Saturday, November 24, 2012

Will Deval Patrick appoint our next Massachusetts senator?

Prior to 2004, the Massachusetts governor had the power to appoint a U.S. Senator or Representative to serve the remaining term of a congressman who left the job early. With the certainty of John Kerry's election to the U.S. Presidency in 2004, the law was changed to strip the governor (Mitt Romney) of this power, replacing it with a special election to occur within 160 days of the vacancy.

That strategy turned out to be premature when Kerry didn't "report for duty" after all.

In 2009, the Democrats were faced with Ted Kennedy's death and wished they hadn't pulled the trigger so soon. As a compromise, the law was again changed to allow for an interim appointment by the governor, though Deval Patrick insisted that the appointee agree not to run for the seat in the special election. A rare, but appreciated, moment of rising above the political fray.

Everything changed, of course, when the Democrat's shoe-in, Martha Coakley, failed to win the special election and Scott Brown took a 5-point win straight to Washington, D.C.

The well-organized Democratic Party ousted Brown this month and normalcy is soon to return to Massachusetts; that is, all Democratic U.S. Senators and Representatives.

Not so fast.

Now we're contemplating Senator Kerry being appointed to President Obama's cabinet, possibly in the role of Secretary of Defense or Secretary of State. If that happens, Governor Patrick will be able to appoint an interim senator. Will he add the stipulation again of the appointee not running for the open seat? Don't count on it. As George Bush once famously said, "Fool me once... Shame on you. You can't be fooled again."

The state Democratic Party leaders would rather see the 2004 mistake reversed by the legislature, putting the appointment of the unexpired term back into the hands of the governor. In fact, if we passed the law with a toggle option, with Democratic governors getting the appointment power and Republican governors not, we'd be heroes.

Once again, not so fast.

Joining the conversation is Senate President Therese Murray, whose spokesman said: "We're not changing it [the current law]." When she conveys something that straight forwardly, count on it.

Governor Patrick will make the interim appointment and allow that person to run in the special election. By necessity, that person will be forced to campaign for the entire 160 days and will have zero time to be our interim senator, but that's an issue for another day.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Voice recognition: Snot purr feck jet

I have an XFinity phone line at the house which has a neat feature where it emails you the voice mail audio file when someone leaves a message. A few months ago, I found out that you can also have it transcribe the voice mail for you. That's turned out to be pretty entertaining, a real hit and miss on the transcriptions. Here are a few with the transcription in italics and what the person actually said right below it.

The caller left a voicemail, but due to the quality of the message, the voicemail was unable to be transcribed. This may be a result of too much background noise or the message was left in an unsupported language.

This is what I get every time my wife, Mary, leaves me a message. Apparently her Texas accent is considered an unsupported language. I can see that.

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Oh Randy it's it's D one thirteen. I got your the Excel list. It's stuck(?) so on and I will reseed(?) accordingly.

Hello, Randy. It's 1:13. I got your Excel list. It's excellent and I will proceed accordingly.

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I'm responding to a Yahoo call couple days ago.

I'm responding to a call a couple days ago.

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You take out-state-farm(?) Road take go left on Pop pills and take them down take a right on Spruce Street.

That's in Country Farm. You take Snake Pond Road. Take a left on Uphill and take a right on Spruce Tree.

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"Hey Randy it's Dad. Saturday morning quarter to eleven your time. I need your address. So call back. Talk to you later."

My only comment on this one is that my dad died in 1996.

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I'm calling little early here. I'm trying to throw up... Give me a call back when you have a chance.

I'm calling a little early here. Sorry, my number is... And you can call back when you have a chance.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Care packages for the troops

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 8, 2012

CONTACT: Susann Koelsch, Legislative Aide
508-888-2158


REPRESENTATIVE HUNT ANNOUNCES CHRISTMAS & HOLIDAY CARD DRIVE FOR MILITARY SERVICE MEMBERS

SANDWICH - Today, State Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich) announced that he will be collecting Christmas and Holiday cards for our military troops serving overseas. Working in conjunction with Cape Cod Cares for Our Troops, Representative Hunt's office will act as a collection point and forward the cards directly to our military service members.

Everyone is encouraged to drop off unsealed Christmas and Holiday cards addressed to "American Service Member" at 297 Quaker Meeting House Road in East Sandwich (02537). There is a 24-hour drop box located there and the office is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm.
The last day for the collection is Friday, November 16th. Cape Cod Cares for Our Troops will be packing boxes for shipment at the Trowbridge Inn & Tavern on Trowbridge Road in Bourne on Saturday, November 17th from 10am to 4pm and Sunday, November 18th from 10am to 2pm. Volunteers for the packing effort are needed.

Representative Hunt said, "I believe it is important to express our gratitude for the sacrifices our armed forces make to protect our country and I am privileged to be able to help Cape Cod Cares for Our Troops with their annual Christmas and Holiday Card Drive."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Solutions for drug abuse and working across the aisle

Here's a short clip from the Chris Boyd Radio Show recorded yesterday where we discussed the drug abuse problem on Cape Cod and how I've worked across the aisle to pass needed legislation. Voices in the clip are Chris Boyd, Jeff Perry and me.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Attack demand side of drug abuse

I'd like to take a few minutes of your time by describing how we can, and why we need to, fundamentally shift the paradigm relative to dealing with the problem of prescription and illegal drug abuse in Massachusetts.

Cape Cod has seen a surge of criminal activity in the past ten years that is almost universally tied to drug and alcohol abuse. Nearly every burglary is motivated by the "need" to purchase drugs and alcohol. Nearly every domestic violence situation is linked to drug and/or alcohol addiction. Nearly every act of violence on our streets is traceable to the sale or abuse of mind-altering substances.

Every major societal issue has a component of supply and demand, and I have a long-standing belief that problem solving should be focused on the demand side. The "war on drugs" has been largely an attack on the supply side of the problem. How well has that worked to eliminate drugs on the street? How well did prohibition of alcohol accomplish its goal of creating a nation of teetotalers?

In the arena of addictions, focusing on the demand side of the issue falls into the two broad categories of education and treatment. Teach people to steer away from substances that can trigger addictions. Treat people with addictions knowing that it is a chronic condition that requires lifetime followup, just as a diabetes patient requires lifetime monitoring and care.

We have two new treatment programs in Massachusetts that are showing positive results. By no means do I intend to convey that these are the only programs showing progress. They are, however, taking us in a new direction.

The first is a five-year federally funded pilot program called Mission Direct Vet. It is for military veterans who have mental health challenges, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as a drug or alcohol addiction. Additionally, those in the pilot program have legal issues; that is, they are facing jail time for their crimes.

Participants receive probation with the stipulation that they remain in Mission Direct Vet. Each is paired with a counselor and a peer and receives intensive treatment for their mental health and addiction issues.

Preliminary results from Mission Direct Vet are good. Recidivism is significantly lower than for veterans who do not get this level of care. Counselors have also reported that a number of patients have chosen recovery over suicide. How can one put a price on that?

The other treatment program is one happening right here in Barnstable County. Based on a pilot program in New York City I learned about as a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the county sheriff has adopted a model that combines counseling with an opiate blocking drug called Vivitrol.

Inmates who qualify are given the first dose of Vivitrol before leaving the Barnstable County Correctional Facility and are enrolled in counseling at Gosnold Cape Cod, where Dr. Robert Friedman operates a treatment program utilizing Vivitrol to aid patients with managing their cravings.

At Rikers Island, the longer standing program overseen by Dr. Joshua Lee of New York University has shown excellent results: reduced recidivism, people back to work, families back together.

People ask me what the expansion of these programs would cost. I cite a precedent in the state of Texas where emphasis on treatment since 2005 has resulted in the closure of a state prison, the lowest crime rate in 40 years, and the savings of billions of dollars.

This paradigm shift is not only possible, it pays for itself, and we are on the way to seeing it happen in Massachusetts.