Mistakes are Bound to Happen

Today in the pages of my former employer, Hannah Hess does some good shoe leather reporting on the United States Capitol Police and incidents involving firearms being left in bathrooms.

It’s concerning, to say the least, that police officers are making mistakes that could yield fatal outcomes for innocents. (The U.S. Capitol is like a supermagnet for insane people, who roam the halls of the office buildings like zombies in The Walking Dead.)

What’s even more concerning about what Hess uncovered is that one of the incidents involved a child finding the weapon:

A 7- or 8-year-old child visiting the Capitol with his parents found the next loaded Glock lost by a dignitary protection officer, according to the source.

That’s really bad.

There are a few types of USCP officers that I know about: Uniformed, Dignitary Protection (DPD) — they protect Senate and House leadership — and plainclothes/undercover.

Of course, anyone who has been around the Capitol complex or has seen a beat cop in uniform knows that their belt rivals that of Batman: Radio, magazines with ammunition, handcuffs, Taser, Glock & holster, ASP baton.

Taking your pants off to take a shit is a huge ordeal. (Probably slightly less so than if you’re plainclothes, or DPD.) And, for the force’s female officers, going number one involves the cumbersome ordeal of dropping the trousers whereas male officers aren’t similarly burdened.

A corollary: As a staffer (and as a private citizen) I have been known to use the cellphone holster. It’s quite common on Capitol Hill for BlackBerry toters (though their prevalence is fading). Even the weight of a phone and holster often results in the wearer unclipping it and placing it elsewhere — whether it’s the floor or the toilet cover holder.

Suffice it to say, I never lost my BlackBerry or personal phone during my years on the Hill, but I did leave the bathroom a few times, only to run back a few minutes later to retrieve it.

Which is why I am empathetic to USCP officers who might make the same mistake. They say the pen (or BlackBerry) is mightier than the sword, yet a sword is not a Glock. So, suspending (or even firing) officers who make such a mistake, at least to me, is certainly justifiable.

In discussing the story (as it’s Friday, a slow news day) with the Federalist‘s Sean Davis, he encouraged me to think about it a bit deeper.

Sean’s contention is that three incidents is bonkers. I’m not so sure (even though nobody condones mistakes as potentially fatal as these) it is.

My concern is the transparency: We don’t know how often these incidents have occurred, since as Hess reports:

How often do officers leave their guns unattended around the Capitol complex? The answer is unknown because Capitol Police are not required to disclose such incidents.

To the best of my knowledge, there are about 1,400 sworn Capitol Police officers. Let’s hypothesize a bit.

Women generally represent 12% of police forces across the U.S. — but at the Capitol, based on my experience, it is probably closer to 20%.

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And, while transparency is my main concern, let’s just assume that these three incidents are the only three we know about in 2015. To be clear, we’re measuring only the potential for these incidents since January 1, 2015.

In 2015, 120 days have elapsed. If you multiply that by 1,190 daily duty day bathroom visits, you get 142,800 estimated bathroom visits by USCP officers since the beginning of the year. (Note: I did not control for private bathrooms.)

If the three incidents — and we don’t know this — are the only ones, it represents .0021 percent of bathroom visits.

I think everybody would like the police to make zero mistakes, but that’s not reasonable. If officers make mistakes like this, they should (and they have) been suspended without pay. Or, they should be demoted or even fired — depending on the circumstances.

Until I get more information, I am inclined to disagree with Sean in that it’s “bonkers.”

But, until we have more transparency, we won’t know the extent of the problem. And, until then, I think we should reserve judgement and demand greater transparency.

WMATA 7000 Series Hype Video (Fixed)

Today, WMATA released a comically sad hype video for their new 7000 series “Snowpiercer” edition train cars. What made it sad was the hype music they found to put it to. I laughed, I cried, I kissed 44 seconds goodbye.

Until I decided to fix it. With the Quad City DJ’s. It took about 30 seconds. I think it came out perfect.

I Tried to Warn You, Cleveland

UPDATE: Cleveland.com has posted an update: “This story and headline have been revised to clarify the possible train closure would take place late at night.” Of course, we’re still far away and won’t know for sure what will happen until it does. For those wanting to people watch and take the RTA in, you may be out of luck. Or, RTA might be told by Secret Service they have to make changes at the last minute and lots of people could be screwed.

Last year, when Cleveland was a finalist for the 2016 GOP convention, I wrote an item for the Cleveland Plain Dealer suggesting that if offered the convention, Cleveland should say no.

Of course, in true Cleveland fashion, I was labeled a heretic in the comment section for merely suggesting it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and that Cleveland wasn’t well-prepared for it.

The Editors at Cleveland.com suggested I jump into the comments, which is never a good idea. Yet, I did anyway.

Today, I read at Cleveland.com that the RTA might be shut down to the public, which is precisely something I posited might happen in the comments section to a reader.

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I hope Cleveland does well with the convention, as I love my home town. But this report is just the first of many to come, and my guess is Clevelanders won’t like the medicine.

Side note: At work, we have already received a prospectus on renting out a home in Shaker on Lee Road next to the RTA. What might have been a good selling point might not be so good if the trains don’t stop at Lee Road and go all the way to Green.

Everywhere a Sign

A years-long mystery that has periodically nagged me was solved today by my friend Hayden Hurst.

On the 14th street bridge, on the left side of the North Bound portion, there’s a square sign with a red octagon (missing one side) with two, smaller, concentric red octagons inside of it. The inner-most part is the face of an Eagle. David Gorsline, a Flickr user, posted a better picture of the logo here, which he found on a sign in Penn Quarter.

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Sign on the 14th Street Bridge.

I’ve often wondered if this was some secret sign instructing the military where to go when habeas corpus has been suspended, or had some sort of secret official purpose.

Turns out, it’s just the old logo of the now-demolished Washington Convention Center. And it’s been there for at least a decade, probably multiple decades, as the convention center opened in 1982.

Washington Convention Center - old

Photo of Demolition, via PRWeb.

 

As time goes by and Washington changes, lots of old signs are still up. On Massachusetts Avenue, near the Heritage Foundation (at least when I worked on the Hill) there was still a sign for the MCI center. There are signs for AMTRAK stations everywhere, even though nobody really uses signs like those when we have GPS and Waze.

Hayden reports:

“At least as of last year, there was an exit at Metro Center that still pointed to the MCI Center.”

What about you? What old signs of D.C. and the surrounding area have you seen still in operation that serve no purpose? Weigh in in the comments.

UPDATE: Others have wondered, too, about these obsolete signs.

Walmart Replaces Mike Rowe as Narrator in Iconic Commercial. Why?

As somebody who studied marketing and wanted to be a copywriter, I love advertisements. I watch them consciously, which is a little weird.

One of my favorite ads in recent years in Walmart’s “I am a Factory” Ad narrated by Mike Rowe. (Even though I am generally opposed to buying a product based on its source for nationalistic reasons.)

Yet, late last year, Walmart re-uploaded the ad. And the ad isn’t narrated by Mike Rowe anymore.

Here is the original:

I asked Mike Rowe on Twitter about it, and will report back if he responds:

Friday Brunch Burger

At my place of employment, we put out a magazine once a week. And those of us who work on the production side have to stay there pretty late getting it to the printer. Like 1 a.m. late. And then there’s all of the little tasks you have to accomplish after everything has been sent where it needs to go.

As a result, you’ll get home after 1, and since you’re already caffeinated, after an episode of Jeopardy! and the Blacklist, it’ll be 3 before you’re asleep.

So, on Fridays. You sleep in. You’re groggy. When you wake up, you want comfort food.

Here’s my latest creation, the Friday Brunch Burger.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Egg
  • Powdered seasoning of choice (Old Bay, Tony Chachere’s, Lawry’s, Cavender’s, etc.)
  • 1 Hamburger Patty (or fresh ground beef equivalent.)
  • 1 slice American Cheese
  • Ciabatta Bun
  • 1 tsp Buffalo Wing Sauce (Hot sauce is OK as a substitute.)
  • 1 tsp Steak Sauce (A1 or similar.)

Directions:

  1. Toast the ciabatta bun in a toaster or toaster oven while frying the egg in a skillet. Season egg appropriately.
  2. Place the cheese on the fried egg and set on a plate.
  3. Fry up the burger and season appropriately.
  4. Mix Buffalo and Steak sauce in cup while frying burger.
  5. When complete, stack together, pour on the sauce, and enjoy.

Yes, my wife is out of town and has no idea this is what I like to do on Fridays when she travels.

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What The New Republic is Telling Their Print Subscribers

The New Republic recently went from being a magazine to an “integrated media company” — this postcard is what they’re telling their print subscribers about the change.

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The Return of 10 Cent Beer Night

The fine folks at ClotureClub.com have shared a pretty good deal the Washington NHL team is putting on. $79 for unlimited beer/wine/food, and a t-shirt.

Not a bad deal if you like hockey. Now, Washington hockey fans are notorious for knowing little about the sport other than that we had a really good Russian guy donning number 8, but they’re not hockey hooligans like in good hockey towns (a dying breed, really.)

But, this town does like to drink. So who knows what could happen.

All I have to say is Cleveland has tried something similar before. It didn’t end well.

Details below:

 

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Enough With the Alerts

I’m sick of alerts. How many do we have now? Amber, Silver, Wireless Emergency Alerts, Presidential Alerts. There are probably more depending where you live.

The problem is dead children or dead senior citizens lead to bad laws. Nobody is against wanting to help find abducted kids before any more harm than the abduction itself is done. Likewise, nobody wants to lose their senile grandparent.

Bad things happen all the time. But do we, as a society, have to bother everyone about it?

The answer, apparently, is yes.

Amber Alerts were really the first wave. The modern-day version of milk carton kids, but in real time. Then came Silver Alerts. And then, participating cell phone carriers, the CTIA, and the FCC got together to set up the Wireless Alert System. This one is by far the most annoying and intrusive. Thankfully, it’s optional.

A few years back I bought a new phone, and it was pre-set to get such messages. I live near a tributary of the Potomac that floods when it rains. It’s 2 a.m. I’m sleeping. A shrill banshee wakes me up. It’s my phone. Just wanted to let you know it’s raining pretty heavy outside.

No more alerts for me.

In Washington, there’s a big local story about how a female Episcopal Bishop killed a cyclist — a protected class in the D.C. area — while drunk and left the scene, only to come back and admit guilt. It’s a sad story, and hopefully justice will be served, even if it can’t bring back the life of the prominent cyclist she killed.

In Maryland, where it happened, there have been a spate of hit and runs that have gone unsolved. Some argue that the state’s large illegal immigrant population is to blame, fearing deportation if they stop. (Frankly, nobody can drive around here, so while the immigration:hit and run correlation makes sense, I’m not sure I buy that it’s the only reason it happens around here. We have lots of major league assholes.)

In response, a Maryland State Senator has proposed… wait for it… another alert system!

Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, is proposing Yellow alerts to disseminate information on hit-and-run drivers, including vehicle and suspect descriptions. Like Amber and Silver alerts for children and seniors, Yellow alerts would pop up on residents’ cellphones, highway billboards and online.

But what about distracted driving, Bryan! How am I supposed to follow those laws and help solve every crime?

I kid, but this is over the top. That’s the problem with trying to do nice things. It starts with an Amber Alert, and then, every time something bad happens, the aggrieved want their own alert.

Here are a list of other proposed alerts, along with other ones I’ve completely made up. See if you can pick which are real and which are fake:

  • Rep. John Paul Jordan has proposed an “Inmate Alert” early warning system that would alert the public when an inmate escapes.
  • Rep. Tony Cornish has proposed a “Blue Alert” to help catch anyone suspect of wounding or killing a police officer.
  • Rep. Matt Santos has proposed a “Green Alert” to alert the public of environmental disasters like oil spills or poison entering public waters.
  • Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has proposed a “Dangerous Dog Alert” to protect people and pets from irresponsible dog owners.
  • Rep. Jim Dudley has proposed a “Red, White, and Blue Alert” to help catch those accused of killing or harming an endangered species.
  • Senator Jackson Richman has proposed a “Camouflage Alert” to alert the public to illegal off-season hunting or poaching on public lands.
  • President Obama proposes “Earthquake Early Warning System.”

The ones by Santos, Dudley, and Richman are fake. The rest are real. And might be coming to a cell phone or alert billboard near you.

As for me, if I really wanted to be up on all of these things, I’d watch the local news.

I’m 14, and I’ve Got a God Damn LLC

NOTE: I wrote this as a “Short Imagined Monologue” and submitted it to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a great site that runs a column of such monologues. It didn’t fit their needs, so I’m sharing it here because I enjoyed writing it.

It’s written by me, if I were an eighth grader in 2015.


The child labor market is tough these days. Fewer newspapers exist for us to deliver their news, and those that do exist tend to use adults with cars. Why? I’m not sure.

Who would you feel better about tipping? The 32 year old living in his Ford Aerostar, or me, an eighth grader? Who is more likely to maintain his mode of transportation? My bike is much cheaper to fix, I can’t buy booze, and I don’t have child support to pay.

No matter. The slow bleed-out of the news industry has forced us kids to revert to the same intergenerational job cannibalism that John in his Aerostar is guilty of.

And that’s why I’m selling lemonade this summer. Not only am I selling lemonade, I’m going to do it legitimately — like paying my taxes legitimately. I’ve lawyered up and created LLCs in Delaware and in Ohio. Health code paperwork? Filed and approved. FUTA tax set aside? Already there. Business checking account as a minor co-created with my dad? Ready to transact.

With the minimum wage rising, the labor-force participation rate in the dumps, it’s hard for kids to get good work experience these days. And I intend to keep it that way. Unless you want to work for me.

Shaker Heights doesn’t have food trucks, but I’ve learned from their detente with the brick-and-mortar crowd. Public opinion and support is nice, but when it comes to the banhammer of local government, it’s far better to have the law on your side.

The food trucks, their war was planned with the army they wanted, not the one they had. They did not heed Rumsfeld, and they were under prepared for a dog fight. They paid for it dearly, relegated to a few city parks with no free reign. I don’t intend to make that same mistake.

Why all this fuss, you ask? Yes, you’re right when you say “you’re just a kid and it’s lemonade.” I hear you. But now, hear me. I am going to fucking corner this market and make an assload of cash. XBox Ones and Playstations don’t pay for themselves, even if your dad is a tax lawyer.

How do I plan to win? Government. I’ve watched House of Cards, I know how it works. I’m going to be Raymond Tusk with ruthlessness of Francis Fucking Underwood. Those evergreen local news stories about how police or regulators are stopping kids from doing kid-like things… You know, selling lemonade or shoveling snow? Expect more of them.

Sun Tzu put it this way: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Market research? Oh, I’ve done it. Everybody loves artisanal shit, however defined. And it can’t have gluten. Why waste money on lots of lemons when you can use Crystal Light? I add one slice of lemon to that and customers will be happy as a fucking clam and none the wiser. So, enjoy my gluten-free artisanal lemonade for $1 a glass.

That girl from the Verizon advertisement, Susie? She doesn’t exist, but she’s a fucking inspiration even though she got it all wrong. If Susie were to be believed, “the small business with the best technology rules.” That’s just another things my fellow millennials get wrong. Technology is fungible. Ask Elon Musk. I did.

We’ve gone from the gilded age to the government age, and I’m here to play the game. And I’m playing to win. Don’t think I’ll stop at lemonade. Snow removal comes next, and we’re going to re-take newspaper delivery for as long as newspapers exist.

Long term plans, you ask? Once I’ve achieved critical mass here in Ohio, I’m going to move my operations to New York to take advantage of their StartUpNY plan with no taxes. When that deal expires, I’m going to invert my company and take it to Ireland.

Barring no complications, I’ll be able to retire just as I graduate from THE Ohio State University, and John will still be living in a van. God bless America.

Jimmy Swift is an eighth grade student at St. Dominic’s School in Shaker Heights, Ohio.