Yes, creative


Bless the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union for suing in federal court a really ridiculous state Division of Taxation stance that a special sales-tax exemption for the works of published authors in the state applies only to fiction writers because, the division asserts, nonfiction isn’t “creative and original.’’ (The division also favors work by musicians and such visual artists as painters and sculptors.)

Of course, historians and other nonfiction writers, even including some journalists writing news and commentary articles, must often be highly original and creative in coming up with topics, and in crafting engaging narratives combining analyses and syntheses -- all with the aim of drawing and holding readers. There is artistry in this.

The ACLU’s argument is that the Division of Taxation’s distinction violates the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and the press. I don’t know about that but I do know it’s grossly unfair and illogical. Whether authors in general should get preferential sales-tax treatment is another issue. It reminds me a bit of when I worked for the old International Herald Tribune, technically a French company, we journalists had 25 percent lopped off our French income tax in what was in effect a government subsidy to encourage the practice of journalism; it was partly in reaction to the censorship during the Nazi occupation of France.

Safe space at 'PRIED"

“Nancy Bol’’ (low-fire clay, terra sigillata, low-fire glaze and decals), by Larry Buller, in the show “PRIED,’’ at the Society of Arts + Crafts, Boston, through June 30. June is Gay Pride Month. The society says: "PRIED celebrates and recognizes the individuals who create works that may or may not be made based around the image of a queer person, just as any other maker is not limited to creating works about their own identity. In essence, PRIED is both a safe space and creative platform for its artists, and a space that unapologetically challenges the viewer's expectations.’’

“Nancy Bol’’ (low-fire clay, terra sigillata, low-fire glaze and decals), by Larry Buller, in the show “PRIED,’’ at the Society of Arts + Crafts, Boston, through June 30. June is Gay Pride Month. The society says: "PRIED celebrates and recognizes the individuals who create works that may or may not be made based around the image of a queer person, just as any other maker is not limited to creating works about their own identity. In essence, PRIED is both a safe space and creative platform for its artists, and a space that unapologetically challenges the viewer's expectations.’’

Larry Buller, Nancy Boi, 2016, low-fire clay, terra sigillata, low-fire glaze and decals. 

Society of Arts + Crafts is now showing PRIED through June 30. Curated by Izzy Berdan and Dave J. Bermingham, PRIED is a celebration of LGBTQ+ artists and their work. June is Pride Month, and that means something different for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, from validation to hedonism to the questioning of queerness and sexuality themselves. On the other hand, not all the artwork in PRIED is hinged on that queerness. As Society of Arts + Crafts explains, "PRIED celebrates and recognizes the individuals who create works that may or may not be made based around the image of a queer person, just as any other maker is not limited to creating works about their own identity." In essence, PRIED is both a safe space and creative platform for its artists, and a space that unapologetically challenges the viewer's expectations. As Society of Arts + Crafts asks, "If one pries the closet doors open, are they willing to come to terms with all of the skeletons. . .and maybe the glitter?" Society of Arts + Crafts is located at 100 Pier 4, Suite 200 in Boston, Massachusetts and is open Tuesday&#8211Saturday 10:00 a.m.&#82116:00 p.m., Thursday 10:00 a.m.&#82119:00 p.m. andSunday 11:00 a.m.&#82115:00 p.m. For more information, please visit societyofcrafts.org/current-exhibition/pried.

UMass Dartmouth, Air National Guard to partner in cybersecurity

Entrance to Joint Base Cape Cod, in Bourne, Mass.    — Photo by Ktr101

Entrance to Joint Base Cape Cod, in Bourne, Mass.

— Photo by Ktr101

From The New England Council (newenglandcouncil.com)

The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth has announced that it will partner with the Air National Guard to develop education and workforce training in cybersecurity for students and personnel at Joint Base Cape Cod.

This partnership with bring the 102nd Intelligence Wing staff and UMass Dartmouth faculty together to develop cybersecurity programs, certificates, and concentrations for undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, UMass Dartmouth will provide educational programs for the unit’s cybersecurity professionals.

UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert E. Johnson commented, “We are excited to work with the 102nd Intelligence Wing to strengthen the cybersecurity of our nation. UMass Dartmouth is fully committed to making sure our men and women serving in the armed services are future ready with the skillset and mindset to support the sanctity and security of the American dream.”

Josh Hoxie: Debunking myths about class and race

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From OtherWords.org

I don’t get that much hate mail — except when I write about race.

This spring I co-authored a report called “Ten Solutions to Bridge the Racial Wealth Divide.” My coauthors and I found that the median white family today owns 41 times more wealth than the median black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latinx family.

To fix it, we proposed new public programs, changes to the tax code, and a commission to study reparations for slavery, among other things.

The floodgates opened. My inbox, along with many comment sections at news outlets and on social media, overflowed with angry objections. Most of these blamed the wealth divide on poor individual decision making by people of color.

Are black families 41 times worse at decision making than white families? No — that’s a racist falsehood.

In fact, here are the three most common racist falsehoods I heard about the wealth divide — with data to explain why they’re wrong. Feel free to bust this out at your next family get-together.

Falsehood No. 1: Black and Latinx families have less money because they’re led by single parents.

Nope. A 2017 study from Demos and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy showed that single-parent white families have twice as much wealth as two-parent black and Latinx families.

In other words, raising kids in a two-parent household doesn’t close the racial wealth divide.

Falsehood No. 2: Black people are poor because they’re less educated.

Hard no. A 2015 study titled “Umbrellas Don’t Make It Rain” found that black families led by college graduates “have about 33 percent less wealth than white families whose heads dropped out of high school.”

In fact, according to that 2017 Demos study, “The median white adult who attended college has 7.2 times more wealth than the median black adult who attended college and 3.9 times more wealth than the median Latino adult who attended college.”

In other words, higher education doesn’t close the racial wealth divide.

Falsehood No.3: Black people don’t work or are bad with money.

Definitely not. Demos found that white families actually spend more and save less than black families with the same income. Yet white families have way more wealth than black families with the same income.

The Umbrellas adds that “white families with a head that is unemployed have nearly twice the median wealth of black families with a head that is working full-time.”

In other words, not even income alone can close the racial wealth divide.

So if these arguments are all false, what’s really going on here?

The simplest answer is a history of oppression and inherited advantage. The impacts of slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, white capping, red lining, mass incarceration, and predatory subprime lending, among many other things, are still very much with us.

Many white children, by contrast, start life with a more robust safety net of family wealth. It may be as small as getting a few hundred bucks from their parents when they really need it, or as big as a few hundred thousand for things like college, weddings, or their first home.

Addressing these problems is a lot harder than blaming oppressed people for their hardship. But if we’re going to address racial disparities in this country, we must heed James Baldwin’s challenge that “nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

It’s not individual behavior that drives the racial wealth divide — it’s a system that many folks pretend doesn’t exist.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Taxation and Opportunity at the Institute for Policy Studies.

'Gansett on the bay

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From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

News that Narragansett Brewery will open a brewery in Providence’s Fox Point section next year was very cheery news indeed. For one thing, Narragansett Beer is a storied local name going back to the 1880’s. For another, it’s always a good sign when a company wants to make something around here. Manufacturing jobs tend to pay more than service ones, and that a popular consumer product will be made in Providence, and in a highly visible location at the head of Narragansett Bay, is good PR for the city and the state.

I assume, from a company picture, that Narragansett plans to have an outdoor beer garden with shared picnic tables, at the site, serving local food, which could become a summer tourist destination.

Let’s hope for colorful signage at the brewery, to attract attention from drivers on Route 195.

Wood breaking against the Maine coast

Work by Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen in their show in the Ellis Beauregard Fellowship Exhibition at the Center for Maine Contemporary Arts, Rockland, Maine, through June 16. The gallery says:  ” Kavanaugh and Nguyen have collaborated in their art for more than a decade, and have become known for their inventive and immersive installations. For this exhibition, they use wood to mimic the coast of Maine and create a turbulent ocean breaking against the shore. The wooden waves look as though they may crash down and soak the viewer at any moment, and they keep the viewer immersed in the exhibition even as they stay dry.’’    Rockland is a major art center, anchored by the Farnsworth Museum of Art, as well as a fishing port.

Work by Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen in their show in the Ellis Beauregard Fellowship Exhibition at the Center for Maine Contemporary Arts, Rockland, Maine, through June 16. The gallery says: Kavanaugh and Nguyen have collaborated in their art for more than a decade, and have become known for their inventive and immersive installations. For this exhibition, they use wood to mimic the coast of Maine and create a turbulent ocean breaking against the shore. The wooden waves look as though they may crash down and soak the viewer at any moment, and they keep the viewer immersed in the exhibition even as they stay dry.’’

Rockland is a major art center, anchored by the Farnsworth Museum of Art, as well as a fishing port.

The gallery says:

”Kavanaugh and Nguyen have collaborated in their art for more than a decade, and have become known for their inventive and immersive installations. For this exhibition, they use wood to mimic the coast of Maine and create a turbulent ocean breaking against the shore. The wooden waves look as though they may crash down and soak the viewer at any moment, and they keep the viewer immersed in the exhibition even as they stay dry.’’

Rockland is a major art center, anchored by the Farnsworth Museum of Art, as well as a fishing port.

Llewellyn King: The treasure of urban walkability

Walkers on Gauchetière Street, in    Montreal

Walkers on Gauchetière Street, in Montreal

A new generation of urbanites and people who would like to the move from the cul de sac life in the suburbs to downtowns are seeking neighborhoods where they can walk to shops, theaters, restaurants and to see their friends.

Realtors across America are finding they can get a premium for neighborhoods where residents can walk to just about everything.

Studies show that retailers can expect much more business, sometimes as much as 80 percent more, if they have more, regular foot traffic.

Walking, to its proponents, means living lighter on the earth with less pollution, better health, a sense of close community and an air of enlightenment. Neighborhoods like Dupont Circle, in Washington D.C. and Brooklyn Heights, in New York City, are adding walkability to the list of their virtues. But it is a phenomenon being experienced across the country and the world.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan wants to make London the most walkable city in the world, which may be news to those who already think it is a pretty good place for a stroll. But his plans go far beyond tourists marching around the sights or trying to get to Buckingham Palace from their hotel.

Khan seeks an organic change that links walking, cycling and public transport together in a unified way of getting around without cars. He has appointed a commissioner for walking and cycling, Will Norman, to oversee the new London mobility.

American cities are responding to the walkability imperative with initiatives of their own, driven by changing values and concepts.

To me, it seems like a giant back-to-the-future movement where the virtues now claimed for walkability are really the virtues of village life.

So, whether it is in San Diego or Baltimore, a new desire to abandon the car for the street is changing the way we live and what we think is the good life.

It is a part of a large urban adjustment that is underway; although the purists might want to see it as having no technological component beyond the new soles on shoes.

You cannot, as London has found, simply push walking without regard to cycling. And you cannot, as cities from coast to coast have done, put in bike lanes and permit those pesky scooters without regard to their impact on pedestrians.

More: Bikes themselves are changing dramatically. The cost of electric-assist bikes has tumbled from many thousands of dollars to around $1,000. Around Seattle, there are bike paths that call for one to be extremely athletic, as I recall.

Walkability, as an urban concept, reflects not only a new sensibility to the environment, but also a desire to regain a sense of the cosmopolitan life. Increasingly, as the malls are failing, we are deprived of the collective living experience.

The growth of the suburbs increased dependence on cars and bifurcated social life into business friends (lunch friends) and neighborhood friends (cookout friends).

Going forward, as the walkability ethic takes hold and more entrepreneurs see its potential, we will see walking communities clustered around transport centers, like subway stops; and, most likely, more short-distance commuting options, such as the light rail operating in Baltimore and San Diego.

Over the decades, I have been watching efforts to have people live where they work with planned communities like Reston, Va., outside Washington D.C. I once lived in Reston and that part of the plan never quite worked for it. People still commute to work, sometimes great distances, but with walkability as an urban goal, this trend may finally reverse.

What we do not need, in my view, is too much social engineering, which may be about to engulf London under its socialist mayor.

Bernard Shaw, the playwright, said of H.G. Wells, the author and a fellow socialist, that Wells would cut down the trees to build metal sunshades. That is the danger if walkability gets politicized and mandated. Walkability needs gentle footfalls, not imperatives.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. His email is llewellynking1@gmail.com.



Woosox's Polar Park as high-tech center

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From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

I predict that after a couple of years of curiosity and excitement, attendance will fall at Polar Park, the new baseball stadium to be built as the home of what is now (sigh) called the Pawtucket Red Sox. Polar Park (after Worcester-based Polar Beverages) is supposed to open in 2021. Eventually there may be considerable loyal buyers’ remorse for the big tax breaks and other publicly financed incentives being given to the group of very rich men who are moving the team. And how popular will baseball in general be in a decade? Whatever, I wish them well.

Anyway, however the Boston Red Sox farm team does in Worcester, something of long-term value may come out of the project:

Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the PawSox will partner to improve ballpark technology. This will include having WPI students working on such projects as mobile apps for ordering food, technology to ease parking and special seating for those with sensory challenges.

WPI’s president, Laurie Leshin, said: “As Worcester’s hometown technological university, WPI shares the club’s vision and opportunity for Polar Park: to create a versatile regional sports venue that combines a traditional ballpark environment with modern, smart, and connect amenities.”

So however successful the park turns out to be as a business, technological applications, some of them utterly unanticipated, might come out of the park that can be used to improve things at other large entertainment venues. Think of the surprising electronics and medical advances that came out of the U.S. space program in the ‘60s.



Charles Desmond/Thomas C. Jorling/Kier Wachterhauser: How Harvard and other rich institutions can help save our planet

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Via The New England Journal of Higher Education, a service of The New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org)

Nonprofit institutions with large endowments have been facing challenges from various stakeholders contesting the management of their investment portfolios. While these challenges are most commonly associated with institutions of higher education, pension funds and private foundations will increasingly face similar challenges regarding how the management of their endowments affects socially important policies. Together, these endowments represent hundreds of billions of dollars, and the market power they possess is very substantial.

In the case of higher education, students, faculty and some alumni are pressing these institutions to divest of their holdings in fossil fuel-based companies. These include coal, petroleum and, in some cases, natural gas companies. This advocacy is based upon an overall societal objective to decarbonize our energy system in order to hold greenhouse gas emissions at levels believed to be necessary to prevent an increase in global temperatures above 1.5°C. For above this level, there is widespread consensus in the scientific community that the climate will change in ways that will threaten the ability of the life-supporting biosphere to sustain the human population, which that will grow to something on the order of 10 billion by 2050. The threats from climate change are wide-ranging, from droughts and extreme storms to sea level rise and ocean acidification to migration of infectious diseases and rapid species extinction.

The challenge of climate change is real and the nonprofit institutions that manage vast portfolios must examine how their substantial investments affect the social, economic and environmental well-being of the human community. Simply put, the trustees of these major nonprofit endowments must examine the contribution to human well-being they make with the explicit choices in the composition of their portfolios.

Certainly divesting in carbon-based corporations is one avenue to consider. It is, however, our proposal that a positive investment strategy is a much more effective way to drive the message that climate change is real and requires action by nonprofit organizations who sit on large amounts of capital.

Thus, we propose, as a start, that nonprofit organizations with endowments greater than $1 billion commit to investing 10% of their endowment in corporations whose primary business activity is building and operating alternative energy systems based upon the endless supply of the sun’s energy and the wind. These alternative energy systems would include photovoltaic electric generation and associated energy storage technology, especially batteries.

The power of this investment strategy is immense. Consider the impact of a 10% investment from 100 institutions with endowments greater than a billion. At a minimum, this would produce $10 billion. Harvard alone would produce more than $4 billion. Investments of this scale would take this nation a long way toward decarbonization. More specifically, these investments would replace fossil fuel generation of electricity with the concomitant result that portfolio managers would cease to make any investments in fossil fuel companies. Thus, the proposed strategy would also accomplish the objectives of divestment.

And these investments are competitive. Investments in wind and solar projects are now returning 6% to 10%, which is fully in line with the range of investment objectives that trustees of nonprofits instruct portfolio managers to achieve.

Climate change represents a serious threat to the well-being of the human community. Leaders of nonprofit organizations cannot in good conscience watch this threat unfold as if it is someone else’s responsibility. It is also our hope that the managers of nonprofit funds in this country will set the example for all to follow, regardless of industry. It is the responsibility of all of us.

If you are managing massive amounts of capital and can achieve competitive rates of return by investing in alternative energy technologies that will help protect the life-supporting biosphere, the choice appears clear: Act Now!

Charles Desmond is CEO of Inversant, the largest parent-centered children’s saving account initiative in Massachusetts. He is past chair of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and was a higher education policy adviser to former Gov. Deval Patrick. Since 2011, he has served as a NEBHE senior fellow. Thomas C. Jorling is former CEO of the ecosystem nonprofit NEON Inc., former VP for Environmental Affairs at International Paper Co., former commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and former professor and director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Williams College. Kier Wachterhauser is a partner at the law firm of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, in Quincy, Mass., where he specializes in labor and employment law, legal compliance and governance, and litigation.

David Warsh: A way to change tech giants' behavior?

Google headquarters, in Mountain View, California

Google headquarters, in Mountain View, California

SOMERVILLE, Mass.

“What is so rare as a day in June,’’ as New England poet James Russell Lowell wrote, or, for that matter, in May, in Somerville, Massachusetts? A genuinely powerful intellect, that’s what. Enough to elicit a weekly instead of a walk.

The most interesting thing I saw last week was A Tax to Fix Big Tech, an op-ed by economist Paul Romer in The New York Times, proposing a progressive tax on corporate revenues from sales of search advertising. “Putting a levy on targeted ad revenue would give Facebook and Google a real incentive to change their dangerous business models,” he wrote.

About those dangerous business models, Romer had little to say except that

It is the job of government to prevent a tragedy of the commons. That includes the commons of shared values and norms on which democracy depends. The dominant digital platform companies, including Facebook and Google, make their profits using business models that erode this commons. They have created a haven for dangerous misinformation and hate speech that has undermined trust in democratic institutions. And it is troubling when so much information is controlled by so few companies.

What is the best way to protect and restore this public commons? Most of the proposals to change platform companies rely on either antitrust law or regulatory action. I propose a different solution. Instead of banning the current business model – in which platform companies harvest user information to sell targeted digital ads –  new legislation could establish a tax that would encourage platform companies to shift toward a healthier, more traditional model.

He relied for a foil on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposals to break up big tech companies, using antitrust statutes or regulation. He wrote, “Existing antitrust law in the United States addresses mainly the harm from price gouging, not the other kinds of harm caused by these platforms, such as stifling innovation and undermining the institutions of democracy.”  And regulators and judges can be captured by clever lawyers and patient corporate lobbyists.  (Nothing here about the legislators who would enact and monitor the tax statutes and laws.)

There are several advantages to using tax legislation as a strategy, according to Romer. The tax he had in mind could apply to revenue from sales of targeted digital ads, the core businesses of Facebook, Google and other firms that make money monitoring users’ searches. “At the federal level, Congress could add it as a surcharge to the corporate income tax. At the state level, a legislature could adopt it as a type of sales tax on the revenue a company collects for displaying ads to residents of the state.”  Such a tax could be progressive, creating an impediment to growth through acquisition, and an incentive to periodic spin-offs, and thus greater competition. He added several FAQS the next day on his Web site about various tax aspects.

There was, alas, very little speculation about the new ad-free subscription models that might emerge as a means of avoiding taxes on targeted ad revenue, except to say that subscribers would be mindful of the privacy they obtained by avoiding the ever-more sophisticated surveillance of their habits by traditional search services, and subscription companies “could succeed the old-fashioned way: by delivering a service that is worth more than it costs.”

Along with countless others, I share Senator Warren and Nobel-laureate Romer’s sense that Facebook and Google and other big Internet firms have become highly undesirable corporate citizens in their current gigantic and highly profitable ad-supported form. Surely newspapers are among the “institutions of democracy” that would be strengthened by some governmental reshaping of advertising markets.

Those with long memories will recall that, as a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Romer was the government’s expert in the remedy phase of the Justice Department’s successful (to that point) antitrust complaint against Microsoft Corp. His recommendation was to break the company into two competing firms – one selling its Windows operating systems, the other marketing software applications (including its highly profitable Office suite). The remedy was headed for implementation, until an appellate court sent the case back to a different judge. The election of George W. Bush mooted the issue; the Justice Department withdrew its complaint: a salutary victory against big business slipped away.

Romer had left research by then to start an online learning company.  In 2007 he quit Stanford altogether to work as a policy entrepreneur – a natural enough path for the son of a former governor of Colorado who had harbored national ambitions.  Romer spent several years advocating for “charter cities,” tax-favored enterprise zone in developing nations whose governance was to be somehow outsourced to independent authorities. Two attempts failed on the eve of what would have been their creation.  In 2010, he joined New York University’s Stern School of Business as a University Professor and for a time, director of NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management.

In October 2016 he signed on as chief economist of the World Bank, with hopes of transforming its large and well-funded research department. Fifteen months later, he resigned, after a series of controversies with staff. By then he had come perilously close to gadfly status as a critic of macroeconomics. He could speak so freely, he explained, “because I am no longer an academic. I am a practitioner, by which I mean that I want to put useful knowledge to work. I care little about whether I ever publish again in leading economics journals or receive any professional honor because neither will be of much help to me in achieving my goals.”

The Nobel award last year, jointly with William Nordhaus, “for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis,” rescued Romer from that limbo by certifying his stature. He married the same day he received the prize.  Since then, Romer has offered advice to incoming Word Bank President David Malpass, in an op-ed in the Financial Times (outsource the bank’s research function and concentrate on infrastructure planning and financial diplomacy instead), and, last week, the op-ed in the Times

Op-eds are only slightly better than TED talks.  But, as noted, really good ideas are rare. This one may be profound.  It deserves plenty of further study.

David Warsh, an economic historian and veteran columnist, is proprietor of Somerville-based economicprincipals.com, where this column first ran.


New England in Florida

A complex at Disney World meant to evoke Martha’s Vineyard

A complex at Disney World meant to evoke Martha’s Vineyard

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

A couple of months ago I was visiting some relatives in a large gated community in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where live lots of people liking Florida’s weather (or at least its winters) and disliking Northeast taxes. What most struck me, besides the cat-consuming alligators, was how much the nearby village center was constructed to look like a New England small town instead of the “there’s no there, there’’ appearance of much of Florida, with its innumerable strip malls and shoddy houses and condo developments. People still long for something evoking a longer history than you’re usually reminded of in Florida, if only a Disneyfied version such as in Port St. Lucie.

Genocidal general

Lord Jeffrey Amherst, by Joshua Reynolds

Lord Jeffrey Amherst, by Joshua Reynolds

….”Neither General Jeffrey Amherst

nor Colonel Henry Bouquet
could stomach our willow-tobacco.

As for the unusual
scent when the Colonel shook out his hand-

kerchief: C’est la lavande,
une fleur mauve comme le ciel.

They gave us six fishhooks
and two blankets embroidered with smallpox.’’

— From “Meeting the British,’’ by Paul Muldoon. The poem is about Gen. (and later Lord) Jeffrey Amherst’s biological warfare against some Native Americans during the French and Indian Wars. Amherst, Mass., is named after him, though some propose changing the name.

Chris Powell: Civil rights in conflict

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With Connecticut’s state government stumbling along with its usual insolvency and tax hunger, establishing a civil rights division in the attorney general's office does not rank high among Connecticut's needs, despite Atty. Gen. William Tong's advocacy of it.

After all, the era of the systemic violation of basic civil rights of broad classes of people -- racial, ethnic, and religious -- is long gone, even if there always will be individual cases of illegal conduct by employers, landlords, and businesses. The state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities already has jurisdiction over such cases and many lawyers in private practice are always ready to represent the truly oppressed on a contingency basis in lawsuits for financial damages.

Tong seems to be seeking the authorization of statute to apply the weight of state government to the increasing number of controversies where civil rights are in conflict. He already has expressed support for an ordinance in Hartford and proposed legislation to regulate what anti-abortion "pregnancy centers" can tell potential clients, though such facilities are not licensed medical providers but instead mainly exercise freedom of speech, if sometimes advocates of abortion consider them deceptive.

Of course, advocates of abortion have free-speech rights too, but with such ordinances and legislation they seek to silence their adversaries. This silencing is considered politically correct.

Similar controversies are raging in academia, where disagreeable opinion is labeled "hate speech" so it might be obstructed or prohibited. In such controversies at public colleges would Tong's civil rights division intervene to maintain the principle that the First Amendment protects even hateful expression, or would it favor the censors and validate the purported right not to be offended in "safe spaces"?

How about the controversies over transsexuality? Would a civil rights division favor the right of men who want to be women to use women's restrooms, or would it favor the longstanding right of sexual privacy? Would a civil rights division favor the right of men who want to be women to compete in women's athletic events at public schools? Or would it favor the longstanding right of women to have their own events, recognizing the natural athletic advantages of men?

Where would a civil rights division stand on gun rights? It is not generally noticed, but the Declaration of Rights in Connecticut's Constitution is more explicit than the Bill of Rights in the national Constitution in declaring the right to bear arms to be an individual right: "Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state." (Nothing there requiring membership in a militia.) Yet the attorney general advocates more restrictions on gun ownership.

The primary task of the attorney general's office is to provide advice and representation to state agencies, but state government often is accused of violating the civil rights of its own employees. In such disputes should the attorney general's office really be representing both sides? Of course the internal operations of state government already provide precious little management and defense of the public interest, and Tong long has been allied with the state employee unions, which pretty much control the government workplace.

It's not hard to guess where a civil rights division under Tong would stand in these controversies. Indeed, such a division might be a great mechanism for politically correct posturing by an attorney general pursuing higher office through the Democratic Party.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.



A near-century of Harlem art

“Art Is…(Girlfriends Times Two) 1983/2009’’ (c-print), by Lorraine O’Grady, courtesy of her and Alexander Gray Associates, New York. It is in the show “Harlem: In Situ,’’ at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass., through July 31. The gallery says the show displays nearly 100 years of art created in Harlem, with the aim of exploring “the impact that Harlem has had on American culture and art, along with its periods of growth, new styles and redevelopment and gentrification.’’

“Art Is…(Girlfriends Times Two) 1983/2009’’ (c-print), by Lorraine O’Grady, courtesy of her and Alexander Gray Associates, New York. It is in the show “Harlem: In Situ,’’ at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass., through July 31. The gallery says the show displays nearly 100 years of art created in Harlem, with the aim of exploring “the impact that Harlem has had on American culture and art, along with its periods of growth, new styles and redevelopment and gentrification.’’

 Harlem: In Situ is an exhibition showing nearly 100 years of art created in Harlem, New York. It aims to explore the impact that Harlem has had on American culture and art, along with its periods of growth, new styles and redevelopment and gentrification. "One of the great centers of cultural production in the United States, Harlem's incredible past and present make this neighborhood a wonderful subject for the Addison's ongoing engagement with the theme of place," says Judith F. Dolkart, The Mar

New England in the Arctic

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Via The New England Council (newenglandcouncil.com)

“The University of New England (UNE) and New England law firm of Verrill Dana LLC are partnering to host the first Arctic Investment Conference in New England. This day-long event will give participants an overview of the North Atlantic and Arctic investment landscapes. The conference will be held Tuesday, May 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Innovation Hall, University of New England, Stevens Avenue, in Portland, Maine.

“The conference will explore how technologies developed to solve problems and promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in the North Atlantic and Arctic are creating potential investment opportunities in New England. Additionally, participants will learn about key actors and how they work across sectors, models for cross sector collaboration, and the proper scale for investment.

“The NEC congratulates UNE and Verill Dana for its success in organizing the first Arctic Investment Conference in New England, and for promoting partnerships between private enterprise and the stakeholders who are working to address climate change.’’

Frank Carini: Dogfish is as tasty as cod

Dogfish    — Photo by Doug Costa of NOAA

Dogfish

— Photo by Doug Costa of NOAA

From ecoRI News (ecori.org)

Dogfish doesn’t have an appetizing ring to it. The name for this member of the shark family has kept it off dinner plates, at least in the United States. In Britain, dogfish is often the key ingredient in fish and chips.

A few years ago, in an attempt to make the fish sound more appealing, the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, New England fishermen, and conservationists tried to rebrand it as “Cape shark.” The effort to create local demand for this plentiful regional species, which grew in number with the collapse of the cod fishery, hasn’t yet taken hold.

Kate Masury, program director of Eating with the Ecosystem, said that, with its mild white boneless flesh, dogfish is less flaky than cod but just as delicious.

Eating with the Ecosystem, a Rhode Island-based nonprofit that promotes a place-based approach to sustaining New England’s wild seafood, is working with consumers, chefs, suppliers, processors, and fishermen to build a market for dogfish and the many other lower-valued species swimming off New England’s coast.

“It’s about increasing consumer awareness about what is out there and creating a demand,” Masury said.

More than 100 edible wild seafood species thrive in the region’s salty waters. But finding most of them, such as dogfish, ocean perch, scup, periwinkles, sea robin, or sea urchin, at a local market or on a restaurant menu is a challenge.

A new Eating with the Ecosystem study that used citizen scientists to track the availability of these under-appreciated species documented some interesting observations about local fish and shellfish in the New England marketplace.

Unsurprisingly, the region’s seafood counters are heavily dominated by five classic New England species: lobster, sea scallops, soft-shell clams, cod, and haddock.

At the other end of the market spectrum, however, half of the 52 local species included in the recent study were found less than 10 percent of the time. Many of these species, including dogfish, whiting, skate and Atlantic butterfish, which is often caught as bycatch in the squid fishery and shouldn’t be confused with its West Coast version, are among the most abundant species in the ocean ecosystem off the New England coast.

But despite their prevalence in local waters, these four species were found even less often, only 3 percent of the time. Dogfish was only found twice out of 198 searches, and skate 14 times (252). Both butterfish (268) and whiting (198) were found eight times.

The Eat Like a Fish citizen science project studied wildlife in a human habitat: the markets, kitchens, and tables that form the final links of the supply chains that connect ocean to plate. (Eating with the Ecosystem)

The report’s findings are based on a research effort called the Eat Like a Fish citizen science project. The project’s 86 participants hailed from all walks of life and resided in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire.

For 26 weeks, from May to October of last year, the 86 volunteers, including 19 from Rhode Island, visited seafood markets, grocery stores, farmers markets, and seaside fishing piers in search of the 52 New England seafood species. Each participant received a weekly list of four randomly chosen local species and searched for them in up to three local markets. Upon encountering one of their species, they took it home and made a meal out of it.

“Citizen scientists found a stark mismatch between what’s swimming in local waters and what’s available on local seafood counters,” said Masury, who coordinated the research project. “This imbalance can strain the resilience of New England’s underwater ecosystems and undermine the well-being of the people who depend on them. Moving forward, we hope to see the New England marketplace do a better job of reflecting the full diversity of what our waters have to offer.”

The study’s goals were to understand how well New England’s retail marketplace reflects the diversity of local seafood and to draw on the volunteers’ lived experiences to help explain why these mismatches exist and what can be done to correct them.

As ecosystems change more rapidly because of climate change, Masury said diversity must become a cornerstone of the way we eat and market seafood. She also noted that understanding the assimilation of local species by the regional seafood supply chains is an important first step in achieving greater symmetry between ecosystems and markets, reducing impacts on ocean food webs, and positioning local fishing economies to be resilient in the face of change.

Citizen scientists who took part in the project say it was informative, challenging, and frustrating.

“At the inception of the project, I had no doubt that I would find, prepare, and marvel at my brilliance with new, exotic, local species of seafood each week,” said Sherri Darocha, a participating citizen scientist from Rhode Island. “I never dreamed that most weeks it would be so challenging to find even one fish on my list. After twenty-six weeks, I have plenty of pent-up fish envy that will only be soothed by finding species that have eluded me, like cunner and red hake.”

To assist consumers in finding these largely ignored species and help reduce the strain on the region’s ocean ecosystem, Eating with the Ecosystem offers several tips for consumers interested in expanding their local seafood options:

Seek out local species you haven’t tried before. Many citizen scientists discovered new favorite seafood species by going outside their comfort zone.

Don’t shy away from whole fish. Using every part of the fish reduces waste. The more mess you make in the kitchen, the more you will enjoy the meal that follows.

If you don’t see a particular local species available at the seafood counter, ask for it. Letting your fishmonger know you would like to buy it will help build demand.

Many fishmongers can locate hard-to-find local seafood species if you notify them in advance. Special ordering these species helps show fishmongers that there is interest in purchasing them, without requiring them to assume any risk.

When experimenting with new species, make it a social event. Team up with friends and family members who share your commitment. Citizen scientists relished the long-distance camaraderie that developed through the Eat Like a Fish project.

To help seafood lovers diversify their diets, Eating with the Ecosystem recently produced a cookbook called Simmering the Sea: Diversifying Cookery to Sustain Our Fisheries. Populated with whimsical ecological tales, imaginative artwork, and simple yet elegant recipes, the 100-page book celebrates 40 under-appreciated fish and shellfish that populate the Northwest Atlantic Ocean.

Frank Carini is editor of ecoRI News, where this article first appeared.

Some of the region's Yankee stereotype lives on

Lexington_Concord-5c.jpg

“"Samuel Adams’s name sells beer, ‘Minute Man’ remains vital as a popular appellation, and ‘John Hancock’ is still a major insurance company. But these are part of myth, part of New England’s past, and as such are nostalgic symbols….

“A dominant culture no longer presides, but only an overarching myth of what New England is, still based on the Yankee stereotype.’’

— From The Encyclopedia of New England, edited by Burt Feintuch and David H. Watters

William Cullen Bryant: 'An image of that calm life'


Green River Park along the river of the same name, in Greenfield, Mass.

Green River Park along the river of the same name, in Greenfield, Mass.




The Green River is a tributary of the Deerfield River, in southern Vermont and northwestern Massachusetts. William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), a romantic poet, journalist and long-time editor of The New York Post, grew up in nearby Cummington.

Green River

When breezes are soft and skies are fair,
I steal an hour from study and care,
And hie me away to the woodland scene,
Where wanders the stream with waters of green,
As if the bright fringe of herbs on its brink
Had given their stain to the wave they drink;
And they, whose meadows it murmurs through,
Have named the stream from its own fair hue.

Yet pure its waters--its shallows are bright
With coloured pebbles and sparkles of light,
And clear the depths where its eddies play,
And dimples deepen and whirl away,
And the plane-tree's speckled arms o'ershoot
The swifter current that mines its root,
Through whose shifting leaves, as you walk the hill,
The quivering glimmer of sun and rill
With a sudden flash on the eye is thrown,
Like the ray that streams from the diamond stone.
Oh, loveliest there the spring days come,
With blossoms, and birds, and wild bees' hum;
The flowers of summer are fairest there,
And freshest the breath of the summer air;
And sweetest the golden autumn day
In silence and sunshine glides away.

Yet fair as thou art, thou shunnest to glide,
Beautiful stream! by the village side;
But windest away from haunts of men,
To quiet valley and shaded glen;
And forest, and meadow, and slope of hill,
Around thee, are lonely, lovely, and still.
Lonely--save when, by thy rippling tides,
From thicket to thicket the angler glides;
Or the simpler comes with basket and book,
For herbs of power on thy banks to look;
Or haply, some idle dreamer, like me,
To wander, and muse, and gaze on thee.
Still--save the chirp of birds that feed
On the river cherry and seedy reed,
And thy own wild music gushing out
With mellow murmur and fairy shout,
From dawn to the blush of another day,
Like traveller singing along his way.

That fairy music I never hear,
Nor gaze on those waters so green and clear,
And mark them winding away from sight,
Darkened with shade or flashing with light,
While o'er them the vine to its thicket clings,
And the zephyr stoops to freshen his wings,
But I wish that fate had left me free
To wander these quiet haunts with thee,
Till the eating cares of earth should depart,
And the peace of the scene pass into my heart;
And I envy thy stream, as it glides along,
Through its beautiful banks in a trance of song.

Though forced to drudge for the dregs of men,
And scrawl strange words with the barbarous pen,
And mingle among the jostling crowd,
Where the sons of strife are subtle and loud--
I often come to this quiet place,
To breathe the airs that ruffle thy face,
And gaze upon thee in silent dream,
For in thy lonely and lovely stream
An image of that calm life appears
That won my heart in my greener years.