Archive for April, 2014

GOP v. This and That Woman Pol

We dug into how Republicans at state and national levels are playing Whac-A-Woman — trying to pound down any female pol who might be a solid threat, particularly for President. We started with Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren.

As usual, Ryan is much more forgiving than Mike, seeing winger slandering of individual women as hardwired reactions and not thoughtful, willful sexism. We did concur though on the lunacy of denigrating the credentials and accomplishments of the likes of Warren and Clinton. Click below to hear what we think of the solid footing of these and other potential candidates.

Starting in 2011 with Warren’s elite-hick joke that became a winger meme, into the fake-Cherokee version, into blaming Clinton for her husband’s infidelity and then the murder of U.S. embassy staff, shameless efforts have attacked these two. The sole motivation seems to be that they threaten the pathetic GOP bullpen for the 2016 POTUS race.

Mike figures overt sexism will backfire in 2016 and maybe even in 2014, with women, young voters and independents. Ryan thinks that’s true if those groups, plus the many the Republicans are trying to disenfranchise with voting restrictions in many states GOTV. If people are angry enough to turn out in the off-year 2014 election, the GOP may get the smack-down they deserve.

icon for podpress  GOP v. Women Pols [30:16m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Talk with me, winger

Ed. Ed. Ed, and some more Ed. Broom the vanity and ego aside to get to a vignette from MSNBC’s The Ed Show. There, the former right-wing talker but a left-wing talker for the past 16 years, Ed (of course) Schultz did his usual short segment Ask Ed (of course) Live.

That evening, his tweeted query was why didn’t more conservatives appear there. He answered simply and disdainfully that he asked them and would welcome them, but they didn’t want to. He figured they figured doing so would not help them get elected.

While I nod to Occam’s razor, I don’t worship the idea that the simplest explanation according to the known facts settles everything. I muse on why so few Republicans and other self-identified conservatives will talk with me at the weekly Left Ahead show.

It’s been running for seven years. From the beginning, some weeks the founders — Lynne Lupien, Ryan Adams and I (Mike Ball) — sometimes like to cover topics ourselves. We’ll all highly opinionated. About every other week, there’s a guest.

Lynne long ago dropped out, pleading business busyness. I generally arrange and book most guests. A few contact me, but typically I call, email or meet potential guests. Often it’s a deal to dicker on a day and time, even though we long ago picked a default that works for many, Tuesday at 2:30 PM. Few pols in particularly are solidly committed then.

We also make it pretty painless. We use BlogTalkRadio, so guests don’t have to travel or give us an office space to record the show. For what used to be an hour and is now a half hour, they just call in and I manage the connections by computer and the tubes.

Moreover, we’re probably too nice. We don’t book multiple guests, don’t bring on tit-for-tat adversaries to sensationalize or conflict. We don’t try to trick anyone or spring accusations. We like to get to the big ideas and help the guest develop them on air. A few listeners used to on-line bullies on winger radio, or the Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews shouters are disappointed that we don’t badger guests.

Are Wingers Gutless?

Scan the Left Ahead archives to notice a few things. First, the topics and guests are mostly politics and politicians. Second, many big ideas are subjects. Third, many of the guests are hotshots and big shots — a current or former governor, a state or U.S. Senator, and many office seekers. Fourth, there are damned few conservatives.

That latter is not from my want of effort. Some smart, fun and provocative ones included the very conservative MA pol Karyn Polito and the now late economics and transit guru William Lind. My politics differed markedly from those two’s. Yet I think we brought out good stuff. Lind in particular could not have been farther from my political views, all except for transit-oriented development and mass transit. We had met at the Rail-Volution 2009 conference in Boston and bonded over our overlaps.

In many ways, Polito was the outlier for me. She spoke with me, took my card, checked the site and said, sure, she’d talk with us in her run for MA Treasurer/Receiver General. That was not at all hard, but she is quite the exception.

Virtually all the other right-leaning potential guests I meet or contact seem terrified or at least disinterested. So, I ask myself, are they cowards or is it like Schultz said, that they don’t see the upside?

This has been happening again in this election cycle, which includes MA Governor. Scan the archives again and see every gubernatorial candidate, except the presumptive GOP nominee, Charlie Baker. That includes all five Dems, the several independents or political affiliation candidates and and the other Republican, self-defined full-MA-GOP platform, Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher.

I can’t quite figure out whether :

  • Baker has no guts
  • His campaign staff has no guts
  • His staff’s cost/benefit analysis doesn’t see the ROI on an internet radio show
  • He or his staff thinks he’s too important to be bothered

Bad Manners

Having spent much of my childhood in more genteel parts of the country, I can still be surprised by the poor breeding of Bostonians and New Englanders. For example, when they do not return phone calls or emails, I have to wonder, who are their people? Were they raised by wolverines?

Baker’s camp has been the worst, in both of his staggers toward the governorship. I have gotten fewer than one response to multiple voice and email requests to Baker and his campaign manager,

You can amuse yourself by calling the Baker campaign number, (617) 254-2014.There’s no human and no option to speak to one…ever. You can dump your request into a voice box or punch in by last name. The communications director, Tim Buckley, does not communicate and is not even in the directory. The campaign manager, Jim Conroy, does not communicate but is in the directory. There’s a slush email box, and the other’s is

Conroy has ignored 11 voice or email requests. Because Buckley hides from ordinary mortals, the closest I could get was Facebook and requests through that info box, where he ignored an FB friend request and two direct messages.

Again,who are their people? Didn’t they have mothers or someone to act like a mother?

The gormless Baker-camp non-reactions are particularly noteworthy and amusing in light of Fisher’s prompt and warm response. He and I could hardly differ more politically, but we had a good chat. Moreover, he clearly was raised well.

Fear of Lefties

A previous failure of booking seems to blend all the possible causes. I had Jennifer Nassour in hand, only to lose her. She chaired the MA GOP from Jan. 2009 through Sep. 2011.

I spoke with her at two political Rappaport presentations at Suffolk Law, in early 2009 and early 2011. At both, she pressed her card into my hand and told me how much she wanted to be a Left Ahead guest. She punked on both.

Most telling here is her mortal sin, in GOP eyes. She was candid.

In the April 1 (yes, that day), 2009 issue of Bay Windows, she spoke about the new Republican party here, particularly how they wouldn’t be guilt tripping on marriage equality, gay rights and abortion. Honk. Wrong.

She got months of pitchfork poking from the most conservative party members and the nasty MassResistance guy, Brian Camenker pretending to be a real movement. The gist seems to be not only should she not have said the party would stop its hateful rhetoric to bring in unenrolled and socially liberal GOP voters, but she should never have even spoken with LGBT-friendly media.

Since her time, the newest MA GOP chair, Kirsten Hughes, won’t respond to repeated contacts.

Well,our show hides nothing. It’s there in the Left Ahead name. We’re reasonable and nice but we don’t pretend to be anything else.

I’ve lost count of the potential guests who have heard the name on a phone line or seen my card and stopped dead. “Left…Ahead…are you left wing?” is the typical shocked question.

Nothing that progressives and liberals speak with anyone, and that we are antithetical to right-wing talk radio’s bullying tactics doesn’t cut it. Far too many conservatives seem terrified at speaking with “left” anything. Pathetic.

Lefty Anomaly

To smooth the edges and risk being simple-mindedly even handed, I’ll admit that there’s one left winger’s crew who is afraid of me.

Following the initial show with Elizabeth Warren, her handlers seem winger gutless. They won’t return my calls or emails either. Once burned, 1000 times shy.

I was blessed or cursed with being early to the Warren extravaganza, in Oct. 2011, right after she announced for US Senate, she spoke with us. It was genial, particularly as she and I are the same age, and both born in OK.

We had a jolly time, including an exchange in which I noted that with my OK/WV background, I have heard repeatedlyfrom the provincials in Boston that I am a hick. Moreover, the local wingers had railed against her as a 17-year Harvard professor, a.k.a an elitist. She laughed, saying she was new class, an elite hick. She said something about going for the hick vote. We laughed.

Well, the plug nasties were loaded for her, just waiting. Our show was just the first Warren-hunting expedition.

The next morning, I got a call and email from her communications guy, asking if I knew of the s**t storm. Turns out, the forces of evil had tried to run with that innocuous bit of humor. Suddenly everyone from FoxNews to winger talk radio and even the likes of ABC TV and the NYTimes portrayed her as ridiculing rural America.

Of course, she didn’t say anything like that. However, the imps had been lying in wait for something they could use.

In our show, she said maybe there should be a group hicks for Elizabeth. Again we laughed. I actually made some buttons (reproduced here). My wife and I, from hick backgrounds, wore them. People asked for them and I produced more. I showed her one at Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s block party the next July She alleged to love it. I sent her one, but given the crap she got for moments of humor, she most assuredly tossed it.

At that party, one of her staffers, a ziftig woman actually pushed me. She muttered something about how I’d better not try to pull any tricks and insinuated that I and not the forces of right-wing evil has caused the early dust-up.


The sad aspect is that Warren’s people have not responded to several show requests since. I’ll try again, likely by being at one of her public events and squirreling up with her. After all, she adores my yellow glasses.

Of course the hick-vote fad disappeared months later, to be replaced by the Native-American one. Those gunning for Warren picked up her listing herself in a faculty directory as having Cherokee roots. They manufactured a fantasy that she had only gotten jobs at Pennsylvania and Harvard as a result. They morphed that with calls for her to release every academic job application she has ever made, much in the mode of birthers demanding President Barack Obama’s short-form, then long-form birth certificate, and subsequently his college applications and transcripts. Pathetic. As with the President, the crazies won’t let go of their silly slanders.

Common Senselessness

So there it is, kiddies. There are many variations on guest-interview shows. You might:

  • Be typical right-wing radio, badgering lefty guests and licking the hands of your own type
  • Play grade-school magazine, bringing on a balance of left and right wingers for mush
  • Let the guest shine, like Dave Leno or, dare I write, Left Ahead

There are others, but we are definitely in the latter category. So I still have to wonder why so many conservative sorts fear us.

Over the years, many right wingers have passed on coming on Left Ahead. Granted, we do not have prime-time TV or even cable reach. A small show for us gets hundreds of listeners and a big one 10,000. Those are far more than a pol talks to in a typical stump speech, plus anyone who listens live or clicks the archive play is committing to half an hour of dedicated ear time. If I were a candidate for any office, I’d chat with as many shows as would have me.

I note that the progressive and liberal pols have no problem going on hostile right-wing shows. Yet it seems rare that Republicans and self-described conservative types mirror that. Maybe I shouldn’t advise them, but righties would be smart to go on pinko shows.


Coakley Calm at Helm Podcast

Coakley with flagIt’s not exactly driving the money changers from the temple, but Martha Coakley wants outside cash out of the MA race for Governor. Today she called for a people’s pledge for the Dem candidates to eschew super PAC blind contributions. She’d found that competitor Steve Grossman (MA Treasurer and Receiver General) would benefit from a forming super PAC. She’s agin it and told me she was surprised and frankly disappointed.

She came by her view honestly, railing against Citizens United, to the point of getting other AG’s to start campaigns in their states for an amendment to overturn the SCOTUS decision. She also is trying to return the power to states to regulate campaign finance in their borders.

By the bye, I did ask whether there was friction as both she and Grossman competed. She claims collegiality and that when they meet at debates and such they are pleasant and keep to issues.

Click below to listen in as we speak of the campaign and her particular issues. While having a solid law-enforcement/criminal-justice career, she is not running as the law-and-order candidate. Rather, her platform covers a wide range. We touched on many planks. For a few examples, we concurred on getting involved earlier and better with kids as well as adults to avoid incarceration, ensure real rehabilitation and enable reintegration into society. On the other hand, she has health-care proposals for reducing costs, emphasizing mental health and more, but does not share my love of single-payer, which she described as not in itself “a way to save costs.” We seemed to meet in the middle on fiber for internet speed. I am chagrined at how European and Asian nations skunk us with our feeble copper to their fiber. She agreed that we should be a leader in such technologies and as governor would work toward that…otherwise no promises.

While many of the planks she proposes are fundamental, progressive sorts, she is convinced she’d be able to realize them. She speaks of massive infrastructure improvements and maintenance in areas like transportation and telecommunications. She seems undaunted by the prospect of getting them legislated and funded. She compared these to health care, in that we didn’t ask whether it was possible, rather how to accomplish the reform. Listen in as she speaks of areas where she worked with the legislature on manifesting big goals.


icon for podpress  Martha Coakley [31:08m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Coakley Talks Coakley for Governor

CoakleymugStill the formidable force in the 2014 MA Gov. race, Martha Coakley joins us. Of course, we’ll get her to differentiate herself from the other Dems…and likely the other candidates. We may even elicit a few thoughts on the Republicans and their platform.

AG Coakley has a high profile, is well known in the commonwealth as well as respected for her current role. She could become the first woman elected to the position.

We’ll discuss her detailed and wide-ranging platform. She puts herself forward in all the big areas.

If you can join us live, do it Friday, April 25th, at 2:30 PM here. Afterward, you can listen on demand or download her show at that show URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes page.


The B Guys — Brendan Eich and Bernie Sanders

Just the two of us had fun today, talking:

  • Mozilla’s Brendan Eich and 1st Amendment
  • Cliven Bundy’s melodramatic victim shtick
  • Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Dem primary mix

We were simultaneously amused and appalled but not surprised that wingers screen about Eich and Bundy. Listen in as we describe how the 1st Amendment worked for everyone in the Eich matter and how Bundy is a dull-witted cheat gaming the system.

Ryan felt particularly strongly about how Sen. Sanders may enter the Dem primary race for President, instead of running as an independent. The ghost of Ralph Nader likely costing Dem’s Florida and thus the 2000 Presidential race by diluting left and independent votes loom in memory.

We agree that Saunders is a solid progressive (self-defined as a democratic socialist, although he caucuses and voted Dem) and with solid ideas. Ryan sees his candidacy as likely pushing the party platform left. He figures Hillary Clinton would win the nomination but then be committed to more left-progressive positions she’d have to pursue as President.

icon for podpress  Eich and Sanders: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Eich Out and Maybe Bernie In

Well, boys and girls, we get a break from the asininity of wingers screaming about Colbert, Obamacare and such. The two usual suspects, Ryan and Mike, kick around two subjects this week. Did Mozilla’s CEO Brandan Eich get screwed into resigning for his pro-Prop 8 contribution fairly or unfairly. The other card on our bill is what would a Bernie Sanders run for the 2016 President race mean?

Firefox logo parodyThe affair Eich is rife with naivety, vanity, and a dollop of First Amendment blindness. Sure, he was out of sync with the libertarian geek Firefox community, but, but, but…

Sanders, Vermont’s self-described democratic socialist US Senator, seems ready to declare for 2016. If he does, he won’t expect to win. We’ll discuss what he’ll want, like forcing the wishy-washy Dems to take real positions.

If you can join us live, do so here Thursday, April 17th, at 2:30 PM Eastern. Afterward, you can hear or download the show at that URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes page.


In the Wake of McCutcheon

The Roberts version of the SCOTUS slammed good-government types hard, first with Citizens United and now with McCutcheon v. FEC. Today the Sunlight Foundation‘s Lisa Rosenberg (government-affairs consultant) gave me some perspective…and hope. Lisa Rosenberg

Homework note: Get with the program. The 94-page McCutcheon decision is an easy, if infuriating, read. Chief Justice Roberts writes for a four-justice plurality and Justice Thomas adds a five-page concurrence reading basically that the decision didn’t go far enough in freeing money in politics. Then in a lengthy dissent, Justice Breyer writes for the other four with data, case law, and reasons why the decision is addlepated (not his word, but he used fatally flawed). At the least, read the dissent to arm yourself for coming discussions.

She spoke of how she and others in the reform community were not at all surprised by McCutcheon. She views Roberts as a very activist judge with a real agenda to scrap campaign-finance controls. “He has not shown any restraint” on the subject.

Not only did the recent decision overrule considerable case law, Roberts does not seem to understand how politics and campaign finance work, Rosenberg said. For one example, he believes that large political contributions are transmitted to the FEC almost immediately, instead of being handed to the Senate, which eventually produces paper reports that the FEC staff hand types into a database. Perhaps more important, as so clearly delineated in the dissenting opinion, Roberts does not see how wealthy donors, candidates and parties can get around the few existing limits on contributions.

Rosenberg attributes Roberts’ attitudes more to naivete than malice. Moreover, his decision narrowing corruption to quid pro quo instead of buying access and influence will likely lead to increased outrage by the public. She noted that when there is so much money in politics, scandals that fit under Roberts’ naive definition are bound to follow. That likely would catalyze reform.

Listen in as she describes the problems and setbacks. She also sees a future toward a less corrupt system. A first step will be toward transparency in the donation process. She cited the real-time transparency bill that the Sunlight Foundation worked with U.S. Sen. Angus King (ME) to introduce. In the House, Beto O’Rourke of Texas sponsored it as well. This would report huge contributions in hours instead of weeks or months.

That’s not a total solution, rather a step toward correction. She urges people to call and write their Congress folk to support it and pass it as soon as possible.

Following McCutchen, she said responses to billionaires buying influence in elections include voters:

  • Voters can call their Representatives and Senators
  • Groups can gather up many smaller contributions to offset the mega-donations
  • Media can report on contributions

Rosenberg fears that some voters will view the combination of Citizens and McCutcheon with cynicism, as though there is no reason to vote or give that $25 to their candidate or cause. However, she also thinks that Republicans may be surprised at the broader effects. They seem to assume that most of the huge donations will flow to them. She sees leftwingers mobilizing their own wealthy to offset this. While the ideal solution would be to get corrupting cash out of electoral politics, balancing sides while legislation catches up should help.

Listen in as she describes the dire situation, the likelihood of the SCOTUS continuing in this line, and what we can do about it. We start with pushing transparency — “the last remaining tool for the rest of us.”


icon for podpress  Money Screams [29:59m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Sunlight on Campaign Finance

The shocks keep slamming. Yes, Citizens United skewered democracy and fairness and reason. Now McCutcheon picks the bones of campaign-finance sanity.

Lisa RosenbergNext Tuesday, earlier than normal, we’ll be talking what is free speech, the power of dollars in elections, and voter options. Our guest will be Lisa Rosenberg, government affairs consultant for the Sunlight Foundation. She has been the lead in tracking these trends there. We’ll get into the one-two body slams, what we can expect and what we can do.

If you can join us live, click here at 1 PM Eastern Tuesday, April 8th. Afterward, her show will be available at that URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes page.