Posts Tagged ‘Risk Assessment’

Neoliberalism and the Grenfell Tower disaster

June 19, 2017

If British reports are to be believed, the Grenfell Tower inferno in central London might have been averted for a cost of a mere $6,000 — or a little more than $100 for each of the 58 unfortunates who, on the best estimate available this weekend, perished in the disaster.

According to the London Daily Mail, when the tower was recently renovated, builders opted for a cladding material so inappropriate that it is rated “flammable” in Germany and its use in tall buildings in even lightly regulated America is banned.  The attraction was a saving of a mere 10 percent.  On the Mail’s numbers, that added up to a total saving compared to a safe material of £5,000 — equal to a little more than $6,000.

Such is the dystopia that deregulation, British-style, has wrought — a dystopia whose excesses are now finally coming to be widely recognized by voters and elected leaders alike.

Source: Eamonn Fingleton

This is neoliberalism in action.   First you privatize a public service, as was done with public housing in Great Britain, because for-profit corporations are supposed to be intrinsically better able to make decisions than public bodies.  Then you make decisions based on assumptions about profit-and-loss, because this is supposed to be objective and rational.

Also, you judge the worth of a human life based on that person’s financial net worth.

Thankfully, not everybody makes decisions on this basis.  The brave firefighters who saved Grenfell Tower residents were motivated by a sense of duty, not a cost-benefit analysis.  Yet firefighters, too, in the UK as well as the USA, are being weighed in the neoliberal balance and found wanting.


Terrorism in perspective: some numbers

December 3, 2015

Double click to enlarge.

Terrorism is an outrage, but it isn’t a worse individual danger for Europeans or Americans than many other things.  Above all, it is not a reason to surrender to fear, or to let our fear override our judgment or our principles.


Notice that the two countries which have suffered the most from terrorism are Iraq and Afghanistan, which the United States invaded supposedly to fight terror.


The passing scene – August 26, 2015

August 26, 2015

Coal Dethroned by Laura Gottesdiener for TomDispatch.

In Appalachia, the coal industry is in collapse, but the mountains aren’t coming back.

Donald Trump – Man of War by David Cay Johnston for the National Memo.  (Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow)

21 Questions for Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston for the National Memo.

Donald Trump’s history includes business ties with known Mafia figures and employment of illegal immigrants from Poland.

The Secret History of Jaywalking: The Disturbing Reason It Was Outlawed – And Why We Should Lift the Ban by Ravi Mangla on AlterNet.

Should Prison Sentences Be Based on Crimes That Haven’t Been Committed Yet? by Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Ben Casselman and Dana Goldstein for FiveThirtyEight.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

How to lengthen (or shorten) your life

January 26, 2013


This chart from the January issue of Scientific American provides a way of thinking about healthy and unhealthy habits.  David Spiegelhalter, a professor of risk assessment at the University of Cambridge in England, has developed a unit of risk measurement called a “microlife,” which is 30 minutes of an average person’s life expectancy.

It’s a good way to think about your habits, and to motivate yourself to adopt good habits.

Sitting on the sofa for four hours straight will subtract an hour from your expected life, but you can make that up by exercising vigorously for 20 minutes.  If you exercise for 20 minutes, you’ll add an hour to your life expectancy, according to Spiegelhalter.  But if you exercise an additional 40 minutes, you’ll gain only 30 minutes in life expectancy, which is a net loss—unless you like exercise.

Current research indicates that having a moderate alcoholic drink once a day will add 30 minutes to your expected life.  But if you take two more drinks, the gain will be canceled.   It is the fourth drink that will shorten your expected life.

Spiegelhalter very properly cautions that these are averages, and that not every individual will react in the same way.  Winston Churchill, according to a biography I’m reading, never went very long without a drink or a smoke.  I would say he was a high-functioning alcoholic.  Yet he lived to be 90.  He was in his late 60s during his first term as Prime Minister (1940-1945) and was 80 when he stepped down from his second term (1951-1955).  But that doesn’t mean that you or I could live as he did and be able to function as he did.

This is all about “chronic” risks—the things you do that affect your life expectancy in the long run.  Spiegelhalter gave an interesting TED talk on “acute” risks—the things you do that affect your odds of sudden death.