Babson Boulders for a new era

We’ve noticed here at the Clam a great deal of discussion about Dogtown in recent months. We think that Dogtown belongs on the Historic Register, and that will help keep it protected from development while also making it somewhat more accessible as a part of our history.

But we realized that the Babson Boulders, one of the noteworthy features of the site, seem a tad dated for today’s world. So we consulted with the Clam braintrust in our super secret Underground Lair, and came up with a few ideas that can be placed as soon as we find a stonecutter who will work cheap and can chisel in Comic Sans. But until then, we’ll share them with you.

“Get Consent”

“Vivaaaaaaaa”

“Back up your data”

“If this is the high tide line, you’re screwed”

“Vaccinate your kids”

“Carry in/Carry out”

“Take off every zig”

“Han shot first”

“I went to that old parochial school on the Rotary; what happened with that?”

“Fight the Power”

“Never vote Republican”

“Delete your browser history”

“Suck It, Ravenswood”

“Fluoridate Public Water”

”Check Snopes”

Question 1: Forcing us all to suddenly become nurse/patient staffing ratio experts somehow?

Clam Nation, Question 1 is the November 2018 ballot question which has caused the most consternation among your Clamrades, who are pretty much split down the middle or undecided regarding the vote.

Short answer: vote yes because it will keep more people alive.

Question 1, also known as the Patient Safety Act, would mandate specific patient staffing ratios at hospitals around Massachusetts. There’s a lot of uncertainty, speculation, and rumor surrounding Question 1.

Image result for trump, l, forehead

Because we haven’t had enough of that yet, ffs

Here’s our analysis: Nurses are the front line of healthcare. For instance, if you wind up in a neuro ICU because an undiagnosed tumor in your brain just made you have full-on seizure including chewing on your tongue like a fruit roll-up, the people doing the actual work of keeping you alive (putting in lines and tubes, ordering tests, giving meds, all the actual action), will be done by nurses, not doctors.  

The pressure we currently put on nurses burns them out and they quit, especially floor nurses. Therefore: less burnout = more skilled nurses coming back to the bedside. And staffing more skilled nurses = less patient death overall because a skilled nurse is often the thing between a live patient and one stepping into a lighted tunnel going, “Granddad, you lost weight!”  

The outcome of the vote could change quite a few things around the highly-influential and science-y neighborhood that is the Massachusetts Health Care Industrial Complex, which regularly treats the sickest people in the world and gets penalized because of it (people come here literally from all over the world because they are really sick for treatment, some of them die, and we look like we’re not doing a good job).

So we would like to dissect the issue. Because that’s what nerds do. Also, we eat a lot of Fritos (unrelated). 

The Mass Nurses’ Association (MNA), our state’s most powerful nursing union, spearheaded this ballot initiative because of staffing concerns in hospitals throughout Massachusetts. There have been disagreements, even among nurses. Some are comfortable leaving things the way they are and say “This proposal undermines the flexibility and decision-making authority of nurses and puts rigid mandates above patient safety, clinical nurse input, nurse manager’s discretion, and every other consideration in a hospital.”

For hospital administrators and management staff who actually listen to floor nurses, this is great. However, would you believe some hospital administrations are more focused on the bottom line than they should be in our for-profit healthcare system? Shock, no? nursing unions exist for this reason, and we guarantee someone you love is alive because of them.

Looking at the hundred-year history of the MNA, it’s pretty interesting. And then, in 1994, it gets REALLY interesting.  With the introduction of managed care, health care systems in Massachusetts became more corporatized and, by design, pushed to get more for less. The nursing union pushed back because I mean, have you ever worked a 12-hour shift without going to the bathroom while being required to help everyone around you go to the bathroom, and then OMG there’s also a literal ream of paperwork you need to finish before you go home? That is some real Kafkaesque shit right there.

Not to mention being punched in the face, verbally abused, or possibly stabbed.

Meanwhile, in 1999, California passed AB 394, a benchmark safe staffing law similar to the one on the ballot here. In 2004, AB 394 was implemented. There isn’t anything else like AB 394 in the entire United States, so we don’t have much of a basis for comparison.

If you look at the “No on 1” website, they claim the effectiveness of mandated staffing ratios is “not scientifically proven” (right up there at the top of the page). ORLY?  Well, thank goodness after AB 394 was passed, a whole bunch of highly-credentialed folks including nurses, doctors, and policy wonks decided to study the outcomes of mandated ratios over several years.

While only 1/50 states have anything this comprehensive on the books, California is basically a country of 40 million people with a massive health care system. A quick Google search will take you to several publications touting the effectiveness of the mandated staffing ratio they implemented, even if only a little more effective than being without one. Your Google experience may vary – and always check your sources. Some hospital systems have published findings skewed in their favor.

Nurse staffing and patient outcomes: a longitudinal study on trend and seasonality” There are lots of equations and deltas and variables here, and right off the bat, the authors stipulate more research is needed. However, they found evidence that the incidences of things like falls and pressure ulcers (both of which kill people) lessen when there are more nurses on staff.

References to a study by Linda Aiken, Ph.D. RN, comparing staffing, staff satisfaction and patient outcomes in California to those in New Jersey and Pennsylvania:  
DPE Fact Sheet
UPenn’s LDI Issue Brief
Lower burnout rates = better employee longevity = more experienced nurses taking care of us over a longer period of time.

Image result for dumpster fire gif

Newark, probably

 

Some emergency room nurses are actually afraid the hospitals will make them turn patients away if this mandate is passed, which is why they’re voting no. What is particularly shocking to us is that hospital administrations would continue to spread this rumor, putting the burden of responsibility on their staff. Thankfully, since 1986, it’s been illegal for hospitals to turn people away as long as those hospitals take Medicare. Though to be fair, that requirement combined with ratios does create a potential conflict. But the law does give wiggle room for a crisis

“Question 1 would remove real-time decision-making power from nurses and caregiving teams and put it in the hands of a rigid government mandate.”

No. Just No.  Nurses exhibit real-time decision-making power all the time. Nurses need to think about notifying doctors of one person’s critical labs as they wade through blood and shit and are berated and harassed. Having fewer patients to focus on will give them more time they need to make decisions and advocate. Again, put yourself or your loved one in that bed and ask, “How much time should the nurse be given to review the critical lab results before they have to go deal with changing the fluid bag in room 5?”

If you have misgivings about government oversight of staffing, think about day care centers. Sure, a daycare provider would get more bang for her buck by having a 12:1 ratio. But would you really want to leave your kid for 10 hours with someone who has 11 other children to watch? Nah. Neither did other people, which is why Massachusetts imposed staffing regulations on licensed day care centers.

To be real, nobody in Massachusetts really knows what the health care climate here will be like if people vote in favor of mandating nursing staffing ratios. But if you end up in the hospital, do you want the nurse who hasn’t eaten in 12 hours, or the one who isn’t going into hypoglycemia as she takes your blood pressure? From this writer’s perspective (and the experience of the entire fucking state of California), more nurses = less death.

The politics behind this one are weird. The MNA fought for years to try and get some measures taken to protect their members through the legislative process, only to be outmaneuvered the whole way. So finally, they took Every. Single. Thing. on their wishlist and got it into a ballot question. If this had managed to go through the Legislature (where good ideas go to die at the hands of Speaker DeLeo) we’d probably have a common-sense system now, and not an incredibly expensive, divisive ballot question. Thanks, spineless legislature!

For a mostly balanced perspective on this topic, head over to WGBH’s take on the matter.

Last note: The final claim is regional hospitals will have to close because of mandated ratios. We can’t believe this is even an argument. Charitably, it’s the “You have to let us keep coal mines unsafe, otherwise you won’t have any coal,” line always made by billionaire coal-mine owners. Uncharitably, it’s what the passenger representative says to the press from the wing with a Kalashnikov in her back. “Just give the guys holding the plane what they want and they won’t kill us…or at least all of us.” It’s a hostage-taker argument. It’s obscene that it’s being made. We’re the richest country in the world. We can have safe regional hospitals and nurses not so exhausted they’re guaranteed to make critical mistakes. The end.

Related image

Threatening us with death: not the foundation of a productive discussion

Your Helpful 2018 Ballot Question Clamsplainer: Question 3

TLDR: Vote YES because we are not monsters

In 2016, after much drama, the MA Legislature passed a law giving the same basic protections to transgender individuals that are provided to most other groups. It’s a really short law (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/Senate/S2407/) and it basically says that if you’re a place that has segregated facilities based on sex, that people who have the appropriate gender identity can use them. Like, humans can use bathrooms and stuff. This is not hard.

That’s it. So let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you’re a transgender female (born male, but perhaps at a midway point in the transition). Let’s also say, inelegantly, but we’re trying to be as clear AF here, you still have your junk. You can still pee standing up.

This law allows said transgender person to go and use a women’s bathroom, where they can then go sit in a stall like the rest of the ladies would. Or in the case of the opposite, a person born female who is transitioning genders, they could go into a men’s bathroom (where they would also likely use a stall).

I oversimplify, of course, because we are the Clam, and we like to break things down this basically, and often we’ve had a couple of beers when we’re writing these things. Gender is, we now know, far more fluid that this simple example, and trans people are on a continuum. It’s about far, far more than where your junk is.

Well, there’s a certain ultra conservative minority out there who thinks that being transgender is an abomination unto the Flying Spaghetti Monster or something. And they are seizing on the natural fear and squickishness most of us feel about bodily issues and sexuality to raise FUD on this. They call it “the bathroom bill” to minimalize it, and they try and raise the specter of hairy, bearded, clearly male people wearing dresses so they can hang out in women’s bathrooms and commit unspeakable violations.

Image result for worst website in the world

You can go through the actual Bible to see how wrong these people are or, you know, take your cues from their website design skills. Heck, it may not even be up at any given time.

I’m a politician, so I’m not going to say what I want to about that premise, but it’s total B*$%&@#(!!. Period. Men are not going to use this to make criminal behavior legal. It’s also not going to affect very many people at all – but those it affects gain a massively positive benefit. It basically legalizes them in public.

On a personal side, I know a number of people who are transgender. On both sides. You wouldn’t know it looking at most of them. Heck, you probably wouldn’t know it about any of them unless they told you. One of my friends was born female and began to transition a couple of years ago. He now looks more badass than I do, and has a better beard. I may be a bit jealous. His wife is someone he met and married when he was physically female, and she is a wonderful person who has stood with her wife (and now husband) throughout – because sexual orientation may be one thing, but plumbing is just plumbing. Love is bigger than that.

This message of tolerance brought to you by the good people at Love Plumbing & HVAC, LLC

So in other words, I’m proudly voting “yes” on Question 3 in order to preserve the protections that a small class of people in this Commonwealth need in order for them to safely survive in our increasingly crazy-ass society. If you are so heartless as to want people who look like women but don’t yet have 100% of the plumbing (or, conversely, people who look like badass men but need to pee sitting down – and forcing them into the ladies’ room) hooked up to have to use a men’s bathroom, well, first of all you’re not someone I want to know. Secondly, take a good look in the mirror. And then vote “yes”. Because the only way this ballot question could be clearer is if there was a checkbox for “Duh”.

Your Helpful Ballot Question Clamsplainer: Question 2

Written by Friend of the Clam Larry Oaks or “Lawrence Okenclam,” as he is now known across the lands.

Question 2: This is an easy one:

Vote Yes if you know the Gorton’s fisherman isn’t a real life fisherman with the same inalienable rights as you and me.

Image result for gortons fisherman

He is hipster AF though

Read more if you’re bored or whatever:

It wasn’t so long ago in this country that corporations had to navigate a set of rules put in place to promote fair elections. Of course companies went ahead anyway and funneled obscene amounts of money into the coffers of the candidate of their choice – after all the rules didn’t go anywhere near far enough toward limiting the influence of private wealth on our elections – but at least there were rules! Remember those days? Good times!

And what might you ask does any of this have to do with the Gortons fisherman?

Eight years ago the already weak campaign finance rules in place all changed. And not for the better.

In the now infamous 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens V. United Election Commission the Court through a narrow 5-4 decision (thanks Antonin Scalia) struck down any remaining limits on corporate political spending and in the process placed the rights of corporations and special interests on equal footing with those of actual human beings.

In effect, the court decided that corporations are people. Not pretend people, drinking in Williamsburgh with dudes named “Tigh” but real, actual people.

Corporations are people? As if!

Image result for corporate personhood

Meet 2020 Presidential Candidate Rod McBuildingface

Look, we all know corporations aren’t anything like actual people, right people? After all you can’t grab a brew with Archer, Daniels and Midland – you wouldn’t spill your secrets to Johnson & Johnson and who the hell would wanna spend an afternoon at Good Harbor Beach with Proctor and Gamble?

Listen, those may sound like real people but they’re definitely not.

A “yes” vote on Question 2 means you’ll be joining us over at the Clam in supporting the creation of a Citizens Commission to investigate and report on the effects that Citizens United and similar court cases have had on our political discourse.

We Clammers see this one as a no-brainer. It doesn’t matter (or at least it shouldn’t) what political view you happen to hold. Who isn’t for fair elections? Who doesn’t believe in equal representation? Who doesn’t think campaign finance reform is needed?

Who thinks corporations are people?

Oh, right. A lot of greedy politicians, that’s who!

So be sure to vote “Yes” on question 2. Let’s form a group of real life people and have them report back to ‘we the people’ on how to begin getting the money out of politics.

And in the meantime remember people, Stanley Morgan is your friend, your neighbor and a real life person. Morgan Stanley is a bank. And the Gorton’s fisherman? He isn’t a real fisherman.

Landed Gentrification

Greetings, Clamunists. Are you enjoying the heat? We, ourselves, walked our dog in the woods last week and it felt more like a fateful patrol in a Nam movie. We fully expected a member of the Sheen family to show up and start imparting wisdom in the form of low, growly and possibly cocaine-induced narration.

As our brain cooks inside the Instapot of our skull, something has been annoying the piss out of us. More than one person has reached out in a rage about the several housing developments going up, decrying it as a sure symbol of “Gentrification” – the dreaded “G” word which indicates Gloucester will very soon be Newport Rhode Island and we will all be forced to wear red shorts and boat shoes with dress shirts. Then we will all perish from punching ourselves to death, as is just.

They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.

Gentrification is real. And a massive challenge. And happening. But it is not just “shit you don’t like.”

See, here is the thing. If a person wanted to actually do something effective against gentrification, they would do all of this (which have been done other places, look it up, there are case studies):

  1. Create very strict rent control You would tell landlords, individual owners, many elderly, oftentimes somebody’s grandma, what they can charge for rent. As you can imagine, this would not be popular. But if you actually care about gentrification, you would do it. You’d have to.  
  2. Buy up all the available developable land and put it in trust This would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. And the land wouldn’t be fun parks or whatever, it would just be undevelopable rando plots of land. That will be a fun city budget item to propose: “We’re buying millions of dollars in land to do nothing with. It’s going to cost money and provide no return.” Or raise the money privately. So, great. Where is this trust? Do you need a website? A Gofundme? Reach out, we’ll help, but we don’t have access to millions of dollars until the Magnitsky act gets overturned and we can access our Cyprus bank accounts.  
  3. Build as much densely-packed affordable housing as possible Yes, you prevent gentrification by building new housing. Public/private partnerships, tens of millions of dollars invested at least. And you’d have to listen to closet-racists say shit like, “it will just bring in people from Lynn,” by which they mean brown people because racists.

You’d have to do all three of these things, and you’d need to start fifteen years ago. But if you are not fully on board with each and all of these, then you are not doing shit about gentrification and you’re just opposing a housing project you don’t like. That’s fine. Some housing project ideas are terrible. But don’t come running to us, the local firebrand lefties, with the “G” word unless you really plan to do something about it.

Additional note: Do not, under any circumstances, send us articles about gentrification that begin like this:

This once authentic neighborhood, which previously supported payday loan storefronts and off-track betting parlors, now is the domain of tattooed tech-industry workers riding fixed gear bicycles, flitting to brewpubs featuring single strands of lightbulbs and farm-to-table ingredients.

Hell on Earth, obvs. Hopefully with outdoor seating.

Don’t send us that, because it will enrage us. Something like ⅙ of downtown Gloucester is un or underoccupied. New cool places to hang out, new and interesting businesses, all that is very hard to make happen here because for some reason Gloucester landlords prefer to leave space empty. They ask for very high rents, and when they don’t get the rates they want, they just leave it vacant for months, years or decades.

This confuses the shit out of us. No Snark- can someone please explain this? In college we took economics and we seem to remember this “law” that when a commodity had high supply and low demand, the price would adjust downward. Markets, we were told, were perfect, almost ethereal entities and would always prevail. Then we were forced to don robes and worship a vision of Ayn Rand formed from cigarette smoke from an ashtray held by a statue of Alan Greenspan. Later we were told the shrooms Justin had found in the woods were not what he thought they were and the entire dorm spent the night puking, but that still markets were perfect and would always adjust. But for some reason, this economic law does not work here. For our part, we’d pretty much dig some variety of businesses shoved into those empty spaces.

We are also actual tech workers, entrepreneurs, even, and we ride a bike and have an electric car and all that dorky crap. Newsflash: we have a right to be here too. Because this is an actual town where people live. This is not some kind of Plimoth Plantation-esque historical museum dedicated to one particular epoch. It’s a city. Things change. And there are kids to educate and roads to fix and high schools to keep from sliding off the continental shelf into the ocean and septic plants to relocate (next to your house- I saw the drawings). It’s real life here. It’s not curated.  

Image result for tire fire

They’re also putting in a pile of burning tires across the street from you

The last thing I’ll tell you is this. We do much of our work in Cambridge these days. When you get on an elevator in a building with a lot of tech workers, there are one or two people like us: nerds in biz casual (jeans, sneakers, button-downs) carrying laptops in messenger bags and holding expensive coffee drinks. Everyone else is drinking Dunks, in Carharts, carrying lunch boxes and with safety glasses on the backs of their necks. These folks (who also have tattoos, btw) are laughing their asses off at us because they don’t have student loans, absolutely will not get laid off they are in such high demand, and never ever have to sit through a 93 slide presentation titled, “Generating Optimal Outcomes by Leveraging Core Deliverables.” These folks make good money- many start at something like 40K right out of a one year, 10K training program and go up from there. A lot of these folks are leveraging training they received in the military. Industry is fighting tooth and nail for these workers, offering signing bonuses, ed reimbursement, all that. It’s 21st century blue collar middle class.

We are lucky as hell, here in Eastern MA, to have this, while the traditional middle class disappears everywhere else.

These folks run the labs, shops, benches, QA, shipping, chryo, and other essential infrastructure for what we coined as “Loading Dock Technology.” Back in the 90s when everything was all about programming, all you needed were computers and some bean bag chairs and maybe a foosball table. Today, in the exploding medical device, biotechnology, robotics, specialty manufacturing, nanotech, alternative energy and IOT (Internet Of Things) industries you need actual humans to build and run stuff because you are making actual, physical objects. You need the labs and benches built and that takes plumbers, electricians, HVAC, cryogenics and technicians.

These hands-on folks, often called, “science athletes” are what the Gloucester Biotech Academy  is producing for just one of these industries. It is truly amazing we have this resource right here, giant props to everyone who made this happen. Let’s get more of this.

Because these companies are coming to Gloucester. Near the MIT dome, lab and office space is $90 a square foot. Once a company gets their product developed down there, they move out to commercialize it at lower cost and wind up in places like Burlington, Watertown, the office parks in Lexington and now, Beverly (ever wonder why there is all that traffic on 128 now?). Soon, here.

This is just the way of things. We can stare out at the sea all we want and talk about marine industry, which is great, but let’s be honest. We haven’t had many takers on putting thriving industrial businesses next to the water here. But up in the office parks, we’re going to see more and more of loading dock tech companies, and people from here are going to work at them and that is good. As we said, we’re absurdly lucky to be in a place with economic options in modern-day America.  

Related image

Still safer than Bitcoin

Yes, it’s change, but it’s only gentrification if we price out people. And for all the rage-posting at whatever ugly collections of townhouses someone will slap together, that really is up to private landlords and homesellers and the extent to which we commit to building and maintaining affordable housing. Affordability is a huge factor everywhere two hours or less from a tech industry hub. You can be as pissed off as you want, but it’s not going away.

Our task as a community will be to figure out how to make all this work for actual, real-live people as tech creeps north. Our job will be to create new opportunities for as many folks as possible, and to protect the vulnerable and the young in particular, whom we want to stay here, raise families and continue to make fun of our inability to use Snapchat correctly. Because we’re a city, not a “market” and the engines of our economy don’t pause to think about the real consequences on people lives, so that’s up to all of us.  

Unless Amazon winds up in Eastie, then we’ll all get priced out and wind up living a collection of abandoned shipping containers in a vacant strip mall parking lot in New Hampshire, which will be fun. If someone has a generator, I can bring the Instapot.

Related image

Great, they didn’t even text. Now we’re going to need more chili.

NOTE: Any responses to this post implying we can have a thriving, multi-level economy based on the vague concept of “Arts” will be deleted. We love the arts, please keep doing art, we’re fans and patrons. But this ain’t Tanglewood and “art” communities (see: Provincetown) actually have worse Gentrification problems than tech towns. Look it up.