Friday, June 30, 2006

Kerry on Net Neutrality Part II

Little did I know that when I wrote about Senator John Kerry's net neutrality support yesterday that I'd be doing it again so soon. Senator Kerry wrote a blog post of his own today at Here's an excerpt:

Everyone says they don't want the new world we're living in to be marked by the digital divide -- the term is so cliched it's turned to mush -- but yesterday was a test of who is willing to ask corporate America to do anything to fix it, and the Commerce Committee failed miserably. Why are United States Senators afraid to say that companies should be expected to foster growth by building out their broadband networks to increase access?

Free and open access to the internet is something all Americans should enjoy, regardless of what financial means they're born into or where they live. It is profoundly disappointing that the Senate is going let a handful of companies hold internet access hostage by legalizing the cherry-picking of cable service providers and new entrants. That is a dynamic that would leave some communities with inferior service, higher cable rates, and even the loss of service. Not to mention inadequate internet service -- in the age of the information.
Without net neutrality, telecoms could turn the Internet into something resembling cable television, where the cost to entry is too huge for normal people to get the kind of reach they can have now. They could also enter into exclusivity agreements and control the kind of content that you're able to see. It seems like they want to go back to the days where you dialed in to something like AOL, which couldn't talk to Compuserve or Prodigy. The Internet has come too far for that to happen, and I hope that we can get net neutrality codified before it's too late.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Notes From Tonight's Debate

Tonight NECN aired their second gubernatorial debate, this one with the three Democratic candidates and a particular focus on education and health care. The AP has a report from the debate and Globe Columnist Scot Lehigh has already shared his thoughts. You can see portions of the debate on the NECN website. Charley from Blue Mass. Group liveblogged it.

One thing I did want to mention first is that the subject matter here are things that people trust Democrats to handle more than Republicans. These are Democratic bread and butter issues and Democratic candidates should be able to hit these questions out of the park. For the most part, all three candidates did well, but would have liked to see them stronger.

There were some good moments. I thought the exchange about the rollback was particularly good, and let viewers see the different viewpoints of the candidates. Chris Gabrieli made a good point noting that if you're going to lower the rate you at least need a plan to do it, more than just saying "of course the money's there." Patrick also made the important point that we need to invest in our infrastructure if we want to attract businesses. It's impossible to grow the economy and make the investments that businesses want.

Tom Reilly also did well when asked about the reimportation of drugs from Canada. Frank Phillips of the Globe asked him whether our own biotech industry, which is against that, can afford to have us pay lower prices. Reilly basically told him that he didn't care, and that the seniors who couldn't pay for their medicines were more important to him.

Here's what I didn't like. R. D. Sahl started off the second half by asking the candidates to say something bad about their opponent. No one really took the bait, which I appreciated, but Sahl seemed frustrated that he couldn't get them to badmouth each other. Gabrieli finally managed to change the subject by saying that he'd rather throw his gauntlet at Romney and Healey, and he noted their lack of results for the state.

I'm also not sure why Reilly continues to lead off with how he almost dropped out of school and how people told him he wasn't college material. I agree that it's a nice success story, and I really liked how he used it in his answer to the question about the MCAS. Still, I thought it was weird to bring it up in his closing.

Kerry on Net Neutrality

Matt Stoller of MyDD has the report from the Senate Commerce Committee Markup session and the debate on the Network Neutrality amendment to the Telecom bill. Stoller has some promising words from our own John Kerry.

John Kerry was the major surprise in the hearings. Ted Stevens was deeply angry about the bill, and said at one point that the net neutrality provision was a poison pill that would prevent the larger telecom reform bill from passing. "If we include net neutrality in the bill, we won't have 60 votes to pass the bill", he said, to which John Kerry responded with something along the lines of "If you don't put net neutrality in the bill, you won't have 60 votes to pass the bill either." Ouch. This was vintage kickass Kerry, the Kerry that showed up for the debates in 2004.
The net neutrality amendment failed on a tie, but it's nice to know that Kerry is fighting in favor of keeping a free and open Internet.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Suffolk Poll Shows Race Tightening Further

Suffolk University released their 7NEWS/Suffolk poll yesterday. The full results are now online and are very interesting to poll junkies like me. Deval Patrick for the first time is ahead in this poll, and has seen his "never heard of" numbers drop to a low of 20%. The fact that he's ahead despite having the lowest name recognition is amazing to me. Here are the current Democratic primary numbers:

Deval Patrick31%
Tom Reilly25%
Chris Gabrieli22%
This poll has quite a few more numbers of undecided voters than the Survey USA poll because it's asking a different question. While Survey USA told respondents to imagine themselves in the voting booth, the Suffolk poll asked "At this point, toward whom would you lean?". Here is a graph of the Suffolk primary numbers so far:
The graph clearly shows the trend for Reilly is not what he wants to see, while the trends for Patrick and Gabrieli are favorable to them. Note also how closely clustered together they all are. The candidates are separated by only nine percentage points in a poll that has a margin of error of +/- 5.26% and a fifth of the voters undecided. Right now the primary is wide open.

The poll also has some interesting questions. Democratic primary voters would prefer to invite Deval Patrick "over to their house for dinner" (30%) but they'd rather trust their household budget to Chris Gabrieli (25%) and they think Tom Reilly (22%) would best understand their healthcare issue. If their child was looking for career advice, respondents are equally likely to ask all three candidates. In a show of unity, over 83% also said that if their candidate for Governor loses, they are at least somewhat likely to vote for the Democratic nominee.

The poll also asked about the Lieutenant Governor primary, where Undecided is poised to walk away with the election -- 79% have yet to pick a favorite in that race.

In the General, all three candidates beat Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey. Be sure to check out Kerry Healey -- Out of Touch for reaction to those numbers. The poll also asked about the down-ballot races and the various ballot initiatives. The only one of those that fails is the one sponsored by Mass Ballot Freedom that would bring New York-style fusion balloting to Massachusetts. Voters otherwise seem particularly ready to amend the state Constitution to require health insurance access be available, to ban dog racing and dog fighting, and to allow food stores to sell wine, among other initiatives. Suffolk has a handy chart that sums up support for all the proposed questions. In addition, a plurality, 41%, of poll respondents indicated that they favored recognition of legal marriage between couples of the same sex, and another 32% said they would be OK with civil unions.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More Healey/Hillman Fear Mongering on Needles

Current Republican Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey and her would be successor, candidate Reed Hillman, are running around the state campaigning hard against the bill legallizing over-the-counter sales of hypodermic needles that the legislature passed but Governor Romney is expected to veto. Healey and Hillman both continue to make assertions unsupported by any facts, despite the fact that Healey claims to be an expert on crime and Hillman was formerly the state's top trooper.

Here is Reed Hillman as quoted in the Globe's political blog:

"I'm not ready to give someone who is abusing heroin the benefit of the doubt when it comes to properly disposing a dirty needle."
Here's what Hillman fails to point out: in areas without needle exchange programs, there is currently no way for users to properly dispose of dirty needles short of sneaking into a hospital. The bill under consideration creates needle collection centers. Not only does this add a point of contact with addicts that could aid intervention, but if even one user disposes of their dirty needle correctly, it's an infinite percentage better than the 0% that are currently doing so.

As far as increasing the amount of syringes lying around goes, Johns Hopkins did a two month study with a two year later follow-up after Baltimore started up a needle exchange program in 1994. The first study showed that discarded syringes as a percentage of total waste did not increase in the months following the program's initiation compared to a measure taken before it started. Not only that, but in the follow-up study, the amount of needle litter actually decreased. One might argue that maybe there was less litter because there were fewer addicts, but then you can't claim, as Reed Hillman does, that increased access to clean needles increases drug use.

In addition, a 2003 study of New York's syringe program showed that access to clean needles did not increase discarded needles or syringes on the street or in the regular trash recepticals. In fact, the law brought about educational efforts promoting the safe disposal of used needles. New York experienced neither an increase in needlestick injuries to municipal workers (law enforcement, sanitation, etc) or an increase criminal drug-related activity.

Opponents of the bill also raise the specter of bandits holding up stores with newfound needles. This strikes me as absurd on the face of it. How many establishments are held up with needles (illegal) compared to guns (legal) or knives (also legal)? Heck, there have been more than 200 shootings in Boston alone this year, and I don't see the state GOP saying we should ban guns. Not only that, but as I mentioned previously, there was a 66% decrease in syringe stick injuries to police officers over a six-month period after pharmacy sales legislation passed in Connecticut. In Canada, when they were considering needle exchange programs in prisons, they studied prisons in Europe that gave inmates access to clean needles. They found no evidence that the prisoners were using the syringes as weapons, and there was no increased danger to the staff. I know it's not exactly comparable, but one would think that if any population was more likely to use sharps as shivs, it would be convicted criminals. The evidence did not bear that out.

I don't know why this issue gets under my skin (pardon the pun) so much -- I don't work in public health or AIDS advocacy or anything and I don't have any particular sympathy for junkies. I think it's because Healey and Hillman are making claims without any evidence to back them up, aside from the fact that little Billy once found a syringe on the Common. They are purposely misleading the public with scenarios that run contrary to the experiences of the 47 other states where syringes are legal (including every state that borders Massachusetts). If this is the kind of leadership we can expect from a Healey/Hillman administration, then count me out.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Outer Brewster LNG Not Quite Dead

I had missed this story last week, but apparently the proposal to put a liquefied natural gas terminal on Outer Brewster Island in the Boston Harbor is not quite dead after all. Back in March, the bill that would allow the LNG terminal to be built on what is currently parkland was sent to a study committee, which the Herald compares to a "legislative graveyard. At that time, however, Bruce Berman, communications director for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay who opposed the plan presciently told the Globe:

"Sometimes bad bills just don't go away. Like boomerangs, they come back, and we're going to stay vigilant."
The bill would require two-thirds support in both the House and the Senate to pass and its opponents in the legislature claim that it will be defeated.

As an aside, Regan Communications, the public relations firm hired by AES Corp -- the company pushing the LNG proposal -- was broken into twice last week. If you'll recall Regan was unmasked in February as the driving force behind the "Coalition for LNG Solutions" an astroturf group that sponsored pro-LNG presentations around the state and even featured its own blog. Their sales pitch went something like this: isn't it better to have a potentially dangerous LNG terminal two miles off shore than to have one in the middle of Fall River or Everett? It's hard to argue with that, but even supporters concede that even if the Outer Brewster plan is given a green light, that won't necessarily stop the plan for Fall River or reduce traffic to Everett.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lehigh Snarks on Immigration

Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh treats the immigration issue with the seriousness it deserves in his column today. Here's a sample:

[P]erched as we are here on the Mexican border, the effects [of illegal immigration] are impossible to ignore.


After years as an overcrowded boomtown, the Boston area is finally seeing a salubrious outflow of people. Since there's little more beneficial to regional economic health than reinforcing a national impression that we're becoming one of those historical ghost towns so popular with the tour buses, the governor could do even more to scare people off.

Here's one idea: He could take a remote harbor island and set up a detention center for the illegal immigrants he's apprehended. We could call it . . . Mittmo.
Lehigh goes on to defend (humble Elias would be flabbergasted) Attorney General Tom Reilly for pointing out that immigration is really an issue for the federal government by talking to other state Attorneys General who concur.

If you want to stop illegal immigration you only need to do two things. First, fine the companies that employ them more than they save by hiring them under the table. That will stop, or at least slow down the demand for their labor. Second, make it easier for people to come to the US legally. If it's really just the illegal part of illegal immigration that we're worried about, then we should have no problem increasing the number of legal immigrants. Guess what? Neither of those solutions are tools available to a state -- they're both controlled by the Federal Government, at least if you believe the Attorneys General quoted by Lehigh. Until the Feds act, most of the debate here in Massachusetts is just xenophobic demagoguery.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kerry Healey Should Know Better

The Phoenix's Adam Reilly has some of Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's remarks opposing legalized syringe sales from the statehouse today. Healey is opposed to allowing over-the-counter sale of syringes, even though it is proven to reduce the spread of blood borne diseases like AIDS and hepatitis, because a ten-year-old once found a needle on Boston Common and someone held up a convenience store with one. Note first, that these things happened even though needles are not legal to buy over the counter currently. Healey does not bother to explain why keeping them illegal would stop such things from happening. Also, as Adam points out, Healey is basing her opposition completely on anecdotal evidence, and not on any data or any study. The reason, of course, is because there are no studies that show an increase in needle waste, needle assaults or IV drug use after other states remove their bans on over the counter syringe sales.

The Mass Democrats released a statement today blasting Healey for her opposition to this important public safety measure. Current Middlesex DA and future Attorney General Martha Coakley had this to say about the bill:

"Based on the findings of several states that have already adopted similar legislation, there is no evidence that giving the public access to syringes will increase rates for crime and/or drug abuse," said Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley. "adopting this bill is a cost-effective measure that would help prevent the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases. Although studies reflect the benefits of increased syringe access, common sense tells us that adopting this legislation will put the Commonwealth on the path towards prevention of deadly infectious diseases."
The worst thing about this is that Kerry Healey should know better. She is, or at least claims to be, an expert in criminology. I saw her on NECN (I think it was Jim Braude's show, but I don't recall) saying that she decided to get into government because she saw a disconnect between the wealth of research that they had in the academic world and the decisions they made in government. Well, here's here chance. There's plenty of research that says over-the-counter sales of needles don't increase intravenous drug use. I pointed to some of it last week. Instead of relying on this research or the experience of the 47 other states that have this law, she decides do base her position on the fact that someone found a needle on the Common. She is clearly pandering at the expense of public health.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

State Should Stay Out of Deportation Business

John Daley is right. If Governor Romney goes through with his plan to have State Troopers act as immigration officials, you can forget about those communities reporting crimes. Places like Boston already have problems with witnesses coming forward. If people have to worry that they'll be deported if they talk to the cops, they simply won't. Even immigrants who are here legally will be more reluctant to cooperate for fear of a misunderstanding that could land them in jail. This will completely undermine efforts to gain the trust of these communities to root out serious crime and possible links to terrorism.

The Feds have no interest in enforcing immigration laws but why should we use state resources and jeopardize public safety here in Massachusetts to round up people who are otherwise not causing us any problems?

Romney Travel Cost Mass. Extra $40 Grand

Today's Globe has the story that while Governor Mitt Romney has ramped up his out-of-state travel in the past eleven months, he's also cost taxpayers nearly $40,000 more than the previous year in State Trooper security detail costs. Here are the numbers:

Travel, lodging, and meals for state troopers accompanying Romney cost $103,365 for the last 11 months, up from $63,874 that the security details cost during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2005, according to the records.
Romney's mouthpiece Eric Fehrnstrom, defended the security details, saying that every other governor in the nation had security travel with them. Of course, no one suggested that Governor Romney not have any security. The bigger issue is that Romney's constant out-of-state travel is actually costing the tax payers. I wonder if every other governor in the nation has spent nearly half of their time out of the state they govern. My guess is that Romney leads the pack on that measure.

Normally, Fehrnstrom would claim that whatever Romney is doing, former Governor Mike Dukakis did first in 1987 and 1988 while running for President. The Globe caught up with Dukakis, who had this to say for himself:
Dukakis, the last Massachusetts governor who ran for president, criticized the use of taxpayers' money to provide security details for Romney's trips. He said such a cost should be borne by a candidate's political committee. "I never traveled with a trooper," insisted Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee who spent much of 1987 and well into 1988 campaigning across America before he was given Secret Service protection. "It always seemed to me that the troopers should be out catching criminals, not holding my coat."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Patrick Maintains Lead In New Poll

CBS4 has released new poll by Survey USA on the Democratic primary. Here are the current results with the April results, also from SUSA, in parentheses:

Patrick 36% (36%)
Reilly 31% (33%)
Gabrielli 23% (19%)
Undecided 9% (11%)

Looking at the cross tabs, I'm not sure I would go so far as Herald reporter Kim Atkins, who says that Young people love Reilly, poor people like Gabrieli. Keep in mind that the margins of error for those subsamples are 11 and 10.5 respectively. One thing that is statistically significant, is Deval Patrick's 12 point lead over Tom Reilly amongst Democrats. The breakdown for Dems is Patrick 39%, Reilly 27%, Gabrieli 23%, with a MoE of 5.7. This is a steep drop from April for Reilly who had the support of 34% of Democrats in that poll. Reilly does, however, lead among Independents likely to vote in the Democratic primary with 39%, to Patrick's 30% and Gabrieli's 25%, and an MoE of 8.4.

There are things to be happy about for each campaign. Reilly can point to his Independent support, which he actually lost in April. Gabrieli saw his numbers go up slightly since April. While Patrick did not get the kind of convention bump that Shannon O'Brien did four years ago, he can take heart that Gabreili's media campaign has not affected his poll numbers.

One thing that I do want to point out again is the danger of internal polls. If you recall, the Gabrieli campaign released a poll just before the convention showing that Gabreili was leading with 33% of the vote, followed by Reilly and then Patrick. People who are not well versed in polls might think that Gabreili has plummeted ten points since the convention. This is not the case, of course, because the internal poll and the SUSA poll likely had widely different methodologies.

[UPDATE]: A commenter at Blue Mass. Group reminded me of the May SUSA poll which I somehow forgot. Here are the trends, including the May results and the March poll, which did not include Gabrieli:

Monday, June 19, 2006

Upcoming Watertown Events

Today, June 19th at 7:30 PM, East End Neighbors is having a meeting at Brigham House (341 Mt. Auburn St) with Watertown Superintendent of Public Works, Gerry Mee. Topics for discussion will be traffic calming on Maplewood St. and the Coolidge Square renovation study.

On Tuesday, June 20th, Representative Rachel Kaprielian will be having a rally/fundraiser at Marzo 29 in the Arsenal starting at 5:30 PM. Rep. Kaprielian is going to be opposed by a Republican this November, so this show of support is particularly important!

Next Wednesday, June 28th, there will be a Health Care Public Forum also at Brigham House, starting at 7:30 PM, sponsored by the Watertown Democratic Town Committee and Representative Peter Koutoujian. The panel will feature Rep. Koutoujian, John McDonough of Health Care for All, Dr. Julie Silverhart of Massachusetts Physicians for a National Health Program, Mt. Auburn Hospital CEO Jeannette Clough, and Dr. Alan Sager of BU School of Public Health & Policy. The event is free and open to the public. We're hoping for a good turnout, so don't miss this one.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Sampler

Another Friday, another list of things that I didn't get a chance to point out over the past week.

  • Perfectly Legal: The Globe reports today that Independent Gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos used a perfectly legal scheme to avoid sales and excise taxes on his 36-foot yacht. Mihos had his lawyer create a corporation in Rhode Island, where there is no sales tax on yachts, which bought the vessel. If you've read Perfectly Legal by David Kay Johnston, you know that this sort of thing goes on all the time and the super rich have ways of avoiding taxes that are not accessible to your average person.

  • Star Profiles Sullivan: Speaking of Mihos, the Winchester Star this week profiles local boy John Sullivan, Mihos' hand-picked running mate and Winchester Town Moderator. If you know nothing about this guy, which is probably everyone other than Dan Kennedy, it's a decent enough introduction.

  • Lynch on North-South Rail Link: Congressman Stephen Lynch along with Massachusetts Sierra Club Director James McCaffery wrote an Op-Ed in Wednesday's Globe in support of linking North Station and South Station by rail. The project, they estimate will cost $5.7 billion, but that figure, I understand includes enhancements not related to digging the mile long tunnel -- electrification of existing track, for example. The idea is a good one, and would finally create an uninterrupted transit line from Maine down to Florida, and being a regional project, the state would have help with funding. That said, I think area residents just will not have an appetite for large-scale transit projects any more, no matter how much sense they make. We're going to need a few years to forget about the Big Dig before anyone has the stomach for another tunnel under the city.

  • Half-Time Governor: The year is about half over and Governor Mitt Romney has spent half of it out-of-state. Channel 5 crunched the numbers and found that in the first five months of 2006, "Romney has been on the road part or all of the day for 75 of the 151 days" -- just shy of 50%.

  • Second Suffolk Write-In Primary: Be sure to check out last Sunday's Globe article on the Second Suffolk senate race where incumbent Senator Diane Wilkerson failed to get enough signatures to appear on the primary ballot and is now fighting off challenges from activist Sonia Chang-Diaz and Republican candidate Samiyah Diaz who are all trying to win the Democratic primary as write-ins. I wouldn't count out Wilkerson, but when no one's name appears on the ballot, anything can happen.

  • 100 Grand for Watertown Square: The folks over at the Globe's blog suggested we look through the $700 million supplemental spending bill (PDF). Our share of it: $100,000 for the repairs and renovation of the Charles river landing at Watertown square. Does anyone know any more details about the renovation?

What's on your mind?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Laughing Liberally This Weekend and Next

We just got back from "a small basement in Somerville" where Jimmy Tingle hosted Laughing Liberally: An Evening of Left-Leaning Political Humor. If you're a left-leaning person who likes comedy, or a conservative who can take a couple jokes at your party's expense, I'd recommend checking it out.

The show featured comedians Jimmy Tingle, Tim McIntire, Katie Halper, Dean Obeidallah, Baratunde Thurston and Julie Goldman. The only ones I was familiar with before this evening were Jimmy Tingle, who does a bit every morning on our local Air America Affiliate, and Baratunde, who I met briefly at last month's "Crashing the Gate" book signing and who happened to give me a copy of his book years ago outside a Cambridge screening of Fahrenheit 9/11. All the performers were great and I laughed my ass off. Even my wife was impressed -- and she was skeptical before we left, asking me "is this going to just be all Bush jokes?" There were some, to be sure, but it was much more than that. I thought it was hilarious.

The next shows are June 16, 17 and the 22-24 at 7:30 PM; with an additional show on Saturdays at 10 PM. More information and videos at Drinking Liberally Cambridge. You can also buy tickets online.

Mitt's PAC Growing Up

My very first post on this blog nearly a year and a half ago was on Governor Mitt Romney's Commonwealth PAC, and how his spreading money around early primary states indicated that he'd be running for president in 2008. Since that time, Romney has continued fundraising for his PAC and what was then mostly a collection of Mitt's buddies from Bain Capital has now grown, according to the Boston Globe, into a $1.6 million group of state and Federal PACs. As a state-level figure, Gov. Romney is not prohibited from creating state-level PAC affiliates, which he has done in such key primary states as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan. This creative solution allows him to raise money above and beyond the $5000 federal PAC limits. Now that Romney has declined to run for a second term for governor, he is also spending a lot more time fund raising for his PAC out-of-state. This is a huge change from a year ago when he denied that he had any control over what the PAC did with its money and who donated to it.

Of course, Romney is going to need a lot more than $1.6 million if he's going to win a presidential primary. He will be dogged by accusations that he is too liberal on abortion and gay rights (!) as he found out most recently in Idaho, and last year in his home state of Michigan. There is a certain 'truthiness' to the governor of Massachusetts being liberal, so Romney can certainly expect his primary opponents to spend millions on negative advertising portraying him in that light.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Nobody's Laughing

Last week, gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli set the cap on campaign spending for the Democratic primary at $15.36 million, the same number as the percentage he got at the Democratic Convention in Worcester that got him on the primary ballot. Gabrieli got to set the spending limit because he declined to participate in the state's public financing -- which would have set the cap at $1.5 million -- so the cap becomes the highest amount that any non-participating candidate declares they will spend. Recently, both of his Democratic competitors, Attorney General Tom Reilly and Deval Patrick, had already agreed to accept the public financing and released statements reacting to Gabreili's choice of cap. Patrick went so far as to record a video on the role of money in politics. He sent the following to his email list a few days ago:

[B]y choosing not to participate in the public financing, Chris gets to determine the spending cap for all of the campaigns. He set that cap at $15.36 million.

$15.36 million.

This is an unheard of amount for a gubernatorial primary in Massachusetts, and I feel it is an amount that sends a cynical message about our government and our political process. It reinforces the idea that politics is all about money and that elections can be bought.
In addition, today, I received the following email from the Reilly Campaign:
At the same time, my opponent has now declared that he is going to spend up to $15.36 million dollars in the three months between now and the September primary. That is in addition to the $3 million that he has already spent. That is an obscene amount of money by any standard. Worse still, he joked about the figure, as if spending limits and the amount of money in politics is some sort of punch line.

I believe it sends exactly the wrong message -- that the only people who can run for office are people of vast personal wealth.
Reilly goes on in his email to remind his supporters that he's the only candidate in the governor's race who's not a millionaire.

Conventional wisdom was that Gabrieli would set a high cap, one that neither of the other Democratic candidates would likely be able to reach. Still, my first thought was that it was bad form to treat the campaign finance as a joke, at the same time tweaking the delegates who put him on the ballot even though they were supporting other candidates (my second thought was to wonder if he's hiring a campaign blogger -- all that money's got to go somewhere, after all). The odd thing about it, is that by picking $15.36 million, Gabrieli made a news story out of it. If he had picked $8 or even $10 million, no one would have commented and he still would have plenty of leeway to outspend Reilly and Patrick. Clearly, he does not plan to spend the full amount -- the record for primary campaigns in Massachusetts is a modest-in-comparison $4.7 million. Instead, Gabrieli was forced to explain and defend the cap, and ended up pleading "C'mon, somebody, laugh!". I saw him on the news at one point saying "I hope you thought it was at least slightly humorous that I picked 15.36," (also quoted here). He kind of sounded like a bad stand-up comic whose joke just bombed imploring the audience for pity applause. I'm sure that's not the image that his campaign wanted to project.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bad Timing for Healey Pension Plan?

Am I the only one who thinks that it's crazy for Kerry Healey to be pushing her new pension scheme right now? The Dow lost 100 points yesterday and is down nearly 800 since this time last month. Is this the environment that you want to sell switching guaranteed pensions over to 401(k) style plans? I'm looking at my 401(k) right now and, let me tell you, it's not pretty. Of course, having said that the market will probably rebound today just to prove me wrong.

Offering 401(k) plans will be cheaper for the state, that's true. That's why almost every corporation has dropped their pension plan in favor of them. That's a small comfort, however, to the worker that plans to retire at the bottom of a bear market.

I do think that consolidating local pension boards is probably a good idea. I've often thought that there are a lot of savings that can be had if we reduce the overhead for cities and towns by encouraging them to pool resources. I'm not sure I'd put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, but I don't see any reason that there should be more than one pension board for every three cities and towns in Massachusetts.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Most Congressional Seats Unopposed

It appears that our Congressional delegation here in Massachusetts is going mostly unopposed this year. CQPolitics from Congressional Quarterly has the story here:

Republicans are fielding candidates in just three of the 10 districts: the 6th, where businessman Rick Barton is taking on five-term Democratic Rep. John F. Tierney; the 9th, where Jack E. Robinson III, a landslide loser to Kennedy in the 2000 Senate race, will oppose two-term Rep. Stephen F. Lynch; and the 10th, where businessman Jeff Beatty is taking on five-term Democratic Rep. Bill Delahunt.

Lynch is the only incumbent who is facing a primary challenger. He is expected to easily defeat Phil Dunkelbarger, who owns a seafood trading and export company.
I knew about challenges to Tierney and Delahuntt this year, but I had no idea that they were bringing Jack E. Robinson back out of the woodwork. Robinson was last seen losing to Secretary of State Bill Galvin in 2002. He is perhaps best known in Massachusetts for crashing his car during a live radio interview during his loss in 2000 to Senator Kennedy. The state party eventually withdrew their support from Robinson and he ended up barely even beating Libertarian candidate Carla Howell with 13% of the vote to her 12%.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Facts For Needle Debate

On Wednesday, the state Senate passed a bill that would legalize the sale of syringes without a prescription. Increasing the availability of these needles, supporters say, will help prevent the spread of diseases like AIDS and hepatitis B and C among intravenous drug users. More needles, less needle sharing, fewer opportunities to spread blood-borne disease.

The House passed a similar bill in November, but for some unexplained procedural reason must pass both houses again before going to Governor Mitt Romney who plans to veto the measure. Romney's spokesman raised fears of the program undermining our ability to enforce drug laws and claimed that we'd now be seeing dirty needles all over our parks and playgrounds. Kerry Healey, who also opposes the measure, called it a threat to public safety, since it makes it easier for drug users to use drugs.

Of course, what the bill's opponents don't ever seem to mention is that 47 other states already have this law on their books. If it were a public safety disaster, you would think that fewer than 94% of the US would allow over-the-counter sale of these needles. It also means that there should be lots of data about what actually happens once this law is implemented.

To my mind, there are four questions that I am interested in regarding this bill:

1) Does it reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases? If the law doesn't help curb AIDS and hepatitis, then there's no point in enacting it. Help Stop AIDS cites evidence from Connecticut that syringe sharing dropped 40% after enacting this law. Access to clean needles has been shown to reduce AIDS or hepatitis in New Haven, Tacoma, Australia and New York City.

2) Does it increase the use of illegal intravenous drugs? Opponents all claim that it makes using these drugs easier, so intuitively one might think that increasing the availability of needles will increase the use of drugs that require needles. The Drug Policy Alliance notes that there have been seven major government-funded reports which show that access to sterile syringes does not increase drug use. There have been no reports that contradict these findings. A study published in 2001 in the American Journal of Public Health found no statistically significant increase in IV drug use between cities where needles were available over-the-counter and those where they were not.

3) Does it increase the risk to law enforcement officers of needlestick injuries? If there are more needles available, will they be increasingly used as weapons? According to the Drug Policy Forum of MA, in Connecticut, there was a 66% decrease in syringe stick injuries to police officers over a six-month period after pharmacy sales legislation passed. I have not found any studies that show an increase in needlestick injuries after allowing over-the-counter sales of syringes.

4) Does it increase needle waste? The bill that was passed by the Senate just legalizes the sale of these needles, and is not a needle exchange program. With needle exchange programs, there is not a risk of increased needle waste because one has to return used needles before getting clean ones. To combat needle waste, the bill also proposes fines of up to $15,000 for needle litterers. It also creates needle collection centers through the department of health, medical facilities and the pharmacies themselves. A pilot program in Baltimore that created boxes for needle disposal was a success there.

Those questions answered, the only thing left to ask is why, since she is supposed to be an expert criminologist, Kerry Healey does not support these measures.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mihos To Announce Lieutenant Tomorrow

The Phoenix's Adam Reilly has the scoop straight from Christy Mihos himself:

"It is someone who has earned it. Earned it in the sense that they've had a multifaceted career, and if anything ever happened to me, I would feel absolutely confident that that person could step in and...could do the job, and would finish the job, and would not ever look to run for anything else, or to leave the Commonwealth."
Whoever he picked would have to have been unenrolled since early March. As such, his pick is unlikely to be involved in recent electoral politics, unless he or she changed party affiliation months ago. Are there any prominent Massachusetts independents? Did he pull someone out of the political mothballs? Anyone have any guesses?

Part of me wonders if he's picked a more left-leaning person with the idea of running on a unity ticket.

UPDATE: The Globe says it's John J. Sullivan, Town Moderator of Winchester. Who?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Punditry Roundup

First, on Sunday Joan Vennochi compared Deval Patrick to Howard Dean. It's a comparison I made just last week. What Vennochi leaves out in her parallel is that both candidates are seen as more liberal than they are by virtue of their supporters. Both are liberal-by-association more than anything else -- Dean was pilloried in Vermont by environmental groups, and Patrick spent most of his career as a corporate lawyer.

The Herald's Margery Egan has a very flattering column today on Patrick. Egan asks of Patrick, "What does he offer your semi-employed middle-aged guy in Waltham? Defeat of cynicism?" and then answers her question in the very next paragraph:

If I were Deval, I'd become Mr. Property Tax Relief Man, something he says he's working on.
Patrick, to me, is the only sane person talking about property tax relief. He needs to talk more about that and contrast his plan to increase local aid with Christy Mihos' scheme. Also, note the quote at the end of the column from former state Senator George Bachrach who briefly describes our early morning caucus planning sessions at the Watertown diner.

In today's Globe, Scot Lehigh gives some publicity to Patrick's grassroots strategy. He even mentions the community tool, which is the centerpiece of the campaign's Internet-based effort. Lehigh asks whether a strategy that focuses on organization at the local level can win in today's media saturated environment. Personally, I'm willing to give it a try. Democrats certainly haven't won by relying on campaign ads recently.

Last, but not least, Herald Reporter/Blogger Jay Fitzgerald posts part of an email I sent him before the convention in response to his claim that out-of-control moonbats would doom the Democrats' chances this November. I disagreed, but mostly I rejected his premise that Deval Patrick would walk away from this past weekend's convention as the sole remaining candidate.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Irregular Vote Totals For LG and SoS Races

A reader sent me a spreadsheet with this tally of the convention votes provided by the party today and pointed to some mystery with the vote totals. While the final percentages equal what the party reported, some of the results on the chart are a little strange and two in particular stand out. The first, and biggest discrepancy is that there are 100 extra votes for Lieutenant Governor in the Second Suffolk district. There were 184 votes cast in that district for Secretary of State (115 for Bonifaz, 66 for Galvin, 3 no votes) and 186 votes cast for Governor (15 for Gabrieli, 143 for Patrick, 24 for Reilly and 4 no votes). At the same time, the party reports 284 votes for Lieutenant Governor -- with Deb Goldberg getting 50, Tim Murray getting 137 and Andrea Silbert getting 91. At first I thought it might be a mistake in transcribing the results to the party's web page, but the sums and percentages check out with the extra hundred votes. It's hard to imagine that they would have missed something this large.

At the same time, the Plymouth & Barnstable District Secretary of State race is missing 50 votes. According to the party's web page, Galvin got 25 votes there while Bonifaz got 18, for a total of 43 votes. In the Governor and Lieutenant Governor races in that district, there were a total of 93 votes. Here are those vote totals in table format:

DistrictTotal Votes SecStateTotal Votes LGTotal Votes Gov
Second Suffolk184284186
Plymouth & Barnstable439393

Now, I'm sure there's an explanation for these discrepancies, and they don't change who won the endorsement or who got on the ballot. It may just be that the campaigns didn't care to challenge the results for those offices. Still, I find it disturbing that there are these large anomalies in the vote totals, particularly after the party spent so many hours counting them on Saturday.

My Big Media Weekend

Okay, it's not much, but it's not every weekend that I'm on the local news and in the local paper. This Sunday, I was in the Boston Globe's Globe West section for the post I wrote a few weeks back with a map of Watertown after the sea level rises.

Not only that, but a co-worker told me this morning that he saw me on Channel 4 this weekend. Don't blink! You'll miss it. Just keep an eye out for the guy with his shirt on backwards.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Post-Convention Thoughts & Observations

I hope you all will forgive me for not blogging during this weekend's Democratic State Convention. For blogger's-eye-view coverage of what happened over the weekend, see the relevant posts at Left In Lowell, Mass Revolution Now and Blue Mass. Group. The papers all have their coverage, too, and I particluarly liked this report from the Globe.

As for myself, my experience was completely different. I was one of the Senate District "whips" for Deval Patrick on the convention floor. That meant I was responsible for making sure all of Deval Patrick's delegates were there and to record the votes for the campaign. As such, I was working during the convention -- in constant contact with the campaign -- and I honestly couldn't tell you much of what happened on the stage. I was working during most of the speeches -- I don't even remember the Secretary of State candidates even taking the stage -- and so I can't offer much by way of analysis myself.

Some comments and random observations from my time on the floor:

  • Deb Goldberg probably lost votes because of her video presentation. I didn't catch most of it, but I heard complaints from a couple different sources. Andrea Silbert won at least one vote for her speech.
  • I had my Deval Patrick T-Shirt on backwards the entire day without noticing.
  • Deval Patrick's speech reminded me why I agreed to do this. Other people said they were reenergized by it and offered to do whatever was necessary. When he asked people to stand with him, all his supporters stood up and raised their placards, I turned around -- I could see the entire convention hall from my vantage point at the front on the floor --and just saw a sea of blue. Not only that, but you could hear a pin drop during his speech, at least when people weren't cheering like crazy.
  • Both Tom Reilly and Bill Galvin live in my State Senate district. Both candidates voted for themselves, but Reilly did not vote for a Lieutenant. I imagine that the other gubernatorial candidates did the same. Interestingly enough, Galvin did not cast a vote for Governor, even though he sent a phone message out to supporters in the days before the convention telling them to support Chris Gabrieli.
  • Thank goodness Andrea Silbert and Tim Murray agreed to a voice vote on the second ballot. Someone asked me if I thought Silbert could have won on a roll call vote. If she forced people to stay for another vote, she would have lost whatever goodwill she had, and not only that but more of Murray's base was local than was Silbert's. His delegates would have stuck around; hers had a ferry to catch.
  • Some of the more amusing and improbable rumors I overheard: an imposter in a Tom Reilly T-Shirt was trying to steal convention books from Reilly's whips; Gabrieli supporters were supposedly hanging out by the unpaid delegates table offering to pay the fees in exchange for votes.
  • People kept asking me why it took so long for the party to count the votes when the campaigns likely already knew the results -- we were in every senate district writing them down. Apparently the delay occurred because the campaigns were challenging the vote results. This would have been a good time to vote on charter amendments, if only to pass the time.
  • A group of delegates we had identified as Reilly supporters switched to Gabrieli en masse during the voting. I heard other whips saying similar things happened in their districts. Were we wrong, were they convinced or was a deal made? We may never know.
  • I lost three pounds over the course of the convention day. I'm considering going on an all-convention diet.
I'd never been to a nominating convention before. In fact, I'd never volunteered for a candidate before. In 2002, I voted for Reich, but not much else. In '04, I sent John Kerry a check and voted for him in the general, but that's about it. Deval Patrick inspired me and countless other first-timers to finally get involved. I still can't believe that I went from bystander to coordinating on the convention floor in just a few months. Would I do it again? Ask me again in 2010. If we all work together, that one will be a re-nominating convention.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Convention Begins Tonight!

The convention starts tonight! If you're a delegate and can make it for the Friday session -- please do. Despite assurances from the state party that there will be no shenanigans, there are rumors still swirling.

There's not much time for a full post on anything, but I did want to note that the Havard Crimson, of all places has the best coverage of last night's rally with Deval Patrick and Senator Barack Obama. The event was great -- neither speaker disappointed. I've heard, and even said that comparisons between the two are superficial, but they both talked about messages of hope and community last night. Patrick has been accused of borrowing his message from Senator Obama, but I again heard echoes tonight of Patrick's 1994 speech. Let the record show that Patrick was talking about these themes since he started with the Clinton administration.

Also, the Globe today twice mentions our caucus success here in Watertown. Thanks again to all of you who helped make that happen!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Patrick Rally With Barack Obama Tonight

Tonight is the big pre-convention rally/fundraiser at the Hynes Convention center for Deval Patrick with special guest Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). It should be a great event, and I'm really looking forward to hearing both of these dynamic speakers one after the other. I'm sure there are a lot of people in Boston who were at the '04 DNC and heard Obama's keynote live. I watched it on TV, but both my wife and I were blown away. I hope the Senator's return to Boston is just as memorable.

Adrian Walker mentions the event today in his column. Here's what Patrick himself is saying about it:

"He represents the future of not just the Democratic Party, but of enlightened American leadership," Patrick said of Obama. "He's a thoughtful, serious person who's looking to be a problem solver, not just a partisan." He pauses. "Also, he's a rock star, and we can raise a lot of money."
The rest of that column is well worth reading and the beginning of a discussion of why some are reluctant to discuss race in the context of Patrick's candidacy.

If you'd like to go to the rally, you can get a your ticket on the 3rd floor of the Hynes Convention Center today between noon and the event start. The cost is $50 a ticket. They'll take checks or credit cards, but not cash. Doors open at 6:00PM.