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., 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, however, we simply get what we are going to get, no debate, please and thank you.

Hmm…where have we heard that theme before?

Another Subsidy

media-car When capitalists and their minions work to undermine public transportation and/or cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, they invariably talk about public subsidies to those lifelines. It ought to be hilarious, given the scale and range of ways the public underwrites the supposedly “private” automobile.

The latest development on that latter front is the National Highway Traffic Subsidy Safety Administration’s announcement that it will be undertaking vehicle design research on an urgent basis. Per Automotive News:

DETROIT — A computer-driven car may not be commercially viable for at least another decade, but federal regulators are taking it seriously.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a research project to figure out what sort of cockpit controls would be appropriate for a human motorist in a computer-driven vehicle.

Tim Johnson, NHTSA’s director of crash avoidance and electronic controls research, said the agency would conduct the $1.75 million research project with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

The researchers want to design controls that would enable a motorist to let the computer do the driving, then take over safely if the computer is flummoxed by an unexpected event.

“That is the work we are starting up right now,” Johnson said here Tuesday, Oct. 16, during the SAE Convergence 2012 conference sponsored by SAE International. “We are putting a high priority on this. We are trying to figure this out.”

Why is robo-car research such a high priority, you might wonder. It seems like — and might actually be — a pipedream.

The answer lies in photo at right above. Capitalists would love nothing more than to eventually free up people riding in automobiles to go ahead and participate as fully in mass media experiences while in-car as they do in-home. That would be a marketing bonanza, in a market-totalitarian society in which commuting time remains, along with sleep and paid work, a last, stubborn frontier.

Is it the role of the nation’s main transportation safety agency to be doing corporate capitalists’ exploratory research for them, especially in this area? Conversely, can you imagine the outcry if it started conducting product development research to advance the design and appeal of, say, light-rail trains?

Our grandchildren will be very amused by our present answers to that seemingly obvious questions.

“Individual Mobility”

We here at DbC direct your attention to this outrageous piece of exploitation and propaganda, which, of course, premiered during the commercial TV platform known as “the Olympics”:

The main sponsor of this manipulative tripe is Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, aka BMW, which would have you equate people’s efforts to overcome maimings (not mentioned: many/most caused by car crashes) and birth defects with its own efforts to paint itself as a protector rather than a major enemy of “individual mobility.”

Of course, by “individual mobility,” Bimmer means perpetual (luxury) car-selling and cars-first transportation.

Which is worse — the shamelessness or the massive and multiple illogic and disingenuity?

Road Rage: Sexist Malarkey

My friend Douglas Pressman noticed this recent story about road rage and gender:

Study Reveals Women More Prone To Road Rage Than Men

It is, of course, preposterous in the extreme, and a lesson in how awfully the commercial media often handle basic surveys and statistics.

As anybody with any substantial time on the cars-first roads knows, there is absolutely no way women are more into road rage than men.

So, how did this survey find that up is down and black is white? By asking respondents how often they feel road rage.

Of course, feeling outraged is not road rage. Road rage is aggressive driving triggered by feeling outraged.

This survey might say something about the gendering of emotional awareness and honesty, but it is preposterous as a way of knowing who does road rage. Asking about feelings to measure that is like watching the storks for signs of new babies.

The real measure of road rage would be crime statistics, but, of course, road rage/aggressive driving is only loosely captured as a crime. Cops are extremely hesitant to write reckless/careless driving tickets.

Nonetheless, the real evidence is massively clear: It’s overwhelmingly men who do the rageful driving.

But such is the state of journalism. Something that sounds so titillatingly counter-intuitive might either be genuinely counter-intuitive and newsworthy, or it might be an intentional falsity designed to exploit the obvious titillation to attract page hits to self-interested sponsors.

In this case, it’s clearly the latter phenomenon, as the sponsor of the survey is something sad and awful called (yes, “career,” circa 2012: ROFL).

A real journalist would sort this out and act accordingly. Our system, in contrast, is a megaphone for such shameless shenanigans.

GM and Tim Dick’s Latest Macho-Smarmy Lie

57 percent of pickup trucks are used once a month or less to haul anything.  83 percent are used for towing once a month or less, 37 percent never.  Offroad use?  62 percent are never used for that.  17 percent of pickup buyers make no pretense of wanting anything but the image. Car capitalists know all this better than anybody.

Meanwhile, militantly sexist and counter-factual flattery remains the pitch, despite the times:


Let Them Eat Smarm

In the United States, car crashes have long been the #1 killer of children.

Automobiles are also the number #1 worldwide source of both greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum consumption.  As such, cars-first transportation rivals nuclear war as a threat to everybody’s children.

Meanwhile, automobile advertising, which fixes attention exclusively on the level of individual model selection, not only continues to go unchallenged as it ignores these realities, but people are actually choosing to watch the paeans to death.  This disgustingly smarmy piece of Pavlovian “brand awareness” (read: zero information about the actual product) indoctrination is case in point.  It has drawn 45 million voluntary “viral” views, according to Advertising Age.

The Straight Dope on Democracy in the Middle East

cat-bag Here at DbC, we are willing to observe that, for the U.S. overclass, the great fear, the worst possible outcome, in regions where petroleum supplies remain somewhat abundant, is secular democracy. For those who know their history, any other interpretation is simply propaganda. The facts are stark.

It is, of course, a very rare day when the commercial media expose the core truth to the U.S. public, even for a flash.

Yesterday was such a day. If you happened to be watching the CBS Evening News, you might have caught this quotation from the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, one Richard N. Haass:

“On the other hand, we have traditional friends in this part of the world. We don’t want to be seen as pulling out the rug from a number of regimes that by and large have supported real U.S. interests in terms of access to energy, opposition to terrorism, some limited willingness to live with Israel. So, for this Administration, this [the regional democratic uprising] is about as important but also as difficult as it gets.”

It is no accident that “access to energy” leads the CFR’s list of issues, or that the present exceedingly clear and simple moment — which for once is indeed an unambiguous movement toward democracy — is “as difficult as it gets” for the powers that be in our market-totalitarian society.

More NYT Gibberish

gibberish Saturday, Thomas Friedman told us the world is run by petro-dictators rather than corporate capitalists.

The day before that whopper, one Jonah Lehrer wrote this:

[E]very innovation eventually leads to new shortages. We clear-cut forests, and so we turn to oil; once we exhaust our fossil-fuel reserves, we’ll start driving electric cars, at least until we run out of lithium.

Yes, sure, Jonah and Jonah’s editors, that’s exactly how electric cars work:  The lithium in their batteries does what petroleum does in regular cars. Vroom, vroom!


Thomas Freidman’s Latest Howler

friedman As Alexander Cockburn once observed, the core function of the mainstream news media is to sow confusion where reality is perfectly plain.  Add to this his personal history as a capitalist’s son and husband of a rentier billion-heiress, and it’s little wonder that Thomas Friedman is the tenured professor of the great gibberish machine, the pampered, flattered godfather of the propaganda clown army.

His latest contribution to the jabberwocky effort?  His proposition yesterday that the world is being run by “petro-dictators now telling the world what to do.”

You see here why Friedman has attained such heights within the corporate capitalist spin industry.  It would’ve taken a large committee meeting for days to prepare a more shamelessly Orwellian inversion of basic reality.  Not only does Friedman’s claim reverse the actual past and present relationship between petro-dictators and corporate royalty, but it blithely and thoughtlessly restates the standard overclass insistence that oil, not cars, is our problem.  (One could, of course, also note Friedman’s ongoing delusions about bio-fuels.)

The simple reality that must be kept from view is that cars-first transportation accounts for eight tenths of U.S. petroleum use, and cars-first transportation is the indispensable lifeblood of corporate capitalism.  Oil dictators work for those who dictate transportation policies (and energy wars).  Not the reverse.  Oil will never be demoted unless cars are demoted.

And who are the car-dictators?  Friedman’s own class, of course — the Richistanis who enthroned and employ the world’s petro-dictators; refuse to allow themselves to be mentioned as a possible source of problems; refuse to permit the first hint of a first hint of democratic questioning of auto-centric society, despite its radical and increasingly obvious unsustainability.

Such is the stuff our grandchildren will be barfing about, if we manage to leave them a world still capable of remembering and pondering it.

Museum Piece

Saturday, I linked to Nissan’s stunningly dishonest attempt to make buying a $33,000 coal-burning 2.75-ton metal, plastic, and lithium contraption for fetching groceries look like an act of concern for the planet and its endangered species.

That particular trick exploits the well-meaning but lazy and woefully under-informed.

Meanwhile, while watching a football game this weekend, I encountered this other car-pushing tactic.  If this society survives cars-first transportation, our grandchildren will one day guffaw in disbelief at the militant interlocking stupidities in this stinking propaganda turd:

This ad targets the completely and proudly uninformed.