Syrian refugees coming to Worcester

From Worcester volunteers gearing up for arrival of refugees. They’re being helped by local churches, Ascentria Social Services (formerly Lutheran Social Services), and the state’s Office of Refugees and Immigrants.

You can well imagine that these folks are going to need a lot of help:

That’s an issue well understood at St. George Orthodox Cathedral on Anna Street where the Rev. Milad Selim rallies the community to donate basic food and supplies to recent refugees from the Middle East.

“They have food stamps, and that’s great, but how are we helping them with other things?” said Rev. Selim, whose own family fled their home in Iraq when IS advanced. “That includes teaching them the language, teaching them to drive, teaching them the laws of the land … there are clusters of families literally being dumped in these areas. It’s fine that they are, but what are we doing to help them stand on their feet quickly?”

Ms. Brennan agreed that many refugees – particularly those coming from war-torn regions and who have seen or experienced trauma – need further services than the organization can typically provide.

To help address this, the organization has received a $170,722 grant to work with local social service and health providers to develop a new, collaborative program for helping refugees resettle in Worcester.

“Right now through a combination of funding services, we’re able to provide intense case management for a few months but after that, clients are kind of on their own with the hope that if they need help, they’ll come back or have support,” Ms. Brennan said. She identified increased opportunities for English classes and mental-health services as two major areas to improve.

We’re talking about a few hundred people (275 next year), compared to a total displaced population of a stunning 12 million (within Syria and now outside). There has been movement on the issue – however slow and halting. Gov. Baker has entertained the idea of accepting refugees, with federal help, and Sens. Lindsay Graham and Pat Leahy are pushing for $1 billion in resettlement aid for refugees, showing that there are still pockets of decency in the US Senate.

Here’s hoping that we can provide a place of peace and mercy for these souls.

Joke Revue: Rubio offers staffers for adoption

So incredible, you couldn’t make it up. The Rubio campaign (“Marco Rubio, a New American Store”), plumbing fresh depths of sorrow (although, in fairness, diet pill salesman Scott Brown’s increasingly rapid descent this week gives him a run for his money) is offering its staffers for adoption at $250 per day (The store, incidentally, offers “FREE Shipping On All Orders:” the mind boggles)


Ben Carson: Pompeii Victims Should Have Outrun Lava

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Citizens of the Roman town of Pompeii who were victims of Mt. Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 A.D. could have survived if they had “just outrun the lava,” the neurosurgeon Ben Carson told Fox News on Wednesday.

“Most of the plaster casts we have of Pompeii victims show them basically just lying down and whatnot,” he said. “If I had been in Pompeii and I heard Mt. Vesuvius erupting, you can bet I would have made a run for it.” …

Carson said he would spend the next week on the campaign trail dispensing helpful tips about how people can defeat earthquakes, tsunamis, and giant asteroids.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Anthropologists have released more information about a recently discovered extinct human species. We’re finding out all this really cool stuff. They say the species lived in trees, had brains the size of an orange, and plans to vote for Donald Trump for president.” –Conan O’Brien

“Former President Bill Clinton said yesterday that Donald Trump’s campaign has a certain ‘macho appeal.’ And then Trump said, ‘Whoever this Macho is, I want him deported.’” –Seth Meyers

“A lot of people think that when the Republican field clears it will come down to Jeb Bush and Donald Trump. Kind of like the race between the tortoise and the bad hair.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Dr. Ben Carson hosted a Facebook Q&A last night, and said the loss of gun rights is more devastating than seeing people die from gun violence. So if Ben Carson is your doctor, definitely get a second opinion.” –Seth Meyers

“In an interview with Al Sharpton, Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump just says whatever he needs in order to ‘stir up the passions of people.’ Then Al Sharpton was like, ‘You know you’re talking to ME, right?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie said this weekend that he would rather jump off the Brooklyn Bridge than be in Congress. And just to be safe, Mayor de Blasio issued a tsunami warning for Lower Manhattan.” –Seth Meyers

“Ben Carson talks like he forgot he had a press conference and just took a load of Benadryl. This guy is a retired surgeon. Apparently, instead of giving his patients anesthesia, he just talked to them until they passed out.” –James Corden

“There’s another breakthrough moment in campaign fundraising. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s website already features some great merchandise like a Marco Polo shirt, or a water bottle that says ‘Water great nation.’ The fundraising breakthrough on the Rubio website is that for $250 you can adopt a Rubio staffer for a day. That really pulls at the heart strings. I wasn’t going to donate to Marco Rubio but I can’t let his staff who are evidently orphans go unpurchased.” –Stephen Colbert

Dinosaurs could have prevented their extinction had they been armed

The extraordinary thing about Ben Carson is that, for all of his soft-spoken kindly doctorishness, he is actually worse than Donald Trump on just about everything. - promoted by david

Given Ben Carson’s latest excellent addition to all the enlightened statements being made by GOP presidential candidates, I’m sure he would agree that the onerous gun control laws that existed at the time hastened the extinction of the dinosaurs.  They clearly had no way to defend themselves.

Penta: "The height of insult ... to her femininity"

As has been previously noted here at BMG, there is an election for Mayor of Medford next month.  The office has been occupied by Michael McGlynn for two decades, but he’s retiring, so it’s a wide-open contest between former Medford City Councillor and budget director Stephanie Muccini-Burke, and current Medford City Councillor Bob Penta.

Penta is a controversial guy, to say the least.  He was nearly incoherent at a forum on Obamacare a few years back, but he sure was mad based on something he read on the internet.  (Seriously.  Read the post.)  And now it emerges that he has expressed some attitudes that are, well … antiquated is perhaps a good word for it.  Give a listen to Councillor Penta at a City Council meeting from January of 2001.

Now, maybe there’s a perfectly good explanation for this.  Maybe this excerpt was taken way out of context, or something, so that there’s actually a perfectly sensible reason that a grown man holding elective office would, in the 21st century, refer to a building contractor who happens to be female as “a lady contractor – excuse me, a lady, woman-owned contractor,” who is “trying to make her stamp in a man’s world,” and declare that her bidding on a particular job (or something – the context isn’t entirely clear) is “the height of insult to her profession and to her femininity,” because she had the temerity to “alleg[e] that she knows more than a man … in this world of building and construction.”

If so, I’d sure like to know what it is.


Boehner's ability to hold together a deeply fractured party was impressive: corporate shills, meet religious fanatics ... the two strongest wings of the contemporary GOP. - promoted by Bob_Neer

WOW !  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy just said he is not the right man to be the face of the Republican Party.  He  announced at the Conference meeting that he didn’t believe he could get 218 votes needed when the vote is taken on October 29.

The Republican Party as we know it is in meltdown.  Stay tuned.

Fred Rich LaRiccia

A viable approach to gun control

Strikes me as a perfectly sensible approach. - promoted by david

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, D-NY, introduced an approach to gun control that works — mandatory liability insurance (emphasis mine):

House Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) has introduced a bill that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance.

The Firearm Risk Protection Act, unveiled Friday, would require gun buyers to have liability insurance coverage before being allowed to purchase a weapon, and would impose a fine of $10,000 if an owner is found not to have it. Service members and law enforcement officers, however, would be exempt from the requirement.

While I disagree with the exemption for service members and law enforcement officers, I think this approach is workable and addresses virtually all Second Amendment concerns that so often block effective gun control legislation. Even Forbes magazine (not exactly a liberal left-wing rag) likes it.

Massachusetts once again leads the way on this in a 2013 bill filed by David Linksky:

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts gun owners would be required to purchase liability insurance in case their firearm was ever used to injure someone under a bill being filed at the Statehouse.

Not surprisingly, the insurance industry and the NRA oppose this — sounds like it’s a good idea.

This approach uses market mechanisms to influence the behavior of gun owners (and sellers). For example, parents of killers who effectively act as accessories to murder by providing them with weapons would face severe financial obstacles. Gun owners like the Tennessee family whose unlocked shotgun was used by their 11 year old to kill an 8 year old neighbor would face similarly severe penalties in addition to whatever criminal charges they face (the concept of charging the child instead of his father strikes me as utterly insane, but then again we’re talking about Tennessee).

We use mandatory liability insurance to manage malpractice, reckless driving, building maintenance, and a host of other ills that plague society. This approach will work for gun violence.

I hope that this gets more attention from our Democratic candidates as our election season develops.

Clinton opposes TPP

An interesting development. - promoted by david

Hillary Clinton today announced her opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership deal citing concerns about Asian currency manipulation, pharmaceutical price gauging, labor and environmental issues.

This leaves Joe Biden as the only potential Democratic candidate to support TPP.

Republicans Bush and Rubio support TPP, Trump and Carson are opposed and Fiorina is undecided.

Clinton will explain her position tonight in a PBS interview.

This race is getting very interesting very fast.  Fasten your seatbelts everyone.  We’re all in for a bumpy ride.  Damn, but I do love politics !

Fred Rich LaRiccia

Joke revue addendum: Scott Brown still thinks he's relevant

So, this is pretty funny.

Brown’s comments come as he looks to position himself as a potential kingmaker in the New Hampshire GOP presidential primary, inviting all Republican candidates to his home as part of his “No B.S. BBQ” series.

Brown said he speaks to the candidates regularly — including Donald Trump just last week, saying he told the front-runner to “act more presidential” and focus on policy.

“We’re doing it with every candidate who wants to come,” Brown said. In addition to Fiorina, he said he expects visits from Jeb Bush, Trump, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Ben Carson, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. “I’ll make an endorsement probably mid-January. Anyone who comes here will be under consideration. Anyone who doesn’t, won’t.”

Pardon me while I LMAO.  Brown, a kingmaker in New Hampshire?  Could someone remind me which New Hampshire election he won?  Of course, Brown already knows all about kings and queens … maybe this time, instead of meeting them, he’ll make them!

Anyway, talk of a possible Brown endorsement comes just as another endorsement he already made – this one for one of those ridiculous diet products – has landed him in potential legal trouble.

A nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown broke the law by failing to disclose his financial interest in AdvoCare, a nutritional product he endorsed on Facebook and in other communications to his supporters.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, alleges that Brown failed to disclose that he is, or was, a distributor for AdvoCare, and that his son-in-law is currently a distributor of the product.


Expert calls out conflicts of interest in MA testing plans

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who moved here from Ohio to take over the state’s top education job, chairs the governing board that developed the PARCC exams being considered by the state board of education as a replacement for our existing MCAS student achievement tests. He is also charged with recommending which of the two tests Massachusetts should use in the future. Even the partisan Pioneer Institute, which normally puts positions of the Republican administration ahead of reason, says he should recuse himself from the process. As Dave McGeney of the Peabody School Committee separately observed to WBUR:

“You cannot be the person whose job it is to determine in all honesty and objectivity whether or not the PARCC test is going to be a better test than the MCAS test and be the person who is the chairman of the board of governors of that entity,” McGeney said in a recent interview. “It defies logic. It flies in the face of reason.…”

Now, in an open letter to the Governor published in the WaPo, Massachusetts education expert Rebecca Steinitz (parent, writer, editor and literacy consultant in Massachusetts urban high schools, previously an English professor and director of the freshman writing program at Ohio Wesleyan University, and director of the high school teacher education program at Lesley University’s School of Education, and a friend of mine) alleges “shenanigans” in the ongoing evaluation process. In a piece headlined “Massachusetts officials are ‘recklessly pushing’ the state into the PARCC test” (and “Something Is Rotten In The State Of Massachusetts” when the same piece appeared on WBUR) she wrote “Even as the DESE drags its heels on releasing actual data, it appears to have become a propaganda arm for PARCC.” Steinitz cited slanted presentations, delays in releasing information, and opaque management. She concluded:

In fact, the Commonwealth is not united behind the PARCC tests. While 54 percent of Massachusetts districts chose to adopt PARCC this year, their choice seems as likely to have been dictated by anxiety about the future and by the promise of “no risk” as by enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Teachers Association opposes PARCC, and State Rep. Marjorie Decker and 53 co-sponsors have filed a bill that would place a three-year moratorium on adopting the PARCC test.

So, Gov. Baker, is this really the moment to hand over our children’s futures to the PARCC Consortium, which has already proven itself to be less than transparent and accountable to the people of Massachusetts? It’s also worth noting that membership in the consortium has fallen from 24 states and the District of Columbia to 11 states and the District, of which as few as six may actually administer the PARCC next year. Is this really the engine we want driving our education system?

Chester is trying to walk with his shoelaces tied together by refusing to recuse himself from what is obviously a conflict of interest. That’s not allowed in school. A time out, like that suggested by Decker and her colleagues, is a sensible response from the grown-ups.

American war crimes continue

It appears that the top US general in Afghanistan may agree with Tom. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Multiple sources like this report that, for the first time, Pentagon officials admit that the attack was made by US aircraft in response to a request from US special forces (emphasis mine):

“To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command,” Campbell said. He added that U.S. special forces nearby were communicating with the aircraft that delivered the strikes.

“A hospital was mistakenly struck,” Campbell said. “We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

Not surprisingly, the assertion that this was not intentional enough to qualify as a war crime is being challenged by some.

According to multiple sources, the Pentagon has admitted that “no US Forces had been under fire at the time” (emphasis mine):

Afghan forces called in the air strike that hit a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) clinic in Kunduz, killing 22 people, a US general says.

Gen John Campbell admitted that no US forces had been under fire at the time, reversing an earlier statement.

MSF says Afghan attempts to justify the strike amount to “an admission of a war crime”.

Afghan forces backed by the US have retaken much of Kunduz, which was overrun by the Taliban last week.

Twelve MSF staff members and 10 patients were killed when the hospital was hit on Saturday by a US airstrike. MSF says it was a lifeline for thousands in the city and in northern Afghanistan.

“We have now learned that on 3 October, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from US air forces,” said Gen Campbell, the top commander of the US-led Nato coalition in Afghanistan.

“An air strike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck.” He expressed his “deepest condolences” over the civilian deaths.

“Several civilians”? “Accidentally struck”? That’s like saying that Columbine caused “several students” to “accidentally die”.

But Mr. Campbell reversed more of what the US said earlier (emphasis mine):

The Afghan defence ministry said on Saturday that “armed terrorists” were using the hospital “as a position to target Afghan forces and civilians”.

A day later, the Pentagon said a strike had been conducted against insurgents directly firing on US forces – a claim Gen Campbell has now rolled back on.

So here’s what the US says today:
- US forces were NOT under fire
- Taliban forces were NOT using the hospital
- The deaths of TWENTY TWO innocents, inside a fully-functioning hospital, was “accidental”.

Some “accident”.

National Rifle Association: "A voice for criminals"

NYT Op-Ed contributor Alan Berlow lays out what any reasonable observer has known for years: the National Rifle Association is primarily the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturing industry, and supports crime and criminals because that makes people buy more guns.

“[T]he N.R.A. was no longer the voice of law-abiding gun owners, but rather a voice for criminals.”

Americans should understand the outsize role the N.R.A. plays, not only in thwarting sensible gun safety laws but also in undermining law enforcement by abetting gun traffickers, criminal gun dealers and criminal gun users

Read the whole piece here.


Joke Revue: "Americans Opposed to Being Shot Seek Representation in Washington"


Americans Opposed to Being Shot Seek Representation in Washington

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – Americans who are opposed to being shot, a constituency that has historically failed to find representation in Washington, are making a new effort to make its controversial ideas heard in the nation’s capital.

“When you bring up the idea of not wanting to be shot with members of Congress, there’s always been pushback,” Carol Foyler, founder of the lobbying group Americans Opposed to Being Shot, said. “Their reaction has been, basically, ‘Not being shot: who’s going to support something like that?’”

Foyler, however, believes that the right to not be shot, much like women’s right to vote, the right to same-sex marriage, and other rights that were deemed controversial in their day, may be an idea whose time has finally come.

“For years, we’ve been talking about the right to not be shot and people have been looking at us like we’re out of our minds,” she said. “But recent polls show that a vast majority of Americans, in fact, do not want to be shot.”

While Foyler and other anti-being-shot activists believe that Washington may finally be receptive to their radical ideas, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, is doubtful. “People who don’t want to be shot are a very narrow interest group,” he said.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“The story says that Donald Trump gets so little sleep, he actually suffers from sleep deprivation. Then again, so do most people who think about Donald Trump becoming president.” –Jimmy Fallon

“NSA leaker Edward Snowden joined Twitter yesterday, and immediately got more followers than the NSA. Which raises an interesting question: Who’s following the NSA on Twitter?” –Jimmy Fallon

“While visiting America, Pope Francis secretly met with Kim Davis, the county clerk who denied marriage licenses to gay couples. At first she refused to meet with the Pope because she was told, ‘There’s a guy in a dress named Francis here to see you.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Governor Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign is angrily insisting that the “Duck Dynasty” cast supports him and not Donald Trump. And that is the current report on the state of the Bobby Jindal campaign.” –Conan O’Brien

“After their meeting got off to a tense start, Obama and Putin wound up talking for 90 minutes, and Putin described the talks as ‘surprisingly open.’ Putin said it was the most productive conversation he’d ever had with someone who wasn’t tied to a chair.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Donald Trump came out with this proposal for a new tax plan yesterday. Just like a real presidential candidate would do! It’s kind of adorable.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Under Trump you won’t have to pay any income taxes if you make less than $25,000 a year, if you and your spouse make under $50,000 a year, and if you capture an illegal Mexican you won’t pay any taxes at all.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Pope Francis wrapped up his trip to the U.S., and while he was in Philadelphia, the Pope visited a prison. He said he couldn’t believe how dirty and overcrowded it was, then his assistant said, ‘This is just the Amtrak station, we haven’t gotten to the prison yet.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Jeb Bush said last week that Democrats often win the black vote because they tell people ‘we’ll take care of you with free stuff.’ Whereas Democrats actually win the black vote because Republicans keep saying stuff like that.” –Seth Meyers

“Yesterday as Pope Francis rode down Fifth Avenue, Donald Trump actually stepped out of Trump Tower with his son, Donald Jr., and got booed by the crowd. Then Trump was like, ‘I guess they really don’t like you Donald, Jr.!’” –Jimmy Fallon

“House Speaker John Boehner announced that he is resigning from Congress. When he heard Congress lost Boehner, John McCain said, ‘Oh I got a little blue pill for that.’ ‘No, BOEHNER. We lost House Speaker Boehner!’ It’s pronounced Bay-ner.” –Jimmy Fallon

“And in a speech yesterday, Pope Francis urged American bishops to ‘flee the temptation of narcissism.’ Then bishops were like, ‘Oooh! He’s talking about us!’ –Jimmy Fallon