Exuberant Shopping

Observed on 18th Street, between Belmont and Columbia Roads, Adams-Morgan, D.C.:

Shopping happy

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WMATA Board Officials: Stupid and Evil

For those who don’t get the “stupid or evil” reference, there is a tradition, more often on the left, of trying to understand if someone is espousing a certain policy because he is stupid or is evil. Well, in the case of the WMATA Board, which runs D.C.’s Metro, it appears they’re both (boldface mine):

WHEN QUESTIONS were raised last month about a consulting contract given to Metro’s former general counsel, transit officials moved quickly to end the arrangement. However, they refused to release a copy of the contract or provide any information about payment terms…

At issue is a consulting contract given to Metro’s then-general counsel Kathryn Pett on Jan. 23, the same day she resigned from Metro. Documents recently obtained by The Post’s Lori Aratani show that Metro had agreed to pay Ms. Pett $311,300. Ms. Pett’s 2014 salary as general counsel was nearly $203,000. In addition to what was essentially a one-day jump in pay of $108,000, Ms. Pett was also slated to receive about $36,000 for travel expenses between Utah, where she had returned for family reasons, and Washington. The contract was canceled after concerns were voiced by new members of the Metro board as well as Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn; Ms. Pett received $152,261.70 for her work, including $3,417.60 to reimburse canceled airline reservations.

Metro officials had justified the contract as necessary because of what they said were Ms. Pett’s unique skills in helping Metro address problems identified in a Federal Transit Administration oversight review. Given that Ms. Pett had been Metro’s general counsel for just 18 months, and Washington is not known for its lack of lawyers, it’s hard to believe a replacement couldn’t have been found….

But, as a Metro spokesman clarified to us, Interim General Manager Jack Requa had no role in approving the contract and, in fact, was not comfortable with a long-distance employee. That means the board and its top leaders were the ones who thought it was a good idea to pay someone a lot more to do a lot less. Given that they are the ones who are supposed to be fixing Metro’s problems, that’s a disturbing conclusion.

Having returned to where I was born after twenty-five years in the Northeast, it’s the double-whammy of staggering incompetence and corruption in the D.C. Metro area that gets to me. I learned to make my piece with the notion that beloved idiot nephews will receive jobs–such is the order of things. But much of the time, the job got done, and reasonably well. In D.C., it doesn’t seem to get done ever–and worse, they make it harder for the next guy to fix.

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Links 7/31/15

Links for you. Science:

Soil-Dwelling Fungus Rode Joplin Tornado to Unexpected Human Home
Olympic teams to swim, boat in Rio’s filth (no Olympian should run the risk of hepatitis. Insane)
Golden jackal: A new wolf species hiding in plain sight (this is how you do science journalism)
How did you get that job: designing a parachute for NASA’s Mars rover
An Immersive Game Shows How Easily Segregation Arises—and How We Might Fix It

Other:

Club Dread (I don’t even know what the craziest thing in this story is)
The manufactured trucker shortage (excellent)
Kentucky man shoots down drone hovering over his backyard
Here’s how this lion-killing dentist thing is going to play out
The US should start treating all criminals more like white-collar criminals
Ferguson Prisoner Beaten by Cops Has Won His Appeal
About those charter school wait lists
Police brutality is a problem for everyone
Sandra Bland was Also Right
Names of Planned Parenthood employees leaked following cyber attack
Bernie Sanders is electable, just not for the usual reasons
Armed Confederate supporters interrupt black child’s birthday party with racial slurs, death threats
Can a Public Defender Really Handle 700 Cases a Year?
Lawyers offered to pay this street band to stop playing. It said ‘no.’
Not just Boston: Why no one wants to host the Olympics anymore
Somerville traffic stop leads to questions about arrest tactics

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We’ll See If WMATA Can Deliver

For the past few weeks, the Dupont Circle Metro station has had no cooling ventilation at all (it broke. Surprising,I know). It’s hotter than hell down there, and it’s cooler outside the station than in it. Rather than succumbing to the D.C. Metro fatalism, we write letters, asking when it will be fixed. The response:

Dear [Mike the Mad Biologist]:

Thank you for your email.

The chillier that serves the Dupont Circle and Farragut North stations is out of service, due to a broken condenser line under Connecticut Avenue. We anticipate repairs will be completed by August 1.

I hope this helps and please contact us again should you require additional assistance.

I hope this is correct–they’re giving themselves through Friday evening to fix it. But part of me thinks August 1st is the ‘date’ equivalent of a base ten number–it’s what you say when you don’t have an answer.

Prove me wrong Metro.

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Antiracism and Action

John McWhorter, in “Antiracism, Our Flawed National Religion“, makes a very good point (boldface mine):

For example, in the “Conversation” about race that we are so often told we need to have, the tacit idea is that black people will express their grievances and whites will agree—again, no questions, or at least not real ones. Here and there lip service is paid to the idea that the Conversation would not be such a one-way affair, but just as typical is the praise that a piece like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s elicits, openly saying that white people who object to any black claims about racism are intolerably mistaken and barely worth engagement (Eddo-Lodge now has a contract to expand the blog post into a book). Usefully representative is a letter that The New York Times chose to print, which was elicited by David Brooks’s piece on Coates’s book, in which a white person chides Brooks for deigning to even ask whether he is allowed to object to some of Coates’s claims.

Note: To say one is not to question is not to claim that no questions are ever asked. The Right quite readily questions Antiracism’s tenets. Key, however, is that among Antiracism adherents, those questions are tartly dismissed as inappropriate and often, predictably, as racist themselves. The questions are received with indignation that one would even ask them, with a running implication that their having been asked is a symptom of, yes, racism’s persistence

And too often, Antiracism doctrine loses sight of what actually helps black people. Ritual “acknowledgment” of White Privilege is, ultimately, for white people to feel less guilty. Social change hardly requires such self-flagellation by the ruling class. Similarly, black America needs no grand, magic End of Days in order to succeed. A compact program of on-the-ground policy changes could do vastly more than articulate yearnings for a hypothetical psychological revolution among whites that no one seriously imagines could ever happen in life as we know it.

Antiracism as a religion, despite its good intentions, distracts us from activism in favor of a kind of charismatic passivism. One is to think, to worship, to foster humility, to conceive of our lives as mere rehearsal for a glorious finale, and to encourage others to do the same. This kind of thinking may have its place in a human society. But helping black people succeed in the only real world we will ever know is not that place.

In rightwing circles, McWhorter’s post is being touted as “LIBRULS ARE DUM. NEENER NEENER.” But, as happened Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, where “the content of their character” line is lauded, but the specifics related to housing, education, and better wages were mysteriously disappeared, I’m not seeing a whole lot of love (or even attention) given to the link to the companion post (boldface mine):

However, the claim that America must “wake up” and eliminate structural racism has become more of a religious incantation than a true call to action. We must forge solutions to black America’s problems that are feasible within reality—that is, a nation in which racism continues to exist, compassion for black people from the outside will be limited and mainly formulaic (i.e. getting rid of flags), and by and large, business continues as usual. Here are some ideas for real solutions:

1. The War on Drugs must be eliminated. It creates a black market economy that tempts underserved black men from finishing school or seeking legal employment and imprisons them for long periods, removing them from their children and all but assuring them of lowly existences afterward.

2. We have known for decades how to teach poor black children to read: phonics-based approaches called Direct Instruction, solidly proven to work in the ’60s by Siegfried Engelmann’s Project Follow Through study. School districts claiming that poor black children be taught to read via the whole-word method, or a combination of this and phonics, should be considered perpetrators of a kind of child abuse. Children with shaky reading skills are incapable of engaging any other school subject meaningfully, with predictable life results.

3. Long-Acting Reproductive Contraceptives should be given free to poor black women (and other poor ones too). It is well known that people who finish high school, hold a job, and do not have children until they are 21 and have a steady partner are almost never poor. We must make it so that more poor black women have the opportunity to follow that path. The data is in: Studies in St. Louis and Colorado have shown that these devices sharply reduce unplanned pregnancies. Also, to reject this approach as “sterilizing” these women flies in the face of the fact that the women themselves rate these devices quite favorably.

4. We must revise the notion that attending a four-year college is the mark of being a legitimate American, and return to truly valuing working-class jobs. Attending four years of college is a tough, expensive, and even unappealing proposition for many poor people (as well as middle-class and rich ones). Yet poor people can, with up to two years’ training at a vocational institution, make solid livings as electricians, plumbers, hospital technicians, cable television installers, and many other jobs. Across America, we must instill a sense that vocational school—not “college” in the traditional sense—is a valued option for people who want to get beyond what they grew up in.

Note that none of these things involve white people “realizing” anything. These are the kinds of concrete policy goals that people genuinely interested in seeing change ought to espouse.

I would add to the list some policies about decreasing environmental pollution, especially in poor communities, equally funding public schools, and ending zoning laws that ‘zone out’ the poor (who are disproportionately not white). But I’m guessing the NEENER NEENER crowd really isn’t on board with any of this.

And, no, giving Mitt Romney another tax cut doesn’t count as a solution, nor does erecting more government bureaucracy to administer existing programs incompetent.

There’s more to the “Conversation” than if you’re prejudiced, bigoted, or racist.

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Links 7/30/15

Links for you. Science:

Gilead’s Greed That Kills
Clallam’s measles outbreak price tag comes in at $223,223
Your online advice is rubbish if I can’t read your CV!!!
Science: D.C. Is Literally Sinking
No Brainer.

Other:

There’s a New Planned Parenthood Video, But There’s Just Nothing There (excellent; Drum nails it)
A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes
What Militarism Means: Its perfect symbol isn’t Prussia, it’s the F-35.
The Hidden Reason Behind Seattle’s Skyrocketing Housing Costs: Do You Realize How Much It Costs to Build a Single Parking Space?
In Praise of the AK-47
There Goes the Neighborhood: The Obama library lands on Chicago
Satanic Temple required protesters to pledge their souls to Satan as condition of entry
Scott Walker gets a taste of Philadelphia cheesestake politics
Why Kim Kardashian Can’t Write Good
The Clinton rules are at the heart of the New York Times’s botched Hillary story
Bernie Sanders explodes a right-wing myth: ‘Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal’
What is Discouraging the Registered Voters Who Don’t Vote? (data! Worth noting that voting registration difficulties, while not high on the list, do seem to be higher in the general election. Suggests they have a small effect, but not negligible)
Subaru’s secret: Marginalized foreign workers power a Japanese export boom
Income mobility- what are the chances of moving up the income ladder? Evidence from DC taxpayer data
The Balance of Power in the Middle East Just Changed, U.S.-Iranian Relations Emerge from a 30-Year Cold War

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Hidden Shadow

Observed near Dupont Circle, D.C. (this isn’t some weird lens trick; there was a shadow up there):

Hidden shadow

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