Seat Belts, Tobacco, and GMO’s.

Seat Belts, Tobacco, and GMO’s.

By William Olkowski, PhD, 8.20.12

How does one form their opinions?  It’s a puzzle of how most people form their opinions, but for me most of the time, but I study myself and mine my experiences to aid my discoveries.  The three issues above are an example, as I will explain.

Most people don’t have the time to fully understand any issue and pick up details here and there, from TV, magazines and newspapers, friends, and personal experiences.  And to these usual sources the internet must be added.  As an example, I have connected the dots from what I knew about car seat belts, the tobacco industry, and now about genetically modified crops and foods.  This is how I connect the dots.

Seat Belts

It was back in the 70s and 80s when we had a project funded by the Mott Foundation to implement a least toxic pest control for the Flint Michigan school district.  The Mott Foundation was created by profits from the General Motors industry and was based in Flint.  It was at that time the largest foundation in the US.  The industry dominated the city as most people there derived their income from that industry.  At that time there was a big “ta do” in Washington politics about what to do with the company as it was suffering from Japanese in-roads to the car market.  A government bail out was arranged and because General Motors was “too big to fail”, public money was used to save the industry.  At that time, there was a vocal but minor voice saying in real capitalism, whatever that is, an industry which fails deserves to do so and we as a society should let it fail.  The other side said think about all those lost jobs and how the people who rely on that income will suffer.  So the bail out was passed.

About that time we were flying between our base in Berkeley to DC, almost every month.  We wanted to keep our EPA funds coming so would go to DC and hustle up grant projects.  So in my expansive state I thought: “hey, we fly across the country every month, why not go for a project in the middle somewhere and the Mott Foundation was a logical source as they were interested in children and education.  So we pitched a project to the foundation and were invited to visit the foundation and make our ideas known.  That’s how we came to Flint, MI, and saw the effects of what then was a massive slow down in the car industry.

There was widespread poverty and one week when in Flint we saw what one of the consequences of the slow down were: no garbage pickup.  We were sensitive to this aspect because of the connection between rats and garbage any good pest control person knows. Pest control from my viewpoint was a ride behind the scenes.  The scene may look clean but with a little focus one can detect the rat holes and rat behavior.  In DC at night, not even very late, I could see many rats running around the big dumpsters at 9 pm, for example.  The garbage-rat connection is universal.

Now to the Seat Belt Connection.

Oh, by the way, I attributed the poor performance of the General Motors car industry to poor management.  The Japanese had usurped the market because they produced a better car.  That’s when the Honda was really something new and efficient compared to the same old junk which we produced.

So at night we head off to the local theater and see a movie with Sally Field, who portrays a prostitute.  I’ve never met a prostitute and don’t want to, but the portrayal was like most such efforts, rather poorly designed.  That being an aside, in between the two movies was a short film about seat belts.  It was the common practice in movie theaters in those days to show a short between the double bill, which was what we called two movies back to back.  The short was about using seat belts and it had been shown for 20 years or so as we could see how worn the film was by the missing spots projected onto the big screen.

The short described people who had been using seat belts survive head on collisions without even a scratch.  And they showed the mess after the two vehicles collided.  The stunned and surprised to be alive people were also interviewed.  The context is important here.  The car industry headed by GM managers had been stalling the government who wanted to have seat belts installed on every car.  Studies had shown that seat belts could save lives, then estimated at 50,000 deaths per year and 200,000 people damaged severely, Per YEAR!  The car companies, headed by GM countered that adding seat belts would wreck their economies at a time when they were fighting the Japanese car invasion.

So that was lie Number 1 in my argument.  It’s a lie as we can see now that with every car having a seat belt we are having difficulty keeping emergency rooms open from lack of car crash victims.

Box A.  Seat Belt Facts.

Seat Belts Fact Sheet

On this Page

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among those age 5-34 in the U.S.1 More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.  Adult seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes. Yet millions of adults do not wear their seat belts on every trip.

How big is the problem of crash-related injuries and death?

Motor vehicle crashes are a major public health problem.

  • More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.
  • The lifetime costs of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers were $70 billion in 2005.
  • Young adults (18-24) have the highest crash-related injury rates of all adults.


Seat Belts Have Saved an Estimated 255,000 Lives Since 1975.

In one year alone, crash deaths and injuries to drivers and passengers cost $70 billion in medical and lost work costs.

Nineteen States Still Lack a Primary Enforcement Seat Belt Law

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety maintains current information about state laws, who they cover, and fines.

See alphabetical listing of states with primary seat belt law, secondary seat belt law, and no seat belt law.


That death rate even exceeded the rate experienced in war times, except for WWII (see Box A), and the atrocity proneVietnam war.

Box B.  Total Deaths from WW2 and Vietnam. (from Wikipedia).

World War II fatality statistics vary, with estimates of total dead ranging from 50 million to over 70 million.[1] The sources cited in this article document an estimated death toll in World War II of 62 to 78 million, making it the deadliest war in world history in absolute terms of total dead but not in terms of deaths relative to the world population.  Using a rough figure of 10 years thats about 7 million per year without considering damaged people.

When scholarly sources differ on the number of deaths in a country, a range of war losses is given, in order to inform readers that the death toll is disputed. Civilians killed totaled from 40 to 52 million, including 13 to 20 million from war-related disease and famine. Total military dead: from 22 to 25 million, including deaths in captivity of about 5 million prisoners of war.

Total Deaths from Vietnam. Ibid.

U.S.military involvement ended on 15 August 1973 as a result of the Case–Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress.[29] The capture of Saigon by the Vietnam People’s Army in April 1975 marked the end of the war, and North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from fewer than one million[30] to more than three million.[21][31] Some 200,000 to 300,000 Cambodians,[18][19][20]20,000–200,000 Laotians,[32][33][34][35][36][37] and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict.[A 2] 

end box B.


Tobacco, a Carcinogen is Still Being Sold.

Until independent lawyers banned together to sue tobacco companies they were free to dispense their poisons.  The law suits only slowed down their murderous addicting products.  They are still free to sell their poisons.  Their defenses were based on distorting scientific evidence.  Freedom now services companies that kill.

Smoking is the #1 cause of preventable death in the U.S., causing over 393,000 deaths per year.  » Learn more

Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard for people of all ages, and is estimated to cause close to 50,000 deaths each year.  » Learn more.

Genetically Modified Food

Now, we have the main caloric sources of food, corn, wheat, rice and soybeans, contaminated with various poisonous proteins and even herbicides.  Plans are afoot to introduce many other engineered crops.  This is an unbelievable happening and the potential health and ecological effects have only recently been conceptualized (see J. Smith – 2007, Genetic Roulette).

Connecting the Dots

It’s been all lies right from the beginning.  Our regulators have abandoned rational thought.  It’s an example of a belief system overriding rational thought, a practice common to religious belief.  We have had rulers who commonly lie and cannot reason.

We have got used to hearing lies from government and business.  The seat belt defense was lies as history has proved.  Tobacco companies continue to sell under the idea that freedom to pollute human bodies is their right.  Now it’s Genetically Modified Food being pushed under our noses without even a label designating the food is genetically modified.

So, its lies all around and there is widespread concern that our government is continuing and expanding the practice of lying and defending itself with its police powers.  Our founding fathers must be turning in their graves.  All they feared is coming true.  We have the largest military by far in the world.  We are killing people all over the world with drones which also kill US citizens.  This is done by secret actions without trials nor public available evidence.  We are stamping on our constitution, and hoping the most right wing power monger even raised to such a level doesn’t get elected President.  It’s a new low for the US, even lower than after the Vietnam war which was a massive waste all around.  And we lost that ill conceived war.

Let’s fight back and work together to stop GM foods by having them labeled.  Then it’s up to the consumer to understand the threat these foods pose.






KOFA, King of Arizona Mines, A Painting Explained


This drawing was made in the King of Arizona Mines Preserve in Arizona (KOFA) about 10 miles south on hiway 95 from Quartzite, AZ.  Quartzite is the area where RV people come from all over the West to overwinter in a warm climate.  As you enter the “KOFA” area you will see on the map a road going east.  Drive in about 5 miles and you will come to a former parking area amidst the sujaroe cactus, mesquites and palo verdes (with their green trunks).  The parking area is just off the main road to the north.  Crystal Hill is on the map.  And it is the small mountain on the north side of the parking area across a wash.

The parking areas are delineated with rocks and concrete curbs but it is no longer used regularly for parking, so there are few if any people there.  A place with no people that has some great features for sketching was the best for us in those days.  We loved being away from so-called civilization.  Those that come there don’t bother you and so we were there by ourselves for many days.  There was an occasional vehicle going east but mostly nobody came there with some exceptions.

And as we explored forCrystalson Crystal Hill we became aware that the diggings we saw were either abandoned former mines now filled in or just exploratory holes which did not yield crystals.  I wonder if people who buy crystals know what kind of devastation is caused for their fleeting view of a glittering rock.

This colored pencil-ink drawing was done by climbing the hill above the Crystal Hill Parking Area to the right below.  The view is looking south east.  The hills in the far distance are the rim of a ancient caldera.

We learned about this caldera when we ran into a group of geologists having their annual family excursion.  They were touring the main entrance of KOFA further south towardYuma.  We got a little chummy and found out that some giant meteor had landed there and created the caldera many millions of years ago.  One could see large rocks, a foot or so across scattered outward from where the meteor probably fell.  The heavier rocks were closer and they got smaller and smaller as the distance grew outward from where we were viewing.  On a topo map of the area you can see that the mountains were in a ring but the center had been filled in.

The group of geologists with family passed along a interesting perspective on Geology.  My wife and I were amateur geologists and Helga almost became a geologist in college but was told that they did not take women.  We told them our story and they passed along theirs.  Their story was that they were all students together in graduate school and then all got jobs in different areas after graduation.  They were all teaching geology.  They would get together once per year for an expedition to some great geological area and then they would argue about what was the proper interpretation.

One of the guys confined the story of when they were on the Colorado River rafting they had started out scattered in different boats.  Then as their arguments got more and more heated they started moving into one boat while all the family members were left in their respective boats.  He considered this a commentary on geology in general, pointing out that with the same evidence there were often conflicting interpretations. And these guys liked to argue so much that it became impossible for the family members to tolerate their shouting from boat to boat.  So they were all forced into one boat so the families could have some peace and quiet to enjoy the places.  We thought this was funny, but could understand the situation as we were at  one time part of an academic institution with its intense undercurrents.

Colored pencil takes time and this one took an afternoon.  The color of the rocks never satisfied me.  You can see the slate like nature of the rocks in the foreground. The mineral iron makes the reddish color.


A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

A Story of Friendship.

By William Olkowski

6.1.12, reposted 8.19.12

The image of a friend I no longer see floated up last night — and I woke this morning with the memory still present.  Here’s the story.

We were on the farm and the hills had already dried.  I was laying a new electric line to the pump connecting it to the tank up on the hill.  The idea was to have the pump run to fill the tank when a float system in the tank triggered the pump to pump.

I wanted an automatic system as now I had to watch the indicator periodically with binoculars from the house.  When the float indicator said the tank was empty I would throw a switch at the house, about 2,000 feet away.  I had other things to do than just watch the float indicator.  So I started to put the electric line into a trench dug almost the entire distance from the pump and tank. This line would connect the pump to a trigger attached to the float inside the tank.

And here is the critical part.  The trencher stopped after hitting a large rock buried under the surface.  Large rocks were rare in our soils, which is whyCaliforniais such a great place to farm.  So I left the last 50 yards of electric line on the surface but connected to the pump.  And I tested the system by letting the system do its thing.

Our gardens were set up with drip systems and timers in each area were to water regularly but only for an hour or two, depending upon what we were growing.  With this system we were keeping a large growing space evenly watered during the host summer months, essentially by distributing the 2,000 or so gallons of water.  Maybe the trouble all started when I had an idea to create the automatic system.  But then I had to get the trencher fixed and had to go get mulch for the garden at the UC,Davisdump where the wastes from many animal houses were deposited after cleaning.

This mulch was great stuff and vital to keep water losses to evaporation as low as possible.  The deeper the mulch the greater the protection from evaporation.

The mulch was made from rice hulls, animal manures, urine and waste alfalfa.  It made a great floor covering for different animals at the University.

Rice hulls were a common agricultural waste in the area as there were many rice fields about 30 or so miles away towardSacramento.  We were in the western foothills, so I had to drive to the dump, about 20 miles, load up and come back to the farm.

As I am going back home I look toward the hills as there was a notch in the hills behind our farm and just to the right of that notch was our farm.  I liked to focus at that spot as a sort of pleasant thought, thinking, Wow, bill you own a 40 ac farm.  Such a dream come true.  The travel was boring because I had done the road so many times.  One year I made 150 trips with my old trusty 57 ford pickup (which burned oil, but kept on going.

It was my oldest vehicle of the three we had.  On a farm one falls in love with vehicles because you are with them so many hours and have to baby them at times with new belts, batteries, new tires, overheating, etc.  Without vehicles no produce can get to the point of sale, and no raw materials needed to run the farm can find their way without an effort.

A poor farmer saves everything and values even old boards which may be needed sometime.  It was painted red and I have no picture except that in my memory.

On my drive back to the farm to my surprise I see a puzzeling plume of smoke rising from what looks like is near our farm.  I squint.  Is that near where we live?  I ask myself.  I don’t race home because I never connected the location with the plume, but it looked like a grass fire.  Grass fires in the area are natural factors in ecosystem maintenance.  The native Indians knew this and actually set fires to increase fodder for grazing animals like deer and rabbits.

As I get to the dirt road leading up to our farm house I see Larry B out in the road.  Larry liked to visit with us and he helped us greatly at times, but he worked in the SF Bay area.  He was staying a few days as he was prone to do.  I stop and he says we have a fire and he is waiting for more fire trucks to make sure they know this is the road to the house.

I get up to the gate to our farm and see a line of bulldozers heading up the hill and in the small valley between our pond and the big hill (550 ft altitude).  I ask Helga what’s happening and she says while working she hears a loud snap like sound.  And after awhile she sees a tall plume of smoke rising from over where I had been working on the pump.

She says she got very frightened as the flames seemed to be very high, easily higher than the house, maybe 15-20 high.  She called the fire department and they sent two trucks and maybe 4 bulldozers.  That’s what all those large vehicles were doing in our lower pastures.

Wow, I think, so I head out to see what all the bulldozers are doing.  I pant myself up the hill to the top where I find a fire chief.  And I am now watching a crew of criminals from a local prison working to make a path through our virgin rare native vegetation and express my dismay.  One guy has a very big chain saw.

The fire chief looks grossly irritated by an ignorant home owner who does not understand anything about fires.  He explains that the crew is preparing a one yard path through the vegetation where they will try to stop the fire.  I object but it does no good.  He tells me to leave the job of fire fighting to him and his crew.

So I leave and castigate myself saying: “ts your own fault so you have to eat what you get”. Which means you made the bed now you have to sleep in it.  I watch my inner voice carefully so as not to take on too much personal criticism that is not warranted.  This, however, was warranted.  I was glum.  Apparently a mouse had probably eaten through the insulation on the wire and since it was hot a spark jumped from the wire and started the fire.

I head back to the house licking my wounds and what do I see but my friend, John P. from a nearby farm parked right in front of the house standing next to his van.  He tells me that he was at work in his office inSacramentomaybe 40 miles away and saw the fire on our farm and left to get to us in case we needed to evacuate.

Now I know in rural areas there used to be a sort of socialism where people would pitch in to help another family out in times of difficulty.  But this day nobody else who were much closer thanSacramentocame to our aid.  They were probably busy defending themselves, though as for that there was at worst only a small threat to their houses compared to ours.

You know, until that event I had viewed John P as a friend but in a rather casual way.  We had gone to graduate school in the same parasitology program, and had interacted with friendship common to most fellow graduate students.  But today I saw another person, a real friend.

John P was a fly control specialist who worked for the California State Department of Public Health department where I had too a job identifying flies, that was before they moved the department to the capitol.  He made the move and I left the department to go back to finish my PhD.

He put himself out for us, knowing how bad fires in the area can be.  I never forget kindnesses, but try hard to forget harms which is a lot harder.  So I understand why this image of him in front of our house came up last night.  I miss him too.

We didn’t need his help that day, but I remember that act.  Such a friend!, but now we live far apart.  But there is email, and we share jokes, good stories we find, and some great pictures. My community resides in my friends and they are scattered far and wide.  And I am happy he still lives.