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Undriven Snow: Activists Trace Winter Car Routes to Reshape City Streets [ARTICLE]

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Urban planners can learn a lot simply by observing where cars actually drive (or don’t) after a fresh snowfall. Author and activist Jon Geeting has been photographing ‘sneckdowns‘ (a portmanteau of ‘snowy’ and ‘neckdowns’ or: curb extensions) in Philadelphia for years, highlighting areas that could be converted from vehicular to pedestrian use. Remarkably, his documentation has done far more than just create general interest — it has actually helped to reshape intersections.

A series of Philadelphia ‘sneckdowns’ documented by Jon Geeting on This Old City

A few years ago, Geeting’s images were used in a campaign to convince the city to modify a confusing and dangerous intersection at 12th and Morris. His observations aided in the identification of underused road space, which could be adapted to better uses, including:

  • Shortening pedestrian crossing time
  • Calming vehicle traffic around intersections
  • Allowing planners and road engineers to see opportunities
  • Reducing asphalt surfaces and increasing plant surfaces to improve the absorption of rainwater by the soil, minimizing runoff and floods
Original intersection (left) and modification proposal (right) via PlanPhilly

Geeting credits Sam Sherman, the former Executive Director at Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corp, and his successor, Bryan Fenstermaker, with turning Geeting’s documentation into an advocacy tool. “Sam is one of Philly’s original urbanist agitators, so it didn’t take any convincing from me,” recalls Geeting. “He brought my images of the 12th and Morris intersection to the Commerce and Streets Departments on his own and made the internal case to the city.”

Original intersection before (left) and modified design after (right)

Currently the Director of Engagement at Philadelphia 3.0, a PAC devoted to local political reform, Geeting has also written for PlanPhilly, Next City, and other local publications on political and urban topics. He became interested in planning issues while biking the streets of New York City “around 2007, when Janette Sadik-Khan was head of NYC DOT and the city was really aggressively transforming the streets with things like car-free Times Square and the pedestrian plaza program. It was a pretty exciting time to be following this arena of politics.” He also started reading Streetsblog, the founder of which, Aaron Naparstek, originally coined the term ‘sneckdown’ for natural snowy bump-outs.

Geeting is working on two more sneckdown-driven pedestrian plazas with his neighborhood association in Fishtown, but he is not alone in his approach. “The first Philadelphia example of a sneckdown image translating into real change was in West Philly,” he says, “at 48th and Baltimore. Prema Gupta, then at University City District, took some photos of snow formations at that intersection” and sold the city on a redesign. “The intersection now has multiple pedestrian plazas with temporary materials like planters, large rocks, and a painted roadway.”

Of course, not every city gets snow, which can complicate matters. But Geeting’s blog readers have suggested other approaches, too — “a lot of people wrote to inform me that flour or other kinds of powder are a pretty common way for street engineers to test where curb lines should be,” and “sometimes parking patterns are a giveaway too. With one of the pedestrian plazas I’m working on, people frequently use the space for temporary parking, but it’s actually not a legal space.”

Still, putting powder out on a road is a somewhat different proposition. When it comes to sneckdowns, there is, of course, nothing illicit going on — modified photographs are simply leveraged to sell the city on new ideas. But Geeting sees advantages to more guerrilla approaches as well, like those documented by Mike Lydon, author of Tactical Urbanism: Short-Term Action for Long-Term Change. Citing Lydon’s findings, Geeting explains that “citizen-led interventions tend to have some staying power, and often aren’t removed even if done illicitly.”

With respect to Philadelphia specifically, though, Geeting notes that the city “now has a process for citizen-initiated pedestrian plazas, which gives people a way to advance ideas even if their local elected official disapproves.” But, he says, “even in places where there is no citizen-led option, making (temporary [and] reversible) changes to streets illicitly can be a good way for citizens to call attention to problems that a city administration may not be aware of, or may be ignoring.”

Interested in becoming more active in your own city? “If you have an idea for a space like this,” Geeting advises, “find a way to test it out temporarily and gather feedback and have conversations with people. Use events like Park(ing) Day or street festivals to do cheap, temporary versions of what you want to do, and gather feedback from people. If you notice an intersection is a problem, chances are that other people probably have as well, and temporarily testing it out is a great way to meet those people, and start organizing for more permanent changes.”

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iridesce
24 days ago
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philly
angelchrys
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Overland Park, KS
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zenosanalytic: rootfauna: blackswallowtailbutterfly: orestian: fun fact - the human uterus...

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zenosanalytic:

rootfauna:

blackswallowtailbutterfly:

orestian:

fun fact - the human uterus automatically rejects and flushes out/kills around 70% of all fertilized eggs, so defining life as beginning at conception essentially makes it illegal to have functional reproductive organs.

The human uterus is one of the most hostile places for an embryo to implant. Guess all of our uteruses are potential serial killers.

And it’s hostile because human pregnancy is incredibly dangerous by all accounts compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, so bear that in mind whenever someone says “Just go through with the pregnancy and give it up for adoption”

And not only is pregnancy in the US Particularly Dangerous, it’s even more so for the Poor and Rural, and even more for Black Women, most often as a result of stress-related illnesses and lack of prenatal care. 

Oddly enough, the self-professed “pro-life” don’t seem to give a damn about any of this, and actively support a political party whose policies have 1)created this problem, 2)actively prevent fixing it, and 3)frequently deny it even exists.

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iridesce
24 days ago
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philly
angelchrys
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Overland Park, KS
bibliogrrl
24 days ago
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Chicago!
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How Haiti became poor

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haiti.jpg

In case you missed it, the President of the United States called Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries “shitholes,” then pretended like he didn’t say it, but basically said it all over again.

This matters not just because it’s racist (the President is racist, in fact, he is professionally racist), because it’s vulgar (“shithole,” one of the all-time great swear words, is forever sullied by this), and because it’s catastrophically bad for foreign and domestic relations. It matters in part because of the history of Haiti, and the history of racist discourse about Haiti.

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, a professor of education and scholar who’s closely studied these narratives, writes:

The reason why White nationalists like 45 always name Haiti because the Haitian nation & people are unique. Haiti defeated Napoleon, threw off the chains of slavery, and exposed the lie of White supremacy & European imperialism. So there’s no end to their hatred for Haiti.

Jonathan Katz, a journalist and former AP correspondent in Haiti who wrote The Big Truck That Went By about Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and the cholera epidemic that followed, has a longer thread spelling out how these narratives about Haiti were generated and how they work. Here’s a thick excerpt:

In order to do a victory lap around the GDP difference between, say, Norway and Haiti, you have to know nothing about the history of the world. That includes, especially, knowing nothing real about the history of the United States… You’d have to not know that the French colony that became Haiti provided the wealth that fueled the French Empire — and 2/3 of the sugar and 3/4 of the coffee that Europe consumed…

You’d have to not realize that Haiti was founded in a revolution against that system, and that European countries and the United States punished them for their temerity by refusing to recognize or trade with them for decades. You’d then have to not know that Haiti was forced to borrow some money to pay back that ridiculous debt, some of it from banks in the United States. And you’d have to not know that in 1914 those banks got President Wilson to send the US Marines to empty the Haitian gold reserve… [You’d] have to not know about the rest of the 20th century either—the systematic theft and oppression, US support for dictators and coups, the US invasions of Haiti in 1994-95 and 2004…

In short, you’d have to know nothing about WHY Haiti is poor (or El Salvador in kind), and WHY the United States (and Norway) are wealthy. But far worse than that, you’d have to not even be interested in asking the question. And that’s where they really tell on themselves… Because what they are showing is that they ASSUME that Haiti is just naturally poor, that it’s an inherent state borne of the corruption of the people there, in all senses of the word.

And let’s just say out loud why that is: It’s because Haitians are black.

Racists have needed Haiti to be poor since it was founded. They pushed for its poverty. They have celebrated its poverty. They have tried to profit from its poverty. They wanted it to be a shithole. And they still do.

If Haiti is a shithole, then they can say that black freedom and sovereignty are bad. They can hold it up as proof that white countries—and what’s whiter than Norway—are better, because white people are better. They wanted that in 1804, and in 1915, and they want it now.

The history of Haiti is weird because it is absurdly well-documented, yet totally poorly known. It’s hard not to attribute that to ideology. We don’t teach the Haitian Revolution the way we teach the American, or the French, or the Mexican, because it’s a complicated story. Kids are more likely to hear variations of “Haiti formed a pact with the devil to defeat Napoleon” (this is real thing, I swear) than Toussaint Louverture’s or Jean-Jacques Dessalines’s names.

Also, while Haiti’s revolution was an early, signature event in world history-the first time a European power would be overthrown by an indigenous army (but not the last)-the causes of Haiti’s poverty are basically identical with those of almost every poor nation around the world: a history of exploitation, bad debt, bad geopolitics, and bad people profiting off of that poverty (almost all of them living elsewhere). And this is basically true about poverty in American cities as well (with all the same attendant racist myths).

Some recommended reading:

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wreichard
42 days ago
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Haiti is what the current capitalist system produces as its scapegoat. It’s an ongoing crime of conscience.
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duerig
42 days ago
The Revolutions podcast goes into absurd and fascinating detail about different revolutions throughout history. While it has gone through some more famous ones (like the French Revolution), I think one of the best seasons was about the Haitian revolution. It also highlights the complicated history between the US and Haiti. And the morally complicated decisions made both by the revolutionaries themselves and outsiders (whether French or from the US).
wreichard
42 days ago
Hear hear. Will definitely look that up--thanks.
fxer
41 days ago
glad someone mentioned Mike Duncan's Revolutions podcast series on Haiti, it is really fantastic
popular
41 days ago
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iridesce
41 days ago
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philly
acdha
42 days ago
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Washington, DC
zippy72
42 days ago
Paul Foot's remarkable lecture on Toussaint Louverture was fascinating and that was what started me being interested in Haitian history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt4hxbkfibU
angelchrys
43 days ago
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Overland Park, KS
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Eloquence
23 days ago
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This is the history they don't teach you in school...
Baltimore, Maryland

Have They No Sense of Decency?

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“Have you no sense of decency?” It’s the question that the members of the Republican majority in the Congress—51 senators, 239 representatives—might bear in mind, in the “shithole” era.

If only two of those senators would stand up against Donald Trump, with their votes rather than just their tweets or concerned statements, they would constitute an effective majority.

With the 49 Democratic and independent senators, these two would make 51 votes, which in turn would be enough to authorize real investigations. They could pass a formal resolution of censure. They could call for tax returns and financial disclosure. They could begin hearings, on the model of the nationally televised Watergate hearings of 45 years ago.

They could behave as if they took seriously their duties to hold the executive branch accountable. They could make a choice they know will be to their credit when this era enters history — as did the Republicans who finally turned against their own party’s President Nixon during the Watergate drama, as did the Democrats who finally turned against their own party’s President Johnson over the Vietnam war, as did the Republicans who finally turned against their own poisonous Senator McCarthy in the episode that gave rise to “Have you no sense of decency?” more than 60 years ago. They could spare themselves the shame that history attaches to people who did the wrong thing, or nothing, or kept looking the other way during those decisive periods.

(I’m not even talking about the House, where the GOP has a larger majority, where there’s never been as much talk about “world’s greatest deliberative body,” and where the main outlet for Republican concerns about this era in politics has been the rapidly growing list of incumbents deciding to retire rather than run again.)

Even without the House, just two senators could make an enormous difference.

  • Two like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker who are not running for re-election and have no primary-challenge consequences to fear;
  • Two like Orrin Hatch and John McCain who mainly have their places in history to think about;
  • Two like the young Ben Sasse and the veteran Lamar Alexander who pride themselves on being “thoughtful”;
  • Two like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who pride themselves on being “independent”;
  • Two like Rand Paul and Mike Lee who pride themselves on their own kind of independence;
  • Two like Rob Portman and John Barrasso who pride themselves on being decent;
  • Two like Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton with conceivable long-term higher-office hopes;
  • Two like Tim Scott and James Lankford who jointly wrote a statement on the need for broad-minded inclusion;
  • Two like Chuck Grassley and Richard Shelby, who like Hatch and McCain are in their 80s and conceivably have “legacy” on their minds (remember that in the Alabama Senate race Shelby took a stand against his party’s odious nominee, Roy Moore);
  • One like Dean Heller, facing a tough re-election race, plus maybe Lindsey Graham, who used to be among the leaders in blunt talk about Trump’s excesses;

If any of these two, or some other pair from the thirty-plus remaining Republicans, decided to take a stand, they would not change everything about  this perilous moment in politics. But they would do something, about the open secret of a destructive presidency that nearly all of their colleagues are aware of and virtually none is doing anything about.

They could remind their colleagues of the Senate’s appropriate check-and-balance function.

And they could spare themselves, in history’s perspective, the question Joseph Welch so memorably asked the rampaging Senator Joe McCarthy, during the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954.

From the Senate’s own historical  site:

As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy's career:

"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness." When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, "Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"

Have you no sense of decency? It is a question worth pondering, in the shithole era.

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iridesce
41 days ago
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philly
acdha
42 days ago
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Washington, DC
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By bluecore in "It's been almost a year of this crap." on MeFi

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Oh, FFS:

NYT, Jan 2017: The U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in December, ending the year on a tepid note before a new President takes charge.

NYT, Jan 2018: The U.S. added 148,000 jobs last month, as continued growth capped a year of increasing opportunities for American workers.
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bibliogrrl
41 days ago
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Chicago!
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By Doktor Zed in "It's been almost a year of this crap." on MeFi

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For another round of schadenfreude courtesy of Michael Woolf, here's today's interview with him by the Hollywood Reporter. One fascinating exchange in it is how Wolff maintained his fly-on-the-wall status with his White House sources:
HR: You say you still have sources inside the White House. Have you heard anything?

MW: I hear that the president is very angry, or, let me be precise: I hear that he is truly bouncing off the walls.

HR: I assume he feels very betrayed by you?

MW: I don't know if I would use that word. I don't think he thought about this in any way. I literally think you go in there and say, "I'm writing a book," and they go, "Oh. A book." It's like a cloak of invisibility. And then also they would do this thing that would be like, "Oh, this is off the record." And I would say, "I would like to use it for the book." And they would say, "Well, when does that come out?" And I would say, "Next year." "Oh, oh, yeah, OK, fine."

[...]The distinct feeling that you have when you say that you're writing a book is that these guys don't care about you. You're a kind of non-entity. "A book." Trump is not getting excited about somebody writing a book.

HR: Because he places no importance on books.

MW: Yeah. They almost can't imagine what it is. I remember when the Murdoch book came out and Murdoch's guy [former News Corp. marketing and corporate affairs exec] Gary Ginsberg, called me, furious, and said, "What is this? The book is all about him!" I said, "It's a biography." And Ginsberg says, "But it's so personal." That's when I realized, these guys don't just not read books — they don't know what books are.
It would certainly be ironic if the first nail in the coffin of this post-literate presidency were hammered home by a book.
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wreichard
48 days ago
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“That's when I realized, these guys don't just not read books — they don't know what books are.”
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angelchrys
48 days ago
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Overland Park, KS
iridesce
48 days ago
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