Uber and Lyft kick the bottom 28 percent to the curb

Ride sharing services are an example of the continued separation of our society into economic haves and have-nots. If you have a cell phone and a credit card, the services allow users to evade licensing rules and hitch a ride with a serial rapist. But livery cabs and other minimally regulated ride services have similar risks, and even better regulated taxis have problems.

The key difference with Uber and Lyft, holding constant for the risks of getting into cars with unlicensed chauffeurs, is that practically speaking you have to have a cell phone and a credit card to use them. Goodbye economic bottom 28 percent of our country: a 2014 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that in 2012, 72 percent of US consumers had a credit card, according to CreditCards.com. And 28 percent of consumers did not.

Uber has its point of view. Commonwealth writer Jack Sullivan last week quoted a spokesperson as follows:

Bennett points to a 2013 study on Boston’s taxi industry commissioned by the city that shows low response rates by cabbies to requests in neighborhoods such as Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, with customers waiting a half-hour or longer for a taxi. Uber, said Bennett, has a 96 percent response rate for ride requests within 20 minutes in those same neighborhoods, with the median response time being under four minutes. That availability, he said, is what’s drawing customers.

But we can discount the value of whatever the spokesperson says to zero since he’s paid to make that argument. I haven’t seen any independent evidence that Uber serves low-income neighborhoods any better than taxis, have you? In any event, they don’t serve the bottom 28 percent of consumers at all.

In sum, in addition to the interesting issues of regulation and safety that they raise, Uber and Lyft are another example of the power of technology and the web to push people apart and deepen economic stratification, as well as offer certain benefits, and new risks, to the relatively privileged.

The NH GOP Forum

Last night 14 of the 16 GOP candidates took turns making their vision of governance quite clear.  They put their best foot forward, but can they appeal to the voter that what they are saying is reliable?

So for those of you who watched, I’m starting an open thread to display themes or actual quotes, and trying to see if what they said holds water.

I will start off with the easiest.  Both Carly Fiorino and Lindsey Graham called Hillary Clinton a lier and a common criminal. Their fury had no bounds with Fiorino, no bastion of veracity, calling Sec Clinton a liar, and Graham had his own version of “Clinton Speak” that nothing the Clintons say is truthful.  The former touted her CEO experience that ultimately caused her to be fired, treating employees as enemies, and Lindsey Graham has told a few whoppers about how the “surge” in Iraq had won the peace.

So BMGers I’m going to lay back, and see what take aways you saw from the event, and what counters there are to put the kibosh on these less than truthful lot.

I am asking to sharpen our focus when the more broadly broadcasted debate takes place on Thursday.  They can not be allowed to let trickle down economics, using American soldiers as cannon fodder, and making those people’s lives who are down on their luck even harder without providing any policies in its place.

Solid Progress in the Massachusetts State Senate

With the Legislature in recess until after Labor Day, it’s important to reflect upon what has been going on up on Beacon Hill since legislators were sworn-in to the 2015-2016 legislative session in January, and Stan Rosenberg became Senate President.

As a State Senator, I am extremely proud of the changes that have taken place in the Senate, and the issues that the Senate, as a body, has decided to champion. While there is much more to be accomplished, momentum has been building on issues ranging from the transgender rights, criminal justice reform, and an update to our public records laws. The Senate President has set a clear tone of inclusion, more discussion, and engaging all Senators in moving forward on issues of the day.

Here are a few noteworthy moments of progress in the Senate:

  • New Senate rules. The temporary committee on Senate rules, established by the Senate President, was truly a collaborative and bipartisan effort, which made the following changes:
  1. Senate bills can now be co-sponsored at any time during the legislative session, by either House or Senate members. This supports politically aware residents and activists, as legislators can always sign on to Senate bills as co-sponsors
  2. 48-hour notice of bills on the Senate calendar. This change dramatically improves the ability for Senators to know what bills will be debated that week, voice concerns or objections, prepare for debate, and file informed amendments
  3. Copies of new or redrafted amendments must be made available to all Senators. Natural to any debate is that amendments will be changed, yet previously often Senators voting on amendments would not know how the amendments they were voting on had been changed.
  • An improved, more open budget process, with more deliberative public policies
  1. This year’s budget, under the leadership of Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Karen Spilka and Vice-chairman Sal DiDomenico, was more egalitarian.  A key example of this is that each Senator had the opportunity to earmark funds for district priorities, as opposed to only Senators in leadership securing these earmarks, while the rest were treated differently.
  2. Unlike the past 6 budget debates, there were no anti-immigrant budget amendments filed by Republican Senators. While these Senators are to be praised for holding back on these red-meat efforts, special kudos goes to Senate President Rosenberg, for developing the kind of atmosphere in the Senate where truly unproductive debates were left out of the Senate budget process
  3. The MBTA reforms in the Senate budget came only after robust debate in the Senate Democratic caucus, and that balanced the interests of making changes to the MBTA, while protecting riders and worker’s rights
  • Passing policies that make a difference in people’s lives
  1. The Senate led the way in the Legislature to expanding the state EITC by 50%, providing an estimated $500-1,000 in additional support for tens of thousands of low-income Massachusetts families (kudos to Governor Baker for proposing this in his budget, too)
  2. Amidst impressive grassroots organizing by climate change activists and the solar installers and businesses, the Senate raised the netmetering cap to 1600 MW, as an amendment offered by Senator Ben Downing, to Senator Pacheco’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan legislation
  3. Thoughtful MBTA reform (see details in my comments on the Senate budget)

Criminal Justice Reform Broadly Popular Among MA Voters

I urge everyone concerned about criminal justice reform to check out the great poll Mass Inc just released which demonstrates there is a broad consensus in favor of criminal justice reform across the Massachusetts political spectrum.

The cross tabs show the highest position responses for the questions of what to do with criminals are rehabilitation (23%) and prevention (43%) with punishment getting the lowest level at 15%.

Even I was surprised by these cross tabs which stood out:

Residents show little support for mandatory minimum sentencing.

Only 11 percent say mandatory minimum sentences are the preferred sentencing mechanism when presented with three options. Far more prefer judges either use sentencing guidelines (44 percent) or determine sentences on a case-by-case basis (41 percent).
This marks a clear departure from MassINC’s 1997 poll, when large majorities viewed a variety of mandatory sentences as effective in reducing crime.
4. The public sees drug use as a health problem rather than a crime, and seeks an increased focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration.

By more than a 2-to-1 margin, people are more likely to perceive drug use as a health problem (64 percent) than a crime (24 percent).
More than four in five (83 percent) think sending drug users to treatment instead of prison would be effective in reducing crime. Drug trafficking is still viewed as a more serious offense, and far fewer would support leniency for those involved.

Local pols voted for a three strikes law as recently as 2012, but it seems that there is wide support for going even further than the effort proposed by Sen. Chang Diaz and Rep. Mary Keefe.

There is widespread support for turning drug treatment from the criminal justice issue it currently is to the public health issue it actually is. Not only would this apply to marijuana legalization which is still looking to get on the ballot (where it is widely expected to pass), but also to innovative programs like the kind Gloucester is experimenting with.

The other findings, particularly the recognition that mentally ill prisoners should be housed separately from hardened offenders and given appropriate mental health care is heartening as well.

Will our policy makers catch up with the public? Arm your local legislators with this information and let them know the tide has shifted on these critical issues away from the polices of broken windows and towards policies that mend lives.

Passing gas, killing trees and YOUR LAWN OMG

Talk about the hyper-local effects of fossil fuels: Gas leaks kill trees, create ozone, and — you may want to sit down before reading this — brown your lawn*:

Thousands of area gas leaks poison environment, kill trees – [News - Milford Daily News - Milford, MA.

On the ground level, natural gas, which is roughly 95 percent methane, creates thick, toxic ozone that leads to respiratory problems such as asthma, especially in children and the elderly, and strangles plant life around it. Roadside trees, often called “shade trees,” fall victim to gas leaks. They die slowly over time as they absorb the gas through channels designed for oxygen. The roots suffocate.

Gas companies call the leaks “lost and unaccounted for gas.” It’s just figured into the rate formula. Roughly 2.7 percent of gas is lost every year, according to Phillips' research.

On a climate level, the leaks alone make up an estimated 10 percent of Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas inventory. That’s as much as all the factories in the state, said Audrey Schulman, a utilities consultant turned activist and president of Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) – “and it’s a lot easier to fix the leaks than stop the factories,” she said. [emphasis ed.]

(It’s a really great article — read the whole thing. It features friends-of-the-blog Rep. Lori Ehrlich, Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Joel Wool. Kudos to reporter Bill Shanner for fine work.)

For background on methane and ground level gases, let’s ask NASA (2005 article):

According to new calculations, methane’s effect on warming the world’s climate may be double what is currently thought. The new interpretations reveal methane emissions may account for a whopping third of the climate warming from well-mixed greenhouse gases between the 1750s and today. The IPCC report states that methane increases in our atmosphere account for only about one sixth of the total effect of well-mixed greenhouse gases on warming.

Part of the reason the new calculations give a larger effect is that they include the effect methane has on air pollution. A major component of air pollution is near-surface-level or tropospheric ozone, which is not directly emitted, but is instead formed chemically from methane other hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. The IPCC report includes the effects of tropospheric ozone increases on climate, but it is not attributed to particular sources. By categorizing the climate effects according to emissions, Shindell and colleagues found the total effects of methane emissions are substantially larger. In other words, the true source of some of the warming that is normally attributed to smog is really due to methane that leads to increased smog.

Oh, that sounds good.

As we know, Boston leaks a stunning amount of gas — a rate at which natural gas’s supposed greenhouse effect advantage over coal is essentially zero — contra ads by industry groups

And again: We’ve got two companies literally coming into your backyards wanting to build gigantic new pipelines with capacity they haven’t sold, paid for by ratepayers, selling a massively harmful product that is freely spewing out the other end.

This is dumb.

And our Governor supports them. Maybe he still isn’t smart enough.

*(One is reminded of Andy Borowitz’s riff: “AMERICANS STARTING TO WORRY ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE NOW THAT IT AFFECTS THEIR LAWNS“)

 

Push for shared parenting reform in Massachusetts

The Boston Globe reports on the recent hearings on shared parenting reform:

“The State House hearing room seemed an unlikely place for grown men to bare their souls.

“But as father after father took a seat in a committee room, urging lawmakers to support proposed legislation to revamp Massachusetts’ child-custody statute, they laid out the particulars of their divorces and personal lives in blunt detail.

“The scene could soon repeat itself inside state houses across the country. About 20 states are considering measures that move toward more equal custody arrangements for parents following divorce or separation, according to Ned Holstein of the National Parents Organization, a Boston-based group that has been a driving force behind the push for shared parenting. A handful of states have already enacted similar legislation, while several others have formed task forces to examine family-law issues.”

The courts or the DCF have no mandate to maintain statistics of custody arrangements. About the totality of the cases in probate and family courts around the state, there is much known anecdotally, but little hard data. A 1993 study of 501 consecutive divorce outcomes in Middlesex County shows that “shared parenting (joint physical custody) was the outcome in only 6.4% of cases. Fathers received sole physical custody in 8.8% of cases, and mothers received sole physical custody in 83.2% of cases.” And a May 2011 look at 144 divorce cases involving minors also in Middlesex had only 7.5% of children end up in shared custody. “Mothers won sole physical custody of the child(ren) in 84% of cases, and fathers won sole physical custody in 8.5% of cases.”

These numbers are culled from a Jan, 2015 report of a working group set up by the previous Governor, Deval Patrick, to study child-centered family law in the state. The report was “described by its facilitator as a “compromise” but later denounced by some of the organizations represented on the committee”, we’re told by the Globe.

A bill proposed by the report, and advanced to the legislature, encourages (but does not mandate) shared parent responsibility of minor children in wake of a divorce. This has engender an array of reactions: from full throated support to entrenched opposition, for example from domestic violence organizations and some bar associations, who “have expressed concern over blanket statutes guaranteeing parents a certain amount of visitation time… Instead, they argue, custody disputes should be handled on a case-by-case basis, always with a child’s best interests in mind.”

Yet the plain language of the proposed bill makes it clear that it preserves undiminished judicial discretion, and holds the best interest of the child as the judicial standard. The bill defines shared parenting as an arrangement whereby the child spends at least one third of time with each parent, but does not mandate, and instead it merely encourages shared parenting. All existing statutory and case law protection against domestic violence are preserved.

We know, also anecdotally, that there is popular support for this measure. In 2005, 20% of Massachusetts was presented with a non-binding ballot question in favor of shared parenting rights – with an 85% yes vote. And the Globe has editorialized on the related topic of parents defaulting on child support – perhaps prompted by the murder of Walter Scott in South Carolina.

Will the shared parenting bill be wheeled forward? Here’s to hoping that it will be, and that some balance is restored to the system – for the benefit of children who need both parents around, even after parent separation.

 

Monopoly...... The American 21st Century Version

It never fails to amaze me how many Americans still believe in the American Dream, in the notion that an honest work ethnic and a bit of luck is all one needs to be successful in the USA.  I’ve tried numerous ways to show them why they are wrong, but I have not had much success, as is evident by the number of American laborers still voting Republican or worse yet, supporting Democrats who are not pro-labor.

So I have an idea but I am waiting to hear back from the attorneys at Parker Brothers to see if they will allow me to introduce a new version of Monopoly that I call the American 21st Century Version.

I believe that most Americans view our economy and the rules that govern it to be similar to Monopoly.  We all take our turn, we manage our money, we play by the rules and along the way, some win and some lose.  The American 21st Century Version has a few modifications that may help to illustrate what’s wrong with the USA.

For starters, in standard Monopoly, all players start out with $1,500.  In American 21st Century Version, this is not the case.  Here are the new rules.  If there are 10 players, the amount of money that is divided among the players is $15,000, but unlike the old came, the new version distributes the wealth along modern lines.  Players draw straws to see who gets each amount. One player gets $9,750, or 65% of the pot.  The remainder is divided on a sliding scale between the remaining nine players.  The player at the bottom receives $1 and as an added condition, instead of starting at GO, that player starts in JAIL.

Secondly, in the standard game, each time one works ones way around the board, one earns $200 as one passes GO.  In the American 21st Century Version, players gets the option to buy GO for $1,500.  Of course there is only one player with that much to spare and it would be foolish not to buy GO for the following reason:  When a player passes GO, that player only gets to keep 35% of that $200, or $70, the owner of GO gets the balance of $130.

Of course the owner of GO thinks this is fair and says to anyone who balks, “All you have to do is roll bigger numbers, lots of doubles, and try harder and eventually you can win”…not unlike the advice from Republican Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush who wants all of us to “Work Harder” and the American Dream will become a reality.

Finally, each time the player with the most money passes GO, that player gets to rewrite some of the rules of the game, but they must be careful not to make it look as if they are doing so for their own benefit.  It must appear to make the game fairer and give all the players the illusion of possible success.   For example, the player with the most money might change the rule to read that all “Two Property Monopolies” will now have their rents doubled.  This will be presented as an effort to boost the income of the one poor player that owns Baltic Avenue &Mediterranean Avenue, but of course the player making this rule owns Boardwalk and Park Place.

I’m not sure if people would enjoy playing this new version but then again, they seem satisfied with it in real life.

BMG invades the Beltway

Stated otherwise, I’m pleased to say that today’s Washington Post features an op-ed I submitted.  The overall argument is that Justice Scalia’s unfortunate habit of launching personal attacks against his colleagues is bad for the Supreme Court and for the country.

[W]hy is a Scalia zinger entertaining? It’s entertaining because it shocks. It’s entertaining because you cannot quite believe that a Supreme Court justice would treat one of his colleagues with such profound disrespect. When you see it actually happen in black and white, it’s astonishing. It’s a bit like mud-wrestling: appalling, yet difficult to look away from.

Or maybe not mud-wrestling so much as the judicial equivalent of pornography. Like porn, Scalia’s zinger-laden opinions are titillating, but over time they coarsen the culture of which they are a part. Cultural critics lament the “pornification” of advertising, pop culture and other aspects of contemporary society. Legal observers should similarly lament the “Scaliafication” of judicial opinions — especially dissenting opinions, which have a long and honorable history at the Supreme Court….

Like porn, zinger-laden Scalia dissents such as those in King and Obergefell are nasty and degrading. Moreover, Scalia’s zingers add nothing of substance to his opinions; they are there to entertain, not to explain or enlighten. We should not treat them as harmless, “fun to read” guilty pleasures but as a truly unfortunate development in the history of an institution that once served as a model for how to disagree about important issues in a civil manner — something from which not only the legal and political worlds but also society as a whole, would benefit. We would do ourselves a favor by giving Scalia’s clever, but pointless and ultimately harmful, zingers the attention they deserve: none.

Please read the whole thing!  Clicking the link will help the piece move up the “Most Read” list.  :)

Some Top MA Companies MIA on Climate Action Suport Letter

Dozens of governors, including Charlie Baker, are getting letters from the business community today in a show of support for President Obama’s limits on carbon pollution from power plants:

In an unprecedented show of business support for tackling climate change, 365 companies and investors sent letters today to more than two-dozen governors across the United States voicing their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants and encouraging the state’s “timely finalization” of state implementation plans to meet the new standards.

The letter, organized by sustainability advocacy group Ceres, comes just days before the expected finalization of the rule aimed at reducing U.S. power plant carbon pollution by 30 percent by 2030.

“Our support is firmly grounded in economic reality,” wrote the businesses, including industry giants such as General Mills, Mars Inc., Nestle, Staples, Unilever and VF Corporation. “Clean energy solutions are cost effective and innovative ways to drive investment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasingly, businesses rely on renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions to cut costs and improve corporation performance.”

Great to see Framingham-headquartered Staples on the list! But … where are Boston-based Gillette and New Balance? Waltham-headquartered Raytheon? What about Boston- and Hartford-based Eversource Energy (the former Northeast Utilities & NSTAR)?

Full list of Massachusetts letter signers (many are based in MA, others aren’t based here but have significant business interests here):

ICYMI: Hillary's excellent climate video

Well how about this:

This is a very good, simple, canny and aggressive framing of the issue. I remain shocked that more climate people and even the President seem reluctant to take the polemical offensive, rather than simply the science from bad-faith attack. That’s a waste of time. The best defense is a good offense.

As for the substance … your’re not going to save the world with solar panels, although you’re also not going to save it without solar panels. if you’re not putting a price on carbon — and there are a lot of ways to skin that cat — we’re facing an unmanageable catastrophe. She’s been supportive of Obama’s efforts on energy, and I’m not as exercised about her remarks on Keystone XL as some might be. She probably knows a lot more about the administration’s plans than she lets on — or can let on.

James Hansen is particularly dismissive of her strategy, and he’s been right about a lot of things for a long time.

“It’s just plain silly,” said James Hansen, a climate change researcher who headed Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies for over 30 years. “No, you cannot solve the problem without a fundamental change, and that means you have to make the price of fossil fuels honest. Subsidizing solar panels is not going to solve the problem.”

Last Thursday, Hansen, along with 16 prominent climate change scientists, published a discussion paper in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, where it will be publicly peer-reviewed. The paper suggests that previous models for climate change are too conservative and that a sea level rise of several meters might swallow up our coasts in this century, if governments fail to rapidly and substantially diminish fossil fuel emissions. “The economic and social cost of losing functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable,” the authors wrote.

Hm … subsidies are politically easier than tax increases. Is subsidizing renewables substantially comparable to pricing carbon? Doubtless there’s academic work on that question. (More homework for me.)

Anyway, so far we’ve still only got one candidate with a chance of winning, and she gets points for style on this one.

The Clinton Campaign Illustrates the Media's Crisis

There is no arguing with the pretenders to a divine knowledge and to a divine mission. They are possessed with the sin of pride, they have yielded to the perennial temptation.

–Walter Lippman

Mainstream journalism is in crisis. The old revenue model of selling advertising in printed papers doesn’t work well in the digital age. Television and internet news sources have sped up the news cycle to the point that the morning paper is 24 hours too late. The demand for scoops is greater. With this increased competition is a loss of a near monopoly on information.

Once upon a time, a lot of information just didn’t exist. If it wasn’t in the newspapers, it wasn’t known by the broader public. Journalist Walter Lippmann made this argument in the first chapter of Public Opinion (1922). Until the advent of cable news and the 24-hour news cycle, newspapers decided what qualified as news. Since the advent of the internet as a news medium, newspapers are often playing catch up. And catching up isn’t easy.

Just ask the New York Times. Trying really, really hard to find a scandal in Hillary Clinton’s emails from when she was Secretary of State, the Times ended up screwing the pooch. Media Matters has the best run down of events, but Poynter has also picked it up. Yesterday, the Clinton Campaign released its formal complaint to the Times executive editor. Here’s Media Matters:

The New York Times uncorked perhaps the biggest newsroom blunder of the 2016 campaign season, when Michael Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo erroneously reported that two inspectors general were seeking a criminal probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state. The Times’ would-be blockbuster landed online on July 23 and on the front page of the print edition July 24.

But even before many readers picked up the paper on Friday morning, the story had begun to unravel. By Friday afternoon, the Times’ exclusive had suddenly morphed into a humiliation for the Times itself. The paper was widely ridiculed for getting the referral story wrong, and then for awkwardly trying to limit the damage via stealthy online edits.

Almost four days after its initial publication, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in on the “mess” this morning, suggesting that the paper should have waited to publish until it had developed the story more extensively: “Losing the story to another news outlet would have been a far, far better outcome than publishing an unfair story and damaging The Times’s reputation for accuracy.”

Meanwhile, executive editor Dean Baquet pinned much of the blame for the debacle on the Times’ sources — rather than the reporters and editors involved — suggesting that this might not be the last mistake of this nature we see from the paper: ”You had the government confirming that it was a criminal referral … I’m not sure what they could have done differently on that.”

As journalistic screwup’s go, this is major. The most respected newspaper in the world falsely reports the beginnings of a criminal investigation into a presidential candidate. Why?

The dynamics of the media crisis are playing out in the Clinton Campaign. The New York Times hasn’t kept up with the times. It’s no longer the 90s. No on cares what Cokie Roberts thinks. Conservative propaganda is a limited source for news stories. The people running the Times and Post–as intelligent as they may be–came of age during the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, and they’re are trying to turn the past into the present. I don’t think it’s going to fly. Remember earlier this year when the press was all upset because Clinton would answer their questions? The Washington Post does. Ol’ Tiger Beat on the Potomac created a clock to count the minutes Clinton hasn’t responded to questions from the media. The count is now up to 61,367 minutes. That’s 42 days for you non-cardstackers. Their nose may be out of joint, but besides the mainstream press, who cares? They can’t even get their stories straight.

The Bernie Sanders Kickoff Video Rally Was An Overwhelming Success

Speaking from an apartment of one of the Kickoff House Parties Sen Bernie Sanders addressed more than 100,000 attendees at 3500 different venues in all fifty states.  I hosted an event on Nantucket as an out-islander, but the house held as many as it could with 21 people, all women except 2 males(including me).

He struck a chord with both those in their 20s or thirties as well as those over 65.  We had house guests, 2 of whom usually vote for Republicans.  They were impressed with energy of their fell attendees, and all except 1 signed up to volunteer to work for the campaign.

The event was easy to set up, and was a masterpiece of organization.   Using tools from berniesanders.com communication was no sweat, and if technical questions arose, an email address help@berniesanders.com returned answers within minutes to a few hours.  They even gave prompt feedback when they would get an answer to you.

We had participants from Nantucket, elsewhere in Ma, Ca, NY, Pa, and Me.  I was absolutely floored, and did not expect so many people would show up.  It was a great night. Some pics are here .

 

 

Governor's MBTA panel provided virtually no support for its recommendation to restrict the Pacheco Law

(Cross-posted from The COFAR Blog)

The Governor’s Special Panel to Review the MBTA earlier this year made some reasonable proposals to better manage the MBTA.  But the Panel report’s recommendation to remove the MBTA from the Pacheco Law’s jurisdiction appears to us to have been a misstep; and the report spent less than a sentence in explaining the rationale for its recommendation.

Based in part on the Panel’s recommendation, the Legislature suspended the Pacheco Law’s provisions for three years with regard to the MBTA, thereby removing an important means of ensuring long-term cost-effectiveness in privatizing services at the T.

The Pacheco Law’s stated intent is “to ensure that citizens of the commonwealth receive high quality services at low cost.” The Special Panel’s report asserted, however, that “the MBTA is inhibited by the Pacheco Law from procuring private, cost-effective services…”

That latter statement, which appears to constitute the sum total of the Panel’s discussion of the Pacheco Law, appears to be at odds with the stated purpose of the statute. There is no additional comment in the report about the impact of the law — not even an explanation of what the law does.

Moreover, as discussed below, the Special Panel did not appear to have consulted with state agencies that oversee procurement of supplies and services in Massachusetts, in preparing its report.  Possibly as a result, the Special Panel’s report also appears to be incorrect in stating (in that same sentence) that the MBTA is “strictly limited by state law in its use of many procurement processes (e.g., CM at-Risk and Design/Build).”  More about that below as well.

The Special Panel has previously run into criticism from CommonWealth magazine for flawed methodology on which it based a separate finding concerning employee absenteeism at the MBTA.

What the Pacheco Law actually requires

It's not the 1%....it's even worse than that.

Who is in control of the United States of America?  Who makes the decisions to go to war, to provide (or deny) health care, create tax loopholes, and create budgets?

It’s not the 1%.  If it was the 1%, that would be a figure that we all might be able to understand and accept.  It’s not even the .1%. , it’s the .01% and that number is so small, it’s difficult to relate to. 

Try this at your next BBQ/Summer Gathering to illustrate how small the minority is that is controlling the government, the media, the election process, and who has taken all the gains in wealth in the past 40 years

We’ll assume that all in attendance graduated from a typical US high school.  The average graduating class size is about 1,000 seniors.  With a show of hands, ask how many people recall a billionaire or multimillionaire that attended their last class reunion.  


If it was 1%, everyone in attendance would be able to list ten billionaires or multimillionaires.  If there were 25 people at the BBQ, that’s 250 individuals that your gathering could name. 

 If it was .1%, there would be 25 names. 

But it’s not even as large as .1%, it’s .01%.  That means at a gathering of 25 of your friends, maybe two or three names could be recalled out of the 25,000 people in the survey size.  Of course, the odds are higher if your BBQ is in a wealthy suburb and lower (to the point of nonexistent) if your event is in a middle class or poor area. 

The Failed Olympics Bid: The Boston Business Journal Polls the PR Pros

All you Olympics fans can stop the self-pity now.  The BBJ asked the PR experts. Below are a sample of their responses:

And what they had to say about it all should help ease the fear of those here who might feel that the city’s overall brand was irreparably damaged after the USOC abruptly pulled the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

“The impact will be minimal, I believe,” said Jim Farrell, president of PR First. “Although the Olympics might have brought excitement and revenue to the region, we should not fault our officials for insisting on due diligence before signing on the dotted line.”

“We are Boston Strong. Agree or not with the outcome, that is the Boston the world knows,” Solomon McCown & Co. CEO Helene Solomon said.

An ancillary point made, with which I agree, is that Mayor Walsh came out of this smelling like a rose. The IOC and USOC, by pulling the bid made excellent scapegoats.

Here's what a real infrastructure vision looks like

In the wake of the USOC pulling out of the Boston 2024 Olympic bid, we are already seeing a narrative form that Boston likes things small, is too provincial to think globally, and is scared of wide scale city changing projects. I would argue against this, the Olympics was the wrong project at the wrong place at the wrong time. But there are other places we can look to for inspiration when it comes to fixing our infrastructure.

New York is showing us what real leadership on infrastructure looks like. It has taken what has been an eyesore that has become a national punchline and committed itself to completely transforming that out of date airport into a 21st century transportation hub. Fully linked to mass transit including new rail lines, bus terminals, and a direct ferry service to Manhattan.

Travelers would also have better options to get to La Guardia; Mr. Cuomo said the plan called for a rail link between the airport and a subway station in the Willets Point section of Queens, as well as re-establishing ferry service to the airport.

It would also significantly decrease delays, like the O’Hare expansion has in Chicago, by reconfiguring the flight paths themselves.

The plan went beyond aesthetics: The airport buildings would be moved south, closer to the parkway. The move would allow the creation of roughly two miles of new taxiways that officials said would help alleviate the airport’s chronic delays.

And despite the $4 billion pricetag, there is universal political consensus behind the project

There seemed to be even more unanimity about the need for a better La Guardia, which the governor characterized as “un-New York” because it is “slow, dated” and “almost universally derided.”

‘slow, dated, universally derided’ sounds like something closer to Boston

The project will create 8,000 construction jobs and several hundred permanent ones, and alongside the Tappan Zee bridge, shows a state government willing to commit money to public infrastructure projects. Boston and the surrounding region have many, many, unmet infrastructure needs. Instead of relying on the dying casino industry or the now faded pipedream of a Boston olympics, maybe we can make the smart bet on committing to fix the problems actually in front of our faces.

The death of Boston 2024: Shirley Leung gets it right, and wrong

There’s an enormous amount of commentary regarding the decision to withdraw Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics.  I’ll leave it to you, diligent reader, to dig out your favorite bits and post them here as the day wears on.

I’m going to focus on the column by the Globe’s Shirley Leung, perhaps the media’s most stalwart advocate of bringing the Olympics here.  She gets a couple of things exactly right, but then draws the wrong conclusion.

In a long-ago era, a cabal of businessmen worked with mayors behind the scenes to impose their vision on the city. It was known as the Vault, and it seemed that former Boston 2024 chairman John Fish and the United States Olympic Committee unwittingly followed their playbook.

This is correct, except that I’d question the use of the word “unwittingly.”  Rather, I think that this is precisely how Boston 2024 was planning to operate.  It apparently never occurred to the Pooh-Bahs who appointed themselves the masters of Boston’s future that things don’t work that way anymore, and that the people of Boston might actually have something to say about it.  It also never occurred to them that the drastically changed media landscape since the era of the Vault would make it much more difficult to “impose their vision.”  Back in the day, if you could get the Globe and maybe Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson on your side, you were in pretty good shape.  Things don’t work that way nowadays.  As Leung disparagingly puts it, “thanks to Twitter and Facebook, everyone has a platform to blast their opinion to the world.”  Leung seems to think that only she and others employed by the (no longer so) mighty Globe should have such a platform; fortunately, technology has rendered that view obsolete.

I’m with the legendary Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan on this one. He’s been to 11 Olympics. He loves them, and thinks Boston could have pulled one off — but needed stronger leadership from the start.

This, too, is correct.  Boston 2024′s leadership, in part for the reasons outlined above, was a disaster.  They had no idea how to sell their idea to the public; they thought they could get away with obfuscation and half-truths (at best) in an era of public records laws and social media; it never occurred to them that people wouldn’t wholeheartedly buy into every idea they proposed, so when people didn’t (case in point: beach volleyball on the Boston Common), they kept getting caught flat-footed and scrambling for an alternative.  In short, they didn’t know what they were doing.  Not the people you want shepherding an effort that would have consumed much of the city’s energies for the next 10 years.

I regret that Mayor Walsh didn’t get a few more weeks to get comfortable with the insurance. I regret that Governor Charlie Baker didn’t get those weeks to digest his independent report. I regret that the USOC didn’t level with us about its desire to look elsewhere the entire time.

Right again, especially the last point.  The USOC repeatedly proclaimed that Boston was their city, and they weren’t looking anywhere else.  But, of course, we now know that that was false.  And how ridiculous of the USOC to insist that Governor Baker countermand his own decision to commission a feasibility study on the financials of hosting the games, and instead go all-in before he had the facts.  It’s so typical of the Olympics establishment to expect elected officials to kowtow to their demands.  Kudos to Governor Baker for not doing so. And kudos too to Mayor Walsh, who, despite his enthusiasm for hosting the Olympics, was reluctant to commit to the onerous host city agreement (placing the city on the hook for cost overruns) until the insurance question was resolved satisfactorily.

Indeed, one of the major lessons seems to me that the USOC (and probably the IOC as well, though we never got to that point) really are just as awful as everyone has always assumed.  I said months ago that we ought to be thinking really, really hard about whether we want to be in bed with these people for the next 10 years.  I’d say the events of the last several days have shown that those who were skeptical about whether dealing with the IOC/USOC crowd was a good idea were right.

We still put up a fierce fight when someone tries something novel. Given the chance to think big about our future, we tied ourselves up in the minutiae of tax breaks and traffic studies. Accusations quickly replaced ambitions.

And this is where Leung is wrong.  Boston 2024 wasn’t a “chance to think big about our future.”  It was a chance to think about hosting a very big three-week sporting event.  Thinking big about our future goes far beyond the Olympics.  It is the job of the Mayor, the Governor, other elected officials, and the people of the city, and it of course will continue.  And to disparage the “minutiae of tax breaks and traffic studies” is exactly backward, and quite unfair.  Boston 2024 of course should have been on top of those kinds of details from the get-go – that they weren’t was one of their major failures.  The devil is always in the details in large projects like this one, and Boston 2024′s inexplicable decision to leave those details to others predictably led to the details not playing out very well for them.  But Boston 2024 has nobody to blame for that but themselves.

More broadly, of course, Boston has always been a glorious mix of tradition and innovation.  Nobody in Boston ever gets to try anything new?  Tell that to the doctors and scientists working in the gleaming new buildings in Boston’s medical areas, or to the tech entrepreneurs who have transformed Kendall Square (in Cambridge, but close enough).

A much more persuasive overall take is over at Boston Magazine from Kyle Clauss, who first hilariously lampoons Leung and other disappointed pro-Olympics folk:

In the coming days, attempts will be made—likely out of Morrissey Boulevard—to further shame Bostonians for their intransigence. While world-class cities like Paris and Rome continue their courtship with the International Olympic Committee, we obstinate bumpkins in Boston will be on the sidelines because we couldn’t pry open our small, blizzard-wracked minds to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

And who then offers some much-needed perspective:

The USOC pulling Boston 2024 isn’t an “L” on our foreheads; it’s a badge of honor. The people of Boston, armed only with shoestring budgets and broken public records laws, stood up to the IOC, an organization as contemptible and endlessly wealthy as FIFA, and said: “Slow your roll. We’re doing things our way.” This David-and-Goliath dynamic lends well to an already trite Revolutionary War narrative, but better to one evoking any failed invasion of Russia. But in addition to the crippling cold, Boston’s best defense was its native skepticism….

The question now is this: will all the titans of industry who banded together, rallied behind the knockoff Chase Bank logo, and promised transformative change in our region stay true to their commitment to the public good without the prospect of beach volleyball on a marsh in Quincy? With the bid dead, how many will care about your morning commute a year from now?

Now that is a great question.  How committed are you, John Fish, Steve Pagliuca, et al., to Boston’s future?

Tune In To Bernie Sanders Kickoff July 29th 7:30pm EDT

Be part of an amazing organizational effort.  As of right now there are 3,146 meeting places with 81,677 RSVPs and counting for the Senator Bernie Sanders Kickoff event.  It is an effort to bring in working volunteers from every state in the Union into the campaign. This campaign is not a blip in the summer season, but is meant to build strong grassroots support, and it has.  Stop the Democratic angst handicapping , and enthusiastically make the effort to get Bernie better known to Dems, moderate GOPs(if there are any left), and Independents.  As one of his signs says:  “You know you wanna vote for him”.

If you want a bird’s eye view, and sign up for the event, go here.

Parts of Bernie’s biography dribbles out here and there.  Let’s put it together in one place.

He was a civil rights activists on women issues and racial issues.  He led protests while a student in Chicago to integrate still segregated dorms.  He went to Washington DC to be part of the thousands on the mall to hear Martin Luther King give his “I have a dream speech”.

He ran as an Independent and won the mayoral race in Burlington, Vt.  He beat out a Democratic incumbent.  He made the city more livable in terms of affordable housing, and creating beautiful public space.  He was elected 3 more times serving 8 years in total and had the support of all political stripes.  In one instance in particular he was opposed by the real estate mogul in Burlington, Tony Pomerleau, during his first election, but after this gentleman saw Bernie’s accomplishments he was on board as a strong supporter in his next 3 races.  To see the wide appeal he had here is an article from “The Nation” magazine. entitled “What Kind of Mayor Was Bernie Sanders”.

You all know he went on to become Vermont’s lone representative for 16 years, and is presently a re-elected Senator from the Green Mountain State.  However his record as the longest serving Independent is lesser known.  He has the most passed amendments of any legislator in history.  Who says he can’t appeal to other political stripes and get things done?  He has a progressive pragmatic history that engages all political ideologies.

He has asked for a POLITICAL Revolution(ain’t preaching violence) to put him, and like minded politicians in office to carry out the agenda that the majority of voters  want.  He wants mandate numbers.  None of this less than 50% of registered voters showing up at the polls.  He will give them something, very clearly stated, to vote for.  His past history says he will do it by gaining people’s support first, then enjoining the whole of the Congress to get it done.

If you can’t get to a Kickoff Party or prefer a quieter viewing of his live streaming video that starts at 7:30pm EDT or for the night owls, it will be shown again at 10pm EDT.  The link is here.

Let's not cloud the issue with facts

From today’s Globe

Supporters were never able to ignite much visible passion for the Games, and the public debate descended into a joyless cost-benefit analysis of financial risks and rewards, which seemed to inspire only dissenters. [emphasis added]

Sorry we did the math.

Here we go again

Yet another out-of-control cop in Massachusetts.

Multiple sources (including pretty much every local mainstream media outlet) report that Medford detective Stephen Lebert threatened to “put a hole right through your (expletive) head” (emphasis mine):

MEDFORD, Mass. — A Boston-area detective has been placed on administrative leave after he was recorded Sunday night apparently making threats to a driver during an off-duty traffic stop, reports CBS Boston.

The driver recorded the incident on his dashboard video camera. The recording, which was uploaded to YouTube, begins after the driver allegedly drove the wrong way on a rotary, or traffic circle.

Soon after the video begins, the detective, who has been identified as Stephen Lebert, can be seen pulling his pickup truck alongside the driver’s car, and exiting, wearing a sleeveless undershirt and shorts.

As Lebert approaches the driver-side door, the driver reverses the car. Lebert can then be seen displaying what appears to be a badge.

“I’ll put a hole right through your (expletive) head,” Lebert can then be heard saying, two times within a a matter of seconds.

As the driver then pulls into a parking spot, Lebert can be heard saying, “I’m a (expletive) Medford detective.”

He adds: “You’re lucky I’m a cop, because I’d be beating the (expletive) (expletive) out of you right now.”

All this for what should have been a routine traffic stop.

To fully appreciate just how bad the situation was, I encourage you to watch the raw dashcam video taken by the victim.

This was no heat-of-the-moment burst of adrenalin, the perpetrator was never threatened. His behavior towards the victim, during the entire 7-minute video, is a case study in abusive police behavior.

This strikes a little closer to home for me because the incident took place within walking distance of my home.

How many other “bad apples” like this are there, and what will it take to remove the threat they represent to the public? This officer, abusing a soft-spoken civilian even after the victim informed him of the dash-cam, has been with the PD for THIRTY YEARS. Dangerously unstable, heavily-armed thugs like Mr. Lebert are a far more immediate threat to my personal safety than ANY “terrorist” threat, including the Boston Marathon bombing. If we can shred constitutional freedoms and turn our society into an armed police state in the interest of “protecting” us from “potential terrorists”, is there something we can do to protect us from thugs like this?

When will this state start protecting my family and me from home-grown state-sponsored terrorists employed by local law enforcement agencies?