Guardianship under fire by the same groups that oppose congregate care and support privatization

(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blogsite)

Guardianship of persons with developmental disabilities is under fire in Massachusetts and elsewhere, and families could see their advocacy rights eroded as a result.

One prominent threat to guardianship appears to be embodied in a process called Supported Decision Making (SDM).

Under SDM, individual guardians are replaced by teams or “network supporters,” who enter into written agreements with disabled individuals to “help them make decisions” about their care, finances, living arrangements and other areas. The network supporters can include family members, friends, and corporate service providers, according to the Center for Public Representation, which is pushing for SDM in Massachusetts. 

There are some promising aspects to SDM, but a number of concerning aspects as well.

To the extent that it can or does replace irresponsible or uncaring guardians with supportive teams, SDM would appear to have a potential to improve the lives of many people.

On the concerning side, SDM does not appear to be well designed for people with severe levels of disability.  Those people are most in need the protections of guardianship; yet, many SDM advocates paint guardianship with a broad, negative brush and don’t appear to acknowledge the value that family members, in particular, bring as guardians to the lives of their loved ones.

As Jill Barker notes in the Michigan-based DD News Blog:

Many advocates for SDM state explicitly that their goal is to eliminate guardianship. Others state that this is not what they are trying to do, but their words and actions show that they intend to make guardianship as difficult to obtain as possible.

Moreover, many of those SDM advocates appear to be from the same groups that have long opposed critically important congregate-care options for the developmentally disabled, and their language in support of SDM is similar to their longstanding ideological language in opposition to congregate care.  In particular, they make the same questionable charges about guardianship that they have about congregate care — that guardianship leads to “segregation,” and that all persons under guardianship are prevented from “reaching their potential.”

We believe that like congregate care, guardianship is a necessary part of the total spectrum of care, particularly for people with the most severe levels of developmental disability, and that those choices and options shouldn’t be taken away from disabled individuals and their families.

As a result, we counsel parents of developmentally disabled children to consider obtaining guardianship rights when their child reaches the age of 18.  Without such rights, family members are likely to have virtually no say in the decisions that are made by providers and the Department of Developmental Services with regard to their loved ones with developmental disabilities.

In a position paper on SDM, the VOR, a national advocacy organization for people with developmental disabilities and a COFAR affiliate, contends that SDM “could weaken protections for those who are the most vulnerable, the very people for whom guardianship laws were originally written.”  The VOR adds that SDM threatens “to remove an individual who lacks the capacity to make his or her own decisions from the protection of the court and ongoing evaluation.”

Similar groups and similar language against guardianship and congregate care

The CPR and similar advocacy organizations in other states favor reducing residential options and choices, particularly when it comes to congregate care, and they use similar arguments to support the replacement of guardianship with SDM.

The CPR has supported or been involved in numerous lawsuits to close developmental centers over the objections of families of residents. Their argument has been that clinical experts know better than family members about what is in the best interest of their loved ones. Those advocates also support the dismantling of sheltered workshops and the privatization of residential services for the developmentally disabled.

The CPR is now making similar questionable claims against guardianship and in favor of SDM. In a PowerPoint presentation delivered in 2014, the CPR maintained that guardianship results in “civil death” for developmentally disabled persons, and that a key principle of SDM is that “people are not inherently incompetent.”

That latter claim, which has also been made in opposition to congregate care, seems absurd to us if it means that no individual can be found to be incompetent.  Laws in Massachusetts and most other states require that people be found incompetent by courts in order to be considered for guardianship. If SDM advocates believe that no one is truly incompetent, then they must believe court rulings around the country involving thousands upon thousands of people were wrong. We don’t believe it’s possible that all, or even most, of those decisions were wrong.

Nevertheless, in a law journal article, SDM-proponent Leslie Salzman includes the following statement, which includes no citation, in a footnote:

Virtually everyone has the ability to participate in the decisions affecting his or her life, with the possible exceptions of persons who are comatose or in a persistent vegetative state. (my emphasis)

The CPR does acknowledge that some things about guardianship are good.  In the 2014 PowerPoint, the CPR states that guardianship “offers a form of protection and provides some safeguards against abuse,” and that guardianship “makes it clear who is the ‘decider.’”  But the CPR goes on to claim that guardianship results in a “loss of legal personhood” and a loss of civil rights such as the right to marry and vote.  And the CPR contends that guardianship leads to possible exploitation by the guardian.

We disagree with the CPR’s claims.  First, it does not appear to be true that a person under guardianship can’t vote. According to the Handbook for Massachusetts Guardians, which is published by the Massachusetts Guardianship Association, some incapacitated persons may have sufficient capacity to marry or vote.  In those cases, the guardian can seek the court’s approval for such actions.

Also, as the Massachusetts handbook notes, current state law provides a number of protections for persons under guardianship and encourages limited guardianships when possible.  Among the legal protections in place now is a requirement that guardians seek court authorization to make many major decisions for the incapacitated person – for example, admitting someone to a nursing facility for long-term care.  The guardianship handbook further advises guardians to act in the incapacitated person’s best interest at all times, to do what that person desires to do, and to visit them at least monthly.

While it’s true that guardians can potentially exploit incapacitated people in their care, we are not sure that exploitation is less likely with SDM.  If corporate providers, in particular, are on the SDM “network” teams, then there is a potential conflict of interest involved, since providers stand to make money by advocating for more services.

Barker points out in the DD News Blog that “guardianship abuse from family members can occur,” but she draws a crucial distinction — which SDM advocates appear to ignore — between the appointment of family members as guardians, and the appointment of attorneys, corporate entities and other professionals to that role.  Family members, Baker states, are far more likely to attend to the needs and wishes of their loved ones under guardianship than are corporate or state guardians “with dozens of wards.”

Barker, who is critical of the SDM movement, adds:

Although there are horrific stories about what can happen to people under guardianship, we rarely see stories about unpaid family guardians who defend their family members against agencies and individuals who, through neglect or the intentional desire to do harm or simply to save money, exploit vulnerable people with disabilities.

We’ve witnessed this type of family support in many, many cases, such as that of Stan McDonald, who stopped clinicians and providers from giving unnecessary and dangerous anti-psychotic medications to his son, Andy.

Confusing the causes of isolation

In the law journal article, Salzman brings up many of the same arguments against guardianship that the CPR and the providers have used against congregate care, including the segregation charge.  But she doesn’t appear to distinguish between degrees of intellectual or developmental disability.

For instance, Salzman states that when an incapacitated person loses their decision-making power to a guardian, they experience feelings of isolation and helplessness, which leads to a further loss in functional abilities in a “vicious cycle.” But while this might be true for relatively high-functioning persons, it is certainly less true for lower-functioning individuals.  And it incorrectly assumes that all guardians, including family members, act as dictators and don’t solicit or take into account their wards’ wishes.

Salzman also appears to identify the wrong causes of the isolation she refers to.  She argues that persons with developmental disabilities feel isolation due to guardianship and to living in large institutions. But we have found that the isolation felt by these individuals is not due to guardianship or living in institutions, but actually to living in community-based settings.

There is often little real community integration in these privatized settings despite their being characterized as community-based. Unfortunately, there are usually few if any other choices available to guardians among residential settings because so many congregate-care settings have now been shut down and because states like Massachusetts fail to inform people waiting for residential placements of either congregate-care or state-operated sites that remain.

The lack of congregate-care options combined with the privatization of residential care appear to have actually increased the isolation of both individuals with disabilities and their families. Family-supported networking organizations have disappeared as developmental centers have been shut down.  People with developmental disabilities are often trapped in group homes in which they are rarely taken out into the community.

In Connecticut, families have lately protested  the planned privatization of state-run group homes, with one family filing a lawsuit to preserve their current facilities.  There are huge amounts of money to be made in privatization, in particular, and families seem to get in the way of that process.

As we noted, SDM may well work for high-functioning people, but we believe there would nevertheless have to be strict controls on it. We think that means, at the least, that corporate providers should not be permitted on the SDM “network” teams.

For lower-functioning people, our concern is that even if family members enter into SDM voluntarily, they may not realize that their decision-making power may well be diluted under those circumstances. Why would a family member want to agree to be just one vote on a team when it comes to the care of a son, daughter, brother, or sister?  We are all for limited guardianships when appropriate, but that team approach doesn’t make sense to us unless it is clear that the family member has the final say in all decisions.

Rather than eliminating guardianship, it would seem we should continue to work to improve the system, particularly for incapacitated individuals and their families. One reform is to ensure that attorneys are appointed to represent all individuals under guardianship if it is requested.  Another is for the Legislature to finally pass Stan McDonald’s bill that presumes family members to be the most suitable guardians for their loved ones.

Howie Carr Remains Super Duper Racist

Media Matters has tracked Howie Carr’s racism towards immigrants, Muslims and Native Americans, Now he’s attacking President Obama for being black:

HOWIE CARR (HOST): That’s the worst thing about this administration. They’ve taken — it took 230 years to make this the greatest country, the greatest society in human history, and they are trying to unravel it and destroy it for — I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. What is — this country handed everything to Barack Obama. He didn’t have to work for anything. Just because of the color of his skin he was given everything. And he still hates the country.

Click here to listen to the audio. So let’s break it down, according to Carr:

  • Hundreds of years of slavery
  • 100 years of legalized, institutionalized discrimination
  • ???

Makes total sense!

Despite this regular, overt racism, Carr remains employed by both WRKO radio and the Boston Herald.

Environmentalists Are Awful Voters

Nathaniel Stinnett launched the Environmental Voter Project ( in 2015 with the mission of “identifying inactive environmentalists and then turning them into consistent activists and voters.” He spoke on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 at MIT and at Tufts on Thursday, September 22 on the topic of “Modern Environmental Politics: big data, behavioral science, and getting environmentalists to vote.”

You can see his Tufts presentation at

The Environmental Voter Project concentrates on one thing and one thing only, increasing environmental turnout . Their polling data shows that environmentalists are “awful voters”: they don’t vote. They estimate 15.78 million environmentalists did not vote in the 2014 midterms; 10.12 million did not vote in 2012; and in MA 277,250 environmentalists did not vote in 2014. You can see their MA environmental non-voters by zip code map at

Stinnett believes “We have a silent environmental majority right now” if, If, IF we can get those environmental voters to the polls. Using predictive modeling surveys, asking a few questions to 40,000 respondents, the Environmental Voter Project can find hidden patterns and correlations that identify environmental voters with 89% accuracy. Their research shows
homes without a landline,
women 55-59,
men 25-29,
people in a new home with no kids,
basketball fans,
are all demographic groups with higher environmental concerns (in descending order) than the general population.

Nearly 90% of the population say their biggest issues are, according to the polling, national security, the economy and jobs, and immigration. Only about 4% of us list the environment or climate change as our primary issue. [Now if only someone would link national security, the economy and jobs, and immigration to a positive green future, those figures might change. We could start with Solar IS Civil Defense and work from there. Make the environmental payoff a side-benefit of more security, a better economy with more and better jobs, and part of the solution for international migration and there’s at least the possibility of a conversation.]
The Environmental Voter Project focuses on getting people to the polls not candidates or issues but they are using social pressure, peer pressure to get likely voters to vote. An example of this is in the message “Who you vote for is private/whether you vote is public record” which was shown to increase turnout by 14.1%. This is similar to what Opower ( and other energy management companies have found when they included a “how you compare to your neighbors” energy graphic on the utility bill. “Everybody’s voting” is much better than “Voting is important,” a message which can actually be shown to depress turnout.

Roughly 220 million people in the USA are eligible to vote, 180 million are registered, and 129 million voted in 2012 Presidential election. The Environmental Voter Project wants to identify likely environmental voters and get them to the polls. If you sign their pledge, they will remind you of all your local elections:

The Tufts Institute of the Environment Lunch and Learn Series
has an archive of 44 hour-long talks on a wide variety of environmental topics

It is a great resource and they are always adding more.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Part of the purpose of blogs like this is to pick up on stories the mainstream media isn’t covering. I would like to highlight two developments in peacemaking abroad over the week that have been given short shrift in light of the American presidential race.

Peace in Our Hemisphere

The first is a welcome development. The government of Colombia negotiated a comprehensive peace treaty with the FARC rebels ending over six decades of war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

This war was fueled by resentments the largely rural and landless peoples in the hinterlands had regarding their representation. Like the IRA, the FARC started out with somewhat noble aims and became corrupted as wanton terror, drug trafficking, kidnappings, torture, rape, and criminality became the means of choice for their revolution. Fortunately, more mature leaders on both sides are literally turning bullets into ballots with the symbolic use of a bullet pen by President Santos and Commander Timochenko to end the war.

Under this unique arrangement, the UN will oversee the disarmament zones in areas of FARC control. The FARC will be given a set number of seats in Congress and will be recognized as a regular political party. A committee similar to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee will go through the litany of crimes committed by FARC against the Colombian people to achieve closure. The entire people of Colombia will vote up or down on the proposal in an Oct 2nd plebiscite widely expected to pass.

These two leaders are the clear frontrunners for the Nobel Peace Prize and deservedly so. It also ends the last civil war fought in the Western Hemisphere. Our entire hemisphere is now at peace, and with Cuba as the lone exception, it’s entirely democratic as well. Some say progress takes a long time, but in my short lifetime, a region ruled by dictators and wracked by civil war is now entirely peaceful and nearly entirely democratic.

Remembering a Middle East Peacemaker

The story, is sadly, radically different in the Middle East. Shimon Peres, long time statesmen in Israel and one of the last of the liberal Zionists from the Founding Era, has died. With him goes one of the last mainstream advocates for a two state solution to this seemingly endless conflict.

Peres was an idealistic visionary who was perceived as too aloof for political life. Although he had served in nearly every government in some capacity, sometimes in coalition with bitter rivals, he was never elected Prime Minister in his own right. He was a lead negotiator for the Oslo Peace Accords and someone widely respected by peaceniks and Likudniks within Israel, as well as his counterparts on the Palestinian side. His most recent public endeavor was an informal conference with President Abbas and the Holy Father two summers ago in Rome.

As one former American President and possible Mid East Peace Envoy who knew him well remarked:

“Israel has lost a leader who championed its security, prosperity, and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on earth. He was a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation not conflict, economic and social empowerment not anger and frustration”

Bill Clinton’s words ring true.


For those concerned about the current civil unrest taking place across America whether it manifests itself as athletes kneeling during our National Anthem or Black Lives Matter protests against unprovoked police shootings of unarmed black men, or our Native American Indians demonstrating to protect their sacred tribal ancestral land and water against greedy corporate encroachment in violation of Treaties guaranteeing their sovereignty as Nations.

It might do us all well to pause and reflect on the wisdom of someone who knew something about the power of nonviolent civil disobedience, the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said : ” Peace is not the absence of tension.  It’s the presence of justice.”

Fred  Rich  LaRiccia

North Dakota employs bearcats and armored vehicles against unarmed water protectors 9/28/16

THIS is worth your attention – and some of us are still watching!  See below

Militarized Police Arrest 21 Water Protectors in DAPL Work Stoppage

September 28, 2016

15 miles south of Mandan, North Dakota – On the heels of yesterday’s action which halted Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction, once again, today, hundreds of water protectors caravaned to a DAPL work site to pray to that the Dakota Access Pipeline is stopped.

The caravan was followed by two helicopters and a circling airplane. Workers had left the area moments before the protectors arrived. After praying for nearly an hour, everyone gathered to caravan to a second site.

As the water protectors left the site, a crop-duster airplane appeared as sprayed the area with an unknown substance as people hurried to their vehicles.

The water protectors went to a second site to pray. They prayed for 40 minutes and as they left the site, a large amount of police vehicles arrived and blockaded the only exit on the public road leading to the DAPL work site.

Dozens of militarized police with shotguns appeared with a Bearcat armored vehicle as well as an MRAP. The Bearcat was also brought out by police at yesterday’s action, but the MRAP, a larger tan colored armored vehicle, had not been seen at any DAPL sites until today.

After blockading the exit points, police vehicles sped across open fields towards the crowd of protectors as they left the site. Several arrests were made, as police brandished loaded shotguns, and assault rifles. The latest information we gathered is that there were up to 21 arrests.

Unicorn Riot was live when police arrived at the scene of the work stoppage, below is a highlight of when the Bearcat arrived until the end of the stream as well as the full stream:



We will provide more details about today’s #NoDAPL direct action and arrests as they become available.

Summary Video of todays events:

Water Protectors Pray at Construction Site, Met With Police Armor and Automatic Weapons

New Hampshire's ballot selfie ban is unconstitutional. Ours probably is too.

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (whose decisions apply in both NH and MA) declared that a New Hampshire statute criminalizing “ballot selfies” – that is, taking a photograph of a marked ballot and then sharing the image – is unconstitutional, because it violates voters’ freedom of speech.  I haven’t seen any comment yet from Bill Galvin, Maura Healey, or other MA folk with a role in enforcing our own, archaic law that also seems to prohibit such things, but I can’t see how our law could survive when New Hampshire’s failed.

The New Hampshire statute reads:

No voter shall allow his or her ballot to be seen by any person with the intention of letting it be known how he or she is about to vote or how he or she has voted except as provided in RSA 659:20. This prohibition shall include taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means.

NH officials defended this law on the borderline absurd ground that it stands as a bulwark against the nefarious practice of selling votes … which, as far as anyone can tell, has literally not happened in NH in decades.  The opinion contains this marvelous passage:

Secretary Gardner has admitted that New Hampshire has not received any complaints of vote buying or voter intimidation since at least 1976, nor has he pointed to any such incidents since the nineteenth century.

Needless to say, the Court was not impressed by the state’s attempted justification for this restriction on speech.  The Court also held that even if the state’s reason for the law were legitimate, the means chosen – criminalizing all ballot selfies – was unacceptably overinclusive: “the State has not demonstrated that other state and federal laws prohibiting vote corruption are not already adequate to the justifications it has identified.”  It therefore held the New Hampshire law unconstitutional.

All of this brings us to an old Massachusetts law which reads:

Whoever, at a primary, caucus or election, … allows the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law, … shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than six months or by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.

There’s no indication as to why this provision is still in effect, though one assumes that the justification for it would be similar to that put forth unsuccessfully by New Hampshire.  But unless Massachusetts has some drastically different reason for outlawing ballot selfies, it’s hard to see why our ban shouldn’t be just as unconstitutional as New Hampshire’s.

October BMG Stammtisch

The Saloon

Come, enjoy some libations, and talk politics. Our now-regular monthly BMG Stammtisch will happen, as usual, the first Wednesday of the month — 5-October — at The Saloon in Davis Square at 7p.

Hope to see you there!

Yankee Doodle Town

Big day in Billerica yesterday. Governor Baker dropped in for a ceremony designating it “Yankee Doodle Town.” (The backstory: in 1775 a young Billerica patriot seeking to join the Minutemen was captured by the British while he was trying to buy a rifle. After tarring and feathering him, the Redcoats mockingly called him “Yankee Doodle.” And then, as so often happens, cultural appropriation transformed a term of derision into one of honor.)

The Yankee Doodle Town law (Chapter 240 of the Acts of 2016) was only one of many designations among this year’s enactments. Other laws bestowed honorifics in memory of various beloved local community members upon: a bridge, a courtroom, a basketball court and a traffic island. The third Monday in April is now to be celebrated as First Responder Day.  (In some years in the future First Responder Day will fall during the second-to-the-last full week in that month, aka Licensed Practical Nurse Week.)

And designations like these are just one of the categories of laws the Legislature passes that apply to only one town, or to only one public space, or to only one job title or one person. We have lots of laws exempting a single position (like the deputy police chief in the town of Haverhill) from the Civil Service laws, or establishing a sick leave bank for one state employee, or granting an additional liquor license to one municipality.

It occurred to me recently to wonder whether one-shot laws like these are making up a greater share of the Legislature’s statutory output than used to be the case. It seems I was right: in the 1997-1998 session, about one law in ten fell into this category, but in the two most recent completed sessions, that ratio has increased to closer to one in three. During that time, the Legislature gave special designations to 67 public spaces, or days (or weeks, or months), established 200 sick leave banks for state employees, exempted 34 positions from Civil Service laws, and granted additional liquor licenses to municipalities on 104 occasions.

This development, while nowhere close to the most worrisome legislative trend on Beacon Hill (disclosure: I confess to tuning in to the as-yet uncompleted contest between “Roadrunner” and “Dream On” for the title of Official State Rock Song), may be a symptom of another, more ominous tendency among legislators to adopt leadership’s position on issues of real significance and then to content themselves with hyperlocal items lacking in wide application or great import. If I were among the 50 or so legislators whose positions on gambling underwent 180′s after pro-casino Bob DeLeo succeeded anti-casino Sal DiMasi as Speaker of the House, for example, I might think it wise to keep my head down on the big stuff and and deliver some constituent services instead, even if they are services of the merely symbolic kind.

After the 2015-2016 session ends, I’ll check the numbers again to see if this trend is continuing. In the meantime, don’t forget to commemorate Eddie Eagle Gun Safety week, which starts on Saturday.

Every sniff from the debate

Seems like something may be going on. (Hat tip, NYT).

As long as CEOs earn as much as 2000 workers some of the time, and 200+ workers all of the time income inequality will be the rule

Plus, the “tribe” of CEOs really does feel entitled, and like a kind of royalty who are better than you and I [I am assuming most readers here are not CEOs] Anyone who works full time [more than 35 hours a week] should be able to support themselves with what they earn.  No CEO should earn more than 50 times what their average worker earns.  Back in 1950 that was the norm.  Today many CEOs are paid 2000 times what their workers earn, and the average CEO at least 200+ what their workers earn.  As long as this is the case “things” will not improve.  Plus, not everyone will thrive in a “knowledge economy” – some folks are better working with their hands, because we humans come in different models.  See


For life to get better for the vast majority of Americans – and citizens anywhere – those who work full time must be able to support themselves or receive social services to make up the difference.  Health insurance should be treated as a normal governmental function that everyone receives, infrastructure investment should be in the governments top ten, not wars of colonialization.  What is spent on endless war in a day would fix up the nation’s schools.

IMG Survey Research - Charter Push Poll or Legit?

This evening I got a robocall which stated they were IMG Reasearch and were conducting a poll. Seems the number has been reported by others as a nuance. I am not familiar with the company.

The call started out fairly normal, asking questions about approval for Walsh, Baker, then Question 1 and then Question 2. But then the questions started to push some messaging on Charter Schools, there were about 5 questions in a row about charters. Then the last question felt like a push poll question trying to push the idea about more funding for schools with more charters. The reason I took it for a push poll, is that this ad came out today, it was almost exactly how the question was framed.

View on YouTube

So does anyone know if these guys are legit, or are charters starting a push poll.

Elizabeth Warren Voting NO on Question 2

Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a statement that she is going to vote NO on Question 2:

“I will be voting no on Question 2. Many charter schools in Massachusetts are producing extraordinary results for our students, and we should celebrate the hard work of those teachers and spread what’s working to other schools. But after hearing more from both sides, I am very concerned about what this specific proposal means for hundreds of thousands of children across our Commonwealth, especially those living in districts with tight budgets where every dime matters. Education is about creating opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind. I hope that the Legislature, the teachers, and the parents can come together to find ways to make sure all kids in Massachusetts get a first-rate education without pitting groups against each other.”

I am glad she made that statement, all schools including charters, pilot schools and other non-traditional schools should have a role in better educating our children. Charlie Baker and his charter frat house he created in his education cabal need to work with the legislature and create a plan that helps all children.

Obamacare Sucks

Thank goodness I don’t have “the government” between me and my doctor!

That’s the standard reply in opposition to government run health care, so the Democrats came up with a solution.   We’ll let the private market run health care.  Even better, we’ll force our citizens to buy health insurance from this private market.


I have a suspicious skin lesion that my primary doctor examined today. He wants me to get it biopsied ASAP and set up an appointment tomorrow morning at the dermatologist he prefers.

Well guess what! Some accountant at my health insurance company does not approve of that dermatologist and wants me to go to their preferred guy but the earliest he can see me is FOUR WEEKS.

Fortunately, my doctor was able to pull strings (and spend HIS valuable time) to get me into the other practice tomorrow, despite the fact that HE would rather I went elsewhere.

Obamacare sucks. It’s better than what we had before, but that does not mean that it does not suck.


And there is this:


Back in March, my wife was experiencing tightness in her chest and other symptoms of a heart trouble.  My wife is an R.N.  She decided to call our general practitioner.  Women are more likely than men to dismiss chest pain that signals heart problems and to delay seeking medical help, even though heart disease is a leading cause of death for both women and men, according to a Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) expert.    

The office visit went well and our doctor was sure that my wife’s health was okay at that moment, but her symptoms made him suspicious and to be on the safe side, he recommenced that she be fitted with a heart monitor for 24 hours.   That would require a visit to our local hospital.   Our only question was “Is this covered by her insurance?” We received several answers ranging from “We think so” to “We won’t know until the billing is done and the codes are entered”.  Finally, we did reach someone who assured us that this was covered, 100%, no co-pays, no deductibles.

The results were negative.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that since March, we’ve been getting bills from the hospital.  My wife has spent hours on the phone with the hospital, her insurer, and others, trying to resolve this.  Several times she received verbal assurance that this was covered, only to look in the mailbox later that week to see another bill from the hospital.

In August, we received notice that unless this was paid, it would be transferred to a collection agency.

More hours on the phone, more stress.

Finally, yesterday (late September), we received a call from the hospital telling us that the insurance company paid the bill and there is no money due, no collection agencies, no damaged credit ratings.

Obamacare sucks. It’s better than what we had before, but that does not mean that it does not suck.


Expanding it, as our nominee wants to do, is not the answer.   You can make the Titanic as big as you want, it’s still poorly designed and not suited to protect its passengers or crew.


We need Medicare for all, or the Public Option, or something.

Wonk Post: Post-Debate Electoral Map

We probably won’t know the settled trend for a week or so, at which time we’ll see what, if any States shift as a result of the first debate.  That said, here is the dynamic as of today.

From the George Washington University School of Politics:


Higher taxes on the most fortunate, a kinder safety net for the least fortunate. That's the answer.

Wealth disparity, poverty, we’d all like to see less of each in the USA.  Some say that education is the key.  Some say that bringing back manufacturing jobs is the answer.  The truth is that neither is the solution because neither one is at the root of widening wealth disparity and growing poverty in America.

If a lack of education was  behind the widening wealth gap in the USA in the period of 1970-today, then we would expect that this gap was most pronounced between the 30% of us with college degrees and the 70% without.  In other words, the massive wealth gap would have a clear line dividing us as “college educated and well off” versus “no college and poor”. This is not the case.  The gap did not widen along the 30/70 line.  It widened between the 99/1 line and even more pronounced between the 99.99/.01 line.  So sorry, Hillary and sorry Bernie, free college is not the answer to this.
Well then, the answer must be manufacturing!   Bring those jobs back!
Okay, let’s do that.Carlos is a college-educated, manufacturing engineer who makes $1,500 a month working the production line at a GE plant in Mexico. He loves GE and sees a future there. His salary works out to about $75 a day.Yeah, Mexico, where one man is worth $23.5 Billion, another man makes $75 a day. 

How does bringing this job to Athol or Sommerville or my town in Massachusetts change things?  I am a college educated senior laborer, been at it for over 40 years and at present, I make about $75 a day.



Yeah, USA, USA, USA….where one man is worth $87.4 Billion and another man makes $75 a day.



Of course, 40 years ago, this same guy made about $175 a day.  Back then, I was stocking the shelves of assembly workers.  Today, I am stacking the shelves of a food market.  To be honest, both jobs require the same amount of physical skill and mental aptitude and quite frankly, the new job requires more skills when it comes to customer service.

Ah, but “Globalization!” you say, as if all of this was some natural phenomenon that humans played not part in.   In short, tell me this:  If “globalization” is the reason that both Carlos and I make $75 a day, why is it that Friedrich in Denmark (or Pierre in France or Canada )  has health insurance but I do not?  Why is it that “globalization” only hurts American labor and only rewards the American rich?  Globalization is a “heads I win, tails you lose” to the American laborer.

It’s not manufacturing or education that will change things, it’s a new morality, a new deal for Americans that will change things.  It’s higher taxes on the most fortunate and a kinder safety net for the least fortunate that will change things.

Higher taxes on the most fortunate, a kinder safety net for the least fortunate.  Anything short of this is just avoiding the truth.







I am tired of paying Donald Trump's taxes - aren't you?

am tired of paying Donald Trumps taxes. Aren’t you?

Clinton destroys Trump

She was prepared and coherent. He wasn’t. The turning point of the debate was his incoherent answer to the birther question. He seemed to lose energy and become increasingly dysfunctional after that, just repeating alt-right talking points and, toward the end, reduced to echoing whatever the last complicated word Secretary Clinton had just used. Thoughts?

Twitterstorming the debate

Debate Predictions Open Thread

I’ll start:

Hillary wins.