Wandering Eye: MTA fares are going up, 'where are all the black art critics?', and more

Public transit fares are going up on June 25, and riders are asking Larry Hogan just what he's gonna do about it, The Sun reports. The governor's communications director, Matthew A. Clark, tells the paper: "MTA fare increases due to take effect this month are required by law under Maryland's Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013, which is also known as the Gas Tax bill, and was signed into law by the previous administration." This is indeed the case. But now commuters, particulary those who ride the MARC train between Baltimore and Washington every day, would like the governor to reduce the rate hike set under the O'Malley administration. "We were not offered an opportunity to discuss this, and it would be a good thing for public relations if the governor at least allowed it to be discussed," says Steve Chan, chair of the MARC Riders Advisory Council. Fares for MTA buses, light rail, and the Metro will go from $1.60 to $1.70, and MARC fares will go up $1 per ride. But a weekly ticket between Baltimore and Washington, for example, will go from $52.50 to $80, which The Sun notes is "an increase of more than 50 percent and the same amount a rider would pay for buying 10 one-way tickets." The Sun also notes that "[t]he increases for transit users are coming one month after the Hogan administration gave motorists a break by reducing tolls on bridges, tunnels and highways operated by the Maryland Transportation Authority." (Brandon Weigel)


Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid of banks, is fixin' to stick its blood funnel into what every business writer for some reason calls "the consumer lending space." The New York Times has the scoop, and it is hilarious. "The new unit will offer the loans through a website or an app — functioning like a virtual bank in one of the oldest companies on Wall Street," The NYT writes. "Without the costs of bank branches and tellers, Goldman can lend the money at lower interest rates while still making a profit." But then: "[T]he new venture carries considerable risks . . .  If the bank is too hard on its borrowers — suing a struggling family for unpaid debts, for example — it could revive a popular image as a bank that earns profits at the expense of ordinary people." Revive? When did that image ever go unconscious? The weirdest thing about this story, though, is the notion that small-ball, high-interest consumer lending would be a new thing for Wall Street behemoths. Baltimoreans with very long memories might remember a cat named Sandford Weill, who in 1986 took over a Baltimore lender and collections agency called Commercial Credit. He parlayed that into a purchase of a huge aluminum manufacturer (American Can Co.) and soon rolled that into a giant insurance company, The Travelers, and then to CitiGroup, the nation's largest and most predatory bank. In 2000, Citi bought Associates First Capital, then the nation's largest consumer lender. The reason: Ordinary idiots do not understand compound interest, so they can be charged 15, 20, or even more than 25 percent interest on money the bank gets for 1 or 2 percent interest. This "spread," as it is called, used to be measured in percent. In 1994, for example, banks borrowed money at 4 percent and lent it at 8, doubling their money. Today you get 1.5 percent interest on your savings, and if you borrow, you pay 15. So the spread is a multiple: Banks make 10 times the amount. Eliminating all those strip-mall offices with their greasy (moderately compensated) "loan officers" in favor of an online app is just gravy. The NYT explains none of this, of course. Says the story, "this new type of lending could help burnish the firm's relevance to mainstream Americans." (Edward Ericson Jr.)


"Where are all the Black art critics?" Taylor Renee Aldridge and Jessica Lynne ask in an essay for the Walker Art Center's magazine. Aldridge and Lynne—who co-founded ARTS.BLACK, a fledgling online publication featuring black art critics—highlight the necessity of black voices in art criticism, using the example of Blake Gopnik's review of the African-American abstract painter Alma Thomas' show in a New York gallery, wherein he basically calls her paintings easy abstractions of daily life, contrasting her with Newman, Pollock, and Noland whose "every pictorial gesture was (over-)ripe with meaning." Aldridge and Lynne critique that reading of Thomas: "Never mind the fact that Thomas's life was anything but domestic as an educator working in Washington, D.C. Never mind the fact that the history of Blackness and domesticity, particularly in the U.S., are incredibly fraught." From reading criticism like this (and Jessica Dawson's notorious trainwreck of a piece about Kehinde Wiley's recent Brooklyn Museum show), the editors of ARTS.BLACK recognized the great need for black voices in conversations about art, and how the internet allows for immediate responses to phoned-in criticism like Gopnik's piece. So they decided to do it themselves. Though it's fairly new, ARTS.BLACK has a little more than a dozen reviews, interviews, and essays up, including a review of that Kehinde Wiley show, a review of a collaboration between video artist Jacolby Satterwhite and "Da Baddest Bitch" herself Trina ("The scene is a utopian masterpiece, bridging the familiar melodies of Trina's raw rap flow with a 3-dimensional dreamland of intergalactic fem-hop."), and a discussion between Lynne and DeLana R.A. Dameron about the great painter Jacob Lawrence. (Rebekah Kirkman)

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