A Wager We’d Take

Kara Swisher credits herself with being “pretty good at this guessing game.” She says, in today’s New York Times, that owning a car will soon be a quaint thing of the past. DbC hereby offers to wager Ms. Swisher on that one — our entire gross monthly revenues versus one-tenth of yours. The proposed bet: Ten years hence, neo-taxi hiring will indeed be more popular among yuppies like Swisher, but — barring the arrival of the ecological catastrophe we are so obviously courting but not confronting — overall car-ownership rates will not have dropped by even 10 percent in these United States of America.

The problem for Swisher is that she does not understand corporate capitalism, which literally, institutionally requires the perpetuation of cars-first transportation in the United States, come Hell and/or high water. Unlike the transition from land phones to cell phones — the “guess” that Swisher imagines herself as having oracularly foreseen for us, selling fewer cars would constitute a reduction in net effective demand/commodification/commercialism/waste. As such, it is anathema to our socio-economic order and the elite privilege it exists to serve.

Funny how you can become a wealthy pundit in this society and be utterly oblivious to such elementary facts.

Meanwhile, the trend Swisher thinks she sees is not even happening.

How They Sell Overkill

Under the capitalist-dictated regime of cars-first transportation, the private automobile is all about selling people as much stuff as possible, never mind the consequences.

This ad from Volkswagen directly states one of the bedrock propositions of this endeavor: “More room means more fun.”

One might reflect, in reviewing this shameless, preposterous piece of mental manipulation, upon the thing that has for many decades been the leading cause of death for American children and young adults. That would be automotive collisions.

Electric Pickups

Hey, “electric” car fans! Guess what’s coming next in your supposedly serious product line?

Yep: Pickup trucks with electric motors!

EV Pickup image

The manifolding of the pertinent delusions is getting really juicy. Soon, white American men will be able to fantasize that they are “doing their part” for the Earth while driving around in massively overwrought versions of an ecocidal profit-machine that sells because it exploits modern suburbanites’ older notions of what cowboys did on the frontier.

All, of course, by very carefully managed elite design.

Notes for Ocasio

rosie riveter image It is a crying shame that our recently-sanctified Constitution here in the USA makes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, because of her youth, ineligible to be President.  Of course, this same foundational law also enshrines the over-representation of small states and sometimes puts election losers into the world’s most powerful office, so we have larger structural problems. There’s also the problem of the overwhelming dominance of commercial forces in what passes for civil society.

Nonetheless, the pursuit of a Green New Deal strikes DbC as perhaps the best new thing to arrive in American political life since the 1960s.

At this point, the core document in this new endeavor is this proposed Congressional Resolution.

To her credit, AOC includes transportation as a major element of the proposed GND.

There are, however, several aspects of the pertinent language that could benefit from further thought.

Here is the transportation passage in question:

The ‘‘Green New Deal mobilization’’…will require the following goals and projects….(H) overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in—

(i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing;

(ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transit; and

(iii) high-speed rail.

FWIW, here are DbC‘s friendly criticisms:

1. “Transportation” in the United States means automobiles, which are the technology around which our corporate capitalist overclass has long (and extremely successfully) pushed us to build our whole society. Our main transportation problem is the reign of the automobile, the long-standing elite insistence on cars-first transportation policy and practice. Any imaginably adequate effort to address this reality must start by directly stating its existence.

2. The nation’s automotive fleet is now our #1 domestic GHG pollution source, having recently surpassed the electricity generation industry for that dishonor. As such, it belongs at the top of the list of reforms. This should be Item A, not Item H, on the GND project agenda.

3. There is no such thing as a zero-emission automobile. Not even close. “Electric” cars run mostly on coal, nuclear, and natural gas, and building a solar-and-wind-only grid capable of powering 250 million automobiles is almost surely impossible, and itself not a zero-emission undertaking. And this addresses neither the question of how “electric” vehicles are to be manufactured, nor their current status as haloware enabling exploding SUV sales.

4. Public transit and rail are extremely important aspects of any imaginably adequate reform of “transportation” in the United States; yet if they are pursued as mere add-ons to existing cars-first infrastructure and residential spreads, they will end up being mere palliatives, at best.

5. Any imaginably adequate reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions will require an end to cars-first transportation policy and practice here.

6. Ending cars-first transportation in the United States will require radical reconstruction of the entirety of our geo-social infrastructure, including big changes in the form and geographic distribution of our housing stock.

7. It will require way more than ten years to accomplish this necessary project.

8. It would be wise to start mentioning the Second World War along with the New Deal, since sufficient reconstruction will require that level of mobilization and that much public management of economic power.

9. You might also start mentioning Reconstruction I, since this proposed aspect of Reconstruction II offers immense promise for repairing the gigantic crimes inherent in the abandonment of Reconstruction I.

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.

Propaganda and Delusion

CityLab reporter Laura Bliss writes about “the realm of speculative transportation.” It is a useful concept, denoting the raft of lavishly hyped promises about “autonomous” and “electric” automobiles.

One question this burgeoning realm suggests is how much of it, at the planning/managerial level, stems from delusion, and how much from propaganda.

Surely, delusion is there. People who make comfortable livings from working on deadly products find ways to not just justify it, but spin it as visionary.

Yet, the habit of including preposterous techno-promises in the automotive marketing mix did not emerge last week. It is as old as the overclass push to sell cars.

This fact strongly suggests that the use of car-of-the-future promises is also knowingly propagandistic, i.e., that car-makers consciously use images of impossible futures as cover for keeping the existing meat-grinder going.

Alas, since business corporations are private tyrannies, the extent to which the realm of speculative automobility is a carefully planned marketing tactic remains unclear. It would be extremely fascinating to lay hands on the evidence, though.

EVs Doing Their Real Work

evil angel image “Electric” automobiles will go down as one of the greatest hoaxes in human history.

In the early 21st century, as the reality of greenhouse gas pollution became less and less deniable, the corporate capitalist overclass continued to sell its core product, automobiles, on the same premise as always — bigger vehicles for bigger profits.

The auto-making corporations simultaneous sold a few loss-leading “electric” vehicles, partly as a way of researching possible future adaptations but mostly to put a halo around the insane idea of continuing to rely on automobiles for everyday transportation.

The would-be critics generally ate it right up.

By now, it’s clear that this trick produces spectacular results.

According to Cox Automotive research, light trucks now account for a record 69 percent of new automobile sales in the United States. In other words, of the 17.3 million new vehicles sold here last year, 12 million of them were pickups, SUVs, and “crossovers.”

“Electric” cars sold here in 2018? 361,307 — reported with an celebratory exclamation mark!

So, for every new “electric” car sold, there are 33 new light trucks entering the ever-expanding U.S. automotive fleet. Quite a feat!

By the way: At the average late-2018 new-automobile selling price of $37,000, new vehicle sales accounted for $640 billion in effective economic demand in 2018 in the USA. That is roughly the same as the Pentagon’s annual budget.

Department of Yes

money cornucopia imageTrump is a logical endpoint of Reaganism, which has never yet — not even now — been opposed, since it emerged.

In subtler times, the overclass merely used GM heads to front the Pentagon. Now, they need not feign even that much distance. Boeing execs now sit themselves right down in the public seat, to zero controversy.

The attached talk, never very subtle, is now utterly shameless.

According to The New York Times, here is what the new Defense Secretary said at a recent insider meeting:

“We are not the Department of No,” Mr. Shanahan told Pentagon officials after Space Force was announced.

Not the Department of No. Mark that one down.

The military being a department of yeses is extremely relevant to the ongoing reign of the automobile, since both that phenomenon and the Pentagon budget pass the social order stringent apublic-spending litmus test. The terms of that test come straight from corporate capitalism, which mandates that government spending be huge and growing, yet occur only in the very few product-usage areas that neither directly supplant capitalist sales nor establish precedents harmful to the reigning insistence that profit-maximizers’ schemes are the only possible way to meet human needs.

Don Quixote Triumphs Again

quixote and sancho panza Ah, McKibben…

One of the reasons democracy is so crucial is that, contrary to the beliefs of the US founders, it itself is a major check-and-balance.

350.org, you see, is not a democratic organization. It is a property of Bill McKibben and his donors and his carefully selected fans (whom I am tempted to call enablers).

Praising himself for going on “a gruelling tour,” our Man of La Middlebury now claims that “divestment is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts.”

The series of specious claims about pertinent facts in this declaration is stunning.

So is the claim that fossil fuel divestment is a “major action” against the forces driving the planet to catastrophic climate change.

That, of course, is an extremely debatable hypothesis, not a clear fact.

The major counter-argument is that fossil-fuel divestment is a distraction and a detriment to effective movement against the core forces of destruction.

Are, as McKibben would have it, “the fossil fuel companies” really our main enemy, or are we up against something a great deal bigger, wider, and tougher than these important but perhaps secondary organizations?

Is trying to demonize “the fossil fuel companies” really a good way to raise the deeper issues that even McKibben admits need raising? Or is doing this actually a way of continuing to not talk about what really needs to be talked about, while also nurturing the dangerous fiction that we will somehow figure out how to run all our corporate capitalist stuff on wind and solar?

In a true grassroots social movement, all this would be openly discussed, decided, and reconsidered over time. In 350.org, however, we simply get what we are going to get, no debate, please and thank you.

Hmm…where have we heard that theme before?