Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The rolling oracle and art exhibit

A few years ago, before the most recent events, this school bus was on the back of a flat-bed tow truck. It was parked at Gallery Place near the McDonalds. There was no sign explaining it. The bus appeared as if it had been hit multiple times by gunfire. I assumed it was art destined for some show. I took a photo.

A 2013 story in the Washington Post explained it. . The story: "Bullet-riddle school bus debuts in D.C. as a rolling art exhibit."

After the recent events in Texas, and before that Parkland, this art exhibit almost seems as telling as it is chilling.

These shootings, as most have observed, are now routine. The children expect them. They also expect nothing from our elected leaders in response. Change is coming.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

Welcome to D.C., where only 4% voted for Trump

The 2016 presidential election results for the District of Columbia. Source: DC Board of Elections 
Welcome to the District of Columbia. Whether you are here to celebrate President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration or to protest it, you are sincerely welcomed to this city. It's a great place, and hopefully you'll find time to visit the museums and get out of the downtown area to explore the neighborhoods.

Here are 10 things you ought to know about the people who actually live here.

1. Only 4 percent of the District's residents voted for Donald Trump, so if you see a lot of people celebrating the inauguration in a bar odds are they aren't from around here.

2. There are 660,000 plus people living in the District and the population has been growing at about 1,000 a month. DC's population is larger than Vermont and Wyoming. DC residents can vote for a president, but the District has no representation in the Senate or voting representation in the U.S. House. That won't change in a Republican-controlled Congress.

3. DC residents take pride in the District. We really do. One of the more popular Websites in the area is called Greater Greater Washington. The site is dedicated to discussing ideas for making DC better.

4. We love bicycling. If you are unfamiliar with Bike Share really check it out. Seriously. Just go to a bike share station, slide in a credit card (It's inexpensive, pricing here). The rental machine will spit out a numerical code that you use to unlock a bike. Just punch the code in and go. Tip: When you return the bike, give it a good firm push into the rack and make sure the green light comes on.

5. Bike lanes everywhere. But if you rent a Bike Share bike in Adams Morgan and plan to go downtown, you're in luck. The trip is, generally, a very gradual downhill toward the Potomac. There are bike lanes all over, but there is a really nice protected bike lane (meaning clearly separated from the road) down 15th NW that will take you to the White House.

6. The museums are free, but please leave a donation if you can afford it. They need all the support they can get.

7. Metro has been challenged lately with some deferred maintenance issues. But even though DC residents may complain about the Metro, they really do like it and want it to succeed.

8. DC isn't a swamp. That's an unfortunate expression and while the metaphor is understood, it tends to distort the perception people have of this region. There are 6 million people in this area, and government related employment has helped this area thrive. Of the 3.1 million employed in the Metro area, approximately 450,000 work for the government or the military, reported the Washington Post. People, on an individual level, are worried that the Trump administration will bring layoffs, but on a regional, macro level, the area is generally confident it can thrive no matter what. The diversity of the economy is expanding, and a big reason for it is DC's talent pool.  About 50 percent of the Metro area population have a bachelor's degree, and about 23 percent a graduate degree.

9. DC is real place that has the ability to handle a crowd of a million plus people without disrupting neighborhood life. It has had decades of practice. (Transportation does get challenged for anyone heading near the Mall, White House or parade routes, and the Metro can get jammed generally, but that's a different issue. You may want to consider a walking route as a backup, cabs or Uber.). But once you're outside the National Mall and White House areas you are now entering a completely different world apart from the government, a series of neighborhoods and the home of many.

10. Why did DC vote so heavily against Trump? Trump isn't supportive of issues that many DC residents believe are important. That includes responding to climate change, moving to an economy less dependent on fossil fuels (see bike lanes, mass transit), protecting the environment, creating a health care system that provides health insurance for all, voting rights and a tax system that does not favor the upper class, among many other issues. I didn't make this last point to engage in debate on this, just to explain that the vote isn't a provincial response to job issues.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Expanding our nuclear capacity, bomb shelters and fear

Years ago, I was exploring a City Hall building about to undergo renovation. This was in New Britain, Conn. I was working as a newspaper reporter. Joined by the city property manager, we went to the basement and worked our way through a series of tunnels and small rooms in the circa-1850s building.

In one room was a stockpile of bomb shelter supplies. It included toilet paper, drinking water in cans, and food rations, mostly high protein biscuits. It was a total time warp.

We really don't think today about nuclear weapons and war the way we did in the 1960s. I was a kid back then, but clearly remember a duck-and-cover drill. In class I daydreamed about a nuclear bomb going off in the distance.

The government no longer prints phamlets about radiation or technical guides for do-it-yourself bomb shelters. But those days may return.

Readers of Eric Schlosser know about the real risk of nuclear near-catastrophe (See his recent World War Three, by Mistake in the New Yorker), as do followers of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, which has moved the Doomsday Clock forward to three minutes to midnight, and that was before Donald Trump won the election. But most people, I suspect, don't pay it much mind.

I haven't thought about the risk of nuclear bombs going off by accident or design in many years. There's too much stress about it, and I'll admit to avoiding the topic altogether. But then Trump Tweeted this:
The idea of expanding our nuclear capability ... and why exactly? It feels as the stress of the 1960s is about to make a return.