Wonk Post: MA Governor Polling Aggregate

Worrisome. Call your friends. Forward emails. Knock on doors. - promoted by Bob_Neer

From HuffPo/Pollster:

HuffPost Model Estimate

Charlie Baker 45.5%
Martha Coakley 44.6%
Undecided 9.9%
CONFIDENCE OF WIN The probability that Baker will beat Coakley is 51%.

BMG's ballot question endorsements: No, Yes, Yes, Yes

It’s that time of year again, when everyone from newspaper editors to neighbors to your cranky uncle is telling you how to vote on November’s ballot.  Herewith, your humble editors’ submission with respect to the four statewide ballot questions.  Spoiler: the correct answers are No on 1, and Yes on the rest.  They are all pretty easy calls, in our view.

NO on 1.  Question 1, if passed, would repeal the indexing provision that the legislature recently added to the gas tax.  The indexing provision adjusts the gas tax (currently 24 cents per gallon) “every year by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index over the preceding year.”  In other words, it automatically adjusts the gas tax for inflation.

An outrage, some cry!  Taxation without representation!  The legislature should have to vote every time a tax is raised!  There are many problems with this argument, not the least of which is that the sales tax for everything else is a percentage, and therefore automatically adjusts for inflation – if prices go up, so does the sales tax in dollar amount.  Frankly, a percentage sales tax is probably a better way to manage the gas tax as well, but since the tax is per gallon, failing to index results in the gas tax actually losing value over time.

And an inadequate gas tax is a real problem, since the gas tax funds road and bridge projects around the state.  Needless to say, these projects are necessary.  MA’s infrastructure is not getting any younger; much maintenance has been deferred way longer than it should have been; and catastrophes like this one only seem likely to happen more often if something isn’t done.

The legislature isn’t very good at enacting sensible tax policy.  This gas tax bill was a rare exception (it probably didn’t go far enough, but it was a big improvement over what was in place before).  We see no good argument for undoing it.

YES on 2.  Question 2, if passed, would update the bottle bill (which requires a five-cent deposit on certain beverage containers, refunded when the bottle is returned) to include water, juice, sports drink, and other now-popular drinks.  The statistics around the bottle bill are overwhelming: 80% of containers with a deposit, but only 23% of containers without, are recycled.  Lots of anecdotal observations support this: it’s actually pretty rare to see a Coke can or beer bottle on the street, but plastic water and juice bottles are ubiquitous.

So, the bottle bill works, and things that work should be encouraged and expanded to keep up with the times.  Furthermore, the folks urging you to vote “no” have been … massaging the facts, shall we say, with respect to current recycling rates in Massachusetts.  This is bad behavior that should be punished; if it isn’t, they and others will assume (correctly) that they can get away it, and will behave similarly in the future.

YES on 3.  Question 3, if passed, would pretty much repeal the state’s casino law by making slot machines and table games illegal again in Massachusetts.  We’ve talked about this issue a great deal on BMG in recent months, so there’s no need to rehash those arguments in detail here.  In brief, we think casinos are a lousy economic development strategy (recent events in Atlantic City and elsewhere suggest that they are not the golden goose their boosters would have you believe), we think they prey on people who really don’t need another toilet down which to flush their money, and we think the shenanigans at the Mass. Gaming Commission have amply demonstrated that they tend to operate in a shady fashion.  We recognize that Springfield, in particular, could use an infusion of economic activity of just about any kind.  We are happy to see recent news reports that just such a thing appears to be happening, and we hope this is the start of a trend.  Building a plant to assemble desperately-needed subway cars is real economic development.  Gambling isn’t.

YES on 4.  Question 4, if passed, would require employers with 11 or more employees to allow their employees to “earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year, while employees working for smaller employers could earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.”  This one is really so easy.  Of course employees should be able to take a modest number of sick days per year (five seems perfectly reasonable) without putting their jobs in jeopardy or (at larger employers) taking a financial hit for it.  If you’re sick and you stay home and rest, (a) you will get better and therefore return to productivity much faster, and (b) you won’t get your colleagues or the people next to you on the T sick.  It is both sensible economic policy and sensible public health policy.

NEWS FLASH: It's a close race.

… and the smug, lazy national media had the stories written a year ago. “Smug”, “lazy” — you think I’m being harsh? How about “Martha Chokeley” from Tiger Beat on the Potomac? This tendentious drool from the WaPo? No wonder keen observer Prof. Peter Ubertaccio declares that the national media coverage of the race has “jumped the shark”.

Can we have some perspective? To those of you in the national media who smell blood, how about putting things in context:

  • We had 16 years of Republican governors. An actually moderate GOP candidate is not automatically overwhelmed in this, the supposedly bluest of states.
  • Charlie Baker ran an embarrassing, tone-deaf, and profoundly cowardly race in 2010 versus one of the most talented campaigners in the country, who had a grassroots organization the likes of which we have never seen. Oh gosh, he didn’t even recognize himself on the campaign trail, so we’re told. He lost by only 6 points.
  • Scott Brown also ran an embarrassing, knuckle-headed, and insulting campaign versus a national icon with many millions $$$ pouring in from around the country. He lost by only 7.5 points.

This year, things are different. Martha Coakley is indeed warm and personable (go talk to her!); but she’s no Deval Patrick; no one is. And Charlie Baker is running a safe-as-milk campaign, with just enough screw-the-poor to send out a dog whistle to the Herald readership.

And how is Martha actually doing? Well, she’s been doing pretty well in the debates. It has struck me that a very decent grassroots organization has been in effect from early primary days. She’s been campaigning hard. I can’t think of a recent, major gaffe — can you?

The polls are tight. Is she “choking?” Come on. This is about where it would have been with Steve Grossman, or Don Berwick, or even Dan Wolf, for that matter. The dumb and nasty national press prefers to overlook actual Massachusetts political history and structure, because tossing insults is so much easier.

So we gotta get it done on 11/4. Call your friends.

Machiavellian Proposition

BMG's longest-term differently-winged member makes a case. - promoted by david

I would like to propose that Blue Mass Group support David D’Arcangelo for Secretary of State.

I have been on BMG about ten years – long enough to absorb what is important to you (in a hive-mind way) and what you believe in.  I don’t agree with some of your solutions to problems, but we often agree on what constitutes a problem.  And your party’s Secretary of State falls into that category.

Money Matters: Spending and Expected Vote Share

Wonk alert! :-) - promoted by david

A little background on myself: my name is Christian Schlachte and I am the assistant research director at the research wing of Sage Systems, LLC. Our focus here will mainly be less political, and more policy/attitude based. We will spend most of our time asking questions about various attitudes and positions that Massachusetts residents hold, on the issues that matter most. Because there is such high quality research/polling on political attitudes in the state, we want to add value where we can. Much of the future work that will be done in this vein will be similar to this post: seeking to take advantage of historical, publicly available data and looking for the intersections between the commonwealth, public policy, and all of us.

We have been doing a review of the recent primary and were interested in the late Grossman surge to finish in a much stronger second than many pundits expected.. One thing we’ve come across is a correlation between Grossman’s cumulative average spending and his poll standing (expected vote share). We computed cumulative average spending by looking at the total Treasurer Grossman spent in each reporting period (including all of the previous reporting periods) and dividing that number by what numbered reporting period that was. For example, if Treasurer Grossman had spent 2 million dollars over 10 reporting periods, his cumulative average spending would be $200,000 for that 10th reporting period.


A splendid BMGer, who will indeed be very missed. -Bob
Bumped, for Striker. - promoted by david

RIP…John Laughlin, IUPAT…union activist to the core…political field marshal and excellent writer…you will be missed.



Charlie What Happened to your Tax Reform Centerpiece 5 - 5 - 5

Oh, Charles. -Bob
Reviews are coming in ... sounds like Martha had a good night; Charlie, not so much. - promoted by david

Here is Charlie Baker in 2010 waxing poetic on the will of the people and making Massachusetts affordable and competitive.

Photo link to C-Span clip

Baker: To simplify our business and get that back to 5%. I think we should repeal the increase in the sales tax as well. We need to create a Massachusetts that is affordable and competitive to get people back to work. 200,000 people are out of work.

But today, the Globe posted an interview with Charlie on taxes, funny, that 5 – 5 – 5 thing, well you are SOL. Charlie Empty Suit 2.0, it doesn’t matter your positions and think tank work over the course of your lifetime matter, just smile and make up something that you think people want to hear.

In your last campaign, you supported lowering the income, sales, and corporate tax rates to 5 percent. Why do you no longer support that plan?

Massachusetts is facing a different set of economic realities with the national economy on the rebound. My mission will be to improve life across Massachusetts, including communities and geographies that are seeing a slower economic recovery. Lower and fairer taxes are an important part of creating jobs and accomplishing that goal.

Blah, blah, blah, blah blah, jobs, blah, blah taxes. Wait what was the question?

That my friends is a whole lot of nothing, yes lower taxes which I’m not in favor of you know, lowering. But I said it. See.

Let me translate his real answer for you: I would like to be elected governor

Do you support rolling the income tax back to 5 percent, in line with the voter-passed ballot question in 2000? Why or why not? Would you commit to doing immediately upon taking office?

I support upholding the will of the voters by rolling the income tax back to 5% as quickly as possible.

Well how’s that for specifics folks.

But let me translate for you again: I would like to be elected governor

Looks like Charlie learned a lot from good ole Mitt, but what we don’t need is a clownish political caricature, pushing empty promises.

Christie Won't Release Results of Pay-to-Play Investigation of Charlie Baker's Firm

Gosh, you guys are such cynics. I'm sure the Nov. 6 thing is totally coincidental. - promoted by david

Well now.

General Catalyst and Baker have denied that Baker had anything to do with persuading Christie officials to invest in the firm. To try to verify that assertion, IBTimes filed a separate request for any General Catalyst documents sent to the New Jersey Department of Treasury prior to its investment. Those documents would show whether General Catalyst specifically promoted Baker’s involvement in the firm when pitching its investment to New Jersey.

Christie officials are pushing back the due date to release those documents to Nov. 6 — two days after the election.

This pretty much speaks for itself.

Reminder: the IOC is filled with awful people

Just a little reminder of the people with whom Boston will be getting into bed for the next ten freaking years if we host the 2024 Olympics.

Russian Tennis Federation head Shamil Tarpischev called the Williams sisters the “Williams brothers” and added “it’s scary when you really look at them” …

The WTA [Women's Tennis Association] suspended Shamil Tarpischev for a year and fined him $25,000….

Tarpischev, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, said the comments were a “joke” in a statement.

“I didn’t want to offend any athlete with my words,” he said. “I regret that this joke has garnered so much attention. I don’t think this incident deserves so much fuss.”

So, yeah.  You can read about a bunch of the other reprobates on the IOC at this link.

Joke Revue: Some Fear Ebola Outbreak Could Make Nation Turn to Science


Some Fear Ebola Outbreak Could Make Nation Turn to Science

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—There is a deep-seated fear among some Americans that an Ebola outbreak could make the country turn to science.

In interviews conducted across the nation, leading anti-science activists expressed their concern that the American people, wracked with anxiety over the possible spread of the virus, might desperately look to science to save the day.

“It’s a very human reaction,” said Harland Dorrinson, a prominent anti-science activist from Springfield, Missouri. “If you put them under enough stress, perfectly rational people will panic and start believing in science.”

Additionally, he worries about a “slippery slope” situation, “in which a belief in science leads to a belief in math, which in turn fosters a dangerous dependence on facts.”

At the end of the day, though, Dorrinson hopes that such a doomsday scenario will not come to pass. “Time and time again through history, Americans have been exposed to science and refused to accept it,” he said. “I pray that this time will be no different.”

CNN Defends New Slogan

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—The president of CNN Worldwide, Jeff Zucker, attempted on Wednesday to defuse the brewing controversy over his decision to change the network’s official slogan from “The Most Trusted Name in News” to “Holy Crap, We’re All Gonna Die.”

“This exciting new slogan is just one piece of our over-all rebranding strategy,” Zucker said. “Going forward, we want CNN to be synonymous with the threat of imminent death.”

North Korean Government Reassures Citizens It Has Deep Bench of Brutal Madmen

PYONGYANG (The Borowitz Report) — As the mystery surrounding the absence of dictator Kim Jong-un deepens, the North Korean government on Wednesday issued an official statement reassuring its citizens that it had “a deep bench of brutal madmen.”

While it offered no comment about the status of Kim, the statement from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) emphasized that “making North Korea an authoritarian horror-drome is not the achievement of one man; it has been and will always be a team effort.”


Hazmat Worker Sees No Reason To Throw Away All This Perfectly Good Food

DALLAS—Claiming he would hate to see a carton of unspoiled milk and an entire loaf of bread go to waste, hazardous materials removal worker Jonathan Parker reportedly saw no reason Friday to throw away perfectly good food while disinfecting the apartment of an Ebola-stricken patient. “This pork roast can’t be more than a couple days old,” said Parker, lamenting the idea that a large hunk of parmesan cheese, fine-looking grapes, and a full head of cauliflower would be destroyed and deposited in a remote biohazard disposal site. “These eggs definitely look like they’re still pretty fresh. And that container of yogurt doesn’t expire for three more weeks—and it’s blueberry, too.” At press time, Parker was reportedly spotted carefully placing several grocery bags full of snacks and fresh produce in the trunk of his car.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Colorado police are worried that children on Halloween might mistakenly eat edible marijuana. Marijuana is legal there and includes candies and baked goods. You can tell if your kid is high if he won’t stop asking ‘Why?’ when you answer his questions, or if he believes he has an imaginary friend.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance yesterday in over 40 days. But since he saw his shadow, that now means 60 more years of nuclear winter.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Because of health scares, they will be taking your temperature at airport security. Well, that should speed up lines.” –David Letterman

“In North Korea, dictator Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance in over a month. He’s put on weight and he’s carrying a cane. Kim Jong Un is a top hat and a monocle away from being a Batman villain at this point.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama was in California over the weekend to attend a fundraiser hosted by the creator of ‘Farmville.’ Obama and the creator of ‘Farmville’ have a lot in common. They both really wish it was still 2009.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Last week was the big fundraiser for President Obama hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow. It was hosted at her house. And people say Obama never reaches out to the inner city.” –Craig Ferguson

“A lot of people have a three-day weekend because of Columbus Day. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and 522 years later a lot of people still get Monday off to celebrate. No one’s received more credit for getting lost than Christopher Columbus in the history of mankind.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“This week a spokesman for Harry Reid said that even though Joe Biden makes a lot of mistakes, he is still able to connect and tell us what’s on his mind. That sounds less like a vice president and more like a chimpanzee that knows sign language.” –Jimmy Fallon

Reality-based Yes on 2 Comment of the Day

From johntmay on this thread:

One ride was all it took

My wife was opposed to the bottle bill until I took her for a short ride on our tandem bike through a section of the Charles River Basin in the Franklin/Norfolk area. In the space of five miles, she counted over 50 discarded water/juice bottles and maybe five beer cans/bottles.

Say what you will, the deposits work. At the very least, those who do litter will now pay an automatic five cent tax.

I'm voting NO on Question 2 - expanded bottle bill

A thoughtful contrarian post. - promoted by david

I have been watching my Twitter feed, and found out some folks are promoting #NYYY as the progressive vote this November. Of course, my reaction was one of swift outrage!

#NYYY? What is progressive about the New York Yankees?

Then I looked at the thing a little more carefully, and figured out that some Twitter tweeters were selling NO on 1, and YES for 2, 3, and 4 as the progressive positions on the Massachusetts ballot questions.

Except that I am a progressive Boston Red Sox fan, and while I have problems supporting anything that starts with the letters NYY, I also have problems voting for Question 2.

I am also an urban dwelling progressive, with an 895 square foot condo in a building with several single source recycling bins next to the dumpsters in the parking lot. We make good use of the recycling barrels, and we end up throwing out more recycling than trash in the dumpster.

The deposit bottles? Either they end up in the recycling barrel, or they sit around our little kitchen until the next trip to the store. Which store? It depends on the bottle. Beer bottles to the package store. Whole Foods gets the Whole Foods brands, and never the Diet Coke. Can’t take Diet Coke to Trader Joe’s, either. So, we need to sort bottles and cans around multiple recycle bags cluttering the area to the right of the cat food bowl, or we need to toss nickels into the recycling bin.