What Causes Obesity?

emperor on parade In America, it has long been taboo to pay critical attention to automobiles’ centrality in our lives. It remains a very effective and important taboo.

Witness “The Toll of America’s Obesity,” an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. In it, a pediatrician and an economist, both from Harvard, review the basic facts about the continuing escalation of obesity rates and burdens in the United States. In the author’s view, obesity is a “diet-related disease.”

And, indeed, so it is.

But can anybody think of another reason why obesity has been relentlessly worsening across recent decades? Might it have anything to do with the continuing automobilization of our lifespaces? Might worsening fatness in America also be caused by our ever-deepening, never-so-much-as-mentioned subjection to mandatory cars-first transportation policies and outcomes?

The question answers itself, yet remains utterly out-of-bounds. This is true even on the political left, which has never quite summoned the chutzpah to take the first step toward transcending prevailing ideology/taboo. That first step would be a serious class analysis of transportation in the USA.

How We Kill Our Children (Corrected)

In a prior post, DbC misread the statistics and mis-reported the story of the death of children in the United States. In preparing that post, I mistook the number of children who were involved in a fatal car crash with the number of children killed in car crashes.

The real story is that, in the year 2016 (the most recent available), a total of 42,123 people aged 1 through 24 died in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control data. Of these, 8,210 died in car crashes. That is 19.5 percent of the total.

So, the true story is this: Automotive collisions are the leading cause of death in the United States for those aged 1 through 24, but the numbers are lower than DbC previously reported here. Apologies for implanting untruth.

Guns and Cars

In 2016 in the United States, a total of 42,123 people aged 1 through 25 died, from all natural and artificial causes. Of these children, 8,210, or 19.5 percent, were killed in automotive collisions. This result was not an anomaly. It happens every year on a similar order.

On this day of rallies for sanity and democracy and public health, I think this literally unremarked fact is worth mentioning.

Maybe someday, we, the people, will shatter the Great Taboo on telling the truth about cars-first transportation in America. We’d better, because that core institution is speeding us to Carmageddon, whether we notice it or not.

Subsidized Oxymorons

ossuary Massive personal and collective harm are features, nut bugs, in cars-first transportation. Basing everyday locomotion on heavy, complex, independently-steered boxes traveling at high speeds is never going to become compatible with anything like maximum personal safety and overall ecological sustainability. The laws of physics are, as Billy Bragg once observed, very, very strict.

None of this prevents those who prosper from the sociopathic reign of the automobile from pushing, with the help (or at least the non-resistance) of those who should know better, the delusion that better roads and cars are somehow, someway going to be enough.

Witness the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility, which expresses legitimate alarm over the fact that 90 percent of the “1.25 million people killed on the world’s roads each year and another 20-50 million seriously injured” are residents of the Third World, but proposes to solve this problem by massively deepening the world’s reliance on automobiles.

According to the World Bank, what is needed in the Third World is more conventional development (“integration” in WB lingo), so that the Third World can become like the First World, where the level of “traffic safety” is, it says, just fine and dandy.

Should we somehow manage to transcend it and pass on the basis for further human progress, our grandchildren will want to laugh and vomit over such high-minded nonsense, which would be hugely obvious and repulsive in any age not utterly lobotomized by its own ruling ideas.

Kid Killer

Per The New York Times, May 29, 2017:

The most common cause of death in children under the age of 15 is unintentional injury, and the most common cause of unintentional injury is car accidents. Between 2010 and 2014, 2,885 children died in motor vehicle accidents nationwide — an average of 11 children a week. That number excludes pedestrians.

Centers for Damage Control

fox guarding henhouse This week’s howler comes from Gwen Bergen, PhD, MPH, MS, behavioral scientist in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control [the DUIPNCIPC!] at the Centers for Disease Control:

“Motor vehicle crashes and related injuries are preventable.”

That of course, is not only official doctrine, but complete malarkey. No amount of safety technology is going to stop large subsets of 200,000,000+ independently steered (or remotely commanded) metals boxes traveling at high speeds on intersecting and undulating paths from colliding with one another and thereby injuring their occupants.

But even those whose careers stem from genuine worry over the appalling, undiscussed carnage of cars-first transportation can’t summon the chutzpah to face and state the plain truth that automotive travel is remarkably dangerous to the human person. Admitting this technological fact is simply and deeply verboten in our market-totalitarian society.

Instead, you get apparently sincere professional hopes pinned to utterly unexamined strings of reassuring presumptions:

“Although much has been done to help keep people safe on the road, no state has fully implemented all the interventions proven to increase the use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts; reduce drinking and driving; and improve teen driver safety.”

News flash: Not only are no states going to do everything possible (which would include criminalizing cell phone use inside cars), but TCT says it again: Even if some state did everything on Dr. Bergen’s list, it would still be home to huge surpluses of preventable, inexcusable injuries and premature deaths.

Eyes on the Dough

The auto and “tech” capitalists are peddling the idea that putting voice command electronics in cars is all about safety, because it allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road. It is, of course, horseshit.

According to Automotive News, the research turns up the usual reality:

Car companies have turned to voice controls to cut down on distracted driving. But systems such as Apple Inc.’s Siri electronic assistant, which automakers started installing in vehicles in 2013, may be as mentally taxing as the buttons and knobs they replace, research released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests.

The companies have turned to things like this not for safety, but because they are highly profitable add-ons. Anyhow:

For the AAA-commissioned experiments, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, test subjects in a driving simulator used Siri to send text messages, post updates on Facebook and modify their calendar appointments. The test subjects averaged 4 points on a 5-point scale used to gauge mental strain while using Siri — a heavier workload than experienced when talking on a handheld cell phone or changing the radio. Three virtual crashes took place in the driving simulator during the experiments. Two of them occurred while using Siri.

David Strayer, the University of Utah psychology professor who led the research, recalled watching footage of one of the crashes, in which the test subject rear-ended an abruptly stopping car. He described it as a textbook case of “inattentional blindness” — the driver’s eyes “were looking out the windshield, her hands were on the steering wheel, but she was taken aback completely by that vehicle,” he said. “The push to voice-based technology acknowledges that people need to keep their eyes on the road,” Strayer said in an interview. “Our research suggests that’s not enough. You need to be paying attention to what you’re looking at.”

Undoubtedly aware of all this from the get-go, the car capitalists have their excuses ready to roll, though it’s all but certain that nothing serious will ever be done by the purchased political system:

“This study focused on a very narrow aspect of distraction: cognitive load,” Wade Newton, the spokesman, wrote in an e-mail. “Because the study did not address either visual or manual distractions, the results tell us very little about the relative benefits of in-vehicle versus handheld systems or about the relationship between cognitive load and crash risks in the real world.”

Annalisa Bluhm, a Chevrolet spokeswoman, said that the University of Utah research used Cruze and Impala sedans from model year 2013 that were equipped with older, less sophisticated voice recognition systems. She said GM still believes hands-free controls are safer than using a cellphone behind the wheel, and that it is working hard to improve those systems.

Improve, not remove, of course.

The Wages of Opportunism

C. Wright Mills complained of the U.S. left’s “liberal practicality,” by which he meant a tendency to sell out at the first chance, a “kind of democratic opportunism.”

quixote Ralph Nader, for all his upsides, is a major case-in-point, and precisely in the area that delivered him his fame — cars.

Consider the pathetic lawsuit just filed by Public Citizen and allies. The goal? To force car capitalists to make back-up cameras standard on all car models sold in the United States. The alleged reason? Such cameras “would prevent 95 to 112 deaths and 7,072 to 8,374 injuries each year.”

Now, let’s take 112 deaths as a real number. In 2012, a total of 34,080 people were killed in U.S. automotive collisions. 112 divided by 34,080 equals 0.003. That’s three-tenths of one percent.

And, of course, one major question is how much good a back-up camera actually does. If a child darts in front or back of a moving car, how much does the camera speed driver reaction time? It certain can’t be 100%, and might well be close to zero. Meanwhile, according to the Naderian logic of lawsuit, once the cameras are mandatory, the inherent dangers of automobiles to darting children are just fine and dandy.

Such tragi-comic flea-fucking, is, alas, the beginning, middle, and end of what passes for transportation militancy in this market totalitarian society, despite the times.