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.

Caves v. Cars

cartoon The rescue of 12 Thai children aged 11 to 16 is the lead story in the world corporate media today. This, of course, is only fitting, since we all value the lives of children so highly. To lose a child is the ultimate tragedy.

Except when it is not.

According to NHTSA data, in the year 2016, automotive collisions killed 1,797 children aged 16 and under in the United States. Literally zero news outlets have have reported this fact, just as zero (other than DbC) are mentioning it now.

The loss of 5 kids under sixteen every single day is simply uninteresting and unmentionable here in the land of the free and home of the brave, because attending to it would point up the fact that corporate capitalism’s core commodity is the leading cause of death for American children aged 1 and above.

As Reverend Danny suggested, draw your own conclusions…

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.

Automotive Memorial Day

The NHTSA, which soft-peddles the phenomenon, estimates that, in 2017, 37,150 people died in U.S. car crashes. 8,210 of these people were children — individuals aged 1-24, whose brains were still maturing.

For those counting, that is a 9/11’s worth of artificial death every single month.

Somehow, it doesn’t count or even get mentioned, though, does it?

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.

What’s In a Word

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Orwellianly-named (ponder the concept: “highway safety”) federal agency in charge of making sure the inherently dangerous, planet-killing technology known as the automobile keeps a viable public image, “car crashes are one of the leading killers of U.S. children age 1 to 13.” That’s the audio product. When it comes time to put the story in print, the NHTSA writes: “Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old.” [emphasis added in both quotes]

In reality, of course, car crashes are the clear, no-contest #1 killer of U.S. children, even for those aged 1-13, who are not yet old enough to drive.

Why does the NHTSA pull its punches in this blatant manner? Can anybody think of a reason? Could it be that perpetuating cars-first transportation is “one of” the sociopathic behaviors our corporate overclass can’t live without?

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.