Saturday, May 27, 2017

Slow Saturday Special: FCC Fisticuffs

Has nothing to do with net neutrality:

"FCC security guards manhandle reporter, eject him from meeting" by Derek Hawkins The Washington Post  May 19, 2017

WASHINGTON - A veteran Washington reporter says he was manhandled by security guards from the Federal Communications Commission, then forced out of the agency’s headquarters as he tried to ask a commissioner questions at a public meeting on Thursday.

John M. Donnelly, a senior writer at CQ Roll Call, said he was trying to talk with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly one-on-one after a news conference when two plainclothes guards pinned him against a wall with the backs of their bodies.

Seeking to question officials after news conferences is standard practice for journalists in Washington.

O’Rielly saw the encounter but continued walking, Donnelly said in a statement through the National Press Club, where he heads the Press Freedom Team.

After O’Rielly passed, the statement read, one of the guards asked why Donnelly hadn’t brought up his questions while the commissioner was at the podium. The guard then made him leave the building ‘‘under implied threat of force,’’ it read.

Donnelly said he had approached O’Rielly in an unthreatening way, but the guards treated him as if he had committed a crime.

‘‘I could not have been less threatening or more polite,’’ he said. ‘‘There is no justification for using force in such a situation.’’

O’Rielly responded to Donnelly directly on Twitter Thursday evening, apologizing for the encounter and saying he didn’t notice the guards getting physical with him.

‘‘I saw security put themselves between you, me and my staff. I didn’t see anyone put a hand on you,’’ he said. In another tweet, he said he was ‘‘freezing and starving’’ at the time.

‘‘I appreciate the apology,’’ Donnelly replied. ‘‘But ‘put themselves’ there makes it sound dainty. They pinned me.’’

CQ Roll Call, owned by the Economist Group, publishes a variety of news products focused on policy and politics in Washington. It’s known for carefully-researched, authoritative and unbiased reporting.

Have you seen who sits at the end of the board?

As for their bias....

Donnelly, a well-known specialist in defense and military affairs, serves as president of the Military Reporters and Editors Association. He has previously headed the National Press Club’s Board of Governors and served on the Standing Committee of Correspondents for the U.S. Congress.

Thursday’s meeting involved a discussion of a range of proposed FCC rules, including a proposal to roll back net neutrality regulations adopted during the Obama administration. Several pro-net neutrality groups demonstrated outside the FCC’s headquarters in the morning.

An FCC spokesman told The Washington Post in an email: ‘‘We apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats.’’

The incident comes at a time of growing and undisguised hostility toward the press in the upper ranks of government. Since taking office, President Trump has called news organizations the ‘‘enemy of the people,’’ and Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, has described the media as ‘‘the opposition party.’’

What I'm starting to see here is agent provocateur reporters creating incidents in order to gain sympathy. That doesn't mean the pre$$ should be manhandled and shut down; it simply means they are trying to manipulate your emotions for their own advantage.

On Wednesday, when Trump was presented with ceremonial sword at a U.S. Coast Guard commencement ceremony, Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly told him, ‘‘You can use that on the press.’’

My feeling is why waste the time? Instead of getting angry at them, I should be laughing at them. They are loosing their grip on the people and no force in the universe or heaven can stop it.

Just last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price defended the arrest of a reporter who tried to question him about the Republican health care bill in a hallway at the West Virginia state capitol. The reporter, Dan Heyman of Public News Service, was jailed on a charge of willful disruption of state government processes. Price said police ‘‘did what they felt was appropriate.’’

Donnelly said he noticed at Thursday’s FCC meeting that security guards were following him around the building as if he were a security threat, even though he was wearing his press badge and carrying a notebook and recorder. At one point, he said, guards waited for him outside the restroom. 

Maybe that is going to be ISIS's next disguise.

‘‘I thought they were just doing it to prevent anyone from getting too close to the commissioners, which I would understand as a security measure,’’ Donnelly told Mic. ‘‘But then it became apparent that they were singling me out as if I were someone who was some sort of trouble.’’

The National Press Club’s statement identified the guard who ejected Donnelly as Frederick Bucher, head of the FCC’s security operations center.

According to the National Press Club, Bucher took a press badge from Bloomberg reporter Todd Shields last year after Shields spoke with a protester at an FCC meeting.

Jeff Ballou, the National Press Club’s president, condemned the guards’ actions on Thursday.

‘‘Donnelly was doing his job and doing it with his characteristic civility,’’ Ballou said in a statement. ‘‘Reporters can ask questions in any area of a public building that is not marked off as restricted to them. Officials who are fielding the questions don’t have to answer. But it is completely unacceptable to physically restrain a reporter who has done nothing wrong or force him or her to leave a public building as if a crime had been committed.’’ 

Was he charged with anything?

Others came to Donnelly’s defense as well:

Carl Hulse tweeted: Outrageous and offensive. John is an accomplished veteran reporter and knows how to do his job in DC. This and WV arrest are ominous.

Geof Koss tweted: it’s outrageous that a total professional like @johnmdonnelly should be removed under ‘‘implied threat of force’’ for trying to ask a question

Or have a blog shut down for such things?

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RelatedReporter alleges GOP hopeful Greg Gianforte body-slammed him

Maybe he deserved it because sometimes reporters can get real pushy.

"GOP House hopeful Greg Gianforte charged with assault" by Bobby Caina Calvan Associated Press  May 25, 2017

BOZEMAN, Mont. — The Republican candidate in the nationally watched election Thursday for Montana’s sole congressional seat has been charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly grabbing a reporter by the neck and throwing him to the ground.

Voters are deciding in the special election whether Republican Greg Gianforte or Democrat Rob Quist will fill the US House seat left vacant when Ryan Zinke joined President Trump’s Cabinet as secretary of the Interior Department.

Gianforte, who has tried to align himself with Trump, defended himself as the criminal charge was announced Wednesday, saying the reporter was being aggressive and grabbed him by the wrist in their exchange at his campaign office.

Quist has declined to comment on the charge.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for the Republican candidate in Montana’s special House election to apologize after allegedly attacking a reporter and getting charged with assault.

Ryan says ‘‘that’s wrong and should not happen.’’

But Ryan wouldn’t say if Greg Gianforte should be barred from joining the House GOP conference if he wins Thursday’s election. Instead Ryan said, ‘‘I’m gonna let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative.’’

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi called Gianforte ‘‘a wannabe Trump.’’

‘‘That’s his model, Donald Trump,’’ she said.

It’s not clear how the last-minute curveball will affect the race, which was partly seen as a referendum on Trump’s presidency, in part because more than one-third of the state’s registered voters cast absentee ballots before polls opened Thursday.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin made the announcement shortly before midnight Wednesday in a written statement, about six hours after the attack on reporter Ben Jacobs of The Guardian. Gianforte would face a maximum $500 fine or 6 months in jail if convicted.

Gianforte was in a private office preparing for an interview with Fox News when Jacobs came in without permission, campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon said.

Oh yeah?

The Fox News crew watched in astonishment as, after Jacobs pressed him on the GOP health care bill, ‘‘Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,’’ Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna wrote in an article. She added that Gianforte then began to punch Jacobs.

In an audio recording posted by The Guardian, the reporter asks the congressional candidate about the GOP’s health care bill, which was just evaluated hours earlier by the Congressional Budget Office.

‘‘We’ll talk to you about that later,’’ Gianforte says on the recording, referring Jacobs to a spokesman.

When Jacobs says that there won’t be time, Gianforte says ‘‘Just--’’ and there is a crashing sound. Gianforte yells, ‘‘The last guy who came here did the same thing,’’ and a shaken-sounded Jacobs tells the candidate he just body-slammed him. ‘‘Get the hell out of here,’’ Gianforte says.

The Gianforte campaign Wednesday night released a statement blaming the incident on Jacobs. It contends he ‘‘aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face and began asking badgering questions’’ before being asked to leave.

Gianforte asked Jacobs to lower a phone that was being used as an audio recorder, then tried to grab it, the campaign said in a statement. Jacobs then grabbed Gianforte’s wrist and both fell to the ground, Scanlon said. The 45-second recording does not contain a request from Gianforte that Jacobs lower his phone. Acuna, the Fox News reporter, wrote that ‘‘at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.’’

The sheriff’s office said Gianforte has until June 7 to appear in court on the charge.

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As usual, the media is blaming Trump rather than looking inside themselves:

"Media watchers blame hostility toward reporters on Trump" by Tamara Lush Associated Press  May 25, 2017

The case of a Montana congressional candidate accused of body-slamming a reporter is being blamed by some media watchers on a wave of hostility toward journalists that President Trump helped generate.

‘‘It definitely started before Trump, but he definitely exacerbated it,’’ said Kelly McBride, a vice president at the Poynter Institute, a media think tank and training center in St. Petersburg, Fla.

For months, Trump, first as a candidate, now as president, has attacked the media, calling it dishonest, branding it the ‘‘enemy of the people’’ and accusing it of putting out ‘‘fake news.’’

Well, if the $hoe fits....!!!!

During the White House campaign, reporters at Trump rallies were often confined to a penned-in area, vilified by the candidate and subjected to such insults and threats from his supporters that some members of the media feared for their safety. At one rally, a man was photographed in a shirt that read, ‘‘Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.’’

That is kind of funny in a metaphoric way, but I did notice how the pre$$ totally forgot about the "free speech zones(?)" we have been living under since at least 2004.

The air of menace was heightened by Trump’s talk of wanting to punch or rough up hecklers in the crowd.

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was arrested during the campaign on battery charges for grabbing a female reporter. A Florida prosecutor later dropped the charge.

On Wednesday, Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate for a House seat in a special election Thursday, was charged in Montana with misdemeanor assault for allegedly grabbing Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by the neck and slamming him to the ground after Jacobs asked him about the GOP health care bill. Gianforte could be fined up to $500 fine or get six months in jail if convicted.

Gianforte, who has tried to align himself with Trump, said the reporter was being aggressive and grabbed him by the wrist. Jacobs said he never touched Gianforte. And a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident said Jacobs was not physically aggressive.

‘‘The attack in Montana is only the crudest and most visible expression of the rising hostility toward the media,’’ Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University, wrote in an e-mail. ‘‘The chilling fact is that half of the people seeing the Guardian reporter being beaten may actually — if privately — relish the image.’’

Not really. My anti-violence bent is absolute.

Among other recent incidents, all of them reported in May:

The editor of Alaska’s largest newspaper said a state senator slapped one of his reporters when the reporter sought the lawmaker’s opinion on a recently published article.

A Washington-based reporter from CQ Roll Call said he was pinned against the wall by security guards and forced to leave the Federal Communications Commission headquarters after he tried to question an FCC commissioner after a news conference.

A West Virginia journalist was arrested after yelling questions about the opioid epidemic at Health Secretary Tom Price.

‘‘Reporters are subject to abuse all the time. Most of it’s verbal, but it’s not hard to imagine some of that verbal abuse transitioning to physical abuse, especially when you have the president calling journalists scum, bad people, evil people, and ‘enemies of the people,’’’ McBride said.

She said that while the hostility began decades ago ‘‘with talk radio and the rise of Fox News constantly disparaging journalists,’’ Trump has stoked it. McBride said that what set the Montana incident apart was its ‘‘brazenness.’’

Yeah, has nothing to do with the endless stream of agenda-pushing lies across all issues, or worst of all the lies leading to wars.

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Also seeThe assault on the press in the Trump era

Next thing you know they will be calling us Turkey.

"Democratic divide underscored in Montana" by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns New York Times  May 27, 2017

BOZEMAN, Mont. — The Democratic defeat in a hard-fought special House election in Montana on Thursday highlighted the practical limitations on liberal opposition to President Trump and exposed a deepening rift between cautious party leaders, who want to pick their shots in battling for control of Congress in 2018, and more militant grass-roots activists who want to fight the Republicans everywhere.

Rob Quist, the Democratic nominee in Montana, staked his campaign on the Republican health care bill, but he still lost by 6 percentage points, even after his Republican opponent for the state’s lone House seat, Greg Gianforte, was charged with assaulting a reporter on the eve of the election.

The margin in this race was relatively small in a state that Trump carried by more than 20 percentage points last year. But Quist’s defeat disappointed grass-roots Democrats who financed nearly his entire campaign while the national party declined to spend heavily on what it considered, from the outset, an all-but-lost cause in daunting political territory.

This tension — between party leaders who will not compete for seats they think they cannot win and an energized base loath to concede any contests to Republicans — risks demoralizing activists who keep getting their hopes up. It also points to a painful reality for Democrats: Despite the boiling fury on the left, the resistance toward Trump has yet to translate into a major electoral victory.

And if they can't beat him with record low approval ratings.... !!

In part, this is because the few special elections for Congress have taken place in red-leaning districts, where the near-daily barrage of new controversies involving Trump has not damaged him irreparably and the president is simply not as despised as he is in more liberal areas.

The Montana contest was the second special House election this year in a conservative district where rank-and-file progressives rallied behind their candidate only to see Washington-based Democrats shrink from the fight as Republicans launched ferocious attacks to ensure victory.

Sometimes I think Washington Democrats don't really want to win.

In Kansas last month — in a Wichita-area district that is even more conservative than Montana — national Republican groups stepped in to ensure that another lackluster candidate, Ron Estes, pulled out a win, while the Democratic nominee, James Thompson, waited in vain for his party’s cavalry to ride in.

“If the national Democratic Party would start getting more involved in these races earlier, then maybe we could flip them,” Thompson said in an interview. “It’s frustrating.”

For Republicans, the outcome in Montana, where Gianforte apologized in his victory speech late Thursday to the reporter he had attacked, is likely to calm nerves at least for a while, staving off what the party feared would be a full-blown panic if Gianforte lost on such favorable turf.

Washington-based Republican strategists had grown increasingly pessimistic about the race in recent weeks, bemoaning their candidate’s political deficiencies and predicting a narrow victory.

For Democrats, though, the contest pointed to an increasingly heated disagreement over where the party has a realistic chance to win.  After a special House election in Georgia in which Democrat Jon Ossoff received more than 48 percent of the vote — nearly averting a runoff and demonstrating the extent of voter enthusiasm on the left — Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who is facing reelection next year, called Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, and implored him to consider spending money on Quist in the final weeks of the Montana race, according to two Democratic strategists briefed on the call. Tester also contacted the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, to see if he would carry the same message to the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California.

On Friday, Democratic leaders emphasized that Quist had performed better than the party’s past congressional candidates in Montana, apparently benefiting from the enthusiasm of rank-and-file Democrats even as he fell well short of victory. The party’s nominees, they noted, are outpacing their predecessors on fairly forbidding terrain, and Democratic voters are participating at higher rates than Republicans, despite being outnumbered in these districts.

But other Democrats acknowledged that they must work harder to make inroads with voters who live far beyond major cities and their suburbs if they want to pick up seats like the one Gianforte just captured.

While both Trump and key Republican policy proposals, like the American Health Care Act, are broadly unpopular in public polling, the president and his party retain a strong hold over rural America, potentially limiting the map on which Democrats can compete next year.

Have you seen the map?

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Done fighting for today.

Slow Saturday Special: Suffolk Probate

Sorry it took so long to get to your case:

"Suffolk probate register is suspended" by Stephanie Ebbert Globe Staff  February 04, 2017

The suspension again throws light on an oft-overlooked office seen by many as a political anachronism headed by an elected official who makes nearly $135,000 a year. The Probate Court handles complicated legal and family matters like adoptions, divorces, paternity cases, and name changes.

Seems rather important to everyday people then.

Suffolk Register of Probate Felix D. Arroyo, who called the suspension “unwarranted” Friday night, was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, said Jennifer Donahue, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Trial Courts. His annual salary of $134,692 is due to increase to $139,789 as a result of the pay increase for legislators and judicial employees that the Legislature passed on Thursday, overriding a veto by Governor Charlie Baker.

In a statement Friday night, a spokesman said, “Arroyo inherited an office that had a long and well-documented history of mismanagement and poor performance.

“Since taking office, he has committed himself to finding efficiencies, improving operations, and promoting diversity,’’ spokesman Patrick Keaney said.

The office under Arroyo’s management was described as disorganized and disorderly by one former employee who said that cases had built up and paperwork wasn’t filed....

The last registrar was Patricia Campatelli.

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Related:

Arroyo says he faced sabotage as he diversified staff at Suffolk register of probate

Suffolk probate registry increased diversity under Arroyo

Suffolk Probate Court has ‘serious deficiencies’

The circumstances surrounding Arroyo’s ouster remain a mystery.

Suffolk Probate Court is a mess, but who caused it?

Court system says Arroyo presided over ‘dysfunctional chaos’

Arroyo skipped a meeting intended to brief him on the improvements being made to the office he was supposed to run.

"Severe dysfunction alleged in Suffolk Probate" by Andrew Ryan and Stephanie Ebbert Globe Staff  March 17, 2017

Arroyo had maintained that he was the victim of sabotage by entrenched white court employees who resented his efforts to diversify the staff. After he took office in early 2015, he hired several people with foreign language skills to serve the office frequented by non-English speakers.

A spokesman for Arroyo said dysfunction in the registry was caused by “the racist attitudes and intentional sabotage on the part of some of the staff,” which created a hostile work environment.

The office has long been plagued with managerial trouble that predates Arroyo, who has maintained that he inherited much of the dysfunction. The trial court conducted a lengthy investigation of allegations of a racially hostile work environment. Trial court officials would not allow material from that investigation to be made public.

“Félix is looking forward to getting back to work to reform this office,” Arroyo’s spokesman said, adding, “Throughout his career, Félix has never backed down from a fight for social, economic, and racial justice and he’s not about to start now.”

The court did release documents that showed a fundamental breakdown in basic management. Employees took breaks at all times of the day and left for lunch when they wanted, the documents allege. Staff were allowed to come in late or leave early. People did not answer phones. Supervisors had signs on their closed doors that read “Do not Disturb.”

Was any work being done at all?

The registry, which has just 33 employees, handles filings that include divorces, wills, child custody cases, and other family matters.

Even in such a small office, the assessment found, “there existed obvious divisions, factions favoritism, and hostility due to the employees not having proper training.”

Which led to “unhappy customers” who regularly waited for two hours.

The registry’s filing system had devolved into utter chaos by the time a temporary manager arrived Oct. 17, 2016. Fifty bins of files were scattered throughout the office. Another 60 bins of files were stacked on the floor, waiting to be put away. Other file bins were upside down, backward, or sideways. A subsequent “file room cleanout shined light on hundreds of cases that were misfiled,” including some that had been lost for years.

“The complete disarray and operational breakdown of the file room made basic registry functions unobtainable,” the assessment reads. “There was an average 20-30 cases missing on any given day.”

The report pointed in particular to the probate staff’s problems with processing paperwork and cashing checks. A divorce case that was filed in January 2016 was filed again in August; the paperwork had never been processed, the check never cashed.

Checks were found attached to petitions and complaints, all tucked into boxes of loose paperwork and unprocessed. “The file dates in the pleadings indicated that the vast amount of unprocessed checks were sitting around for months and in many instances for over a year,” the assessment found.

In little over two months, the temporary court manager brought in to run the office wrote that she alone processed checks worth over $241,000.

Arroyo’s spokesman defended his handling of the office’s finances. “The hidden files and misplaced checks are examples of the intentional sabotage carried out by some of the employees that Felix inherited or were placed in his office by the Trial Court,” he said.

The Trial Court suspended Arroyo Feb. 3, roughly two years into his term as register. He hired a lawyer and has argued that he inherited a dysfunctional office and that the court lacked the authority to suspend him as an elected official.

The office has long been plagued by mismanagement and scandal. In his 2014 election, Arroyo defeated Patricia Campatelli, who allegedly assaulted an employee after a holiday party. Campatelli never admitted any wrongdoing, arguing that she was a victim of unsubstantiated rumors.

An investigator found that Campatelli worked only 15 hours a week and spent much of it taking smoking breaks, playing scratch tickets, looking at East Boston real estate on the Internet, and doing puzzles.

??!!!!!??


The investigator determined that she had “created a fearful atmosphere “ in the office, retaliating against workers who questioned her long breaks and plotting to get rid of employees so she could hire her own people.

O'Brien and state probation was cleared of all that.

But the investigator could not sort out the facts behind Campatelli’s alleged Dec. 18, 2013, assault on an employee, noting that both had been drinking heavily at two bars before the incident. 

?????????

This was the office run by Register Felix D. Arroyo, who was suspended with pay in February and has been aggressively fighting for his job. The assessment was part of a trove of documents court officials released to the media this week....

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I'm told “it was a place for employees to make work disappear.”

"Suffolk registry workers describe racial hostility, sexual harassment" by Andrew Ryan and Stephanie Ebbert Globe Staff  March 25, 2017

A Cape Verdean employee alleged that her co-workers called her a monkey. A white employee used a racial epithet to describe an African-American colleague. Another white worker loudly denounced new Spanish-speaking employees with a slur and complained they were “being hired to do our jobs” by their Latino boss.

Pervasive accusations of racial hostility and sexual harassment at the Suffolk Registry of Probate led one office worker to call last spring for an “immediate intervention” into the “deplorable and divisive” environment, according to an investigative report that had not previously been made public.

The investigation uncovered allegations that some longtime white court employees actively worked to “sabotage” the diversity efforts of the recently elected register, Felix D. Arroyo, who took office in January 2015. The allegations, if true, could help substantiate Arroyo’s claim that he has been the victim of a racially motivated campaign by an entrenched courthouse bureaucracy that resented his hiring of multilingual staff to serve a diverse public.

Now he knows how Trump feels.

The investigative report, written by a diversity officer in the court system, does not exonerate Arroyo, who was suspended in February for what Trial Court officials described as “disarray and dysfunction” at the long-troubled Suffolk probate office. An investigator discounted at least one of the sabotage allegations and depicted Arroyo as an absent or aloof manager who did little to protect his new hires from the open hostilities of entrenched employees.

So he hauled out the race card?

Arroyo’s spokesman, responding to questions for this story, rejected the suggestion that he was an apathetic boss and strongly defended his tenure.

Three court employees who spoke with the Globe on the condition of anonymity disputed the report’s characterization of Arroyo. The employees, who support the suspended register, said he championed and defended workers of color. Arroyo encouraged them to file discrimination and harassment complaints, they said, but he was otherwise hamstrung by a bureaucracy in which authority is concentrated in Trial Court administrators.

I'm left with the question of how this could happen in deep blue Ma$$achu$etts. I was always led to believe that was a Southern problem, and we are better than them up here. That's the impression I've gotten coming from the schools and media, and I've lived here my whole life so you can't gainsay me.

The newly released report sheds more light on the troubled operations at the Probate Court, where court officials have documented what they describe as a “procedural meltdown”: scores of missing files, hundreds of thousands of dollars in unprocessed checks, and an indifference to the needs of the public, whose cases in court were often delayed as a result.

Your government serving you! 

I'm glad they all got pay raises.

The latest report suggests that the problems in Suffolk probate extend far beyond alleged mismanagement by Arroyo. The documents described the office as a “hostile and discriminatory work environment” that has long had an inappropriate and racially charged climate. The documents say that tensions increased exponentially with the election in November 2014 of Arroyo, a Latino who is the first person of color to serve as register.

Employees described co-workers using profanity at the public counter and mistreating customers who came to the registry seeking help with their divorces, child custody cases, adoptions, or relatives’ wills. Employees complained about the “juvenile atmosphere” of the 33-person office with high-school-like cliques and staff who “often acted like children.”

The investigative report was part of a trove of documents released last week that detailed severe disorder in the probate office. Court officials asked the Globe and other media outlets not to publish letters marked “confidential,” which they said had been sent inadvertently.

The Globe is publishing material from the confidential report because it catalogs rancor and chaos inside a government office intended to help the public navigate the delicate legal intricacies of paternity, divorce, and adoption. The Globe is not publishing the names of specific employees.

The Trial Court suspended Arroyo with pay Feb. 3, roughly two years into his term as register.

Investigators were told that files often went “missing” on purpose....

HA-HA-HA-HA!

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He's going to fight for that pension though:

"For suspended probate register, case has high costs" by Stephanie Ebbert and Andrew Ryan Globe Staff  March 03, 2017

If he is able to complete his six-year term as Suffolk register of probate, Felix D. Arroyo stands to more than double his pension — to roughly $70,000 a year for life, a Globe analysis found.

That's why the state budget is in such rough shape. You have thousands upon thousands of guys like this who have feathered or had feathered their nests for them.

If he is removed from his elected position, his pension would revert to about $30,000, state data show. That’s how much is at stake for the embattled register, who was placed on administrative leave with pay Feb. 3 after the Massachusetts Trial Court identified “serious deficiencies” in his office. An investigation is ongoing.

Arroyo is vociferously fighting his suspension, launching a campaign and a legal defense fund to reclaim his job, which pays $139,789 a year. He was suspended after two years of his six-year term.

So the problems were before him, but he wasn't really doing anything to clean them up. He was just riding the wave.

Arroyo would be eligible to significantly augment his pension based on his new salary — but only if he stayed on the job for at least five years, according to retirement officials. Arroyo was credited for a total of 14 years of service in various government jobs.

Awww, poor f**k!

Under state pension law, employees are permitted to return to public life and to collect a higher pension based upon a higher salary. But if they do that, they have to pay back to the state what they have already received in pension checks, and they must remain in their new post at least five years.

Arroyo would have to pay back $104,000 he already received in pension payments, according to data from the Massachusetts Retirement Board that were obtained through a public records request. An official said he had already begun repaying.

A former Boston city councilor who lost reelection in 2007, Arroyo had retired in November 2011 after working almost exactly three years for the state Department of Transitional Assistance, making $92,000, records show. Arroyo had earned a pension of about $30,000, records show.

Now 68, Arroyo would be eligible to retire with 50 percent of his salary if he finishes his six-year term as register, a Globe analysis of pension data found. That means Arroyo could receive a $70,000 annual pension for life.

Globe is really concerned about his well-being.

An Arroyo spokesman, Patrick Keaney, declined to comment on Arroyo’s pension, referring questions to the retirement board. Arroyo hired an attorney, Walter B. Prince, to contest his suspension, and his sons and spokesman spearheaded a fund-raising campaign for his legal defense. That effort raised $10,709 last month, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, with $5,000 already being paid to the attorney. No payments show up for Keaney or Doug Rubin, a top political consultant who has said he is helping Arroyo pro bono.

Why does he need a legal defense? 

All of a sudden he race charges are starting to stink of $elf $ervice.

Arroyo’s defenders have also launched a political offensive, suggesting he is being run out of elective office by an unfair process and demanding transparency. At the same time, however, they have not been willing to release the letter Arroyo received when he was suspended — a letter that outlines the reasons for his suspension.

That's what you do when you have committed a crime. You cover it up and go on the attack. How Nixonian of them!

In a fund-raising e-mail sent Sunday, Keaney pledged that the suspension letter from Massachusetts Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence would be released — but only after the state provided Arroyo’s lawyer related documents he had requested.

“The only thing preventing us from responding to the suspension letter, and releasing it to the public, is Spence’s unwillingness to provide Felix’s legal team with the documents we have asked for,” Keaney wrote on Sunday.

It turns out that the documents had been sitting on his lawyer’s desk since Friday.

So the lawyer is either incompetent or a liar?!!!!!

The general counsel for the Massachusetts Trial Court hand-delivered the requested documents to Prince’s office late Friday, said court spokeswoman Jennifer Donahue.

Did anyone SIGN for them?

The lawyer apparently did not open the documents until after the weekend — during which time Arroyo’s team continued a drumbeat of criticism, publicly demanding details on why he was suspended and advancing the argument in several news accounts that Spence was misleading the public.

OMG! They were accusing the other side of the conduct of which they were in fact guilty. How Israeli of them!

“Sixteen days have passed since we made the request and Spence still has not provided them to Felix’s legal team,” Keaney, the Arroyo spokesman, wrote in the fund-raising e-mail.

Keaney again refused to release Arroyo’s letter of suspension on Thursday — six days after his lawyer got the documents he’d been demanding.

What does that tell you?

Now, he says, he will release it only after Arroyo’s lawyer reviews the documents he received and drafts a response.

“We received the documents we were waiting for, and we’re drafting our response. As we told our supporters and the public at large, as soon as our response is complete, we will release it, along with the suspension letter written by Harry Spence,” Keaney said.

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Still waiting for it. Damn that U.S.P.S.

Look whom else got caught up in the scandal:

"More questions emerge on probate court personnel" by Andrew Ryan Globe Staff  April 12, 2017

Help for the long-troubled Suffolk Probate office came from Worcester County, where a probate court employee named Leslie Girardi had worked for a decade.

A top state probate administrator sent Girardi to help Suffolk Register Felix D. Arroyo get his dysfunctional office on track in September 2015. But Girardi had a history.

She had been put on paid leave in Worcester in May of that year, according to a document obtained by the Globe. Two people with knowledge of the situation said she had used threats and vulgar language, and that officials had pushed to have her fired.

By early 2017, Arroyo would be suspended from his job. Girardi would be accused in an investigative report of belittling her Suffolk co-workers, shouting obscenities within earshot of the public, and using a racial slur to refer to an African-American case manager.

The probate administrator, Linda M. Medonis, has been nominated by Governor Charlie Baker for a judgeship. Top court officials defended and praised Medonis on the eve of her scheduled nomination hearing Wednesday before the Governor’s Council, where the scrutiny will include her tenure running statewide operations of the Probate and Family Court Department.

(Blog editor just shakes head. Who knows who is on that bench?)

The bouncing of Girardi from probate registry to probate registry — she is now an office manager in the Bristol registry — illustrates that the problems in the state’s probate system extend far beyond Suffolk County.

The episode also sheds some light on the career of the governor’s judicial nominee.

Documents show that one employee told investigators that Girardi stood at the public counter and used “the f-bomb” and, in earshot of the public, used crude language to belittle a co-worker. Another employee accused Girardi of conspiring with longtime Suffolk employees to undermine Arroyo, an allegation a court investigator discounted.

Another employee said Girardi “outwardly agreed” when a longtime white employee in Suffolk complained and used an ethnic slur and said Arroyo was hiring Hispanic employees to “do our jobs!” Girardi responded, according to the report, “They’re all being hired by him [Register Arroyo] because they’re Spanish.”

Girardi was out on maternity leave as court administrators investigated the accusations of racism and hostility....

So they haven't got her side of the story yet?

--more--"

"Judicial nominee withdraws hours before confirmation hearing" by Andrew Ryan Globe Staff  April 12, 2017

Judicial nominee Linda M. Medonis abruptly withdrew her nomination hours before a confirmation hearing Wednesday after a report detailed her role in transferring a probate employee from court to court despite repeated accusations of vulgarity and racial hostility.

The end of Medonis’s current judicial prospects marked the latest fallout from the continuing controversy over the suspension of embattled Suffolk Register Felix D. Arroyo....

--more--"

And the wait times just get longer.

Slow Saturday Special: Million-Dollar Lunch

Looks like I'll be going hungry today then:

"Business advocates gear up for legal fight against ‘millionaires tax’ proposal" by Jon Chesto Globe Staff  May 26, 2017

A proposal that would impose more taxes on the rich to pay for education and transportation is expected to be an easy sell to voters.

That’s why the state’s most powerful business groups want to stop the initiative before it gets that far. They’re working on a legal challenge to scuttle the so-called millionaires tax.

The Massachusetts High Technology Council president Christopher Anderson wrote that the surcharge could cause irreparable harm to the state’s innovation economy.

Or to some phat wallets around here.

The odd thing is, I'm an anti-tax advocate. Government wastes enough money and doesn't need more. Suffering taxpayers picking up pensions and perks for lavish political lifestyles doesn't cut it anymore; however, this "debate" is all taking place in the context of massive wealth inequality that is BEING ASSISTED by massive amounts of tax loot being showered on corporations.

I guess it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation -- and who$e the winner again?

Other influential business groups — such as the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership — also oppose the labor-backed surcharge. Among their strategies: filing a lawsuit later this year that challenges its constitutionality.

That will $low it down if not kill it. Judges just got a raise, too.

If the measure appears on the ballot in November 2018 and voters approve it, the taxation rate for personal income above $1 million would increase by 4 percentage points. Assuming the current income tax rate of 5.1 percent remains in place, an individual would pay the standard rate on all income up to $1 million, and then pay a 9.1 percent rate for earnings above that threshold.

But the union-funded “Fair Share Amendment” still needs to clear an important hurdle: a vote by the state lawmakers to put the tax question before voters next year.

Oh, I can see the arm-twisting behind closed doors, and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the tax.

The surcharge would be created through a constitutional amendment, which requires two roll call votes from the Legislature. Lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved it once, in 2016. They could take their second vote as soon as June 14.

The business groups’ legal strategy is just starting to take shape. One likely plan of attack: challenging language that would set aside funds for education and transportation. They argue that constitutional amendments can’t appropriate funds for specific uses. They also may also claim that the referendum question is too broad.

The millionaires tax is projected to raise nearly $2 billion a year. But critics say there’s no guarantee the new revenue will result in an equivalent increase in education and transportation funding. Lawmakers could use the new money to pay for preexisting line items in the state budget, which would then free up that money for other causes, such as health care. 

Yeah, especially when all the revenue projections from authority are overly optimistic time after time after time as they move $hells around.

Then there’s the risk of building a budget around a potentially volatile revenue stream — income taxes collected from the wealthy often vary from year to year.

 Yeah, they might leave like in Connecticut.

Supporters of the additional tax cite studies that show a relatively small number of wealthy people move out of state because of tax policies. James Rooney, chief executive of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce whose group only recently took an official stance against the surcharge, however, still worries about the economic impact.

“We need to be mindful of the mobility of people and businesses in this economy,” he said, pointing to General Electric’s decision to relocate from Connecticut to Boston last year.

Business opposition to a tax on the rich, however, is not unanimous. The left-leaning Alliance for Business Leadership, for example, is trying to build support for the surcharge.

Surcharge supporters say they’re on solid legal ground. They point to the state’s gas tax, whose proceeds are set aside for transportation purposes. 

Then why are the roads and bridges around here in such rotten shape? All going to fund goldbricking political appointees and retirees, huh?

A successful court challenge would be far less expensive than a campaign to defeat a ballot question, which could cost millions.

But they got the $$$ if needed.

While the Massachusetts High Technology Council won’t say how much it hopes to raise, the Globe reported last fall that the group’s goal was in the $400,000 range.

In comparison, the Raise Up Massachusetts ballot committee spent nearly $600,000 in the past two years to get the millionaires tax this far. Most of that money came from union sources, including Services Employees International Union affiliates, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

The opponents have not yet created a ballot committee, so their expenses are not public. Mark Gallagher, executive vice president at the high-tech group, said his side has to disclose its spending only when it begins to try to directly influence voters. Legal work doesn’t count, he said.

“It’s easy to see how this would be appealing to voters,” said Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “The vast majority of them are not subject to the new tax. . . . You just don’t want to hurt the underpinnings of our economy with a tax that will hit investors, innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Yeah, f*** the rest of us all instead. I'm sure Paul Ryan would agree.

--more--"

Yeah, whadda ya' want to do, become Connecticut? 

"With state budget in crisis, Conn. governor says history will vindicate him" by Joshua Miller Globe Staff  May 25, 2017

HARTFORD — Six-and-a-half years into his tenure as chief executive, Dannel P. Malloy is the nation’s least popular Democratic governor.

He says the honor is well-deserved.

After all, he insists, it’s grimy work cleaning up years of Republican mismanagement.

Connecticut is the wealthiest state in the country, but it faces a massive budget gap and the prospect of even higher taxes and more painful budget cuts.

No kidding? Us, too

The unemployment rate is the highest in New England, New York, and New Jersey. Economic inequality is pervasive. The state’s population has shrunk each of the last three years. General Electric’s headquarters fled for Boston. And just last week, Connecticut saw its bond rating downgraded, placing it as less creditworthy than almost every other state.

Uh-oh. If the bankers don't like you.... no wonder his approval is in the toilet.

Still, Malloy, who is not running for reelection in 2018, says his time in office — with a focus on the nuts-and-bolts funding of pensions and long-deferred health care obligations — will be vindicated by history.

That's what failures say, and see you in the bar car when it's over.

“I think the changes we make, people won’t give us credit for until they actually experience, until they actually see what happens,” he said.

In the meantime, he’s taking heat from business groups, fiscal watchdogs, cities and towns, and the 66 percent of Connecticut voters who disapprove of his job performance.

But in an interview this week in his office at the state Capitol, Malloy, a Democrat, described his tenure — signing two of the state’s biggest tax increases into law, restructuring a major contract with state employee unions, and plowing money into funding long-term liabilities — as cleaning up messes he inherited from his Republican predecessors.

“Connecticut’s problems aren’t recently manufactured. They exist. And have existed,” said Malloy, who won narrow victories in 2010 and 2014. “And many people enjoyed ignoring them for a long period of time and experienced great personal popularity as a result of their willingness to ignore them. And it eventually falls on someone to, you know, raise the mirror.”

Asked about a recent poll that ranked him one of the least popular governors in the country, with a job approval rating of only 29 percent, Malloy interrupted a Globe reporter.

“Well-deserved,” Malloy said.

Because he’s made hard choices?

“Because I’m making the hard choices,” the governor said, sitting in front of a wallpaper rendition of the forces of British General Charles Cornwallis surrendering at Yorktown, Va., and concluding the American Revolution.

Over the course of a 30-minute interview, Malloy exuded the argumentative directness of a New York City prosecutor — which he once was. He attacked the premise of several questions and interrupted others halfway through.

Kind of like a blogger, huh?

The Democrat, who turns 62 next month, expressed impatience with the media and the public’s lack of interest in the complexities of actuarial projections and pension fund returns. “It’s a very difficult situation for people to understand,” he said.

Then it is his fault, not Trump's (and yeah, we too-pids won't undrastan nuthin, duh!)

And he cast shade on previous policy makers, including Democratic legislators, for sloughing off their responsibilities.

Oh, like here in Ma$$achu$etts!

A graduate of Boston College and Boston College Law School, and later a Brooklyn prosecutor, Malloy was the mayor of Stamford, where he served from 1995-2009. In a razor-close 2010 race for governor, he beat Republican Thomas C. Foley but faced him again in 2014.

Malloy ran that year on what he framed as his steadfast leadership in the face of crises — the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the remnants of Hurricane Sandy, and the state’s budget troubles. Notably during his first term, he shepherded into law some of the country’s toughest gun control measures and made them a centerpiece of his successful push for reelection.

Malloy, who can adroitly play the part of partisan attack dog, is now the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which spends millions to elect Democrats and defeat Republicans across the country.

That national focus has had to take a back seat to his problems at home.

Connecticut is unique. It had the highest per-capita personal income of any state, $71,033 in 2016 and is a hub for several big employers, including insurance giant Aetna Inc. and aerospace juggernaut United Technologies Corp. It has strong K-12 education, Yale University, and a robust financial services industry.

Aetna may be lured away like GE.

It also has a particularly thorny fiscal situation.

For decades, the state’s pension and benefits plans for state employeesand local teachers, too — weren’t properly funded. Now, Connecticut is making bigger contributions to the system, but that leaves much less money to spend on everything else.

Yeah, it's always the public servants that were made promises in the forms of contracts that are the problem. Not $cum administration or political patrons. 

“They’ve got a third of the budget they can’t cut,” said Marcia Van Wagner, the top credit analyst for the state at Moody’s Investors Service, one of the big-three rating agencies. That includes paying off debts and forking over cash for pensions and health care for state and local workers and retirees.

Yes, the BANKERS are ALWAYS TOP PRIORITY for ANY GOVERNMENT!

All of that is on top of the huge costs of health care for the poor and disabled.

“They’re very boxed in. They’re not getting the economic growth to pay for those costs. There’s no magic bullet,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough slog.”

Connecticut income tax revenue — of which an outsized proportion comes from the very rich — has recently fallen dramatically short of expectations. But a small tax base and recent tax increases mean there’s not much flexibility to further squeeze out more revenue, experts say. It’s a free country, after all, and people can move.

They want to $queeze you like stone!

“We’re a small state,” said Joseph F. Brennan, who leads the powerful Connecticut Business & Industry Association. “So when a couple hedge fund managers decide to go to Florida, it gets noticed in your revenue receipts.”

Malloy acknowledged that the state has reached a ceiling, at least on taxing the rich.

He called it “somewhat unreasonable” to get more than 33 percent of income tax revenue from the top 1 percent of your taxpayers, as Connecticut currently does. (The top rate is 6.99 percent.)

He just admitted the flaw in the entire $y$tem, didn't he?

He also noted about half of Connecticut earners currently pay no state income tax.

Don't make enough, right?

But, even though he’s been in office since January 2011, he framed the system as inherited from his predecessors, a word he repeated, singular and plural, several times during the interview, especially when discussing tax increases.

“Every dollar increase in taxes has gone to pay for the obligations that my predecessors didn’t fund,” Malloy said. (Before Malloy, the last Democratic governor left office in 1991.) 

Yeah, I love how these guys that have been there for years blame the guys who are gone. 

What about the campaign promises and all that? 

Remember in 2008 when the Bush administration tried to blame the financial crisis on Jimmy Carter? I got a good laugh out of that!

Brennan, who represents thousands of Connecticut businesses, placed responsibility for the pervasive sense of fiscal crisis that scares off new investment and new talent not on any one person, but at the feet of the broader state government over many years.

He said the underlying problem is not only that another big-name company such as GE may leave, but that when companies already here open a production line or want to expand a subsidiary, they often look to do so somewhere other than Connecticut.

“Unless and until we can get our fiscal problems at least manageable,” he said, it will, unfortunately, be “the number one policy issue that you talk about when you talk about Connecticut.”

There is praise for the governor’s priorities in some quarters. Lisa Tepper Bates, who directs the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said the governor has been a staunch ally and helped protect funding for efforts to reduce homelessness.

And state workers’ unions and the governor agreed this week to a framework for rewriting their contract with big savings from worker concessions in exchange for the promise of years of job and benefit protections.

You guys never learn, do you?

Malloy, who has seen the Democratic majorities in the Legislature erode under his watch, expressed certainty that the state would land on its feet, and he brushed aside concerns about public approbation.

Just like Obummer, and the reason is given the choice between a Republican and a real Republican, the American people take the real Republican every time.

“I don’t stay up at night worrying about how popular I am,” said Malloy. “What I worry about is whether I’m making real and systemic change, and that I’m doing.”

Little over a year left.

--more--"

So, what, I'm supposed to feel sorry for that jerk?

Maybe the millionaires wouldn't mind us devouring the scraps?

"Sharing some school lunch foods off the table" by Michael Melia Associated Press  March 02, 2017

WALLINGFORD, Conn. — Those lessons about sharing? At lunchtime, in Connecticut schools, they come with an asterisk.

School officials in a Connecticut town are criticizing new restrictions on lunchroom ‘‘share tables,’’ which encourage students to donate uneaten food for any classmates who may be hungry.

The concept has been promoted by the US Agriculture Department as a way to reduce waste, but it is up to local governments to determine what health codes will allow. Under a Connecticut policy updated in January, unopened milk, most fruits, and the like are off the table.

In Wallingford, a New Haven suburb, Nick Iannone, 14, launched a share table last year as a school project. He noticed fruits and vegetables that come with every hot lunch were ending up in the trash.

It's just like the Bo$ton schools, and I guess that's why you are hungry at breakfast.

‘‘I realized no one eats that,’’ said Iannone, an eighth-grader at James H. Moran Middle School.

Students of all backgrounds took advantage of the extra servings, Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said, but he worries the policy change could deprive needy students, including those who might go without breakfast at home.

‘‘It’s unfortunate the state of Connecticut has chosen to remove many of the items we were able to share and have shared from the list of acceptable items,’’ Menzo said.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service in a June 2016 memo endorsed setting up stations where schoolchildren can return food or beverage items and make them available to others. While the federal government recommended sharing of fruit and unopened milk that is kept cold, it noted that local food and safety codes may be more restrictive.

The idea has not caught on widely in American schools, John Williamson, the president of Food Rescue, which works with schools to reduce waste. Indiana, where he founded the organization, has become a national leader with some 400 schools running share tables or recovering food for pantries.

Some states, such as Vermont, have longer lists of items that can be shared, while others, like North Carolina, have prohibited sharing any food that already has been served. Officials often are not aware that school food donations are protected from liability by a federal 2011 Good Samaritan law, Williamson said.

Hey, they have a problem with which john you want to use so whadcha expect?

‘‘It’s the same objections every single time,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s this myth that they’re going to get sued.’’

Connecticut’s Department of Education added the new restrictions after consulting with public health officials. A state memo detailed concerns about potential hazards with foods that require temperature control.

I guess my print article ran out of space, but the web keeps serving you:

An education department spokeswoman, Abbe Smith, said that it supports the share-tables strategy and that student health and safety is a top priority.

In Wallingford, more than 1,300 students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch — roughly 22 percent of the district population — but even with government reimbursement it is not cost-effective for Wallingford to serve subsidized breakfast, as some larger districts do. With lunch generally served early in the day, Menzo said, the share tables are seen as a way to help those who might arrive at school hungry. 

I used too get those; they weren't great, but they weren't bad. 

A donated refrigerator at the middle school keeps cold yogurt and milk designated for sharing.

School officials have inquired about a waiver to the new state policy. Without a reversal, food donated in district schools that cannot be shared with other students will be collected for distribution at a food pantry instead.

--more--"

I'm fami$hed, readers!

Slow Saturday Special: Chelsea Cookout

Better not stand to close to the fire because it's real hot:

"Chelsea fire chief and union battle over ballistic gear for firefighters" by John R. Ellement Globe Staff  May 25, 2017

Chelsea firefighters wore body armor at an active shooter incident this week in what the department’s chief believes may have been the first time Massachusetts firefighters used the gear, which is typically worn by police SWAT teams.

But it almost never happened.

According to an e-mail provided by Fire Chief Leonard A. Albanese Jr., the president of the union local demanded earlier this month that the vests — capable of withstanding a rifle bullet — not be used until firefighters got a full set of ballistic gear and an increase in “hazardous duty” portion of pay checks.

“I request that the vests not be placed on the apparatus until we have had an opportunity to impact bargain these changes,’’ firefighter Antonio Salvucci wrote in the May 4 e-mail. “In addition to the financial compensation, the local requests the proper training in use and capability of this equipment.’’

The union demand for revisions to “hazardous duty” pay coupled with the claim of insufficient training infuriated Albanese, who said he had overseen extensive training in use of the vests for firefighters over the past several months and that he had union approval from Salvucci’s predecessor as president.

“All we did was give them extra protection,’’ Albanese said in a phone interview. “It’s disgraceful that this argument is being made.”

But Salvucci, interviewed by telephone in the presence of union spokeswoman Melissa Hurley and a union attorney, bristled at the suggestion that money was the paramount concern for him and the local’s executive board.

“This is something we attempted to address with the city before the Monday night incident, and unfortunately we got nowhere,’’ Salvucci said. “It’s not a money issue. It’s [about] getting my members home safe at the end of the night. We want them to have the best.’’

When you say it isn't about money, it's about money.

The firefighters went to a home on Warren Avenue about 9:30 p.m. Monday, where a barricaded domestic violence suspect had set fire to his house after exchanging gunfire with Chelsea police. Before the shootout, police said, the suspect chased his girlfriend and their daughter to a neighbor’s home. He shot at the neighbor’s house, but no one was hit.

The suspect, Kelly Pastrana, 38, later died of a gunshot wound. Authorities are trying to learn whether he killed himself or was hit by a police bullet.

WHAAAAAAAT?

Related: "Some on Warren Avenue hit the floor when they heard the gunshots. Others peered out the window nervously, watching as a man allegedly chased a woman and child into the street, exchanged gunfire with police, and eventually set his house ablaze. The confrontation that set the area on edge Monday night finally ended early Tuesday, when authorities found Kelly Pastrana, 38, dead with a gunshot wound to his stomach and injuries from the fire that destroyed his home, authorities said. As neighbors sought to return to normal, family members of Pastrana and law enforcement officials were trying to make sense of what had happened---"

I was under the impression that it was a self-inclined wound.

But that isn't the issue, this is:

At issue between the chief and the union are the increasingly volatile situations fire departments face, given the Boston Marathon bombing and terror attacks around the world, along with the emergence of multicasualty incidents in the workplace and in schools by heavily armed individuals. 

And what is the answer? 

Increased militarization, as usual!

Prodded by the Department of Homeland Security, fire departments nationwide are recalibrating their first responder duties to include entering mass casualty scenes just behind police so they can rapidly provide on-site first aid.

Albanese said studies show survivability rates climb dramatically when first responders quickly stop blood loss, and he has equipped his department with TECC (Tactical Emergency Casualty Care) kits so they have the medical tools to do that. Providing the ballistic vests to firefighters was another part of the new approach.

Albanese insisted he will never require firefighters to be in what public safety officials call the “hot zone,’’ when police are still actively confronting an armed suspect. Albanese contends the Monday night incident did not qualify as “hot zone.”

Instead, his plan calls for firefighters to enter “warm zones” accompanied by police escorts to deliver life-saving first aid, but where they will not face life-threatening danger.

Umm, they should get more money.

Providing the ballistic vests is the first stage of armoring his firefighters, Albanese said, and more armor will soon be on the way.

Maybe one day we can have robot firemen and robocops. 

“I am baffled that this union president, after we have taken so many proactive steps to protect our firefighters, he, in writing, requested that we not put these vests into service,’’ Albanese said.

It's not the vests, it's where you are sending them.

But Salvucci said that by providing just the vests to firefighters, they were subjected to heightened danger without adequate protection for an active shooter incident. He said firefighters should have been given ballistic helmets and protective eyewear along with the vests.

And Salvucci was adamant that firefighters were in a “hot zone” Monday, noting that police with long rifles were positioned next to firefighters at key moments.

“To be quite frank, it’s a day late and a dollar short,’’ he said. “We should have done this on the front end. We cannot continue to be reactive. We need to be proactive. . . . We need to assure our members are safe.’’

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino said the City Council is poised to act next month on a funding request for ballistics helmets in the fiscal 2018 budget, which he expects they will approve. He said the purchase process will start in July and helmets will begin arriving soon afterward.

Time to put the lid on this grill.

--more--"

Slow Saturday Special: Bang a Gong

Let's get it on:

"Chuck Barris, 87; famed for creating ‘Gong Show’" by Neil Genzlinger New York Times  March 23, 2017

NEW YORK — Chuck Barris, the “Gong Show” creator, songwriter, and novelist who sought to add to his already eclectic résumé with a made-up — or was it? — story about being an assassin for the CIA, died on Tuesday at his home in Palisades, N.Y. He was 87.

“The Gong Show” was the last of Mr. Barris’s hit game show creations. In the 1960s, he came up with “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game,” making a spectacle of his contestants’ romantic yearnings in the first case and their honeymoon-period bliss, adjustments, and foibles in the second.

Ah, memories.

Mr. Barris was born in Philadelphia to Dr. Nathaniel Barris, a dentist, and the former Edith Cohen; his father died when he was young.

During the payola scandals of the 1950s, he was hired to keep a young ABC star, Dick Clark, of “American Bandstand,” out of trouble.

Mr. Barris’s next game shows were less successful, but just as it seemed he was losing his touch, he came up with the concept that would catapult him to a new level of fame: “The Gong Show,” which had its premiere on NBC in June 1976. The show featured a series of performers, most of them amateurs, and a panel of three celebrity judges. Mr. Barris himself was the brash, irritating host. 

It was a terrible show.

The performers, who were often terrible, would be allowed to go on until one of the judges couldn’t stand it anymore and sounded a gong, putting an end to the spectacle. Those who weren’t gonged were rated by the judges on a 1-to-10 scale. In keeping with the ridiculousness of the proceedings, the prize amount they vied for was ridiculous: $516.32 on the daytime version of the show, $712.05 on the prime-time edition.

The show, which ran on NBC until 1978 and then in syndication (with revivals in later years), became a cultural sensation. Critics complained about its crassness and cruelty, but Mr. Barris, like purveyors of burlesque and circus sideshows in earlier generations, knew there was a large audience for lowbrow. At one point the daytime version was attracting 78 percent of viewers ages 18 to 49.

“In my opinion, a good game show review is the kiss of death,” Mr. Barris said in a Salon interview in 2001. “A really bad review means the show will be on for years.”

So he's the guy who lowered the bar and gave us South Park.

The ghost of “The Gong Show” is evident in numerous reality-television shows of more recent vintage — the early rounds of any given season of “American Idol,” for instance.

Edited for "reality," of course.

By the end of the 1970s, Mr. Barris’s television production company was busy and profitable, but he was itchy to try something else. What he tried, disastrously, was “The Gong Show Movie,” which he directed and, with Robert Downey Sr., wrote. It was released in May 1980 and flopped.

Mr. Barris gradually withdrew from television, selling his holdings, spending most of his time in France, and turning to writing. He had already written one book, “You and Me, Babe” (1974), a novel about a television producer whose marriage failed; it drew heavily on his own rocky marriage to Lyn Levy, a niece of the powerful CBS chief William S. Paley, in the 1950s. They were divorced in 1976.

That first book sold well, but it was the next one that would give Mr. Barris yet another burst of notoriety: “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” (1984), a supposed autobiography in which he claimed that while traveling in his role as a television producer in the 1960s he was also an assassin for the CIA.

The book got only a smattering of attention, but it caught some eyes in Hollywood, and in 2003, after many delays, a film version came out, directed by George Clooney and starring Sam Rockwell as Mr. Barris.

The film brought Mr. Barris, by now in his 70s, a fresh round of publicity and endless variations on the obvious question: Was it true? He generally played coy, delivering elliptical answers that neither confirmed nor denied. The CIA was more direct: Various spokesmen said Mr. Barris had had nothing to do with the agency.

They both just confirmed that he was!! CIA never comments, and when they do it's a lie, and Barris was acting just as he was trained.

Mr. Barris’s second marriage, to Robin Altman, ended in divorce in 1999. He leaves his wife, the former Mary Clagett.....

--more--"

He must have been CIA because Washington Post gave the eulogy.

Bells are ringing on this next one:

"Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, dies at 89" by Daniel Lewis New York Times  May 27, 2017

NEW YORK — Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday. He was 89.

His death was announced on Friday by his daughter, Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of the MSNBC program “Morning Joe.”

I guess that means he will be missing the wedding.

Like his predecessor Henry A. Kissinger, Mr. Brzezinski was a foreign-born scholar (he in Poland, Mr. Kissinger in Germany) with considerable influence in global affairs, both before and long after his official tour of duty in the White House. In essays, interviews and television appearances over the decades, he cast a sharp eye on six successive administrations, including that of Donald J. Trump, whose election he did not support and whose foreign policy, he found, lacked coherence. 

He just started.

“A vulnerable world needs an America characterized by clarity of thought and leadership that projects optimism and progress,” he wrote in an Op-Ed article with Paul Wasserman in The New York Times in February that took aim at the new administration. “‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘America First’ are all very well as bumper stickers, but the foreign policy of the United States needs to be more than a campaign slogan.”

Mr. Brzezinski was nominally a Democrat, with views that led him to speak out, for example, against the “greed,” as he put it, of an American system that compounded inequality. He was one of the few foreign policy experts to warn against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Hmmm. So he was globalist who opposed one of the wars for the Jews. And now he is dead.

But in at least one respect — his rigid hatred of the Soviet Union — he had stood to the right of many Republicans, including Mr. Kissinger and President Richard M. Nixon. And during his four years under Mr. Carter, beginning in 1977, thwarting Soviet expansionism at any cost guided much of American foreign policy, for better or worse.

He supported billions in military aid for Islamic militants fighting invading Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He tacitly encouraged China to continue backing the murderous regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia, lest the Soviet-backed Vietnamese take over that country. 

That would be the "Al-CIA-Duh" that was later used as a patsy for, well, you know.... I'm not going to keep beating the drum.

He managed to delay implementation of the SALT II arms treaty in 1979 by raising objections to Soviet behavior in Vietnam, Africa and Cuba; and when the Soviets went into Afghanistan late that year, “SALT disappeared from the U.S.-Soviet agenda,” as he noted in a memoir four years later.

Except he wrote in his book that they goaded the Russians into their own Vietnam six months ahead of the Red Army’s invasion, and afterword how could you compare the two?

"Question: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists? Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"

Stirred up Muslims, huh? 

I think after 17 years of war with no end on the horizon, combined with the massive surveillance and control measures taken, and adding in the state of the world today with a "terrorist attack" seemingly every other day, that question has been answered.

The Soviet Union would have collapsed anyway, intervention in Afghanistan or not. It couldn't keep pace with the debt-fueled West. Meanwhile, the alleged actions of the "stirred up Muslims" has had ramifications far and wide, ones that would not have been in place had that trauma not been on every television in the world.

Mr. Brzezinski, a descendant of Polish aristocrats (his name is pronounced Z-BIG-nyehv breh-ZHIHN-skee), was a severe, even intimidating figure, with hawkish features, penetrating eyes and strong Polish accent. Washington quickly learned that he had sharp elbows as well. He was adept at seizing the spotlight and freezing out the official spokesman on foreign policy, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, provoking conflicts that ultimately led to Mr. Vance’s resignation.

Where Mr. Vance had endorsed the Nixon-Kissinger policy of a “triangular” power balance among the United States, China and the Soviet Union, Mr. Brzezinski scorned such “acrobatics,” as he called them. He advocated instead what he called a deliberate “strategic deterioration” in relations with Moscow, and closer ties to China.

I just want to say how turned off I am by these globe-kickers and their 1984 version of the world. Yup, play one off against the other in the name of perpetual war against it matters whom not.

By his own account, he blitzed Mr. Carter with memos until he got permission to go to Beijing in May 1978, over State Department resistance, to begin talks that would lead to full diplomatic relations seven months later. Immediately after the trip, he appeared on “Meet the Press,” unleashing a slashing attack on the Soviet Union that Mr. Vance deplored as “loose talk.”

Mr. Brzezinski was also a prime mover behind the commando mission sent to rescue the American hostages held by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s revolutionary forces in Iran after the overthrow of the shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi — a disastrous desert expedition in April 1980 that claimed eight lives and never reached Tehran. Mr. Vance had not been informed of the mission until a few days before. It was the final straw: He quit, “stunned and angry,” he said.

Mr. Brzezinski’s rationale for the rescue attempt was, perhaps inevitably, rooted in his preoccupation with Soviet influence. He contended that trying to gain the release of the hostages through sanctions and other diplomatic measures “would deliver Iran to the Soviets,” although many thought that outcome highly improbable, given the fundamentalism of the clerics running the country. Besides, he said, success would “give the United States a shot in the arm, which it has badly needed for 20 years,” a reference to the quagmire of the Vietnam War.

All this image management of searing generational events is disgusting.

Soviet aggression in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America was by no means a figment of Mr. Brzesinki’s imagination. But his strict adherence to ideas in which virtually every issue circled back to the threat of Soviet domination was remarkable even for those tense times, when many in the foreign policy establishment had come to regard détente — a general easing of the geopolitical tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States — as the best course.

In his scholarly certitude, Mr. Brzezinski sometimes showed a tendency to believe that any disagreement between theory and reality indicated some fault on the part of reality. In his 1962 book “Ideology and Power in Soviet Politics,” for example, he asserted that the Communist bloc “is not splitting and is not likely to split” just as Beijing and Moscow were breaking apart.

Please don't say that. Please don't say a person responsible for shaping the world we live in wasn't grounded in reality.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Mr. Brzezinski allowed that it would make sense for the United States to engage with Russia, though cautiously, as well as China, “to support global stability.” And although he condemned Russian meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, he thought the effects were only marginal relative to the underlying problems shaking up Western societies.

In any case, aside from his ideological principles, he had both personal and historical reasons for abhorring the Soviet system.

Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski was born in Warsaw on March 28, 1928. His father, Tadeusz, was a diplomat who took the family along to France, then to Germany during the rise of Hitler in the 1930s and, fortuitously, to Canada on the eve of World War II. When the Russians took over Poland at the end of the war, Tadeusz Brzezinski chose to retire in Canada rather than return home.

Anybody going to explore that more? Family lived in Germany under Hitler during his rise to power?

The younger Mr. Brzezinski graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1949 and earned a master’s degree there in 1950. Then it was on to Harvard, which granted him a doctorate in political science in 1953 and appointed him as an instructor. He and Mr. Kissinger were among the candidates for a faculty position; when Mr. Kissinger won an associate professorship in 1959, Mr. Brzezinski decamped to Columbia University.

He was not always consistent in his positions as he moved between one situation and another. When he was appointed to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council in 1966, he had already become an outspoken defender of United States engagement in the Vietnam conflict.

:( 

Gulf of goddamn Tonkin, dammit. Chemical warfare waged, millions of Asians dead and a wall of our own here. These guys never learn.

In 1968, after riotous antiwar protests at Columbia and elsewhere, he wrote in The New Republic that students should not be allowed to “rally again under the same leadership,” meaning they should be tried and incarcerated.

“If that leadership cannot be physically liquidated, it can at least be expelled from the country,” he wrote.

Oh, so he was raised a fascist.

That same year, however, he resigned from the State Department planning council as a protest against expanded American involvement in the war in Indochina under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

That isn't winning any points with me.

Then he became a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, who defended the expansion in his 1968 presidential campaign.

Oh, so he was just another lying, stumble-bum political apparatchik.

His bond with Jimmy Carter developed through the Trilateral Commission, the group David Rockefeller created in 1973 as a forum for political and business leaders from North America, Western Europe and Japan to consider the challenges facing industrialized countries. Mr. Brzezinski was the commission’s first director. (Mr. Rockefeller died in March.)

In 1974, Mr. Brzezinski invited Mr. Carter, then the governor of Georgia and a rising Democratic star, to become a member. Two years later, Mr. Carter was the Democratic nominee for president, and he hired Mr. Brzezinski as a foreign affairs adviser.

From the start of his tenure as Mr. Carter’s national security adviser, Mr. Brzezinski jockeyed for power. He reserved for himself the right to give Mr. Carter his daily intelligence briefing, which had previously been the prerogative of the Central Intelligence Agency. He frequently called journalists to his office for what he called “exclusive” not-for-attribution briefings in which he would put his own spin on events, to the annoyance of Mr. Vance.

And although he was familiarly called Zbig and could be very engaging, he was quick to smack down reporters who dared to challenge his ideas. “I just cut off your head,” he told a journalist after one such retort.

He hung around with those ISIS dudes for far too long!!

A prolific author, Mr. Brzezinski published a memoir in 1983 about his White House years, “Power and Principle,” in which he recalled a range of policy objectives that went beyond containing the Soviets. “First,” he wrote, “I thought it was important to try to increase America’s ideological impact on the world” — to make it again the “carrier of human hope, the wave of the future.”

We once were, but not for about 15 years now, and in some places we were never consider that -- and rightly so.

He also said that he had aimed to restore America’s appeal in the Third World through better economic relations with underdeveloped countries, but acknowledged that he had concentrated too much of his attention on those countries that he felt were threatened by Soviet or Cuban takeovers.

Yeah, the right-wing thug dictators that murdered thousands of their people to further U.S. interests never went over well with the home population..

More recently, in opposing the invasion of Iraq, he predicted that “an America that decides to act essentially on its own” could “find itself quite alone in having to cope with the costs and burdens of the war’s aftermath, not to mention widespread and rising hostility abroad.”

There is a silver lining in every cloud, and not even Zbig is all bad (nor is any person all good, save for MLK and Gandhi).

In “Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower,” published in 2007, he assessed the consequences of that war and criticized the successive administrations of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for failing to take advantage of the possibilities for American leadership from the time the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. He considered George W. Bush’s record, especially, “catastrophic.” And in the 2008 presidential campaign, he wholeheartedly supported Barack Obama. 

I agree with the first opinion, but after eight long years of that other guy.... (blog editor shakes head)

Four years later, he once again assessed the United States’ global standing in “Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power.” Here he argued that continued American strength abroad was vital to global stability, but that it would depend on the country’s ability to foster “social consensus and democratic stability” at home.

Then what is happening in the country today killed him?

Essential to those goals, he wrote, would be a narrowing of the yawning income gap between the wealthiest and the rest, a restructuring of the financial system so that it no longer mainly benefited “greedy Wall Street speculators” and a meaningful response to climate change. 

It's growing wider with every second -- and there it goes again, and again, and again, and again, etc, etc, etc.

A United States in decline, he said — one “unwilling or unable to protect states it once considered, for national interest and/or doctrinal reasons, worthy of its engagement” — could lead to a “protracted phase of rather inconclusive and somewhat chaotic realignments of both global and regional power, with no grand winners and many more losers.”

Actually, what happens is we go from the AmeriKan Era and the Zionist Age to a Slavic Era and a Chinese Age.

Is that what the Jew World Order wanted, or did they just think the Chinese would passively roll over?

Mr. Brzezinski, who had homes in Washington and Northeast Harbor, Me., was married to the Czech-American sculptor Emilie Benes, with whom he had two children in addition to Ms. Brzezinski: Mark Brzezinski, a lawyer and former ambassador to Sweden under President Barack Obama, and Ian Brzezinski, whose career has included serving as a deputy assistant secretary of defense. All survive him. He is also survived by a brother, Lech, and five grandchildren.

Make sure you carefully read over the will because a comma made all the difference.

--more--"

More no-nonsense kind of guys:

"Dallas Green, the tough-talking, no-nonsense skipper who in 1980 guided the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series championship, died Wednesday. He was 82. Mr. Green sure got his team’s attention midway through that championship season. After a loss in Pittsburgh left the Phils around .500, his clubhouse tirade was so loud that writers outside the locker room at Three Rivers Stadium swore they could hear every word. Mr. Green embraced his rugged reputation. Yet he was left in tears in 2011 when his 9-year-old granddaughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was shot and killed outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz, as she went to see Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Six people were killed in the mass shooting as Giffords met with constituents....."

Also see:

"Jerry Krause, the general manager who orchestrated the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty of the 1990s, assembling the teams that Michael Jordan led to six NBA championships, has died. He was 77....

Was it a heart attack or....

"It’s well known that falls among the elderly are common. Older people are more likely to have impaired vision, dizziness, and other destabilizing health problems and are less likely than younger people to have the strength and agility to find their feet once they begin to lose their balance. The CDC had already reported that falls were the top cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older people. An estimated 27,000 Americans die each year from falls...."