Between the Lines: What Do You Expect From Holyoke?
Jan30

Between the Lines: What Do You Expect From Holyoke?

The first time I watched “Holyoke High Fight! Stop Violence,” I expected to see a video of a couple kids beating on each other or a message from a parent-teacher association pleading for peace. “Couple high school kids from Holyoke,” said an email from a colleague who passed along a YouTube link. The video begins with two students in a Holyoke High School classroom talking about their clothes for an Instagram post. Then the camera...

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Between the Lines: VOTE, Should the Capitol Take Down This Painting of Police as Pigs?
Jan16

Between the Lines: VOTE, Should the Capitol Take Down This Painting of Police as Pigs?

A painting depicting police officers as feral pigs has been ordered removed from the Capitol after months of controversy and a tug of war over whether the art should be on display. What do you think? As I write this on Monday, Donald Trump is yet to be sworn in as president, but already I and others are wondering what will happen to art and freedom of expression under a leader so thin-skinned and churlish he’d rather tarnish the...

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Between the Lines: Our 2017 Wish List
Jan09

Between the Lines: Our 2017 Wish List

Our annual December Halos and Horns issue of the paper, which sums up staffers’ thoughts on who in the Valley (and the world) has been naughty and nice for the past year, only allows us to look backward. But with a new year rolled out before us, Advocate writers decided to look ahead at what we’re hoping for in 2017. Call it our New Years resolutions list — only this one goes beyond the kitchen and gym.   ▩ We’re wishing that...

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Between the Lines: Updates on Some of 2016’s Big Stories – Detox, Pipelines, and Gun Rights
Jan03

Between the Lines: Updates on Some of 2016’s Big Stories – Detox, Pipelines, and Gun Rights

Some topics are too rich to write about just once. For all the people wondering, “What ever happened to …?” this week’s column features updates on issues I’ve written about in this space before. If you’ve got a topic from this column in mind that you’d like to see updated in 2017, let me know at editor@valleyadvocate.com. Tennessee Gas Pipeline While Tennessee Gas Pipeline has withdrawn plans to build a 420-mile Northeast Expansion...

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Between the Lines: A neo-Nazi by any other name … calling the ‘alt-right’ what it really is
Dec19

Between the Lines: A neo-Nazi by any other name … calling the ‘alt-right’ what it really is

The marketing teams of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have been busy. Rather than give up their hateful views — misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism — they’re trying to scrub themselves clean of the stink by adopting another name — the “alt-right.” As the New York Times reported Saturday, some groups are going so far as to change their symbol from the well-known swastika to a lesser known symbol — the othala rune — which was also...

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Between the Lines: Pentagon says it wastes $125 billion, plans to continue
Dec12

Between the Lines: Pentagon says it wastes $125 billion, plans to continue

Good news, everyone! The U.S. just found $125 billion in surplus funds. Can you believe it? This money can help with education, scientific research, health insurance, elder care, space exploration, repairs on the nation’s crumbling bridges, improvements to our electrical and cell communication systems. Maybe we could even afford a tax break for working Americans. It’s time to celebrate! It’s time to get to work! It’s time to put this...

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Between the Lines: How to  Spot Fake News
Dec05

Between the Lines: How to Spot Fake News

There is nothing more cynical than fake news. The entire concept is to play readers for suckers, manipulating the foundation of reality in exchange for cash or furthering of what is likely a heinous agenda. And the people hosting and spreading fake news online — the epicenter of the flood of misinformation — are frustratingly good at what they do. Fake news companies are so good at mimicking the look and sound of trustworthy news...

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BTL: The North Dakota Pipeline Protest Asks What’s More Valuable, Water or Oil?
Nov28

BTL: The North Dakota Pipeline Protest Asks What’s More Valuable, Water or Oil?

Protesters clumped together like Gore-Tex penguins on the North Dakota, bridge. On Nov. 18, hundreds of people congregated at Backwater Bridge, in the path of Dakota Access Pipeline construction, to pray — and if their prayers happened to get in the way of an oil company’s progress, that was merely a winking coincidence. “The camp where we stayed, it’s basically a functioning city,” said Meyer, who left for North Dakota on Nov. 15 and...

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Between the Lines: Make Trump King — Seriously
Nov21

Between the Lines: Make Trump King — Seriously

Every morning at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II’s first order of business is to meet with her hairdresser. She drinks from bone china, eats breakfast served by footmen in tailcoats, wanders the grounds, and reads fan mail. Throughout the day, people bow. People say yes. People scurry, escort, accommodate, flatter. For dinner, the Queen eats lamb, roast beef, mutton, grouse, or salmon, with a Martini to wash it down. By 8:30...

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Between the Lines: One Nation Under Trump?
Nov14

Between the Lines: One Nation Under Trump?

Hillary Clinton voters: It’s time to get on with it. Donald Trump is our next president, whether we like it or not, and the great American experiment in democracy is going to continue. Please, stop protesting the free and fair election of Donald Trump and petitioning electors to vote Clinton. Maybe we’ll reform the electoral college someday, but today is not that day. Stop talking about moving to Canada: You’re just fanning the flames...

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Between the Lines: What Might Have Been
Nov09

Between the Lines: What Might Have Been

Editor’s Note: As an American woman who believes that words matter, I feel like I matter a little less today. Below is the editorial I was planning to run to applaud the first female president of the U.S., Hillary Clinton. It seems poignant to publish it, still. To what might have been … I am proud to have Hillary Clinton as the president of the United States. She’s the first woman to reach the nation’s highest office, but her gender...

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Extra Credit on the Charter School Question: Follow the Money
Oct31

Extra Credit on the Charter School Question: Follow the Money

At some point over the past few weeks, each of the four Nov. 8 state ballot measures stirred up mixed feelings in me (yes, even the weed one). But no issue had me more conflicted than Question 2, which proposes to authorize the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve up to 12 new charter schools per year beginning Jan. 1. I’m voting No, but deciding wasn’t easy. Apparently, I’m not alone. A Suffolk...

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Between the Lines: Are the Elections Rigged?
Oct24

Between the Lines: Are the Elections Rigged?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has spent the last several months asserting that the Nov. 8 election will be rigged against him. He doesn’t have any evidence to support this claim — except for all the polls that say the real estate developer and reality TV star is going to lose the election — but that hasn’t stopped him from tarnishing the foundation of U.S. democracy. He’s gone so far as to refuse to acknowledge...

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BTL: Seeing Is Believing, Springfield needs to release police video
Oct17

BTL: Seeing Is Believing, Springfield needs to release police video

Video footage has emerged in court proceedings that defense attorneys say shows Springfield Police Det. Gregg A. Bigda threatening two teenage suspects in an encounter last winter. According to local media reports, the lawyers who obtained the videos said they show Bigda threatening to plant a kilo of cocaine on one of the boys and crush his friend’s skull. Even though the incident happened on Feb. 26, footage of the interrogation,...

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Between the Lines: Valley Series Exposes Poor Treatment of Immigrant Workers
Oct10

Between the Lines: Valley Series Exposes Poor Treatment of Immigrant Workers

The dream of America, for most immigrants, is the dream of a better standard of living, earned through hard work in a country where employment laws apply to all regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation — or immigration status. Equal treatment is a cherished American value. Legal protections must never be allocated on a sliding scale. When that occurs, the dream edges toward nightmare. In the Gazette series “Under the Table,”...

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Between the Lines: E-ZPass and the Impending Robot Takeover
Sep26

Between the Lines: E-ZPass and the Impending Robot Takeover

I’m soon going to have to decide if a pull towards convenience outweighs my fear of a total robot takeover of the world as we know it. I may get an E-ZPass transponder. The decision should be made simpler by the fact that the state of Massachusetts isn’t giving any of us much choice. Anyone who uses the Mass Pike without one will pay close to double what E-ZPass subscribers pay when new toll system goes live in late...

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Between the Lines: Domestic Violence in the Next Tent Over
Oct03

Between the Lines: Domestic Violence in the Next Tent Over

A few weeks ago I was at a campground when I heard something going on in the adjacent tent: a woman’s voice softly saying “ow” and “you hit me,” and every now and then a muffled grunt from a man. I was alone and I froze, hoping things wouldn’t escalate. They didn’t. I heard her say something about “moving aside” and then she went to sleep. In the morning, I didn’t say anything about what I had heard, even though I knew which woman was...

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Between the Lines: Get Serious and Vote
Sep19

Between the Lines: Get Serious and Vote

Good God, please vote in November. If you are not yet registered, and you’re a Massachusetts resident, you have until Oct. 19 to get your registry card at any Town Hall, Registry of Motor Vehicles, or government office that provides public assistance. You can also register online at http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ovr/. There are lots of reasons to stay home on Nov. 8, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. — when polls will be open. But...

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BTL: UMass Labor Center Lessons, Academic Disneylands Must Go
Sep12

BTL: UMass Labor Center Lessons, Academic Disneylands Must Go

The American workforce is at a crossroads. Shaken to its foundation by the Great Recession, the economy is slowly rebuilding — and we’re making some seriously wrong moves. Over the last 30 years, the number of people in labor unions has decreased by half. U.S. CEOs earn 350 times more than the average employee, according to Harvard Business School. And for most U.S. workers, real wages — what people earn after inflation is taken into...

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Between the Lines: Democracy Stalled? Send in the Clowns
Sep06

Between the Lines: Democracy Stalled? Send in the Clowns

On Aug. 21, before a month-long hiatus for HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver spent five minutes highlighting the similarities between Donald Trump, a “racist voodoo doll made of discarded cat hair,” and the protagonist of a 1996 children’s book called The Kid Who Ran For President. In the book, Judson Moon, “a charismatic, somewhat bored class clown who runs for president as a joke,” realizes that if he says the most...

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Between the Lines: In Defense of Safe Spaces
Aug29

Between the Lines: In Defense of Safe Spaces

The University of Chicago may have sent one of the most bizarre and shady freshmen welcome letters I’ve ever seen, when they mailed the missives to the class of 2020 last week. The main thrust of the letter isn’t to welcome but to put freshmen on notice that the university doesn’t “condone” safe spaces or trigger warnings. The letter from “Dean Jay,” aka Dean of Students John Jay Ellison, notes that there are university administrators...

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Between the Lines: Can Citizens’ Review Cure Ballot Voters’ Blind Spots?
Aug22

Between the Lines: Can Citizens’ Review Cure Ballot Voters’ Blind Spots?

In the American legal system, we trust citizens on juries to decide matters of life and death. But before jurors exercise that power, they put in the time, sitting through testimony and debating the merits of a case. Few jurors complain. Justice demands they sift competing accounts for truth. If only voters squinting at lengthy ballot questions worked as diligently. November’s four ballot questions bring opportunities to greenlight a...

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Between the Lines: Amherst, We Need to Talk
Aug15

Between the Lines: Amherst, We Need to Talk

Another summer, another superintendent for Amherst public schools. Since 2000, the school district has been under the guidance of five superintendents — six if you double count the husband-wife team that ran the schools for under a year. This isn’t normal, and it certainly isn’t desirable. The town’s inability to hang onto a school superintendent has cost Amherst taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in contract payouts. This...

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Between the Lines: Building on Lies, Trump’s Plans for Mexico
Aug08

Between the Lines: Building on Lies, Trump’s Plans for Mexico

This morning I somehow ended up in the scant “positions” section of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign website on the “Pay for the Wall” page, hoping to settle in my mind once and for all exactly how The Donald proposes to get our neighbor to the south to foot the $5-$10 billion bill for a structure that’s financially and geographically infeasible — not to mention ineffective. What...

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Between the Lines: ‘At Least He Let Me Go’ A woman’s life on the streets
Aug01

Between the Lines: ‘At Least He Let Me Go’ A woman’s life on the streets

Julia is standing at one of the I-91 intersections in Holyoke after hitchhiking down from Vermont. On the back of her cardboard sign is a small, hand-written phone number. Some guy in a truck gave it to her, she says. He says he has a moving company and to give him a call if she needs work. It’s an 860 number. We call it, but it goes straight to a man’s voicemail, and we search for the number online to see if it’s tied to a moving...

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Between the Lines: With Guns, Feelings of Safety Trump Actual Safety
Jul25

Between the Lines: With Guns, Feelings of Safety Trump Actual Safety

At 1 p.m. on a weekday in Chicopee earlier this month, a 15-year-old boy accompanied by two friends was allegedly banging so hard on the triple pane window of a stranger’s door that it broke the first of three layers of glass. The youth never made it through the door, which was locked. The homeowner, who was inside, fired a gun through the door, hitting the teen in the abdomen. The teenager, Dylan Francisco, is dead. The man who shot...

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Between the Lines: A Rebar River Runs Through It
Jul19

Between the Lines: A Rebar River Runs Through It

More than 100 yards of industrial concrete waste along the Connecticut River along Route 47 in Hadley is going to be removed, thanks to an anonymous phone call. Earlier this month, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an enforcement order against general contractor Christopher J. Baj, of Hadley Concrete Service, alleging violations of the state’s solid waste, wetlands and waterways laws when debris — 2,860 cubic...

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Between the Lines: Catching Up With Old Beefs, Part II
Jul11

Between the Lines: Catching Up With Old Beefs, Part II

Some topics are too rich to write about just once — and this column seeks to tackle a lot of them. For all the people wondering, “What ever happened to …?” this week’s column — part two in a two-part series — is full of updates on issues I’ve written about in this space before. If you’ve got a topic from this column in mind that you’d like to see updated, let me know at editor@valleyadvocate.com. The Counted, Too In the wake of the...

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Between the Lines: Catching Up With Old Beefs, gun control, Gerena, and higher-ed grifters
Jul05

Between the Lines: Catching Up With Old Beefs, gun control, Gerena, and higher-ed grifters

News writers are constantly looking for new topics, fresh angles, scoops, and shenanigans to expose — and once we’ve done that work, it’s on to the next new thing. Because there is always a new issue, catastrophe, trend, or serious question to analyze, journalists and public interest will often move on from a storyline before it reaches a conclusion. Many of us are left wondering, “What ever happened to …” This week’s column is full...

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Between the Lines: The GOP Problem, Mass Cash and Massacres
Jun27

Between the Lines: The GOP Problem, Mass Cash and Massacres

People say you can’t put a price on life, but Republicans certainly have. Ted Cruz (R-TX) thinks 100 human lives are worth about $159,800. Marco Rubio (R) doesn’t put as high a value on people, selling out the public for just $44,480. But at least he’s holding out for more than Mike Crapo (R-ID) whose vote can be bought for the bargain price of $5,300! In June, when Republican senators voted down Democrat-drafted...

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Between the Lines: New Beginnings
Jun20

Between the Lines: New Beginnings

When we set out to reinvigorate the Valley Advocate a little more than a year ago, we had some goals in mind. We wanted to bring our venerable newspaper back to its roots: alternative stories, for alternative people — and some mainstream folks who are still cool. We decided that we should strive to give voice to the voiceless and tackle topics other news agencies have missed. But we also wanted to remain strong allies of the local...

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Between the Lines: Nothing to See Here? Pharmaceutical prices skyrocket
Jun14

Between the Lines: Nothing to See Here? Pharmaceutical prices skyrocket

Usually, when you buy something, you know the price before you step up to the register. Most of us have a pretty good bead on how much a gallon of milk is and who has the best prices on gas, but when it comes to pharmaceutical drugs, everyone’s standing before the register hoping there’s enough coin in their pockets to buy the necessary life-sustaining medicine. Unlike most developed nations around the world, the United States does...

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Between the Lines: Report a Crime, Risk Deportation
Jun06

Between the Lines: Report a Crime, Risk Deportation

Massachusetts State Troopers can now detain for 48 hours people suspected of being in the country illegally — allowing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enough time to show up, arrest the person on federal charges, and begin deportation proceedings. Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker ordered state police to temporarily detain arrested individuals suspected of being in the country illegally in cases where the immigrant poses...

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Between the Lines: Allies, Give Money, Support  — and Silence
May31

Between the Lines: Allies, Give Money, Support  — and Silence

There are a lot of allies living in the Pioneer Valley — we’re a woke bunch. The Valley is home to many people who are allies of the LGBTQ community, Black Lives Matter, feminists, workers’ rights and social justice causes, people with disabilities or mental illness, and the homeless — there’s even an ally group for feral cats. People’s concern for the well-being of their neighbors is one of the sweetest aspects of living in the...

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Between the Lines: If You’re Defending Columbus, You’re Not Paying Attention
May23

Between the Lines: If You’re Defending Columbus, You’re Not Paying Attention

Here are some things that, if you do them, should disqualify you from ever having a national holiday in your honor: Driving civilizations that once consisted of millions of people to near-extinction through starvation and murder; Enslaving people to force them to work themselves to death mining for gold; Saying things like this: the Native peoples of the Caribbean “would make fine servants … With 50 men we could subjugate them all and...

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