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Sunday, May 21, 2023

The most dangerous hostage taker

      The challenge facing a hostage negotiator is knowing if the hostage taker is willing to kill the hostages or not.  If the hostage taker has killed before or is suicidal the risk to the hostages is very real and giving in to the hostage taker within reason is appropriate.  Often this involves publicizing some grievance the hostage taker has.

      The current situation with the Republicans holding the financial health of the United States hostage in the debt limit debate is an example where the Democrats have to determine how seriously the Republicans are in allowing the government to default.  The Republicans have become an anti-government party except for defense and veterans programs.  For them destroying the American government is not the same risk as it is with the Democrats who value government involvement in the lives of its citizens.  The Republicans right now resemble a hostage taker who is willing to kill their hostages than surrender.  They see backing down as a worse outcome for them instead of a default.  They are the most dangerous type of hostage taker.   The most likely outcome is that the Democrats will compromise in ways that they feel minimize the impact on the government to prevent the default.  Look for the Republicans to play "chicken" with default right up to the last moment.  Any gain they get out of hostage-taking will only embolden them to use the same tactic every time they can because damaging the government is one of their aims.


Saturday, May 20, 2023

Does anyone care that there is some kind of horse race in Baltimore today?


         We have a sport that only exists because of gambling in a crumbling city that is extremely cruel to horses that no longer make sense.  Time to end this stupidity. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Howard County gets first perfect score on walk-ability and bike-ability from national organization


From the Columbia Patch:

HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Howard County has received a 100 percent score for its Complete Streets Policy after it was evaluated by Smart Growth America, making it the first jurisdiction in the nation to receive a perfect score under the 2023 scoring matrix.

“Complete Streets allow our children and students to walk and bike safely to schools and parks. They ensure that our neighbors with disabilities can access transit and other transportation modes,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said. “They provide unlimited opportunities for connections between our neighbors and neighborhoods, growing and strengthening our sense of community. This national recognition is the result of collaboration, hard work and a truly inclusive process.”

The fiscal year 2024 proposed capital budget includes a record $13.2 million for a variety of Complete Streets investments, including:

  • $1.3 million for Rogers Avenue Complete Streets project;
  • $1.1 million for Guilford Road bike and pedestrian improvements;
  • $1 million for the South Entrance Trail to connect downtown Columbia to the Patuxent Branch Trail; and
  • $3.6 million for bike and pedestrian infrastructure maintenance and repairs.

Ball announced the creation of two new capital projects in the fiscal year 2024 budget: the Dobbin Road Pathway, which will be a two-mile long, multi-use pathway for walking and cycling, and the U.S. 1 Corridor Safe Streets for All, which will bring critical streetscape, pedestrian, bicycle and transportation safety improvements along Route One from historic Elkridge to Laurel.

"Creating award-winning Complete Streets policies has been a dedicated, community-wide effort. By investing in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure around Howard County, we are also investing in equity, accessibility, and connectedness in our communities," said Howard County Council Chair Christiana Rigby.

The transportation investments also include $150,000 for expanded transit service in the Elkridge area, as well as an expansion of the FLASH bus rapid transit service to Howard County in a cross-county collaboration with Montgomery County. Howard County has committed more than $850,000 in county matching funds to purchase FLASH buses to travel along Route 29 from Burtonsville to Maple Lawn and Downtown Columbia.

The Complete Streets policy was first adopted in 2019 and followed by the launch of Howard County’s Complete Streets Implementation Team, which was charged with developing visionary and transformative standards for multi-modal transportation access and safety in Howard County. Following more than two years of comprehensive work from the implementation team, Howard County’s Complete Streets Design Manual was approved in 2022.


   I wrote about the problem for pedestrians on Dobbin Road 5 years ago.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Guess which county lost the most population from 2010 to 2020

      Even though Baltimore is technically a city it is listed with other counties by the Census Bureau.  Baltimore lost 6% of its population in 10 years.  Interestingly, Baltimore County saw a population decline from 2020 to 2021.  The surrounding counties like Howard, Ann Arundel, and Carroll saw rapid growth.  Some cities have tried moving their boundaries out to recapture this population but that hasn't happened with Baltimore.

    What is driving this population loss?  First and foremost is the crime issue.  This is shown in a large number of murders in Baltimore that leads the news most evenings.   Over the past month, the disturbances near the Inner Harbor have left many people to question visiting these areas.  The development of Harbor Place, the Aquarium, the Science Center, and other entertainment venues seemed to have added vitality to the city until recently.  Now it seems that much of the growth in the city has moved from the Inner Harbor to Harbor East.  Remote work was accelerated during the pandemic and this may have negative consequences for Baltimore in the future.

     Secondly is the change in much of the subsidized housing that was built in the 1950s and 1960s.  What was replaced were projects that have fewer units and are mixed-use and not entirely subsidized.  Many of these residents were given Section Eight certificates that could be used anywhere in Maryland.  Many residents with these certificates used them in counties, like Howard, which had better schools with less crime and better job and educational opportunities.  

     It seems that Baltimore has long since reached a tipping point in its population loss.  It is questionable if Baltimore can survive as a city in spite of revitalization efforts.  No one right now knows where the bottom is for Baltimore's existence but the trends still seem to be downward if the population exit is still occurring. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Chasten Buttigieg at Books in Bloom


      This past rainy Saturday I had a chance to hear Chasten Buttigieg at the Books in Bloom at the Merriweather District book fair.

     He has written about his story about coming out as a teenager in his conservative Michigan town.  The book is called "I have something to tell you."  Those of us who will be supporting Pete when he runs for President again in 2028 will be glad to have our first gay First Family in the White House.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Layoffs at an old friend

     NPR laid off 25% of its employees in February.  Once the largest group of radio stations it now seems that the explosion of other news sources may make it difficult for NPR to survive in its present form.  I remember a time traveling across the United States trying to find an NPR station on the radio dial.  You would lose one station as you moved across a state and would have to search for the channel from another city to continue listing.  Those days are over as you can now stream NPR and Bluetooth it from your phone to your car radio.  Ahh technology!

     It now seems that the Baby Boomer generation who grew up listening to NPR and watching PBS is dying off and creating uncertainty in the survival of both public information sources.  Nowhere is this reality for NPR and PBS showed than watching the programming PBS does during their pledge weeks.  Every popular music group from the 50s and 60s is shown during this time because the membership group for both is the Baby Boomers. They may have to recreate themselves into a new more relevant information source----- if that is possible.  

     The rapid change in the digital world we now live in has made it very challenging for many institutions to survive.  Adapt to the changing world quickly or go out of business.  Don't get too fixed in one form of operating when a new form replaces you.  Blockbuster being replaced by Netflix is one good example of this.  I will give another example that is happening right now--pickleball replacing tennis as the most popular racquet sport.  Tennis advocates are being lulled by the reality that they have been the premier racquet sport for hundreds of years and can't imagine that they are now being replaced quickly.

     We have seen both institutions try to adapt to a loss of revenue from memberships by adding commercial sponsors for many of their shows.  They try to minimize the impact of commercials by only having them briefly at the beginning of shows but it has grown to the point that I now skip the first couple of minutes of recorded shows as it now takes that long to get past the commercials.  Sadly the time for a publically funded source of news and educational information has maybe passed.  Blogs, podcasts, multiple educational channels, and other forms of media now give us the information that both of these sources used to have exclusively.   While I enjoy the new digital world giving me so many new forms to get information I will miss both if they go out of existance.


Friday, May 12, 2023

The pandemic is OVER! The pandemic is OVER!

      For over 3 years we have been waiting to hear this message.  While we know that Covid is still killing people in significant numbers, it falls into a category of other cases of flu that kill vulnerable people every year.  Mask mandates have largely disappeared and activities have resumed in a fashion that we knew pre-pandemic.  It is nice to see people's faces again or shake hands.

     Having said this we as a culture have been changed by experiencing a pandemic.  We now know that we should not carry on our normal activities when we have a cold.  Going to work or school with a cold or the flu is no longer seen as acceptable.  Washing our hands has become more of a regular activity than it once was.  

    So what is the most significant change that the pandemic has caused?  The answer is not a surprise--the movement to a digital world was greatly accelerated.  I haven't been to a library building in 3 years for a book.  All my reading of books is now done on my tablet.  Many of my meetings are now on Zoom rather than in person.  Venmo, Zelle, and PayPal, along with credit cards,  have caused me to barely use cash or send a check.  Online doctor visits seem to be normal now.  Going to a travel agent to plan a trip seems so 20th Century now.  Where would be without Google Navigation?  And of course, online shopping has largely overtaken in-store shopping.  

      Finally, I mention maybe one of the biggest changes brought on by the pandemic--working outside of the office.  Nothing compares to this change for its profound change in our society.  Employers will try to get workers back into workplaces that existed pre-pandemic but it is a battle that is already lost.  Office space will be more limited and shared which will change what cities look like.  Many office buildings are already being changed into residential condos.  There will be far fewer restaurants in cities as business lunch business will be dramatically reduced.  It will take some time but eventually, this reality will decrease the need for cities themselves.  Locally we will see Columbia grow as Baltimore declines.  The population of Howard County is not that far below Baltimore City right now.

     While many will bemoan the loss of direct contact and interaction, the conveniences that the digital movement has given us have freed up our personal lives to expand the time to do other more preferable activities.  Thank you pandemic for speeding up this process.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The cultism of the Republican Party will lead to violence as all cults ultimately do


      That the current Republican Party is headed by a twice-impeached, sexual predator and chronic liar shouldn't be surprising when you recognize that the Party has become a cult.  The characteristics of a cult are "unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies, and persecution. "  Watching Fox News Trump supporters are nightly given a daily dose of how gangs of minorities (blacks and illegal immigrants) are turning our cities into "hellholes."  Fox News has been the vehicle to feed the Trump supporters that only Trump and the MAGA movement can save our Country from this onslaught.   They preach that only they can give you the correct information and that the "mainstream" news is part of the conspiracy against our Country.  The followers of this cult will never listen to any other source of news other than one that feeds this narrative.  Only Fox News, and other right-wing channels, can give you the truth as they define it.

     As with many cults, violence occurs when members of the cult feel under siege.   January 6th was only one example of how violence is the response of a cult when they feel under attack.  Planning to kidnap the Governor of Michigan or attacking the Speaker of the House in her own home show that violence is seen as justified to "defend" this Country.  Trump is no different that any other cult leader when he talks about "beating the crap" out of protesters or telling his supporters that he wants to lead a violent mob to the Capitol to overthrow the process of certifying Biden's election.  He didn't seem concerned that his supporters brought a gallows to the National Mall to be able to hang the Vice President.   

    We are possibly headed to a more violent assault on our government as long as the Republican Party allows itself to represent the Trump cult and its armed supporters who feel justified in using violence in a manner that the colonialists did in 1776.  They see our current government as being as tyrannical as the English government of 250 years ago.  Their flag of "don't step on me" should only be seen as representing the use of violence when threatened.  How this violent movement plays out in the future for our Country is unclear but we need to be prepared for violence in ways that would shock us only a few years ago.  Trump supporters are armed for a reason.