Showing posts with label Massachusetts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Massachusetts. Show all posts

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Mitt's Nightmare: Ron Paul supporters take over State Conventions

Ignored by the mainstream media and cheated out of wins in the Republican primaries and caucuses, Ron Paul supporters are getting their revenge.

We reported in February that Romney supporters in Iowa announced Romney’s supposed win prematurely, and later had to admit that Santorum had won.

Then, a week later, we broke the story as to how Maine Republican leaders announced that Romney had won that state’s caucuses without waiting for Paul’s strongholds in Waldo and Washington County were counted.

Now, in both states, Paul supporters have taken control of the state parties. Even more embarrassing for Mitt, they have taken over his home state Massachusetts delegation as well.

At the Massachusetts’ state convention less than half of Romney’s 27 chosen delegates were formally elected to attend the national convention. Paul supporters won all of those slots instead. That means that while the state’s delegates are technically committed to vote for Romney, they also choose the state party chairman, vote their conscience on the official platform and procedural votes, and can support whoever they want for VP nominee.

In Maine yesterday, Brent Tweed, a York County state committee member and Paul supporter, defeated party-favorite (and one-time Gubernatorial candidate) Charles Cragin for the post of state party chairman by a vote of 1,118 – 1,114. Paul supporters also successfully elected Ron Morrell as the state party secretary.

Paul backers in Alaska were elected as party chairman and co-chairman. Paul supporters are now a majority in the Iowa GOP’s State Central Committee, and he’s set to claim a majority of the state’s delegates despite finishing third in the caucuses. They took over the Louisiana caucuses, carrying four out of six congressional districts with a tie in a fifth. That means 74 percent of the state’s convention delegates will be Paul backers. In Minnesota, Paul won 20 of 24 delegates allocated at congressional district conventions, and he’s expected to take more at the statewide convention. Paul supporters teamed up with backers of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in Colorado to get 13 delegates.

The candidate has also picked up small delegate gains in states where Romney won big — for example, five delegates in Pennsylvania and four in Rhode Island. And in the upcoming convention, it’s a good bet that Paul will capture that delegation as well.

Mitt may have done well getting the entrenched establishment pronounce their support,  securing donations from Wall Street buddies, and purchasing votes and media adulation....but he is having significant trouble with his ground game, and may find that the national convention in Tampa may be more of a headache than he expected.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Massachusetts Colleges Push Back Against Service Dogs, Violate ADA

During last year’s Christmas season, we took a shopping trip to Fifth Avenue in New York City. Somewhere on the upper floors of the high-quality Bergdorf Goodman store, I rounded a corner and came “face to face” with a beautiful Portuguese Water Dog. Being a dog lover, I know I broke out in a smile from ear to ear as I dropped to my knees and greeted him.

This incident marks a growing trend I have noticed whereby dogs are being accepted more and more readily into the normal, daily human environment, and it is a trend I strongly support and enjoy. In the past, there was an assumption of “No Dogs Allowed!” in many business places, often justified by scientifically unsupportable fears about hygiene. And yet, when I walked into Home Depot and then a supermarket few years ago with a rejected baby lamb wrapped in a towel, no one uttered a negative word (after all, little lambs are cute…) A growing number of nursing homes and hospitals have recognized the therapeutic nature of animals, and have permitted access to pets by residents.

Much of the credit for this growing acceptance goes to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which was enacted in an effort to remove obstacles and improve access to services, offices, and business places that the non-disabled take for granted. Under the law, places of public accommodation – including office buildings, college campuses, supermarkets, apartment buildings, and just about any place that opens its doors to the public to conduct business – must have modified practices and procedures to permit the use of service animals by disabled people.

A year ago, the definition of “service animal” was revised in ADA regulations specifically to “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.” Years ago, many people equated a service dog only with a “Seeing Eye Dog” for the blind, but the definitions of “disability“ – and thus the roles that service dogs perform – have greatly expanded. Service dogs” include dogs trained to provide support for a wide variety of disabilities, including sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, mental and physical disabilities. These dogs ‘sense’ and alert their owners of seizure onsets, open doors, pull wheelchairs, pick up and carry items, and prevent loss of emotional control. Unfortunately, one of the most confusing areas of the law is that the ADA does not protect an animal whose primary role is to provide “emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship,” or those animals normally classified as ‘therapy dogs.’ The difference is blurry: therapy dogs are also often trained to perform tasks that parallel “service dogs,” which are covered by the law.

A business owner who questions whether or not a dog is a service animal or “just” a pet is permitted under the ADA to ask only two questions:

“ Is the animal required because of a disability?”


“What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”

If it is obvious to a casual observer what the animal is trained to do, even these two questions should not be asked. They are intimidating intrusions into the life of a disabled person who is seeking to gain access, and overcome obstacles, and they should not be made to defend or fight for their rights in each business.

In addition, businesses are prohibited from asking certain questions. They may not inquire about the nature or extent of the person’s disability. And they may not require proof of the service animal’s documentation, certification or training.

Nonetheless, a growing number of college campuses – particularly in Massachusetts – are doing just that. Similar to the Milton Hershey School’s (Pennsylvania) claim that they can refuse admittance to an HIV positive student (who is protected by the ADA) because ‘schools are different,’ a number of community colleges in Massachusetts have begun to cobble together ‘service dog policies’ that go far beyond what the law permits: they request that visitors “register” their animals with numerous offices; they request proof of certification and training; they request written confirmation of the animals vaccinations – none of which can be required by any place of public accommodation under the ADA.

In at least one college, a draft version of a policy which had been proposed by the administration actually required that the disabled answer inquiries posed not only by faculty and staff, but by fellow students as well: a full-scale invasion of privacy of the disabled using a service animal. This is precsiely the intimidation that the ADA was meant to curtail.

In addition, in spite of the constant use of rhetoric proclaiming that public colleges ‘provide access to higher education,’ these policies attempt to comply with only the absolute minimal ADA requirements by refusing to cover even trained, certified therapy dogs in their access policies.

These colleges - who so often see themselves as bastions of progressive thought - would do better to join the growing societal consensus that dogs in a ‘human’ environment provide more benefits than danger, and that the movement towards increasing access to public facilities for all people requires a less reactionary approach.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

DOMA, Prop 8 and Appeals: Outcomes and Next Steps

Yesterday's holding by a Federal District Court Judge that DOMA is Unconstitutional is a big step...but not the end. This was a decision issued by a federal judge on a federal law, but only in a "local" (Massachusetts) case. The question remains of how we turn a Federal District Court holding into a national holding. It would be very unusual for the entire federal government to just roll over and say, "OK, we gotta change now, Congress was wrong on this" as a result of a single District Court holding.

In the best of all worlds, the decision would need to be appealed to (and affirmed by) the Appellate level (and maybe moved on certiorari to the Supreme Court) strictly on the 10th Amendement aspect of the holding, to create a national holding. The 10th Amendment specifically grants to the States the right to legislate in those areas not given Federal jurisdiction, and this was the legal basis for yesterday's decision: States, not the Federal Government, are the entities with authority to define Marriage. DOMA attempted to allow the Federal Government to ignore State Marriage laws that recognize same-sex unions.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, another decision looms. California's Proposition 8 overturned same-sex marriage in that state, and the Proposition has been challenged on other federal grounds: this one, however, is not based on "State's Rights," but on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. The specific holding of that trial - which could be released any day - may very well provide a second Federal ruling requiring clarification or appeal...which could accelerate the process.

I expect that, if appealed, the two cases would be joined at the Supreme Court.

Back to yesterday's DOMA ruling: This puts Obama in a very difficult position. On one hand, he could decide to support the Massachusetts District Court decision nationwide; this would be highly unusual, maybe even unprecedented. District Court level Judges issue rulings all the time, often contradictory with each other and almost never with national application overnight.

On the other hand, Obama's Justice Department could Appeal the Massachusetts ruling, thus angering the less-than-critically-thinking gay blogosphere that understands that it *won* at the District Court level.

Whatever Obama decides to do, he must articulate his reasoning WELL both publicly and "within" party and GLBT leadership so its clear what is going on.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Massachusetts Highway Bureaucrat is Clueless...

My award for the most ridiculous, petty, ivory-tower Fiat pronounced by a Bureaucrat goes to Louisa Paiewonsky, the Massachusetts Highway Commissioner, who has determined that signs, flags, ribbons, and sheets welcoming troops home must all come down from highway overpasses.

The welcome-home signs have sprung up all over Massachusetts (as well as other parts of the country.) Home-made and heartfelt, they are a visible reminder of the Human connection between troops serving halfway around the world and the communities and families that anxiously await their return.

But, according to Ed Abell of the MHD, "Homemade signs and other items posted on overpasses pose a potential safety hazard to vehicles on roadways..."

Yeah, well deer crossing the road, branches blowing off of trees, and distracting commerical signs 'pose a potential safety hazard.' But Perfection and Utopia are not options. "Safety" is NOT the issue - everyone agrees that highways should be safe. The question is, "How much safer will the highway be by taking this action...and at what cost?"

MHD has yet to offer a *single* instance of a yellow ribbon, or a flag, or a sign flying off the overpass and causing an accident. By contrast, many instances of deer crosing the road and falling/blowing tree branches *have* caused accidents. By MHDs reasoning, the trees along the Highways should be leveled - because after all, they are a 'potential' safety hazard. (I'm sure that would go over well with the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs....)

And its not surprising that these welcome home banners have stayed put - after all, the people placing them there have a vested interest in making sure they are readable, secure, and can withstand the elements. They *want* the signs to remain and be visible. No one pours their heart and soul into one of these signs and then does a half-ass job affixing it to a fence on an overpass in a haphazard manner.

The degree of bureaucratic presumption - and cluelessness - is best displayed by the MHD's own suggestions for 'alternatives.' They have offered to place Generic, state-approved signs in Rest Areas.

MHD specifically opposes 'home-made' signs - suggesting, with incredible arrogance, that the State can somehow do a better job of making a "Welcome Home, Daddy!' sign than a soldiers' family. It also completely escapes them that the purpose of the sign is NOT simply to convey Formal Information ("Have Your Passports Ready, Please take your LapTop out of its Case, and Welcome Home Soldiers...') Rather, it is a human expression of hope and thanks and wishfulness and prayer and longing...something no Bureaucracy can even begin to express.

You would think that with the crazy placement of a traffic light on Rte 2 around a blind bend near Fitchburg, multiple lane crossings at the merger of Storrow Drive Eastbound and Interstate 93, A Pandoras Box of forks on Soldiers Field Road, and a minefield of jersey barriers on any given block in Worcester, that Mass Highway would have something real to worry about.

Guess they'd rather pick a battle they think they can win.....