Thursday, March 31, 2022

the last book I ever read (Eliza Reid's Secrets of the Sprakkar, excerpt four)

from Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland's Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World by Eliza Reid:

It’s true that media coverage was and is significantly more low-key in Iceland. But since becoming First Lady, I had learned to morph from Eliza changing wet bedsheets and wiping stray child snot off the sofa in the morning to Eliza putting on a crisp suit or to-the-floor gown later and having the image appear in the paper, on television, and online. And as a woman who had arrived in the spotlight less with my own identifying characteristics than as someone’s spouse, I began to learn both how I could use that to my advantage to carve the image of how I wanted to be seen and how society was already imposing some expectations of their ideal of a First lady through media coverage.

Really, though, why should I care how the media portrays me? It’s not mere vanity. (That said, please see comment above on googling myself.) It’s important how all women are represented in the media. For “there lies the buried dogs” or the crux of the matter: the media is largely our window on the world, and that includes gender equality. When media interviews are predominantly with men, when the editors and the photographers and the broadcasters and the writers are mostly of one gender or don’t represent in other ways the diversity of the society for whom they claim to speak, we lose insight and narrow our subconscious assertions about gender and diversity. In the comments section and in social media that assure everyone with a smartphone that the world’s population is desperate to hear what they have to say about everything, statistics show that women are judge more harshly and subjected to more threats of violence and attacks than men, discouraging them from further engagement and thereby effectively silencing them. This is as much of a challenge in Iceland as it is elsewhere.

And yet, international media outlets have often portrayed Iceland in astonishingly oversimplified terms, sacrificing the nuances of a nation that few know intimately for the allure of a good (if wildly inaccurate) story. According to too many parachute journalists, Iceland is a gender paradise, a country where we can rest on our laurels as we bask in the benefits of a near-perfect nation where we all have a quaint belief in elves, jailed all our bankers after the economic collapse, crowd-sourced a constitution that protects the Earth as well as humanity, and where women and men live in complete harmony. (Please excuse the hyperbole.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

the last book I ever read (Eliza Reid's Secrets of the Sprakkar, excerpt three)

from Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland's Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World by Eliza Reid:

Nothing is perfect, but in this country, we try to free the nipple, march in our slut walks, and give it under the foot whenever and with whomever we want. While there is still some prejudice and ignorance, we’re fortunate that promiscuity and indecency are not the stigmas of present-day Iceland.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

the last book I ever read (Eliza Reid's Secrets of the Sprakkar, excerpt two)

from Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland's Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World by Eliza Reid:

But as our offspring multiplied and aged, Gudni’s laid-back yet involved style of parenting presented a happy counterpoint to my obsessive planning and another adult on whom the kids could rely. More importantly, thanks to his parental leave, he was present. He knew their favorite foods, which onesies fit best, which Icelandic folk song made them giggle the most.

Research backs up my impressions from watching Gudni parent. Fathers who take parental leave are more likely to be involved in the care of their children later, including with household duties. They are less likely to separate from their partner. Boys whose fathers were actively and regularly engaged in their upbringing have fewer behavioral problems, and girls have fewer psychological problems. In fact, studies show children’s relationships with their fathers are stronger and healthier in Iceland than in other countries. Although it’s clearly possible to form strong bonds in locations where paternity leave is not available, time is a valuable commodity, and generous, affordable leave helps to give us that time to experience those moments that won’t return.

Monday, March 28, 2022

the last book I ever read (Eliza Reid's Secrets of the Sprakkar, excerpt one)

from Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland's Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World by Eliza Reid:

When I was memorizing flags and capital cities as a geeky child, I assumed that because the flag of Iceland and those of its Nordic cousins (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland) were similar, its population must also be. Likely a few million or maybe up to ten million? In fact, Iceland has one of the smallest populations of any independent nation. On New Year’s Day 2021, it was a mere 368,590, small enough that rounding to even the nearest thousand seems to do our society a disservice. In the time that I have lived in this country, the population has grown by more than a quarter.

Countries with fewer people than Cleveland, Ohio, or Bristol in the UK are forgiven for possessing a Small Nation Complex. (I grew up in Canada, which, despite its size and population also has SNC due to its proximity to a massively larger neighbor to the south, so I bear a rather natural affection for this affliction.) In Iceland, SNC manifests itself in a healthy interest in the frequency with which the country is mentioned in foreign media or what even the most minor celebrity things of his or her experience in visiting the country (“How do you like Iceland?” is the most loaded question any visitor can answer and should be dealt with in the same vein as “Do I look fat in this?”).

Sunday, March 27, 2022

the last book I ever read (Leonora Carrington's Down Below (NYRB Classics), excerpt seven)

from Down Below by Leonora Carrington:

A few days later Don Luis proposed to me my first outing: we drove out in an automobile to pay some calls. We went to see a pregnant young lady to whom he had to give an injection (I believed it would be an injection of Cardiazol, and that I was the child she was bearing). She gave me a pack of cigarettes and they left me alone in a dark drawing room. I rushed to the bookcase and found a Bible, which I opened at random. I happened on the passage in which the Holy Ghost descends upon the disciples and bestows upon them the power to speak all languages. I was the Holy Ghost and believed I was in limbo, my room—where the Moon and the Sun met at dawn and at twilight. When Don Luis came in, accompanied by the young lady, she spoke to me in German and I understood her, though I do know know the language. She gave me the Bible, which I pressed under my arm, eager to return home and hold my Stick of Philosophy, which Don Luis had not allowed me to take along.

When I entered the library of my pavilion, I found Nanny armed with my Stick. She needed it, she said, to defend herself against the demented inmates. How could she expect to put to such use my dear companion, my surest means of Knowledge? At that moment I hated her.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

the last book I ever read (Leonora Carrington's Down Below (NYRB Classics), excerpt six)

from Down Below by Leonora Carrington:

In the daytime, I was watched over by Frau Asegurado; at night, by José or Santos. From time to time, José would put his cigarette in my mouth so that I could inhale a few puffs of tobacco smoke; once in a while he would wipe my body, which was always burning hot, with a moist towel. I was grateful to him for his care. A squinting maidservant (they called her Piadosa) brought me my food: vegetables and raw eggs, which she introduced into my mouth with a spoon, taking good care not to be bitten. I was fond of her and I would not have bitten her. I thought that Piadosa, which means pious, meant painful feet, and I felt sorry for her because she had walked so much.

At night especially I would study my situation. I examined the straps with which I was bound, the objects and the persons by whom I was surrounded, and myself. An immense swelling paralysed my left thigh, and I knew that by freeing my left hand, I could cure myself. My hands are always cold and the heat of my leg had to melt under the coolness of my hand, the pain and the swelling would disappear. I dodn’t know how, but I did managed to achieve this sometime later, and soon both the pain and the inflammation subsided, as I had foreseen.

Friday, March 25, 2022

the last book I ever read (Leonora Carrington's Down Below (NYRB Classics), excerpt five)

from Down Below by Leonora Carrington:

I was studying the matter closely, hanging bat-wise from the bars with my feet, my back turned to the room, and I was examining the bars on all sides, from all angles, when someone jumped on me. Falling miraculously back on my feet, I found myself face to face with an individual with the expression and aspect of a mongrel dog. I learned later that he was a congenital idiot who boarded at Dr. Morales’s. Being a charity case, he served as a watchdog at Villa Covadonga, a pavilion for the dangerously and incurably insane named after Don Mariano’s daughter who died. I realised that any discussion with such a creature was perfectly useless. I therefore took prompt measures to annihilate him. Frau Asegurado watched the battle from the vantage point of an armchair.

I was superior to my adversary in strength, willpower, and strategy. The idiot ran away weeping, covered with blood and terribly punished with scratches. I was told later that he would have submitted to death rather than come near me after that fight.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

the last book I ever read (Leonora Carrington's Down Below (NYRB Classics), excerpt four)

from Down Below by Leonora Carrington:

I am afraid I am going to drift into fiction, truthful but incomplete, for lack of some details which I cannot conjure up today and which might have enlightened us. This morning, the idea of the egg came again to my mind and I thought that I could use it as a crystal to look at Madrid in those days of July and August 1940—for why should it not enclose my own experiences as well as the past and future history of the Universe? The egg is the macrocosm and the microcosm, the dividing line between the Big and the Small which makes it impossible to see the whole. To possess a telescope without its other essential half—the microscope—seems to me a symbol of the darkest incomprehension. The task of the right eye is to peer into the telescope, while the left eye peers into the microscope.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

the last book I ever read (Leonora Carrington's Down Below (NYRB Classics), excerpt three)

from Down Below by Leonora Carrington:

I was quite overwhelmed by my entry into Spain: I thought it was my kingdom; that the red earth was the dried blood of the Civil War. I was choked by the dead, by their thick presence in that lacerated countryside. I was in a great state of exaltation when we arrived in Barcelona that evening, convinced that we had to reach Madrid as speedily as possible. I therefore prevailed upon Catherine to leave the Fiat in Barcelona; the next day we boarded a train for Madrid.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

the last book I ever read (Leonora Carrington's Down Below (NYRB Classics), excerpt two)

from Down Below by Leonora Carrington:

In Saint-Martin next morning, the schoolmistress gave me papers stamped by the town hall, which made it possible for us to depart. Catherine got the car ready. All my willpower strained towards that departure. I hurried my friends. I pushed Catherine toward the car; she took the wheel; I sat between her and Michael. The car started. I was confident in the success of the journey, but terribly anguished, fearing difficulties which I thought inevitable. We were riding normally when, twenty kilometres beyond Saint-Martin, the car stopped; the brakes had jammed. I heard Catherine say: “The brakes have jammed.” “Jammed!” I, too, was jammed within, by forces foreign to my conscious will, which were also paralyzing the mechanism of the car. This was the first stage of my identification with the external world. I was the car. The car had jammed on account of me, because I, too, was jammed between Saint-Martin and Spain. I was horrified by my own power. At that time, I was still limited to my own solar system, and was not aware of other people’s systems, the importance of which I realise now.

We had driven all night long. I would see before me, on the road, trucks with legs and arms dangling behind them, but being unsure of myself, I would say shyly: “There are trucks ahead of us,” just to find out what the answer would be. When they said: “The road is wide, we’ll manage to bypass them,” I felt reassured; but I did not know whether or not they saw what was carried in those trucks, greatly fearing I would arouse their suspicions and becoming prey to shame, which paralysed me. The road was lined with rows of coffins, but I could find no pretext to draw their attention to this embarrassing subject. They obviously were people who had been killed by the Germans. I was very frightened: it all stank of death. I learned later that there was a huge military cemetery in Perpignan.

Monday, March 21, 2022

the last book I ever read (Leonora Carrington's Down Below (NYRB Classics), excerpt one)

from Down Below by Leonora Carrington:

I begin therefore with the moment when Max was taken away to a concentration camp for the second time, under the escort of a gendarme who carried a rifle (May 1940). I was living in Saint-Martin-d’Ardèche. I wept for several hours, down in the village; then I went up again to my house where, for twenty-four hours, I indulged in voluntary vomitings induced by drinking orange blossom water and interrupted by a short nap. I hoped that my sorrow would be diminished by these spasms, which tore at my stomach like earthquakes. I know now that this was but one of the aspects of those vomitings: I had realized the injustice of society, I wanted first of all to cleanse myself, then go beyond its brutal ineptitude. My stomach was the seat of that society, but also the place in which I was united with all the elements of the eart. It was the mirror of the earth, the reflection of which is just as real as the person reflected. That mirror—my stomach—had to be rid of the thick layers of filth (the accept formulas) in order properly, clearly, and faithfully to reflect the earth; and when I say “the earth,” I mean of course all the earths, stars, suns in the sky and on the earth, as well as all the stars, suns, and earths of the microbes’ solar system.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt thirteen)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

The implication of these analyses is that the rise in pedestrian fatalities is a matter of human errors. This is not true. Pedestrian deaths are rising—and rising inverse to the deaths of people in cars—because more people are driving larger, more powerful vehicles, such as SUVs, pickup trucks, and minivans. Average weight of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash rose by more than 390 pounds between 2000 and 2018. At the same time, the share of vehicles on the road that are SUVs has risen around 60 percent. Between 2009 and 2016, there was an 81 percent rise in the number of pedestrians killed by SUVs. One researcher estimated that between 2000 and 2018, if every SUV, pickup, and minivan on the road were instead a sedan, there would be 8,131 people walking around alive today.

Not only are people more likely to be crushed by these more powerful vehicles or be pulled under them instead of landing on the hood, but the height of these vehicles also reduces drivers’ ability to see pedestrians. The 2021 model of the Cadillac Escalade SUV, which weighs over 5,000 pounds, is almost six and a half feet tall. If children are sitting in front of that vehicle, they’re invisble unless they are more than ten feet away. The number of children killed in accidents caused by this lack of visibility—when a driver moving forward in a parking lot or driveway runs someone over, what is not being called a “frontover” accident—has risen 89 percent in the last decade.

Friday, March 18, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt twelve)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

Bollards can be flexible and plastic, such as those that government officials used to protect the bike path, and they can be concrete and steel, such as those officials used to protect the waterfront offices of Goldman Sachs. Traffic engineers chose bollards for the bike path that would collapse, just in case a driver needed to drive through.

Little changed after the accident that killed Eric. The next day, government workers reinstalled the same flexible bollard his killer had driven over.

But a few days after Sayfullo Saipov drove over the same bollards again, the City of New York and the New York State Department of Transportation installed concrete and steel barricades at every entrance to the path. At thirty-one driveways where drivers were permitted to cross the path, new barricades blocked them from turning onto the path, and at twenty-six pedestrian intersections where drivers were not normally permitted but could still potentially fit through, new barricades made the space too small for a car to fit past. It was airtight—government officials simply worked together to prevent what had happened from happening ever again. Murder merited a preventive response in a way that multiple identical accidents did not.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt eleven)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

The chief consequence of blame is the prevention of prevention. In finding fault with a person, the case of any give accident appears closed.

Studies show that this simple act—finding someone to blame—makes people less likely to see systemic problems or seek systemic changes. One prompted subjects with news stories about a wide variety of accidents: financial mistakes, plane crashes, industrial disasters. When the story blamed human error, the reader was more intent on punishment and less likely to question the built environment or seek investigation of organizations behind the accident. No matter the accident, blame took the place of prevention.

You can find a prime example of this in your bicycle helmet: a basic, low-cost shock absorber. Upon contact with a hard surface, the helmet absorbs some of the impact, reducing the risk of a concussion. When the helmet is absent, blame steps in.

Helmets help, to a point. If you are cycling on a rural road, hit a pothole, and fly off your bicycle, a helmet would act as a significant injury preventer, cushioning the impact. But if you are cycling on an urban road and a 4,000-pound car or a 13,000-pound truck runs you over, you and your helmet would be crushed.

Despite these fact, in the aftermath of a bicycle accident, the helmet-wearing or helmetless status of the person on the bicycle is almost always mentioned; it appears regularly in news coverage and accident reports. When a drunk driver killed Eric, the New York Times pointed out that he was not wearing a helmet. He was also struck head-on by a 2000 BMW 528i, weighing 3,495 pounds and traveling around 60 miles per hour. Mentioning whether or not Eric wore a helmet is akin to blaming an egg for cracking against a pan.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt ten)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

These closures, which are the result of economic decline, in turn exacerbate economic decline. When a local hospital closes, unemployment rises, and income falls by as much as $700 a person.

The math here is not complicated: Hurst’s patients are old and lower income than most of America. From Medicare reimbursements to food stamps, every cut to government care can add to a hospital’s budget. We can see proof of this when some states cut social services while others expand them. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offered funding for states to expand Medicaid access to nearly all low-income people, including anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. But twelve states refused to participate in protest of the legislation, which meant that in those states, access to Medicaid remained limited to low-income people at or below 41 percent of the poverty line. That’s an annual income of $8,905 for a family of three in 2020 dollars—make more than that, and you get no medical assistance in these twelve states. Researchers tracked rural hospitals in the decade after this decision and found that those in states that expanded Medicaid were 62 percent less likely to shut down. The researchers also ranked the 216 rural hospitals most vulnerable to closure—three out of every four were in a state that refused to expand Medicaid. The nine states with the greatest number of rural hospital closures since 2010 all refused to expand Medicaid in protest of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Texas and Tennessee top the list of rural hospital closures, with 21 and 16 closings, respectively, since 2010. Both refused to expand Medicaid.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt nine)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

In the United States, racist decision-making can define public policy, direct budget allocations, and allocate governmental resources. One-on-one human interaction alone does not cause accidents, but rules and policies may expose some people to more dangerous conditions than others.

And these decisions can have historical reach. Redlining in the 1930s and 1940s undermined Black homeownership and empowered the (racist) builders of America’s early highways to build those roads straight through Black neighborhoods. Then, the highways were a segregationist tool. Today, Black people are still less likely to own their homes and more likely to live near a highway. Those historic policies cause accidents now. People who don’t own their homes are more likely to die in an accidental fire. Extreme heat is worse in redlined neighborhoods because of highway pollution, so people who live near highways may be more likely to die of accidental overheating. Living near highways delivers more drivers traveling at highway speeds to residential streets, and people who live near highways are more likely to be killed in a car accident.

Monday, March 14, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt eight)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

In accidents, racecraft can come into play if we use race or ethnicity to explain unequal outcomes. Let’s look at one way this could work: Nationwide, Latino people are more likely than white people to be killed in bike accidents. In New York City, Latino people are also more likely to be ticketed for bicycling on the sidewalk. Knowing these facts, we could develop a racist stigma that expects Latino people in New York City to be risky and lawless cyclists. That stigma would reduce empathy for a Latino cyclist killed in a bike accident. As a result, police may enforce laws against people biking in Latino neighborhoos more strictly, and taxpayers, in general, could be less supportive of building bike infrastructure in these neighborhoods. If you believe the stigma, why would you want to give good things to lawless people? A racist New York City community board member made a similar argument in 2017, arguing to halt construction of bike lanes in the majority Latino immigrant neighborhood of Corona, Queens. “Once Trump removes all the illegals from Corona,” she said, “there’s won’t be anybody to ride bike lanes.”

You can see how this could create a vicious cycle: accidental death is more likely because of dangerous conditions, which are distributed across society in a racist way, and which are justified to remain dangerous by a racist interpretation of the cause of accidental death. The response to a white person killed in a bike accident, absent racecraft, might be more sympathetic, less focused on human error and more on dangerous conditions—leading to solutions for the actual problems.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt seven)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

In 2010, white people were dying of accidental drug overdoses at nearly twice the rate of Black people, in large part because OxyContin prescriptions still dominated the overdose epidemic. The epidemic was significant enough to shift the statistics of the entire history of accidental death in America—in 2002, white people began to be killed by accident, all accidents total, at a higher rate than Black people for the first time in recorded history because of the way white overdose deaths shifted the numbers. It was not the pile of bodies that made the public see the opioid epidemic as an epidemic, but that suddenly the bodies were white.

Today, that gap is shrinking. White opioid overdoses are leveling off, and Black overdoses are rising sharply. In 2019, accidental drug overdoses returned to their old pattern, with Black people dying at a rising rate, and at the same rate as white people, for the first time since 2002, because with OxyContin finally regulated, most accidental overdoses now come from illegal, not prescriptions, opioids. But stigma has not changed as an arbiter of accidents. Doctors prescribe buprenorphine, which lowers the risk and rate of accidental overdose by managing the urge for the drug, almost exclusively to white people. Researchers investigated some 13 million doctor visits between 2012 and 2015 and found a surge of physicians prescribing the medication to white people and no change in the number of prescriptions for Black people. Even while Black overdoses are rising faster than white ones, doctors are thirty-five times more likely to prescribe buprenorphine to white people.

Buprenorphine is better than methadone because it doesn’t require daily visits to a clinic—but that only helps if you’re white enough to get a prescription. For Black people without a prescription, there is the risk of the accidental overdose or the daily burden of the methadone clinic. As a result, white opioid use has begun to taper, while the crisis for Black people rises at a disproportionate rate.

In accidents, stigmas stack up, and race trumps them all.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt six)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

Maintaining this lie was Richard Sackler’s point about needing to “hammer on abusers.” And for a long time, that stigmatizing strategy worked. Purdue blamed human error for the opiod epidemic, distracting from the dangerous condition of an addictive drug marketed as nonaddictive. All the while, addictions and accidental overdoses grew and grew. Between 1995 and 2001, the number of people treated for opiod abuse in the state of Maine grew by 460 percent. In 2000, West Virginia opened its first methadone treatment program, and then, in the next three years, the state would need to open six more. In 2002, OxyContin prescriptions climbed over 6 million. By 2003, accidental fatal prescriptions overdoses had grown by 830 percent in one corner of Virginia. The Drug Enforcement Administration did not begin to crack down on pain clinics and distributors until 2005. By then, for the addicted, it was too late. In 2021, the vast majority of accidental overdose deaths was still due to opiods. Between 1999 and 2020, well over 840,000 people died of an opiod overdose. As the death toll rose too precipitously to be ignored, the drug companies leaned into this idea: There are no accidental overdoses. There are only reckless criminal addicts.

“Once it became clear that addiction was a problem, the drug companies’ first line of defense, and an incredibly successful one, was to say: Look, our products are good, the doctors are good, the patients are good, but there are these evil abusers,” Herzberg tells me. “They are becoming addicted and giving our drug a bad name. So, we should respond to this, not as if this is a crisis of accidents, we should respond to this as if it is a crisis of bad people.”

Friday, March 11, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt five)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

Once engineers design that fast road, they set a speed limit. This, Dumbaugh explains, is also based on those old rule books. The rules recommend setting a speed limit based not on safety or accident prevention but on a combination of factors that engineers should consider equally. As one engineering rule book puts it, “In selection of design speed, every effort should be made to attain a desired combination of safety, mobility, and efficiency within the constraints of environmental quality, economics, aesthetics, and social or political impacts.” Or, traffic engineers should consider whether people can get to Walmart without a traffic jam to be as crucial as whether people don’t die on the road.

As developments arrives on a new road, congestion follows, and the road slows down. Chief among the rules taught to traffic engineers is that congestion is a problem and slow is inefficient, so postdevelopment, traffic engineers will reevaluate the speed limit. They decide the new speed limits by conducting a study that looks at how fast everyone is driving on the street. Then, they chart those speeds by frequency. Almost always in these studies, the majority of people are found to be driving at a similar pace, but around 15 percent are found to be driving much faster than everyone else. Traffic engineers use this latter group as their limit—setting the speed limit at the low end of how fast the fastest 15 percent drive, which is the high end of how quickly the other 85 percent drive. They call this the 85th percentile speed. It is how engineers set speed limits on major roads nationwide.

“We look at how fast cars are going and we assume that is the safe speed of the roadway,” says Dumbaugh. “Note that this has no safety basis: it’s simply assured that most people don’t want to get into a crash and are thus doing what it is safe for them to do.”

Thursday, March 10, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt four)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

In general, after an oil spill, cleaned birds suffer higher than average mortality rates. Less than 1 percent survive. Scientists found that cleaning oil off a bird could cause as much injury as the oil itself. The majority of brown pelicans cleaned and released after an oil spill in California never mated again and died. After a 2002 oil spill in Spain, scientists and volunteers cleaned thousands of birds; the majority died within a week. In one horrific scientific experiment out of Canada, researchers intentionally spilled oil into the Beaufort Sea to help guide a decision about whether or not to drill for oil there. The local polar bears died of kidney failure, and so did the birds. The researchers failed to contain the oil. The project concluded that cleaning up oil spills was largely ineffective. Canada still permitted drilling the Beaufort Sea.

Still, all this scrubbing serves a purpose. It is oil spill response theater, with the message that these accidents are fine because they can be cleaned up. Pretending that we can clean up an oil spill is one way that oil companies make the risk of an oil spill feel less dire.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt three)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

In 1920, the reforms took effect in New York. But the South Buffalo Railway Company, which was newly required to compensate employees for accidents on the job and also being sued by one of those employees for said compensation, appealed to the courts, claiming that workers’ compensation was unconstitutional under the state constitution. On March 24, 1911, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the company, overturning the commission’s reforms. The very next day, an accidental fire erupted inside the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Manhattan. Women jumped to their death in the middle of the nation’s most populous city. For days, the unidentified charred bodies lay in public view. The Triangle fire was not just an accident of magnitude; it was an enormouse accident watched firsthand in real time by America’s elite and one whose aftermath played out at length in every American newspaper. Two months later, in Wisconsin, legislators would successfully pass the nation’s first workers’ compensation law, and nine other states would follow that year. New York State amended its constitution to again pass a workers’ compensation law in 1913. Forty-two of forty-eight states would have the law by 1920. In 1925, the five holdouts were all southern states. Mississippi came last, in 1948.

By the end of the First World War, in most of the United States, when a worker had an accident, employes were legally required to provide compensation for medical care and lost work. For employers, this was a massive shift in their economic calculus. Work accidents once cost only as much as replacing a worker. Now the only way for an employe to reduce costs was to reduce accidents. The decline in work accidents was dramatic. Over the next two decades, death per hour worked would fall by two-thirds. At U.S. Steel, in the first decade of the 1900s, once in four workers suffered significant injuries every year. By the late 1930s, that number was one in three hundred.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt two)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

The auto lobby devised two counterpoints to the memorials and protests: education and enforcement—laws that governed who was allowed in the street and lessons to indoctrinate the public to these new rules. While some of the financial benefactors of car sales pushed municipalities to pass local traffic ordinances restricting pedestrians’ access to the street, the American Automobile Association in particular focused on education, launching and funding a national traffic safety campaign in schools. Street crossing lessons became part of the curriculum, and those lessons reinforced the idea that now cars go first and pedestrians wait. Inherent in this education was the message that if a person did not wait and a driver killed them in the street, their death was caused not by the car’s speed but by jaywalking—the pedestrian’s error. The goal was to teach the next generation that the roads are for automobiles, not people. And since cars were new, and pedestrians had long ruled city streets, someone had to invent the idea that a person could walk improperly—the auto lobby did just that.

The automobile lobby also found new ways to inject human error into the car-accident conversation. Norton found that local driving clubs, like the Chicago Motor Club, began to place items in newspapers to ensure that “jaywalker” appeared in the press. In Los Angeles, the Automobile Club of Southern California even paid to paint the city’s first crosswalks, producing and posting signs that read JAY WALKING PROHIBITED BY ORDER—POLICE DEPARTMENT—even though the term “jaywalker” didn’t appear in the local traffic code. In New York City, the Automobile Club of America laid the problem out this way in one 1923 pamphlet: “Pedestrians often appear stupid or careless, and lots of them are.”

Monday, March 7, 2022

the last book I ever read (Jessie Singer's There Are No Accidents, excerpt one)

from There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price by Jessie Singer:

An immeasurable number of people would be alive today if it were not for what the nascent automobile lobby did next. Carmakers knew that fast and powerful cars were an important selling point. This is one reason that today car’s speedometers go as high as 160 mph, even if your car cannot actually go much faster than 100 mph. To distract from the cold, hard fact that speed kills, the automobile lobby shifted the blame from fast cars to human error.

The Cincinnati Automobile Dealers Association raised $10,000 to fight the speed-governor proposal. The National Automobile Chamber of Commerce sent representatives to the city to help local car salesmen rally votes against the proposal. On the day of the vote, the automobile lobby sent 400 workers to the polls to talk citizens into voting against the speed governors. And, Norton explains, it worked. Despite 42,000 people petitioning to get the law on the ballot, only 14,000 people actually voted for it. The speed governor lost, 6-1.

To exceed the speed limit is a mistake, a human error. The fact that cars can go so fast is a dangerous condition. And because the auto lobby was so successful in reframing the car-murder narrative, when we talk about speeding, we almost always talk about speeders as the problem, not how fast those cars can go.

Friday, March 4, 2022

the last book I ever read (Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead, excerpt twelve)

from Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead:

Carney ran, availing himself of this confluence. He ran as if Freddie had stolen a comic book from Mason’s display racks and Old Man Mason himself pursued them down Lenox with a machete, he ran as if he and his cousin had dropped a fistful of firecrackers into the aluminum garbage cans outside 134 West 129th and rattled the whole street. He ran like a kid convinced that the whole grown-up world with its entire grown-up might was going to beat him silly. There were people and cars. He danced and darted and zipped through, weaving around frumpy salesmen and limping matrons, threading himself between slow-walking rubes and briskly moving sophisticates as if he were a piece of celluloid navigating the rollers of a gigantic movie projector, lost footage from a B movie.

He shook Ed Bench and Mr. Lloyd after two blocks—not the God of Speed after all—and kept going another ten, although not as fast, trotting some, for he was out of shape. They’d finished construction on another segment of Lincoln Center and the south entrance of the Sixty-Sixth Street stop was open again.

The necklace was gone, like that. Yes, you can have all sorts of craziness in your head and people will sit right next to you on the train as if you are a normal person. He felt safe on the train, all the way up, until he got to the store and saw Pepper.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

the last book I ever read (Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead, excerpt eleven)

from Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead:

After their initial discussion of the job, Pepper hadn’t tried to talk him out of helping Freddie. Carney had enough doubts with outside encouragement. The debacle of Bella Fontaine and Mr. Gibbs aside, Freddie had brought danger close again. When they were children, when he’d brought down parental wrath and they sat in the bedroom waiting for the belt, Freddie would croak out a pitiable, “I didn’t mean to get you in trouble.” It never occurred to him that things would go wrong, that the caper would go sideways and there would be consequences. There were always consequences.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

the last book I ever read (Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead, excerpt ten)

from Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead:

The shade outside their apartment, down the hill from Grant’s Tomb, provided a cool retreat from the day’s heat. Traffic was light on Riverside. When Carney tried to relax in his living room after a long day at the store, the squeal of the kids in the park below usually set him on edge, but today they were a token of normalcy. Gangsters strong-arming him into sedans, white cops disrupting his business, riots and real estate barons and what have you—it was nice to pretend his world remembered the old, stable orbit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

the last book I ever read (Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead, excerpt nine)

from Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead:

Mr. Gibbs smiled and looked over his shoulder at 125th Street. Carney wagered he’d seen more Negroes in five minutes than he had in his whole life.

The sales rep had a friendly manner as he recounted the dull details of his semiannual trip out East. A simple phone call took care of most client relations, he said, but it was good to put names to faces. “You know how it is, Mr. Carney.”

“Call me Ray.”

“Nice operation you got here,” Mr. Gibbs said. It was paramount to visit prospective dealers in person, for obvious reasons. For the right fit. Bella Fontaine had a corporate personality; sometimes certain personalities didn’t mix as well as others. And of course there was the problem of geography, he said. You didn’t want to turn local establishments into rivals so that they’re cannibalizing one another’s business.

The euphemisms made Carney dizzy and he’d have to check with Elizabeth over whether the cannibal thing was a slur.