David Warsh: The two NATOs

“Disastrous,” was how the Financial Times yesterday described Donald Trump’s visit to Europe. Were you to extend Trump’s influence indefinitely into the future, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the bedrock of U.S. foreign policy for the past 70 years, would be finished.

If, on the other hand, Trump is repudiated in 2020 – my guess is that he will be – the future of NATO depends on what happens in the congressional elections of 2018 and 2020, and the presidential elections of 2020 and 2024.

That means the discussion of NATO can go forward, at least tentatively, pretty much without reference to Trump’s boorish behavior in Belgium and Britain last week. That future has relatively little to do with whether member nations will spend more of their gross domestic product on defense.

There are, in fact, two NATOs.  The first was cobbled together in a hurry in 1948 in response to a Soviet-sponsored coup in Czechoslovakia and the blockade of Berlin.  The second emerged, starting in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The first was shepherded into existence by Harry Truman.  The second was created by Bill Clinton.

When the Berlin Wall was dismantled, in 1989, the reunification of Germany, a key U.S. foreign policy objective in the years since the end of World War II, was suddenly within reach.  First, however, the question of the possibility of a unified Germany’s status within NATO had to be resolved. In exchange for assurances by the administration of George H. W. Bush that NATO would stop there, “would not move an inch” farther east, Russian leaders assented and the armed forces of the former Soviet satellite switched sides.

President Bill Clinton didn’t feel bound by any such promise.. Clinton had visited the Soviet Union in 1970 as a graduate student and had formed his own ideas.  He named as Deputy Secretary of State his roommate from those days, former Time Magazine Moscow correspondent Strobe Talbott, and quietly prepared to offer membership to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which by then were actively seeking it.

As Clinton’s intention became more widely known, senior figures in his administration, including Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and his deputy William Perry, warned privately of a “train wreck” if NATO enlargement proceeded.  Foreign policy intellectuals of both parties, led by Cold War strategist George Kennan, and including Senate Armed Services Committee head Sam Nunn, arms control negotiator Paul Nitze, and Senator Bill Bradley, went public with their opposition in 1996, on the eve of the formal vote.

Clinton and Talbott were undeterred. After the re-election of Russian president Boris Yeltsin, planning began to offer NATO membership to seven more former Soviet satellites: the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, plus Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia (now separated from the Czech Republic), Macedonia and Slovenia.

George W. Bush replaced Clinton in 2001 and, after 9/11, proceeded with the expansion that the Clinton team had planned, while also invading Afghanistan and Iraq. After the Bush administration quietly supported the “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, and, the Russians believed, withheld key information about separatist terrorist activity out of sympathy with Chechen independence aims, Russian president Vladimir Putin protested strongly against American’s “unipolar” ambitions in a speech to an international security meeting in Munich in 2007. The next year, Russia briefly went to war against Georgia to make his point.

The Obama administration carried on with NATO enlargement after 2009, overseeing the admission of Croatia and Albania that the Bush administration had planned, adding Montenegro to the list, and bruiting the possibility of membership for Georgia and Ukraine. In 2012 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Putin’s reelection to a third term as president, enraging him. In 2013, her successor, John Kerry, supported a second “color revolution” in Ukraine. Those events then led in March 2014 to the Russian occupation of Crimea.

This second version of NATO is often lumped together with the first. Enough time has passed that veterans of the Cold War are aged; the policy-makers who would have succeeded them had George H.  W. Bush been re-elected in 1992 have been mostly on the sidelines for twenty-five years. Architects of the second NATO dominate the mainstream news. Thus talk show host Rachel Maddow last week introduced Victoria Nuland as “one of the most experienced American diplomats walking the earth.”

In fact Nuland began her governmental career by as Strobe Talbott’s State Department chief of staff for several years. She became Vice President Dick Cheney’s adviser in the Iraq War, served for four years as NATO ambassador, before becoming State Department spokesperson for Hillary Clinton and, eventually, Assistant Secretary for Europeans and Eurasian Affairs. It was Nuland who, while passing out cookies to demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan Square, was taped by Russian operatives declaiming to the American ambassador “F- the EU's” wishes with respect to the resolution of the crisis. Today she is chief executive of the Center for a New American Security.

Will Trump figure in the future of this narrative?  Not much, as long as he isn’t re-elected to a second term. With respect to the future of NATO, there is no alternative to waiting to see how his presidency turns out – and re-examining the history of U.S.-Russia relationswhile we do. Sonorous stories about the Berlin blockade, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union are no substitute for well-informed debate about the second NATO.

David Warsh, a longtime columnist and an economic historian, is proprietor of economicprincipals.com, where this first ran. He's based in Somerville, Mass.

           

Rejoice in the river

  Mist upstream of the Bissell Bridge over the Connecticut between Windsor and South Windsor, Conn .

Mist upstream of the Bissell Bridge over the Connecticut between Windsor and South Windsor, Conn.

"{If} the river is as varied and beautiful as the Connecticut, you can merely look at -- in the long light of a sultry summer evening, under an angry winter sky, in the high color of autumn or the pastel shades of spring -- and derive that sense of peace and uplift of the spirit that most men find in living water.''

-- The late Roger Tory Peterson, Connecticut-based naturalistornithologist, artist and educator, whose work is considered one of the founding inspirations for the 20th-Century environmental movement.

This quote is from The Connecticut River, by Evan Hill (1972)

Trump move against colleges' affirmative action on race is good news for affluent white students

  Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth is one of the four Ivy League universities in New England. The others are Harvard, Yale and Brown.

Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth is one of the four Ivy League universities in New England. The others are Harvard, Yale and Brown.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

That the Trump administration has decided that the federal government will no longer encourage colleges and universities to use race in the admissions process, reversing Obama-era guidance meant to promote diversity, will have the least effect on the nation’s richest, most prestigious and thus hard-to-get-into colleges and universities, of which New England has a lot. They get so many applicants and have so much financial aid to give out that they can easily create very diverse classes.   The schools want to show such diversity in part because it reinforces their position as national and even international institutions. They want their students’ faces to look like the, well, world.

Using race as one criterion among others also has socio-economic-diversity effects– e.g., African-American and Hispanic students tend to come from poorer families than white and many Asian families.

Meanwhile, the Feds are investigating Harvard for alleged racial bias after complaints from some Asian-Americans that the admissions process is skewed against them.

Harvard has argued that it “does not discriminate against applicants from any group, including Asian-Americans’’ and notes that this group currently makes up a hefty 22.2 percent of students.  But some rejected applicants say that’s too low considering their high marks and other indicators of future success.

We should leave  to the colleges what sort of mix they  need and want.  Barring provable racial bias,  the Feds shouldn’t try to manage colleges’ decision-making.

Trump’s policy, which will appeal to his mostly white base, will mean that poorer schools (public and private) will be less likely to offer admission to minorities. They’ll become whiter even as the Ivy League  and other highly selective colleges maintain their affirmative-action programs. Poorer, less prestigious schools could try to maintain racial diversity indirectly, especially by providing more financial aid on the basis of a family’s finances – again, African-Americans and Hispanics tend to be considerably poorer than whites – but in a time of fiscal austerity for many colleges and universities and a shrinking number of overall applications because of demographic change, don’t bet on it.

The Trump policy will tend to favor affluent whites and widen the class divide.

 

 

 

 

Llewellyn King: The case for nuclear and against coal

  This is Seabrook Unit 1, a nuclear-power plant in Seabrook, N.H., that’s the largest individual electricity-generating unit on the  New England  power grid. It is the second-largest nuclear plant in New England, after the two-unit  Millstone Nuclear Power Plant , in  Waterford, Conn., on Long Island Sound.

This is Seabrook Unit 1, a nuclear-power plant in Seabrook, N.H., that’s the largest individual electricity-generating unit on the New England power grid. It is the second-largest nuclear plant in New England, after the two-unit Millstone Nuclear Power Plant, in  Waterford, Conn., on Long Island Sound.

Coal and nuclear power have been yoked together for decades. Nuclear power and nuclear science have both paid the price for this double harness. Now it looks as though nuclear will pay again.

The electric utilities in the 1950s and 1960s were faced with runaway demand for electricity as air conditioning was deployed and new home construction boomed. This was before acid rain became a problem and when global warming was just a minor scientific theory.

As the utilities struggled to deal with electricity demand that was doubling every 10 years, nuclear appeared as the brave new fuel of the future. They loved nuclear, the government loved nuclear and the public was happy with it.

So, utilities went hellbent into nuclear: In all, starting in the 1950s, utilities built over well over 100 reactors for electricity production.

Then opposition to nuclear began to appear, at first in the late 1960s and then with intensity through the 1970s.

Horror stories were easy to invent and hard to counter. Being anti-nuclear was good for the protest business. The environmental movement — to its shame — joined the anti-nuclear cavalcade. Indeed, in the 1970s and 1980s, environmentalists were still hard against nuclear. They advocated advanced coal combustion, particularly a form of coal boiler known as “circulating fluidized bed.”

For their part, the utilities defended nuclear, but never at a cost to coal. They were worried about their investments in coal. They would not, for example, sing the safety, reliability and, as it was then, the cost-effectiveness of nuclear over coal.

They said they were for both. “Both of the above” meant that the nuclear advocates in the industry could not run serious comparisons of nuclear with coal.

Now the Trump administration is seeking that history repeat itself. To fulfill the president’s campaign promises to the coal industry and to try to save coal-mining jobs, the administration is invoking national security and “resilience” to interfere in the electric markets and save coal and nuclear plants, which the utility industry is closing or will close.

The predicament of these plants is economic; for coal, it is economic and environmental.

Both forms of electric generation are undermined by cheap natural gas, cheap wind power and cheap solar power. In a market that favors the cheapest electricity at the time of dispatch, measured to the second, these plants do not cut it financially. The social value or otherwise is not calculated.

The fight between coal and nuclear, and more realistically between nuclear and natural gas, misses the true virtue of nuclear: It is a scientific cornucopia.

Nuclear science is reshaping medicine, enabling space travel and peering at the very nature of being. In 100 years, nuclear science will be flowering in ways undreamed of today. A healthy nuclear power industry grows the nuclear science world, brings in talent.

Even without the science argument, there is a case for saving the nuclear plants: They produce about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity without hint of carbon effluent, which gas cannot say.

A fair market allows for externalities beyond the cost of generation and dispatch at that second. Clean air is a social value, scientific progress is a social value, and predicting the life of a plant (maybe 80 years) is a social value.

Natural gas, the great market disrupter of today, does not meet these criteria.

As electricity is unique, the national lifeblood, it deserves to be treated as such. That cries out for nuclear to be considered for a lifeline in today’s brutal market.

If it embraces a long-term solution through carbon capture and use, then coal may hold a place in the future. But the industry is cool to this solution. Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, denounced it to me.

The administration has put money into a new nuclear through incentives and subsidies for small modular reactors even while linking established nuclear to the sick man of energy, coal.

Electricity is a social value as well as a traded commodity. The administration is working against itself with its coal strategy.

On Twitter: @llewellynking2
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. He is based in Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

 

Tough customers

  The Salem waterfront in the 1770s.

The Salem waterfront in the 1770s.

"Remember, seaman, Salem fisherman
Once hung their nimble fleets on the Great Banks.
Where was it that New England bred the men
who quartered the Leviathan's fat flanks
and fought the British Lion to his knees?”

-- From "Salem,'' by Robert Lowell

 Salem in 1883, by which time it had become a major industrial town as well as port.   -- Mason, Boston Public Library

Salem in 1883, by which time it had become a major industrial town as well as port.

-- Mason, Boston Public Library

 

 

Jordan Rau: Thin and erratic staffing levels at many nursing homes

 

 

From Kaiser Health News

 

ITHACA, N.Y. — Most nursing homes had fewer nurses and caretaking staff than they had reported to the government, according to new federal data, bolstering the long-held suspicions of many families that staffing levels were often inadequate.

The records for the first time reveal frequent and significant fluctuations in day-to-day staffing, with particularly large shortfalls on weekends. On the worst-staffed days at an average facility, the new data show, on-duty personnel cared for nearly twice as many residents as they did when the staffing roster was fullest.

The data, analyzed by Kaiser Health News, come from daily payroll records Medicare only recently began gathering and publishing from more than 14,000 nursing homes, as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Medicare previously had been rating each facility’s staffing levels based on the homes’ own unverified reports, making it possible to game the system.

The payroll records provide the strongest evidence that, over the past decade, the government’s five-star rating system for nursing homes often exaggerated staffing levels and rarely identified the periods of thin staffing that were common. Medicare is now relying on the new data to evaluate staffing, but the revamped star ratings still mask the erratic levels of people working from day to day.

At the Beechtree Center for Rehabilitation & Nursing here, Jay Vandemark, 47, who had a stroke last year, said he often roams the halls looking for an aide not already swamped with work when he needs help putting on his shirt.

Especially on weekends, he said, “it’s almost like a ghost town.”

Nearly 1.4 million people are cared for in skilled nursing facilities in the United States. When nursing homes are short-staffed, nurses and aides scramble to deliver meals, ferry bed-bound residents to the bathroom and answer calls for pain medication. Essential medical tasks such as repositioning a patient to avert bedsores can be overlooked when workers are overburdened, sometimes leading to avoidable hospitalizations.

“Volatility means there are gaps in care,” said David Stevenson, an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in Nashville.  “It’s not like the day-to-day life of nursing home residents and their needs vary substantially on a weekend and a weekday. They need to get dressed, to bathe and to eat every single day.”

Dr. David Gifford, a senior vice president at the American Health Care Association, a nursing home trade group, disagreed, saying there are legitimate reasons staffing varies. On weekends, for instance, there are fewer activities for residents and more family members around, he said.

“While staffing is important, what really matters is what the overall outcomes are,” he said.

While Medicare does not set a minimum resident-to-staff ratio, it does require the presence of a registered nurse for eight hours a day and a licensed nurse at all times.

The payroll records show that even facilities that Medicare rated positively for staffing levels on its Nursing Home Compare website, including Beechtree, were short nurses and aides on some days. On its best-staffed days, Beechtree had one aide for every eight residents, while on its lowest-staffed days the ratio was 1-to-18. Nursing levels also varied.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees nursing home inspections, said in a statement that it “is concerned and taking steps to address fluctuations in staffing levels” that have emerged from the new data. This month, it said it would lower ratings for nursing homes that had gone seven or more days without a registered nurse.

Beechtree’s payroll records showed similar staffing levels to those it had reported before. David Camerota, chief operating officer of Upstate Services Group, the for-profit chain that owns Beechtree, said in a statement that the facility has enough nurses and aides to properly care for its 120 residents. But, he said, like other nursing homes, Beechtree is in “a constant battle” to recruit and retain employees even as it has increased pay to be more competitive.

Camerota wrote that weekend staffing is a special challenge as employees are guaranteed every other weekend off. “This impacts our ability to have as many staff as we would really like to have,” he wrote.

New Rating Method Is Still Flawed

In April, the government started using daily payroll reports to calculate average staffing ratings, replacing the old method, which relied on homes to report staffing for the two weeks before an inspection. The homes sometimes anticipated when an inspection would happen and could staff up before it.

The new records show that on at least one day during the last three months of 2017 — the most recent period for which data were available — a quarter of facilities reported no registered nurses at work.

Medicare discouraged comparison of staffing under the two methods and said no one should expect them to “exactly match.” The agency said the methods measure different time periods and have different criteria for how to record hours that nurses worked. The nursing home industry also objected, with Gifford saying it was like comparing Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures.

But several prominent researchers said the contrast was not only fair but also warranted, since Medicare is using the new data for the same purpose as the old: to rate nursing homes on its website. “It’s a worthwhile comparison,” said David Grabowski, a professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School.

Payroll records at Beechtree show that on its best-staffed days, it had one aide for every eight residents, but the ratio was 1-to-18 at the lowest staffing level. 

Of the more than 14,000 nursing homes submitting payroll records, 7 in 10 had lower staffing using the new method, with a 12 percent average decrease, the data show. And as numerous studies have found, homes with lower staffing tended to have more health code violations — another crucial measure of quality.

Even with more reliable data, Medicare’s five-star rating system still has shortcomings. Medicare still assigns stars by comparing a home to other facilities, essentially grading on a curve. As a result, many homes have kept their rating even though their payroll records showed lower staffing than before. Also, Medicare did not rate more than 1,000 facilities, either because of data anomalies or because they were too new to have a staffing history.

There is no consensus on optimal staffing levels. Medicare has rebuffed requests to set specific minimums, declaring in 2016 that it preferred that facilities “make thoughtful, informed staffing plans” based on the needs of residents.

Still, since 2014, health inspectors have cited 1 in 8 nursing homes for having too few nurses, federal records show.

With nurse assistants earning an average of $13.23 an hour in 2017, nursing homes compete for workers not only with better-paying employers like hospitals, but also with retailers. Understaffing leads predictably to higher turnover.

“They get burned out and they quit,” said Adam Chandler, whose mother lived at Beechtree until her death earlier this year. “It’s been constant turmoil, and it never ends.”

Medicare’s payroll records for the nursing homes showed that there were, on average, 11 percent fewer nurses providing direct care on weekends and 8 percent fewer aides. Staffing levels fluctuated substantially during the week as well, when an aide at a typical home might have to care for as few as nine residents or as many as 14.

A Family Council Forms

Beechtree actually gets its best Medicare rating in the category of staffing, with four stars. (Its inspection citations and the frequency of declines in residents’ health dragged its overall star rating down to two of five.)

To Stan Hugo, a retired math teacher whose wife, Donna, 80, lives at Beechtree, staffing levels have long seemed inadequate. In 2017, he and a handful of other residents and family members became so dissatisfied that they formed a council to scrutinize the home’s operation. Medicare requires nursing home administrators to listen to such councils’ grievances and recommendations.

Sandy Ferreira, who makes health-care decisions for Effie Hamilton, a blind resident, said Hamilton broke her arm falling out of bed and has been hospitalized for dehydration and septic shock.

“Almost every problem we’ve had on the floor is one that could have been alleviated with enough and well-trained staff,” Ferreira said.

Beechtree declined to discuss individual residents but said it had investigated these complaints and did not find inadequate staffing on those days. Camerota also said that Medicare does not count assistants it hires to handle the simplest duties like making beds.

In recent months, Camerota said, Beechtree “has made major strides in listening to and addressing concerns related to staffing at the facility.”

Hugo agreed that Beechtree has increased daytime staffing during the week under the prodding of his council. On nights and weekends, he said, it still remained too low.

His wife has Alzheimer’s, uses a wheelchair and no longer talks. She enjoys music, and Hugo placed earphones on her head so she could listen to her favorite singers as he spoon-fed her lunch in the dining room on a recent Sunday.

As he does each day he visits, he counted each nursing assistant he saw tending residents, took a photograph of the official staffing log in the lobby and compared it to what he had observed. While he fed his wife, he noted two aides for the 40 residents on the floor — half what Medicare says is average at Beechtree.

“Weekends are terrible,” he said. While he’s regularly there overseeing his wife’s care, he wondered: “What about all these other residents? They don’t have people who come in.”

 

 

Still a fixer-upper

  "Entropy #1, North Adams, Massachusetts'' (digital photo, pigment print), by Stephen Wicks, in the show "New England Collective IX,'' at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, Aug. 1-Sept. 2.

"Entropy #1, North Adams, Massachusetts'' (digital photo, pigment print), by Stephen Wicks, in the show "New England Collective IX,'' at Galatea Fine Art, Boston, Aug. 1-Sept. 2.

North Adams is an old factory town whose current biggest claim to fame is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, said to be the biggest contemporary-art museum in the United States. It's in the former Sprague Electric plant.  While North Adams is far from a rich town -- indeed has poverty and considerable grittiness --it's next to the rich community of Williamstown, with elite Williams College (which has a well-known museum) and the famed Clark Art Institute, not to mention the  house of the late great songwriter Cole Porter. And the beautiful Berkshire Hills are all around.

  North Adams in 1905, during its industrial heyday.

North Adams in 1905, during its industrial heyday.

Freedom and imprisonment

  "Can't See the Forest for the Trees'' (oil on canvas), by Heidi L. Johnson, in her show "Bird Brained: New Work by Heidi L. Johnson,'' at the Jane Deering Gallery, in Gloucester, Mass. (the former U.S,. fishing capital and now best known as an arts destination and summer resort -- and Boston suburb.)    The gallery says that Johnson has always used "abundance and color to create lush, beautiful paintings, but her recent works add the elements of flight and freedom to the mix. Her vibrant paintings emulate Dutch still-life paintings, using birds to represent the dichotomy of freedom and constriction. As she says, 'The birds in these paintings are a bit confused. As they look at their reflection in the membrane of a glass dome, they see their brethren frozen from flight forever.' The simultaneous freedom and imprisonment of the birds contradicts and compliments Johnson's experience with a world that tries to over-analyze and pigeon hole her work, yet her colorful, frenzied paintings defy categorization.''

"Can't See the Forest for the Trees'' (oil on canvas), by Heidi L. Johnson, in her show "Bird Brained: New Work by Heidi L. Johnson,'' at the Jane Deering Gallery, in Gloucester, Mass. (the former U.S,. fishing capital and now best known as an arts destination and summer resort -- and Boston suburb.)

The gallery says that Johnson has always used "abundance and color to create lush, beautiful paintings, but her recent works add the elements of flight and freedom to the mix. Her vibrant paintings emulate Dutch still-life paintings, using birds to represent the dichotomy of freedom and constriction. As she says, 'The birds in these paintings are a bit confused. As they look at their reflection in the membrane of a glass dome, they see their brethren frozen from flight forever.' The simultaneous freedom and imprisonment of the birds contradicts and compliments Johnson's experience with a world that tries to over-analyze and pigeon hole her work, yet her colorful, frenzied paintings defy categorization.''

  "Man at the Wheel'' memorial to fishermen in Gloucester, on Cape Ann.

"Man at the Wheel'' memorial to fishermen in Gloucester, on Cape Ann.

Chris Powell: Liberals extol precedent when it serves them

  U.S. Supreme Court Building.

U.S. Supreme Court Building.



Liberals throughout the country applauded three years ago when, proclaiming that the U.S. Constitution requires states to confer same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed 44 years of precedent in constitutional law as well as practice going back to the adoption of the Constitution, in 1789. 

Liberals in Connecticut also applauded three years ago when the state Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional, thereby reversing the state and federal constitutions themselves, which always have explicitly authorized capital punishment and still do. 

But a few weeks ago liberals criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for reversing its 41-year-old decision holding that government agencies could require their employees to pay dues to unions they didn't want to join. The precedent should have stood, liberals said, because it  was precedent and much policy had grown up around it. 

And now that President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court is suspected of inviting a challenge to the abortion rights declared in the court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, liberals -- including Connecticut Democratic Senators.Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy -- again are freaking out about possible disrespect for precedent. But Roe itself also reversed precedent going back to 1789, since prior to Roe abortion law always had been left to the states. 

Of course when it comes to the Supreme Court these days respect for precedent doesn't really concern liberals or conservatives. Their concerns are only policy and power. If precedent gives them policy and power, they support it. If it doesn't, they oppose it. 

With the  court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren Court in the 1950s and '60s liberals began elevating their policy desires to constitutional requirements, since constitutionalizing an issue could push democracy out of the way when it became inconvenient. Now that they are in power nationally, conservatives are playing this game too. 

As a result the country is being led to believe that the Constitution is just anyone's wish list, requiring whatever one likes and prohibiting whatever one dislikes, led to believe that there is no distinction between what the Constitution says and what policy should be. 

But contrary to the suggestion of Connecticut's senators, Gov. Dannel Malloy, and other leading Democrats, there is no danger that the U.S. Supreme Court will criminalize abortion. For the court has no such power. Even if the court reverses Roe, abortion policy would just return to the states and Congress. 

Connecticut generally favors legalizing abortion, at least prior to fetal viability, and so state law permitting abortion likely would be preserved. But state law on abortion goes against  public opinion by letting minors obtain abortions without the consent of their parents or guardians, even as this policy has concealed the rape of minors. Ironically, while waiving parental consent for minors getting abortions, Connecticut law requires it for minors getting tattoos. 

Startling as it might seem in Connecticut, opinion in some states is hostile to abortion and opinion nationally would prohibit late-term abortion, which the Roe decision itself indicated states could do. Further, many legal scholars who support legal abortion acknowledge that, as a matter of law, Roe was mostly judicial contrivance. 

But Democrats seem to think that they can win on this issue only by generating enough hysteria to prevent any honest discussion that recognizes distinctions. 


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.
 

Those vague 'common-law marriages'

  No need to buy these.

No need to buy these.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

The story of Kevin Gaugler, of East Providence, and his former-live in girlfriend, Angela Luis, reported in a July 1 Providence Journal story by Katie Mulvaney headlined “A Cautionary Tale: Long relationship is not a marriage,’’ is a cautionary tale about legal obligations and the lack thereof and the rootlessness of American life.

The five-year-long Gaugler-Luis case (the lawyers must have prospered!) involves Ms. Luis’s assertion that she and Mr. Gaugler were in a common-law marriage.  But the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in May that his 23-year relationship with Ms. Luis was not a common-law marriage. As  Ms. Mulvaney  noted: “Rhode Island is one of several states that leave it to the courts to determine whether a long-term relationship constitutes a common-law marriage.’’

Ms. Luis had big economic reasons for wanting the relationship to be declared a (kind of) marriage. It would have given her half the marital assets after they split up, including half the proceeds from selling a house that he had bought as well as his retirement accounts and insurance policy.

Complicating things were that he had helped raise Ms. Luis’s son as his own.

There’s enough disorder in American life. “Common law marriages’’ should be abolished and what we used to call “illegitimacy’’ (which is closely correlated with poverty) discouraged.  The states ought to encourage individuals to understand and take on the legal obligations of regular marriage, especially regarding children and property.

 

Jim Hightower: The Times is wrong: Progressives' Our Revolution is winning

Before major news organizations pronounce someone dead, they ought to check the person’s pulse.

Take, for example, a recent New York Times screed prematurely pronouncing the Our Revolution political organization — launched only two years ago by veterans of the presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders  — a moribund failure. “The group has repeatedly picked fights with the Democratic establishment in primary elections, losing nearly every time,” the paper barked.

But, lo and behold, the very next day, Our Revolution’s endorsed candidate for governor in the Maryland primary, Ben Jealous, handily defeated the party establishment’s favorite. And in New York, a 28-year-old Our Revolution activist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, shocked the national party’s corporate hierarchy with her resounding grassroots victory over Rep. Joe Crowley, the fourth-highest-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House.

These big scores followed the group’s earlier outsider victories over moneyed insiders in the Georgia and Texas gubernatorial primaries.

In fact, the insurgent group, which The Times ridiculed as “failing,” has been winning dozens of upset victories in down-ballot primary elections from coast to coast, electing 45 percent of its candidates. That’s a huge number is grassroots politics.

Just as significant, these Sanders-inspired progressive rebels have now defined the Democratic Party’s agenda. They’ve enlivened both its supporters and many of its previously lethargic office holders by backing such populist (and popular) proposals as Medicare For All and debt-free higher education.

Apparently, it’s hard to see America’s grassroots reality through the dusty and distant office windows of The New York Times. So before the editors and writers do another hit piece on the people and candidates of Our Revolution, maybe they could come out of their journalistic cubicles.

Jim Hightower, an OtherWords columnist, is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Our Revolution Board. 

 

Drip art

  "Drops of Rain' (detail, platinum print), by Clarence H. White, in the show "Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925,'' at the Portland Museum of Art.     The exhibition is the first in over  40  years to examine the work of    White    (1871⎻1925), a gifted photographer and founding member of the Photo⎻Secession. It aims to examine the scope of his artistic career, from its beginnings, in  Newark, Ohio, to its end, in Mexico

"Drops of Rain' (detail, platinum print), by Clarence H. White, in the show "Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925,'' at the Portland Museum of Art. 

The exhibition is the first in over  40  years to examine the work of White (1871⎻1925), a gifted photographer and founding member of the Photo⎻Secession. It aims to examine the scope of his artistic career, from its beginnings, in  Newark, Ohio, to its end, in Mexico

Weapon of choice

Fourbats.jpg

'I'm from Boston, and in Boston, you are born with a baseball bat in your hand. And actually, most of the bats in Massachusetts are used off the field instead of on the field, and we all had baseball bats in our cars in high school.''

-- Eli Roth, director,  producer, writer and actor. He's actually from  gentle Newton, not tough Boston.

Olivia Alperstein: Right-wing ideologue Kavanaugh threatens much more than Roe v. Wade

 

Via OtherWords.org

President  Trump has nominated  federal Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Why should you care? Because everything from reproductive rights to voting, education, and health care is now at stake.

Kavanaugh, a judicial ideologue committed to pulling the court further to the right, may also reverse decades of key rulings that uphold the constitutional right to personal liberty and autonomy.

All Americans say they value personal freedom, especially the right to make our own decisions about our private lives. Every day, we take that liberty for granted, from exercising our right to free speech to lighting up sparklers on the Fourth of July. Cherishing our liberties is as American as apple pie — but our right to exercise those liberties could be undone.

Nowhere is the issue more critical than on reproductive rights. Kavanaugh’s nomination will mean a major battle to undo key protections in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that firmly established the right to access safe, legal abortion.

Striking down Roe would immediately outlaw abortion in states where pre-Roe anti-abortion laws are technically still on the books. As many as 22 states could be impacted over the course of two years.

That’s bad enough. But it’s also critical to remember the reasoning behind the historic 7-2 ruling: that people have a constitutional right to privacy.

Specifically, the Supreme Court upheld and enshrined the protections included in the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, holding that those protections applied to decisions a person might make about their own body.

Ultimately, that decision informed several other critical rulings, including cases that forbade bans on same-sex romantic relationships and affirmed the right to same-sex marriage. According to Roe, the right to make your own choices is one of the founding principles that govern this country.

If Roe is overturned, that could set off a chain reaction that upends this critical foundation behind other landmark cases — both those that came before and those that came after.

The constitutional right to privacy informed Loving v. Virginia, which struck down criminalization of interracial marriage, and Griswold v. Connecticut, which enabled the legalization of contraceptives. The constitutional right to privacy also played a key role in Carpenter v. United States, a recent ruling that prohibits warrantless collection of cellphone users’ data without reasonable cause.

Judicial precedent set by the Supreme Court has built a solid foundation for interpretation of the law — but all it takes is a stacked court to have that foundation tumble like a house of cards.

Supreme Court appointments are for life. The rulings these justices make affect the entire judicial system for decades, if not centuries, to come. Each year, dozens of critical cases come before the court that deeply impact people’s rights and daily lives.

While outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy wasn’t perfect, he was committed to upholding the personal right to privacy as enshrined in U.S. law. Kavanaugh, however, could roll back our hard-won freedoms — and those of future generations.

The Senate will be voting soon on whether to confirm Kavanaugh. A lot more than just a vacant bench hangs in the balance.

Olivia Alperstein is the deputy director of communications and policy at the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center. 

 

 

On 'Golden Pond'

  "Squam Series: Side Porch" (oil on canvas), by Frances Hamilton, at the Patricia Ladd Carega Gallery, Center Sandwich, N.H.       

"Squam Series: Side Porch" (oil on canvas), by Frances Hamilton, at the Patricia Ladd Carega Gallery, Center Sandwich, N.H.

 

 

  Overlooking Squam Lake.

Overlooking Squam Lake.

Beautiful Squam Lake, long a much-loved summer vacation spot, is in the Lakes Region of central New Hampshire and just northwest of much larger Lake Winnipesaukee.

Native Americans called Squam Keeseenunknipee, which meant "the goose lake in the highlands". The white settlers that followed shortened it to "Casumpa," "Kusumpy" and/or "Kesumpe" around 1780. In the early 19th Century, the lake was given another Abenaki name, Asquam, which means "water". Finally, in the early 20th Century, Asquam was shortened to its present version.

The 1981 film On Golden Pond, with Jane Fonda, her father, Henry Fonda, and Katherine Hepburn, was filmed in Center Harbor, on Squam.  Two tour-boat services are available on the lake, both based in Holderness (where there’s a prep school of the same name) --  Experience Squam, a private charter company, and the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center. Both show  movie locations and items of natural and other significance.

Loons, eagles and great blue herons frequent Squam Lake.

Boston Children's Hospital again ranked first

This is from the New England Council (newenglandcouncil.com)

"Boston Children’s Hospital was recently ranked first for the fifth straight year in the U.S. News and Report’s 12th annual list of best children’s hospitals. The rankings are based on metrics like patient outcomes, patient safety, number of fellowship programs, nurse-to-patient ratio, and availability of specialists and advanced services.

Boston Children’s Hospital ranked first in three of the ten specialties: neurology/neurosurgery, nephrology, and orthopedics. Additionally, the hospital placed second in cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, and gastroenterology (GI) and GI surgery.

Boston Children’s President and CEO Sandra L. Fenwick said, “In a time when health care is ever-changing, achieving the number one ranking reminds all of us at Boston Children’s what inspires us: it’s about caring for children, digging deeper research, and finding new ways to make our care even better.”

 

Offshore wind farm doesn't threaten squid fishery

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  Squid transformed into calamari .

Squid transformed into calamari.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

'Southern New England squid fishermen worry that Vineyard Wind’s plan to put up as many as 100 wind turbines in 250 square miles south of Martha’s Vineyard will hurt their business. It almost certainly will not. For one thing, most sea creatures thrive near wind turbines, whose supports act as reefs. The Europeans, which have massive offshore and coastal wind facilities, have shown how commercial fishing and such clean energy can co-exist.

And Vineyard Wind has contorted itself to make the big project easy for fishermen to live with, such as by promising to space the turbines eighth-tenths of a mile apart and to create special transit lanes for fishing boats.

With any project in public space as big as this, constituencies will sometimes engage in fierce debate. And ancient industries tend not to like change.

Fishing is an important sector in southeastern New England’s economy. But far more important than fishing for a single species is for the region to gain much more energy independence. It’s dangerous for New England to depend so much on fossil fuel from outside the region. And burning that fossil fuel causes massive pollution, global warming, and acidification of the oceans. The last is already killing some life in the ocean.