Whose side are YOU on ?

” When things get really tough – when you work hard, play by the rules, but something terrible happens and you’re struggling to make it – who is going to be on your side, in your corner, fighting for you ?  Who is going to build a future that expands opportunities not just for those at the top, but for people all across the state ? ”

Senator Elizabeth Warren


Democratic candidates fight for working families on all the issues that matter to them :

* increasing the minimum wage  * equal pay for equal work  * earned sick leave  * investing in public education  * jobs that pay a livable wage

* protecting Social Security and Medicare  * taking care of our veterans  * helping our small businesses grow and succeed

This is the full page ad Anthony Guardia and I designed for the local newspaper sponsored by the Wakefield DTC.  It will run Monday including  photos of our ticket and our membership roster.  We’re hoping it may sway some undecided voters.


Fred Rich LaRiccia





Fathers and fishes and flattery....

Ninety percent of all the sons in all the world who ever survived childhood followed (if they knew them) into their fathers profession. This has been true for farmers, soldiers, grocers, truckers, engineers and baseball players. And this is true for fisherman and for politicians. We are truly blessed, in America, to be able — with a straight face — to call a father ‘selfish’ who may or may not have ‘forced’ his two sons into fishing. That’s a recent development in the history of mankind. One hundred years ago it wouldn’t be more than an assumption that, of course, the sons would do what the father did. Charlie Baker, also, is following in his fathers footsteps as administrator and politician.

Personally, if the choice was between an honest profession like fisherman and a profession of cruelty like football player, I’d chain my children to six foot plank, give them lines and a hook and set them adrift. In a heartbeat. And I think a football scholarship just uses education as bait: college sports are a business every bit as cruel as the game and a sports scholarship can actively impede an education. You can’t get a degree in CTE. So I don’t blame the fisherman. According to Charlie Baker, he made the choice I would have made. And yes, I have two sons.

Does this mean that I believe Charlie? To an extent, yes. Oh, I can imagine that he embellished some, and confused some details and swizzled in the confusion common to most free-marketeers… but in its essence I can believe the basic outlines of the story: a fisherman had two sons; they followed him into his industry; the industry collapses; the father worries for the boys future and holds himself responsible. I believe it.

And because I believe Charlie Bakers story I’m even more determined to vote for Martha Coakley.

The core of Charlie Bakers story, and the ‘punchline’ obscured by his tears, was that government can help these people: that, in fact, government must help these people… and further that the problem is so large and so thorny and so complex that no one else could possibly help these people. And I think that is true also. The reason I won’t be voting for Charlie Baker, despite belief in the truth of his story, is that Charlie Bakers entire career is an attempt to refute the story: I think he believes that most voters believe in government and is flattering their desire for help and for good government without actually being willing to engage in it. I offer as proof his entire career. In particular his time as health care executive. Anybody who can recognize the problem as so large and so unwieldy that only government can solve it (the fishing industry) would be expected to do the same in other places (the health care industry) and, thus, would not have taken such a job in the first place (never mind profit from it).

From the Big Dig to Health Care, Charlie Bakers entire career has been inside problems too big for anybody but government to deal with… But even when he was in government he fucked it up. The Big Dig was the most epic boondoggle the CommonWealth has ever seen and Charlie Baker held the broom that swept the problems under the rug… while they were occurring. And all his talk of saving one of the largest insurers in the CommonWealth makes no mention of the enormity of the problem.

The problem is that I believe Charlie Bakers story, but I don’t think that Charlie Baker really does.

By the way, Ed Markey still wants your money

It’s been a while since I’ve complained about Ed Markey’s absurdly aggressive, scare-mongering fundraising emails.  So, here’s the latest installment, from my inbox this morning.

From: Ed Markey <info@edmarkey.com>
Subject: I need your help ASAP

No, no you really don’t.

Date: October 31, 2014 9:04:48 AM EDT
To: David

Dear Friend,

If the pollsters and the pundits are to be believed, we need to win just about every close race on Tuesday.

That’s true.  But yours isn’t one of them.

Right now, Democrats are running short — on time and room for error. And if we come up short on our $16O,OOO goal for October, we could be in trouble.

No, you couldn’t.  As of October 15, you had well over $2 million in the bank, while your opponent barely cleared $20,000.  And stop using “O” instead of “0.”

If we miss our fundraising goals, we can’t run the kind of GOTV operations that will lead us to victory. 

Yes, yes you can.  As noted above, you’re sitting on $2 million that you are barely going to need to tap into.

Help us keep our organizers in the field and getting out the vote — chip in $5 before midnight.

No.  Other people need my hard-earned money much more than you do, Ed.

Polling guru Nate Silver says that this year’s elections aren’t like 2012 or 2010. The Republicans have an advantage, but as Silver puts it, “they haven’t been able to put Democrats away.”

We’re still in this. Democrats can win this year, but only if we make the most of every remaining moment of this campaign.

What are you talking about, Ed?  You will win this year, regardless of what happens in other states.  Nobody in America thinks that Brian what’s-his-name is going to win this election, including Brian, I’d wager.

Other Democrats, however, may or may not win.  They’d probably find it easier to win if occupants of safe seats, like yourself, were helping them fundraise instead of padding their own campaign accounts.

Please contribute $5, $10, or more toward our $16O,OOO goal — we only have 15 hours left.

No.  You don’t need that much money this month.  In fact, you don’t need any more money, because you have two million bucks in the bank.  And please, for the love of God, stop using “O” instead of “0.”

Does it matter if Baker's fish story is fake?

As reporter after reporter fails to turn up anything to substantiate Charlie Baker’s now-famous (even made MSNBC) story about the huge New Bedford fisherman who dissolved in tears upon relating the story of his sons and their foregone football scholarships, the question must be asked: let’s say the story is fake.  Does it matter?

Watch the video of Baker telling his story again.  He’s awfully convincing in every detail.  How the guy looked.  Where he was from.  Which high school the guy’s kids went to, and what sport they played.  He betrays no doubt whatsoever that these are real people, and that he story he’s telling really happened.

But now, under the pressure of reporters not being able to verify what he said, Baker is admitting that he “may have gotten some of the details wrong.”  I’m sorry, but what??  Which of those details, so convincingly delivered, were made up?  Baker has pretty much clammed up on the matter, refusing to answer reporters’ detailed inquiries.  In response, the New Bedford Standard-Times, which endorsed Baker, now sounds like they are regretting it and really want answers.  In an editorial published today, they say this of Baker:

His slow response to our questions threaten to taint his relationship with this region, as our endorsement of his candidacy a couple Sundays ago praised him for his recognition of SouthCoast’s importance in statewide economic development.

We need to know that his fervor, his tears, his promises are genuine….

[W]e still want to know from the Baker campaign whether the story he shared at the debate was a symbolic anecdote or a calculated manipulation of the public — and New Bedford — for his political ends.

But, Baker insists, “the essence of the story is true.”  What does that mean?  Which part of it is the “essence,” and which are the apparently fake embellishments?  Baker won’t tell us.

I’ve already explained why I’m pretty sure that the telling of the fish story was planned.  Now, as it turns out, the story may well be fiction in some important particulars.  It is remarkable to me that a story should be so powerful that it causes Baker to break down in tears every time he’s told it for the last 5 years.  (Dianne Williamson at the Telegram puts it less charitably: “Should he care so much, though? Really? This big, strong man chokes up every single time he tells the same 4-year-old story?”) It’s even more remarkable if the story isn’t real.

All of which leaves us wondering what, exactly, we saw at that debate.  A man genuinely moved by the plight of fishermen in Massachusetts?  A father empathizing with the anguish of a man who felt he had steered his sons wrong?  A candidate for office so cynical and calculating that he not only made up a powerful story but then managed fake tears in the telling of it?  Some combination of the above?  Hard to say.

So, does it matter?  Yes.  It has to matter whether candidates tell the truth, whether the subject is large or small.  It just has to.

Joke Revue: Supreme Court Backs Koch Plan to Fire Cash from Cannon at Voters


Kochs Approve Plan to Fire Cash from Cannon at Voters

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—The billionaire Koch brothers have approved a controversial plan to shoot cash from cannons directly at voters heading into polling places on Election Day.

The plan, which Koch insiders have privately referred to as Operation Money Shot, would distribute as much as seventy million dollars in small bills in the hopes of seizing Republican control of the United States Senate next Tuesday.

While most state laws prohibit electioneering within a hundred feet of polling places, the Koch plan craftily skirts that restriction by using high-powered cash cannons, similar to the T-shirt cannons used in sports arenas, which have a range of up to a hundred and fifty feet. …

[T]he Supreme Court upheld the Koch brothers’ plan by a five-to-four vote on Thursday, arguing that spending money on elections was protected by the First Amendment, and that using a cannon was protected by the Second.

Midterms Prediction: Billionaires to Retain Control of Government

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—With just one week to go until the midterm elections, a new poll indicates that billionaires are likely to retain control of the United States government.

The poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, shows that the proxy candidates of billionaires are likely to win ninety-eight per cent of next Tuesday’s races, with the remaining two per cent leaning billionaire.

Although the poll indicates that some races are still “too close to call,” the fact that billionaires funded candidates on both sides puts the races safely in their column.

Davis Logsdon, who supervised the poll for the University of Minnesota, said that next Tuesday should be “a big night for oligarchs” and that both houses of Congress can be expected to grovel at the feet of their money-gushing paymasters for at least the next two years.

Calling the billionaires’ upcoming electoral romp “historic,” Logsdon said, “We have not seen the super-rich maintain such a vise-like grip on the government since the days immediately preceding the French Revolution.”

Obama Urged to Apologize for Anti-Fear Remark

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—President Obama is coming under increasing pressure to apologize for a controversial remark that he made on Tuesday, in which he said that the nation’s Ebola policy should be based on facts rather than fear.

While the anti-fear tenor of Mr. Obama’s comment was offensive enough to some, the President made matters worse by suggesting that science would play the leading role in guiding the nation’s Ebola protocols—a role that many Americans believe should be played by fear.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“The man in charge of investigating the 2012 Secret Service prostitution scandal has quit after he himself was caught with a prostitute – which explains why President Obama just appointed an irony czar.” –Jimmy Fallon

“The investigator who led the probe in the Secret Service prostitution scandal was caught with a prostitute. When cops found them together, he said, ‘Hey, I’m investigating here.’” –Conan O’Brien

“I want to settle everybody down. Let me put this in perspective for you. Your chances of catching Ebola are the same as the Jets chances of making the play-offs.” –David Letterman

“During a campaign event, former presidential nominee Bob Dole told the crowd that Mitt Romney should run for president in 2016. If there’s anyone who knows that the third time is a charm, it’s a guy who lost three times.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Vladimir Putin announced he’s abolishing daylight saving time. He said he doesn’t want to set Russian clocks back. I will say this: He’s done a pretty good job of setting the Russian calendar back — to about 1983.” –Craig Ferguson

“Scientists found they have evidence that human beings had sex with Neanderthals. Apparently the evidence is any episode of the ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Last night, someone jumped the White House fence again. See, the problem is, if the pizza doesn’t get to Obama in 30 minutes, it’s free. And that comes out of their paycheck.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Maybe people would stop trying to jump the fence if the first lady weren’t taunting us by growing gardens full of that sweet, sweet kale.” –Jimmy Kimmel

Getting Out the Vote - It's now or never

I was going going door to door earlier this week and met a voter who was definitely planning on voting for the Democratic ticket. I reminded him that election day was coming up on Tuesday and gave him the opening and closing times. He realized that he will be out of town during voting hours. I explained that he could vote absentee at City Hall. He promised me he would vote absentee and thanked me for making sure he had the opportunity to vote.

We will win this election with our ground game. The polls show that voters are all over and the situation is very fluid. We can make a difference with our GOTV efforts. We will win this election, one voter at a time.

I spoke on Thursday at a rally with Governor Patrick I was channeling my inner Maura Healey and urged everyone to keep on going until the final buzzer. In Maura’s own words:

I believe you keep fighting every second till you hear the buzzer. And as strong as you are as an individual player, your team makes you a lot stronger. That’s how you win.

We need you as part of the team. I’m listing a number of events that people can join this weekend.

Martha Coakley Events
There are many opportunities to meet Martha Coakley and other Democratic leaders at events across the state. Martha is at all of the following events. Please come and bring friends. If you can’t take time from GOTV, send friends.

Fall River Herald News Lets Polluter Front Group Deny Climate Science

Surveying the Storm - Fall River

Extreme floods in Fall River, March 2010

Last week the Fall River Herald News and sister paper the Taunton Gazette published an op-ed column denying manmade carbon pollution causes global warming. I submitted the following letter to the editor in response:

Tom Harris and Bob Carter may claim to speak for Canada and Australia (“Kerry and Patrick off base connecting climate and energy,” Oct. 21), but they’re really speaking for two climate science denier front groups funded by big polluters. In fact, both groups have even taken money from the Heartland Institute, the dirtiest of them all. Heartland lost most of its allies two years ago after putting up a truly disgraceful billboard comparing climate scientists to the Unabomber.

NASA data shows the last six months have been Earth’s hottest ever recorded. Massachusetts, led by Deval Patrick, John Kerry, Ed Markey, and other courageous elected officials, has shown the way in shuttering dirty coal-fired power plants, investing in clean energy, and saving money by making our homes and businesses more efficient. We need to do much more to cut industrial carbon pollution, like building Cape Wind and other offshore wind farms. But we won’t get there by letting polluters deliberately cloud the debate.

The New Bedford Standard-Times editorial board recently announced that while it would continue welcoming debate on what to do about global warming, it would no longer accept opinion pieces that deny the established scientific consensus on manmade climate change. I urge you to do the same.

The Providence Journal ran the same op-ed and has just published a blistering response from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Cross-posted from The Green Miles

Don't like the way things are going? Vote United Independent

My name is Angus Jennings, I’m a professional planner with a specialty in housing & economic development.  I’ve worked about half my career in Massachusetts town halls, and half my career as a consultant running my own small business.  As a consultant, I have worked on projects in nearly 40 cities and towns across the Commonwealth, many working for the community itself.  I was born in Springfield, grew up in Wilbraham, have lived in Quincy and Marshfield, and now my wife, young daughter and I call Concord home. Until this year, I had been a registered Democrat all my voting life, and was even on the Board of Directors of the Young Dems of Massachusetts (Mass Democratic Future) back in the early 2000’s.  On Nov. 4, I’ll be on the ballot as the United Independent Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor- my running mate is Evan Falchuk.  I’m here to humbly ask for your vote.

Thomas Menino, 1942-2014.

Sad news over the WCVB twitter feed, Boston has lost one of her finest sons and benefactors. Mayor Tom Menino was one of the happiest politicians I ever met, and someone who clearly felt blessed to have the job he did and treasured every minute of it. There are a lot of facts behind a complicated public figure. Three stand out to me.

The first is personal, I met the man at the L Street bathouse during the 2004 Democratic Convention where I volunteered to help set up the NY Delegation Party. He came personally, with just one black town car and two plains clothes cops to shake all our hands, chat with us a bit, and chat with all the kitchen staff and janitorial staff setting up the event. He showed up before the delegates to make sure he had that face time with us and let us know we were important ambassadors for the city.

The second, is that he is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, major political figure in our state or the country to endorse gay marriage. Marc Solomon, chair of Freedom to Marry, has said on record that there would be no gay marriage in America if it weren’t for Tom Menino. He was an founder and co-chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. Also a co-founder and first go-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, one of the largest and most effective gun control groups in the country.

The third is that he left office with 74% approval rating, and poll after poll showed almost 60% of the city had met their Mayor personally at one time or another. He never forgot the people he was elected to serve. Thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Next Week, Everyone Will Have Seen It Coming

rear view donkeyNext Wednesday, the world view of every single political commentator will have been proven right about the 2014 elections.

Here’s a timely reminder from Bill James (via Joe Posnanski) that it’s all BS:

[BS] has tremendous advantages over knowledge. [BS] can be created as needed, on demand, without limit. Anything that happens, you can make up an explanation for why it happened.

“There was a Kansas football game a year ago; some Texas-based football team, much better than Kansas, came to Lawrence and struggled through the first quarter — KU with, like, a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. The rest of the game, KU lost, like, 37-0, or something. The announcer had an immediate explanation for it: The Texas team flew in the day before, they spent the night sleeping in a strange hotel; it takes them a while to get their feet on the ground.

“It’s pure [BS], of course, but he was paid to say that … if it had happened the other way, and KU had lost the first quarter, 24-0, and then ‘won’ the rest of the game 17-14 (thus losing 38-17) … if that had happened, we both know that the announcer would have had an immediate explanation for why THAT had happened. … [BS] is without limit.

Some elections have obvious lessons, but most come down to who felt like turning out or a simple numbers game of how many Ds & Rs are in a given area.

That won’t stop commentators from assigning narratives to every single race. If you watch closely, you’ll notice Democrats who won inevitably did so because they tacked right & distanced themselves from Obama, while Republicans win because they tacked right & fired up their base.

Go fish! Baker baits the media

Charlie Baker’s tears have launched a fishing expedition for the old man and the sea: the subject of his moving story. So far, nothing, which doesn’t help the Republican (the story is “real to me,” he says, a somewhat egotistical standard). Jonathan Carvalho investigated for New Bedford’s Standard Times (hat tip to Commonwealth Magazine’s excellent The Download free email service):

Questions surface about Charlie Baker’s story about a New Bedford fisherman

The day after Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker emotionally recounted the story of a New Bedford fisherman in a televised debate, people intimately involved with the city’s fishing industry and high school athletics say they don’t know of a family that fits Baker’s description. …

“No one comes to mind that I can think of,” said Jim Kendall, president of New Bedford Seafood Consulting. “I’ve gotten several calls on this, texts and emails, too. … I’ve checked around, and no one seems to be able to put a finger on who it would be.”

Kendall said he believes he would have pinned it down because he’s been working in the fishing industry for 51 years.

“I’ve been running several fishery groups in the city, that’s all I do,” he said. “I would think I have a pretty good grip, if not knowing the individual, knowing who to reach out to, and so far I’ve been unsuccessful.” …

A source with a longtime association with New Bedford High athletics said after many years familiar with the program, he did not know of any two brothers at NBHS receiving football scholarships, never mind going fishing instead.

Meanwhile, Yvonne Abraham underlines Baker’s emotional fragility to make a broader point – a sharp contrast, one might add, to the maturity, experience and resolve Coakley displayed at the debate:

Republican Charlie Baker was going along nicely in Tuesday night’s debate, exuding competence, speaking with authority about taxes and paid sick leave.

Then the gubernatorial hopeful came apart, telling of meeting a fisherman ruined by federal catch rules. “I may not make it through this story,” he began, promptly succumbing to tears.

The Man Who Couldn't Cry

In honor of the Gubernatorial debate.

There once was a man who just couldn’t cry
He hadn’t cried for years and years
Napalmed babies and the movie Love Story
For instance could not produce tears.


Charlie Faker

Charlie Faker




Well, we all learned that Charlie the expert Baker has a softer side. When asked when was the last time you cried, Baker went all emotional with his tale of crying at the though of  the big fisherman  who was torn up because federal regulators had put him out of business and in the process ruined the lives of the fisherman who would not let his star-athlete sons accept their football scholarships.  How convenient: federal regulation ruins a family’s prospects.


The answer gave Baker a chance to burnish his anti-science credentials. (Overfishing and climate change have nothing to do with the disappearance of cod off Cape Cod in Bakerworld). It also made no sense, as many commentators have noted: if the fisherman told his sons they could not go to college on a full ride who was to blame?


One little other problem: Faker, not to put to fine a point on it, was lying when he said this was the last time he cried given that the said incident occurred five years ago. Alternately, he has a heart of stone and cries every five years: the first time when overcome by genuine emotion and the second time on cue for the cameras when it’s time to dramatize the true cost of government regulation.


Given the obvious deceit, inquiring minds have reason to wonder, which, if any of the details, of the story are true. OK, Charlie Faker probably has met a fisherman who complained about government regulation of fishing, but the detail about the sons and their lost scholarships and prospects has internet rumor written all over it.  Baker himself has gotten all truthy begging his friends in the press who have been blowing kisses at him for months not to all of a sudden get tough and find out what actually happened.  His latest explanation is telling: “Well, he certainly existed for me….That story, you could find ten more that are just like it.” Charlie Faker is all but admitting that he is lying. Odds of finding a family that matches Faker’s story: 100-1.  He’s all but told us that. But we should still vote for Faker—just because.


As for poor boring Martha Coakley, all she could do was give a a real answer about a real person who  really died.

New Falchuk Ad Calls for Third Party

No one’s going to read this or comment on it, but I feel duty-bound, since I slammed him for what I considered a less than candid approach on his bumper stickers. Evan Falchuk’s new TV ad explicitly says (to paraphrase), “Independents are the majority, we need our own party.” And he names the party.

Of course I dispute the argument; independents are supposed to be independent. But props to him for being direct.


This letter was written by a resident of Wakefield – Richard Tisei’s hometown – and explains the Republican conundrum. 

Fred Rich LaRiccia

The contest for the seat in the House of Representatives from the Massachusetts Sixth Congressional District gives the voters a choice between two candidates, one of whom, Seth Moulton, can tell us what he stands for, and the other of whom, Richard Tisei, cannot.

As an elected Republican official in Massachusetts, Richard Tisei took stands on the issues that differed from those of the national Republican party. It is on the basis of these stands that he claims to be a different kind of Republican, which indeed he has been — here in Massachusetts.

Now he is seeking to venture outside the shelter of the bluest state in the nation and to take a seat in the House of Representatives, where his effectiveness will depend on his ability to work with the national Republican party. He needs to explain to the voters how he could do this and still be a different kind of Republican.

The national Republican Party of today is not the party of Leverett Saltonstall, Margaret Chase Smith, or Eliot Richardson. That is to say, it is not a party that believes in statesmanship. Since 2008, its stated goal has been to prevent President Obama from being successful at anything he attempts. This goal has been more important to the party than the good of the country. And to ensure that it achieves its goal, it enforces strict discipline among its members.

For example, Republican congressmen who do not toe the line can expect to see any legislation that they introduce die in committee. And when they are up for re-election, they can find themselves facing surprisingly well funded challengers in the primaries.

One obvious solution for Richard Tisei would be to go along with the national Republican party. But this would mean supporting measures to privatize Social Security; to allow Wall Street to continue to play irresponsible games with the nation’s working capital; to pass additional tax breaks for the wealthiest one percent of Americans while transferring more and more of the burden of taxation to the middle class; to discourage investment in alternatives to fossil fuels while continuing to reward oil companies with generous tax breaks; to deny that climate change is happening, or, if it is happening, to maintain that it can only be beneficial; to deny people of the same sex who love each other the right to marry each other; and to block measures to ensure that all people receive equal pay for equal work.

In Washington, Richard Tisei could be effective in only one way — by effectively promoting the measures that are important to the national Republican party. If that is his intention, he needs to tell the voters that it is.

Seth Moulton, the Democratic candidate for Congress from this district, does not face the dilemma that Richard Tisei does. He is proud of what his own party stands for: equal opportunity, equal pay for equal work, fair taxation, public education, the rights of workers, affordable health care for all, and a humane solution to the problem of illegal immigration. He is committed to fair measures that would ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare for decades to come.

Seth Moulton’s military service as a Marine in Iraq has given him an understanding of what can and cannot be achieved through military power that few members of Congress would be able to match. On the basis of his experience, he opposes sending American troops back to Iraq.

The Sixth Congressional District of Massachusetts deserves to be represented by a Congressman rather than a dilemma. That is why I will vote for Seth Moulton on November 4, 2014.

John Breithaupt

The crying game

The #MAGov news of the day – first reported by Matt Stout at the Herald, as far as I know, but since picked up at the Globe and elsewhere – is that Charlie Baker’s emotional story about the fisherman, the retelling of which caused him to choke up in last night’s debate, stems from an encounter during his 2010 run for Governor, not from this campaign.

Is that a problem?  Hard to say.  On the one hand, there’s no doubt that the problems facing fishermen in Massachusetts remain real, and that they are a legitimate issue for any gubernatorial candidate to care a lot about.

But on the other, the revelation that Baker’s story is actually about five years old does, at least to me, make Baker’s emotional breakdown during the debate seem less authentic, for several reasons.

  1. If you listen to the debate again, you’ll see that, while Baker never actually says that he heard the story recently, the way he presented it seems designed to make you think that was the case.  The question, after all, was “when was the last time you cried,” and he refers to the fisherman story as one he heard during “the course of the campaign.”  He didn’t actually say “this” campaign, so maybe Baker’s setup qualifies as accurate (the Politifact rating would probably be “half true”).  But I came away from the story with the clear (mis)impression that Baker’s encounter with the fisherman was fairly recent.
  2. That leads me to think that part of Baker’s debate prep was how to respond to some kind of question relating to a campaign trail event that somehow meant a lot to Baker, and that Baker and his team decided that this story, even though it’s five years old, was the best one available.
  3. And if you think about it, it makes sense that Baker would choose this story.  It’s totally guy-friendly – the fisherman was a “big huge guy,” and his sons were football stars, so there’s relatively little danger of opening up a masculinity gap by crying over their story (the latest WBUR poll shows Baker up 12 points among men, and he can’t afford to lose many of them since Coakley leads among women).
  4. More importantly, Baker’s takeaway from the story is that – and this is an exact quote – “I feel we have let the federal government drive the data process associated with this, which has driven the rulemaking process, and has left these people with no one.”
  5. See how perfect that is?  An undeniably touching story about a Massachusetts family in very difficult circumstances is happening because of bad data.  It’s the perfect rejoinder to the charge that Baker is a data-driven numbers wonk who doesn’t care about actual humans.  It lets him say that data really does matter, and good data can help people.
  6. I’m not even saying that Baker is wrong about that.  I don’t know enough about the very difficult issues surrounding MA’s fisheries to have much of an opinion on the details, but it is true that having accurate data on what is actually happening in the fisheries is the key to formulating good policy.  I’m just saying that, IMHO, it is no accident that Baker chose to tell this 5-year-old story, rather than a more recent one – surely, someone on the campaign trail this year has moved Baker to tears? – that wouldn’t have let him make his point as clearly.

So.  Was Baker play-acting?  I have no idea – if he was, he’s pretty good at it (certainly, he convinced Globe columnist Thomas Farragher).  But nobody should think that Baker told that story solely because it’s actually the last time he cried (was it really? there’s no way of knowing).  I’d lay good money that he had practiced telling that story as part of his debate preparation, that he was looking for an opportunity to tell it throughout the debate, and that he told it when the moment presented itself (on a silver platter, as it turned out).

Lost in all of this, unfortunately, is Coakley’s response to the “most recent cry” question.  Coakley said that she had cried that day at the memorial service for John Laughlin, a/k/a long-time BMGer striker57.  We miss him too.

GOTV: Cooking Up A Storm

In the late flurry of elections — Malden has had constant campaigns since the Warren election — I’ve been doing a lot of Get Out The Vote cooking.  Kate’s Fourth Rule of Volunteers reads “Feed us!”, after all.  I’ve written a bit about this here and here.

I understand that the traditional election day meal was beef stew. Is this an authentic tradition?  Worth reviving? Are we thinking big hunks of chuck and potatoes in a nice broth, or lots of tomatoes and garlic and bread for dipping? Either way, it seems tricky to eat; does this go back to the days when everyone carried a knife and wasn’t shy of using it for dining on the go?

I think Ive got  weekend and election-day breakfast nailed (scones, muffins, focaccia, and kolaches — the kolachkes can double for lunch) but lunches and the important late-afternoon reviver on the big day remain something of a puzzle.

What are other staples for GOTV food from outside the 5th Middlesex?

When Big Brother (thinks he) knows best about the developmentally disabled

(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blog)

It can be frustrating when government administrators take it upon themselves to tell citizens what is in their best interest, and that includes telling them what is in the best interest of their family members with developmental disabilities.

It’s particularly frustrating when the state and federal governments tell people that they know best where their family members should or should not live.

For instance, the folks at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have determined that farm-based residential programs are not good for developmentally disabled people. Also bad are residential schools for the developmentally disabled, group homes on the grounds of a private developmental or Intermediate Care Facility (ICF), and group homes located in “close proximity” to each other.

Both CMS and the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services have decided that all of those types of residential settings “isolate” the participants from the “broader community.”  But while the feds are not banning those particular settings outright, the state DDS, in a new policy, appears to be proposing to do just that. According to the DDS policy, residents of “noncompliant programs” will be given “the opportunity to move to a compliant setting” or else face possible dis-enrollment from the HCBS program.

It doesn’t appear to matter that the participants may greatly enjoy living on a farm, for instance, or that they may derive many important skills from farm programs that improve their self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, and capacity for independent living.  It doesn’t matter either that their families and guardians may value those skills highly and consequently value those programs themselves.

It also doesn’t appear to matter that thousands of people in Massachusetts are waiting for residential and other care options, and that eliminating potential options, as CMS and DDS are doing, is only going to make that situation worse.

CMS issued a new regulation earlier this year that states that the residential settings they have identified as isolating may not qualify for Medicaid funding that is specifically earmarked for “home and community-based services.”  In “guidance” provided on the regulation, CMS criticized residential farm programs, in particular, because “an individual generally does not leave the farm to access HCBS (Home and Community Based Services) or participate in community activities.” CMS said similar things in the guidance document about residential schools for people with developmental disabilities, and about other programs that ”provide  multiple types of services and activities on-site.”

In its new policy based on the CMS regulation, DDS states that it will not fund or support new residential settings such as farmsteads, “gated or secured communities,” residential schools, settings that “congregate a large number of people with disabilities for significant shared programming and staff,” or even new group homes with more than five residents.

DDS has scheduled public forums on its policy and a “transition plan” to comply with the CMS regulation on November 6 at 6 p.m. at Massachusetts Bay Community College in Wellesley, and November 12 at 10:30 a.m. at Westfield State University in Westfield.

It is not clear what evidence CMS has to make the claims that people in farm-based and other congregate care programs are not provided with access to community activities.  The federal agency’s guidance offers no citations or backup information or studies to support its claims.

Moreover, even if it were true that on most residential farms and in other programs providing “multiple services” that  the residents are not regularly taken into the community, wouldn’t it make more sense to require that those programs periodically take participants into the community than to effectively ban the programs altogether?  Isn’t that throwing the baby out with the bath water?  CMS acknowledged that it received many comments about how valuable and therapeutic those farm programs, in particular, are.

By the same token, CMS appears to be ignoring evidence that there is often little or no community integration by residents of small group homes.  Yet, even CMS isn’t willing to prohibit Medicaid funding for farm programs, residential schools, or multiple group home settings outright.   In contrast to the Massachusetts DDS, CMS has stated that it will subject so-called isolating programs to “heightened scrutiny,” which may result in continuing to fund them if a state makes the case that the settings do not have institutional qualities.

CMS, in fact, specifically rejected the idea of banning group homes with more than a set number of residents.  In responses posted on the Federal Register to public comments on the proposed regulation, CMS stated that it had previously proposed defining institutional care based on the number of residents living in a facility, but that:

…we were persuaded by public comments that this was not a useful or appropriate way to differentiate between institutional and home and community-based care. As a result, we have now determined not to include or exclude specific kinds of facilities from qualifying as HCBS (home and community based services) settings based on the number of residents in that facility (my emphasis).

CMS also noted on the same Federal Register site that the goal of its new Medicaid regulation:

… is not to take services from individuals, or make individuals move from a location where they have always lived… The goal of this regulation is to widen the door of opportunity for individuals receiving Medicaid HCBS… to have a choice in how, when, and where they receive services; and to remove unnecessary barriers and controls. (My emphasis).

So CMS states that its goal is to give people choices and NOT to make people move from a location where they have always lived; but the Massachusetts DDS has made it their goal since the Patrick administration came into office to move people away from where they’ve always lived. It’s evident from the language of the DDS policy and from DDS’s own actions over the past several years that the choices of individuals and their families and guardians do not signify here. For instance, only corporate provider-run settings are routinely offered by DDS as options for people seeking residential care.

Yet while the Massachusetts DDS is going beyond what CMS apparently intended in moving to eliminate available options for residential care, CMS has given the states the latitude to do so. As Tamie Hopp of the VOR, a national advocacy organization for the developmentally disabled, noted, states have “incredible discretion in terms of how they operate their Medicaid programs.”

In a publication, VOR contends that the new CMS regulation “continues to demonstrate an ideological bias against disabled people who find friendships and benefits from living together and accessing services and amenities ‘under one roof.’”   VOR further suggests that:

…if CMS determines some settings to be too ‘institutional’… it is likely that states will realize higher costs to accommodate transitions to likely smaller, scattered settings where economies of scale will not be realized. Quality of care and access to specialized services may also be affected, exacting an untold cost on affected individuals.

For some, this is really all about cutting Medicaid programs and diverting Medicaid funding to corporate providers, who are being encouraged to operate more and more widely dispersed, and smaller, group homes.  The corporate providers in Massachusetts are apparently fine with all of this. In fact, DDS notes in its transition plan that it consulted with “a small stakeholder group (including providers, advocates and participants/family members).”   The usual advisors to DDS are listed in the transition plan, including the Arc of Massachusetts and The Association of Developmental Disability Providers (ADDP).

It may just be that the people who are truly isolated in institutions are the folks working at CMS and the Massachusetts DDS, who appear to have little idea of how things work in the real world. Someone needs free them from their ivory towers!

You can help by sending your comments on DDS’s policy to their email address at HCBSWaivers@MassMail.State.MA.US.  You can also write to: HCBS Waiver Unit, 1 Ashburton Place, 11th Floor, Boston, MA 02108.  Comments must be submitted by November 15.

We Should All Cry After Seeing Charlie Cry Tonight

Let me get this straight. Charlie Baker cried or pretended to cry for a fisherman with two sons for whom he refused college scholarships  (approx $400,000.00)  so they could instead become fishermen like him and his father before him but the federal fishing regulations are killing the business.

Get me a box Kleenex.

Are you fucking kidding me? Maybe this fisherman should not have acted like the most selfish father in the history of the world and let his kids take the college scholarships.

Anyway, this is what gets Charlie worked up on the campaign trail. I guess the mothers of kids who overdosed or came home in body bags from Iraq and Afghanistan don’t get him as teared up. Or maybe they do but he’s never engaged them.

How about those Republican policies Charlie? On the other hand Dems protecting overfished waters by a dying industry is worthy of a good cry.

So let’s get Martha elected. Then we can watch the disaster of her governorship play out for the next four years. Still better than the irreversible problems, dangerous policies, and questionable people Charlie will bring to the office.

Calling All Massachusetts Women

An insidious non-binding referendum has appeared on the ballot in multiple districts in Massachusetts.  Women, wake up!

This non-binding referendum reads as follows: Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that requires all non-hospital facilities performing more than 10 abortions a year to be licensed as “clinics” and to be inspected at least every two years by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health?

This was placed on the ballot by the Mass Citizens for Life in vulnerable districts as follows: