox on a postage stamp's original asking price was. One thing that we forget is that it's not just housing prices that are ridiculously high, but housing value is very low. You simply get more for your money elsewhere.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Mihos Wants No Part of Senate Race

Imagine that you wanted to buy a house, not just any one, but a particular one you'd been wanting for some time. The problem is, there are other bidders, and one in particular doesn't like you driving up the price. Now, that bidder comes up to you and says "Look, we really want this house, and we think it would be best for everybody if you just let us have it. But, if you're interested in spending all that money anyway, we'd really appreciate it if you just took it and flushed it down this toilet."

That's exactly the offer the Mass GOP are giving to Christy Mihos, at least according to the Boston Globe.

Mihos confirmed that [Governor Mitt] Romney asked him to enter the Senate race earlier this month, just hours before the governor announced he would not seek reelection. [White House political director Sara] Taylor has placed a number of calls to Mihos over the past 10 days, and Mihos said he has returned each call but has missed her. The White House declined to comment, but state GOP party sources confirmed that she called to urge Mihos to run for the senate.
Mihos is predictably uninterested in challenging Senator Kennedy. It's hard to blame him -- if you're going to choose a seat to run for, do you pick an open seat that you have a decent chance of winning or do you challenge a popular and well funded incumbent you have no shot against? The party bosses aren't even offering Mihos any help should he go up against Kennedy. They, too, know he has little chance of winning and just want someone who's willing to spend his own money to tie the Senator down. Why should he do them any favors if they're only offering him the opportunity to waste a couple million bucks?

Fellow blogger David Eisenthal has more on Mihos's impact on the governor's race.

Globe Profiles Mass. Political Internet Scene

Yesterday the Boston Globe profiled the Massachusetts political Internet scene, and while this little slice of the web was too insignificant to mention, they did link to Romney is a Fraud and its sister site Healey is a Fraud along with Blue Mass. Group.

They spent a little too much time, I think, talking about a couple of out-of-state Romney for President blogs. That's not my real problem with the article, though. The article was headlined "Politicians search for the Web advantage" but very little of it actually focused on what the politicians were doing -- there were a couple of paragraphs on the Mass Dems and their Ani-Mitt animations, and the efforts that the state GOP went to earlier this year to snatch up a couple of domain names out from under Attorney General Tom Reilly. The rest of the article focused not on the pols, but on regular people, like the Romney bloggers and the others, who support a particular candidate or political philosophy and want to talk about it. The interesting part of the story was not that politicians are trying to take advantage of the Internet but that concerned citizens are using the web as a way to get involved in the process, completely apart from the political establishments.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Michigan, He's Yours If You Want Him

Sometimes the front page of the Boston Herald is ridiculous, but today it was just perfect:

Boston Herald Cover with headline 'Mitt: I Should've Stayed Home'

Consider me convinced, Mitt, because I think that's something we can both agree on. the article that follows contains portions of a Herald interview with the Governor, where he admits that if he had originally thought about entering politics, he'd have done it in his home state of Michigan and never have moved to Massachusetts. Here's what he has to say about that:
"Running as a Romney in Michigan is golden for a politician. I would have never thought about Massachusetts had I anticipated that politics was going to be in my future," he said.
I know it's been a while since Mitt left Michigan, but maybe he doesn't remember his Mother Lenore Romney's failed Senate campaign (1970), his brother Scott Romney's failure to get out of the GOP primaries in the Attorney General's race (1998), and Scott's ex-wife Ronna Romney's two failed Senate bids (1994 and 1996). Now, it's been a long time since I've been to Michigan, but if that's what passes for gold there, it's no wonder the US auto industry is in trouble.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Talking About Taxes

Chris from Left Center Left had a very thoughtful post last week about the need for Democrats in Massachusetts to appeal to unenrolled voters, particularly on the issue of taxes. I disagree with Chris on who unenrolled voters actually are -- I think he makes the mistake that they are synonymous with centrists which obscures the fact that they are, in the aggregate, more aligned with state Democrats on policy issues than state Republicans (such as they are). I was rummaging around the Internet looking for 2002 exit polls, which were not released that year, to prove my assertion and found instead the quality of life survey sponsored by MassINC in 2003. After reading through that, I am beginning to think that Chris is right that "independent voters don't trust us progressives to decide the appropriate tax rate or even to insist on government services." In fact I think he understates the problem -- voters of any stripe may not trust the state government in general to decide the tax rate or deliver services.

Taxes ranked fifth among "areas that need major improvement" in that survey, behind affordable housing, traffic, health care and the cost of a college education. What's interesting to me, though, is that the respondents most likely to think that average families need major tax relief were minorities (57%), working mothers (57%) and those who identified themselves as working class or poor (54%). Of course, those subsamples are subject to larger margins of error given the smaller number of people in those categories than the entire sample, but it does make sense that those with the least amount of disposable income would be concerned about holding on to as much of it as possible.

That said, these three groups are not exactly your core Republican constituencies, so finding that a tax message could resonate with them particularly is concerning. Overall, Democrats polled were more likely than Republicans to indicate that major improvements were needed in all those areas aside from taxes. Independents were more similar to Democrats in those areas as well, and on taxes Republicans were only marginally more likely than both Democrats and Independents to think that major improvement was needed to decrease the tax burden.

That's not to say, of course, that taxes are not an important issue. In the survey, 79% of respondents claimed that the amount of taxes an average family had to pay needed either "major" or "some" improvement (as opposed to "satisfactory as is" or "more than satisfactory as is"). That's a lot of people, but it's smaller than those who want to improve the traffic situation or want affordable housing. In addition, 79% of the respondents also wanted to improve "the way the political system is working."

So, how do three year old survey results inform the 2006 elections? Well, one thing's for sure: if people were concerned about the cost of living then, they're probably even more concerned today after the cost of heating oil has skyrocketed.

Democrats have to worry that when the focus is on taxes, they're alienating groups that traditionally vote for them -- minorities, women and the working class. They can try to shift the conversation so that the services your tax dollars pay for get the spotlight, but ultimately, people don't trust the state government to deliver services. In that poll, only one-in-ten people said they trusted the state "a lot", and slightly more than half said they trusted it at least "some". I doubt there's been much movement on those numbers under the Romney administration.

So how should Democrats talk about taxes? In my opinion, the focus should be on the property tax first, since it's more regressive than the income tax, and it also adds to the high cost of housing. I think given the choice, most homeowners would prefer a reduction in property tax rates over a reduction in the income tax anyway, but I don't have any data on that myself other than my own experience as a landowner (all .08 acres of it). What I'd really like someone to show is that a dollar of income tax goes farther than a dollar of property tax. I think that this has to be the case because every community that takes in property taxes must duplicate the administrative means to collect it, and to distribute the services -- town agencies, school administrators, etc. The state needn't have those sorts of inefficiencies; the overhead cost to the state should theoretically be lower than that for the sum total of all 351 cities and towns. If this is the case, then lowering the income tax could cause property tax rates to end up costing taxpayers more than they saved with the tax cut, assuming that the amount of money spent by localities stays even with inflation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Romney's Last Pre-Announcement Poll

Survey USA has released what might very well be the last poll of Governor Mitt Romney's approval rating taken before he announced he wasn't seeking reelection. Romney made his announcement on the 14th, and this poll was taken between the ninth and the eleventh of this month. He clocks in at 49% approve, 45% disapprove, putting him in the bottom half of the nation's governors. That's fairly anemic for an incumbent governor, but it's around where he's been all along -- in fact it's remarkable close to his 2002 election percentages. It will be interesting to see how his impending retirement effects his approval rating in future polls. Of course, now that he doesn't have to worry about being reelected, what does he care?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rep. McGovern on Fire!

Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) has been on a tear recently. On Friday, he went after the President and the GOP Congress for putting forth a second resolution rejecting a timetable for the Iraq war, calling it "inconsistent with achieving victory." McGovern pointed out just how ridiculous that was:

"What is victory? Nobody has defined what victory is," Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said.
And that's the question that no one seems to be asking, at least not the press. What exactly does it mean to be victorious? How will we know? When the last insurgent is dead? Or, is the administrating setting up a condition for victory that will require them to put permanent bases in Iraq?

Then today, Rep. McGovern gave a blistering indictment of the Republican Party on the floor of the House, captured by georgia10 of Daily Kos:
Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I am tired of the speeches. I, like so many others, want genuine reform and change. I want accountability.

This all brings me to this Congress. There is a reason why this Congress has only a 25 percent approval rating. It is because you are doing a lousy job. You are trashing the rules and regular order. The selling of legislation to the highest bidder, the hard-ball tactics against your own Members to win votes, your lack of oversight and demand for accountability from this administration, all that and more is catching up to you. People are watching. People do care. They believe that you cannot competently run this government, and they want the government back.

The mess that we have before us cannot be blamed on Democrats. After all, as I have said, Republicans control everything. You cannot blame this on Bill Clinton, even though some of you try, because he has been gone now for a full 5 years. This is your fault. The battles going on behind closed doors are between your right wing and your far right wing. For those of us in the minority, and many on your side who want good government, this is a frustrating period.
Read the rest of the speech here.

Reilly the Minority Candidate

The Boston Phoenix last week had an article on Attorney General Tom Reilly's minority outreach in Roxbury on Tuesday. When asked whether being the non-minority candidate in the race would hurt his chances among minority leaders, he quipped:

"I am a minority in this campaign. I'm the only one who's not a millionaire."
Look for Reilly to continue to play up his 'regular guy' image as the campaign goes on.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Insiders Higher on Romney

My anonymous source in Washington clued me into the newest version of the National Journal's 2008 Republican Insiders Poll. This time, they asked 100 Republican insiders -- Congressmen and other political types -- to rank potential candidates' chances of winning their party's presidential nomination. I commented on the April edition of the insiders poll, where our favorite Governor, Mitt Romney ranked fifth. This time, the gov jumped up to third, behind Senators George Allen and John McCain. Here are the top ten on the Republican side, according to those inside the Beltway, from the poll (PDF):

RankCandidatePointsFirst-Place Votes
1.George Allen365(39)
2.John McCain337(38)
3.Mitt Romney168(4)
4.Rudy Giuliani149(7)
5.Bill Frist93(1)
6.Haley Barbour92(0)
7.Condoleezza Rice61(4)
8.George Pataki39(2)
9.Newt Gingrich37(0)
10.Chuck Hagel35(1)
Notice, however, that Romney jumped up in rank even though his point total actually decreased slightly from the last time. I think a lot of that might have to do with Senator Bill Frist's falling stock more than anything Romney himself has done. Hopefully, this won't all go to the Governor's head. The National Journal also reports that the most recent polling of Republicans voters has Mitt clocking in at a whopping 2% -- just below "Other" and "None". Here's what one insider had to say about the Governor:
"Regardless of his record, our base will wonder what in the heck he had to do to become governor of the Kennedy-Dukakis state."
The National Journal also polled Democratic insiderts, and among them the Bay State's other 2008 Presidential contender, Senator John Kerry, fared less well, dropping from fifth last time to eighth in this incarnation of the poll. Predictably, among the insiders, Senator Hillary Clinton towers over the rest of the Democratic field.

Friday, December 16, 2005

John Bonifaz Conference Call

On Tuesday night Joe Trippi hosted a blog call with John Bonifaz, who is running in the Democratic primary for Secretary of the Commonwealth against incumbent Bill Galvin. Bonifaz came to last weekend's BlogLeft conference, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to talk to him there, nor was I able to make the conference call. Luckily for all of us, there is a podcast of the event. During the call, Bonifaz focused on his ideas for reforming our voting system. Simply, he wants to make sure that every vote is counted, that it's easy to vote, and that big money influence is removed from our elections.

Bonifaz also argued that Secretary Galvin has dropped the ball on his election monitoring responsibilities, siting election problems in Lawrence and Boston that happened under his watch, saying that Massachusetts deserves to have a leader in that office. He also mentioned how Galvin killed a pilot program for same-day voter registration that cities and towns could participate in, if they chose to do so. Bonifaz does have a point that Galvin has not been particularly focused on elections, but in fairness Galvin has been aggressively fighting corporate malfeasance through the Securities and Corporation Divisions of his office.

The Things He Did and Didn't Do

In today's column, Scot Lehigh diagnoses Governor Romney with a case of Potomac Fever:

Instead of conceding what everyone knows to be true -- he isn't seeking re-election because that will make it easier to run nationally in 2008 -- Romney declared that he had done most of what he set out to do. Consider this howler: "I have loved the whirlwind of accomplishment of the last three years."

Did I miss the National Weather Service bulletin redefining whirlwind as an intermittent breeze? Or has the Mittster been boasting so much out on the hustings that he has begun to believe his own stump speech?
I imagine the betrayal stings more for Lehigh, who has been writing thinly veiled pleas for the Governor to stay for months. Now he's rightly criticizing Mitt for claiming that his work here is done, and it's time to move on.

One more thing about Mitt's list of accomplishments. Since when is not doing something an accomplishment? All the GOP spokespeople I see on the television of late (Joe Malone, Charlie Manning, et al) claim that Romney's biggest accomplishment was that he didn't raise taxes. Big deal. I didn't raise taxes either -- it was easy. Nor did I raise fees or close tax loopholes to increase revenue, but of course, Romney can't say the same for himself. Anyway, If you want to start including the things he didn't do in his list of accomplishments, I think you'll have a much longer list -- he didn't fully fund UMass, he didn't send enough local aid to municipalities, he didn't bring back the death penalty, he didn't really care about being governor. The list goes on.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mittpocalypse Now

The Mass Dems have brought Ani-Mitt back. Join Willard as he travels from Massachusettsia to Washington. It's hilarious, and it smells like... victory.

Where is Kerry Healey?

That's the question that Eileen McNamara asked in her column yesterday. McNamara wondered why the Lieutenant Governor has not spoken up now that the public has turned its attention to crime, her supposed area of expertise. Instead of using Romney's continued absence and detachment from the state as an excuse to speak out, she's tooling around the state, holding low-profile roundtable discussions that maybe a dozen people outside of the Massachusetts Executive branch will ever hear about.

Healey should be the political beneficiary of Romney's detachment. He delegated criminal justice to her. If she is not the dominant voice on these issues now, when will the public get to hear her?
Maybe soon, now that Mitt Romney has finally announced his intentions. But maybe Healey just isn't comfortable using her position to speak out. After all, the last time she was given a microphone in front of a large audience, she was called "a new contender for Most Revolting Politician in America" by Slate's William Saletan. Even yesterday, Healey shied away from the spotlight.
"Today is a day really about Gov. Romney and I would like to keep the focus on him," she said. "My intentions haven't changed."

Healey said she expected to make a formal announcement about her candidacy sometime during the winter, which ends March 20.
As an aside, what is the Romney/Healey administration's obsession with the exact starting and ending dates of the seasons? Romney said he'd make his decision in the Fall, which he reminded us doesn't end until December 20th -- even though a quick look out the window confirms that it's Winter, despite what the calendar may say.

Oh, and to the person who found my site yesterday by searching for the terms 'Kerry healy will get trounced', we can all hope you're right. In the meantime, perhaps this will be a better resource for you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Having Done All This He Sought No Second Term

Little did I realize that Governor Mitt Romney had accomplished, or was about to accomplish every single thing he'd set out to do. Here's what he said today in his press conference, quoted in the Globe:

"My decision comes down to this: In this four-year term, we can accomplish what I set out to do. In fact, we've already accomplished a great deal," he said in a speech televised live from the Statehouse.
"Frankly, there was very little to do for a second term that I could realistically accomplish," he said. "I said there is no reason to sit in the chair if the things you want to accomplish are done."
And it's so true, everything that Romney wanted to accomplish is done! It's amazing how in the space of three years, Massachusetts has gone from a horrible dystopia under Jane Swift to a wonderful fantasy world where no one is sick, there's no crime, everyone's employed, the streets are paved with gold and it snows diamonds as leprechauns and unicorns frolic under the evergreen money trees. Hooray!

Former state Senator and fellow Watertown resident George Bachrach had the following to say tonight on NECN:
"I honestly think the only thing missing from today's announcement was the governor landing on an aircraft carrier with a banner that said 'Mission Accomplished' on it. I mean, the notion of a governor in the middle of his first term saying that he checked all of the boxes off, and that he'd accomplished everything he'd wanted to do in his one term, I think must be leaving a lot of parents whose kids are struggling in school and a lot of folks that are struggling to find jobs and a lot of people struggling to find health care wondering what it is exactly that is so well done in the state of Massachusetts that he can leave."
Of course, now that I think about it, Romney actually did accomplish everything he set out to do: he got himself elected so he'd be in a position to run for President. Mission Accomplished, indeed.

Romney To Make His Exit Official

Surprise surprise, Governor Mitt Romney is declining to run, according to the AP. It sounds like he'll be announcing his plans officially at the Statehouse today at 6:00. It's nice, at least, that he's making speeches in Massachusetts again.

Feel free to send the Gov a "So long, and thanks for nothing" present from his wishlist (courtesy RiaF).

New Look

In preparation for Governor Romney's announcement about his future, I wanted to spruce up the joint and move away from the default Blogger template. The new version was tested in Firefox, Safari and IE (it took me months to notice that the old version looked weird in IE), on a couple of different platforms so it should be OK for most of my audience. If you see any weirdness (other than the normal weirdness) drop a comment in this thread and let me know what browser and operating system you're using.

The basic design of the page was taken from eris, a great blog template resource, and heavily modified by myself. The banner was done by a great friend of the .08 Acres household, an MIT PhD student who wished to remain anonymous as she is currently wanted by the Drosophila High Court for crimes against their species.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Deval Patrick's Fundraising

Today's Globe had a story about how Deval Patrick has been out fundraising Attorney General Tom Reilly. David from Blue Mass. Group has some good comments on this, so I won't comment too much further than what's already been said today, except to add that reports of the Patrick campaign's demise had been greatly exaggerated. I still think he's spending too much money, but he has not been having that much trouble raising it. Case in point: last week he hosted a fundraiser in Boston -- dubbed 'No Ordinary Evening' -- that saw around two hundred more people show up than were expected.

Patrick himself was on NewsNight With Jim Braude tonight, and he had this to say for himself, when asked if he can win:

I take nothing for granted, but understand I started from a cold start in February. We've raised as much money as the Attorney General, who's been at this in public life for most of his professional life. We've raised as much money as he has this year. We have two times the number of contributers as he has. In fact in the month of November, we had more individual contributors than he has ever had in any month in his political life. We are getting the message out. This is more than about a candidate. It's about inviting people back into a sense that this is their government and they are responsible for it and that government has a role to play -- not in solving every issue in everyone's life, but in helping people help themselves.
The rest of the interview is pretty good. Patrick makes it clear that all the talk about the income tax is a distraction from the real problem -- the exploding property tax, which he called "regressive" and "very hard on people on fixed incomes." I hope that this message is not lost over the course of the campaign, because that's really what I'd like to see change. All this talk about a 0.3% reduction in the income tax is just posturing, as far as I'm concerned. What I'd really like to see are some clever ideas to stop rising property taxes.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Galvin's Out! Who's Up? Who's Down?

The Fray scooped the rest of the blogs (and the Boston Globe) with the news that Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin has announced that he's running for reelection and not for governor in 2006. So, how are things looking for the rest of the Democratic candidates now that one of them has changed his mind?

Tom Reilly: Up. Tom Reilly polled two-to-one ahead of Deval Patrick in the most recent poll that had just the two of them in the Democratic primary.

Deval Patrick: Down. I really thought Deval Patrick's best chance was if a couple of uncharismatic insider candidates split the vote, allowing him to get the victory. In a head to head matchup with Reilly, Patrick has his work cut out for him.

Cam Kerry: Down. The brother of the Senator was planning on running for Secretary only if Bill Galvin decided to run. Now it looks like Kerry will have to find something else to keep him busy in 2006.

John Bonifaz: Down. Bonifaz is now running against Galvin in the Secretary of State primary. He had an uphill climb running against Kerry, who is an unknown borrowing his brother's name recognition. Running against a well-funded incumbent is going to be many times more difficult.

Bill Galvin: Up. Galvin lives to fight another day, almost guaranteeing himself a job until 2010 when he'll toy with running for governor again for a few months before finally deciding against it. Does anyone else sense a pattern?

Every other elected Democrat: Up. I just can't believe that there are no Democratic office holders in a state full of Democratic office holders who are willing to take on Tom Reilly for the gubernatorial nomination. I would have imagined that there would be a long list of Democrats salivating at the chance to take on Kerry Healey for the corner office. Maybe they are just holding back until Governor Romney makes his own announcement, but I'm really surprised that not more candidates are surfacing to take a chance against a wealthy but uninspiring and gaffe-prone Lieutenant Governor.

The Circle of Dough

I read in the papers today that a group of investors, including Bain Capital is buying Dunkin' Donuts. Bain Capital, you'll all remember, is the Boston-based venture capital firm that now-Governor Mitt Romney successfully spun off of Bain & Company in the mid 1980's. Why is this interesting? Well, cronies of the Governor from Bain and its affiliates formed the Commonwealth PAC, which has been judiciously sprinkling money around in early primary states in preparation for Romney's presumed presidential campaign, something that I noted in my first ever blog post. Let's also not forget that Dunkin' Donuts has more employees using the taxpayer funded Free Care Pool, because they do not provide health insurance, than any other company in Massachusetts. Should we be worried now that the company that has the most to lose by enacting employer mandated heath insurance is now owned by the Johnny Appleseeds of the Romney 2008 Campaign?

I suppose it's just a cycle that plays out every day, at all levels of government; Bain spends money on behalf of Romney, Governor Romney fights tooth and nail to kill legislation detrimental to Bain's asset, Dunkin' Donuts. Isn't it nice how well that works out for everybody? Well, everyone except the Massachusetts taxpayers who are the ones who end up paying for Dunkin' employee's health care. But since when was anyone ever concerned about them?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

BlogLeft Convention Report

Yesterday was the first Massachusetts Progressive Bloggers convention, and I can honestly say that it was the most fun I've ever had in Worcester. In the morning, I picked up Charley from the Blue Mass. Group, and we set out to meet state Senator Jarrett Barrios before the bulk of the conventioneers arrived. Just as we crossed the river to get on to Storrow, Shai Sachs from DFA Cambridge and Drinking Liberally called to say that he missed his train because the Red Line was running busses over the Longfellow Bridge. After a brief discussion ("Do we have room?" "Sure." "Do we have time?" "Well...") we made the trek into a still-not-quite-dug-out Boston and met him at South Station. We then were able to find the answer to that age-old question: How many Boston area bloggers does it take to get from South Station to the Mass. Pike? (Three: One to drive, one to watch for signs and one to check if the map is up-to-date with the latest Big Dig configuration).

While we didn't quite break the land speed record for Boston-to-Worcester travel, we did make it to the amazing Tatnuck Bookseller in short order. What do we have to do to get one of those around here? We were able to sit down and have a quick chat with Senator Barrios, who is running for Middlesex County DA, and his campaign manager over breakfast. He talked about alternatives to things like mandatory minimum sentences that were not only more effective, but also more economical. He clearly knows his stuff -- not just the big picture but he's not afraid to go into great detail -- and he's trying to position himself not just as the most progressive candidate in the DA's race, but as the only progressive in the race. I don't think that second claim is the case, though -- given what I know about the candidates, I think this race really affords us a great chance to talk about criminal justice issues beyond the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" rhetoric typical of DA races. I hope that these candidates will be willing to have a conversation with each other and the voters about what we can do not only to make our communities safer, but also to reduce recidivism.

The conference began shortly after our talk with Senator Barrios. The bulk of the credit for making this happen goes to Lynne from Left in Lowell and Susan from Beyond 495 who are both delightful. Also in attendance were Chris from Left Center Left, David Eisenthal of The Eistenthal Report, John McDonough of Healh Care for All, Andy of Mass. Revolution Now!, Wes from Walk in Brain, Fredrick Clarkson, Michael Ball of Marry in Massachusetts, the pseudonymous blogger behind Chimes at Midnight (I'll let him blow his own cover) as well as a number of readers and probably some other people that I apologize in advance for forgetting.

Worcester Mayor Tim Murray spoke first, giving us a quick welcome to his City. While he didn't talk about his run for Lieutenant Governor, he did spend a little time talking about campaigning for Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) in his successful bid to unseat former Congressman Peter Blute. He was introduced by DSC Wonder Woman Kate Donaghue who gave Murray her endorsement by saying, "He's one of us."

Blogger Stirling Newberry gave the keynote address, talking mostly about political blogging and how it can bring people who have been alienated together to find like-minded people and build communities. One of the most important things that he encouraged us to do was to give context to numbers and other information put out by the paid media, particularly in ways that are easily digestible. "Get cute," he told us, and find clever and succinct ways to express information.

After lunch, Frederick Clarkson spoke, first telling the story of the three special elections earlier this year and how the only way to find any information about them was through the blogs. Truth be told, my frustration with the dearth of information on those races is what finally turned me from a blog reader to a blog writer. I have to agree that the media really doesn't cover special elections, or any local elections particularly well, and it's a shame. He spoke also about his experiences with the Reich campaign in 2002 and the Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts. Clarkson closed his comments with a warning about how the Religious Right is preparing for a battle around marriage equality should it make the ballot here in 2008 and that it's our job to be prepared to fight these out-of-state interests.

There were three afternoon breakout sessions, and I attended the one hosted by Stirling Newberry on the Shays-Meehan act, which I talked about previously. I'll probably devote a whole post to this in the next week or two, but needless to say, nothing since last month has changed my mind on this issue.

When I got back home, I finally got a chance to read the liveblogging here and here. It was like a whole second convention going on at the same time. Wild!

I have to say that I was impressed with how well the whole thing went, and I'm looking forward to working more with my fellow bloggers. This is a community that didn't exist just a year ago -- heck, even six months ago there were fewer progressive MA political bloggers than there are today, and we mostly didn't talk to one another. Hopefully we'll build on the momentum we created yesterday and work more in concert to try to influence the political discourse in Massachusetts.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

BlogLeft MA Conference Today

After barely making it home in yesterday's Class 3 Killstorm, today I venture out to Worcester for the BlogLeft Massachusetts conference that was spearheaded by Lynne from Left in Lowell. Charley from Blue Mass. Group and I are carpooling out there, appropriately meeting up this morning at the Kennedy School. We're supposed to have a chat with state Senator Jarrett Barrios, who's running for Middlesex County DA, beforehand so look forward to a post on that in the near future.

The conference will be live-blogged at Political Cortex throughout the day, so if you'd rather not venture out into the world, you can peek into our get-together there. In addition, I'm going to try and see if anyone will let me record any of the sessions for an audio podcast.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mitt's One-Day Turnaround on Plan B

Yesterday, the big news was that Governor Mitt Romney wanted to let private and religious hospitals opt out of the new law (passed over his veto) requiring doctors to make the "Plan B" emergency contraception available to rape victims. After all that hokey-pokey, Mitt has turned himself around, and now says that no hospitals are except. Criticism of this shift in position has come, of course, from the state Democrats, but also from the Herald Editorial Page. Here's an excerpt:

It seemed like yet another example of the Republican governor losing out to the Democratic Legislature. That is, until Romney decided religious hospitals could satisfy the new law by simply providing information about the pill -- not the pill itself -- to those seeking treatment.

For the sponsors of the bill and the folks at Planned Parenthood, that view set their hair on fire -- and understandably so. In passing the bill, lawmakers didn't intend to exempt anyone -- in fact, they explicitly rejected a 'conscience' amendment giving religious hospitals an out clause. Trouble is, an existing law says the state can't force private hospitals to perform abortions or provide contraception. That law gave the governor a major loophole to exploit.

But that was Wednesday. By Thursday, Romney said he consulted with his legal counsel (He might have done that a tad earlier!) and concluded that the new law superseded the old one.
What's obvious to everyone by now is that Romney puts his political considerations first, and only after deciding which position would benifit him politically does he bother to see what the law dictates. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a governor who checked with his legal advisors before talking with his political advisors?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Preparing For the 2006 Caucuses

Via DFA Cambridge

Jesse Gordon has put together a guide on how to get yourself elected to the Democratic State Convention in May. Here are the Cliff's Notes:

  • Register as a Democrat immediately. [The deadline to be eligible is December 31st]
  • Find out where and when your local Democratic Committees meet, and attend one their meetings.
  • They’ll hold Caucus meetings in February.
  • Bring as many people as possible to the Caucus, to run as delegates themselves, or to vote for you.
  • In May, delegates attend the Convention to elect nominees for governor and other statewide offices.
If you're not sure how to get involved with your Democratic Town/Ward Committee, the MassDems website has a list of contacts. If you happen to live in Watertown, like I do, the next meeting is going to be the last Thursday in January, only a week or so before the Caucus. If you're interested in joining the Watertown DTC or attending the caucus, let me know and I'll be sure to keep you in the loop.

Why get involved? I'll let Jesse answer that question:
If you stay involved, and a few hundreds others like you stay involved also, we can have a Democratic Party that welcomes newcomers and outsiders -–and grow our party to its former strength, rather than watching it wither away more every year.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Anti-Gay Planes May Be Backfiring

Daily Kos diarist zeitshabba saw planes flying anti-marriage equality banners this afternoon and called the number on them. As it turns out, the number listed was House Speaker Sal DiMasi's, and the people who called in may not have the people those who paid for the ad had expected.

At this point I told her the Speaker has my full support, and I called out of curiousity. She was relieved, and we chatted about the reaction to the messages. I really wish I knew who paid for those planes, because I think they should know what their money ended up paying for: several times as many calls were received showing support for gay marriage than were opposed. [Emphasis added]
Flying these kind of banners is something Rep Emile Goguen (D-Fitchburg) and Ed Pawlick of Massnews have done in the past. I wonder if they realize that this may not be the best way to spend their money.

John McDonough Smacks Down Scot Lehigh

Heath Care for All's John McDonough is a busy man these days. On Monday, he took Time Magazine's Joe Klein to task for writing a "love letter" to Governor Romney in the pages of that publication. Yesterday, he had to set the Globe's Scot Lehigh straight after he uncritically transcribed the talking points from Bay State business groups like the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in his column. The employer mandate, Lehigh argues, would be a disaster as firms that don't offer health insurance currently, like Dunkin Donuts, would certainly move out of state to someplace where the cost of doing business isn't as high. Let's leave alone the claim that Massachusetts is an expensive place to do business (it is, not because of a high business tax burden, but because of energy, housing and, ironically, health care costs) and let McDonough respond:

The firms that don't offer coverage are service, retail, food and construction -- companies that can't move across state borders or to Taiwan because they can't take their business with them. A February state survey of businesses that have workers on MassHealth or the Free Care Pool showed these businesses on the top of the list: Dunkin' Donuts, Stop & Shop, Walmart, McDonald's, and Unico (janitorial services). If we stop these business from ripping off taxpayers, guess what, none of them can move out of state. If they do, good riddance, and let another firm take their place that provides decent health coverage to workers and stops ripping off taxpayers to boot.
Firms that don't provide health coverage to workers are costing everyone else money. Most companies, in fact, do provide health coverage because they want to be able to lure the best people. I'm not saying we should hold the companies that don't hostage, but I certainly don't think we should be subsidizing them.

The only argument that Lehigh makes in his own article that makes any sense is when he says that the House bill will encourage companies to take on more part-time workers and hire more people as independent contractors, rather than full employees. These are the kind of unintended consequences we should be talking about, not whether a Dunkin Donuts in Seekonk is losing business to a franchise in Providence.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Party Girl and Pretty Boy 2006

Margery Egan has a whole column (subscription required) in today's Herald about how good looking Republican state Senator Scott Brown is. Oh, imagine how beautiful the Republican ticket would be, Egan proclaims, if rumors that Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey wants to pick Brown to succeed her should Governor Romney decline to run for reelection are true. The model/athlete/Adonis is surely what the Massachusetts GOP needs as an antidote to a governor who cares more about image than policy.

Personally, I liked ad exec Will Keyser's response:

"Scott Brown. Who's he? A state senator? A Republican state senator? There are such things?"
Of course, Egan's column is not completely superficial. She mentions that Brown doesn't like sex offenders. A bold stance indeed!

Blue Mass Group Upgrade

I'm sure most of you have seen it, but if you haven't been to Blue Mass Group since the weekend, you should go check it out. They've upgraded their blog to be a Scoop-style web community, like Daily Kos and MyDD with help from the good folks at Soapblox. I think it has a lot of potential, and I hope that people really take advantage of the new features. Head over there and create an account so that when they're huge and successful at the end of '06, you can say you were there at the beginning!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Chafee Profile in Today's Globe

In case you missed it, there's a long profile on Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee in today's Boston Globe. It is mostly flattering, but it does point out the dilemma that Samuel Alito's nomination poses for the Republican Senator serving in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. From the article:

Liberal groups are already advertising in Rhode Island to urge Chafee to vote against Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, Samuel A. Alito Jr. Their massive letter-writing campaigns are being matched by efforts of conservative groups, who are joining forces with prominent Italian-American organizations in Rhode Island to push Chafee to support Alito.

"He has to be very worried about this vote," said Darrell West, a political science professor at Brown University. "It's attracting a lot of local attention, and activists are engaged by this issue. He's under pressure from both sides."

The Democratic field in the Senate race includes former state attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse and Secretary of State Matthew A. Brown. Both are opposing Alito in a year that Democrats have high hopes for gains in the House and Senate, capitalizing on Bush's widespread unpopularity, discontent over the war in Iraq, and a series of GOP ethical lapses.

Chafee is waiting for the confirmation hearings in January to make up his mind, but has made clear that he has set the bar high for Alito, who would replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the court. "It's a lifetime appointment," he said. "There's some critical issues that have been decided in the past with Sandra Day O'Connor in the majority. There is a lot at stake here."
It would seem that Senator Chafee is in a bind. He often tries to walk the middle ground, but he will not be able to dodge this issue. If he votes against Alito, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey will use it like a hammer in his primary challenge. If he votes in favor, he can expect trouble in the general election, as Sheldon Whitehouse or Matt Brown (the Democratic contenders) will be quick to remind people that when the chips were down, Chafee sided with Bush over the interests of his constituents. No wonder the national Republicans are spending so much money on this race -- there are dozens more issues like this between now and November, and no matter what stand he takes, there's someone waiting to use it against him.

Mitt Lowering Expectations for 2006

Via MyDD.

The newly appointed chair of the Republican Governors Association, one Willard Mitt Romney, told reporters that he expects the Republicans to lose as many as six governorships in 2006, maybe even losing the majority. The Washington Post has the story:

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney assumed the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association last week, and immediately confronted a troublesome landscape for 2006. As Romney put it during a break at the RGA gathering at La Costa resort, "The math is not in our favor this time."

There will be 36 gubernatorial races next year, 22 in states held by Republicans and 14 by Democrats. Seven of the eight states where the incumbent isn't seeking reelection are held by the GOP -- and that could grow to eight if Romney decides to forgo a second-term bid in favor of running for president in 2008.

He emphasized he's no political forecaster. But based on what he's been told by other Republican analysts, he said, if conventional expectations are borne out, the Republicans could lose three to six governorships -- after failing to pick up either Virginia or New Jersey last month. That could strip them of their majority. "If we run good campaigns, we'll do better than that," Romney said.

Republicans, who hold 28 governorships, are particularly worried about losing New York, where Gov. George E. Pataki is retiring after three terms and setting his sights on a possible presidential campaign. In Ohio, the scandal-racked administration of Gov. Bob Taft has put the Republicans on the defensive in a state that has been crucial to the party's presidential fortunes."

Other states mentioned as troublesome for Republicans next year are Florida, Arkansas, Colorado and Nevada, where the GOP incumbent is not seeking reelection. Left out, of course is Massachusetts, where recent polling has Governor Romney trailing or tied with all challengers, and Lieutenant Governor Healey getting walloped.

It may be that Romney is trying to lower expectations so that if the Republicans stay relatively even he can take the credit as the guy who prevented them from losing even more ground. I think, however, he is just acknowledging what is becoming the conventional wisdom: 2006 is not expected to be great for Republicans. They've got a President who is becoming less popular, a war that is losing popularity and a seemingly endless parade of scandals unfolding. The elections are still eleven months away, and things can certainly change by then, but right now it looks like the Democrats are poised to gain in 2006, so long as they can present a credible alternative to the current GOP misrule.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Dems Trash Mitt's Job Record

While Governor Mitt Romney was busy in California accepting the Republican Governor's Association mantle, leading Massachusetts Democrats held a press conference in front of the State House trashing him on his economic record. Here are some of Democratic Party Chairman Phil Johnson's remarks from the conference.

Three years ago, Governor Romney and Lieutenant Governor Healey ran for office on a platform which promised voters that they would focus on economic development here in the commonwealth and that the sagging economy would be revived. We all remember the promises the Governor made at that time that he would go around the country trying to market Massachusetts to CEOs of large corporations in an effort to persuade them to come here to the Commonwealth to provide new jobs for Massachusetts residents.
Governor Romney kept his promise to travel out of state. Unfortunately, he's out promoting his political career instead of selling Massachusetts as a great place to do business.
The State House News has the audio, and the Boston Herald has the story.

In response, the Republicans held their own press conference where they criticized Democrats in the Legislature for choosing to raise the capital gains tax retroactively. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the retroactive tax increase was going to be abandoned. Hey, whatever works.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Joe's Foreign Oil

Blue Mass Group has a post on the Wall Street Journal criticizing Congressman William Delahunt and Joe Kennedy for brokering a deal with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to pay below market prices for oil for low income homes in Massachusetts. I'm not sure how people who think it's A-Okay to get cheap labor from China think it's somehow a terrible crime to get cheap oil from Venezuela, but that's why I'm not on the WSJ Editorial board.

In any event, Kennedy was on Greater Boston last night talking about the deal. He spoke briefly about President Kennedy's push to put a man on the moon in ten years, and compared that with the current President.

"Now we've got Bush talking about taking flights to Mars, which is going to cost billions of dollars, but we don't do anything to get our cars to work with engines that get 100 miles per gallon or don't use oil at all. That is very much within range -- a much easier task to accomplish than getting to the moon in ten years. And yet we just don't show the will to go out and get it done. That's the hard truth about what's going on in this country. We don't go after the tough, hard issues any longer as a nation and try to get that squared away."
Even though Bush's talk of Mars has subsided, Kennedy has a point. With gas prices at the pump going down, I'm not sure if we have the political will for a government funded initiative to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. Still, the feds have scientists and engineers already that they're not funding. What's wrong with putting them to work developing technologies that increase fuel efficiency?

Deb Goldberg in Belmont

On Tuesday, I infiltrated the Belmont Democratic Town Committee to see Lieutenant Governor Candidate Deborah Goldberg and Gubernatorial Candidate Deval Patrick. Patrick was impressive as always, and the room was packed by the time he started his talk. Goldberg was on before him and I had not seen her speak since the May convention, so I was interested to see what she has to offer. She spent the bulk of her time talking about local issues, which was a bit of a contrast from the other candidates. She drew heavily on her experiences as a Selectman in Brookline. That's a good way, I think, to make a quick connection with people who are involved in local politics -- DTC members, perhaps. As of last week, Goldberg was the only LG candidate who spoke the language of local government.

Of course, now that Worcester Mayor Tim Murray is in the LG race, that advantage disappears. Who's a better voice for Massachusetts cities and towns? A former Selectman from Brookline or the Mayor of the state's second biggest city? Sure, a city like Worcester has different concerns than many of the Commonwealth's smaller towns, but the big issues -- crime, development, budgeting -- are similar throughout Massachusetts. My hunch is that Murray's entry into the race pushes Goldberg from the candidate with local experience to the candidate who can self fund. Sometimes that's enough, particularly for a low-profile/low-stakes race like LG, but I'm sure Goldberg would rather be known for her experience than her pocketbook.

It's definitely too early to make any predictions on the Lieutenant Governor's race. The field is crowded with candidates that have little by the way of statewide name recognition, and there's always the chance that the gubernatorial candidates will make their favorites known. It will be interesting to see which of them has the best caucus organization come February to ensure a place on the ballot.