November 2015
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Month November 2015

We need a RGGI for Transportation

Last week, 5 Northeastern states along with Washington, DC announced their intention to explore a market-based program similar to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or RGGI) to reduce emissions from transportation. This is a great idea and I hope that Massachusetts joins these states in creating a strong regional program to cover transportation. Why is this a great idea? The short answer is that creating a market-based program like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the transportation sector would help create a cleaner, more efficient transportation system for the region. In the process, we can create jobs, save consumers and businesses money, and drive economic growth. According to the report issued by the Georgetown Transportation and Climate Initiative, when combined with existing state and federal policies, a market-based system could help reduce emissions by 40%, save consumers up to $72 billion and create over 90,000 jobs in the region by 2030. The long answer requires a bit of background on the RGGI program and some of the core challenges facing the region in transportation and climate policy. What is RGGI? RGGI is a regional program created by a network of states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The core of […]

Who’s Going to Get Fulfilled at Amazon’s New Fulfillment Center?

Amazon is coming to Fall River. The on-line giant announced last week that it will occupy a million-square-foot building that’s going to be built on the Fall River-Freetown line. The new warehouse, which in Amazon-speak carries the name “Fulfillment Center,” will join 50 or so similar facilities around the country. So who among us can look forward to being fulfilled by the Fulfillment Center? For starters, Amazon customers in Massachusetts, who can look forward to next-day delivery of their $600 premium foosball table with enamel screen-printed graphics or their Natura Bisse Oxygen Cream (immediately softens the most dehydrated skin, $88 for a 2.5 ounce jar). Second, Amazon itself, which in addition to its profits gets more than $6 million in state and local tax breaks for choosing the Fall River site. Third, Governor Charlie Baker, who’s pretty excited about it all (as is the predominantly Democratic Fall River area legislative delegation). Anybody out there who’s not going to be so fulfilled? Well, construction companies in Massachusetts, which lost out on the building contract.  That went instead to a company from East Rutherford, N.J. And the people who will be working in the new Fulfillment Center? Amazon is promising 500 full-time […]

Demonstrate Solar IS Civil Defense at the Boston Climate Defense Carnival

Update: This event has been cancelled as of November 30, 2015. 350 Maine, 350 Vermont, 350 Massachusetts, 350 New Hampshire & 350 Connecticut are organizing a Boston Climate Defense Carnival on Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 3:30pm – 5:30pm at Fanieul Hall, 1 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA. I’d like the Boston Climate Defense Carnival to demonstrate that Solar IS Civil Defense that by using simple Solar Principles you can discover that A South-facing Window Is Already a Solar Collector and see at least six basic solar devices in a single plastic bottle

Education Reform in Newark

  I just read a wonderful book on the devastating effects of education reform in Newark.  It helped me put together a long term perspective on these “education reform” efforts, and I wrote the following essay.  I hope you find it useful. One thing that really struck me.  These “reformers” are relentless in pursuing their agenda, over a period of decades.  And, like Republicans, they are completely resistant to the decades of facts that show that their agenda does not improve student learning.  This is, of course, because student learning is the last thing they care about. I would be interested in your feedback.  Enjoy! Sue Offner   NEWARK   I just finished reading The Prize by Dale Russakoff.  It is well worth the read.  It describes the changes in the Newark Public Schools resulting from Mark Zuckerberg’s eye popping $100,000,000 donation to them.   Several things struck me about this book:   1. The Newark Public Schools are woefully underfunded.   2. In spite of many well-attended community meetings, the leadership (Zuckerberg, Cory Booker, Chris Christie) knew exactly what they wanted to do and did it anyway.  The community meetings were just a sham – the thousands of people […]

Close vote against Olympics in Hamburg

Since it was quite the topic here a few months back, readers might be interested to know that voters in Hamburg and Kiel are split on the 2024 Olympics, with “no” leading by a very slim margin (51.9%), and counting still going on.  If that is the final result, it will be a surprise, as polls showed a clear majority in favor.  However, the attacks in Paris and the costs of the refugee crisis seem to be damping down enthusiasm for the Games.  They are projected to cost over 11.2 billion euros (about $11.9 billion) with a lot of urban development for Hamburg wrapped up in that price. Some background at If you read German, there is a live blog from NDR up at,referendum122.html

The Press Is Enabling the Nutty Right

The press is really despicable. This poll that everybody is citing saying that 69% of the American people think that an attack is imminent is true. What they don’t mention is that a year ago the same 69% thought that an attack was imminent. This is a very rational belief.   The real story here is that this rational belief has been unaffected quantitatively by recent events. This ersatz interpretation of the poll is either lazy or despicable.  One thing is clear.  It is irresponsible:  it creates an entirely false impression of panic that plays into the hands of the Cruzes and the Trumps.  The real story is not being told. The real story is that the American people are not being cowed by the terrorists. Nor are the French people. Nor are the Lebanese people.  I’ve seen no indication the people of Mali or Nigeria or Israel or Tunisia or Great Britain or Spain are being cowed despite the violence in those countries – even horrific levels of violence in the case of Nigeria.  Terrorism does not work – with one exception:  it greatly excites the press.

So Let’s Go Ahead And Say It Aloud: The Democratic Leadership In This State Had A Bad Year

“The policy outcomes are being derailed by the politics inside the building.” That was state Senator Daniel Wolf’s assessment when he spoke to the Boston Globe shortly after the 2015 legislative session ended last week.  That article emphasized how the “legislative session sputtered to an end,” and, indeed, it did.  But our leaders on Beacon Hill were quick to stress the need to take a longer view.  “If you look at our body of work, it has been good,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo, presumably with a straight face. Now back at their districts, he and others will undoubtedly spin the same narrative to their supporters at various fundraisers and local party breakfasts.  And most of us in attendance will clap, clap, clap and heap praise upon them when they do.  But it’s far past time for those of us who give a damn to call out this nonsense.  It was a bad year for the Democratic leadership in this state, generally, and for the House leadership, in particular. At the start of the year, as our state’s public transit system faltered, House Democrats made DeLeo Speaker For Life, abolishing the term limits that he placed on his Speakership just six […]

The progressive case for Hillary Clinton

I figured I’d start another diary rather than further sidetrack the one about HRC’s position on and reaction to the ISIS threat.  I want to directly address the objections some have made to the idea that Clinton is progressive and flesh out more why I think claiming she is otherwise is an unproductive appeal to purity and absolutism, or as I have been known to put it, the Democratic equivalent of the “Tea Party” (which, too be fair, some have argued is exactly what the doctor ordered). There are two websites that I find to be thorough and instructive both in placing various candidates on the political spectrum and in comparing them to each other.  The first is Project VoteSmart which, inter alia, lists the rankings various interest groups have assigned to those who have been legislators during the course of their careers.  Not all the groups are well-known and I would argue some are even misnamed.  (For example, I’m sure if the “Campaign for Working Families” really were that, HRC would have a much higher ranking from them.)  However, even if you just go by the groups listed in the liberal and conservative categories you would find that she […]

Twenty Years for Non-Violent Drug Distribution

I can understand why we might want to crack down on fentanyl distribution. I can also understand why we may want to let people out of jail if they are serving long sentences for non-violent drug crimes. What I don’t understand is why we are doing both things at the same time.

Are you working on Thanksgiving?

Senator Warren often sends out emails about what she is working on, but this one in particular strikes me as a no-brainer, so I actually took the extra couple of seconds to click through and sign her petition.  This is one of those things where it is obvious there needs to be a law to guard against abuse, but also should be obvious that you shouldn’t treat someone this way law or not.  Why can’t people just have standardized shifts working the same hours every week?  If someone calls out sick time could be traded or it should ultimately be for the manager to cover.  There should also be certain days like Thanksgiving where a worker should have the right to veto his or her assignment that day without question or consequence.  Here is Sen. Warren’s message: Christopher, Do you have to work on Thanksgiving? For some retail, restaurant, and fast food workers, the answer to that question could still be: “I don’t know.” Half of low-wage workers say they have little or no say over the hours they are scheduled to work. 20-30% are in jobs where they can be called into work at the last minute. Others might […]