Aug 14, 2022 – Fire Alarm Telegraphy and the Great Boston Fire of 1872 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 437

Bill and Rachel look at the intersection of modern, Second Industrial Revolution cities and the old scourge of urban fires through the lens of the Great Boston Fire of 1872.

Links and notes for ep. 437 (PDF):

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

Oct 4, 2020 – Boston Revolt and Leisler’s Rebellion – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 327

Description: Bill and Nate discuss the Boston Revolt of 1689 and Leisler’s Rebellion of 1689-91 in New York and their significance to later American history.

Links and notes for Ep. 327 (PDF):

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

Sept 20, 2020 – The Boston Police Strike of 1919 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 325

Description: In September 1919, a poorly-planned strike by the newly formed union representing Boston Police collapsed immediately and ended organizing of police for decades. But did they belong in the labor movement at all?

Links and notes for Ep. 325 (PDF):

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

Aug 30, 2020 – School Buses – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 322

Description: Kelley, Nate, and Bill discuss the outsourcing of school buses, the history of school buses, and the historic debate on integration busing.

Ep. 322 links and notes (PDF):

Theme music by Stunt Bird.

What did Auchincloss mean by “Millennial Mecca” remark?

Editor’s note: This is more or less a purely local post about politics in Newton MA (where we record our weekly radio show), but it has broader implications for both eastern Mass and other parts of the country where a similar pattern is playing out.

Newton highlighted within Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Credit: Justin H. Petrosek - Wikipedia)

Newton highlighted within Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Credit: Justin H. Petrosek – Wikipedia)

At the Newton Ward 2 At-Large forum, citywide aldermanic candidate Jake Auchincloss said, some 44 minutes in:

“I don’t hear a lot of demand for us becoming a Millennial mecca. […] That’s not where the voters I spoke to chose to live. They chose to live in Newton, which is the Garden City and which has a special comparative advantage in Greater Boston of being bucolic, of having fabulous schools and safe streets, and that’s the priority.”

Maybe other voters won’t hear it the way I did, but: This is, without question, the most troubling (even disturbing, actually) thing I have yet heard from Jake over the course of this campaign.

It would be one thing to contrast Newton in general terms with other slightly more urban communities, some of which he cited by name. But it’s quite another to imply that those communities have bad schools or unsafe streets or no green spaces, and to further imply by specific word choice that this is all because ‘Millennials’ live there in large numbers. As if ‘Millennials’ are destroying the Greater Boston area like locusts and must be kept at bay from Newton.

Can you imagine the blowback if a candidate for citywide office said during a debate that Newton shouldn’t become a “mecca for the elderly” or a “mecca for baby boomers”? He would rightly finish in last place and never be heard from again.

But this discrimination is an easy political move because adult Millennials are not a major voting force in Newton right now for the simple reason that almost none of us can afford to live in Newton. No wonder he didn’t “hear a lot” from young people who have been priced out of their home city. They’re not here to be able to tell him what they want. Read more

In Mass., Goldman wants in on prison profit stream

new-york-stock-exchange-200Recently, in some states, Goldman Sachs has been issuing “social impact bonds,” a new financial instrument that purports to help cure social ills with Wall Street’s “help.”

In this case, they’re loaning $9 million to the state of Massachusetts to help support a Boston organization that tries to help young offenders from bouncing back into prison. (Reducing young recidivism is a good social goal, obviously, and would have a ripple effect on crime prevention.)

If the effort reduces the number of days past inmate spend back in prison — which would save the state money — the savings would go back to Goldman Sachs, up to a million dollars. If the effort really pays off (above and beyond the bond repayment terms), then the state would get to keep the money. Of course, if the effort doesn’t hit the minimum targets needed to generate enough savings, Goldman Sachs would still get interest payments on the bond, but would lose the principal loan ($9 million or however much of it couldn’t be repaid due to insufficient savings).

As private investments in the prison industry go, it’s not the worst thing in the world. At least the profit incentive is toward rehabilitation rather than toward further imprisonment in the way privatized prisons are. But the question is why is it even necessary to involve the private sector middleman in the first place?

The state could pay for the upfront cost of the program through tax revenues (if it were willing to raise taxes, of course), instead of taking a loan, it would keep all the money and not end up paying Wall Street no matter how things turn out. That money could be reinvested into expanding the successful efforts even more, thus benefiting all taxpayers.

In my opinion, the job of corrections and the rehabilitation of young offenders is part of the role of government. The private sector is free to help, but it should be an add-on to the process, not a redundant profit diversion mechanism in the middle.

Moreover, Goldman Sachs has a pretty notorious history of cooking the books (BBC video) to make money while temporarily making their loan recipient governments look like a success story until Goldman’s gotten all its money back.

And that’s not a good track record to have, going into this plan.

h/t Universal Hub

“A system of racism…is much more important than the individual racists.”

tito-jackson-boston-city-councilFollowing another round of bigoted tweets from Boston Bruins fans, Boston City Councilman Tito Jackson wrote a very long Facebook post arguing that it’s time to move beyond the entry-level “gee whiz, Boston says a lot of racist stuff, doesn’t it?” and start talking about how Boston makes life terrible for its Black residents all life long, from poor health outcomes to chronic unemployment to micro-aggressions on a daily basis. Here is an excerpt from the full post:

At a time when the Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action, arguing erroneously that race doesn’t matter anymore, and makes a case that we live in a post-racial society we can point to this and other high profile cases and show race has, does and still matters more than ever. In Boston, race does matter in life expectancy with the difference in life expectancy in the richest part of the Back Bay at 91.9 years and the poorest part of Roxbury at 58.9 a 33 year difference in life expectancy at birth.

I think the most important part of these conversations is that the high profile cases are just the tip of a huge iceberg, that exists in a system of racism, that is much more important than the individual racists. The relevance is not the sentiment but the reality that racism has undeniable effect on who is incarcerated, who is educated, who is nominated, who is elected, who is incarcerated, who graduates and who is effected.

As a black man, I face racism on a daily basis even though I wear a suit, have a degree and an elected office. You see, it is not my achievements, my mind that this insidious system categories but the potential threat that I am as a black man large or small. The high profile incidents pale in comparisons in frequency to the everyday elevator rides where folks grab their purses, the dehumanizing interactions with cab drivers who don’t want to bring me home to Roxbury and the times that I have been pulled over by police (not only in Boston) for no reason.

The teachable moment is simply that we cannot fix what we do not face. Racism is real. Racism is alive and well.

Boston cannot and will not live up to the true meaning of Boston Strong until we acknowledge the present issues: double the dropout rate for Black and Latino boys in schools, achievement gap, 3 fold unemployment rates, address the issues of the past i.e. busing and decide collectively on what we want our future to be for our children.

And he has a particularly strong reminder for the Millennials who want to wish away racism:

We know that the younger generation does not see themselves through the same racial lenses, but when they take their glasses off, the rose tinted virtual reality game of “We are all the same” is replaced with the black and white reality of disparity…

We must use this special, important and urgent moment in time to not walk away, silence and avoid these issues.

We can’t just say “we’re all part of the human race, mannnnn” and suddenly make everything better. Race may be a biological fiction, but race as a social construct exists, and it results in racism. We can’t change it without first accepting that the system exists (and goes well beyond just tweets with the N-word or recordings of NBA owners saying stupidly vile things).

Jackson’s post — and specifically the admonition to younger folks — calls to mind a recent article by the ever-great Ta-Nehisi Coates:

…liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)

Ideologies of hatred have never required coherent definitions of the hated. Islamophobes kill Sikhs as easily as they kill Muslims. Stalin needed no consistent definition of “Kulaks” to launch a war of Dekulakization. “I decide who is a Jew,” Karl Lueger said. Slaveholders decided who was a nigger and who wasn’t. The decision was arbitrary. The effects are not. Ahistorical liberals—like most Americans—still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true. The hallmark of elegant racism is the acceptance of mainstream consensus, and exploitation of all its intellectual fault lines.