Maybe we should increase the minimum wage

Massachusetts has a minimum wage of $8/hour.  This is fifth highest among states, sixth if you count the District of Columbia.  According to the Boston Globe

Five years have elapsed since the minimum wage in Massachusetts increased in January 2008 to $8 an hour, still one of the highest wage floors in the country.

The Legislature has not voted on a minimum wage increase since 2006, when it phased in the increase over two years and overrode a veto by Governor Mitt Romney to do so.

Since then, four states, includ­ing Connecticut and ­Vermont and the District of ­Columbia have surpassed Massa­chusetts. Nevada requires employers to pay workers $8.25 an hour if they do not receive health benefits, but if health insurance is provided the minimum wage rate falls to $7.25.

California continues to pay workers a minimum of $8 an hour, and Washington has the highest minimum wage in the country at $9.19. Businesses in Connecticut must pay at least $8.25 an hour, and Vermont workers earn at least $8.60 an hour.

If Congress increases the minimum wage to $9, Massachusetts will automatically go to $9.10.  Better, but not a livable wage if you live in Boston, where rents are high.

Even with an increase we will still need the Minimum Wage Awards.

Thank you Brian McFadden.

PS.  Did you happen to notice who vetoed the Massachusetts Minimum Wage increase?

Cartoonists look at Rubio

Last night I watched the local news as well as New England Cable News and the Rachel Maddow show.  Everyone had their Rubio water bottle thing, including the weather and sports people.  Is this news as parody?  Or just another way to talk about something everyone is discussing?

Here are some cartoonist views of the Rubio incident.

Nick Anderson and the Poland Springs hat.

Nick Anderson's Editorial Cartoons 02/14

And Tom Toles

toles20130214

Note the kool aid and tea references.

I’m sure there will be more to come.  This may not end Rubio’s political future for a Presidential run, but you can bet it will end up being like Mitt Romney’s dog on the roof of his car.

Shaking hands – or not

Shaking hands is an almost universal and very ancient custom likely begun to show that neither person was holding a weapon.  Is it time to give up the custom?  And if we do, what would we replace it with?  I started thinking about this important question after reading Scott Lehigh’s column in today’s Boston Globe.

Let’s call our group of health-conscious citizens POSH: People Opposed to Shaking Hands.

Which brings me to the silver lining: This is the only time of year when it’s socially acceptable to refuse a handshake. Confronted with a presumptuously proffered paw, one need only invoke this magical phase: “The health experts say you really shouldn’t shake hands in flu season.”

If only those experts would make that a year-round recommendation. I mean, what, really, is the point? I’d understand it if humans were like those old cast-iron water pumps, and you had to lift and lower their arms a few times to bring forth a flow of conversation. But most folks I encounter are so impulsively chatty they feel no compunction whatsoever about sallying right into subjects that are none of their business. Like, say, why you don’t want to shake hands.

I know, I know, some people see it as a mark of friendship. But here at POSH, we see an outstretched hand for what it is: An amphibious landing craft crammed with an infantry of infectious microbes.

“OK, boys, we’re about to make contact. Move fast, travel light, and dig in as soon as you can.  Cold, Cough, and Fever, take the lead.”

I’ve been known to say that I have a cold so the other person doesn’t want to shake hands with me so I guess I’m a member of POSH.

I suggest we substitute another form of greeting.

There is the Japanese custom of bowing.  In Japan there can be complicated rules about the deepness of the bow to indicated relative social importance, but we don’t have to adopt that, we can just place our hands on our thighs or at our sides and incline slightly from the waist.

Or we could adopt the Sanskrit, namaste, which has more spiritual significance.

Finally, there is the good American fist bump.

Obama Fist Bump

Dap, first bump, whatever you call it: Barack and Michelle Obama showed their togetherness.

Even Mitt does it!

From christopherstreet

And Dubya tried.

So I’m with Scott Lehigh – lets stop shaking hands.

Looking back at 2012 progressively

2012 was a pretty good year for those of a progressive/liberal political point of view and Winning Progressive has compiled a good summary.  You can read the entire article here, but I’ve pulled out some of my particular favorites – in my own order of significance.

First I have to talk about Mitch McConnell who not only lost his effort to make President Obama a one-termer, but last night voted to increase taxes.  (Although since it happened after we technically went off the cliff  at midnight, he will probably spin it as a decrease.)  I think he an John Boehner were the big losers last year, not Mitt.  Mitt is done with politics, but McConnell and Boehner have to continue to try to herd their Republican members and get re-elected.

President Obama re-elected

So now to some accomplishments.

* President Obama Re-Elected With A More Diverse and Progressive Congress– The November elections saw the re-election of President Obama and the election of four new progressive U.S. Senators – Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  In addition, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is finally leaving the Senate!  On the House side, the Democrats elected in November will be the first major party caucus in US history that is majority female and people of color.  New House progressives will include Alan Grayson (FL-09), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Patrick Murphy (FL-18), Rick Nolan (MN-08), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Mark Tacano (CA-41), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), and Kyrsten Simena (AZ-09).  On the flip side, tea party conservatives Allen West (FL), Chip Cravaack (MN), Bobby Schilling (IL), Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Ann-Marie Buerkle (NY), Francisco Canseco (TX), and Joe Walsh (IL) were all defeat and, hopefully, will never be heard from politically again.

* LGBT Equality– 2012 was, of course, a banner year for advancing LGBT equality.  For the first time in US history, equality was supported by a majority of voters facing ballot proposals approving marriage equality in Maine, Washington, and Maryland, and refusing to ban equality in Minnesota. The first openly lesbian U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) was elected in November as were a record seven openly-gay House members.  President Obama publicly supported marriage equality, and anti-equality forces in Iowa failed in their effort to recall a state Supreme Court justice who declared that state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.  In February, a federal appellate court ruled California’s anti-marriage equality Proposition 8 unconstitutional, and two federal courts in 2012 did the same with the Defense of Marriage Act.

* Health Care Reform – In a decision that surprised many commentators, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare.”And while the GOP-controlled House has voted at least 33 times to repeal ObamaCare, President Obama’s re-election in November virtually guarantees that will never occur.   In implementing ObamaCare, the Obama Administration, standing up to strong opposition from conservative religious organizations, finalized rules requiring that contraception be included as a preventive health service that insurance policies must cover with no co-pay.  This will help millions of women afford access to birth control and also save money by reducing unintended pregnancies.

Those are my personal big three.

Yes, there is a lot left to do and a lot that happened that I didn’t particularly think was terrific, but on the first day of a new year, we should celebrate our successes!

The death of the Republican party? Part 2

Maureen Dowd calls them  “A Lost civilization”. likening them to the lost tribes of civilization.

The Mayans were right, as it turns out, when they predicted the world would end in 2012. It was just a select world: the G.O.P. universe of arrogant, uptight, entitled, bossy, retrogressive white guys.

Just another vanishing tribe that fought the cultural and demographic tides of history.

Someday, it will be the subject of a National Geographic special, or a Mel Gibson movie, where archaeologists piece together who the lost tribe was, where it came from, and what happened to it. The experts will sift through the ruins of the Reagan Presidential Library, Dick Cheney’s shotgun casings, Orca poll monitoring hieroglyphics, remnants of triumphal rants by Dick Morris on Fox News, faded photos of Clint Eastwood and an empty chair, and scraps of ancient tape in which a tall, stiff man, his name long forgotten, gnashes his teeth about the 47 percent of moochers and the “gifts” they got.

Instead of smallpox, plagues, drought and Conquistadors, the Republican decline will be traced to a stubborn refusal to adapt to a world where poor people and sick people and black people and brown people and female people and gay people count.

As the historian Will Durant observed, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Who would ever have thought blacks would get out and support the first black president? Who would ever have thought women would shy away from the party of transvaginal probes? Who would ever have thought gays would work against a party that treated them as immoral and subhuman? Who would have ever thought young people would desert a party that ignored science and hectored on social issues? Who would ever have thought Latinos would scorn a party that expected them to finish up their chores and self-deport?

Calvin Trillin puts it this way

Mitt Romney Explains Why He Lost

Obama was clever as clever could be;
To targeted groups he gave gifts that were free:
Say, healthcare for free until age 26,
And free contraceptives (for sex just for kicks).
Debates in the primaries left our team bruised
From harsh accusations the White House then used.
Whatever the reason for losing might be,
Of one thing I’m sure: it could not have been me.
I’m perfect.

But those of us on the other side should remember that the Democrats have also had some near-death experiences – like after the 1972 election – and we have spent our time in the wilderness, too.  The party has had internal struggles and differences, but, correct me if I’m wrong, there has never been a point where the Democratic party was this close to making itself irrelevant.

Trillin again.

Republican Soul Searching   

We’re searching our souls and we’re wondering why
We got beat so badly our rivals are gloating.
It’s obvious now where our campaign went wrong:
We should have prevented more people from voting.

Why Mitt Romney will never be Tom Menino

Yesterday Joanna Weiss wrote a column in the Boston Globe in which she asked her readers to imagine Mitt Romney as Mayor of Boston.  After I stopped laughing, I began to think of all the reasons why this was not only a bad idea, but why Mittens would never make as good a mayor as Thomas M. Menino.

Weiss said

The beauty of a mayorship, as far as Romney goes, is that it’s less an ideological job than a technocratic one. Without the desire to use his office as a stepping stone, Romney would be free to problem-solve, to do the kind of work that made him an appealing public servant in the first place.

She goes on to cite several examples like the new flyover to Cape Cod which fixed the Sagamore Bridge problem and Massachusetts Health Reform (which was a largely Democratic idea) of examples of his technocratic skill at work when he pretended to be governor of Massachusetts.  Weiss seems to be under the impression that Mitt could be another Michael Bloomburg.  Somehow I don’t think so.  Can you see Mittens taking the Orange Line to work from his new mansion in Jamaica Plain?  Or the Red Line from Savin Hill?

So what if he never did well with the little folks? Mayor Mitt wouldn’t have to go to every ribbon-cutting or community meeting. That’s Menino’s thing. Mitt could be the fixer, the big-picture guy, ensuring that Boston keeps wielding an outsized influence on American life.

Right, Joanna.  A large part of what makes TMM a success is that everyone who lives in Boston has met him.  At least it seems that way.  And he cares about the 47%, a large number of whom make up the Boston population.  This is why a new idea was unveiled today.

Starting Wednesday, residents can pay parking tickets and tax bills, get a library card and dog license, even register to vote, at a van dubbed “City Hall To Go.” A newly refurbished bomb squad van, the vehicle was made to resemble a food truck, but is essentially a rolling office, outfitted with laptop computers, wireless access, and the necessary paperwork from a host of city departments.

City officials say the program is the first of its kind nationally, and they hope it proves a convenient alternative for residents who do not use the Internet or rarely get downtown.

The interior of the City Hall To Go truck has laptop computers and wireless Internet access.

The interior of the City Hall To Go truck has laptop computers and wireless Internet access.

Staff in the mayor’s office say the rolling City Hall provides “one-stop shopping, where residents can take care of several tasks at once.” Workers can provide information from school registration forms and summer camp guides for parents to tax exemption forms for the elderly.

The idea for the moving service sprang from meetings in City Hall this summer and was later proposed by several residents as a suggestion for The Mayors Challenge, a national competition designed to spur ideas to improve cities.

Menino, known for his atten­tion to neighborhood concerns and quality-of-life issues, quickly lent his support.

In a statement, Menino said the pilot program will show that “government can change” to become more flexible and convenient.

“City Hall To Go builds on our mission to shake up the status quo in municipal services and offer a new way for Boston residents to get information and engage with the city on a whole host of services we offer,” he said.

I do hope that Weiss was trying for humor in her promotion of Mitt for Mayor, because somehow I doubt that at idea like City Hall to Go would have been either solicited as an idea or implement by him.

Given his age and health, it may be time for Mayor Menino to retire gracefully from the picture, but there are many homegrown candidates who could be mayor.  Men and women who know where Hyde Park and Mattapan are and care about our neighborhoods.

Why did Mitt Romney think he was a winner?

We all know that Mitt Romney was stunned when he lost.  It is said that he didn’t even have a concession speech written thus accounting for the delay between everyone including Fox calling the election and his speech.  And Logan Airport in Boston was crowded with private jets belonging to donors who were there to celebrate at Mitt’s cash bar.  But the party was spoiled because his internal polls were not only wrong, they were garbage.

Last night on Hardball, John Brabender, the Republican campaign official, did not answer Chris Matthew’s direct question as to how the Romney polls could have been so wrong.  This morning, Nate Silver, the man the Republicans trashed but who turned out to be correct, explains what happened.

In this morning’s FiveThirtyEight, Silver writes

Pollsters can expect to take their share of blame when their campaigns lose, and this year has been no exception. Not long after Barack Obama and Democrats had a strong night on Nov. 6, Republicans began to complain publicly that the polls conducted by their campaigns and by affiliated groups implied considerably more optimistic outcomes for them than actually occurred.

Perhaps these Republicans shouldn’t have been so surprised. When public polls conducted by independent organizations clash with the internal polls released by campaigns, the public polls usually prove more reliable.

Take, for example, the gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin earlier this year. Independent polls had the Republican incumbent, Scott Walker, favored to retain his office by about six percentage points. A series of polls conducted for Democratic groups showed a roughly tied race instead.

Mr. Walker in fact won by seven points: the independent polls called the outcome almost exactly, while the internal polls were far from the mark.

Take note any Republicans reading this:  This is a Democratic error.  And, generally speaking, internal polls are not worth much as predictors of the outcome.

But when campaigns release internal polls to the public, their goal is usually not to provide the most accurate information. Instead, they are most likely trying to create a favorable news narrative – and they may fiddle with these assumptions until they get the desired result.

The Democratic pollster Harrison Hickman, who testified under oath in the federal case against John Edwards, put this bluntly, describing the release of internal polls to the news media as a form of “propaganda”:

Hickman testified that when circulating the polls, he didn’t much care if they were accurate. “I didn’t necessarily take any of these as for — as you would say, for the truth of the matter. I took them more as something that could be used as propaganda for the campaign,” the veteran pollster said.

Some reporters make the mistake of assuming that information is valuable simply because it is private or proprietary. But the information that makes it to the reporter’s ears, or into his in-box, may be something that the campaign wants him to hear or see.

During the campaign Republican polling data was released to the New Republic and subsequently to Silver.

Silver explains

In fact, Mr. Obama won all seven states, and by an average margin of 5.7 percentage points based on the ballots counted so far. (Several of the states have yet to certify their results.) Therefore, the polls were biased in Mr. Romney’s direction by nearly five percentage points, on average.

It should be mentioned that most of the independent polls this year were also slightly biased (in a statistical sense) toward Mr. Romney. In the same seven states, the final Real Clear Politics averages overrated Mr. Romney’s standing by 2.5 percentage points. The final FiveThirtyEight forecasts were less biased statistically, in part because our forecast model was designed to respond aggressively to movement in the polls in the closing days of the campaign, which favored Mr. Obama after Hurricane Sandy. Still, our forecasts in these seven states had a one-point bias toward Mr. Romney, on average, compared against the actual results.

The curious, but little known, thing about the Romney internal polls is that it appears they never projected him to win the Electoral College.

Further, the Romney campaign’s polls did not have him winning the Electoral College, as they had Mr. Romney behind in Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to Mr. Scheiber. Assuming that the campaign also had Mr. Romney trailing in Nevada and Michigan, but leading in Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, then Mr. Romney would have been leading in states containing 261 electoral votes, but trailing Mr. Obama in states containing 271. Mr. Romney’s internal polls implied better chances for him than the public polls did – but if Mr. Scheiber’s reporting is right, they still had him as the underdog.

My husband points out that Mitt the self-described data guy seems to have only looked at his internal polling data.  Did he look at Real Clear Politics?  Or the daily reporting of poll results from the Daily Kos?  Or even FiveThirtyEight?  These were sources readily available to him.  He could just have had staff compile all the public polling these sources used each day in a special report just for him.

Internal polls are used for a lot a purposes other than showing a candidates standing in the race.  They can be used to measure effectiveness of message or standing among a specific demographic.  But they should be taken with caution by the candidate and certainly their public release can be dangerous.  In this case, the campaign also sold all the folks on Fox. Silver concludes

But most important, campaigns would be wise not to have their pollsters serve as public spokesmen or spin doctors for the campaign. Campaigns have other personnel who specialize in those tasks.

The role of the pollster should be just the opposite of this, in fact: to provide a reality check such that the campaign does not begin to believe its own spin.

Mitt didn’t write a concession speech because he believed his own spin.  And there will likely be only one picture of him in the Oval Office.

White House Photo

Photograph from the White House.