Metro Red Line Crash Anniversary: Honoring Jeanice McMillan

22 06 2010

After the collision of two trains on the red line of the Washington DC Metro system, the top part of one train car rests atop the lead cars of the train that crashed into it from behind.  Workers from the Loudon County Fire Department are climbing ladders and walking on top of the train.

The Washington Post has an article up about a memorial for the nine people who died in Metro’s Red Line collision, one year ago today.

The National Transportation Safety Board held hearings in February, but they have not yet released their report on the accident.  Tons of information about the investigation is available on the NTSB website.

I want to talk a little bit today about the train operator who died in the crash.  Her name was Jeanice McMillan, and she loved her job.  I understand where she was coming from on that.  One of the reasons I fell in love with the city of Washington, DC, visiting as a tourist in high school, was the grandeur of the accomplishment that is the DC Metro: all of it, from the beauty of the station designs to the fact that every single day it moves as many as 800,000 people.  The million plus who descended on DC for Obama’s inauguration? Metro got ’em in and out.  Historian Zachary Schrag wrote a book about the construction of Metro called The Great Society Subway.  Metro, he argues, is not only a product of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society but an embodiment of its highest ideals: a public work, grand and ambitious in scope, not just functional, but memorably beautiful.  Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something like that? Read the rest of this entry »


“Self-regulation” is about hoarding wealth

21 06 2010

In this article about the “self-regulation” of business the writer lists a number of historical examples, going back to the early 20th century, of supposed regulation gone badly awry because of conflicts of interest that arose when government permitted industry to “regulate” itself.  BP is only the latest and most egregious example.

The pitfalls of self-regulation are clear. BP, which the government left to devise its own safety measures for deep-water drilling, chose maximizing profits over minimizing risk. In financial regulation, the industry-funded Financial Industry Regulatory Authority—whose board is rife with banking titans—ignored the shifty dealings of Wall Street mainstay Bernie Madoff. By the same token, self-policing credit-rating agencies had little incentive to question the faulty debt ratings of their high-rolling clients.

The article is worth a scan for the list of examples, but it mostly misses the forest for the trees – or, if you prefer, it assumes good faith where there is none.  What conservatives who advocate for “self-regulation” believe in is the preservation of political & economic elites in their positions.  One really good way to do that is to privatize the profits and socialize the risks of doing business, so they favor that.  The move toward “self-regulation” is just one of the means by which that happens.  It’s not a philosophical difference, or a difference of opinion about the “best” way to achieve regulation; it’s just a practical means to an end — keeping the rich rich and keeping everyone else’s dirty hands off “their” money.