A Chat With Transportation Commissioner Joe Guilietti

Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe Guilietti has a holiday gift for rail commuters… and maybe a lump of coal for the stockings for highway speeders. Once a year I get a sit-down with the Commissioner.  We’ve known each other for many years since his days as President of Metro-North.  He knows I always ask him the tough questions but once told me “You’re always fair, Jim”, a comment that brought a tear to my eye. So when I asked him when train service was going to get faster, he didn’t blink… or over-promise. “My boss (the Governor) keeps asking

More

Can State Afford to Cut Taxes? And Higher Ed is Propaganda

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but with his re-election campaign coming up, Governor Lamont says Connecticut may be able to afford some tax cuts, or at least a revival of a property tax credit against state income tax obligations. Some fellow Democrats in the General Assembly are receptive to the idea. But a detailed review last week by the Connecticut Mirror’s Keith Phaneuf suggests that for a while the state really won’t be able to afford to do much more than to keep paying down its unfunded pension obligations, estimated at more than $95 billion. State government’s pension debt is

More

Defining Data Literacy as Fundamental for All

In a nutshell, what we do at the Connecticut Data Collaborative (CTData) is this:  we help people find and use data.  As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.  That’s why our objective is to change that, by alerting people to what they don’t know about how to understand and use data, and then helping them to do both.  It’s easier than you might think. At the core is the concept of data literacy.  When you hear the term “literacy,” your mind might immediately jump to phonics flashcards and handwriting worksheets. Or perhaps you think of a financial

More

When Local Papers Go Under, Democracy Follows

American newspapers are traceable to Jamestown, Virginia (1619), even before the tradition fully evolved in England, but long after news summaries appeared in Germany and the Netherlands. Mostly one-off “broadsides,” it wasn’t until the 1690s before regularly-produced newsprint started to appear. The first daily in NYC, newsprint’s Mecca, was published in 1783 by Noah Webster, who gave America its first dictionary. By 1800 the still fledgling nation had 200 newspapers in circulation. By 1860, with affordable “penny presses” boosting readership in many cities, there were 3,000. Since 1800, when the first periodical was published in a NYC prison, 500 newspapers

More

Holiday Gifts for Commuters

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for a friend who misses their daily commute amid the pandemic?  Consider an item from the exclusive Cameron Commuter Collection: SCENTED CANDLES: Nothing says the holidays like a fragrant candle to remind you of the old days of commuting.  How about the “M2 Lavatory” scent to revisit the pungent smell of the railroad’s old bathrooms.  Or the “Bar Car Memories” fragrance that smells faintly of stale beer and cigars. For sports fans, there’s the “Yankee Express-ions”, which smells like sweaty baseball fans tailgating on their way to the game.  Or the “Burning Brakes” scent

More

Alarmed by the COVID-19 Surge in Europe? Don’t Be.

Americans should be thankful, not fearful. The U.S. is unlikely to see the kind of COVID-19 surge now occurring in Europe. The U.S. has high COVID-19 vaccination rates. Eighty-two percent of those 18 and older and 100% of the uniquely vulnerable population over age 65 have had at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of equal importance, over 96% of vaccine doses administered have been the strong 95%-effective Pfizer and Moderna shots. In Europe, vaccination rates are high, but many people have been vaccinated with less effective vaccines, primarily the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine which is somewhere

More

Cipolla’s Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves its children.” So wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor speaking out against Nazi atrocities. Executed in Flossenbürg concentration camp days before liberation, Bonhoeffer found “readiness for responsibility” springboards for action. In “Letters from Prison,” he wrote how stupidity, not malice was the root of his country’s problems. Evil and malice, he surmised, can be exposed and prevented. Against asininity we’re defenseless. Dolts self-satisfy by defying truth. So, facts that contradict a stupid person’s prejudgment are simply not believed or, when irrefutable, are pushed aside as inconsequential.

More

Car Thefts are the Least Part of Scandal in Juvenile Justice

Democrats in Connecticut insist that there is no crime wave in the state and that concerns about crime are Republican contrivances. But it’s nice that the state’s minority party is pressing any issues at all, and Connecticut lately has had some criminal atrocities that really should be learned from, especially some involving juveniles. One of those atrocities unfolded last week in Manchester, when a 14-year-old boy was charged with the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl last June. News reports about the arrest discovered that state law prohibits the boy from being tried in open court and, if he

More

Metamorphosis

Don’t look now, but we’re making history.  The changing forces now at work in our society, including our transportation network, will have a profound effect on our lives for decades to come.  THE BIG QUIT: According to federal statistics, 4 million people quit their jobs in July of this year, with almost 11 million jobs nationwide now unfilled.  As a result, our ports are jammed, the supply chain broken and holiday purchases seem in peril.  Don’t expect any bargains for Christmas. Why the huge turnover in jobs?  I think a lot of it has been soul-searching amid the pandemic as

More

On Learning Your Life’s Work Amounts to Nothing

No weapon’s more devastating than learning your life’s work amounts to nothing. Psychological experiments on how humans respond, when their reasons for labor are diminished, test the “Sisyphean condition.” Folks work harder when their purpose seems meaningful, a relationship between significance and motivation often ignored. Mythology’s Sisyphus was punished by Zeus for ruthless, inhospitable behavior towards travelers. Generosity and good treatment of foreigners and guests (i.e., Xenia) was a moral obligation in ancient Greece. Sisyphus’ hubris violated that code. For eternity in Hades, he was forced to roll a boulder uphill, only to have it tumble back again before reaching

More

Leaves vs Locomotives

It sounds like a question on a kid’s quiz show: “How do you stop a train?” A) Hail it like a cab? B) Pull the emergency brake? C) Put wet leaves on the track? If you chose “C”, you were correct… and you must be a regular commuter on Metro-North. This is the time of year that tries train engineers’ souls and commuters’ patience. On a single day one recent fall, 60 rush-hour trains were delayed by “slippery rails” when wet leaves caused trains to “slip-slide” on their usually solid tracks. You may not realize it, but the flanged wheel

More

Covid-19 Mandate Ignores the Science

Biden Administration generals are fighting the last war. Last Thursday, they mandated that large businesses and health care facilities require that their workers get vaccinated for COVID-19. The next day, Pfizer announced an antiviral pill to treat the virus. Pfizer’s pill is 89% effective. A Merck antiviral pill for COVID-19 (with only about 50% effectiveness) is already in use in Britain. COVID-19 treatment pills destroy any vestige of logic or justification for Biden’s vaccine mandates. No matter how someone contracts the virus, these pills prevent serious illness – hospitalization and death. With double lines of defense against the coronavirus –

More

Only a party with perverse notions of ‘Patriotism’ and ‘Freedom’ Would Oppose Vaccinations and Mask Mandates

Cognitive bias studies reveal humans are far-removed from Enlightenment ideals of rational beings objectively weighing scientific facts, deduction and high moral tenets against their beliefs. Not that absolute truths and irrefutable evidence don’t exist on which majorities of people can agree and form consensus, even in the U.S. But, this is an unprincipled, irrational time in American history. Cultural-evolution is regressing. Lost probity, distrust in institutions and decades of political rancor, stoked by Republicans and Democrats alike, have spawned extremist subcultures that, to our collective detriment, refuse to be taught or follow advice from qualified experts. Arguments rarely have equally

More

Tell the Cities to ‘Think Big’? They Did and Only Got Poorer

What do you do when state government policy doesn’t work? In Connecticut the answer is simple: You do more of it. So disaster may be the most likely outcome of a new state program that aims to reserve $175 million per year in bonding for improvement projects in 34 of Connecticut’s poor and distressed municipalities. A spokesman for Governor Lamont hopes the program achieves “generational” change, and a news report about the program says the distressed municipalities are being encouraged to “think big.” But thinking big is what Connecticut’s three biggest, poorest, and most distressed cities have been doing for

More

Good News for Transportation

Last week was a good one for our transportation future, on several fronts. First, of course, was Congress finally passing the massive infrastructure bill.  This once-in-a-generation, trillion-dollar package will bring a massive rebuilding of our crumbling bridges and highways as well as expansion of the nation’s power grid and internet infrastructure.  It will also invest in the ways we must prepare for the impact of global warming. The bill will also mean thousands of construction jobs over the next decade, what the White House called a “blue collar blueprint” for  decades-delayed repair and enhancement of the nation’s infrastructure. For rail

More

Juvenile Crime Wave Compels Gov. Lamont to Strike a Pose

Even as his party’s leaders in the state Senate kept insisting that Connecticut has no serious crime problem and that the crime clamor is a Republican contrivance, last week Governor Lamont called a press conference at the state Capitol to acknowledge the issue and pledge to act on it. The governor, a Democrat, said he would appoint more judges to address the purported backlog in Connecticut’s secret and thus grossly unaccountable juvenile courts. If more judges don’t solve the problem, at least they will provide patronage opportunities. The governor also described having just met privately with the mother and grandmother

More

Corrupt, Sheepish Adherence to the Status Quo Begets an Aftermath of Wolves

Pursuant to federal duties prescribed in the Constitution, nothing embodies commerce more than transportation, communication and energy access. Yet, America’s electrical grid is near-obsolete, broadband distribution is poor and 1/4 U.S. highway miles and 1/3 of our bridges dangerously need replacement or repair. Linked to proposed infrastructure fixes is a transformative, 2,465-page reconciliation bill, comprising the Build Back Better Act ─ “BBB,” desperately needed to combat climate change and save our middleclass by expanding citizen safety nets. Just as record heat waves, floods, mudslides, high winds and wildfires turn tax-paid edifices into rubble, poverty is corrosive to society. Already weakened

More

Saving Money on Metro-North

Are you paying too much to ride Metro-North?  Maybe. As we slowly return to semi-regular commuting by commuter rail in Connecticut, ridership on Metro-North is about half of pre-COVID levels, below the railroad’s hopes and its consultants’ predictions… but not mine. But however often you’re taking the train these days, here are some money saving tips.   First tip:  always buy your ticket before boarding the train.  Conductors can charge you a hefty on-board surcharge up to $6.50 (but not for seniors) if you don’t have a ticket.  That’s a rookie mistake you’ll only make once. If you buy your ticket

More

Less Reliance on Imports Will Generate Locally-Sustainable Economies and Jobs

As inoculations against SARS-CoV-2 lag, U.S. death tolls, topping 725,000, continue to climb. By year’s end, if vaccine-recalcitrance continues, more Americans will have died from COVID-19 than combined U.S. war fatalities, excluding WWII. Many infections, resulting from unheeded mandates and advisories, and resistances to fact, were preventable, dwarfed by domestic firearms murders (1.6 million since 1968), surpassing U.S. mortalities from 1918 flu. Final tallies depend on vaccinations. Tuesday, countervailing anti-vax propaganda, Fox News correctly debunked misinformation about the death of Colin Powell. Despite being vaccinated, Powell passed away from preexisting conditions and a “breakthrough infection.” Countering anti-vaxxers, Fox correctly reported

More

The National School Boards Association PR Disaster, and Why it Happened

On October 11 and 12, Parents Defending Education (PDE) filed public records requests with the leadership of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) asking for emails related to a NSBA letter to President Joseph Biden. The September 29 letter warned the president of the “immediate threat” posed to school boards by parents protesting, among other issues, critical race theory (CRT), hypersexualized literature, and the general icing-out of parents from educational decisions affecting their children.  Purporting to represent the NSBA, President Viola M. Garcia and CEO Chip Slaven requested federal law enforcement intervention. The danger, they wrote, was dire: “As these acts of

More

Lunch Pail Issues

Ned Lamont went to Washington last week. He visited the White House, with whose occupant he shares much in common, especially on the “lunch pail” issues of gas prices and jobs. Biden’s policies have already pushed gas prices to record seven-year highs. Lamont’s gas price hikes are only an ambition right now, since the Connecticut General Assembly has not yet approved Lamont’s proposed new gas tax, aka the multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) – emphasis on “yet.”  All summer and early fall, Connecticut Democrats talked about convening a special session to approve TCI, yet they couldn’t quite convince themselves to

More

Train Service Door to Door

Imagine this:  using an app to book a car, a train ride and another car to your destination in one step.  Such a service has just been announced by the innovative Brightline rail service in south Florida. It’s the “last mile” that’s always been a challenge for would-be rail riders.  Assuming you can get to your “home” train station (maybe if you’ve waited 5+ years for a parking permit), when you get off the train in an unknown town, how do you get to your final destination? Visit the smallest town in Europe and on arrival at the train station

More

So Why Did No One Outbid Alden for Tribune Papers?

More complaining about Alden Global Capital’s dismemberment of the storied newspapers it recently acquired from the Tribune chain appeared this month in a long and — to journalists, anyway -– infuriating essay in The Atlantic magazine by its reporter McKay Coppins. This dismemberment, Coppins noted, includes the Chicago Tribune’s former headquarters, the landmark Tribune Tower, which has been converted into an apartment building. But at least what remains of the newspaper still has modest offices in an industrial area across town near the newspaper’s press. Another former Tribune property, the Hartford Courant, no longer has even that much. Somehow Alden

More

Democracy Won’t Keep Pace When Celebrity Justifies Press Attention

Bedeviled by disinformation, advertising and political deceit within our own species, only ethologists, such as I, preoccupy ourselves with deviations between perception and reality among other animals. How senses evolve to narrow that gap with increasing resolution is amazing. Visual communication on land is seriously constrained by light scattering, creating veils between objects of interest and observers’ eyes, as anyone with cataracts can relate. Because shorter wavelengths (blue) scatter more than lower-energy light (red), diurnal and aquatic animals, living in shallows, adapted accordingly. Filters in front of photoreceptor surfaces selectively reduce transmission of shorter wavelengths like specialized camera lenses. These

More

Republican Senators Leave Juvenile Court Unaccountable

Success in politics is often believed to require making a lot of noise purporting to address issues without really doing anything about them, since doing anything might upset people invested in the status quo. Introducing their juvenile crime proposals last week, the state Senate’s Republican minority followed this formula. The juvenile crime issue exploded in Connecticut in June when a man jogging on a sidewalk in New Britain, Henryk Gudelski, was run down and killed by a stolen car apparently driven by a 17-year-old boy who had been arrested 13 times in the last 3½ years. Though some of the

More

Cars Versus People

A friend of mine got hit be a car last week, walking crossing a local street.  He’s OK, but could have been killed.  Motor vehicles are linked to over 38,000 deaths each year in the US.  That’s almost 730 deaths a week… 100 a day. If a hundred people die in a plane crash, we go nuts.  (Never mind that COVID deaths average about 1400 per day).  But if they die on our roads we see it as the cost of doing business.  As one blogger put it… “it’s high time to stop sacrificing safety on the altar of speed”. Just listen to I-95 or

More

A Citizen’s Action Plan to Keep CRT Out of Schools

Here’s a four-point action plan for citizens who want to resist the efforts of teacher unions and the Biden administration to force Critical Race Theory (CRT) into public schools. The plan recommends four resolutions that citizens can propose that local school boards adopt and school board candidates endorse. With less than three weeks to election day, it enables voters to determine where school board candidates stand on this controversial issue. Resolution number 1: This school board will not accept, nor utilize any material, from The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which argues that slavery is the central theme of U.S.

More

Enjoying Vermont By Train

Like many, I love Vermont.  But I’m not crazy about getting there. From my home to Burlington VT is about 300 miles.  By car, that’s at least five hours and about $50 in gas roundtrip.  Flying may seem quicker, but with the airport drive it’s not much faster and will set you back about $250. But there’s another alternative: Amtrak. There are actually three trains a day that will take you to (or close to) Vermont: THE VERMONTER:          Your best choice, this train runs daily from Washington DC to St Albans VT (right next to Burlington), coming through Stamford at

More

‘Two Connecticuts Lament’ Misdiagnoses the Problem

For decades the state’s intelligentsia has lamented that there are “two Connecticuts,” a prosperous one in the suburbs and a poor one in the cities being oppressed — by disparities in property tax rates; by state government’s not spending enough on education and welfare programs, though such spending long has been increasing; and, now, by “systemic racism.” Hearing this an outsider might assume that Connecticut is a stronghold of reactionary Republican politics — that it twice chose Donald Trump for president, that it has been electing Republicans to Congress and the General Assembly since anyone can remember, and that government

More

Expect Germany to Surge Ahead in Sustainable Energy

Pivotal to Olaf Sholtz’ recent election as German chancellor was climate change, enabling progressives to win large swaths of parliamentary seats from competing conservatives. With Angela Merkel departing, Germany, like the Netherlands and other EU countries, has a diverse range of political parties and perspectives from which to form coalitions, headlined by Social Democrats and Greens. Expect Germany to surge ahead in sustainable energy, zero-emission travel, and other investments in the future, perhaps even hydrogen aircraft. Electric vehicle (EV) shares of the auto market are already soaring in the EU. In Germany, it could reach 90% by 2040. In the

More
1 2 3 7