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.

Hidden History: Lost Cycleway

Cars-first transportation has brought with it a veil of bogus, sponsored claims about its pristine popularity, past and present.

In reality, transportation history is much more interesting and conflictual than the powers-that-be would have you believe.

According to historian Norman Pollack’s classic book, in the 1890s, populists and labor leaders were calling for public ownership of all transportation infrastructure, including the Robber Barons’ railroads, which had, of course, originally been built by means of public giveaways of land and crucial technical assistance.

In the pivotal year of 1900, there was also this lost marvel in Los Angeles, about which DbC has just learned:

cycleway1900

Hero

hugo In an unintentionally hilarious piece today, The Washington Post scolds Hugo Chavez for having used “oil as a political tool.” Could there be a bigger possible ROFL? This, from the second newspaper of record in the United States, where cars-first transportation has always been the keystone in the reign of history’s richest and most powerful overclass?

In its report, the WP quotes an anonymous “industry executive” as follows:

“He’s done a lot to improve the lot of his people. He ruined the oil industry.”

That’s about the size of the task for all of us, isn’t it? Now, where is our Hugo Chavez?

Lifelines, Literally

Let a thousand Silver Comet Trails bloom!

silver_comet

Indeed, let them be even nicer than this example, which is located, of all places, in the U.S. State of Georgia, hardly a Mecca of alternative culture!  Let us have bikes-only roadways, with pedestrian paths alongside but protected by barriers!  Let us have coffee and food carts and bathrooms and bookstalls and medical providers and art installations and performance venues all along their routes!  And let the routes be converted not from abandoned rail lines, but from conquered and re-purposed automobile roads and highways!

Workers of the world, unite, and forge your (bike) chains!  You have nothing to lose but your suburbs and oil wars and heedless, predatory overclass!

Stop Signs in Stumptown

mugyenyi_engler For those DbCers who are on the West Coast, keep an eye out for the book tour by Bianca Mugyenyi and Yves Engler. These two residents of Montreal have produced Stops Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social, and Ecological Decay. It’s a treasure chest packed with information, references, and insights into the continuing tragedy of cars-first transportation. And, best of all, Mugyenyi and Engler dare to do what almost no prior car critics have done: talk plainly about the importance of cars-first transportation to capitalists and capitalism.

I will be attending Mugyenyi and Engler’s Portland, Oregon tour stop, which will be happening at 7:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at Laughing Horse Book and Film Collective, 12 NE 10th Avenue.

Here’s a link to the rest of the tour dates.

Just Desserts

challenger_crash In my experience, as addled and manipulated as we are, ordinary Americans are not actually as stupid and corrupt as many leftist critics claim.

One bit of evidence in support of this?

Remember those atrocious ads for the inexcusable muscle car, the Dodge Challenger?

Not working!  As reported in Automotive News:

Chrysler poured significant dollars into the 2011 model. The front and rear suspensions were re-engineered to improve handling and ride. And, the new standard 3.6-liter V-6 produces a 55 horsepower boost over the much criticized 3.5-liter V-6.

A winning combination, right? Not so. I expected sales to catch fire this year. They haven’t. Sales are up only 15 percent over the dismal year-ago period. But May sales dropped 11 percent.

Dodge’s 21st Century pony car is averaging just 3,355 cars per month, hardly a sales momentum that can justify a future redesign. During the January through May period, Dodge sold 16,777 Challengers.

As for the two other pony cars [read: teenage-themed gas guzzlers] on the market, Chevrolet sold 40,275 Camaros in the same period, and Ford tallied 30,206 Mustangs.

Back to the Future

Apparently, in France, they are starting to replace garbage diesels with horses and donkeys.

See? It’s not all bad news:

“Compared with €5,000–7,000 annual running costs for a diesel truck, an ass costs €1,000–1,500 and can live 25-30 years. A truck costs around €25,000, lasts around five years and can’t reproduce,” says Cicero, whose four asinelli have now produced 25 offspring, so he won’t even be buying any more.

garbage horse