Category Archives: Politics

Boston Naked Bike Ride 2013

Boston’s Naked Bike Ride passed by me near the Public Garden last night. About 75 people in various states of undress, some completely nude, rode their bicycles as part of a protest:

“By riding in the WNBR we face automobile traffic with our naked bodies as the best way of defending our dignity and exposing the unique dangers faced by cyclists and pedestrians as well as the negative consequences we all face due to dependence on oil, and other forms of non-renewable energy.” – ride facebook page

Semi-nude bicyclists ride near Boston's Public Garden
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MBTA and Debt Avoidance

The MBTA has proposed two plans, both containing drastic fare increases and service cuts, to help balance its budget. On February 1, a hearing was held at the Hennigan Community Center in Jamaica Plain for residents to comment on the plans. Of the sixty-plus people who spoke, not a single person chose one plan over the other. Except for a Northeastern University journalist who longed for an interview with T officials and thus maintained neutrality, all declared both plans unacceptable.

A packed Hennigan Community Center
A packed Hennigan Community Center
The MBTA (T) has found itself in this situation for two reasons. In 2000, the State Legislature forced the T to fund itself and granted it 20% of sales tax receipts. Those receipts have not met projections. The Legislature also saddled the T with $3.6 billion in debt, which has since ballooned to $5.2 billion, payments on which consume 30% of its annual operating budget.

MBTA officials know that simply meeting this year’s budget will not do much for the long term. Even if all proposed cuts are made and all fares increased, budget shortfalls will continue. Repeated service cuts and fare increases will lead to system failure.

A speaker holds up a map of bus routes eliminated under the second scenario
A speaker holds up a map of bus routes eliminated under the second scenario
Rather than appealing directly and publicly to state officials to forgive the debt or provide more funding, T officials have instead chosen to scare riders into doing their job for them.

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Occupy Boston: Stories from the Raid

Around 5:00 in the morning of December 10, 2011, the Boston Police raided the Occupy Boston encampment in Dewey Square. The next day, on a cold and sunny afternoon in Boston Common, members of the group told the story of what happened that night and the following day.

Following are some excerpts:

Occupy Boston protester
“We made a ‘sit.’ We sat down for justice. We sat down for Dewey Square. We sat down because we believed in the symbolism of that square, that space, that land.”

“Maybe it would have been cool to have hundreds of people pushing back and fighting but I knew when I went there that we weren’t going to win. No matter how many police officers were there and how many of us were there, I knew in the end that we were going to be dragged out kicking and screaming. In the end, I think things went exactly as they should have gone. I think the encampment came to a peaceful, quiet, and dignified end and that we made the stand we should have made.”

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Why Occupy?

A large group of people listen and respond to a speaker at Occupy BostonIt is good to have a place where people remember. Many are angry at the way the government, corporations, and media have enabled the recent crises and wars. Yet it is difficult to find a forum where we Americans can voice our displeasure. We continue with our busy lives and memory becomes fragmented.

The Occupy movement has begun to change that. It offers a space for people to converse, to learn, and to organize.

Many perspectives are voiced, making consensus difficult. However, the strength of the movement does not lie in its demands, but in its discussion.

Occupy Boston is the beginning of an ongoing discussion about the
problems with America’s economic system and how it has damaged
government and the fabric of society as a whole.
Occupy Boston’s first press release

A free and just society is not the product of a democratic government, established media, or a capitalist economy. It arises from the continual struggle of the people. The Occupy movement is the beginning of another in a long series of those struggles.

A couple perspectives:

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The People’s Library

Sign telling people to borrow books

Hundreds of books line the shelves of a tent on the north end of the Occupy Boston encampment. Poetry, psychology, philosophy (with special sections for Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky) — the subjects and authors are varied, if tending to the left of the political spectrum.

To serve those without an Internet connection, the website, the wiki, and working group meeting notes have been printed. Any book can be checked out anonymously and returned whenever the reader is finished.

It is fitting that, in the city that is home to the first free public lending library in the nation, the movement create a library open to all.

See also: Interview with Kristin Parker
New York Times: Occupying Boston and Beyond, With Tent Libraries for All

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Occupy Boston and Police Overtime

Five security cameras overlooking Occupy Boston
Security cameras on the service building overlooking the Occupy Boston encampment in Dewey Square

Mayor Menino has said that the Occupy Boston protests are costing the city too much money in police overtime.  City Council President Stephen Murphy went so far as to peg that cost at $2 million a month, a number he made up.  But why is the city spending so much money on police in the first place?

Four or five officers are assigned to stand duty in Dewey Square around the clock.  But for what?  Unless the protesters are marching, there have been no security issues which necessitate such a presence.  One of the officers even admitted to getting a little bored. If problems arise, the 911 emergency system can function in Dewey Square and its surroundings just as it functions in the rest of the city.

Besides, the encampment is surrounded by more than a dozen security cameras, cameras which the police have said they will use:

Police will employ the use of video-cameras in areas surrounding the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The video will be used to capture the images of individuals who are engaging in disorder. Those images will then be used to lodge criminal complaints in a follow-up investigation conducted by Boston Police detectives.
Boston Police Media Relations

So why the overtime?  I guess it is to protect the city from peddlers of a few dollars worth of prescription drugs.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money have not been spent in vain.

Update (Feb. 10, 2012): Total spending on the Occupy Boston encampment came to $1.4 million.

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