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Yesterday, two big events happened that I'm equally excited about: The Supreme Court gave marriage equality a big step forward, and Carl Sciortino officially kicked off his campaign for Congress, running to replace Ed Markey who just got elected to the US Senate the day before.  These two events are connected, going back a decade.

DOMA's legal effects were theoretical when it was passed in 1996, and became real with the gradually growing prevalence of marriage equality, which started here in Massachusetts.  In 2004 we had the country's first legal same sex marriages, and Cambridge City Hall opened at midnight on the day that became allowed, to be the first to grant licenses.  Yesterday we had a gathering (smaller and shorter due to happening on only a half day's notice) on the same City Hall lawn to celebrate those same marriages getting federal recognition.  Rep. Sciortino was one of the people who spoke there.

With 12 states - including 4 added in the past year - it's getting harder to remember what it was like the first few years after Massachusetts, when it was Massachusetts (and Vermont's civil unions) vs. the entire rest of the country.  In 2008 when California legalized same sex marriage, it was only the second state to do so, and Prop 8 overturned it later that year.  In the meantime, every election, several more states passed anti-marriage amendments.

When thinking back to those years, what a lot of people don't appreciate is that Massachusetts wasn't a done deal, and that it wasn't just a court decision; we had to win this at the ballot too, several times over.  By that day in May 2004 when the first licenses were granted, Massachusetts' legislature had already voted to ban gay marriage 105-92, a few months earlier.

The fight to defeat that amendment lasted four more years...

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Sign on to Massachusetts State Representative Carl Sciortino's petition to his colleagues in the state legislature: We Need Bold Solutions for MA Education & Transportation.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick made a bold proposal for investing in our state's future.  After decades of cutting and passing the buck by a timid, short-sighted legislature, the Governor sided with a growing minority within that legislature and used the much bigger soapbox of his office to kick off a real conversation about revenue, investment, education, transportation, and fairness.

In Choosing Growth in Our Communities, Governor Patrick proposes serious, significant investment in transportation and infrastructure, public health, and education and early childhood support.

He proposes funding this with a more progressive tax system, by:

  • Raising the state income tax from 5.25% to 6.5%,
  • Doubling the personal exemption (the portion of income that is not taxed by the state), and
  • Cutting the sales tax from 6.25% to 4.5%.

The result would be a fairer tax that takes less from people of low income and more from those who can afford to pay more, while providing $2 billion in additional revenue those priorities.  This is why we elect Democratic Governors.

Today, the Massachusetts Legislature is debating, and perhaps voting on, a cop-out of a counterproposal.  As Blue Mass Group's David Kravitz writes, "Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray have decided to nibble around the edges of fixing MA's transportation infrastructure, and to ignore education all together."

Progressive Carl Sciortino, a member of the Massachusetts House and part of the core group in the legislature that wants real investment and fairness, posted today: "We Need Bold Solutions for Transportation and Education."  He calls on the legislature to scrap the current legislation and work with Governor Patrick.

Help Carl out: Sign his petition on Signon.Org, and send this to people you know in Massachusetts!

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Many progressive positions supported by a solid, in some cases overwhelming, majority of the public.  But we don't make much progress on them when the right wing attacks, Democrats stand cautiously aside, and the press lazily repeats right wing messaging.

One thing the public is overwhelmingly behind us on is the danger of corporate money in politics.  Yet rarely do we hear leaders make as clear a case for this as I heard Mac D'Alessandro, candidate for Congress in MA-09, do at several events this summer.  Watch this video I got of him answering questions on Citizens United and corporate money, at a house party in Boston, and you'll understand why our state's top Republican blog called him "the most dangerous man running for Congress this year."

(Video, and partial transcript, below...)

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In 1970, a group formed after the first Earth Day and, calling themselves Environmental Action, named a "Dirty Dozen" of 12 members of Congress who had the worst record on the environment.  Of those 12 incumbents, 6 were defeated that year, and when they declared a new Dirty Dozen in 1972, 7 of them were defeated.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and Republican Richard Nixon signed them all.

Few things in American politics exert as much pressure on legislation as a series of coordinated, serious challenges to incumbents - especially primary challenges.  When legislators see a particular issue driving multiple races that put incumbents at risk, they change their behavior on that issue.

I saw this in action much more recently here in Massachusetts in the fight over whether to ban equal marriage. And now the same pattern is quickly emerging, with Harmony Wu's challenge to Stephen Lynch (MA-9) joining two other primary prominent challenges in recent weeks focused on health care.

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The USA's greatest economic strength for decades has been the extent to which Americans strike off on their own with new ideas and turn them into new companies and products, or work for themselves doing things they love. This country makes it easier, in many ways, to start new companies or go into business for oneself than most.

However, we still have some antiquated financial and legal structures the discourage this kind of innovation:

  • People fear that leaving their job means they won't get health care.
  • Self-employed people pay higher FICA taxes and file paperwork more frequently.
  • Traditionally-employed people are protected against recession by unemployment insurance, entrepeneurs are not.

These and other things push potential innovators into staying in traditional jobs for economic security. What if we changed the incentives to encourage people to take risks with their new ideas?  Sure, some would fail, but some would succeed, to all of our benefit.

With this in mind, I submitted an idea on Change.Gov. Please vote for it!

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Mon Sep 22, 2008 at 06:57 AM PDT

Is Congress Crazy?

by cos

Problem: A lot of banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions are in trouble, and if a bunch of them fail the economy will suffer severely.  They're in trouble through a chain of stuff that starts with a lot more mortgages failing than were expected, and a bad housing market.  When someone can't make their mortgage payments they may be forced to sell the house, but in a bad housing market, their house may not be worth enough anymore to pay off the mortgage by selling it, so they can't do that.  Glossing over a lot of the stuff in between, and ignoring for a moment the legal changes that let this happen, that's basically where the problem begins at the moment, yes?

Now, assuming that we decide that we can't afford to let all these financial institutions fail, and assuming we decide it's worth spending several hundred billion dollars on it right now - rather than argue the merit of those two points, let's take them as a given - assuming all of that...  why would Congress even consider using that money to bail out the financial institutions directly?????

We could...  (read more below)

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Here at Netroots Nation, the DNC's Parag Mehta gave an excellent presentation about the field plan for 2008, which focuses on neighbor-to-neighbor relationships.  Afterwards, he took questions, and the first question was no surprise: "What if my neighbor asks me about Obama's vote on FISA with telecom immunity?"

I didn't like Parag's advice answer on this, and I think I have a better suggestion.

What he suggested was to say, "all I can do is point you to Obama's words on this," followed with a summary of Obama's explanation of why he compromised.  I think there are two big problems with this kind of response:

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Returns are coming in on election night; the race has been close and polls show either candidate could win.  Now, with 83% of precincts reporting, candidate A is leading 53% to 47% over B.  It's an insurmountable lead, and the race is called for candidate A.  That's where the Democratic primaries are: Of the 3253 pledged delegates available, about 83% have already been voted on, and Obama is leading Clinton by about 53% to 47%.  We can call the race now.

Look at it another way: There are 566 pledged delegates left from states that haven't voted yet.  To catch up with Obama, Clinton needs to win about 65% of those, which means she needs to average about 65% of the vote in the remaining states.  She doesn't win by such margins: So far, Clinton has received more than 60% of the vote in exactly one state: Arkansas.  Her second-best result was 58% in Rhode Island.  Her other home state, New York, gave her 57%.

If every state from now on goes as well for Clinton as her home state of New York did, she'll still lose.

[ Note: I didn't write this for a kos audience; most of you already know this stuff.  It's an overview you can point people to. ]

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Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 11:31 AM PDT

Vote: Mark Udall for Progressive Patriot

by cos

Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund is holding a poll to pick the next Progressive Patriots.  One of these candidates will get a $5,000 contribution.  Voting closes at 5pm today (central).

Mark Udall, running for Senate in Colorado, is the obvious choice:

  • As a member of the House, he voted against the Iraq war and against the Patriot Act, making him a great fit for the Russ Feingold "Progressive Patriot" name.
  • He and his brother are key to bringing conservation and stewardship of the environment to the Senate, and come from a long family background of conservation (read that article, it's worth it).
  • He's ahead in the polls but within margin of error.  With Colorado's Democratic resurgence, his chances are good, but he can use the help!

Vote!

Poll

Who's your pick for Progressive Patriot?

0%0 votes
21%9 votes
4%2 votes
0%0 votes
39%16 votes
7%3 votes
4%2 votes
4%2 votes
17%7 votes

| 41 votes | Vote | Results

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This AFP article  has been all over the blogs in the past few days:

Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US

The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.

The story has also been picked up by foreign press, and the likes of UPI, Capitol Hill Blue, and Fox news.  But AFP's presentation is glaringly wrong.  "The Lakota Sioux" have done no such thing.

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In the run-up to the 2006 election, Senator Hillary Clinton said that George W Bush would be seen by history as one of America's worst presidents in history.  A year ago, in January of 2006, USA Today's publisher Al Neuharth criticized her in a piece titled Hillary has it wrong, Bush not the 'worst':

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. [...] charged that the Bush administration "will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country."  She's wrong.

Neuharth provided his own list of the worst presidents in our history, adding that Bush would not make the list:

  • Andrew Jackson, (D) 1829-37
  • James Buchanan, (D) 1857-61
  • Ulysses S. Grant, (R) 1869-77
  • Herbert Hoover, (R) 1929-33
  • Richard Nixon, (R) 1969-74
It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list in his remaining three years in office.

... but now, he is retracting that statement.

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Fri Feb 09, 2007 at 09:03 AM PST

What Does Random Panic Protect Us From?

by cos

[ I wrote this post for the Massachusetts political blog Blue Mass Group. ]

Boston and Massachusetts officials, and some people here at Blue Mass Group, have tried to justify Boston's overreaction to some hanging lights last week by saying, "what if they hadn't done what they did, and a real bomb went off?"  This makes as much sense to me as trying to justify the Iraq war by asking, "what if we had not invaded Iraq, and there were another terrorist attack in the US?"


Or, they say, "people were just doing their job!"  Why, they ask, are we second-guessing the actions of the bomb squad, who were responding to a call?  Keeping with the Iraq analogy, this is the "support the troops" tack: It equates criticizing bad policy with attacking the police officers (soldiers) who carry it out.


Boston is not under a serious threat of bombs, but it does have a process of random panic that is supposed to protect us from that threat and is actually the problem, itself.  Follow my reasoning, below the fold.

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