About a month and a half ago, I stumbled on a Youtube video that looked like a proof of life hostage video. It was some guy I’d never heard of standing in front of an off-white wall. I clicked on it thinking I was about to watch a video about how the freight rail industry has been impacted by COVID. Like most people, I thought very little about the freight rail industry. I figured, in all likelihood, this would be two and a half minutes of my life I’d never think about again.
That is not what happened.
"It's only a matter of time before fatigued workers, unrealistic inspection policies, and unqualified inspections result in a major incident in someone's neighborhood," said the man in the video, Jason Cox of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen. With a kind of stoic intensity, he continued: "I implore anyone who might be watching who has the authority to act to please act now."
Well, that’s interesting, I thought. At the time I clicked on it, the video had three views (as I’m writing this, it has 10, and at least five of those are me and my editors). I decided to find out if any of it was true.
Terrifyingly, it sure sounds like it is true. It is a story about how common-sense improvements in efficiency and reliability snowballed out of control at the behest of hedge fund investors to jeopardize the safety of ordinary people. In the last month, six freight rail derailments made the local news. And those are just the ones we know about. You can read all about it here.
Been a bit light on the blogging front recently as I’ve been busy with other stuff (see above). Just one other article to highlight for you: Could Tesla’s “Self-Driving Beta” pass a driving test? I posit that no, it would in fact fail in spectacular fashion. What is even the point of NHTSA if not to shut this down immediately?
Also it bums me out, from a global warming perspective, that the company making by far the best electric cars on the U.S. market today is up to this shenanigans. In any event, if you’re in the market for an EV please consider the Bolt.
You may have heard about a unionization effort at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama. I promise you have not read anything as informative or comprehensive on it as the story Lauren Gurley wrote.
You know how people generally recognize their cell phones are perfect devices for monitoring people? The same has become true about cars, but people do not think of them that way.
I read a bunch of books I didn’t like very much but have decided to ignore them rather than write about them here. This is a friendly place. No reason to be mean. Apparently, that’s what the rest of the internet is for.
Goliath: the 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy, Matt Stoller. One of the worst parts of being online is that you have to have an opinion about everything the second you encounter it and then you cannot change it or else you’re a hypocrite. Incidentally, this book made me realize how toxic that is. Not because of anything in the book but because of my reaction to it. I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it. The section on how the Nader consumer movement unwittingly aided and abetted monopolization in industry was especially fascinating to me given how I just wrote a big, long article about how great one part of that movement was. But I need to think and read a lot more before I know how much I buy the book’s main arguments. Either way, I’m very glad I read it.
Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the World's Greatest Sports Rivalry, by Sid Lowe. A colleague, who is a shameless Barcelona obsessive, encouraged me to read this in order to better understand why Real Madrid is evil. Instead, it reinforced my belief that all sports rivalries are between two sides with nearly identical characteristics and collective pathologies that have become utterly convinced the other is the root of all evil. Humans are weird.
There is an old tree near the boathouse in Prospect Park called the camperdown elm. It is one of New York’s “great trees,” according to the Parks Department. It was planted in 1872, saved from death in the 1970s by activists, and is now the home to Maurice.
Maurice enjoys watching the people and dogs and birds go by on bright, sunny days. I check the tree every time I walk by to see if Maurice is there. Usually he is not. But sometimes he is.
As you can see the tree has been in better shape but Maurice is perfect.
Until next time,