Susan Bruce: Working as planned

 

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Legislature being called back for a special vote on a bill to give law enforcement an extra $1.5 million to deal with the opium crisis. To recap: The original bill, SB 485, failed to pass because a non-germane amendment concerning state employee health care was tacked on, to ensure that it wouldn’t pass. It didn’t. By one vote. The governor wanted it to pass. House and Senate leadership wanted it to pass. Law enforcement wanted it to pass.

And so, a bipartisan group got together, eliminated the poison pill amendment, and wrote a new bill, HB 1000. The House and Senate were called back in to vote on it. Some representatives were very unhappy at being called back. They were so unhappy that they spent two hours debating whether to suspend the rules in order to vote on the bill. The legislative session began at 10 a.m. They didn’t begin discussing the bill till after the lunch break.

The vote was 241-97 to suspend the rules. It’s a small group of GOP miscreants who continually obstruct and delay, but they’re incredibly effective at wasting the time of their colleagues. They made a big point of asking the speaker if leadership could vote without fear of retribution. It was the last day of this session, what did they think he going to do to them? Change the combo on their locker? Take their lunch money?  Send them to detention?

This voting session came into being because of a non-germane amendment.  To illustrate their displeasure, the libertea faction proceeded to propose seven non-germane floor amendments to HB 1000. Most were an attempt to add in the language of bills that had already failed or been vetoed. Rep. JR Hoell, for whom guns appear to provide his sole reason for living, put forth a floor amendment to add on a provision that would repeal the requirement for a concealed carry license. Another amendment would have allowed stores to sell syringes without a prescription. Yet another would have allowed towns that have no public schools to use public funds to send children to private religious schools. All seven of the non-germane amendments failed by wide margins, but did succeed in wasting hours of everyone’s time.

Eventually HB 1000 passed by a vote of 235-74. They moved on to attempt to overturn the governor’s veto of six bills. The first prohibited the confiscation of firearms and ammo during a state of emergency. This has never happened in New Hampshire. It was proposed in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina, but that story has been twisted by the NRA to get the gundamentalists up in arms, which isn’t exactly a challenge. They’re easily manipulated. (One can only imagine their disappointment in the fact that Obama never even tried to take their guns away, after eight years of caterwauling about it.) The veto override failed. So did the attempt to override the veto on the bill repealing the concealed carry license requirement, so that bill failed twice in one day. The override of the bill to use public funds for private religious schools failed. All six override attempts failed.

The last debate concerned an entry in the House journal. Every voting session day begins with an “invocation” — which is another way of saying prayer. The prayer was edited in the print version, as many things are. All of the “umms” spoken in a speech are edited out. The minister made reference to “children, born and unborn” in his prayer, and that was truncated to “children.” There’s also a tradition of editing overly sectarian or politically charged language in favor of more neutral language in the permanent record. Fetus fetishist Groen took exception to this editing, and made a fuss. You may remember Warren Groen as the representative who made the fetus speech to fourth-graders visiting the Legislature who proposed making the red-tailed hawk the state bird. The vote to amend the journal passed by a narrow margin, after an hour long debate that began at 4 p.m.

I’m in favor of transparency. If inflammatory, foolish or reactionary statements are made, they should be included in the permanent record, where the public can see them and hold the makers of the statements accountable for them. Legislative sessions should not be opened with prayers. It is a tradition that should be eliminated. The 400 members of the House do not all share the same religion — and even if they did, their religion should have no sway in the public affairs of our state. No religion should. If there’s a need to fill a hole in the ritual, read a poem. Some Walt Whitman would be nice.

Over in the Senate, the vote to suspend the rules slid right through on a voice vote. No floor amendments. HB 1000 passed unanimously.

HB 1000 passed largely because it’s an election year, and most legislators did not want to be seen as voting against law enforcement during an opioid crisis. Whether this is a good use of funds is debatable. In this case, because it’s an election year, perception is everything.

A number of longtime representatives are leaving the legislature because of the obstructionist crowd. The endless roll call votes and procedural delays are working exactly as planned.

Susan Bruce is a writer and talk radio personality on “The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen”  on WNHN-FM. She lives in Concord. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com or find the broadcast at www.wnhnfm.org.

 

Kimberly Callinan: Advance directives: A first step — but not enough

 

My grandmother died feeling betrayed, frightened and utterly powerless in a bleak hospital room.  She’d completed an advance directive about her end-of-life goals, preferences and values, including a do not resuscitate order. But when an emergency landed her in the hospital, the emergency room team ignored her advance directive and resuscitated her back to “life” just long enough for her to realize they had ignored her documented wishes. She died shortly after being resuscitated, but not before she let the health care team know she was angry.

Unfortunately, my grandmother is not alone in her life ending so tragically. In conversations with supporters of the end-of-life choice advocacy organization that I work for, Compassion & Choices, I often hear similar tales of an end-of-life health-care system that has failed to meet their needs. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that advance directives alone are not enough to ensure that people’s end-of-life goals, priorities and values are honored.  Below are some of the shortcomings:

• Lack of participation: Only one in four Americans (23 percent) have an advance directive in place, according to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

• Lack of coordination: The dying person and health-care proxy often have not discussed the patient’s goals, preferences and values. In fact, fewer than 3 in 10 people have actually talked with their loved ones about end-of-life care, according to a survey conducted by the conversation project.

• Lack of relevance: Since advance directives are by definition written in advance — sometimes many years in advance — they often lack relevance to current events and decisions near the person’s end of life.

• Lack of access: It is an all-too-common scenario that the advance directive along with the DNR order is locked away in a desk or safe when a life-threatening emergency arises, leaving family members and medical providers unsure whether an advance directive even exists.

• Lack of enforcement: Doctors are not held accountable for following advance directives. Until they are enforced, physicians are unlikely to follow them because they are trained to do everything possible to keep a terminally ill person alive, regardless of whether the treatment only prolongs an agonizing dying process.   

Federal policymakers need to address the growing demand for reform by passing legislation that advances the delivery of person-centered care. A good first step would be for Congress to pass the bipartisan Care Planning Act (S. 1549), sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). The legislation would require providers to include prominently in the patient’s medical record the content of an advance directive. In addition, the bill gives patients the option of signing a “portable treatment order” to give providers specific instructions about patient preferences in receiving care. Medicare-certified providers would be obliged to comply with these orders in any care setting, including the home, that could stop unnecessary and unwanted medical treatments.

The bill also would require Medicare-certified health-care providers to comply with a patient’s verbal and nonverbal treatment instructions. When a patient lacks decisional capacity, the provider must adhere to a patient’s advance directive. In the absence of a directive issued in the state where care is being provided, the provider must respect an advance directive signed by the patient in another state to facilitate the ease and adherence to advance directives across state lines.

If the Care Planning Act had been in effect when my grandmother was dying, it would have increased the likelihood that her end-of-life wishes were honored. It’s too late to help her now, but it is not too late to pass this legislation to ensure that we honor the end-of-life wishes of millions of Americans in the future.

Kimberly Callinan is chief program officer of Compassion & Choices, the nation’s largest end-of-life choice advocacy organization with 450,000 members nationwide.  She holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University. This oped originally was published in The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot.

 

National Perspective: Trump voters hold firm

By David Shribman
PITTSBURGH — What happens when the veteran pollster Peter D. Hart invites 11 blue-collar and service-industry voters into a downtown office suite here and bids them to talk politics?
You are reminded that the despair among those in families with incomes below $50,000 is as deep as the anger they have expressed at the polls all year. You learn that the shortcomings rivals identify in presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump are seen as strengths among his backers. And you find that, despite the challenging fortnight Trump has endured, his appeal hasn't diminished among his supporters.
If these voters — among them a woman who sells jewelry and purses on her own, a self-employed house remodeler, a homemaker and a lab technician — break from Trump, his prospects here in Pennsylvania and perhaps around the country are dim. But amid turmoil in the campaign, a lengthy dispute over the ethnic heritage of a judge and tough talk about terrorism and immigration, Trump's supporters here in the Pittsburgh focus group remain strong backers of his campaign.
"This is the group he has to win in order to be competitive," Hart said after more than two hours of grueling, searching, sometimes emotional conversation, "and you cannot say that Trump's people have dismissed him."

Nicholas Howe: The president as activist: A memory

Rarely has our country needed an activist president as much as we do now, and rarely have we been less likely to get one. By contrast, consider how Franklin Delano Roosevelt started his administration when he took office in January 1933.

Roosevelt faced two crises that demanded immediate action.  One was the Dust Bowl, a persistent Mid-west drought that was destroying much of American agriculture.  The other was the worst economic disaster in the history of the world: The Great Depression.

The Depression hit bottom in the winter of 1932; the Dow Jones fell to 41, industrial production was off 50 percent, and 30 percent of all American adults had no income at all. So Roosevelt was elected with an unmistakable mandate: Fix things.

The new president did not climb the ladder of the American dream; he was born into great wealth and privilege.  Nor was he a likely candidate for an activist hero; he was confined to a wheelchair by polio. But in his inaugural speech he said, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, a new deal for the American people.” Then he launched the Hundred Days and an alphabetic blizzard of federal programs: FDIC, HOLC, TVA, CCC, NRA, FCA, FCC, AAA, FHA, NRLB, REA, SEC, SSS, WPA ...  

The CCC left the most lasting mark on our region. As governor of New York, Roosevelt liked to use a word not much heard in those days: conservation. As the new president, he naturally thought of saving the nation’s land, and on March 5 he called in the secretaries of labor, agriculture, the interior, and war; the director of the Bureau of the Budget; the judge advocate general of the Army; and the solicitor of the Department of the Interior.  The enabling legislation went to Congress on March 21, it passed on the 31st, and one week later the first of nearly 4 million “CCC Boys” signed up.  Just 37 days after Roosevelt’s first discussions, the Civilian Conservation Corps was on the job — that’s an activist president!

Some called it “the tree army,” and those who enlisted found a distinctly military life. They were sheltered in tents or tarpaper shacks, the camps were run by officers and NCOs from the Army, and the CCC boys wore stout military-style uniforms. (In the waste-not-want-not ethos of the day, worn-out CCC uniforms were made into hooked rugs for other federal projects.) Once settled in camp, a CCC boy was required to brush his teeth every day, bathe at least once a week, cut his hair and keep his fingernails clean and trimmed, and send $25 of his $30 weekly pay home to his family. He could also learn to read and write and earn a high school diploma, though some were already fairly well-equipped in this respect: John Steinbeck and Orson Welles both served in the CCC.

All, however, were expected to profit from one of the stated goals of the program, to “eliminate to some extent at least the threat that enforced idleness brings to spiritual and moral stability.” Addressing the new recruits, President Roosevelt said: “It is time for each and every one of us to cast away self-destroying nation-destroying efforts to get something for nothing, and to appreciate that satisfying reward and safe reward come only through honest work.  That must be the new spirit of the American future — you are the vanguard of that new spirit.”

New Hampshire was a particular favorite with the CCC, one of only two female camps in the nation was established here, and few states received such a concentration of ski trails — 17 were built in that first summer of 1933 even though there were so few skiers in America that practically all of them knew each other by name. Three of the new trails were almost within sight of each other around Jackson on Bear, Doublehead and Black Mountains, with snug five-room log cabins at the top.  There were five more lower-level trails and the mighty Wildcat Trail in Pinkham Notch, with another log cabin at the top, and in the summer of 1937 two more were finished on Mount Washington: the Gulf of Slides Trail and the Sherburne Trail from Tuckerman Ravine.

These projects had an enduring spin-off.  When the CCC boys left, local people organized the Jackson Ski and Outing Club to maintain the trails around their town.  The JSOC grew into the area’s first promotional and booking organization, and staged races and entertainments for 20 years.

Another favorite federal project also arrived on Mount Washington.  In the summer of 1937, nearly 400 tons of building material went up the Fire Trail and almost as soon as the project was finished, the profile of the building suggested another source of nourishment turning up in the unlikeliest corners of New England — from then on the Tuckerman Ravine Shelter was “Howard Johnsons.”  The original building was magnificent.  Framed of stone and heavy timber at flood-tide of the Federal Rustic architectural style, it was 46 by 62 feet overall, with a crew bunkroom, a kitchen with a farm-style cast iron range, indoor public bathrooms, a lunch counter and a large gathering room with a massive fireplace.  The original Shelter burned in 1951, but another federal project lives on in Pinkham Notch: the elaborate stairs and balustrades at Glen Ellis Falls.  

That was the whole point of Roosevelt’s many alphabet programs: to put people to work.  Some of the projects were among the largest ever undertaken: the Tennessee Valley Authority brought electricity to the South and immense power dams rose in the Western states — Grand Coulee, Hoover and the rest.  Many were on a much smaller scale: Woody Guthrie wrote most of his songs on a federal paycheck, and the best photographers made their own records of American life; weavers and tapestry makers revived old crafts to make fabrics for the new buildings, woodworkers and stonecutters decorated them; artists were enlisted for many projects — the renowned Orosco Murals in the Dartmouth Library were one.  Historians and writers were commissioned to do local histories all over America, and their work is now recognized as classic.   

These are the kinds of things that happen when vision and energy come to the White House. Incredibly, he had a staff of just five people and, in that age before computers or faxes or even electric typewriters, two of them were stenographers. We are not likely to see such things from the candidates of our own impoverished times.

Nicholas Howe is a writer from Jackson. He is author of “Not Without Peril.” E-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tom McLaughlin: Thinking too much

“What do you know for sure?” Ernie Colvin asked me the same question in his Tennessee drawl every time I visited.

“Not much,” was my usual answer.

The implied humility in my answer was a pretense because I thought I knew a lot as most young men do. Now, though, as I reflect on our friendship nearly a half-century later, I believe I would answer the same way, but with seriousness. I have learned much since I knew Ernie, but that knowledge has only helped me realize how ignorant I am. As I used to tell my students: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” Most looked at me with puzzlement when I said that, but others got it. The truly educated understand that the best we can come up with after a lifetime of learning and reflecting is a very tentative framework of understanding about the world around us. I like to call it a working hypothesis that should be subject to modification at regular intervals.

Ernie was a veteran of two wars: the Spanish Civil War and World War II, during which he had been a prisoner of war in Germany. He would be sitting at his desk carving wood and looking up with a wry grin when I came by. He was a security guard on the night shift and I was a field supervisor for the company. It was 1970, and I was 19, though I pretended to be 21 so I could get a pistol permit which was required for the job. Ernie was in his 60s and he was patient enough to offer thoughtful answers to my many questions. He taught me a great deal during our frequent, late-night conversations.

One of the faults that has dogged me for a lifetime is overuse of my brain and underuse of my heart. Since I became conscious of it, I’ve been trying to bring myself into balance but it’s slow going. Observing my youngest grandchildren helps in this endeavor because they’re full of wonder as they explore the world around them. They seem to feel it more than think about it and I remember being that way too until I got out of balance. My brain was always the favored utensil in my personal toolbox and I used it almost exclusively until realizing there were other tools in there as well.

Somewhere around 8 or 9, I remember lying in bed after lights out and pondering the universe — the big one, that is, especially its outer limits. Trying to image our expanding universe 15 billion years after the Big Bang, I’d imagine space — the nothingness between material things flying out from the central point of the original explosion. How far would things travel into nothingness? Was there a limit to the great nothing into which those things were hurtling in every direction? I knew intuitively there wasn’t. I knew that it was limitless, infinite. I knew also that, though the universe didn’t have limits, my human brain did. It couldn’t fully comprehend infinity. All I could know was that the eternal existed. That realization was extremely frustrating until I accepted it.

Accepting it became the initial basis for my belief in the Creator, but it wasn’t an “Aha!” moment. The process was gradual. Call it intelligent design or ultimate creativeness, but I began realizing that something conceived of the universe and caused it to be — with me in it. Accepting that the Eternal had a capital E helped me relax as well. Let me re-emphasize that the process has been gradual and ongoing. I’m still in it and somewhere along the way I came to believe.

Also along the way came a quote from that brilliant atheist-turned-Christian, Augustine of Hippo. Even though he wrote it 15 centuries ago, it jumped right off the page at me: “If thou hast not understood, said I, believe. For understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”

So now there is something else I know for sure. I don’t feel any compulsion to make others know it. It’s enough that I do. I’m not an evangelist and neither was Ernie Colvin. He never preached; he just was. I sensed something in him that I wanted even though I didn’t know what it was.

Tom McLaughlin lives in Lovell, Maine.  He can be reached on his website at tommclaughlin.blogspot.com.