Never allowed to escape his past

Last week social networks were buzzing with reports that UMASS Dartmouth had rescinded the 2017 acceptance of a black student who had been honest about prior gang affiliations. Right after Martin Luther King day, and right in the middle of Black History month, a young black man had new options snatched away by nervous administrators at a campus in a lily-white community. At a campus meeting on Monday angry students voiced concerns about racism and fairness.

The university for its part shed absolutely no light on the issue. According to a campus spokesman, “We’re just not going to be engaged in a conversation about an admissions case about an individual student.” Whatever the actual facts, the university’s ham-handed refusal to discuss circumstances or safety concerns — or to engage in a “conversation” with students or the wider community — will with good reason be interpreted as a coverup of some good-old-fashioned racism, and less as the well-intentioned effort to keep students safe. The university might as well have invoked “national security.”

UMASS Dartmouth is a public university. Many of us studied there. Many of us know students, employees, faculty, ex-faculty, and regularly attend campus events. Before it joined the UMASS system it was very much a local university, and it still is. In every way it is our university. And the public is entitled to some answers. The administration must open up about the circumstances and reasoning behind changing its mind about this student. And it must publicly and transparently deal with concerns that this was racism again rearing its ugly head in the age of Trump.

Universities are full of people with all sorts of baggage. The UMASS university system was once run by Whitey Bulger’s brother. Despite suspicions he knew where his fugitive brother was hiding, it never seemed to keep William Bulger off a campus or prevent him from becoming president of the Massachusetts Senate. Plenty of white students have had offenses expunged from their records. But this particular student never had the same courtesy extended to him. Despite his best efforts to take a different path in life, this young black man has now been barred from the university for a past that men like him are never permitted to escape.

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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.

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 http://www.bcso-ma.us/ for details of the public hearing. And do your homework if you plan on attending.

Mainstreaming white supremacy

On Thursday morning the SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce had Bristol County sheriff Tom Hodgson and Helena DaSilva Hughes to breakfast at the Wamsutta Club to discuss immigration. During his presentation the sheriff cited questionable statistics from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), claiming that illegal immigration costs taxpayers $116 billion a year. The CATO Institute calls FAIR’s new study “fatally flawed” and “even more sloppy” than their previous one.

It would have more appropriate for Hodgson to speak about opioids, recidivism, or suicides. He actually knows something about the latter since his own jail accounts for a quarter of all county prison suicides. But there he was – again – acting as a spokesman for FAIR’s white supremacist immigration policies and conveniently avoiding trouble in his own backyard.

In 2015 Tom Hodgson appeared with Dennis Michael Lynch at an Islamophobic venue in Stoughton which had previously hosted Dutch neo-fascist Geert Wilders. Lynch is an Islamophobe, a white supremacist, a supporter of the Constitutional Sheriff Movement and of sovereign citizen Cliven Bundy, about whom he made a film.

That same year Hodgson appeared with a representative of the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) at the Fisherman’s Club in New Bedford. Despite the name, FAIR has little to do with reform. Instead, its goal is assuring White Anglo-Saxon dominance. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, FAIR has links to white supremacists and eugenicists. Its founder, John Tanton, wrote to one eugenicist: “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

In 2016 the Sheriff was one of three speakers at a “Patriots Unity Day” rally in Randolph. The second speaker was Jessica Vaughan, of the nativist organization Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Like FAIR, CIS was founded by John Tanton and publishes dubious statistics on immigration. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, CIS also maintains links to white supremacist and anti-semitic groups. CIS executive director Mark Krikorian quipped after the deadly 2010 Haitian earthquake: “My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.” The third speaker was Raymond Hanna with the anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America, which also has white supremacist ties. In Arkansas ACT’s “March Against Shariah” events were organized by a Nazi and publicized on Stormfront.

In June this year the Sheriff appeared with Dan Stein and Michelle Malkin at an annual “Hold their feet to the fire” broadcast with anti-gay bigot Sandy Rios. Stein is executive director of FAIR, and characterizes America’s immigration laws as an effort “to retaliate against Anglo-Saxon dominance.” Stein describes Central American immigrants as engaged in “competitive breeding” and asks: “Should we be subsidizing people with low IQs to have as many children as possible, and not subsidizing those with high ones?” Malkin too has links to white supremacist groups, including VDARE, and to Islamophobic groups. Malkin opposes the 14th Amendment, which gave citizenship to slaves.

According to FAIR’s 2011 annual report, that was the year the organization began cultivating sheriffs like Hodgson. “In 2011, we identified sheriffs who expressed concerns about illegal immigration.” FAIR staff “met with these sheriffs and their deputies, supplied them with a steady stream of information, established regular conference calls so they could share information and experiences, and invited them to come to Washington to meet with FAIR’s senior staff.” Since roughly that time Hodgson’s main job has been as a FAIR spokesman.

It’s hard to believe that the avuncular fellow who sends Thanksgiving turkeys to deportees in the Azores could really have such horrific views. But when the sheriff keeps consorting with white supremacists, singing and quoting their lyrics in the original German – well – it’s hard to reach any other conclusion. Tom Hodgson is a white supremacist.

It was disappointing that the Chamber of Commerce gave this hater a mainstream platform, and worse, an opportunity to skip another day of work – taking care of the business Bristol County voters actually elected him to do.

2018 Midterms

Midterm elections will be here in fifteen months. Every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and a third of all Senate seats will be up for grabs. The state Democratic primaries will be here long before that, but nobody seems to be worried — except maybe the worry-warts and Cassandras who see disaster unfolding.

Democrats are divided on moving right or moving left, so instead the party has chosen “we’re against Trump” as its anthem. Massachusetts Democrats heard a five-hour preview of this song at the June 3rd convention in Worcester. But merely opposing Trump has limited appeal to Republicans, unenrolled voters, and progressives. Instead, voters are asking: What have you done for me lately? And: What do you really stand for?

Democratic leaders say they are working on something great (sounds like Trump) but they’re in no rush to let American voters in on their secret. When Democrats finally do come up with a new platform, as POLITICO points out, even if it is progressive, centrist Democrats say they’ll chart their own political course. Words are cheap. Platforms apparently are even cheaper.

Democrats face not only apathy and division but a demographic crisis. According to the non-partisan Voter Participation Center at Lake Research, the “Rising American Electorate” (millennials, unmarried women, and people of color) are more likely to stay home for 2018 midterm elections or remain unenrolled than in 2012. In Massachusetts the net loss is expected to be 12.7%, while in states like New Mexico it may be as high as 29.6%. A total of 40 million Americans will drop out of the electoral process. And unfortunately they won’t be Trump voters.

If Democrats cannot agree on a platform, they should at least make voting rights and voter registration a major effort. But so far it’s been radio silence from both the DNC and MassDems.

Among the races coming up in Massachusetts and our slice of the SouthCoast:

  • Elizabeth Warren is up for re-election but her victory is far from assured.
  • All nine U.S. Congressmen seem likely to run unopposed in the primaries as they did two years ago, although in 2012 Sam Sutter challenged Bill Keating (9th Congressional district) in the Democratic primary and got a surprising 40% of the vote.
  • Republican Governor Charlie Baker is up for re-election and any Democrat who wants to take on the telegenic and personable (but nevertheless Republican) governor really needs to emerge as a strong challenger long before the March primaries.
  • William Francis Galvin ran unopposed for Secretary of the Commonwealth in the 2014 primaries, and we’ll probably see a repeat of this in 2018.
  • Popular Attorney General Maura Healey is clearly running an aggressive re-election campaign, taking no chances.
  • Treasurer Deb Goldberg had two primary challengers in 2014 and squeaked by with 55% of the vote in the 2014 general election. Republicans will be gunning for her job again this year.
  • Auditor Suzanne Bump won with 57% in the 2014 general election and ran unopposed in the primaries.
  • Governor’s Council member Joseph C. Ferreira (1st district), who ran unopposed in both the 2014 and 2016 primaries and also unopposed in both general elections, will likely run for his campaigning-free $36K a year job.
  • State Senator Mark Montigny (2nd Bristol and Plymouth), who has generally run unopposed in both primaries and general elections since 1992, will be up for re-election.
  • State Representative Christopher Markey (9th Bristol) is up for re-election. Markey has had periodic challengers (Alan Garcia, Patrick Curran, Joe Michaud, Russel Protentis, Robert Tavares, Raymond Medeiros) but the conservative Democrat has somehow clung to his $75K part-time job.
  • In 2014 Bristol County Commissioner John Saunders was challenged in the primaries by Daniel Dermody but ran unopposed in the general election.
  • In 2014 Sam Sutter ran for Bristol County District Attorney and had no challengers in either the primary or the general election.
  • In 2016 Thomas M. Quinn ran for Bristol County District Attorney and had no challengers in either the primary or the general election.
  • A couple of bland part-time positions offer six-year terms, nice salaries, and generally few challengers:
  • Mark J. Santos has run unopposed for the last 18 years as Bristol County Clerk of Courts. There have been no primary or general election challengers in all this time for his $110K job.
  • In announcing his retirement last March, Mark Treadup, a former school board member, former city councilman, former state representative, former county treasurer, former county commissioner, and former member of the Governor’s Council, bequeathed his most recent job as Career Democrat to Susan A. Morris, but it was given instead to fomer New Bedford mayor Fred Kalisz to finish out Treadup’s term.

At this late date Democrats are unlikely to get their act together. Careerism, apathy, and division can’t be cured overnight. And voter trust remains the critical issue. A party’s actions will always speak louder than platforms and promises.