By Michael Goldman

First kudos to the Boston Herald for attempting to clarify the difference between a legitimate request by an elected official to advocate for a constituent seeking a job in the public sector for which they are totally qualified, and what those on trial for rigging the system at the Probation Department are accused of doing, which was setting up a bogus process by which many qualified applicants were actually excluded from consideration in favor of preselected candidates.

To quote the Herald: "(John) O'Brien and his co-conspirators were indicted for corrupting a merit-based system and creating instead a 'sham-hiring system' designed to conceal the fact that the hiring decisions were predetermined and not based on merit, but based upon the nature and extent of the sponsorship."

Now while O'Brien and his co-defendants are entitled to the presumption of innocence, that doesn't mean they have the right to pretend that what they did is the same as what the politicians did in making legitimate recommendations for qualified applicants.

Second, kudos also to all in the criminal-justice system and the medical community who are getting the word out about the 185 suspected heroin overdose deaths that have been reported in the commonwealth since November, a figure that does

not include the additional heroin deaths that occurred during that same time frame in the state's largest cities: Boston, Worcester and Springfield.

Instead of merely beating the drums for more arrests, increased street enforcement, stricter and longer jail sentences, or perhaps worst of all, blaming the actual victims of the disease of heroin addiction for their own troubles, all parties in this growing tragedy seem to understand that our only hope in defeating this epidemic is increased public education and treatment facilities where the underlying issues of heroin addiction can be addressed.

This is government doing its best under difficult circumstances, and all involved deserve our support.

Finally, regarding my column last week, to the handful of people who still don't get why the alleged "conscience clause" in Arizona was repudiated by virtually every politician of every ideological stripe from both political parties, let me try yet one more time to explain why the conscience clause is totally unconstitutional.

In your own home, you can exclude anyone you want, be it all liberals, folks who wear glasses, or one-armed paper hangers.

When you operate a business in the public square, however, every customer has the right to expect they will be treated the same way as every other customer.

Specifically, to the reader who inquired of me why this isn't the same thing as a restaurant requiring its patrons to wear shirt and shoes, thus choosing not to serve the shirtless and the shoeless, it's simple. As long as every shirtless and every shoeless person is treated the same way under the policy, it's not discriminatory.

If, however, a restaurant said it's OK for the gay shirtless to be served, but not the straight shirtless, that's discrimination!

Same with the bizarre comment about swastikas on cakes. As long as I refuse all requests to put swastikas on cakes, there is no discrimination. The key is everyone is treated the same.

The law could not be clearer. When operating a public business in the public square, access to services without limitation by race, gender, religion and sexual orientation is the key.

And last but not least, to the person who wrote trying to equate the right of a state to set restrictions on which doctors can or cannot prescribe medications with the illegal and immoral homophobic travesty that was the Arizona law, let me again explain one last time.

As long as all medical doctors and all psychiatrists are treated the same under the restriction, it's not discriminatory. If, however, the state were to legislate that only all white, male, straight Jewish psychiatrists had the right to dispense medications like medical physicians, but not all other licensed psychiatrists, then that would be illegal. 

Simply put, its "equal treatment" and "equal access" that are the issues.

Hope this helps to clarify the confusion.

Michael Goldman is a paid political consultant for Democratic candidates and president of Goldman Associates in Boston.