March for our lives Boston

On Saturday, March 24 March For Our Lives takes to the streets to demand that childrens’ lives and safety become a national priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools. Add your signature to the national petition by visiting

And come to the March in Boston!

The New Bedford Democrats invite you to join them for a bus up to the March for Our Lives rally in Boston on Saturday, to march for sane gun control. If you’re meeting people, the march starts at Boston Common, Charles St., Boston, MA 02108 at noon. Here’s how to sign up for the bus:

Since this is really short notice and the bus has to be arranged, please do the following by 8:30 PM Wednesday, March 21st — that’s less than 24 hours from now!

  1. Click here to let us know if you’re coming. Give us the number of people who will be riding the bus, as well as your name and email address, so we can contact you with pickup details.
  2. There is a $15 per person fee for the bus. Write and hang on to a check for $15 to “New Bedford Democratic City Committee” and fork it over when you board the bus. If you don’t have a check account, cash is fine. If you can afford to cover fees for a starving student, be generous; give more than the minimum. If you can’t afford the fare, we’ll still get you to the rally.
  3. The bus will start in New Bedford, pick up people in Fall River, then stop in Brockton and end up in Boston. Once the route is established we’ll contact you with details of the pick up addresses and times.

Bus fare includes a sandwich from Giammalvo’s, chips, water, maybe some granola bars and apples, and Richard Drolet, the Chairperson of the N.B. Democratic City Committe, will probably make some of his excellent cookies.

Assuming the weather cooperates and enough people are interested, there will also be a sign-making party on Thursday or Friday. We have sign board for 60 signs. Your creativity is needed. Think up some slogans.


Richard M. Drolet, Chairperson, N.B. Democratic City Committee
508-801-2881 –


Thirteen Democratic Senators

I’ve written about this before and it is now closer to becoming law. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720) is a piece of legislation promoted by a foreign nation that will violate the civil liberties of Americans. It joins recent laws in Turkey and Poland criminalizing “insults” to a nation. But it is fundamentally a form of thought control that has no place in a democracy.

S.720 is co-sponsored by 51 U.S. Senators. To their shame, thirteen are Democrats: Michael Bennet (CO); Richard Blumenthal (CT); Maria Cantwell (WA); Christopher Coons (DE); Joe Donnelly (IN); Margaret Hassan (NH); Joe Manchin (WV); Claire McCaskill (MO); Robert Menendez (NJ); Bill Nelson (FL); Gary Peters (MI); Charles Schumer (NY); and Ron Wyden (OR).

S.720 criminalizes speech and forbids political expression. The Anti-Israel Boycott Act is basically a Sedition Act in disguise which punishes any American joining a boycott to oppose the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinians with a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment up to 20 years.

S.720 wants to have it both ways — doing the bidding of a foreign nation (Israel) while punishing Americans from following boycotts suggested by a foreign entity (the UN and the still-stateless Palestinian people).

Whether the bill is eventually successful or not, the ACLU notes the harm it has already done:

“On its face, the bill appears to directly prohibit boycott activity that is protected under the First Amendment. Even if the bill could be interpreted more narrowly, as some of its supporters claim, its broad language could still chill protected expression by scaring people into self-censorship. Either way, the bill would impose serious First Amendment harms.”

According to S.720’s subsection (a)(1) the bill criminalizes even gathering information about companies doing business in Israel or in occupied Palestinian territories. You post an inquiry on Facebook — for example, does Sodastream manufacture its products in the West Bank? The next thing you know, you face arrest or a fine.

Besides violating the rights of Americans, S.720 is a perfect example of the sort of foreign meddling that Democrats claim to hate. S.720 is promoted by numerous pro-Israel groups like AIPAC whose single focus on promoting Israeli interests should require it to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Even Canada is obliged to register its lobbyists but no such limitations apply to AIPAC, which literally pays American legislators to work for Israel’s interests.

Imagine if Russian lobbyists did the same — worked through a group we’ll call ARPAC — the American Russian Political Action Committee — to create legislation to criminalize sanctions against Russia and its oligarchs. Or imagine ATPAC — the American Turkish Political Action Committee — buying support to keep Americans from mentioning the Armenian Genocide or protesting Turkey’s treatment of Kurdish people.

What’s especially galling to Americans is that the Senate is telling us we can’t take political action against a foreign country knee deep in corruption — a country with a prime minister about to be indicted for criminal conspiracy. A country in which the former prime minister went to jail for bribery and influence-peddling. The Senate needs to be reminded: Israel is not our 51st state.

S.720 echoes laws in Israel which have already criminalized the BDS movement in “the Middle East’s only democracy.” The Senate bill also joins a growing list of American “gag” legislation written for agribusiness, anti-abortion zealots, and pipeline companies. The Trump administration now seems eager to join its authoritarian counterparts in China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Poland, the Philippines, and elsewhere in policing the views of its citizens.

And thirteen Democratic senators, including Chuck Schumer, are just fine with that.

Prepare for the 2018 MassDems convention

Massachusetts Democrats are getting ready for the 2018 convention in Worcester. The following information might be useful if you are thinking of jumping into the Blue pool.

The MassDems Convention

The 2018 Massachusetts Democratic convention is an Endorsing Convention — which means that state primary candidates will be vetted at the convention. To appear on the Democratic primary ballot on September 4th, candidates need 15% of the convention delegate vote, so you may have noticed that candidates are scrambling to contact party activists. This year’s convention is also considering charter amendments — changing the rules by which the state party operates. Action Together has a good writeup on what will go on at the convention:

Action Together also has a good summary of how you can jump in:

First things first

Start by attending your Democratic town caucus. You can’t be a delegate if you’re not attached to a local committee. Today was the first day of the caucuses. Check to see when yours is being held:

A little light reading

The rules for delegates, alternates and “add-on” delegate selections will leave you with heartburn and a headache. In general, there are an equal number of male and female delegates and alternates. There are also a number of “add-on” delegates, also gender-balanced, who represent various identities: minority, gender, sexuality, disabled, etc.

You must be registered as a Democrat at the time of your town caucus to be elected as a delegate or alternate. Add-on delegates can register as Democrats at the caucuses. Delegates must be present at the caucuses unless they are serving in the military, and they must not have publicly supported non-Democrats within the last 2-4 years. There may be some exceptions for absences at the caucuses if prior notice has been given in writing to the local chair. Consult your local chair and familiarize yourself with the Convention documents and the various forms and registration deadlines. And don’t show up late for your caucus!

In case you missed the email

You may find additional information in an email the MassDems sent to all town and city Chairpersons:

Get on Richard’s list

Richard Drolet is a good guy to know if you’re a SouthCoast Democrat. He is the Chairperson of the New Bedford Democratic City Committee, which arranges a bus to the convention for Democrats from New Bedford and neighboring towns. Get on Richard’s email list to be advised of City committee meetings (which are open to members of neighboring towns) and plans for travel to the 2018 Convention in Worcester.

Dammit, Democrats!

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Fourth Amendment

Democrats have their Munsingwear all in a knot about Donald Trump’s authoritarian playbook — his attacks on a free press, directing Jeff Sessions to act as his personal lawyer, the firing of Jonathan Comey, and the possibility he may do the same with Robert Mueller.

But recently, when it came time to walk the walk for Democracy instead of just talk the talk, it turned out that Democrats were mostly talk. Sixty-five Democratic U.S. Representatives and twenty-one Democratic Senators handed Trump and the Republican Party an easy victory by extending warrantless spying on Americans. It was a needless and spineless capitulation by Democratic Party centrists, but it was also nothing new from a party that traditionally votes like Republicans on military and security issues. Dammit, Democrats!

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act extends and expands the ability of spy agencies to monitor your digital communications without a warrant. With Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelation, the public now knows that Section 702 has been used illegally. Millions of communications are vacuumed up and stored annually. The hundreds of thousands of foreign targets have never been approved individually by a court but are essentially retroactive dragnets that frequently involve wiretapping American citizens. This could have been fixed because even Tea Party Republicans wanted the change.

But on January 11th sixty-five House Democrats — including Massachusetts stealth Republicans Bill Keating and Seth Moulton — voted “Yea” on the bill. They were the “usual suspects”: Aguilar (CA), Bera (CA), Bishop (GA), Blunt Rochester (DE), Boyle (PA), Brown (MD), Brownley (CA), Bustos (IL), Carson (IN), Cartwright (PA), Castor (FL), Clyburn (SC), Cooper (TN), Costa (CA), Crist (FL), Cuellar (TX), Delaney (MD), Demings (FL), Deutch (FL), Foster (IL), Frankel (FL), Garamendi (CA), Gottheimer (NJ), Grisham (NM), Higgins (NY), Himes (CT), Hoyer (MD), Keating (MA), Krishnamoorthi (IL), Kuster (NH), Langevin (RI), Lawson (FL), Lipinski (IL), Loebsack (IA), Lowey (NY), Maloney (NY), McEachin (VA), Meeks (NY), Moulton (MA), Murphy (FL), Norcross (NJ), O’Halleran (AZ), Panetta (CA), Pelosi (CA), Perlmutter (CO), Peters (CA), Peterson (MN), Quigley (IL), Rice (NY), Rosen (NV), Ruiz (CA), Ruppersberger (MD), Schiff (CA), Schneider (IL), Scott (GA), Sewell (AL), Sinema (AZ), Sires (NJ), Slaughter (NY), Suozzi (NY), Swalwell (CA), Thompson (CA), Torres (CA), Veasey (TX), and Wasserman-Schultz (FL).

On January 18th twenty-one Senate Democrats voted “Yea” on the Senate version: Carper (DE), Casey (PA), Cortez Masto (NV), Donnelly (IN), Duckworth (IL), Feinstein (CA), Hassan (NH), Heitkamp (ND), Jones (AL), Kaine (VA), Klobuchar (MN), Manchin (WV), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (FL), Peters (MI), Reed (RI), Schumer (NY), Shaheen (NH), Stabenow (MI), Warner (VA), and Whitehouse (RI).

Both members of the Democratic leadership and the former head of the Democratic Party all approved the blanket surveillance. And New Guy Doug Jones. No doubt it’s a good thing the new Alabama Senator is on the job instead of an alleged pedophile. But Jones, who was supported by Democrats of all flavors — I even sent him $50 — just voted away the privacy of 330 million Americans in one of his first official acts. This was not exactly what I was hoping for.

So, while the president bribes porn stars and deals with Russian mafiosi, re-tweets fascists and spits out racist invective, we’re ignoring Congressional and Senate abuses by both parties — one of the worst the dismantling of our democracy.

When I was a boy one of the great crimes of the Soviet Union and Germany of then-recent memory was the practice of arbitrary stops and requiring the papers of citizens: “Papiere!” some thug would demand. Nothing like that could ever happen in the USA — or so we thought. But with the so-called “border exception” to the Fourth Amendment — sometimes known as the Constitution-free zone — The U.S. has snuggled up closer to authoritarian rule. Citizens in Arizona are now accustomed to being stopped by border agents demanding: “Papiere!” But now “Papiere!” has come to New England.

If some day you happen to be driving up to New Hampshire you just might run into the Customs and Border Protection service. Last Fall the New Hampshire Union Leader reported roadblocks on I-93 near Thornton, during which travelers were stopped, asked about their citizenship, and sometimes hauled off to unknown detention centers. In addition, drug-sniffing dogs netted arrests for marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs. All without a warrant.

Likewise, the growing practice of demanding access to a traveler’s computer equipment is also a new feature of our gradual abandonment of the Fourth Amendment. The CATO Institute notes: “thanks to the ‘border exception’ to the Fourth Amendment, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers do not need reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search electronic devices at airports.” The Customs and Border Protection service reports that last year over 30,000 travelers had to fork over laptops, tablets, cellphones, and the passwords to everything in them. As the same statistics show, this practice was in full swing during the Obama administration.

At a time of daily revelations of corruption, incompetence and venality by a sitting president, the bar is admittedly pretty low for the rest of the political establishment. But it’s still worth prodding them to live up to expectations. I’m going to call both my U.S. Senators and thank them for opposing the FISA extension.

And then I’m going to have a long, loud conversation with one of Bill Keating’s staffers.

Resistance to 287(g)

Three neighboring counties in the bottom right quadrant of the Commonwealth have Republican sheriffs in otherwise Democratic districts. It could have something to do with demographics — or maybe just neglect and Boston-centric politics. But it is surely a sign that not all is well with a party that habitually runs weak sheriff candidates — or none at all.

Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings recently joined fellow Republicans, Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson and Plymouth County Sheriff Joe McDonald, in signing a 287(g) agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Under such agreements ICE permits prison officials to volunteer as federal immigration agents. The Trump administration, which strongly promotes the program, sees 287(g) as a tool in its larger mass-deportation strategy. And the Republican sheriffs know it. “The president said our role is probably the most critical because we know the players in our communities and we know how to find them,” Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson said.

You wouldn’t know it from Hodgson’s many statements on right-wing talk radio, but 287(g) is not very popular — by any stretch of the imagination. At present ICE has agreements in only 18 states, and with only 60 law enforcement agencies. Massachusetts joins Arizona, California, Nevada, New Jersey, and Ohio — and the entire South — as participants. Now generally limited to a “jails” model because of previous abuses in the older “task force” and “hybrid” models, 287(g) agreements have a long history of civil rights abuses. For instance, in 2011 Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s agreement with ICE was terminated for civil rights abuses.

These ICE agreements impose costs of running a federal law enforcement program on state government and redeploy state corrections employees as federal agents. Sheriffs who enter into the agreements do so out of personal politics — not as part of their job description. And many local police forces find 287(g) programs undermine community trust.

According to the American Immigration Council, ICE agreements with local sheriffs are not properly supervised by ICE. Both the Boston Globe and the New York Times have featured articles on the lack of local accountability for county sheriffs — sheriffs who often operate as spokesmen for the Trump administration and anti-immigrant groups like FAIR and CIS. Understandably, there is growing resistance to 287(g) programs and a desire to slap some limits on them. And a lot is happening recently.

On January 3rd the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates voted 9-5 to support a resolution opposing the 287(g) program in Barnstable County. Because of weighted voting, however, the resolution failed.

On January 8th at 7PM at the Falmouth Public Library county residents will have a chance to discuss 287(g) agreements and learn about the Safe Communities Act — state legislation which puts some limits on a sheriff’s discretionary powers regarding ICE.

And at the Bristol County prison on January 11th at 6PM county residents will have a similar opportunity to express concerns about the 287(g) program — see for details of the public hearing. And do your homework if you plan on attending.

Soul Searching

Last night’s special Senate election in Alabama was balm for weary Liberals — and possibly even held a silver lining for Conservatives. With the repudiation of a xenophobic bible-thumping bigot with multiple accusations of child molestation, Alabamians can almost look themselves in the mirror this morning. Together, Democrats and Republicans breathed a sigh of relief that a man so foul would not be taking a seat in the Senate.

Tennessee GOP Senator Bob Corker called Moore’s defeat “a great night for America.” Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio tweeted: “For their good sense people are praised, but the perverse of heart are despised. Proverbs 12:8,” But these were exceptions from a party that generally stands for everything Moore represents.

For Americans the closely-watched election had everything in it — race, sex, religion, authoritarianism. It was at once a referendum on the role of religion in government and America’s search for its soul. Although America may have dodged a bullet, the slim margin said a lot about the country’s tenuous relationship to democracy, equality and civil liberties. Ezra Klein put the narrow Democratic “win” in perspective:

“If Moore had merely been a candidate who believed Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress, that the laws of the United States of America should be superseded by his interpretation of the Bible, that homosexuality should be illegal, he would have won in a landslide. Even multiple credible reports that Moore serially preyed on teenage girls were barely enough to lose him the election. […] Like Donald Trump before him, Moore is proof that there is no depravity so unforgivable, no behavior so immoral, that it assures a candidate will lose his party’s voters.”

Mark Galli, the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, in a piece yesterday, had plenty of criticism for Christian liberals but saved his harshest words for conservative Evangelicals:

“The race between Republican candidate Roy Moore and Democratic candidate Doug Jones has only put an exclamation point on a problem that has been festering for a year and a half — ever since a core of strident conservative Christians began to cheer for Donald Trump without qualification and a chorus of other believers decried that support as immoral. The Christian leaders who have excused, ignored, or justified his unscrupulous behavior and his indecent rhetoric have only given credence to their critics who accuse them of hypocrisy. Meanwhile the easy willingness of moderate and progressive Christians to cast aspersions on their conservative brothers and sisters has made many wonder about our claim that Jesus Christ can bring diverse people together as no other can.”

Aspersions aside, the facts are these: White Alabamians, in their perversity, overwhelmingly chose a racist multiply-accused of pedophilia who doesn’t really believe in the U.S. Constitution over a Democrat who successfully prosecuted the Klan. And it was black Alabamians — black women, especially — whom the nation can thank for their display of the “good sense” mentioned in Proverbs 12:8.

The Alabama election should dispel any notion that Democrats must abandon so-called “identity politics” and throw their efforts instead into chasing “angry white voters.” Angry white voters don’t vote for them. When Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and other Democratic luminaries announced their “Better Deal” in Berryville, Virginia, it was a harebrained effort to appeal to white populism. But the Democratic Party is a party of diversity, the working class is much broader than the DNC seems to understand — and that’s where the party’s power must come from. Last night black Alabamians wanted the DNC to remember that.

Before the election, when asked if black Alabama voters would turn out in sufficient numbers, Birmingham City Councillor Sheila Tyson replied, “The problem isn’t going to be with the black voters. If Jones doesn’t win, it’s not our problem.” But black voters delivered. After the votes were in, Democratic strategist Symone D. Sanders told a Newsweek reporter, “Doug Jones would not have won today without the turnout we saw from African-American voters. […] Black women have been absolutely clear in their support for Democratic policies and Democratic candidates. It’s high time for Democrats … to invest in that effort.”

Which was a polite way of telling the Democratic Party to stop focusing on big donors, and losing battles with racists, to democratize and start showing some respect for voters of color who just saved their asses.

But bringing real democracy to the Democratic Party won’t happen easily. In the Monday New York Times Julia Azari and Seth Masket penned an opinion piece, “Is the Democratic Party Becoming Too Democratic?” In it they object to the DNC Unity Commission’s moves to reduce the number of superdelegates and open up the party to [shudder] Sanders supporters. They write that “part of the problem for parties is our insistence that they be run democratically. That turns out not to be a very realistic concept […] party leaders will always have vastly more information about candidates — their strengths and flaws, their ability to govern and work with Congress, their backing among various interest groups and coalitions — than voters and caucusgoers do. That information is useful, even vital, to the task of picking a good nominee.”

Richard Eskow in his dissection, “Democrats Need More Democracy, Not Less” does a great job of refuting Azari and Masket’s argument, pointing out that — repeatedly — party insiders have either championed candidates who were doomed the moment their names appeared on the ballot — or sabotaged candidates who were objectively more “realistic” than the poor choices insiders made. The 2016 Presidential election was no exception.

If the Alabama election teaches us anything, it’s that the Republican Party has completely lost whatever soul it ever had. Democrats, on the other hand, still have theirs. It’s right underfoot, but they’re knocking around in the dark trying to figure out where the hell they left it.

Now it’s official

A politician’s legacy is not his alone. He often builds on policies and practices of previous administrations. While Trump’s mendacity and incompetence (and dementia) are his and his alone, many of his most noxious initiatives have been bipartisan projects all along. Trump’s recklessness simply airs America’s dirty little secrets and turns already bad policies into unbearable ones. Forget the “kinder, gentler” versions. Now the worst of militarism, racism, and predatory capitalism are simply official.

If we tremble at the recklessness with which Trump toys with American nukes, we forget that Obama authorized a $1 trillion upgrade to them. If we abhor Trump’s new Mexican wall, we forget that Democrats helped build them. Twice. If we despise the racism of the GOP, we willfully forget that Democrats had a hand in drug, crime and prison policies that disproportionately harmed people of color. If we detest Trump’s shady friends in high places, we forget that these were the guys Democrats bailed out in 2008. If we mouth concern about Trump’s affinity for dictators, we forget that the Obama administration kept them in power in Honduras and Egypt and the Ukraine. If we wring our hands over Trump’s saber-rattling toward Iran, we forget that Democrats destabilized Libya and Syria.

None of this would be so offensive if Democrats had changed their ways or said their mea culpas for, say, wrecking Iraq or Vietnam or creating a carceral state. Yet for all the crocodile tears and hypocritical indignation over Trump’s policies, Democrats have some very selective memory.

This week it was Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Democrats responded immediately and harshly. Nancy LeTourneau, in her piece “Trump’s Dangerous Pandering to White Evangelicals on Jerusalem” in the Clinton-friendly Washington Monthly, wrote:

“the announcement from Trump today that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving our embassy there is a key ingredient to this president’s support among white evangelicals.” [… and ] “this is a perfect example of what happens when we tear down the wall separating church and state. Having a foreign policy that panders to people who welcome war in the Middle East as a sign that we are approaching the climax of history is as nutty as it is dangerous.”

But LeTourneau and the rest of her Pants Suit Nation “forget” the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

That was the year that Barak Obama added a plank in the party platform at the behest of the Israeli lobby group AIPAC to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It was a plank that had somehow been omitted. But a majority of delegates opposed the restoration. Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa kept calling for voice votes to affirm the adoption of the plank, and it kept failing. Finally, Villaraigosa simply ignored the “nays” and declared that it had passed — a moment that revealed how democracy really works in the DNC.

“Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” This has been the DNC position since at least 2008. LeTourneu’s complaint that Trump’s foreign policy panders to people who welcome war in the Middle East is certainly true — but it applies equally to her own party. The rest of the language in the plank — completely disregarded by Democrats — called for an open city, not for gifting the Al Aqsa mosque to Israel:

“The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain a divided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

Yet for the last fifty years of Israel’s martial law over Palestinians only the United States has defended the occupation and the settlements. The U.S. has consistently shut its eyes to Israeli abuses and Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes and businesses in East Jerusalem without a peep of protest or without the U.S. using its considerable supply of sticks and carrots. The U.S. could easily cut off military and economic aid or vetos at the Security Council. Or it could sanction Israel’s nukes.

Democrats now fume at settler donors Jared Kushner and David Friedman working so transparently in behalf of Israel, but it was former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller who first coined the phrase “Israel’s attorney” in 2005, referring to the United States.

Whether out of gutlessness, lack of empathy for those whom Israelis displaced, craven political opportunism, or maybe just the cash, Democrats have presided over an irreversible buildout of Israeli settlements and half a century of oppression of Palestinians. By being “Israel’s attorney” Democrats have neglected the peace process so long that there is no longer any hope of a Two State solution and so-called U.S. “leadership” is a cruel sham.

Trump just made it official.