Pedestrian deaths and ice clearing: two silly memes du jour

posted at 11:36 am on January 20, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Did Michelle Obama cause an uptick in pedestrian deaths last year?  Did the sidewalk outside of a DC academy get de-iced because the President’s daughters attend it?  In both cases, the answer is no.  First, let’s look at the report on pedestrian deaths and WMAL’s link to the First Lady, which was linked and tweeted by Drudge this morning:

The Governors Highway Safety Association says pedestrian deaths increased in the first half of 2010 and the First Lady’s program to get Americans to be more active could be partly responsible.

Governors Highway Safety Administration spokesman Jonathan Adkins told 630 WMAL that Michelle Obama is “trying to get us to walk to work and exercise a little bit more.  While that’s good, it also increases our exposure to risk.”

After four straight years of steady declines, pedestrian deaths were up during the first six months of 2010, the latest figures available to be studied.

Other factors include distracted drivers, distracted pedestrians and what Adkins calls “aggressive pedestrians.”

Wow — pedestrian deaths must have really surged after Mrs. Obama told us to start walking to work, right?  As James Joyner discovered when researching the topic, the increase was … seven:

Via Dr. Google, I see “The Governors Highway Safety Association says in the report that 1,891 pedestrians were killed in the first six months of 2010, up from 1,884 in the same period in 2009 — a 0.4 percent increase. ”  Now, I don’t know the historical variation in these things, but I’d say offhand that this is a statistically insignificant swing.   Regardless, a variety of factors — alcohol, technology, and road design among them  – seem to be considered possible explanations for the slight reversal in trend.

Second, while I don’t pay much attention to the social campaigns of First Ladies, I don’t recall Mrs. Obama telling people that they should get drunk, strap on an iPod, and go wandering around the streets reading their BlackBerries.  She’s advising people to get some exercise, not to go wander around in traffic.  Yes, that’s technically a form of exercise.  There are others.

An increase of 0.4% is, statistically speaking, noise.  It’s a random variation that occurs in smaller data sets.  Changes in weather conditions could account for the difference.  Speaking of which, the Daily Caller reports that an ice storm in DC left sidewalks very dangerous for pedestrians this week, with a few exceptions, one of those being the sidewalks in front of the prestigious private school Sidwell Friends.  Their headline sets up an implication that the difference between Sidwell’s sidewalks and those of the public school across the street have something to do with the fact that the Obamas send their daughters to Sidwell:

Ice cleared from outside Obama daughters’ school, but not from public school across the street

The reporting is a bit better than the headline, though:

Sidwell Friends School, the education home to President Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia, made an exceptional effort to salt the icy sidewalks on campus Tuesday morning.

Exceptional, because some D.C. public schools failed to receive the same treatment, leaving treacherous pathways glazed over with hazardous ice.

They didn’t fail to receive the same treatment; they failed to make the same effort.  Sidwell cleared the sidewalks themselves to make sure their students didn’t injure themselves on the way to class.  The city apparently didn’t or couldn’t make the same effort to clear the sidewalk in front of Hearst Elementary.  Journalist Daniel Wattenberg, whose blog was the source of the Daily Caller story, got it right in his first-person report:

I don’t know who cleared the Sidwell side, but I know somebody over there understood whose responsibility it was. As far as I can tell, it’s that accountability that was missing on our side of the street, where lines of authority were as uncertain as the footing. I asked the school’s principal who to call about the ice. ‘Parks and Rec,’ he offered without hesitation.

And Wattenberg goes even further to the heart of the matter:

The Hearst ice illustrates anew an old problem with socializing responsibility: When everybody’s responsible, nobody’s responsible.

A philosopher friend of mine recently brushed off questions about the level of government at which public policy is decided as “uninteresting.” Are they? At the local level responsibility is more focused, information flows are more immediate and relevant, and personal stakes in outcomes are more meaningful. We have skin in the game, typically including asses on the line. So, we act.

Remote control tends to blur lines of responsibility and siphon energy and initiative from communities and individuals. So, we punt to the city education bureaucracy. Which punts to a principal. Who punts to Parks and Rec. At which point the city might as well punt too: Snow day!

Indeed.  Sidwell’s sidewalks got cleared because the responsibility for doing so rested with Sidwell alone, and so they acted.  That’s the reason why people with the means to do so send their children to private schools — because of the accountability and performance.  The Obamas send their daughters there because Sidwell takes care of its business; Sidwell didn’t take care of its business just because the Obamas send their daughters to the school.  If Sidwell was less competent in that regard, parents would enroll their children elsewhere.  In fact, the Sidwell lesson for today is how the private sector responds better to the needs of their consumers regardless of how influential those customers are — and emphasizes the need for more choice in primary education.

We have plenty of reasons to disagree with this administration and fight their policies.  These are not those.


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Other factors include distracted drivers, distracted pedestrians and what Adkins calls “aggressive pedestrians.”

It’s Rush’s fault, they were listening to him on the radio. The fact that they were “aggressive” proves it.

Socratease on January 20, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Was anyone hit by a bus while eating a cupcake?

Barrack on January 20, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Yeah this is pretty lame.

We need to stick to real life or we become the left.

petunia on January 20, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Silliness abounds.

mchristian on January 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

We have plenty of reasons to disagree with this administration and fight their policies.

like closed captioning.

sesquipedalian on January 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

The real question about those pedestrian deaths is…how many of them stepped in front of a bus and of those, how many had recently seen a photo of Michelle Obama? Coincidence? I think not.

Extrafishy on January 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

I saw the “pedestrian deaths caused by Michelle Obama” making its rounds and assumed it was originally put out there to show how foolish people sound when they say the shootings in Tucson were caused by Sarah Palin.

Bruce MacMahon on January 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

On the first story, just about as stupid as blaming “crosshairs”.

WashJeff on January 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Yer right Ed. The Obama’s do enough destruction to this country that we don’t need to manufacture events to blame them for.

csdeven on January 20, 2011 at 11:46 AM

b b b but… more government is the solution, right?

If only those poor victims had a government that cared more about them.

Once a meme, always a meme. And… Agressive pedestrians?

Uncivil, right-wing political discourse must surely be to blame!

singlemalt 18 on January 20, 2011 at 11:47 AM

And this is the same Admin that canceled school vouchers in D.C. if I remember correctly.

Amendment X on January 20, 2011 at 11:47 AM

sewerpedastery’s tiny brain found its chimera.

Inanemergencydial on January 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM

I hadn’t seen these memes before this post, so not sure how much they were really “out there” to begin with.

changer1701 on January 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Ice cleared from outside Obama daughters’ school, but not from public school across the street
=====================================

This is the handi-work of the Ice Queen,
no,not Pelosi….but..HilRod!!!

canopfor on January 20, 2011 at 11:53 AM

I’m guessing pedestrian deaths are up mostly because drivers are distracted talking and texting on their cell phones.

rockmom on January 20, 2011 at 11:54 AM

I laughed at this as soon as I saw that Jim Hoft had posted it.

Sharke on January 20, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Yeah this is pretty lame.

We need to stick to real life or we become the left.

petunia on January 20, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Bingo. If we sink to their level, then there is no distinction between us.

iurockhead on January 20, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Could it also be that the school across the street might require the expertise of a union to perform this task? Could the process be considered not cost effective for the public schools? Did the mail get delivered that day on those icy streets?

Rovin on January 20, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Pedestrian deaths will skyrocket when we can’t afford to put gas in the car, forcing us to either walk, ride a bike or use public transportation.

Or something like that.

Knucklehead on January 20, 2011 at 11:56 AM

We need a Walking Czar.

And probably a Snow Shoveling Czar.

Lily on January 20, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Yeah this makes it look like BDS coming from our own side. Stupid.

Obama isn’t hiding behind every bush tree waiting to get you.

Mord on January 20, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Here the problem…………………..

the Obama’s are shaving ice,its then falling,
causing bad things to happen…..

its a outrage…..
=======================
Michelle Obama:

President Obama Treats Daughters to Shave Ice

canopfor on January 20, 2011 at 11:58 AM

sesquipedalian on January 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Like oppressing free speech.

Chip on January 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM

We need a Walking Czar.

And probably a Snow Shoveling Czar.

Lily on January 20, 2011 at 11:58 AM

Lily:Now yer talk’n,and a Quality Ice Controller Officer!

canopfor on January 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM

The political tone in this country would indeed change if everyone would get their political heads out of their political arses.

itsacookbook on January 20, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Bingo. If we sink to their level, then there is no distinction between us.

iurockhead on January 20, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Philosophically correct, but the aggressor still sets the rules. The high road is admirable until it leads to a shear cliff.

Extrafishy on January 20, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Pedestrian deaths increased are probably linked more to increased texting on the move. Our new fancy phones can kill us on the ground just as dead as behind the wheel if we are really dumb about their use.

michaelo on January 20, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Ugh….de-icing,just wait till the Environmental Wacko’s
hear about this!!

And..has there been an Environmental Impact Study…
like maybe….$100 Billion,to study it,

another bailout cometh babey!!(snark).

canopfor on January 20, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Better question:

WHY aren’t the children of members of Congress and the White House sending their children to DC public schools?

GarandFan on January 20, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Totally disagree.
At Sidwell the ice was cleared or someone would have lost their job as the precious darlings of Washington’s most elite send their kids there. They are denied nothing.

Across the street if the sidewalks are icy then that’s just too bad for anyone who has to negotiate them. Someone might receive any angry phone call but that will be just about it.
The two schools may be only across the street from each other but they may as well be on different continents as they are two very very different worlds. Thode children will never play together and while one groups going to college many in the other group are going to prison.

To say that Sidwell cleared their sidewalk because they took the initiative is to say that Obama’s kids have a Secret Service detail because they are just concerned parents who want to make sure their kids get to school on time.
It’s no different than Michelle Obama crowing about how she serves her kids nutritious meals when she has access to one of the most professional and famous kitchen staffs in the world while criticizing the mothers whose kids go to the school across the street for giving their kids too much McDonalds.

NeoKong on January 20, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Yeah, both of these items were truly silly.

Like others have said, plenty to criticize from the left. This, however, ain’t it.

Getting more exercise is a great idea! As long as we aren’t compelled by law to do it, I’m all for encouraging it. And, if you do choose to get your body in motion, like everything else, it is the responsibility of each of us to make sure we’re engaged in safe activities.

pbundy on January 20, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Online Streaming Radio Rush Limbaugh!
=========================================

http://player.streamtheworld.com/_players/entercom/player/?id=KNSS

canopfor on January 20, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Agreed. There are more important issues then these. However, I’ve found grocery shopping with a cart is dangerous now days. I’m a woman, but cannot understand why people…especially women in the stores lived without cellphones not so long ago? They toddle around the store, with a full cart, with a phone glued to their ear, trying to maneuver from aisle to aisle. This is a dangerous combo. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been swiped, or hit. lol

When I enter a store….I either turn the ringer off, or put it on vibrate. Not only will vibrate give a tingle to your leg, if you carry the phone in your pocket, but it’s quiet, and you can just check to see, if it’s a call or text. If it’s a call and it’s important, they’ll leave a message you can check later, when you’re not a danger to others. If it’s a message, step aside, read the message, then carry on.

That’s my rant. :D

capejasmine on January 20, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Like oppressing free speech.

Chip on January 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM

who’s suppressing your free speech, dear? evidently you’re still free to spout nonsense, aren’t you?

sesquipedalian on January 20, 2011 at 12:13 PM

OH! Almost forgot. I just read this, and with the word about focusing on more important issues…thought this was a good time to share it.

In the Middle East, symbols matter. The waving of the Palestinian flag in Washington, D.C. sends a loud and clear message to Israel and the world: The United States is now one very big step closer to recognizing a Palestinian state, with or without security for the State of Israel.

And the United States is willing to fly a terrorist flag in Washington to send this profound and unfortunate message.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/01/flying_the_terrorist_flag_in_w.html

capejasmine on January 20, 2011 at 12:13 PM

The Hearst ice illustrates anew an old problem with socializing responsibility: When everybody’s responsible, nobody’s responsible.

Reminds me of “It takes a village to raise a child”. Remember that? The Russins have a more truthful saying, “A child with three mothers is neglected”.

Mason on January 20, 2011 at 12:17 PM

You need to cut the Prinicpal of the public school some slack. I’m sure he filled the requisite forms for clearing the sidewalk. By the time these forms work there way through the system, I’m sure they’ll send out a crew to clear the sidewalks (of course, this will be sometime in late April).

He could just go out and to it himself, but that would no doubt be some sort of union violation which would jeopardize his job.

rockhead on January 20, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Like oppressing free speech.

Chip on January 20, 2011 at 11:59 AM

who’s suppressing your free speech, dear? evidently you’re still free to spout nonsense, aren’t you?

sesquipedalian on January 20, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Is it not the Oppressive-Left, using the Tucson tragedy as their latest “Serious Crisis” that told us to “Tone it down” and talked of a “New Civility”?

As well as try to use the same crisis to further, disarm the law-abiding?

Chip on January 20, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Pedestrian deaths will skyrocket when we can’t afford to put gas in the car, forcing us to either walk, ride a bike or use public transportation.

Or something like that.

Knucklehead on January 20, 2011 at 11:56 AM

On the bright side, less democrats will be driving, therefore, less brain dead drivers, therefore less private POVs hitting pedestrians.

The downside will be only Public Union Sector employees will be driving the government vehicles, therefore no one will be held accountable for all the pedestrians, bike riders, etc hit by the union employees.

That possibility exists only if you can find public transportation at all. The union employees will probably park somewhere and consume massive quantities of alcoholic beverages.

PrettyD_Vicious on January 20, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Sidwell was a top tier private school long before the Obama’s arrived in town and will be long after they leave. While DC does a TERRIBLE job clearing snow & ice and it’s very well known that the mayor’s street, city council,etc. get priority…it has nothing to do with this non-story.

DCJeff on January 20, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Do you have a response sesquipedalian?

Or do you want to just

spout nonsense?

Chip on January 20, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Sidwell Friends School, the education home to President Obama’s daughters Sasha and Malia, made an exceptional effort to salt** the icy sidewalks on campus Tuesday morning.

.
**Salt donated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg

mrt721 on January 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Yeah this is pretty lame.

We need to stick to real life or we become the left.

petunia on January 20, 2011 at 11:44 AM

I for one am actually happy to have something to defend the Obamas on. If find myself attacking them on an idiotic thing like this, I’ll have to shoot myself.

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on January 20, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Extrafishy on January 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Pure Gold!

TugboatPhil on January 20, 2011 at 12:53 PM

Stick with the real problems. If there are more pedestrians it’s probably more to do with gas prices than anything Mrs. Obama had to say.

Cindy Munford on January 20, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Here in Los Angeles, we call off school if a quarter inch falls. Perhaps the rest of the country needs to follow our lead in safety.

unclesmrgol on January 20, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Yeah this is pretty lame.

We need to stick to real life or we become the left.

petunia on January 20, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Well said. And with all of the real issues that need work, there’s no need to conjure up more reasons to oppose the WH.

hawksruleva on January 20, 2011 at 1:06 PM

like closed captioning.

sesquipedalian on January 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM

[Trolls]

Pattosensei on January 20, 2011 at 1:15 PM

WHY aren’t the children of members of Congress and the White House sending their children to DC public schools?

GarandFan on January 20, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Indeed. Why are the Congresscritters not on Social Security and why are they exempt from ObamaCare? Why are the Obamas exempt from ObamaCare?

Do as I say, not as I do – preaching drinking water, while drinking wine:

…murmurings of the little harp-girl’s song in Heinrich Heine’s 1844 poem “A Winter’s Tale”

I know the authors, I know the tune,
I know it line for line
In public, water is all they preach;
While in secret they guzzle wine.

Plenty to rip the WH and Congress critters on, much bigger than this nonsense.

Schadenfreude on January 20, 2011 at 1:25 PM

They didn’t fail to receive the same treatment; they failed to make the same effort. Sidwell cleared the sidewalks themselves to make sure their students didn’t injure themselves on the way to class. The city apparently didn’t or couldn’t make the same effort to clear the sidewalk in front of Hearst Elementary.

Hmmm…Public School serviced by Public Works. Union involvement CAN’T be involved here….no way….nuh uh….

Unions don’t like to work in the cold…..ask NYC.

Sponge on January 20, 2011 at 1:28 PM

We have plenty of reasons to disagree with this administration and fight their policies. These are not those.

Where I agree with this statement and we don’t need the right wing of the media going full retard (sorry, but it’s still a valid word used to describe the left), what’s wrong with a little taste of their own medicine?

Sponge on January 20, 2011 at 1:30 PM

I think Michelle Obama is responsible for those additional pedestrian deaths, and I have a great way for liberals to defend her for it: Yes it is sad for the families who died, but how much sadness was avoided because of families not losing a loved one? We see the handful who died, but what is unseen is the many who didn’t have a fatal heart attack because they were getting the exercise they needed thanks to Michelle Obama.

Now understanding the seen versus the unseen is not so easy, so liberals should read a book by a Frenchmen (liberals love the French!) names Frederic Bastiat called The Law (liberals love laws!) about understanding what is seen versus what is unseen in evaluating the behavior of governments and people.

The good news is there is no way that reading Bastiat, or following up with some Hayek or Friedman, will sway liberals’ faith in Mrs. Obama’s husband, redistribution, socialism, the “Affordable Care” act, or anything like that. No, not at all. Just read it to be better able to defend Michelle from this silly charge.

raybury on January 20, 2011 at 1:35 PM

I think that the DOJ is following DHS lead. Now that terrorism is a “Man Caused Disaster”, maybe ‘Aggressive Pedestrian’ the DOJ new term for Mugger.

OBQuiet on January 20, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Philosophically correct, but the aggressor still sets the rules. The high road is admirable until it leads to a shear cliff.

Extrafishy on January 20, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Bingo.

To me personally, one of the worst ways to betray your morals is to follow them too closely.

If one truly believes in pacifism, he will realize that the worst thing to do is to not fight when fighting is absolutely necessary.

Chaz706 on January 20, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

Tzetzes on January 20, 2011 at 3:00 PM

We need government mandatory and funded pedestrian airbags.

Caper29 on January 20, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Los Angeles has a horrible record of pedestrian deaths and an increasing number of them are caused by hit and run drivers.

One guess as to who most of those perpetrators are.

And people wonder why, nobody walks in L.A.

The Ugly American on January 20, 2011 at 3:14 PM

…the Sidwell lesson for today is how the private sector responds better to the needs of their consumers regardless of how influential those customers are — and emphasizes the need for more choice in primary education.

Hit that one right on the head, Ed. Private sector is accountable and responsive or. they. fail.

The government…not so much. Lousy in small things, terrible in large things.

The usual example, the non response at the Post Office is just the tip of the iceberg. Wait till the eqivalent of postal workers don’t come to your bedside when you’r sick and need a real caregiver. Government medical workers will not be accountable, they will be postal workers in nurses’ uniforms… unresponsive and surly…with a coffee break that’s lots more important than servicing a customer.

Nightmare much?

marybel on January 20, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Los Angeles has a horrible record of pedestrian deaths and an increasing number of them are caused by hit and run drivers.

One guess as to who most of those perpetrators are.

Waitress/actresses?
I need another guess.

tgillian on January 20, 2011 at 4:05 PM

Jeesh. I don’t like Michelle Obama (she gives me chills whenever I see her [no not chris matthews tingles]) but that was a bit much blaming her for 7 deaths. This smacks of reverse Palin Derangement Syndrome.

Someone with too much time on their hands over at the Governors Highway Safety Association?

Let’s worry more about the potential deaths of Seniors after being denied healthcare because we’re too broke, from paying 700 billion in union pensions, to pay for them.

I’m afraid we should take the rainbows and skittles the Obama Media has strewn across the sky about the so-called upturn with a cake of salt.

The foreclosure mess has just started to unravel (banks are now abandoning foreclosed houses), the 99′ers are increasing in number (from the 99 weeks folks got for unemployment) and there are NO jobs for them. NONE. Not just jobs like they used to have but NOT ANY. They’re money has dried up and they have nowhere to turn as State and Local Govt’s are broke also.

2011 will be very, very interesting. Maybe the world ending in 2012 will come as a relief.

Have a nice day. :)

jcw46 on January 20, 2011 at 4:07 PM

At least the headline didn’t read, “Obama’s daughters a salted”!

andycanuck on January 20, 2011 at 4:12 PM

I need another guess.

Drunken illegal aliens.

andycanuck on January 20, 2011 at 4:13 PM

Is Jonathon Adkins any relation to the creator of the Adkins Diet? You know, the guy that died from slipping on ice!

rmel80 on January 20, 2011 at 6:10 PM

As James Joyner discovered when researching the topic, the increase (of deaths) was … seven:

But we’ve heard, too many times to count, the Democrats urging support of some crazy regulation or law saying, if it saves only one life, it’ll all be worth it!

That wonderful Democrat concern disappears here because Michelle Obama is involved?

RJL on January 20, 2011 at 8:32 PM