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Thu Mar 01, 2012 at 07:31 AM PST

Occupy Somerville and the MBTA

by JFeathersmith

A few months ago, Boston's transit agency announced that in order to meet its mandatory budget goals, it was going to have to do one of two things:

- Cut lots of service and raise fares a bit
- Cut some service and raise fares a lot

Services on the chopping block include:

- Commuter rail, which serves many outlying suburbs, after 10pm and on weekends. No more trips to the North Shore for you people in Boston! And if you use it to get to work on the weekends, or you leave work really late? Tough.

- Weekend service on the branch of the Green Line that serves Northeastern University, the VA hospital, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Because tourists, students, and veterans can surely just use the buses instead. (Actually, the bus that parallels most of that route . . . well, it's often faster than the train.)

- The ferries that connect more far-flung communities with Boston. They don't serve a huge number of people, but for those people, that is their only option to get to jobs in Boston without a horribly long commute by car.

- Over 100 bus lines. Some communities would lose all of their public transit. All of it.

The history of the T's debt is complicated. The state legislature has not been real good about making sure our public transit is taken care of. They dumped a bunch of debt onto our public transit that belongs to the Big Dig - which serves auto traffic. And the MBTA made further mistakes trying to decrease its debt.

As you can imagine, many people are up in arms about the current proposals. Occupy Somerville has been focused on this more than any other local or national issue, and many people in Occupy Boston are as well. Lots of other citizen and transit-oriented groups have held rallies, put up flyers in bus stops, and shown up in force at the many public hearings that the MBTA is using to gather feedback about the proposals.

Below is video and my notes and commentary about the hearing in Somerville on Tuesday night.

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Has your local Occupation been evicted from its major public space?

Do you still want to show your fellow citizens that you're still there?

Build a tiny tent, and occupy every small space instead!

Because you can't evict an idea whose time has come.

Pictures and instructions below.

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Once upon a time, the Feather Forge was just my sporadically updated project blog, where I wrote about whatever craft project I was working on.

And then one year, I wanted to make myself a pair of feathered "ears," for a costume, and I sat down and worked out how to make a pair of ear cuffs that I could cover with feathers, and suddenly a whole world of ear cuff possibilities opened up.

Completed feather ear

I made myself a pair of ear cuffs for a theme party - and then I realized I wanted a necklace to match the ear cuffs. Which opened up another area of exploration!

Variation with bead

And people kept complimenting my work, and asking me if I sold it. So . . .

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I was really pleased when I learned that the Tech Working Group at Occupy Boston was encouraging working groups to move away from Google Groups and use real mailing lists instead.

It has struck me from early on that people using googleware in support of Occupy-related tasks seemed very much counter to the fundamental values and behavior of the movement. Of course, Google provides “free” tools, and many people are really familiar with them and unaware of alternatives, so why not use them?

This rant has been a long time coming, because people keep insisting that really, I ought to just sign right up for yet-another Google Group, or login to Google to read yet-another ugly Google doc, and I am tired of explaining why I will not, and why I think people involved in an anti-corporate domination movement also should not.

Here is a very brief list of some reasons:

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I'm in Boston (more or less). I've been visiting Dewey Square a few times a week, doing some graphic design, attending some GAs, but most importantly at the moment, I'm one of the members of our Winterization and Fire Safety group.

In addition to contacting other people I know with architecture experience, I've also taken on the (terrifying) task of contacting other Occupy groups dealing with cold weather issues, so that we can share ideas and help each other out. Solidarity against the cold!

People in Denver are already dealing with hypothermia and snow (SNOW. ALREADY.); we're expecting freezing temps tonight out here, and I've heard horrible rumors that winter this year may be a bad one, because last year wasn't bad enough, I guess.

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A few weeks ago, the Ethical Oil website drew some attention - and criticism - for its simplistic and propagandtastic portrayal of oil from Canada's tarsands.

The basic argument goes like this: The US needs oil. Right now, the US gets some oil from countries that violate human rights, support terrorism, and do other unpleasant things. Canada doesn't do those unpleasant things, therefore, the US should get more oil from Canada and stop buying it from the "conflict oil" countries.

Superficially, that's a reasonable argument. Like buying a car with good gas mileage is better than buying a car with poor gas mileage. Or buying Twinkies from the local independent convenience store is better than buying them from Wal-Mart.

Of course, if you stop to think about it at all, you'll realize that this argument pretends that a non-renewable, environmentally destructive, polluting energy source can be ethical at all, while ignoring the fact that the real ethical choice is to reduce, and eventually eliminate, our need for petroleum products.

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