Terrifying: NOAA graphs CO2 over the ages

If you need to see why paleo-climatologists are extremely concerned – OK, terrified — about what is happening right now in our climate, do watch this set of two animations. The first is CO2 concentrations from 1979 to the present. You will see that in a vanishingly tiny time period in geological terms, we have jacked up our CO2 concentration by nearly 19%, 335ppm in 1979 to 398ppm now. The second shows that progression in the context of the last 800,000 years.


ESRL Global Monitoring Division – Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

We are also in the middle of a massive die-off of countless species — at a scale not seen — well, not by humans, ever: 65 million years ago.

Here in MA, our politicians respond to fishermens’ desperation with regard to federally imposed catch limits, necessarily ignoring the fact that there just aren’t enough fish. They’ve been over-harvested, or moved away because of warming waters. This isn’t just business and economies and families. This is our food we’re talking about.

Meanwhile our US Senate voted 50-49 to deny that humans are causing climate change. And our new Governor’s appointees seem to have an extremely narrow and short-sighted view of the public good. We seem to really be talking about a new pipeline, when Boston is single-handedly leaking 15 billion cubic feet of methane per year.

If we ask what should we be doing about it, the answer is “everything”: Carbon tax. Plug the leaks. Massive efficiency improvements. Cape Wind. Farther offshore wind. Onshore wind. Zoning and permitting reform. Solar incentives. (HELLOOOO tilted playing field!) Electric car plug-ins at every gas station.

We need a total economic transformation. It is radical. But there is no future worth having, that has fossil fuels in it.

"When the South Wasn’t a Fan of States’ Rights"

A nice bit of political analysis from Politico’s History Department by Columbia professor Eric Foner related to his new book about the Underground Railway Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad:

When it came to enforcing and maintaining the peculiar institution [an Old South nickname for slavery - Ed.] against an increasingly anti-slavery North, the Old South was all too happy to forget its fear of federal power—a little-remembered fact in our modern retellings of the conflict.

The slavery exception to otherwise robust support for states’ rights was a recurring feature of antebellum Southern politics. Southerners wrote into the Constitution a clause requiring the return of slaves who escaped from one state to another, and in 1793, only four years after George Washington assumed the presidency, they persuaded Congress to enact a law putting that clause into effect. Ironically, when it came to runaway slaves, the white South, usually vocal in defense of local rights, favored robust national action, while some northern states engaged in the nullification of federal law, enacting “personal liberty” laws that barred local officials from cooperating in the capture and return of fugitives. …

The most striking example was the South’s embrace of national power to capture and return fugitive slaves, especially as implemented in the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This law was the most robust expansion of federal authority over the states, and over individual Americans, of the antebellum era.

In the 1840s, as increasing numbers of slaves pursued freedom by running away to the North and a network of local groups, collectively known as the underground railroad, came into existence to assist them, southerners demanded national action. As part of the Compromise of 1850, which abolished the slave trade in the nation’s capital and allowed territories recently acquired from Mexico to decide whether or not to allow slavery, Congress enacted the new, draconian fugitive slave law. The measure created a new category of federal officeholder, U.S. commissioners, authorized to hear cases of accused fugitives and issue certificates of removal, documents that could not be challenged in any court. The fugitive could neither claim a writ of habeas corpus nor testify at the hearing, whose sole purpose was to establish his or her identity. Federal marshals could deputize individuals to execute a commissioner’s orders and, if necessary, call on the assistance of local officials and even bystanders.

Read the whole thing here.

Baker's Medicaid Pick - Huh?

The Medicaid pick seems ... extraordinary. It requires an extraordinary explanation. Smart Harvard kid + a few years doing consulting is really not an adequate resume, so tell us more. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

Governor Baker recently announced two very important picks for health care positions, including the new heads of MassHealth and the Connector. We’ll have to wait and see how they perform, but initial research into one of their backgrounds leaves me scratching my head.

The new head of the Connector will be Louis Gutierrez. He looks to be incredibly accomplished and experienced in the health care IT world, with multiple stints in state government, work in federal government, and private sector health care experience. It seems a bit weird that he’s more of an IT person than a health care person, but he probably understands managing the tech aspects of the Connector as well as anyone. And given how all the recent attention is on the tech failure at the Connector, this seems like a decent pick.

The MassHealth pick, on the other hand . . .

What the . . .

Daniel Tsai will now be running the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program. From what I can gather, Tsai graduated from Harvard (undergrad) in 2007 and has worked at McKinsey in their health care practice since then, with some focus on Medicaid consulting. That’s it.

No doubt he’ll make every 30 Under 30 Boston Magazine or whatever else list, but this is a tough pick to support. Medicaid is too important. I hope I am wrong, but I can’t help but worry about this pick.

What do you think?



Evan Falchuk's brilliant Olympian gambit

Evan Falchuk did not win the 2014 race for Governor.  He did, however, barely manage to achieve 3% of the vote, which was enough to give his United Independent Party or UIP (an amusingly oxymoronic name, but I digress) official standing as a party in which people can register.  But, you know, the Green-Rainbow folks have official standing too, and they’ve never really made much of it.

So what does the UIP need to really entrench itself in the Massachusetts political landscape?  Sure, Falchuk or another UIPer can run for Governor again in four years … and he or she will probably get less than 5% of the vote again and be a non-factor, just like Jill Stein always does.  UIP can – and should – run candidates for the state legislature in some carefully-chosen districts, and maybe they’ll even win a couple.  That would be the beginning of some kind of presence, though in our top-down legislature, it would be many years before that route would lead to much ability to influence policy in any meaningful way.  They have nicely drafted policy positions that in some respects differ (marginally, in some cases) from those of the major parties … but, as we all know, policy positions alone aren’t enough to grab the public’s imagination.

How else could UIP make a splash?  Gosh, if only there were some big, controversial, attention-grabbing single issue that the movers and shakers in the two major parties mostly agree on so that there’s space for a third party to stake out some territory; that involves billions of dollars; that people on both sides feel really strongly about; that routinely hits the newspapers’ front pages; that directly affects the lives of the people of Massachusetts; and that has national and even international implications.

Oh right.  Bringing the Olympics to Boston pretty much checks all those boxes.

And that, in part, is likely why the UIP is aggressively opposing a Boston Olympics, and why Falchuk is taking the lead on putting a question about a Boston Olympics on the ballot (presumably in 2016, shortly before the International Olympic Committee selects the 2024 host in 2017).  He recently filed the paperwork to create a ballot question committee, called the “People’s Vote Olympics Committee.”  That committee’s goal would be to put an as-yet-undrafted question on the ballot whose “purpose would be to restrict the ability of the government to put tax money toward the Games.”

It’s a brilliant gambit.  Marty Walsh, Charlie Baker, Deval Patrick, and most of the other bigwigs in town from both parties seem to love the idea of a Boston Olympics, and Walsh has (foolishly, IMHO) declared that he doesn’t like the idea of a ballot question.  (Seems odd that he’s simultaneously suing the Gaming Commission to give Charlestown a vote on a casino, but again I digress.)  So Falchuk’s taking the lead in putting an anti-Olympics question on the ballot places him squarely in opposition to the existing two-party power structure, which is exactly where a new “independent” party needs to be.  Furthermore, a serious prospect of a ballot question in 2016 means that nearly every time there’s a news story about the Olympics – which will be often – the question, and Falchuk’s role in it, will be part of it.  It’s a way of guaranteeing that his fledgling party stays relevant in a way that most new parties (and some old ones) never manage.

Could Falchuk get the question on the ballot?  Of course.  Falchuk is wealthy – he reported almost $2 million of income in 2012, and he put over $1.5 million toward his gubernatorial campaign.  There is no limit on how much an individual can contribute to a ballot question committee, so Falchuk can personally make sure that the committee has what it needs to gather the necessary signatures.  If the underfunded anti-casino folks could do it, an anti-Olympics committee can do it too.  I’m not sure where the suggestions in the press that it would be an “uphill climb” to get a question on the ballot come from; they strike me as misguided.

The folks favoring a Boston Olympics bid are, IMHO, making a huge mistake by opposing a ballot question, and an even bigger one by suggesting that even if a vote went against the Olympics they might go ahead anyway (it seems unlikely to me that the IOC, which wants local buy-in, would select Boston if the public had already expressed its disapproval at the ballot, and the boosters would appear anti-democratic at best by proceeding in the face of public opposition).  By opposing a public vote, they look weak and afraid.  Do they think they will lose?  A far better route for all concerned would be for the boosters as well as the opponents to agree that the public should be consulted in the most direct possible way – via the ballot – and then let the chips fall where they may.

In the meantime, Falchuk may just be able to generate enough statewide interest in the UIP via the Olympics to cause some serious headaches for the major parties down the road.  And wouldn’t that be interesting.

Now for something a little lighter.

An excellent diversion, which also gives me the opportunity to say thank you to all who were able to join us at Bertucci's last night. We had a terrific turnout, we raised a bunch of money, and it was a real pleasure to see so many of you in person. We'll have to do things like that more often. - promoted by david

I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while, but conversations at Bertucci’s tonight prompted me to finally post this thread-starter. I’m curious, and I hope others are as well, about the significance of some BMG handles. Many of us of course just use some form of our name, but if you do not I invite you to comment on this thread (without revealing anymore than you want to about yourself) about the origin and reason for your handle. I learned a couple of interesting ones tonight and I hope those people will be among those who comment.

BMG pizza party/fundraiser Friday at 6:30! Senators Eldridge and Jehlen join your editors!

WARNING: In keeping with our national dialogue, the only topic of discussion permitted will be deflated footballs. But hey, we've got progressive fave Sens. Jamie Eldridge and Pat Jehlen showing up Fri night - and at least a dozen other of your favorite BMG characters. We'll all be deflating each others' dinner rolls. Who else? -Charley Bumped, for glory. -Bob - promoted by david

We have lots of good things to report regarding Friday’s big event!  Most important is that it’s still happening this Friday, Jan. 23, starting at 6:30 pm, at Bertucci’s in Medford (free pizza and rolls, cash bar).  Details are in this post.  We very much hope we’ll see you there.  Other stuff to know:

  • There will be a silent auction, at which, among other items, a pair of Red Sox tickets will be available, thanks to a generous donor!  You’ll have to show up to bid, so there’s a good reason to come.  If you’d like to donate anything, we’d be most grateful – please let us know.
  • Judging from the comments on the last post on this subject, it’s looking like we will have a lovely turnout of lovely people.  We encourage you to RSVP if you haven’t already, either in the comments or via email to us, just so that we can give Bertucci’s an idea of how many people will be attending.  But if you forget to RSVP and realize on Friday that you want to come anyway, please do!  The more the merrier.
  • Since the last post went up, we’ve had a veritable flood of new subscriptions, for which we are tremendously grateful – thank you!!  If you’d like to support BMG by subscribing, detailed instructions are at this link.  We love seeing those little gold badges all over the site.

We are looking forward to Friday, and we hope you are too!  See you then.

Joke Revue: US-Cuba relations

A nice review of the history of US-Cuba relations from Tonightly:

Daniel Kurtzman:

“A new survey shows that most people trust Google more as a source for current events than traditional news outlets. Traditional news outlets didn’t believe the news until they Googled it.” –Seth Meyers

“The RNC released its first presidential debate schedule, which includes at least nine debates in different states across the country. As opposed to the Democratic debates, which will just be Hillary staring at her opponents until they burst into flames.” –Jimmy Fallon

“According to a new poll, nearly six out of 10 Republicans want Mitt Romney to run for president. So do 10 out of 10 Democrats.” –Conan O’Brien

“Just days after Mitt Romney suggested he might run for president, there’s been a backlash. The backlash is led by Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, and just to hedge his bets on every issue, Mitt Romney.” –Conan O’Brien

“This year’s Oscar nomination pool is the least diverse collection of nominees since 1998. There are so many white nominees that Fox News agreed to host a debate.” –Seth Meyers

Go Pats!

I agree with Ernie on the merits of both the boilerplate issue and Deflategate, but even though both may be meh moments as to substance, they are also extremely powerful political symbols.

A line on the Olympics is that the events have become a giant international corporate Borg that suck a fortune from host cities, slam them into Panem-style dystopias during the events, and leave them littered with hastily built architectural turds that deface the landscape for decades. A line on the Patriots is that they are cheaters who will do anything to win, from taping their opponents to deflating footballs to get a better grip, and that explains their exceptional performance since 2001.

I think both of these interpretations are misguided: the Olympics might be great for Boston, and according to the NFL the Patriots have won their titles fair and square. But politically, both issues play directly into the hands of naysayers. That’s why Walsh should never have approved that clause and, if it’s true that it is no big deal he should follow David’s advice and get an amended contract if he wants to maximize public support. As for the Patriots, the map below from ESPN illustrates my point.

On to the Super Bowl. Hurray for sports in Boston and New England. Go Patriots!



The kerfuffle du jour, as you know, is the revelation that as party of its pitch to the United States Olympic Committee, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed a document in which he agrees that the city’s “officers, employees and representatives, shall not make, publish or communicate to any Person, or communicate in any public forum, any comments or statements (written or oral) that reflect unfavorably upon, denigrate or disparage, or are detrimental to the reputation or statute [sic] of, the IOC, the IPC, the USOC, the IOC Bid, the Bid Committee or the Olympic or Paralympic movement.”  Furthermore, the agreement also imposes an affirmative obligation that the city’s “officers, employees and representatives, shall each promote the Bid Committee, the USOC, the IOC Bid, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes and hopefuls and the Olympic and Paralympic movement in a positive manner.”

Hey, no problem, says Mayor Marty.  ”I believe in free speech.”  And you can ignore what the agreement says – it’s “boilerplate,” and “it was in the agreement, and we had to get the agreement signed.”  Walsh assures us that “if a city employee isn’t happy and on their own personal time goes to Facebook or Twitter or any other social media, that’s fine.”

The USOC also assures us that we needn’t worry our pretty little heads about the seemingly draconian speech restrictions.  ”That is boilerplate language that is typical of contracts between parties,” a USOC representative told the Globe.

This “boilerplate” answer is obviously unsatisfactory.  Contractual language appears in contracts for a reason, and the reason is almost always that at least one of the parties wanted it in there.  And the only reason a party would want language like this in a contract is to have in reserve the ability to enforce it against the other.  So let’s take Walsh at his word that, as far as he’s concerned, city employees can say anything they want about the Olympics on their own time, in any forum [UPDATE: in an email to city employees, Walsh tried to clarify that that is indeed his position].  That does not mean that the other party to the agreement – the USOC – couldn’t seek to enforce the language of the agreement against Walsh and the city.  Would such an action be successful?  Who knows.  The point, as the Globe correctly points out in an editorial today, is that the mere fact that such language is out there is “likely to have a chilling effect on the public discussion over whether to bid for the Olympics.”  ”Boilerplate” or not, contractual language exists to be enforced.

This language is an embarrassment, and Walsh never should have agreed to it.  If he is serious about his commitment to free speech, he should forward an amended version of the agreement without the offending language to the USOC, and if they are serious as well, they will promptly execute it.  Nothing else is good enough.

Disgraceful: Marty Walsh agreed with the USOC to restrict city employees' speech

This is awful.  And it’s only the beginning.

Documents obtained by the Globe through a public records request to City Hall show Mayor Martin J. Walsh has signed a formal agreement with the United States Olympic Committee that bans city employees from criticizing Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games.

The “joinder agreement” forbids the city of Boston and its employees from making any written or oral statements that “reflect unfavorably upon, denigrate or disparage, or are detrimental to the reputation” of the International Olympic Committee, the USOC, or the Olympic Games.

It’s astonishing to think that, if I were a city employee, I could have lost my job by posting – as I did in October – that “the IOC is filled with awful people.”  It’s shocking that Mayor Walsh actually signed a document making that city policy.

And it’s profoundly disappointing that Walsh seems to be on board with the Olympic gang’s past practice of shutting down speech that is not consistent with the Olympic boosters’ message.  A while ago, I was hoping that Walsh would actually stand up to that odious practice:

Rather than repeating something like Boston’s shameful “free speech zone” episode at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, where protesters were tucked into an iron cage under the highway, any Boston Olympics bid should insist that none of the speech-limiting garbage that was reported during, say, the London 2012 Olympics, will be tolerated here.  Bostonians must be free to speak about, or against, the Olympics, just as they always have been on other topics.  Of course, the IOC won’t like it, and it might cost Boston the games.  But surely Marty Walsh isn’t going to sacrifice the free speech rights of his city’s people to a shadowy cabal like the IOC.  Right, Marty?

So far, not looking good.  You can read the agreement at this link (via Garrett Quinn at MassLive.com).

Joke Revue: Most Americans Now Consider Romney a Stalker



Poll: Most Americans Now Consider Romney a Stalker

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a possible setback for Mitt Romney’s latest Presidential ambitions, a new poll reveals that a majority of Americans now regard the former Massachusetts governor as a stalker.

The poll results suggest that Romney’s presence in every Presidential campaign in recent memory has taken its toll on the American people, who have expressed disbelief that he would return after being repeatedly told in no uncertain terms that he was not wanted.

Additionally, many of those surveyed said that they previously felt harassed by the Massachusetts governor’s relentless e-mails and phone calls, and favored some form of intervention to keep Romney from contacting them in the future. …

Richest One Per Cent Disappointed to Possess Only Half of World’s Wealth

DAVOS (The Borowitz Report)—A new Oxfam report indicating that the wealthiest one per cent possesses about half of the world’s wealth has left the richest people in the world “reeling with disappointment,” a leading billionaire said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum, the hedge-find owner Harland Dorrinson said, “I think I speak for a lot of my fellow billionaires when I say I thought we were doing a good deal better than that.”

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Mitt Romney said he is considering a third presidential bid. Romney said he got the idea from watching his dog repeatedly run into an electric fence.” –Seth Meyers

“Yesterday, during his domestic abuse trial, NASCAR driver Kurt Busch said he believes his ex-girlfriend is a CIA-trained assassin. I guess those are just the kinds of thoughts you have when you drive in circles for four hours.” –Seth Meyers

“Mitt Romney is reportedly putting his 2012 election team back together. And somehow, miraculously, none of them were busy with other stuff.” –Seth Meyers

“Paul Ryan announced that after a lot of thought, and talking it over with family and friends, that he is not going to run for president in 2016. I’m telling you, this announcement sent shock waves through no one.” –David Letterman

“The film ‘Boyhood’ won the Golden Globe for best drama. It follows one guy’s journey over the course of 12 years — or as Mitt Romney calls that, ‘running for president.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush will release a decade’s worth of tax returns to avoid comparisons to Mitt Romney. Yeah, they’re nothing alike. They’re just both former governors from wealthy families whose parents gave them super-weird names.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Our hearts are with the staff of Charlie Hebdo and their families tonight. I know very few people go into comedy as an act of courage, mainly because it shouldn’t have to be that, it shouldn’t be an act of courage, it should be taken as established law. But those guys at Hebdo had it, and they were killed for their cartoons. For however frustrated or outraged back and forth conversation can become, it’s still back and forth conversation amongst those on … let’s call it team civilization. And this type of violence only clarifies that reality. Of course, of course, our goal tonight … is to not make sense of this, because there is no sense to be made of this. Our goal, as it is always, is to keep going, keep calm and carry on, or whatever version of that saying is in your dorm room.” –Jon Stewart


More cartoons over the flip:

What's Really Disturbing about the Southeast Expressway Protests

A good point. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The real outrage is that if you live on the South Shore, your chances of getting to a level-one trauma center depend on how well traffic is flowing on the Southeast Expressway. In a region that spends more per-capita on medical expenses than just about anywhere else on earth, there seems to be no level-one trauma facility on the South Shore.

Apparently ambulance drivers on the South Shore have not planned any alternate routes in case the Southeast Expressway is jammed (which only happens about 5 days a week). They just turn around and go someplace else. And not only that, the AG has okayed the closing (after one more year) of the only emergency room in Quincy. Because getting people quickly to life-saving emergency help–while more important than hippie protesters– is less important than profits.
The above should have been obvious to any public servant who really wanted to serve the public. To craven pols like Marty Walsh and Coleen Garry, their only reaction seems to be “You know what this story is missing? My face on TV!”