Archive for April, 2007

Handguns and Raw Nerves

Cross-posted at Marry in Massachusetts and Harrumph! This promiscuous cross-posting is a first for me, but we ended up kicking the handguns issue up and down the hall in our podcast. Previously, my regular blogs had a related post.

Sometimes I go out of my way to offend people and other times it just seems to happen.

If you picked up on the Bubbling Cauldron podcast this week with the handguns discussion, you might want to head over to the original comments and counterpoints that led to the topic.

I originally stifled handgun remarks as long as I could before posting. As well as our podcast, this led to very different and rather unstereotypical rejoinders at Scratches, a chum’s blog. As I, he also bubbled over here and here and here.

You might not think of it from our posts and comments, but we actually are fairly civil, even in our disagreements. He and I share a profession, but come from sufficiently different backgrounds to make discussions sometimes tense and often unpredictable. We don’t go for how ’bout them Sox or the like.

I see a gate opening, leading to a long journey here. I still find America to be socially slow. Here, I see a progressive opportunity to work actively to make major changes in our handgun-loving culture.

Over at Scratches, Uncle has a very different perspective. Yet, it’s not the stereotypical, “Don’t you dare touch my guns!”

I suspect each of us would welcome comments on the subject. We concur that the Democrats have been absolute cowards about addressing this and the related issues of violence…on the street, at home, in the schools and elsewhere.

I see this as the time for change.
–Mike

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Next Week — Musical Chairs

The stakes in the 5th Congressional District special election are high. So we shouldn’t be surprised by a field crowded with accomplished Democrats, and a Republican, even before there is officially an open seat.

Our next podcast includes the usual suspects, plus guest Dick Howe. We’ll concentrate on the 5th CD. Dick has been running the broadest and deepest coverage of the race at his blog. He is the same multi-talented fellow who is Middlesex North register of deeds, a board member of Lowell Telecommunications, political activist, and oh, he grew up in politics as son of a 40-year member of the city council. He brings keen insights.

We’ll be holding forth Tuesday, May 1st, from 7:30 p.m. for an hour or so. You can listen live to the stream at our podcast site or check back here shortly after for a link to the show. We’ll list it in our archives and on the sidebar. From either, you can stream it in zombie form or download it.

Expect coverage of state special elections as well and comments on any development in the battle between the governor and speaker of the house.

—Mike

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A Few Big Themes

This week’s podcast, Bubbling Cauldron, dealt with some local elections and several big issues. Unfortunately, Lynne couldn’t join us, but that didn’t stop Ryan and me from holding forth on the 5th Congressional District race to replace the almost-resigned Marty Meehan. He should formally announce on May 9th. We expect to have Lynne, from his district, in next week and may bring in a guest commentator.

While the massacre in Virginia dominated our attention, several local and broader progressive issues emerged. In Massachusetts, the continuing power struggle between the legislature and governor combined with Gov. Deval Patrick’s rejection of abstinence-only sex education funding were the topics de jour. These deal with who is going to set the policy agenda and how progressive will it be.

Head to Head

In the case of the legislature, House Speaker Sal DiMasi sits where much power resided in the past two decades of Republican governors. He can’t seem to cooperate and share at a time when great progressive advances seem possible. DiMasi is often on the good side of social issues, but can’t seem to break with big-business on funding. It’s sleazy, old-style politics.

His approach has been to bleed the commonwealth’s case reserves instead of reversing decades of tax cuts and special treatment for corporations. They pay among the nation’s lowest rates here, while our property taxes have climbed. Citizen taxes are still inadequate to keep the state perking.

We’re looking for Patrick to get his way, either by letting DiMasi claim credit for compromise or forcing it otherwise. Too much depends on it for any other outcome.

Time for Culture Shift

We couldn’t stay off of gun control either, but not as a punitive-legal issue. Instead, we need a cultural change and believe it is possible. (Isn’t that always like progressives, going for the underlying issue and not a symptom? That’s the hard approach.)

With nearly 20,000 Americans dying annually from handguns, it’s well past time to change the nation’s gun culture. We can shift down to hunters and those who want to protect their livestock. While the majority of us want strict handgun licensing, registration and enforcement, only an Australian-style sea change will work. There, 11 years ago following a massacre very similar to last week’s in Virginia, they did tighten up laws and enforcement, and instituted a vigorous buy-back. They have had zero mass murders every since, while the rates for handgun crimes of passion, including suicide, have plunged. When it comes to hand guns in America, it’s time to say enough is enough.

Blog of the Week

This week’s pick by Ryan for Blog of the Week was Dan Berstein’s post last Friday on the new anti-crime council. Bernstein was disappointed in many of the choices, and did a little further digging. It’s one of the few instances where I haven’t been ecstatic by Governor Patrick’s committee choices. There was too much stick and not enough carrot – and too many people involved in the status quo, not enough people who are creating innovative change.

icon for podpress  Bubbling Cauldron [56:05m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Beginning of the End of the Pork Era?

Cross-posted at Marry in Massachusetts.

This is goodness and promising. The Boston Globe has a front-page piece on the shameful pork barrel politics in our own state house.

May this be the first flicker as they turn up the heat. This is the wrong time and place for bringing home the bacon or whatever cliché you choose. Both at the national and state level, voters want at least an effort to move away from such waste and disregard for the voters.

Humbling note:
I rant much and often on the inadequacy of the Globe‘s reporting, or lack thereof. Lisa Wangsness has consistently done the best political coverage. The paper’s recent history suggests they’ll fire her in cost cutting. Let us hope not.

I bet that the Herald and Phoenix will join this chant. It’s Readers Digest/Rush Limbaugh perfect for circulation. Self-serving legislators pander to their constituents with old-style pork. They tuck wasteful expenses into useful bills. Then they can go home saying, “See what I did for you.” They expect campaign contributions and votes in exchange.

This is 2007. Voters say they are sick of that. They overwhelmingly elected a new executive team to bring progressive politics back to Massachusetts. That leads to several questions, including:

  • Will the MSM pound on the most shameless legislators?
  • Are voters fed up enough to give up their small local benefits for the larger good?
  • Will publicizing these abuses cause voters to scream and even other legislators to out each other’s pork barreling?

The other euphemism for this waste is earmarking. The article noted that the House included 1,4780 amendments to the budget just introduced by legislators. Hundreds of these are stealing from the public for pork. “The amendments, which include so-called earmarks and broader proposals to increase the budgets of various agencies, total ‘well north of $500 million and counting,’ a Ways and Means Committee source said.”

Put another way, these expenditures reduce the amount available for funding Gov. Deval Patrick’s progressive policies. His aim to set foundations that will better our lives in general and many of which will produce job growth and other revenue enhancement. Pork that gets gobbled up in a single community and produces nothing are not in the same class.

The RD-style list of shame does not appear to be online. However, the print edition highlights a few of these, including:

  • $100,000 — Mayflower II 50th anniversary celebration
  • $350,000 — Melrose stadium lighting
  • $25,000 — therapeutic horseback riding and other alternative therapies pilot program
  • $150,000 — UMASS study of winter moth worm

So at the least, each Rep who wants to play local philanthropist with state money should have to defend vigorously every earmark.

Unfortunately, this article did not tie which piggy wanted to add which amendment to his or her trough. That must be part of future coverage.

Like our colonial heritage of the public stocks, shaming can only be good here.

Update: Tip of the toupee to sco for pointing to the list of the 1,487 earmark amendments. Click on one to see who’s pushing it for what end.

—Mike

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Podcast Archive

If you want to download individual podcasts for replay off your computer, choose the show you want below. Right click on the title and save the MP3 file to disk.

Our podcasts are available in several streaming formats by visiting here. If you want to download individual podcasts for replay off your computer, choose the show you want below. Right click on the title and save the MP3 file to disk.

DATE TITLE TOPICS LENGTH SIZE-MB
3/11/8 Blob of Bloggers We detail next month’s BlogLeft gathering, plus sundry politics. 44 min. 10.4MB
3/4/8 Questionable Casinos Mike does quick hits on casino proposal using iffy figures and progressives having to guess whose for civil rights. 29 min. 6.7MB
2/26/8 Bumbling Toward Casinos We discuss the unlikeliness of casinos as a revenue panacea and hit on what we want to see from the governor and legislature instead. 64 min. 15MB
2/19/8 Attack of the Blogs We kick around how important different types of blogs are in campaigns and beyond. 59 min. 14MB
2/12/8 Eying Hillary v. Barack Quarreling (and a bit of quibbling) over the attributes of the two Dem candidates. 43 min. 10.2MB
2/5/8 Super Prove Day Mike only with a short check-in on Super Tuesday. 12 min. 2.8MB
1/29/8 Now It Gets Interesting The Presidential candidates choke and fall. Change in November is inevitable, but we ask what kind and under whose direction. 44 min. 10.2MB
1/22/8 Courts: Bystanders or Big Shots? We bring in David Yas, head of Mass. Lawyers Weekly to decipher how the SJC and other courts act, or don’t. 50 min. 11.8MB
1/15/8 Mitt and the Abyss Michigan (and Nevada and South Carolina) primary, heavy on the GOP, plus wind turbines and education. 43 min. 10MB
1/8/8 The The Also-Ran Bucket Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, with from-the-road comments from Humble Elias. 53 min. 12.5
1/2/8 The Prez: Fearless Forecasts We look at the pending Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. 61 min. 14.2
12/18/7 Parents Rights and Wrongs Ryan calls in from the State House casino hearing after we talk about the extreme parents-rights subgroups. 65 min. 15.3
12/11/7 He’ll Be Your Huckabee In which we snort at Mike Huckabee and the other leading GOP candidates. 64 min. 14.9
12/4/7 Term Limits for Boston Pols Boston City Councilor John Tobin joins us. 64 min. 15.1
11/27/7 Gambliing with Our Future Laura Everett of Casino Free Massachusetts joins us. 56 min. 13.2
11/20/7 School for Progressive Politics Ryan learns more about how to elect progressives. We kick around term limits, down to Boston mayor and city councilors. 42 min. 9.8
11/14/7 Sorting Sundries Ryan went to a New Bedford casino forum – and spoke. We hit on die-hard anti-gays, cooperation between governor and house speaker, and Boston public safety among others. 55 min. 13
11/6/7 Big Ideas on Hold We still talking about whether our governor can get the legislature with his program. Plus there’s local elections, protesters at theThe Laramie Projectand more. 49 min. 11.4
10/30/7 Things Boston We kicked around the pending City Council election, with the threat to Team Unity Councilors. We spoke of what had to continue and what had to change to make Boston great again. 54 min. 12.6
10/23/7 Free speech and bullies We examine the Cirignano/Loy trial and its implications, with Pie and Coffee and WCCA-TV’s Mike Benedetti. Plus, we hit on trends in casino gambling here. 56 min. 13.2
10/16/7 5th CD results and More ENDA Ryan and Lynne chatted up Niki’s race and more on ENDA. She called in from Tsongas HQ and Mike did a mobile on his mobile, reporting the first day of the Cirignano trial from the train. 64 min. 15,1
10/9/7 ENDA Conundrum a tightening race in the 5th Congressional District and lots of casino theater make for a notable week. 64 min. 15,1
10/2/7 5th CD and Progressive Opportunities a tightening race in the 5th Congressional District and lots of casino theater make for a notable week. 36 min. 8.6
9/25/7 Lock ’em up We hit on prison reform, casinos in lieu of other revenue sources, and the GM strike. 54 min. 12.7
9/18/7 Casino Battles Loom We take a first look at Deval Patrick’s casinos proposal, whose for and against, how likely it would be to help the state, and what shot it has in the legislature. We discuss Patrick’s excellent 9/11 speech. 54 min. 12.7
9/11/7 The Election Season We dissect the 5th CD primary results, ask if we see any increased safety from our post-9/11 ventures, and discuss the much-delayed report on casino gambling here. 36 min. 8.5
9/4/7 After the Cheers MassEquality’s Marc Solomon joins us to talk about the amendment battle and what’s next. We range from local to national. 55 min. 12.9
8/30/7 U.S. Rep Juggernaut? Dick Howe joins to handicap the 5th CD primary. Whose likely to win, who should win, what that victory will mean in issues and next year’s election. 63 min. 14.9
8/21/7 Whose Ox? Ryan and Mike muse on whether the legislators can transcend pork feeding, on the Larry Cirignano case, and on the looming 5th CD primary. 40 min. 9.5
8/14/7 Still Taking Names Know Thy Neighbor’s Tom Lang joins us on marriage equality and the Presidential campaign. 62 min. 14
8/7/7 Toxins in the Statutes Wiretapping and casinos. 40 min. 14.2
7/31/7 You Betcha, Voters We hit on casinos coming (maybe) to Massachusetts following the downstate vote. Plus, the 5th CD updates. 32 min. 7.5
7/24/7 Bad Laws, Stupid Laws Massachusetts is not free from restrictive marriage laws, destructive variants of ballot initiatives, and more. 44 min. 10.3
7/17/7 Just How Progressive? We ended up talking up Al Gore after hitting the 5th CD development and concentrating on what Gov. Patrick can accomplish in his first year. 53 min. 12.3
7/10/7 The Possible and the Ideal What can we reasonably expect in Massachusetts after two decades of infrastructure neglect. Plus, we kick the impeachment can up and down the hall. 53 min. 12.3
7/3/7 And Then What? Just Ryan and Mike. We started on the commonwealth budget with no new corporate taxes to fund it. The Scooter Libby travesty of sentence commutation dominated. Ryan ended up on casinos. 65 min. 14.8
6/26/7 Hunger for Congress Our take on the endorsement of marriage equality by the commonwealth’s legislature. What’s next for all sides and what cleanup must follow. 89 min. 19.7
6/19/7 Love & Liberty in Massachusetts Our take on the endorsement of marriage equality by the commonwealth’s legislature. What’s next for all sides and what cleanup must follow. 65 min. 15.2
6/12/7 Faint Hearts/Stout Hearts Update and musing on this week’s ConCon. A questioning caller from St. Louis. All Three of us endorsed Jamie Eldridge for the 5th CD to replace Marty Meehan. 66 min. 15.6
6/5/7 DINOs and Diehards How Democratic are our legislators, including Senate President T. Murray, plus 5th CD candidates on health care, Pride Week and more 53 min. 12.4
5/29/7 The Great Divide sco joins us (about 30 minutes in) to handicap the 5th CD, after we hit health care, funding and casinos 73 min. 16.7
5/22/7 Health Mass ’05 Sorting throught health-care confusion, updates on the 5th CD rate and a bit of the ConCon. 59 min. 13.9
5/8/7 Battles Back on Beacon Hill The ConCon and consideration of anti-marriage-equality amendment set to start. Bay Windows‘ Susan Ryan-Vollmar guest. 64 min. 15.1
5/1/7 Musical Chairs Continuing Wresting by Gov. and House Speaker. Other races. Abstinence education and even gun control. 67 min. 15.3
4/24/7 Bubbling Cauldron Continuing Wresting by Gov. and House Speaker. Other races. Abstinence education and even gun control. 58 min. 13.1
4/17/7 Big Cheese House Speaker and Governor battle budgets and laws. U.S. Rep. race update. 57 min. 13.0
4/10/7 Here, There, Everywhere State and Congressional special elections. Old-media/new-media forum. 67 min. 15.3
4/3/7 Hot Months of Spring Local and state special elections. 2007 ConCon 27 min. 6.1
3/27/7 Jumping in with Six Feet We introduce ourselves and start our commentary 59 min. 13.9

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Legislative Battle, Lowell Flooding, 5th CD

The sometimes irascible Massachusetts Liberal blogger had Mike’s post of the week. The gist is that Deval Patrick both marched and stumbled through his first 100 days as governor. He has already made big changes and we should expect more.

The post cites a few trends, like creating a two-way communications infrastructure for citizen involvement and revamping the attitude and procedures for criminal justice. In the latter, there seems to be a long overdue shift toward real rehabilitation rather than just punishment for its own sake. This smells of the Apple Computer THINK DIFFERENT campaign and we should be better off for it.

Lynne’s favorite Blog of the Week goes hyper-local but truly shows the power of the blogs…this past week, there was a Lowell scandal regarding the almost offhand (patently false) remark in the “news” by local radio WCAP “News” Director Gary Francis, regarding candidate for MA-05 Eileen Donoghue. The original remark was immediately picked up by RichardHowe.com, then updated quickly to reflect the changing story. Later, Dick posted transcripts of that segment of the radio show (Lynne’s actual Favorite Blog of the Week), which caused a firestorm at WCAP, the Lowell Sun, and pretty much everyone else who pays attention. You can see an update here, where Dick Howe went on the radio the following Monday morning to defend his transcript, because according to people who heard the show, that was the first attack they could come up with.

Ryan’s Blog of the Week is Dick Howe’s post on Marty Meehan’s intentions at UMASS Lowell. Howe traces some of Meehan’s statements and suggests that the Chancellor post isn’t one Marty plans on having for any longer than – perhaps – when the next Senate seat opens up. Howe’s post is a lesson in both the good and bad about Meehan’s legacy as a United States Congressman: while he could be one of the strongest proponents on important issues of the day, such as campaign finance reform, he was also the type of candidate to horde his own campaign flow. He’s the type of congressman who’d leave his seat to serve as the Chancellor of UMASS Lowell to help that school, but also the type of person who’d only do it until something better comes along. Is it wrong? No. UMASS Lowell knows what it’s getting. However, it’s something voters ought to be aware of if he’s ever in a Senate primary.

icon for podpress  Big Cheese [56:57m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Big News in Ma-05

DiPaulo’s out and Meehan’s in – err, his wife, that is. She’s Niki Tsongas’s new campaign manager. So much for Meehan staying above the fray…

Here’s my take on everything, Susan 495 has more – as well as Mimi over at LeftinLowell.

~Ryan

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Talking Heads Appearing

Dick Howe is, thank La Folette, impatient. The wonderful, helpful Lowell Telecommunications Corporation provided the service of taping the 5th Congressional District forum Dick and our Lynne hosted last weekend. However, LTC does not always move at internet speed.

It will eventually have the works edited and available on its site. We’ll let you know when they do.

Wait no longer though. Dick has two up now on his blog or available from his YouTube section.

Opening statements from Eileen Donoghue and Jim DiPaola are first up.

The forum left numerous questions that require dogging the candidates, even before there formally is a seat opening to announce. Where do they stand on single-payer health care? How can they differentiate themselves in legislative emphasis and goals?

Check Dick’s site. Expect a more detailed, longer, debate-style session with them, and look for more in our Tuesday podcasts.

—Mike

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Marty’s Seat and NENF Conference

Be sure to see Ryan’s featured blog of the week. We’ll try to make this a regular highlight/lowlight of the podcast.

Mike also got in the swing with a post at Gotham Gazette. The New York City blog had a post that should be as meaningful in the Boston area. Blogger Marcus Banks focused on two related developments:

  • Mayor Bloomberg started Opportunity NYC, which pays low-income parents for keeping thir kids in school, taking them for physicals, and looking for job training or employment.
  • Up in the dirt-poor Bronx, an advisory committee is trying to expand high-speed Net connections.

We say it’s long past due for spreading opportunities. The poor and under educated have to break out of this cycle at all levels. Giving them access to information is the progressive duty.

In our discussion, Ryan and Mike kicked around the weekend conference before Lynne joined us. She added her take and we riffed on the 5th Congressional Candidates to replace Marty Meehan for U.S. Congress.

We reveled in the ascendancy of new media in political campaigns, both in how we are accepted and in the opportunities this year and next. With more daily MSM running press releases and verbatim quotes with little else, bloggers and others have a chance to force the discussion to key issues. In the 5th, for example, no one other than bloggers seems interested in how the seven candidates would differentiate themselves and what their goals would be on such big subjects as universal health care.

We are looking for Dick Howe to take the lead on a candidate forum.

We ended up recapping and forecasting on the pending Constitutional Convention, and what is likely to happen with the anti-marriage-equality amendment.

icon for podpress  Here, There, Everywhere [67:06m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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This Week’s Favorite Blogs

Bringing a little regular content to each week’s webisode, every week Lynne, Michael and I will present our Blogs of the Week. We’ll discuss why it’s important, why it’s our favorite blog of the week and hopefully promote the blog to our audience. Then, we’ll post a link and quick write up afterwards on this blog. Without further ado, here’s this week’s best:

Ryan’s Blog of the Week

David Eisenthal’s BMG Dairy.

There’s nothing in Patrick’s budget as important as closing corporate tax loopholes: increased educational spending relies on it – as well as any hope on property tax relief. Eisenthal wrote an important piece on how misleading the Boston Globe’s coverage was on its polling numbers of Mass citizens in terms of closing the corporate tax loopholes. Why did I like Eisenthal’s post so much? It wasn’t anything earth shattering, but it did three important things:

1. It alerts the public to a key fact – that Democrats support closing the corporate tax loophole by a wide margin. Beacon Hill would do well to remember.

2. It challenges the Globe’s key assertain in the article, that the support for closing these loopholes is somehow lukewarm. The people who elect our public officials are overwhelmingly in support of tax fairness reform – even if some professor tries to suggest otherwise.

3. The blog brings up a point that’s just plain old important. All blogs should be relevant and there’s no way to close the budget deficit without closing these loopholes. The more information people get about this poignant issue, the better.

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