Racialized groups in our local public school

From the folks who will, if all goes according to plan, eventually occupy what will be the most expensive (per-student) school ever constructed in the United States:

Dear faculty, staff, parents, and guardians,

As you know the district has partnered with NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute) to support us in our work to become an antiracist district and our larger AIDE work (antiracism, inclusion, diversity, and equity). One of the many facets of our plan this year is for NCBI to conduct focus groups with a series of stakeholders including students, parents/guardians, and district staff.

The list below shows all of the focus groups we plan to hold over the coming two months:

Boston-resident students in METCO program grades 4-6
Boston-resident students in METCO program grades 7-8
Lincoln-resident students in grades 4-8 who identify as Black, biracial, or mixed
Lincoln-resident students in grades 4-8 who identity as part of other racialized groups (LatinX, Indigenous, Asian-American, Middle Eastern)
Lincoln-resident students in grades 4-8 who identify as White

What’s a “raciliazed group”? From Wikipedia:

In sociology, racialization or ethnicization is the process of ascribing ethnic or racial identities to a relationship, social practice, or group that did not identify itself as such. Racialization or ethnicization often arises out of the interaction of a group with a group that it dominates and ascribes a racial identity to for the purpose of continued domination; over time, the racialized and ethnicized group often gradually identifies with and even embraces this identity and thus becomes a self-ascribed race or ethnicity. These processes have been common throughout the history of imperialism, nationalism, and racial and ethnic hierarchies.

With almost everyone, except for Donald Trump, dropping dead from COVID-19, how important is this?

We recognize that everyone has a lot going on in life now — and we also believe that it is important for us to dedicate time to listening to the experiences of our fellow community members.

I would love to know who these people are who have “a lot going on in life now”!

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Apple builds a virtual city on a hill

Within my Apple News app:

iPhone owners can make a difference, learn, give back, take action, and more! Let’s click and check the range of political opinion that Apple expects phone owners to want to learn about…

And scrolling…

There is nothing better than “grappling with … privilege” from the vantagepoint of a $1,400 iPhone 12 Pro Max!

Wouldn’t people have a lot more to donate “in support of Black lives and communities of color” if they kept their old phones and/or bought Google Pixel phones rather than Apple?

As part of this section, Apple also notes “Racism is a factor in health care, criminal justice, education, and other crucial election issues. Learn more about where the presidential candidates stand.” This leads to a Trump, who ripped Apple’s zero-tax rug out from under the company, versus Biden section:

Would resurrecting the ERA actually be a move in the direction of social justice? How could the federal government continue to have quotas for women-owned businesses, for example? Couldn’t people identifying as “men” or “not women” say that this program violated the ERA? The Biden-Harris campaign platform promises to direct billions of dollars to those who identify as “women”:

Biden will: Direct federal funding to women-owned businesses, including through his new historic $400 billion investment in additional federal purchases of products made by American workers, in his first term. This will be the largest mobilization of public investments in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since WWII, and it will critically be designed to support small businesses and those owned by women and people of color. … Improve and expand the Small Business Administration programs that most effectively support women-owned businesses, especially those owned by women of color. Immediately after taking office in 2009, the Obama-Biden Administration started to make billions of dollars in capital available to women-owned businesses… Biden will build on this work and expand SBA programs that target women.

District courts struck down a bunch of stuff that Trump was trying to do because they found that his campaign rhetoric was evidence of wrongthink. Unless Presidents Biden and Harris can rip out the hard drives at archive.org, there will be a huge mountain of evidence that their intent for much of their agenda was motivated by a desire to help Americans with a particular gender ID, something that would then be prohibited by an adopted Equal Rights Amendment:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

(does the ERA itself need to be amended? It sounds as though it might be tainted with some gender binarism and transphobia)

Readers: Can we be redeemed merely by following Apple’s guide?


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Humans are defeating nanny tech in cars?

A typical new car has a lot of driver assistance features designed to make driving safer. Examples from Toyota:

(Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert are separate features, not on all trim levels.)

And the latest, for the 2021 Camry:

But insurance companies don’t cut rates for cars that have these features (source). Here are some possible explanations…

  • highway driving is already very safe and most of these magic features, e.g., blind spot monitor and lane-keeping, work only on the highway
  • humans aware of these electronic guard rails drive more carelessly to the point that the risk is the same
  • the insurance market is inefficient
  • the technology does not, in fact, work well in real-world conditions (our Honda Odyssey blind spot monitoring works great, though, which might be why this fine machine is the choice of Amy Coney Barrett!)

Readers: How do we explain the apparent contradiction?

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Why can’t people who’ve previously been infected with COVID-19 clean car interiors?

One of my favorite businesses here in the Boston area has been shut down since March as part of one of the 50+ orders from the Maskachusetts governor: full-service interior cleaning at the Allston Car Wash.

Most of the folks whom I’ve met working there over the years were native Spanish speakers, i.e., the very folks whom NPR tells us are most likely to have been infected with coronavirus:

MassINC’s survey of Latino results found the infection rates for essential workers is far from the only challenge Latino residents have faced. But it is a major one. Public health data, however incomplete, is clear about one thing: Latino residents have been much more likely to contract COVID-19 and to suffer serious health consequences from it. The poll also documented the devastating economic and health consequences many have felt and showed many Latinos to be among those who have been hit the hardest.

So they’ve very likely been exposed to coronavirus and now it is illegal for them to work because they live in the state that ranks #3 for most coronapanic-related restrictions. [The article didn’t talk about “Latinx” residents of Maskachusetts, so have only partial information.]

I previously asked why people who’d previously been hospitalized for COVID-19 and discharged months earlier couldn’t have enjoyed being spectators at the U.S. Open tennis match. Now the same question for working in these banned industries: Why can’t the car wash reopen for interior cleaning if they employ only those who’ve previously had a COVID-19 positive test result? Indulge in some mask theater as well if we want a “belt and suspenders” approach and have the cleaned cars sit for a couple of minutes with the windows open and the vent blowers turned up to max.

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Togo, the Disney sled dog movie

If there is a dispute in your household regarding whether a big furry dog is allowed to sleep in the bed… Togo is the movie for you! This is a fantastic (in all senses of the word) dramatization of the 1925 dog team relay that brought diphtheria antitoxin serum to Nome.

The best part, from my point of view, is that the growth of a character (and in every Hollywood movie, of course, someone has to grow!) is demonstrated by abandonment of a previous objection to a dog sleeping in the (humans’) bed.

Recommended if you’ve got a Disney+ subscription. (Does it qualify as “the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life,” as Michelle Obama said of Hamilton? Maybe not, but it has Arctic dogs and, at least when presented on a TV, it holds the viewer’s attention much better than Hamilton.)


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Chris Christie’s foxhole conversion

“Chris Christie says he ‘was wrong’ not to wear face mask at White House” (The Hill):

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Thursday that he “was wrong” not to wear a face mask at the White House after testing positive for COVID-19 and spending a week in the hospital.

Christie told The New York Times that he thought he was in a “safe zone” when he attended the Sept. 26 event where President Trump officially nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Days later on Oct. 1, President Trump announced he and the first lady had tested positive for COVID-19.

The former governor announced his positive test on Oct. 3 and checked into the hospital after his doctor recommended he do so due to his asthma and weight. He spent days in the intensive care unit of Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.

I wonder if this is a good illustration of the destructive power of faith in masks. A morbidly obese guy such as Chris Christie should be hiding in a bunker, not relying on a 2-cent surgical mask to keep coronavirus from finding its perfect host (his corpulence). Other than having gotten sick after not wearing a mask, what has Christie learned that would contradict this chart example:

Do we really want other morbidly obese guys pushing 60 to put their faith in masks because Christie thinks he would have had a different outcome if he’d used a bandana or similar for PPE?


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Faith in the Church of Shutdown not shaken by weight gain

A Boston friend who is about 60 years old recently shared that the 50+ shutdown orders from the Maskachusetts governor had resulted in the loss of her fitness habits, a cessation in her gym visits, a substantial weight gain, and a general feeling of poor health. The shutdown that protected her from Covid-19, in other words, has rendered her far more vulnerable to Covid-19 than she ever was previously (see “Extra Pounds May Raise Risk of Severe Covid-19” (NYT, October 10, filed under “belaboring the obvious”).

Had this weakened her faith in the Church of Shutdown and made her think that we can’t prevent deaths, but only shift them from the elderly to the non-elderly? (see “The COVID-19 shutdown will cost Americans millions of years of life” for a partial calculation of how Americans will die prematurely over the coming years)


She still believed in the religion for herself and others. I related to her the complaint of a 35-year-old helicopter instrument student that the shutdown was orchestrated by married people home in their big houses with their kids. “What about people like me,” he asked, “who still want to find someone to have children with? My social and dating lives were destroyed by the lockdown. Then, just as soon as things started to open a bit, I had to work 15 extra hours per week and go on the night shift because so many guys were home collecting their $600 per week and wouldn’t come back.” (I refrained from sharing that he might want to consider moving away from the jurisdiction of Massachusetts family law if his goal is to have children and remain part of their lives after the mom decided she needs to have sex with some new friends while hanging onto his paycheck.) Her response was simply to deny that the 35-year-old had suffered a loss. She imagined herself better situated to evaluate the impact of the shutdown on his life than he himself was.

She has some opportunities to observe high-school and college-age residents of the Boston area. As far as she can tell, they are not heeding directives to maintain social distance, wear masks when together, etc. As long as there is this substantial segment of the population ignoring most of the orders, doesn’t that mean that the plague will eventually spread widely, even if the orders could have worked in a more efficient police state? Apparently not!

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Who has watched Hamilton more than once on Disney+?

Michelle Obama on Hamilton: “it was simply, as I tell everybody, the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.” The proletariat seemed to agree with her, happily shelling out a month of income for a family night at the (sold-out-at-$1000+/seat) theater.

The musical has been out for months now on Disney+. Who has taken the trouble to press the “Play” button more than once? Or knows someone who has watched the musical more than once on Disney+?

I ultimately failed to persuade even a single friend to come over and watch this. Visiting a friend’s vacation house for roughly 7 nights this summer, I could not persuade anyone there to watch it with me.

[The same people were happy to gather, perhaps contrary to a subset of our governor’s 50+ orders, for other movies, shows, games, and activities.]

I am having difficulty understanding how something that was so valuable to people in the theater is essentially worthless on TV. Part of this, I guess, is that sticking a camera in the back of a theatrical production has seldom been a hugely successful technique for making a good movie. On the other hand, that’s what the Metropolitan Opera did before they were shut down for coronapanic and the results were successful with millions of viewers on PBS and at least hundreds of thousands in theaters.

Also, what’s our verdict on the show? Who agrees with Michelle Obama that this is better than any painting in the Metropolitan Museum, Louvre, or National Gallery (I think we can assume she has been to these places)? Who agrees with Michelle Obama that this is better than any work by Bach, Beethoven, Verdi, or Mozart? Who agrees with Michelle Obama that this is better than any work misattributed to Shakespeare?


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Maskachusetts must ban its own residents from Maskachusetts

One of our governor’s 50+ orders is banning likely-to-be-plagued visitors from other states from visiting Massachusetts (#3 among states ranked by Covid-19 death rate) unless these unclean individuals go through a 14-day ritual purification and/or receive the sacrament of false negatives (a PCR test on the asymptomatic).

As of yesterday, however, it seems that Massachusetts itself would be a “hot zone” state and visitors from Massachusetts would therefore have to be quarantined before mingling with the righteous locals… here in Massachusetts (Boston Herald).


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Do we need some more national parks?

A friend who has been suffering through shutdown on an oceanfront estate in Maine mentioned that Acadia National Park has experienced record-breaking visitor counts. For the first time in history, you need to make a reservation before driving into the park at all.

Our National Park system was set up in 1872, i.e., for a country with a population of roughly 40 million. Today there are 330 million residents of the U.S. (or 350 million maybe?). Mobility, even in coronashutdown, is greater than it was in 1872. This leads to what I would have previously called “Manhattan-style crowding” in some parks (but now Manhattan has been de-crowded!).

Having the Federal government run stuff is not ideal, as evidenced by the filthy and decrepit bathrooms that are provided for visitors to Acadia. On the other hand, of all U.S. government functions, the National Park system seems like the best value for the dollar.

Why not see if we can create some additional National Parks or at least National Forests with much better visitor facilities and cut out the logging?Demolish some ugly condo buildings before climate change can get them and create additional National Seashores?

If so, where should the new parks be? My semi-local ideas…

  • Lake Champlain (Vermont/New York)
  • Chappaquiddick Island (“The Ted Kennedy National Seashore”)
  • Baxter State Park (take it over from Maine, expand it, and make it more accessible with some awesome roads; call it “End of the Appalachian Trail Park”)
  • Moosehead Lake (Maine; buy up some land to connect with what is now Baxter State Park)

A few photos from Acadia, September 2020:

And, right next to the park, a guide to healing our nation (“Vote Democrat; Wach MSNBC & CNN News”):

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