Epidemic Ideas Miss Target; UConn Evades on Race

Again last week most of the coronavirus-related deaths in Connecticut — 70 percent — occurred in nursing homes. What was the policy response? The teacher unions demanded that all schools terminate in-person classes and convert to “remote learning,” which for many students– those who need schools most — means no learning, and which for most other students means much less learning. And New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker called for the state to retreat to stricter closure of commerce. These responses were plainly irrelevant to what has always been the epidemic’s primary threat — to the frail elderly and the chronically

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Freedom of Speech isn’t a License to Deceive

Leadership, above all, is acknowledging reality. When politicians play fast and loose with facts, they immediately disqualify themselves from public service. When Apollo 15 landed on the moon, astronaut Dave Scott, paying homage to Galileo Galilei, dropped a hammer and falcon feather to test whether objects in free fall accelerate from gravity independent of mass. In a near-zero atmosphere, as Galileo predicted in the 17th century, they did, hitting the lunar surface at the same instant. Years ago, a forgery of “Sidereus Nuncius” deceived the world’s foremost bibliophiles. Galileo wrote the astronomical treatise in 1610, using his newly invented telescope

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Marijuana Legislation Suggests House Dems Already High

With Connecticut sure to struggle with the virus epidemic for many more months and state government sinking deeper into the financial disaster caused by the epidemic and government’s response to it, it is amazing that the most urgent objective of the enlarged Democratic majority in the General Assembly is to legalize marijuana. It’s another trivial distraction for legislators, like the renewed campaign of state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, to compel schools to teach American Indian history when they can’t even manage to teach the language students are supposed to learn everything in. Why the urgency about marijuana? The drug is

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Conductor Writes Tell-All Book

Are you nostalgic for the “good old days” on Metro-North… the crowded trains, the inevitable delays, your often-times crazy fellow passengers?   If so, you’ll want to check out former conductor Michael Shaw’s great new book, “My Rail Life”. Shaw has just retired from a 36 year career as a conductor on the New Haven line.  His father also worked for the railroad as do 5 of his siblings.  And he clearly loved his job. He once told passengers on a standing-room only train: “OK, folks.  We are half way to Grand Central.  It’s time for everyone who’s been seated to

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Are You Being ‘Steered Away’ From Your Local Pharmacy?

A recent survey by the National Community Pharmacist Association, found that almost 80% of their community pharmacist members say they’ve lost patients because of unfair steering in the past six months by other larger pharmacy chains and that CVS Health is most often reported as the biggest culprit. “Many members have been telling us their patients are being transferred to larger competitors and in many cases the patients don’t know when, why or how. This survey sheds some light on the problem and the results are very disturbing.” According to Doug Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacist Association. According

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Overlooked Telling Details Invite Virus Policy Rethink

Amid the growing panic fanned by news organizations about the rebound in the virus epidemic, last week’s telling details were largely overlooked. First, most of the recent “virus-associated” deaths in Connecticut again have been those of frail elderly people in nursing homes. Second, while dozens of students at the University of Connecticut at Storrs recently were been found infected, most showed no symptoms and none died or was even hospitalized. Instead all were waiting it out or recovering in their rooms or apartments. And third, the serious case rate — new virus deaths and hospitalizations as a percentage of new

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Rebates Raise Drug Costs 30 Percent

Direct and Indirect Remuneration Fees, yes, I know you’ve never heard of them and you’re saying, why should I be interested? The simple reason is this – every time you get your prescription drugs filled at your local pharmacy, you’re paying far more than you should for your drugs and that adds up to hundreds of dollars every year and your pharmacy is having to pay for those drugs as well and BOTH of you have no say in the matter. And who’s behind all of this? Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM’s), you’ll recall we discussed them is a previous article

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Gas is Too Cheap

Gasoline is too cheap. Wait!  Don’t turn the page!  This is not another tree-hugger train-guy rant. Hear me out. President-elect Biden has made the argument for weaning us off fossil-fuels, mostly for environmental reasons.  Anybody who remotely believes in science or has witnessed the cataclysmic changes in our weather, knows we must do something to stop global warming. But I still drive a car (albeit a hybrid) and am not ready to give it up for a bicycle or skateboard like some crazed Gen-Z’er.  We need cars to get around in Connecticut despite our meager attempts at mass transit… especially

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Why ‘Pharmacy Benefit Managers’ Are Hurting You And Your Local Pharmacy

So, just who are ‘Pharmacy Benefit Managers’ or ‘PBM’s as they’re more commonly known. They’re the quiet middlemen that stand between drug manufacturers and your local pharmacy and even though you’ve never heard of them, they know all about YOU. Pharmacy Benefit Managers were originally created to assist the healthcare industry by acting as a liaison between parties and administering costs and procedures that actually helped everyone. But over the years they have morphed into a super powerful group of organizations that now dictate how much YOU as a consumer pay for your prescription drugs. And it doesn’t end there.

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Pharmacy Group Warns Over Anti-Competitive Partnership

If you’re taking prescription medication and if you have Medicare Part D Drug coverage, you know how expensive it’s become. But according to the National Community Pharmacists Association, which calls itself the “voice for independent pharmacy” for 21,000 pharmacies across the United States, a pending partnership between two pharmacy benefit managers (PBM’s) — Express-Scripts and Prime Therapeutics “will squash local pharmacies and ultimately limit consumer choices.” According to Doug Hoey, CEO for the group, “these two companies operating separately already exert tremendous downward pressure on independent pharmacies. By joining forces, they can put many out of business and steer their

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Treasure Hunt

The headline a few days ago was encouraging:  “CT gets $400K grant to study improvements to Metro-North lines”.   But what’s $400,000 going to tell us that we don’t already know?  Any rider of Metro-North knows the infrastructure is crumbling, the station parking and seating on trains (until COVID) are inadequate and, on the branch lines, the service is terrible.  So why another study? Turns out, this Federal grant is different, as Francis Pickering, the Executive Director of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WCOG) explains:  “We know what needs to be fixed.  We just don’t know how to pay for

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A WPA Project for Transportation

Here’s a possible solution to Connecticut’s transportation and infrastructure problems and the state’s current unemployment woes:  a WPA style building project. You do remember the Works Progress Administration, right?  It was FDR’s plan that put millions of unemployed Americans to work building public projects like roads, water mains, firehouses and dams.  Look around you and you’ll still see us benefiting from that investment. But fast-forward 80 years… Any reader of this column is all too familiar with the need for transportation investment in our state: our 7000 miles of roads and bridges in “poor condition”, the $4.6 billion needed for

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Cuts to Education Smack of False Economy

In a letter addressed to faculty and staff union leaders dated September 23, 2020, Ben Barnes, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities chief financial officer, requested help in identifying savings from current collective bargaining agreements. Barnes’ letter followed a September 17 directive from the CSCU Board of Regents. The Regents asked Barnes to find cuts that would resolve a projected $91 million deficit. If there is one lesson we should take from 2020 it is that predicting the future is not easy. The prediction of a deficit was conjured by Barnes himself. I studied forecasting in graduate school. Even after

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The Eye of the Hurricane

When it comes to COVID’s impact on transportation in our state, we are in the eye of the hurricane. That’s been the theme of my recent virtual talk to various Connecticut’s libraries and civic groups, comparing the calm eye of an intense storm to how we’ve become complacent about our transportation future.  We kid ourselves if we think the winds have passed.  The worst is yet to come. Commuters who’ve returned to the rails tell me ridership is slowly coming back but many still fear for their safety on mass transit, and with good reason. Metro-North has finally put $50

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Looming Crisis in Connecticut

Recent public announcements concerning Connecticut’s fiscal condition have come out in separate disjointed fashion. Taken together, they spell impending crisis. It is no surprise that the state is facing an enormous deficit this year (and into the future), due, in part, to the sudden economic shutdown occasioned by the pandemic. However, in larger part, the crisis has been long coming and widely anticipated. It is a function of the bill coming due for decades of paying state employees massively overgenerous, yet woefully underfunded, compensation. It is unlikely that Connecticut will have money both to continue state operations and to fund

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Lamont Failed to Protect Lives and Livelihoods. Why Extend His Absolute Rule?

Governor Lamont has extended his emergency powers through February 9 of next year, despite his disastrous results so far in wielding those powers. Connecticut has sustained the fourth highest state death rate from coronavirus (126 per 100,000 citizens, according to Statista). Does this record justify the longest extension of emergency powers in the nation? According to National Governors Association data this past week, no other state governor has emergency powers extending into 2021 and only two are empowered even into December. The challenge in exercising extraordinary executive authority is to limit the spread of coronavirus while inflicting the least possible

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Cameron: Why Does Red Mean Stop?

Do you ever wonder why our stoplights designate red as stop and green as go?  Me too!  In fact, it was my daughter’s question on this very matter that inspired me to do some historic research. In the 1840s the British railroads adopted a flag, lamp and semaphore signal system where red meant danger, white meant safety and green indicated proceed with caution.  They took their inspiration from early industrialization where factory machines used red to indicate the equipment was off and green when turned on. But when the red glass lens on one signal lamp dropped out of its

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Cameron: Parking and the Pandemic

There’s another part of our transportation network being seriously affected by COVID-19 beyond our roads and rails:  parking lots. Parking is something we take for granted, giving us access to rail stations, shopping and offices.  It’s hardly glamorous, but the parking industry represents an $11 billion business nationwide, one third of it privately owned. In Connecticut most rail station parking is owned by the Connecticut DOT but administered by the local towns, each of which sets its own rates and terms.  The money collected from commuters is supposed to be spent on station upkeep and amenities while the state takes

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Cameron: Deja Vu All Over Again

Welcome to Connecticut, the home of third world infrastructure. Tropical storm Isaias has shown, once again, that we don’t want to invest in our state’s physical plant and we don’t learn from our mistakes.  But we are all so ready to blame somebody else when stuff goes wrong. Every time a Metro-North train pulls down old catenary (overhead power lines), commuters scream “Where are the replacement buses?”, as if a fleet of buses is kept on permanent standby waiting for such strandings. If we did better maintenance on the trains and wires, such accidents might not happen.  But that takes

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Cameron: Fare Equity

Ridership on Metro-North is still down 85% from pre-pandemic levels, but in-state bus ridership is coming back… up to 70% of normal from a March low of 40%.  Why the difference?  Because bus riders and rail riders are very different. Surveys by CDOT and Metro-North showed the average income of a Metro-North rider was about $150,000, given that many were living in affluent Fairfield County towns and commuting to good paying jobs in New York City. Bus riders are predominantly working class, urban dwellers who make less money and, in many cases don’t own cars.  They’re not riding the bus

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Cameron: The City Island Monorail

Looking for a fun day-trip for the family?  Don’t miss City Island, a boat-centric New England style “village” just off the east coast of The Bronx.   In addition to some of the city’s best seafood restaurants, City Island was also home to a monorail over a century ago. The three-mile line from the Bartow train station on what was then the Harlem River branch of the NY, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (near what today is Co-Op City in the Bronx) through Pelham Park, over a rickety bridge and ending at the Island.  It would replace the slow, forty minute

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Shipping Containers

They’re just a big metal box, but they’ve revolutionized the transportation world in the last decades, enabling global trade at unimaginable levels and changing all of our lives.  The story of the invention of the shipping container is an unheralded part of transportation history. In the old days, freighters carrying cargo overseas loaded and unloaded pallets or bails of cargo, one at a time.  I witnessed this myself as a child when my father, a real fan of the seas, took me on cargo ships as a passenger on trips from the Great Lakes to the Caribbean. At each port

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Dinner at George and Kellyanne’s

The invitation made it seem is if the event was some sort of charity benefit and, I apparently, would be an honored guest. I deduced that from envelope, as it was intimately addressed to “Dear Occupant.” I figured, well, Kellyanne or George were targeting those of us with deep pockets (containing up to $100 or more) for a good cause. But when I arrived at the Conway house, I learned otherwise.             “Welcome,” Kellyanne said, as she opened the door to the house on Embassy Row. I glanced around and saw so no other people in the enormous living room,

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Cameron: China Leads the World

Which is the number one country in the world for transportation?  Certainly not the United States.  Not even countries in the EU.  No, you have to look farther east, as Marco Polo did in 1271, to find the future… in China. I’m so tired of ignorant Americans chanting “we’re number one”, when we are not.  Not in healthcare, education and clearly not when it comes to using transportation to bolster our world trade. Compare our crumbling interstate highway system, much of it built during the Eisenhower administration, to China’s superhighways, twice the mileage of our own. Or look at our

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Civil Rights and the Railroads

In the history of American transportation, there is one crucial intersection between railroads and civil rights:  the formation in 1925 of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters by A. Phillip Randolph.  This was the first predominantly African-American labor union in the US. PULLMAN CARS It was in 1859 that George Pullman launched the first deluxe railroad sleeping cars bearing his name.  They were an instant hit, offering middle and upper-class passengers the comforts of home. All of the Pullman Car conductors were white but the porters who tended to the passengers were black.  Many of them were former slaves as

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Claimed $24 Billion in Savings on State Compensation Based on Outrageous Assumption

Ever since former Governor Dannel Malloy announced famously to a state employee union rally in 2014 that “I am your servant,” the general public in Connecticut has grown increasing aware and upset about excessive state employee compensation. Late last month, I wrote a column in this newspaper and the Hartford Courant calling upon Governor Lamont to use his emergency powers to cancel, suspend or delay a large pay raise that all state employees were about to receive on July 1st, a pay hike that Lamont himself had called unfair in the context of massive private sector job losses. State employees

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Cameron: Where’s the Legislature?

Where the heck has the Connecticut legislature been for the past few months?  With so many pressing issues, why haven’t they met? Oh, they’ll tell you it’s because of safety that they couldn’t convene. But we know better.  Plenty of state legislatures… even the US House of Representatives… have carried on the people’s business virtually or well-masked while our pols went AWOL. No, Connecticut’s lawmakers finished the budget and just scurried home, leaving the running of the state to Governor Lamont by executive order.  Now they’re jealous of his success. Ned Lamont is no Andrew Cuomo, but most Nutmeggers think

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What Does On Time Really Mean?

You’re on a Metro-North train headed for Grand Central, nervously looking at your watch.  “Will we be on time?  Will I be late for the meeting?” you ask yourself as you pass 125th Street, usually just 11 minutes from the final stop. Then, you hit congestion and the train crawls through the Park Avenue tunnel, stopping and starting.  You’re going to be late, and sure enough your train pulls onto the lower level platform five minutes after the scheduled arrival time. But technically, your train is not late.  It’s on time. How?  Why?  What feat of magic does Metro-North use

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Jahncke: Cancelling Raise For State Employees Could Raise More Than Lamont’s Final Toll Proposal and Almost Half of his Original

June 27, 2020 — Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat, sees the unfairness of about 50,000 state employees getting a $350 million pay raise next Wednesday, July 1st while almost 600,000 private sector workers in Connecticut have lost their jobs. He said as much at a mid-June food bank give-away. It’s not just wages: the state workforce enjoys a contractual no-layoff guarantee through 2021 as well as gold plate health care and pension benefits. Yet Lamont cannot bring himself to cancel, suspend or even delay the raise, which follows a raise of roughly similar amount a year ago. As a result of the

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