Month: March 2017

Atlanta Freeway Fire

So, um, about needing that comprehensive infrastructure investment bill…

Bridge Collapses in Atlanta Freeway Fire During Rush Hour” 

Acevedo says: I once did CSPAN for the commission the W Bush admin called to do an assessment of our transportation infrastructure. The recs were too forward-thinking for the oil-controlled admin (such as calling for greater public transit to ease traffic flow and special lanes just for transiting cargo), so they refused to accept the findings. Instead, the public was given the info through a congressional hearing. It was heartbreaking to listen to professionals give concise advice on improvements that would make things better for our entire nation and knowing that their words wouldn’t go much further than the CSPAN archives. Perhaps they should have recommended zebras.


Belonging to either political party means getting to vote on more stuff

When journalists talk about President Trump’s approval numbers, they sometimes break out subgroups (“but among Republicans…”) which got me curious: how big are those groups? According to Gallup’s most recent survey (Mar 1-5), in response to the question “In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent?” the U.S. is 26% Republican, 30% Democrat, and 42% independents.

In light of that, this is going out to my independent friends.

I belong to a political party; I’m a registered Democrat. Here’s what that doesn’t mean:

I don’t have to vote for Democrats if I don’t want to. I vote for whoever I think is best in each election, just like an independent.

I don’t miss out on hearing from Republican candidates. When local canvassers go door to door, they knock on my door, give me fliers, and answer my questions.

I don’t get hit up for fundraisers any more than I used to. Same level of ads and spam, pretty much.

I don’t have to pay any kind of membership fee. Nobody bugs me to show up for meetings or put signs in my lawn. (I bug them.)

Presumably, the same is true for registered Republicans. It’s pretty much the same as being an independent. Except…

We get to vote in primaries to select the candidates that run in the general election. We also get to vote for the people running the DNC or RNC, and the people who write the party platforms. If we’re worried that neither of the parties is accurately representing us and what we want, we have more levers to pull at least one of the parties closer to what we think is right, instead of leaving the big decisions to the super-partisan diehards.

Think about it. You could consider joining one of the parties in secret to preserve your independent mystique. You won’t get branded with a bumper sticker. What you’ll get is extra chances to goad a party that’s getting too far out there – or not far enough out there. If you want better candidates in the general election, this is how you get them.

And when it comes to the actual vote, you’re still free as free. Forever. Guaranteed by electoral law.

Bill O’Reilly 1; Sean Spicer 0; April Ryan ∞

You know who apologized, credibly and quickly, for trivializing the professional contributions of a distinguished black woman, Representative Maxine Waters, and went on to engage seriously with her ideas? Bill O’Reilly, a man whose job it is to be somewhat uncouth and provocative.

You know who didn’t apologize for trivializing the professional contributions of a disinguished black woman, reporter April Ryan, chided like she was a mulish toddler on the very same day? Press secretary Sean Spicer, a man representing the voice of the President of the United States, and by extension all of us.

He did call on her first at Wednesday’s Q&A.

She grilled him on Devin Nunes. Because she is a pro.

Recent Times I’ve Been Wrong

I’m always a bit annoyed when I see opinion pieces about how difficult it is to realize you’re wrong, even when they’re based on psych studies. I’ve participated in psych studies. That’s a weird environment. You’re in an uncomfortable room with people you’ve never met before, who are judging you, and you’re pretty sure they’re trying to trick you into thinking they’re testing one thing when they’re testing another thing.

If you’re me, you’re trying to guess what that is. You’re also kind of trying to give them the result they want so you don’t mess up their project, the same way you try be a good audience member at a live performance, and simultaneously trying to not do that, which would falsify their data.

It’s not the best frame of mind for reconsidering your beliefs.

Here are two instances this week where I realized I may have been wrong for a long time.

(1) I thought Haribo was a Japanese company. The candy is so cute! Listen to the name! Nope, it’s German. And it’s not even mostly imported in the U.S.; they have major manufacturing and distribution operations stateside. You may think “well, that’s not central to your identity.” On the contrary: Liking cute Japanese confectionery is central to my identity, and you should know that about me. (Haribo’s elaborate marshmallows are still delightful.)

(2) I’ve always been really against state lotteries. I don’t play them, not even the occasional “for your birthday” scratch-off. I vote against them when there’s a vote. I have generally regarded gambling as a social ill that destroys lives, and have condemned state lotteries as a cynical regressive tax (one which takes money from poor and desperate people to avoid raising taxes on rich people).

But I’m starting to think that maybe I’ve been framing it wrong. Maybe playing the lottery is a lot more like a charity raffle. It’s money you’re giving away to help schools, a dollar a time, when you can spare it, with the chance that you get a prize too. And yeah, poorer people might do more of it, but poorer people generally give a higher percentage of their income to charity AND are less likely to have the opportunity to get a hospital wing named after them (which is a kind of charity prize, when you think about it).

I still don’t like lotteries as a way to fill state budget gaps.

But even then, I’d rather the money fill state budget gaps than go to organized crime, which is who runs lotteries when they’re illegal. That’s one of the main theories for why the mob in New Jersey collapsed: New Jersey got a lottery. That free mob money flew away.

Anyway, I think I’ve been wrong. What have you been wrong about lately?

Let Nanny Go To Prom

There’s a teenager in Eufaula, Alabama, who wants to take his grandmother to prom, because she never got to go. But in his school district, you need a special exception to bring a date who doesn’t go to the high school, and especially anybody over 20. So far, the district has said no.

Specifically, they’ve said they’re worried that if they say yes, “future students will do it as a joke and make the school a mockery.” That’s a strange thing to fear. I don’t see how it would be anything other than wonderful if this became a trend.

Kudos to this sweet teen. I hope the district will reconsider. #LetNannyGoToProm

It’s not like there isn’t precedent. Here’s a story from a couple years ago about a teen in Prophetstown, Illinois who brought his grandma to prom. The town didn’t burst into flames. Everyone had a happy, sweet, innocent good time.