Entries by damittell

Pete Peters

Four things come quickly, indelibly, to mind about the life of Pete Peters. First is the power of a single committed human being to effect good in the world. This represents the final rejection of determinist nonsense that, for example, the sonnets of Shakespeare were all written in the primordial universe that emerged from the Big Bang. In human affairs, there are choices, and those who choose to do for others can create innocence out of cynicism. When they are gifted and persistent, as Pete was, they can palpably improve the world. Secondly, Pete had faith, as Lincoln put it at Cooper Union, that “right makes might.” He put his faith in reason and in the ability of ideas to […]

Opponents of Reform: Infinitely Resilient

The state’s plan to water down the MCAS test teaches us once again that those with an interest in opposing reform are infinitely patient and resourceful. That is why they very often win. We learned this, for example, when the MBTA instituted “management rights” in 1980. A great victory — until 18 years, in 1998, when many of these rights were gutted in a new contract Governor Cellucci approved during his campaign against Scott Harshbarger. I learned this in covering Amtrak for many years. The Clinton administration approved a plan that was to make Amtrak self-sustaining by 2002. The Bush-43 administration implemented some cost-saving measures proposed by the Amtrak Reform Council, and would not approve increased federal funding without state […]

Best (?) of Massachusetts

On Tuesday, The Boston Globe published its annual Best of Massachusetts Business list. This is of the genre of U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings, which is to say more circulation-promotion than journalism. The Globe did explain its methodology and some readers may find something useful in it. What I gleaned is based on a recent conversation with Chris Bertelsen of Aviance Capital Management, a highly respected financial analyst. Chris noted that American companies are currently positioned to do very well. The rub is that opportunity knocks not mainly in the United States in its current economic condition, but in rising economies including (but not confined to) Brazil and India. (He interestingly has doubts about China.) The Globe confined […]

Collecting Taxes, Outlaw Style

Most of us know what will happen if we don’t pay taxes lawfully assessed us: Penalties, interest, liens, attachments and by and by under certain circumstances, criminal complaints betide. We can complain all we like, but the tax-collector will win, because the law is on his side. But what if government tried to collect taxes not authorized by law — and used its coercive powers to extract payment? Preposterous? It is happening today — as communities, mainly Boston, try to get universities, hospitals and other non-profits to make much larger payments “in lieu of taxes” — payments never authorized by the legislature. In most cases these payments are not voluntary. They are vigorish (vygrash, a good Ukrainian & Yiddish word […]

Eliminating the Competition?

State regulations promulgated in December are going to close down church-based shelters for the homeless. The regulations’ given rationale is the state’s legitimate interest in safe and sanitary conditions in overnight shelters. But as written, the regulations would require churches to spend impossible sums to achieve compliance; and, perhaps tellingly, they would delimit a homeless person’s stays to 35 overnights per year, and would ban them altogether from June 15 to September 15. Such restrictions apparently will not apply to state-supported shelters — only to those run by churches and private organizations such as Salvation Army. One wonders if the hidden agenda isn’t to “eliminate the competition” provided by faith-based voluntary organizations in order to clear a path for much […]

MBTA: Walking the Tightrope

On the face of it the MBTA and its new General Manager Richard Davey are to be praised for taking action against 8 managers accused falsifying maintenance records at 3 garages. Could this actually be the beginning of reform? Ah, but in the 18’th paragraph of The Globe’s story on the subject, one of the disciplined managers asserted (anonymously) that recording phantom maintenance is longtime standard procedure. If one recalls (as I do) 30 years of stories of greed, dishonesty and contempt for the public at the MBTA, the claim is to be taken seriously. The larger question is, Is the MBTA not too big not to fail? Until 1964 the Metropolitian Transit Authority ran buses and rapid transit in […]