November 18, 2005

Heavy navel-gazing on the blogiversary

So, we've been doing this for a year. I thought I'd share some personal thoughts...

Early on in 2004, David and I started sending emails back and forth about doing a musical fundraiser for John Kerry. Like many folks, we had been shocked by the incompetence and callousness of the Bush administration. We were really sick of hearing bad news come out of our radios every damn morning like poison gas. And like many folks, we tried to do something about it. We had a great concert --  we called it "National Anthem", everyone played and sang their guts out, and indeed, we all belted out the Star-Spangled Banner at the end. We also raised some money. It was a pretty powerful experience.

Between the Red Sox' championship run and the presidential race, I think I had the feeling of being kicked in the gut the entire fall. And as great as the first championship in 86 years was, Kerry's defeat completely destroyed any joy I might have felt for that.

David and I talked about a week later. It was his feeling, and mine, that too much effort had been expended not to keep something going. He wanted to start a blog. I'd been writing comments on blogs for a while, and I'd vaguely considered doing one, but I figured this would be even better. And it would be a way to keep the community that we'd found through the fundraiser together.

Blogging is kind of like a message in a bottle: You just throw it in and hope for the best, but you can't really expect anyone to notice. But you do what you can. It really does make one feel less powerless when someone does notice. I've been pleasantly surprised -- shocked -- to see the great comments, and to hear who reads it.

So, to everyone who's posted comments here, or started their own blog, or linked to us, or just reads: Thanks. A lot. And maybe we'll see you on December 10th.

Anyway, if you weren't paying attention (and who was?), here are our first few posts (scroll to bottom) from last year. It's the blog equivalent of fumbling through "Stairway to Heaven" in the guitar shop...  

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 05:18 PM in Random | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

What do you guys actually look like, anyway?

Thanks in large part to the amazing organizational efforts of Lynne at LeftInLowell, we are about three weeks away from what promises to be a watershed event in the nascent history of the Massachusetts blogosphere:



That's right - if you can make it to Tatnuck Bookseller in Worcester on Saturday, December 10, 2005, between 10:30 am and 4 pm, you can meet in person, hobnob with, and otherwise get to know, your fellow Massachusetts bloggers, blog readers, activists, and random hangers-on!  There will be food, events, and goodness knows what else.

Everything you need to know is here - including the registration form which is REQUIRED BY DEC. 1 so that we can figure out how many people are coming and how much food we'll need.

Thanks a million to Lynne, without whose efforts this thing wouldn't have come close to happening.  Hope to see you there!

Posted by David at 02:27 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Happy Birthday!

1_year_1As Bob said earlier this morning, today is Blue Mass. Group's first birthday.  Frankly, a year ago I had no idea whether the three of us were cut out to be bloggers - would we be able to post often enough?  Would we think of anything to say?  Would anyone want to read it?

After a year of blogging, here are some numerical responses to those questions:

  • 916 posts
  • over 125,000 unique visitors
  • over 215,000 page views

Our daily traffic continues to fluctuate fairly dramatically - from a low of 9 visitors one cold Sunday last December to a high of almost 4,000 visitors about two weeks ago.  Over the last couple of months, we have averaged 500 to 800 visitors a day.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of our blogging adventure has been getting to know the extraordinary community of fellow bloggers and blog readers that share a vision of what our Commonwealth and our country can and should be, and that see the internet as an important tool in getting us there.  Never before in human history have so many people been able to communicate with each other, share information and ideas, and organize, so quickly and easily.  The potential of the internet to change politics hasn't yet been fully realized.  But we're getting there.

I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: THANK YOU to every one of you who visits this site.  Without you, this blog is wasted electrons.  It has been a great year, and we are looking forward to exciting things in the years to come!

Posted by David at 10:24 AM in Random | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

One Year for America and BMG

Vets_da_on_04aA full 12 months have passed since David approached Charley and me with the idea for Blue Mass Group. Hurray for the thousands of activists that have united around this site to work for progressive change in Massachusetts and an end to regressive Republicanism.

Our anniversary also marks the first year of America Supports You, the Department of Defense organization that spotlights what Americans are doing in support of the military. Count us #1 on that list:

  • We oppose our incompetent President who misread intelligence, announced "Mission Accomplished" in 2003, then left our soldiers to scrounge for armor in garbage dumps with no plan to get them home;
  • We oppose our shortsighted Governor who spews hate to national audiences as he grooms himself for a White House run but has let Massachusetts, home to many veterans, slip to next to last in jobs creation;
  • We approve plans to extend health coverage to the uninsured, including the families of many servicepeople, without a significant tax increase. If Governor Dean could do it years ago in Vermont, why can't Massachusetts do it now; and, among other things,
  • We urge support for the ancient and honorable institution of marriage, bedrock of families and communities, by allowing everyone who chooses, including all of our service men and women, enjoy this blessing.

Let freedom ring.

Posted by Bob at 12:01 AM in Random | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 17, 2005

Freep this poll!

Boston Business Journal is hosting an online poll asking whether businesses should have to "pay or play" with respect to health care - that is, whether they should either have to provide health care coverage for their employees or pay into a state fund for affordable health care.  (Actually, they get the question wrong by just asking "should businesses be required to offer health insurance," but by reading the setup to the question you can tell that they're talking about pay or play.)

The poll is here.  Go vote yes.

Posted by David at 11:17 PM in Health Care, Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

How the (House) employer mandate works

Another Greater Boston Interfaith Organization .pdf, drawn up in conjunction with the Business Leaders for Real Health Reform, describes the employer mandate thusly:

  • The $160 million employer tax is eliminated.
  • Firms with 10 employees or fewer will see no change.
  • Firms with 11-100 employees will be assessed a 5% health care surcharge on the payroll (only the first $94,200 of each employee’s payroll will be assessed). Firms with 101+ employees will be assessed a 7% surcharge.
  • Each dollar that a firm already pays for employee health insurance will be deducted from this surcharge. If a firm already pays more than 5% (or 7%) of its payroll towards employee health insurance, then it will owe nothing. Firms who already cover their workers typically pay 12-15% of payroll for health insurance, so most firms will not be affected.
  • Firms that already provide health insurance for their employees but pay less than this
    percentage because of unusually high salaries (law firms, baseball teams, etc.) will not pay

This may be redundant to regular readers of this site, but I thought it would be convenient to have it neatly summarized.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 11:16 PM in Health Care, Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The brightening sky

Are things really starting to look up in Washington?  Today, all the House Democrats together with 22 moderate Republicans handed a stunning defeat to the Republican leadership, actually voting down a spending bill that would have cut education, cut health care programs, cut the budget of the Centers for Disease Control, and frozen a program that helps poor people pay their heating bills - at the beginning of a winter featuring record prices for heating oil.  Oh, the bill also would have cut out $8 billion that was planned for avian flu preparedness.  A nice touch.  The Republicans haven't lost a vote like this since 1995.

In other news, the Jack Abramoff scandal continues to gather strength.  This is going to be a Category 5 scandal before long, with more and more hapless Republicans getting swept in.  And speaking of Category 5 scandals, yesterday's revelation that Bob Woodward was in on Novak-Plame-Rove-Libby-gate all along seems to have reinvigorated Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation - he's apparently going in front a grand jury again, which would seem to mean more subpoenas, more grand jury appearances, and possibly more indictments of senior administration officials.

Terrific as all of this news is, let's not get too excited - we've got three more years of BushCo, we still don't control either house of Congress, and the 2006 elections are a long way off.  So the skies are still cloudy.  But maybe, just maybe, the sun is starting to peek through ...

Posted by David at 11:09 PM in National | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Travis retires

Well, conservative ol' cuss Rep. Phil Travis (D-Rehoboth) is out next year. He was one of the major opponents of gay marriage, and is throwing in the towel.

My favorite Phil Travis moment came this summer, when he defended the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, saying it would keep present same-sex marriages intact:

State Representative Philip Travis, a chief supporter of the 2008 initiative and leading opponent of gay marriage in the Legislature, added that undoing marriage rights for those gay couples would be unfair.

''I would never go back and say, 'Your marriage of 3 1/2 years is nullified,' " said Travis, a Rehoboth Democrat. ''That would not only be unfair but mean-spirited."

I couldn't agree more. That was a moment of someone betraying some essential decency and compassion in spite of himself.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 08:13 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Health Care: Gut check for the Guv

So, Our Guv has decided to postpone his decision about whether to run for re-election until after the health care debate shakes out. Supposedly that makes him "more relevant" to the discussion. But as the Jim Braude interview made pretty darned clear, Mitt's likely to be put in a tough position when the bill comes out of conference committee.

Despite his protestations to the contrary ("We don't need more money"), it seems very possible that the bill will include some "revenue enhancements", i.e. a tax increase -- very un-conservative. And if the personal mandate passes, that's really the same thing, after all. If he gets what he's proposed without a tax increase, there will be unhappy people who are forced to buy "stripped-down products." The way to ameliorate this effect would be to heavily subsidize those forced to buy insurance... and that costs money.

In other words: He's proposed a tax increase that he doesn't call a tax increase, which will really piss people off if he doesn't raise taxes.

And what if the House's non-insuring-employer assessment prevails? On the merits, this really deserves to pass. Based on the Braude interview, I'll bet he'd sign it, with some face-saving gimmick that he could spin later.

But he's in a tough position. The shallow Vennocchis of the world are more than willing to give him all the credit for expanding health coverage -- and even I'm willing to sing his praises if he signs a good bill (gasp!). And yet, he may well be in the position of either approving a tax increase -- jeopardizing his national political future -- or vetoing what could have been "his" great accomplishment.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 07:44 PM in Health Care, Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 16, 2005

Health care: GBIO's Senate vs. House comparison

The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) has written up a nice comparison sheet (.pdf) between the House and Senate health care plans. The third column is apparently what GBIO plans to push for in conference committee. Their bargaining position:

  • MassHealth expansion for adults to 200% of poverty
  • No stripped down insurance products (waste of money)
  • Sliding scale subsidies for MassHealth for everyone up to 300% poverty
  • Keeping the House's employer assessment as a fiscal necessity
  • Support for individual mandate only if it is accompanied by strong employer responsibility
    mandate, and so long as affordability, privacy and quality controls are maintained.

Other news: GBIO reports that it has gathered over 42,000 signatures for the MassACT ballot initiative. That doesn't count all those gathered by the rest of the MassACT coalition. Wow.

Also: John McDonough points us to NECN's Jim Braude asking Our Guv if it's OK for businesses that do provide insurance to subsidize those that don't. Vague phumphering ensues.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 05:50 PM in Health Care, Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)