Blogster's Miscellany: Thoughts on Markey v. Kennedy, Plush Pensions & More

Friday, August 7, 2020

MEANINGLESS MEASUREMENTS DEPT.  The Boston Globe recently devoted just under 100 inches of type, plus a color photo and caption that spanned four columns and went four inches deep, to the campaign tempest over how much time U.S. Senator Ed Markey spends in Massachusetts versus Washington, D.C.  Headline: "Markey was least likely legislator to be in Mass." 

After reviewing travel records for all members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, the Globe revealed that Markey stayed in Massachusetts on 38% of the nights between June 1, 2018, and May 31, 2020, whereas his opponent in the September 1 Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, III, spent 70% of those nights here. "Senator Markey isn't here enough.  He isn't in Massachusetts enough," Kennedy complains.  The article pointed out that, for every local official in the state who says Markey is never around, there is another who "says he is an engaged and present politician."  Where a member of congress bunks is a bogus metric -- and never more than in the era of the coronavirus and video meetings via electronics, i.e., Zoom, WebEx, et al.  And what about the carbon emissions resulting from all those congresspersons flying back and forth to Washington at the drop of a hat?  Enviros, why rush you not to Eddie's defense?

MORE MEANINGFUL MEASUREMENTS DEPT.  I miss President Obama as much as the next guy from Massachusetts.  That does not mean I agreed with everything he said and did -- or did not do.  I still shake my head over the time he was at the Gridiron Club event and dismissed the idea of socializing with the Senate Republican majority leader.  That day, in the middle of a very effective comedic routine, Obama told the audience of media bigshots, and friends of bigshots: "People say, 'Why don't you have a drink with Mitch McConnell?' " After a pause, he added, "No.  Why don't YOU have a drink with Mitch McConnell?"  How could someone as smart as Obama not see having a drink with the majority leader as a priority rather than a pointless chore?  This sets up a soapbox moment for me on the aforementioned Globe story...I believe a better measurement of congressional job performance than the number of nights spent at homes in their districts is how many times they have dinner in Washington with a member of the other party.

STATE PENSION WHIPPING BOY.  The Boston Herald published an article August 3 stating there are 1,540 retired state employees who "are set to earn six-figure payouts (of their pensions this year) as the state struggles mightily during the coronavirus pandemic, ["Massachusetts pensions keep bulging with state paying out $5.44B.  Herald analysis of state pension report shows slew of of six-figure earners."]   Here's the first paragraph of that article: "UMass retirees top the state's $5.44 billion pension system, with the university's former President William 'Billy' Bulger set to pocket nearly $272,000 this year, records show."  Bulger, who served as president of the Massachusetts Senate for 17 years before becoming president of UMass, is collecting the size pension allowed him under law.  Anyone else in his position would do the same.  That does not mean it is a good idea the state fails to put a cap on maximum earnings by state pensioners.  Something in the range of $5,000 to $6,000 a month ($60K-$72K per year) seems reasonable -- as well as prudent for a Commonwealth with so many unmet needs.  Perhaps the pandemic-related depression we're experiencing will create the social and political circumstances that will end, at some indistinct point in the future, six-figure pensions for future state retirees.   

FLEXIBILITY EQUALS LONGEVITY.  During a virtual U.S. senatorial campaign event on August 4 hosted by Suffolk University, the WGBH Forum Network and the Justice Reform Coalition, both Ed Markey and challenger Joe Kennedy supported: (a) ending prison sentences of life without parole, (b) decriminalizing sex work, and (c) giving incarcerated felons the right to vote.  When Markey was first elected to office 48 years ago, as a state rep from Malden, I strongly doubt he could have won if he'd espoused even one of those positions, never mind all three.  Today, I would bet, that Markey cannot win the September 1 Democratic primary if he does not to embrace all three...There's a huge difference between a race for rep in one or two communities and a statewide election for what is a national office.  The comparison is interesting but not apt.  So let's take the first time Markey was elected to the U.S. House from the old Seventh Massachusetts District, in 1976.  He won a very crowded, 12-person Democratic primary and then coasted to victory in the final. I covered that race as a newspaper reporter.  If Markey had made the mistake on the campaign trail then of even musing aloud on parole for lifers, lawful sex for hire, and inmate voting rights, the resulting controversy would have sunk his congressional candidacy; his 40-plus-year career in D.C. never would have happened.

ONE MAN'S BASE IS ANOTHER'S MAN'S MOB.  Talk about red meat!  Not long after the virtual U.S. senatorial campaign event hosted by Suffolk U., et al., the Massachusetts Republican Party issued a press release ripping Markey and Kennedy for their positions.  The headline on the release gives the complete flavor of the product: "Markey, Kennedy competing to see who can best placate the far-left mob."  Party chairman Jim Lyons, formerly a state rep from Andover, was quoted in the release as follows: "These dangerous proposals are where the Democrats are headed, and they're absolutely insane.  Both Sen. Markey and Rep. Kennedy will do anything and promise anything to pander to the far left mob that appears to be dictating the Democrat Party's policy platform."

IN A DESPERATE TIME, A NEEDED REMINDER.  Yesterday, Action for Boston Community Development issued a statement reminding us all how bad things are in our country at this moment -- and how much worse things may become if a new coronavirus relief law does not quickly emerge from the Congress and the office of the President.  ABCD points out that, when the emergency $600-per-week federal payment to every unemployed person expired seven days ago, on July 31, more than 950,000 Massachusetts were impacted, meaning that many families are now unable to meet their basic needs, and that, abruptly, there was a lot less money being spent in Massachusetts.  "...continuing delay in passage of a second virus relief bill leaves 30 million high and dry, running out of food and essential goods and fearing homelessness after the federal eviction moratorium ended July 25,"  ABCD noted. 

No One Wants to Think 'Bacteria' on a Beach Day. But You Better.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

We've obviously had a lot of great beach weather lately.  But one should be aware that, when it comes to swimming in Massachusetts, not all beaches are created equal.  

I'm not talking about the texture of the sand, the amount of seaweed, the number of parking spaces, or amenities like snack bars and rest rooms.  No, I'm talking about yucky stuff: bacteria in the water!

There are beaches in the Bay State where the chances are higher than average the water can make you sick, according to a recent report by the Boston-based Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, known more commonly by its shorter name, Environment Massachusetts.  

"Along many areas of our coast, the water is cleaner than it used to be  -- but pollution remains a serious problem," says the organization's state director. Ben Hellerstein.  "All too often, our beaches aren't safe for swimming.  We can and must do a better job of keeping waste out of our water." 

Every summer, Environment Massachusetts issues a report, titled Safe for Swimming?, on the results of water tests conducted the previous year at hundreds of public beaches in the Commonwealth.

That report, available online at, showed that, in 2019, there were "potentially unsafe levels of pollution on at least one day at 257 beaches in Massachusetts."  The key measurement of beach safety used in this analysis is the level of fecal bacteria.  

Contact with contaminated water may lead to gastrointestinal illnesses, respiratory diseases, ear and eye infections, skin rashes and more.

Tenean Beach in the Dorchester section of Boston "had the highest number of potentially unsafe swimming days in 2019, with tests revealing elevated levels of fecal bacteria on 44 out of 90 days tested," Environment Massachusetts reported.

The next highest number of potentially unsafe days were found at King's Beach, in Lynn and Swamscott, where there were 43; Malibu Beach, Dorchester, 20; Wollaston Beach at Channing Street, Quincy, 20; and Constitution Beach, East Boston, 19.

The state frequently tests the water at public beaches in the summer.  When elevated levels of bacteria are detected, signs are posted. It's important to look for these messages.

It has long been known that combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are the major cause of beach pollution.  CSOs occur during heavy rainstorms in communities where pipes carry both storm water and sewage and send the overflows into the ocean or rivers via "outfalls."   

Steep financial and logistical challenges confront any municipality that needs to address this problem, which is why it tends to persist for decades.

Advocates for change argue that, if cities, towns and other entities cannot correct CSOs through costly infrastructure upgrades, the least they can do is get the word out quickly to the public when CSOs occur.  This is especially critical in cases like that of the Merrimack River, where up-river outfalls automatically threaten down-river communities that draw water from the river for household uses, including drinking.

Concerns like this form the basis of a bill now before the Ways & Means Committee of the House of Representatives, House 3976, An Act Promoting Awareness of Sewage Pollution in Public Waters. If enacted into law, H.3976 would require any person or entity holding a permit allowing the discharge of sewage at outfalls to issue a public advisory within two hours of the discharge, and to upgrade that advisory "every eight hours for an ongoing discharge and within two hours (of) when a discharge ceases or is projected to cease..." Here's a link to the complete text of the bill:

We are now one day away from what, in a normal election year, would be the final day of formal sessions of the legislature, July 31, meaning H.3976 would almost certainly have failed to pass in a normal year.  Time would have run out on its chance to do some good.

Nothing is normal in the time of the coronavirus.  

The legislature is going to keep meeting formally, perhaps even until the end of this calendar year.  For this and many other good bills, there's still hope.


Brace Yourself for This Stunning $109-Million-Dollar Moment in Corruption

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

I have to thank a good, solid Trump appointee, Andrew Lelling, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, and Lelling's colleagues in the federal government, for getting to the bottom of a mystery that had long gnawed on my mind.

For me, the story began when I, like most Americans passing the 65th anniversary of their births, signed up for Medicare.  This was, alas, a while back in time.

Even if you still have private health coverage at 65, as I did, and even if you intend to keep private coverage, as I did, you have to enroll in Medicare at 65 to retain the privilege of partaking later in the program.

Soon after entering Medicare's ranks, I started getting calls at home from an entity that did not identify itself and offered to assist me in obtaining orthopedic braces at no cost through Medicare.

The first time, I made the mistake of responding to a pre-recorded voice instructing me to, "Press 1 for important information on your Medicare coverage."  A live person, a woman who sounded as if she was in her twenties, immediately came on the line, rushed through a confusing introduction, and asked for the name of my physician.  I had recently seen my doctor.

My first reaction was, This person might be calling from my doctor's office, where several medicos were employed.  I asked her if she worked for my doctor but did not mention his name.  She said, "No, but we have your records and want to confirm a few things to get you on your way to obtaining braces that will help you in your everyday activities."

This sounded funny, not least because I did not have (then or subsequently) any muscular or skeletal problems that could be ameliorated by braces.  I said, "I would like to talk with my doctor first. Perhaps we could talk later?"  Before she could get out a response, I said good-bye and hung up.

I said it was a mistake to "Press 1" because I did not realize at that time that there are innumerable scam artists who prey upon older Americans through robocalls.  If you engage in this process simply by answering the phone, even for a moment or two, you will automatically be identified as a possible mark, a "live one," and that one call will trigger an endless number of follow-ups.

For at least a year after that first call about braces, calls would come in from the same outfit at least twice a week.   Our home phone announces the caller or the number of the party calling. Since the brace people didn't use personal phones or give their names, they would be announced by the number.  Not recognizing the number, we'd let the call go to voicemail, where a pre-recorded voice would say something like: "We're calling about your braces and the limited time you now have to take advantage of this incredible offer."

After several months, the pre-recorded message switched to something like:  "This is your last call for free braces.  Please call immediately."

We got those calls repeatedly.  For months.  I could not possibly count those final offers. They became such a regular feature of our lives that I expected them to persist until the day I actually needed braces to get around the house.  Eventually, however, the calls for braces stopped.

Yesterday, Lelling's office issued a press release announcing that "A Columbian national  residing in Lighthouse Beach, Fla., has agreed to plead guilty in connection with submitting more than $109 million in false and fraudulent claims for durable medical equipment (DME) such as arm, back, knee and shoulder braces."

The guilty party was identified in the release as Juan Camilo Perez Buitrago, age 31, who was referred to as Perez subsequently in the release.  It said that he had been charged with one count of health care fraud and one count of payment of kickbacks in connection with a federal health care program, and that a plea hearing for him would be scheduled at a later date.

According to the charging documents cited by Lelling, Perez "manufactured and submitted false and fraudulent Medicare claims by instructing his employees to establish shell companies in more than a dozen different states, including Massachusetts."

Further, the documents say that "Perez directed employees to list his mother, wife and yacht captain as corporate directors and to use fictitious names when registering the shell companies as DME providers."  Also:

"Perez allegedly purchased Medicare patient data from foreign and domestic call centers that targeted elderly patients, and instructed call centers to contact the Medicare beneficiaries with an offer of ankle, arm, back, knee, and/or shoulder braces 'at little to no cost.'  He then submitted Medicare claims for those patients without obtaining a prescriber's order to ensure that the braces were medically necessary.  It is further alleged that he submitted blatantly fraudulent claims, including claims for deceased patients and repeat claims for the same patient and the same DME."

In total, the charging documents allege that Perez submitted $109 million in Medicare claims and pocketed more than $12 million.

"When Perez did provide DME to patients," the release from Lelling states, "he typically billed insurance policies more than 12 times the average price of the DME that he provided to the patient."

And for the majority of the money allegedly collected through the scam -- $7.5 million in claims -- Perez failed to provide any equipment to his victims, according to the release.

No wonder they refer to Florida as "a sunny place for shady people."

I'm thinking the least the feds could do now is offer the Sunshine State targets of this scheme a ride on Perez's yacht.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know, Who Will Ascend to Dean of the House in 2021?

Friday, July 10, 2020

Let others obsess over Trump vs. Biden and Markey vs. Kennedy.  Me, I'm keeping my eyes on the process that will produce the next dean of the House of Representatives.

"The Dean."  There's something about the title and role I find interesting...and I don't really know why.  It has to do, I think, with its paradoxical place in the legislative scheme of things -- a place where meaninglessness and significance strangely combine.

Being the dean -- that is, the officially recognized longest-serving member of the body -- is an honorary deal.  The dean does not, for example, get a bump in pay or a special State House office with The Dean on the door.

And the dean does not get to duck any of the normal duties, responsibilities or problems of a state representative.  As for the responsibilities of being the dean, those are like being a member of the British royal family: you're mainly there to make people feel good.

Members of the House are fond of hailing the dean and enunciating his title before audiences small and large, as in, "You're looking especially dapper today, Dean," and "It's time, now, that we hear from The Dean in this debate."

Whoever is dean is not supposed to get too puffed up about his title and (honorary) stature, except in a mock serious way, as perfected by the late David Flynn of Bridgewater, who was the dean one dean ago.

The ideal dean, rather, wears the honor lightly and thereby enhances the ways in which the use of the title can lighten the mood in the chamber, like the sun breaking through the clouds of the turgid action on the floor.

However, once every two years, the dean gets to exercise actual authority.  For a brief spell, the senior member holds the reins of power usually held fast in the grip of the speaker.

It happens on that day in early January when the representatives elected or re-elected the previous November have taken the oath of office and the members of the majority party have gathered in one place to choose their leaders for the new two-year legislative term.  The dean is the official presiding officer of that caucus.

On those occasions, if the dean is on good terms with an incumbent speaker waiting to be re-elected, he will dispense with his duties speedily and hand the gavel to the speaker.

If the opposite is the case, as has been the case since Angelo Scaccia of  Boston became dean in 2012, the dean will do as much as possible to drag out the process.  He will deliberately prolong his time in the spotlight to get under the skin of the speaker, Bob DeLeo in this case, who's held the position since 2009, and the speaker's leadership team-in-waiting.

A digression is in order to explain the endearingly generous way the House allots deanship "points"...

There are representatives like the late David Flynn, and like Ted Speliotis of Danvers and Tom Walsh of Peabody, who have served in the House, left to take up other professional endeavors, and later ran for the House again and were re-elected, sometimes decades later.  In every such case, their "gap years" are treated as if they did not exist when it comes to designating the dean.  In other words, the House bases dean eligibility on the very first time one takes the oath of office as a representative.  Flynn, for example, served from 1964 to 1972, was out of office from 1973 to 1997, was elected to the House again in 1998, and stayed in the House for 12 years before retiring at age 78.  When Flynn "re-upped" in 1998, he was, by House custom, immediately recognized as the dean because his eligibility was rooted in the year 1964, the first year of his first term.  Flynn was that rare bird, an instant dean!

Now back to the main narrative..

Scaccia's decision not to seek re-election this year -- and a reasonable decision it was, given his age (77) and the 40-plus years he's served as the representative from Hyde Park -- has created the opportunity for a new dean to step up in 2021.

Waiting behind Scaccia, in terms of longevity in the lower branch, are Ted Speliotis and Tom Petrolati of Ludlow.

Speliotis has had two House stints, the first beginning in 1979.  Petrolati started in the House on Jan. 7, 1987, and has served there continuously since.  Neither will become the dean in 2021 because both are retiring from politics at the end of this year.

Waiting behind Speliotis and Petrolati, longevity-wise, are Rep. Kevin Honan of the Brighton section of Boston and Tom Walsh, both of whom were sworn in for the first time on Jan. 7, 1987, more than 33 years ago, in the same freshman class as Petrolati.

In cases like those of Honan and Walsh, whose eligibilities for dean are both measured from 1-7-87, the tie is broken, by House custom, by date of birth; that is, the older one wins.  Walsh was born on July 15, 1960, and is nearing his 60th birthday; Honan was born on June 5, 1959, and is 61 years old, meaning he will get the prize -- provided he's re-elected in November.

To take dean honors, Honan needs to prevail in a fight for re-election against Jordan Meehan, an energetic, young (29) challenger.  If Honan loses, Walsh will be the dean.

I intend no disparagement of Mr. Meehan when I say that I hope Kevin Honan is re-elected, number one, because I have tremendous respect and admiration for him as a human being, and, number two, because I know he will make a great Dean of the House.

Moulton Defends Hong Kong Protestors and All Who Stand on 'Ramparts of Freedom'

Monday, July 6, 2020

I like how Seth Moulton, the U.S. representative for the Sixth Massachusetts District, used his official statement on Independence Day this year to call out the Chinese communist government for its relentless suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, and how he reminded his fellow citizens that we could lose our own democracy if we do not guard it.

I like how Moulton, the pride of Salem, Harvard University and the United States Marine Corps, drew a direct line, in his Fourth of July statement, from the rebels in Boston in 1776 to the protestors in Hong Kong today.

Since March of 2019, Moulton said, the "brave people in Hong Kong have stood up to mainland China's powerful communist party with nothing but umbrellas and spray paint."

"As we celebrate Independence Day," he said, "we must never forget that throughout history, through good times and bad, people always choose freedom and self-government  over tyranny.  We also know that the success of bold experiments in democracy, including our own, are far from guaranteed."

It disturbs Moulton that the Chinese communist party is "persecuting these protestors with abandon," and that the party has now "passed a 'national security' law that falsely equated peacefully protesting to secession, terrorism, subversion of state power, and collusion with foreign entities."

He stated, "We have already witnessed protestors arrested under the new law for actions as simple as holding a flag that carry possible sentences of life imprisonment."

Moulton pointed out that, on the night of July 1, the body in which he serves passed a bill imposing sanctions on Chinese companies that violate the "political and economic autonomy of Hong Kong."

To the leadership of the  Chinese communist party, he declared, "The world is watching."

On this "most unusual Fourth of July," Moulton concluded:

"Let's recommit ourselves to the cause of freedom, self-government, and the fundamental rights of free speech and free assembly -- the ideals upon which we were founded that we share with the people of Hong Kong.

"Let's celebrate this because of what American patriots started in Boston in 1776: We are ruled not by kings, dictators, or tyrants, but by the people we choose.

"And let's work to support the people who today stand on the ramparts of freedom around the world, struggling to achieve the same ideals: freedom, liberty, and government of, by and for the people."

So it is that, on the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a 41-year-old Congressman with no seniority and little actual power, is a stronger voice for freedom and human rights than the man who holds the office established by George Washington.

Holyoke Catastrophe Figures in Hypothetical Healey v. Polito Guv Contest

Monday, June 29, 2020

When the coronavirus engulfed the Holyoke Soldiers Home this past spring, Attorney General Maura Healey faced a choice: defer to Governor Charlie Baker as he methodically and openly dealt with the catastrophe or launch her own (now in progress) investigation into it.  Independence won over deference.

The consequences of that choice could have a significant impact on the 2022 election for governor, whether Baker runs for re-election -- which I doubt he will -- or his second-in-command and heir apparent, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, runs as the Republican nominee.

Healey, a Democrat, has not indicated whether she will run for governor in the next election cycle.  Nevertheless, she's widely seen as the favorite to win her party's nomination should she pursue it.  There's still time for her to decide on a gubernatorial run.

If Healey does run, her comments now on the carnage in Holyoke (76 veterans dead from the virus) have put her in position to lay the blame on Baker, Polito or both.

Last week, Baker released a lengthy report on the Holyoke Soldiers Home investigation, which he had commissioned by Atty. Mark W. Pearlstein, a former federal prosecutor.  It justifiably caused an uproar.

Healey quickly released a statement that the Pearlstein Report "lays bare systemic failures of oversight by the Baker administration in adequately preparing, staffing, and responding to this crisis to protect our veterans."

The statement was broad enough to conceivably cast aspersions on others in the administration, including some in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

But if I'm Karyn Polito and interested in becoming governor -- What lieutenant governor is not ? -- I'm taking it narrowly.

If I'm Healey, I want Polito to take it narrowly, personally.  It was almost as if Healey was announcing to her, You won't be able to duck this in '22.

Without Managers Like Tesler, Government Cannot Truly Deliver

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Baker administration removed the "acting" from the title of Acting Registrar of Motor Vehicles Jamey Tesler this past week, suggesting that the overhaul of the management of that agency, a critical public safety bureaucracy, remains a work-in-progress.

Otherwise, I suspect that Tesler would, just about now, be taking on another high-level assignment in the Baker administration or a better paying job in the private sector.

You may recall that, in late June, 2019, the RMV was shaken to its foundation when a young man from Western Massachusetts, whose driver's license should have been suspended, drove a pick-up truck pulling a large trailer into a line of motorcyclists in Randolph, New Hampshire, killing by blunt force trauma five men and two women.

In the aftermath, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles was forced from her job and Tesler was persuaded by the governor and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack to quit his job as chief of staff at Suffolk Construction, become acting registrar, and make the big, difficult changes needed at the RMV to avoid a repeat of this horrific event.

In the early going, that primarily involved clearing up a backlog of thousands of cases where Massachusetts drivers who had run afoul of the law in other states -- and who should have had their Massachusetts driving privileges summarily suspended -- continued to operate vehicles here, often for incredibly long spells.  They constituted a major threat to public safety on our roads.  And no one had really done anything about it.

In announcing last week that Tesler's appointment had been made permanent, Secretary Pollack said:

"After stepping up to lead the Registry of Motor Vehicles at a difficult time, Jamey has reprioritized and re-oriented the RMV and MRB (Merit Rating Board) around public safety responsibilities and functions, while transforming the RMV's service model in the midst of a pandemic.

"He has built a strong leadership team and excellent relationships with the workforce while demonstrating the ability to identify and implement changes in longstanding practices that failed to ensure that the Registry met its core safety and credentialing functions."

Like many who serve in government positions, including a slew of highly educated and motivated legislative aides at the State House, Tesler defies negative stereotypes of public employees; for example, that they don't have the stuff to work in the private sector, that they don't do much when on the clock, and that they care mainly about their pensions and other benefits.

Tesler is Exhibit A of your tax dollars actually at work.

He's a graduate of the Ivy League (University of Pennsylvania, 1995) and a Big Ten law school (University of Michigan, 1998).  In addition to significant work in the private sector, such as at an international law firm, he has more than 16 years of experience in senior management roles in the public sector.

Tesler has been the general counsel in the office of the Massachusetts State Treasurer, the deputy legal counsel at the MBTA, the deputy legal counsel in the office of the governor, and both chief of staff and chief operating officer at MassDOT.

Tesler is not a pal of mine; we are not related by blood or marriage.  He would say hello to me if we passed each other on the sidewalk because of his inherent politeness, but he probably would not remember my name.  I stipulate to these facts in the hope you'll see my admiration for him as on the level.

The last time I was in his presence was on a client matter -- for the Massachusetts Railroad Association, the trade group for the freight-hauling railroads, I believe. It was around ten years ago, when he would have been serving as a deputy secretary at MassDOT.  I cannot remember the subject matter; it may have had something to do with the state's Industrial Rail Access Program.  Tesler asked good, pointed questions. He didn't say much. He listened sincerely, thoughtfully. In my line of work, that's a good outing.

Thank you for entering public service, Mr. Registrar, and for returning to same, sacrificing much in the process!