Foreign meddling shutting down MassDems debate on foreign policy

Today I received the email [below] from Steve Dunn and other signatories, including Steve Grossman who was once a lobbyist for AIPAC.

The letter warns Massachusetts Democrats that any convention resolutions critical of Israel’s half-century occupation and its abysmal human rights record are not to be tolerated. Critics are painted as a small, disruptive minority. Yet, according to the Pew Research Center, many Democrats have grown weary of ignoring the very abuses in Israel that we are trying to stop here. Americans are weary of inaction on the issue, and Progressives are tired of party machine Democrats supporting right-wing Likudniks who make Trump look like a flaming Liberal in comparison.

That such an email could be sent out to every state party delegate right before the convention points out that American foreign policy intrudes into every facet of state politics. Foreign policy is something that cannot be ignored — especially when we are paying a stiff economic and civil liberties price for our inattention.

And foreign policy is most definitely something Massachusetts Democrats should have the right to weigh in on. Even at the state level.

Dunn, Grossman and company would have you believe that supporting a resolution on Israel is a trifling distraction. They want us to “avoid divisive discussions […] not related to the core issues that require our attention.” They say that by sweeping Israeli human rights abuses under the rug we can protect “our progressive values and our way of life.”

This is so wrong! We defend our progressive values by defending human rights wherever they need defending — and that includes Revere, Richmond, or Ramallah.

Dunn and Grossman write that criticisms of Israel are at odds with national party policy, and that state Democrats shouldn’t have to worry their pretty little heads about such things.

Why, then, are these state Democrats doing precisely that?

Should a resolution critical of Israel — or Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, or Russia — be proposed, I urge Massachusetts Democrats to give it a fair hearing.

Especially at a time Democrats are so concerned with Russian meddling in U.S. politics, we don’t need AIPAC and its friends telling us how to conduct our foreign policy.

——– Forwarded Message ——–

Subject: Resolution at This Weekend’s Convention
Date: Wed, 31 May 2017 13:35:53 -0400 (EDT)
From: Brian Dunn, Democratic State Committee Member <brianrichard.dunn@gmail.com>
Reply-To: demconvention2017@gmail.com

Dear Massachusetts Democratic State Convention Delegate:

We are writing to alert you to an issue that could arise at the Democratic State Convention on June 3rd.

For the past 9 months, there has been a campaign to have the Democratic State Committee (DSC) adopt an unbalanced and misleading resolution that was critical of the state of Israel while ignoring the role of other parties to the conflict. Many members of the DSC agreed and thought that the resolution was one-sided. Fortunately, on April 29th, the Democratic State Committee endorsed the recommendation of its Resolutions Committee and tabled it.

It is possible, however, that there will be an attempt to reintroduce this resolution either as a platform amendment or by a motion from the floor at our upcoming Convention. We believe that this would be divisive and damaging to our party. We want to explain why, in the hopes of sparing us from what has the potential to be a contentious and destructive debate.

The Democratic Party is faced with extraordinary challenges. The policies and initiatives being proposed by President Trump and the Republican Congressional majority threaten many of our core commitments concerning healthcare, global warming, consumer protection, law enforcement, immigration and so much more. In fact, many believe that we are facing a grave threat to our very system of government. This is a time when our party needs to strive for unity, so that we can effectively mobilize, protect the interests of our constituents and secure a strong future for our state and our nation.

This damaging resolution is at odds with the Democratic Party’s national platform that was adopted last July. While we respect the right of all party members to present their views, we also have the obligation to ensure that our party is not derailed by the actions of a small group. We must not let this happen.

We hope that you agree with us that at this critical moment in our nation’s history our party needs to:

  • Unite and focus on the historic challenges we face;
  • Avoid divisive discussions that are not related to the core issues that require our attention; and
  • Mobilize to defend our nation, our progressive values and our way of life.

It is with this in mind that we urge you to join us in discouraging this resolution and, if necessary, ensure that it is quickly and resoundingly defeated, whether it is introduced as a platform amendment or as a motion from the floor at our June 3rd Convention.

Respectfully,

Zachary Agush
First Middlesex & Norfolk

David Albright
First Middlesex & Norfolk

Jake Auchincloss
First Middlesex & Norfolk

Bryan Barash
First Middlesex & Norfolk

Jeanne Barghout
Norfolk & Plymouth

Jacquelyn Bonarrigo
Second Plymouth & Bristol

John Brissette
First Worcester

Dan Cahill
Third Essex

Joe Caiazzo
Fifth Middlesex

Ed Chazen
First Middlesex & Norfolk

Steve Como
Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden

Jen Creane
Plymouth & Barnstable

Julie Curtis
Second Essex

Peggy Curtis
Second Plymouth & Bristol

Mark DiSalvo
First Essex & Middlesex

Carol Donovan
Fourth Middlesex

Ray Drewnowski
Second Hampden & Hampshire

Brian Dunn
Plymouth & Barnstable

Mike Fenton
Hampden

Daniel Fishman
First Middlesex & Norfolk

Etta Goodstein
Cape & Islands

Steve Grossman
First Middlesex & Norfolk

Sherwood Guernsey
Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden

Martina Jackson
First Middlesex & Norfolk

Joe Kaplan
Bristol & Norfolk

Steve Kerrigan
Worcester & Middlesex

Hailey Klein
First Essex

Amy Kullar
Plymouth & Barnstable

Steve Leibowitz
Cape & Islands

Chris Matthews
Plymouth & Norfolk

Thomas McGrath
First Middlesex

Stacey Monahan
Norfolk & Suffolk

Kathy Pasquina
First Essex & Middlesex

David Perelman
Third Middlesex

Bob Peters
Fourth Middlesex

Lois Pines
Second Suffolk & Middlesex

Mary Richards
Worcester & Middlesex

Sally Rizzo
Cape & Islands

Keri Rodrigues
Second Middlesex

Beth Segal
Plymouth & Barnstable

Nate Segal
Plymouth & Barnstable

Bill Shaevel
Second Suffolk

Ashley Shaw
Plymouth & Barnstable

Donna Smith
Norfolk, Bristol & Plymouth

Jim Smith
Third Essex

Sharon Stout
First Middlesex & Norfolk

Jack Suslack
Third Essex

Joe Tutino
First Plymouth & Bristol

Steve Walsh
Third Essex

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MA Budget Amendments

Our friends at Progressive Massachusetts are urging support for the following budget amendments:


Senator Mark Montigny <Mark.Montigny@masenate.gov>

Dear Senator Montigny,

I am writing to support budget amendments that support a strong Commonwealth. While the following budget amendments make a big difference in the short term, it is important for the Commonwealth to raise more revenue in the long term, including taxing the wealthiest in our state.

Please support:

  • Amendment 16, which expands the earned income tax credit
  • Amendment 23, which increases badly needed revenue by eliminating a tax break for the mutual fund industry
  • Amendment 75, which puts the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission into statute and pressures the Legislature into giving our schools the money they need
  • Amendment 286, which increases the state match for the Community Preservation Act, including affordable housing and open space protection
  • Amendment 389, which eliminates an outdated and punitive law that harms women with children who are receiving welfare assistance
  • Amendment 507, which supports women’s health by increasing funding for family planning
  • Amendments 641 and 645, which increase funding for housing vouchers and assistance for those experiencing homelessness
  • Amendment 790, which increases funding for environmental protection
  • Amendments 883, 896, and 906, which increase access to legal services and reentry services
  • Amendment 1025, which strengthen regional infrastructure

Please support these line items.

Thank you,

[signed]

The Platform Sideshow

The Massachusetts Democratic convention is two weeks away, and there is now a working version that will be discussed in Worcester on June 3rd. Some have applauded the new draft — including three progressive groups that contributed amendments — for being the “most progressive” Massachusetts Democratic platform in history.

Good Stuff

To its credit, the 2013 draft includes calls for

  • single-payer healthcare — although it’s not clear why it also propose a hodgepodge of other healthcare programs
  • making the Commonwealth a sanctuary state
  • public funding of elections — but will the state’s Democrats really give up their PACs?
  • paid family leave
  • free college education — well, maybe, because it also calls for “exploring” debt-free models of higher education
  • a “decent living wage” — though a specific amount is not given
  • infrastructure development, including broadband — though no mention of regulating monopolies like Comcast or ensuring net neutrality within the state
  • a “millionaire’s tax” — along with tax breaks for “job creators”
  • universal background checks for guns —”balanced” by more money for law-enforcement
  • more money for veterans — which irks me for the same reason as the Commonwealth subsidizing ICE

And, to be fair, there are many good things in the platform. But some caution.

Their hearts weren’t in it

Massachusetts Democrats have been pushed to embrace many progressive positions they would normally have rejected — and they have been translated into ambiguities and weasel-words. Some positions are just a road too far for Democrats in a state that thinks it’s much more liberal than it actually is. The hearts of those who had to draft this “progressive” platform just weren’t in it.

In a previous post I looked at what was missing in the 2013 MassDems platform — and some things have indeed been fixed in this 2017 draft. At the time I observed that “the 2013 platform isn’t bad as a statement of liberal values — and the 2017 Progressives’ changes aren’t so radical as to give Democrats much heartburn.”

I was wrong. Apparently there was heartburn.

For example, the platform committee deleted the following plank from the 2013 final version:

“We want strong diplomacy and support nonviolent conflict resolution as a first resort in our domestic and foreign relations and call for a reduced military budget that allows for investment in human needs”

Attempts by progressive delegates to insert anti-militarism and foreign policy language into the platform were flatly rejected. The word “military” only appears in the Veterans section. Thank you for your service. Here, have some state money.

What’s still missing

  • Foreign Policy and Militarism — stop supporting autocratic and undemocratic regimes — no more weaponry for Saudi Arabia — slash the military budget — end undeclared wars — insist on Congress’ right to declare wars — no more aid to Israel until they end settlements — no more aid for Egypt’s dictatorship
  • Democratization of the Democratic Party — will we ever be rid of superdelegates?
  • End the Surveillance State — enhance citizen privacy (a word that doesn’t appear even once in the document) — get rid of the Patriot Act — eliminate FISA courts — get rid of or make No Fly lists transparent — breathe life back into the 4th Amendment
  • End useless tax breaks — remove vague language guaranteeing favorable tax rates for “businesses that generate community growth and participation” — Wal*Mart? really?
  • Environment — now that EPA and Superfund money has been slashed, Massachusetts should sue for remediation (for example, Aerovox dumped PCBs in New Bedford’s harbor and then moved to Mexico) — strengthen our own MA Dept of Environmental Protection
  • Healthcare backup plan — create with other Blue States a Single-Payer Healthcare system
  • Restore Net Neutrality to the FCC
  • Create a Citizen’s Data Bill of Rights guaranteeing that your personal and online data belongs to you and not to Comcast (Europeans have had this for years)

The platform is really the side-show

While the platform appears to be the main attraction, anything ironed out like this amounts to so much word salad. Modifying the party’s charter may appear to be a side-show, but it is arguably the more important objective. It turns out the platform is really the side-show.

Though there will be thousands of delegates and guests at the convention, the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee is the body that actually makes the decisions — think of it as your friendly Politburo. It’s also a fund-raising machine, so whatever values the platform holds are completely separate from those of the candidates the Committee funds.

The MassDems State Committee is the nation’s largest, weighing in at 418 members. Of this number only 80 members are actually voted upon by town delegates. Over 120 have permanent status and cannot be unseated as long as their bodies continue to twitch. Every year the number of these functionaries grows larger.

So let there be no confusion: the platform we are voting upon in two weeks is theirs, not ours. And in the long term, it’s changing the party charter that will actually make the difference.

More going on here

Poor Heather Mac Donald. She didn’t get quite the reception she wanted at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) outside Los Angeles. She had come to speak on “The War on Police,” another of her frequent attacks on Black Lives Matter (BLM), and the students weren’t having it. A FOX News video shows what appear to be white allies locking arms and peacefully blocking access to the school’s Athenaeum. Mac Donald’s talk had to continue with whomever had already entered. President Hiram Chodosh live-streamed the talk and put it online. Ironically, as the media and two organizations which sponsored her talk pointed out, more people heard Mac Donald than if no protest had taken place.

Sarah Sanbar, a student fellow, introduced Mac Donald, apologized for the almost empty room, and placed the talk in its proper context. She said that Black Lives Matter opposes systemic racism and that Mac Donald was there to deny it and to paint BLM as dangerous. And that turned out to be a fairly accurate introduction.

Although Heather MacDonald is ostensibly a conservative intellectual and a “fellow” of the Manhattan Institute, she spends a lot of time on the talk show and cable television circuit. Here is Mac Donald being interviewed by Rush Limbaugh. There she is with Dennis Prager. Here she is visiting Frontpage Magazine. Mac Donald is a regular on FOX News and in virtually every far right publication. Her book on Black crime is a recommended read of the John Birch Society and the white supremacist group VDARE.

Mac Donald, who studied English and law and who is not actually a social scientist or criminologist, frequently veers into white supremacy. She believes Black communities need to be aggressively policed (occupied) to keep them safe (the White Man’s burden), and Mac Donald calls affirmative action programs “racist.” On FOX News Mac Donald and host Laura Ingraham held a pity party for white student “victims,” with Mac Donald going so far as to claim that “underprepared” blacks don’t actually want to be on these college campuses “when in fact the only reason they’re there is because the campuses want so-called diversity so much that they lower their standards.”

Such rhetoric might have had more to do with the protest at Claremont McKenna than with the pseudoscience Mac Donald tossed into her book “The War on Cops,” which Newsweek dismissed as “flawed logic and fantasy.” The Libertarian magazine Reason found Mac Donald’s logic “deficient” and took her central thesis to task: “America does not have an incarceration problem; it has a [Black] crime problem.” Police reform, prison reform, legal reform, and social reform are therefore all unnecessary because – when Mac Donald drills right down to root causes – well, the root cause is Black people.

I found it ironic that Mac Donald claims to revere the Bill of Rights while finding nothing wrong with police depriving Black teenagers of Fourth Amendment rights. She richly deserves the monicker that Black Lives Matter has given her – racist and fascist. But interfering with someone’s First Amendment rights is a problem and it’s also become an unfortunate trend. And liberal publications from the Atlantic to the LA Times and the New York Times, as well as civil liberties groups like the ACLU, have condemned such liberal intolerance.

Yet if the American Right are the true friends of the First Amendment, as they claim to be, let us see a flurry of Conservative letters to the editor defending protections for whistleblowers, journalists, rights for those boycotting Israeli occupation, support for net neutrality, and ending press bans in the White House. Let us hear fevered calls to stop restricting the right of people to demonstrate except in “free speech zones.” Let the Great Right wing rise up and repeal their own laws permitting vehicular murder of protesters (google it!). Let there be a torrent of letters demanding an end to gag orders on physicians providing women’s health services.

And let us see the nation’s editorial pages flooded with defenses of Kashiya Nwanguma, a Black woman who protested at a Trump rally and was assaulted by a white supremacist at the behest of the white supremacist candidate.

For this is what it’s really about. There’s more here than Heather Mac Donald’s First Amendment right to heap insult and advocate repression on an entire race.

Now that the entire government is doing it.