Worcester Weekly: Worcester Pride, SPM football + more, Sept. 3-9

The most fun you’ll have with a calendar of events all week. And you just might learn something, too.

Road trip!

Sunday, Sept. 3 — Spencer Fair, 8 a.m. [gates open], Spencer Fairground, 48 Smithville Road, Spencer  Oh, the spectacle of the annual country fair! Step right up and win a stuffed animal for your favorite girl or guy. Watch your favorite girl or guy become a stuffed animal — bursting at the seams with corn dogs and cotton candy and all the fried dough. Never, ever leave the fairgrounds without losing a loved one for at least an hour or two. And, oh the manure smell. It’s magical!

Really, it is, and there’s nary a New Englander whose memory banks aren’t flush with childhood recollections drenched in powdered sugar and carnival ride background music.

Editorial: Trump’s anti-transgender maneuver

After six months of skirmishes with the press, political foes, facts and protocol, President Trump sent out tweets last week that stood out from the pack.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” the president wrote Wednesday morning. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”


This surprise attack on transgender people serving in the military was disruptive, puzzling, petty and ill-informed — even by America’s new lowered standards for presidential forthrightness and clarity. The move also reversed a campaign promise to serve as a friend to the LGBTQ community.

On Beacon Hill: Someone has to be the thimble

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government
from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — Do not pass go, but do collect $200 million.

That was the message from Democrats on Beacon Hill to Gov. Charlie Baker last week, marking what amounts to the most significant, if not the first, major policy dust-up between the Kumbaya Caucus of Three at the State House.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, threw a brushback pitch when — in a mere matter of days after Baker signed the fiscal 2018 budget — they went along with Baker’s request for a swift public hearing on his proposed MassHealth eligibility reforms.

Sam Doran (SHNS / file photo)

Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

But the court officers barely had time to lock the doors and shut the lights out in Gardner Auditorium when word trickled out that the Legislature would vote the next day to rebuff the governor and his call for Medicaid reforms to be packaged with new fees and fines on employers to pay for health insurance for the low-income and disabled.

The Democratic leadership decided reform can wait, but the revenues cannot. And so both branches voted overwhelmingly, and for the second time, to send Baker new employer assessments, deemed taxes by many critics, to pay for MassHealth without the administration and business community’s desired cost-saving measures.

“I’ll take a look at it when it gets to my desk and then we’ll make a decision and I’ll be sure to let you know when we make that decision,” Baker said Thursday after the dust had settled, knowing he has three choices.

Baker can sign the assessments and risk alienating the business community; veto the bill and force lawmakers to override, for which they have the votes; or let the assessments become law in protest without his signature after 10 days.

Option two would force DeLeo and Rosenberg to decided whether they must call members back from the August recess, which began Friday, to override or wait until after Labor Day in contradiction of their assertions last week that the assessments need to be implemented immediately if the state is to collect the money it is counting on for the fiscal 2018 budget.

The polite game of chicken unfolded as U.S. Senate Republicans tried — and ultimately failed — to muster 50 votes to repeal and replace, repeal, or “skinny repeal” Obamacare. After overcoming the odds to proceed to a debate on health care, it seemed all week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t care what bill he could pass, as long as he could pass something.

In the end, he couldn’t. Sen. John McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer, dramatically slammed the door on repeal-and-replace efforts when he joined two other Republicans in the wee hours Friday morning voting against a repeal measure intended to move the Senate into negotiations with the House.

McCain said it was time for Republicans and Democrats to work together and listen to the country’s governors about how best to fix the healthcare system, which should be music to the ears of governors like Baker.

The soap opera in Washington, D.C., was not lost on state policymakers. While some Democrats tried to link Baker’s MassHealth reforms to unpopular Republican healthcare positions in Congress, Massachusetts House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez worried about plunging into MassHealth reform at home, knowing the complete disruption of the marketplace “could be one Tweet away.”

“This is not the end of our healthcare debate,” Sanchez said as criticism was expressed over Baker’s plan to move 140,000 MassHealth enrollees on to subsidized commercial plans with higher out-of-pocket costs.

The Gentlelady from Ashland took her own turn in the spotlight at Tuesday’s hearing when she was anything but gentle. Senate Ways and Means Chairperson Karen Spilka came ready to tango with with the administration’s trio of secretaries sent to defend and advocate for Baker’s plans to reform MassHealth.

Spilka made clear she believed the administration did not have “a monopoly on the ideas that are out there on healthcare,” and asked panel after panel to submit their own recommendations for lawmakers to consider in the coming weeks and months.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

Sen. Karen Spilka had harsh words for the Baker administration’s healthcare reform stance.

“This is an ongoing issue and there are other ways to go about savings, rather than necessarily moving people off of MassHealth,” Spilka said.

Building consensus for healthcare changes in Massachusetts, as in Washington, may be a difficult task, but the governor and legislative leaders were on the same page last week when it came time to finalize marijuana oversight and protections for pregnant workers.

Baker signed both bills upon his return from a political trip to Colorado, and in doing so helped cement the two biggest legislative achievements of the year outside of pay raises for public officials, which Baker opposed, and an annual state budget.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Holiday for legislators, but likely not for sales tax
  • Warren, Markey and Healey on Senate healthcare vote
  • Watch: Baker signs long-awaited marijuana law
  • Cape legislators urge restoration of LGBTQ budget priorities
  • Ice Bucket Challenge will soon be state holiday

Sina-cism: ‘Coming Apart,’ at Middlebury and elsewhere

How did the privileged youth of Middlebury arrive at such a state of intellectual poverty? Perhaps because they live in a social bubble, and are unable or unwilling to face the social truths Murray outlines.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

The recent, lamentable history of anti-intellectualism at American colleges reached a new low on March 2, when students at Vermont’s Middlebury College shouted down and derided sociologist and author Charles Murray, preventing him from delivering a talk about his book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.”

An explanation of what happened, including a video of the students’ behavior, is available here [or watch the video below] from Middlebury faculty member Matthew Dickinson.

After the abortive talk, Murray was taken to a private room to conduct an interview with faculty member Allison Stanger. Later, leaving the building, they were blocked by a mob, which pushed and shoved them, then rocked and pounded on their car.

Stanger sustained whiplash and a concussion. She wrote about her experience in this New York Times column.

While the behavior of students and other agitators was disturbingly violent and close-minded, Stanger writes that she was “…genuinely surprised and troubled to learn that some of my faculty colleagues had rendered judgment on Dr. Murray’s work and character without ever having read anything he has written,” and that “Intelligent members of the Middlebury community — including some of my own students and advisees — concluded that Charles Murray was an anti-gay white nationalist from what they were hearing from one another, and what they read on the Southern Poverty Law Center website.”

Related Sina-cism: On guns, college profs rarely straight shooters

On Beacon Hill: Snow and ICE as Baker springs into D.C. spotlight

Recap and analysis of the week in state, and federal, government
from State House News Service

When will it be safe to go outside again?

There are plenty of good reasons to stay inside and lock the front door, and an early-spring snowstorm is not the worst excuse to pull the blinds and wait for warmer days.

But state Rep. Michelle DuBois was not worried about her constituents driving on unsafe roads last week when she suggested they might want to hunker down in their living rooms and wait for the ICE storm to pass.

DuBois, a Brockton Democrat, caused an uproar when she used Facebook to alert her community to a possible Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid targeting undocumented immigrants. The internet siren came a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said cities would have to prove their compliance with immigration requests to qualify for federal Justice Department grants and funding opportunities.

DuBois, a second-term lawmaker, acknowledged that the raids were just a rumor at the time, and there’s no evidence to suggest it happened. But she thought the public deserved to be aware of the possibility.

“Please be careful on Wednesday [March] 29. ICE will be in Brockton on that day. If you are undocumented don’t go out on the street. If there is a knock on the door of your house and you don’t know who it is, don’t open the door,” she posted, quoting information she said she received from a “friend in the Latin community.”

That such a step taken by an elected official, who is sworn to uphold the law, would turn a few heads is to be expected. But Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson poured gas on the fire when he mentioned the Facebook post in testimony to Congress, during which he also said elected officials in so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration police should be arrested.

Hodgson is no stranger to controversy or media attention, but in many respects this was a coming-out party for DuBois, and it didn’t take long before her story was the talk of Fox News.

DuBois apologized for nothing and said she’d do it again if given the chance, suggesting she may have actually done ICE a favor by telling the agency members, if they were planning a raid, that the word was already on the street.

That argument, however, didn’t wash with Hodgson, who told Congress Dubois had undermined law enforcement and called on her to step down from office.

— Matt Murphy

State House News Service / Courtesy Governor's Office

Gov. Charlie Baker, shown here swearing in Supreme Judicial Court associate justice Elspeth Cypher, was named to a federal panel on opioid abuse.

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • With Trump opioid panel, Baker takes spot on national stage
  • Legislature to raise its pace after slow start
  • State to cover AP exam cost for low-income students
  • Video: Yukking it up at MassBio conference
  • GE, MassRobotics team up to boost industry
Birthday cake

Requiem for Dissent: McGovern-ing in the era of Trump

“We ought to look at this moment as a privilege to be on the playing field and to engage in these battles. … Ten years from now people are going to ask what you did at this time. I think it’s important for people to stand up and to resist when it’s appropriate.”

If the 2nd Congressional District were carved into Worcester County only, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, might have a problem. Many of those towns voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election.

But the 2nd has roots in Franklin and Hampshire counties as well, with liberal enclaves like Northampton and Amherst that combined with Worcester should keep McGovern safe as long as he wants to hold office.

The 2nd voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. So that would indicate that the district is safe for McGovern for at least the time being.

To that end, it’s not your imagination: McGovern, one of the most unabashed liberals in Congress, has been ubiquitous in active resistance in the weeks since Donald Trump was elected president — calling for, among other things, an independent investigation into Russian influence in the election.

“If you don’t have an independent investigation,” he said, “people aren’t going to believe the results.”

His higher-than-normal profile has been a conscious course of action.

“There’s so much happening that I think it requires more responses and more action, more resistance,” he said in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Worcester Sun. “I want to protect the values I think are important to the country.”

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 141]: A little direction for Charlie Baker

Everyone knows being a Republican in Massachusetts is a lonely assignment.

Heck, unless you’re running against Martha Coakley or live on the North Shore it’s near impossible to even get elected, but hizzoner, the guv’nah — with his steady hand and bipartisan approach — appears well-positioned for an extended run.

Where he stands on key issues, though, often confounds his party mates. Hitch, for one, knows a shortcut to the real truth.