Political Happy Hour: March 15, 2017

Here’s your Beware the Ides of March mug of politics, from Joshua Miller of the Boston Globe at the Massachusetts State House.




OPIOID SCOURGE NEWS — PAIN DOCTOR ACCUSED OF OVERPRESCRIBING OPIOIDS PLEADS GUILTY with an extraordinary lede from AP Legal Affairs Writer Denise Lavoie in Boston: “At Dr. Fathalla Mashali’s pain management clinics, the waiting rooms were often so packed with patients that people sat on the floor, leaned against walls and spilled into the hallways.

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That’s because, federal prosecutors say, Mashali was prescribing oxycodone and other powerful opioid painkillers at alarming rates to people making risky use of drugs. At one point, they say, Mashali wrote out more oxycodone prescriptions in one month — over 1,100 — than some of the largest hospitals in Massachusetts.

Mashali pleaded guilty Wednesday to 44 counts of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering, offering a brief apology during his change-of-plea hearing in U.S. District Court. …” Link via the Globe:

THIS IS AN INTERESTING ELECTION YEAR EVENT FOR MARTY WALSH TO HAVE, via a press release: “Tomorrow, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement will host ‘Nonpartisan Lessons Learned & Shared: For the Next Generation,’ a women in politics forum. Mayor Walsh will offer opening remarks, and [former state attorney general] Martha Coakley, [former lieutenant governor] Dr. Kerry Healey, [former lieutenant governor] Evelyn Murphy, [former treasurer] Shannon O’Brien and [former acting governor] Jane Swift will discuss lessons learned from their experiences in public life and politics. The event will be moderated by [rockstar journalist] Janet Wu. …”


WICKED STUPID CORPORATE MISTAKE, via Steve Annear on “… A Target representative on Wednesday apologized to residents on behalf of the company and said the chain would pull from its website and store shelves several shirts that had obvious errors printed on them, like ‘Mission Hills’ and ‘West Roxberry.’ …”

BAKER DECLINES, via Nestor Ramos of the Globe: “Governor Charlie Baker is declining to address alleged discrimination and harassment within the barracks of the Massachusetts State Police, as an effort to increase oversight of law enforcement officers is drawing attention on Beacon Hill.

Baker, in an interview Monday, said it is difficult to discuss questions ‘that are being litigated,’ and touted the State Police’s efforts to diversify its overwhelmingly white and male force of about 2,200 sworn officers.

‘There’s no room for discrimination of any kind anywhere,’ said Baker when asked whether the complaints, documented in a Globe investigation Sunday, reflect a more widespread problem with the workplace culture inside the State Police. …”

Nestor’s story from Sunday:

N.H. GOP GUV SUNUNU NOT A FAN OF RYANCARE, via Dave Solomon of the New Hampshire Union Leader’s State House Bureau in Concord: “The GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is not sitting well with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who told reporters on Tuesday, ‘This is definitely not a bill I’m signing on to, for sure.’

Sununu was asked about the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill after a news conference at the State House on a new drug interdiction program. ‘The bill that’s been proposed in Congress gives us concerns on a lot of different levels, to be very blunt about it,’ he said. …”

HEALEY FUNDRAISER SNOWED OUT, via Matt Stout on page 13 of today’s Herald: “School wasn’t the only casualty of yesterday’s blustery nor’easter: Politics were put on hold, too. Attorney General Maura Healey, who’s publicly batted down questions of a potential gubernatorial run, postponed until next week a $50-a-head fundraiser scheduled for tonight, according to her campaign committee. …”

INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL STORY TO WATCH TONIGHT, via the New York Times: “The Netherlands vote[ed] today in the first big electoral test for European populism since last year’s ‘Brexit’ referendum and Donald J. Trump’s election. Turnout appears to be high. All 150 seats in the lower (and more powerful) house of Parliament are up for grabs. It takes a simple majority, 76 seats, to govern. Coalitions are the norm. The landscape is highly fragmented, with 11 parties represented in the current Parliament. Geert Wilders, the anti-immigration and anti-Islam, anti-European Union populist, hopes to win big. …

Fears of hacking and outside interference are rife, so all vote tallying will be done be hand. …”

LOCAL ECONOMIC RESEARCH I FOUND INTERESTING — I KNOW, I KNOW, IT’S SORTA WONKY! Mary A. Burke, a senior economist in the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, writes for its current policy perspectives series: “This paper identifies the main forces that contributed to the decline in labor force participation in New England between 2007 and 2015, as well as the forces that moderated the region’s decline relative to that of the nation. …

Similar to previous findings pertaining to the United States as a whole, the single largest factor in the recent decline in labor force participation in New England was the shifting age composition of the region’s population. In particular, the share of New England residents at or above retirement age (65 and over) increased by a considerable margin, while the share of residents of prime working ages (25 to 54) decreased, and these demographic trends were more pronounced in the region than in the nation as a whole …”

ANOTHER MIDDLE EAST ENTANGLEMENT, COMING SOON? via Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: “The U.S. military has drawn up early plans that would deploy up to 1,000 more troops into northern Syria in the coming weeks, expanding the American presence in the country ahead of the offensive on the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, according to U.S. defense officials familiar with the matter.

The deployment, if approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Trump, would potentially double the number of U.S. forces in Syria and increase the potential for direct U.S. combat involvement in a conflict that has been characterized by confusion and competing priorities among disparate forces. …”

→THAT WILL BE A GREAT ISSUE TO ASK CONGRESSMAN AND VETERAN SETH MOULTON ABOUT IN PERSON at our LIVE Political Happy Hour event. There will be food, an open bar, and great political conversation. We’ll talk about Trump, the country’s growing military engagement in the Middle East, Moulton’s work on veterans’ health care, and much more. It all goes down at 6 p.m. on March 30 at AT&T’s flagship Boston store on Boylston Street. Sign up here for free:

MASSACHUSETTS ART WATCH, via a post from Roberta Smith of the New York Times: “The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, unveils ‘Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross’ on Saturday, March 25. The exhibition revisits the human ordeal of World War II through previously unknown images of life in one of the many ghettos the Nazis built to isolate Jews and streamline deportation to concentration camps. These images reflect the determination of Henryk Ross, a talented Polish Jewish photojournalist and a rare Lodz Ghetto survivor, to document what he called ‘our martyrdom.’ Between 1940 and 1944, Ross took carefully staged fictions of ghetto life that served as Nazi propaganda, but he also secretly recorded the grim realities of what truly happened. As the war wound down, he buried 6,000 negatives in the ghetto, returning after Germany’s surrender to find half intact. …”

More, from the MFA:

WHEN STEALING IS A WORKOUT, via Colin A. Young of the State House News Service: “State Police are searching for suspects in the theft of two 305-pound viewing binoculars from an overlook along Route 2 in the town of Florida.

Sometime between February 27 and March 7 two bronze and cast iron commercial binocular units were cut from their platform next to the Eastern Summit Gift Shop and taken … The vista at which the binoculars were once positioned offers views of the Deerfield River Valley, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the peak of Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire. …”

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I’ll be back tomorrow.

Joshua Miller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos and subscribe to his weekday e-mail update on politics at

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