^ compared to today’s anti-American word-poison terrorists, these guys were amateurs

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In 1860, 12 states were willing to leave the Union for the sake of slavery. There has certainly been great political division since the Civil War, but actual anti-Americanism, when it existed at all, has retreated to the fringe. Even the Ku Klux Klan, terrorists and criminals, did not propose destroying the nation. Of actual anti-Americanism, only the Communist movement and various Nazi and neo-Nazi cults made any impression; and that impression generated almost universal citizen disgust.

Not so today. Hatred of the actual nation, of its political leadership, its agenda and its composition, has become the overriding rant of a very large minority of citizens. This we see in the Trump campaign. Who among us could have imagined, a year ago, that a campaign of almost universal insult and demonization of people, violations of Constitutional norms, and kudos for Vladimir Putin, could garner anything but a fringe support ?

We know better now. Trump has the toxics with him, he is himself a mouth full of syllabic cyanide.  Compared to him and his word poison terrorists of today, the Ku Kluxers were junior varsity.

Today what began as talk show hucksterism — saying outrageous things to get attention and thus advertising dollars –has become an agenda that millions voice proudly. It all begins, of course, with racial hatred; in that regard, the mindset of 1860 Rebels lives on. And it does. It was a fantasy then, a killer fantasy, and it’s a fantasy now, and, maybe, again a killer. People have died on its account, and many more have been assaulted, and even when Trump is beaten, the anti-Americanism and its racist underpinnings will not slink away. The persistence of talk show hucksterism assures it.

The one hopeful aspect of today’s pervasive, racist anti-Americanism is that it has almost no legs among younger citizens. Hillary Clinton leads Trump, in almost every poll, by huge numbers among voters under age 45, and by even larger numbers among those under 35. For every young racist, looking to get rich as a talk show troll, 600 young voters ignore and block.

When we stop giving the new anti-Americanism attention, it stops having legs. It becomes boring. It is, after all, only an attitude looking for a payday.

They will not go gentle into that long dark night; but go, they will.



^ State Representative Liz Malia and challenger Charles Clemons Muhammad at last night’s Wards 11 and 19 candidates’ Forum

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Understandably everybody is focused on November’s election of a new President. Let us not, however, disregard the rapidly approaching September 8th contests afoot on Suffolk County ballots. There are many. As always, Here and Sphere will endorse where appropriate.

We will publish our endorsements just before Labor Day. This isn’t a great choice to make, but there isn’t much we can do. Before labor Day everybody’s on vacation; but after Labor Day there’s only 48 hours remaining before voting time. So be it.

The following contests attract our attention :

Suffolk Sheriff. As a two candidate contest between incumbent Steve Tompkins and challenger Alex Rhalimi, it offers plenty of drama and a clear contrast between two very different men. (NOTE : We will NOT be endorsing in this race, as I am consulting to the Rhalimi campaign and am thus unable to offer an objective recommendation.)

Suffolk Register of Deeds. Seven candidates for the Democratic nomination to face two independent candidates on the November ballot: Doug Bennett; Stephanie Everett; Katie Forde; Michael Mackan; Paul Nutting; Jeff Ross; former Boston City Councillor Stephen Murphy. We WILL endorse in this race.

State Representative, 5th Suffolk : this district covers Uphams Corner, Meeting House Hill, Four Corners, and part of the Fields Corner area, all of it in Dorchester. Incumbent Evandro Carvalho faces a primary challenger, Melinda Stewart. We WILL endorse a candidate.

State Representative, 7th Suffolk : the retirement of 17-term Gloria Fox opens up a district covering the Fenway and most of central Roxbury. Three candidates seek the seat : Monica Cannon, Mary-dith Tuitt, and Chynah Tyler. We WILL endorse fort this race.

State Representative, 11th Suffolk : this district represents most of Fort Hill, almost all of Jamaica Plain and parts of Roslindale. Incumbent Liz Malia has a challenger, Charles Clemons Muhammad. We WILL endorse in this race.

State Representative, 12th Suffolk District : incumbent Dan Cullinane faces two challengers, Jovan Lacet and Carlotta Williams, in a district representing most of Mattapan, Lower Mills, and the Eliot Street section of Milton. We WILL endorse in this race.

State Representative, Fourteenth Suffolk District : incumbent Angelo Scaccia has represented Readville, central Hyde Park and most of Roslindale since 1972 except for one term, 1978 to 1980. He has two challengers, Virak Uy and Anthony Solimine. We will NOT be endorsing in this race, as this writer is a long time friend of Angelo Scaccia and is working for his re-election.

Governor’s Councillor, 6th Council District : incumbent Terence Kennedy faces North End resident Stephen Borelli in a contest covering only one part of Suffolk County : the First Suffolk and Middlesex Senate District. We will endorse in this race,

Please note that though we will not be endorsing certain contests, we will nonetheless write about the candidates and the race. We DO want all of our readers who live in Suffolk County (Boston, Revere, Winthrop, and Chelsea) to vote in the primary. Voting day is a Thursday this time. Mark your calendars !

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere








^ Bill Weld and Gary Johnson : leaders of one of the two parties — one localist, the other socialist — that may well replace the mortally wounded Republican party

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It isn’t hard to see that America’s political alignment has reached crisis. I’m hardly the only observer who feels that the Republican party is just about finished, or that a new political party will likely replace it. But how will that turn out ? there, observers differ big time. What follows is my own view.

First, the Democratic party. It has become the only party of serious governance. The major issues being debated by the nation were debated within it. Unions, big banks or not, trade, immigration reform, economic fairness, LGBT civil rights, justice for African Americans, reasonable gun regulation, infrastructure repair, whether or not to borrow Federal dollars : for all these, the Democratic primary offered a forum; by the 16 Republicans, hardly anything of substance — except by John Kasich and, at times, Jeb Bush, was said about any of them. Most of the 16 rejected every rational response to all.

While the Republican campaign, such as it is, even today spends all of its time trying to convict Hillary Clinton of 17,000 crimes, and offers nothing but gloom and doom, exclusion and insult, the Democratic party offers plans — detailed plans — for solving American problems. Debate could well be offered about those plans, but I hear none.

It isn’t hard to see why the Republican party has collapsed — has had every one of its surreal think tank putatives debunked by a charlatan. Though a solid minority of Republicans retains the quaint notion that governance and accommodation are what a political party does, all the dynamics in the Republican universe derives from talk show hucksterism : saying outrageous things to get attention, and bogarding fantasies, and thus win advertising dollars for one’s “talk show.”

That’s not policy, and it’s not politics.

John Kasich found that out. Kasich talked policy, and he talked moral leadership; and he talked modernization, of a party for whom time does not exist, only rant.

Researchers also tell us that young voters want nothing at all to do with rant. Or with talk shows. How could they ? Young voters are far too busy working to listen to talk shows or to read right win policy papers. For every young person who decides it’s cool to be a troll, 1000 young people ignore and then block. Hillary Clinton leads the Republican nominee almost two to one among voters under age 45. During the primary, her opponent had an even bigger margin among young voters — hardly any chose the Republican side.

For the time being, the Democratic primary will be the arena in which actual policy debates take place. This is true in the states as well as the nation. Young people, people of color, immigrants, women, and the college-educated — an ever increasing percentage, because without a college education, modern work is almost unreachable –have nowhere else to go — yet.

I doubt that this situation will continue, however. The Democratic party’s reliance upon Federal governance to solve all of our problems doesn’t square with our Constitutional system of local primacy. In the internet age we live globally but also locally. The Federal government is neither, and the tension between it and locality on the one hand and global on the other is likely to increase. A political party espousing local solutions first has legs. (John Kasich talked, realistically, about entrusting to the states several matters that people like to see handled locally, but Kssich was playing in the Republican talk show arena, not in a real political venue.)

Thus the attention now being given to the Libertarians, for whom local control is mantra.

Yet locality isn’t everything. The global is just as significant in our borderless world of money and trade, knowledge and social connectedness. Thus t.he attraction, after decades of nowhere, of a socialist politics. The left has always rejected national borders. This was its one brilliant vision. All people really are equal, with the same rights; and a politics that secures those rights only within one nation falls short, maybe immorally so.

I do not say that I adhere to the cause of new socialism. Politics is still the art of the possible, and localism seems much more possible to get to than global equity. Thus I’m far more favorable to the Libertarian view than the socialist. I do, however, expect both views to grow adherents, and in the not too distant future to replace the now purposeless Republican party as Americas’ alternatives to the Democrats’ “natural party of governance.”

This is the flash point. A political party that changed America for the much, much better, and did so for many decades, has finally reaped the ignominy of a long ignoble fall from its own ideals and its legacy of reform. These will forever stand as victories for progress; but new victories are needed, and other armies will now be fighting for them.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





Two ucharlie-baker-2

^ ” #LiftTheCap ” is a fight that Governor Baker — and the voters — will win. So why did the Democratic State Committee vote to oppose it ?

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Two unfortunate recent events, one political, the other legal, have made civic governance unnecessarily difficult. First was the vote by the Democratic Party’s State Committee to oppose Ballot Question 2; second was yesterday’s decision by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court negating Governor Baker’s legislation to assess electric utility ratepayers part of the costs of building new natural gas capacity for our state.

First, the Supreme Court case, in which Justice Cordy finds that in Massachusetts an electric company cannot purchase gas nor a gas company purchase electricity, nor can the ratepayers of one be assessed for the purchase of the other,m because the legislative history, in our state, of gas and electric utility regulation, going back to 1926, requires that gas and electric be altogether separate. You may read Justice Cordy’s full opinion here :

Activists who want the state to cease its use of natural gas — it being a fossil fuel, whose use they oppose — applaud this decision. That it prevents the state’s utilities from accessing more natural gas, and thus lancing the boil of high gas costs to consumers, doies not seem to trouble these activists.

Justice Cordy is saying, in essenece, that if the Department of Energy wants to approve electric company purchases of additional gas, it needs the legislature to change the law (c. 94A) that Cordy interprets. Is this likely to happen ? I doubt it. The activists who oppose the state using natural gas will raise the hue and cry, and as special interests control most elections to our legislature, which are decided in low-turnout primaries, activist opposition will likely determine.

I applaud the Governor for trying hard to find a solution to our state’s natural gas shortage and resulting high costs to ratepayers. It was worth the effort.

Second, the Democratic State Committee’s vote to oppose Ballot Question 2, by which proponents seek to change the state’s charter school cap law so as to lift the cap by allowing twelve new charter schools in each calendar year, said schools to be allowed only in School Districts designated by the State Department of Education as performing in the bottom 25 percent of all districts.

It is appalling, I suppose, that those who preside over the state’s Democratic party should oppose a measure which will give every parent who desires school choice the choice that they seek. One presumes that schools answer to parents first and always. One hopes that no political body would support having school;s answerable to any other interest. But evidently one would  be mistaken so to hope.

Any such hope was given the bum’s rush by a vote taken — evidently by intimidation, according to what I have read on social media — on behalf not of parents but of teachers’ unions. Supporters of ” #liftTheCap ” are right to blast the Democratic State Committee for its vested interest subservience — adopting a position opposed by a clear majority of the state’s voters. Teachers’ unions have demonstrated an irresponsible stubbornness about any kind of schools reform. Their resistance to budget reform, longer school days, performance evaluation, curriculum innovation, overcapacity reform, and other common sense reforms should not have legs with any political party. Especially not the party that claims three times as many Massachusetts adherents as the party opposite.

Nonetheless : before Republicans and others condemn the Democrats too hotly, they should remember that not two years ago, the Republican State Committee adopted issues positions — on social issues — equally enslaved to vested interests unpopular with a majority of the voters. It took an enormous effort, by a sitting GOP Governor, to pry leadership of the Republican State Committee away from these folks.

Fortunately for governance reforms in Massachusetts, our political party state committees speak only for themselves. The voters still determine our state’s course of reform and progress, and that is how hopefully it will always be.



Bill Evans 2

^ Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans : his de-escalation or the patrolmen’s long guns ?

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Boston Police Department (BPD) practice appears right now to proceed in opposite directions at the same time: on t.he one hand, de-escalation of confrontations; on the other, a request by the Patrolmen to carry long guns.

By “de-escalation” the BPD means, in the words of Commissioner Bill Evans, “just because you CAN shoot doesn’t mean you HAVE TO shoot.” There is risk here. Not shooting an armed person right away invites that person to shoot first. Not shooting a suspect who may not be armed risks that suspect being armed and taking the first shot. Of course no one, police or civilian, wants to be shot. Yet de-escalation seems to work. The BPD does not “shoot first and ask questions later” unless the danger is clear and immediate; and that restraint has led to a degree of trust between the BPD and people of color.

Late last year, the Boston Globe put it this way :,d.dmo

So why the request to arm up with rifles ? I suppose the BPD thinks that intimidation makes de-escalation less risky. I disagree with the premise. My experience of a long lifetime tells me that intimidation engenders resentment at best, vengeance more sure. The intimidated person may not shoot you this time; but he (most criminals are male) may very well arm himself up for a next time. In short, an arms race. In Chicago, that’s where things stand. Heavily militarized police who react often brutally to suspects face heavily armed suspects; and so it goes.

Boston would be foolish to start down the road to Chicago policing. My own suggestion is for the BPD to do just the opposite : de-escalate its weaponry just as it de-escalates its use thereof. It is not a given that police forces should be armed. London’s “Bobbies” until not long ago carried only a nightstick; they were monitors, not gun-fighters. Clearly, today,. in America, with 315 million guns afoot, an unarmed police force would find itself disadvantaged often. Yet to step back is not to eliminate; and my suggestion is, yes, that the BPD step back. Not every officer needs be armed with Glocks and the like. Plain clothes detectives can certainly make do with a small pocket pistol. I find it enormously scary to see the massive black killer handguns that loom at the belt side of every officer I encounter, at coffee shop or on duty. SWAT teams, I suppose, have valid reasons for carrying deadly handguns; but could not BPD’s line officers, at least, retreat to the pocket pistol ?

Few young people go about armed even in “hot” zones; fewer still use the guns they do carry. I doubt there are many kids at risk who don’t mind getting shot. Their first response, when seeing a BPD officer, should never be “he’s gonna shoot me.” If that’s the reaction to an armed BPD officer, what follows may easily not end well. Far better, I think, for the reaction to a BPD line officer to be “oh well, the fuzz. Act cool.” (we may not like to face that that’s how most young people think of the police, and not just in neighborhoods at risk. But real is real.) It is far preferable for kids and BPD officers to be wary, rather than scared, of one another.

I do not see why the strategy of de-escalation cannot be extended to armament as well as use thereof. Certainly we do not want there to be a police versus criminals arms race. All the momentum right now, in criminal justice reform, is toward de-escalation, of punishment, weapons use, and occupation of territory. Boston’s police, under the guidance of Bill Evans, walk in the forefront of this reform movement. Let us not arm Boston’s police with long guns.


—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Governor baker, with Lieutenant Governor Polito, at signing ceremony for Comprehensive Energy Legisaltion

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While the follies and disgraces of Trump occupy our taste for scandal, quietly and with humble fanfare, Governor Baker has been signing into law significant reforms of state administration. This month alone, he has signed the following legislation:

1.Pay Equity Legislation :

2.Regulations governing Uber and Lyft (ride-hailing):

3.Renewable Energy – Comprehensive Energy Diversity :

4.Municipal Modernization legislation :

5.Job Creation and Economic Development legislation, including allocation of $ 1 billion to make it happen :

6.And of course, on July 8th, Baker signed the transgender people’s civil rights bill commonly known as the “TransBillMA” :

It would be difficult to find a 30-day period, in any state or city, much less the Federal government, in which as much reform has been accomplished, across so many fields of action. Many of these six enactments were voted unanimously in the legislature. It would be difficult, maybe impossible, to find any legislative activity comparable.

All six new laws faced much debate in the legislature and Senate; many underwent significant modification — the Uber/Lyft and #TransBillMA in particular — especially in the Senate, where a majority seeks reforms well beyond present consensus, especially respecting taxes and fees; but ultimately reform voices were able to find common ground with more cautious minds, and the result is a remake of Massachusetts state administration as transformative as anything done since the 1970s, an period equally reformist. Bipartisan reform was that decade’s priority, and the same is true of reform now. We are lucky to have it.

Perhaps the Economic Development bill, an appropriation act, is the most surprising in which to find bipartisanship. Its first allocation is a big one : 

“7002-8006 For the MassWorks infrastructure program established by section 63 of chapter 23A of the General Laws …………………..…………………………. $500,000,000”
Hillary Clinton has proposed almost the exact same program for the nation, albeit much larger:$ 550 billion, not million. Yet here we are.
Also featured is item 7002-8080, appropriating $ 23,622,000 for a long list of separate infrastructure works in a multitude of the state’s towns and cities. Environmentalists  ill certainly be pleased to see this allocation :

“7002-8021 For the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund established by section 29A of chapter 23G of the General Laws ……………………..……………..…………… $45,000,000”
MassDOT gets $ 109,500,000 to build the Paul Conley “megaships” port terminal; and $ 45,900,000 goes to upgrading schools in Chicopee and the Blackstone Valley — thereby helping keep a promise that Baker made in his 2014 campaign to boost t.he state’s “gateway cities” ability to participate in the new economy that has Boston booming.
The Uber/Lyft and Comprehensive Energy bills are compromise affairs in which no interest received all that it wanted but all were accommodated sufficiently to support improvement of the economy, not obstacles to it. The Uber/Lyft bill includes a fee for service that baker agreed to, and it includes the following regulations (as re\ported in the Boston Globe) but not fingerprinting of drivers :
“drivers for Uber, Lyft, and other on-demand transportation companies will undergo a two-part background check — one conducted by the companies, one by the state. Drivers will also undergo a second vehicle inspections in addition to the annual personal motor vehicle check, and their cars will be outfitted with decals. The companies will be required to carry commercial insurance while trips are in progress. In some respects, the rules solidify into law the practices Uber and Lyft already employ, while other aspects are not currently undertaken by the companies.”
As for the Comprehensive Energy Bill, it enables many competing initiatives and advances the state’s obligations to the world-wide Global Warming situation; at the same time, it leaves some hard questions unanswered : can there be  a carbon tax system that is not regressive ? can we move forward from dependence on natural gas fuel ? Senator Marc Pacheco, for example, noted that while he supports the bill, “we have a long way to go.” Still, the bill jump starts two new alt-energy industries and provides rate payer relief as well as acquiring hydro power from Quebec. As Governor baker’s press release put it :


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“Consistent with the Baker-Polito Administration’s previously filed legislation authorizing the procurement of hydropower generation, An Act Relative to Energy Diversity (H. 4568) requires utilities to competitively solicit and contract for approximately 1,200 megawatts (MW)  of clean energy generation – base load hydropower, onshore wind and solar supported by hydropower, standalone onshore wind, solar, or other Class I renewable resources. In addition to recognizing the necessity of hydropower generation to provide reliable generation to meet Massachusetts’ energy demand and achieve the greenhouse gas emissions goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the legislation signed by Governor Baker allows for the procurement of approximately 1,600MW of offshore wind. The bill spurs the development of an emerging offshore wind industry to create jobs and represent the largest commitment by any state in the nation to offshore wind.”
 So there you have it: progress on civil rights, energy, infrastructure, regulation of ride-sharing, municipal reform, and pay equity for women in the workplace. And all of it enacted on a bipartisan, mostly unanimous basis. This is the difference between focused, careful leadership and scatter-shot, petulamt, irresponsible kvetch. And if, in all of what has been accomplished one step at a time, you see a large likeness to the M/O of one Hillary Clinton, you are not hallucinating. Baker and Clinton have very similar philosophies of governing. The Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham, two years ago, noted shrewdly  that Baker was running for Governor “as essentially a Clinton Democrat.” That this particular “Clinton Democrat” happens to be a Republican, and a classic Massachusetts Republican at that, only shows that good reform is not the possession of one party only but is the heritage of us all.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ Hugh Hewitt : the “:right’s” intellectual leader is no such thing.

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Often in political discussions these past two years I have read that the Supreme Court is the ultimate election test. It is no such thing.

Ideologues on both sides alarm us with warnings that if “the other side” wins the election, the Supreme Court “is lost for a generation.” I don’t believe that for a minute; but even if the alarmists are right, and the “side” that wins the Presidency is one whose Supreme Court opinions you detest, that’s no reason to support a man like  Trump or to oppose him, as Hewitt suggests it is.

(That said, this editorial is nOt about Trump, It is about the Supreme Court and elections.)

The Supreme Court cannot DO anything. It can only prevent things from being done. Our Federal government is in serious trouble if its most important branch is the one that can only stop stuff, never do any. It is even more serious trouble if the Court is subverted by political objectives to become not a judicial body but an adjunct of “stop” Congresses.

Hugh Hewitt, a “conservative” talk show host, in the following article, renders the Supreme Court a political body and is glad to do so. Read him at length:

For Mr. Hewitt’s entire argument — which I will destroy later — there is one quick answer : you don’t like the kind of judges you assume Hillary Clinton will appoint ? Then confirm Merrick Garland.

Garland’s name never appears in Hewitt’s paragraphs. Of course not.

Hewitt is held to be the “right’s” intellectual heavyweight. His article says otherwise. It’s filled with assumptions, none of which one is required to accept, and with red herrings: it’s not an argument at all, just a series of hysterias.

For example : Hewitt does not like “living Constitution” jurisprudence, but rather than argue for why not, we’re given an ugh.

Again : Hewitt assumes that Hillary Clinton will nominate “far-left” judges : not because she will — I doubt she will, and even if she does nominate them, the Senate is not likely to confirm — but because it’s one of his alarm bells.

Alarm bells may inform ideologues like Hewitt, but the facts of real life defeat them. No matter who is nominated to the Supreme Court, he or she knows what the country wants and that a Court decision can stop it only for so long. That is why Court nominees who seem to belong to one “side” or another end up, usually, as something quite else when they become Justices.

Justices usually know that the Constitution cannot be interpreted, in the year 2016 for example, as if it were 1787. They know that the history of the nation since then cannot be abolished, that it has become an integral part of the culture we are brought up in. Justices know, too, mostly, that their decisions affect the future, not the past. Justices understand, mostly, that their task is to figure out how the Constitution’s precepts and grants of power apply to laws enacted now, not in 1789. They understand also, mostly, that the nation today is not at all the nation that ratified — barely — the Constitution in 1787; and that the one part thereof that remains the same is its principles : promoting the general welfare, equal protection of the laws, citizenship of all who are born here, liberty, the Supremacy Clause. We are a nation, not 50 separate states.

Hewitt makes much of”originalism,” a method of Constitutional interpretation. Its theory is that we should apply the Constitution’s words as they were understood in 1787, when written. Is that really possible ? And even if it is, how does applying 1787 meanings to life today work out ?  Life, like words, develops and alters, adapts to unknowns, recalibrates itself. Somehow, Constitutional application must recognize these developments. Otherwise, the complexity of civic life in a diverse nation, with hundreds of paths contemporaneosuly pursued by this one or that one, will lose connection with the Constitution altogether. (Something of this sort is already happening. Trump’s supporters — and not only his —  include many who do not accept the First Amendment, the Supremacy Clause, or the 14th Amendment, among other precepts.)

“Originalism” is undermined by life itself. Words change meaning because words are public, and the public uses words in the moment, not yesterday. Words are public and they are equal because our ears hear every spoken word equally well. The ear knows no class system. It hears the immigrant equally with the aristocrat, the prisoner and the guard, the employed and the employer. The Constitution and its Amendments are written in words.

As I posed in an earlier editorial, the major decision made about our Constitution was to have it written. Many nations, including Great Britain, follow unwritten Constitutions; those that do enjoy constitutional development adjusted to actual life — to custom, if you will. Language changes over time : our spoken English is not that of Shakespeare or Chaucer, is not even that of Hawthorne and Faulkner. (And Latin became French, Italian, Catalan, Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese.) Spoken language is free to respond to the justice of the moment and does so because it cannot do otherwise: if so, it would not be understood. And the spoken word affects the written word, because when we read the written word, we speak it silently in our mind; and if what is written doesn’t sound right, it jars us and makes us quizzical. So much the more when we speak the written word. Read the Constitution aloud sometime, and you will immediately hear phrases that do not sound quite right, words and sentences that need to be read again in order to be understood, if at all.

That is where the Justices come in : interpreting the Constitution’s written word for citizens who use the language as spoken far more regularly than written.

Originalists like to say that there are no rights in the Constitution that are not explicitly enumerated therein. But this cannot be true. If this were true, then those rights that have taken shape since the Constitution was enumerated would have no home in law and would exist by custom only, thereby developing an unwritten constitution alongside the written one. That would be a far more radical situation than to find said rights within the written Constitution.

The Originalist argument is internally contradictory; and as the Constitution is a guideline for the laws of actual life, contradiction does it no good.

So much for Constitutional interpretation, the power of the Court, and alarm bells.

To sum up : voting for Trump to protect use of the Supreme Court as a stopping agent is futile and misapprises the role of our Federal government. Congress cannot be stopped fo0rever. Hugh Hewitt never mentions that, if Hillary Clinton is elected President, her Supreme Court nominations will hardly be her most powerful power. She will likely have a Congress with a Democratic majority, and she and it will be able to DO things all day long, far more things than any Supreme Court can ever stop. If there is an argument for voting Trump, THAT, not the Supreme Court, is the argument to use.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




BLM photo

^ Black Lives Matter : from irrefutable justice movement to inflammatory left-wing agenda

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We at Here and Sphere support the basic ideal of Black Lives Matter : that the skin color of a person should have no bearing at all on the respect and fairness with which he or she is treated and regarded by the society and by its law enforcement officers; and that disrespect, and worse, by the society and its law enforcers is a serious breach of society’s covenants : against which appropriate action ought be taken.

I think that most of America gets this and supports it. I think that most law enforcement people get and support it too. Officers and Black Lives Matter protesters have in many cases joined hands; and why not ? We’re all in this together.

The movement has an opportunity to remake much that today is misguided about law enforcement and people of color. It has the nation’s attention; and many people have also noticed that most of the incidents that roil us have begun with a 911 call, often hysterical, usually full of misinformation. The way that 911 calls are received and processed needs great reform. In some communities, a 911 call is made simply because the caller sees a person of color walking on his or her street. Police forces need to treat such calls skeptically; many already do, but many treat them as harbingers of danger.

Police departments need establish a workable procedure for communicating with those who they stop and for processing the stopped person’s response. That procedure should be published, so that all in the jurisdiction know what is likely to be done by the police person who stops you. And of course, the procedure must be the same for all persons. Police commissioners must also make sure that every officer on his or her force understands the procedure and swears an oath to it. Compliance must be scrupulously monitored. The communities thus policed must be a partner in this effort. Too often they have not been; have been, instead, seen as a danger, whereas in almost all case, the communities being policed are an ally.

All of the above, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought to the nation’s attention, and I applaud it for doing so.

If only this were the entire story; but as with so many reform movements, it is not the whole story. It appears that the leaders of the “BLM” movement have morphed it into a movement of general political revolution, much of whose tenets I reject, as should you.

Before I continue, let me decry this development. I have seen it before. A justice movement, singularly focused, makes it=s case and begins to persuade; but then, its mission incomplete, activists within it decide to expand the mission into all sorts of other grooves, along with imposing a division — most likely racial — between the movement’s prior activists. Not surprisingly, the movement thus complicated and radicalized alienates most people and fails itself and its original mission. Something of that has befallen “BLM.”

Specifically, “BLM” has recently promulgated its “six point platform.” A few points, I agree with. Others I roundly reject. These I will dcscuss, but first, you should read the platform in its entirety now :,d.dmo

Point Number One : End the war on black people. abolish the death penalty, yes. Demilitarize police forces, yes. Eliminate money for bail, no.

Point Number Two : Reparations. This demand has been made before, by other groups. BLM’s language is filled with buzzwords, rage, and distortions, probably because the entire demand is unworkable and unquantifiable in justice terms given the complexity of Black Americans’ rise to success over time.

Point Number Three : Invest/Divest : “move money away from police and systems of incarceration and put into “long term safety strategies” such as employment and education. With this, we can, or should, all agree. The only difficulty is that BLM’s education agenda calls for eliminating charter schools — exactly the schools that offer success to Black city kids.  I have no idea how this union-originated demand worked its way into a justice agenda, but it has. I reject it. So should you.

Point Four : Economic Justice : to BLM, economic justice means doing away with the Trans Pacific Partnership. Again, I do not see what this labor union goal has to do with justice for Black People. To be fair, this section also calls for a national and local effort to bring jobs to the “most economically marginalized Black people.” Assuming that people can be so categorized, and identified, I think that Hillary Clinton’s $ 550 billion infrastructure plan might help.

Point Five : Community Control : this was tried during President Johnson”s “Great Society” initiative. It led to graft, embezzlement, and small cliques controlling who got the money and who did not. And who, exactly, is “the community” ? This is a buzzword used by pressure groups in all sorts of settings to bogard proposals that all sorts of locals support but do not have the time to attend long and boring “community hearings.” To the extent that “community control” means control of government agencies, I do not see how that can be done short of full blown racial apartheid. (I may add that much of the BLM rhetoric assumes racial apartheid. This is of course not new. Many Black people’s justice movements — the colonization movement, Marcus Garvey, the Black Panthers — have sung the despair’s tune of racial separation.

Point Six : Political Power : most of the demands in this section, I fully agree with : universal voter registration; same day voter registration; voting day holidays; voting rights for formerly incarcerated people. But other point can never be agreed to : pre-registration of 16 year olds and local voting for undocumented people. I am all for immigrant integration into our society, undocumented too; but voting is , perforce, exclusively a right of citizenship. No non-citizen can ever be allowed to vote in citizen elections.

Though certain of this six point platform should be supported, its enlargement undermines the initial agenda, one that was well focused and impossible to argue against. Thus expanded, there’s almost certain to be some component that potential  supporters cannot support. Usually this leads a movement to “Leninization” : those who aren’t supporters of it all get viewed as enemies of it all and are expelled or dismissed.

I have encountered BLM activists whose zeal for their own revelation about justice takes them well beyond their comfort zone. I well recall arguing on twitter with one such BLM activist who was certain about everything and combatively dismissive of me for not sharing her enthusiasm and her buzzwords. She started telling me about her neighborhood, assuming that I, being an old white guy, could not possibly know anything about it. But in fact I knew more — much more — about her neighborhood, and happenings in it, than she: which ended the discussion.

BLM seems staffed by many like that twitter person, full of aggression, phrases, and zeal, but lacking much ground. “Full of passionate intensity”,” as the poet once wrote, makes for ready coalition of like zealots; and as is usually so about zealots, many fly to the far fringes of political objectives. So much for the original mission.

Citizens seeking change are free to present whatever change they like by any means they like; I have no problem with it here, except that BLM, doing so, has made a movement that was irresistibly just into a whirlwind of wham and bam.

UPDATE : I greatly prefer that this editorial  not end on a down note. The original goal of “BLM” is one that we all should support : the guaranteeing equal respect and justice to residents of all skin colors, in particular Black persons. If “BLM” really wants to achieve that end, it should concentrate its volunteers on “GOTV”: in Black Belt starts of the South most of which are poised to vote Democrat in this election. Were such states to vote “blue,”: it would bring political revolution and, almost certainly, a justice revolution with it, one that might well accomplish the goals of the 1960s Civil Rights movement — which achieve much but left much yet undone.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ among the Budget vetoes overridden was several million dollars for the Arts. (photoi by Boston Globe)

—- —- —-

Two weekends ago and again this past weekend, in all night sessions, the Senate and House overrode a large number of the hundreds of line-item vetoes Governor baker delivered to the state’s FY 2017 Budget. Everybody went home happy, and the voters affected went to bed happy. So far, so good.

But not me. I have an uneasiness. How do we pay for this happiness ?

The state House News Service summarized the dispute in an article thus : “Baker said he vetoed $256 million because the Legislature’s $39.15 billion spending bill underfunds accounts by about $250 million. The underfunded accounts include public counsel for indigent defendants, emergency assistance to the homeless, and winter road-clearing, Baker said, predicting bills “we think we’re going to have to pay for no matter what between now and the end of the year.” Baker said he “felt bad about” vetoing certain spending. “There’s a lot of very worthwhile stuff that was on that veto list but we have to have a balanced budget,” he said. The governor described a “tremendous amount of scrambling” to deal with a $480 million fiscal 2016 revenue shortfall and said he was “very nervous” about a similar situation occurring in the fiscal year that began on July 1. Defending his veto decisions, he said, “We can’t have another year where we’re just chasing the revenue number all year long. It creates enormous instability for everyone.”

“Highlighting a major difference of opinion with the governor, House Speaker Robert DeLeo last week suggested the Legislature could override all of Baker’s vetoes and the state budget would still be balanced. House leaders are still determining which veto overrides to initiate.

You can find a complete list of the Budget appropriations vetoed by baker at this link : I warn you that it makes for very dry reading. Still, as the state Budget is paid for with your money — your taxes and state fees — at least some of us may want to read the how much, the why, and the why not’s that went into the Governor’s decisions.

Baker is right : there is in fact a lot of “worthy stuff” that he felt the need to veto, or to cut back. There always is. The needs of Massachusetts residents are many and expensive, and sate government owes residents a duty to resolve these needs as fully as feasible. But the money has to be there; and baker’s claim of a $ 480,000,000 revenue shortfall sounds plausible given the very slow growth of the nation’s economy and that the Budget I grounded in “no new taxes or fees.”

At some point, Budget needs — “worthy stuff” — are going to have to duke it out with the mantra of “no new taxes or fees.” That point has not arrived yet. Baker’s view is that the voters will not grant additional revenue until they see that government is delivering value for the taxes already authorized. I think Baker gauges voter sentiment correctly.  Which means that either Speaker DeLeo is right, and there’s enough revenue to pay for the overridden items, or there isn’t, and the appropriated items may well go unfunded. After all, if the state treasurer hasn’t the funds, she can’t pay out the checks.

Julie Cox and Charles Samuels, writing in JD Supra Business Advisor, report that the legislature overrode some $ 97 million of Baker’s $ 162 million in Budget vetoes: The legislature overrode $97 million of Governor Baker’s $162 million proposed vetoes in the FY16 budget. The legislature restored $5.25 million in cuts to the UMASS system, after high profile lobbying of the legislature by new UMASS system president Marty Meehan. Also on the education front, the legislature unanimously restored $17.6 million for full-day kindergarten programs targeted at underperforming schools.” $ 97 million isn’t $ 480 million — the amount that baker expects state revenue might fall short — but it’s not minor. Can the funds be found without new fees or taxes ?

Perhaps the answer will arrive in Baker’s Supplemental Budget. Every year the Governor files a Supplement. Until that happens this time, we’re left with a lot of very “worthy stuff” re=funded in principle, making a lot of voters justifiably happy, but leaving the actual happy spot in fingers-crossed territory as we wait to find out if the happiness can be paid for — or is just wishful thinking.


—- Mike Freedeberg / Here and Sphere