Miscellany - 2.3.23
1.) Christopher Cox on self-driving Teslas:
We approached an intersection and tried to make a left — in what turned out to be a repeat of the Laguna Beach scenario. The Tesla started creeping out, trying to get a clearer look at the cars coming from our left. It inched forward, inched forward, until once again we were fully in the lane of traffic. There was nothing stopping the Tesla from accelerating and completing the turn, but instead it just sat there. At the same time, a tricked-out Honda Accord sped toward us, about three seconds away from hitting the driver-side door. Alford quickly took over and punched the accelerator, and we escaped safely. This time, he didn’t say anything.
It was a rough ride home from there. At a standard left turn at a traffic light, the system freaked out and tried to go right. Alford had to take over. And then, as we approached a cloverleaf on-ramp to the highway, the car started to accelerate. To stay on the ramp, we needed to make an arcing right turn; in front of us was a steep drop-off into a construction site with no guard rails. The car showed no sign of turning. We crossed a solid white line, milliseconds away from jumping off the road when, at last, the wheel jerked sharply to the right, and we hugged the road again. This time, F.S.D. had corrected itself, but if it hadn’t, the crash would have surely killed us.
It’s a good piece, but Cox omits a critical detail in his discussion of Tesla’s own data on autopilot crashes: the company got caught programming autopilot to disengage seconds before a collision, presumably to juke the stats on how many crashes were caused by the self-driving feature.
Anyway, consider this post a public service announcement that bikers and pedestrians should exercise even more caution around Teslas than around your usual reckless driver.
2.) And speaking of unhinged cars:
3.) Margo Snipe on gas stoves, indoor air quality, and Black asthma rates.
4.) Liam Dillon, Benjamin Oreskes and Doug Smith on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation:
Harings contends that AIDS Healthcare Foundation co-founder and President Michael Weinstein and the group’s attorneys have compounded the harm by pushing plaintiffs to accept low-ball offers behind their lawyers’ backs. Residents, some of whom have learning disabilities or were behind on their rent, have received settlement packages thousands of dollars less than what the foundation offered when their attorneys were present, court records show.
5.) Justin Fox on the ample evidence that building more housing makes it cheaper.
6.) Philip Hoxie on remote work:
7.) Peter Flax on a horrible tragedy and what it means for e-bike safety:
This story will raise questions that don’t lend themselves to straightforward answers. Some are philosophical questions that you’ll have to ponder yourself; some are legal questions that lawyers will argue and possibly a jury will have to deliberate; and some are questions that only legislative or regulatory bodies can address. Should children be allowed to ride e-bikes? How do you balance responsibility between parents and the companies that make those bikes? Should there be significantly more proactive regulation of e-bikes by the government, given that some e-bikes may not be as safe as they should be? And in the absence of such regulation, do the companies that make and market e-bikes—particularly the companies that sell relatively inexpensive e-bikes directly to the customer—have an ethical or legal obligation to do more?
None of the answers, however they are formulated or enacted, will diminish the loss of Molly Steinsapir. That precocious 12-year-old is gone forever. But her parents are determined to hold accountable the company that made the e-bike from which she tumbled onto the pavement and died. And along the way, the questions pushed into the public eye through cases like the one the Steinsapirs are mounting could present a reckoning for the unregulated growth of e-bikes.
1.) Matt McManus on Curtis Yarvin:
Yarvin’s writing is of a very low intellectual quality, even compared with other neo-reactionaries like Paul Gottfried or Alexander Dugin. He comes across as a kind of third-rate authoritarian David Foster Wallace, combining post-postmodern bookish eclecticism with a yearning to communicate with and influence young disaffected white men. His writings are full of dubious historical claims usually mixed with thinly veiled bigotry and a powdery kind of middle-class snobbery.
2.) Diego Aguilar-Canabal on David Crosby:
3.) Evan Osnos on the Getty Family:
Sarah Getty insisted that the sisters had acted in accordance with their family’s values. “Everything we were trying to do was lawful,” she said. “I’m not against paying taxes at all, because I think they’re very important, especially if they go in the right things. I would want the right government to be in control, though, because, if the wrong government is in control, then they go to all the stuff I don’t support. I’m very against military and guns and weapons, and very pro-planet.” Like many others I spoke to while reporting on Sonn’s dispute with the Gettys, Sarah described a feeling of captivity to industries and laws that enriched her but tried her conscience. Nicolette told me, “This Nevada trust arrangement was made before I became a trustee or was included in the trust or Getty matters at all.” She went on, “I’ll admit that for a time I did consider the option of moving out of California in order to avoid the tax, because it is quite substantial.” But, she said, she abandoned the idea, and expects to pay about $30 million in taxes on her share of the trust. “I’m one who thinks the tax burden needs to be higher on the wealthy such as myself and my family,” she said. Her sister Kendalle, who declined to comment for this article, is fond of retweeting posts by Bernie Sanders: “Billionaires get richer & pay less in taxes while millions are unemployed, kids go hungry, veterans sleep on the street. We must stand up to the billionaire class and create an economy for all, not just a few.”
4.) Josie Pagani on Jacinda Arden.
5.) Paul Poast on The Clash of Civilizations:
6.) John Ganz on Pat Buchanan:
Most reviews I’ve read of Cormac McCarthy’s latest novels—The Passenger and its companion piece, Stella Maris—have been characterized by this odd mixture of respectfulness, bafflement, and a bit of condescension. The critics seem to think it’s cute that McCarthy is trying something new in his dotage, and that he might even be onto something, but it just doesn’t really hang together in the end. Still, isn’t it nice to see the old man try so hard?
Ignore them. Read the books for yourself. Suspend any expectations you might have about narrative coherence or plausibility and plunge yourself into the Gothic, loopy world of the Western siblings. But first, read “The Kekulé Problem”—McCarthy’s exploration of the unconscious mind’s hidden depths, a sort of skeleton key to his latest novels, and one of my favorite essays from the past decade.
Time Out of Mind has long been one of my favorite Bob Dylan records. I was actually a little surprised to learn recently that it had a bad rap among certain other Dylan-heads for its admittedly sort of muddy production. I never minded the production too much—at least not until I listened to the new mix, which is a revelation.
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