Speaking of Incalculable…

Here is this morning’s banner headline in The New York Times:

It is macabre and self-defeating to get very far into the fool’s game of comparing mass deaths. But this description of 100,000 premature passings just simply uber-begs the question: Why isn’t every 100,000 excess deaths an incalculable loss, a scandal, a moral challenge?

The only reasonable answer, of course, is that it is.

So, why then do the 100,000 people who die early every year (40,000 of which lose their lives via the violent horror of automotive collisions) in the United States as a result of cars-first transportation not only not a scandal, but not even mentionable?

The only reasonable answer to that question is that TPTB and BAU dictate that only certain incalculable losses are to be calculated and discussed. The ones that arise from ordinary profit-making endeavors are certainly not among these.

A Moment for Natural Experiments

Jared Diamond often points out that, sometimes, human history serves up parallel events that, in and of themselves, come close to allowing the kinds of confident comparisons the simpler sciences obtain via planned experiments.

We are now inside a special time-window where this point becomes pretty obvious and extra-important, aren’t we?

Consider, for example, the news on metropolitan air pollution levels.

Here is a telling depiction of what’s happened recently above Los Angeles:

It’s interesting — and, of course, macabre — that, at least in China, reduced air pollution might save as many lives as the pandemic ends.

Some fraction of that is due to reduced automobile use in Chinese cities.

And the point also applies, at least to some extent, in de-industrialized places like the United States, where wall-to-wall cars and trucks have their all-too-obvious, yet still thoroughly unmentionable, mortality effects.

Mickey Mousing the GND

mickey in car cartoon

Most likely, the Democratic Party’s ruling elite (meaning its big donors, office holders, and back-officers) will again succeed in staving off Bernie Sanders (meaning the actual preferences of the majority of its voters).

Here’s a prediction about what will take place in that process: The Green New Deal will not disappear, but merely get repackaged and used as a DP marketing tool.

It isn’t hard to see coming, if you look. Consider, for example, the contrast between these two items:

ghg in CA graphic

The Green New Deal leads with bold action to zero out Los Angeles’ main sources of harmful emissions: buildings, transportation, electricity, and trash. Our accelerated goals and new targets include:


Building a zero carbon electricity grid — reaching an accelerated goal of 80% renewable energy supply by 2036 as we lead California toward 100% renewables by 2045.

Creating a Jobs Cabinet to bring city, labor, educational, and business leaders together to support our effort to create 300,000 green jobs by 2035 and 400,000 by 2050.

Mandating that all new municipally owned buildings and major renovations be all-electric, effective immediately, and that every building in Los Angeles — from skyscrapers to single family homes — become emissions free by 2050.

Achieving a zero waste future by phasing out styrofoam by 2021, ending the use of plastic straws and single-use takeout containers by 2028, and no longer sending any trash to landfills by 2050.

Recycling 100% of our wastewater by 2035; sourcing 70% of our water locally — a significant increase from our existing pathway; and nearly tripling the maximum amount of stormwater captured.

Planting and maintaining at least 90,000 trees — which will provide 61 million square feet of shade — citywide by 2021 and increasing tree canopy in low-income, severely heat impacted areas by at least 50% by 2028.

That second item is a synopsis of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recently unveiled “LA’s Green New Deal” policy.

Garcetti, whose pappy’s O.J Trial fame allowed him to grow his very own big wig, is clearly positioning himself for a future run at being Babysitter-in-Chief in the Clintonian, big money, BAU D-brand manner.

So, let’s ask: Can you spot the rather obvious omission in The Mayor’s “bold” new policy?

The intro does mention “transportation” — in second, not first, place, of course — but then…crickets.

Meanwhile, it’s really quite clever for history’s single greatest municipal emitter of automotive pollution to select now and 50 percent as its baselines, isn’t it?

The Chutzpah of the Age

At Nuremberg, they at least set out the standards for deciding who was a public-sector mass murderer.

No such standards, of course, exist for our glorious entrepreneurial killers. Because, you know, “free market.”

Consider the breathtaking temerity of this recent statement from Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors:

We’re very much looking forward to rolling out this technology because we do believe it will save lives.

quoted in Automotive News, June 30, 2019

The technology in question is the haloware/vaporware known as robotic (“self-driving”) cars, a product which — lo and behold — “everybody in the industry underestimated how hard a problem this was going to be.” [industry observer quoted in same source as Barra quote above]

But the deeper story here is Barra’s shamelessness about the actual relationship between her organization/product and public health.

death rate chart

In the United States, you see, automobile collisions alone (cars-first transportation also kills in quantity in less immediate ways) have, since their epochal triumph over sane transportation technologies, killed almost four million people.

Despite sponsored and faux-critical hoopla about safety improvements that have reduced the physical danger of individual automobile collisions, the present rate of annual car crash deaths remains about 40,000, which just happens to be exactly the average for the years since 1945.

Oh, and, by the way, more than 8,000 of our current annual dose of 40,000 car-cullings befall individuals aged 0 to 24, a.k.a. children. Children. 8,000. Killed. Every year. By automobile collisions.

Meanwhile, over the top of it all, Ms. Barra speaks of “saving lives.”

Orwell couldn’t have dreamt up this true, and continuing, story.

Lots of Children Left Behind

Over at NBC News, this chart appears under the headline “Guns kill twice as many kids as cancer does, new study shows”:

graph showing child death rates

Golly, corporate news source, tell us: what else does this graph show? And why-oh-why might you not be putting that top line there in your headline? Might it be that the automotive-industrial complex remains your biggest source of customers?

A real crank might also observe that the NEJM report from which the graph and data were taken here cuts off the definition of childhood at age 19 (see the fine print above).

But we now know that basic human brain maturation extends to about age 30. By leaving out late childhood — the life stage that includes those we have erroneously called “young adults” — the chart here is distinctly conservative in its depiction of the automotive meat-grinder’s effects on our youth.

Our economic system’s #1 commodity is also the #1 health menace for Americans in their early 20s, as it is for those aged 1 to 19.

California Dreaming

California aspires to obtain all its electricity from renewable sources, 27 years hence. The great fly in the ointment? As always, corporate capitalism’s lifeblood commodity, the private automobile.

The reality is that the U.S. automotive fleet is now the nation’s #1 domestic GHG emitter, out-GHG-polluting not just each of the economy’s other four end-use sectors (farms, retailers, factories, households), but also the entire electricity-generation industry. And the gulf will only widen.

ghg graph
Source: Bloomberg Finance LP 2018

All unmentioned and unmentionable, of course…

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.