Governor Baker is a political coward

Throughout the past presidential election Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker has repeatedly and publicly proven himself a political coward. He perpetuated the false equivalence between Trump’s vague, hateful, disgusting, and violent demagoguery against Americans and Clinton’s sensible, articulate vision of governance.

Most damning, however, Baker did not vote. Baker is a coward.

Governor, you are an elected, public official. Voting is an honor and an obligation, Baker. You yourself hold office because other people voted for you. You must lead by example. Be a leader. Have a reasoned opinion and defend it. If you discover you are wrong, have the courage to admit your mistake and explain your new stance.

I don’t want my leaders to be perfect. But I do want them to lead.

Speak up. Vote.

Arkansas Rep. Nate Bell is Heartless, Unpatriotic

Christ. Do some people really agree with hateful vitriol like this?

There are about forty-eight things wrong with the representative’s tweet. Here are two that struck me fairly immediately.

First, no one I know was cowering. Boston is a tough city. As someone more eloquent than I has noted, Boston was founded “by people so badass that they needed to buckle their hats to keep them on their God damn heads.” A million people obeyed officials’ requests to stay put to make the search for a sadly misguided 19 year-old more effective and safer for those of us at home and safer for the brave folks who are performing the search. Bostonians are patient, dignified, and humane. We are not hysterical, blood-thirsty, or craven. We do not need individual arms to maintain order.

Second, no one I know thinks an AR-15 with high-capacity magazines would make the situation safer. Instead, I’m glad that my tax dollars go to support the heroes we call police officers, fire fighters, and first responders. And I’m thankful that these well-trained, lion-hearted men and women are willing to put their lives on the line so that I don’t have to. I am proud to be from Boston and I am proud of how our state, its officials, and our civic champions are handling the situation.

So, Nate Bell, as far as I can tell, the answer to your profane question is zero. Nobody was cowering. Nobody wanted an AR-15 with high-capacity magazines.

I support mandatory universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and compassion. I am against senseless violence, acts of terror, and simpleminded legislators.

I feel this way, Representative, because guns don’t keep people safe. That’s why it takes so much courage to be a police officer, firefighter or first responder. Situations involving guns are dangerous. Guns are designed to cause injury. It seems like no one explained to you how guns work before.

I hope that you never feel like you need to cling to a gun for safety. The lonely individualism of your Tweet makes me sad. I hope you and your constituents do not feel alone or afraid without a gun. I am confident that my neighbors, community, and government are working hard to keep one another safe everyday—not just in times of crisis. I wish the same for you and your constituents.

Further, nonviolent community vigilance works. It resulted in a peaceful arrest tonight. Had a scared, armed individual taken justice into his own hands instead of calling the authorities for help, we would certainly have had one or more deaths on our hands. I am very pleased that entire Boston community worked together, acted dispassionately, and ended this string of tragedies without further casualty.

In case you don’t read my blog, Representative Bell, I have written you directly and and plan to call your office Monday so that you don’t need to wonder any more. For anyone who wishes to join me, here is his contact information:

Phone 479-234-2092

Here’s hoping that this crisis ends quickly and peacefully.

A little birdie told Congress

Since I couldn’t find a list of twitter feeds from the US Congress, I made one today.

Now you can get a snap-shot of our legislators highest priorities, as captured in 140 characters at a time, at

In case you’re curious how I did it without painstakingly searching each congressperson’s name and username to add to my list by hand, I’ll let you in on my little my secret: I relied heavily on a few open source projects to automate the process. To find the Twitter IDs, I simply looked them up from the very excellent Github project unitedstates/congress-legislators. Then I used the Python Twitter Tools module to chat with the Twitter API to create the list and add all the legislators in bulk.

Life wasn’t exactly as easy as all that, though. I had to make a little tweaks in order to gather all the tweets. First, there is an easy-to-fix bug in the Python Twitter Tools package. You need to make sure it knows how to POST to lists/members/create_all command. Right now employs a GET request—and that doesn’t work. It looks like at least one other person has run into the same problem. If you run into the problem, you can read how I fixed it.

But Twitter didn’t handle my create_all request as they promised. The documentation claims you can add up to 100 users to your list at a time, but that wasn’t my experience. Instead, I could only get the API to add legislators 25 at a time. But that’s a small price to pay for democracy.

And this list is active! In the time it took me to write this post, the list reported 13 new tweets. Your tax dollars hard at work.

Maybe even better than winning Jeopardy five times

Happy new year. Here’s the latest politically-minded letter I’ve sent: it’s to Richard Cordray, the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You’ve missed several other letters since my last post. I’ll try to be more faithful about recording them here.

You can send a letter of support, inquiry, or disdain through this form. I sent my message in a card from Elizabeth Warren, though.

Dear Director Cordray,

I’m glad your appointment to the CFPB went through. Please accept my warmest congratulations.

I hope you will direct this agency to take action on behalf of all Americans—be they poor or wealthy, young or old, unemployed or working. All of us need people in a position of action to represent our best interests and redress large, national damages caused by greed and deceit run out of control.

I would be especially happy if your agency would think of and suggest ways the public can be more civically involved in consumer financial protection. Washington and those that work there seem far away to many Americans. Please include us in the process; bring Washington nearer to the people.

To a happy a new year,
Joshua Reyes
A concerned but optimistic citizen

Prophecy and Betrayal by Clark, Lytle, Geduldig & Cranford

Recently this morning, Chris Hayes reported on a memo to the American Bankers Association, a lobbying group which aims to influence law-makers to make laws that favor, well, the banks. Read a copy of it for yourself. (A scanned PDF courtesy Chris Hayes, a searchable plain-text version.) This thing sounds like something straight out of a conspiracy theory story, but the ABA confirm they’ve received it. So, sadly, I guess this is the real deal.

The memo summarizes in very plain language how big-time propaganda systems work. You pay us a lot of money to cook up dirt, spin our cause until it’s palatable for the majority, and then mobilize the masses against their own interests to support ours, stamping out grassroots campaigns and bullying politicians who might stand in the way as we go.

The point of this memo is clear: the Occupy Wall Street movement reminds people who were hurt by the financial crisis that the banks and their lobbying for massive deregulation are very responsible for the economy’s sorry state—a fact attested by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Report; consequently the banks need to protect their political interests and get ready to for the upcoming elections.

There were a few things that stood out to me. First, the entire tone of the memo pitches a clear the-banks-and-our supporters-versus-everyone-else mentality. The memo explicitly names who the “and our supporters” are. According to this memo, bankers could, for some indefinite period of time, count on members of the Republican party to defend the interests of Wall Street companies. They’re worried that political pressure from groups like Occupy might change the tide. Here’s the full paragraph that reads all too transparently. (The emphasis is my own.)

It shouldn’t be surprising that the Democratic party or even President Obama’s re-election team would campaign against Wall Street in this cycle. However the bigger concern should be that Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies—and might start running against them too.

As it’s stated, you might think that it’s common knowledge that the Republicans have been defending the banks. The danger is that they might stop. That is, unless you pay us to manipulate the American people. What’s worse, though, is how entirely remorseless these guys are. They even go out of their way to point out that many Americans who were hit hard by the recklessness of the banks are going to have a lean holiday season. Why is this bad? It might alter their vote.

This combination [of frustration on the political left and right] has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.

Yikes. Which is more important, banker bonuses or the millions of Americans who are suffering because of a economic collapse created by large financial institutions aided by intense governmental deregulation? The authors say which side they’re on and they presume the reader feels the same way.

The second thing that’s really interesting to me in this memo is actually somewhat prophetic, and not just because they dated the memo by about a week in the future. The quotes I gave above already hinted at this point: right, left, it doesn’t matter, everyone is upset with the banks. And everyone is a lot of people. That’s Occupy’s mantra, right? We are the 99%. And in case you forgot, that’s a big number.

Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism. Both the radical left and the radical right are channeling broader frustration about the state of the economy and share a mutual anger over TARP and other perceived bailouts.

So this recent op-ed by Sarah Palin in the Wall Street Journal must have been terrifying. (I suggest you read it, it’s surprisingly sane even if it is essentially a plug for one of her staffer’s books.) Palin basically decries lobbying, or at least wants to make the process more transparent, and suggests specific solutions— make Congress subject to the Freedom of Information Act, for example. I can’t tell if she actually believes what she’s written, but many of her ideas have good potential.

By the end of the editorial, Palin starts to show her “maverick” roots and this time in a somewhat profound way. She reaches out to the Occupy movement to say, look, we’re not so different. Wall Street is bad. Their deep pockets can buy votes. Their predatory lobbyists are good at their jobs. They fight for big corporate interests that aren’t aligned with American people. Turn your attention on the politicians who receive these gifts. You have the power to act. I wish she had gone a little further and actually said, “Vote.” In Palin’s own words:

This call for real reform must transcend political parties. The grass-roots movements of the right and the left should embrace this. The tea party’s mission has always been opposition to waste and crony capitalism, and the Occupy protesters must realize that Washington politicians have been “Occupying Wall Street” long before anyone pitched a tent in Zuccotti Park.

And that’s exactly the sort of message this CLG&C memo warns against: political action from all sides for financial reform and regulation. It seems the Occupiers have caught on, too. They’re running commercials on ESPN and, wait for it, the O’Reilly Factor. I wonder whether these two groups will coalesce. Until then, watch the commercial here.

The third thing that jumped out at me is that the banks shouldn’t just be afraid of the ideas of Occupy, but of Occupy itself.

It may be easy to dismiss OWS as a ragtag group of protestors but they have demonstrated that they should be treated more like an organized competitor who is very nimble and capable of working the media, coordinating third party support and engaging office holders to do their bidding. To counter that, we have to do the same.

Clark, Lytle, Geduldig & Cranford promise to dig up dirt on Occupy leaders and undermine them, and therefore the movement they stand for, with a smear campaign. This might be trickier than they let on. The Occupy movement doesn’t, at least to me, appear to have a central leadership that outsiders like me can point to. Every time I see or read an interview I get a new face. It’s easier to discredit a handful of well-known, well-associated leaders. It’s next to impossible to pull records on an amorphous collection of anonymous demonstrators. Isn’t what that V movie was all about, after all? I hope the folks at Occupy resist the urge centralize their PR. Their relative anonymity is one of their strongest assets. That and the fact that the general tenets against corporate and political corruption are right.

So this memo suggests conventional print, radio and TV ads to combat negative bank press, as well as monitoring and leverage of social media sites. Sure. That’s usual, but they had one more idea that was a little shocking to me. It goes by the name of coalition planning. Since no one will trust the banks, these guys will hire and plant community leaders to plan and organize public support for the banks, but secretly. No one should know that they’ll be taking orders from the banks and doling them out to their unsuspecting supporters. It’s like making prisoners dig their own grave and smile about it! Here’s what ABA would get if they signed up with these guys:

Individual companies under threat by OWS and its adoption by Democrats likely will not be the best spokespeople for their own cause. A big challenge is to demonstrate that these companies still have political strength and that making them a political target will carry a severe political cost.

We will produce a report identifying traditional and non-traditional allies, intellectual support and politically important economic footprints that could ultimately form the basis of a broad coalition (rather than the narrow D.C. definition of a coalition) who can help carry our messages and organize supporters.

Notice how threatening their language is. These guys are not fooling around.

A strong placement [of paid advertisement that “combat OWS messages and provide cover for political figures who defend the industry”] early in a transition to adopt the OWS movement will send a powerful political signal about the risks of carrying that through.

We need to show politicians that if they stand for the American people and against corporate greed, we will stand for them during elections. Write to your senators and congresspeople to tell them what is important to you and why you will vote.

Keep the Internet Open: Update

Last week, the Senate voted on SJ Res. 6, that piece of legislation that stated plainly: Congress disapproves of openness on the internet. That is, that companies should be able to block your traffic on the internet unless you paid for it. Fortunately, the resolution was rejected (by a slim margin of four votes). See the tally here.

Imagine how this sort of deregulation would work in the phone industry. Phone companies could monitor who were calling, listen in to what you were talking about, and then decide how much to charge you accordingly. Would you want the phone companies listening in to your phone conversations and then deciding how much to charge you based on what you said? “Oh, he’s calling his sister again—I bet he’d pay more to talk to his family.” “Her doctor is about to say something important, that phone call’ll cost extra.” Eek.

The FCC has been charged with the responsibility to make sure the internet remains open, transparent, and is free from blocking and unreasonable discrimination. According to the FCC, if it’s legal, you can do it and the internet providers should respect that. Since this policy seems like a good idea to me as it promotes technological innovation and rightful consumer protection, I was shocked that Scott Brown voted to dismantle openness on the internet. I’ve written to his office for an explanation for his vote. I’ll let you know the reasons if they respond.

I’m thankful to Kerry for supporting net neutrality. And I’m surprised and pleased to see that the White House had the backs of the American people, even if a near majority of the Senate didn’t. In an official statement, the President openly opposed SJ Res. 6 because he is in favor of job creation. And this resolution would have stifled technological innovation. Good work.

As an aside: in the end Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Kelly Ayotte did vote for big business. If anyone can tell me how this resolution would have helped families, consumers, the poor, and/or children in Massachusetts, Maine, or New Hampshire, I’d like to know!

Keep the Internet Open

The internet is this country’s greatest, most used, and largest public library. Nearly a year ago, the FCC adopted FC 10-201 to keep the doors of the internet open to American citizens. In this regulation, the FCC cites evidence that broadband providers had been covertly blocking or degrading Internet traffic, and that cable companies have financial incentive and ability to shut things down even more.

Here’s a summary of values stated in the report:


1. Today the Commission takes an important step to preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation, investment, job creation, economic growth, competition, and free expression. To provide greater clarity and certainty regarding the continued freedom and openness of the Internet, we adopt three basic rules that are grounded in broadly accepted Internet norms, as well as our own prior decisions:

i. Transparency.
Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network
management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their
broadband services;
ii. No blocking.
Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services; and
iii. No unreasonable discrimination.
Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.

We believe these rules, applied with the complementary principle of reasonable network management, will empower and protect consumers and innovators while helping ensure that the Internet continues to flourish, with robust private investment and rapid innovation at both the core and the edge of the network. This is consistent with the National Broadband Plan goal of broadband access that is ubiquitous and fast, promoting the global competitiveness of the United States.

But NO! Senator Kay Hutichson (R-TX) introduced S.J. Resolution 6 to the Senate floor to strike down openness and transparency on the internet. The resolution states in plain English that Congress is against openness on the internet! If passed, this resolution will make the FCC unable to ensure the doors of the world’s greatest public library stay open to the public. This resolution is job-killing, innovation-stalling, and education-thwarting.

The resolution is so short, I’ll post its contents in their entirety for you to see for yourself:

Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to the matter of preserving the open Internet and broadband industry practices (Report and Order FCC 10-201, adopted by the Commission on December 21, 2010), and such rule shall have no force or effect.

Today I called Scott Brown’s office in DC to tell him to vote NO on S.J. Res. 6. The number is (202) 224-4543. Do you use the internet? Do you plan to use it in the future? If so, then please call your senators to tell them to vote for American innovation and against S.J. Res. 6.

p.s. — If you live in Maine, ask Olympia Snowe (202) 224-5344 and Susan Collins (202) 224-2523 how this resolution will create jobs in Maine. If you live in New Hampshire, ask Kelly Ayotte (202) 224-3324 whether this resolution will help New Hampshire families make ends meet. They must believe it will. They co-sponsored the resolution, after all.

Today I helped Mississippi families.

Because I don’t think the government should intervene in every, single pregnancy in the state of Mississippi, I donated to help keep family planning up to families.

Here’s the blurb I got after donating. Maybe you’ll receive it in your email, too.

I just made a contribution to Mississippians for Healthy Families, which is leading the fight against Initiative 26. The amendment could ban birth control, prevent women with cancer from receiving life-saving treatments, and ban all abortion in any circumstance. It goes too far. Say NO on Initiative 26&mdashlearn more and make your contribution today:…

Scott Brown, why do you hate America?

Recently the Democrats introduced a bill to support teachers, police, and firefighters. It’s really short, so you should read it for yourself here. This law would help out the poorest people in the country. And do you know who they are? Children. Children are the largest demographic living in poverty in America today. They are not lazy. They are not riding welfare. They didn’t lose their jobs. They are children. And this law would help children.

And who would pay? According to this bill, only people earning over a million dollars a year. And the tax would only apply to the monies made over a million dollars. Joe Biden explains how easy the math is. If you’re only making $999,999 this year, don’t worry. You wouldn’t pay a cent to fund these teachers and first-responders. And if you do make more than a million dollars, you’d only see an increase of one half of one percent. That’s half a penny per dollar over a million. The average income of the people who would pay this surtax is 3 million dollars; they’d pay on average $500. That’s enough for 400,000 teachers, 18,000 police, and 7,000 firefighters. I only wish I could pay this tax!

But no one will. It got voted down, pretty unilaterally according to party lines in the Senate. The New York Times posted the tally here. All blue and independent voted yes; all red (and two blue!) voted no. Because I’m so baffled, I decided to write my senator to ask what he was thinking. I hope you will ask your senators why they think half a penny for every dollar over a million isn’t worth the stability and safety of our families and children. If you live in Massachusetts, please contact Scott Brown through his website or on the phone, (617) 565-3170.

Dear Senator Brown,

I am troubled by your recent vote against S.1723: Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011. Please explain why you chose to cut jobs that serve obvious public good, promote American innovation and prosperity, and keep families and children safe. Teachers, police, and firefighters from the poorest communities will lose their jobs first because the poorest communities are those least able to support their salaries. Your vote is strictly un-American and it clearly acts against the best interests of Massachusetts’ citizens.

Please explain why you turned on American families and children, Senator Brown. Why did you deny poor American children access to adequate education; why did you deny working American families continued public safety? As one of your constituents, I believe you should make the reasons for your action clear.

Joshua Reyes
A concerned citizen

Please, leave a comment if you contacted your senator!