In which Seth Meyers makes a better point than Nick Kristof…

I should’ve just read another article about Egypt.  It’s taken five or ten for me to attempt to get some facts about why what’s going on over there is going on.    I get enough opinions in my normal news intake, thank you, so I generally don’t bother with the opinion columns in my New York Times reading.  But this headline got the better of me“Watch Out! The Assault Vehicle Is Loose!”

Well…it wasn’t what I was hoping for.  The headline was tongue-in-cheek and the conceit of the article was framing the gun control argument as a car-control argument.

I suppose the example is illustrative in comparing something dangerous we are—somewhat—willing to regulate (cars) with something we get political about regulating (guns).  I’m all for reconsidering the role of guns in this country , but the thing is, we do exhibit our toughness with our vehicles, we do cling to our right to vehicles even though they are deadly weapons, and there remains an insane amount of room to make them safer.

Kristof’s altered reality in which he makes his point…I think it’s supposed to be funny, but it just strikes me as reality.  I said earlier we get political about gun control, but really, transit is becoming just as partisan.  In Assault Vehiclopolis “The powerful National Automobile Association warned today that vehicle regulation, such as a ban on assault vehicles, would be “the first step toward totalitarianism.”   In the real world?  I mean, hello, new Congress .  Does this really sound so different? “They want Americans to take transit and move to the inner cities. They want Americans to move to the urban core, live in tenements, [and] take light rail to their government jobs. That’s their vision for America.”

Back in AV, “Taken aback by the furor, the White House denied any interest in banning assault vehicles or registering all vehicles. The White House said that the president was considering more modest steps, such as banning repeat drunken drivers from the roads, prohibiting televisions mounted on the steering wheel and curbs on lethal car accessories that serve no transportation purpose — such as bayonets mounted on the front and back bumpers.”  Bayonets aside (though my 20 year old Volvo would’ve looked pretty kick-ass with some, I think) are these televisions mounted on steering wheels really so hyperbolic when NHTSA attributes 4 out of 5 MVCs to distracted driving and a 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed those who text while driving have a 23% (that’s right twenty-three!) higher risk of being in a collision?

“The solution is more tanks, not fewer tanks.”  It always is….it always is….except that it isn’t.  Except when multiple cities—Portland, San Francisco, Milwaukee(andSeattle and St. Louis if they could find the courage to do the right thing)—have shown that tearing down freeways doesn’t worsen traffic—it actually improves it.

Kristof is deeply involved in international advocacy issues and—though I don’t always agree with him—has done more than I could probably ever hope to, including winning the Literary Peace Prize for his fantastic book Half the Sky.  It is exactly this fact—that he is a clear-eyed voice for international crises—which makes his myopia on the subject come as a surprise to me.  Wonder if he’s seen the statistic that by 2020 road traffic injuries are predicted to be the 3rd leading cause of disability adjusted life years lost globally—that’s ahead of HIV/AIDS.

One more quote from Assault Vehiclopolis: “It’s tough because our country’s history is steeped in automobiles,” Well, I agree there.

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