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.

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.

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?

Fake News

blind men touching elephant image The New York Times today features a front-page story suggesting that the oil industry is the main source of the Trump Administration’s suspension of pending rules requiring faster improvement of automotive fuel-economy standards. According to Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi, “it turns out that there was a hidden beneficiary of the plan that was pushing for the changes all along: the nation’s oil industry.”

This is rotten-appleism/liberal practicality/craven punch-pulling, mixed with patent hogwash.

Let’s start with the obvious unreality.

First, in Tabuchi’s telling, the oil industry was, at some time, a hidden opponent of rules reducing its own sales? ROFL. Pure balderdash.

It is also simply bad history to suggest that the idea of halting Obama’s CAFE rules originated with the petroleum corporations. The Trump Campaign was obviously planning such a move all along. And, contrary to Tabuchi’s claim that “[c]armakers, for their part, had sought more flexibility in meeting the original 2025 standards, not a categorical rollback,” the auto corporations have been every bit as early and eager as the oilmongers in their entirely welcome lobbying on this issue. They may have framed their wishes with a more careful eye to their public perception, but it is naive in the extreme to therefore make these dedicated devils look like angels in this string of pathetic events.

Which point brings us to the NYT‘s rotten-appleism: The oil industry is not the relevant villain in our shamefully under- and mis-discussed cars-and-energy crisis. The oil industry is huge and important and partially independent, but it is nonetheless a squarely subordinate part of the automotive-industrial complex, which is itself a deeply logical, probably indispensable component of corporate capitalism. To miss this institutional fact is to do damage to the possibility of its decent resolution, by passing off a mere symptom as the disease we need to cure.

As much as liberals and greens want it to be true, we aren’t going to sweet-talk or band-aid our way through our coming storms. Self-delusion will not cut the mustard.

Brainwashing on Facebook

You want a real case of Facebook knowingly selling space to evil mind-controllers? Here is a straight-up FB lie from your friends at ExxonMobil:

algae ad image

There is a zero percent chance that algae or any other bio-fuel is going to replace current petroleum use. No entity in the world knows this more surely than does the ExxonMobil corporation. Yet, this is what it wants you to think it believes.

None of this, of course, should lend aid and comfort to the liberal-green delusion that the fossil fuel corporations are our main problem. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Our actual problem, however, is bigger and deeper: cars-first transportation and other key forms of unending commodity-maximization.

Corporate capitalism, in other words.

World Scientists Go Vague

knifeQuestioning the reign of the car is, if done with a modicum of skill, a direct assault on capitalism. Hence, such questioning is one of the most taboo and underdeveloped of all possible intellectual and political pursuits in today’s world. Little wonder, then, that the world scientists couldn’t, despite their science, bring themselves to mention the word “automobile” in their renewed warning to the world.

Where cars ought to have been, we get instead the usual pablum about green energy and fossil fuel “subsidies.”

Dear scientists everywhere: We aren’t going to hint and euphemize our way to progressive survival.


snake eating own tail The New York Times editorial board today blithely states the two foundational axioms of the quasi-official “liberal” view of sustainable transportation: 1. That it is an important topic, so long as the alternatives are cars, cars, or cars. 2. “Electric” cars, if somehow fully implemented, will somehow be sustainable.

ROFL times a million.

Meanwhile, the million-and-first laugh is that one of the NYT’s main complaints about existing trends is that the GHG emissions of the US transportation sector have now surpassed those of the electricity-making sector! In response to this event, the paper of records calls for us to continue using 95-percent-idle, 4,000-pound piles of complex materials for our everyday locomotion, but to do so by making them run on electricity!

Orwell didn’t get the half of it. In market totalitarianism, Doublethink is not only beyond rife, but spouted by the elite without the smallest hint of second thought.

Proving Grounds for Radical Bias

The United States Department of Transportation “is requesting proposals from applicants to form an initial network of multiple proving grounds, focused on the advancement of automated vehicle technology.” Why is the public doing the automotive corporations’ job for them, to say nothing of the question of why THIS, this subsidy to one of human history’s worst, most dangerous technologies, rather than to test sustainable transportation/societal reconstruction/ecological survival projects?

It’s all iced with the usual Orwellian pronouncements. “Safety is our top priority,” says the Transportation Secretary, despite the sheer impossibility that any conceivable cars-first transportation order will ever approach the safety and fitness of the civilized, walking-and-bicycling-and-rail arrangement that has always been anathema to our market-totalitarian overclass.

If McKibben Ruled

windmill-tilt He sees production of “millions and millions of electric cars and buses” as the road to a sustainable future. That this outrageous claim does not instantly disqualify him from his perch atop what passes for a green movement speaks volumes about the weakness and subjection of that tendency, as well as about the depth and power of automotive delusions in this most propagandized of nation-states.

Tellingly, Señor McKibben chose The New Republic magazine as the venue for announcing his proposed plan for perpetuating cars-first transportation. Yes, let us rally the Blue Dog Coalition in support of one of history’s three worst inventions!