Liberal Practicality as Science

pimp Just encountered a new example of our old friend, liberal practicality. This time, it’s not craven Democratic Partiers, but high-minded scientists:

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems.

How, then, does UCS justify its pimping of overclass attempts to extend the Age of the Automobile, to say nothing of its perhaps even more craven and anti-scientific shilling for “biofuels”?

Well, the answer comes right there in the same “About Us” blurb that begins with the above claims to rigor, objectivity, and seriousness:

Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

“Effective” and “practical,” of course, both mean the same thing: politically safe within existing arrangements. Or, even more plainly, hopelessly insufficient.

The results? Take a look at this chart, which shows UCS’ view of the advantages of so-called “electric vehicles” in the three power-generation regions of the United States. Not only might you find it pretty newsworthy to see that UCS’ label for the dirtiest energy-production regions of the country are the “Good” area, but check out the baseline for this bogus EV pitch — a regular car that gets 27 MPG!

What would happen to the UCS numbers if one were to use the MPG rating of the best existing gas cars?

That number is 37, which is 37 percent higher than 27. It doesn’t take much scientific rigor to figure out that a rather base trick is afoot here.

The only possible scientific attitude to automobiles is that they were and are a capitalist pipedream and also a dire threat to the future of human civilization. The only possible genuinely practical policy recommendation is for radical reconstruction of towns and cities to facilitate non-automotive locomotion. To the extent continued car-use must be a transitional part of that larger plan, the only conceivably rational and honest recommendation is to advise people to always buy the best available regular-gas car, and to push for imposition of radically higher MPG rules and heavy taxes on gas guzzlers, which should be defined as all automobiles not within a few MPG of the best available models.

Shame on you, UCS!

Strowwngg? Or Maybe Criminal?

As the planet roasts, pickup trucks remain the engine of the automobile-industrial complex, which is itself the leading source of GHG emissions in the United States, as well as the lifeblood of corporate capitalism. How does this happen? As Leslie Savan says, “follow the flattery.” (And, meanwhile, note the sexism, homophobia, and thoughtless obstinacy on which it rests.)

Another museum piece for our grandchildren, on the off chance we leave them a livable world.

Up the Ideology

My sequel to the TCT book is the (long) forthcoming attempt to explain why corporate capitalism is doomed by one of its core products, the private automobile.

As this doom approaches, the level of ideology in car advertising on U.S. television grows apace. It is already well into its whistling-past-the-graveyard stage, in fact.

Watch a football game or an evening of godawful sitcoms, and you’ll see claims such as Ford’s jive — couched in the mega-annoying “Introducing the _____” trend in which advertisers of everything from cars to candy bars have recently been trying to hype their wares — about how its latest sedan is “entirely new.” Yeah, sure, the worst of the nineteenth-century transportation inventions is somehow now not so stupid. Why? Because its patent idiocy is starting to breathe on some necks, so must be repositioned, to stave off proper perception for a few more months or years.

Then there is this one from the supposedly cutting-edge Honda corporation.

Things can always be better? Um, no.

A Zinger from Zizek

zizek I’m not a huge fan of Slavoj Zizek.  His stuff usually strikes me as being both scattershot and overly, self-consciously “theoretical.”  But he does have his powers.

TCT heartily endorses his recent take, as reported in Harper’s, on an issue at the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement:

Harper’s: You were critical of some of the slogans used by protesters in 2008 — “Save Main Street, Not Wall Street” for example. During Occupy Wall Street, people say, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” Is there a better slogan to be had?

Zizek: The problem is that if you mobilize against the bad financial system you fall into a certain ideological trap, the fascist trap. This is the basic fascist idea: we have the truly productive strata — workers, industrial capitalists — and then we have the bad Jewish bankers who exploit them. The problem is not to fight Wall Street. The problem is, why does the system need Wall Street to function?…If Wall Street collapses, then Main Street collapses. That’s how the system works.

TCT would add that it’s also not very advisable to forget that, along with the financial sector, the supply-side bailouts included corporate capitalism’s beating heart — the automobile industry.

Vehicle Wrap!

wrap Ever wonder how they get all that intricate propaganda onto the sides of cars and buses? It’s called “wrap advertising.”

Recent advancements in vinyl development have led to new types of vinyls specifically for doing wraps, such as vinyls that feature air channels to prevent bubbles, and microscopic glass beads that prevent the adhesive from taking hold until squeegeed down. This feature allows the material to be lifted and reapplied as needed during the wrapping process, without compromising the longevity of the wrap. Vinyl is heated with a heat gun or torch to mold around objects.

So, it’s a huge piece of high-tech plastic glued to the body of the automobile (or train, if your town has any).

Outdoor Advertising Magazine said that outdoor mobile media billboards have a 97% recall rate, and 99% of survey respondents thought mobile advertising is more effective than traditional outdoor advertising.

Ah, the wonders of our age of appropriate technology! Cars, those 3,000 pound machines that sit idle 95 percent of the time while burning up what remains of the planet’s petroleum stock, covered in plastic sales pitches! Who says the market doesn’t solve all problems?

Ford’s Latest Finger of Death

skeleton-driverConsumer Reports calls the Ford Motor Company’s new MyFord Touch system, by which automobile operators use computer-video touchpads rather than old-school knobs and switches to perform various mostly extraneous tasks while driving,  “complex and buggy” and “a complicated distraction while driving.”

Translation from the polite punch-pulling language of Consumer Reports: This latest case of marketing-driven product elaboration, which Ford propaganda shamelessly paints as being “all about making the driver’s experience connect with technology in the car, and their digital lifestyle safer and simpler,” is, as the Ford Motor Company certainly knows full well, going to kill thousands of people a year.

Of course, this won’t stop this precisely planned corporate marketing tactic from working.  MyFord Touch, Ford tells Reuters, “is helping make Edge and MKX [the models in which it has been launched) among the best sellers on dealer showroom floors.”

All in a day’s overclass entrepreneurship…using people’s “digital lifestyles” to boost the profits of an outdated corporation’s shareholders, via a deadly, cynical gimmick.

And they say trickle-down economics might be outdated…