Sunday, January 29, 2017

Metro's shuttle bus around Virginia Orange Line closure across river does work


The Orange-Silver line service between Rosslyn and McPherson Square was suspended today.
 
To get to a White House demonstration, I had to use the shuttle bus.  The signs were unclear at first, but when I found the right direction, up a staircase, I found it was a 500-foot walk, but the busses were leaving continuously and went along the Whitehurst Freeway, skipping Georgetown.  It does look like route 38W simulates the Orange Line from Ballston and stops in Georgetown.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

CDC has enhanced quarantine powers, and they could be abused


Kyle Edwards, Wendy Parnet and Scott Burris have a disturbing op-ed on p. A23 of the New York Times, Tuesday, January 24, the “C.D.C.’s troubling new power” .

The writers bring back the incidents with the Ebola outbreak in 2014 (like Kaci Hickox).  But it’s easy to imagine what could happen with another SARS, or with a future avian influenza.  The article imagines that Trump could abuse the powers of quarantine.

Of course, that’s one reason to become much more aggressive with vaccine development (and one more reason why Trump’s appeasement of vaccine denial is dangerous).

Remember the hypothetical public health arguments launched against gay men in the 1980s, especially before HTLV-III (HIV) was identified.  I can imagine arguments you could make about how some people could “amplify” Zika before it affects pregnant women.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Women's March floods Metro, making it impossible for even more people to get there


I did not get in to the Women’s March today, as the Ballston Metro subway was totally packed at 10 AM.   I went to the AGLA Brunch at Freddie’s and later today did the Community Assistance (men’s clothing room) at Mt. Olivet Methodist in Arlington.

Some media outlets estimate the crowd at about 600,000 when 250,000 was planned for.

Some of my Facebook friends (men) got there and got live pictures (example ).

Demonstrations occurred in many cities, including Los Angeles (huge), London and Paris.

Here’s a typical coverage of the event on CNN.



As above, ABC News put the full six hours on YouTube.

As of around 6 PM, Metro train stations in downtown DC were reported as very crowded.

Update: Jan. 22



I finally got downtown, by car.

It looks like everything is back to normal in the area with the demonstrations, with everything cleaned up.

I did see some more protest signs from 14th St driving past the Mall.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Donald Trump gives speech ordering us to "buy and hire American" and refers to crime as "American Carnage"


Donald John Trump is now the 45th President of the United States.


Aaron Blake of the Washington Post annotates Donald Trump’s inauguration speech.  It started out by talking about returning power "to the people."

Trump referred to “This American Carnage”  (is it really “This American Life”? by Ira Glass.  “Carnage” is also a notorious Roman Polanski film. Both the Post and New York Times are referring to "American Carnage" in their headlines. This refers to gang violence, drugs, and street crime (not to mention poverty).

Trump minced no words about the importance of Americans buying American and hiring American.  He implied that individual Americans have a moral obligation to take that into consideration with their personal consumption and other activity.  No only is there an implication of paying more to use domestic labor (as opposed to “slave” dorm labor overseas), but there is an implication that those who can should try harder to create actual jobs for others rather than just become more efficient on their own.

The president, however, did mention “infrastructure”, with a hint that he understands the existential implications (like power grid vulnerability).  His statement about medical science progress and exploring space suggests much more respect for science than some of his previous behavior.  He may be pondering the idea that new diagnostic tests (such as Jack Andraka’s simple pancreatic cancer test, once if gets approved for use in some form) could expand the need to cover pre-existing conditions in “replacing” Obamacare with a more straightforward system.  (Yes, Obamacare is way too complicated.)  He may be realizing that his courting vaccine deniers is ill-advised (we could need to mass-vaccinate people to prevent future pandemics, even connected to terror) and he may be closer to taking climate change more seriously, especially given the most recent stories about having the warmest year on record.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

California power companies experiment with using huge batteries as backup "generator stations" to make grid more resilient


The power industry, at least in California, is experimenting with “decentralization” by using huge lithium batteries as if they were supplementary generators, as explained in an article by Dianne Cardwell and Clifford Krauss in the New York Times, Sunday Business, January 15, 2017, here.

The innovation was inspired in part by the huge natural gas leak in southern California in late 2015.
 
The idea could make power plants less dependent on transformers and the outside grid and more resistant to large scale attack or natural disasters like huge solar storms.  Taylor Wilson has proposed that utilities actually install small underground fission generators as backups.

Monday, January 16, 2017

National Day of Service


I did participate in a Martin Luther King National Day of Service event today, as sponsored by Human Rights Campaign.  The event was held at four safe  spaces for LGBTQ youth or homeless, this one at Casa Ruby on Georgia Avenue near Howard University in Washington DC.

What we did was sort huge volumes of donate clothes. Then the lower basement was cleaned with elbow grease to military barracks specifications.   Then we had lunch.
  
It would sound possible that safe spaces could be purchased and managed for asylum seekers, and there are a few of them (like in Baltimore for women), but they are very difficult to fund and run for legal reasons.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Washington Post columnist says use 25th Amendment process to remove Trump from office


I was not aware of this, but the Twenty-Fifth Amendment could be used to remove a president from office (that is, Donald Trump), if enough members of his Cabinet and the vice-president certify that he is unfit to lead.  This does sound like it could invite a Turkey-style coup attempt.

The text of the amendment is here.
 
Richard Cohen, of the Washington Post, minces no words in this op-ed, “How to remove Trump from office”, as he calls Reince Priebus a “moral eunuch”, as if out of Pleasantville.  Pretty soon we will see op-ed columnists looking for missing chest hair.  But that’s why men wear nectkies in business (or used to).  .

My own DADT-1 book had proposed Amendments 28 and 29 in Chapter 6 (in 1997).

In a discussion during lunch at Cato today, one person said that other CEO's had told him, it is psychologically very difficult for most business top executives to accept the demands of public service, and to give up a world where they have absolute control -- until shareholders fire them.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Implemented broadly, tariffs could prove catastrophic to the US economy


Daniel J. Ikenson has an article on Cato and in “The Hil”, “Trump’s import taxes could devastate US economy”, here.  The trade deficit, he says, is a myth.  Correct.

A flat tariff would seriously erode the balance sheets of many US companies that import many machine parts.  It would amount to a 10% consumer VAT.  It would decrease jobs as a whole in the economy while possibly saving the jobs in a few politically favored companies or industries in Trump’s electoral vote base.

One item of concern would be smart phones, laptop computers, cameras, and many other tech gadgets.

On the other hand, it’s legitimate to expect Americans to avoid products produced with “slave” conditions and dorm workers in other countries.


There is one positive point in Trump’s desire to increase manufacturing at home:  national security.

 There are some items, especially power grid components (like transformers) where reliance on overseas suppliers is dangerous and could invite attacks.  I have tweeted such to “RealDonaldTrump”.  Power grid security also would be improved by constructing more small stations, kept underground, some of them run by fission, or by the most modern natural gas technologies, and will be much cleaner.  This idea has been proposed by Taylor Wilson, and Peter Thiel (a Trump supporter), and Pickens.  This would add manufacturing jobs, some of them of a nature that auto workers or other workers experienced in manufacturing could fill them,  in somewhat rural or smaller-city areas of the country (Shenandoah Valley, Piedmont, upper South, some of the Great Lakes) that supported Trump.  (There are some small transformer manufacturers in Virginia mountain areas now, for example.)  This would not be a zero sum game and eventually consumers could benefit.  It’s interesting that China has a terrible pollution problem because of over-reliance on coal plants.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Trump's support of coal miners just adds bad karma for the rest of us


An op-ed in the Washington Post Wednesday, January 4, 2017, p. A15, “From Coal Mining to Pill Popping”, by Nick Mullins. The online title is “The Pain Pill Epidemic Isn’t Going Anywhere Until We End Coal’s Dominance”.

The editorial emphasizes the danger of working in underground mines, which contributes to the need for pills, and creates a vicious cycle. And the benefits available now are bad, but could get worse under Trump, even if he saved their jobs.

Depending on the work of coal miners, especially underground, is bad karma for all of us.  Think about the opening of the movie “October Sky”, where Homer’s brother feels it is his responsibility to take his dad’s place in the coal mines when his dad gets lung disease.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

We are all black; there is no such thing as race


A Washington Post article late last week by Susan Svrluga essentially makes this point: if we look hard enough and far enough into our background, we are all black.
 
I’ve never bought the idea that ethnic origin is very important, and somewhat scoff at silly TV ads about wearing kilts and giving up lederhausen.

There’s an MIT article  that explains how we may all have a common maternal ancestor in Africa through X chromosomes, but Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA complicate the picture.  The article denies that “white” people have maternal Neanderthal DNA, but interbreeding with other hominids was possible, But “white people” have arisen several times in areas far from the equator, when they needed to be able to make Vitamin D with their own bodies more easily in lower sunlight.
 


The idea of race itself has almost no real meaning in human biology.

Here’s another story from the Washington Post, that a lot of southern whites have a little black ancestry from slave owner behavior.

Admittedly, we can aggregate people by "looks", but there is a lot more than just amount of skin pigment (which safely absorbs ultraviolet light and is needed in equatorial regions when people don't have clothes.)