Church of Hard Times

Observed at the corner of 12th and Q Streets, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Church of hard times

Panning out:

Church of hard times

Posted in DC | Leave a comment

Dear D.C. Council, Getting People to Clear Their Sidewalks Isn’t Hard

The D.C. Council is trying to figure out how to make people shovel their sidewalks after it snows. While this might seem ridiculous in D.C., it does snow here, and about half of city residents walk partially (mass transit) or entirely to work. So it matters. Apparently, however, there are challenges (boldface mine):

Over the last five years, various attempts have been made to change the law that requires residents and businesses to shovel their walks after a snowstorm. None have succeeded, despite the increasingly snowy winters that the city has dealt with in recent years. A new attempt this year looks more likely to succeed, but it still faces opposition.

The current law, which dates back to 1922, requires snow and ice to be cleared within eight daylight hours of the storm’s end. If that doesn’t happen, the city can clear the snow for the resident or business, then file a lawsuit to recover the costs of doing so.

But according to city officials, those lawsuits are rarely — if ever — filed. “This cumbersome and bureaucratic approach has led to zero enforcement,” says Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who since 2009 has been trying to change the law to make it easier for the city to levy fines on non-shovelers….

Under her bill, which she introduced again this year, homeowners who fail to shovel away snow or ice within the eight-hour window would face a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for a second and $100 for a third.

Fines would be steeper for businesses: $125 for a first offense, $250 for a second and $500 for a third. The Department of Public Works, Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Police Department would be empowered to issue tickets to violators…

But for Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who has long opposed changes to the law, the issue is how to identify who owns a particular home, especially when many homes in the city are owned by LLCs and occupied by renters.

“I don’t think this law is going to work. We don’t know who the property owners are. Unless there is a very clear indication that tenants are not responsible and will not be subject to fines, there’s going to be a lot of confusion and anger,” Graham says.

The Ward 1 Council member also worries how residents will respond when they receive their first ticket for not shoveling their walks. “The angriest response I have ever received to a fine in the District of Columbia has been when someone has been given a fine for jaywalking. This will take this to new heights,” he says.

OK, first of all, if the city doesn’t know who the property owners are, then how the hell are they collecting property taxes on the residence or business? Second, once you identify the owner, there’s a simple way to get an out-of-state/absentee landlord respond: make the fine a lien on the property. Boston did that, and sidewalks that had never been shoveled for years suddenly were cleared.

It’s amazing what the ability to impair a landlord’s ability to get a loan will do.

Again, according to the Census, half of all D.C. workers’ commutes involve walking. Clearing your sidewalk is part of owning a home. You shouldn’t be allowed to externalize that cost to someone’s bruised ass (or worse) after he or she slips.

Update: By a vote of 7-6, the D.C. Council has voted in favor of snow shoveling legislation.

Posted in Boston, DC | 1 Comment

Links 10/28/14

Links for you. Science:

Barnacle goose freefall
Ebola Has Come to New York. Here Are 6 Reasons Not to Freak Out, According to an Expert
US midterm elections offer little hope for science: November vote is unlikely to break a political stalemate that has squeezed research funding.
As Ebola Spreads, So Have Several Fallacies
Scrapping Prepublication Peer Review.


Menino breaks off cancer treatment, seeks palliative care
Plutocrats Against Democracy
Real-time tracking comes to the Green Line
Where the Tea Party Rules (the self-destructiveness is galling, though the gerrymandering doesn’t help either)
Pro Big Corporate IRS: Agency Guts Whistleblower Program, Leaves Billions on the Table
The Science Of The Common Core: Experts Weigh In On Its Developmental Appropriateness
Google Hearts TFA in Worst Way
The War Nerd: How do you deal with wannabe jihadis? An upgrade to business class
Teacher tenure: Wrong target
Academic promotions should consider social media
The Hemingwrite
Matt Yglesias Entirely Misunderstands Why the Book Publishing Industry Exists

Posted in Lotsa Links | 3 Comments

Siesta Interruptus

Observed on 33rd Street, between Volta Place and P Street, Georgetown, D.C.:


Posted in DC, Dogs | Leave a comment

Common Sense As Another Name For Irrational Fear

So this part from a Washington Post story about the Ebola quarantine rules that were put in place has been making the rounds on the intertoobz:

“It seems a quarantine would be unnecessary,” said John Ard, an anesthesiologist affiliated with Bellevue and NYU Langone Medical Center. “We should stick with the science and avoid hysterical overreaction.”

But Tom Sullivan, who was working on a construction project a block from Bellevue, said quarantines make sense for returning health workers. “You’re working with diseased people. That’s common sense. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.”

Unlike some, I’m not bothered that the Post decided to run a quote by someone who isn’t a microbiologist. After all, an ordinary citizen came up with this gem:

“Oh, lovely,” said Brooke Christensen, who lives in the building, after learning about her neighbor [who was isolated with Ebola].

“I’m not concerned,” she said. “I’ve had no fluid exchanges with my neighbors.”

No, what bothers me is that the Post gave voice to a misinformed and stupid opinion, at a time when we really can’t afford that.

Sure, I’m probably not going to be on Mr. Sullivan’s Christmas card list (wasn’t likely anyway), but his opinion is stupid. First, health workers work with far less protection around patients with tuberculosis and HIV, both potentially deadly diseases, and we don’t quarantine them. So it’s not “obvious” at all. In fact, the data are overwhelmingly clear: if there is no or little fever, there is no possibility of Ebola transmission. It is the exact opposite of common sense to overreact to an imaginary, non-existent Ebola virus, when the real thing is doing enough damage as it is. It defies common sense not to take advantage of any biology that works in our favor.

It is also not common sense to impose absolutely unnecessary and draconian rules on those healthcare workers fighting this epidemic–and who will likely respond to future epidemics. While many people are disappointed in our healthcare system (including me), it doesn’t seem to occur to some people that healthcare responders might, at the same time, be disappointed in some of us and some of those whom we elect to govern us. To spend several weeks watching a lot of people die, only to be treated harshly as a result of imaginary concerns does not engender trust in us. Forget this epidemic (well, actually, don’t–go give some moolah to MSF), when the next one hits–and there will be a next one of something–healthcare workers will want to hear how they’ll be treated after they do their public service. Unlike Ebola, many potential diseases move a lot faster (e.g., influenza), so there may not be time to waste assuring healthcare workers.

That’s common sense.

Posted in Basic Human Decency, Public Health | 2 Comments

Links 10/27/14

Links for you. Science:

Sorry, Cat Haters, Science Isn’t On Your Side
What if NSF preproposals WERE the proposals?
Reef sharks may already be adapted for climate change
Viral-research moratorium called too broad: Us government ban on research into enhanced pathogens also affects flu surveillance and vaccine work.
Why Ebola Is a Wake Up for Infection Control (excellent)


The horrific trickle down of Asshole culture: Why I’ve just deleted Uber from my phone
They don’t care, they just don’t care (very good)
U.N.C. Investigation Reveals ‘Shadow Curriculum’ to Help Athletes
Vast Majority of Americans Have No Idea How Health Insurance Actually Works (but we’re all supposed to be informed consumers. Or something)
Dana Loesch’s New Gun Book Botches Quotes From The Founding Fathers (she probably doesn’t discuss the freedom to hunt your slaves either…)
David Brooks, Edmund Burke, and Me
Micro-terrorism emerges as new threat in wake of Ottawa, Quebec attacks (if only U.S.-ian commentators were this level-headed)
Gay community under attack in Liberia over Ebola outbreak (Because what you really need during an epidemic is a pogrom or two)
We need less security, not more: Why the best response to the Ottawa shootings is to open Parliament to all Canadians—not to fortify it
Hispanic man delivers absentee ballots in Arizona: Conservatives demand he be killed
Felicia Day speaks out against Gamergate, gets doxxed

Posted in Lotsa Links | 7 Comments

Ebola Volunteers Are Heroes, Not Self-Indulgent Children To Be Tolerated

I’ve been trying to figure out what has been bothering about the quarantine orders that are popping up around the U.S.–other than they are unnecessary and counterproductive. What helped it was reading about Gov. Christie’s defense of his ill-considered and ill-planned policy. It’s the oozing arrogance. Rather than treating these healthcare professionals as honorable people who are risking everything to help others–a true credit to our nation–he sneers at them, treating them as if they were self-indulgent brats who decided to go on a drinking binge across the border.

I don’t think Christie and his ilk can truly understand why someone might volunteer to work with Ebola patients. There’s just something lacking there. Surely, only suckers and fools would do this. You know, squishes. Real men know they’ve got theirs, and screw the rest.

The assholes that walk among us might want to consider that even those who have made caring for others their profession regardless of their own society’s regard for them do not have inexhaustible reserves of compassion.

Then again, arrogant people don’t think about things like that.

Posted in Basic Human Decency | 4 Comments