Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Globe Special: Bridge to Next Month

I hope I make it.

Carolyn Lynch quietly becomes world champion bridge player

That was the Globe's first page play today.

"End of financing threatens progress on Mass. bridge repairs" by Matt Rocheleau Globe Staff  May 29, 2015

A sweeping $3 billion program that has significantly helped reduce the state’s number of structurally deficient bridges is slated to end next year, with no funding to replace it.

An estimated $14.4 billion of repairs are still needed, according to the state, which includes fixing several hundred deficient bridges across the Commonwealth, some of which carry sections of the Massachusetts Turnpike; Interstates 93, 95, 495, and 84; and other major thoroughfares. That cost estimate is expected to grow as expenses to repair the state’s bridges — on average the oldest in the nation — increase, according to industry experts. 

I want to know where has all the money gone all these years while roads and bridges were neglected. All Dig Dig debt payments and pay, pensions, and perks, huh? And add this to the list of Deval Patrick derelictions of duty.

“We have a tremendous need to address this,” said Alexander Bardow, director of bridges and structures at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Unless lawmakers decide to maintain funding near current levels, he said, “there is a chance that the number of structurally deficient bridges will start to climb.”

In 2008, Massachusetts launched the eight-year, $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program, spurred by the collapse of the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis the previous year, killing 13 people.

The Massachusetts program was designed to help tackle a backlog of maintenance and repair projects on bridges that have been determined to be structurally deficient. The program and its funding are set to expire in September 2016.

Beyond that date, some funding is expected to be available for bridge repair, but only about a third, or roughly $200 million a year, of what has been spent annually in the state since 2008.

The state also receives federal aid for some bridge projects, but federal spending on public transportation, like local spending, has waned nationwide for years. From 2001 to 2011, federal funds paid for 37 percent of Massachusetts’ highway and bridge work; not all bridge projects are eligible for federal aid.

Because the money goes to wars, Wall Street, well-connected corporations, or Israel.

A bridge deemed to be structurally deficient is not necessarily in danger of collapse or otherwise unsafe, but “has major deterioration, cracks, or other flaws that reduce its ability to support vehicles,” federal transportation officials have said.

Makes me feel real safe driving around here.

In Massachusetts, 446 bridges, or 8.6 percent of all state- and municipally owned bridges, were structurally deficient as of last month, according to data provided by the state transportation department.

That’s down from 613 bridges — or 12.2 percent of all bridges — in 2008.

The program has helped bring the proportion of deficient bridges in Massachusetts below the national average, which stands at about 10 percent. And, with 26 more projects underway and six scheduled to start soon, the program is expected to further reduce the tally of deficient bridges.

But by its own accounting, Massachusetts would need about $14.4 billion to complete all the bridge repairs it has identified as necessary, including bridges that are not classified as structurally deficient. To fix just the state’s structurally deficient bridges would cost $3.3 billion.

State transportation officials said no proposals have been made to replicate some or all of the Accelerated Bridge Program after the initiative expires in September 2016.

Ongoing work includes several major projects, including restoring the Longfellow Bridge; replacing the Casey Overpass in Jamaica Plain, and fixing Whittier Bridge which carries Interstate 95 over the Merrimack River between Newburyport and Amesbury.

Massachusetts has the oldest bridges in the country at an average age of 58, while the national average is 43.


Its bridges also rank among the worst nationally when it comes to a measurement transportation officials use nationwide to help prioritize repair and replacement projects.

We're number one!

The standard, called the sufficiency rating, is calculated for each bridge and provides a fairly comprehensive look at its overall status. The measure uses a detailed formula that considers the structure’s condition, functionality, and importance, giving it a score from zero, the worst possible, to 100.

On average, Massachusetts’ bridges score 76.4 — the eighth-lowest average rating of any state and several points below the national average of 81.

The state’s worst-rated bridge is small — about 35 feet in length — but busy. The 64-year-old structure carries a pair of Storrow Drive’s westbound lanes above two of Storrow’s eastbound lanes — a Boston roadway open to cars only. The bridge, which forms a tunnel, is roughly where Berkeley Street meets Storrow, and on average, more than 57,000 vehicles drive over the structure each day, though those traffic estimates are a decade old.

The bridge has a sufficiency rating of zero and is labeled structurally deficient.

However, the last inspection of the bridge, in 2013, “concluded that the tunnel continues to be structurally sound and a safe passageway for vehicular traffic,” Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation spokesman Troy Wall said in an e-mail.

If inspectors discover problems that the state doesn’t have the money or manpower to address immediately, temporary solutions can be implemented, including installing road barriers to keep vehicles from traveling over weaker areas of the bridge, posting signs to ban vehicles over a certain weight, or closing the structure altogether.

“We feel comfortable that we’re doing the best we can to make sure safety is maintained,” Bardow said.

But they could be doing more if they had the money, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Governor Charlie Baker called the bridge-repair program a success, saying it tackled some of the states’s largest reconstruction projects and pushed officials to develop ways to fix bridges at lower costs and with less disruption. But she offered no specifics for how Baker will address the need for more bridge funding and repair.

Transportation officials will continue “to invest available capital resources in bridge maintenance and safety,” the spokeswoman, Elizabeth Guyton, said in an e-mail.

Calls to increase funding to fix bridges remain politically unpopular. Most proposals involve raising taxes, and lawmakers generally don’t see infrastructure repairs as a path to reelection.

It's unpopular because where did all the money go; taxes are always their answer, and the neglect being good politics is angering.

Yet postponing work can cause problems to grow exponentially, because the older a bridge gets, the more rapid the deterioration, experts said.

Last fall, Boston abruptly shut down — and later demolished — a municipally owned bridge connected to Long Island because the span had structural deficiencies similar to the Minneapolis bridge.

Advocates say increased funding for bridge repair and maintenance is needed not only to help ensure safety, but to let workers get to their jobs and keep businesses running smoothly.

But let's wait for a crisis before urgently addressing the issue.

“Sometimes we as a society take for granted our infrastructure,” said Anthony Puntin, executive director of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers. “Our infrastructure is expensive, but it’s expensive because it’s valuable.”

Whose we?


You might want to pass this next article:

"Commuters get break on fines for late Tobin toll payments" by Martin Finucane Globe Staff  May 29, 2015

State transportation officials say they’re going to give a break to people who were racking up big late payment fines under the Tobin Bridge’s new Pay-by-Plate toll collection system.

The late fines, which for some have risen into the thousands of dollars, will be reduced going forward, officials said. And for 30 days beginning Monday, people can pay the amount of tolls they owe without any late payment fines at all.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to collect tolls, and we feel that this new structure is a way to ensure that continues without unduly burdening drivers with substantial fines,” Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin said in a statement.

A new all-electronic tolling system was activated on the bridge in July 2014, eliminating cash toll payments. The system collects tolls from people who have E-Z Pass transponders. If people don’t have the transponders, the system captures an image of their license plate and sends them a bill later.

The late fines were modeled after fines that have been in place on the Massachusetts Turnpike since 2000. But state officials said they were too high. People who failed to pay tolls on time were subject to fines of $50 or even $90 for each toll, depending on how late their payments were.

“While the use of the new All-Electronic Tolling technology has certainly proved its worth, piloting the system first on the Tobin Bridge taught us some valuable lessons. Too many of our customers were incurring hundreds or even thousands of dollars in late payment fines,” said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack in a statement. “The goal of the program should be payment, not punishment.”

I'm surprised it didn't f*** up like the unemployment, health, and food stamp sites.

Under the new fine structure:

— A $1 late fee will be added to every unpaid Pay-By-Plate toll after an invoice goes unpaid for 30 days;

—An additional $1 will be added to each toll transaction after 60 days of nonpayment, and another $1 after 90 days;

— The maximum a driver can owe for an unpaid transaction is $6.

— After 90 days, the vehicle owner’s license and registration will be placed in a non-renew status, until the bill is resolved. An additional $20 fee is required to remove the hold on license and registration renewals. (The fee is also being waived during the 30-day amnesty period beginning Monday.)

MassDOT spokesman Mike Verseckes said the state was also using new bright orange envelopes so people would find it easier to identify the toll bills when they arrive.


Hope you made it back from the Cape in reasonable time. 

See you next month.

Clinton on South Carolina Campaign Trail

"On trail in S.C., Clinton faces old ghosts; Taking pains to avoid repeating 2008 gaffes" by Annie Linskey Globe Staff  May 29, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to South Carolina this week and began to confront one of the most pointed threats she faces so far on the campaign trail: echoes from her campaign of seven years ago.

Cognizant of how her campaign angered African-Americans in the Palmetto State — especially when her husband made series of comments viewed as dismissive of Barack Obama — Clinton took pains to make amends. Before showing up, she reached out to a key South Carolina leader who had been critical. And when Clinton spoke to activists, she twice referred to the 2008 primary, at one point calling it a “pretty vigorous” campaign.

Few in the audience needed a reminder.

“We are Southern, honey. We hold a grudge for a long time,” said Phyllis Harris, a 61-year-old African-American woman from Camden. She recounted how she felt Clinton disrespected voters in the state in 2008 by packing up and leaving for Tennessee before she conceded.

“She needs to convince me, to take the time to convince my people,” Harris said.


I suppose everyone can say that except a white person, and it really is time to get past the semantics.

South Carolina is foremost among several early primary states where the ghosts of Clinton’s past campaign haunt the trail, posing thornier problems in the early stages of her campaign than her declared opponents. The memories of 2008 may not threaten her place in the polls, but exorcising them is crucial if she wants build the kind of enthusiasm that will keep stronger party rivals on the sidelines and inspire volunteers to promote her candidacy.

The last Clinton campaign kicked off with a series of large events where hundreds packed into town hall meetings and rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire to cheer her. This time the campaign has stopped trying to elevate her to rock-star status.

“She’s not as effective from the podium’’ as Bill Clinton and Obama, said Kurt Meyer, a Democratic activist in Iowa. “Neither of them, fine as they are speaking to 1,000 fans, can compete with her in the six or eight people sitting around the table.”

Meyer should know. A local Democratic leader, he was tapped to sit with Clinton at a coffee shop during one of her first events in Marshalltown, Iowa, last month. The Clinton campaign filmed the friendly exchange and posted it on her Facebook page. It has been viewed more than a quarter million times.

He made the LIST!

The overwhelming size of the Clinton staff was also a problem in the past. Meyer said he brought it up in an early meeting with Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. “I said, ‘One of the things you all have to know about a rural county is if you get off a Greyhound bus and 47 self-important people get off . . . it doesn’t work in Mitchell County.”

During Clinton’s first pass through the state in mid-April, Meyer was pleased to see that the cadre of campaign aides staff had shrunk. But during her more recent stop he started hearing reports that those numbers began to swell, particularly at what was supposed to be an intimate gathering at a private home in Eastern Iowa. Meyer complained to the Clinton campaign. “They said, ‘You were right. We had way too much staff in Dubuque,’ ” he recalled.

Nowhere is the Clinton campaign more haunted than in South Carolina, a state where the primary contest descended into a racially charged brawl. At one point Bill Clinton downplayed the significance of the first Southern primary by pointing out that Jesse Jackson won it in 1988, a remark many saw as diminishing both the state and the historic nature of Obama’s rise. He also referred to Obama’s stance on Iraq as a “fairy tale.” The quip offended Representative James Clyburn, one of the state’s most important black leaders, because he viewed it as a backhanded attempt to paint the entire Obama campaign as make-believe. The race drama peaked when the former president let loose a frustrated rant accusing the Obama camp of playing a race card. “Once you accuse somebody of racism or bigotry or something, the facts become irrelevant,” he said. He then blamed the press for accepting the Obama spin. “They are feeding you this because they know this is what you want to cover. This is what you live for.”

It's even worse when the charge is anti-Semitism.

This year Hillary Clinton has tried to mend fences, hiring a former Clyburn aide, Clay Middleton, to run her operation in South Carolina. She also called Clyburn several days before her trip Wednesday. The two discussed her campaign and upcoming visit, said Amanda Loveday, a Clyburn spokeswoman. (He was out of town during her stop and didn’t attend any of her events.)

Clyburn doesn’t plan on endorsing anyone for the primary this time and he eagerly invited Clinton’s challengers to visit in a statement to the Globe.

“I welcome any and all Democratic presidential candidates to South Carolina, a state that offers distinctive opportunities to hone messages in relatively inexpensive media markets,” Clyburn said.

Scars also remain in the Nevada desert, where activists recall the hand-to-hand combat between the Obama and Clinton camps over the state’s caucuses. That fight ended up in court, with the Nevada State Education Association, which backed Clinton, filing a federal lawsuit over the state’s voting rules. Clinton also failed to secure a coveted endorsement from the state’s culinary union, which is the largest and backed Obama.

Clinton won the state’s popular vote, and held out an olive branch to the union on her recent visit. “I’ve met with a lot of culinary workers and other workers who keep the economy going strong,” she said, recalling her 2008 days in the state.

“The last time the mistake they made was they took a lot of things for granted,” said David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada. “This time it seems like they are much more interested in listening to folks who might not have agreed with her in the past.”

As long as they can stage and script it.

Even in Massachusetts, Clinton and her team must grapple with another unpleasant echo of 2008 — the state’s senior senator. Last time it was the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who wound up endorsing Obama, a huge blow to Clinton. This time Clinton must court Senator Elizabeth Warren, who holds sway over a huge liberal fan base and whose help will be crucial in getting such activists fired up if Clinton makes it to the general election.


"Matthew Hrono, 25, of Salem, who received an associate’s degree in science, said he liked Warren’s speech, but had wished for something more. “I was hoping she’d announce she was running for president,” Hrono said. “You can’t win what you don’t fight for,” Warren said."

Looks like they have agreed on a marriage of convenience despite the sell out.

In New Hampshire, Clinton’s ghosts are friendly. Its primary voters revived Bill Clinton’s presidential hopes in 1992 when he came in second, and it injected momentum into her bruised campaign eight years ago, when she won it after losing Iowa.

Those memories were on Clinton’s mind when she stopped in the Granite State several weeks ago. “I came here in 1991,” Clinton said while chatting with one man on her first stop in the state at a bakery in Keene. “I celebrated my birthday here.”

Later, at a business round table held nearby she brought it up again, saying she was “thrilled” to be back in the state. “I have a lot of wonderful memories.” 

It's a bit different for Bill.


The primary looks hard to predict, and there are still questions regarding the delegate count.

Same with the donors:

"Democrats lag in lining up donors with deep pockets; Republicans have secured stable of billionaire givers" by Eric Lichtblau New York Times  May 31, 2015

WASHINGTON — Over the last few months, Harold M. Ickes, a longtime ally of Hillary Rodham Clinton, has helped organize private meetings around the country with union leaders, Clinton backers, and Democratic strategists.

The pressing topic: Who will step up to be the Democrats’ megadonors in the 2016 presidential race?

Republican contenders have already secured hundreds of millions of dollars in commitments from a stable of billionaires, including a Wall Street hedge fund executive, a Las Vegas casino magnate, a Florida auto dealer, a Wyoming investor and, of course, the Kansas-born billionaires David H. and Charles G. Koch.

But none of the biggest Democratic donors from past elections — for example, Chicago investor Fred Eychaner, climate-change activist Tom Steyer, and entertainment mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg — have committed to supporting Clinton on nearly the same scale.

“No one has stepped forward as the savior,” said Matt Bennett, a longtime Democratic consultant in Washington.

The leading super PAC backing Clinton, Priorities USA Action, has won commitments of only about $15 million so far, Democrats involved with the group’s fund-raising said.

While the absence of a competitive race for the Democratic nomination gives Clinton more time to catch up with Republican rivals, her allies are planning to push the party’s wealthiest donors for more money than most of them have ever given.

In planning sessions and one-on-one meetings with donors, Ickes, who is a Priorities USA board member, and other Clinton supporters are discussing how to raise as much as $300 million for Democratic outside groups. That is almost twice as much as Democratic super PACs and other outside groups spent to help reelect President Obama in 2012, when conservative super PACs far outspent liberal ones.

This ambitious goal will require the emergence of a new class of at least 20 Democratic donors who can give $5 million or even $10 million each. Ickes said recruiting them would not be easy.

“Our side isn’t used to being asked for that kind of money,” Ickes said. “If you asked them to put up $100 million for a hospital wing, they’d be the first in line.”

The hurdles begin with the candidate. While Clinton has committed to meeting personally with potential super PAC donors, people close to her say she has not yet grappled with the kind of big-donor courting that has framed the early months of the Republican race.

Clinton — who, with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, earned at least $30 million during the last 16 months — also faces a perception that she is not exactly lacking cash.

Related: (Clinton, for his part, got over his aversion to big paydays after leaving office, collecting $105 million in speaking fees between 2001 and 2013, including from many corporate sponsors, according to a Washington Post analysis.)

That's her hubby!

Inflated estimates of her campaign budget — a figure of $2.5 billion was widely circulated — have been a headache for her campaign and for Priorities USA. A more realistic fund-raising target for her campaign, they say, is around $1 billion.

One challenge for Ickes and other fund-raisers is convincing potential donors, large and small, of the growing importance of super PACs to Hillary Clinton’s chances.


The rich lady I will be voting for:

"One of the most unlikely presidential candidates is getting awfully good reviews these days. Republican Carly Fiorina, a former corporate CEO who has never held public office, is winning plaudits for her ability to give a stump speech (typical zinger, aimed at Hillary Rodham Clinton: “Flying is not an accomplishment; it’s an activity”), her willingness to parry questions from journalists, and her skill in turning even hard questions to her advantage. After a recent appearance in Iowa, the line of activists waiting to meet Fiorina snaked down a hallway. The director of a super PAC supporting her candidacy described voters’ reaction like this to The New York Times: “She’s impressive. I want to see her six more times.” In New Hampshire, they are likely to have that opportunity.... For all the terrific publicity presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is getting, she may nonetheless be in danger of not even qualifying to stand on the same stage with the multitude of Republican hopefuls vying for the party nomination. That’s because, at least for the first GOP debate, sponsored by Fox News, candidates will be required to place in the top 10 of an average of the most recent national polls. And if that calculation were done today, Fiorina (along with several others) would be shut out. Voters seem to like her when they see her. Trouble is, what if they can’t?

I won't be watching anyway.

Sanders Campaign Stinks

It's because he doesn't use deodorant:

"Bernie Sanders, a wild card in N.H." by Scot Lehigh Globe Columnist  May 28, 2015


Hillary Clinton is playing into Bernie Sanders’ hands in New Hampshire.

True to instinct and history, Clinton is running a cautious, constrained, unimaginative front-runner’s campaign, limiting her exposure to small, by-invitation-only audiences, offering mostly bland generalities, and temporizing on thorny issues.

That kind of effort is not just dishwater dull. It also runs afoul of New Hampshire’s campaign tradition of open-to-all town-hall-style events where any enterprising citizen can ask a question of a candidate.

Enter Sanders, stage left, with a clearly defined message whose appeal reaches beyond diehard liberals to everyday Americans uneasy about the economic trends in the country. The self-described Vermont socialist drew perhaps 150 people to an event here on Wednesday, with another 60 who were turned away from the packed function room waiting in nearby Eagle Square to see him afterward.

Watching Sanders, you could almost think this was a Hollywood movie unspooling along a sentimental story line: A principled but unpolished long shot catches the imagination of an idealistic crowd of true believers with his straight-talking take-on-the-titans campaign.

Certainly Sanders fits the part. He seems more like an absent-minded professor than a practiced politician. Actually, make that, an absent-minded professor who has misplaced his lecture notes and so must rely on the vagaries of memory. Indeed, his presentation is so out-of-keeping with standard stump speeches that you find yourself wondering whether Sanders, whose long political career includes four terms as mayor of Burlington, eight as a US Representative, and eight-plus years in the US Senate, has honed his role as a rumpled anti-politician.

In a Brooklyn accent unabraded by decades in Vermont, Sanders called for making public colleges and universities tuition free; lowering interest rates on student debt; implementing single-payer health care; getting big money out of politics; taking bold action on climate change; rebuilding American infrastructure; increasing Social Security benefits for the economically vulnerable; ending hunger; and making top earners pay more in taxes.

Reciting a litany of statistics about economic inequality, Sanders then segued into a summation too affectless to be called a crescendo. “In my view, this issue of income and wealth inequality is the moral issue of our time, it is the economic issue of our time,” he said. “It is not what America is about. And together we have got to change that.”

But when a questioner turned the topic to Clinton, Sanders showed his political skill, using the query to underscore that she has yet to take a stand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, the details of which aren’t yet public.

“Hillary Clinton can be for the trade agreement — the president is. She can be against the trade agreement — I am, Elizabeth Warren and many others of us are. But I just don’t know how you don’t have an opinion on this enormously important issue.”

They why didn't you filibuster it?

Note the framing: He and progressive political dream date Elizabeth Warren are opposed. That struck a chord with this crowd, whose feelings about Clinton ranged from dislike to a laodicean shrug.

Sanders clearly has a constituency here, and at a time when income inequality has moved his core concerns more into the mainstream, it’s not just the aging half-hip, half-hippie set or long-time lefty day-dreamers. Not judging from Wednesday’s event, anyway. And he’s offering a clear contrast to the cautious Clinton and her tightly scripted campaign.

Now, it’s hard to imagine the 73-year-old socialist winning the Democratic presidential nomination. But it’s not hard to see him becoming a send-a-message candidate — and thus turning into a more formidable Granite State rival to Clinton than anyone now imagines.

We've done that and they still don't get it.


He's not the only one seeing a way to the nomination.

NDUs: Bernie Sanders gains momentum in Iowa

He is now a credible challenge to Clinton!

Both parties offer condolences to Vice President Biden after son’s death

He looks even more credible given all the celebrity support.

O'Malley Makes His Move

So am I:

"Martin O’Malley hopes to ride liberal credentials; Takes place in field as option to Clinton, Sanders" by Maggie Haberman New York Times  May 31, 2015

BALTIMORE — In another campaign year, Martin O’Malley’s résumé and good looks might be irresistible to Democratic primary voters. He is a former big-city mayor whose story of renewal in Baltimore seemed well-tailored to an increasingly urban and minority party. He is a former two-term governor of Maryland — and the lead singer and guitarist in a rock ’n’ roll band.

I'm sorry, but given what has happened in Baltimore the past few months.... not a good selling point.

But O’Malley is running in an election cycle in which Democratic elected officials and donors have overwhelmingly focused attention on Hillary Rodham Clinton. And he already faces competition from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the support of liberals who dislike Clinton or merely want to see her pushed further to the left.

After a two-year exploratory phase, O’Malley, 52, on Saturday began making a case for why Democrats should bet on him instead of on Clinton or Sanders, who has captured early enthusiasm among liberals as an authentic populist.

“Today, the American dream seems for so many of us to be hanging by a thread,” he said in formally announcing his candidacy before hundreds of supporters under a baking sun in Federal Hill Park in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

“This is not the American dream,” he added. “It does not have to be this way. This generation of Americans still has time to become great. We must save our country now. And we will do that by rebuilding the dream.”

His aides say O’Malley is a true progressive, one who became involved early on the issue of same-sex marriage, and a scrappy underdog who takes to tough political fights. He staked out early ground on an immigration overhaul in 2014, accusing the Obama administration of heartlessness in deporting children who had crossed the border from Mexico.

But O’Malley was also a staunch supporter of Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign, and he rose to prominence as a tough-on-crime mayor in Baltimore, a city scarred by drugs and violence.


It is unclear whether O’Malley can aggressively raise funds without a devoted base of support, which Sanders can draw on, or a raft of major donors, which Clinton enjoys.

Still, O’Malley’s team believes he fills a natural void in the Democratic primary, and Clinton’s team acknowledges that a significant portion of the primary electorate would probably favor someone else.

“Here you’ve got a clear generational divide, and a lot of Americans think about that,” said Gary Hart, a former Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate. “They are less inclined to divide themselves in the world between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ and more between the past and the future.”

That's what I've been trying to say.

That, Hart said, would give O’Malley an advantage.

How come Hart didn't win president?


On to Iowa:

"O’Malley gears up for race, betting heavily on Iowa" by Ken Thomas Associated Press  May 30, 2015

DES MOINES — Martin O’Malley is returning to the state that introduced him to presidential politics three decades ago, when he knocked on doors for Gary Hart.

This time he will be promoting himself, in a setting that could determine whether his longshot challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination takes root or fades away.

The former two-term Maryland governor is expected to enter the Democratic campaign Saturday in Baltimore, where he served as mayor and built his political career. Then it’s on to a union hall in Davenport and more Iowa events before he goes to New Hampshire on Sunday.

Another longshot for the Democratic nomination is expected to announce his candidacy next week: former governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who was once a Republican, then an independent, before turning Democrat. 

See: Chafeeing to be the 2016 Democratic Nominee For President

He plans to announce his candidacy Wednesday during a speech at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., spokeswoman Debbie Rich said Friday.

Chafee surprised many when he formed an exploratory committee in April. He has never won elected office as a Democrat and had only discussed his plans with a few family members and supporters.

O’Malley, 52, presents himself as a next-generation leader who built a progressive record in Maryland on gay marriage, immigration, and the minimum wage. 

And was tough on cri.... never mind.

While he has been well received in recent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton holds a commanding advantage. And he faces competition for liberal support from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has raised more than $4 million since launching his campaign in late April.

Iowa has a history of rewarding insurgent candidates, and O’Malley’s early admirers say he can ill afford any missteps here. President Obama’s defeat of Clinton in the 2008 caucuses serves as the benchmark but few see O’Malley in the same light as the president, who already had an active state organization by this time in 2007. 

O'Malley is leaving roadside bombs for our troops?

‘‘I think he needs to win Iowa,’’ said Scott Ourth, a Democratic state representative from Ackworth. ‘‘If he comes into this thing and does not present well in Iowa, it’s pretty much not going to be happening for him.’’ O’Malley spoke at a fund-raiser for Ourth in April.

O’Malley advisers say he will spend significant time in early voting states and be an accessible candidate in diners, coffee shops, and living rooms, no doubt bringing out his guitar at times. That’s what Iowans expect — and may reward — in their leadoff caucuses.

There is ‘‘definitely a path here for him to do well in Iowa if he’s willing to put in resources,’’ said Tom Henderson, chairman of the Polk County Democrats in Des Moines.

O’Malley’s prospective bid holds parallels to the Hart campaign he worked on as a college student in 1983. Hart was a major underdog against former vice president Walter Mondale and struggled in a large field of Democrats.

In late 1983 and into January 1984, O’Malley organized volunteers and canvassed neighborhoods in Davenport and other communities in eastern Iowa, often playing Irish ballads on his guitar at small events, before moving on to help Hart in other states.

Hart’s advisers remember O’Malley as a street-smart, earnest, and detail-oriented young political organizer, constantly building his list of potential caucus-goers for Hart.

‘‘He’s somebody who basically drank up information and knowledge,’’ said Doug Wilson, a Hart campaign aide who dispatched O’Malley to Iowa. ‘‘He was a listener and he was always asking questions. You could tell in his mind that he was pocketing information.’’

Mondale won the Iowa caucuses handily. But Hart emerged as a fresh face in the party, with a surprising second-place finish, went on to defeat Mondale in New Hampshire and dragged out the contest until Mondale was able to grind out enough primary victories to capture the nomination.

This time, Clinton appears to be in a stronger position than Mondale was then. O’Malley supporters hope Iowa can help him become the main alternative to her.

O’Malley has made several appearances in Iowa this year. He has two paid staffers in the state and plans to add more.


Time to move on.

Santorum the Republican Savior

It's his time.

"Santorum joins Republican 2016 presidential race" by Trip Gabriel New York Times  May 28, 2015

CABOT, Pa. — Rick Santorum, who was the runner-up in the Republican primary race four years ago but has never been considered his party’s heir apparent, announced his second presidential bid Wednesday.

A former senator from Pennsylvania, who with his wife home-schooled several of their seven children, Santorum appeals primarily to social conservatives. He is facing heavy competition for those voters this year from rivals like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Santorum, 57, was the surprise winner of the Iowa caucuses in 2012, thanks to evangelical Christian voters, and he went on to win 10 other states, dragging out Mitt Romney’s quest for the nomination.

I'd forgotten that. He's in really good position then, both he and Huck (who is leading in the polls).

This time he hopes to catch a second wave with a strategy of broadening his message beyond social issues to an economic populism he calls “blue-collar conservatism.”

Good move!

At times, Santorum’s unwillingness to emphasize his opposition to abortion or same-sex marriage, and instead choosing to criticize his party for being obsessed with cutting taxes for the rich, has made him seem the boldest candidate in the race.

Still, he has struggled to catch on.


His star has fallen so far that he is in danger of not making the 10-candidate cutoff for the first Republican debate Aug. 6, which will be determined by standings in national polls.

He's a regular Denny Hastert, huh?

In 2012, Santorum embodied many conservatives’ dissatisfaction with Romney. But Santorum’s anointment in that role was almost by default, after other conservative alternatives proved to have fatal flaws.

Until just days before the Iowa caucuses, Santorum was an underfinanced outsider, but his dogged campaigning in all 99 of the state’s counties, often before tiny crowds, paid off.

And he do it again, dammit (oh, sorry). 

His 34-vote margin of victory was not officially announced until two weeks after the caucuses, something that Santorum resents to this day for robbing him of momentum in later contests.

This time around, many of his senior aides and supporters have gone to other candidates.

One reason for Santorum’s struggle this year is that in a field shaping up to include a dozen or more Republican contenders, including sitting governors and senators, Santorum — who has not held office since 2007 — looks to many voters like someone who already had his shot.

It is a reversal from the days when Republicans deferred to the “next in line” candidate, often from the party’s establishment. The grass-roots voters — evangelicals, Tea Party members, libertarians — that Santorum benefited from four years ago pay him little deference today.

That is who were are going to get.


Pataki Campaign Collapses Like WTC Tower

He was the governor on that awful day.

"Pataki enters White House race with focus on N.H." by James Pindell Globe Staff  May 28, 2015

EXETER, N.H. — After twice flirting with presidential bids in previous years, former New York governor George Pataki officially entered the White House race Thursday, hoping to differentiate himself as a Northeastern Republican with a more moderate stance on social issues.

That's not going to fly on Super Tuesday, sorry.

Pataki announced his campaign for president at the old town hall where Abraham Lincoln once spoke and former US representative Ron Paul of Texas and former governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah launched their presidential campaigns four years ago.

He has been out of office since 2006, but in an interview, he said he is running this time because he is prepared.

“I am ready,” Pataki said. “I just know that my life has prepared me for this moment. I can lead this country and win this election. And the need to change Washington has never been greater.”

Pataki is the only Republican among the eight candidates who have declared presidential campaigns to support laws granting same-sex marriage.

“I believe in limited government,” Pataki said. “I don’t want politicians telling me how to live my life. I don’t want them to tell me what type of health care I have to have. I don’t want them telling our schools how to educate every single child. I don’t want them in Washington deciding what the rules on marriage should be for every state in America. Leave it to the states. Let the people in those states decide.”

To be sure, in Pataki’s announcement speech, he touched on popular GOP themes: cut taxes, project a strong foreign policy, and oppose programs like the Affordable Care Act and the Common Core educational standards.

While Pataki has struggled to break from the pack nationally, he has gotten some traction in the Granite State, where he has focused his campaigns.

For example, of the 14 Republican state senators, four have endorsed a presidential candidate. Two of those four have endorsed Pataki. Pataki also has one of the largest campaign steering committees in New Hampshire. Many of the participants attended a private reception at the Exeter Inn Wednesday night, when they were served lobster rolls.

Where do you stand on Canada, George?

Notably, some of the state’s well-known libertarian-minded Republicans are listening to Pataki. Among those inside the sweltering town hall event was John Babiarz, a former libertarian candidate for governor.

Babiarz backed Ron Paul in the past, and said Pataki is possibly more libertarian than US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on other issues. He also gives Pataki credit for focusing his campaign on the Granite State.

“Pataki is on my list of candidates to watch,” said Babiarz. “He has willing to take questions and lets you know where he stands.”


Campaign never got off the ground.

Also see: A PatriotAct President

A PatriotAct President

Like father..... ?

"Paul gains backers before Patriot Act showdown" by Steve Peoples Associated Press  May 30, 2015

CHICAGO — A confident Rand Paul claimed new momentum Friday in his fight against government surveillance programs, just days ahead of his second Capitol Hill showdown in as many weeks.

The Republican senator infuriated leaders in his party last week by almost single-handedly delaying the extension of the antiterror law, the Patriot Act. Parts of the law are set to expire Sunday night, including the power to collect phone records.

In a interview between campaign stops Friday in South Carolina, Paul said voters are encouraging him to continue fighting the National Security Agency’s bulk collection programs when the Senate convenes Sunday.

‘‘I find a great deal of interest among Republicans who tell me the NSA ought to stop collecting our phone records, that it’s wrong,’’ he said by phone.

President Obama said Friday that a ‘‘handful of senators’’ are the only thing standing in the way of an extension of the key Patriot Act provisions. He does not want to be in a situation in which the government is unable to prevent a terrorist attack or catch a suspect because of Senate inaction.

Warning and telegraphing of a flaw flag in the works.

Paul, a 52-year-old libertarian leader, is working to transform his efforts on Capitol Hill into political capital as he builds up his nascent Republican presidential bid.

He lashed out at Republican leaders this week in campaign stops across Illinois, Iowa, and South Carolina while intensifying fund-raising outreach to help cash in on the attention. In the midst of last week’s Senate marathon session, Paul invited supporters to buy $30 ‘‘Filibuster Starter Packs’’ with a bumper sticker, T-shirt, and a ‘‘spy blocker’’ for Internet browsers.

He has also seized the opportunity to put distance between himself and his party’s other presidential hopefuls.

Voters are noticing. ‘‘I think some of his ideas are a breath of fresh air,’’ said Corey Brooks, an African-American pastor on the South Side of Chicago, where Paul campaigned earlier in the week. ‘‘His views are diametrically opposite of what Republicans tend to say and do, and I think it’s a good thing.’’

Yet it is unclear how far his civil liberties focus resonates beyond the libertarian-leaning voters who supported his father’s presidential ambitions.

He stood on the Senate floor for nearly 11 hours last week, bucking leaders in his own party, to protest the National Security Agency’s collection program that tracks phone records.

His delay tactic forced Senate leaders to adjourn with no resolution on the Patriot Act.

Majority leader Mitch McConnell has summoned the Senate for a rare Sunday session just hours before the midnight deadline. Expiration would mean suspension of a program that collects data on every American landline call, as well as of two FBI programs to track terrorist suspects.

Paul’s allies hyped the session in an ad that likens the debate to a wrestling match.

‘‘Watch them battle it out under the dome on the floor of the United States Senate in the brawl for liberty this Sunday,’’ the narrator says in a professional wrestling-style ad produced by a super PAC run by Paul’s former campaign manager.

The ad superimposes Paul’s head on the body of a wrestler, while describing one Republican presidential prospect, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, as ‘‘the capitulating Canadian’’ and depicting another, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, in a purple convertible.

In his travels this week, Paul accused members of his party for abandoning their small-government credo in the national security debate. He has also blamed Republican national security hawks for the rise of the Islamic State group.

In a radio interview that aired Friday, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey said that people like Paul who oppose the Patriot Act ‘‘have a severe case of amnesia’’ regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Another potential rival for the GOP nomination, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, said Paul was ‘‘unsuited to be commander in chief.’’


Looks like another also-ran to me.

UPDATE: NSA surveillance program derailed — at least for now

So when is the next false flag terror event due?

However, the Justice Department may invoke a grandfather clause to keep using those powers for investigations that had started before June 1, and there are additional workarounds that investigators may use to overcome the lapse in the authorizations.

Oh. So the front-page lead is really no news at all.

Jeb Bush's Addiction

He has a lot of explaining to do about the pot use, and he can't just hide in the house:

"Grim choice for N.Y. addicts: relapse or be homeless" by Kim Barker New York Times  May 31, 2015

NEW YORK — After a lifetime of abusing drugs, Horace Bush decided at age 62 that getting clean had become a matter of life or death.

So Bush, a homeless man who still tucked in his T-shirts and ironed his jeans, moved to a flophouse in Brooklyn that was supposed to help people like him, cramming into a bedroom the size of a parking space with three other men.

Bush signed up for a drug-treatment program and emerged nine months later determined to stay sober. But the man who ran the house, Yury Baumblit, a longtime hustler and two-time felon, had other ideas.

Baumblit got kickbacks on the Medicaid fees paid to the outpatient treatment programs that he forced all his tenants to attend, residents and former employees said. So he gave Bush a choice: If he wanted to stay, he would have to relapse and enroll in another program. Otherwise, his bed would be given away.

“ ‘Do what you do’ — that’s what he told me,” Bush recalled.

Bush, rail-thin with sad eyes, wanted to avoid the streets and homeless shelters at all costs. He turned to his self-medication of choice: beer, with a chaser of heroin and crack cocaine. Then he enrolled in a new program chosen by Baumblit.

In the past 2½ years, Bush has gone through four programs, just to hold onto his upper bunk bed.

Bush had fallen into a housing netherworld in New York City, joining thousands of other single men and women recovering from addiction or with nowhere to go. The homes are known as “three-quarter” houses, because they are seen as somewhere between regulated halfway houses and actual homes.

Virtually unnoticed and effectively unregulated, the homes have multiplied in the past decade, driven by a push to reduce shelter rolls, a lack of affordable housing, and unscrupulous operators.

One government official estimated recently there could be 600 three-quarter houses in Brooklyn alone. But precise numbers are elusive. The houses open and close all the time, dotting poor neighborhoods mostly in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens.

The homes, often decrepit and infested with vermin, overflow with bunk beds and people. Exits are blocked and fire escapes nonexistent. The homes are considered illegal because they violate building codes on overcrowding. Many have become drug dens, where people seem almost as likely to die of overdoses as they are to move on to a home of their own.

RelatedThe homeless shelter population has surged under Bloomberg’s tenure

All been forgotten now that de Blasio is in office.

Opportunistic businessmen such as Baumblit have rushed to open new homes, turning them into vehicles for fleecing the government, an investigation by The New York Times found. The target is easy: vulnerable residents whose rents and treatments are paid with taxpayer money.

Yet three-quarter homes are tolerated and even tacitly encouraged, pointing to a systemic failure by government agencies and institutions responsible for helping addicts and the poor.

Honestly, it is not $urpri$ing at all.

Reputable hospitals, treatment programs, and shelters regularly send people to the homes. So does the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

The city’s Human Resources Administration pays operators the $215 monthly rent, known as a “shelter allowance,” for many tenants. The state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services hands out millions in Medicaid money for their treatment.

But for years none has paid attention to what happens inside. There are no regular inspections. No requirements. No registry. The city’s Department of Buildings, overwhelmed and ineffectual, often fines the landlords, but the city does little to collect.

The system, such as it is, dooms tenants to a perpetual cycle of treatment and relapse, of shuttling between programs and three-quarter houses.

And who benefits?


RelatedRevere firefighters widening fight on opiates

"Fire chiefs press for resources to fight opioid epidemic" by Peter Schworm Globe Staff  May 18, 2015

Fire chiefs from across the region made an urgent, at times personal, appeal to the nation’s drug czar Monday to support their fight against the opioid epidemic, calling for greater funding for addiction treatment and supplying firefighters with Narcan, a drug that reverses heroin overdoses.

In a morning round-table meeting, the chiefs told Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, that the scope of the crisis demanded immediate action. Some described firsthand accounts of reviving overdose victims with Narcan, and growing efforts to steer addicts toward treatment.

Part of Obummer's new team who says there is no silver bullet to the kids.

“It’s an epidemic that has no boundaries,” said Keith Stark, fire chief in Weymouth, at Boston Fire Department headquarters. Ten people have died from opioid overdoses this year in Weymouth, and firefighters there have saved well over 100 people from overdoses since they began carrying Narcan two years ago, part of a growing number of departments that now use the powerful drug.

With the help of community groups, firefighters in some towns are providing information about treatment to those battling addiction in hopes of persuading them to seek counseling.

“People need help beyond just giving them Narcan,” Stark said. “It’s a cycle.”

Related: Narcan Carries Its Own Addiction

More than 1,000 people in Massachusetts died from overdoses of heroin and other opioids last year, a 33 percent increase from 2012. Nationally, fatal overdoses, especially from nonmedical use of prescription drugs, has surged over the past decade, and has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of injury deaths.

Botticelli said the epidemic required action on several fronts, from expanded treatment options to reducing the vast supply of pain medication, both on the street and in people’s homes. “It requires a comprehensive approach,” he said.

US Senator Ed Markey said approximately 120 Americans die from drug overdoses every day, and called for increased funding for drug treatment programs.

The CIA black profits and laundered bottom lines of banks make it all worth it.

Treatment works,” he said. “Recovery is possible.”

Some drug war, huh?

Markey said the epidemic was “out of control,” and said the medical use of painkillers was too widespread. About four out of five new heroin users had previously abused prescription painkillers, studies have shown.

“We need to stop the overprescribing of pain medication,” he said.

They are a.... gateway drug?

US Representative Stephen Lynch noted that firefighters are increasingly on the front lines of the epidemic, and that their medical efforts needed to be tied into a broader response to drug addiction that involved hospitals, health clinics, and treatment facilities.

“We’re all grappling with this problem,” he said.

US Representative Katherine Clark said she supported outreach efforts for people battling opioid abuse to connect them to help “before it’s too late.”

“It is cutting across our communities,” she said. “We’re losing a generation of young people.”

Looks like a lost war to me. 120 deaths a day?

Clark recently filed legislation to help hospitals treat newborns suffering from opiate exposure. From 2000 to 2012, the number of infants suffering from withdrawal grew nearly fivefold, a new study has found.

In Revere, firefighters have launched a new outreach program aimed at reducing overdoses by returning to the homes of overdose victims to speak with them about treatment options. The department is collaborating with Kim Hanton, director of addiction services at North Suffolk Mental Health Association.

“Some people aren’t ready for treatment,” Hanton said. “You’re really there to engage.”

The families of those struggling with substance abuse are often looking for help and guidance, she said.

Between early February and April, Revere firefighters used Narcan 136 times to reverse overdoses, a dramatic increase.

In Boston, firefighters have used the drug more than 300 times in less than a year, officials said. A dose costs about $40.

The department will monitor the outreach program in Revere to see if Boston could launch a similar effort, a spokesman said.

Gene Doherty, the fire chief in Revere, said firefighters are increasingly taking on medical and public health responsibilities, particularly as opioid overdoses have become more common. “Fire service evolves,” he said. “We are the people on the front lines.”

Doherty said some children begin dabbling in prescription drugs in middle school before moving on to heroin.

“It’s cheap and it’s plentiful,” he said.

Where did he get it?

Mayor Dan Rizzo of Revere said 15 people had died of drug overdoses this year, already surpassing last year’s total.

“Clearly, we need a renewed focus,” he said. “The problem is not getting better; it’s getting worse.”


Hard to focus when you are f***ed up!

"A Chicopee man who police said used McDonald’s Happy Meal toy bags to conceal heroin deliveries has been indicted by a Hampden County grand jury. Narcotics detectives arrested Giovannie Luna on April 15 after he allegedly attempted to make a drug sale in Springfield. Police seized more than 9,500 packets of heroin in the arrest in addition to cash and a loaded .22-caliber handgun recently reported stolen in Westfield, police officials said. The Springfield Republican reported that Luna, 31, was initially due in Springfield District Court before he was indicted and had his case transferred to Superior Court. He is expected to be arraigned in Superior Court next week."

That's going to make someone sad.

RelatedUnexpected death of fire chief stuns Haverhill

Another OD.

Who gave him that stuff?

"Cape Cod doctor indicted on drug charges" Globe Staff  May 18, 2015

A Hyannis doctor has been indicted on charges that he illegally prescribed opioids and defrauded MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, the attorney general’s office said Monday.

Mohammad Nassery, 63, who practiced at Ariana Pediatric Neurology, was indicted Friday by a Barnstable Superior Court grand jury, the attorney general’s office said.

He faces 11 counts of illegal prescribing, nine counts of making false claims to Medicaid, and one count of larceny over $250. He has surrendered his medical license and will be arraigned at a later date, prosecutors said in a statement.

“Physicians have a responsibility to care for their patients and keep them safe and healthy. Our investigation revealed that Dr. Nassery violated that trust by writing prescriptions he knew were medically unnecessary and providing powerful painkillers to people with documented substance abuse problems,” Attorney General Maura Healey said.

Prosecutors said that medical records indicated Nassery prescribed oxycodone and oxycodone-based medications to patients with documented substance abuse problems and after learning some patients were enrolled in treatment programs or were getting opioids from other providers.

The prescriptions he wrote allegedly caused pharmacies to falsely bill MassHealth for the drugs, prosecutors said.

Healey’s office said that the charges were part of her push to “tackle the opioid and heroin epidemic from all angles.”

A message seeking comment left at Nassery’s office wasn’t immediately returned.

State officials say the opioid crisis has swept through cities and towns across Massachusetts, accounting for more than 1,000 deaths last year, the Globe reported Sunday. The town of Plymouth has been especially hard-hit, with 10 drug-related deaths this year as of Saturday....


RelatedBaker shocked that more doctors aren’t warning of opioids 

Why do you think that i$? I mean, c'mon. He worked in health care.

"A sheriff’s officer who lost his son to heroin teamed with an inmate to save another man from the same fate. The Essex County sheriff’s office said corrections Sergeant Dennis Laubner was supervising five inmates doing litter pickup Monday in Lawrence when a young woman pulled behind their van. She said her boyfriend was unconscious in her car after overdosing. Officials said Laubner and inmate Dennis Dicato gave the man CPR, and he had revived by the time an ambulance crew came to administer a heroin antidote. The Eagle-Tribune reported that Laubner told the woman about his son and urged her to get her friend addiction help."

Also seeRecord $50 million worth of Mexican heroin seized in NYC 

That's where it is all coming in.

Indiana approves needle-exchange plan

Isn't that encouraging the problem?

"Two Holyoke men have been arrested on drug charges after an investigation into heroin distribution in that city, State Police said. The Hampden County Narcotics Task Force has been investigating heroin distribution in Holyoke for several months. Over the course of the investigation, more than 3,700 bags of heroin were seized, State Police said. Julio Rosado, 20, and Armando Vega, 27, were arrested Tuesday, State Police said. Rosado faces two counts of trafficking of a Class A drug. Vega is charged with trafficking a Class A drug and possession with intent to distribute a Class B drug, oxycodone."

"The state’s highest court on Tuesday overturned the indictment of a teenage boy on a heroin trafficking charge, ruling it was not a violent act under the youthful offender law. The law allows juveniles to be tried as adults in Massachusetts if the charges against them involve ‘‘infliction or threat of serious bodily harm.’’ The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the heroin charge did not meet that standard and ordered the indictment dismissed. The defendant, who was not identified because of his age, was 16 when he was arrested in 2013 by Taunton police. The boy was later indicted on a charge of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, moving the case to adult court, where the penalties can be harsher than in the juvenile system (AP)." 

"Everett police are warning of a new synthetic drug being marketed to teenagers, after officers arrested two people who are believed to have consumed it over the weekend, officials said. The new drug, called NBOMe, is a hallucinogen that even in extremely small amounts can cause “seizures, cardiac and respiratory arrest, and death,” the US Drug Enforcement Administration said in late 2013. In the two incidents in Everett, police said the alleged users displayed strange, self-destructive behavior. NBOMe, sometimes called “N-bomb” or “Smiles,” is sold in many forms: powder, liquid solution, laced on edible items, and soaked onto paper, the DEA said." 

CIA dumping more bad acid into the populace like they did in the '60s?

At least the kids aren't smoking pot:

"Woman fights medical marijuana firing; Case exposes paucity of guidelines for workers and bosses, lawyers say" by Kay Lazar Globe Staff  May 23, 2015

Cristina Barbuto was thrilled when she landed her new marketing job last year.

Her delight quickly evaporated when she was fired after her first day because a drug test revealed marijuana use. She lost her job even though she’d disclosed during her interview that she takes the drug, with a doctor’s legal permission, to ease the symptoms of a digestive disorder.

Now, the 34-year-old Brewster woman is fighting for her right to use medical marijuana at home and not be fired for it. Her lawyers on Friday filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination over her termination — a case that is believed to be the first of its kind in the state involving marijuana and employment, an agency spokesman said.

“This is something that needs to change,” Barbuto said. “I don’t want people to fear looking for these types of jobs and be humiliated because of this.”

With marijuana now legal for medical use in Massachusetts and 22 other states and the District of Columbia, the question of how workplaces deal with such use — especially drug screening tests for employment — has become a thorny, and far from settled, issue.

Because marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, states are left to craft their own rules, and employers have been caught in a legal morass.

Two Massachusetts law firms have joined forces to advocate for Barbuto’s case — one that specializes in employment law, the other in emerging marijuana issues.

“We have gotten a spike in these types of calls,” said Adam Fine, whose Boston firm, Vicente Sederberg, is known for helping businesses win licenses to open marijuana dispensaries.

Fine’s office recently received a call similar to Barbuto’s from a worker fired from a Massachusetts casino company after a drug screening test.

Matthew Fogelman, whose Newton law firm handles discrimination lawsuits, said the state’s 2012 medical marijuana law prohibits employers from firing workers such as Barbuto who have legally obtained a doctor’s certification to use marijuana for health reasons.

“As long as it is not affecting that person’s ability to perform their job, then it should be protected, and that person should not suffer adverse consequences,” said Fogelman, who teamed with Fine on Barbuto’s case.

Barbuto said she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2011, an illness that often robs a patient’s appetite. Because she rarely feels hungry, Barbuto struggles to maintain a healthy weight, and traditional medicines have not helped, she said. So she smokes a small amount of marijuana before meals a couple of times a week, she said, to spur her appetite, but not enough to make her feel high.

Even though marijuana dispensaries have yet to open in Massachusetts, state law allows patients with certification from a doctor to use the drug. Barbuto said she received her certification last summer.

Barbuto’s marijuana use had not been a workplace issue before, because she had been working freelance. She loved working in marketing, but thought her old job lacked opportunities to advance. So when a recruiter told her about a position at Advantage Sales and Marketing in September 2014, Barbuto applied. Barbuto told the man who became her boss that she would test positive for marijuana on the company’s drug test because of her medical use, according to the complaint.

She was told that would not be an issue, the complaint states, and was hired. The first day went well and Barbuto was excited about the future as she described her day to her boyfriend that night.

Then the phone rang.

It was Joanne Meredith Villaruz, the company’s human resources representative, calling to say Barbuto was being fired for testing positive for marijuana, according to the complaint. When Barbuto questioned the termination, noting the state’s medical marijuana law and her doctor’s certificate, Villaruz told her, “We follow federal law, not state law,” the complaint said.

Villaruz, who has since left the company, declined to comment in an e-mail Friday and referred questions to Advantage Sales and Marketing’s headquarters in California. Barbuto’s complaint names both Villaruz and Advantage.

Tania King, Advantage’s chief legal officer, did not return calls and an e-mail.

Most states’ medical marijuana regulations, including those in Massachusetts, allow employers to prohibit use of the drug on the job or in the workplace even for those legally sanctioned to use it.

Beyond that, rules get murky. A handful of states, such as Arizona, Delaware, and Minnesota, prohibit employers from firing an employee for a positive marijuana drug test if the employee holds a valid state-issued card allowing the drug for medical use, said John DiNome, a Pennsylvania attorney who specializes in labor law at Reed Smith LLP, and who is not involved in Barbuto’s case.

Massachusetts law is silent on this issue.

Other states that have legalized medical marijuana, such as California and Oregon, allow employers to fire workers, even if they hold a valid marijuana card, DiNome said.

Further complicating the matter: Companies with federal contracts must follow federal drug laws that prohibit marijuana use, regardless of state law, DiNome said.

And then there are companies that hew to federal rules on marijuana regardless of state marijuana laws. “And the employee is sitting there saying, ‘Wait, state law says I can use legally,’ ” DiNome said.

Barbuto and her lawyers said they hope their case will add clarity — and protections — for Massachusetts patients.

“The whole marijuana law is so gray, someone has got to push it into a direction that will help everybody,” Barbuto said. “I hope this speaks to a lot of people who have gone through this or will go through this.”



"Boston Police arrested a Somerville man at a Cambridge hospital late Sunday morning in connection with a home invasion just after midnight in an apartment on Endicott Street in the North End. Nikolas Angelesco, 19, and three other men allegedly broke into the apartment armed with knives and a sawed-off shotgun before taking off with several large bags of marijuana. A woman who was in the apartment with her boyfriend, who lived there, said the men appeared to be searching for something in a roommate’s room. The men left the apartment with several bags believed to contain marijuana. In the course of the incident, Angelesco accidently fired the gun. He drove himself to Cambridge hospital for with a gunshot wound in his foot. The woman and her boyfriend were not injured. Angelesco faces armed robbery, home invasion, and kidnapping charges."

Hey, at least no one was drunk.

"Drug abuse could be sleeper issue in 2016" by Jim O’Sullivan Globe Staff  May 22, 2015


Presidential campaigns have long been wary of the “October surprise,” the unforeseen, late-stage event or revelation that can alter the course of an election.

OMG! What drugs are they on?!! Laughing in your face, they are!

Equally powerful can be sleeper issues that are sleepers because they don’t germinate in the high-level strategy powwows or in the much-maligned Washington think tanks, but among the masses, who collectively bum-rush them onto the agenda.

I can't stand the elitism, I don't care what dope he's got.

Ronald Reagan surfed, all the way to the convention, on grass-roots concern that President Gerald Ford was poised to give away the Panama Canal. In 2008, the bases of both parties agreed that immigration policies were broken but disagreed about how to fix them; the fissures roiled the Republic primary and helped Barack Obama solidify his coalition.

In 2016, consider drug abuse as a potential heir to those from-the-bottom-up issues.

There is a drumbeat growing in both parties that could move the highly personal, painful matter of heroin and opioid drug addiction, which has metastasized into an epidemic, higher on the national agenda than at any time since the rampant crack crisis more than two decades ago.

Earlier this month in Manchester, Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, said he would prioritize drug addiction as one of the “five or six” chief issues of his potential presidential bid.

On Monday in Mason City, Iowa, Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed drug abuse before she commented publicly on the Trans-Pacific trade deal, one of the central economic policy questions of the day. Calling it a “below the surface” issue, Clinton said she was “now convinced” that she needed to talk about it on the trail.

Not coincidentally, early-state politicians of both parties have already named it a defining problem. One Clinton campaign aide told the Globe that hearing about meth in Iowa and heroin in New Hampshire had prompted Clinton to ask her policy team to begin working on what she has previously called a “quiet epidemic.”

In Durham, N.H., last week, the Democratic former governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, said his state had seen more drug overdose fatalities than those from traffic deaths and homicides combined.

“What would we do if these individuals were suffering from Ebola?” O’Malley rhetorically asked reporters.

In Massachusetts, both Republican Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey placed it front and center early in their terms, Healey calling it her “first major initiative.” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, whose longtime activism in the recovery community helped win his election, made a legislative career of pushing for increased spending on recovery services.

“Talking about it, it makes them real in a lot of ways,” Walsh of the candidates. He likened addiction to gut-check concerns like housing prices and unemployment.

“This is one issue that crosses over party lines, crosses over economic lines. Whether it’s the top 2 percent of the country or the bottom 98 percent, addiction affects everybody the same way.”

Walsh said he spoke this week about drug abuse as a political issue with Boston-based Clinton adviser Michael Whouley, and added, “I think they’re all going to talk about it. I think the issue’s gone to a national level.”

Data would appear to back up the notion that there is a constituency of the concerned about opioids and heroin. A poll, conducted in April for the Globe and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, revealed just how big it could be.

In both Massachusetts and the rest of the country, 39 percent said they knew someone who had abused prescription painkillers in the past five years. Fifty-one percent of those people in Massachusetts said they believed that usage had led to use of heroin or other illegal drugs; 43 percent nationwide.

In Massachusetts, 74 percent of people familiar with prescription abuse said it had wrought “major harmful” effects on the user’s family life; it was 67 percent across the country.

Those are the sort of big-bloc numbers that make the people who design a campaign’s message and policy points raise their heads and take notice.

And, as too many families can already attest, opioid abuse knifes through demographic strata. Through a cynically political lens, that means a candidate can talk on the issue with expected impact to voters who otherwise fall into tightly micro-targeted buckets.

Of course, primary-state pablum is one thing and actual policy enactment is quite another. Witness all the discussion in the last several presidential campaigns of the insolubility of Social Security, and the inaction that ensued. Or the lingering debate over immigration policy.

Landing squarely under the klieg lights of a presidential debate does not an unalloyed policy solution make. And none of the campaigns appears to have produced a sterling answer yet.

But, just as issues can steer elections, campaigns have a way of elevating issues. And, to those for whom the time to tackle drug abuse is not too late, it appears as if perhaps its time has come.


Sorry for passing out, readers (pretty powerful sh**, huh?).

Slow Saturday Special: Hastert’s Hangover

That's his excu$e? I was drunk?

"Ex-House speaker Hastert indicted on federal charges" by Monica Davey New York Times   May 29, 2015

CHICAGO — J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, was charged on Thursday with lying to the FBI and structuring cash withdrawals to avoid bank reporting requirements.

Sounds harmless enough as the grog wears off.

Hastert, 73, a longtime Republican leader who served as speaker from 1999 until 2007 and now works as a lobbyist in Washington, was providing money to an unnamed person in order to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct” against that person, according to a federal indictment issued by Zachary Fardon, the US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

The indictment says that Hastert, who was once a high school teacher and wrestling coach in a small Illinois town, paid $1.7 million to the person from 2010 to 2014.

Since 2012, the indictment alleges, Hastert had begun structuring withdrawals of less than $10,000 from various accounts to avoid bank reporting requirements as he made the payments. And in late 2014, Hastert told federal agents that he was not paying anyone with the money but was keeping the withdrawals for himself.

“Yeah,” the indictment quotes Hastert as telling the agents. “I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”

According to the indictment, he told the agents that he was making the withdrawals to store the cash “because he did not feel safe with the banking system.”

He knew it was going to collapse and decided to get his money out?

In 1999, Hastert, who was then a six-term congressman from Illinois, was catapulted to the speaker’s post after Newt Gingrich stepped down after a contentious national election marked by the wounds that the House inflicted on itself during the impeachment proceedings against then-President Bill Clinton.

The Republicans’ first choice to succeed Gingrich, Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana, gave up the position before he assumed it, acknowledging that he had carried on adulterous affairs. Hastert was chosen because of his reputation among his Republican colleagues as a conciliator.

He left Congress in November 2007.

After the House was turned over to Pelosi.

Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office.

Hastert was a little-known lawmaker from Plano, Ill., a Chicago suburb, when chosen to succeed Gingrich as speaker. During his term, he pushed President George W. Bush’s legislative agenda, helping pass a large tax cut and expanding Medicare prescription drug benefits.

He retired from Congress in 2007 after eight years as speaker.

Since 2008 he has been a senior adviser at Dickstein Shapiro LLP in Washington, where he is a registered lobbyist.

Hastert resigned Thursday from the board of CME Group Inc., the Chicago-based futures exchange operator, where he had served since 2008, most recently as a member of its compensation committee, Bloomberg News reported.


That's it? That's all it's about?

"Hastert charges tied to old sex abuse allegation; Ex-speaker was trying to buy accuser’s silence" by Michael D. Shear and Michael S. Schmidt New York Times  May 30, 2015

WASHINGTON — J. Dennis Hastert, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a man to not say publicly that Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago, according to two people briefed on the evidence uncovered in an FBI investigation into the payments.

I did what? With whom?

Federal prosecutors Thursday announced the indictment of Hastert on allegations that he made cash withdrawals designed to hide those payments and for lying to federal authorities about the purpose of the withdrawals.

The man — who was not identified in court papers — told the FBI that he had been touched by Hastert when Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, the two people said Friday.

Oh, no. No wonder he was in a position of power. Totally exposed to blackmail.

The people briefed on the inquiry spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a federal investigation.

The FBI declined to comment.

It was not clear when the alleged behavior occurred.

Does it matter? Most will care only about the what, not the when.

But according to court documents, Hastert was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Ill., from 1965 to 1981. The FBI was not able to substantiate the allegations beyond the man’s statements.

Yorkville, huh?

Federal authorities unsealed an indictment of Hastert on Thursday, although it skirted the issue of what Hastert had done to the man that led to the payments. The indictment charges Hastert, 73, with one count of evading bank regulations by withdrawing $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000 to sidestep reporting requirements. He also is charged with one count of lying to the FBI about the reason for the unusual withdrawals. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A statement from the US attorney’s office announcing the indictment said Hastert will be ordered to appear for arraignment. The date was not immediately set.

The indictment said that in 2010, the man met with Hastert several times, and that at one of those meetings Hastert agreed to pay him $3.5 million “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” the man.

The indictment stunned Hastert’s friends and former Capitol Hill colleagues, who said Friday morning that they were struggling to make sense of the federal charges against him.

“In my dealings with Denny, he was always straight up, aboveboard, and never even close to crossing the line on anything,” said Tom Davis, who represented Virginia as a Republican House member.

Did he ever touch you in a strange way?

The indictment alleges that Hastert agreed to provide money to a person identified as “Individual A” in order to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct.” It said Hastert was structuring the cash withdrawals in increments designed to avoid bank reporting requirements. The indictment does not provide details of the misconduct.

Federal prosecutors said in the indictment that Hastert had made cash withdrawals from banks in a way that was designed to hide his activities. The indictment said that Hastert had made $1.7 million in payments so far.

The indictment also said Hastert, a Republican who served as speaker from 1999 to 2007, had lied to the FBI about the transactions.

Yorkville is about 50 miles southwest of Chicago. The indictment, announced by the US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said the recipient of the payments was from Yorkville and had known Hastert.

The allegations against a man who was once one of the most powerful people in Washington had left lobbyists, lawmakers, veteran Capitol Hill staff members, and others to speculate about what Hastert, who for eight years was second in line to the presidency, might have done to the person identified only as “Individual A” in the indictment.

This will go away soon (like the Bob Menendez trial).

One former colleague of Hastert’s described himself as genuinely mystified by the indictment and said he had spent much of Thursday evening talking with many of the former speaker’s Washington friends, who shared his bewilderment.

Davis, who served in the House for 14 years, said, “I think we are all shocked by this.” 

I wish I could say I was; however, it's become clear the political cla$$ is full of $ick perverts.

Kim Nerheim, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office, said Friday that Hastert’s case had been assigned to Judge Thomas M. Durkin of US District Court, who will schedule the arraignment for the former speaker, perhaps as early as next week. Durkin, a former prosecutor and white-collar criminal defense lawyer who was nominated to the bench by President Obama in 2012, will accept a plea from Hastert and set the calendar for the case, Nerheim said.

Hastert, who has been a lobbyist since leaving Congress, could not be reached for comment at his office in Washington. Nerheim said Friday that there was no lawyer of record for Hastert.

A statement released Friday by the Yorkville Community Unit School District confirmed that Hastert had worked for the district from 1965 to 1981, but said that officials there first learned of concerns about him when the indictment was released Thursday. “Yorkville Community Unit School District #115 has no knowledge of Mr. Hastert’s alleged misconduct,” the statement said.

Well, it sure sounds like someone did.



  1. $3.5 million is a lot of money for this kind of thing.  Was Hastert feeling guilty?
  2. This is being described as 'extortion'.  Had the victim employed a lawyer the payments would have been described as a 'settlement'.
  3. Hastert became speaker as the Republicans at the time (the post-Lewinsky era) couldn't find anyone else who wasn't involved in a sex scandal, and Hastert himself eventually exited politics due to allegations he and his staff had covered up the Foley sex scandal.
  4. While speaker, and subsequently as a lobbyist, Hastert became enormously rich.
  5. Hastert got caught on money laundering provisions that are in place for the War On Terror as part of the Patriot Act he pushed through.  Ha!
  6. There are specific parts of the legislation involving money withdrawals, but Hastert got caught primarily for attempting to evade the law.  In other words, complying with the law is a crime.
  7. If cash is illegal, how will bribes be paid? 
  8. "Denny Hastert's Creepy C-SPAN Call: 'Remember Me?'"
  9. "Franklin child prostitution ring allegations"  Officially a hoax.
  10. Superb picture.
  11. Wayne Madsen, who is generally held by 'journalists' to be completely beneath contempt, got the background of this story entirely right years ago.  What if Madsen is right about everything?

Of course, it's now Sunday:

"Dennis Hastert’s indictment has Ill. hometown sifting memories; Allegations of sexual assault stun residents" by Don Babwin Associated Press  May 31, 2015

YORKVILLE, Ill. — Before he was House speaker and second in line to the president, Dennis Hastert was known around Yorkville, Ill., as Denny the coach, a beloved mentor to youths on the high school wrestling team and in local Scouting groups who organized road trips to broaden the students’ experiences.

Ooooooh boy!

I always thought that was a stereotype, but now.... 

This week’s indictment accusing Hastert of manipulating bank accounts and lying to the FBI to allegedly cover up past “misconduct” has left hometown admirers searching back through fond memories and struggling to understand how alleged sexual abuse and extortion could have emerged from that period.

After all we have seen regarding the Catholic Church and beyond?

Many former wrestlers and Yorkville-area residents interviewed since the indictment Thursday spoke only warmly of Hastert, some athletes saying Hastert was like a father figure as he guided them to championships.

They couldn’t recall anything suspicious about the road trips, some to far-flung places like the Bahamas and Canada. And none had a clue about who could have made such accusations against the coach.

Maybe he called C-Span a year ago; then the NSA would know who they are.

“Now everybody is guessing who it is,” said Bob Evans, Hastert’s assistant wrestling coach, who joined him in taking Boy Scouts camping and fishing in northern Minnesota. “This puts a cloud over what was a pretty special time for people.”

Too much alcohol can cloud the judgement.

Evans said there was never a hint of wrongdoing and he was angry that someone would accuse Hastert without coming forward publicly.

Is it that easy to out yourself as a victim of that humiliation, and the question should be WHY DID DENNY PAY!?

Hastert’s legacy is visible in this small Fox River town about 45 miles southwest of Chicago. There’s the renovated historic courthouse and a forest preserve that both received money Hastert helped bring back from Washington.

The pork fat didn't help lubricate the hurt feelings?

Former students say he left an intangible imprint, too, on their lives. Mindful of that record, residents expressed disbelief and confusion at the claims.

Ask the feds. Would they have charged him?

Neal Ament, 66, was a senior at Yorkville High School when Hastert arrived in 1965 from nearby Plano to teach history and economics and coach the wrestling team. Ament said the team won the conference in his first season as head coach.

“Our team was just a bunch of floundering farm boys” until Hastert taught them the science behind wrestling, Ament recalled.

He was as memorable in the classroom, said Ament, who still lives in the Yorkville area and has occasionally run into Hastert at a local hardware store. “Hopefully this will end up being a big misunderstanding,” he said.

The federal indictment announced Thursday accused Hastert of agreeing to pay $3.5 million to keep a person from the suburban Chicago town silent about “prior misconduct,” but the court papers did not detail the wrongdoing.

A person familiar with the allegations said Friday that the Illinois Republican is accused of sexually molesting someone decades ago. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and those specific allegations are not in the indictment.

Hastert has not responded to phone calls and e-mails from the Associated Press. No lawyer had come forward publicly by Saturday afternoon to represent him.

That is where my Sunday Globe print stopped.

Hastert taught and coached in Yorkville until 1981 and was a Boy Scouts of America volunteer for 17 years over that period, leading what was then called Explorer Post 540.

Bob Corwin, a close friend, was one of the other adults accompanying Hastert and the teens on some of the Scout trips, including to the Grand Canyon.

He said when they were in the Bahamas they all stayed in the same cabin.

“We were all in there together,” he said Saturday at the judo club where he has taught for decades. “I never knew nothing about anything going on” that was improper.

Evans, Hastert’s fellow coach, recalled one trip where he, Hastert, and a Japanese exchange student shared a tent.

“The only thing he did was snore like a gorilla,” he said of Hastert. “We were always all together. There was no sneaking around from tent to tent.”

Daniel Zedan, council commissioner for the St. Charles, Ill.-based Boy Scout Council 127, said national Boy Scout officials have asked the local council to look for records associated with Hastert’s tenure as a volunteer in Yorkville. But no complaints have been brought to their attention, he said.

Zedan said the councils that oversaw the Explorer post in Yorkville have merged with others over the years. “Each time there’s a merger, stuff is boxed up and put away.”


Think I'll abstain from any more Saturday Specials and move on to Sunday.

UPDATE: Court sets arraignment for Hastert in hush-money case

"Woman tells ABC that Dennis Hastert abused her brother" by Christine Hauser and Dave Philipps New York Times  June 06, 2015

NEW YORK — A woman named her deceased brother Friday as a victim of sexual abuse by J. Dennis Hastert, the former House speaker, saying the abuse took place while he was a student at the Illinois high school where Hastert was a wrestling coach.

The comments by the woman, made on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” marked the first time that a person has been publicly identified as a possible victim of Hastert.


The woman, Jolene Reinboldt Burdge, said her brother, Stephen Reinboldt, was an equipment manager at the high school in Yorkville, Ill.

In the interview Friday, Burdge called Hastert a father figure for her brother, adding that Stephen Reinboldt had been part of a group that accompanied him on a trip to the Bahamas.

Hastert was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville from 1965 to 1981 and worked with the Boy Scouts.

Burdge said she learned of the years of abuse when her older brother revealed to her that he was gay eight years after he left high school.

“I asked him, ‘When was your first same-sex experience?’” she said. “He looked at me and said, ‘It was with Dennis Hastert.’ I was stunned.”

“And he just turned around and kind of looked at me and said, ‘Who is ever going to believe me?’”

Burdge said she believed the abuse ended when her brother moved away after his high school graduation in 1971. Stephen Reinboldt died of AIDS in 1995.

Burdge said she had confronted Hastert when he unexpectedly came to her brother’s funeral, telling him, “I want you to know that your secret didn’t die here with my brother.”


Better go have a beer and keep your mouth shut, Denny.

Also see: 

Guam becomes first US territory to recognize gay marriage
Enola Gay pilot’s kin leads air wing
Gay men’s chorus to make history with Mideast tour

I'm tired of the same old agenda-pushing songs, sorry.