Pushing the Message

Here is a hallway snapshot I took on my visit to the local car dealership this morning. Fascinating that car dealerships still get away with such shameless things. Also amusing to see that, in the “high tech”status-monitoring graphic here, there are no automobiles parked in the dealership’s lot! Paging Dr. Freud…

greenwashing at car dealership

More on Killing for Money

Cigarette filters were invented in the 1920s. When the public began to contemplate the true nature of cigarettes, filters went, in corporate endeavors, from experimental oddity to mandatory product part.

Wikipedia explains:

[Filters were] considered a specialty item until 1954, when manufacturers introduced the machine more broadly, following a spate of speculative announcements from doctors and researchers concerning a possible link between lung diseases and smoking. Since filtered cigarettes were considered “safer”, by the 1960s, they dominated the market. Production of filter cigarettes rose from 0.5 percent in 1950 to 87.7 percent by 1975

The purpose of the cigarette filter was never, of course, to make cigarettes safe, since such a thing is an oxymoron — as every corporate seller of the things surely knew by 1954. The real purpose was to extend the salability of cigarettes in spite of the undeniable fact that they are deeply defective and dangerous things.

I mention all this because, despite Bill McKibben’s continuing insistence that they are part of the solution to looming ecological disasters, electric automobiles are cigarette filters writ large. They are a technology that our mass murdering corporate overlords are foisting upon us in order to keep selling automobiles, which, like cigarettes, are an inherently defective way of accomplishing everyday intra-urban locomotion.

If you want evidence of this, consider what Automotive Age reports about EVs:

[A]utomakers…invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new technologies that don’t yet pay for themselves — “profit deserts” is what Mark Wakefield, co-leader of the global automotive and industrial practice at AlixPartners, called them.

Electrification isn’t the only major r&d initiative. Investments in automated-driving technology are on pace to reach $85 billion through 2025. Combined, those investments won’t do anything to boost bottom lines in the near term, Wakefield said.

Electric vehicle sales volume, Wakefield says, will remain low, averaging just 14,000 units sold per EV model through 2022. That’s a far cry from what automakers expect from traditional vehicles.

Automotive Age, July 1, 2019

The only logical explanation for this “profit desert” phenomenon is the same one that explained the corporate move to filter cigarettes back in the 1950s.

The Mary Barras of the world certainly know they are selling a product that is ruining the planet’s living conditions. But these executives need a way to make their efforts look innocent, so they can keep doing what they do for the big money. Inside the industry, EVs are made and sold at a loss so that cars in general can continue to be sold.

Meanwhile, as Mary Barra also certainly knows, in the United States, automobiles are now the nation’s single largest source of GHG emissions — bigger now even than electricity generation.

Should we say it? Death by Car…

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.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Two questions about automated automobiles. Look at the “self-driving” van below, then think about these issues:

  1. How many ways are there for external physical events to interfere with the operation of the various doohickeys on this thing?
  2. How expensive will the operations performed by these doohickeys be, if and when they ever get miniaturized and sufficiently shielded from external shocks to be truly salable on an industrial scale?

It’s not very mysterious why these massively hyped things aren’t arriving a whole lot faster than the hoary old — yet still frequently promised — flying car.

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.