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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Between the Lines: Art Should Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable
May16

Between the Lines: Art Should Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable

Last October, I sat among hundreds of Springfield public students in the dark of the downtown venue CityStage. We had gathered for a touring performance, created by Double Edge Theatre of Ashfield, called The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century). It was a delightfully strange show, full of acrobatics, clowning, colorful costumes, and surreal depictions of life around the world in recent decades. At first, such rich pageantry struck many...

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Between the Lines: Are Students in Springfield Risking Their Health for an Education?
May09

Between the Lines: Are Students in Springfield Risking Their Health for an Education?

Hundreds of Springfield children spend seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months out of the year at German Gerena Community School, which may or may not have a severe mold problem, depending on who you ask. According to parents and community leaders, including Ward One City Councilor Adam Gomez, there is black mold in the Gerena School that needs to be removed. Following tests conducted in 2013, the U.S. Environmental...

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Between the Lines: Can Longmeadow Ban ‘Assault Weapons?’
May04

Between the Lines: Can Longmeadow Ban ‘Assault Weapons?’

Longmeadow residents have the opportunity this week to ban all assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines from their town. Residents at Town Meeting will vote on 31 articles Tuesday, May 10, including three that deal with gun ownership. The proposed measures haven’t created too much debate in town, says Alex Grant, the selectman who put the articles on the meeting warrant via a citizen’s petition. But they’ve caught the...

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Between the Lines: Is For-Profit Higher Ed Rigged?
Apr25

Between the Lines: Is For-Profit Higher Ed Rigged?

One of the benefits of living in Massachusetts is enjoying a swell of liberal pride when one of our politicians takes a stand for the people. It’s why we elected Liz Warren and Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank and Silvio O. Conte (yes, he was a Republican, but with a soft spot for the environment the size of the Silvio O. Conte Fish and Wildlife Refuge). Add to that list Attorney General Maura Healey and her efforts to crack down on...

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Best of the Valley: The Intangibles
Apr18

Best of the Valley: The Intangibles

In this week’s Advocate, you’ll find the winners of our annual Best Of the Valley Readers’ Poll, a who’s who and what’s what of the top people, places, and businesses Western Mass and Southern Vermont have to offer. Thank you to everyone who voted. We can’t produce this handy guide without you! While there are more than 170 Best Of categories, the awards don’t cover everything. For example, we don’t rank the je ne sais quoi. Best Of...

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The Panama Papers or How to Hide Millions
Apr12

The Panama Papers or How to Hide Millions

Have you heard about the Panama Papers? The largest leak to the media ever … that is getting little attention in the media. This is surprising because so far the Panama Papers have revealed a blueprint of how the wealthy and elite hide their money from taxation — and thus the rightful owners of that money; the 99 percent — via offshore businesses. Perhaps the story is just too depressing? The saddest thing to come out of the...

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Between the Lines: Load Time – Push Play on Hilltown Broadband
Apr05

Between the Lines: Load Time – Push Play on Hilltown Broadband

If you think of Internet speed as a flying mode of transportation, most of us are on a rocket with broadband while many people living in the Hilltowns are stuck riding a roofless biplane, aka DSL. If you’ve never heard of DSL, or the shrieking grating noise a computer makes when it tries to connect to the Web via dial-up, it’s because the connection mode was widely abandoned in the early 2000s for high-speed Internet. High-speed is...

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Between the Lines: Suicide’s Shameful Stigma
Mar29

Between the Lines: Suicide’s Shameful Stigma

Suicide is the epitome of hopelessness. It’s a last resort for people who believe that there is no chance of life improving. Options for help can seem unavailable or unfathomable. If there is an antidote for suicide, we have yet to find it. But we can be fairly certain that sneers of “get over it” are as helpful as shouting at a drowning person to swim. An antidote is exactly what the U.S. needs, as the suicide rate in this nation is...

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Indignant in Short: Bathroom Bill, East Longmeadow, and Snakes
Mar22

Indignant in Short: Bathroom Bill, East Longmeadow, and Snakes

There was a lot in the news this past week that made my blood boil and eyes bulge. While driving in my car, yelling back at NPR’s coverage of the latest violent flare up at a Trump rally incited by the old circus barker, I realized there might not be enough room in this column for me to work out my frustration. For a columnist, this realization is a sign to ignore the instinct to indulge your voice — and bore your audience — and...

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