Reading Material – September 2, 2018

Must Read

John McCain did not plan the Vietnam War. He didn’t lie to the American people about the nature of the conflict, the atrocities it entailed, or the probability of its success. He merely trusted the civilian leadership that did. There is no reason to doubt that McCain believed he was in Vietnam to risk his life – and then, to endure a living hell – in defense of our nation’s highest ideals. His willingness to sacrifice his own well-being to what he believed to be America’s interests deserves our awe-struck admiration. (As an upper middle-class “soyboy” – whose most heroic feat of self-abnegating physical endurance probably involved a full bladder and broken-down A train – I have no doubt that I’d prove myself a lesser man than McCain, were I ever asked to accept years of torture for a cause that I believed in.) As the senator is laid to rest, one can reasonably argue that respect for his family, and legacy, compels us to isolate his act of transcendent patriotism from the indefensible war that produced it.

But there are hazards to such myopia. McCain’s loved ones deserve to take pride in the sacrifices he made at the “Hanoi Hilton.” But we, as a nation, do not.  The United States asked John McCain to risk his life – and kill other human beings – for a war built on lies. We asked him to give some of his best years on Earth – and the full use of his arms – to an illegal, unwinnable war of aggression. The story of McCain’s time as a prisoner of war should inspire national shame. It is a story about our government abusing the trust of one its most patriotic citizens. But it’s (almost) never presented as such. Instead, in stump speeches, op-eds, and obituaries, McCain’s service is typically framed as a testament to our nation’s greatness, or an affirmation of its finest values.

This distortion invites broader misconceptions. The selfless sacrifices of American soldiers are supposed to be lamentable costs of war, burdens that can only be redeemed by the justness of the cause that demanded them. And yet, the way we remember McCain’s heroism threatens to invert this principle. In celebrating his discrete act of patriotism – while ignoring the question of what cause it served – we risk treating the selfless sacrifices of American soldiers as ends in themselves…

[What] the “men and women who serve our nation in combat” truly deserve is a country that reveres their lives more than their suffering – and, therefore, that only asks them to endure the latter in wars that are just, winnable, and necessary.

If we wish to honor McCain’s wartime-sacrifice, we must remember it less as an example of the kind of heroism we wish to emulate, than of the kind of tragedy that our nation is duty-bound to avoid repeating.

Should Read Continue reading

Automatic Voter Registration

As Election Day approaches, it’s a good time to think about what we can be doing to increase participation in the democratic process.

One reform before the Legislature this session which would do just that is Automatic Voter Registration (AVR). 15% of eligible residents – nearly 700,000 potential voters – are not currently registered to vote, and their voices deserve to be heard.

In short, AVR (H.2091/S.373) would require that every eligible citizen who interacts with the Registry of Motor Vehicles or other agency covered by the “motor voter” law be automatically registered to vote, unless they request not to be.  In other words, it moves the system from opt-in, to the far more efficient opt-out.  AVR would save many people from having to take time off from work in order to go register at the Town Clerk’s office. If you’re renewing your driver’s license at the RMV or letting them know that your address has changed, your voter registration will be updated as well. AVR would reduce bureaucracy, increase the accuracy of the voter rolls, and save cities and towns money. It’s a win-win-win situation.

Ten other states and the District of Columbia have adopted AVR, including our neighbors of Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.   We have a great opportunity to join them.  Bedford is lucky to have a state representative, Ken Gordon, and a state senator, Mike Barrett, who are supporters of AVR. We are thankful for their leadership.  Both are on the Joint Committee on Election Laws as well, so they are well-positioned to bring their colleagues on board with this vital reform.  You can reach the Joint Committee on Election Laws at 617-722-1540 (Senate contact) and 617-722-2460 (House contact) to let them know that you support AVR.

Massachusetts has always played a key role in advancing American democracy. Let’s continue that legacy.


Not the political revolution I was hoping for

Massachusetts Presidential primary participation, 2008 vs 2016:

2008 Results

  • 1.256M Democratic ballots cast.
  • 499k Republican ballots cast.

2016 Results with 99.95% of precincts counted

That’s a record turnout. The previous high for a Presidential primary was 2008.   What gets me is the nature of the change from 2008:  a 4% decrease in Democratic ballots and a 26% increase in Republican ballots.   The latter increase is huge.  Massachusetts has an open primary, meaning independent (“unenrolled”) voters can pick up a ballot for either primary.   There are 4.27M registered voters in MA:  35% are Democrats, 10% Republicans, and 53% are unenrolled.  My guess is that the jump in Republican numbers isn’t due to a huge turnout among registered Republicans.  163k more people voted in the Republican primary than there are registered Republicans so clearly a lot of unenrolled voters picked up a Republican ballot.   (That brings to mind the saying “‘Unenrolled’ is just a euphemism for ‘Republican with a sense of shame’.”)   I’d hoped that a lot more unenrolled voters would pick up a Democratic ballot to vote for Sanders.  Sanders lost by slightly more than 17k votes, about 1/8th of the overall increase in Republican participation.  That’s disappointing.  There was a political revolution last night, but definitely not the one I was hoping for.

Continue reading

Former Gov. Patrick joins Bain Capital

I’ve said on numerous occasions that the Democratic party needs to nominate more multi-millionaires for high profile elected offices like we need a hole in the head.   I said that on numerous occasions thinking specifically of our former governor, Deval Patrick.  (To be fair, he turned out to be okay – not great but not bad either.)  He leaves office and what does he do?  He lines up a $7500/day gig to lobby for the 2024 summer olympics to come to Boston.  That fell through but he’s landed on his feet.  From WBUR:

The former Democratic Massachusetts governor has joined the Boston firm Bain Capital to develop a line of so-called “social impact” investing.

The business “will focus on delivering attractive financial returns by investing in projects with significant, measurable social impact,” according to a Tuesday morning press release from Bain announcing the hire.

“Significant, measurable social impact”…  Yeah, Bain has a bit of a track record there.

“Bain Capital is widely recognized as both an innovative investment firm and a philanthropic and community leader,” Patrick said in the Bain release.

“A philanthropic and community leader”?  Really?  By whom?  I can’t say I’ve ever heard “Bain Capital” and “philanthropy” or “community leader” in the same sentence.  “Bain Capital” and “motherfuckers”, sure;  “Bain Capital” and “parasitic bastards who give capitalism a bad name”, certainly;  “Bain Capital” and “community leader”, no.  Definitely not.  Ah, but now that they’ve hired our socially-progressive former governor I’m sure everything will be wonderful and we’ll all get a pony and an ice cream.

Rich people can do great things with their wealthRich people can do good things for their fellow citizens which don’t involve them spending any money.  Most don’t.  I’m not expecting much from Gov. Patrick.


Thought for the Day: 20 February 2015

Great cities need great public transit. The long, sad story of why we don’t have that in Massachusetts can be found in the 2009 MBTA review done by former John Hancock president and CEO David D’Alessandro. After detailing growing costs, falling revenue, and the T’s “Faustian bargain” with debt, it concludes: “There is no question that the MBTA is an expensive and complex system. It requires large expenditures just to continue operating. Any thought that these problems can be addressed primarily through expense reductions is misguided.”

Life isn’t fair. Those problems are now [Gov. Charlie] Baker’s to figure out.

–  Joan Vennochi

Don’t relocate the MassDOT maintenance facility at the Rt.3/62 interchange

Local issue.  If you’re not a Bedford, MA resident you can stop reading here.

Last updated Monday, 1/26/2015.  Updates provided at the end of this post.

I’ve been delinquent in posting updates the past several weeks.   (The Bedford Citizen is a good source for info.)  Big news tonight:  Success!  Residents and our elected representatives convinced MassDOT not to relocate the salt shed to their proposed location.


And points to MassDOT for being responsive to citizens’ concerns.

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MA Medicaid waiver

From Rep. Mike Capuano’s newsletter last week:

On Halloween evening, October 31st, the Patrick Administration announced it had reached an agreement with the federal government on a five year Medicaid waiver [link added]. This is funding that will go to certain Massachusetts hospitals providing health care to the state’s most vulnerable patients. Two of the so-called “safety net hospitals” are in the 7th Congressional district [link added]. While the agreement should suffice for the first three years, it does not include funding for years four and five, putting the entire Massachusetts health insurance program in jeopardy starting in 2018. The amount agreed upon is almost half a billion dollars less than previous funding agreements. I applaud the efforts of Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Polanowicz but I am truly disappointed that the Obama Administration would jeopardize the first-in-the-nation health care system upon which the President based his legacy legislative accomplishment. I am especially disappointed because the Administration funded longer term waivers in other states, including Texas, whose governor, state legislature, and majority of members of Congress continue to be opposed to the Affordable Care Act. I find such disparate treatment incomprehensible and troubling. The current agreement leaves our Commonwealth at the mercy of the next President and the next Governor, and could result in increased cost to ratepayers. I hope my concern proves to be unfounded but I will pay close attention to the implementation of the agreement, particularly with respect to its last two years.

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