Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court allows religious-centered employers to refuse to pay for some contraceptives under Obamacare


The Supreme Court has ruled that closely held corporations, including those for-profit, can refuse to pay for some kinds of contraception that they believe are effective abortifacients ("morning-after pills") and the owners have religious objections.  The plaintiffs in the case, regarding the Affordable Care Act, had been Hobby Lobby, a Christian bookstore chain, and Conestoga, a Pennsylvania working company owned by a Mennonite Family. A key bone of contention in the case was whether (profit-oriented) "corporations" are "people" entitled to religious beliefs. 
  
  

The Court left open the idea that in these cases the federal government can pick up the cost of the contraception itself.  Maggie Fox has a story for NBC News suggesting that for most employers in practice this ruling will have no effect, here. The slip opinion for Burwell v. Hobby Stores is here.   In a practical sense, some employees said they felt uncomfortable submitting claims for contraception to employees of this nature.  



Update: July 1

Petula Dvorak writes that Hpbby should live up to its teachings and offer paid leave for new parents. 

The Washington Post writes that Congress should fix this problem, and the New York Times weighs in likewise (one of two editorials called "Limiting Rights") and offers a discussion board here. 

I''ve always believed one should not work for employers with whom, one has an ideological or religious disagreement. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Supreme Court ruling on excluding protests near abortion clinics, and approaching people in public places


The Supreme Court threw out (unanimously) a Massachusetts law that established a fixed buffer zone for protestors at abortion clinics but offered a framework for more flexible limits.  The grounds were based on the First Amendment.  The Boston Globe has a story by Peter Schworm and Zachary T. Simpson, here.  The link for the slip opinion of McCullen v. Coakley is here.  I had noted on June 11 an abortion clinic that I often pass driving in northern Virginia, and that sometimes I see protestors.
   
I think the issue is more interesting when applied to outdoor speech in other areas.  Anti-gay protests, like from Westboro Baptist Church, come to mind.  So do simply being approached by aggressive pandhandlers or people with various kinds of issues in public places.   That just happened yesterday, near a Metro, as a woman was screaming “Sir” to me and desperately trying to get my attention.   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Vaccination policy shows that public health can sometimes collide with individual (or parental) rights


Vox Media has produced a video, urging parents to vaccinate their kids, and reporting (based on a New York Times story  June 22 by Benjain Mueller)  that a federal judge in New York City had upheld a public school system policy of not allowing an unvaccinated kid attend public school during an outbreak, even if the parents had religious objections.
  
   
Once again, the vaccination debate reminds us that public health issues sometimes confound our ideas of individual rights.  The Centers for Disease Control has repeatedly written that there is no real evidence of any connection between commonly recommended vaccines and autism, as here.  Yet, people will claim harm in individual cases. 
  
The balance between public safety and individual rights gets more sensitive when it comes to controlling epidemics.  I sometimes wonder if it would be better to let people in the west be exposed to SARS and MERS and build gradual herd immunity, because it seems that most actual infections are very mild and without many symptoms (particularly MERS). "Social distancing" policies to control viruses like MERS could be very destructive to businesses predicated on people getting out and being together (movies, bars, discos). 
    
There’s renewed attention to Ebola virus, particularly Ebola Zaire, with an epidemic in West Africa that Susannah Locke of Vox describes as the deadliest in history (link).  But Ebola is relatively hard to catch (it requires direct contact with body fluids, although not sexual contact; just touching is enough), and people don’t transmit it until they’re symptomatic, so it should not spread by plane to the west.

During the early 1980s, the extreme right wing, especially in Texas, was fond of posing arguments that the gay male community, even with private behavior, as amplifying a then unknown virus to the point that it could change character and endanger everyone.  That almost lead to a very draconian anti-gay law in Texas in 1983 (before HIV was discovered).  I was living in Dallas them and remember the activism it took to stop it.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bill's rules for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians


Here goes the “law” for bicyclists, car drivers, and pedestrians, according to me at least. I think the site "Bicycle Safe" has some detailed tips (more detailed than I give here), and it bears careful study. 

Cyclists should always ride with traffic (unless in a bike lane where a local community ordinance directs otherwise).  A card turning right cannot see “you” in time if you’re coming from the wrong way, unless you stop. 
Cyclists should obey all the traffic signals and not go through red lights.  We don’t want to have to pass the same cyclist multiple times.

Cyclists (and motorcyclists) must never ride between lanes.

Drivers should always give cyclists at least three feet of clearance.  That means changing into a separate lane if there isn’t a bike lane. 

When in a bike lane, and coming up to a light, be way that a car turning right just after light turns green may have trouble seeing you, because you might be in his blind spot. 
  
Pedestrians should stay within crosswalks.  A driver turning right may not see a pedestrian in time if she angles toward the intersection from inside the block.  This almost happened to me once in Minneapolis in 2003.  




Update:  Friday, July 11, 2013

Sarah Kaplan has a story in the Style section on a rally by "bike ambassadors" by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, "In D.C.'s bike wars, here come the spokespeople; 'Bike ambassadors' are pedaling a motion of law-abiding civility", link here 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Supreme Court gives mixed ruling on EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions at power plants and other facilities



In a somewhat split ruling, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency may not impose new rules on power plants strictly to regulate greenhouse gasses, unless the rules are connected to existing regulations that may involve other pollutant.  Fox News has a story here   The Wall Street Journal spins this in a more “positive” way, saying that most EPA-directed emission controls can stay in place, link here. The text of the Court ruling is here (a slip opinion).
  

There is no question, though, that the evidence that manmade emissions can warm the climate is mounting.  Ultimately sea levels will rise, leading to displacement of some people (often poor) with enormous social and political problems, and leading to heavier downpours, more intense heatwaves and droughts, although whether tornadoes and destructive storms will increase (away from coasts) is still quite uncertain.  Tornadoes could become less frequent if there is less cold, dry air to slam into warm humid air masses. On the other hand, big tornadoes could occur more frequently in areas not used to them.

 Pictures: Baltimore MD in Feb. 2014;  Mt Storm W Va power plant in Aug. 2004; nearby "old stripmining" (from 1971), largely reclaimed, near Mt. Storm, W Va.  


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Raising Earned Incomet Tax Credit might help poor, and stimulate economy more than raising minimum wage


Today, Fareed Zakaria, on Global Public Square, advocated improving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as putting more money back into the economy, as a better measure than increasing the minimum wage (which some say should be $10.10).  Raising EITC floors (IRS link)  would actually return more money to low income people and stimulate the economy because low-income people tend to spend more of what they can earn.  The EITC is heavily weighted toward those with resident dependent children (the more the merrier), and discourages having investment income, which professional people normally will have.  It does sound a bit “anti-capitalist” but some Republicans favor improving it.
  
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a page on the EITC here. Policy advocates say that it does more than the minimum wage to lift people out of poverty.

   

As for the minimum wage, I actually was paid $6 an hour plus commissions for my first “post-fall” job in 2002.  How would a minimum wage increase affect waiters and other tipped workers?  The US is low compared to other "rich countries" in how the minimum wage relates to median income.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Women's magazines still present "cookie cutter" traditional marriage -- maybe TWT would still approve


A rogue “Ladies Home Journal” came in the mail today, left over from my late mother, but I was bemused by the manipulative cover headline “Simple ways to keep your marriage strong”.  And it seems that the magazine has kept its column “Can this marriage be saved” all the way back from the 1950s.  I would look a women’s magazines then – a promising sign. 

What’s striking is how the magazine assumes the whole world consists of families and married couples, and that everyone is socialized by the nuclear family, topic of the previous post.  And the columns, sampling them, talk about the little indulgences that people in marriage expect from one another.  It’s a whole alien world to me, a kind of automatic psychological fix I live without.   I don’t miss having a partner know all my bodily functions.

For decades, I lived in parity, somewhat in urban exile, separated somewhat from those who lead “real lives” so I couldn’t easily distract them and dissuade them, while I competed with them in the workplace.  I competed with disposable income and discretionary spending and avoiding big debt.  One the Internet was around, people could gradually find out where my “fantasy life” could lead, if too many people got into it.     

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Social conservatives hold "March for Marriage" near Capitol


Today, the Washington Times carried a full magazine insert called “March for Marriage: Will you stand?”  The online link is here.

Apparently, the march went around the Capitol on the north side.

I used to go to a lot of marches to film the demonstrations.  Today, I had a film (“Silenced”) to go to with AFI_Docs, about whistleblowing, which I think TWT would like anyway, and reviewed on the Movies blog.  I’ve been spending more time recently trying to get my fiction and screenplays ready for prime time, along with making out of town trips, so I’m not as likely to go to demonstrations to take gawk photos.
  
You ask, whose shoes do I walk in?  Not these.  I still wonder, well, no one is interfering with “your” right to marry.  It’s all about how you pose the argument. 
  
I think the honest truth goes something like this:  lifelong, monogamous heterosexual marriage, producing and raising children, is hard.  It’s costly.  If it’s regarded as an afterthought, fewer people will even try to do it. 
  
This gets into emotional, psychological areas as well as financial.  This isn’t just about personal responsibility in the usual sense, even on Southpark.
  
The biggest issue about marriage seems to be the idea that people who don’t get married and raise children in a traditional way should stand ready to make sacrifices for those who do. 
   
I also have to say that when I have contemplated starting a relationship, I had no desire for legal validation of the relation.  In fact, that would get in the way.   But if the relationship is supposed to last several decades and produce and raise another generation, that changes the perspective around. 
   
Why are those defending an “exclusive” position on traditional marriage so attached to the idea that conventional heterosexual intercourse, nominatively capable of procreation, must occur to legitimize the arrangement?  The complementarity of heterosexual marriage must be viewed by them as another challenge, and something needs to be made of it publicly so that it works at all, It seems.

Dr. Mark Smith, OCU president, writes "Christian Marriage Is Beautiful" but Thomas G. Walsh, of the Universal Peace Federation International, comes closer to the mark when he talks about family as creating "social capital" for others.  Of course, this sounds like Rick Santorum (which a touch of Charles Murray), but he seems to point to a staged process:  family creates a structure where people learn altruistic love for others beyond just their scope of choice.  But they often stumble over the question over whether "to take care of their own" first.  You don't need to be focused on intercourse (as chosen behavior that generates primary interpersonal responsibilities) to get into this    
   
No question, though, Will and Sonny, if they existed in real life and not just in a soap opera, really would make great parents for Arianna. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Obama scurries to find housing for children who have scurried across border; a moral crisis for individual Americans? A policy question?


The Obama administration appears to be trying desperately to find housing for children who have been streaming across the Texas-to-California border in recent weeks from Central America, mainly El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.  Although gang violence in those countries is cited as a reason for the increase, it’s also reasonable that various statements from the administration have been interpreted as meaning children would not be deported and that their parents might be able to follow.  A story ny S. A. Miller in the Washington Times today reports that the administration scrapped plans to house kids at St. Paul’s college in Lawrenceville, VA, near the North Carolina line south of Richmond, after vigorous local objections.  There were other plans to house some in Baltimore

It’s rather obvious to ask whether this problem could lead to calls for families to be willing to adopt these kids or at least accept them in foster care.  While this might sound like a good thing for an individual or family to do, it’s also clear that the State Department and administration cannot propose policies that sound like an invitation for more people to come, even if those policies appeal to certain  kinds of moral values. 

Similar concerns have been mentioned in the wake of anti-gay persecutions in some African countries as well as Russia. In 1980, there was a call for people to take in Cuban refugees already here in the southern part of the US, and that was especially relevant to the gay community, but there were many legal differences between that and now. 

Churches often send adult and even youth groups to mission building in Central American countries.  For example, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC has worked on a mission in Nacascolo in Nicaragua, and the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA has supported a mission in Belize.  Further, churches have supported water projects in countries like Guatemala.  

  

TWT also offered a commentary by David A. Keene, “President blameless: Obama dodges responsibility for the children’s border surge” today.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Recent book highlights the idea that fathers undergo "sacrificial" hormonal changes to support mothers


Okay, for Father’s Day (or “The Day After”), here’s a review of a Book Review by Bruce Feiler in the Washington Post Outlook Section Sunday June 15, 2014, of the book “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked”, link here 

I will probably eventually order this book.  But what I think is interesting is the comment that fathers’ testosterone levels drop.  This has already been noted in relation to fathers actually tending to young children, but this article mentions that it happens as husband attend to wives (or maybe even unmarried female partners) during pregnancy, as the men prepare for “nesting” duties.   It sounds inconsistent, though, that men would lose weight or grow beards, as the article says, because those results would comport with more, not less, testosterone.  (Loss of muscle weight could mean less testosterone.)  The Family Research Council loves this point. 

There used to be a saying among single men back in the 1970s, “wait until he gets married” when “he” will start getting a pot belly.  Single men tended to view marriage and fatherhood as potentially emasculating while, at the same time, necessary to validate manliness (through lineage).
   
For athletes, testosterone levels don’t seem to drop.  I don’t know of any studies that say pro football players or baseball players’ performance drops when they marry and have children. 

How does this affect gay men who take on parenting, especially through surrogacy?  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Should good teachers be tenured? CA decision is unsettling


Recently, there has been a lot of discussion of a ruling by a California judge last week that teacher tenure violates the state’s constitutional guarantees of equal protection.  Jennifer Medina has a tyical story in the New York Times here

  
When I went to public school in Arlington VA in the 1950s and early 60s, I’m sure that teachers were tenured.  When I substitute taught in Fairfax County and Arlington (2004-2007), I was at the “lowest rung on the totem pole” and there were many senior tenured teachers.  I can say there was a wide variety in the thoroughness of lesson plans left for me (one or two were absurd, down to exact minutes on each item, but some were so vague as to be meaningless).  Some of them seemed to be in their own world.  In middle schools, there could be some placation, such as a promise of a pizza party for the classroom period that got the best evaluation from me.  I don’t think that’s a good idea.
  
I toyed with the idea of becoming a “real” teacher for several years, as I have detailed elsewhere.  It became apparent that the biggest needs were in the lower grades, and in math the need was mostly drill. 
  
Of course, there can be a risk that tenure could harm low income students.  But it would seem that if someone has performed well consistently for a number of years according to the right standards, that person has proved herself or himself a good teacher.  The real problems seem to be the right standards, that as we know Michelle Rhee worked on a lot.  It’s a lot more than teaching the test.

Had I continued longer, I would have taught some AP students that I have since met at a couple of local congregations.  They would have known that "I know them."   Some do have outstanding achievements and would be intriguing for some employers even now.  One solution to the college loan problem will be to start work life and independence as an adult while still an undergraduate.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Recalling strong tornadoes in DC area in September 2001.


I’ve continued documenting areas where tornadoes or severe storms have occurred. 
  
On Monday, September 24, 2001, an F3 tornado moved from slightly south of College Park, MD all the way up to Laurel, MD.   Earlier, a smaller tornado had crossed the Mall, and an F4 tornado had struck a largely rural area along US 29 between Warrenton and Culpeper, Va.  The Washington Post account is here.    This was an autumn, not spring storm. 
  

The tornado lifted some cars, and according to some reports threw one car, with two students inside, over Easton Hall (right floors) into tall trees along University Blvd (MD 193).  It’s not clear if it was thrown across 193; that sounds less likely.  There is a thicket of trees between 193 and the actual dorm building. I asked someone on campus tonight, and she remembered having heard of the incident, but was stunned that a car could have been thrown that high in the air in an East Coast tornado.

A student made a video from a distance, including the sheltering.



There was further damage just west of Route 1 all the way up to Laurel, including Laurel High School. 


After a week of torrential rains in some areas, it’s well to remember that very severe weather can occur east of the Appalachians.  It’s not clear if climate change could make large tornadoes more common in the area, or if actually less frequent, as cold fronts from the north would become usually weaker.  


There was a local story about flooded basements in Berwyn Heights, near College Park.  I drove through the town, saw a little damage; but I noticed that the infrastructure looked heltter skelter.  Some of these areas with flood problems have old infrastructure that has not been properly maintained. 

It's well to remember that there was an EF4 tornado in La Plata, MD (on US 301) in southern Maryland in April 2002,crossing  near this site today. 


Friday, June 13, 2014

Texas home falls into lake, some lessons?


The saga of a ritzy home collapsing into a Texas artificial lake because of a cliff collapse certainly will carry some lessons for the rest of us.
  
  
I lived in Dallas 1979-1988 and I don’t recall any stories that the land around these lakes could be unstable.  I recall some of the large ones, like Possum. 
    
An incident like this has some particular relevance to someone living in an inherited (or trust-owned) home, where the location was not preselected for safety.   For example, if I had inherited a home on the Gulf Coast, or in a wildfire-prone area, I’d have to set up a backup plan, with the idea of finding an extended stay play quickly, and the ability to store my own work (media, content) in other, safer locations.   Insurance doesn’t always cover these losses (and what’s covered gets complicated, as does flood insurance).
    

There’s an additional concern in this particular case in Texas, because it seems that the underlying land is itself lost to collapse, as it falls into a lake. (I don't know if title insurance policies can cover this kind of hazard.)  Similar concerns would exist with sea-level rise, or changes in beaches or topography after major coastal storms.   I wonder what happens to land value when a home is lost to a sink hole (as in Florida); if the sink hole is filled in, can the home be rebuilt with insurance?   Maybe no one is immune from homelessness if the circumstances are bizarre and unforeseeable enough, or result from hostility. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

David Brat's Christian Capitalism must face its own contradictions, but the Hitler idea means something


So what will happen in a GOP controlled House now that Eric Cantor will be gone?  I, for one, had not known that Cantor was Jewish.  I hadn’t heard much about the “Christian activism” of the (“Tea Party”) economics professor David Brat.  I voted (in the Democratic) primary Tuesday, and, no, this time, I did not volunteer to work a 16 hour day as an election judge.  It hadn’t occurred to me that Democrats could silently change registration to throw Cantor out.
  
Will we see more brinksmanship about Obamacare and the debt ceiling?   Maybe we will see more nitpicking about what the legal consequences of missing it really would be.
  
I get Dave Brat’s comments about “Christian Capitalism” to a point.  China is better off now than it was before as a “People’s Republic of Capitalism” as is Russia, maybe.  Does that mean he supports a kind of Christian social authoritarianism to socialize men into families?  He criticizes morally inconsistent positions on both the Left and Right, but most of us have been saying the same things since the early 1990s. 
  
  
It’s interesting that he warns that another Hitler could arise.  Some would say that Vladimir Putin in Russia is already approaching that model.  Is he getting at a seeming contradiction in hyperindividualism, which seems determined to let people who “fail” wither and die?  All political and social systems have to deal with the fact that some people perform better in life than others because of factors beyond individual control.  There is the idea of Christian fellowship and “loving everybody” and putting a certain kind of emotion into it (particularly evident in evangelical or Pentecostal Christianity), but then that dilutes the passion necessary within family, at least sometimes.  

The Wall Street Journal has a story (by Reid J. Epstein) on the Hitler allusion  What society does – what individuals do – with people who are “less competitive” can have a real bearing on a society’s resistance to future totalitarianism.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Anti-abortion pickets often appear along Lee Highway near Falls Church, VA


Yesterday, in the extreme humidity and sun, I got a photo of an older strip office building on US-29 (Lee Highway) in Falls Church, VA (probably in Fairfax County officially) where I often see anti-abortion pickets.   I didn’t see any picketers yesterday.  I usually and diving quickly (to the Angelika Mosaic Theaters in Merrifield ) when I pass the protestors and can’t get a picture.  Yesterday, I stopped at a 7-11 in the next block, bought some things so that I became a customer with a right to park there, and shot a picture.  No, I don’t take pictures of people using a clinic (or smoking outside for that matter).

My own belief has generally been to agree with Roe v. Wade, and believe that the right to “body control” should extend for at least the earliest weeks of pregnancy, and that the “morning after” pill should be legal.  I simply don’t become emotional about this. 
  
Earlier in my life, my “lack of children” was seen as a source of indifference to “life” by others, particularly when I was living in Dallas in the 1980s. 
    
There is also a group that protects homeless cats in the area. 


Monday, June 09, 2014

Local communities clamp down on carwashes as fundraisers, citing environmental concerns


Arlington County, VA is cracking down on carwashes as fundraisers, according to a Washington Post Metro Section story by Michael Allison Chandler, link here.  One major reason is rules to prevent pollutant runoff into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  Other communities, like in the West and especially in California, have done the same because of drought. 
   
Boy Scout troops often use carwashes, as do many mainstream churches, to provide youth with the experience of doing hard work in volunteering for very specific causes, sometimes summer mission trips. The idea of these sorts of community activities could be weakened.  It's a little hard for me at my age to put so much physical energy into something of  limited scope. 
   
I get approached on the street for all kinds of causes.  It’s usually hard to stop and talk to people about it, because I feel that I have everything all set.  Yet, in earlier days, standing in the streets and approaching people was the hallmark of activism.   The Libertarian Party of Minnesota would practice a form of this with ballot access petitioning in the late 90s.  

Friday, June 06, 2014

Faith-based alternatives to Obamacare may require personal contact, attention among beneficiaries


Faith-based opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) have been forming voluntary faith-oriented alternative insurance cooperatives, which sometimes meet the requirements for insurance and would preclude the fine of the ACA. The front page story in the Washington Post by Sandhya Somashekjar, link is titled “Opponents of health law turn to faith-based alternative plans”.  George W. Bush would love it.
   
Many cooperatives do not cover items that some groups consider objectionable, such as contraception.  Some purchasers have said they resent covering other people’s contraception or behavior.  And some will not cover injuries or illnesses caused by what they see as misbehavior.  Would that include HIV?  I recall that point being made informally in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
    
Some cooperatives, such as one in Illinois, mandate that members pay other members in need directly for medical bills, rather than to a central processing facility, almost defeating the concept of insurance.



Update: June 7, 2014 

Last night I saw "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" at the Forum-Round House Theater in Silver Spring, MD, which I reviewed on the Drama Blog. I wanted to note that an actor Frank Britton was assaulted in the area on Colesville Road after the first performance.  On my review there, I give the Crowdfunding link for a collection for his medical bills.   So this incident certainly provides an example of the "direct sharing" of expenses noted above (as with the plan in Illinois, particularly). 

We can ask, of course, should be the person have arranged to insure himself with the Affordable Care Act?  Some actors and artists unions do offer health insurance.  In this case, for whatever, reason, the "system" didn't work for him.  He was uninsured, apparently,   I can't say how I will respond personally; I have my own regular giving program which I manage through a bank and trust, so I generally don't respond to separate calls, unless I can process it that way, but some of this could change in the future as I might need to use Crowdfunding for my own or related projects.   

I don't like the idea of people "sacrificing" to pay other people's bills after crimes.  But if you look at street crime as sometimes a kind of civil war or class war (as Noam Chomsky writes), it comes out differently.  I do know that without forgiveness, we wind up paying for other people's sins and crimes anyway.   


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Heavy rains put some DC homeowners, near Potomac River in MD, out of homes for a long time due to slides; how pervasive a threat?


The vulnerability of homeowners to localized disasters was underscored by the long time some homeowners along Piscataway Drive in Fort Washington, southern Prince Georges County, MD, along the Potomac River, were kept out of their homes after torrential rains at the end of April. 

  
I looked at the area Monday.  It is off Old Fort Road along Maryland 210, which heads toward Indian Head and a Naval Base in Charles County.  It is a bit confusing because there are two intersections with Old Ford.  The second turn is the correct one, and Piscataway Drive turns off to the left, and winds down hill.  After two sharp turns (about a mile from the first turn), Police still have the road closed.  Residents are now allowed to enter, apparently.  The road winds down toward the river.  People who buy homes in the area are living in a relatively remote location, hard to provide utilities and farther from normal retail businesses and conveniences.  The homes at risk are downslope about fifty feet from the top of a ridge that has elevation 170 feet.  A layer or Marlboro clay makes the hillsides susceptible to instability and slides after heavy rains.  It appears that the slope failures occurred below the homes (at about foundation level) and above a clay layer, at about 120 feet elevation. . 
  

The Washington Post provides a detailed map here.  A major issue for homeowners appears to be restoring stable water service. You can also look at the area with Google maps.


The old Fort Washington, built for the War of 1812, is nearby and, managed by the National Park Service, is open to the public.  If you hike along the river trail, you see hillsides with the same vulnerability to collapse as the residential areas that police have closed off. There is considerable slide damage in some areas of the park, where no one lives.


Should homeowners be criticized for taking on additional risk in living near water or in less geologically stable areas?  It has not been reported how much of this problem is handled by homeowner’s insurance (and subrogated to the county), or whether insurance would pay for motel bills.  These homeowners appear to have reasonable incomes and resources, but in some cases an event like this would put people in shelters or call upon others to put them up.


Route 210 leads to other interesting areas.   There is a “Piscataway Park” to the south of Fort Washington, Nearby is the National Colonial Farm of the Accokeek Foundation (link), which runs a farm with volunteers, and one can see some of facility (like a pig feeding station).  It has a look that resembles an intentional community (maybe a bit like the Acorn Community Farm in Virginia, which I have not personally seen; I have visited the larger Twin Oaks).  There is also a Moyanne Community Center and garden nearby.

Route 210 leads to other interesting areas, like the Smallwood St. Park slightly to the east in Charles County, with massive wetlands. 
   

Note that Monday night the Weather Channel (with NBC4’s Doug Kammerer) aired a simulation of an EF5 tornado in Washington DC (see my “films on major threats to freedom” blog).  

Update: July 2, 2014

Local media reports that Prince Georges County has various proposals to fix the problems, but may not have the money without appropriation from the state of Maryland/  It's possible to build a temporary water main that would not survive the winter.  There are disagreements as to the legal responsibility for the integrity of the slope.  It's possible that some residents can be out for six months, and that some homes could be razed. There is talk that the County could possibly buy back the land and homes from some residents.  

The story shows how easy it is for a homeowner to become vulnerable and possibly homeless if not anticipating the problems in an area. 


I was in the North Shore of Long Island, near Great Neck, on June 30, and I could see how low many homes are built;  even the north side (away from the Ocean) could become vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge.


Update:  January 18, 2016

On MKK Day, I drove down Piscataway Drive, and it looks like the slope has been repaired and everything is back to normal.  Who paid for the repairs and damage?  I don't see much news on it or much on it.  If you know, comment.  The scenery is spectacular, almost like the California coast, with wintry vegetation. 


Monday, June 02, 2014

"Roots of Empathy" brings babies into the classroom for students to interact with


There is a program which brings babies to the elementary school classroom, for children to interact with, called “Roots of Empathy” (link).  It was developed largely in Canada but five elementary schools in Washington DC are trying the program, according to a front page story Monday, June 2, 2014 by Emma Brown, link here
  
High schools now sometimes have programs to teach child care, where students carry around mannequins of babies.
    
The Career Center in Arlington VA (on Columbia Pike), in the Arlington Public Schools had (and may still have) a class in child care, and it was possible for anyone who took a substitute assignment there to get it, particularly as an instructional assistant.  

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Many newspapers publish Rodger's "mainfesto" in Scribd; racism and fascism appear on top of mental illness


A few newspapers have provided links to Elliot Rodger’s manifesto, “My Twisted Life”, with a Scribd embed.  The New York Daily News offers such a link, with an article linking Rodger’s screed to racism, link (story by Michael Kimmel and Cliff Link) here.  I wouldn’t say that I agree with this overview, although, yes, there are some crude racial comments in the manifesto (which is a bit of a pain to load).
  
I strikes me as a peculiar coincidence that, at the time the rampage was occurring in California, I was driving through empty streets in a rental car in downtown Birmingham, AL, getting pictures of the First Baptist Church on 16th St where four small girls died in a 1963 bombing by white supremacists. 
    
A few things at the end do strike me.  Rodger says “I have invented an ideology…”   Yes, it’s always dangerous when someone wants to make up a perfect world, where that person controls the puppet strings, but where, in a sense, “justice” makes sense to him.   The “ideology” isn’t so far from Nazism, if you make a few substitutions.  The “moral theories” of religious fundamentalism have always seemed predicated on the idea of making other people follow “my” rules so that “my” sacrifice makes sense, or leads to a world that makes some kind of sense (to “me”).  It’s true, a lot of moralizing centers around the idea that some people have access to “good life” (money, sex, fame, possessions, whatever) at the expense of others who make the sacrifices, and that moral ideologies try to deal with this  (call it “karma”) – by making everyone share the sacrifices – but then you have the leaders at the top who don’t’ share the “pawn sacks” (as in chess) and who become corrupt.  It’s also true that any terrorist (or common street criminal) is, for the moment of his act, in complete charge of his victim, and imposing his own reality on the victim.  That reality may be permanent for the victim, leaving us with only justice to pursue, and then forgiveness – without which we will wind up paying for the sins of others, regardless of how responsible we think we are.